As you read this, dear friends (assuming you do and you are) I’ll be relaxing, possibly with a pint in hand, somewhere in the North East, on a short break with the wife and the dog. Believe me, after another couple of weeks I could have done without, I’ll have earned it. I don’t want to dwell, although I know at least a couple of you were asking about my appointment in Northumberland. The diagnosis is Degenerative Spondiosis, with damage to the nerve canals between the C3/4, C4/5, C5/6, C6/7 and C7/T1 discs in my neck. It’s likely the accident in May 2020 exacerbated this problem (although it is age and probably work related, from those years, out in all weathers, on the tools) and has also led to both the continual ache in my right shoulder, the muscle wasting in my upper right arm and the numbness in my forearm and hand. It’s a long winded letter, but the precised version is; “You’re knackered, you just aren’t knackered enough for us to do anything more than monitor the situation. If it gets worse, or if your arm becomes paralysed, or even falls off, we may look to inject some steroids into nerves very close to your spinal column, which can be VERY risky. Don’t call us, we’ll call you”. There’s nothing to be done about the shoulder pain, although there was a suggestion I could try lifting some weights (at my own risk) to try and restore muscle tone and get the shoulder moving a little better. I should know myself when “enough is enough”, but I should carry on doing what I do, to the best of my ability. There’s more, but if I went on I’d have you all in tears.
I finally tackled Haystacks; 6+ miles, with an ascent approaching 1500ft, over often challenging and rocky ground. It hurt, but I felt it was worth it. Today I was told, this time by the hip physio, that maybe I should learn to run (metaphorically) before I can start to walk (challengingly). The medical consensus, which I assume is to get people either taken off surgical waiting lists, or, in my case not even put on them, seems to be that my moderate osteoarthritis can be mitigated by doing stretching exercises. It’s a cleft stick, if I walk away, given I bend, stretch and walk at least a mile or two a day, I negate myself from any treatment at all. If I continue with the physio, then I tacitly admit I agree with the diagnosis. I’m beginning to wonder if word’s got out about my previous criticism of our “Envy Of The World” and some sadistic pleasure is being taken in my discomfort and increasing frustration. Go private, they say, but I don’t have the money and I believe, although much evidence points to the opposite, that the NHS is a great idea, albeit a very poorly run one, massively in need of much reform and redirection.
I’ve been threatening to attack the weeds along the back of my raised “pot” table for some weeks now, but you know what it’s like, there’s always one more little job that needs taking care of, like making a cup of nettle tea, re-potting a plant or two, or even taking five to post some inane drivel on Social Media; any road up, I decided to take up the trusty push hoe and vent my frustrations on the chickweed, thistles, poppies, self seeded rocket and yellow poppies. Although Mrs. C believes every weed needs to be carefully removed, root and all, I’m (being a rough old gardener) more inclined to the “slash and burn” method, so slash I did. Given this patch of ground is pretty dry it’ll probably only need doing twice more before Dave gets the rotovator out. According to the RHS, if we rotovate while the ground’s still fairly warm, exposing the manure which still hasn’t been broken down by the soils own bacteria, then any remaining contamination from the herbicide will probably dissipate over the winter, although I’ll probably have to test to be certain. I’ve left some of the tomatoes in the ground, working on the theory that they’ll continue to extract the poison, as it were. Who knows, it might just work.
On the positive side, although real info is both sketchy and a little contradictory (if I’ve understood it what little I’ve read correctly) any produce which is produced isn’t actually contaminated. The salad grows in troughs, without farm manure and the potatoes, although low yielding, are just as good as they’ve ever been. Some of the gloom has lifted, the tomatoes in pots and the chilies are doing well, given the weather, but the strawberries (which I did put manure to) following a very promising start, seem to be dying back quite markedly. I even bought a punnet for over the Bank Holiday, which the Yorkshireman still in me had hoped to avoid. The grapevine is doing well too, and, although I hadn’t really forgotten about the grape jelly I made back in September I was pleasantly surprised, on opening a jar, to find it had achieved a good set and the balance of fruit to sugar seems just about right, not too sweet, not too sharp. The addition of liquid pectin seems to have done the trick.
