I attended the annual Thompson & Morgan press event this week when we were shown 33 new flower seeds, 54 new vegetable seed introductions, many new young plants – including a massively flowered dahlia ideal for both borders and patio pots – and fruit plants … 2012 is going to be a great year!
I was impressed by the vegetable planting in containers, it’s amazing what they have grown in pouches – imagine a full grown courgette plant hanging on a wall or a post! Dwarf beans, the list goes on and all so easy to harvest. You can have a kitchen garden on your patio! There were good frame supports for patio containers so you could grow peas, mangetout, beans, whatever … Very exciting.
We were given numerous packets of seeds of the new introductions and as I have many duplicates I am happy to send them to our readers free of charge. Just send a stamped addressed envelope to
In Balance Magazine, 50 Parkway, Welwyn Garden City, Herts AL8 6HH
with either Veg or Flower, or both if you would like either, written on the back and we’ll forward them on a first come first served basis. You’ll have to be quick though!
Here are just some of the new flower and vegetable seeds that caught my eye and I will be trying next year. They will all be available online from September and in the Thompson & Morgan 2012 Autumn catalogue.
Lettuce Lettony – a ball of a lettuce, mildew resistant, sweet tasting
Herb Basil Crimson King, special trial price 99p a packet
Cucumber Crystal Apple – incredible taste, golfball size, absolutely no bitterness
Swiss Chard Fantasy F1 Hybrid – excellent taste, spring and summer harvesting
Tomato Bajaja – this is prolific plant, capable of producing up to 700 fruits! Small juicy red fruit 8-10 grams in weight No sideshoots Broad bean de Monica – looked fab and gives high yield
Courgette Sunstripe F1 Hybrid, eager to try this, has a good pedigree
Dwarf french bean Laguna – a new one to try, we love these beans
Calendula Fruit Twist – a range of citrus colours
Hollyhock Halo Mixed good against a wall
Poppy Pink Fizz – this is so pretty with its frilled petals and seeds are edible
Chrysanthemum Polar Star – strikingly attractive
Californian Poppy Peach Sorbet – gorgeous
Phlox Moody Blues – this will be a good filler for the borders
Some of the plants available include two really stunning verbascums, blue lagoon and Clementine – a gold blossom, they will look fabulous together. Do explore the plants T&M offer, there will be some real stunners for next year.
And the fruit … We were knocked out by the apricot and patio trees, and dare I say a new strawberry – Sweetheart. I tasted the fruit – excellent … Will have to have some of those. And the raspberry Valentina – unusual apricot pink coloured – heavy cropper, upright canes, virtually spinefree, again must have some!
If you are keen on gardening and want some inspiration do try to get to the Open Days this weekend – open 10 to 4pm both Saturday and Sunday – I’m certain you will not be disappointed.
Val Reynolds Brown Editor
www.ourfrontgarden.com is the website we write about the ongoing renovation and care of a front garden in a garden city
Every winter I study gardening books and magazines, determined that the coming summer will be different from previous ones. The area which I like to think of as my herb garden will be recognisable as such, and the remainder of the garden will be in cunningly designed drifts of planting, colours and shapes artfully selected so as to complement each other. While still maintaining the unstructured look that I prefer, I’ll ensure that each plant knows its place and stays there, leaving me room to get between them for essential weeding and maintenance. This year, I’ll be in charge.
And every year the same thing happens all over again. In March, desperate for spring to begin, I stand outside staring at the ground, brown, bare and depressing – even worse than usual this time due to the extreme cold of last winter. I remind myself that nature will perform its usual tricks and perennials will appear as if by magic out of nowhere, while other plants will suddenly double in volume. But even so, there needs to be some selective new planting to fill these huge gaps. So, very disciplined, I plant just a few small plants and sigh when I see how large the gaps around them are still. In April, seeing that not much appears to have grown, I conclude that my memory has played me false, and desperately move clumps of the tougher perennials from elsewhere to hide the gaps.
