That spring feeling

At a work event this week, I got chatting to a colleague about blogs, specifically food blogs, and how blogging used to be huge and now is not so, which we agreed was a great shame. It reminded me how much I used to love writing mine and connecting with other bloggers – taking my camera out, composing photos and the act of writing creatively was such a pleasure, so I made a quiet promise to myself to try to fit in a blog post this weekend. It’s been so long since I looked my WordPress account (almost a year since I last posted) that I was taken aback to see that my blog still has people visiting – hello if you are reading this! The WP platform has changed and buttons and menus are not where they used to be, so it’ll be amazing if this actually appears as a post rather than disappearing into the ether.

acoastalplot began in 2015 as a record of renovating our garden by the sea, plus an outlet for processing my thoughts on motherhood, working as a freelance editor, the wider world and so on. Since then, my children have grown up – my eldest child is now living and working in London, the middle one is in his second year at university and the youngest turns 18 next weekend; I’ll soon be a mum to three adults! We still live in the same (much quieter) house, but our garden is sadly rather neglected, mostly due to the fact that I’ve been working full time in a very busy job for the past few years and we have had other priorities.

Big, difficult life issues, plus the pandemic, have dominated in recent years and left me completely blocked, creatively, emotionally and everything-y. Other than walking the dogs (because I had to) I gradually stopped doing most of the things that were good for me. It was easy to withdraw from being sociable (as we all had to during the lockdowns), but I also stopped doing yoga, I barely picked up a trowel or my trusty secateurs and I stopped using my camera. I still posted occasionally on Instagram, but I even deleted the app from my phone at the start of 2022.

That was until last weekend when the sun shone and I noticed flowers in the garden all looking so, so beautiful. I’ve also been reading ‘More than a woman‘ by Caitlin Moran. Have you read it? She articulates the middle-aged women’s world so brilliantly – I have laughed out loud and cried while reading this book; it tells me I am not alone. If anyone reading this knows her well, please give her a massive hug from me.

And the terrible news of the godawful situation in Ukraine and all the people affected by this insane, shocking war has woken up the outrage in me, that’s for sure. I have given myself a massive boot up the backside, a severe talking to and got a grip. Our little family is out of the stormier waters for now, and on some days, like today, I feel able to think and plan and be optimistic, which is a privilege many fellow humans do not have. Optimism may seem inappropriate in these dark times, but we have to hope, don’t we? Otherwise what else is there? We might as well drink all the gin, eat all the cakes, not sort the recycling and not care about anything at all.

Anyway, looking forward with a more positive attitude… There is to be a village garden safari this summer and while there is no way David and I have time to get the garden in a fit state to take part this year, it has reignited the spark. Our greenhouse-cum-potting shed collapsed in storms last winter and has sat looking very forlorn in the corner of the back garden for over a year, so we have asked a friend to help us rebuild it and make it bigger. This is the best, happiest decision we’ve made for a long time and it feels good. We might even have space for a little log burner and a chair out there … Bliss.

I also think David has agreed it would be a good idea to move some furniture round, even swap a couple of rooms, which is a Big Deal. People can generally be divided into those who love a move round and those who don’t; I’ve not met anyone who sits on the fence over this. I am definitely in the former camp (I find a move, sort, tidy and spruce up cathartic) and it’s fair to say that David would rather do anything except that. Watch this space.

And there’s an eighteenth birthday celebration to plan for our girl. There will be a special lunch with two of her dearest friends and brothers one day and an afternoon tea party with her school friends the next. I think we might have also promised a party-party in the summer. We are a little giddy with gladness to be able to celebrate that we’re probably going a little over the top, but, hey, this is the important stuff, isn’t it? Showing our love for the people we love. Love and hope in the springtime when the world is a scary place.

Sending love and hope out there to you, too, if you need it. Thank you for visiting.

These photos were taken with my phone, so are not the best quality (my camera battery needs charging!).

