You Know It's Summer When...

Strawberry bed escapees I found lurking behind a bench yesterday

Just before I went on holiday, I was delighted The Guardian Gardening Blog accepted a guest post on how to spot it's summer. I didn't realise that comments would be closed by the time I came back, so I'm unable to thank those people who took the piece at its light hearted face value and added their own contributions. Here will have to do instead, so thank you.

To those others who saw fit to add personal remarks, I'll say only this: I'm glad I was out in the real world enjoying myself at the time. Of course everyone's entitled to their own opinions and The Guardian was right to show them as they say far more about the commenter than they do about me. However, it would be much better if the same standards used when judging my piece were applied when commenting. I don't mind disagreement or criticism of what I say - what a boring world it would be if we all agreed with each other - but a constructive comment saying why or what's wrong, means something can be done about it next time. I'll keep on writing and submitting guest posts and in future any personal remarks coming my way will be met with a dignified silence.

To all of you who added something in my defence on the original piece, here or via e-mail, thanks so much and I'm sending you hugs and all good things your way. You helped me to keep it all in proportion and made a huge positive out of a negative experience.

Now back to normal business. I've since realised that by posting on The Guardian blog instead of on here as originally planned, a number of you wouldn't get to comment as the required signing up for our media's blogs tends to make Blogger Word Verification look a breeze in comparison. I'm sure Jane Perrone won't mind my re-publishing the list which caused all the fuss, and I'm also confident you'll respond in the spirit of what I've written, just like you did back in the spring ;)

You Know It's Summer When...

  1. The news is full of stories of hosepipe bans
  2. The weather forecast has a severe weather warning for flash floods
  3. You're glad you never got around to the spring lawncare because the clover and moss are the only green things left in your lawn
  4. The entire housing estate smells of barbecue lighter fluid
  5. Parts of the garden are flattened by cats finding a sheltered spot from the sun
  6. You're frantically picking crates of courgettes and tomatoes
  7. In spite of your best efforts, you still find at least three courgettes of marrow proportions the next time you go a-harvesting
  8. The lounger's a permanent feature in the garden, but somehow you never find more than 2 minutes to lie on it
  9. The dawn chorus has stopped apart from two pesky pigeons who insist on a most repetitive duet right next to your bedroom window. Plus there's the raucous flock of seagulls from the railway station flying over the house at 4am (the nearest bit of sea is 40 miles away BTW)
  10. The patio's too hot to walk on in bare feet
  11. You're amazed at just how quickly things can grow/die/run to seed/insert plant disaster of your own choice during your holiday
  12. You find yourself making jam or chutney on the hottest day of the year
  13. You were awash with seedlings in the spring, but you still have spaces in the garden
  14. You're still behind with your gardening jobs
  15. It's warm enough at night to be in T-shirt and shorts whilst watching the bats fly around the garden
  16. Your local garden centre's employing someone to manage the traffic
  17. Alarmingly large cracks have appeared in your soil, which you try to fill with compost
  18. Bees drown out the sound of everything else, apart from your neighbour's lawnmower
  19. The wasps/mosquitoes/slugs/aphids/insert detested pest of your own choice are out in force
  20. You just love every minute you can be outside
  21. What else can you add to the list?

Enjoy the summer and your garden everyone :)


  1. Hi Vp - I missed your guest post on the Guardian as I was on my blogging break, so congrats on having such an entertaining post - and on the Guardian blog no-less, well done you.

    As for some of the comments ... well a dignified silence is the best response.

    I know its summer, when I look very stripey, brown shoulders, arms and feet, white everywhere else. Comes from spending 5 hours a day kneeling in flower beds. Of course, with it being an ENGLISH summer we are talking about, it is hard to know if it is sun-tan or rust.

  2. Hi VP, there really wasn't any justification for the negative responses left on The Guardian blog. Some folk need to learn to chill out a bit more - it really can't be good for their blood pressure.

