Monday, 26 October 2015

I got my allotment! POST from 30th August.

All mine
On 30th August the allotment officially became mine.

My greenhouse
This is how it was looking by the end of Summer.

Aubergines and tomatoes in the greenhouse.
Tommy a toes
Runner bean wigwams did well this year.

Pound shop runner beans
I inherited some artichokes and lots of borage which has self-seeded everywhere.



Aubergine flower

This was early on in the Summer, I got given lettuce seedlings, bean plants and the aubergine by friendly fellow allotmenteers.
Early Summer

Chocolate cosmos

James Grieves apple
I'm in the process of trying to dig out a tree stump.

Tree stump to go

This was at the end of May, I cleared a strip where the artichokes were.

This is when I got it, slightly unloved but still perfect.

With a handy water supply.

An apple tree - James Grieves variety.

I have used these bits of wood to make a compost heap.

I was rather overgrown, I found a path around the greenhouse!

There is a path under this grass!

This is a cherry tree, I've planted wild strawberries and forget-me-nots underneath now.


Borage under the apple tree.

apple and borage


This is a gooseberry bush!

And a wonderful fig.

Artichokes before being cleared of grass.

artichoke being strangled by grass


Comfrey great for making liquid fertiliser.

My plans keep changing, but presently I'm leaning towards a peonie and rose bed interplanted with kale.

Anxiety dreams

Dreampt I saw a young girl with a platinum blonde bob pushing a pram up the garden path to our front door, I asked if she was Vera. She walked past me, I asked her again if she was Vera the new owner of the garden flat, she continued to ignore me. The door to the garden flat was propped open with dust sheets on the ground and I followed her in. The entrance hallway was huge, like a ballroom, it was full of young girls, they all stared at me. I tried to follow Vera but lost sight of her, in the end I asked where she had gone, no one seemed to understand me, everyone was whispering and staring at me, someone pointed into another room next to the garden. I asked if anyone spoke English again and a young girl pointed to a huge swarthy guy with long dark hair stood next to a large window. I asked him what work they were planning to do, he didn’t answer me either. I said I lived here and was one of the joint freeholders and that they were not to do any structural work without consent and that we had a right to see the plans. He wouldn’t look me in the eye but sniggered and said: I know, we are taking them to court’.  I felt he was too angry to look at me. I went to leave but the corridor back to the front door had sunk 5ft. To get out I had to pull out shelves as makeshift stairs to climb, up all the girls were looking at me and I was trying to make idle chit chat saying:, Gosh, I couldn’t do this every day.‘ ‘How do you do this everyday?‘ ‘How does Vera do this with a pram?‘

So it would appear I’m not only afraid of impending structural work but losing my youth, large dark men and prams - I know I’ve always had a dislike for prams, I guess the others are no surprise either.

I took Erbie to Highgate Woods yesterday, the Autumn colours were beautiful, the sun hung low in the sky and there was a slight chill in the air. We met a friend from school in the playground and I spoke to his parents, who had helped me come up with the line: ‘None of this is acceptable;’ when we’d been asked to sign two consent forms, one for future building work to go ahead (without seeing any plans) and the second for the historical removal of the chimney breasts in the garden flat, (that had been carried out before we owned a part of the building).

They told me not to worry - no one could do anything structural to the building without agreement from the leaseholders / freeholders.  I asked: ‘What do I do if they know that but go ahead and do it anyway, can we stop them?’ They said if you hear a wall being knocked down or see lots of rubble coming out you’ll know they’re up to something and can get a solicitor involved. They also told me there is a free drop-in session for planning advice with Haringey council in Wood Green.

Please let it be nice people that move in.

I plan to hoover the communal hallway and sweep up the communal front path today, as I am working from home, a little territorial scenting perhaps...

Saturday, 24 October 2015


Get it off your chest. I think I’m having and anxiety attack. I need to start the headspace meditation up again. A lot has happened since we moved into this flat, none of it good, apart from Erbie of course who is a delight and we are all relatively healthy and have a roof over our heads and food in the cupboards all of which I am thankful for.

