Sciatica! OMG!

Ouch!


Eight or nine years ago I had this ache in my left buttock which was not particularly bad but a bit bothersome and sometimes when I was walking it caused me a bit of pain. I had osteopathy, I had acupuncture and finally I had a bit of physiotherapy but I still had the pain so the doctor sent me for an MRI to see what was causing it. Somewhere in the lower part of my spine they found a narrowing which was pinching on a nerve. I was given amitriptyline which I took every evening and lo! the pain disappeared.

I took amitriptyline for the next five or six years but, when I found out that one of its side-effects is tinnitus, I gave it up. That was about eighteen months ago when I had had pneumonia and hadn’t taken the tablets for a while.

Last week the pain in my buttock came back but this time it was not just bothersome, it was/is excruciating. It starts just to the left of my spine, goes through my left ‘cheek’, across to my hip and down the outside of my leg and turns right at the shin, goes across to the inside of my leg and, sometimes, feels like it’s shooting sparks out through the muscle there but otherwise just shoots a very achy pain across. I spent several days doing exercises from the internet along with using a nifty little doohickey called “Paingone” which shoots little electric sparks into various points along the sciatic nerve. Although the pain went occasionally, it always came back with a vengeance so I made myself get up early and rang the doctor (if you want an appointment you MUST start ringing at eight in the morning.) 

I saw the doc, got a new prescription for amitriptyline and for two days in a row there was very little pain – but the nights were something else. 

It is now twenty-five past six on the morning following the second day. I went to bed about midnight, having had a nap earlier to try to catch up with some sleep. I may have slept for half an hour or so but I have been awake the rest of the night and the pain is getting worse. About half an hour ago I took two paracetamol and came downstairs for a coffee, thinking maybe if I moved about the pain would lessen – it hasn’t🙁. 

Someone described it as “toothache in your leg”; it’s that and so much more!😩 May you never have sciatica!

(Sorry for being self-indulgent in publishing this. I thought it might help me although it hasn’t yet. I’ll get back to my mother as soon as I can concentrate😣.)

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Oh, how annoying it is sometimes!

Earlier today I posted a blog about my mother but there was a big glitch with the photos so I removed it, reworked it and re-published it about two hours later. The new one is on the website  ( http://www.whitehairedwoman.com ) but, if you get it via email, you have some of the original which isn’t whole, in the right order etc etc. Please go to the website to see the finished version.

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Patty – The White Haired Woman’s White Haired Mother – Part One

As I believe I said in an earlier post, Patty was born into a well-to-do family in the early twenties of the twentieth century. How it became a well-to-do family is, at least partly, as a result of the American Dream.

My great-grandfather had the Dickensian name of Sam Weller. His father was a tollgate-keeper and Sam was one of several children.  Oral history has it that Sam and his half-blind donkey started by making clay flower pots. In reality, he opened a small pottery, making clay flower pots but whether there was really a half-blind donkey isn’t mentioned in the official files. After several years, he and his young bride, Minnie, moved to the ‘big city’ or, actually Zanesville, which was a nearby town of a reasonable size. Minnie, along with her sisters – all fine seamstresses – set up as dressmakers while Sam grew his pottery business. After just a few years, the Weller Pottery was big enough that Minnie no longer had to work. The pottery grew and prospered, branching out into decorative items as well as flower pots. Sam and Minnie’s family also grew. In 1896, Louise was born and two years later, Ethel – Patty’s mother – came along. The family lived in a wonderful house on Market Street which I remember with great fondness. In 1900 Sam was the first man in Zanesville to own and drive a car in the town.

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Great Grandmother Weller reading with daughters Louise and Ethel

My other great-grandparents were also well-to-do. Alexander Grant owned a large store in Zanesville. His second son, Frederic, went west to Puget Sound to seek his fortune in 1883. He must have visited Zanesville at least once after that because, in 1887 he married Bessie Hoge, daughter of one of the first telegraph operators in Zanesville and she returned to Seattle with him. At that time he worked as a journalist and was the editor of The Post Intelligencer in Seattle as well as becoming the president of the Seattle Street Railway Company and also going into politics, becoming the first US senator from the new state of Washington. Some time after leaving the Senate, he was made the minister to Bolivia (something like an ambassador, I assume) and lived in Bolivia with his wife for about a year but poor health meant he had to resign his post and the two went back to Seattle. There, he resumed his political life as well as the editorship of the newspaper. In 1894, Bessie stayed home because she was pregnant while Frederic went on a voyage on a sailing vessel, The Ivanhoe, hoping to build up his health. The Ivanhoe sank and Frederic II’s dad was lost at sea at the age of only thirty-two. Bessie and her baby son moved back to live near her family in Zanesville  after some time.

