I haven’t had much time to get up there this week. However, even a couple of hours at a time, two or three times a week is enough to keep things ticking over.

Conversely, it would be entirely possible to work 12 hours a day seven days a week up there and still feel like like I’m behind.

This week, I’ve planted a few trays of (self-harvested) native wild plant seeds (they like a cold snap to germinate) and I’m still digging up bricks from the old paths and scrubbing the mud off them. They’re destined for the latest demi-shed folly in the middle of the field, marking the fifth in an ever-growing series of incomplete sheds. There is some method to the madness though – it’s an important shed.

My first ever greenhouse is a delight and apart from smacking my head on the roof all the time, it seems like I’ve stumbled on a very good design, either by subconscious intent or serendipitous accident. There are trays of herbs and salad leaves up there, growing slowly but steadily and doing very well indeed. It’s quite a thrill.

The main design feature – having a second floor, in order to be high enough to get full sun all day is obvious. However, I didn’t anticipate that the top floor would somehow retain its own heat and always be warmer than the bottom floor even on cold days. I also didn’t anticipate that it would have some resistance to the gnawing, clinging, all-pervasive mouldy damp that’s a hallmark of our climate at this time of year. It’s obviously due to the improved air circulation afforded by the two floors.

Salad leaves and herbs in greenhouse


My seeds have arrived from Real Seeds. I’m always nervous and doubtful when I spend a lot on something. There’s far far more than I could ever use myself. I’ve flamboyantly ordered just about ‘one of everything’.

The reason I’ve bought so many is for a project – an experiment. It’s mostly what I’ve been doing for yonks anyway + some natural lateral growth.

In the light of the forthcoming economic downturn following Covid and Brexit, small-scale food growing will inevitably increase. In my opinion, there will be a shortage of seeds.

My idea is to encourage anyone who is interested (regardless of previous gardening experience) to grow their own food, by supplying them with seeds, seedlings and advice where needed. The idea in itself is self-contained.

If however, I designed a questionnaire for each participant to complete, then it could become an experiment. It could provide useful information, which could be more widely extrapolated for the benefit of others.

Important brick demi-shed in field



‘The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment’.

The above quote could quite easily apply to gardening. Most gardeners either deliberately or semi-gormlessly do it. We plant something and if it does well, we tend to grow it again. We observe and experiment all the time to try and make the most of our growing space.

The quote is actually the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of science.

By nature, science has to be structured and the good news it that it can be very simple and easy. There’s a well-trodden methodology, that applies to the simplest of school (or gardening) experiments right up to large scale clinical trials.

It’s all about asking a specific question, then setting up an experiment to answer it.

One of Louise's backyard sculptures - a £1 doll from a charity shop


Despite my two accidental science degrees, I’m rubbish at it. 

Every year, I start with the best of intentions. I meticulously label everything, I draw a plan in my notebook, I make regular notes. 

As the season goes on, I get more and more sloppy. The rain washes the writing off the labels (buy a better permanent marker buffoon!) Everything gets mixed up and I end up learning not much.


In 2019, I lost a lot of potatoes to blight. I’d foolishly planted the same variety (Desirée) for a few years running. This year, I bought five different blight resistant varieties and carefully labelled each patch. When it came to harvest time, instead of separating the potatoes from each patch, so that I could document yield, size, taste, storability etc, I just ended up bundling them all together in the store. At the moment, we’re eating a red-skinned one which is storing very well and is very tasty – I don’t even know what variety it is! Doh.


One of Louise's back yard sculptures that she made at school


One thing that the Oxford Dictionary doesn’t mention is the spirit of enthusiastic, inquisitive, sceptical investigation, which I think is essential for good science. The other two things that are essential are impartiality and transparency. That’s why declaration of interest is quite rightly a mandatory part of any scientific process.

I first experienced ‘scientific mojo’ when I went back to school at the age of 28 with the aim of going to medical school (everyone said ‘no chance peasant’ but I persevered). 

In particular, it was biology A-Level that hooked me. We had a good teacher and a good text book – M V Roberts: Biology – A Functional Approach. I was enthralled by the magic of how plants worked and the fact that it could all be explained by science. I had similar enthusiasms at medical school, but once in the real world of doctoring, I lost all interest.

