I wasn't really quite sure how to go about my New Year post, and so I have just put down a few random thoughts and some of my favourite music, which I hope you will take the time to listen to as you read. For some, this time of year brings with it new hope, for other's sadness, and there are those around us that are indifferent to the whole thing. Over the years it has brought me to a point where I think 'Right! This coming year I WILL get rid of that bank overdraught', or 'the van WILL be cleaned inside and out EVERY week, or even more difficult than both of those is that I promise to myself to be more faithful to the God that has been so loyal to me. The past year has probably been one of the hardest years that I have known, both in work terms and faith, and has also brought many difficulties and points of sadness along the way. Don't get me wrong, just as I have sometimes shared in my blog, there have been many, many wonderful times, and life has on the whole been very good to me. But as the years tick by things are becoming far more difficult to achieve, both in physical terms and because of external influences.
Deacon Blue - 'Dignity'
(Always loved the music from this married couple, and particularly the words to this song)
I remember going into last New Year with that 'up for the challenge' mindset. The previous working year had been very good indeed, with some good new contracts, sunny weather, and a body that still had some 'go' in it. I looked to 2012 with eagerness. But in terms of work, the whole year has been a bit of a disaster. Prolonged bad weather in the UK has hit most in this business very hard indeed. Some have gone to the wall as a result of losing custom due to disgruntled clients unwilling to understand why their gardens haven't been kept quite as pristene as usual, despite the weather. I have been lucky I guess, having lost only one small property during the latter half of the year, as they wanted to save money by tending to their fairly small garden themselves. And then, despite keeping hold of the large garden mentioned in this blog earlier, the nursing home, our second largest contract, have decided to make large cutbacks to enable them to upgrade their internal services, and gardening was one of those cutbacks. This was a serious financial loss to us, and only a fortnight before Christmas! There have also been many deaths during the year, mostly husbands and wives of clients who I have developed friendships with, but also a couple right on the lead into Christmas that have been much closer to home, and their circumstances have left me feeling really quite mixed up at times. So, on a personal level, I am going into next year feeling rather delicate.
The Waterboys - 'The Whole Of The Moon'
(My favourite song by these guys)
Along with so many other things, 2012 has seen troubles in Syria and Egypt escalate, problems in Afghanistan continue, the worlds financial market is basically screwed beyond control and climate change is hitting home big time. There has been the unforgivable murders at the Marikana mine in Africa, the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and just recently the killing of two firefighters lured to the deaths while doing their job in New York. Why is the UK and USA happy to invade Iraq and Libya to rid them of tyranny, and yet has always allowed Robert Mugabe to do as he pleases? The USA still has a gun law that entitles anybody to stockpile AK47's, so that they can 'defend themselves'....against what exactly, Chechan rebels? The 'safe use of guns' training, so often involving children of all ages, in 2011 cost the life of an 8 year old boy, whose father deemed it either fun, necessary or both, it doesn't really matter anyway, to allow him to shoot an Ouzi, which he lost control of and predictably ripped himself to bits. What happened to old fashioned play, or camping and such like. The only safe use of a gun is to not have one in the first place, and I can say that from experience believe me. Sorry if I appear to have strong views on this subject, but it is one very close to my heart.
Closer to home, here in the UK it would appear that no area is safe from corruption of some kind, be it police, government, banks or even the tax office, all have made headline news for major breaches over the last year. The trade in exotic animals and their body parts, dwindling rain forests, over fishing.... the list of abuses seems endless. I sincerely pray that the coming year will see some serious changes in peoples attitudes surrounding all of the above issues.
The Commitments - 'Mustang Sally'
(Excellent film, excellent song!)