But then when I pay my usual early morning trip to inspect the garden, I see that at last things are happening; plants which I’d thought had died off during the winter are putting out new growth. Amazingly, a couple of things which had “died” two years ago have been reincarnated with amazing vigour, and I spot several plants which have just arrived, apparently overnight and by their own volition; I certainly didn’t plant them as I haven’t a clue what they are! And a few days later there are more, and then even more.
And now in July you could almost get lost in my tiny garden. Self-seeded bamboos, golden angelica, bronze fennel and mauve verbena bonariensis have taken over and form a thicket standing six feet high. Marjoram and mint have grown into bushes, joining large clumps of prickly eryngium to form an almost impenetrable barrier, behind which lavender, rosemary and pink lavatera romp away. A solitary runner bean plant is growing into the overhanging ceanothus, raising the prospect of the sight of bean pods suspended among blue flowers. On a sunny day, bees are everywhere; at night it feels and smells like being in a wood.
Tidy it most certainly is not, in fact you could describe it with justification as messy. A friend kindly pronounced it “very lively”, and it’s undeniably full of life but who’s in charge this year? Not me, that’s for sure … maybe next year …
Janet Harmer Contributing author
www.ourfrontgarden.com is the website we write about the ongoing renovation and care of a front garden in a garden city
Belleville Rendez-Vous is an animated feature film available on video. What little dialogue there is, is in French in this French/Belgian/Canadian co-production
Watching it is quite an extraordinary experience because it is like no other commercially successful animated film.
The storyline is very basic: a lonely young boy, Champion, lives with his caring, club-footed grandmother, Mme Souza, who first of all gives him a young puppy, Bruno, and then a tricycle.
Years pass (in a flash) and suddenly we find that Champion has lived up to his name and is a front rider in the annual bicycle race, the Tour de France. What follows is a breathtaking adventure as Champion is kidnapped by ‘men in black’ and Mme Souza and Bruno give chase and find themselves in an urban sprawl that just might be Manhattan. They are aided by the Triplettes de Belleville, a trio of ageing female singers à la Andrews Sisters and against all odds, of course, they rescue him – a real triumph for the little guys.
But a jumble of words tumble out when trying to describe this film: anarchic, grotesque, warped, expressionistic, surreal … And more than one reviewer has read a deeper meaning into the film by declaring it decidedly anti-American. Well, perhaps.
The inhabitants of Belleville are shown largely to be overweight, over-helpful people and the city itself is one of hectic traffic chaos. But the singing sisters, the good guys, are also are given a most bizarre characteristic, that of catching frogs and eating them stewed and kebabbed – the whole frog that is, not just the legs! So maybe looking for a deeper meaning should be given a miss and the film should just be enjoyed for what it is, an extraordinary experience from start to finish. I confess that when it was first released in cinemas I gave it a miss as I’m not a lover of cartoons. But having been persuaded to watch the video I’ve seen the error of my ways. Try to catch this one if you can – it’s unlikely you’ll ever see anything quite like it again!
Belleville-Rendezvous is available on video at Amazon
Jeannette Nelson A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
It’s the season of picnics, eating outside, with jam sandwiches, lollies, ice cream … and wasps!
Now we like wasps, they do an excellent job of hunting out grubs on our garden plants, especially the cabbages. However they are a real menace by the end of July onwards. As the supply of grubs dries up when they metamorphose the wasps are suddenly are more interested in sweet things. They also forage for pollen and nectar and specially like the onion flowers.
We solved the problem with a Waspinator in our garden a couple of years ago and thought it might be useful to give the details again this summer.
It all started with the Victorians who thought of hanging up a dark grey bag that wasps see as a wasp nest and they keep away – they know they will be attacked by the occupants.
Instead of making our own bag, we bought a Waspinator and it is now very seldom we have a wasp in the vicinity of our patio table – we hang the Waspinator in the pergola beams over the table. The manufacturer claims the Waspinator clears an area of around 6 metre radius.