In a Vase on Monday: a day late

Hello, hello. I hope you are keeping well. These beautiful Japanese anemones – which although are thugs in our garden, I forgive because they are so elegant and poised – were picked on Sunday, photographed yesterday (Monday) and uploaded today. I picked the pears, too, so they made a cameo appearance. I had full intentions of joining Cathy’s vase gathering yesterday but I hope she won’t mind me being a day late 🙂 Her vase this week is a riot of colourful zinnias in contrast to my very simple offering, so do click on the link to her blog for a blast of colour and to find links to many other beautiful vases from around the world.

My head is a jumble of everything that’s been going on here lately and all the thoughts that pass through a middle-aged mother of offspring who are on the cusp of flying the nest. After six months of having everyone at home (because of you-know-what), the boys will soon be going off to university – Thomas for his third year and Ollie for his first – and because of you-know-what, it is unlikely we will see them again before Christmas. They’re excited and anxious – it’s not going to be the usual uni experience – and I’m anxious and very emotional because I am going to miss them both very much indeed. Harriet is not looking forward to being the only child at home, nor is she particularly looking forward to starting sixth form (but she is happy at the thought of studying three subjects instead of 11). We are all dealing with yoyo-ing emotions on a grand scale.

I’m in the middle of two weeks of holiday (at home) and the heatwave that was bathing the UK in glorious sunshine earlier in August disappeared at the beginning of it. It’s mostly been chilly and wet and windy but I have managed some energetic and therapeutic clearing in the garden (my scratched arms are the scars of a perpetual war with brambles) and cut back the lavender. I’ve picked a load of raspberries and made jam and a raspberry and yoghurt cake (from Diana Henry’s Simple; I used orange zest and juice instead of lemon which was delish) and I’ve roasted loads of plums and greengages which are now tucked into the freezer to use in winter. I’ve stripped all the leaves off my tomato plants in an effort to get them to ripen – they seem very slow this year – and I’ve pulled and roasted the last of the beetroot. I’ve also been perusing the Sarah Raven catalogue and made a list of tulips – I’m going for ‘La Belle Epoque’, ‘Slawa’, more ‘Ballerinas’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ (because you can never have too many of these scented beauties), ‘Copper Image’ and ‘Spring Green’, which are meant to be highly perennial. I still dream of being able to cut armfuls in spring to bring indoors.

It’s back to work on Monday (still working mostly from home) but in the meantime I will be trying to make the most of my remaining holiday, seeing friends, catching up on household chores, as much gardening as I can fit in, shopping with my boys for uni stuff and trying to prepare all my children for their new academic years in this strange and confusing Covid world.
Wish me luck.

Best intentions (and random thoughts)

I didn’t grow these (obvs!) but they still made me inordinately happy. It’s the colours.

Lop-sided houseplant and listing hyacinth – a metaphor for so many things.

Solitary Anemone coronaria ‘Syphide’ – very exciting. Hopefully there’ll be more to come.

:: The weather was glorious this weekend, teasing us with a hint of spring – warm sunshine, hardly any breeze, tweeting birds, calm glistening sea… It was blissful and motivated me to actually clean a few windows. (I know! Only on the inside, mind.) I thoroughly spring-cleaned the kitchen, scrubbing all the ledges, shelves and surfaces, putting stuff away, even cleaning the cooker hood grills in the dishwasher. It was all sparkling for about half an hour before everyone came to have a look and mess it up again.

:: On Sunday, we finally got round to pruning the apple and pear trees we planted last spring. It felt a little like vandalism, slicing off branches covered in fat buds, but I know it will lead to stronger, better fruiting trees. I brought all the fruity wands indoors and stuck them in a couple of vases of water. Hopefully they’ll come into leaf and possibly even blossom. You never know.

:: The balmy weekend weather brought out the wildlife. I saw my first butterfly of the year on Saturday – a pristine primrose-yellow brimstone energetically fluttering along the hedgerow. It wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to take a photo, unfortunately. But the bees on the snowdrops did; they were lazily buzzing about in the sunshine (see photos above). It’s been foul weather for the past couple of days, though, and I’ve been worrying about all those insects who were out and about. How will they survive? Hopefully, they’ve found cosy crevices to shelter in. The weatherman told of icy blasts coming from the Arctic later in the week. Winter is not over yet.

