Monday, December 03, 2007

London bloggers meet up

Last week I met a load of London Bloggers at a pub, in London. I know i haven't done much blogging of late other than here, but it was nice to meet so many new people. It's a funny business meeting people you don't know, but I was brave and strong.

Ultimately, I did end up drawing mice for everyone, but as The Mousehunter website's done, I thought it might be a bit of practice and a way of spreading the mousing word. So if you get a second, please have a nose at The Mousehunter site, and let me know what you think. The lovely Tom Percival (who did the art for Skulduggery Pleasant!) helped me do it all, and I'll be forever grateful for his time!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Leaf drifts in the Palace cause mass panic

It's winter in Crystal Palace, and instead of snowdrifts we get leaf drifts. I've never seen so many leaves, although I must admit it's probably more to do with the fact that 1... I've done a lot of walking around of late, and 2... this is the first Autumn that I've been working from home.

The leaves are almost a metre deep in parts, with roads closed and schools shutting early so that the kids can get home in time. It took me at least another 10 minutes to walk up the hill than usual, as the drag on my ankles was so great.

All I can think is that because of the rain this year we've had a bumper crop of leaves. As the slugs devoured everything else, I presume the trees sucked up all the bounty of goodness for themselves. Clever trees...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Mousehunter website's almost finished

Further to that last post, I've almost finished The Mousehunter website - it'll be fully running in about 2 weeks hopefully, but in the meantime there's a taster page to give an idea!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Mousehunter is almost out!

It's been a horrendously long time since I posted anything here, but there's a few pretty good reasons - first and foremost being that I've been writing my second book. And the other reasons all stem round that fact that my first is soon to be out.

I must admit, it's not about gardens, or veg, or anything slightly organic. It's an adventure set in a world where people collect expensive species of crazy mice - although I'm sure there a few of the mice that inhabit people's allotments.

I had a slight rush of nerves when I spotted this a few days ago - my first review. It's only a few months until it'll be in the shops (Jan 17th 2008), and I can't believe that the wait is almost over.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Storm over Battersea Power Station

I've just returned from a meeting in town and came through some amazing storm fronts. This one had just visited Crystal Palace and was on its way central when i snapped it. It was the prettiest train ride home I've ever had.

But this rain shows no sign of abating! I'm almost too scared to venture into my garden for fear of being eaten by all the slugs that are now permanent residents out there. They've already destroyed two runner bean plants... but I guess they're only hungry.

However, all is not lost, for there's a new coffee machine in my kitchen. It goes whirrr, and woosh, and cost a little bit more than the last, but it's the most wonderful thing. I love it more than life itself.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Aujord'hui ma machine de café est mort.

Aujord'hui ma machine de café est mort. And it's a sad, sad day. So many cappucinos, so few years. Although to be fair, it was my brother's originally, and I've now had it at least four years, so i shouldn't complain. The worst part of it, though, is that it's only died through neglect. I just didn't even consider the fact that limescale would build up inside and ruin it like any good kettle. And now I find that there's a descaler solution that you should run through these machines every few months...

I even became a maintenance man, and in the true spirit of allotmenteering, unscrewed it all and sat each piece in coca cola for hours in the vain hope that some of the blocked tubes might be cleaned. But it just made the matter worse, as I think it shifted a load of gunk and doubled the blockage somewhere in its bowels. I can still froth milk happily enough, but it's no replacement...

Oh woe is me...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Gotheborg

Last week I left the comfort of the Sprouts plot to see the Swedish ship Gotheborg, a recreation of the 18th century East Indiaman sailing ship. It was incredible, and looked thoroughly out of place amongst the modern, soulless grandeur of Canary Wharf. You don't see things of such handmade beauty very often these days - and with the potential to sail without any power source whatsoever other than the wind.

