On Saturday 10th April and into Sunday morning it snowed heavily – big white fluffy flakes. The dawn was crispy blue and sunny. I knew it would melt quickly so I leapt out of bed to get up to the ranch and capture it, despite working til 10 the night before and being a bit wiped out.
Does it usually snow heavily in April? No, but it’s not that uncommon. So began a spell of dry sunny weather with some hot heady spells but frosts at night (as low as -5!).
I remain over-excited by the greenhouse. Its top floor is like a childhood den and the pump that lifts water right to the tank at the top, is a boyish toy on a par with a Mamod steam engine.
The downside is having to carry all the plants up and down the stair, but apart from that it’s all good. I need the exercise anyway. I did lose a few tomato plants after foolishly forgetting to put fleece on one night. Now it’s all rocketing ahead and never before have I had so many plants doing so well, so early in the season. What am I going to do with them all?
As you both know, I’m absolutely rubbish at any kind of marketing/selling, but I’ve stopped worrying about it. At least growing plants in uniform large numbers is a step in the right direction.
One sunny Sunday morning, I go over to Mog’s in the van (the 1965 one) to pick up the plants that she’s been growing on her warm windowsill. Despite only starting twice over the winter it runs like a dream, including a spell on the motorway. We checked out the wholefood shops of Barrowford , with a view to asking them to take my stuff – plants, salad leaves etc. Maybe I should stick to plan A and just do plant sales in the van?
Andy, who has taken over one of my bottom allotments is a landscape architect and he’s completely transformed his allotment. He’s bought into the permaculture and organic thing and he’s suggested doing a market gardening business together which is exciting.
Yesterday, Sat 24th, I worked the 8-5 and on arriving home, I rushed up to the ranch as quickly as my legs would carry me, without appearing desperate. Casualty can be a right **** sometimes – utterly intense, relentless and downright harrowing. Getting to the ranch, with a cold ale waiting in the fridge (= a green plastic box in the well) is the perfect wind-down. I pray that I don’t bump into anybody, because all I want to do is get behind that door and lock it behind me.
The tensions dissolve away as I sit in that wonderful sun trap. At this time of year, the fading sun dissolves between two of Linda’s trees about 7pm and it rapidly gets chilly. This time last year, I would have headed for home, after closing the propagators and doing a bit of watering. Now there’s another magic place to transfer to. That’s right. The top floor of the greenhouse. It gets a further 2 or three hours of sun after it’s gone in the main allotment (that’s why I designed it to be in the sky innit).
Those dinky little pair of the doors at the top, frame the most splendid of views and it’s toasty warm. One of the big crows alights on the roof, less than 2 feet away, unaware of my presence. I watch it through the polythine and marvel at its majestic poise and balance.
One evening Sam and I sit up there absorbing the view – our beautiful town amplified in all its understated beauty by the exquisite light of the evening sun.
Watering is quick and easy. I switch on the pump which fills the tank as quickly as I empty it. And guess what? The water is warm. Of course it is smart boy – it’s been in the sun all day.
I get home approaching 8 and chat to Louise about the day. I turn on the telly – it’s on channel 4 after watching the news the night before. The instant I switch it on, a programme comes on about restoring a Spitfire. I’m in heaven. I get my little model out of the cabinet and pretend I’m flying it, emulating the drone of that magnificent engine. If I was an ultra-rich ****, I’d learn to fly and restore a Spitfire. Such is my boyish fascination with Spitfires, that I even wrote a song about them – Wake up Merlin. It’s on the second Vincent Black Lightning album
Louise retreats upstairs, overwhelmed with Spitfire boredom. I’m inspired – they’re making parts from scratch out of aluminium. If they can do it with a 1944 Spitfire, why can’t I do it with a 1965 micro-bus and a 1954 Ferguson? Yeah. Sod it. I’m going to keep the van. Where’s Khany when I need him?
Since the beginning on the ranch, I’ve had a ‘little and often’ philosophy. I get exasperated, because it often feels like I’m not making any progress, but I always have an eye on the bigger picture and things are coming along nicely.
