This morning, the BT e-mail problem remained unresolved, so I went onto the website that I had received the text about yesterday. This was the update message:
‘We’d like to apologise for a technical problem that meant a minority of BT Mail customers weren’t able to access their email accounts in the past few days.
We’re in the process of restoring access to the affected email accounts and expect to have the service working again later today, so if you’re still unable to access your email account, please wait and try again later.
We’ll be contacting all customers who have been affected by this fault, but if you’d like to get in touch with us, you can use our online form, or email us
Once again, we’re very sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, and we appreciate your patience as we work to resolve the problem.’
Were I able to speak to a real BT administrator about this, I would ask why the first paragraph, when the problem still exists, features the past tense. I would also like to know what constitutes a minority. Brian Clough, the celebrated football manager of the 1970s     famously regarded himself as ‘in a minority of one’. Somehow, I imagine the minority into which BT have assigned me, is rather larger than that.
I suppose I should not be surprised that a twenty first century telephone company does not provide the facility of actual conversation with a management decision maker, or anyone who can explain what is going on. But to suggest that people who have, for days now, been frustrated by the inability to access their e-mails should send one to the above e-mail address seems crass and insensitive.
Once again I am left speculating that this whole problem has resulted from a divorce from Yahoo.
Jackie with table at EffordJust before lunch we took another trip to Efford Recycling Centre, ostensibly to dump more rubble and plastic. We certainly brought back considerably more plastic from the Sales Area than we had deposited. Jackie was delighted to find a large garden table, ideal for potting up plants.
A notice informs us that 86% of last months rubbish was recycled. The Sales Area is probably a recycling achievement that doesn’t feature in these figures.
This afternoon, I returned to the path behind the shrubbery alongside the garden of the empty house. Discovery of the blackbird’s nest containing incubating eggs had caused me to abandon it for a while. I confined myself to digging out various unwanted tree roots, and cutting one of our own shrubs down to size, before extending the IKEA wardrobe fence a bit more.
Whilst I was engaged in this, Jackie was having a switch around. Having now completely cleared the skip pile, making use of a number of its contents and dumping the rest, she was free to turn it into a potting area.Potting area The potting area had, until now, furnished by the butchers’ blocks, been situated under the pergola outside the library/utility room door. Jackie set up the Recycling Centre table, moved the butchers’ blocks in behind it;Pergola seating and supplied a couple of seats to create a new pergola seating area. Thus:
Someone’s garden table became Jackie’s potting centre; the now empty skip pile, some of the contents of which has become a fence, became its home; and the previous potting centre became a seating area.
Soon after 5 p.m. I logged on to the web link given in BT’s message. This carried a box saying the problem was solved, and if you were still unable to access e-mails you should clear your cache. A link for instructions on how to do that was provided. I did it. I still couldn’t reach my e-mails. So I reached for my phone. I rang the help line and waited twenty minutes for an adviser who discovered that my account had been locked because of my unsuccessful attempts to log on. After an hour of fiddling about with changing passwords and having them rejected, I was able to open my account. One of the rejected passwords, which had been accepted three days ago was said not to have the correct numbers of characters today. Clearing the cache meant I also lost my automatically recognised passwords for such as WordPress. I had to have three goes at that one before I could write this post. I still cannot access e-mails on either my Apple or my Blackberry. I think I am beginning to crumble. Aaaaaaarrrrrgggghhh.
With our spicy Bolognese sauce this evening we dined on penne pasta. Possibly Jackie wasn’t confident about my new expertise in spaghetti consumption. Penne’s easy. You can even dispense with the spoon, as you skewer the pasta by prodding the prongs of the fork through the tunnel in the middle. You can get two on the fork at a time. My lady drank Hoegaarden, and I had some more of the chianti.

An Alfresco Bath

Bottle brush plant
The red bottle brush plant, which I passed on my way to continue work on the kitchen garden, is now looking resplendent.
Nettles, honeysuckle and raspberriesRaspberriesSt John's wortThere are a great deal of treasures hidden in the undergrowth of today’s target area. Peeking through nettle leaves, for example, are raspberries. A blackcurrant bush bears fruit, strawberries soon will, and St John’s wort lies at the bottom of the green cage.
A previous post, in which I described mistaking an acanthus for a thistle, demonstrates how it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between somewhat similar plants. Today, until the head gardener informed me that raspberry bushes are less thorny than brambles, I was uncertain in the application of my loppers. Neither was I sure about stinging nettles which look very similar to another plant that bears a spire of purple flowers. When I was faced with a plentiful crop of both, there was nothing for it but to remove my gloves and clutch the leaves. These particular nettles bear slow acting poison, so I rubbed them a few times before I was sure I had been stung. They were a little like a strong curry that doesn’t betray its chilli content until you’ve taken a few mouthfuls. And rather less pleasant.
AcanthusI am pleased to report that the acanthus has recovered from my savage attack, and has produced new shoots,  one in bloom.
By mid-afternoon it was apparent that the expected rain, which had deterred me from thinking about a bonfire today, was not going to arrive. I therefore left the kitchen garden clearance for another day, and began the fire. This was rather fortuitous, because I had reached a stumbling block near the back fence. This came in the form of a box hedge which had got beyond itself and barred access to the back section. I cleared this as best I could of weeds, convolvulus, and the ubiquitous bramble, by stretching over the obstacle. I then struck something I could not clear without circumventing the box. Jackie had transferred a number of the finds, like a pleasant saxifrage, the St John’s wort, and several kinds of mint, to other parts of the garden.
Bath in gardenWhat I had found needed to be emptied before it could, no doubt, be moved and filled with colourful flowers. It was a bath.
Jackie planting clematis texansis Duchess of AlbanyTowards the end of the day I was grateful for some assistance from the head gardener in cutting up combustible materials and placing them in a wheelbarrow so I didn’t have to practice touching my toes to pick them up. This helped to ensure that I didn’t topple over while doing so. In fact, even in what Sam would call my able-bodied years, I never could touch my toes without bending my knees.
Knotty faceBefore dinner Jackie planted a clematis texensis Duchess of Albany in a cleared part of the kitchen garden, and trained it against an existing pergola. Our rose garden will also contain clematises. She added a shell to the fence, for the humorous touch.
After this we dined on chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice and peas, followed by Post House Pud based on strawberries. The strawberries were eight days beyond their ‘best before date’, so they were a bit furry, but with a certain amount of judicious cutting, we saved a few.  Jackie drank her customary Hoegaarden and I enjoyed a Longhorn Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012.