:: We’ve been planning our summer holiday. The boys will have both finished major exams and will need a break (as will we all), so we’re heading off for two weeks to the beautiful island of Mallorca. We had a few happy holidays there when the children were small and they’re excited to be going back. I’m excited, too, and hope it will live up to our memories. To be honest, I’ll be happy just to lie by a pool and read for as long as possible.

:: My parenting skills have been sorely stretched lately. Is the first child always the test one? The one we make mistakes over and possibly mess up, like the first pancake? (That’s probably not the best analogy…) If anyone tells you that parenting gets easier as children get older, give them a wary look – I’ve been at this game for 18 years and three months and I’m often none the wiser. If anyone has any magic tips for keeping a boy going to the final highest hurdle in this gruelling long-distance race called school, I’d be grateful.

I hope all’s well with you. More anon…




Into the blue

Ladybird on bluebell photo courtesy of my daughter 🙂

No, this is not a comment on the local election results. This blog will be a politics-free zone for the next five weeks (and possibly longer). It’s just Too Much (if I hear ‘strong and stable’ again I might have to throw the radio into the sea)…

Hey, how about some lovely bluebells instead?! These photographs are from last Saturday and a walk in a nearby ancient wood. It is full of bluebells at this time of year (and people doing the obligatory ‘in among the bluebells’ photoshoots). We were lucky with the weather and we almost had the woods to ourselves to soak up the atmosphere. There is nothing quite like it – dappled sunlight through the trees onto a sea of blue (purple) flowers, rich birdsong, woodpeckers drumming, bees buzzing, the sweet scent of the flowers… We took deep breaths and heaved deep, happy sighs – it was wonderful.

I drove over to East Grinstead yesterday evening to hear Steve Biddulph (of the books ‘Raising Boys’, ‘Raising Girls’, and ‘The Complete Secrets of Happy Children’ fame) give a talk about girls’ mental health and raising daughters well. It was pretty powerful stuff. It seems that since companies started marketing to girls as young as 8 years old, there has been an increase in girls suffering from anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and so on. Of course, there are many other factors and it’s not nearly so simple but his assertion is that ‘the media’ (advertising, music videos, tv shows, films) teaches girls that looks are their most important aspect, that their body will never be good enough, that sex is something to be traded for belonging and/or power and other depressing stuff.

He wanted us to leave the theatre angry (in a good way), to be fired up, a vanguard for the third wave of feminism and he did a pretty good job! He’s written a book (of course) called ’10 Things Girls Need Most’ to help parents help their daughters and it has some hugely sound suggestions. I’m not going to give you a full review as I haven’t finished reading it but if you have a daughter, it’s definitely worth a look.

Do you have exciting weekend plans? I hope it’s going to be fairly quiet here as I’ve got a load of seedlings to pot on and some more seeds to sow, and more digging to prepare another area for planting. It’s seven weeks (seven weeks!) until the village Garden Safari. Yikes.

Have a good one.


Summer’s end

Rain is lashing against the windows as I sit here writing. Proper driving rain. Our little black cat appeared just now and jumped up onto my lap – soggy paws! She’s now settled onto ‘her’ chair in the kitchen. The black-and-white one is fast asleep curled up on the back of the settee in the lounge. For weeks now, they’ve been out all day snoozing in the long grass or gazing hopefully into the pond but today they’re back to their wet-weather habits of mostly snoozing indoors. It’s been so dry and sunny for weeks and weeks that I’d got used to seeing them only at mealtimes and I’d got used to leaving the doors and windows wide open, wandering into the garden in bare feet, perching on the front steps in the sunshine with my morning coffee… Reliable stretches of hot, dry weather are unusual in the UK and it was lovely while it lasted but the season has finally turned in east Kent. Autumn has arrived.