At this time of year, planting and re-potting is everything and I’m way behind. Today is a planting day only – hopefully I’ll catch up a bit.
I’ve realised that the ranch is an oasis of relative certainty within the pandemic sea of uncertainty, fear and grief – it’s a magic private place where the like-minded can gather on occasions. That’s what I’m concentrating on building-wise.
Dewy came last Tuesday and we put a new roof on the lean-to. I bought the polycarbonate for it ages ago. We seized the opportunity of the warm dry weather and got the bulk of it done in a few hours. The day after, I sealed it all and cleaned all the windows for the first time ever – it looks a lot neater.
Drainage is a problem up there – during wet times, a huge amount of water runs off the hillside. I’ve built a complex drain that allows water to seep into the soil, run into the well and drain under the shed via a half-pipe. Fascinating. I’m running a course Allotment drainage for girls but no-one has signed up yet.
I love designing and making stuff straight out of my head. Sam pointed out that it’s a feature of being left-handed. Me, Sam, Esme and Tyler are all left-handed.
At the other ranch, our three new consultants are settling in. Generally, the youngsters are showing some gardening promise whereas the old farts couldn’t grow a f’ing turnip between them (although there are exceptions). Dan gave me a loaf of home-baked sourdough bread after I gave him some broad bean and pea plants.
The ranch as above, so below metaphor applies equally well to a bunch of casualty consultants – casualty is a joke btw – it hasn’t been called that for aeons but even now, some surgeons still refer to us as ‘casualty’. ‘Let casualty sort it out! it’s their problem!’ The young growth comes through as the old wood dies back etc.
Peter and I talk about Don MacLean’s Vincent again (there’s a story about it in my Starry Night blog) and he sheds a new light on it, pointing out that the song throws a poignant light on the writer’s own depression. He mentions Empty Chairs which turns out to be another tear-jerker. I can’t work out whether it’s about someone dying or a relationship break-up, but either way, it’s powerful stuff.
We’re seeing a lot less Covid but more long-term sequelae and vaccine side-effects. My burning question is how our immunity (innate and acquired) will cope with the inevitable variants (that’s what viruses do – they mutate). The situation in India is terrifying.
There are murmurings of a consultants’ ‘meeting’ on the ranch. We’ll see.
Rock & Roll wise, there’s not a lot happening. The ranch in the spring sunshine is so intoxicating and addictive, that everything else gets left behind. I need to start promoting our forthcoming gigs. If they get cancelled, we can do them on the ranch or out of the back of the van. Sam, Tyler, Bryn and Elias have been recording at Sam’s. Meanwhile, I realise that the stuff that’s already out there in the ether rumbles on. I got stopped in the street by someone who I didn’t recognise, saying that they’d enjoyed my book.
I heard a programme on radio 4 about a Swedish bloke (Max Martin) who had written 20 number one hits (exceeded only by Lennon and McCartney). The crux of his success was collaboration with other people.
Bryn’s former band The Goa Express are starting to do well. They got the video that we did for their first single (Reincarnation of The Lizard Queen) taken off YouTube in a very sneaky underhand way. Reptiles shed their skins. I got a few emails off a snivelling Rough Trade Management ponce: ‘The band want a clean slate man.’ I couldn’t resist sending RTM a copy of my book, highlighting the pages describing the making of the single and the video. Are they going to try and ban that too? Welcome to The Register.
To paraphrase W, they can stuff their clean slate up their arses and fuck-off while they’re doing it. It’s interesting how humility can switch to arrogance at the first sniff of success. Their new stuff is very well produced and recorded, but forgettably dull to my ears.
The Strange album by contrast is charmingly lo-fi but blisteringly unforgettable. Sam and I have been talking about how to release it. Our good friend Jonny advises releasing just 12 of the 16 tracks on a low run CD. Sam has asked Louise to design the cover, but she’s not keen. progress on the Baby Butchery vid is slow.
Right – planting time.