When the plums and greengages are coming up for picking we hang the Waspinator nearby which seems to keep the wasps away and there is less chance of our grasping an unseen wasp on a plum, which we have done and don’t want to repeat the experience. The nearest we can come to describing the sensation is like that of having a red hot needle stuck into you. Not at all nice and worrying if you have an allergic reaction.
We take the Waspinator with us when we go on picnics, holiday, anywhere we eat or drink outside. We filled it with bubble wrap to keep its shape – we could have used a balloon! Easy to put up, easy to take down and store ready for next year.
The Waspinator is available from Amazon
… And here’s a link to the Waspinator website that gives real insights into the nature and habits of wasps, very informative.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
www.ourfrontgarden.com is the website we write about the ongoing renovation and care of a front garden in a garden city
When it comes to art exhibitions, the term ‘blockbuster’ is somewhat overused these days, but it surely must apply to Tate Britain’s offerings
The Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition ran until 15 January 2006 and was filled with accessible, beautifully executed paintings. It drew on works from the eponymous painters as well as gems from lesser known or even scarcely known artists such as Bonnard, Vuillard and Warrener.
Arranged more or less in chronological order, from the 1880s to the 1900s, the works on display marked the beginning of modern art, particularly in form and composition. Some are extremely well-known, such as several of the ballet scenes by Degas, but the visitor was encouraged to see the very modernist concepts that were introduced by the artist, such as the cutting off a figure at the edge of the canvas or the horse’s head divided by a pole in the foreground of his Jockeys before the Start. These innovations give an almost photographic feel and were much tut-tutted over at the time.
The subject matter too marked a move to the modern era. The centrepiece of the exhibition is undoubtedly Degas’ L’Absinthe. Incredibly this familiar work was exhibited in London for the first time since 1893 when it caused a tremendous stir, with its two main figures drawn from Parisian lowlife looking drab, despondent and decadent. A whole room was devoted to this and just one other painting, with facsimiles for the visitor to read which draw on the ‘shock-horror’ responses of the nineteenth century critics.
The exhibition also highlighted the cross-fertilization between England and France during this period, and although it seems mainly the English that have benefited from the ideas of French artists, the influence of the somewhat underrated Walter Sickert across the Channel is well illustrated. He is often criticized for his use of dark colours, but there is a wide variety of styles in evidence here and this exhibition surely enhanced his reputation.
You may well recall another ‘trio’ of painters at Tate Britain in 2005, Turner, Whistler and Monet. It seems an exhibition of more than one great master is not a pre-requisite of gallery exhibitions (there was an exhibition devoted entirely to Constable in 2007) but they have all shown successfully the influences across borders and between styles in exhibitions that are both informative and enlightening.
This exhibition really was a feast for the eyes.
Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec, London and Paris 1870 – 1910 ran at Tate Britain and sponsored by British Land Company PLC
Review of Toulouse Lautrec and Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge at the Courtauld, London UK 2011
Jeannette Nelson, Art Critic
Megan Rix and her husband decided to take on a puppy for six months to train for people with disabilities. What Megan didn’t realise was just how deeply they would fall in love with the sweet natured puppy and how much of a wrench it was to give it back six months later. They then took on another puppy, Freddy, and fell in love again and were broken hearted when he too was moved on for further training.
Then, one Christmas, little Traffy came along …
This is a book we couldn’t put down and are sure it will be a bestseller in no time.
Published by Michael Joseph/Penguin, paperback £6.99, available from Amazon
You may be interested in our new seven part series about training Winnie by her owner Claire.
Families are rarely easy. Parenting, as we all know, does not come with a comprehensive User Guide to cover all eventualities. And life moves on – “It wasn’t like this in my day”, we cry (a bit too often in my case!). Put all those factors together – plus add a big dollop of self-sacrifice, resentment and frustration – and ‘VOILA’, welcome to the world of Step-Parenting …
Okay, it’s not entirely doom and gloom. There are moments of loveliness, of joy even, times when the step-parent and the step-child(ren) are happy together, bonded. But too often it feels like an impossible undertaking for all involved. I speak for myself, of course, and I’m sure there are plenty of Step-Mum’s and Step-Dad’s out there who skip through it all with relative ease. But I’ve read enough on the subject to know I’m not alone in my struggles. There are many (Step) voices in the wilderness, equally anguished. I’m also very aware that plenty have it far far tougher than I do; more complex family units, more animosity between ex-partners, etc, and so maybe I should stop the whingeing … but then this would be a very short article!
