Tag Archive | Swanage


This poem is from my second book, Should I Wear Floral? and other poems on Life, Love and Leaving, to be published in the early part of 2017 by Matador.

Living at the seaside brings many pleasures and much joy from visiting grandchildren who swoop down to the beach to dive into the sea and plead for ice creams or another ride on ‘the train’ to the pleasure of living in such a wonderful community.

We found Swanage one hot August afternoon in 1999. It was accidental, brought about by our attempt to avoid the returning masses hell bent on getting back to London. It was love at first sight and we have lived here since 2000.

We don’t complain about the visitors  as our town needs them to keep thriving and buzzing but with many second-homers descending on The Isle of Purbeck each school holiday this poem sums up what we see.


Friday night

Streets jammed

Car park full

One trolley

Wonky wheel

Swarming mob

Hiking boots

Ouch! Little toe


No bread

No veg

No oven chips

No fishfingers

No baked beans

Leaking milk

Oozing egg carton

Squashed cake


Six trolleys

Piled high

Junk food

Wine and beer

One checkout

Faulty scanner

Long queue

Tea Break …


Noisy kids

Crying baby

Screaming toddler

Bicker, bicker

Row, row

Red faces

White faces


Nanny and New Technology


Part memoir/part short story

It was raining heavily. So what, you might say but for someone still stuck in the Eighties, babysitting requires mastery of new technology not to mention the bravery of using public transport.

They did offer to collect me but their town house sits resplendent, devoid of parking and one journey out of Band D on a Friday evening ensures a lost spot for the weekend.

Why don’t I drive, you may ask? I hold a blemish-free licence and a not-too-old car but these days I easily decline.  Driving is no fun anymore.  Drivers are getting younger, have less hair and shiny heads which dazzle one in the headlights.  This same breed drives faster and switches lanes without warning. Tailgating is illegal but how does one shake off these nuisances when they persist in filling the rear mirror?

The one-way system in the town centre requires three circulations before I find Linden Gardens. Finding no parking space, I am unable to turn back and am then required to drive headlong into a maze of narrower one-way streets, with those irritating small humps every five metres and myriad No Entry signs.

Even if I do, on a rare occasion, find a space near enough to their home, parking is not a straightforward ‘jump out and slam your door’ job, as completing the scratch-off details on their residents’ parking permit is impossible if you have a) forgotten your glasses and b) forgotten the permit. No wonder I have little compulsion to use my car,

The first time I used the train, I arrived bright-eyed and fresh at the station, marvelling in my discovery of stress-free travelling, only to be confronted by an ‘Office Closed’ sign. How, I screeched at the blank glass, am I to get a ticket?  No problem said the greasy-haired cyclist leading me to a large machine on the platform.  Having disclosed my destination, name and address (now sure to be burgled and bereft of my analogue tv), he forces cash from my hand, feeding it into the contraption’s hungry jaws.  “How much?” I squawk as the ticket drops down minus any semblance of returned loose change.

“It’s cheaper online” he says as he pedals away.

My heart sinks at the reference to technology. At this rate, the car could return to favour, but, no ……, the prospect of driving headlong onto the pier haunts me.

This time, despite the rain and the dark of winter, I have conquered the internet but am informed my ticket can only be collected from the same self-service machine. There is no escape.  Neither is there a manned office, a guard with a flag (as in olden times) or the greasy haired cyclist of last week.  However, I manage the ticket machine, the trip and the taxi ride to be met at the door by the departing parents keen to see the start of the show.  I hear words like oven, microwave and dishwasher as Hannah provides a lightning tour of her new kitchen, a wall of white behind which these items lurk.  Then it’s mobile numbers, Sky, baby alarm (she won’t wake up they say), automatic sliding doors, windows, kitchen cupboard doors and entry phone each with its own separate hand control – “It’s all very simple” Hannah assures me, and they are gone.

