Future Britain – Council procurement procedures

Future Britain – Council procurement procedures


Altogether it’s a very poor deal for the council tax payers AND for our local businesses.

I finally understand where it all goes wrong in procurement.

There’s a professional procurement team who are disciplined to follow the guidelines……. Precisely and totally. They are disliked by their ‘client’ departments in the council for ‘interfering.’

They negotiate contracts and their job is to get Best Value. So what’s the problem?

The core problems are:

– they are over-worked so to minimise the amount of work the procurement team want contracts, specifically contracts for supplies or maintenance, that last for a long time say 3 years. As a result the calculation of the value of a contract for £1,000 per month is £36,000. The contract can be cancelled at three months notice, so calculated on that basis the contract risk is only for £3,000.

If the contract was cancellable at one months notice then the risk is only £1,000.

Certainly the annual value is only £12,000.

This ‘value’ is critical as the procurement team have specific ways of working dependent of whether the contract is for less than £5000; upto £20,000; upto £40,000; upto £135,000 and over £135,000.

If the contract value is calculated on the minimum risk basis then in the example chosen the requirements for bidding change dramatically and are much less onerous because the contract is for £1,000 rather than £36,000.

– In preparing to bid companies are required to complete a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. The procurement team are only interested in bids where the bid represents less than 25% of the company turnover, subject to a minimum turnover of £50,000.

On the contract value calculation above of £36,000 then the turnover needs to be £144,000 whereas on the lesser risk value of one month’s notice the turnover needs to be only £4,000.

AND why have a minimum turnover of £50,000.

– In completing the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire the procurement team specify that the bidding company provide ‘audited accounts’. By law small companies with a turnover of less than £5,600,000 do not need to have their accounts audited, so the procurement team automatically exclude most small companies or worse still the small companies automatically exclude themselves.

(The procurement team started by saying this was the only document required, though later they changed to say “There’s a briefing letter which requires the relevant documents to be attached to the PQQ.” These documents include the accounts together with the ‘Policy Documents’. I know one organisation where there are three hundred and twenty Policies!)

– The procurement team also said they would give preference to companies providing one invoice per week for all their services. I don’t see how this would reduce or simplify their work as there will still the same no. of item lines to be checked and approved. In fact it’ll be more likely that the invoice will contain an item to be challenged and therefore more likely for payment to be deferred. I think they should be giving preference to companies providing their invoices electronically.

– Because the procurement exercise is divorced from the ‘client’ department and because the contract is “in force” for say 36 months, the operation and control of the contract is outside the client department’s remit, whereas on a ‘one month notice’ contract calculation the contract could be handled by themselves and the supplier terminated almost immediately if the service, quality or price is poor.

In total because the contract is awarded for 36 months the supplier has no pressure to deliver quality goods and service to a good price every month, worse still there is no easy control by the client department to ensure that they do; and small local companies are automatically excluded from the business opportunities with their own council for services in their area.

Altogether it’s a very poor deal for the council tax payers AND for our local businesses.

Walking The South Downs Way, Gluten Free,

Walking The South Downs Way, Gluten Free. Cliff’s South Downs Walk

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31st May 2009 – 5th June,

Sadness and beauty; peace and noise; nature and construction; pathways and motorways
People enjoying its beauty and in so doing destroying that beauty
White cliffs, white horses, white wine, white windmills, cabbage white butterflies, blazing white paths, white cottages, white clouds,

Accurate maps versus hidden sign posts, off the map and extra miles,
Kestrels, lapwings, skylarks, falcons, woodpeckers, pheasants, crows, cuckoos, black headed gulls, goldfinches; blue tits; thrushes, sparrows and willow warblers
Painted ladies, red admirals, yellow butterflies and chalkhill blues
Hang-gliders; Chinook helicopters; model aircraft and high flying jets
Blue sky and grey sky; puffy white clouds suspended over yellow fields and red fields and green and white striped fields; green fields and golden fields
Fields of rape, fields of poppies, vineyards, unripe wheat and barley fields and fields already cropped for hay.

Abandoned industrial works and vibrant agricultural enterprises
Power lines and placid fish farms
Lambs and calves; sheep-shearing; even clay-pigeon shooting;
A hare desperately searching for its young

Winchester followed by watering holes at Meonstoke, Cocking, Amberley, Pyecombe, Alfriston, to Eastbourne
Via Old Winchester Hill, Whiteworld Pool, Salt Hill, Butser Hill, Sunwood Farm and Chanctonbury Ring
Beacon Hill and Firle Beacon, all the key beacon sites.

Calling in at The Bucks Head, The Sportsmen, The Black Horse, The Greyhound, The Plough, Hobbs Cottage
With Fresh pineapple; orange juice, fresh black coffee
Bacon and eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans,
Roast beef and fresh seasonal vegetables; Sea bass and salad; sea bream and new potatoes; Mexican pork and rice
Gluten free, sin gluten, glutenfrei,

‘The lie of the land’ crossing the M3, A24, A286, A283, A23, A27; crossing the railways and crossing the rivers. The Adur, Ouse, Arun, Meon, Cuckmere, each time walking down to the bottom of a Down and then climbing up to the top of the next Down,
Queen Elizabeth and the Seven Sisters Country Parks, lots of Nation Trust land, memorials to people who loved this land, and for some who died defending it
Pleasant English pubs, beautiful English food (fresh fish, salads, superb breakfasts, strawberries and cream) varied English cheeses for lunch with hard-boiled eggs; Stilton and Red Leicester and Cheddar and Cheshire; home-made nut, date and raisin goody bags;

Helpful landlords and friendly landladies, sociable walkers, hard-working cyclists and busy tourists
Cool green woods, baking hot downland, vistas to the sea and the Isle of Wight and vistas to the North Downs, the flats, the flood plain of the Arun, drained centuries ago, the meandering river, the sea, the chalk cliffs, the squawking chattering frogs
Steep hills up and steep hills down, flat rolling hilltops, steep escarpments,

Soft green sward nibbled flat by the sheep, genuine Roman road, flat springy floor under the beech woods, dirty harsh track, lumpy flint stones on hard chalk, flat tarmac, narrow ruts, slippery stones on steep paths

Busy places and empty places,

Historic places and literature places,

Religious places and druidic places

Iron Age places and electronics places

Freedom to roam versus locked gates and razor wire topped fences

Unmanned railway level crossing; rickety wooden bridge; tunnel under motorway; running across busy highways; running across busy minor roads; private bridges, walking along busy main roads after dark;

Over-cooked food or the finest cuisine; desperately gulping pints or quarts of water or sipping fine wines and delicate fruit juices

Laughing unicyclist; chatty tourists; sweating walkers staggering with huge packs;

Elderly ladies with Scotty dogs; haughty horse riders; sweating runners with water packs;

Local people with Geordie accents; people from Holland and people on a day out from London;

Welsh mountain goats visiting relatives in Brighton; people getting half an hour’s exercise from their busy lives;

And people who didn’t know enough English to read maps or signs;

Caps and hats and scarves and Nordic Walking sticks

People on their own; people in pairs; people in teams; people in groups, people in parties

Calm balloonists suspended in the sunset

Ferries plying out of Newhaven and Dover and sailing in the Solent

17000 ft of altitude over a 100 mile walk over a six day journey, 2000 paces per mile, 200,000 paces, one at a time, for a maximum seven hours per day, thirty fours walking.

