No Rest for the Wicked

Reading time 6 minutes

In previous years I have managed to keep posting regularly through December, although the topic of my posts has steadily moved away from gardening towards Christmas, the second love of my life. This year I’ve found it harder to strike a balance between work, travel and home life, and the blog has suffered as a consequence. I’m still here, frustrated as ever, and I hope you haven’t missed me too much. I’ve missed you.

My garden has been ravaged by northerly winds but not yet by frost. Despite some very chilly nights the sea air and sheltered microclimate has protected both plots from damaging subzero temperatures. This is fortunate as my new greenhouse heater remains in its box, and there’s no room at the inn for any more plants requiring shelter. For the next 2 or 3 months I have to cross my fingers and hope for the best. A few casualties, though sad, will make way for exciting new acquisitions next year.

I have asked my dad to make me a potting bench for Christmas. I had a look at what is available via the Internet and concluded it’s all rather small and flimsy. I want a table I can plonk big, heavy, wet pots on, not an assemblage of matchsticks which looks like it might splinter under the weight of 10 seed packets. My dad is an excellent carpenter in the rustic sense and enjoys a project, so this will be right up his street. It also creates an excuse for him to come and visit in the spring. I look forward to not having to bend or kneel on a concrete garage floor far more than I would eating a box of chocolates or wallowing in a prettily scented bath.

Meanwhile at work, I have mostly been talking about tinsel. The interest in this once unfashionable form of Christmas decoration has been intense this year. I’ve been quoted in every paper from The Sun to The Telegraph, and been on radio and TV talking about the sparkly stuff. In fact tinsel has been so popular this year that I’ve had to repeat buy it to keep up with demand.

Thus far, no tinsel has made it back to The Watch House; not because I don’t like it, but because every glittering shred has been sold and every sample proffered for office decoration. It’s great to see people falling in love with this simple-yet-ancient form of Christmas decoration once again. It was first invented in Germany in 1610, at which time it was fashioned from pure silver and used as a means of throwing candlelight onto religious icons and effigies. It’s come a long way since then, although ours is made locally in Wales. Whether you consider tinsel gaudy, cheap, tacky, dated or passé, you can’t deny it sparkles. If I had half as much sparkle at this stage in the run up to Christmas, I’d be a happy man.

For fear of disappearing from all forms of Social Media entirely (surely this must be a recognised phobia by now?) I have been using Instagram more and more through December. My Christmas cracker supplier introduced me to an app called Kirakira which adds extra sparkles into photos and videos. Needless to say this has become something of a temporary obsession; it can even stop me from looking lacklustre at 4am when I get up for work, although I have not yet discovered the app which removes bags from under the eyes.

Below, a video piece I recorded last week with online magazine The Pool. I seem to have left my neck and my corset at home that day, hence I look rather like more like an Oopma-Loompa than I’d like. TFG.

Categories: Christmas, Musings, Plants, Weather

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

Leave a Reply

29 comments On "No Rest for the Wicked"

  1. You are a very hard-working man Dan. To tell the truth I’ve missed your posts about plants, but I understand how busy in December you are 🙂 . I didn’t know tinsel had such a long tradition and dates back to 1610 . My Christmas tree is not decorated with a tinsel this year , maybe next year if I find a really nice one . Have a happy and not so busy time before Christmas finally comes in a couple of days .

  2. Tinsel is great, it reminds me so much of childhood Christmases, I love it in silver especially.
    I will look forward to seeing your dad’s potting bench. I wanted something similar and Mr TT (also v good at carpentry) was going to make me one. Then I found a baby’s changing table at the local tip. It cost me £2.00. It is sturdy enough to take a large galvanised bowl for washing pots. Mr TT is currently working on it to make it even better. Having made sure all the joints are sound, he has added a shelf to give me more space to put things. Now he is painting it a shade of blue that I love, to match the shelves in my shed. It is also the perfect height for me, as I am short!!
    Have a lovely Christmas and I hope you get to bring some of that tinsel home – silver, of course!

