Back to the real world……

So I’m home.

With a vengeance.

To piles of washing…. No food in the house….. And planting plans coming out of my ears ……

No more Everest Base Camp. No more fabulous feisty Team F. No more Kathmandu. I’m back in Tandridge.

And where’s the anticipation, where’s the excitement, where’s the glamour? (OK so maybe glamour isn’t quite the right word when you think about frozen loos and wearing the same clothes for a week but I’m feeling rather blue….)

Or am I?

Because what about my own lovely bed. Clean sheets, comfortable pillows, soft light duvet. What about not being able to see my breath in the air when I wake up, and no ice thick on the inside of the windows. What about warmth. Hot and cold running water at the turn of a tap. Tea with milk in it, and toast with butter on it. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables. Meat.

And what about Graham and the kids. Being completely out of contact for days at a time has been a very odd experience. While I was away Graham found out that he is finally completely clear of the pre-cancerous condition for which he’s been undergoing groundbreaking treatment at The London Clinic. So hurrah, hooray, harrumph for miracle worker Laurence Lovatt.

And while I was away Emma got promoted, Hattie got a hot date and James got wise and left the job that’s been getting him down for months.

And then there’s my garden, which has been very obliging and put everything on hold for me while I’ve been gone. So I thought I would miss out on the tulips I planted last year. But they’ve been waiting for me and should be out in the next week or so.

And today I should finally finish the last of the ten planting plans that have to be handed in on our first day of the summer term which starts on Monday. I’ve been working on them up until the moment I went away and from the moment I got home, and finally there is light at the end of the tunnel. They may not be perfect. But they are nearly done…..

So maybe this weekend I might have time to do some washing, buy some food, celebrate my 28th wedding anniversary on Saturday. And think that adventure and excitement is all very well. And I’ve loved every minute of it….

But gosh it’s wonderful to be home.

Base Camp Plants and Planting

So I’m home. Back from Nepal. I’ve been to Base Camp, got the t shirt. (I really have got the t shirt….) And now it’s back to horticulture, and planting plans, and all those other things that seemed a very long way away at 5,400 metres.

So I thought I’d get back into the swing of things by writing about the plants I saw on my travels.To be fair this is a totally inaccurate title for this post….. Because there are in fact very few plants at all at Base Camp. In fact precisely none. Apart from some incredibly determined lichen and mosses. Nothing lives up there for very long. But I’m suffering from jet lag…. And looking for dramatic effect. So I’m just going to stick with this title and see where it takes me.

Landing at the tiny airport in Lucla the first thing that strikes you are the wild rhododendron. IMG_1362The green foothills are dotted with splashes of pink and purple and carmine red. Prayer flags strung up in the trees add their own unique touch of character. Wild pieris  grow much taller and more stately than I’ve ever seen them at home, and the rough slopes are dotted with soft purple primula. Clumps of bamboo stand alone. And as we walk up the steep paths the scent of wild daphne hangs in the warm air.

The scenery changes as we go higher. A birch with papery red bark can be see everywhere rubbing shoulders with the rhododendron and pine. IMG_1492IMG_1692IMG_1516In certain places its bare branches are hung with swathes of a soft green lichen that I haven’t seen before. There’s low growing cotoneaster, eidelweiss twinkling by the edges of the pathway, and tall pines framing the view at every new corner. IMG_1372It is breathtaking, magical, extraordinary. I’m seeing plants that are very familiar to us in the UK, but in their natural setting. They look very content to be here.


The interesting thing is the way the plants get closer to the ground as we get higher up. Juniper in particular – trees shrink to low growing shrubs as the altitude takes effect. There is lots of wild berberis and a wild rose that isn’t out yet but must look sensational when it is. IMG_1519The rhododendron are reduced from thirty to twenty to ten foot trees, their stems twisting and turning in on themselves as if they really want to grow taller but have lost their nerve.

The one thing that remains constant wherever there are people to be found, at whatever height, is the use of all and any patch of land, no matter how challenging, to grow IMG_1503vegetables.

IMG_1356IMG_1386 Yak dung is the fertiliser of choice. Potatoes and cabbages, onions and root vegetables are harvested and then buried back into their fields to protect them from the intense cold. They are dug up when they are needed. IMG_1738IMG_1363And there is even a vegetable garden in the courtyard of the Patan museum in the centre of Kathmandu.

And finally – flowers for colour are grown in whatever the people can lay their hands on – paint pots, buckets, tin cans.IMG_0368 IMG_1700You have to love this country……

Day 4 – Dancing with Sherpas

Another great day at altitude!


The thing about being on this trek is that there is such a constant stream of extraordinary things happening that it’s impossible to know where to begin to describe it all.

We spent the morning being tested and sitting on the terrace with this for our view.


