Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Fall Garden

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." - Cicero
Our apple tree had a great load of full, sweet, zesty apples this year.

This morning I decided to spend a leisurely forty minutes tidying up the garden. I just wanted to de-clutter the place in preparation for the winter months when everything gets blown about. 

The chicken-wire cane triangles were useful for bean support and apple-catching but just for show now

Last night I built a makeshift fire pit with the mono-blocks we got from the next-door neighbour. I just went ahead and did it, placing the blocks in the time honoured tradition of ‘This looks about right,’ as I could not be bothered getting out a tape measure, digging up turf and putting sand down to make it level. But now I can see the dimensions I know what size it should be and can go ahead and do it properly the next time (if there is a next time).

By sheer coincidence (or just because it 'looks about right') the lid is the exact size of the fire pit. Reminds me a bit of the tunnel entrances of the Morlocks in HG Wells' Time Machine

My son came home and helped me fill it with old cut-offs of wood and he seemed to like the idea of having an autumn and winter fire pit where we can roast marshmallows and sit around telling ghost stories and drinking hot chocolate. Well, that’s the plan. Alternatively we might burn down the shed and the fence erected by ‘the neighbour who shall not be named’ and that would be bad. 

With the lid on it means I can store damp wood in here to dry out ready for burning.

I guess the fire would heat up the monobocks beneath, dry out the grass, possibly scorch the ground, but I can’t see it setting it on fire. This is Scotland, not the Australian bush. I’ll keep a bucket of water handy just in case. Maybe should move it a couple of feet away from said wooden structures just to reduce concerns. Ideally I should dig up the turf beneath and fill it with sand, an area a block’s width all around. Then make sure it's level. It might also help to have one of the BBQ trays inside to catch the ash in order to ferry it to the veg plots afterwards. Because ash is good for the soil, or so I heard …

Drying the wood. Maybe marshmallows tonight

This autumn my son and I planted 12 tree seeds, compared with the 23 last year, of which only one grew into a sapling (4.3% success rate) - this horse chestnut, looking a little ragged today but has shot up to 30cm in since the spring!

1 of the 23 seeds we planted last year grew into a strapping horse chestnut sapling

I once read it takes seven trees to produce enough oxygen for one human being. If you don't have a garden or space to grow trees there are lots of other ways of giving back to the planet. I recommend using Ecosia search engine, which uses profits to plant trees around the world, or even better, as I know them personally, contact Simon & Tracey West of WordForest.org. For a donation of just £2.50 a tree can be panted in Kenya which will not only remove a quarter of a tonne of CO2 from the air in a handful of years, but will also provide food and building materials for the locals. For four trees or more you also receive a certificate.

Ten tree seeds, comprising acorn, chestnut and sycamore

I travelled a lot in my younger years, especially to and from Japan, so I want to do something to pay back that carbon debt to the planet. Trees are solar-powered, self replicating, carbon capture-storage devices. And we find the blueprints just scattered around at our feet.

Two fir cones in moist soil. Fingers crossed!

Doing something as simple as putting fallen tree seeds in soil is one of the best things we can do for the planet. Just give them a chance, that's all they ask. Think of them as plants with potential. Grow them in pots for a few years and then plant them in a forest, give them to a friend as a present, sell them online or to a local council for £50. There are a lot of options. Apparently horse chestnut seeds need to feel the cold before germinating, so best to keep them outside.

My second vegetable plot (right) to double yield next year

I added more cardboard to the soil to discourage weeds from sucking up all the nutrients from the recently added compost. According to "How To Garden" a great book by Alan Titchmarsh.

The back hedge I planted a few years ago doing well

I think the back hedge, if I remember rightly, is 'Golden Crest'. It should grow pretty high. The top of the far left one was broken off by a falling child when he climbed over the fence to retrieve a football. I tried to help it re-root next to its body, but my efforts were in vain. Hopefully the rest of the tree will continue to grow without it. Could have been worse. It could have been the boy who got decapitated.

The front hedge I planted this summer starting to fill out

The 'bee tree' near our front door kept producing saplings of its own which my wife replanted in different parts of the garden. So I thought we could move them all to the front and make a hedge out of them to discourage pets from doing their business on our front lawn.

Red berries on green

I really believe in the health benefits of gardening. As well as being able to consume your own organic vegetables, the muscular effort involved in digging the earth, combined with the fresh air and feel-good aspect of nurturing living things, must have a beneficial effect on the soul. 

Now all I need is a library.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

'Coffee Cup Killer' Launch Delayed

Unfortunately, due to last minute editing adjustments and unexpected printing times, the official launch of novella 2 of the Jake Jones Sleuth-Hound series 'The Coffee Cup Killer' will be pushed back to Monday 26th October. I'm very sorry about this.

But if you haven't already, now is the perfect time to read novella 1 'The Old Mice Killer', which has been updated as a new edition, to get into the zone. You can snap it up as a paperback (£3.99) or ebook (£1.77).

I'm hoping to go live on Facebook on Monday and answer your questions about the new chapter in Jake Jones' adventure, so if you have anything you'd like to ask, please leave them in the comments. 

Thanks, and see you then!

Sunday, 18 October 2020

The Coffee Cup Killer

I’m very happy to announce that my new novella ‘The Coffee Cup Killer’, the next episode in the Jake Jones Sleuth-Hound saga since ‘The Old Mice Killer’(2017), will be published by Raptor Filmz on Friday 23rd October! It will be available as an ebook on Amazon and Kobo (£2.99/$3.99) and a paperback from Lulu.com and myself (£5.99/ $7.75).

Jake Jones is a sleuth-hound in a city full of femme fatales, drug cartels, corrupt cops, dirty politicians and dangerous power-lords. He has a nose for trouble and he follows it always. But what starts out as a simple stalker case spirals into something much worse, as Jake finds himself embroiled in the latest spate of bloody murders to plague the city - those of the Coffee Cup Killer...

Many thanks to everyone who has offered insight, advice and encouragement to help Jake Jones on his journey.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

The Karate Kid

Last night my son and I watched The Karate Kid on Amazon and I'm not ashamed to say that I wept. 

Why? Because I only just realised how much Noriyuki “Pat” Morita and Ralph Macchio (now 58) moulded my childhood, even though I never learned Karate or was bullied by a group of high school seniors in skeleton costumes. 

It was their relationship, their spirit, their philosophy and defiance against the odds to overcome and finally prevail, which possibly inspired me to be such the non-conformist pain in the ass that I am today. Only now in my later years do I note that it was probably more thanks to the writer Robert Mark Kamen, who Wikipedia now informs me wrote the screenplay combining elements of his real life with those of a newspaper article optioned by producer Jerry Weintraub.

Sadly Pat Morita (who tested five times for the role of Mr Miyagi before producer Weintraub agreed to cast him, not originally wanting a comic actor to play the role) passed away in 2005, but Mr Kamen is still alive and well at 72 and growing grapes in California.

I just want to thank Mr Kamen for writing the screenplay, Mr Weintraub for producing the film, John G Avildsen for directing, and Mr Macchio and Mr Morita for pouring their heart and souls into such an iconic film providing staple viewing for kids growing up in the 80s, and answering the question "whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them."