My pack at 18lbs compared with others at 12lbs, 27lbs (camping) and 55lbs (camping)

And average speed approximately 3mph including stops and breaks

No blisters, no stinging nettles, no sunburn, saved with the taste of banana-flavoured lip salve

Walking all day and then going for a stroll in the evening or then fetching the morning paper

Castles, turrets, look-out towers, churches, inns, small houses, mansions, cafes, shops and windmills

Archimedes Screw for making holes for fence posts;

Pythagoras Theorem for calculating the extra distance going round a field.

The Ghosts of Anglo Saxons, of Gauls, of French, of Roman Legionaries, of Norman Conquerors, of English long-bowmen, of religious leaders, of civil war, religious revolution and of royal escape

Oaks for our ships, limestone for our concrete,

The Greenwich Meridian ‘0’ Longitude, the start of navigation,

Admiralty Charts, free to the world, with Greenwich Meantime,

Trig points and mapping, chalk cliffs and lighthouses

Telephone calls on the top of the Downs,

My family joining in and having dinner with me at The Sportsmen and The Plough,

Socks from my sister, rucksack from my son, concern from my daughter, and support from my wife

And who would have thought that there were so many ways of fastening a gate, even for those gates standing proud and independent and separate from any fences

England, our England

A superb week

Feeling fitter than I’ve felt for years.

12th June 2009

28th May 2009. Yesterday only six miles but raining and cold and SW Force 5-6. Today walked the long way round to The Old Tollgate, now moved the pedometer to a better place on my belt, probably 16 miles, with 16lbs weight, 2300ft altitude. That’s the weight I’m now targetting for. A lovely walk and maintained speed to the end. Result.

26th May 2009. First time I’ve packed everything, or I thought I had, but I had omitted the GF bread. So whilst it was all OK though weighing in a twenty pounds, it now means that I don’t have room for the eeePC. Back to notebook and pen. Anyway I carried the full twenty lbs, for six and a half hours covering eighteeen miles with 2800′ altitude. My new Technicals shirts are superb. Now using OS Maps. Also I’ve adopted my old yachting routine of entering the log (Lat, Long, log reading, wind etc) and having some refreshment every hour. It works well.

22nd May 2009. Been carrying on with preparations. Upto 16 miles in five hours, with 2300ft altitude, down to 12lbs weight and going well. Still experimenting with the menu. Now to get lightwieght clothes etc I’d like to get the weight to 14lbs including my eeePC (at 3 lbs.) I’m unhappy with the Harvey South Downs Way map. I’m a traditionalist I like to see Lat and Long not some other convention and I want a wider view of the surrounding area so that I can identify distant points of interest, may be even calculate my position rather than using my GPS. But yes I reckon it needs four maps.

14th May 2009. I’ve booked the final night at YHA in Alfriston. Separately I’ve tested the a small modern rucksack, thanks to my son. I can just get the minimum gear into it and then in total the weight is less than 20lbs. I wore it for five hours with a 18lb load. Lovely. On gluten free I’m just concentrating on GF bread for toast at breakfast (with bacon and eggs etc), for the rest lunches will be water and something simple; for dinner I expect it’ll be meat, cheese or fish with salad plus new potatoes. Anything better than survival will be wonderful.

12th May 2009. Booked the next night at Pyecombe. Tested the 30lb loads and they are heavy, mind you my rucksack is a Bergans Hi-pack maximum capacity. I think it’s too big so I’m going to test a smaller pack. I completed a 15ml walk with a 30lb pack so I know I can do it. Can I now get fit enough to be able to enjoy the walk.

8th May 2009. Plotted the route on my GPS unit, (‘crow flies’ distance 82miles) and plotted the daily distances with the altitude changes. These distances are still just my estimates. In fact they’re all reasoned estimates.

Day 1 14miles 250m  812ft
Day 2 22miles 1140m 3705ft
Day 3 13miles 540m 1755ft
Day 4 19miles 1260m 4095ft
Day 5 19miles 1400m 4550ft
Day 6 11miles 860m 2795ft
Totals 98miles 5450m  17712ft

Correct me if I’m wrong but this looks like climbing two mountains over the course of the six days. What is good news is that my first practice walk almost matches that first day.

7th May 2009. Had my first training walk today just 11 miles with 30lb pack. Just as well that I’ve got 24 days to go, for more training. The key to fixing the night’s accommodation is finding somewhere for dinner then arrange a pub or B&B. I’ve booked the first three nights – The Bucks Head in Meonstoke; B&B with Ruth Higgins in Cocking, with dinner at the Greyhound; then  the Sportsman inn in Crossgates, Amberley. Then the next night is somewhere between Steyning and Pyecombe and the last night at Alfriston.

5th May 2009. Getting gear organised: boots and socks OK; got rucksack repaired today; found compass and binoculars; set up GPS on PDA; now to get some training in carrying a 35lb pack and also checking out the remaining overnight stops. I may have to revert to carrying a sleeping bag and waterproof bag.

4th May 2009. One of the key calculations is how far to walk in a day. On my planning schedule I have daily distances of 13, 19, 14, 16 then 20 and 17. I’ve just reconnoitred Rodmell the start for the 20 mile day to see whether the pub ‘The Abergavenny Arms’ serves evening meals and I found out that it closed on the 1st January 2009. This means that I need to start that day at Alfriston 7 miles further East and this in turn means that the previous day I need to be (preferably) at Pyecombe. The daily distances then become 13, 19, 14, 22, 20 and 11.

3rd May 2009. It looks as though it’s about 99 miles. I’ve decided to tackle it starting at Winchester so that I’m ‘walking home’ until I’ve got into the swing of it. (I live in Shoreham By Sea so I’ll have to go within about two miles of our home before doing the last third of the walk, passing on towards Lewes and the finish at Eastbourne.)

I reckon I can do probably 15+ miles a day so I’m planning on six days walking. Rather than using OS maps, I’ve found Harveys maps as they show the whole route on one document and to a slightly larger scale than the OS ones. At the moment my planning extends to guessing distances and to plotting some of the pubs on the route!

I’ve decided that I’m not camping because I don’t want to carry a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear and all the extra food. I will try to get my clothes, emergency gear and food, and everything into a maximum thirty pounds ….. gone are the days when I used to carry sixty pounds! Will the weight allowance cope with my eeePC and the charger for my PDA.

My next step is to identify all the places I can stay at and to find out how and whether they cater comfortably for Coeliacs. My main need is for potatoes, eggs, meat, salad or vegetables without processed foods, bread, cakes, biscuits and I’m very wary of mayonnaise, chips, crisps, ketchup, vinegar, malt.

I reckon my breakfasts will be orange juice, bacon and eggs, fried potatoes or baked beans (some makes), tomatoes, mushrooms and I’ll take my own bread for toast and marmalade. Coffee’s fine.

Snacks will be chocolate, fresh fruit, compressed dates, Kendal mint cake, pea nuts and sultanas.

Lunch will need to be eggs, salad, potatoes, GF crisp-bread.

Dinner should be fine, there’s usually something, the normal fall-back position is fish or steak with salad and new or jacket potatoes. Normally sweet’s are a complete no go, unless they have sorbet or fresh fruit salad.

The next step is to reconnoitre the route to see what I can find out and to load my PDA with GPS software.

Keywords: GPS, Harvey, Sportsman, Inn, Amberley, Meonstoke, Exton, Shoe, the, Downs, planning, map, Way, walking, Harveys, Winchester, South, walks, Walk, tarwevrij, Holidays, glutin, glutenfritt, glutenfri, glutenfree, gluten, gluteeniton, Eastbourne, Coeliac, celiac

2009 on the allotment, Shoreham

2009 on the allotment, Shoreham

20th November. Greenhouse done and planted with garlics and onions. Also planted Broad beans and almost completed the new double-depth raised bed.

