Bitch on the Blog

September 14, 2016


A swallow just caught my attention.

Once upon a time we lived in the middle of nowhere. Even our immediate neighbours, one either side (we were in the middle) were a good walking distance away. Let’s say, not in earshot.

Yes, surrounded by fields, meadows, a little stream, dried out ponds (spare a thought for the frogs), and generally all that I was accustomed to from my earliest childhood I’d spent with my grandparents. And, the FREEDOM. I was allowed to just wander anywhere. Then I met a bull. But that’s another story. I am a fast runner.

So, on the outhouse right next to our patio/terrace there was the swallows’ nest. You think bricks and mortar, the pyramids, the London Eye, a miracle? Look at a nest. That’s a miracle. An act of perseverance, ingenuity, hard relentless work and focus. Not to mention purpose.

Enter the farmer’s (on the left depending which direction you were looking from) cat. When I say cat I mean panther. Nowadays probably classified as feral. I dare say there was no “cat food”. Cats fed themselves doing it by means cats do best: Hunt.

Great. So far so good. Here is the recipe: Enter the swallows, their freshly hatched brood, my father AND the CAT into the mix. Watch this for a while as the baby swallows are being decimated. Swallows getting agitated, cat getting bold, my father getting ANGRY.

So, one morning I wake up and there is a big black panther lying under the outhouse roof. Shot. There was no blood. But that big black Tom of a cat was dead.

Not so. Apparently it was all in my imagination. I was never to breeze so much as a word to said farmer neighbour and generally condemned to silence. That’s when I decided to become a spy.

I don’t know why, twelve years old, a long time ago, I do remember the cat’s body.

The swallows? Did they come back the next year? I don’t know. By then we had moved.



August 4, 2014


Filed under: Atmosphere,Farming — bitchontheblog @ 09:43
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As  ‘addictions’ go mine is not poisoning my body, only my mind. This is the fourth summer I have gone without a garden. Now I can’t watch a garden programme or read so much as a feature on anything grown outdoors without tears welling up. At least it gives me a pointer of what is missing in my life.

Many many years ago my mother sent me a rather funny article on why gardeners are a miserable lot. And it’s true. We battle. Not least when we grow our own food. Then it becomes serious. Also one does want to see a reward for effort. One radish will do. Two will make your heart sing.

Thinking back my life has been defined by soil and gardening. My first memory being my grandfather putting down some sunflower seeds with me. They grew – a bit like the Angel – so tall they were towering over me. Miracle. And then my father digging over my first own little plot underneath my beloved apple tree. My father is a meticulous man. So all the drills into which I then distributed seed were perfectly parallel. He advised me to have one useful side (vegetables and herbs which I sold to my mother at the kitchen window) and one playful side (flowers) on the other – which I did NOT sell to my mother, just gave them to her. Yes, little paradise.

And paradise continued in many shapes and sizes till a few years ago. Never mind. Better to have had a past paradise than one in an uncertain future.

My brother-in-law once asked me where I’d see myself in advancing years. Guess what: Yes, with garden. The devil is not in the detail as the saying goes. The devil is in implementing that which you desire.

Thank you for being slightly bored with my above self pity. No good to weed where one can plant.


February 18, 2014

By nature – Gardeners are a miserable lot

Filed under: Earth,Farming,Happiness — bitchontheblog @ 00:40
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It’s not good. And it’s getting worse.

I don’t know what my life expectancy is. I am modest. So don’t expect much. But, for sake of maths forgetting genes and taking my doubt into account, let’s say I have another thirty years. If I keep going like I have the last few weeks I won’t need my book shelves so much as a garden. I am fed up with print. Absolutely totally fed up. Let’s be fair. Maybe not so much print as content. Yes, so I’d like to have a garden again. It is so maddening that I don’t know where. Which country. People say the world is my oyster. HA. My oyster has shut up, clammed up. Where there is too much choice indecision will set in. Like mould. The only anchor in flying sand round my ears is the Angel. One does need a reference point in life. Purpose.