There’s been plenty of ‘family life’ going on here recently: we’ve had a birthday (middle son – 15); a sleepover in a tent outside (daughter and three friends – loud); I’ve had two school information meetings for different year groups on two consecutive evenings (hmm); and I’ve driven to and from the station so often lately for my brood that I’m thinking of getting one of those signs for the top of my car. You know, the one that says ‘taxi’.

I was so wrung-out by parenting this week that I couldn’t wait for David, my comrade-in-arms, to get home. We met in a local school car park where our middle child was to be presented with his Bronze Certificate in a mass presentation of Duke of Edinburgh Awards. A quick hug and a dash through the rain to the hall where we sat for 2 hours watching the presentations, occasionally whispering to each other as we were treated to amazing piano-playing by a talented boy, a confident girl singing while playing her guitar and an Interesting Dance by two girls. I’m not sure any of the parents knew what to make of that. I rushed off afterwards to collect our daughter from her tap class and we rendezvoused back home for a late supper of omelette and chips and beer. What a week.

I’d love to think we had an empty weekend lined up but we have four teenagers arriving this afternoon for a belated birthday sleepover. We had planned kayaking, campfire and camping in the garden but I suspect it’ll be more like film-watching indoors, perhaps a bonfire in the garden if the rain stops, and sleeping indoors. We’ve been invited to a house-warming party up the road so we’ll hopefully put in an appearance for a couple of hours. What could possibly go wrong? Don’t answer that 🙂

It’s meant to be dry tomorrow and I’m planning to get out into the garden. A good dose of cutting back, pruning or digging usually restores my inner peace although I am now slightly worried about all the trees I’ve pruned over the years after reading an article in a newspaper cutting from my mum. German forester Peter Wohlleben says trees live in communities, some can warn each other of danger and react when hurt, almost as if they feel pain. If you think about it, this isn’t as bonkers as it may seem and now I’m fretting about the poor cherry tree that we chopped back last year. Will our descendants look back on our barbaric ways with trees? Bonsai-owners may be locked up!

Oh yes, village show news
My tea loaf came first! The lovely judge said it was one of the best she’d tasted. Good old Mary Berry (I used her recipe for Bara Brith). Middle son won the Junior Adult baking class with his cheese scones and David’s cottage loaf (which didn’t look like one) came third. My flowers came second out of two entries (ha) and our raspberries were disqualified – we’d failed to read the show tips which said that the calyx had to be attached. Oh well. The tea loaf triumph more than made up for that.


Have you been listening to The Archers? At last – thank goodness!!! I hope we can get back to crop rotations and Bert’s courgettes for a while now; I’m an emotional wreck.

Wishing you a super-duper weekend.

The accidental idler

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The geraniums haven’t realised that it’s late November.

Miscanthus seedhead.

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More geraniums and bare branches.

My son’s 16th birthday was a very happy day. We took the cake round to my parents after school, so mum could join in the celebrations. The cake is a family favourite – chocolate coated with chocolate ganache (Nigella Lawson’s Birthday Cake from ‘How to Eat’).

It’s been very cold this weekend – proper wintery temperatures – and we’ve had the woodburner going almost constantly. Toasty.


Another weekend; another trip to the hospital… I was rushing up some steps to answer the phone on Saturday, tripped and slammed my foot into the wooden riser. A lot of shouting/swearing and hopping around ensued. By Sunday morning my big toe had swollen and was sporting a lovely green-purple bruise. Hmmm… A trip to the local minor injuries unit and an x-ray confirmed that it was indeed broken and it’s now taped up like a comedy toe to keep it straight and the only shoes I can fit into are my old trainers.

So, we now have two limping family members which caused momentary confusion when I took my middle son for his follow-up at the fracture clinic this morning. We’ll be on first-name-terms before we know it. His foot is healing but he’ll be on crutches for a while longer and definitely no contact sports until the new year.