4th November. Courgettes still going, plus cabbages, calabrese and perennial Welsh red onions, so its time to start preparing for next year. In the greenhouse the tomatoes got the dreaded blight so we’ve decided to replace the soil in the raised beds. So we’ll raise the height of one of the other beds – I dug out sixty bags of earth! I’ve ordered four fruit trees, which should arrive mid-November… with some more strawberry plants!!

25th August 2009. Well I got that wrong, no sign of the Cupidon but the late courgettes I’ve planted are coming along a treat.Tomatoes are now all blighted,

26th July 2009. Last Tuesday I sowed another bed of our favourite Filet beans, Cupidon.

21st july 2009. New butterfly proof bed for brassicas. Yesterday I completed a double height raised bed crowned with a veritable box of enviromesh. It seems to keep all the butterflies out. (so if I do another bed the same I will have three beds and I can rotate crops, probabaly use the third for short tomatoes plants.)

14th July 2009 Strawberries have been great as are the summer raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants, then there’s the lettuces, Cupidon beans and spinach, now we’re also cropping courgettes.

14th May 2009 Two beds of tomatoes have been planted as have one for Red Onion Suash, and a row of Caro Rich tomatoes in the greenhouse. We also planted the courgettes earlier this week. The broccoli  has finished.

3rd May 2009. We’ve got one bed of dwarf french beans sown; three double rows of pole and runner beans sown; two beds prepared for the tomatoes and two beds for the courgettes (all these are now in pots and are almost ready for planting out,) potataoes, onions, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and broad beans are all progressing nicely; the spinach, lettuce, rhubarb and purple flowering broccoli are being picked regularly. Trays of brassicas, lettuce, leeks and onions are almost ready for potting on or for planting out. Just sowed the Quinoa and Amaranth for planting out in July. Forget-me-not, rosemary, wallflowers are all flowering.

23rd March 2009. Spinach has been planted out, some potatoes (first earlies and earlies) have been planted, flower and vegetable seeds have been sown in ‘Jacqui’s greenhouse.’ I’m half way through replacing our shared grass path with a wood chippings one. Everything looks tidy and ready.

18th January 2009. All I wanted to do was to sow the red broad beans, the Grando Violetto beans, a heritage purple seeded variety. I did sow these, also I did clear all of the remaining sedum and the garlic chives. In addition I largely built a new three foot high by twelve foot raised bed, using tall strong poly bags (used for the mushroom compost) filled with horse manure, compost and anything else I could find, leaving no more than eighteen inches in the middle between the to rows of bags. The idea is to sow or plant into the top of the open bags as well as into the clear area in the centre.

This bed is now ready to receive the grass from sorting the path out. Also after weeding the flower beds, brilliantly Angie cleared the dozens of marigolds from the last untidy bed and then started on the grass alongside the autumn raspberries. We’re almost ready for the new growing season.4th January 2009. Water is solid ice in the water trough, even the ground in the polytunnel is just frozen. The young Spinach are fine but the lettuces and beetroot suffered an attack by the local fox trying to get a warmer den in the polytunnel. The broad beans have bent their heads, even the onions are suffering a bit. This cold snap is forecast to last another week.

Start of the year survey:
– still a few beetroot
– sprouts
– garlic
– onions
– broad beans
– purple sprouting broocoli (trying to recover from the caterpillars)

Tasks to do – Need to create the new bean bed; build a new path; add compost to four beds; sow ‘red’ broad beans; sow onion seeds; re-sow beetroot and lettuces; and clear marigolds and then compost ready for Red Onion Squash. Everything has to wait until the cold snap has finished and the ground is no longer frozen.

Future Britain

Cliff Jenkins – Prospective parliamentary candidate,

Honest, truthful, hard-working,

living in your constituency,

a non-politician,

a new type of independent.

I want to improve your life so I will work for:

–        Replacing Council Tax and also Value Added Tax with a straightforward local sales tax payable direct to your council

–        Eliminating Income Tax and reducing corporation tax

–        Better education for your children, with transferable vouchers

–        Free prescriptions, free disposal of sharps, free dentistry

–        Better public transport, saving you time and money

–        Pavements for pedestrians, making life easier for you

–        More Police in view, with relevant laws, safer for you

–        Local control and better quality local services for you

–        Service rather than government – .srv.uk for you

–        Healthier life because of better education and activities

–        Higher personal aspirations, excellence for each person, respect for each person’s capability,

–         ‘Risk areas and risk activities’ for physical activities

Proud to be British, just 60 million of us in a world of 6 billion people, just 1%, so I will support decisions to:

1.     Celebrate being British with new national days the 23rd April Shakespeare Day to celebrate bringing the English language to the world, 21st October ‘Pax Britannica’ Day to celebrate our peacekeeping & defence success, the morning of 11th Nov Remembrance Day and also a TaxFree Day (date to be decided every year)

2.     Protect each British citizen from all enemies

3.     Equip our soldiers, sailors, airmen, police and intelligence forces with the best equipment money can buy –  whatever is needed for us to be the best in the world

4.     Side-step the problems of global businesses by creating ‘British’ mutual banks, ‘British’ Auditors, ‘British’ Businesses

5.     Create a ‘Britain PLC’ infrastructure to help businesses to provide the top-class services the world needs

6.     Re-instate “British Passports” and also “British citizens only” channels at airports and sea ports

7.     Amend immigration controls such that, as people want to live here, they need to be able to speak and write English, to adopt  our traditions and culture, and to abide by the law of our land

Nationally I want to see

  • Better value for our taxes; less law; less red tape for businesses; elimination of Quangos; and reducing the school leaving age
  • The British as the fittest people and the best educated people in the world
  • A system of expertise recognition which can be earned and awarded at any point in your career or life
  • People living long active lives and in a way that doesn’t require so much petrol, diesel, gas etc
  • Free Trade with every country in the world



“And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath ……. any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.”

from the Oath of Allegiance in the English Bill of Rights, 1689

Future Britain – Digital Britain, Broadband problems

Future Britain – Digital Britain, Broadband problems


Everybody, the politicians, the TV companies and the telecoms companies, seem to have clubbed together on a ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’ basis. They are trying to sell us spoof.

Both the main parties think 2mb download is wonderful. It’s patently obvious that they don’t use broadband to run the country. If they did they would know that the key constraint is going to be ‘upload’ speeds.

It doesn’t really matter if you can download at 30mbs if you can only upload at 256k (less than one-hundredth of the download speed.) If you are working on a shared file or word document or whatever, then the speed needs to be similar both up and down.

We use 3.5mb download and when we are using VoIP telephone there can be constraints. If therefore we want to add video / camera so that we can see our correspondent, whether customer or supplier, we need even more bandwidth. Adding this facility is going to be critical if we are going to have any chance of reducing travelling between offices or to reduce travelling into work.

The TV companies, I think, just want to save the costs of their next transmitters. (The images they are putting over the Internet are very poor, very small pictures, poor sound and slow (because there’s not enough bandwidth, even at 3.5mbs, let alone 2mbs.) The telecoms companies want to maximise their current income potential without any extra investment or they want to get a government subsidy for what they should be doing ANYWAY, or BOTH.

And as for the politicians, well, they just want to get a good sound-bite.