The garden flat below us has just sold, we share the freehold, no one was expecting the sale to go through as they thrust a load of consent paperwork at all the freeholders at the 11th hour – for building work not comparable to the lease; which everyone refused to sign. Now I am extremely nervous that they are going to go ahead with the building work without our consent. I don’t think our marriage will take it, not again. The neighbour’s build nearly destroyed us and it only stopped 5 months ago, we are just starting to get a semblance of normal family life back.

We saw them today, a young couple with a baby, they were in there for an hour with a man with a computer. Building contractor – architect? People don’t like being told they can’t do things but we all share an interest in protecting the joint building not shaping it to our desires. What if they are just like the neighbours and move in a bunch of builders whilst they stay somewhere nice and quiet and think that they are the ones who are being inconvenienced?

I used to be such a positive person, I’d be saying: ‘Oh how lovely a little friend for Erbie’ and ‘How nice it will be to have owners living in the building rather than a buy-to-let as it was before’. But these past years have really knocked it out of me and now I just think of the worst thing that could happen. 

What on earth does one do if someone comes in and decided to do whatever they like in breach of the lease? Who do you call? Are you even able to stop them? Where does one stand legally? Can I live through another battlefield, dread coming home every day, will my colitis come back, will I start looking 103, forget stuff, make silly mistakes, not be able to care for my family properly.

Hell maybe I’ll just go and get some Valium!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Recipe for 4 Thieves Vinegar

I haven’t had coffee all week, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I have to say, I think it actually helped settle my stomach. I didn’t go all out cold turkey however, as I still had a daily cup of tea, thus avoiding the headaches commonly associated with caffeine withdrawal.

But it is the weekend, the sun is shining and I’m feeling a little French, so a petit café (little coffee) is keeping me company as I type. Oh yes, it’s great to be good; but God it’s good to be bad.

To fulfil my yearning for a little piece of France this morning I have been looking at two of my major girl crushes online - Inès de la Fressange, who I discovered in the 1980’s, whilst she was Karl Lagerfield’s muse for Chanel. Now in her 50’s, still gorgeous with a seemingly effortless chic she has a newsletter - La Lettre d’Inès.

Inès de la Fressange from her newsletter

Inès de la Fressange

The other is the illustrator and style blogger Garance Dore. Here is a picture of Garance with newly cropped hair wearing a dress at Cannes 2015.

Garance Dore

I love Garance Dore’s stylish illustrations.

Illustration © Garance Dore

One of the products Inès mentions in her newsletter is Vinaigre des 4 Voleurs

The name intrigued me so I did a little research and discovered this herbal tincture supposedly kept alive 4 thieves who robbed graves during the Great Plague of Marseille in 1720. Legend has it that under threat of death they divulged their life-saving secret, which was a herbal infusion. 

There are several different recipes online, I have badly translated one below. 

It can be used as an antiseptic aftershave, to treat dandruff even taken diluted as a health tonic for all varieties of ailment from acid reflux to general sickness.

La fameuse recette du Vinaigre des 4 Voleurs  
The famous recipe for 4 Thieves Vinegar

Dans 1 litre de vinaigre de cidre mettez ces plantes séchées: 
Add these dried herbs to 1 litre of cider vinegar.

20 g de romarin (20g rosemary)
20 g de lavande (20g lavender)
20 g de sauge (20g sage)
20 g d’absinthe (20g artemisia absinthium - wormwood)
20 g de rue (20g common rue - ruta graveolens)
20 g de thym (20g thyme)
20 g de menthe (20g mint)
3 g de muscade en poudre (3g powdered nutmeg)
30 clous de girofles ou 3g de poudre de girofles (30 cloves)
3 g de cannelle en poudre (3g ground cinnamon)
3 gousses d’ail (3 garlic cloves)
5 g de camphre (5g camphor - Cinnamomum Camphora)

Vous laissez macérer pendant 10 à 15 jours, puis vous filtrez et vous mettez en bouteilles.  La conservation doit se faire au frais et à l’abri de la lumière.

Leave to macerate for 10 to 15 days then sieve into bottles and keep in a cool dark place out of direct sunlight. 

I might try it, although apparently it tastes and smells abhorrent! And I may attempt to plant up a 4 thieves herb bed at my new allotment.

Herb Garden at Pantry Garden Herbs

Monday, 25 May 2015

Highlights from Chelsea Flower Show - that you won't see on the telly!