I have a son from a previous relationship who is almost six years old, and my husband has a daughter from his previous relationship, nine months younger than my son, who spends five days/nights out of every fortnight with us. We have been together since the children were very young, so they don’t remember the situation being any different. From what I’ve read, this all helps enormously. Our situation is ‘normal’ to the kids, they know no different. Yet, despite this, we struggle. Here are some of the classic battle scenes other stepfamilies may recognise:
“You’re not my real mummy”: I had hoped this would be reserved for The Teenage Years, but sadly not. I think it was first uttered (well, screamed) when my step-daughter was about 3. A whole decade early! That’s really bad form; I wasn’t prepared. She used to call me ‘Mummy Lisa’, but suddenly I was cruelly demoted to ‘Not My Real Mummy’. It shouldn’t hurt, but sometimes it just does… Needless to say, I avoid any fairy tales that have the archetypal Wicked Stepmother in – no need to fuel the fires!
“I don’t want you, I want my daddy”: Typically, this one stings when it’s spat out amidst angry tears when my step-daughter has woken up in the early hours crying after a bad dream or suchlike. When ‘daddy’ is asleep. When ‘Not My Real Mummy’ is the only one available (though a bit bleary-eyed). I’m afraid I am guilty of replying ‘Well, tough, you’ve got me’ on occasion – I’m sure Supernanny would be appalled.
“I’m going to tell my mummy/daddy about you”: This one usually follows a telling off. It sometimes appears in its extended form ‘I’m going to tell my mummy/daddy about you being so horrible to me all the time’. Nothing shocking, but when you’ve picked said child up from school, played with her, fed and watered her, and have only told her off when she’d been incredibly rude/kicked the dog/thrown her jelly across the table (delete as appropriate) it does grate. Just a little.
Step-parenting can put even the strongest relationship under a huge amount of strain, and I’ve read of many step families that have fallen by the wayside when the tensions became unbearable. But I’ve also been cheered by the number of step families that have risen to the various challenges and stayed the course. With a bit of luck (and a lot of patience and devotion), we’ll be one of those!
Some of the resources that have kept me sane (ish) as a step-parent are:
The Step-Parents Parachute – Flora McEvedy
How To Be A Happy Step Mum – Dr Lisa Doodson
Forums can be good too – some of the discussions on Mumsnet were useful to me in the earlier stages
The author’s name has been withheld to protect the identities of the children. Any correspondence from readers will be forwarded via the editor.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
For me, small is most definitely beautiful when it comes to art exhibitions. That’s not to say that I give the blockbusters of the National Gallery or the Tates a wide berth; on the contrary, the current exhibition of the art of Joan Miro at Tate Modern is one of the best days out in a gallery I’ve had for a long time. But perhaps that’s the point; it really needs a day out to do it justice, and it’s not helped by the fact that once you’ve bought your ticket you’re not allowed to leave for a breather and come back again. There really ought to be more thought given to this as the art would be appreciated all the more if it didn’t have to be swallowed in one gulp.
But back to the Courtauld, set in a wing of Somerset House. The temporary exhibitions are hung on the top floor and occupy a mere two rooms. Consequently, the number of artworks is limited but as befits such a prestigious institution, they are most judiciously chosen.
A few months ago I was bewitched by various depictions of Cezanne’s Card Players, and now it’s the turn of Toulouse-Lautrec to capture my imagination and the spirit of the Belle Epoque with his compositions of his friend Jane Avril.