I am left in a sparsely but expensively furnished room with a blank TV screen, a white wall at one end behind which somewhere is my dinner and the curtainless wide patio doors. Another door leads to the hallway and the baby’s bedroom.  Baby will not wake up was manna from heaven to my ears.  I attempt to locate my lasagne using the remote control on the breakfast bar.  After several failed attempts at tracking down and starting the microwave, the oven is purring and the dishwasher door is opening and closing only not slow enough for me to grab a cup and plate.  I give up the idea of eating and try to obtain BBC 1 via the TV remote.  What I get is not BBC 1 but a recording of Deal or No Deal, my television pet hate.  My attempts to change channel result in volume overload and unbeknown to me the baby alarm can work in reverse – not a good thing with an eight-week-old.  Blaring TV, crying baby and failed attempts to stop oven and dishwasher working in tandem result in an element of panic during which I pick up the wrong hand control which operates the sliding patio doors.

As I said it was raining heavily and little did I know that the control for the doors also activated the windows (open) and the interior lights (off) – easily done without my glasses to read the display. I decamped quickly to the nursery where for I sang nursery rhymes and was rewarded with a smile.  The simple things in life don’t change do they?


Grandma’s  Poetry Book is available by post via dcastle32@talktalk.net or on my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk

This poetry collection spans sixteen years capturing the experience of a first-time grandmother on her sometimes wobbly journey in her new role. It includes many facets of unmissable moments and childhood milestones, some humorous and others more poignant, even sad.  Such treasured times can easily be forgotten so the book acts as a nostalgic memoir. Touching and funny in turn, readers will be reminded of the joys of witnessing childhood development and the effect on their own lives. Even those yet to reach grandparenthood including fathers, aunties and primary school children have already enjoyed reading this book. Grandma’s Poetry Book makes an ideal gift for new grandparents, birthdays, Christmas and Mothers’ Day and many readers have returned to buy more copies for friends and relations. Each poem has its own laugh-out-loud illustration by an artist who has been likened to E H Sheppard.

Some comments have included ‘Pam Ayres meets Winnie the Pooh’, ‘made me laugh, made me cry’, ‘charming book’ and ‘every grandparent should have one’.


Our new book, Should I Wear Floral? And other poems on Life Love and Leaving will be out shortly. Follow me on twitter @dinahcas and on Facebook – Di Castle – Writer to hear of updates and see sneak previews of illustrations and poems.






‘One thing I thank you for,’ said my daughter, ‘is that when we were children you were never on a diet, mentioned the word or suggested we should not eat/eat certain foods to lose weight.’

It had never occurred to me that this was the case. It wasn’t deliberate, but our natural way of eating healthily within our household. My three daughters were active and slim. We didn’t snack between meals and needing to economise ensured we did not overeat. My daughter continued to say that she felt that she and her two sisters had grown up with a good attitude to food. This, from a grown woman who, when she was two years old, ate little else but chips and weetabix. Shows what growing up can do for you!

It is true, though, that dieting has never been in my psyche. Brought up by a mother who maintained two pregnancies in the war and survived rationing with a slim figure – have you ever seen any pictures of the war where the people were fat? I doubt it.

It is true, I have never been on a diet, except for one phase in my life when I lacked energy and I followed the food combining diet whereby proteins and carbohydrates are not eaten at the same meal. A few weeks of this eating plan made a difference and the whole family ate the same meals sitting together totally ignorant of why certain foods were not on their plate.

While my daughter may thank me for her ‘no-diet’ upbringing, now years down the line, I see the payback. I am pleased to see my two elder daughters introducing very healthy eating and drinking habits into their homes. This means that, as a grandparent, keen to stay in favour with my grandchildren, I have to resort to other means rather than turn up with a plate of cakes, packets of sweets and biscuits. Crisps and other nibbles are also not welcome. If Mum does decide to produce crisps at a family event, she is, no doubt, balancing these with the other healthy options offered up on a daily basis. Snacks for the children comprise cucumber, carrot sticks, apples and pears and drinks are purely water and bedtime milk. The only time they have a flavoured drink is when they visit me (hmm) as I have found unsweetened peach drink by Robinsons to be very popular. But I always ask in advance if this is permissible. I have never sneaked chocolate, sweets or crisps to the children as I know some grandparents do. I believe as grandparents we should respect our children’s right to bring up their own offspring according to their own rules

My grandchildren are stick insects. You certainly can’t pinch an inch on them. But, they are not lacking in energy. In fact, the opposite is the case. They are also all doing well at school, their brains fed plenty of fish, oily or otherwise and a variety of vegetables which they have eaten as finger foods since they were 7-8 months old.