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Great grandmother Grant

My grandmother Ethel was a beautiful and intelligent young woman in the days when beauty in a woman was seen as something very desirable while intelligence, if not definitely frowned upon, was discouraged. She was educated at home, probably taught sewing, drawing, a little French, a smaller amount of latin, basic numbers and reading. She became partially deaf – perhaps through a childhood illness or, as was handed down via oral tradition, through standing too close to the booming sound of a ship’s horn when on a transatlantic voyage.

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Grandmother Ethel Weller

My grandfather, Frederic II, was a good-looking and intelligent young man. He went to Yale, became a Captain in the Balloon Corps during WWI and married Ethel in June, 1921.

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Grandpa Grant (Fred II) in Balloon Corps uniform

In November, 1922, Patricia Belle Grant was born.

Finally, I hear you sigh!

Patty was good-looking and intelligent, like her mother. She grew up surrounded by fine objects, beautiful clothes, and a governess. The governess, Miss Keller, according to Patty, was horrible. If Patty couldn’t eat because she felt sick, Miss Keller would force the food into her mouth and hold her lips closed until she swallowed. I’m not sure how long Miss Keller lived with Patty but she definitely caused some of Patty’s later anxieties.

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Patty as quite a young child

Patty went to the local elementary school, played and had adventures with the local children. One story I can remember occurred during prohibition when Patty and her friend, also named Patty, I think, went around looking through people’s windows for signs of ‘hooch’ making. In one cellar they spotted lots of empty glass bottles which they decided must have been collected to be filled with illicit alcohol. I think they rushed to tell their parents who did what parents normally do when their children come to them with outlandish stories – nothing.

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Patty as a teen-ager. I’m not sure whether she is in Ohio or California in this photo.

Fred and Ethel divorced sometime in the early thirties, after their son, Frederic III, was born. Patty stayed with her mother in Zanesville while she was at primary school but seems to have gone to live with her dad in Los Angeles and went to the Douglas girls’ boarding school where she studied and also learned to ride and play polo and learned to shoot a rifle. When she left the Douglas school she went to Smith College in Massachusetts but was only there for a year before she got married.

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Patty with my father on the left, my uncle and me as a baby.

My mother was very bright and should never have had children! She should have stayed at Smith, gone on to an academic life, started painting, perhaps, or writing. She never really knew what she should do with her life and, after two divorces and three daughters, decided she would come to England and work as an architect for the US Navy.

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Patty around 1956

( I wish I had bothered to sit and listen to my mother’s stories when I was younger but I had ‘stuff to do’ – as most young people have – and, by the time I would have appreciated and taken in the history of my mother, it was too late. From my thirties onward I began to feel a great antipathy towards her (with good reason!) which really lasted until she died when I was just entering my seventies, at which point it was too late anyway, as her memory was full of holes.)

Part two soon!

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Just a quickie! Before and After

(Before I was seventeen and after I was seventy)

I thought I’d add these two photos to your consciousness. The first is a painting by my sister, Jennie, who is an artist – as you can tell. The second is the white haired woman just before I went to the hairdressers and had most of the white hair chopped off.😃

Ready for the prom, painting by Jennie, my sister.

The white haired woman’s hair which will be on the floor of the hairdressers shortly!

Don’t forget to give me a like or two, have a look at earlier photos and blog posts if you haven’t seen/read them before and sign up if you want to know about this American in the UK. Thanks!

Next post soon will be about my mother, Patty.

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Some photos I should have published but only just found. An added extra!!

All these photos were taken when I was around 17. The two in the strapless, floaty dress were taken just before I went to the prom. The others were taken by a family friend, Dr. K. Hirsch.

Found this!

