It’s Just a Shower

It has been a sad day, and the weather matched it perfectly. I think, in literary circles, this is called pathetic fallacy. I remember the phrase from studying that comedic masterpiece, Tess of the D’urbervilles. Feel free to correct me if I have got the wrong end of the stick, it was a long time ago.

The reason for my gloom, is that Lord and Lady Mantle are moving to mansions new. Today was my last visit to their grand estate. Although I am devasted to see them go, there were several pointers to suggest that my time with them was complete. First of all Her Ladyship used the word “node” and in the correct context, later she suggested that she write a label for a newly potted up specimen (quite unheard of), followed by using my preferred pronunciation of the word “crocosmia” (usually a très posh crow-ko-smia). Lord M. emptied full wheelbarrows with only subtle hinting necessary, he tipped plants out of pots with tender loving care and then fed me quiche with garlic bread and coleslaw for lunch. And all day they only had the teeniest disagreement, over the thorny issue as to the best way to fold a tarp. Between hail, thunder, lightning and torrential rain storms we managed to complete all the jobs on the gardening list. Or we think we did as the list was in Lady M’s head.

I came away with some booty; several plants (yes, I do need them), a Tom Jones LP with the most splendid cover and a couple of lovely prints. And on the way out, for the first time ever, I managed to turn my car and get out of their drive in one go. Unfortunately, nobody was watching.

In attempt at balance, I outline below both the negatives and positives of my time with The Mantles:

Things I won’t miss:

  1. The single-track lane with its inherent threat of agricultural machinery and delivery drivers,
  2. Reversing whilst being marked out of ten by those mentioned in 1. above.

Things I definitely will miss:

  1. Phil and Brohna
  2. Brohna and Phil
  3. Lady Mantle
  4. Lord Mantle
  5. Lord and Lady Mantle
  6. Young Wills (although it is unlikely he will miss me).

On the drive back, I met a delivery driver on the lane. Luckily for me he was one of the very rare subspecies Politeandgenerous who reversed for me. It was a sign.

My time with you is done. Thanks for the good times, my friends, I will miss you very much. Love you both xxxx and a special x for Wills.


This morning I had a haircut, the first since lockdown. It was a bizarre affair, with masks and visors and trepidation. My lovely hairdresser did her upmost to tame my barnet and sent me, newly coiffured, off to The Mantle’s Estate. Standing in front of Their ‘Ships I waited for their opinions. Her Ladyship said all the right things. His Lordship was less than convincing, even though I believe he had practiced. He gets a point for effort.

Their hydrangea far outshone my new, marginally less wild, look. Best to dwell on the truly beautiful.


I’ve started back to work.  Not for all of my clients, just those who feel they are ready, and of course where it is safe to do so.  On Monday I returned to The Mantles.  They have done me proud.  It seems that they have been listening after all.  Weeded, mulched, dead-headed, the greenhouse full of rows of carefully tended seedlings.  Have I built-in my own obsolesence, I wonder?

Too Soon?

A very enjoyable day at The Mantle’s.  Apple tree and rose pruning.  Spanish bluebell extraction (and to think we got rid of every single one last year).  Cheese on toast and slab cake.  Omphalodes and hellebores.  Magic waterproofs that worked once more.  Waterlilies and a truck load of frog spawn that you can just about make out in my murky photograph.

Too soon?  Are all those fidgeting bullseyes doomed?

The Journey

As I may have already mentioned, I am not a keen driver.  I do it because I have to.   I don’t dread the more familiar domestic journeys, but longer excursions are not so welcome.  Needs must.  We all have our crosses to bear, and to be honest there are much heavier loads.

However, there are days when it seems less of a chore.  Today was one.  Today I drove to The Mantle’s estate.   Quite often on this particular journey, one that takes me from town to the edge of Exmoor, I imagine experiencing it for the first time.  In my head I commentate as I travel along the way, pointing out highlights.  The views of bracken hills, the flowering gorse, the fast running ford, glimpses of sea, the beech hedges and winding roads which lead to narrowing lanes.   A close encounter of the buzzard kind, road running blackbirds and the memory of snowdrops that are yet to come.

On the estate Peggy the cockerlab or poobrador or something like that, was in residence, more teddy bear than canine.  Over coffee The Mantles and myself chatted about yogic ear plugs.  We had homemade bread and toasted cheese for lunch and mince pies for pudding.  Oh, and we did some gardening.

On the way home I startled a flock of goldfinches, glinting as they flitted away.

A Little More Conversation

True Story

Lord Mantle:  I like Francis Bacon.

Me:  Oh I don’t, he gives me the eebeegeebys.  If I was to write a critique of his work, or even a thesis entitled The Artistic Merits of Francis Bacon, that would be exactly what I would say, “he gives me the eebeegeebys”.  Except I am not sure how to spell it.

Lord Mantle:  E E B E E G E E B E E ‘ S

Lady Mantle and Myself in unison:  There is no apostrophe!

Lord Mantle:  Yes there is, by golly!

Lady Mantle replied alone.  This could quite easily escalate into one of their marital ding dongs which general end in a very messy cow pat flinging shoot-out.  For this reason, and not wanting to get between them if such a thing should happen, I thought it sensible to hold stum:  Definitely not, it doesn’t have anything belonging to it so consequently it doesn’t need one.

Me, before Lord Mantle could reply, trying to divert attention from the dangerous apostrophe:  I wonder if it ends in Y.

Lord Mantle who is easily sidetracked: Yes, Y ‘ S that would work

Me, unconvinced and cowardly:  Perhaps ……….

Lady Mantle takes deep breath and starts making strange whimpering noises whilst pawing the ground.

Me:  Shall we do some work now?

Post event note:  According to the Collins English Dictionary the word is spelt heebie-jeebies, and means a state of nervousness or jitters.  It was first used by the American cartoonist W. B. De Beck (1890-1942) in his comic strip Barney Google. 

We weren’t even close.  But there is definitely no apostrophe.

Stone Washed

Today Lord and Lady Mantle were called away on top secret business, possibly something to do with road testing custard slices, but I can’t be certain.  I was left to my own devices.  Dangerous you might think.  And I wouldn’t blame you.

By nature I am a flitter, jumping from one task to another and back again.  This doesn’t work well when you are working with other more methodical folk.  Being home alone meant I could dance around to my heart’s delight.  Two days of dry weather gave perfect seed collecting weather, if you discount the gale force wind.  I trimmed back the black elder and tree peony, allowing plenty of space for the soon to be on site Men with Machines who are going to trim/butcher the leylandii.  Pots of pelargoniums and dahlias were moved to the greenhouse, I dug up the black zantedeschia and chocolate cosmos to keep them company.  Weeds were ousted and prize winning compost incorporated.

They returned just in time for His Lordship to make me a quail toastie and pour me a pint of claret for lunch.  No one mentioned custard slices.  Mum’s the word.

Although there is still much colour in the garden, gazanias, alonsoa and osteospermums, I loved the muted, stone-washed tones of this lace-cap hydrangea.