The reality is that the business of Britain PLC needs good quality broadband at a low cost. We need to get upto the quality levels that other countries have now and improve on them.

So to solve the problem and to achieve an objective of (say) 30mb upload and download speeds (SDSL) for business:

–         nationalise the current hardwired twin core cable, still allocated to BT

–         nationalise the current so-called glass-fibre network from Virgin Media and replace all the twin core cable connections

–         get proposals and submissions for supplying SDSL synchronous networks

–         review the costs benefits of having buried cables rather than overhead cables

–         charge the TV companies several billion per year each for changing to a new medium.

Super-Losses = Super-Jobs

Super-Losses = Super-Jobs

This year and last year we have experienced Super-Losses, unimaginable losses. Now we need some Super-Jobs.

No one has yet raised any question about the previous level of economic activity in the UK, all the editorials are about getting back to that previous level.  How can we, if that level was funded by excessively generous financial stimuli. To my mind we had a falsely overstated position because it was based on huge overspends by private individuals, by companies, and by government, all funded by excess funding, freely available and cheap.

When people draw back to a level that they can really afford we will see that the overall activity level will be (say) five per cent less. That presumably means that five per cent of jobs are also at risk, say one and a half million jobs. We also need to dramatically improve the tax receipts and reduce the demand for unemployment benefit.

Surely we need to address the problem specifically and as we know governments cannot create real jobs. Governments can however create a fiscal, legal and economic environment which will help people themselves to create jobs, the necessary million+ jobs.

To create this environment we need to provide small companies and would-be employees of an option for exemption from all employment law, only for short term contract staff (say upto three years,) after which they will have earned their employment rights, exemption from:

  • recruitment rules, eg advertising, equal opportunities, racial discrimination, references,
  • minimum hourly earnings
  • holiday and sickness rights
  • maternity and paternity rules
  • working hours limits

The benefits will be improved personal, national and international self-esteem, reduced state benefit costs, increased taxes received, increased exports and possibly most importantly faster money circulation (the earn – spend – earn – spend churn, collecting taxes at the time.)

The result will be Super-Jobs.

2008, The allotment moves on.

21st Dcember 2008. Well the sun came out occasionally. We dug up some potatoes; found that the beetroot and some leeks have started germinating (in the cloche in the greenhouse); pruned the autumn fruiting raspberries; cleared the Achochas;

17th December 2008, Lovely sunny day. Prepared another bed ready for next year, with compost and membrane, it’s now ready to become a cloche. Pruned the broccoli – I’ll do anything to get rid of the unsightly caterpillar munched stalks. Put up the trellis in the new mini greenhouse. Collected some rough membrane being discarded and now to be used for a path. Recovered some tall metal posts which I can use for runner or pole beans. Recovered some plastic piping for making the cloche.

8th December 2008 Actually a nice warm day (6-8 C), delighted to report that the spinach has all germinated even through this last cold snap, picked some Brussels Sprouts (Wellington) and dug up a few Pink Fir Apples. Great…. and cleared the nasturtiums killed by the recent frost.

30th November 2008. Some of the Spinach seem to be germinating. Peppers andd Nasturtiums got killed by the frost two days ago.

22nd November. What a superb year! A few potatoes, beetroot, sprouts, lettuce, peppers are still in. Onions grown from seed seem to be going well, as are the broad beans and there’s some garlics both outside and in the greenhouse. Lettuce, spinach, beetroot and leeks have also been sown in the greenhouse. Cleared the last of the pole and runner beans.

Finally binned the gooseberries and redcurrants, they are not earning their keep.

19th October 2008 Panic Stations (well almost.) First we’ve had some vegetable rustlers, half the crop of one allotmenter’s dwarf beans and another person had half their crop of butternut squashes stolen, so panic to get the butternut squashes in.

Then we’ve also been attacked by Tomato Blight, which has wiped out the last harvest of one bed and the whole harvest of another bed. As I write this I can smell the cooking of a green tomato chutney made from the tomatoes salvaged from the devastation.  We’ve had a magnificent crop already, and there’s still a few going in the greenhouse.

So we cleared the two outdoor tomato beds, tidied up the strawberry bed, netted the broad beans, cleared the butternut squash bed, took the diseased tomato plants to the tip, collected half a dozen bags of manure (fairly fresh so added them to the composters,) cleared one of the flower beds and planted some garlics in the greenhouse.

5th October. The broad beans have been planted. Also started a rolling program for the paths between the raised beds, which involves clearing the weeds, laying doubled black membrane and then covering with wood chippings. Three done so far. Still cropping courgettes, tomatoes,

25th August. We’ve been very busy cropping – courgettes, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, achochas, beetroot, rhubarb, cucumbers, and now we’re started on next year. A few weeks back I sowed some onion seeds and they germinated very well, indeed sufficient to plant out a 12ft bed with 250 seedlings. This is an experiment, as I think that the autumn sets are heat-treated to reduce bolting . Also growing through the winter are lettuces, swede, beetroot, leeks, sprouts, cabbages, and purple sprouting broccoli. These plus squashes, potatoes and onions should keep us in vegetables for the whole winter.

15th July 2008. The courgettes are up and running, with the potatoes & broccoli and the first of the beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. We’ve been given a walk-in plastic greenhouse so we’re about to clear the space for it. Then all we need to do is to enable it to survive a Force 10 gale!

8Th July 2008. The broad beans have come and gone (must do more next year) and are being followed by Butternut Squash. The over-wintered onions have been lifted for drying. Their space is now beetroot. the potatoes are running well, as are the courgettes, today was the first day for the Miniature White Cucumbers (Dimara.) Strawberries have finished though possibly a late season handful will come. First leek today as well.

15th May 2008. Today was beans day. Planted out Coco Rose Barlotti dwarf beans, Yard Long pole beans, Czar runner beans, and also sowed the remaining seeds for them. Also planted out Green Headed Broccoli, and started the courgettes bed with eight ‘Tenerife’ plants. All the beds are in use now except the one reserved for the tomatoes. Need to clear the remaining seedlings so that we can use the polytunnel bed to plant out the Trieste White and Tenerife courgettes etc.

13th May 2008, We’re running short of space as usual, we’ve planted out the cucumbers, Cupidon Filet Beans, Wellington Sprouts, Purple Queen pole beans, and Lady Di runner beans. Still to be planted out are Coco Rose Barlotti dwarf beans, Czar runner beans, the huge black Yard Long beans, tomatoes and courgettes. Sowed some spring onions today. In the greenhouse, after it is clear of trays of summer seedlings we will plant some cucumbers (done)  some tomatoes, peppers and a squash.

5th April 2008. All the potatoes are now planted, lots of seeds are germinating, some leeks will soon be ready to be planted out. We’ve cleared the beetroot bed and I’m now doing a potato planter for the pergola area. Next I need to turn the compost!! The recent planting were Nicola and Pink Fir Apple.

12th Feb 2008. Planted Lady Christl and Charlotte potatoes so we’ve really started the new year. Yes we’re still collecting cabbage, sprouts and broccoli plus beetroot and we’re still enjoying the squashes and the red onions from the store plus the garlic though we’ve just finishing the last of the Pink Fir Apples.

The white and red onions and the garlics, all of which are over-wintering, are gently tottering along though the over-wintering lettuce seem to have been a meal for some slugs or whatever. The Broad Beans more than make up these losses, they’re going well (so far!)

It now looks as though we really to get moving on some of the seeds and some of the beans, so this needs to be done on Saturday.

