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Little things please little minds... and bigger fools look on

Now that I’ve done all I can to the back garden, it was time to think about the front garden, which has always been a bit of a problem. If you think the back garden is small, then you don’t want to see the front! I’m not kidding when I say that you could fit it inside one of those big posh SUV’s you see yummy mummies driving along our narrow roads because obviously you need four wheel drive to brave the wilds of central Poole! (Don't worry, I promise that the potholes aren’t that bad. Some of them make lovely birdbaths for the seagulls after rain.)

In the middle of it is a rhododendron lutium japonica which was in the front garden but in a different place when we moved in. It’s lovely, with vivid yellow flowers and the most amazing smell and seeing it come out long ago marked the start of spring for me. When we moved in, it lived in the middle of a privet hedge (so that what was left would have fitted in a smart car!) It was small and a bit sorry for itself, but just after the children were born I had a really good year with my magazine story sales and employed a garden designer, who became the inspiration for Nathan Blake in my Lavender House and Harbourside series. (Harbourside starts next month, she says as she gets a quick plug in.)

Anyway, he and his lovely assistant Terry rebuilt the front garden walls and took out the hedge, which instantly tripled the light in the living room, and moved the rhododendron to the centre of the garden. It rewarded me by growing so happily that I now have to cut it back by a third each year or it’d take over my garden and quite probably next door’s on both sides as well before it paused to work out how it’d get across the road.

I hope you can now see my garden in your mind’s eye. Not a lot of room, but enough to put up a bird feeder. I used to have one in the back garden, but then the cats came along and I didn’t want to think I was feeding the birds to the cats so down it came and I repurposed it to hang some solar lanterns from in my cut-price version of a Narnia lamp post.

I was going to be all green and recycle the feeders, and I did and it looks good. Except… and have you noticed how there always is an except in life? In this case it happened this morning, just after dawn when I heard cheeping and sneaked across to look out of the window.

Enter a lovely little hen sparrow who hopped from the lutium to the new feeders and sneaked under the dome that’s meant to stop the big birds scoffing all the food. Not of course that the seagulls who nest on the chimney pots across the road would do a naughty thing like that. For one thing, they don’t need to, because I leave their mealworm on the wall for them, especially when they're rearing babies. More importantly, they’re great big herring gulls who’d be flat on their backs on the ground under the collapsed metal pole if they tried it. I was just going aaah when along came a cock sparrow with a naughty glint in his little beady eye.

He landed on the plastic dome, which hasn’t aged as well as it I’d hoped, the dome descended rapidiy, and for an awful moment I thought I was going to have to clear up a decapitated hen sparrow. My luck was clearly in because she left with a squawk and was so upset that she perched on the suet feeder full of berries and insects and watched what I think is her mate, because sparrows are one of the few birds who mate for life, trying very hard to act as if nothing had happened that shouldn’t have done while she had a little snack, leaving him sitting on top of the dome, which now completely covered the feeder so there were no meal worms for him.

And you know what? I could have sworn that she was sniggering. I definitely was but I am a nice person so I have now ordered two solar lanterns with built-in bird feeders and nice little roofs so that the birds and the bird food can stay dry. That nice Mr Amazon will bring them tomorrow and I’ll fill one with super posh buggy nibbles (an assortment of insects wrapped in suet) and the other with mealworm. And at night they’ll glow and make patterns on the gravel and become another of the little things that make me smile.

So may I hope that you find lots of things to make you smile this week?

At the moment, the lutium is just twigs, so I owe you a picture when it’s in flower. In the meantime, here are my snowdrops, so spring can’t be far away.

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