I, like so many of my student friend in the sixties, had various posters of Jane Avril and other dancers from Paris’s Moulin Rouge adorning my walls. So I was expecting the work to be familiar and indeed it was. Some of you may also remember the Athena representations of Jane Avril and also of Mlle Eglantine’s troupe.
But the exhibition is more than just an evocation of the familiar. It shows up the strong bond between artist and subject, a fact borne out by the accompanying notes which tell of their friendship and also hint at the closeness which developed because they both had to endure a physical disability. The painter had dysfunctional legs, a condition that his family took a long time to come to terms with. Jane Avril, it is believed, suffered from St Vitus’ Dance, as it was called then, which caused involuntary movements of the limbs; she found that dancing could keep this under control and so took up the profession.
The real fascination of the exhibition lies in those works that are not of her as a professional but instead show her, in sketches and in fully painted works, as a rather solemn, gaunt young woman away from the stage. And the viewer is also struck by the striking modernity of Toulouse-Lautrec’s fin-de-siecle oeuvre, particularly in the effect achieved by simple lines and brush-strokes.
In the smaller of the two rooms are works by contemporary artists and more information about the professional and private life of Jane Avril. This complements Toulouse-Lautrec’s work well and helps make the whole exhibition easier to appreciate and enjoy. It runs until 18 September 2011 and the entrance ticket also includes the permanent works in the gallery, which include some stunning impressionist greats. It all makes for a delectable treat.
Opening hours: Daily 10am to 6 pm, last admission 5.30 pm
Admission Adult £6, concessions £4.50, free admission Mondays 10 am to 2 pm except public holidays, at all times for under 18s, full time UK students and unwaged. Information on Gallery Talks and Study Day see www.courtauld.ac.uk
See our review of blockbuster exhibition in 2006 Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
Photography Pintail Media
We enjoy hearing about successful projects with a strong social theme and Tropical Wholefoods is just that with the bonus of selling great products. We love their dried mangoes and there’s a whole range of dried fruit, mushrooms and even vanilla, to choose from available in good healthfood stores, Oxfam, Fairtrade stores and online. You can enter the giveaway of bundles of gorgeous Tropical Wholefoods healthy Fairtrade goodies at the bottom of the page.*
Adam Brett grew up in Uganda but went to the UK during the Amin period and subsequent civil war. In the late 1980s, he returned to Uganda as an adult with a plan: to enable Ugandan farmers to produce quality sun dried fruits using a low tech, low cost solar drier he had designed.
Teaming up with a Ugandan friend, Angello Ndyaguma and his English partner Kate Sebag, Adam set up the fairtrade company Fruits of the Nile. It distributed solar driers to farmers at cost, trained them in using and constructing them and then bought the resulting dried fruits at guaranteed good prices from the farmers. Soon, considerable numbers of farmers began working with the driers, producing gorgeous sun dried pineapple, bananas and mangoes for onward sale.
Back in England, Adam and Kate marketed the products under the label Tropical Wholefoods, initially from market stalls and then from a factory in south London. They quickly built up a small but dedicated fan club for Tropical Wholefoods products. People were attracted by the fresh and powerful flavour of the dried fruits – especially because they were 100% natural with no added preservatives or sugars. Because the fruits were dried immediately after harvesting, they preserved extremely good flavours. The buying public also liked the simplicity and directness of the operation and the clear benefits that Tropical Wholefoods was able to deliver back to farmers in Uganda.
Adam and Kate were able to sell directly to retail shops in London and attracted the custom of larger distributors in the health food and delicatessen trade. According to Kate, “Running a packaging factory and doing delivery runs around the capital wasn’t exactly what we imagined we would be doing when we started the business. We thought we would be living in Uganda, but we found that intensive marketing and product control in UK was necessary to build our brand.” With Adam and Kate deeply involved in building a market in the UK, day to day control of the Uganda operation passed to Angello Ndyaguma. Supported by a number of Ugandan aid agencies, Angello undertook extensive training sessions with farmers in solar drying operations and business management. Today, there are about 100 different solar drying sites in Uganda, who have organised themselves into six different Community Based Organisations.