With the above ‘invitation’ to the Prom, I found a little note: “On Thursday, May 26, Mike Katz and I went to the Junior-Senior prom, the dinner was nice. I think I looked extremely good but my feet hurt. Mike liked Heidi at that time so danced with her mostly. Otherwise, I had fun.”

Why my feet hurt!

One thing about getting old, you can look back at yourself (via photos) and realise you weren’t at all unattractive! All during my childhood, and teen years I believed that I was ‘funny looking’.  I obviously wasn’t ‘pretty pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ but I think I wasn’t really too bad!

And, by the way, my hair in the prom photos was held in that strange position by at least one full tin of hairspray!

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“Where does SHE come from?”,   Part Four 

It was the ‘Swinging Sixties’, I was twenty years old. Looking back at myself, fifty four years later, I realise what a child I still was but, then, I thought I was a ‘grown-up’. I had just failed to get the qualifications for the teacher training college I wanted to go to, managed to get myself a job helping to teach in a London school in rather an underprivileged area (at the time), and thought that once I’d re-taken my exams, I’d be following my dreams.

Dancing with friends in Kensington Gardens! R-L, Shaun, Judy, Me, Nigel, and two I can’t recognise

I had wanted to be a teacher since I was seven when I had played a game with a group of children one summer day. In that game I was the teacher, standing at the front of the class with all the (5 or 6 children) listening to my every word and obeying my every command. (I seem  to remember we were outside and playing on a set of semi-circular concrete steps somewhere in Convers Avenue, Zanesville, Ohio. Despite the aphantasia I have this ‘not quite’ picture in my head!)

Not long after Christmas I went to my usual Saturday morning haunt, Henekeys in Portobello Road, and was introduced to Mike. He was dark haired, green eyed and charming. Within a few weeks we were seeing each other most days and, eventually, moved in together. We lived in a shared flat in Maida Vale. Shortly,  I realised I was the ‘bread winner’ and that much of what Mike had told me was untrue. But, by this time, I was pregnant.

Me? How could I be pregnant? I was a well-brought up girl and things like that didn’t happen to girls like me!

But they did and still do.

Remember, this was the 60’s and life in London was a lot freer than it was in many places but, even so, it was going to be hard. Abortion was still illegal and I refused to consider it,  not from a religious or even pro-life point of view but because I couldn’t bear the thought of it, from the moment I found out there was a baby inside me. My mother, who was very upset, had a very different point if view! She found a friend of a friend of a friend who had had an abortion and got a doctor’s name, made an appointment and took me there in a taxi. She went into the doctor’s office with me and told him what she thought should happen. He asked her to step outside while he examined me. I told him that I didn’t want an abortion and, a few moments later, he told my mother that it was too late to carry out a safe abortion.

Nowadays, it’s not really a big deal. There are many, many well-loved children born ‘out of wedlock’ every year but in those days often girls were sent to ‘unmarried mother homes’  where they would sit out the time when they  were obviously pregnant, have the baby taken from them at six weeks and then go home to get on with their lives as if nothing had happened. If a girl stayed at home all the neighbours would know about her ‘sin’ and (though not always) would make her feel like an outcast and the child would be labeled ‘bastard’. I decided to ‘front it out’. I bought myself a second hand ring in Portobello Rd and wore it when I was out and about. At the school I was working in I wore an overall which I hoped hid my baby bump and possibly was successful as no one ever mentioned it!

My sister Judy, me and ‘Veronica’ (before she was born!)

Mike and I saw each other once or twice after I moved back home but he never saw his daughter and, apart from once, never asked to see her.

My beautiful daughter, ’Veronica’, was born on the first of November and was welcomed by the whole family. She was healthy and happy, enchanting the friends, neighbours and nearby shopkeepers and bringing much joy into our lives.

Proud Candy with ‘Veronica’

As she grew up we realised how very bright she was and, when she won a scholarship to a Oxbridge college, no one was surprised. Today she is happily married with a beautiful and intelligent daughter of her own and I am the proudest mum in the world!

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In Part Five I’ll tell you a bit more about my mother.

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“Where does SHE come from?” Part Three

My second year at Central High was similar to my first, not very good educationally but fun otherwise.