My younger daughter is following in the footsteps of her two sisters. She has the two youngest members of the family, aged 4 and 16 months and boasts a shelf full of books on babycare including many on cooking healthily for toddlers. She updates me on my visits as to the amount of sugar in apparently healthy, low fat yogurts and many other snippets of acquired information which I do try to remember.

So what do I take on my visits. Well, there are good 50p books in charity shops, the occasional comic and the very occasional small chocolate bar to share, with the parents deciding the time they can be eaten. On their visits to Swanage they are treated to ice creams like any other child but there are no pasties or sausage rolls eaten from the local bakery. OH and I save those for our child-free days.

After moving to the south west in 2001, OH was under investigation for a variety of niggling problems which raised a question mark over the health of his heart. At a stroke – excuse the pun – we stopped all cakes, crumbles, pies and other foods ridden with fat. Instead, we ate salad, brown bread and jacket potatoes, casseroles and roasts cutting down on the roast potatoes and Aunt Bessie’s. We had a border collie so exercise was plentiful or so we thought.

I attended a weekly yoga class and swam twice a week in winter at a local pool and most days in the sea in the summer. So, with the dogwalking, and chasing toddlers round the playground, I expected to lose weight. I didn’t. In fact, the weight gradually increased, some due to certain medications and a contented semi-retired life. For ten years I was puzzled at my inability to lose weight. Then at Christmas 2010, I was horrified to see five pounds more when I stood on the scales and, no matter how much I reduced portions, abandoned biscuits, chocolates or puddings, nothing seemed to work.

Even some of my less generous size 16 items failed to meet at the waist or at the blouse buttons. More and more items were taken to the charity shop as I resorted to baggy tops, loose trousers, elasticated skirts and the uniform of every larger woman, the black clothes with brightly coloured scarves to distract from the all too obvious weight.

That autumn, OH and I embarked on our first serious walking holiday, travelling to the Peak District and enjoying a week of sunny weather punctuated by some cloud but only one morning of rain. To occupy ourselves in daylight hours, we walked between 5 and 9 miles a day.

We returned energised, both of us feeling exceptionally well and ‘sharp’. Our fuzzy brains had disappeared and we enjoyed new sparkle. We therefore decided to continue walking long distances. One day we took the bus from Swanage to the Sandbanks Ferry and walked back via Studland beaches and over Ballard Down to Old Harry Rocks and then down via Ulwell back into Swanage. This walk is calculated at between 8 and 10 miles. It took most of the day with refreshment stops and a picnic overlooking Poole Harbour. Other days I walked alone over Ballard Down and back through Ulwell, the whole walk offering generous portions of beautiful views. Twice we walked together over Ballard Down to Studland and took the bus back.

By late November we were both losing weight albeit slowly but more exercise was on the cards. My friend and I joined a Country Dancing class and enjoyed it enough to make it a regular Tuesday evening activity. We then ventured together to the Zumba class one lunchtime each week. As well as losing a few more pounds over the first month or two, we both felt invigorated and it was noticeable that I could walk up the hill home without the usual stop half way up.

My job over twelve or thirteen years involved sitting working on a one to one basis with students but shortly after Christmas 2012, I decided to leave and pursue my writing. The job was involving one or two days of sitting and inactivity for a period of four or five hours with students and two more hours on the return bus journey. Instead, I volunteered in a local charity shop, responsible for the books, my passion. My four hour stints were spent on my feet either sorting the bookshelves or serving behind the counter.

