A Severed Thread

Ants farming blackflyI learned something new this morning.  Some of Jackie’s marigolds are covered in blackfly.  Underneath the next pot is an ants’ nest.  She tells me the ants plant the flies onto the flowers.  The farmed slaves then produce a sugary substance for the industrious insects’ sustenance.

Scented liliesBeautiful scented lilies are now in bloom, blending their aroma with others such as nicotiana and petunias.  I always wondered why we had the phrase ‘smelling like a petunia’ until I was educated by my lady.  Most petunias we see have had the scent bred out of them.  Older varieties have not, and well deserve the description.

NicotianaThe nicotiana, being particularly fragrant at night, are greatly appreciated by our neighbour Vanessa as she walks her dog around our corner before retiring to bed.

Three sunflowers are forcing their way to the top of the pots.  They were not planted by us, so we assume we have the birds to thank.

I have previously mentioned on-line Scrabble, during the playing of which I have found a number of good corresponding friends in all parts of the globe.  One of the most delightful of these is Heather.  The added bonus of this relationship is that she lives near enough for us to meet.  Today Jackie and I joined her and her husband Brian for lunch in The Plough Inn at Tiptoe, where we spent all afternoon without noticing the time.  We all had plentiful Sunday roast meals after excellent starters.  The ladies and I followed this with cremes brûlées.  Various beers and pear cider were drunk.

I have been worrying at something for several weeks now.  It was during my roast lamb dinner that I was at last relieved of my burden.  On 19th June I wrote of my loose wisdom tooth ‘hanging by a thread’.  Today, almost painlessly, it cast off its moorings.  It was easy enough to extract this from my masticated mouthful.

About thirty years ago in my Social Services Area Office in Westminster, I was completely unaware of another extraneous object in a mouthful of food.  In those days I wore hard contact lenses.  Sometimes if I’d got a bit of grit under one I would take it out and put it somewhere safe until I could get to the solution I needed to apply when reinserting it.  The safest place, it seemed to me, was between my bottom lip and the gum of one of my front teeth.  It was a perfect fit.  Like Queen Elizabeth I, I was wont to go on a progress around the building, so that the staff could bask in my presence.  On one of these occasions, I believe it was Tom who gave me a cheese roll.

There was once an old joke that went the rounds.  Maybe it still does.  It went like this: ‘What’s worse than finding a maggot in an apple you are eating?’  The answer was: ‘Finding half a maggot’.  My own personal version could appropriately begin with the question: ‘What’s worse than finding a contact lens in a cheese roll you are eating?’.  I believe my readers will be able to provide the punchline.  I never did find the other half.

After leaving our friends we chose to drive home through Burley.  Passing Clough Lane Jackie remembered she had seen a house there for sale on the internet.  We had a peek through the roses climbing over the front gate and looked it up when we returned to the Lodge. Cherry Tree Cottage Unfortunately it is too small for us.

Pernicious Tendrils

Today was dull, but the rain largely kept off, and we were able to continue with the gardening.  Jackie helped me with the preparation of the scented bed.  What I pruned off or dug up, she cut up and bagged up.  All in readiness for the next bonfire.  This afternoon she carried on with her own projects and Elizabeth with the weeding of the herb bed.

I managed to get far enough with the new bed to compost the beginning of it so Jackie could put some plants in.  We had found a number in pots covered by the undergrowth and forgotten.  In particular there were three of tradescantia (outdoor variety) destined for Mum.  It was a good thing that Jackie decided to check them over, for each one contained a thriving colony of red ants.  As she laid them out on plastic sheeting in an effort to persuade the ants to seek a new home, she suggested I didn’t sit on the edge of the table unless I wanted ants in my pants.  Noticing the absence of our friendly robin, we recollected that we hadn’t seen it for a few days.  Jackie had, however, unearthed an unidentifiable avian corpse from a flower bed.

We have got to the stage where we are beginning to think of garden adornments, other than the ubiquitous hanging baskets.  Rickety benches which could not safely hold a human, make a good plant table; as does one of Elizabeth’s painted treasures.  Moving the little girl mentioned yesterday was just a start.

My target for today with the new bed, was to reach a row of grass cuttings which had been laid alongside the laurel boundary hedge a year ago.  This was a nice clear bit which, with any luck, would have broken down into compost, and kept the weeds away.  En route to this heap, I tackled the additional menace of lilac suckers which had to be uprooted.  I wasn’t too worried about the long trailing stems of honeysuckle and ivy which could be pulled until resistance was met, then dug up where they had taken root, then on to the next rooted bit.  The ivy was, however, getting thicker-stemmed the nearer I got to the laurel.  All right, I thought, I will find it bound around the laurel trunks, and have to set about removing it.  Well, I didn’t get that far.  I did reach the hedge, but will have to leave eradication of the mature ivy until next week.  This is because the lovely warm, rotting, packed chunks of grass cuttings had provided a perfect incubator for little pure white tendrils.  Lots of healthy young ivies.  There are three different unwelcome plants with which I have done battle in three different gardens.  Bindweed in Stanton Road during my childhood; ground elder in Lindum House in Newark; and ivy in Sutherland Place, W2.  What they all have in common is that they send out long tendrils which take root whenever they feel like it and produce a new plant, and so on ad infinitum.  The other property they share is that of being able to reproduce themselves from the slightest little rootlet or stem left behind by the most careful of gardeners.  I never did get rid of Stanton Road’s convulvulus; it took sixteen years to rid the Lindum House vegetable garden of ground elder; it took two weekends to clear Sutherland Place of ivy.  Ivy is the toughest of all these to remove, as, if undisturbed, it can grow extremely thick stems which cling to branches and walls and are sometimes impossible to prise off.  But it is not as sneaky as the others, for its tendrils remain overground.  It gives you a challenge and a chance.  The little white tendrils I had discovered today, would eventually have emerged into the light.

This evening last night’s chicken bolognese was served with vegetables, and we had the same puddings and wine or beer according to our taste.  Afterwards Jackie drove us home whilst I dozed by her side.