Hurrah, frost! Hurrah, sunshine! What a treat to see clear blue sky and feel a welcome wintry nip in the air. The grey mild wet conditions were becoming tedious, with standing water laying in places in the bottom half of the garden, and little chance for any drying out with rain following any brief dry spells. Though there were some bright spells at times; last Wednesday afternoon was pleasantly warm and bright as I got stuck into the pruning in the orchard.

This morning we took Nellie for a lovely walk along the river in the sunshine. As we approached the riverbank a Egret flew up from where it had been wading at the water’s edge, then 50 metres further on a family of 4 swans hove into view, effortlessly gliding in the current of the stream, parents and two grey ‘ugly ducklings’ with the first showing of white feathers emerging on the their elegant necks. Another few paces along the bank and a heron took off in the direction of the wood. Nellie was oblivious to it all, she was too intent on splashing through the saturated water meadow searching for something revolting to eat; fortunately on this occasion her efforts were in vain, but she had the time of her life anyway.

Tomorrow morning I am giving blood in Cambridge. I telephoned to book an appointment to donate platelets again, but it has been too long since I last went, so I have to be re-tested for my eligibility; a procedure they carry out during my donation of whole blood. Because my blood group is A- it is in high demand for use in cancer treatments, so I hope that I am ok to do my bit.

I am not one that cares much for celebrity, unimpressed by the self-importance of those that seek it. However, I have to tell you that I may well have rubbed shoulders with a famous film actor at the cinema, for what it’s worth. Two weeks ago on Desert Island Discs the guest was Rupert Everett, who was actually very amusing and entertaining. One of his record choices was ‘Feed the birds’ by Julie Andrews, and while explaining why he had selected the song he declared that he had seen the film Mary Poppins as a boy at the Embassy cinema in Braintree. Well he and I are contemporaries, and I too saw Julie and Dick in the same flea pit that he nostalgically described, and who’s to say that we were not at the same screening? The Embassy is now inevitably a Wetherspoons pub, but they have at least preserved the building, retaining many of the original features that I remember from my childhood, particularly the Art Deco panels either side of the screen; I am not a fan of Tim Martin, but for this I thank him.

The van had its service last Monday……£531 flipping quid! I had to lay in a darkened room with a damp flannel on my forehead after receiving the news. The road tax is due at the end of the month too! The good news is; and there should really be a drum roll at this juncture; I have filed my tax return! Ta da! That’s probably the earliest I have completed the annual chore, and boy do I feel smug.

Last week was busy again, in fact it was a record equalling one in terms of number of orders. The upturn in business is in part due to an increasing customer base in the Sudbury area, built up over the past couple of years, thanks in no small part to ‘Cradle’ bakery and restaurant, which kindly acts as a collection point for customers that live in outlying areas that I do not currently deliver to. Anyway, a consequence of the high demand is that there were one or two shortages of produce, so apologies if you missed out.

The new batch of oranges were much larger than the previous one, so to avoid losing my shirt I made an executive decision to reduce the count per bag from 5 to 4. I am assuming that this week’s lot will be similar in size, so 4 it will be again, but 5 if they are tiddlers. There will be Brussels sprouts, broccoli, limited chard, sweet potatoes, parsnips, swede, red cabbage, carrots, leeks, onions (brown and red), beetroot, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms. There is a great potato selection, with Pink Fir Apple joining Charlotte, Cara, and Alouette this week. Pink Fir Apple is a curious looking nobbly spud with a waxy texture and a nutty flavour.

On Monday I sowed a bed of radishes in the greenhouse, and the rocket I sowed a week earlier is already showing through. My seed order arrived on Friday, and yesterday afternoon after the farmers market I sowed 700-odd onions in modules that are now in the propagator. I will add more tomorrow. The Savoy cabbages outside are coming on nicely, I purposefully grew a late variety this year to try to fill the period when fresh greens are hard to come by. They should be ready to start cutting sometime next month – weather and pests permitting.

Next Saturday Jennifer will be at the market in Steeple Bumpstead and I will be at Wyken as usual.

I wish you all a good week, enjoy the crisp winter weather for as long as it last, oh and by the way, as I write this the temperature is 1.4 degrees and the light breeze is coming from the west.

Phil

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