The school had a room which we could use at lunchtime to sit around, listen to records, chat to our friends, even dance, I seem to remember, rather than walk around outside in all weathers which seemed to be the case in English schools. And, of course there were the ‘formals’ which were held two or three times a year and gave us the chance to get really dressed up – for the girls to wear strapless, floaty dresses and the boys to wear their tuxedos with cummerbunds and bow ties.

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This is me in my (non-floaty, non-strapless) dress at the Christmas Formal, with Mike Katz, 1959

I think my mother had already decided we would stay in England after that second year, as the next school year she sent us all to a ‘crammer’ – a wonderful school in Hammersmith run by a Mrs Hugh-Jones who had set it up to help girls pass their GCE’s or, as in the case of Jennie, help them to catch up with other girls their age so that they could go on to a state secondary schools or wherever.

I was there for one year and it was really helpful as well as being  a  wonderful place to go. The school was in Mrs Hugh-Jones’s little house and we had to wear ballet slippers when indoors so that we didn’t ruin the carpets.  The French class was with a french woman and held in what I believe was Mrs Hugh-Jones’s bedroom. Six or so of us girls would sit on divan with our books on our knees while Madame Latour (I think that was her name) would sit on a chair behind a little table. History and geography were in a room at the front on the first floor which was kitted out with real desks and chairs as was the Maths room which was next to it. I didn’t do maths because I was so far behind and it would have been impossible to finish the course in one year. The hours were either 9-12 or 10-1pm, we could get there in half an hour on the tube or a London Transport bus and we had our afternoons free. I was able to pass three ‘O’ levels, as they were called in those days, and go on to an ‘A’ level college for the really important exams. (Best of all, there was no p.e.! No running around outside, no climbing up ropes, no playing ball games or any other exhausting pastime!)

It was at Mrs Hugh-Jones Tutorial Establishment that I met my best friend, Shaun. She was my opposite, in many ways – she was tall, busty, and very outgoing where I was small, flat-chested and really shy. We had a great time together, going out to parties and dance clubs at the week-ends and spending loads of time at each other’s houses listening to music, trying out make-up and talking about the young men we were meeting. We stayed best friends for around four or five years until she went off to Spain and I stayed in London. Years and years later I found Shaun through Friends Reunited and, though we lived eighty or so miles apart, we met up every once in a while and had a good laugh. When my mother died, Shaun came to her funeral. No one could have known then, in July 2014, that Shaun would drop dead just a few months later and I would never see her again.

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Young Shaun

After my ‘O’ levels, I went to City of Westminster College which was situated in a large red brick building in Francis Street, Victoria, not far from Westminster Cathedral and just down the road from the Army and Navy Stores. Every morning during my first year there I went to a café outside the entrance to Victoria Station where all the buses line up and had poached egg on toast with a cup of tea. I would then wander down Victoria Street to the college, go into the cafeteria and have another cup of tea with a cigarette. (The English nickname for cigarettes was ‘fags’ which will make my American readers laugh, I’m sure!) My mother was still working for the Navy at the time so I was still smoking American cigarettes – Pall Malls. This made me very popular among my college friends!

I wanted to go on to teachers training college so needed two ‘A’ levels and I decided to do English Literature and French. I had to study another subject at ‘O’ level so chose Logic. I quickly realised that Logic and I were not suited! I couldn’t get my head round syllogisms, which is the only word I remember that I was introduced to during the few weeks I stuck to it. (I had to look it up to see what it means and I’ve already forgotten!)  So, I signed up for Latin ‘O’ level as I had never studied it and thought it would be helpful.

Although circumstances – and the fact that I am a lazy individual – meant that I never did pass my Latin ‘O’ level, the two years I spent studying it were, indeed, very useful in the ensuing years. Best of all, though, was the latin teacher! He was only about ten years older than his students and, when he wasn’t teaching latin he was busy being a jazz pianist. His name was Michael Garrick. In the 1990’s I went to a Pizza Express in Maidstone where I knew he was appearing and enjoyed an evening listening to him playing. I was very tempted to introduce myself to him during an interval but, in the end, I was too shy.

