Hazy warm sunshine dawns after a frostier than ever April and early May. Of course the English weather obsessives have lapped it up. The frostiest April since … In gardening terms, that means things are a bit late. I’m pleased. I know I’m eternally repeating myself about the greenhouse, but that second storey in the sky isn’t half doing its job. I did lose about 6 tomato plants one night in April when it was minus 5, but that’s about it. Now there are over 100 of up there – all in need of a good home – 16 varieties, bred by Real Seeds to do well for small gardens from places like the Ukraine and Belarus. To be safe, I won’t be planting out any frost-sensitive stuff until the end of May.

The chillies too (also planted in large numbers) have survived, but they don’t like the cold nights at all, so are coming on very slowly.

Top floor of greenhouse


We had a deluge of rain yesterday and that’s just about the best thing that could happen in my favourite month of May. The ground is soaked. The water tanks are full and the land would happily embrace a 3 month drought. The primroses are out in on the lane and the wood anenomes and bluebells are out in the park.

Quite a lot of stuff tolerates frost and my beds are now at least two-thirds full. The peas have been in for over a fortnight and are thriving. The little orchard is in full bloom. The first brassica bed is planted (protected by Hartley-patent fold-flat brassica cage). I don’t care what anyone says – brassicas are difficult to grow in our climate and it’s taken me a long time to have even marginal success, although still no sign of a cauliflower- lime and partial shade help.

Folding brassica cage


Dewy is a fellow gardening loon who gets the bigger picture – food growing as part of ordinary life. Our little town as ever has its weaving threads of serendipity and at the heart of it, is my giant front garden of Towneley park. I’ve mentioned before that my dad’s grand dad was coachman to Lady O’Hagan who was the last occupier of the hall. 

Dewy, Monty Don-like (we must start making gardening vids), is now a gardener at part of the the remaining estate. Cosi popped in yesterday to bring me a queen excluder for one of my hives and there’s much guffawing when I tell her that I’m a lefty pinko like him (she’s a county councillor). A light-hearted resumé of recent political events ensues. She is extraordinarily down to earth and particularly knowledgeable about rights of way.

Meanwhile De Pfeffel turns up in my namesake town to pack as many lies into 30s as possible. There’s been a big fuss about his curtains, so maybe Murdoch’s puppet masters are planning to replace him? Sadly Zionist gong-carrier and his tribe are even more Tory than him. Why on earth doesn’t someone start a new party based on the common ground of ordinary people?

I’ve never known a May that doesn’t deliver at least some hot sunny weather. I always take 2 weeks off and I can’t wait. It’s the specialest of months for me and as I’ve explained before, the highlight is the day of the full moon. I have a ritual of going to an extraordinarily special place to camp, and weather allowing, watch the moon rise between the trees. Me and the trees innit.

Last week Louise checked out a big car boot not far from us and she said it was very well attended. Maybe I’ll try a plant sale there one weekend – it runs from 6 til 1 (Who on earth wants to get up at 5 on a Sunday morning?). I was almost ready to do it today but my get-out clause was heavy rain yesterday. Andy has mentioned doing a plant sale at the bottom of the track and he’s suggested starting a FB group to advertise our wares. We suggested calling it Burnley Wood Organic Growers, but Elias and Sam pointed out that it sounds like a weed-growing enterprise (due to the infamous location), so we’ll have to have a rethink. The new drain works beautifully.



May is a big planting month and that’s all been I’ve been doing this week – seeds in trays and re-potting. I’ve probably been a bit premature due to the excitement of having a big greenhouse for the first time. I’m absorbing the shock of buying ‘one of everything’ from Real Seeds and I’m trying to experiment by planting a few of each. There are lots from cold climes with short growing seasons which might have a chance of doing well up here. There are also ones from ‘pre-conquest Mexico’ and there’s one described as ‘one of the last crops that the Incas grew’.

My brother has a small garden and he had a go at growing veg last year. He decided it just wasn’t worth it. We coined the term ‘thousand pound tomato’. If I took into consideration the money that I’ve spent on buying the land, the time and all the other associated expense then it’s not far off the mark. 

Wood anenomes


It’s not all plain sailing. Some days I get completely disheartened and wonder what I’m doing scrabbling about on an scruff hill inhospitable to many plants. As ever, there’s the bigger picture and I have to take a leaf out of the Dicks who dare manual. It’s all about creating a special place within the limitations of the local environment. Food growing as an alternative to patting balls with sticks and flying hundreds of miles to slide down hills on planks strapped to feet. I even baked some more bread and made soup with my own potatoes, onions, poppy seeds and nettles.

meanwhile, the shitake mushrooms have gone fungal!

Shitake mushrooms growing on oak logs.


I resisted the temptation to do the 12 months since lockdown thing. Thankfully, things seem to be settling down, but who knows what the variants will bring? The thought of vaccinating children fills me with horror. Their immune systems are developing and there’s no long term data whatsoever on how they might be affected. There have been a number of reports of menstrual irregularities in women, post-vaccination.

I got tired of wading through the COVID science. It’s a minefield, because the gold-standard safety-net of peer review has gone out of the window, giving way to swathes of ‘pre-prints’. The evidence can so easily be twisted to suit any opinion.

The comparison curves however speak for themselves. There are plenty comparing like for like areas that did and didn’t have lockdowns and mask mandates. In countries like England and the US where there are large corridors of non-compliance and reservoirs such as hospitals and supermarkets, a sweeping ultra-contagious virus will always sweep.