It has an engine - to conform to modern safety regulations – but how long will it be before we have to start sailing in ships like this once more? With the oncoming shortage of natural resources, they might have to make a comeback... I hope so.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Runners in Crystal Palace

Known for its Athletics track, Crystal Palace is now host to a few more permanent runners in the shape of my beans, which got a good planting out yesterday. There's a definite 'Allotment Chic' look coming to the Sprouts garden now, with a wall of bamboo canes and bits of string standing tall and making it look incredibly ramshackle. I like the look though. Kind of a zen garden gone british, if you see what I mean - although my patch is a bit too lumpy to create rake patterns. The closest I get to them is when cats use my plot as a toilet and dig me nice little holes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I'm a petrolhead. It's official

I became a petrolhead last week. Ok, so it was only for about 15 mins, but even so it was exciting. I used the petrol strimmer to trim our garden around the Sprouts plot, and suddenly I was away, loving the throttle and the smell of burning fuel. What a feeling power is!

Of course, I left a nice patch of tall grass and wilderness as a little wildlife sanctuary, so it wasn't all death and destruction. Even so, i was ready to get out the chainsaw, find myself a monster truck, and become a bona fide ROAD HOG.

And then I woke up with a spot on the end of my nose. My new found ability to wreak shock and awe was cut down in a second...

Monday, May 14, 2007

From sprouts to Volkswagens

In our efforts to be green, we've taken the next step up the ladder and bought a camper van. It's an early 80s VW - in green, of course - and will have us pootling around England over the coming year. Now, in all honesty, it does eat petrol like a total fiend, but I think it's better in many ways than flying all over the shop just to hang out on a beach with lots of annoying english folk. Might as well camp with them in Britain and be shot of it, that's what i say.

So with all the greenness that now exists out the front of my house, what's been going on out the back? The rhubarb, raspberries and blueberries are all coming along a treat. I've got rows of lettuce seedlings and rocket sprouting up too. Very little else has made its way into the ground, but that will soon change with the planting of courgettes and tomatoes.

And finally we've had some rain! So probably, next time i pop out the slugs and snails will have stripped my plot bare. I guess you have to give them their due, if they can cope with the horrid conditions, then they're better men than me. Or gastropods... or hermaphrodites... or whatever they are...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Organic food report

I've just been catching up on the government report about the production of organic food and its effects on the environment. It makes for peculiar reading, particularly when you read that the production of organic tomatoes, milk and chicken is much worse for the environment than 'conventional', ie, non organic food. Many of the points link to the energy efficiency of growing organic produce and how it takes so much more energy to come to fruition than the other 'conventional' food produce. Also, it's not necessarily the case that organic food is better for you either.

I'm sorry to sound so obvious, but of course it will take more energy and land to grow organic tomatoes, to sustain herds of cows for organic milk, and to keep chickens alive longer and so that they naturally grow properly. I could have told the government that for nothing. Unfortunately, that's the natural way of things, and it's only because we've become so hooked on quick and easy food, sold in bulk and grown artificially, that the report could consider the process of growing organic food as having bad energy efficiency.

I think it's important to know how much impact the growth of food produce has on the world, particularly with the blossoming world populous, but it's more important to be realistic about our future. We need to be realistic about what we need to eat week in week out and where we get it from; and we need to be realistic and ethical about the way we live and interact with the environment.

If the carbon footprint of growing natural, organic food is larger than 'conventional' food, then that's something we have to live and deal with. So walk to the supermarket instead of driving there to counter it's effect.

If the energy efficiency of natural and organic animal husbandry is worse than 'conventional' animal husbandry techniques (such as battery farming), don't fly to Thailand for your holiday this year - instead get the Eurostar to Paris.

I don't see how we can determine these food issues in relation to how energy efficient, or nutritionally beneficient they are - it's the ethics that count, and our principles. And they're the only thing that matter, in the end.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I lost the plot...

...but now it is found.

This weekend, I finally got into the garden. I dug over the plot, fed the birds, and even worked up a sweat, which led to me having to take off my jumper! I don't know what came over me. But it looks great out there now, kind of like discovering an old friend and seeing them every morning when I look out the window. I can't wait to get sowing...