In the meantime I might preserve lemons. I like lemons. They are yellow (my favourite colour), they are friendly (as am I) and they smile (as I do at you).  And they taste good. Talk about win win.

I wish I had a cat. They are good at giving you feedback without suffocating you. The only reason I didn’t get another cat because cats are wild at heart and you  can’t keep them in an inner city flat. Amounts to cruelty. Back in the early Eighties a friend of mine kept a Siamese in his apartment. The apartment being next door to mine. At night he’d send me little Morse code  signals through our joint adjoining walls (he was gay – and a hairdresser; probably dead now). His cat was bonkers. The most neurotic being I have ever encountered. Other than a particular blogger who is so bonkers the Angel is questioning my sanity as to why I even bother to read her stuff. Well, there is such a thing as “morbid fascination”.

Big sigh. I wish I could dig over a garden. Plant seeds. And bulbs. Chase squirrels digging up same bulbs. Curse cats doing what cats do – namely, digging up – without malice – that which you had hoped will become a flower rather than a toilet. Give a beer bath to the ever encrouching army of slugs and snails. They are good at lacing all your greenery.  And then there are Nasturtiums. Edible flowers in other words. I don’t know how restaurants do it. All my Nasturtiums were always infested (in biblical proportions) with blackfly. Disgusting.

I like doing battle with nature. Mainly because I am a meadow person. I don’t mind weeds. Nothing manicured for me. But god damn it: Can’t one expect at least  one radish for one’s efforts? It’s why I like courgettes/zucchini. They grow and grow and grow and grow. Unperturbed. In any old condition. In the meantime they spout beautiful yellow flowers (see above reference lemon) which you can stuff to great effect. No blackfly in sight.

I am sickening for something.


July 30, 2010


Filed under: Farming,Food,Happiness — bitchontheblog @ 19:23

Sweethearts, shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic does NOT pay.

Better keep rinsing pulses and chitting potatoes after today’s consortium’s inspiring offerings. Not that I didn’t enjoy Magpie’s history lesson – particularly the link between Columbus bringing potatoes to Europe in exchange for a spot of STD to America. You might call Christopher the father of today’s globalization. Also liked Conrad’s subtle, yet snide, remark about the Senate.

gaelikaa always likes to tell a story, ususally another chapter in the art of perfecting patience; from Grannymar, considering that she comes from a large family and spuds are an Irish staple, I expected something on the joys of peeling potatoes to stuff many mouths. Oddly, it was one of the jobs my mother used to think me most suitable for – neither did she believe in swivel peelers.

I am sure all your recipes are delicious (depending on what your mother’s cooking was like and your own culinary expectations since) though – if I may say so – there are more imaginative things one can do with both potatoes and beans other than cooking them. Still, I am not here to piss on anyone’s parade, or am I?

Sweet gaelikaa, in the dark of what my current predicament is, recently urged me to phone the Samaritans to save me from throwing myself off an imaginary cliff. I am afraid there is no Samaritan (other than Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Charles Saatchi, any of you or myself) who can rescue me in the short term. However,  for those of your friends who do weep, for clinical reasons, quietly into their daily bowl of lentil potage look no further than a book titled “Potatoes, NOT Prozac” (‘Prozac’ being the generic term for anti-depressants). Makes you think, Magpie, doesn’t it: First Americans export the mightily useful potato to the greater good of the rest of the world, only to then flood us with pharmaceuticals. One of my friends rattles with pills, keeping the whole of Bayer in profit. I have offered him many a baked potato – to no avail.