12th January 2008 Lovely day to day. Cold, of course, but with some sunshine. The fleece and the netting had arrived so one job was to cut them to size and fit them to the small polytunnel from last year. The idea with the fleece is that I can keep the bed warm but it will allow rain to do the watering for me rather than having to move and replace the polythene all the time. At the moment this bed is allocated for trays of seeds, as it was last year.

The seed potatoes have now arrived and are due to be planted during Jan and Feb. I think I’ll do another polytunnel especially for the First Earlies.

Cleared the last of last years main crop potatoes, tidied the bed and covered with membrane. All the seeds etc have arrived, the fruit trees and shrubs have been pruned, the beds have all been prepared, so now we wait.

(There’s lots of little jobs that still need doing eg the netting on the fruit cage, the weeding between the beds, but we’re pretty much waiting for the soil temperature to go up.)

Additional Notes

Addendum, 171108. I went and bought some red beans at the supermarket in Cyprus. Well when I bought some two years ago I received very few and when they grew I wasn’t able to save seed for the next year. Now with 320 seeds, let’s see if I plant them 9 inches apart, they’ll take up 48ft by 4ft, that’s huge, I’ll just try one 12ft bed.

We’ve decided not to grow sweet corn and I don’t want to grow Peppers, for the same reason too much effort, too much land for insufficient return. Got to try to simplify what we’re doing. We’re going tp try Amaranth and Quinoa.

Broad beans and over-wintering Onions are in, we’ve started on next year.

A Summary for 2008 Superb, wonderful, Excellent – a cornucopia of the best England has to offer: Beans, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Beetroot, Courgettes, Squashes,Broad Beans, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Garlic, Swede, Cucumbers. Passable, though the brassicas have provided a slow but continuous alternative to our main crops: Brassicas, Peas, Peppers, Sweet Corn. Bye the bye the Anna Swartz squashes are superb to taste.

Looking at 2009, then we are planning:

Beans, eight varieties; Cherokee Trail of Tears, Blue Lake, Barlotto, Purple Queen, Lady Di, Wisley Magic plus dwarf french beans Cupidon and Stamslaboon
Tomatoes, five varieties; Galina, Alicante, Gardeners Delight, Caro Rich, Golden Sunrise,
Potatoes, six varieties; Nicola, Lady Christl, Pentland Javelin, Charlotte, Desiree, King Edward
Beetroot, two varieties; Boltardy, Sanguina
Broad Beans, two varieties: Super Aquadulce, Grando Violetto
Courgettes, three varieties: Tondo, Trieste Whites, Virginia 3
Squashes, six varieties; Turks Tuban, Golden Hubbard, Butternut, Spaghetti, Blue Banana, Anna Swartz
Leeks, three varieties; Bleu de Solaise, Jaune de Poitou, Monstreux de Charentan
Lettuce, six varieties; Red Iceberg, Pablo Purple, Winter Density, Winteer Marvel, Winterbutterhead, Crisp Mint
Onions, six varieties; Radar, Silvermoon, Electric, Canaries, unknown
Garlic, three varieties to start with; unknown
Swede, two varieties; Invitation, Collette Vert
Cucumbers, three varieties; Miniature White, Lemon Apple, Cornichon, Long Yellow
Sweet Corn, one variety;
Spinach, one variety;

Peppers, six varieties; Anaheim, Golden Bell, Jope’s Long, Lemon drop, Lipstick, Sunnybrook Red, Chilli Peperoncini
Brassicas, eight varieties. Sanda sprouts, Red Drumhead, Later Purple sprouting Broccoli, Green Heading Calabrese, Sherwood, Precoce  de Louviers, Quintal de Alsace, Red Sprouts

The 2007 gardening year

16Th December. Well today we picked a few lettuce, a celery, a few leeks, some calabrese, spring onions and beetroot. Yesterday it was a few peppers and a good handful of Iranian Red Chilies. Next time there’ll be winter cabbage and red sprouts and there are still some potatoes Pink Fir Apples.

Yesterday the jobs were tidy up, weed and compost two of the long beds; clear the remaining nasturiums; clear the Cosmos and Zinnias (and compost that bed); cut back the Sedum, taking cuttings for another garden and then water the Polyanths. In the other garden I planted the Sedum, the Globe Artichokes and some Montbretia I had lifted about four weeks ago.
I still haven’t solved the problem of the greenhouse door and as a result it’s very cold in there.

25th November. Go away for a few days and guess what, the frost killed our nasturtiums and african marigolds; and the last courgette.
We’re back from Cyprus, a superb holiday, and this morning we picked or dug up: lettuce, peppers, potatoes, celery, carrots, leeks, beetroot, calabrese and a few raspberries.
The broad beans I put in about ten days ago are through (and now netted) and the winter onions and lettuces are well started.
So what’s next? Possibly a 1m high netting windbreak east/west along the whole length of the plot; clear and prepare the courgette bed (SKs) and the peppers bed (SGl); order the beans for next year; repair the door to the greenhouse; repair the tension and struts holding up the fruit cage netting; stake the new row of raspberries; get some seaweed for the compost bins; plant out the Globe Artichokes; stake the new row of raspberries.

3rd November. All the bean beds are ready, composted, chicken pellets, and covered with membrane. Thirty bags of mushroom compost arrived on Tuesday, I used sixteen today.

Seven I’ve kept for the greenhouse for when beds or parts of beds are clear. Also there are probably three outdoor beds still with viable peppers and lettuces, waiting to be done. For the moment I’ve made a south-facing wall with the remaining seven bags so now I need something to sow in front of the wall.
Talking about peppers, this year we’ve finally had a successful crop… and they’re still coming. Big Bananas, Joe’s Long, Buran, Lemon Drop, excellent.
Leeks, Jaune de Poirot, have pretty well completely recovered and we still have probably forty left, even afater the ones we’re eating. (these are the ones that need to be eaten before the first frost!!)
We have harvested the first Calabrese; potatoes are still being dug; beetroot are now growing fast enough that the weight of them in the ground stays constant, they grow enough in one week to replace what we dug up; had the first of the new batch of carrots today;
The over-wintering onions and lettuce are starting to come through. Planted the broad beans last week. Picked half a pound of raspberries today, together with the leeks, peppers and lettuce.
It’s all Monty Don’s fault he said ‘Try to pick something from the allotment everyday.”

14th October 2007 The winter crops needed attention, so we forked over one of the long beds and planted red onion sets – in four or five rows alternating with rows of Winter Density lettuce.
One of the small bean beds got the compost treatment and has now been covered up until spring. Topped up the high bed under the south facing wall of the shed with compost and then planted out some lettuce plants – we’ll see how they get on.
I ripped out some very tired and tatty Michaelmous Daisies and was going to through them out to the Council tip when I realised I could put them to good use in, what will be the Courgette compost bin. This is a spare compost bin which I need to fill with stuff so that next year I can use it for Courgette / Squash. It already had some  garden materials so I’ve added the blighted potatoes. With these Michaelmous Daisies and also a couple of bags of Mushroom Compost it’s getting pretty full.
When I was out and about I also got some wallflowers so these are along the side of the pergola area.
Finally we also gave the treatment and planted out a small bed of white onion sets.

7th October. We picked the last beans today, we’ve stripped the beds and tidied up the bamboo canes to keep them for next year. The peppers and squash in the greenhouse are going well.

