The Garden

I’ve lived in this house since 1989, so 29 years.  Over that time the garden has undergone several transformations.  Initially, it was what you may describe as a “blank canvas” – mostly lawn area, a few elderly fruit trees and some shrubs.  The previous owners hadn’t been gardeners and much of what had been stuck into the ground was dying (heathers planted underneath the shade of a large oak tree!)

My first husband was a gardener.  He spent a lot of the time we lived together developing the garden – planting various cottage garden plants, extending the flower borders out to magnificent proportions.  He was inspired by his love of Gertrude Jekyll and worked for a time in a garden that she had designed alongside an Edward Lutyens house in Sonning-upon-Thames.

Our garden however, was not the same magnificent proportions.  The borders were not carefully planted to maximise colour and texture combinations.  The flower borders looked colourful from May to July and then everything would die back and there would be nothing until the following year.

When we separated and divorced, I realised that I had to take back responsibility for maintaining the garden.  It was a somewhat worrying thought.  Especially as at the time, I had a young child at school and was recovering from a serious road traffic accident in which I had sustained a leg injury which was impacting upon my mobility.  I’d gained a lot of weight as a result.  The furthest thing from my mind was gardening.

I wanted to put my stamp on the garden.  So I dreamt up the idea of a large central decked area.  Somewhere to sit and survey the garden as the evening sun went down.  The decked area covered a large uneven patch of grass and a steep natural bank.  Underneath the shade of a mature oak tree.  Perfect.  So I thought.

I’d overlooked a critical issue.  Our oak tree (quite a magnificent specimen) attracts a lot of wild life.  Including birds.  Many birds. Some of those birds are large birds.  The size of… ducks!  They are in fact wood pigeons.  They like to perch and poo.

And poo they do.  They poo for England!  By the time the poo has dropped about 20 feet, it manages to splatter over quite a large area.

The decked area became out of bounds.  The last place I wanted to sit… with the associated risks.

I dwelled on how to overcome the poo problem for a couple of years and finally came up with a solution!  A “poo shade”!  It cost us an absolute fortune, but it did the job!  Suddenly the decked area became a feature to be proud of, with minimal maintenance.

My new husband did enjoy gardening.  His parents were both keen gardeners and had created a stunning garden from scratch set on the edge of the lake district.  They enjoyed cultivating a large vegetable garden and had an impressive collection of plants.

The garden of my then boyfriends house was paved, but he grew what he could in grow bags and on his windowsills.

When he visited, we started to plan some ideas for the garden.  We grew a few vegetables from seed.  I LOVED watching the tiny plants developing.  I could sit at a table and repot the seedlings on.  Once the vegetables were mature, I loved the amazing flavour of the tomatoes and cucumbers.  Supermarket bought salad and vegetables just did not compare.

Our garden developed with our relationship.  By the time he moved to live with me, the garden had become a place where we both spent a lot of time together.  Gardening became possible for me with his support – lifting bags of compost into places where I could fill pots and plant seeds.  We had a greenhouse installed and some vegetable beds.  We planned colour schemes for beds and learned together about which plants would work well together.

In the ten years we’ve been together, the garden has come a long way.   Of course, it is always a work in progress and there is always plenty of work to be done.  We have rigged up hoses which run down the length of the garden so that I can help with watering.

We love visiting gardens for inspiration and ideas.  We love eating what we grow.  We love (when the weather permits) sitting on our poo free deck and surveying the garden.



























Psychological “magic”

Part of my success at losing weight has been changing how I think and feel about food and the consumption of it.  There is no doubt I have always enjoyed eating – probably a little too much!  Perhaps it is the French blood in my veins.

If I am aware that an event is coming up where I’ll have limited control over my food intake, I prepare myself mentally in advance for the choices I may need to make.

At one time, I’d have just “let it go”, eaten what I fancied and however much I liked.  But now that my weight loss is real and I am benefiting so much from not carrying around the additional weight, I want to ensure that I never become hugely overweight again.

I often try and find an on-line menu for a restaurant or pub I’m planning to eat at.  I browse the menu and look at the various options.  Sometimes the plan changes (for example, there was a lovely looking “dish of the day” when we went out last week).