Friday, February 16, 2007

A thief gets a good telling off!

I suddenly found some fight inside me today. Rather peculiarly, as I wandered through my hallway, I caught a glimpse of some hands on the other side of the see-through catflap. I then saw a bundle of flyers and thought little of it (this being Londinium we get so many leaflets shoved through our door, they fill our recycling bins alone!). And then I thought I'd go and bother him as I hate leafleteers, and lo and behold, as I opened the door he pegged it, with the contents of a parcel in his hands. He'd only gone and stolen some post of ours that the postman so unkindly just left on the doorstep!

So there I was, in my slippers, running up the hill after him, calling him all manner of names. And in my Herefordshire country accent too! What a sight it must have been - I can imagine the Wurzels writing a song about it. And then he stopped and started to approach me. He was much bigger than me, but my flight or fight response said "tell him off!", so I did. At first he said he hadn't taken anything, then I told him I watched him do it and asked him exactly what he thought he was doing. Eventually, he rather sheepishly pulled out the robbings from his pocket. I work for a PC magazine in my dayjob, so to see that all he'd stolen was a USB memory key that was destined for my girlfriend was rather galling (there was me putting my life on the line for something we have a gazillion of!).

He didn't say sorry, he just shrugged and I returned to my house angry and insensed. When I walked in I found the flyer he'd delivered, so I rang the place and dobbed on him - I suddenly felt like a school prefect again. (I should mention here that I did call the local police, but they put me on hold for 10 minutes, and when they connected me somehow managed to cut me off! I couldn't be bothered waiting again). The pizza place knew who he was and they said they'd tell him off, which made me feel happy. There's nothing like telling someone off in absentia.

So the moral of the day is not to hire a person to deliver leaflets about your takeaway, if the very same person is going to run a little takeaway scheme of their own at the same time. It won't get you customers, I can assure you.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Go Greenpeace!

So February's doing well for proving climate change theories, and it's also doing well for scuppering the government's plans for new nuclear power stations.

I've been a Greenpeace member for ages now, but it's when they manage to achieve things like this, it makes me happy that I was hassled by a pain-in-the-arse paid-too-much charity pedestrian botherer with a clipboard. (Well, it makes me sort of happy...)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A vegetarian convert?

I read this today on the BBC website. It's an unusual thing to hear of a vegetarian starting to eat meat again now that they rear the animals themselves. I like sensible vegetarians.

Here comes the snow again

And for once the weather folk got it right! Even Milo's been excited by the sight of all the snow outside. He even ventured forth - with a slight nudge - and almost enjoyed the experience.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

London frost

The first London frost of the year. It's exciting to finally wake up to a truly cold morning. It'll be sad if our winters grow milder as the years progress - although I think the effects of climate change will eventually see us descend into a new ice age. (Glaciers gradually melt, adding fresh water to the salty sea water, affecting the North Atlantic Drift, therefore lowering the temperature of the nice winds that keep our country so unusually warm for its position.)

What would be worse, no winter or a world that resembles Narnia under the reign of the Ice Queen? One would mean our veg plots would go crazy, and the other would be incredibly pretty... hmmm

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I thought I'd write an update about my book, The Mousehunter... which was once called Mousebeard. (I use Mousebeard in the title to this post as I want to try and reclaim the term in Google search! I came up with it first, I swear!) It's not out for another year yet, but there's always stuff going on.

I've been hard at work on the illustrations, and also typing away at the sequel on my weekly days off. It's a strange feeling embarking on the second story. It feels very much like I'm writing my first book again, albeit with a lot more experience and a much greater understanding of the characters. They speak more fluently, and act as I want them too now. The ideas for this one are also well over a year old in the planning, so they're much less 'jumping out of nowhere and hitting the page' than they were in the first one.

