Happy Christmas!

What a year it has been! To be honest, I am quite glad that it is coming to an end. Surely 2021 will be better, although I suspect January will be rather tricky.

Life at the hospice has been really hard recently. The second wave has been much harsher than the first, and we actually had to briefly close our doors in order for a deep clean. Staff have been unwell and nearly all volunteers, including mine, were unable to come in to help out. Luckily, I have kept well throughout the pandemic, although it does help working outside! The place has felt eerily quiet, and I don’t like it.

But the Christmas show had to go on. So two of us, who had only helped out in the past, had to put the big tree up on our own. And then there were the 40 trees to go up at the back of the hospice, for patients to see. I was really pleased with the results, it’s just a shame that more people have not been able to see them. So I thought I would share a couple of photos with you…

Next year we hope to be able to show more people around and make it into a celebration of Christmas.

I finished work today for Christmas and I am looking forward to a couple of weeks off. It is somewhat surprising, but the winter months are actually quite busy for me. So for the last couple of weeks I have been jet-washing the patios and paths. It is amazing the amount of dirt that comes off and how clean they look afterwards. I have also been tackling an area that had become a bit overgrown – hopefully next year I’ll keep on top of it. That’s the thing with gardening – you turn your back and before you know it somewhere has gone completely wild. Oh well, it keeps me in a job!

The gardening has kept me sane this year. Each morning I would skip out of the house, much to Sam’s annoyance. It has been hard for Sam this year. After her cancer diagnosis in 2019, we had high hopes for 2020. This time last year she was having some chemotherapy and had to largely stay clear of people. And when the chemo was soon going to end, Covid 19 came along and we were put into lockdown. Sam, being a strong extrovert, found lockdown particulary hard. We had hoped to have a big post chemo party, which sadly hasn’t happened yet. And we had also hoped to have a big Christmas celebration, but that too is going to be a bit muted. But on a positive note, Sam is well, and that is what matters most.

But back to the gardens. This year I have noticed several things for the first time. There was the bee orchid in June and the bee swarm in August (see previous posts). In September I was really pleased to see a humming bird moth, eating nectar from a verbena flower. And in October I saw a flower in the gardens that I had never seen before, despite working at the hospice for over 4 years. It was a Gladiolus murielae and very beautiful. I have no idea who planted it and apparently they do not like frosts. So it’s a mystery. Here it is looking rather beautiful…

Gladiolus murielae

In November I noticed that a daffodil had come into flower. Seems to be a bit early to me, but we are living in very strange times! And then last week I saw a Ring Necked Parakeet flying overhead. I have seen them in London before, but not in Wigan. It turns out that there is a sizable parakeet community living in Greater Manchester. These beautiful green birds with their red beaks, are believed to have escaped captivity and started to breed in London in the late 1960’s. It is surprising that they are able to survive our cold winters but they have shown to be very adept at living in a wide range of environments, including in the foothills of the Himalayas. So I am sure that Wigan in winter isn’t a major problem for them. I hope that they become regular visitors to the hospice gardens.

My favourite photos of the year were taken at the end of September. It was a cold, sunny morning with a slight mist. The light around the large ponds and through the trees was just stunning.

And I love this photo looking through some Japanese anemone flowers with a spiders web.

I’m signing off now for the year. I hope that you are keeping well and that you have as good a Christmas as is possible under these dreadful times. And let’s hope and pray for a better 2021.

Keep safe and a very Happy Christmas!

Lots of love, JIM x