  3. There does seem to be something about 'comment threads' which brings out the nutters - I think its the anonymity. I have to confess to a slight addiction to Strictly Come Dancing and as I'm the only member of the household to watch it, I thought I'd go on the message boards last year to enjoy some light hearted banter on the subject. It was a scary, scary place! Yours was a lovely, fun post, perfect for sparking off an online conversation and it got hijacked by the 'green ink brigade'. Still, I was glad to see the Garden Monkey gallantly fighting for your honour (I'm now picturing him as Zorro, carving his symbol into Organic John's forehead)...

  4. Hello VP

    I chanced upon your guest post when looking for information about something else (can't remember what now!) and refrained from adding a comment for various reasons, the first being that I hardly ever look at the newspaper sites so I didn't know what it was reasonable to expect of the writers there. (Though I did enjoy your article and immediately found it sparking off all sorts of thoughts and memories - like where does soil go if you pour it down a crack . . . ? And how lovely summer evenings are when the bats are flying.

    But there was only one person being negative ONE (at least, when I was there) but every time anyone said anything positive, that same person came back to be rude . . . so I decided not to provide them with another opportunity by chipping in.

    And it reminded me, also, of why I don't much go to newspaper sites. Last year, a friend died and, in distress, I went to look at some of the obituaries. It was an awful experience because of the way people had taken the comment opportunity to make all sorts of bitter and narrow minded remarks. I didn't even understand many of them because they arose from agendas I know nothing about - but I came away shocked and with a bitter taste which persists.

    Heavens only knows why people do this. I mean, if you were pushing some important political point, it would be worth tipping in and complaining. And I think disagreeing with articles, even light hearted ones is perfectly acceptable; a good idea even, at times. Indeed, I often think comments on blogs would be more interesting if they were a little more sparky. But . . .

    Anyway . . . think of all the people who will have read your post and enjoyed it but didn't comment. And remember it is the responsibility of whoever edits the site to decide whether or not an article fits in with its general tone and complaints should be addressed to them not to the writers - and remember there was only ONE person who objected (it's just that they kept doing it!).

    You are working hard at your blogs and all the other things you do - keep it up and keep enjoying it.


    P.S. As someone who inadvertently offends people from time to time, without understanding what has gone wrong (remaining bewildered even when it has been pointed out) I also think it is worth bearing in mind the possibility that the commenter genuinely thought they were being amusing - and may be very surprised that anyone took their remarks as inappropriate or offensive.

    P.P.S. I went to see 'A Night at the Museum 2' on Saturday and am still reciting some of the lines to myself, it was so funny. Don't know why I am saying this - except if anyone wants to be cheered up or to escape from anything sensible, I'd recommend it. E.

  5. I loved your piece in the Guardian, VP. Honestly think some people take themselves (and gardening) a tad too seriously.

    Glad to see the horrible comments won't stop you! (Does make me a bit nervous about guest blogging for the G though!).


  6. I saw your guest post but didnt see the horrible comments. I suppose that once you start blogging to a wider audience you attract this sort of person. best to maintain a dignified silence but more importantly not to let them get to you.

  7. I know it is summer when the mornings are clouds of humidity floating through the are fogged in the whole house and the "jungle" is descriptive for our garden.....enjoy your summer!

  8. my o my--organicjohn sounds like a phd who finds it offensive that nobody else cares that he has a phd (in what, who knows?). it's summer when toddlers scream not to go to bed-------& the birds are singing as frenetically as they can about their new nests.

  9. I loved this post. Things are little different here in New England countryside, but I can identify. I know when it is high summer when I throw up my hands and decide to let the weeds have their way in the veg. garden. Right now I am looking forward to the roses, and The Annual Rose Viewing coming up on June 28. My hardy roses don't stay in bloom for very long.

  10. Just ignore them VP, people that behave like that are called Trolls. They are sad attention seekers whose only outlet is by being nasty to others.

    Your piece was fun, and interesting, you keep writing. Look forward to more.

