Family and…….

A little while since I have visited this blog. At present not in a good place after four months of caring for my Mother after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

It has been an exhausting period both mentally and physically  and in that time I have visited past times and my history. Some fond memories and also some of my worst memories.

My formative years were spent in Hong Kong and probably my keen interest in flora and fauna was nurtured in these years as we lived in The New Territories and I had ready access to the countryside. My parents were both teachers and were contracted to teach in the forces schools. Unfortunately my father had a bit of a roving eye and this led to some some very upsetting moments. Before we left Hong Kong he started an affair with a Cantonese woman which supposedly ended when we left Hong Kong in 1971.

We arrived in the UK and made our way down to my Mum’s parents home down in Polperro. That night he walked out on us supposedly to visit some friends of his in Bodmin, me as a naive child just entering teens believed this deception.  The hope and promises kept coming at me for a couple of years of reconciliation before I drew a line on this part of my life and resigned myself to being a child of a split marriage. Once my mind was in this place I was able to settle more easily. My Mum worked her socks off and at this point we were living in Deeping St James and she was part of a steadily growing Secondary Modern which was in the process of becoming a comprehensive school.

Occasionally my dad would get in contact but the intervals grew further apart and I worried less and less about contact, sad I know but life became better without the uncertainty.

As life went on I married my wonderful wife Karan with whom I had a daughter and son with. Surprisingly enough after not hearing from my Dad he contacted me and we were invited to visit him in Micklefield. I felt I had to give him an opportunity to meet his grandchildren and in the spirit of reconciliation we went on our first visit.

We arrived at his home and he greeted us with open arms and all looked good suddenly the Cantonese woman appeared and decided to introduce herself! Once again he had been dishonest with us. However for the sake of family I tolerated this without any outburst. A couple of visits later he informed me that he was moving to the far reaches of Scotland near The Western Isles with his C woman. It felt awful at this point once again at opportunities being taken away again. However in some way I could see he seemed happy so went with it and no fuss made.

When he moved we visited and even though he made us welcome but there was an uneasy truce between myself and the C woman. They eventually married and on a second visit up to Scotland we were not accommodated in his home but in a chalet.The C woman said it was so we could do our own thing and enjoy Scotland. She made sure I never got any alone or quality time with him so I knew exactly who was in charge. I decided a 1000 mile round journey was no longer worth the effort to be in this sort of environment.

About 5 years ago he had a health scare and Karan and myself set off at 2am to Inverness which was his nearest hospital arrived mid morning and rushed to his bedside. During this time once again the C woman made sure I had no alone time with him. Karan and myself took a break to get some refreshment after our long journey. The C woman decided we needed her company in the canteen and followed us down. What I was subjected to in that canteen was unbelievable we had a lecture on inheritance and she more or less implied we had only come up to see what we could get! I had come to see my dad for what I thought was a last time and hoped to give him a bit of comfort and forgiveness. I am not and never will be a funeral vulture!

I went back up to see him accompanied of course and made my goodbyes to him. He recovered but I had made my peace and decision at that point. I knew any further communication would be vetted and supervised/censored which was confirmed as I no longer received any communication from him only her. Estrangement became final and irrevocable sadly.

Back to my Mother in September she ended up in hospital where it was discovered that she had Lung Cancer which in her weakened state and age was deemed terminal. At this point I became her carer which as time went on became harder and harder but I loved my Mum and she needed me.

In the middle of this my Dad died the news came four days after his death via the C woman’s son. I was told the funeral would be Friday Nov 6th but I received an email from her son on Wednesday 4th evening 9:30 saying the funeral had been unavoidably changed to the 5th Nov! Obviously the plan was to keep me away. As it was my Mum was first priority  and I had not planned on the journey to enter a hostile environment and be once again accused of seeing what I could get The strain of these months has put a great stress on me but never on my relationship with my Mum. The saddest part of this  being I could no longer be her son but purely a carer which hurt intensely.  During this time We have had amazing help from MacMillan, St Barnabas and Marie Curie nurses for which I will be eternally grateful. However on the 17th the palliative care organisers rang me to say that they could not guarantee overnight care during the Christmas period.The dam broke as I could not see how to go on and the community nurse discussed with me if my Mum would go into a hospice. My Mum bless her could see how much the strain was getting to me and readily agreed to go into a hospice.

