The first minute is gone

I can’t remember when it happened but some time ago I stopped having the first minute.

You know the one, when you wake up in the morning and for a few glorious moments all is well and there is nothing abnormal about your world. Then reality bites; your brain has to process how things have changed and you didn’t dream any of it. This lasted well into last year for me but the other day it dawned on me, pardon the pun, that it was gone. Everything has changed and the abnormal has become normal. In hindsight, I cherish having had that for a while. Now, I wake up and this is it. I guess we have to be happy that we do wake up at all.

Sleep patterns have all gone to hell and I’m pleased it’s not just me because I’d be very concerned if I was alone in this. Most nights I can get to sleep easily enough, especially with my sleeping pills, but I wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep. Restlessness, heat, anxiety, all keep me tossing and turning and it’s tempting to take another pill but one is already too many.

This morning, after only a few hours of sleep and a few more of tossing and turning, I heard the birds and decided to just get up. That’s not like me at all, I like my bed and I am not an early riser. But there I was, not even 6am and the dogs were fed and I stood watching the kettle boil. I then had two hours of good productivity [secret project has begun], a load of laundry was done, several tomatoes harvested, tomato plants trimmed of dead leaves, and new seedlings watered in anticipation of being planted.

It’s cooler today so I should start on the preparation of the new vegetable bed but sleep deprivation has hit me like a thunderbolt. At least, I hope that’s all it is because otherwise it’s the Rona – I feel like shit! Nausea, dizziness, stomach not right, sinuses completely blocked, and all at the same time I’m starving but can’t bear the idea of eating. All I want to do is go back to bed but I have a list of errands to run and an important appointment later, not to mention a walk for the dogs.


I wrote the above two weeks ago and forgot it in the draft folder. The first moment is a distant memory and much has happened since – some of it not nice and difficult to process. The Morsels of Gratitude diary has relocated to a more active and simple hand-written notebook, but I will continue to mention some here when this current black mood lifts.

The new vegetable bed was only done yesterday because it’s been too hot. Well composted and cleared of much of the disgusting builders rubble that keeps popping up all over this garden, despite 10 years of digging and soil turning – I’ve lost count of how much I’ve removed, from chunks of concrete to broken 100-year old bricks and pavers. Last night I fell into bed straight from the shower, exhausted from very dirty gardening and aching muscles – a fabulous feeling!

The bed isn’t full yet – tomatoes and basil have been planted, and some bean seeds sowed directly. I’ll plant out butter lettuce soon. There are already two other varieties of lettuce in another part of the garden. The original vegetable section is now a mix of leftover spinach, basil, rocket seeding itself, and some flowers that have seeded themselves and which I’ll allow. There’s one vegetable I cannot recognise and have no recollection of planting. Am watching to see if it develops into something I can identify, and eat.

Left to right: very late-blooming miniature agapanthus in a pot. One March lily (I don’t know what happened to the other bulbs, there should be more). Two varieties of lettuce. The new veggie patch under the spare room window, with dog protection. None of these would’ve existed or flowered if not for lockdown attention.

Morsels of Gratitude, part 3

I’m not having the easiest time, there are so many very important decisions to think about that my head is spinning. I am sleeping badly, I have trouble concentrating, my lungs are not healthy, and my future is uncertain. But, things have actually been worse in the past and there are always morsels of gratitude to be found and I need to find them, as difficult as it may seem. It does help me to write them down.

After almost a year of lockdown I am very grateful for the internet and social media helping me through it all. In a pandemic world, social media has become many people’s only world. In a state of lockdown where staying home is the best option, social media provides enormous relief and allows one to be social without physical contact. I’m grateful to know how to avoid fake news and hoaxes, I have good radar for that, and I’ve learnt how to use the good side of social media. In modern parlance, I know how to curate lol! Facebook is my main platform and in recent years I’ve been put in contact with some awesome people, people who are interesting, informed, socially conscious, who don’t fall for conspiracy theories, and who are anti-racism/bigotry – sadly, there’s so much of that around and on the increase with social media allowing people to expose their ugliness.

I’m grateful that these people, some I have met, some I have not, share quality information, engage in interesting debates and points of view. We have discussions that inform me, that don’t degenerate or go off topic, discussions where people back up their point of view with reasons and explanations, as opposed to simply repeating something they’ve heard and then when challenged respond that they don’t want to argue (but just want to make contentious ignorant comments), or my worst, who say: “let’s agree to disagree”, yet refuse to back up their opinion. No, no, no – I no longer have the capacity to even pretend to tolerate that. I need people who stimulate and challenge me, and who encourage and inspire me. All in all, I’m grateful for the internet in these difficult times.

I’m grateful for my continued tomato harvest. This is the first time in my life I’ve had success with vegetables (yes, i know it’s really a fruit) and it feels great! It hasn’t saved me huge amounts of money – everyone knows growing vegetables is seldom going to save money but is rather for its own satisfaction, is pesticide free, and at times convenient – but it’s hugely satisfying. I planted basil with the tomatoes which was also a great success, and a few varieties of lettuce which I loved for the ability to pick just a few leaves for a small salad – is there anything worse than surplus lettuce that liquidises at the back of the fridge? I’ve seeded more tomatoes and bought some small plants – to stagger production, you know – as well as newly-seeded lettuce (two varieties) and rocket. I’m hoping to harvest a leek or two soon – not my biggest success.

