Monday, 27 June 2016

The Rise of the Moderates

I voted to Remain

I voted to remain in the EU Referendum. I am a firm believer in the idea that together the EU, as a group of countries, has a strong global economic voice and that the union has allowed a shattered post-war continent to rebuild. Like most outside the political system, I was disappointed but not necessarily shocked by the referendum result. It has been impossible to ignore the recent growing disparity of wealth across Europe as a whole. A political system which only favours the elite and turns its back on the people the system was designed to help is bound to be on a collision course with disaster. Thank goodness this was only a bloody vote and not a bloody revolution.
In the UK it has been increasingly clear the huge wealth generated by the capital has not led to the regeneration of the post-industrial north or the rural south and east and frustrating to see a political ideology not addressing this but instead pushing austerity to the limits of social tolerance. In less than a generation we have shifted home ownership and job/pension security beyond the reach of the majority and seem to be in the process of removing state education and access to national healthcare. That this EU referendum became about giving the political system a bloody nose shows the level of disconnect between politics and the people. It is a sentiment Brussels should not ignore.

Partisan European Politics

'Is it time 2 automate global political treaties in order 2 remove partisan human response & compute best rational outcomes 4 next generation'

I was surprised to see the extraordinarily partisan approach of the EU commission in trying to force our government to trigger article 50 as a response to the Brexit vote. We are the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in the EU. This is an economic union we have decided, democratically as a country, not to be working in our favour and, as such, our government will be expected to carefully and with the full co-operation of the EU over the next few years, follow the legal frameworks laid out for an exit. It will be a complex set of negotiations to find the best result for all concerned, to limit trade damage and to make sure Europe will still benefit from having the fifth largest economy on its doorstep. It is not a quickie divorce.

New day, new European alliances...

'What new #EuroGlobal forum will the UK build as the EU looks as though it will ignore this referendum warning for reform & who will join us?'

After the PM's resignation and a weekend of political vacuum in which the Chancellor was nowhere to be seen, no clear successor anointed, the opposition staging a slow coup, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London talking of breaking up the UK, we were all left wondering who will step up and say... well anything...

Two trillion and counting...

Interestingly the #Brexit vote has effectively wiped out some of the trillions pumped in by quantitative easing measures across the global stock markets. Will a moderate rise in interest rates and a flattening of excesses between currencies help to curb excessive gambles and start to even out a volatile market ?

The rise of the Moderates

One thing for sure, this vote and the campaigns preceding it, have been divisive, negative and laid bare the political infighting and intrigue of party politics where winning, whatever the cost, is the goal. Yet it seems, if you read the press we are now all going to be losers, with a punitive budget, despite the Bank of England having planned for this event with several billion stashed up its sleeve. What is increasingly clear is the probable need for another election as the face of both the main political parties is moved radically beyond what was voted for only a year ago.

I hope the rise of a more moderate approach within the EU will be the ultimate outcome of Britain's exit. You have only to look at the treatment of Greece and the plight of the refugees to see how very unbalanced and inward-looking the system has become. I hope moderate views prevail in the UK too and the individual nations can see the break up of the UK was not what people were voting for last Thursday. And I hope America takes a good, long hard look at its own Union of States and realises, in the cold light of a Monday morning just what could be at stake with its own, very partisan election. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Analysis on EU referendum debate and why this expert is voting to remain in EU.

Well worth watching this video by Professor Michael Dougan before you vote.

“Dishonesty on an industrial scale” EU law expert analyses referendum debate

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Notes from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, a Plantsman's Year.

Roughly twenty years ago my Mum and I went to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and made a promise to one day visit the Chelsea show together. Little did we know then just how long it would take to organise this trip (between us, various work, family and health commitments always cropping up) but this year, finally, we got there. For Mum a first visit and for me, the second. Thank you to all those who helped out to get us there, it was a brilliant 50th treat!