In many cases, people operating solar driers use their own fresh fruit to fill their driers, adding value to fresh fruit. Solar drier owners also buy fresh fruit from other farmers, therefore providing them too with a market for their produce. Both fresh fruit farmers and solar dryer operators are certified Fairtrade by the international Fairtrade Organisation FLO.
After nearly 20 years of operation Fruits of the Nile estimates that at least 1,000 adults are benefiting from the solar drying operations they have initiated and trading with around Uganda. The most common use people have for their additional income is to pay children’s secondary school fees and medical bills, neither of which are freely available in Uganda. One of the producer groups, Nakatundu Muslim Farmers Group, has also been able to send one of their founder members, Umaru Wasswa, back to school:
“Thanks to solar drying our pineapple, I have not only been able to send my child to a good city boarding school, I also have now managed to go back to school to advance on my academic standards as I had dropped out when my dad passed away,” says Umaru.
Farmers are also able to improve their farms and homesteads by being involved in solar drying. When people expand their solar drying operations, they often incorporate drying fans powered by solar electricity into the dryer, so speeding up their fruit processing. This also provides the opportunity to install solar lighting and power into their houses and community centres. Since very few villages in rural Africa or Asia have access to the national electrical grid, this is a great resource to have. As Umaru comments, “Now I no longer use candles but electricity in a rural Ugandan village!”
Tropical Wholefoods’ good example in Uganda led other fairtrade businesses in developing countries to get in touch and Adam and Kate are now trading and doing business development work with partners in Burkina Faso, West Africa, Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Back in the UK, Tropical Wholefoods teamed up with Fullwell Mill in 2001. Initially a small Sunderland bakery employing people with special needs, Fullwell Mill has now expanded to a staff of 35 who pack all Tropical Wholefoods products as well as baking their dried fruit and cereal bars and making energy and health food bars for other companies.
Fullwell Mill now owns the Tropical Wholefoods brand, and Kate and Adam are directors of FM along with original founders Richard Friend and Peter Fawcett. This merger has left Adam and Kate freer to concentrate on development work overseas as well as marketing work in the UK.
In 2003, Fullwell Mill was awarded first place in the North East for the Inner City 100 Index – an index launched by Gordon Brown MP, the New Economic Foundation and Royal Bank of Scotland to reward the fastest growing and best run inner city companies in the UK. Nationally, FM was sixth overall. This is not the only prize to have been collected by the Tropical Wholefoods/FM Foods team. In 1998, they were the winners of the World Vision Award for Development, when the judges commented that “Tropical Wholefoods are an outstanding entrepreneurial team, giving heart to people who would not normally aspire to a stake in the quality end of the food market of the developed world.” In 2000, they won the National Westminster and Directory of Social Change Enterprising Solutions Award. In 2010, FM were winners of Sainsburys’ Own Brand Supplier Awards – Best for Corporate Responsibility.
Tropical Wholefoods website has an excellent recipe section, we specially liked the mango chutney and amoretti biscuits recipes.
Tropical Wholefoods products are available in all good health food stores, Oxfam stores, Fairtrade shops and catalogues and of course at our favourite online supplier GoodnessDirect
Call 0845 258 2781/2782 for details of your local stockist
*WE HAVE TEN BUNDLES OF Gorgeous Tropical Wholefoods health Fairtrade goodies to GIVEAWAY to IN BALANCE READERS
Last date of entry 30 August 2011 One entry per household
Our article about Online Shopping highlighted the service offered by GoodnessDirect who provided a £35 voucher to give away to an In Balance reader.
The winner was P Gibson of London. Congratulations! Have fun selecting your goodies from the GoodnessDirect website!
By the way we will soon be adding some wheat free recipes using rice flour available from GoodnessDirect.
If you have any recipes suitable for anyone with a particular food intolerance let us know and we could add it to our Recipe Book.
If you are interested in other In Balance giveaways go to the Giveaways Section