I can drive and potter about at home but there’s to be no proper walking. And I have to sit and keep it elevated as much as possible this week. Major downside = no walking the dog. Major upside = no shopping. Luckily, lovely friends and my dad have offered to help with the dog-walking and I have the trusty internet for the food shop. I just need to work on my sanity and adjust my calorie intake. I don’t know about you but I find it particularly difficult to step away from the biscuits when it’s cold and I’m bored. Must. Try. Hard.
I don’t have any paid work this week, so I’m planning to catch up on reading, write lots of lists (there’s a busy time coming soon), sketch some planting ideas and try (again) to get to grips with crocheting. More on that soon (or maybe not!). Wishing you a very good week.

A short break


Tomorrow, very early in the morning, I am going away for five whole days On My Own. Well, not strictly alone but without the family. A couple of girlfriends and I are off to visit a friend in southern Spain and it will be the longest I’ve been away since I had the children. I’ve had the occasional weekend away but I’ve not been overseas without them and I’ve not been away for more than a couple of nights. It feels very strange to be packing my bag.

Military planning is required: copious lists written, instructions given, fridge stocked. It’s slightly complicated by the fact that David now works away but my lovely parents are stepping in until he can get home. I had been feeling slightly overwhelmed by the planning involved (probably over-planning on my part) until I had a lovely message from my friend in Spain to say that the pool is very swimmable and we are to make ourselves completely at home – ‘wander about, swim, do nothing, do something, whatever you feel’. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I am taking a couple of books and a notebook, and no electronic devices other than my phone. Adios amigos x

Autumn light



I love the sunlight at this time of year, especially in the late afternoon. There’s a gorgeous softness, depth and warmth to it. Other than to sweep up a tonne of leaves and pick up windfalls, I haven’t spent much time in the garden lately but I did pop out this afternoon to catch a little sun.

Miscanthus flowers. These plants are from a chunk chopped off a big clump of Miscanthus in our previous garden.
Miscanthus sinensis: these plants were propagated from a chunk taken from a big clump in our previous garden before we moved here. We originally bought this beautiful ornamental grass about 12 years ago from The Plantsman’s Preference, a fabulous nursery in Norfolk that specialises in hardy geraniums and ornamental grasses. I can’t remember the exact variety of Miscanthus – the label is long gone – but there are over 40 of varying sizes and colours on their website.

The raised planters either side of the steps have really filled out and are looking rather overgrown and chaotic. Annual grasses, including Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’, Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, rudbeckias and snapdragons (emergency planting for the garden safari back in June) have grown together in a frothy mass.

This is one of the planting combinations I’m most pleased with this year – Verbena rigida (which has been flowering for months), a blue/purple geranium of unknown variety, Gaura ‘The Bride’, a bronze fennel (that appeared out of nowhere) and more annual grasses.

As much as I dislike the invasive habit of Japanese anemones, you can’t deny they look completely beautiful when they’re flowering en masse.


In other news… It’s been a busy, long week. As well as the first full week of Back to School with all three children having to be out of the house by 7.35am, David has started a new job which means he’s away from home for most of the week. We’re all getting used to this and settling in to our new routines which means Being Organised: packing school bags the night before; eating a good breakfast to keep you going throughout the day when you’re too busy ‘socialising’ at lunchtime; keeping on top of increasing amounts of homework after a long summer of not picking up a pen; going to bed early… We’ve managed one week. I wonder how long it’ll last!

I hope you’ve had a good week and are enjoying some September sunshine wherever you are.


My sunny middle son is 14 (14!!!) today. He requested burgers for dinner and a coffee and walnut birthday cake. I was pleased to oblige.




The here and now


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I have plans to transform that shed… It needs some new boards and a lick of paint. A weekend project coming up soon.

The French beans are finally moving up the poles.
The French beans have taken a munching from the snails but they’re finally moving up the poles.

Gladioli – they appeared out of the blue from soil we brought in. Very pleasing.
Gladioli – they appeared out of the blue from soil we shipped in last year. Very pleasing.