This week, I got despondent again at the masses of conflicting information  bombarding us on a daily basis.

Science came to the rescue, or rather the reminder that the ability to properly evaluate science is an integral part of my job. All senior medical trainees, before they become consultants, have to undergo rigorous training in it.

I’ve even dug my critical appraisal books out.

The difficulty is the polarisation that’s out there. At one extreme, there are people dutifully swallowing every single thing that the government tells them. At the other extreme are loons and ‘conspiracy theorists’ claiming that Covid is a hoax. Somewhere in the middle, are a small bunch of people using hard evidence to try and evaluate the govt’s actions and the science. I hope that I belong to that group.

My starting point is absolute mistrust of what I believe to be the most corrupt government in this country during my lifetime. Hard evidence comes in the shape of well-documented examples every single week. A biggie this week is Rishi Sunak’s blatant contravention of the law by failing to declare his family’s gargantuan wealth in the ministerial register. This is on the back of him kicking front line workers in the teeth by freezing their pay. Read about it here. Another is former Tory councillor Steve Dechan being awarded 276 million of taxpayers money, without tender, to produce PPE, despite no previous experience – Times article here. There are plenty of other examples, and the Good Law Project is challenging some of them.

Copyright Cold War Steve


Given their blatant cronyism and their prioritisation of personal profit over the needs of ordinary people, then I think it’s reasonable to presume that their presentation of the science is equally questionable.

I’ve been questioning the validity of out-of-hospital community PCR testing since it began, not least for the conflict of interest of those rolling it out. The ‘D’ in Covid stands for disease – A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury according to the Oxford dictionary. A single flawed test on its own does not constitute a disease. There’s some OK evidence here about PCR.

My next question is about existing immunity to Covid. The trials so far, give one group a vaccine, then the other group a placebo. Both groups are then monitored. As far as I can gather, only roughly 40% of the placebo group contract symptomatic illness. What about the other 60%? Could they have some existing immunity either already there or from exposure to the virus? Nobody knows. The science isn’t there yet. It’s a genuine question and I’m wondering why more people aren’t asking it. If some people already have immunity, why on earth would they need a vaccine? Surely it would be better to first determine immunity, then give the vaccine to those without it and to the vulnerable? The Oxford/Asto-Zeneca paper is here.

The vid below is a bit dry but seems a more reasonable interpretation of the data so far, than some of the rubbish out there.


Rock & Roll

Friday night is music night at Hartley House regardless of what any dick government tells us. Fortunately, the house band is t’support bubble, so we don’t even have to break any rules. The superlative drum kit is definitely a boost. Our quirky little under the radar family life is a delight. We continue to dance to a different tune.

Deano suggested to Sam writing a happy song for every unhappy song. Sam’s taken it on board and has banged out a 3 chord happy Irishy song. We got a bit silly, taking the piss out of ‘right-on’ types and came up with the spoof band name Climate Control. Lines such as No-one can see the dolphins’ tears came flooding forth.

I did a Zoom thing for work – it was an Educational Supervisors day. Given that I’m a respectful 15 years behind everyone else when it comes to technology, it was actually good fun. The highlight was a spot from Emma Taylor on public speaking. Consonant enunciation, warm-up exercises, correct lighting, exaggerating facial expression and so on.

I’ve discovered Cold War Steve. He’s been trickling through on Twitter for a while, but now he’s broke through big and deservedly so. His brand of irreverence is right up my street. He does brilliant satirical montages featuring all the key political players. He makes clever references to classic paintings and films. Steve is actually Eastender’s Steve McFadden who appears in every picture. Some of them made me laugh out loud – genius. My favourite is the mobility scooters going over the white cliffs of Dover. You can buy prints from his website – fantastic X-mas prezzies. Copying his picture here is a complement to him and strictly his copyright. It gives me faith in the need for merciless piss-ripping of corrupt pretentious arseholes. Fortunately, I’m too old for that kind of thing. I wish I could say the same for MC Saga.