On the 21st of December my Mum went into The Sue Ryder Hospice at Thorpe Hall in Peterborough and the fantastic team stepped  in and enabled me to become her son once again. This amazing place looked after my Mum and myself beautifully and made her last days comfortable and gave us valuable and precious time together to be Mum and Son.

I can never put into words how thankful I am to the staff and carers but this is a debt I can never pay back apart from appealing for people to support their fantastic work.

On December 26th my Mum passed peacefully away at just after 1am. This period has been hard but I have met some wonderful people who have restored my faith in human kind which was very nearly destroyed by the actions of the C woman. I do believe karma will get her but could not care if it doesn’t. I hope I am a better person than her and I know there are  a lot of very kind and caring people out there.

Love  especially to my wife Karan, my daughter Michelle, my son Lawrence. My Uncle Philip in NZ. Also Annabel who did a lot personal care for my Mum and in a brief time has become a valued friend. Lisa Fisher a Marie Curie Nurse who did two nights care for my Mum.  Davina another night time carer who came into our lives and formed a bond with my Mum and also visited her on her time off and also came to visit her at the hospice. Ian who has also been a pillar of support.

Thank you all from me my Mum and Family.

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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


Wordless Wednesday: Red jewels


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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Uncategorized


A few favourite trees of mine

A little while ago on Twitter I was asked what some of my favourite trees were. This has to be one of the more difficult questions asked of me.


For those of you who do not know me I am a complete and utter Plantaholic and favourite plants can be a tricky subject because I can always be tempted by something new to me and my top ten can be more changeable than a chameleons colour scheme on psychedelic wallpaper.

So for now the following trees feature in my favourites list but ask in a few months time there may be casualties and some new climbers in my chart!

p  hispida1 p hispida close

Pterostyrax hispida (Epaulette tree) Small to medium

This tree ticks a lot of boxes for me, nice bark, great foliage, amazing flowers and long lasting seed this gives us a tree that has interest throughout the year. Quite large leaves on this small to medium tree which turn the most incredible butter yellow in Autumn. The flowers which appear in early Summer are responsible for the common name of this tree as they do bear a strong resemblance to epaulettes. They keep this form right through to the seed stage which can last through to the early winter.

Tetradium daniellii (Bee bee tree) Small to medium

The attraction of this tree for me is the shape and form.. This tree grows a fairly straight stem and produces a umbrella like canopy that can be as broad as the tree is tall. The tree produces feathery pinnate leaves and clusters of fragrant cream flowers which are a magnet for nectar collecting insects in the late Summer. Possibly why the tree is called the Bee bee tree. The flowers produce dark reddish purple fruit.

toona toona1

Cedrela sinensis ‘Flamingo’ (Chinese flamingo toon) Medium

Formerly known as Toona sinensis Flamingo this tree has the gaudiest spring foliage of any tree I know. I am not a pink fan but this tree produces shocking pink foliage in spring which always evokes a wow from visitors in the garden. The foliage can be caught by late frosts but I find it reshoots without much problem. It is quite a tough tree once established but can be a bit of a scruff in juvenile form as the young foliage can be damaged by early inclement spring weather. After about a month the leaves turn cream and eventually go mid green for the rest of the season. Our own plant in the gardenias never flowered as of yet but apparently it produces 30cm panicles of white flowers in summer. About two Summers ago my Uncle visited from New Zealand and saw this tree in my garden and urged me to cut it down! Apparently in NZ it can be a bit of a weed as it spreads by rhizomes and can be a bit thuggy. However our climate does not encourage this habit to much. After eight years in my garden I have just managed to acquire a few runners.