Sometimes I know that the food will be calorific and that healthy choices are few and far between.  Last week I was invited to an awards ceremony with a sit-down three course Indian meal.  I knew what food we would be eating, and of course – being Indian food, much of it was deep fried and I am certain that there was a lot of ghee involved!  So I knew that my meal earlier in the day would need to be fairly low in calories.  I was driving to the event and rarely drink alcohol nowadays, so alcohol wasn’t going to be a problem.  I ate fairly sparingly, and didn’t eat anything that didn’t appeal.  For example, the desert was something called “Gajjar Halwa” – made with nuts, milk, sugar, khoya, ghee and (interestingly) grated carrot!  It was sickly sweet.  I did have a small spoonful, but then left it!

In terms of logging and weighing food portions / making wise choices and sticking within calories…. it suddenly happens that you arrive at a moment in time when you realise that it is YOU who is in control, when it is YOU who makes the choice of whether to eat this or that – and more importantly, it is you and only yourself who puts the food into your mouth…. That is the moment when magic things start to happen  and the weight starts to go down regularly, when your healthy choices start to become almost automatic.

Suddenly the realisation dawns that this weight loss journey isn’t some sort of punishment to be endured, that you aren’t being denied lovely food. The lure of the unhealthy foods, cake, chocolate (or whatever else your nemesis is) – starts to lose its hold on you.  You take control.

I was going to say “take back” control, but I realise with hindsight that I probably never had control over my eating until now.

YOU are the one in control and YOU control the lure of the food, not the other way around.

I write this from the heart as someone for whom the magic started probably about 4 years ago now… my weight loss journey started 6 years ago, but it did take a while for that psychological magic to take place.

Savoury Cake – Broccoli, feta, red onion and pine nut cake – 257.5 calories a portion

IMG_1351A few weeks ago, on the weight loss site I use to log food, there was a suggestion of savoury cake as something to make and portion up for packed lunches.

I tried this recipe today and whilst it is quite a bit of fiddling around, it was absolutely delicious!

For anyone concerned about the broccoli, the flavours that are the strongest are the cheese and onion – the broccoli added a nice bite.

We ate our warm from the oven. The remainder will be portioned up and go into the freezer.

Preparation Time:30 mins

Cooking Time:40 mins


Calories per serving:257.5


Broccoli, Raw -200g

Red Onions -2 Sm/180g

Olive Oil, Olive -1 Tbsp/15ml

Rosemary, Fresh-1 Tbsp/1.7g

Thyme, Fresh -1 Tbsp/4g

Sundried Tomato – 4 or 40g

Eggs, Medium -4 Eggs/236g

Plain Flour, (white or wholemeal) -120g

Baking Powder -1½ Tsps/3g

Mature Cheddar Cheese -50g

Feta Cheese -2 Servings/200g

Pine Nuts -30g

Salt -1 Pinch/0.1g

Pepper, Freshly Ground -2 Pinchs/0.4g

Preparation: Cut the broccoli into smallish, manageable sized florets. Chop the rosemary leaves. Grate the cheddar, crumble the feta. Chop the sun dried tomatoes into small bite sized pieces. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs.


1 Boil the broccoli in plenty of water for around 4-6 minutes, or until tender. Alternatively cook/steam in the microwave in a lidded dish with about 30ml of water on full power for 4 minutes.

2 Peel the onions and take 2 decent-sized rings, 2-3mm thick each, and reserve for the top of the cake. Finely dice the remainder of the onion.

3 Heat the oil in a pan over a moderate heat. Sweat the onions until soft and translucent. Add the rosemary and thyme towards the end of the cooking time and mix well. Leave to cool.

4 Grease a 25cm round springform cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the flour, baking powder, grated cheese, crumbled feta, salt and pepper.

5 Add the cooked onion and herbs to the mix. Lastly, add the broccoli and mix to combine.

6 Add the finished mix to the cake tin and arrange the onion rings (reserving the pine nuts). Bake for 25 minutes, then sprinkle the pine nuts on top (before this and they will burn). Cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the cake is firm and golden in parts on top.

You can eat this cake warm or cold and it transports really well for packed lunches.

Nutrition Information

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 257.5

Carbohydrate (g) 14.3

Fat (g) 16.5

Fibre (g) 1.8

Fruit & Veg 0.7

Protein (g) 12.8