  3. Merry Christmas. Your decorating tips are always welcome. 🙂 I will look forward to seeing your new potting bench. I have a store bought one inside the garage, but my outdoor one was made by my husband. A friend passed away, and his wife gave us a workbench he had in their basement. So, he took the parts that were salvageable and added other materials for stability, put a wooden fence panel on the back so I can hang things there, added heavy duty wheels, and although it normally sits in one place, I can move it all about and put it in the barn for the winter. It not only serves all my potting needs but has good memories. Have a wonderful holiday and here’s hoping Santa brings Martha a full bag of goodies. 🙂

    1. I don’t think Martha will go short this year Judy! I have a drawer in one of my guest rooms which I fill up with Christmas gifts steadily through the year. Of course, I forget what’s already in there and keep buying more. I will need to ration the gifts out a bit otherwise she will get overwhelmed. She’s still a real live wire. Can’t wait to see her.

      I promise to keep you updated on the potting bench. It will be a while before my dad can get it down to me, but I’m not in a hurry. I too had an idea about having a panel at the back, so I am interested to hear that you’ve done that too. I might come back to you if he asks for any design tips.

      Meanwhile, I hope you are all prepared for Christmas and tucked up nice and cosy in your lovely home? I bet you’ve had quite a lot of snow?

  4. Happy Christmas Dan. Thank you for posting that short video on tinsel. It was so interesting to hear your actual voice after years of reading your writing voice. Wishing you a pleasant end to 2017 and enjoyable 2018.

    1. My pleasure. I wasn’t especially happy with how I looked on that video (less mince-pies, more exercise might have helped!) but my voice is, well, my voice. I like to think I write how I speak?

      Thank you for the Christmas wishes. This is a year I will not be sad to say goodbye to, but I am full of optimism for 2018. I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas. Dan

  5. My mother-in-law used to make her children wind individual tinsel strands (not garland, but the strips of metallic plastic in a box that get into the shag rug and jam up the Hoover) one by one around the branches of the tree at Christmas. He still has psychological scars. I’m surprised you even do Christmas at home, since it is so much of your work life—a busman’s holiday, I guess. Happy Christmas!

    1. Oh my! That stuff was horrible! My great grandmother used the same stuff for several years! I thought that it was actually prettier after it was worn and crinkly, but it was way too much work.

      1. I agree, lametta is laborious. Used correctly (i.e. lavishly) it is quite beautiful though. I can’t believe people used to decorate trees that had real candles with it. The whole thing must have been highly combustible.

    2. My home is like a giant Christmas experiment. I try out some of the new products that we are considering for the following year (those that won’t blow the house up if they haven’t been tested!) and trial new themes and colour combinations. I absolutely love it, and won’t stop adding until about 10pm on Christmas Eve, when I finally get around to wrapping my presents! Happy Christmas to you too!

  6. Always glad to see your posts pop up and I really enjoyed the tinsel video and hearing more about your job. Whenever you have the time to blog suits me fine and I’m glad you manage to fit it in so often. Have a great Christmas.

    1. Thanks Elaine. I do look very odd in that video. I haven’t been able to watch it to the end yet! So pleased you enjoy my posts – I’ll try to squeeze a couple more in before Christmas. Hope you enjoy your festivities 🙂

  7. I’m a fairly new reader of your posts, but seriously enjoy them! I live in British Columbia, Canada (a Scottish transplant).
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and an awesome 2018

    1. Thank you Kathleen. I am sorry there have been fewer posts of late. They will pick up again in the New Year, I promise. My bulbs are already poking through and I have Christmas roses (Helleborus niger) aplenty. Only four days until the shortest day is behind us too. Yippee!

  8. Mr. Christmas,your enthusiasm remains fresh after all these years. Wonderful video with tinsel tips. Hadn’t considered tinsel in decades but will now look for some to drap over mirrors and chairs (my tree is tiny/tabletop cutie my late mother bought). That sweater/jacket and tie: awesome. Merry Christmas from Pennsylvania.

    1. Thank you! Tinsel has to be one of the easiest decorations to put up and take down. That in itself must be recommendation enough to use it. If there’s one job I hate, it’s taking decorations down and storing them away. SO depressing!