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Young Candy, aged about 17

During my two years at the college I made quite a few acquaintances and a couple of good friends. There was a young man by the name of John Rasmussen whose family were originally Norwegian and whose television only received BBC1; another named Colin with whom I was in touch a couple of years ago; Valerie, whose dad was a vicar in east London; Susan,who lived in Denmark Hill; a young artist who had escaped from Hungary in 1956 called Peter Siklos; Tom, who died a few years ago; Fay, who became a famous food writer; Chris, who knew which piece of music I meant when I hummed (badly) the third movement of Brahms’ third and whom I eventually found through Facebook, living in Japan; Liam who was Irish and always seemed to wear a tweed jacket (the things one remembers!); and others, about whom I knew very little but their names; and there was Tim. I went out with Tim for about a year and have only recently been able to get in touch with him again.His mum and dad were very nice to me whenever I visited them at their home in Wateringbury, a village I was to live in thirty years later. His mother introduced me to sweet peas which I adore and to pheasant which I found revolting (especially with the shot still in!)

When Tim and I first met we spent a lot of time being rude to one another. As often happens, this led to attraction. Unfortunately, I was engaged to a lovely young man called Roger. It is now obvious to me that eighteen is far too young to make one’s mind up about a future partner but at the time I had truly believed that Roger and I would marry when we were both a bit older and live happily ever after. I imagine his mother was very pleased when, one night, I broke off our engagement. (Roger and his mum lived in the same block of flats that we lived in and several years later, he was very kind to me which I’m sure I didn’t deserve! He now lives in Paris with his lovely wife, Christine)

After my ‘A’ levels and my break up with Tim, all of which happened within a few months, I found a job for a year working for the then LCC (London County Council) as something which I am sure no longer exists. My official title was pre-trainee teacher and I was given a position at Avondale Park Primary School near Latimer Road tube station. I worked in the school’s day nursery with Gwen and an older woman whose name I am sad to have forgotten. I enjoyed those months, getting to know how a class of such young children is run, actually learning children’s songs and rhymes which hadn’t got to America so had passed me by, picking out tunes on the classroom piano while the children were having their afternoon naps on little cots in the room next door and learning about English school dinners! At that time they were DELICIOUS! We ate with the children in the nursery and each of us would sit at the head of a table, dishing out potatoes, carrots and peas, or cabbage and little slices of meat with gravy. ‘Pudding’ was the best! There was jam roly poly with custard, fruit and jelly, the occasional doughnut with warm jam sauce, gingerbread, biscuits, sponges of all sorts with sauces to suit – I’m making my mouth water just thinking of them!

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Jam Roly-Poly! Yum!

During this time I was unattached and enjoyed being single. It was the early 1960’s and clothes, music, hairstyles were getting more and more exciting. I wasn’t earning much and naturally had to give something to the family purse so I didn’t have a lot of  fashionable clothes but I did have one or two nice outfits. I went out with a young man called Dennis Rolfe who was hoping to become a photographer and whose ambition was to own a Morgan car. I lost touch with him during the following year but seem to remember coming across him in Queensway and he had managed to get hold of a Morgan. When we were going out, though, he had a Vespa motor scooter. In those days silly people, including me, rode round without helmets. I am not a risk-taker, though and decided I had to have a helmet so bought one from a friend. A few years later I found out that one should never buy a second-hand helmet as it might have been damaged and one wouldn’t know until it didn’t protect one’s head. Luckily, we didn’t have any accidents when I was on the scooter.

On the 22nd of November that year (1963) we heard that President Kennedy had been shot. It was the most shocking thing I could imagine. I seem to remember that I was going out that evening with a young man called Paul Caplan and we went on a bus to wherever it was (probably Kings Road, Chelsea). Everyone on the bus was red-eyed and talking in low whispers about the terrible news. Everyone in the pub we went to was subdued. It was a really sad time.

Every Saturday morning I went to Henneky’s pub in Portobello Road to meet friends. One time I heard that ‘Mick’ would be there but he didn’t turn up. It was a year or so later that I realised they were talking about Mick Jagger! Another regular at that time was the son of Joe Losey, Gavrick. He was very good looking and always surrounded by attractive women.

It was there that December that I met another Mike.

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For American friends: Pudding = Dessert, Biscuits = Cookies, P.E = physical education

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ANTIFA – ANTI-FASCIST OR ANTI-1ST AMENDMENT?

I keep reading differing meanings if the word ‘antifa’. (See the title!)