Paulownia tomentosa ( Foxglove tree) medium to large

This tree has been a favourite of mine for a long time because of its versatility. Really nice large felty leaves on this fast growing tree from Asia. I have four Paulownias in the garden two tomentosas a kawakamii and a fortunei. These trees can be treated in two ways in the garden and in most cases especially in a small garden hard pollarding is probably the way to go. This will make the tree produce a tall straight stem and the most enormous leaves up to a metre across. However if you do not pollard  a large tree is produced with smaller leaves 20cm across and the most incredible blue to violet fragrant flowers. In my garden I pollarded one to about a metre and have let it branch so that the size has been kept down but i do get the flowers. I have let the kawakamii go as not a very common variety and i want some seed from it. The fortuneii and other tomentosa are pollarded to the ground every spring to get those massive leaves.

betula m

Betulas (Birch trees) Small to large

A big group of trees renowned for their attractive barks Autumn colours and catkins. Particular favourites include Betula medwedewii which in the specimens I have seen have  a sprawling habit and a shaggy golden bark. I first came across this variety at Cambridge Botanic Garden one particularly fine sunny Autumn morning and was bowled over by its vibrat colour and form and of course was then on the hunt for a specimen for myself! Needless to say I have a nice little one coming along in a pot ready for planting out this next year. Betula utilis var. jacquemontii a favourite of many people for its nearly pure white bark with several sub variants offering different shades and forms


Decaisnea fargesii (Deadmans fingers/ Blue sausage fruit tree) small to medium

This is one of those trees that can be  kept shrubby and quite often is. Attractive pinnate leaves with a slight pinkish tinge in Spring. The greenish yellow flowers are borne in racemes in spring and if pollinated will bear blue sausage like fruits in late Summer/Autumn the pulp surrounding the seeds is edible but not worth the hassle.


Zanthoxylum americanum (Prickly Ash) small/medium

Quite a prickly plant especially when juvenile. Pinnate aromatic leaves which turn an attractive yellow colour in Autumn. This tree produces small berries which have been used for their medicinal properties and anaesthetic properties in fact another of its common names is The Toothache Tree as it was commonly used to alleviate the symptoms of toothache. A close relative to this tree occurs in Asia and producers the famous Sichuan pepper used in Chinese cuisine. Apparently this tree can grow up to about 30 feet but specimens I have so far seen have been small to medium. Once mature the thorns have a limpet appearence which is what caught my attention when I first saw it in Cambridge Botanics.

acer palm

Acer palmatums (Japanese Acers) medium

Plethora of these decorative trees from Asia available to the gardener and many variants in leaf shape and colours. these are palmatums, dissectums, scolopendrifolium and colours go from yellows, greens and reds and most produce good Autumn colour. Favourites of mine probably Sango kaku which isf fairly plain green in foliage but after a flare of Autumn colour the most vivid red bark is left behind to cheer you through the Winter.  Common name of this appropriately  is Coral Bark Acer. Then we come to the disectiums which have the most finely cut foliage you could imagine with Lace lady being amongst my favourites. Finely cut green leaves which go the most brilliant orange and red in Autumn.

Acer davidii acer dav acer viper

Acer davidii (Snakeskin Acer) medium

Snakeskin Acer so called because of the patterning on the bark. agin there are variants in this group plain davidii, Serpentine, White Tigress and Viper of which as a confirmed plantaholic I have examples of in the garden. White tigress is a variety I  was made aware of via Roy Lancaster and he quotes it as being one of his favourites however this season I discovered Viper and the patterning on this is exquisite. As with most Acers Autumn colour is the bonus at the end of the growing season.


Zekova serrata (Japanese zelkova) Medium/large

Related to elm, this tree is characterised by a short trunk with upward facing branches giving it a pleasant vase shape. Leaves are toothed at the edges giving where the serrata part of the latin name comes from. The Autumn colour is one of the last trees in my garden to turn but goes out in a blaze of colour and at present remains my favourite colourer for Autumn.


Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Uncategorized


Wordless Wednesday: Acer magic


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