  11. Good God, VP, obviously I didnt see the Guardian piece or the hateful comments it generated, but really, how could this post generate a hateful comment?!! Any gardener would relate! (Especially about the courgettes/zucchinis!!!) What's wrong with people? I'm afraid the "sense of humor" gene has been destroyed by toxic chemicals and pollution. I'm so sorry this happened to you! Grrrr.

  12. Hi, VP, I missed the guest post, and have just been to look at it. I thought your list was very amusing, unlike some of the people making comments on it. There are a lot of sad people out there.

  13. Your guest post on the Guardian blog was something I kept meaning to read VP and have only just done so now. What a shame but do not take it to heart - there's nowt as queer as folk. If you can't say something constructive it aint worth saying ! You have made a lot of folk smile including me not long in from bat watching, but not in shorts I hasten to add ! Don't want to scare the bats off.

  14. Wow. I really wanted to write something on the Guardian page but the comments section is closed. I was utterly disgusted by the comments I read. (Thank God for Garden Monkey). What a bunch of rude wonkers I can't believe that the webpage allowed such abuse to be published. Shame on those people, there was nothing wrong with your post, I thought it was fun. Don't let them get you down.xx

  15. I didn't comment on the Guardian blog, where I'm Sofaflyer, as I don't like getting drawn into such threads.
    As everyone says it's best to just ignore such people.
    I enjoyed reading your post and it certainly got me thinking of lazy summer days! xx

  16. VP

    There is too much being made of this. Whilst the comments weren't ones that you were hoping for they represented the feelings of the author - they don't have to be shared by the Guardian reader; how many people dignified themselves by defending VP and at the same time let their own standards slip?

    Commenter's often miss the point and that is what happened with Organicjohn on your light-hearted blog about summer.

    Did you dignify yourself by staying silent on the Guardian blog and bringing the argument back to your own blog - I don't think so.

    I have read many posts of yours that criticise others - your local garden centre, your local council and the cancer garden centre piece at Chelsea "I felt this was particularly true of The Cancer Research UK Garden - the ball focal point was utterly awful"

    I know you didn't use the same direct language as Organicjohn but nevertheless you expressed your view and had every right to do so.

    I am afraid that if you are going to write in public then you have to accept what comes and deal with it accordingly.

    I really don't understand - Dawn says: "There does seem to be something about 'comment threads' which brings out the nutters - I think its the anonymity."

    Yet goes onto defend the Garden Monkey (whose own posts in defence of VP were no better than OJ's)

    "Still, I was glad to see the Garden Monkey gallantly fighting for your honour (I'm now picturing him as Zorro, carving his symbol into Organic John's forehead)..."

    Gavin McEwen of Hort Week left a comment on LJ yesterday that was deliberately and unnecessarily personal and I responded accordingly - it goes with the territory and because I choose to do what I do I have to deal with it.

    I didn't agree with John but I accept he had the right to leave a comment and I think you should do the same.

    Kind regards


  17. Karen - thanks and I'll add 'having painted toenails peeping out of my flip flops' to your stripy look for summer ;)

    Martyn - perhaps, but I think it goes a bit deeper than that. There are all kinds of reasons and agendas for why this kind of thing is prevalent in our mainstream media - e.g. a way of having a go at the 'establishment' is one that springs to my mind.

    Dawn - that has made me giggle so much, thank you.

    Esther - as ever you can be relied on to add so much to the comments here that's thoughtful and thought provoking. This is exactly the kind of answer I was hoping this post would stimulate. You're right, we can do with more intelligent and constructive debate in what I'm currently calling the 'independent' blogosphere. I try and get that going here from time to time and am delighted that people do respond. I try not to hand out too many 'nice post' style responses myself and try to add something to the posts I'm responding to. That of course means there's many more posts I've enjoyed, but choose not to say anything. However, there are some people who believe that if you read a post, you should say something even if it's just 'nice' as a way of thanking the blogger for their contribution and to show they've read the post. It's not right or wrong, that's just their way of doing things, just as I choose to 'lurk' when I've got nothing else to say other than 'nice'.