5000 Poppies

Floral tribute for the Queen's 90th Birthday


This year I avoided much of the press and TV coverage of the show as I wanted to react to the gardens without knowing too much about the design processes and philosophy behind them. Hoping instead to simply concentrate on the planting schemes and garden forms and maybe find my way to the right meaning from these. I also found a mission statement I wrote for our own garden when we moved house 17 years ago. It is an encapsulation of all the hopes of a new mum to build a home for a family and maybe a reaction to exterior events: the approach of a new century and the rise of terrorism and war. Perhaps a quiet prayer for a moment of calm before the approaching chaos of family life. Probably pretentious and completely unrealistic but a concept for a garden all the same. Did I even slightly succeed? Who knows or, in new century speak, whevs. Like life, the garden is destined always to be a work in progress, dependent on kids, pets, impulse plant buys, the weather and our free time to shape it. But without the concept is it any less of a garden?

Chelsea Show Gardens are very definitely not a work in progress. They are the definition of the finished article, as shiny as a new minted coin and masterpieces of horticultural perfection to be looked at but definitely not lived in till after the show. But without knowing the rationale and ethos behind them, are they any the less for it?

Notes from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

A Plantsman's Year


Climbing rose
Herb borders
Foxtail lily

Bear's breeches

Plums and purples
Orange or lime green accents

Cerise and white
Pinks and peaches

Copper, bronze, sandstone, wood, topiary.

'The M&G Garden 2016' designed by Cleve West

A controlled sprinkling of citrus, sky blue and frothy pinks and whites amongst the green ferns and downy oaks, echoing a rolling spring sky. The small leaved trees providing the dappled shade while the rust and iron hues of the paving and monolithic stones provide a perfect foil for a meandering path drawing you towards the formal seating element of the garden. The downy oaks, with their smaller, slightly scrubbier appearance lend to an atmosphere of windswept permanence. Vibrant and crisp.

'Support: The Husqvarna Garden' designed by Charlie Albone

Hugged by topiary hornbeam and box this intimate, manicured space is the epitome of the outdoor room. Pretty purples fill the borders, regimented by a copper-coloured rill. Sleek, modern and urban, it recalls traditional internal courtyard gardens and retreats.

'The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden' designed by Nick Bailey

A sinuous explosion of structural plants in a palette of purple, blue, grey, copper, bronzed yellows and greens. Spiky firs stand sentinel over a sea of interlocking leaf and plant spires all sweeping your eye up to a balcony overlooking the garden. The densely planted flowerbeds draw your eye with their fractal patterns repeating throughout a lively, dynamic garden.

'God's Own Country – A Garden for Yorkshire' designed by Matthew Wilson

A cathedral space criss-crossed with a contemporary grid of white paths delineating areas of rich planting with a beautiful stained glass palette of deep, tranquil colours. Shimmering white accents add light and space and the gorgeous backlit stained glass panels will be wonderfully warming on a cold winter's day while the plants slumber in their topiary pews. A medieval window-shaped pavilion provides a meditative space to sit and ponder this wonderful hymn to wide open spaces.

'The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden' designed by Diarmuid Gavin

Red brick Victorian elegance with clipped topiary bay and box and terracotta pots of lavender, neatly punctuating paved town house patios and abundant flowerbeds bursting full of roses, lupins, nepeta, salvia, iris... a sophisticated city take on a cottage garden border. While drinking in the gorgeous blooms the whole garden springs to life, as twirling trees and zooming flowers whizz round in a crazy clockwork waltz. Will it make the pruning easier? Maybe. Will it move plants from shade to full sun? Possibly. Will it bring a huge smile to those watching? Absolutely. Bonkers, beautiful but completely bonkers.

'RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture' designed by Anne-Marie Powell

Gorgeous colour combinations and textural planting with depth and height. Jam-packed with garden ideas for small spaces.

'The Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street' designed by Chris Beardshaw

A green oasis of tranquillity, with a subtle palette of greens and soft blue tones. Clipped shapes bring calming order and flashes of colour hover like birds in a forest.