My other passion is our local musical theatre company who, that year, put on Hello Dolly. Once the show went ‘on the floor’ a second evening a week was spent on my feet.

Standing on the scales soon after Christmas I had lost 9-10 pounds, a direct result of my new active lifestyle. This increased until I had dropped one stone. The best part of this weight loss was dropping a dress size and wearing size 14 clothes for the first time in nearly fifteen years. But the crème-de-la-crème was my flat stomach. I couldn’t resist a glance in the mirror as I passed and seeing my reflection in shop windows was no longer a depressing sight.

Another change in our lifestyle was when we were allocated an allotment. To get the ground in shape for spring sowing took much effort and even painting our second-hand shed helped keep both of us active.

All this without any attention being paid to diet. We were eating healthily so nothing had changed except our appetites. In fact, we now feel we can eat a large slice of cake or a few chocolate biscuits at the allotment without any damage to our figures.

One other dietary change was a reduction in alcohol consumption which, combined with our activities, contributed to our weight loss and my own lowered blood pressure and a pat on the back from my doctor.

So if you feel you are joining the ranks of the overweight or, worse, obese, don’t diet but try increasing your activity levels. We thought we were active with our swimming and walking but it is the type of exercise that is important and the amount. Three 45 minute walks a week is NOT enough either for good health or for weight loss. Zumba, Dancing, long walks and digging the allotment certainly made a difference.

When people say, ‘you have lost weight,’ I now say, ‘Look, no diet!’

Grandma’s Poetry Book is available via my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk


Let’s get this straight.  I am NOT against WIND energy.  I accept we must have alternatives to coal, oil and gas and that these must be sustainable and renewable but to put a 78 square-mile wind farm in the busiest part of the Solent is not just plum crazy it is dangerous and likely to cause endless problems including noise pollution for not only in our lifetimes but for the lives of our grandchildren.  It is a fact that, once installed, these turbines are too expensive to remove so if a) they do not do the job or b) another way is found to be better or c) they are damaged and become a hazard to shipping, nothing can be done about it as the companies will by then be losing money and will not have the finance or expertise to remove them.

Here in Swanage we are at the gateway to England’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site but we won’t be looking at a World Heritage site in future if the Eneco project in the Solent goes ahead.  In other parts of Europe where these wind farms have been placed close to tourist areas, visitor numbers have plummeted and livelihoods have been lost.  Here in Swanage we are cut off from Bournemouth and Poole by a stretch of water at Sandbanks and our young people need the seasonal work which the large visitor numbers ensure each summer, autumn and spring.  Even in winter we have visitors including many from overseas.  On a clear day we can see the Isle of Wight from our beach but we won’t be looking at the IOW soon but at monstrosities possibly 673ft tall.

Before I go any further a word about the Eneco project.  Eneco, a Dutch company and EDF, a French business have joined forces in a bid to develop a windfarm called Navitus Bay in the open sea between the Isle of Wight and The Isle of Purbeck.  The site will be visible from most of the coastline between St Aldhelm’s Head in the west to St Catherine’s Point in the east including the sea fronts of Swanage, Sandbanks, Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch.

This coastline is one of the most beautiful in the UK and internationally renowned for its bio-diversity.  As well as being a World Heritage Site, it contains two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a National Park.

There is a good reason why the Navitus Bay project is being pursued by these two companies as our Government’s guidelines suggest that the project should be more than 14 miles out to sea to mitigate the visual impact on our highly sensitive coastline.  Eneco and EDF plan to locate the windfarm just eight miles out from Swanage. Of course if they built a windfarm this size off Holland or Germany it would almost certainly be sited a minimum of 15 miles and 18 miles from shore.  Yet we protesters were asked this morning if WE were being NIMBY.  Surely it is Eneco and EDF who are being NIMBY.  They can’t do it cheaply enough in their own back yard so they want to come and ruin our coastline for us.