After lunch we went down into Namche Bazaar for cakes and coffee. It is the most bizarre and wonderful place, living up to its name. A bustling town clinging to the mountainside, it’s narrow streets thronging not just with people but with cows and ponies and yaks. They just amble up and down like the rest of the folk.

In the evening we had a really cheery dinner – this group is getting on like a house on fire. And then we went next door – to the highest nightclub in the world – and danced with Sherpas. These were the members of…

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These posts are a bit all over the place, but I’m taking the opportunity whenever the Internet is working to download.


We’re here. Although I don’t quite know where here is. But we got wherever we are after a very very long day which involved getting up at 3.30 this morning, doing our heart rates… and blood pressures….  and stepping on and off boxes for two minutes by torchlight because the electricity in khatmandu was off at 4 am, and then getting on a bus and queuing outside the airport as dawn began to break , rushing through security, and getting onto the thing that I was most worried about! The plane to Lukla. Which turned out to be A M A Z I N G!

We were in Lukla by 6.30 this morning. Tilting and tipping our way in to the tiny landing strip that nestles in the folds of the foothills of the Himalayas.  Got there so fast that we had a couple of hours sitting in the sun…

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For the next three weeks I’m going to be writing for my Everest blog. But I’ll be reblogging here for anyone who wants to keep up with how things are going.


Some of us are more ready than others…….

While Mary’s been going through all the kit, trying stuff on, and writing some really funny posts about it all – (although I’m a little bit worried about her obsession with the urinary aspects of our trek) – I’ve been doing other things.

So this morning the parcel containing my sleeping bag and down jacket were still by the front door….


The bags with all my kit from Cotswold were on the spare bed where I left them a couple of weeks ago…..IMG_1309

AIMG_1303nd the new underwear I brought a few days ago hadn’t made it past the chair where I’d dumped it on my way in ….

I’ve been up to my eyeballs trying to get as much of the holiday homework done for my garden design course before I go away. And the last thing on my mind has…

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Seeing Double

My sister Mary and I are going to Everest Base Camp as part of the Xtreme Everest research project because we are identical twins. People seem to find identical twins quite unusual. But in our family they’re two a penny….

First there’s Mary and me.IMG_1174

Then there are my daughters Emma and Hattie.4988_105258842326_8005903_n

And let’s not forget our cousins Tim and Alastair.Twins

This photo was taken at a family wedding. It’s the only photo we’ve got of the four of us as grown ups.

As a family we seem to disprove many of the myths and theories about identical twins.

There’s the one about non-identical twins being hereditary and identicals being a fluke of nature. Ummmm. Three sets of identical twins in two generations – that’s a pretty big fluke.

Then there’s the one about twins skipping a generation….. I grew up believing this. It never crossed my mind for a single second that I might have twins. It was the biggest shock of my life. A nice shock but even so…..

And what about twins passing down the female line? Our mother and her brother both had identical twins. Another coincidence? It’s hard to believe…..

So we’re an odd bunch. But happy to be so.

Here are some more twin family snaps.

Mary and JaneIn the basket are Mary and me as babies. I’ve got no idea who is who! It’s quite odd looking at a photo of yourself but not knowing which one is you…

With Emma and Hattie it’s easier. Hattie is on the right and Emma on the left. (How do I know this? Because I wrote on the back of the photo when it was taken.)


They were the most cheerful babies.

Mary and Jane's Christening

This is Mary and me at our christening with Mary held by our father and me by our mother. This is one of the few photos we’ve got where someone has written on the back. But we’d know which was which anyway because Mary has a bandage on her leg. The joys of being a twin – you get identified by what you wear. Even if it’s only a bandage.

Our mother always insisted she never dressed us in the same clothes when we were young. But there are very few photos of us up to about the age of ten when we’re not dressed in identical outfits.

How young our parents look. Dad was 27, Mum 26. They look a little nervous, don’t you think? And who can blame them….

Hattie and Emma's Christening

Here are Emma and Hattie at their christening. (Emma held by Graham, Hattie by me.) It’s 1989. Graham was 32; I was 31. We already had James. He had turned up 15 days late on December 7th, 1986. December 7th, 1986 was my 29th birthday. The birthday I already shared with Mary. We like to group birthdays in this family. It makes remembering the date so much easier!


This is the only picture we’ve got of Mary and me and Tim and Alastair when we were young. The one in the middle is younger sister Lucy. She’s got a few stories to tell about growing up with twins!

And then there are the obligatory bathing suit shots. First Mary and me ….  Another photo where we’ve got no idea who is who!

Twins  1IMG_0002

It’s easier with Emma and Hattie…. Hattie’s in the hat!

So there you have us. Three sets of twins in two generations.

One of the questions we get asked all the time is ‘what’s it like being a twin?’ It’s a tricky one to answer. Because we don’t know what it’s like not being a twin.

But if it gets us to Everest Base Camp I’m not complaining……