I'm really enjoying working out the plot in detail, and adding twists and character growth and the like. It's peculiarly a bit like gardening and running a veg plot, in that you plant things, wait a while for the elements to kill them or let them grow, and then in a few months see what you have. Everything changes, lots of things die, and things that you thought would do badly often become the most successful parts of the whole process.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A green birthday

Instead of calling this blog 'Anything but Sprouts', I should probably have called it 'Mainly Courgettes'. Yesterday was my birthday, you see, and there among the presents was this wonderfully unusual book called 'What will i do with all those courgettes?'. It's a very good question - and name for a book – I hear you all saying. Maybe I could use them to make a picture? or even write an autobiography? Or simply just use one of the 150 recipes to make something to eat...

As you can see, there was actually a green theme to many of the presents I received. Ok, so it wasn't all gardening 'green', but when it's a book about the Muppets, who gives a Rowlf?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

New links

As I sit and listen to our resident drilling woodpecker I've started the overhaul of the links and the site, and it's taking a while. If I paid any attention to my web and blog guru girlfriend, I'd have blogrolls, RSS feeds, and all sorts of whizzy technical stuff, but as much as I'd like to do all that, I don't have the know-how or time just yet. It's nice to be blogging again though.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ethical Awards

As you've probably spotted, I haven't quite got to grips with Blogger's confusing picture upload and publishing settings, what with my pics and layout being skew-whiffy. I apologise, and I promise to sort it out...

But aside from that, me being a hardened Guardian reader and a militant Ecover user, I noticed this and thought it worthy of a mention.

The whole ethical living thing is something close to my heart, and I imagine there's quite a few folk out there who think the same. Anyway, everyone can vote for it, so maybe give it a go.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shroom watch 1

As I mentioned before, I received a GYO Mushroom kit for Christmas, and here it is. It looks like something out of the sixties, and clearly the makers have decided that design isn't a necessary concern for people who are likely to grow mushrooms. Who am I to criticise though? If they taste mushroomy, then that's all that matters. Oh, and that's not my local Satyr pictured with them, it's the back half of Milo the cat, who has to be a part of everything.

If anyone fancies growing some fancy mushrooms, then i found there's loads of different sorts you can buy here. Clearly, my bog standard mushrooms have some way to go before hitting the heights of those on that site, but if they grow I'll be happy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More snow!

Snow in Crystal Palace!

So there I was, lying in bed with a cat prodding my face, when I realised there was something different about today. It had snowed! I asked for winter, and someone very kindly obliged!

Thanks for all your lovely comments! I've been slightly nervous about the whole 'leaving work' thing, but that's only because the idea of being in charge of myself is slightly daunting. What will I do with my evenings? Probably work still... Ahh the work ethic is strong in this one!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I've resigned

Well, as the winds rattle through London, sweeping the streets clean of people, I've taken it upon myself to resign from my day job. Possibly the greatest threat to the success of my veg plot has been removed. No longer will I battle away on Saturdays trying to write, when, as of the end of March I'll be able to write all week long. Which means, come those April Saturdays, I'll be able to dig all day.

Maybe between now and then we'll get some winter to break down my soil for me?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Return of the Sprout

So 2007 is alive and well. I'm fed up with it already, but that's what the first few weeks of the new year are about aren't they – wishing you were somewhere else. (Although, our Wii did arrive yesterday, and I'm loving Baseball even though I have no idea what the rules are. They make about as much sense as wilfully buying sprouts.)

However, as for the Anything but Sprouts plot out back, there's big news in the shape of new bird seed in the feeders. The Greenfinches have returned, and have finally stopped hurling abuse at me from the comfort of their tree. I've apologised for it not being purely sunflower seeds, but I can only do what I can.

I'm going to be starting a new regular post on here relating to the growth of mushrooms. (Who could ask for a better christmas present than a grow-your-own mushroom box?) So in the next week or so, I'm going to have Shroom Watch up and running. I'll keep you posted. I'm sure the photos will be captivating and groundbreaking in equal measure, so keep your eyes peeled!!

This is the start of the return of Anything But Sprouts. It's back, in just the same way as the sprouts you ate on Christmas day returned as a whiffy fart. Although hopefully it won't be quite as whiffy...