Is there someone out there in Twitter or Facebook land that can give me a definitive answer on which it means? Fascists would be against the first amendment because it gives us freedom of speech, freedom to worship how we want – or not worship at all, and various other rights. Anti-fascist is obviously what every right-thinking person should be, whether in America or anywhere else and is pro-1st Amendment because of the rights.

So, please! Someone decide then we can know whether ‘antifa’ is good or bad! Thank you.

Summer flowers, 2017

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Anyone for TEA – SELS?

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The teasels – 2017

When we moved into our lovely home twelve years ago there were things we knew we needed to change – the fact that the ONLY bathroom was on the ground floor was the most urgent, for me at least. (Many women over fifty need to go into the bathroom at least once during the night, I find, and making one’s way downstairs when half asleep is not something to be taken lightly!)

Originally, our Edwardian house was built as a family home with four or five bedrooms upstairs and a kitchen, lounge and dining room downstairs with a beautiful, large, square hall in the middle. (I’m still not sure of the original layout upstairs as it had been changed a lot!) When we moved in, the house consisted of the more or less original downstairs plus, upstairs, two double and one single bedrooms and, with its own entrance, a flight of stairs leading to a separate flat containing a lounge, kitchen, loo, shower and a bedroom in the loft. The house had been divided by the previous owners some years earlier, ostensibly for the use of one of their children although we think it probably had been rented out to students or young people at times.

So, we decided to turn the house and flat back into its original form and to put a bathroom upstairs. Julian is excellent at d.i.y. and his first job was to open a way through from the upstairs corridor to the flat. This meant getting rid of a small airing cupboard on the ‘house’ side and the shower on the ‘flat’ side, both of which had been built when the separation took place. Luckily, it wasn’t a long and arduous task although it was quite messy and created loads of dust. Next, Julian dismantled the upstairs kitchen, leaving the separate boiler to heat the upstairs water. (This water-heating arrangement lasted only as long as we could bear it! The boiler was old and barely heated a bathful of water, switching itself off willy-nilly).
Within a year or so of our moving in, we had an upstairs bathroom, which now, after eleven years, needs a little updating but is definitely better than the downstairs one was!

The downstairs bathroom is, of course, still there but minus the bath and with a decent-sized basin – the original was so small you couldn’t wash a sweater in it without getting soapy water on the floor! We are still working out what the next phase regarding the ‘downstairs loo’ should be. The walls are still tiled with shiny glazed tiles all the way to the ceiling and with a large (tile)  dolphin in the middle of the biggest wall. I’d like to remove the tiles but Julian says that all the plaster behind would just fall off and I’m tired of that kind of dust. (I’ll fill you in on other d.i.y. and professional changes which have made me so fed up another time!)

Dolphins on the wall

Now, to the teasels. Three summers ago (2015) we had our back garden completely altered. Two steps below the terrace there had been a lovely big pond with loads of fish, a decorative cherry tree, a small apple tree, loads of ivy, a large acanthus plant, a ceanothus tree, a couple of straggly roses, a hydrangea, a greenhouse with grapes, some  raspberry  canes and a redcurrant and a blackcurrant bush but nowhere to deposit all the rubbish, weeds, grass cuttings etc that are the result of hard work. The garden was on a slope dropping away from the house which meant it was difficult to find a flat enough place for a deck chair. Add to this the only way to get such rubbish from the back to the driveway in front was through the kitchen or dining room and then the hallway  (so, no wheelbarrow loads!)
From the time we moved into our house until three summers ago, various things happened that made us take our eye off the ball as far as the garden was concerned – I had my appendix out, went partially deaf, had carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, had both knees replaced, got older, fatter and (if it were possible!) even lazier. Julian got various part-time jobs to keep us in the little luxuries and, for four or five years, had to get up at five in the morning three or four days a week. He’s never been a keen gardener, anyway, and doesn’t notice these things! Anyway, all the fish disappeared from the pond (I spotted a crow dive down, grab one of the larger fish and fly off with it), the pond developed some leaks which would have cost huge amounts of time and money to fix – we had relined a much smaller pond in a different property years earlier and knew what it entailed – the decorative cherry tree was too tall and far too close to the house, the apple tree had been got rid of as it was dead, the ivy was hemming us in, the acanthus was spreading, the ceanothus had gone as Julian had needed to re-roof the shed and it was in the way, the hydrangea had outlived its beauty, the greenhouse was long gone along with the grapes, the raspberries had given of their finest and were on their last legs – it was time for a change!