The brassicas are coming along nicely, the Louviers cabbage have started becoming pointy, the red sprouts are hardening up the calabrese have started to heart up. Some of the leeks are recovering from leek moth and rust (the others have been ‘outed’.)

Some little fellow has nibbled all the winter lettuce, so I’ll need to re-sow.

Next job is to sow the onion sets, the garlic and the broad beans… and the replacement winter lettuce!

1st September 2007 It’s been miserable and cold recently except for the last few days. I had  a chance therefore to think about next year and indeed have ordered the garlic etc for over-wintering.Meantime we have been collecting beans, probably 50lbs so far, plus cucumbers and other salad stuff. We’re battling over the Coco Rose beans, by mistake I planted the with the pole beans rather than the dwarves so they’ve been suffering. The ones that have come good are a marvellous colour, a full-blooded red shell, they look wonderful. So I want all the beans for re-sowing next year whereas ‘she who shall be obeyed’ has other ideas!!The other most exciting plant this year has been the Blue Banana squash, four harvested and possibly another six to come. Golden hubbards only one harvested though there may be another six. Butternut squash still very slow to start so we’ll see. The surprise act has been the Yellow Banana squash as we didn’t sow any. One of the Blues must be a Yellow, anyway I think there’ll be three or four of them, we’ll have to see.Courgettes have started fruiting again and now we’re seeing three or four different types of cucumber. Today was spent tidying up and weeding; getting beds ready for Broad Beans, onions, garlic, winter lettuce,
The windowsill has started filling up, we have our first dish of seeds drying, Tondo Di Piacenza courgette, well worth the space in the garden. Guests say it has more flavour than the standard ones and of course the shape is fun – normally called hand grenades the latest ones landmines.

10th August 2007 Squashes, WOW, last year I grew some Early Golden Hubbard squashes (as well as Butternut squashes) and we’ve just eaten the last one. (As you can tell they keep well!) We saved the biggest until last. It probably weighed in at four or five lbs.

A wonderful orange colour, this squash had pride of place in the fruit basket on the coffee table.

It’s place has now been taken by our first Blue Banana squash, it’s about 16″ long, about five to six inches in diameter along most of its length and weighs in at nearly six lbs. WOW.

Apparently it also stores well and when you eventually start it, you keep it in the fridge and cut slices off it as and when you want.

That one squash was all that grew on the one plant in the greenhouse. We have two other Blue Banana plants in the squash bed in the middle of the plot.These two have about ten to twelve squashes growing on them, babies at the moment. Also in the squash bed are six Butternut squashes and three Early Golden Hubbard. (We’ve had to stake and set wires for the vines to clamber over, so that they get some breathing space.)

If you want some fun next year, get some squashes, we’ve never seen anything as rampant. Great flowers very similar to courgettes. Great architecture for the dinner table, serve roasted and stuffed with meat and fresh vegetables.

23rd July 2007 Well you can’t win them all, first potatoe blight on three out of four beds, now we’ve been attacked by Tomato Blight. I think they’re related. We need to look much more carefully at blight-resistance next year, meantime we’ll get some fungicide and try to protect the plants that haven’t succumbed yet. Beans still going well as are courgettes, even the cucumbers are having a go now.
140707 Time for a situation report. Harvesting courgettes, normal ones plus Tondo de Piacenza (round), and yellow courgettes – brilliant. They’re now about to start their second flush.
squashes have started, there’s a wonderful Early Golden Hubbard squash and our first Blue Banana squash,
potatoes got blight, but earlier ones were beautiful, jury out still for the rest
dwarf beans from the greenhouse are good,

over-wintered onions and garlics have been excellent, I’m delighted they won’t store and have to be eaten now.
mangetout peas rubbish as usual, and we had about a dozen pods of petit pois which were absolutely lovely
Continuous cropping of lettuces of various types plus spring onions
cucurbits (all of them) are pretty sad, so far,
strawberries have been very good, raspberries good,
summer onions just about ready to dig and to dry off,
Soft fruits really are next year (our third year) though I have pegged down some Strawberry runners for a strawberry cone for next year
outdoor beans (dwarf and pole) have just about started and all the tomatoes are about to start, peppers are further behind schedule, (where has the summer got to?)
AND we’ve started the autumn / winter:– yellow Jaune De Poitou leeks are looking excellent (100) (before the first frost)
– blue leeks now looking significantly better (30) (after the first frost)
– red sprouts have far too much growth and leaf
– Spring cabbage seeds sown today
– Winter cabbage seeds sown today
– calabrese seeds sown today
– summer salads – lettuce, spring onions, radish and beetroot sown today.
– onions planted out in the greenhouse (to see how they get on)
Delighted to be giving away parsley plants and coriander plants.29th May, Planted out the Caro Rich tomatoes, all of the pole and runner beans, except the Barlotto are through. Some cucumbers are planted out, but more available in pots. Same with squashes. Cropped the greenhouse potatoes, beautiful, and the winter onions in copious quantities.

13th May,
Tempus fugit, we’ve plenty of tomatoes, peppers, and leeks coming along. The runner beans and pole beans are planted out or sown in situ. Planted out the cucumbers today. We’re a bit short of squashes so I sowed some more yesterday and we haven’t sown the Dwarf French Beans yet. We’ve started cropping the winter onions.

16th April popped over for an hour to sow tomato seeds, just in case. Tomate de Colgar, Galina, Grushovka, Latah, Plum Lemon, Sungella,gardener’s Delight, Black Russian, plus Big Banana Pepper.

15th April. Wonderful hot day today, first time this year that I’ve used the awning under the pergola.
Learned yesterday that my supply chain has suffered a major interruption in service and that I shall have to bring back in-house the out-sourced seed germination.
It was not total as the Courgettes plants will be delivered on Wednesday, but tomatoes may be four weeks late and squashes and cucumbers are non-existent.
Today therefore was catch up day, design and build a large cloche (3m X 1.3m,) sow numerous seeds in numerous pots in numerous trays, and the original job for today, build the cucumber bed….. all done.

Seeds sown today:
Courgette Tondo Di Piacenza
Straightneck yellow courgette
Cornichon Fin de Meaux
Lemon Apple cucumber
Miniature White Cucumber
Maascara Lettuce
Canasta Lettuce
Little Gem Cos Lettuce
Pablo Lettuce
Blue Banana Squash
Butternut squash
Early Golden hubbard squash
Lemon Drop pepper
Purple Sprouts
Flat-leaved parsley

Next we need to sow some tomatoes in case this fails as well. Hey Ho.9th April, What a fabulous Easter weekend. Finished the digging for a neighbour, so I can now relax and not feel guilty when I was working on my own allotment. Sowed beans galore in the greenhouse, plus some Cherry Piccante Peppers, Curly Parsley and Blue Banana squashes. I must quote www.realseeds.co.uk “We use it in risottos because the flesh doesn’t breakdown when cooked. Also very nice cubed and roasted with herbs, garlic and olive  oil.”

Harvesting Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Rhubarb, plus a few new potatoes from the compost heap. Wonderful!!

1st April. Aren’t we lucky having a garden or allotment to work on. A bit cold first thing but warmed up continuously during the day, turning into a lovely sunny afternoon.

Written off the peppers etc that got killed when the greenhouse itself suffered terminal damage, so replaced today with short rows of seeds – Leeks and Squashes, plus some Cupidon bush beans. Planted out the Italian onions grown from seed.

Sowed the summer onion sets some white and 2Xsome reds and covered them with fleece (first time I’ve used fleece.) I noticed that last year I sowed them at the end of February rather than March. Also cleared a bed ready for something else, possibly leeks or courgettes..