I always put some peas in and these too have been a worry, a couple of the plants are stressed and several of the pods have a yellow “fuzz” on them, but again, the ones we’ve eaten seem fine, at least we haven’t keeled over yet, and the broad beans continue to impress. I’ve never had any success with carrots, the soil, whatever I’ve tried to do with it, has never delivered and I gave up three or four years ago. Any road up, I acquired a “free” packet of Mr. Fothergills Chantenay Carrot seed, I think from a magazine, so decided to have another try. I took a decent size tub, sieved a bit of compost, mixed it with some un-sieved and some washed sharp sand sowed the seed. They aren’t big, but they are very tasty and last Sunday I was able to serve up a plate of food which (apart from the meat and the onion gravy) was all grown by my fair hands. I do like it when even a small plan comes together.
The nettle tea is now a daily staple, I’m careful to harvest from places I know that are very unlikely to have been sprayed and I’m avoiding any with deep brown stalks and flowering tops, apparently the human body can’t assimilate the change in the plants metabolism. They can be cut back, to promote second cropping and I intend to do this with a couple of patches along “Crag Lonin’, a rarely used track where I harvested wild gooseberries over the last couple of years and intend to do again this year. I’ve checked and although one large bush doesn’t have fruit to speak of, another one has plenty. What’s not to like about free fruit (and nettles)? I’ve been saving the steeped leaves and this week I mixed them into a tub of warm (ish) water, left them overnight and then used it to water the chili plants, the onions and the leeks, as they’re (apparently) high in nitrogen. As an aside, and back to medical matters; some weeks ago a wart started to appear on the side of my head and grew quite quickly to about the size of a penny. A very unsightly thing, I asked the GP about it and she said it was “one of those things” and not likely to be dangerous. It’s gone, completely, leaving no trace whatsoever. Say what you like about nettle tea, it’s obviously good for (getting rid of) warts…
I’ve touched on the subject of Boris Johnson in one or two previous articles over the years. I never rated him as anything more than a Populist Buffoon and supremely unsuited for any of the high offices of state. He isn’t a “serious” man, even a minimum of research into his previous incarnations confirms this. I’m never surprised by what happens in politics though; we seem, increasingly, to be represented in “The Mother Of Parliaments” by an increasingly bizarre bunch, so, on those terms, Boris fits right in. Like many of you, I was caught in December 2019 between the proverbial “rock and hard place”. A parachuted in Londoner as Labour Candidate (not that I’d have voted Labour), a Lib Dem who should really have been a Green, a single issue (anti development) Independent and a Tory Remainer, resident in Scotland. I held my nose, put aside the huge pinch of salt I’d taken when I first heard “Get Brexit Done” and voted for the least worst option at the time, 99% certain that Corbyn didn’t have a snowballs chance in hell of forming an administration and that Boris was likely to become PM. Putting aside other calumnies of which he can be accused, of which there are many, his promise to strengthen borders, tighten up the legal immigration system and deal, once and for all, with illegal immigration is both the most blatant lie and the most damaging (to this nation) aspect of his premiership. Since 2019 around 750,000 people have arrived here, legally, to live. Over the same period, although numbers are difficult to ascertain (what a surprise), it’s estimated that the illegal immigrant population has grow by (shockingly) a net figure of over 77,000 a year, nobody at all has the faintest idea of just how many people there are living here illegally, thousands continue to arrive on an almost daily basis, they know they’re on to a good thing. We’re being sold down the river. He lied about “Brexit”, I still don’t believe we’ll ever fully be free of the EU’s tentacles, but his lies about immigration, and his steadfast refusal to do anything about it, apart from talking big, mark him out as worse than useless. I won’t vote Tory again, neither will I vote “least worst option”. We deserve better, but I doubt we’ll get it.
Next time; Picking up the pieces, Northumberland & The Farnes, Beangate update, Hooptedoole…
© Colin Cross 2022