The garden – summer 2015 – Before

Neither of us is in the first flush of youth, as you know, so we contacted a local company who were delightful to work with. Their designer came up with a plan I loved – a brick seating area, raised beds and a wild-flower ‘meadow’ as well as a ‘water feature’ for the frogs who come back every year to croak, mate and leave their tadpoles behind.

Julian and Rosie surveying the work-in-progress

 

Work in progress

They started around the middle of August. The first thing we had to work out was how they were going to get everything into and out of the garden. We decided to use the doorway in the dining room (which is used as the studio for painting and displaying our masterpieces) so the men laid a long line of ‘dust-sheets’ from the outer dining room door, through the hall, out the front porch and through the front door. Thus started three weeks of dust, twigs, a little but not much mud, in through one back door and my using the other to carry various hot and cold drinks to a very hard-working group of men who completely transformed what was a mess into a great place for us, our friends and – especially – our dog to use (and abuse!).
The last jobs that were done was putting down turfs (or turves) and sowing the seed for the wild flower ‘meadow’ (a triangular piece of the garden directly in line with the kitchen window where I am now sitting. It is about 24 feet by 12 feet at the widest with the ‘point’ of the triangle nearest the house. Gareth came one morning, raked the triangle to a fine tilth (something I have never managed to do in all my years of gardening!) and sowed two full boxes of seeds onto it. I didn’t ask and he didn’t offer to tell me, what would happen, what kinds of plants would grow. That was at the beginning of September, 2015 and very little happened on that triangle for the next few months – except my having to make sure Rosie didn’t ‘use’ it!

The raised beds

The wild-flower meadow before the flowers came out

In the spring, 2016, there were lots of little green shoots and within a month or so we found poppies, cornflowers and yellow daisy-like flowers. They made a wonderful display! Underneath them I could see all sorts of different types of leaves growing and wondered what they could be but nothing much else happened before the poppies, cornflowers and yellow daisies died down leaving loads of dead, brown stems and leaves. Still, I could see that there were other things growing so didn’t dig it all up but tried to make it look reasonably tidy. [The ‘water feature’ (the dark line which appears in the photo below from the bottom centre and going at an angle into the ‘meadow’) proved a hit with the frogs and contained masses of frog-spawn, later to become tadpoles and eventually tiny frogs which now populate the garden.]

The wildflower meadow, spring 2016

Spring, 2017 arrived. There was definite growth! Things started to appear and I realised I didn’t have a clue what they were. As my birthday is in April I asked for a wild flower recognition book and my lovely daughter and her husband obliged. I spent loads of time out in the garden trying, failing and, finally, succeeding in recognising the vast array of flowers, some of which I had never even heard of. There were: common poppies, red and white campion, salad burnet, ox-eye daisies, vipers bugloss, cornflowers, yellow daisies, sainfoin, bedstraw, feverfew, selfheal, yarrow and – teasels!

The teasels were especially mysterious! When they were still quite short I tried to figure out what they were going to grow into. At first I believed that the big lower leaf was a dock leaf, which, in the UK is used to sooth a stinging nettle stings but quickly realised that it couldn’t be dock! On the backs of the leaves are loads of little thorns which grow along the big vein, there are thorns on the stems from bottom to top and, of course, the teasel is made up of what feel like thousands of thorns. Almost the entire front half of the triangle is taken up with teasels which means there are many, many teasels. I’ve cut down a nice jugful for use as a subject of paintings, I’ve given several armfuls (ouch) to friends but really haven’t a clue what to do with the others. If you can come up with an idea (no rude ones, please – I’ve already thought of those!) let me know.

Teasel – and visiting friend.

(For my American readers: lounge = living room, loo = toilet, loft = attic, garden = yard, flat = apartment, d.i.y. = do-it-yourself (jobs around the house), boiler = water heater, bath = bath tub)

 

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Houston Floods

I am not in America so can’t do much in the way of flood-aid but please, if you have the wherewithal, consider going to http://www.houston-strong.com  and sending a donation of things that will help rather than money which, at the moment, doesn’t  really do any good at all!

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