Apparently we’re in for a beautiful spell of weather during the week so I watered the onions and potatoes. First watering of the year.

Broad beans not doing well. Red currants have some purple curled leaf, so pinched it all(?) off. Plum and damson coming into flower, so another gale, then fruit will set and then we get a frost; betcha!!

Picked rhubarb and broccoli. Great.
18th March The new greenhouse had been damaged in a recent gale, so the first job was to repair this by adding new struts to support the main roof. I used stiff plastic water piping to get the curve of the roof plus metal rods to give a vertical wall up from the ground. I’ll use the excess piping for polytunnel cloches. Picked the Purple Sprouting Broccoli for the first time this week, so much of it that we’ve had to freeze most of it.

18TH February, turned the greenhouse inside out and it’s fine now. Planted a few spuds (Maris Bard) in the greenhouse and sowed Winter Density and Canasta lettuces plus some Short top forcing radishes also in the greenhouse. Moved the blackberry to its permanent home.

17th February, finally I got to put the cover on the new greenhouse frame and sorted out the beds inside. Shame I put the cover on inside out!! Set up a composter at the main house ready for the comfrey, weeds, shredded paper etc. More daffodils are flowering, flowering currant has its first flowers,

28th January. Out on the plot today, and lost the thread

So I was clearing a bed ready for the new greenhouse and collected some old spring onions. At lunchtime I returned home for a snack and I had ryvita and humus. Naturally I dipped the spring onion in the humus and was stunned when it turned out to be garlic and not only the first one but also the second, a little one, which just had to be onion……. So I’ll be free of colds this winter.But what a lovely day to be working on the allotment. Removed the torn fabric from the plastic greenhouse, weeded all the beds, removed the artichokes and winter radishes.

It’s great shame. The jerusalem artichokes and winter radishes have produced a lovely big crop and we just don’t like them. The good news is that this means we now have an extra bed free for this summer.

First daffodils are in flower. Spring has sprung, Hooray.

17th January – I may have bought a new greenhouse, the potatoes have arrived, the radishes are showing in the greenhouse, now the year has started…. except that there’s a gale blowing. Anyway it was not a good day for planting ‘roots’. So I didn’t plant any.

Boost your brain – use your brawn, Daily Telegraph 040407

Boost your brain – use your brawn, Daily Telegraph 040407
by Cliff on Wed 04 Apr 2007 10:15 AM BST  |

Boost your brain… use your brawn

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‘If you’re sporty, you must be thick’ is a misguided cliché. In fact, a new study says exercise actually increases memory and learning potential. Victoria Lambert reports

Were you one of those forever leaping about on the tennis court at school or were you more likely to be found huddled around the Bunsen burner? Sporty or swotty, the two tribes have, by tradition, rarely crossed – save for the odd all rounder, who managed to be captain of games while studying advanced maths. Now, new research from America is confounding the old stereotypes, with the finding that exercise actually makes your brain bigger and more capable of learning.

‘We have to keep people active through mid-life – maybe these new findings will provide the right carrot for them,’ says Prof Bruce Lynn from University College London.

The study, carried out at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, has shown that working out the muscles could simultaneously be pumping up the brain – and specifically the memory.

Exercise appears to directly affect a region of the hippocampus, the area of the brain concerned with memory and learning, called the dentate gyrus, one of the few areas of the brain where neurogenesis – the creation of nerve cells – takes place. Building up the number of nerve cells (neurons) and the connections between them in the dentate gyrus is vital to the prevention of memory decline that typically begins at around the age of 30. So does this mean that aerobic exercise can help anyone increase their learning potential?

Cell production is a complex affair relying on a ready supply of proteins and hormones, particularly a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is known to be crucial in child growth and the development of every cell in the body. It is released into the bloodstream every time you contract and relax a muscle and so levels rise when you exercise.
When IGF-1 reaches the brain, it acts on the cells that release neurotransmitters, the chemicals responsible for communication.

It triggers an increase in production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, which promotes the growth of new nerve cells and which Harvard psychiatrist, John Ratey, has nicknamed “Miracle-Gro for the brain”.
As new brain cells are created, they form pathways and links, as we learn new facts and skills. The greater level of BDNF you have, the more new nerve cells you can produce and the greater the number of building blocks available to you to extend your learning capacity. But if levels fall, it can work in reverse. Those born with a faulty variant of the gene responsible for the production of BDNF have trouble with recall and creating new memories.

Using an MRI scanner, the Columbia researchers led by Professor Scott Small examined a living brain before and after exercise and, for the first time, were able to see neurogenesis effectively in action.
Those most likely to benefit from the finding are victims of degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, and the next step will be to use this information to create an exercise regime specifically tailored to preventing age-related memory loss.

Professor Bruce Lynn, from University College London, welcomes the new findings. He recalls similar findings being presented in the 1960s – and then ignored by the scientific community. Even five years ago, he says, there were only half a dozen papers on the topic; yet now it has become a very active area for research, as it has become abundantly clear that those who remain physically active stay cognitively fit, too.
“The big question however,” says Prof Lynn, “is what is the link? It is not obvious why exercise has this effect on the brain. Growth factors are important but blood flow to the brain is not relevant. Some people suggest increased oxygen is crucial but our blood is always saturated with oxygen unless we’re in the Himalayas – or, ironically, exercising.
“What type of exercise you choose seems to matter: aerobics works, but you don’t get the same results from strength training. However, when you are strength training – using weights – you see big increases in the production of IGF-1.”

At the University of Birmingham, Professor Asker Jeukendrup, a specialist in exercise metabolism, confirms there is a lot of evidence that physical activity helps brain development. He thinks there is some truth to the theory that suggests improving blood supply and therefore fuel to the brain is important.

“You don’t need to do much to get an effect,” he says. “Studies have already shown that just 20 minutes walking – not even particularly briskly – will reduce degeneration of the brain and improve learning ability. Yet many people are still below that threshold. And, of course, other studies show that the more you do, the better it gets.”

He believes it is important this message gets across to the older generation. “If you can keep the elderly active, their quality of life improves so much.”

Prof Lynn agrees that promoting exercise for the over-sixties is important. “It just has so many benefits, particularly for the mind. A lot of effort is put into preventing falls – but they are not just due to weakening muscles but also problems with balance, which occur in the brain.”

What he finds particularly encouraging about the latest study is that it confirms it is never too late to revitalise your mind.
“This is a great thing to promote. After all, we all want a beautiful body, but staying in sound mind as we age is even better. Improving mental health is very important to the quality of life in an ageing population.”
While he is also confident that the message about exercise is getting through to children via schools programmes, and increasingly to the elderly, he worries about the 20-60 age group.

“We have to keep people active through mid-life – maybe these new findings will provide the right carrot for them.”

Another study due to be published later this year by Charles Hillman, a hockey-playing neuroscientist at the University of Illinois, and previewed in the current edition of Newsweek magazine, will show that in a group of 259 students, allowing for socio-economic factors, those who had the fittest bodies also had the fittest minds, measured via a maths and reading test.

When Prof Lynn considers prospective students for his university course, grades being equal, he will favour those who play sport to a high level.
“It’s true that you can’t study as hard as you or I might wish if you are an elite athlete, but you are used to performing at that level. The potential and the competitive spirit are there.