Sweden Illinois comparison
UK & Sweden compared


One thing that continues to surprise me is the continued blanking by social and mainstream media of the ivermectin story.

Ivermectin has been around for a long long time as a very safe anti-parasitic. It’s showing extremely promising results in many trials so far, both as an anti-viral and an anti-inflammatory. It works equally well in prevention (0.2 to 0.3 milligram’s per kilogram in 2 doses 72 hours apart) and in treatment of both mild and severe disease. It’s ultra-cheap to produce and is off-patent.

This is the point when swarms start to accuse conspiracy loondom. I would simply urge people to check the science for themselves – especially those trained to critically appraise scientific papers.


Ivermectin in India


This is a recent article by a South-African doc. I mentioned a few times that I follow a bloke called John Campbell, a retired A&E nurse, who does a daily COVID science appraisal YT vid. I’ve always found him to be balanced and well-informed. He’s done at least 3 ivermectin vids so far and he was saying that he’s been censored on FB. I’ve also heard of a well-known non-MSM journalist getting barred from FB for 30 days for sharing a video by Dr Tess Lawrie and Twitter censoring too. To be fair, the BMJ have at least mentioned it (BMJ article) but not particularly favourably.

The million dollar question of course is If it’s such a great drug, how come they’re not using it in India and other badly affected countries? The answer is, that when politics allow, they are – there’s increasing use in India, showing good results.



At the other ranch Ratty and I talk sensibly about the science. He’s a twenty year + clubber like me. Also like me, he’s the first from his family to become a doctor. He’s from a farming background and had a tractor as a youngster. He has a senior scientist contact from one of the controversial European countries and gets inside info on their pandemic management. My stock greeting when I see him is ‘Where’s my Land Rover?’. He’s had a few and I’ve never had one. It’s not fair.

Peter enthusiastically talks about a potential combined Music and Medicine festival. One could seamlessly move between a thoracostomy and heavy rock tent. I get where he’s coming from and my wicked imagination pictures a couple of completely shit-faced casualty consultants doing a trauma talk. I suspect that if such a festival opportunity was to transpire, some tents would be more popular than others. I may raise the topic with The Chair of the Consultants’ Committee for further exploration. I’ve heard talk of an Off-piste meeting.

It reminds me of that time when I was completely free and I went to the Cardiff conference as a little holiday. There was a band in the bar on the Friday night and I was terribly disappointed that it was empty instead of being full of drunken cavorting casualty consultants. That’s the time that I took the fact that Thomo had heard of the Frantic Elevators as an omen, and ended up with a proper job, much to my surprise. It’s all in the book



May day:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

May day is enshrined within English culture and folklore for good reason. Dancing round the Maypole goes back to pre-history and nature meets magic at the crack between the worlds.

This year it was a Saturday, and spontaneously it became a splendid family evening musical gathering. On the Friday night, Gaz and I ran through some songs, with a view to choosing one to film for Paula and Mike’s Sonny Michaels Show. We settled on Fools which is my cynical take on Western Psychiatry: Western psychiatry supercult, can I have my money back please? Crap life due to madness or is it the other way round? Music is medicine innit – therapy for’t soul.

May Day is the international distress call, which comes from the French M’aidez meaning help me. I’m not keen on saxophones and mouth organs (with the exception of Fenny and Lez) – too many memories of stodgy old white blokes murdering the blues – I can’t bear to listen to Stormy Monday ever again. One exception is Sonny Boy Williamson’s Help Me -it’s a great slow R&B chugger.

Liam and Sam - live recording


In the afternoon, I set up the microphones and camera. Our darling friend Tricia was here. She and Louise were having a little ‘art session’, doing their sweet little paintings on the kitchen table like children. Tyler, Elias and Sam arrived. They’d been doing some recording round at Sam’s on the superlative drum kit. 

Tricia is a cognitive behavioural therapist and she’s doing a course on mindfulness. We talk about it at length and I explain that in Buddhism, mindfulness is just part of a much bigger picture – it’s one of the five faculties – mindfulness sits in the middle and the other four are: Faith; energy; stillness of mind and comprehension (or wisdom). In the past, I’ve disparaged the modern trend, but I’m changing my view – mindfulness (= being fully aware in the present moment) can work as a stand alone faculty, and can be very helpful.

By the time we were ready to press record, the kitchen was filled with our family bubble, all swilling fine wine. I authoritatively  told them to shut tf up which prompted loud screams, hoots, tap-dancing and Mongolian throat singing – not your average fam. I’m suffused with gratitude over the fact that we’re all OK and still playing music in the same room across 2 generations.

Gaz has mastered the sound and I’ll put the vid up next week. The Strange’s Baby Butchery vid is nearly finished too.

It didn’t end there. On Sunday aft, Tyler and Sam were recording again. Sam phoned up to order some sandwiches from Lou’s caff. They came round and ended up partaking in the wine-o-clock  proceedings. Next thing, Liam arrived with fortifications – possibly from his parents’ cellar? We ended up having an impromptu recording sess, banging down one of Liam’s songs. He played the Rick and he makes it sing – a great guitar player. I found a load of old photos recently of The Strange, which I thought I’d lost and there are a few of Elias, Sam and Liam when they were kids, playing in their first ever band The Norms.

The Norms