One of the signs of
getting older is that the days, weeks, months and years go by ever faster -
this seems rather unfair as you are likely to have relatively few ahead of you.Not that I plan to leave this world just yet
(well, not if I can help it), it is just that 2012 was the anniversary not just
of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee but also of mine which has focussed the mind,
As the time has sped by so fast I thought I would review the
year, if only to remind myself what I’ve been doing the past twelve months.
January:To London for the New Year.Whenever we visit ‘The Smoke’ (I wonder
if anyone still calls it that now that the days of dense smog have long gone)
it always ends up rather ‘foody’.That
trip was no exception; we ate our way up the Kings Road, ate our way around
Sloane Square and finally ate our way to Fortnum & Mason arriving in time
for afternoon tea.Fortnum’s is the most
wonderful grocery store on the planet – whereas, most people, especially those
from overseas, visit Harrods, Fortnum’s is the one place you really shouldn’t
miss.Everything about it is delightful
and its afternoon teas are legendry.We
did squeeze in a visit to the National Portrait Gallery but why show you images
of great works of art when you can see photos of Fortnum’s?Add it to your list of ‘places I must visit
before I die’.
February:A visit to Snowdonia staying at a friend’s
isolated chapel house on the side of the mountains.The weather was quite kind to us considering
the time of year so we were able to do a lot of walking.To our dismay, our favourite spot that we had
christened ‘The Enchanted Forest’ because of its lichen encrusted trees and
great mossy hummocks had been clear felled and all signs of it destroyed.This may sound like wanton vandalism but the
trees had been planted for timber production regardless of the impact they had
on the scenery.Now years later, there
is a move to restore the mountains back to their original state which is, I’m
sure, admirable and an ecologically sound thing to do.The trouble is that we loved this silent,
brooding woodland that no-one, it seemed, apart from us ever visited and now it
is gone.And with it has gone our desire
to return but, who knows, perhaps we shall one day.
March: Recording the life of a hedgerow seemed like a
good idea at the time.It was supposed
to have become a month by month photographic notebook of the changes that took
place during the year but sadly March turned out to be the first and only entry.As April arrived I took more
photographs but when it came to blogging them they had disappeared (reappearing
months later – one of the mysteries of computer technology).Then came the rain – and it has rained ever
since - and the project was abandoned, apart from a vain attempt in May.The hedge, which is in the little lane that
leads from our cottage up the hill out of the secret valley, is an ancient
relic from the time of the Wychwood Forest, cleared in the very earliest days
of British history.It is mentioned in
the Domesday Book, that great list of the plunder of William the Conqueror,
written in 1086.Although the forest has
retreated by many miles there are still some fine trees standing and wild flowers
that would normally be found in woodland still grow on its grassy banks.I shall make a resolution to resurrect the
project in 2013.
April:Part of my everyday job as a practical
gardener is pruning, a subject which is a mystery to many people and often
fills them with terror at the very thought of wielding secateurs to a treasured
shrub.Mahonia is one of those useful
winter flowering plants that so often look dreadful as they become ever more
gaunt and ungainly.This was the case
with one in a client’s garden so it seemed a good idea to photograph the
process of restoration and blog about it.That post has
rapidly become my most read and I am glad to be able to report that the plant is
thriving. Now covered in new flower buds and almost ready to open, it will welcome
the New Year with the scent of lily-of-the-valley.If you have one in your garden, cut a few flowers for a
shallow vase to fragrance the house.
May:Despite the rain that seems to have fallen
incessantly since April, we had a fine, dry day for the most important day
in my social calendar of 2012 which was also an important one for the Queen
too.The Pageant of the Horse was held
in the grounds of Windsor Castle and celebrated the Queen’s sixty year reign
through her association with and love of horses.Horses, riders and other performers
representing every country from around the world that the Queen has visited
gave us a show that both we and she will never forget.It was a quite remarkable and memorable experience;
apart from the showmanship and being so close to the Queen and Prince Philip,
we had a private ‘Haka’ from the Cook Islanders when they noticed us still seated after the bulk of other visitors had left.Very exciting!
June:The Jubilee celebrations continued with
the River Pageant held in London on the Thames in pouring rain, this time.A much smaller river, the Coln, featured in a
post ‘The Most Beautiful English Village’ about the exquisite Cotswold village
of Bibury.With its clear, trout-filled
waters fast running past ancient stone cottages, it is hardly surprising that
it is protected by the National Trust and much visited by sightseers.It is said that visitors often don’t realise
that it is not a living museum and sometimes walk into people’s private gardens or
houses to be surprised to find the owners eating their lunch or watching
To read any of the
posts mentioned above, just click on the links in green.July to December will appear soon.
JOHN SHORTLAND, Cotswold Hills, England.
John the Writer: It is as natural for me to write as it is for me to eat - and I eat a lot.
John the Gardener: It's in my blood - the family discussed plants as others do football. Now I earn my living by it. Lucky chap!
John the Countryman: Living in a secret valley of winding streams, fields and woods, deer and badgers. Oh, and dogs and horses.
John the Explorer: that description is a tad exaggerated - but I've had my moments. It's all in the blog...