Britain is an island with hundreds of miles of coastline, some of which is barren and some which could do with the redevelopment which is required on shore.  We protesters are not saying anywhere is better than here as there are other sensitive sites around our coast but there are many places where a windfarm could be sited without such devastating effects on our tourism economy in the Isle of Purbeck and nearby.

The proposals are a disaster waiting to happen for tourism in Poole, Bournemouth and Swanage as, where other World Heritage Sites have seen windfarms built off their coastline, the tourism has been flattened and the large visitor numbers have disappeared.  In Swanage there are many young families who depend on the seasonal trade that accompanies the large visitor numbers.  It will not be as easy for them to find alternative work within Swanage or nearby.

The danger factors are indisputable.  Ships and sailors will be endangered by so many turbines located in the middle of England’s busiest marine leisure area and close to heavily used shipping lanes.  On a summer Sunday one only has to take a trip on an Isle of Wight ferry to see how crowded this stretch of water is with hosts of small sailing and motorised craft.

Birds and sealife will also be threatened.  Birds are vulnerable to the rotating blades because the windfarm is on the line of an internationally important bird migration route.  Strangely the RSPB has recently gone quiet on their objections.

Today, Swanage residents turned out in large numbers to line the seafront and link hands in solidarity against the proposals.  As with all protests there were the usual band who were for the project with a large number of Friends of the Earth supporters present.

The objectors did not seem to be able to get their message over to FofE that we ARE NOT AGAINST WINDPOWER.  Our objections are based on our love of one of the most beautiful parts of England’s coastline and its vibrant holiday trade.

Challenge Navitus is campaigning against two multi-national companies with huge incentives to get their plans approved and the process will run until at least the end of 2013.  These companies are aided in their quest by the Crown Estates which owns or manages the seabed around the UK coastline and is a partner in the development process.

 Eneco (Eneco Holdings N.V.) has previously built a wind farm near the Dutch  coast, called the “Prinses Amalia” farm.  But it is nearly twice the  distance from the shore, with turbines that are only 60% of the height  proposed for Navitus Bay.  Let’s be clear about this, we in Swanage are not being the NIMBYs.  The three-way partnership is trying to do in the Solent what they WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO DO on their own coastlines.

Please visit www./challengenavitus.org.uk and add your voice to this gross violation of the English landscape.

Lessons on our allotment

I cannot believe we have had our allotment just over a year. During this time we have advertised for free or cheap unwanted items and, especially after a few visits to our local second-hand showroom, Bishop’s in Swanage we now find ourselves with a jam-packed shed. There are boots and shoes caked in hard dry mud – amazing when you consider that for about three months of the year in early 2012 we couldn’t set any seed or plants as the soil was rock hard. That was when they were telling us we would have a hosepipe ban well before the Jubilee and …. well ….. no-one dared to think about what might happen during the Olympics.

So do I have anything new to add. Well perhaps you need a little catchup. The blog below was left in drafts – obviously when I was new to WordPress. My main allotment posts have been on BlogSpot and now I have a faint recall of an idea to transfer all the allotment blogs to WordPress. Anyway I can save myself the trouble as I see that further down this post is the link. Read on and you will find where we are in December 2012 …………..

It started something like this ………….’Are you still interested in having an allotment?’ asked the lady from the Council.  Yes, of course I was.  Only a few months before I had received a questionnaire designed to weed out those ‘not so keen’ gardeners from the dedicated on the waiting list. I ticked boxes, circled answers a,b or c, as appropriate, signed the form and sent it straight back to the council.  Now I was being asked if I still wanted one. What did they think I’d answered the questionnaire for?

