Fortress estate springs to life

Last autumn I mentioned the nocturnal bulb-planting that Mrs H organised. Why we had to do it after dark has never become clear. Maybe there was something on the packet that indicated stronger growth would be achieved if the bulbs were placed in the soil out of daylight hours.

Last autumn I mentioned the nocturnal bulb-planting that Mrs H organised. Why we had to do it after dark has never become clear. Maybe there was something on the packet that indicated stronger growth would be achieved if the bulbs were placed in the soil out of daylight hours. Or perhaps Mrs H thought she would be embarrassed if the neighbours witnessed our amateur attempts at gardening.

Anyway, I am pleased to report that the Fortress estate is showing signs of a colourful spring. There is plenty of activity in the flowerbeds and the pots where Mrs H painstakingly planted the bulbs with such precision.

However, there are a few defiant bulbs that have refused to surface. In fact, one pot is showing no sign of life whatsoever and some crocuses in one of the beds have not materialised.

Mrs H consulted our guru, the other Mrs H - my brother's wife. She understands the mysteries of things that grow as well as those that don't.


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It seems we did everything right with the planting - indeed, even if we'd done it in daylight it wouldn't have made any difference. But among the explanations she gave for the non-appearance of the crocuses was that mice like crocus bulbs. Not much we could have done about that.

Hang on though; doesn't that represent a major failure by the four-legged inmate? Isn't that part of his raison d'etre?

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Let's think about this. Often he snubs his grub so here is an opportunity for him to have some fresh meat. And let's be honest, he can't claim he's too busy. He's got so much time on his paws he could even wait until it stopped raining.

I put it to Mrs H that her “little treasure” was failing to repay all her TLC by not doing his duty. If I performed to his standard she'd soon have something to say.

“If it was mice he'd have 'em!” she replied, almost ghoulishly.

I do not share her faith. I looked out of the window the other day and the great fairy was skipping around the garden trying to catch some gnats. After this pointless exercise he came in and sniffed disdainfully at some food before settling down for a sustained period of sleep. Meanwhile mice were no doubt having a good blow out on Mrs H's bulbs.

I do foresee a problem with the all those bulbs. When I come to weed the garden I just know I will accidentally pull some up or whip off a few flower heads. I could blame the Mog.

“I see that damn cat has been using the garden as a litter tray. Scrapped off some of your flower heads he has.”

There was a time when I could have blamed the damage on Brat Minor for retrieving a ball or just stumbling on to the garden. There's no chance of putting him in the frame now.

And we see less of him now anyway. Finally he has a washing machine so the laundry service is no longer be required. This will save time and money. No more arranging visits to the city to coincide with his washing needs. No more Sunday nights when I hear him say pathetically: “Will tea be ready in time for me to catch the eight o'clock bus - if it turns up?”

And Mrs H's reply: “Oh that's all right. Yer father will run you home.”

I suspect the luxury of having a meal cooked will still be an attraction. And while he's here, perhaps I can persuade him to do a bit of gardening as some form of training for when he gets his own pad. Currently he has a flat without even a window box. I'm sure this suits him well; I can't remember him ever picking up a spade or a fork when he lived at home.

Once, he was cajoled into having a go with the lawnmower. It took off with him in hot pursuit. He managed to bring it partially under control and finished the job. The experience was so traumatic he vowed never to do it again.

And he didn't.

His sister would do a bit of digging provided the financial reward was there. But generally it has always been left to me. There was Mrs H's sudden surge of interest but that appears to have waned so it's yours truly once again; certainly as far as the labouring is concerned. It's all very well shoving a few bulbs in the ground but digging, pruning, mowing and hedge-cutting do not appear to be tasks carried out by management.

Of course, advice still tumbles liberally from Mrs H's lips.

“We need to chop all that ivy out. It's strangling that shrub.”

“We” means: “Get to it Neyull!”

There is much hard work to be done around the Fortress estate; the lawn is full of moss and weeds are surging through. Sorry dear, you may have to chop the veg yourself now the lighter nights are here.

Well, you should have time, now you've lost the contract for Brat Minor's laundry.

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