4 July 2021

Phew! What a weekend. I’m glad that’s all over. I don’t mind spending time in the garden, obviously. But I prefer that time to be spent reclining in the hammock sipping a Pimms rather than mowing the lawns, trimming the edges, trimming the hedge, tidying away all the detritus and, in general, making things presentable for (a) the MPGC Annual Garden Competition and (b) the Moreton Pinkney Open Gardens 2021! Add in Annabelle’s Camp over/Sleepover and all the excitement six squealing nine-year-olds brought to the party and you can appreciate it was a full-on few days.

The Garden Competition was a great success, as it always is. We missed out on the tour round our neighbours’ gardens last year due to Covid so it was nice this time to be able to wander around all those gardens which had been entered, ending in the last garden for some wine, nibbles and a very pleasant socially-distanced chat with friends and neighbours.

As we had anticipated, our garden came “also ran” in each of the categories for which it was entered, bar one. Never mind, we always knew ours was still a “work in progress” although the Double-Wide Burial Pit prompted much amusement and many folks commented favourably on Penelope’s Woodland area with its insect-friendly log wall. And, once the children discovered the #1 Wood End Playhouse their parents had great difficulty dragging them away.

Having had the opportunity to view the other competitors’ gardens I don’t think we can complain about our “also ran” status! We were, however, astonished to learn that Penelope’s front “garden” had won the Front Garden Flower Cup! The judges described it as “charming” with a “lovely perfume of roses” both of which are true, I guess. Having said all that, one kind couple in the village who came round on the Sunday wrote that they thought ours was the best of the lot. (I suspect they wrote notes like that to everyone).

While this was going on, Nick and Lucy were supervising Annabelle’s twice-postponed birthday camp over/sleepover. Just after the judges had departed our garden on Saturday morning, a van arrived with bell tent and an assortment of accessories to establish an Alice in Wonderland themed playground in our back garden. It was stunning and the girls enjoyed themselves. Naturally, the description of the event as a “sleep-over” is misleading – Annabelle reckoned she got about five minutes’ sleep. Fortunately, (for us) Nick and Lucy were sleeping in the “Guest Wing” so that they were on hand to deal with any nervous wobbles during the night, of which there were a few. By about 2.00 am Lucy decided she needed to go out and sleep in the tent with the girls in an attempt to get them all to settle down. There were some very tired young girls on Sunday morning, not to mention a couple of very tired parents.

On Sunday morning the van returned to dismantle the tent and the garden was restored to something approaching normalcy just in time for the Open Gardens to commence on Sunday afternoon.

The first Moreton Pinkney Open Gardens was a great success – ours and I think about a dozen other gardens were open to the paying public. We had a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon all of whom were very complimentary and only a handful of whom were daft enough to imagine that I would know the answer to any of their questions. I struggled with all the questions I was asked apart from, “Is this your garden?” and even then I had to think about it.

All in all a great weekend.

It’s been a very busy week on the bike as well. In my virtual Pacific Coast marathon I have been steaming past lots of Southern California memories and I even had time to make a few detours – Santa Monica Pier, Ben and Brex-Anna’s home just by LAX (Max was excited to see me), my mother’s childhood home in Hermosa Beach, and my dear friend Miles’ beach house on Capistrano Beach.

On Thursday the weather was decent so I ventured out on the road bike and at some point, along the road between Blakesley and Litchborough, the mileometer ticked over and I completed the 1825.9 miles required to get me from Vancouver, BC to the Mexican border at Tijuana. Whew! I started the journey on 19 December last year so it’s “only” taken just over six months. Where should I go next? Any and all suggestions welcome (unless your suggestion is that I should ride off the edge of the Grand Canyon).

And so, to the You Could Not Make It Up department. The Prime Minister’s decision not to include India on the Red List in early April (when Pakistan and Bangladesh were added) despite India having nearly ten times the number of active infections at the time, is certainly paying dividends. From a point two or three weeks ago when there were fewer than 1000 new cases each day we’re now seeing 28,000 new cases every day. All because he was hoping to go on a trade mission to India to herald the “success” of Brexit and his “Global Britain” agenda.

And, speaking of Brexit, the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) has called on the government to relax the post-Brexit immigration rules to address the staff shortages which have resulted as a consequence of Brexit.

[. . . the CBI] said the government urgently needed to look again at its post-Brexit immigration policy to prevent chronic skills shortages from undermining the UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Hmm, this is exactly what many predicted and the precise reason so many lunatics voted for Brexit. What do you think the chances are of the government admitting that they got it wrong?

Happy 4th of July to my American friends and family – keep yourselves safe while you enjoy the celebrations. And Happy Birthday to Juliet Ryan, the daughter of our favourite diplomat Jordan, who is, apparently, 27 years old today (Juliet, not Jordan)! My goodness, doesn’t time fly when you are enjoying yourself.

And finally, congratulations to my niece Amanda who has finished her studies/training and is now a fully functioning physician – the third Dr Stragnell that I know of.

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,


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