It was November 2011 and within twenty-four hours I’d agreed on plot 48D(i).  My friend, Pat, who was allocated a large plot the same week told me I could set broad beans and garlic in November.  Pat is up-to-date and ahead in all aspects of her allotment – there is an absence of weeds and she nurtures seeds indoors until they’re well-formed and ready for planting.  Well she does have a conservatory and a garden – I have neither.  Also she doesn’t have grandchildren.  I have six, living in three different geographical areas, five of whom are at school so there is an abundance of concerts, shows and pantomimes especially during December and January.  Needless to say my broad beans didn’t get shoved underground until the end of January.  My allotment neighbour, Mr A, shook his head and tutted.  They would all perish from mice, frost or the deer, he said in a pessimistic tone I was to find far too familiar for comfort over the coming year.  Deer?  What deer?  Yes we have deer. Well, we said, we’ll put up a fence.  Oh no, said Mr A with great glee, the deer can jump this high.  Mr A comes in the shorter variety of men but he raised his hand to convince us there was NO way we would be able to keep the deer at bay.  He was right.  But, as our first season progresses we have encountered more than a few deer.  There have been hares and rabbits eating lettuce, pigeons eating my cabbage plants and slugs eating everything else, usually before I have taken a step back from planting.

On my blog www.dicastle32.blogspot.com I cover all the crops we have grown and detail our varying degrees of failure and success.  But what no-one told me was that our life and, in particular, my kitchen and cooking methods were all about to suffer a massive culture shock.

So where are we now with Christmas Day only three days away? November and December 2012 have been two very cold months. After enjoying a week in the Lake District, IMG_3402IMG_3404IMG_3409at the end of October when the weather was sunny and generally favourable from early morning until about 2pm, and if we were lucky, til 3pm, we returned home and I became unwell with a few ailments which needed further investigation. No-one wants to hear any bad news but I don’t have any so now I can update you on progress so far this autumn. Not a lot …..

In early October we did lift the potatoes and onions – rather late I think as most people had done this in September. But we had been smitten with potato blight and I was warned that the potatoes, if they became infected, would not keep. An elderly allotment holder – you get the best advice from these sages – told us to chop the foliage down where they had turned black and leave just six inches of stalks. We did spray initially – I shall update with the correct name after my next visit – and we were pleased to see that some of our plants had stayed green so we left a few and just kept our eyes peeled each time we visited. When we lifted them the potatoes from these healthy plants were fairly big but even those which had been halted by our cutting back, had plenty of potatoes. We only eat potatoes about three times a week so we still have some good sized spuds in the vegetable rack.

The other veg/salad that we harvested was beetroot but I didn’t dig all of them as we had quite a lot – spread over two rows. We used some for salads before and after our holiday and then about a week after we returned I felt well enough to walk to the allotment – driving wasn’t really an option – and bring back some produce. I returned with a white cabbage, a large red cabbage, three fair sized leeks which had been bought at East Holme nursery in August/September in two trays. My friend, Pat, bought one tray but I asked for two and now, two days before Christmas, I can see that they are getting larger – amazing really as I was late putting them in.

I digress – October was busy with going away to look after grandchildren whose mother was in Vietnam, seeing friends and having one longstanding friend come to stay for three nights. On the first day, we walked back from the Sandbanks Toll Ferry and lunched in the Bankes Arms and then on the second day we visited Westbourne with its fantastic selection of charity shops and ate in Café Rouge using a Taster Card. My friend, Eilish has paid for a subscription, which, if you live nearer to London and eat out fairly often, might allow it to be worth it but after my free period I have let it lapse. We tend to eat in Swanage – there are ample good eating places – in fact, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out with groups for the usual round of Christmas Dinners. We did venture last week to the Springfield Hotel for their special offer of vegetable soup and turkey dinner for £9.95 each. Not sure it will still be running this offer. I should have told you before.

So in early November I dug up the remaining beetroot and found The Allotment Cook Book through the year by Editor in Chief Caroline Bretherton which my daughter bought me for Christmas last year. Well in this book I found a recipe for soup – beetroot and apple. I have to recommend this book to anyone who is looking to be creative with their produce. That same day I also dug up my parsnips. Now these had been slow to grow but by the end of November they were massive. I left some heaped in a mound of soil and brought back some for our Sunday roast. Another recipe I have used is Spicy carrot and orange soup which was totally delicious but then I became rather blasé about my soupmaking skills and, as parsnips are so cheap in the shops, GRRRR – why is everything so cheap when we have it on the allotment. I will get it right eventually. The last two occasions I have made soup I have thought myself clever enough to make it without referring to Caroline. I used half a bag of Co-op …… oops ….. parsnips and added the same spices and orange and, guess what? Yes, he didn’t realise the mistake either, so I now can recommend alternating the carrots with parsnips.