There have of course been many good things happen, and the Olympics perhaps being the biggest, and for once drew this country together, when it is usually blown apart by politics, faith and anti-social behaviour in all of it's various forms.Through contact with fellow bloggers from around the world I see good things happen all of the time. They can be from the smallest, such as a type of seedling that one of you has managed to grow to fruition, to things like new members coming into a family, travels to exciting places, or just stuff going on around you, told in an amusing way. The day to day trials and tribulations of every day can be hugely entertaining to those who read about them, and for some quite literally a lifeline of communication. Not everyone has family or friends, or can use a phone, or even hold a pen. I suppose that what I am trying to say is that regardless of any bad stuff going on, never underestimate who reads your posts, or why, and what they get out of them. I for one will try to continue to be a regular blogger, who will attempt (and no doubt fail more often than not) to be more faithful to how God wants me to be. My plan in the coming year is to become fitter and healthier, and control my stress levels better.
David Gray - 'Babylon'
(Usually play thissong when we load up the van and go on an adventure. Saw him in the Deli at St.Davids once)
I have also compiled a list of the blogs that I follow the most, and why they keep me coming back, so here it is:
Judi was the first contact I had when setting up my blog. I would love to have a cabin in the forests of North America, but can't, and so I follow her life doing it instead.
'A Chef in the Garden'
I admire Tim for the way in which he has changed professions completely, to become not only a keen gardener in his own outdoor space called the Stepchild Garden, but has also applied his skills in a truly beautiful private garden that encompasses both indoor and outdoor gardening techniques.
This man takes me to various, at this moment in time usually wet places around the UK in his camper van. A photographer 'par excellence', he allows me to share in his often humorous, but always informative stories surrounding his wonderful picture taking.
'An Obsessive Neurotic Gardener'
Over the last couple of years I have watched John move from a hesitant and nervous novice, to someone like the rest of us professionals, confident in what he does, but fraught when things don't go as planned. I have loved watching his garden form and mature, and the way in which he has tackled various problems.
'Antique Art Garden'
Gina has shared some very delicate areas of her life on her blog, to which I am personally grateful. I have travelled with her to the stunning town of Charleston and visited massive antique markets, which as you can imagine has me looking into the background for glassware! I've enjoyed personal glimpses into her exquisite garden, and loved following the hands on brick path laying a while ago. Her son's fort is really something as well!
'Falkland Island Adventures'
I have always wanted to go to this area of the world, but as funds don't allow, I enjoy reading about these crazy people who actually live and farm down there.
'Garden In Paradise'
Kimberley just simply takes me away to that place of gardening dreams, in which ones own garden is filled with exotic colour and greenery, and life gets no busier than casting out the odd line into the azure ocean.
'Garden On Sherlock Street'
I always call this lady 'Sherlock' because I don't know her real name (hint,hint!), and she brings the occasional video tour/talk about her garden. I love videos as they introduce another personal level to a blog. She is a gardener determined to meet whatever plant challenge is sent her way head on. I also enjoy the potted plant preparations for winter, and have borrowed a couple of her ideas...but don't tell her!
I have only just recently started to follow John, who is from a small village in North Wales. I enjoy his realistic take on various aspects of life, and of course his chicken picture header as well.
Well, what can I say about Jane and Lance? They bring adventure, style, humour, and an elegance that is fast disappearing from this world that we all live in. The people that they meet and places that they go to provide constant intrigue for me. So come on you two, where have you gone to this time?
Chris takes me away on bird spotting trips, shares his wonderful skies and weather at El Presidio, and has kept me hanging on with baited breath concerning the changes to the garden of the aforementioned oasis in Tucson. He also sent me a very funny picture of himself when I had the competition!
'Life and Godliness'
This is Rebeccas blog, and it simply and plainly keeps on reminding me of who matters in all of this stuff going on around us.
One of two blogs by Rosemary that I follow. This one is generally about her exploits away from home, and I enjoy travelling with her to places that I may not have seen yet. Always with a personal touch and lovely pictures. I also discovered this year, albeit too late this time, the Willows Annual Ball here, and shall hope to attend next year!
Linda lives in Edinburgh, a city that Amanda lived and worked in earlier in her life, and to which she took me for one of the most amazing times of my life a couple of years back. Linda continues to show us both what is going on there, the festivals, scenery and general day to day life. A lovely blog to follow.
'Share my Garden'
Rosemary's other blog that I follow, and this time letting me enjoy her and 'himself's' work and rest in their own garden, and beautiful and peaceful walks through their surrounding countryside, albeit now without cute little Maisie, whose antics I will now miss.