To add humility to my humiliation here is a potato about your very own Ursula (aged nine): At the time we lived in deepest country side (north of Hamburg); my best friend, a farmer’s daughter, invited me to help her and her family with a day’s potato harvest. Oh, the anticipation of  it! I was so excited. My mother doubted that donning my very best WHITE shirt for the occasion was a good choice of clothing.  And yes, my friend’s father did laugh out loud when he saw me turn up in my finest which did make me blush momentarily. Not for long: I so did enjoy pulling out the potatoes out of the dark sandy soil with my bare hands, filling buckets in the blazing sun, the fire  lit on the field in the evening. Never tasted a potato better. Neither was a white shirt dyed black more efficiently – ever. I didn’t care. It was a great day. Whether I’d made a fool of myself or not.


PS I still have magnificent gift to dress inappropriately

February 26, 2010

No harvest

Filed under: Despair,Farming,Food,History,Philosophy — bitchontheblog @ 06:00
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“You reap what you sow”.

Don’t believe it. Complete nonsense – why do you think gardeners and farmers are usually down in the mouth?

Go to Ireland and you will learn more about potato blight than you ever wished to know. Ask me about snails and I show you a mass murderer. In fact I have got it down to a fine art, and don’t say I am not kind: Beer traps work wonders – slugs and snails being attracted to yeast, then drowning themselves and MY sorrows. I console myself that they will have died a happy death.

Since research is in my blood (undiluted) I  just looked up snails in Larousse Gastronomique which is a doorstopper of a heavyweight of a book: The amount of preparation that needs to go into preparing a snail for human consumption makes you not so much wonder whether it’s worth it: It kills your appetite. It’s mainly to do with cleaning out their digestive tract by putting them on a ten day detox (also known as fasting/starvation diet). However “do not remove the liver and other inner organs which amount to a quarter of the weight of a snail and are the most delicious and nutritious part”.

Apart from setting beer traps the only other way to stay on top of the snail problem in your garden is to get up early (say 5 in the morning; dress code morning gown) when it’s still all damp and they are out there by their dozens. You pick them live and then hope that one of your visitors that day will take a bag off you. No joke.

Spring appears to be on its way considering that my thoughts are turning to terrestial gastropod molluscs.


PS For the historians amongst us: There was a bit of a loss of culinary interest in snails in the 17th century; revived by Talleyrand (!) who had them prepared, by Careme, for a dinner he gave for the Tsar of Russia.

February 7, 2010


Filed under: Farming,Food,Happiness,Psychology — bitchontheblog @ 06:46
Tags: , ,

I am sometimes asked why I commit myself to doing things for others, helping out, when I really don’t have the time.  The answer is: I don’t know.

Since I am that most unrealistic creature, the optimist, I just say “Yes” whenever a request (for next week, next month) comes up. Sure, I’ll do it, no problem. First law of penance: DO NOT  believe that the future won’t arrive.

To me time stretches like chewing gum. There is always more. Not that I like chewing gum. It’s bad for you since the act of chewing sends signal to stomach that food is on its way down; stomach therefore prepares with acid juices to break it all down – only to then be disappointed. Instead of which the world is littered with hard gum left in often rather unfortunate places. Just as my father instilled hatred of chewing gum in me I did with my own son. My argument being (apart from aforementioned stomach) that it makes people look like cows, only stupid. Cows were designed to chew their grass over and over; and why not? We all need something to do. But a human chewing like a cow immediately makes me think of guess what: A cow. I  like cows. I have fond childhood memories of accidentally stepping into cow pats (they are very big and very green) and, when staying at a farm during the summer holidays, of helping to bring the herd down from the alm in the late afternoon – though hated freshly hand drawn milk. Awful. Not least because the milk was the cow’s body temperature complete with at least one black short hair in your cup. Still, in those days one was not allowed to be squeamish and no doubt accounts for why I am as healthy as I am.

Yes, chewing gum. This is what I love and loathe about my brain in equal measure. I start off with one subject, get myself sidetracked, can’t find the map and just get lost. A friend of mine sweetly calls it ” U’s stream of consciousness”. It’s certainly one way of putting it.

So anyway, the upshot is that I find it difficult to say: No.


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