It is far too early to book things for Christmas BUT

Yes, I know it is FAR TOO EARLY to start thinking about Christmas.  However, quite a few of the Christmas events are already getting booked up.  The Harrods Christmas Grotto bookings have been available from 14 September and are now completely fully booked but you might get lucky and get a cancellation.  This sort of thing rather concentrates the mind.

Yeah, I know it's too early for a Christmas tree
Yeah, I know it’s too early for a Christmas tree

So far, I’ve booked the Santa Special at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (which includes a train ride and Santa’s Grotto) and Jack and the Beanstalk at the Hackney Empire.  We’ll also go to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park which, thankfully, you don’t need tickets to get into but perhaps we will need to book tickets for the Magical Ice Kingdom because that was amazing last year (if rather chilly).

Here’s some more information about Christmas shows in London.

Chessell Pottery Barns

In September, we went to Chessell Pottery Barns, which is between Freshwater and Newport. It is a very middle class tourist attraction – basically, you choose a piece of pottery and then glaze it (they have loads of colours) and the staff fire it in the kiln, ready for you to pick it up a few days later.  They also have a lovely cafe.

Skull and dragon moneyboxes
Skull and dragon moneyboxes

My son pretty much used every colour on his skull but my daughter (with my husband’s help) went for a far more uniform colour scheme for her dragon.  Honestly, I would really recommend it for children who are aged four and over (and are sensible) but my daughter (who is two) was probably too young.

I know it’s obvious but don’t put your kids in clothes that are precious.  They give you aprons but the children WILL get paint on their sleeves.

Autumn colours

While I was watering the seedlings in my cold frame (the foxgloves look AWESOME, the lupins dreadful), I stopped to admire the acers and heucheras in the lower bed.

This looks its best in Autumn
This looks its best in Autumn

One of my acers has lost all its leaves already but this one is really looking superb, particularly against all the yellow leaves that have fallen from the tree next door.

A few weeks ago, I planted a few foxglove seedlings in this bed as I’d run out of room in my cold frame and quite a few of them are still going well.  I hope that they will flower next year – foxgloves in this bed could look very beautiful.

Sea watching at the Waterfront and the best wellies I’ve ever owned

This morning, after swimming, we had a lovely, rainy walk to the Waterfront for hot chocolate and scones.  This is a nice little place which I hope has benefitted from the new path between Totland Bay and Colwell Bay opening.  The food is pretty nice (and the scones are really super fresh)  but really what we go for at this time of year is the view.

What a view!
What a view!

The kids found it very exciting to watch the waves crashing over the sea wall, right outside the Waterfront.  I was rather glad that we were the only ones there as they were sort of loud and shrieky.  I totally recommend this place on a blustery day.

Walking to and from the Waterfront, I was very glad of my wellies.  These are posh Le Chameau wellies that my mother in law bought me for Christmas one year and I love them.

My posh wellies
My posh wellies

Even when I am really quite thin, I have thick calves and find normal wellies quite hard to get on.  Not these though, they fit me perfectly and have a lovely warm lining.  Apparently, the Duchess of Cambridge wears these so even when I am, frankly, dressed like a scruffbag, I still feel stylish whenever I have them on.

Missing the ferry

Today, we missed the ferry we were booked on by ten minutes, despite leaving the house at 7:15am with the kids in their pyjamas, having eaten jam sandwiches made the night before for breakfast.  It was utterly pouring, you see, and this really slows the traffic down.  Plus there are some fairly major roadworks along the M3.  There are some proposals to restrict roadworks so that they can only happen for between two and five miles at a time – however, this is a bit late for the M3, which has some of the longest roadworks in the UK.

It wasn’t the end of the world as thankfully they let us onto the 11am ferry.  However, it did mean that I had to bribe the kids with cakes at the Costa at the ferry terminal so they became a bit loopy on the ferry itself.  You know who really disapproves of children running around?  To the point of staring at you?  Very slightly older children, who sit nicely in their seats and have outgrown the running around and crawling under seats.  The adults don’t appear to mind, to be honest.  Unless they have dogs – the dog owners I meet on the ferry are often very worried that my children will upset their dogs.

The ferry was incredibly busy as it is half term.  My son had a nice chat with one of the Wightlink ferry men (who he described as the captain) about how many cars there were on the ferry.

Anyway, we are now in the IoW and it is a beautiful day.  My son has been taken to Robin Hill by his uncle and aunt and my daughter is having a nap.  I am catching up on The Returned – this is a show that I pretend is educational and worthy because it is in French and has subtitles.

Winter flowering heliotrope

This horrible stuff is ALL OVER THE PLACE in the IoW.

Winter flowering heliotrope
Winter flowering heliotrope

It’s a bit like bindweed, except the leaves are bigger and look as though they belong in a lily pond.  For ages I didn’t know what it was (someone once mentioned celandine but that has yellow flowers and much smaller leaves) but now I know.  I really can’t emphasise just how invasive this thing is.  It only has male flowers in the UK but spreads through tubers underground.

Last year I planted a load of periwinkle to compete with it but the periwinkle had no chance.

As we are on an island, someone must actually have chosen to plant this thing and let it spread everywhere.  Seriously, I’ve seen it as far as Ventnor.

It's taken over EVERYWHERE
It’s taken over EVERYWHERE

It doesn’t appear to much like being in direct sunlight which, considering it is originally from north Africa, is surprising but now that Autumn is here, it is getting everywhere again.  I ended up tweeting the nice people at Crocus in April, who said that digging it up can spread it (ugh) and that if I really want to get rid of it, I need to remove all the plants I like and then spray glysophate weedkiller everywhere.  I can’t face doing this.

One way that this stuff can be killed off is through sub-zero temperatures.  Which I am totally hoping for.  Unfortunately, the IoW is incredibly temperate and if there is ever a frost overnight, we talk about it for ages.  Humph.

Herb garden

One thing I love about my garden in the IoW is my herb garden.

My herb garden
My herb garden

I love deciding that I need, say, a handful of rosemary or sage or oregano and just grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting some off.  At the moment, I have rosemary, fennel, angelica, thyme, tarragon, parsley, chives, golden oregano, Greek oregano, feverfew, sage, curry plant and basil.  I used to have chervil and dill but they are not perennials and basically went to seed so I pulled them out.  The dill was super when we had smoked salmon over the summer.

Over the last year, the herb garden has gone from being quite small and tidy to being a bit of a jungle.  The photo above shows it after it’s been hacked back a bit – herbs don’t do well unless you give them a good prune every now and then.

Early on
Early on
A bit of a jungle - I cut it back after this
A bit of a jungle – I cut it back after this

Some things I don’t use much of (or any, like angelica – but it likes the shady spot and I like the plant) but I have because I either think the plant is beautiful (feverfew)  or pollinating insects love them (like fennel – loved by wasps and hoverflies).

Now, I’m a bit sad because our builders need to do some work in this spot so they are going to put my herbs into pots while they do this*.  Some will survive but some (rosemary) may not.  Here is where I’ll go to replace the stuff that doesn’t survive.

* I do have a few herbs planted throughout the garden (because I love them) so we can still cook with herbs while this is going on.