'A Modern Apothecary. The St John's Hospice Garden' designed by Jekka McVicar

This beautiful space has echoes of a traditional knot garden in it's central, circular beds radiating around a water feature with seating. The lovely pear cordons bordering the garden remind me of old walled gardens and country orchards. On closer examination the flowerbeds turn out to be herbal beds. Planted like a fabulous piece of jewellery, the flowering herbs shine like precious stones providing a feast for the eye and a balm for the soul.


A week or so later, having watched the TV shows and reflected on what we saw, I am still buzzing with new ideas for the garden only to be thwarted by deluges of rain and have to sit by and watch as a horde of hungry snails and slugs head straight for the newly planted hostas. With only one BBQ so far is it going to be another washout this year? Amid the deluge the bluetits in the bird box decide to fledge, scattering like feathered puffballs under the table and into the wild edges of the lawn. I wonder, as the pond slowly spills over, if the newts will be OK and, as I watch, the rambling rose takes a nosedive, flattened under the weight of the rain. The newly refurbished garden seat set into the bank remains still unused as the weather refuses to let up.

For me, the best show gardens are the ones you can connect to. Spaces that evoke memories or provide a framework for new memories to be made in. Some of the gardens imparted their rationale effortlessly while others made you think for while before reaching any kind of conclusion.

Gardens create a place we can be free in but still safe from the pressures of the world and that freedom allows us to contemplate some of the more complex issues life throws at us. Perhaps gardening itself provides all the ethos a garden needs or perhaps gardens allow a place for ideals and ideas along with the plants to flourish. On things for sure, what we learn from, what we nurture and grow, what stand we take. These three things define us and shape our world.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Whispers of a dry summer...

May arrived in a hurry with a weekend of high temperatures bringing on trees and shrubs in a flurry of soft greens, the woods full of bluebells and the garden full of birdsong.

The winter finished off the old pergola, with the wood supports rotten through and the low brick wall behind it split and in need of repair. The small patio it covered is still fine and with the wall repair underway, the top of which will return to providing a garden seat with a view to the woods, the open patio is a good place for the BBQ. The two climbing roses were saved but the honeysuckle was far too woody and without flower to bother.


The winter jasmine in the front garden had also become too overgrown and had crowded out the passion flower and the Virginia creeper had rotted out in the terrible weather last year. So a complete change with a new climbing rose, hostas from dividing up some pot-bound ones and a snowball vibernum (Vibernum opulus 'Roseum') from a local Medway plant fair.

The patio pots have all been weeded and mulched for the summer, I hear whispers of a dry summer, fingers crossed after last year's washout. New plants this year also include, angelica Archangelica from Invicta Herbs and lupins, campanula and wallflowers.




hop and geranium

rose and valerian ready to flower


 A squirrel finds a way to get ahead of the competition for food.
No wonder the campanula is struggling...

grape vine

wallflowers now

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Movie Review ~ Marvel's Captain Amercia: Civil War

Marvel's Captain America: Civil War 12A (2D)

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

After several international incidents involving the Avengers cause too much collateral damage, a set of governmental checks and controls are to be placed on all enhanced humans. The proposed agreement splits the group with Tony Stark (Iron Man) heading up those Avengers who acquiesce and Steve Rogers (Captain America) leading those who won't.
It starts a civil war between the two teams meanwhile allowing a new enemy to emerge; one who has the Hydra secret to unlocking the Winter Soldier in Captain America's oldest friend, Bucky Barnes and the means to unleash a new terror on the world. New and old Marvel characters clash head on in this 146 minute action fight-fest as Captain America struggles with his moral compass in an increasingly hostile world, leaving him no option but to choose between friendship or duty.

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Frank Grillo, William Hurt and Daniel Brühl are a stellar cast in this super-sized installment of the Marvel Avengers.

Five out five for some fearsome fun.