Thursday, 4 July 2013


I have had a tip off from the doctor. There is a shadow on my lung. Provokingly he won't say which lung, nor even describe it so that I can take the necessary action. Is it a Bogart shadow, all trilby hat, upturned Burberry collar, a wisp of cigarette smoke and the tell tale pocket bulge of a Luger, or  worse a Gluck. Or is it one of those merry shadows of a rabbit, a giraffe or a crouching lion which you can create on a sheet by manipulating your fingers. I would prefer that on the whole. I could never tell what Bogart was twitching.
I do hope its not one of those formless clouds so beloved of ghost stories. If they are formless how do you know what they are? Do they have a beginning and where do they end ? It would be nice if they were Siamese Temple Dancers one can operate by sticks of Balsa wood.
I do not see how it can effect me. How curtail my life? I don't have a life outside "Lewis" and endless repeats of  "Morse" and "Midsomer Murders." Something in the way of a web would be fetching. Bad call. Just back from the doctors. Its Bogart. More tests than Botham. Hope it doesn't end with a jar full of ashes.............................


My garden is my favourite thing although I am not, and never was, an obsessive gardener. When I lived at Tattenhall on the Welsh border I had to remonstrate with an enthusiastic neighbour whose
flower seeds blew over the fence and choked my weeds. At a subsequent flat on the Rows in Watergate Street, Chester, the single window box was tended by a firm of jobbing gardeners which was also responsible for the hyacinth bowl.They were also charged with maintaining the level of sugar and water in my pet spider's food bowl.

So there is no need to warn me that lawn mowing brings on heart attacks. More active gardeners may wish to know that it is the first cut of the season that is the unkindest cut of all and does the damage.
Doctors call it 'lawnmower angina' and I can take a hint. When my doctor said I was so overweight the slightest exertion could kill me, I acted at once. I gave up exertion.

Now I leave the garden to Paul. At our property on the Isle of Anglesey I was proud of my traditional
cottage garden. You would have loved  it. Right in the middle of my land I grew this traditional cottage; the rest was nature, red in tooth and claw. I am sure Conan Doyle had my bindweed in mind when he wrote "The Speckled Band". I wouldn't go out after dark in case it had me by the throat and dragged me off to its lair in the ivy that was gradually dismembering the garden wall.

The dog wouldn't go near the place. After the summer she was so covered in burrs she was four times propositioned by kerb-crawling hedgehogs. And the cat was mugged by a robin. I had convolvuli that could bring down a running rabbit in its own length and dandelions that were bred from real lions.
When you pulled my nettles they pulled back. I had nettle-strengthened soil so vitamin choked you could plant a seedling in the garden and by the time you reached the back door it was six foot tall and waving at you. Tendrils from my peas plucked passing pigeons out of the sky.

The real trouble with gardening is that whatever you grow you always have two hundred over.
Especially lettuce. Breed like triffids and there is no sight in nature more terrifying than a lettuce gone to seed.

Mind you, I love gardens. Other people's, where someone else does the weeding and you can
stretch out on a lawn without that nagging worry that it is growing so fast you are levitating and if you don't rush in for the mower you are going to have an angry giant fee-fi-fo-fuming at you. Also you don't have to buy packets of seed which cost you more than the Indians were paid for Long Island.
Can you understand it? Every year you weed away annuals that have sown themselves. Every marigold has enough seeds on its stem for the deposit on a house. Yet when you buy a packet the only variety you get is King's Ransom because that is what it cost.

And now we have something else to worry about. Killer tomatoes from outer space. American schoolchildren projected 12.5 million tomato seeds into space. After six years they came back and no sooner had they been planted in schools across America than NASA warned that their exposure to cosmic radiation meant they could be toxic. Lethal tomato butties. On top of which I do not understand why grown men want to float around on their backs doing unmentionable things into plastic bags just to get to the Moon. I would almost rather go to the Costa Brava.

All this recent TV talk of pigeons reminds me that my chum William Cross has been delving further into the colourful life of Evan, Viscount Tredegar, who, you may remember, was court martialled for disclosing the secrets of the Army Pigeon loft he commanded to two ladies who came to tea. Cross has discovered the diaries of the late Robin Bryans, who at the age of sixteen became one of the Viscount's army of male lovers, which included our former prime minister Harold Macmillan and Winston Churchill's brother Peter. In fairness, Cross insists that readers must make up their own minds about the veracity of Bryans' extraordinary account of the Viscount's hidden world. The book is entitled "Not Behind Lace Curtains". It is worth saying that the stories in it are backed up by a considerable catalogue of sources. I found it fascinating.