This rose is a climber we rescued from beside the old back door. It was in a wooden barrel and very leggy. I chopped it right down then replanted it here. It's covered in bright orange flower buds.
This rose is a climber with small, bright orange flowers. It was in an old wooden barrel when we moved here and was one very tall main stem with leaves and a few flowers at the top. I chopped it right down when we replanted it and I’m delighted that it seems very happy.

Erigeron on the steps.
Erigeron on the steps. We have to tread carefully.

I’ve been feeling rather wistful today, thinking of the days when the children were small. What started me off was listening to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Four Thought’ yesterday evening about a couple who sold their house, gave up their teaching jobs and went to live in a caravan with their two young daughters. Their aim was to do what’s most important in life – to spend proper time together. They’d felt that their lives had become completely unbalanced. (If you’d like to listen to it, it’s here.) It’s something I wish we’d been brave enough to do when the children were small. They’re too old now. I don’t think they would countenance being whisked out of school and away from their friends. And, anyway, the boys wouldn’t fit on caravan beds.

I know everyone tells you – when you’re in the thick of small children with toilet training, broken nights, toddler tantrums – to try to enjoy it, that it goes so quickly. But it DOES. I’d so love to pop back for a while to soak it all in again – the cuddles, the sitting on your lap while you read a book together, the small hands in mine – which is ridiculous and self-indulgent (and a bit greedy)! What I should be doing is enjoying them Right Now because they’re still wonderful and they still need us, just in different ways. And much sooner than we’re prepared for they will leave home.

My eldest came into the kitchen as I was cooking dinner the other day, ‘I’ve had a really productive hour, mum’, he announced. ‘I’ve sorted out my rucksack, tidied my art folder and had a power nap!’ Ah, 15-year-old boys. Aren’t they great?!


Is it really almost summer?

On a day like today – rainy, windy, chilly, low light –it definitely does not feel as though it is almost summer. We actually resorted to lighting the wood-burning stove earlier; in previous years we’ve been in t-shirts and flip-flops by now. It’s June tomorrow, for goodness’ sake!

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Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ in yesterday’s late afternoon sunshine.

Yesterday was not so bad and we did manage to make some progress along the back-wall border. It’s taken us a while to clear the huge pile of rocks, weeds, tree seedlings and bathroom sinks(!) and David has been re-laying the brick edging and bits of the path. As the mortar has dried, I’ve been following along doing the planting.

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This border is an experiment… Rather than plant in groups of three or five, I’ve repeated plants every so often. I hope the overall effect will eventually be lush foliage with pops of colour – blues, oranges and reds. It might not work, it might look like a right dog’s dinner, but hopefully it’ll look lovely! I’ll show you the results over the next few months as the plants fill out.

I’ve used plants we’ve grown from seed (annual grasses Setaria ‘Lowlander’ and Panicum elegansTithonia rotundiflora ‘Torch’, snapdragons which I hope are  red); plants rescued and divided from elsewhere in the garden (blue or white geraniums, heuchera, and red achilliea); and plants we bought earlier in the month (Nicotiana, Geum ‘Tangerine’, Alchemilla mollis, Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ and Aconitum).

I also re-planted an agapanthus that we’ve had in a pot for about six years. It didn’t flower last year, so we thought it might get a new lease of life in the ground.

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They’re meant to like having their roots restricted but this poor thing was so pot-bound – practically all root and no soil at all! There was no pulling it apart so we ended up sawing into four.

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Fingers crossed that it survives the shock and lives to flower again.

In other news… The children go back to school this week for the 8-week-long wind-down to the summer holidays. My daughter reckons she’ll be doing art and rehearsing for the school show as the SATs are over. Hmm, not sure about that. My middle son has end-of-year exams all week and has been revising hard this half term (much to our delight and astonishment). And the eldest is going to find being back in the classroom rather a shock after his trip to Barcelona and a half-term holiday lolling about at home. Here’s to a good week and more seasonal weather.