Last week I did bring back some rather paltry cabbages which have not been covered satisfactorily and have suffered from being eaten by caterpillars. But I cut the best off, washed it and used half on one day and the other half on another day. Hopefully, as I nicked the stalks where I cut – as I was shown to do by my father – when I return after Christmas I should have some sort of ‘sproutings’. Sadly, I don’t have anything much to take to Brighton for our Christmas Dinner but as our host is as good if not better than your winner on Master Chef, I really do not have to worry about this. I may offer up some parsnips though.

I was about to cut some of the Chard, thinking that this will not last as we are already getting frosts up at Prospect Allotments. No frost here as we are too near the sea but up there, it blows an icy blast. I found that in the protected area deep in the heart of the plants there is some good veg forming. I was unlucky with spinach earlier in the year so hopefully we will have some Chard soon. However, I did dig up two more leeks and … whoopee ….. they are nearly as big as the Co-op’s.

In my down time from the allotment when hospital, GP and blood test appointments ruled my weeks, I had begun to throw peelings and tea bags in the kitchen bin despite having a lovely compost bin which cost £20 from John Lewis. My visit a week or more ago has motivated me and this is now overflowing so – goodness knows where I’ll get the time – I shall have to make a visit to Prospect. However, I am back to driving now.

There are some rather fruity smells up at the allotments and we seem to be the only people who haven’t brought or had delivered a large mound of compost. That’s novices for you I’m afraid. Apparently we can go to a local riding stables and barter carrots for manure we clean out ourselves but somehow, Other Half doesn’t seem too enamoured with the idea. So guess who will be off to Studland after Christmas. Yes you got it in 1.

We are having chicken tomorrow – oops it is today already – rather than cook a roast on Sunday when we are trying to pack. I still have in the freezer some cooked potatoes which I salvaged from the worst of the blighted potatoes and, following the advice of another female allotment holder, I peeled them immediately, boiled them and cooled them fast and froze them. They have been making very good roast potatoes so if you are affected by potato blight next year you could follow my example. I shall be cooking the two leeks I brought back a few days ago and a parsnip and making carrot and orange soup, with, unfortunately, a bag from the Co-op. We have been told that carrots do not do well in our part of the allotments although my friend, Pat, did well in her position.

As for broad beans, I have sent away for THREE PACKS of AQUADULCE from Seed Parade once more. We were thrilled with the broad beans and, as we didn’t want to eat them day after day, I froze a good many which we still have with one of our meals in the week. I think we have one pack left and we shall enjoy that as a treat after Christmas. But …… the broad beans are still in the envelope they arrived in and the ground is far too boggy and muddy for planting. A week ago I did try to turn over a row in preparation – only two mini pieces of cooch grass HURRAY – but there was no way I could plant them so, once again, I will be ‘shoving them in the ground in January and placing a polytunnel over them.

Our very expensive first year is at an end so we can look forward to investing in some specially designed cages for our cabbages and, who knows, we may be reporting on more success this time next year.

Well have a very Happy Christmas gardeners everywhere and I hope your home grown veg are as successful as ours have been.

Until next time – A very Happy New Year.

Meanwhile, do please take a look at the blog I follow called ‘blogaboutwriting’

Please be Deaf Aware

I have just had my sister and brother-in-law staying for a few days in Swanage. What’s new in that, you might say? Well there is no doubt a great difference between your family visitors and mine. Both my sister and her husband are profoundly deaf which means there is nothing that can help them – no hearing aids, cochlear implant – as the nerves are dead.