Jackie and I were up and out in the garden at The Firs before seven this morning.  It was a beautiful day, and we were determined to enjoy the fruits of our work over the last year and a quarter.  Bee on thistle 8.12We shared the garden with early morning bees.   Whilst I have been in France Elizabeth and Jackie have continued to plant, weed, prune, and generally maintain what has been done.  Some of the wilder parts have been opened up a bit.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth has decided she would like a scented bed.  Nothing wrong with that in principle.  In fact it is a very good idea.  She and Jackie have decided where it should go, and have assembled a mail-order bench and chair which has been sited so that there is a wonderful view through the pergola.  Elizabeth spent some time today painting a couple of occasional tables to complete the viewing area.  So what is unfortunate about the idea?  Well, whose task is it to dig new beds and compost them in preparation for planting?  Exactly.

Surveying the bedroom area I could see that I would need to mark out the undulating line which we prefer; dig up some grass; take out a number of weeds; prune some shrubs; remove most of an overgrown honeysuckle from next door; dig it all over again; compost it all; dig that in; then put the tools away.  ‘That’ll be my weekend’s task’, I said.  Ah, well.  Nice idea.  But if I finish it tomorrow, I’ll eat the horse manure.

Marking out the line was comparatively straightforward.  I actually have a good eye for a curvy shape.  This garden has parts which are very stony.  In fact we have made a virtue of this by planting Erigeron where there is not much else but stone.  Jackie and I had seen it placed to grow through brick paths and steps at Hinton Ampner, a country house at West Meon.  We thought it just the job for The Firs.  It has thrived.  The stones, however, made it a little difficult to cut a clean edge.

Naturally, the first part of the new bed, this morning consisting of mown couch grass millions of years old, lay on stones.  Persuading the tufts of grass to leave their fakir-style resting place, was difficult enough.  As much earth, a very rare commodity, as possible had to be shaken off.  The turves were than transported by wheelbarrow to the compost heap.  The fledgling robin that had sat on Jackie’s lap in June was quite interested.  It was extremely humid, and the dry earth on my arms soon had the consistency of mud.  A salad lunch was a welcome respite.

Raring to go, after a meal and a rest, I hit the first obstacle.  There seemed to be a solid, immovable, square of concrete.  ‘Ah’, said Elizabeth, ‘that will be the base for the brick pillar which was a continuation of the arbour’.  ‘There’s another on the other side.’  Well, that can stay there.  Most of the area I was then working was covered in rampant honeysuckle.  As I cleared this, all sorts of other goodies emerged.  Such as small trees which at some time had been cut down.  Their roots had been left, and they were sprouting.  There were suckers from the damson tree in the garden at the back.  Some of the trees bore thorns.  Some pricked me.

I had brought out quite a number of tools when I began,  I hadn’t thought I might need an axe.  I did.  So I went and got one.  For those who’ve never tried it, there follows an instruction in digging out small trees.  First you must clear the area of brambles, couch grass, dog roses, and geraniums.  The geraniums, of course, you must preserve most carefully.  Wiping your brow occasionally, being careful not to get soil in your eye, you must apply a garden fork to loosen the earth.   You then dig out as much as you can, stick it somewhere else on the bed, and have a go at moving the stump.  Naturally it won’t move, so you have to dig a bit more.  By this time you will have struck thick roots stretching across areas you haven’t dug and didn’t want to.  Then you have the pleasure of wielding the axe.  By this time, any thoughts of gentle care will have evaporated.  Cut through the stubborn roots; pull up the tree; and try not to fall backwards into a pergola post as it suddenly becomes free.

After that, if you are lucky, someone brings you a beer and you have an excuse to sit down.  Even though your back is aching you may claim that this is the only reason you have stopped.  And if they weren’t having one too you would not have sat down whilst drinking it.  Actually, Elizabeth did provide me with one respite during the above process.  She asked me to sand one of the tables she was painting.  I was only too ready.  In fact the previously described mud on my arms, mixed with blood from the scratches, took on an even more interesting consistency when mixed with sawdust.

Jackie’s paprika pork went down well and Elizabeth produced a merangue mess which was eaten.  I’ve had too much of the rather nice French red wine to remember what it was.