Saturday, 27 April 2013


After the hedge, the next major item on my gardening to-do list was the ailing eucalyptus in the front garden. Slightly taller than the house, and not quite 3m away from it, the top third or so had been killed off by hard frosts over the last few years. Even aside from the fact that it kept most of the light out of the front of the house and provided a handy perch (right outside the bedroom window) for very loud birds at ungodly hours of the morning, it pretty definitely needed to come down. This, however, was definitely a job for the professionals* we decided, and resigned ourselves to having to part with a substantial amount of money to have it removed.

Then, unexpectedly, a man knocked on the door and said he had had a cancellation round the corner, and, since he was in the area and at a loose end, would we like to employ him to take it down for us if he gave us a really good price and got rid of the resulting timber. Rather inconveniently he arrived at the front door at exactly the same time as P's friend D, his mum, and his two little sisters arrived at the back, but the price was good enough that it seemed worth going ahead in spite of having a house full of guests, so off he went to get his equipment.

P and D gazing in wonderment at a man, halfway up a tree, chatting on the phone.

His equipment, it turned out, consisted of a wobbly ladder, a bijou chainsaw-ette, a length of blue nylon rope, and a sullen, chain-smoking sidekick in sunglasses. It soon became apparent that this was very much the "Eddie Grundy" school of garden landscaping: no safety ropes, no eye protection, no chainsaw-proof trousers, not even any gloves (he pulled his jumper down over his hands when he needed to pull on the rope!).** With us all watching from an upstairs window, he propped the ladder against the tree and wobbling precariously at the top of it (pausing only to chat on his mobile from time to time), hacked lumps off the tree with the chainsaw while his friend tugged on the rope to make sure they landed more-or-less in the right place. Meanwhile, in the relative safety of R's bedroom, five small people oohed and aaahed and D's mum and I speculated on the likelihood of having to call an ambulance, or go searching for a severed limb or two, if the ladder slipped. I did briefly consider offering to hold the ladder for him, but then realised that if the ladder slipped it might well be me that lost a limb...

However, terrifying though it was to watch, the tree came down (as did another smaller one in the back garden) and no limbs were forfeited (though a bit of the ladder did drop off as it toppled over when the tree fell). And there's nothing like a man up a tree with a chainsaw to keep five under-4s entertained all morning.

* A tree-surgeon, not Bodie and Doyle.
** Though at least he didn't try to flog us a novelty concrete gnome.

New Leaves: Part II

One of the few regrets we had about moving from our old house, was leaving the garden behind. While not large, the old garden had been well looked after for a good few years before we got there and was, as the estate agents say "well-established". It had a variety of attractive shrubs and perennials, a greenhouse, a shed, and a nice little pond full of frogs which set up a soothing chirping on warm summer days and kept the slugs down.

The garden at the new house is probably larger over all, but as with the rest of the house no one has looked after it in a very long time. When we arrived the whole thing (three sides of the house, since we're on the end) was dominated by one thing: a large, unkempt, badly-maintained conifer hedge.* The rest of the garden - apart from the paved area - was just grass, interspersed with the occasional dandelion, dock, and rather a large number of beer cans.

I knew this hedge of old, since, when we lived round the corner and I walked this way to the shops, I was always forced to walk in the road because I couldn't get the double buggy between The Hedge and the parked cars, so I was pretty determined to get rid of as much of the wretched thing as possible as soon as possible. A quote to have it taken out left us reeling, so we decided to have a go ourselves - or rather C and my brother did - and fortunately it proved not to be all that hard (the hardest thing being keeping the boys away from the big shiny axe!).

The demise of the horrible hedge: part I.

(The result of) the demise of the horrible hedge: part II.

So, in the course of the last year we have removed something in the region of 30 conifers, cut down two large trees**, substantially reduced the trees that remain, scraped a huge amount of ivy off the side of the house (allowing us to open two windows which were previously welded shut with vegetation), dug a gravel-filled trench to keep the soil away from the damp-course, dug and planted two flowerbeds at the front and three at the back, and made a start on improving the grass : dandelion/thistle/rubbish ratio in the so-called "lawns". There's still a long way to go, but now spring has just about sprung and a few things are starting to grow, it's beginning to feel a bit more like a garden. All I have to do now is find some way of deterring the cats from using every patch of bare earth as a lavatory, and stop the wretched postman walking through my new flowerbeds because he can't be bothered to go up the path!

*Just in case there wasn't enough of it, the previous owners had also left us a large pile of clippings outside the back gate.
** Of which more anon.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Nymphs and Leopards

Given that he is only two-and-a-bit, R is quite an articulate little beast, but he still often mis-analyses words or has trouble pronouncing them. For months, for instance, he has been demanding to put on his "dressing joan" over his pyjamas first thing in the morning. (A similar phenomenon led P to be convinced for some time that we had a "washing lion" in the garden for drying clothes).

Recently, however, I've started to think that maybe he's doing it on purpose. On Wednesday, for instance, he insisted that the seal we were looking at in a book had slippers rather than flippers, that I had presented him with a hot buttered trumpet to eat, and that his brother had attended the nursery nativity at Christmas dressed as a leopard.*

I suspect that this sudden streak of word-play is related to what his older brother has been doing at nursery, as they have been learning about rhymes. P has taken to rhyming like a duck to water, though he is perfectly happy to invent words where he can't think of a real one. Sadly, many of the words he invents do really exist, even if he has probably never come across them, which can be the cause of some embarrassment when he gets one of his periodic fits of rhyming in a public place. 'I know what rhymes with "muck", mummy! ...'

* Actually, there was a Gruffalo, but that's beside the point.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

New Leaves: part I.

It has been some time since my last post.

In the meantime lots of things have happened. For one thing, we've moved house. The new house is much larger, but decidedly dilapidated, and so between every day life with two small boys, and going back to work for the second time after maternity leave, and trying (largely unsuccessfully) to renovate the house in our spare (!) time, the old blog has become somewhat neglected.

Now however, I am determined to make a concerted effort to get back to blogging, even if only now and then and in tiny bite-sized chunks.

Given that in the time it has taken me to write this post I have had to break off three times to get more glasses of milk/cereal, once to clear up the resulting mess, again to change the tv programme (it is a measure of exactly how long it has taken me that that have been able to watch more than one television programme!), and finally to confiscate pens being used to draw on the sofa, this may be a forlorn hope. However, I can but try. Oh, there goes another cup of milk...must dash.