So here is one myth about deaf people which I wish to dispel – Can’t they wear a hearing aid? No, not all deaf people can use technology.

On Saturday afternoon we visited Durlston Castle, a short walk from the centre of Swanage. It was an enjoyable afternoon which was slightly spoilt by the attitudes of other visitors. When a deaf couple are walking around a visitor attraction they will interact just as hearing people do by talking to each other. The difference is that hearing people can walk and talk all at the same time. Not so the deaf. To speak to each other, they need to stop walking and concentrate their eyes on their partner’s face, lips and hands. It would appear that those on holiday who were visiting Durlston were in a great hurry, impatient to get to where they were going and their inability to get past this couple prompted large sighs of exasperation, exclamations and quite angry facial expressions. No, the deaf couple are not rude. They do not hear people coming up behind them and they do not hear you – you know who you are – say ‘excuse me’ even when you say it for the second time in a loud cross voice. These hearing people lack any iota of deaf awareness and only show themselves up. So next time you come across two people who are holding you up, just take a minute to consider that they might be deaf. My sister is very polite and she says ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ very clearly which is more than any of the hearing people did that afternoon.

Deafness is a hidden disability and there has not been enough Deaf Awareness over the years. My mother was a founder member of the Deaf Children’s Society, now the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and if she was still alive she would be very disappointed and, dare I say, angry that things are not that much better since her campaigning during and after the Second World War. I am still asked questions which make me hold my breath and count to ten.

Should deaf people drive? Of course. They are more alert than many hearing drivers and those with loud music thumping out of their vehicle are more likely to have an accident, especially as they are singing and closing their eyes revelling in their latest favourite hit.

Surely they all have these implants now? No, there are many older deaf people and they cannot have the Cochlear Implant (CI).  These are suitable for some younger children.

Are they deaf and dumb? Most deaf people have healthy vocal chords but many have not been taught how to use them. The connotations of ‘dumb’ are negative and it is more appropriate to say Deaf without Speech now.  New terms such as ‘hearing loss’ and hearing impairment’ are sometimes used as the term ‘deaf’ is not accurate for all.  Most deaf people would describe themselves as ‘deaf’.

Weren’t you taking a chance having children yourself? My sister’s deafness is due to suffering meningitis at the age of six months. My brother-in-law does have some deaf relations but he married a hearing girl and has two hearing grown up children and three hearing grandchildren. Deaf culture does not see ‘deafness’ as a negative. The deaf world is vibrant and few deaf people would forgo having children.

Does she sign? My sister went to an ‘oral’ school for the deaf where she was taught to speak and lipread. In the 1940s and 1950s signing was frowned on but more recently there has been a move to ‘total communication’ which is the use of all methods, writing down, finger spelling and British Sign Language (BSL) as well as speaking and lipreading. Even deaf adults who were taught orally, eventually learn to sign as this is the best way to communicate with other deaf people. Also signing is a useful skill for times when an interpreter is used, for example in a GP appointment or hospital consultation/operation.

A few pointers now for recognising the deaf and communicating with them.

1. Deaf people do not respond unless they have face to face contact. If someone does not respond, rather than think they are rude, consider they may be deaf.

2. Always face the deaf person and WAIT until they are looking at your directly before speaking.

3. Get the deaf person’s attention before starting to speak by waving to them or touching their arm.

4. Don’t shout.

5 Speak normally but with clear open mouth movements. Speak slowly though and do not let words ‘run together’. Separate the words clearly.

6 If you can’t learn BSL, at least learn some finger spelling so that you can spell out difficult words.

7. Try to use simple language and only essential words while still speaking in sentences. Deaf people cannot follow you if you elaborate your speech.

8. If you see they do not lipread a word, repeat it slower and more clearly. Failing that try another word which may be lipread more easily.

9. Write down information if they cannot lipread or do not understand.

10 Make sure your face is in a good light. Do not have your back to the sun or the window.

I hope this has been useful. Please comment on what is my first Deaf blog.