Three

So here we are: the season to be jolly. And having won three awards at the Garden Media Awards last week I have much to be jolly about. Journalist of the Year, Book Photographer of the Year and Blog of the Year. You'd think that little voice on my shoulder would stop telling me I'm a bit shit at this, but thankfully not.



Luckily that little voice has several allies in keeping my feet on the ground, most notably the Three Men Who Went To Mow, who managed to restrain any strut I might have been tempted to add to my step by intentionally mispronouncing my surname everytime I was shortlisted. Mark Decaisnea fargesii got the biggest laugh. I also had a ridiculous moustache, the only thing in its favour was that it allowed me to be part of a team of bewhiskered gardeners that has raised a whole load of money for Movember. If you supported us, or indeed anyone, thank you.

As always, these days are what you make them. I had a great time, as much for seeing so many people I like (and feeding my not inconsiderable face with a dozen of them in Moro later) as for winning the awards. I can offer some guidance for enjoying yourself at any awards ceremony: don't expect fine food; your ability to last the day/night is inversely proportional to the speed at which you drink your first two glasses of fizz; if anyone still likes you after you've won more than one award, be thankful; don't take offers of work too seriously - it's very much like believing what you hear during the last half an hour of the night at a smalltown club.

It wasn't the only pleasure of the week - the day before, my wife and I had picked the last of the Szechuan pepper. There was a fair load as you can see. It's very satisfying to be harvesting something substantial - I've grown used to taking pleasure from the growing and the first nibbles. It takes time to get serious harvests from many perennials but once they reach that productive threshold, they tend to keep on giving with little effort on your part. So, kilos of Szechuan pepper - Zanthoxylum simulans. There are a few Zanthoxyluym species that are considered as Szechuan pepper and me and the gang had picked the other we have here, Zantoxylum schinifolium, a couple of weeks before. We have Japanese and Nepalese pepper growing here too. I even made an even-poorer-than-usual film about it.



I'm not feeling quite so jolly this week - obviously, I haven't won three awards this week - but also as I've been laid up for a couple of days with a monster cold. I'm not good with the inconvenience of being ill but it happens very rarely, and if you're going to be incapacitated it may as well be with a honey and lemon and a whisky by your side and El Clasico on the Ipad. I'm also puzzled by the absence of the usual all-powerful urge to consume a binbagful of mince pies each day. The compulsion normally kicks in somewhere around Bonfire Night and lasts til the 3rd round of the FA Cup in early January. It results in me casting the silhouette of Mike Gregory for a few weeks into the New Year. I'm hoping the mince pie love will return.



There are other less benign causes of unjolliness at this time of year - I'm talking about the misery spread by those feckers who insist on calling it 'Chrimbo'. Surely this is an infringement on our human rights and its mention should be punished accordingly - along with 'lecky', 'shroom', and 'lottie'. While we're about it, let's criminalise 'all the trimmings' too.

I was going to include the recipe for making salami* using Szechuan pepper but the whisky, honey and lemon and El Clasico are in need of my attention. But I will, in the spirit of the festive season, remind you of the only thing you need to bear in mind when buying your Christmas bird (about 46 seconds in):





* The pigs have made the short journey to the abattoir...more next time.

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