Monthly Archives: January 2020

And now for a cardio workout


I finally got round to doing a job that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. By a while I mean more than a year, in fact probably a decade. Where the garden meets the lane there’s a wall and long before I was born somebody build a raised bed against it. The issue is that ivy took over, closely followed by briars.

So finally I tackled it. With briars the best technique I’ve found to get rid of them is to cut them off at the base and then grab the cut end and pull the briar out of the hedge.

Cutting off at the base can be relatively easy. It is possible to use a chainsaw as a scythe but of course that falls very heavily into the, ‘do not try this one at home children’ category. A billhook or splashing hook will do the job, but you keep finding that your backswing gets tangled up in stuff. I picked up a pair of long handled secateurs from somewhere. These are a serious piece of kit with the handles at least two feet long and the cutting blades made to scale.
When you’re taking briars out, if you get low and work under them, once you’ve broken through the ‘front’ and are ‘in among them’ it can be quite easy.

The next thing is to get a good set of gloves. The first ones I ever used were leather, and my memory of them is that they looked very much like these in the photo. Now the idea with them is that the professional hedger would tend his mittens, I’ve been told that they used to soak them in Olive Oil when they were new, and keep doing it occasionally.
Now to be fair, when the pair I used were new, they may well have done this. But there’d been at least one if not two World Wars since them and the damned things were as stiff as a board. Now it has to be admitted there no thorn could punch through them (although all sorts of rubbish would work its way in along your wrist) but actually trying to clasp anything with them was a nightmare. To be fair I was in my early teens and they were too big for me. Added to that, I hadn’t the strength in my hand to grip with them, so when I hit something with the billhook held in my left hand, sometimes it would just twist in my grip.


Now I use a set of cheap padded fabric gauntlets that I picked up at our local agricultural engineers for less than a fiver a set. They are gloves rather than mittens, and I can reckon to get two or three years out of them before they start to develop embarrassing holes. Even with the holes they were great for wearing when driving the quad bike in winter.

But back to the job. Once you’ve dealt with the briars, ivy is another problem altogether. Yes is can look quaint and rustic, but it can destroy walls. In our case the wall is beach cobble held together with what is probably an old lime cement. Ivy can sink roots and burrow through this just for fun.

To shift the ivy, I found the best technique was to cut the thicker stems at the bottom with a chain saw, being careful not to blunt the blade on the wall.
Then I’d slide a long steel bar under the ivy and just pry it away from the wall. You have to be careful doing this, because if the ivy is stronger than the wall you can end up prying the wall away from the ivy. So it was often a case of ‘pry a bit’ and then go in with the long handled secateurs to cut away anything that is too deeply rooted in the wall.
I confess to being impressed by these secateurs, they can go through ivy over an inch in diameter.

Once you’ve stripped the ivy away from the wall you’ll doubtless have pieces of it left, deeply rooted in the wall. In my case, just using brute force to pull them out would doubtless do more damage to the wall than the ivy, so my cunning plan is to come back in spring, re-cut the ivy and paint it with a good weedkiller.

That way I use the absolute minimum of the substance, and can apply it right to where it’s needed.

But it has to be said, once you’ve thrown yourself into this job, there is no way you need to bother the gym with your presence. As cardio workouts go, it takes a lot of beating.


There again, if you’ve been doing this strenuous workout, you deserve a decent cup of coffee and a good book

As a reviewer commented, “This is Jim Webster’s third book and though it doesn’t carry on from the previous two it is set in the same fantasy world. We follow a young man named Freelor as he takes on a job to cover a winter time when he’s unable to get home, where he is due to marry. There are other sub-plots in this story and if you have read his earlier books, you will recognise the name of the city which falls and is destroyed by fire. One of the subplots concerns a shaman’s amulet worn by Freelor, which grows hot in the presence of the evil god Hkada whose followers are able to summon him. There are exciting battles and some serious temple raiding resulting in a possession by the god Hkada.

The story is a quest tale with Freelor leaving his usual haunts to undertake a journey to a temple where his friend, the academic Tolshin, hopes to find information about Hkada. It’s a fantasy classic and I particularly like some of Jim Webster’s phrases, for example, the merchant’s expression, “I keep my grandmother freshly washed and presentable, against the possibility of impulse buyers.” And the exchange between the soldier and his superior, “Just got my boots off for the first time for three days.” “Exotic pleasures of the flesh are reserved for officers. Get your boots fastened and get over here!”

A really good read!”