I am grateful for just being alive. I once read that the most boring people are those who, when asked how they are, tell you. This is true but I’ve often forgotten it, and never more so than in the past year. I’ve done my share of whinging and complaining, kvetching, as my friend Sheila calls it. In my defense there was, for a long time, a specific personal problem that overwhelmed me so completely, virus or no virus, that it caused my brain to overheat. But now, when asked how I am and how things are going I can’t bring myself to mention any of the challenges I face because there are too many people dying and fighting for their lives. I am just grateful to not have the virus. I am grateful to the people who did everything they could to keep me safe.

Photos: Grateful for my little dog Vida, aka the Minx, who sometimes leaves me a bit of space on the bed and whose love of walks is the highlight of my day. Middle pic: Grateful for the simple and cheap peach cobbler I’ve been making quite often lately, this one with plums and apple – not well distributed, I know, but still delicious. Bottom pic: tomatoes, sprinkled with basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, olive oil, pepper and feta cheese, slow roasted until cooked and then grilled briefly. I make this at least twice a week, either as a side dish or a main dish with an egg broken on top at the last minute just before grilling.

The tomato files

I came to the lockdown vegetable growing party a bit late. My gardening philosophy is ‘survival of the fittest’ and this does not lend itself to vegetables. Vegetables are needy, they need attention. They need pest repellent, staking, protection from dogs, and goodness knows what else. They also want to grow in neat rows which is not how the rest of my garden looks. My garden always looks like a work in progress and there’s always something that needs to be done. That’s how I like it.

But, in the days of Corona lockdown with time and good weather … sighh .. I dug out the vegetable seeds I had bought last year, for someone else who then decided not to become a vegetable farmer after all and gave me back the seeds. Also, tomato seeds from my kitchen – big fat round ones, little Roma or Rosa (I forget their name, the small oblong ones), and miniatures. And chilli seeds, also mixed.

I had seed packets of lettuce, leeks, baby spinach, Swiss chard, carrots, beans, and others I forget. I also had the Checkers Lil Garden series – this is the second time this supermarket chain has done this promo. It’s a good concept – giveaways of small kits to grow veg and herbs, all in an eco-friendly way. Ideal to teach children to grow things. I had little success the previous time because I neglected them but I figured this time around I had nothing like work or a social life to distract me so I gave it another bash.

I started off with tomatoes in containers. Not a brilliant idea if the pots are too small and the tomatoes cramped. The Lil Garden stuff did very well and then required planting out. So I sectioned off a corner of the garden, we protected it from the dogs, and transplanted things. Only the tomatoes were in neat rows because of needing the dog barrier to hold them up; everything else was hodge podge.

There were many losses, I won’t dwell on them but will focus on the positive. And the tomatoes – they fall into both categories.

Tomatoes are fussy little pheckers and much loved by a whole bunch of little creatures. Every morning we counted how many fruit were forming – I was heady with excitement – until I realised they were being eaten up. First the bottom leaves dry and die, then the tomatoes themselves are eaten from inside. It’s easy to miss the pinprick hole made by worms. Sometimes it’s when the fruit is almost ripe, sometimes the little green ones. No consistency.

I had to break my rule of no pesticide and shot off to the nursery. I was sold something bio that seems to be almost entirely made of garlic. I sprayed a small quantity one evening and then watched to see if my dogs would be attracted to it. If so, then I couldn’t continue. They didn’t go near it so I continued and sprayed a lot. I still spray it every few days. The smell of garlic is nauseating.

I seem to have saved some of the tomatoes. There are a few still being eaten, and I can see little bugs on them at times, but generally speaking I have harvested enough to please me and make this not too much of a time waster. I pick them early enough to ripen indoors and we’ve had a few salads. Considering my vegetable track record, the tomatoes are being counted as a success. But I might not bother again.

Another success, a complete one, is lettuce. I have several varieties .. butter, frilly, and something called ‘Italian’. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than finally having lettuce in my garden, to pick a few leaves whenever needed. Rocket – also a success and added to salads, but the plants are very tall and already flowering. I suspect they will seed themselves. Basil is doing well, planted as a companion to the tomatoes, as advised by my friend Fadia.

Leeks and chillis are very slow. Radishes have completely disappeared. Three borage plants look like death. Swiss chard are not plentiful enough to cook alone so they go into salads. The carrots and beans want sowing in a few months but I might never bother. I’m not really cut out for vegetable gardening but there are lettuce seeds left over that might get thrown haphazardly to see what survives.

Not everything in the pots survived. There’s definitely something to be said for a proper vegetable garden with everything in rows or the wooden planters that are all the rage now.

The various stages of excitement and anticipation. Note the weirdo pointy tomato – I’ve been watching him like a hawk and he’s going into a chicken salad later today.

My crowdfund campaign is at 50% and I’m very thrilled! Please read below and see if you can help me save my business for when tourism picks up again. All contributions, big and small, are appreciated and I thank you in advance!


A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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