  9. A table made for you by your Dad! How lovely! I trust it will be better than the one my husband made for his mum. It was to go in the greenhouse and given that he is not a carpenter, or even a diy-er, the finished table didn’t look so bad. But if only he’d considered the width of the greenhouse before he started! He had to dismantle the table to get it through the greenhouse door. And once inside, the table was too wide to walk around! Anyway, they got there eventually and the table and it’s story gave us all a lovely memory! I hope you have a happy Christmas!

    1. Oh dear! At least you can all laugh about it now. My dad is pretty competent in the DIY department. He’s asked me for measurements so if anything goes wrong I will only have myself to blame. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too. Dan.

  10. Dan do fix up your heater for the greenhouse…I had the unfortunate mishap of my “frost free” greenhouse thermostat failing to turn the heater on the coldest night of the year with and outdoor temp of minus 11 degrees. Consequently much of the greenhouse stocks are sadly lost…all geraniums and aeoniums hopefully agaves and echerverias are okay…but the greenhouse fell to minus 5! Do fix up your heater just in case you get some sudden sub zeros in Kent! By the way do you reckon aeoniums might be okay if I just chop of the foliage rosettes which are hungdown limply??? Have a great Xmas even without the tinsel! Anne x

    1. I know, I really should sort it. My ‘really should sort it’ list is horribly long though. We had a very light frost Saturday night / Sunday morning. I checked the greenhouse in the afternoon and everything was fine, thankfully.

      With regard to your aeoniums, I’d say it’s worth giving that a try. If the stem tissue is damaged then it will probably rot once the weather gets warmer. However, if it’s not, they might reshoot. Keep them very dry in the meantime.

      Happy Christmas to you too! X

  11. Happy Christmastime, Dan!
    Noooooooooo, tinsel is back? I’m old enough to remember it — and finding little bits of it for years after.
    xoxox from across the pond,

  12. Hi Dan
    relieved to notice I’m not the only one who’s blog is suffering in the run-up to Christmas, although I can’t cite the excuse of such a busy job life. Thank you for this post – I had no idea about the history of tinsel, nor, in fact, about the difference between tinsel and lametta. I did, of course, know that there is the stuff you more or less crumple into a ball and throw at the tree and another kind which is used as/ in individual strands (traditionally made of lead), but always assumed both were called tinsel in English.

    I’m firmly in the lametta camp: as a child, we’d hang each strand individually and evenly on the tree’s branches until it looked like covered in a veil of icicles. And after Christmas we’d take them down again, individually, and then tie the carefully gathered bunch at both ends and in the middle – to be kept for the next year. I’m sure my parents still have – and use – those very same strands! But unlike Tina D.’s husband I always enjoyed the process. Alas, on my own tree now we have no shiny things, just folk-style decoration, mainly made of wood and felt.

    Oh – meant to tell you a while ago, Mr Christmas: When at coffee morning with some other mums the other day after dropping our brood off for school, there was animated talk about the fabulous Christmas ornaments available at John Lewis, with “evidence produced” on a smart phone screen, triggering much cooing and hasty bookmarking of the website… (and just for the record, it wasn’t initiated by me as I don’t own a smart phone 😉 )

    1. That’s good to know! We have had a very good year on Christmas ornaments. They are my favourite products to buy. What’s not to like, after all?

      Your tree sounds lovely. Decorations don’t have to be glitzy to be charming, although I confess to liking a degree of sparkle and shine on my own tree. I’ve gone quite natural on my main tree this season, but the tree in the dining room is unashamedly dazzling – all crystals and icicles. It would look great with lametta on it. Your childhood memory is a reflection on how disposable everything has become. I wonder how many people would bother to recycle lametta nowadays? I can’t ever throw anything away so I probably would. We are thinking about bringing it back next year. Hope you have a super Christmas. Just 5 more days and I can start enjoying it too! Dan

Follow The Frustrated Gardener and have new posts sent directly to your inbox

Join 8,225 other subscribers

Wordpress users click to subscribe here

Follow The Frustrated Gardener