'Small Blue Thing'
I happened upon Cheryl's blog a few day's ago, and it has already caught my attention!
'The Idiot Gardener'
Mr IG faces the troubles of gardening life with a club in one hand, and let's face it, a club in the other hand too! Although the air is usually blue, he continues to reassure me that I am not the only one to mess things up in the world of horticulture. I hope to grow veg as big as his one day! His latest post on garden centre shopping was a cracker, and so true to life as I know it.
'The On Going Adventures At Fox Paw Lodge'
I have followed Gary and his life in his Virginian forest haven for some time now. Always humorous, I enjoy reading about how he has managed to carve a garden out of this type of terrain. Unfortunately, weather hasn't been good to him, but I look forward to his updates. He also has just about one of the tidiest Christmas decoration storage sheds that I have ever seen, and I want it!
And finally there is 'There's No Place Like Home', Melanie's blog about her family, and their life and adventures together. I just get pleasure in reading about their life together as a family. She also sent me a very funny photo for the competition....I hope that spade didn't find it's target!
Michael Green - 'The Path'
We parked up alongside Michael Green on a beach once. He had who I suppose was his lady and two young children with him, outside their rather battered motorhome. He was trying to convince one of the kids that although the milk on the cereals was so off that it was lumpy, it was in fact just like yoghurt, and she likes yoghurt does she not? She ate some of it, because times looked tight. We saw him again some days later, he was sitting on the pavement in town playing 'The Path', the young girl was beside him. This song always takes me to Polperro or St.Davids, places where I always find 'me'.
So how do I wrap up this whole New Year message thing? Well, I had come to a bit of a block in that respect, that is up until I was having a coffee after church with Amanda this morning. Yes, you heard it correctly. I have taken the first tentative steps back, and it was High Anglican, Nicene Creed, Sung Eucharist and Communion...the full works. After life in the Baptist church it was good to have some calmness and order. But I digress, and back to the coffee. I was talking about the fact that I couldn't think of a way to end this post in a way that it would sort of begin the New Year, and Amanda merely suggested that I remember that it is first and foremost about my life as a gardener....so......
The nursing home has sadly gone, and along with it half finished planting schemes that I was hoping to share with you all, and indeed was getting a pretty good feel from myself, but that is now history. January and February are times of serious rest, with only about ten full days work each month as far as the general maintenance goes. January does also have planned a couple of extra jobs. One is simply the removal of a ghastly conifer hedge that is dying, to be replaced with a border of Aucuba japonica Crotonifolia, Skimmia japonica Reevesiana, Nandina domestica and Agapanthus africanus. Also in this garden, but in another border, a Magnolia that is now too large, is to be replaced by an Acer palmatum 'Senkaki'. The other scheme is only small, and involves a border to be emptied of two old Yew trees, some Hebes and a Holly, and the ground to then be turfed over. I always find the type of latter job a little sad because I think of whoever it was who carefully planted these shrubs in the first place with that new sense of excitement and expectation. They are now long gone, and soon their border shall be, and turfed out of all existence for ever.
But then there is the rest of the year to come. The house in Sandbanks will be needing plans drawn up for the completion of their front garden, with a modern water feature, borders of mixed colour Cornus, and blocks of yellow Phormium and Agapanthus to name but a little of the general ideas forming in our heads even now. At another place there is to be an existing water feature turned into a tiered garden, and new fruit trees planted in place of older and tired existing ones. Indeed, our own garden will need some serious attention, as it has become a little overgrown (see picture above), and then there is the allotment (don't want to even go there!). And so, as far as gardening goes, there will be plenty to do, and tell about. For now though it is still more chocolate to eat, whisky to drink and cats to stroke. And so my fellow bloggers, I look forward to reading about your continuing gardening escapades, life tales and general adventures. I wish all of you a good, peaceful and prosperous New Year, and leave you with this piece of music, in which the words are good, I think! It reminds me that whoever we are, wherever we live and what we do or whatever our circumstances, we can make a difference to this planet, the people, and the world in general around us.
The Waterboys - 'Spirit'