“At UCL, we have a bright bunch of students and a high proportion of them are physically active.
“This image – that if you are sporty, you must be thick – is more about wanting to put people down. The polymath is not that unusual. Think of the Nobel-prize winner Prof Vivian Hill who was also an Olympic athlete.”
A word of warning: if your training programme includes a congratulatory drink after the work-out, then you’ll undo all your good work, according to Prof Lynn, as “alcohol depresses neurogenesis.”

So by all means take up golf – just steer clear of the 19th hole.

The Alzheimer’s connection

Matching names to faces is one of the first skills to go as our memory starts to deteriorate. The area of the brain where this happens is the dentate gyrus – the area that the Columbia university researchers noticed was seeing cell regeneration after exercise. A separate study at Illinois University has seen improvement in the frontal lobes after exercise: this area is connected to what is known as the Executive Function – which covers decision-making, forward planning and multi-tasking.

It’s no wonder Professor Simon Lovestone, a specialist in old age psychiatry at King’s College London, finds the evidence very interesting and with definite implications for the study of Alzheimer’s.

‘An increasing amount of evidence shows that activity is beneficial – both in people and in mice – although we’re not sure of the mechanism,’ he says. Scientists have already discovered that ageing mice – which were made to exercise more by running on wheels – fared better in memory tests. Carl Cotman, a neuroscientist at the University of California, found that those mice which are susceptible to a similar disease to Alzheimer’s, characterised by levels of plaque in the brain, had lower levels of plaque when he put them to the treadmill.

He concluded that it might inhibit the development of the plaque or stimulate cells to clear it away. Prof Lovestone explains this is significant. ‘People who routinely exercise are quite different to those who don’t in terms of diet, affluence, class and general lifestyle. Yet mice don’t have class or affluence differences – so while the jury is out on how this works, exercise clearly has a direct effect on the brain.’

Keywords: walks, diet, healthy, GI, activity

2006, getting ready for 2007

Planning for Summer 2007, must make the notes now, while we’re harvesting! DONE

The view in December:- we have permission for next greenhouse, but have not yet ordered it. This will be used for raising seedlings and then for some of the tomatoes and groundcherries
– moved summer raspberries out of the shade
– the over-wintering onions, garlics and shallots all doing well as are the sage and the rosemary
– got loads of seeds and beans all ready for next year, the only one missing is the Caro Rich tomatoes

18th September. The die is cast. The seeds have been ordered from www.realseeds.co.uk, the surprises are carrots and lettuce for ‘she who shall be obeyed’, Blue Banana Squash, Thai Long Green Aubergine, Latah Tomato, Grushovka Tomato, Galina Tomato, De Colgar Tomato, Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean, Cupidon Bean, Lemon Drop chilli pepper, Jaune de Poitou Yellow Leek, Bleu de Solaise leek, D’Eysines Carrot, and Mascara lettuce

4th September. Must have Tomatillos again next year, they are beautiful. Purple Sprouting Broccoli now seem to have a new life after mulching, trimming and treating plus rain. Canasta lettuce getting established. 3rd September. Well an opportunity to simplify things a bit. It seems that peppers and chillies may well be able to overwinter in the greenhouse. So it’ll be a shorter list of new seeds (will try Aubergines as well) and also that I’ll set aside a permanent bed in the greenhouse for them. This means we’re really trying for early and unusual tomatoes and squashes. If I can’t get another plot, I’ll definitely ask permission for another greenhouse.

19th August make sure that all the exotics (toms, peppers, cukes) are the earliest we can get. Try to get another plot; composters OK; need another, larger polytunnel for peppers and tomatoes, over-wintering geraniums and palms etc need more space for beans, squashes, courgettes, etc etc. Another plot would give me a further ten 24′ long raised beds.

10th August. How have the ideas moved forward? From this years crops we should be able to get the seeds for some of these as there are no F1 hybrids:


–          Caro Rich (save some seed) – huge

–          Plum Lemon (save some seed) – prolific and tasty

–          De Colgar (cj to order)

–     need a cherry tomatoe ?Galina

–     Grushovka (cj to order)


–          Blanche Ronde de Oeuf (Ordered)

–          Thai Long Green (cj to order)


–          Buran (in stk) (save some seed) (Overwinter)

–          Antoi Romanov Pale Yellow Pepper (cj to order)

–          White Cloud (save some seed)(Overwinter)

–          Orange Bell (save some seed) – looks prolific (Overwinter)


–          Joes Long Cayenne Chilli (In stk) (save some seed)(Overwinter)

–          Etna Chilli (save some seed) (Overwinter)

–          ?Angies chillies from last year (Overwinter)


–          Early Golden Hubbard (save some seed) – Superb

–          Blue Banana (cj to order)

–          Waltham Butternut (cj to order)


–          Crystal Apple (Tortarello) (save some seed) – Superb

–          Dimara Miniature White Cornichon (save some seed) – Superb

–          Fin de Meaux Cornichon (Ordered)

–          Melothrie (already in stk)


–          Cantaloup Charentais (Ordered)

–          w:st=”on”style=”font-size: 9pt;”Minnesota Midget (save some seed) lost the lot


–          Zucchini (save some seed) – Superb

–          Tondo di Piacenza (ordered)

Tomatillo aka Ground Cherries

–          Mixed Purple & Green (In stk) (save some seed) (Superb)

–          Poha (In stk) (save some seed)

We are having some wonderful foods, yes, we did well with potatoes, beans, squashes, courgettes, radishes, onions, garlic and shallots but the brassicas (with the exception of the Spring Hero cabbage) have been useless. I think we should give the whole plot a rest from brassicas for two or three years. Next year we will get more soft fruit and rhubarb. Angie’s flowers have been a great idea. The whole plot looks pretty good.

5th August. The idea is to make sure we get the best of what we’ve done this year plus new ideas, new trials, plus correcting weaknesses.

More flowers

More raspberries, not enough have survived and grown enough to give us the crop we want – probably the most important decision.

Potatoes, Maris Peer are peerless so far.

Over-wintering onions and garlics are already ordered, and christmas new potatoes already planted. Winter salad and radishes already ready to go, just need to clear and refill the hotbeds in the greenhouse. Some of the stuff can be sown outdoors.

Now what are we going to get from www.realseeds.co.uk? Could be any or all of these
– Thai long Green aubergine, very early, lime green
– Los Algarros, v large black, vigorous aubergine
– ‘Cherokee Trail of tears’ pole beans
– ‘Cupidon’ green bush bean
– White beetroot
– Sanguina red beetroot
– ‘Full white celery’
– ‘Giant Red’ Dark Orange Carrot
– Early Green Jalapeno Chilli
– Lemon Drop Chilli
– Trieste White Courgette
– Parisian Pickling Gherkin
– ‘Striato d’Napoli green striped courgtte
– ‘Miniature White’ Cucumber
– ‘jaune de Poitou’ leek
– ‘Bleu de Solaise’ Blue  leek
– ‘Flame’ Cherry Red lettuce
– ‘Sicily Giant’ radish
– ‘Long Scarlet’ radish
– ‘Ashworth’ Sweetcorn
– ‘Yankee Bell’ Green pepper
– ‘Sweet Chocolate’ pepper
– ‘Lipstick’ sweet conical red pepper
– ‘Latah’ super early salad type
– Grushovka Pink
– ‘De Colgar’ storage tomato
– ‘Blue banana’ squash

Don’t they sound wonderful, and going on this year’s performance they will be magic.

Then there’s the french beans, the potatoes, main crop garlic and shallots to order, plus Crystal Apple/ Lemon cucumbers.

Get Shallots later

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