Ok folks…. Prepare yourselves…. Because today’s the day.
I’ve finally gone and done it. After years of fannying about, self doubting, prevaricating and generally believing that nobody would be interested in reading a book written by me, I’ve taken the plunge.
And this is it.
My book. The one I started writing nearly ten years ago, the one I researched and wrote, found an agent for, didn’t find a publisher for, gave up on, picked up again, thought ‘you know what I really like this book,’ self-edited, self-edited some more, found a really cool self-publishing service provided by Amazon, turned it into something that looks like a real book.
And now all you have to do is click on this link for Amazon.co.uk and order your copy. If you’re in the US you can click on the Amazon.com link, and you will be able to get it right now. And by August 21st you will be able to read The Greenyards Legacy on Kindle.
So there you have it. I really hope you read it. And if you do, I really hope you like it. And if you do, I really hope you tell all your friends and write a glowing review.
This blog is taking on a life of its own. It’s expanding.
It started out as a way of recording my experiences as a trainee garden designer at KLC. But along the way other things have crept in. And recently they’ve been threatening to take over.
But I don’t want you to think that, just because it’s the summer holidays, the course work is taking a break as well. Oh no….
Because there’s the dreaded Construction File to complete, which I’ve been working on since term ended. I’ve still got 11 CAD drawings to do – which I keep putting off, because CAD and me are not exactly what you could call the best of friends… and I know it’s going to be painful.
Then there’s the work experience. Regular readers of this blog may remember that I was supposed to be going to Great Dixter for two weeks. I had to pull out of this because my father in law died, but I did get to spend a wonderful week at Long Barn, Vita Sackville West’s first garden after she left Knole. Of which more to come in later posts….
And running alongside everything else this summer is the project that we have to be ready to present on our first day back in September. Which is no small ask….
This week I’ve been working on the 3D model we have to make as part the project. And it’s been a tortuous experience. There are people out there who are good at this sort of thing. I’m not one of them. I went out last weekend and spent my life savings on tissue paper and plasticine, and anything else that looked like it might help me to build my dream garden in miniature. On Monday morning I went to the little shed in the garden where I work feeling quite excited. The excitement lasted about five minutes.
By Wednesday morning I was on the verge of packing the whole course in. You should have seen the state of my shed. There were bits of torn up tissue paper, drinking straws cut into pieces, broken cocktail sticks, lumps of plasticine, cardboard. It was like the scene of an explosion in the Blue Peter studio.
Which is ironic. Because explosions are what my project is all about.
Crane Park in Twickenham, the location of Project Number 4, is the site of a gunpowder mill which closed down in the early 1900’s. Making gunpowder is a dangerous business. While the mill was in operation there were numerous explosions, some of which could be heard as far away as Heathrow. And over the lifetime of the mill seven workers died.
It was this aspect of the site that caught my attention. So, at the start of the holidays, I began to research explosions. And while I was away in Majorca I spent many happy hours on the internet (feeling uncomfortably aware that some big brother somewhere was aware of the person in Puerto Pollenca typing ‘gunpowder’ and ‘the aftereffects of explosions’ into Google). And this was how shock waves became the theme of my summer.
There was one picture in particular that caught my attention. Not because it was useful for the Crane Park concept –
but because it made me smile.
And I got this idea in my head that while we were in Scotland I should try and persuade the rest of the group to re-enact a ‘shock waves’ moment on the beach up there.
Which is how it came to pass that, if you had been on the Achnahaird beach near Alchiltibuie on a particularly blustery day a couple of weeks ago, you might have been a little surprised to see ten fifty somethings drawing circles in the sand and leaping into the air.
Ok so maybe the jumping isn’t quite as accomplished as the original….
But if anyone else happens to find themselves on a beach with nothing better to do….
Just remember you don’t have to be young to have a laugh.
You know those places…. the where would you rather be places? Well I’ve got another one for you. And of all the where would you rather be places in the world this one is my favourite.
I’ve been going to this particular place every year since I was fifteen. That’s forty years, with only a few missed here and there. Kind of tells you something, doesn’t it.
At the end of July the King family heads north. We pack the car with dogs and children, wellington boots and picnic hampers, fishing rods and golf clubs. And we set off around the dreaded M25, along the M40 and onto the M6. If we’re lucky, as we get up beyond Manchester, the traffic begins to thin. When we get to the stretch of the motorway that runs through the sweeping hills and valleys of the Lake District I begin to feel like I’m on holiday.
We cross the border into Scotland, pass the sign to Gretna Green, where in 1928 my grandfather took my grandmother on the back of his motorbike to become one of the last couples to marry over the anvil. On up to Glasgow and beyond. We stopover for the night in Pitlochry. Then back into the car the next morning for the last stretch. Up through the Cairngorms, onto Inverness, and we drive across the bridge over the Moray Firth, and take the road heading north west to Ullapool.
Because this is where we are heading. Inverbroom Lodge, a sprawling white house on the southern edge of Loch Broom, seven miles from Ullapool on the west coast of the Highlands. It’s an old fishing lodge, rambling and comfortable. Sleeps 20, and we’ve had years where we’ve been 20 and more, with a caravan in the garden to take the overflow. But this year the ‘children’ are all working, getting married, gap yearing. So it’s just ten of us ‘grownups’.
I start the week the way I always do. Wake up early on the first morning. Dress quietly, creep downstairs, trying not to disturb the rest of the house, put on my boots, take my fishing rod and head down to the river. The sun is just beginning to touch the tops of the hills.
It’s quiet and still as anything, just the gentle sound of the river tumbling past. I go to the bridge pool, wade out a little way and cast my first line.
If you don’t fish you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. And it’s hard to explain. It’s kind of meditation and relaxation and thinking time, all tied up with excitement and anticipation and breathlessness. Because who knows, maybe the next cast…. and to catch a salmon on the first morning would be nice. It’s happened before.
This year there were no fish before breakfast. But much peacefulness and ‘glad to be here-ness’. And after a couple of hours it’s back to the house for porridge, and eggs and bacon and sausages and tomatoes and…. Planning the day ahead. Maybe the beach, Inverewe Gardens, golf, a trip into Ullapool to potter about the shops and stop for coffee at The Ceilidh Place. Maybe someone will do the the steep walk up the hill above the lodge to the ruins of the minister’s house. Maybe someone else will decide that this is the year for climbing Stac Pollaidh.
One of the best things to do is drive along the coast road towards Gairloch. We peel off at the wonderfully named Mellon Udrigle, park the cars, take the dogs and follow the path to the coast. If you want views you won’t find better than these. Three hundred and sixty five degrees of …. well actually words fail me. You kind of have to be there….
So I don’t know about you. But I know where I’m going….