Welcome to the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show 2015.

Entrance to the Flower Show

I’m glad this Chelsea Pensioner elephant found it’s rightful home, I blogged about the Elephant Parade back in 2010.

Chelsea Pensioner Elephant at the entrance to Chelsea Hospital Grounds

Chelsea Flower Show isn’t all flowers and plants there are stalls selling everything from treehouses to greeting cards. The Chelsea way, it would seem, is to offset your wares with planting, especially for the larger products.  

Harrod Horticutural sign offset with lovely planting of purple Heuchera, Sweet Woodruff and white Umbellifers.

Chelsea planter

Garden sculptures in front of The Pavillion.

Air head?

How about a garden sculpture painstakingly made from shells? The main attractions were the larger than life Stag made from tiny cowries with conch and a towering Medusa fountain. Yes really.

Cowrie shell stag 
Staggering shell work
Medusa made from shells
Shell swan
Shell body of swan with thyme
Or perhaps driftwood sculpture is more your thing?

Driftwood Goat sculpture by James Doran
Driftwood dragon - James Doran
These amazing sculpture are made from pieces of driftwood by James Doran and towered over passers-by. I could see that dragon right at home on the Belle Mere’s pergola. 

Driftwood horse by James Doran
Cantering horses in the Bull Ring at Chelsea Hospital.

Amazing driftwood horse by James Doran at RHS Chelsea 2015
Another horse, this giant bronze Anadalusia Stallion sculpture is by Hamish Mackie and was commissioned by Berkley Homes to gallop through their new development at Goodman’s Fields.

Hamish Mackie
Alice in Wonderland was a familiar theme this year. Robert James featured an impressive collection of brass garden statues and water features.

Brass Caterpillar sculpture by Robert James RHS Chelsea 2015
A fox and a tiger.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015
I rather liked this ceramic conker by Penkridge Ceramics who produce all sorts of amazing plant forms in clay, from pears to cherries to acorns. Lovely!  

Penkridge Ceramics Still Life Studies in Clay
 Yellow gardening gloves are the way forward.

Yellow gardening gloves

Every garden needs a champagne and glass holder.

RHS Chelsea 2015

Emma Bridgewater has made a delightful Chelsea Flower Show mug for the RHS which you can buy along with other merchandise here.

Emma Bridgewater Chelsea Flower Show Mug 2015

Many men wear lightly creased linen jackets.

RHS Chelsea 2015
Or paisley trousers...

RHS Chelsea 2015

A rotating treehouse...

RHS Chelsea 2015
A Pimms stall a little too early in the day for Pimms o’clock.

RHS Chelsea 2015
A novel way to keep things cool on a Summer’s day?

RHS Chelsea 2015
There were lots of stalls for eating and drinking and even some full blown restaurants set up for the occasion including the The Laurent Perrier Orangery.

RHS Chelsea 2015
Chelsea empties.

RHS Chelsea 2015
RHS Chelsea 2015

RHS Chelsea 2015
An Avenue lined with stalls.

RHS Chelsea 2015
And so to the flowers... There were lots of lupins and iris in the planting, along with cultivated varieties of lacy white cow parlsey. Purple and white was a popular colour-way, one of my faves at the moment.

Lupins and Iris
Purple and white again in the many named: Aquilegia, Columbine or Granny’s Bonnets.


And foliage can be just as eye-catching.

RHS Chelsea 2015

RHS Chelsea 2015
A carpet of wild campion.

RHS Chelsea 2015
RHS Chelsea 2015

Artichokes and geum
Kolrahbi and fennel

Iris and lambs ears


Vegetable planter

Arid plants

I did catch site of Monty Don in the flesh.

The BBC stand
These pictures were all taken outside at Chelsea, a Pavillion post will follow. I’m off swimming with Erbie now as it’s the bank holiday.

NB: All photos by ©SaraHodgkinson. All opinions are my own. No products mentioned in this post are sponsored.

Other nonsense

Quote of the day

‘They tuck you up your mum and dad...’
Anon - after Larkin

“Philately will get you everywhere”

“It’s not the despair, I can handle the despair. 
It’s the hope I can’t deal with”

“Each new friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Anais Nin

‘Come on Dover move your bloomin’ arse’.
Eliza Doolittle