October 27, 2006


Its tomato time. We’ve been at work in the garden. In this plot we have the tomatoes, encased in the empty tonic bottles. Also in this plot are potential string beans, radishes, chives, spring onions and mixed lettuces.

I love gardening. Or is it the idea of gardening? Whatever it is, the whole venture is rewarding. This is my second real vegetable patch. I have learned from the lessons of last year – there is no real need to plant 24 tomato seedlings. Certainly, there is a compulsion, but no real need. Loads of basil is in this year. And mesculin lettuce mix is a new one. Radishes and beans are what books recommend kids try and grow because it is easy and successful. You don’t have to tell me twice.

There is something special about eating food that you grow, whether its just the sticks of rosemary you add to your lamb roast, or a full home grown salad with herbs. Before I grew some veges I did sense that it would be a rewarding thing to do, and the suspicion is wholly confirmed. I think a smidge of our decision to buy the house we live in now came from their being a magnificent lemon tree in the yard. Never again for us, the torment of G&T, soul-less and woeful, without its slice of lemon. ...

If only the lime tree would come good…

We have abandoned strawberries, but that is just as well as look what they did to our friends in Glasgow. Fiendish things, with all their sticky little seeds on the outside, upsetting the norm in the fruit world.

October 25, 2006

Dad is 80

My dad turned 80 recently. I remember when he was 69.

When my dad was born, in 1926 in the UK, the life expectancy for a white man was about 55 years. If you are a white male born in the UK in 2006, your life expectancy is 78 years. How things have changed.

In 1996 he had a massive heart attack. Six months later he was the recipient of 6 new heart bypasses that were created using a healthy vein from his right leg. In open heart surgery, the surgeons have to use an electric saw to cut the chestplate in half to get to a persons heart. Knock on your chestplate, or your breast bone. It’s hard. Imagine someone sawing through that.

Dad’s heart was stopped. It is a wonder to me that your heart starts beating from when you are 6 week old embryo and does not stop again until you are dead. Or have open heart surgery, where it gets stopped on purpose, lifted from its place, fixed up, and replaced. And machines do its work while you are out nodding. Once the heart is fixed, the breastbone is placed back over the organs it protects; it is aligned and left to meld together once again. You can’t go walking in the wind for a little while and you need to wear a thick jumper if you do. This is to protect your fusing breastbone.

When a person comes out of the theatre after heart surgery, they don’t look much like a person. More like a big yellow swollen ex-person, with respirators in place to ensure they don’t actually become an ex-person.

I remember the first day my dad went swimming in the ocean after that operation. I bet he doesn’t remember. He was very nervous. I think because the shock of the cold water can lead to another attack, and these operations take away a lot of strength. We all grew up with the ocean, and it was a difficult moment to be a part of.

Anyways…there is no point to this really. Just indulgent reflection. But I would say that hearts are amazing things; heart surgeons and their teams are amazing things, and people that are always there looking after you are also amazing things.

He has made it to 80 and we had great dinner party with a dozen friends and some family and lamb roast and substantial amounts of red wine.

Here he is off to the beach he and mum have lived opposite since 1959.

Here is the beach.

And here is the champagne drinking...