Christmas is a very busy time in the retail trade. The run up morphs into the SALES which means this Christmas I had the 25th December and Boxing Day off, as well as New Year's Day.
Other than that it was work as usual which is why I like to book a week in Spain around the end of January, which I did this year. My wife Kay , and I, flew out of Birmingham and were very lucky to leave the snow behind us.
The timing was perfect and this was underlined when we went walking around the hills of Bolnuevo a couple of days later. This little seaside town sits on the shoulder of the Port of Mazarron (Puerto Mazarron) in the region of Murcia (Costa Calida).
The mid day temperatures got up around 20 degrees, though they drop quickly after daylight fades. I like to look for wild or unusual flowers or birds as well as feel the sunshine on the back of my neck. On this occasion I found some wild white orchids, which are not uncommon in this region.
The combination of palm trees and hillsides is more uncommon, creating a feeling of an oasis. Towards Tallante we were privileged to see 3 ground feeding Hoope's.
This is a bird I have seen once, when in Spain with my brother David, and before that only as a picture card given away with Brooke Bond Tea in the 1960's; so imagine how thrilled we were to see this sight.
The almond trees were full of flower, the goat herders control massive flocks, and the local Casa de la Ermita red wine is great value. This is an area I will re-visit in more detail in the future.
So convincingly realistic, artificial Christmas trees are now difficult to distinguish from real ones. Nathan James Dodd discovers that no needle drop, annual reuse and a great range of natural styles are among the reasons why artificial trees are increasing in popularity.
Regular readers of The Gardener blog will remember the workshop GardenSite supplied to the Gracechurch Shopping Centre in Sutton Coldfield earlier in the year. David Coton now reports that it has now been donated to a local school in Birmingham.
Although from the southern hemisphere, while Santa Claus hails from the North Pole, penguins are essential Christmas characters and Nathan James Dodd explains how to complete your decorations with this quirky flightless bird.
There's still plenty to do in the garden during November, and Nathan James Dodd explains why a visit to our online Autumn Gardening Shop may be very worthwhile.