Tra la, tra lee, a gardener's life for me.

Oh gosh, Penelope, let's put on our flowery wellies and dainty cotton gloves and skip into the garden where we shall accomplish a bit of light pruning before scones for tea with lashings of clotted cream!What awfully jolly larks!


Penelope, my imaginary English gardening friend, has a perfect complexion, a comprehensive knowledge of horticulture, is stalwart and regular in her weeding habits, and knows exactly where, when and how to prune the triffids. She emerges from her light exercise glowing with health, her garden all tidied and ready to trip daintily into spring.

I, on the other hand, am currently bundled up in bed exhausted, chilled to the bone, back aching, clothing so muddy it can't even go in the wash without first going in the wash. Meanwhile, the garden, in the manner of Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, remains stubbornly unvanquished.

My nemesis?  Forget-me-nots and buttercups. And brambles. I turned my back for a mere instant to write a book, and while I napped (sorry, worked my fingers to the bone) the rest of life got completely out of hand. Bills piled up, letters went unanswered -- and in the garden, legions of ruthless weed bastards marched in to choke the life out of everything good and pure and true. Neglect has left the peonies in the shade, the roses anaemic and the anemones listless.

Better check the rest of the family.