greentapestry : Looking Over My Shoulder

Friday, 31 December 2010

Looking Over My Shoulder

Here the year is slowly evaporating in a misty haze, with the odd reluctant to melt patch of snow still on the ground. The last spell of extremely cold weather has taken its toll but there are signs of spring's inevitable renewal. A quick tour of the garden this morning revealed snowdrops breaking through the ground, hellebores with plump buds and a slug making its merry way along the inner lid of the compost bin.

2011 has not been the best of years for me because of my father's rapidly deteriorating health. Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia in November 2009, which although not entirely a surprise was still a blow to the family. My parents though seemed to be coping quite well until he had a fall this May resulting in a head injury and a broken hip. Since then his decline has been rapid. At eighteen I could not wait to leave the parental nest but now oh how I wish that I lived somewhat nearer than an almost four hour train journey. Not near enough to nip down for the day although I have done it once. Since May I have been yo-yoing back and forth to give my mother some support as she looks after Dad. Dad was a primary school teacher in his working life, eventually becoming a headteacher. After years of teaching children the basics of literacy and numeracy I have found it heartbreaking to observe him slowly losing these skills.

I was one of those unenviable minority of children who was taught by their father ~ a most strange experience chatting to 'Dad' over a bowl of breakfast cereal before he morphed into 'Sir' calling out the register in the classroom less than half an hour later. Dad told me when I was much older that that he was unnecessarily strict with me at school, so much so that once some of my classmates formed a delegation to tell him so! I did not realise it at the time but he was a fine teacher and well respected by many of his former pupils. One most touching tribute to this is the fact that one of my former classmates, who has many years of experience of mental health nursing, is now spending a couple of hours twice a week with him as his carer. She considers it a privilege.

Leisure activities including gardening have taken a bit of a back seat these past few months. Last years garden plans remain by and large on the to do list, as what time I have had has been spent at the allotment, in a determined effort to keep on top of it and stave off those nasty letters and the possible threat of eviction. I will do another post about the allotment season very soon before it becomes a distant memory. In fact I have just remembered that I have already done a retrospective post in September here ! What I will just echo from that post now is that I never ever thought that I would not be able to face the thought of eating strawberries - this scenario arose several times this summer. I will do a forward planning allotment post very soon.

There have been some gardening related highlights though in 2010 and when I look back plenty to treaure. It was the year that we finally demolished 'The Temple' and we now have a snazzy new gazebo in its place thanks to himself's hard labour. I think that I started the story but never finished it so again one for another post.

Our first garden visit of the year took place in the chilly depths of February -  to the newly created nearby Winter Garden at Dunham Massey - hopefully a return visit will be on the cards soon. In late March we searched the Lake District in vain for Wordsworth's "host of golden daffodils". A much delayed spring meant that there will still snowdrops abound whilst the yellow trumpets were only just unfurling. In May we had the pleasure of revisiting the Malvern Show which is becoming an annual pilgrimage. It was a pleasure to meet up again with a couple of blogging acquaintances, as well as meeting many new blogging friends, some who had travelled from long distances.

In July himself and I travelled to France in our trusty old camper van, where amongst other adventures we spent a memorable day at the garden festival at Chaumont - sur - Loire (the above photo and the one at the top of this post were taken there). August started with a day out in the company of a dear friend visiting the Garden Museum in London, where there was a special exhibition featuring the life of the late Christopher Lloyd. In late August himself and I had the chance through my garden club to visit the gardens at Highgrove, the country home of the Prince of Wales, which was another most interesting and amusing experience. Within minutes of the tour starting the heavens opened for probably the most drenching shower I have ever encountered - oh what fun but at least it was warm rain. Towards the end of September we spent a week in North Wales, which although almost on our doorstep is an area we have sadly spent little time in - to be remedied in the future. Here we came across a hilltop garden - Caerau Uchaf, set in stunning surroundings, made our first trip to Portmeirion and also revisted the beautiful gardens at Powis Castle (below) ~ 

There have also been some most positive learning experiences during the year, through the monthly meetings of my gardening club and also from attending excellent propagation and garden photography workshops, at nearby Bluebell Cottage Gardens/Lodge Lane Nursery.

The most special garden memory though of 2011 for me took place in my parent's garden, where some of the family gathered towards the middle of August, to celebrate my parent's diamond wedding anniversary. Dad was well enough to thoroughly enjoy the day, to sit outside for a while and to smile with joy at the rose which he had bought with our assistance for Mum and which my sister and I had planted for him.

So as one year slowly slip - sides into another  I wish everyone a most happy, healthy and peaceful new year. May all that you grow in your gardens and allotments sing out loudly and longly in 2012.


  1. Gosh I cant believe it is as long ago as May when your father had his fall. He is doing well though. I have two work colleagues who have parents with dementia, both who had falls and then it was as if they just gave up and died within a couple of months. I cant imagine how hard it must be to know how intelligent and bright your father was, it must take an awful lot of patience. I hope 2011 is kinder to you and yours and that you manage to keep on top of the lottie and keep the feared letters at bay. See you at Malvern

  2. My grandpa had dementia and my uncle (his son) has it now. It's such a cruel illness. I know it's heart wrenching to see the decline. Your post shows just what you've managed to pack in to the year though. Happy New Year, I hope 2011 brings all you wish for. I've enjoyed reading all your posts and look forward to reading many more next year.

  3. Hi Anna,

    So sorry to hear about your father, I hope he is with you a while longer yet.

    I hope you have a very Happy New Year :)

  4. Anna, I am so sorry to hear about your father. Having watched my own mother go through a similar decline from a brain tumor in 2010, I know just how difficult it can be. Wishing you all the best for 2011. -Jean

  5. I'm so to hear about your dad. I have my daddy in a home 600 kilometre from here and it is really hard.

    I wish you a Happy, healthy, green and prosperous 2011.

    XX Tyra

  6. I so enjoyed reading this overview of your year Anna. Poignant and uplifting it has made me look forward to spring and the coming year with ever more optimism.

    I wish your father well in his illness and hope your mother and yourself find renewed strength in your care of him. It was lovely to hear that you old school friend is still so close to your parents, and now in a professional capacity too. It must be very reassuring for them.

    Happy holiday planning Anna and many best wishes that 2011 proves to be happy and peaceful for you and yours.


  7. I'm glad you mentioned your photography workshops because I was specially noticing how lovely the photos are as I read through the post.

    Wishing you and your family (especially your father) well for the coming year.


  8. Hi again Anna, like everyone above, I too enjoyed your review of the year and was sorry to hear about your Dad.

    My favourite photo has to be the last one. My thoughts went to you and your family on this very special day. Delighted for your Mum, you and your sister that your Dad was seen enjoying the day :-D

    It’s both sad and scary how many times dementia comes up in blogs. I have a friend whose 85 yr old Mum has it. The stories she has told me are quite sad like the browsing of photo albums where she doesn’t recognise her deceased husband one day and then her giving the photo a kiss another. She has fallen recently and at the moment is very agitated. She is in a home just a 15 min drive away but in some ways being so close my friend finds her frequent visits very hard. She was a proud lady and that hurts my friend too.

    I’m guessing your Dad will have good days and bad ones too. I wish him bright and happy days for as long as possible. I wish you bright visits when you do get to see him. I also wish you good health and happiness in 2011 :-)

  9. In many ways I find it hard to comment as this is so personal, however, suffice to say to say that although it is very sad to read, he has been a brilliant teacher and so many benefited from that.


All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at :


- Anna.