    Deb - don't let it stop you! I knew by submitting the posts I've had published by The Guardian that this kind of thing would happen at some point. It goes with the territory. BUT I would encourage anyone who blogs to guest post elsewhere. It gives you an opportunity to try other styles and set a benchmark for your own writing, as I know you've done already with getting your magazine article published.

    PG - absolutely and no, they haven't got to me

    Compost in My Shoe - that evokes such a wonderful picture and you've reminded me of something I need to add to the list for Autumn :)

    Petoskystone - toddlers screaming not to go to bed that reminds me of Bed in Summer, the poem I chose for this month's Garden Bloggers Muse Day :)

    Commonweeder - good luck with your rose show on the 28th. We have a few villages having open garden weekends on that date too and I'm looking forward to going round some of them

    Zoe - I did wonder if I'd been found by Trolls, thanks for confirming it for me.

    Anna - I've gone past caring re wearing shorts and go for comfort every time!

    OFB, Victoria, Carrie and Flighty - thanks and no, they're not getting me down at all!

  18. Philip - I didn't ignore your comment, when I pressed the publish button, Blogger told me my response to everyone was too long.

    So as my response to you was fairly lengthy, I separated it into a comment just for you:

    Thanks for your supportive comment about this on a previous post. I'm still ploughing through the hundreds of emails I got whilst on hols, so responding on my older posts is taking some time to get to. That's one of the reasons why I posted what I did yesterday so the positive aspects could be acknowledged in some way.

    Your comment also shows how easy it is to misconstrue the motives behind a post. I chose to also write about the negative aspects as I felt there were some general observations to be made about the way we comment, not just in response to my own experience, but also from what I've seen out there in medialand. I'm sorry that this has strayed onto your own blog lately - that's a rare occurence in my experience and I think it's partly to do with most people commenting in the 'independent' blogging sector are bloggers themselves, so there is a spirit of treating people in the way you would like to be treated yourself. In the mainstream media world of blogging that's not the case, there are many non-bloggers who read blogs and from a much wider audience, set of backgrounds,experience and view of where they fit in the world. That gets reflected in the comments.

    I strive to be constructive in what I say here, even when being critical. OK, I don't get it right every time as you have shown with your examples, but this whole experience has made me more determined to improve on that score.

    If that means you still think I've lost my dignity in yesterday's post, I'm happy for you to retain that opinion, just as I'm happy to stand by what I said.

  19. PS Phil - I think you'll find from my post yesterday that I'm perfectly fine with letting the comments stand. We do enjoy free speech here after all. However, unlike your recent experience, I was unable to deal with it at the source as The Guardian closes its comments facility after a few days and I was on holiday when the piece was published.

  20. "However, unlike your recent experience, I was unable to deal with it at the source as The Guardian closes its comments facility after a few days and I was on holiday when the piece was published."

    It was not that I didn't think you were were not dignified but I thought your response should have rested on the Guardian blog where the conversation (or lack of it) took place.

    I now realise now why you have brought it back here for discussion - it is a shame (and wrong imo) that the Guardian should close comments on any piece. Topics can still be hot many months after the ink has dried.

    Kind regards


  21. Phil - rest assured it will do so in the future - as I also said yesterday.

  22. What can I add - just a hug! You go gal! It's great to see you blogging for the 'big guys' when you put so much hard work and dedication into your writing. I know gently funny pieces can be just as hard to craft as more serious ones.

  23. Hi, I missed reading the original article in the Guardian blog but thanks to a mention in Flighty's blog, I read your guest post and then followed the link from Flighty's blog to here.

    I have to say that I really enjoyed reading your guest post. It was fun and light-hearted and I appreciated the thought you put into writing it.

  24. Really, you are quite right in saying that the comments made are a reflection on the writer. You are clearly posting a light-hearted fun article - have people misplaced their sense of humour?!

  25. New Shoot - thank you. Luckily I had plenty of things which tickled me at the time to draw on for the piece :)

    Maureen - thanks for coming over via Flighty. I enjoyed your thought provoking piece on blogger anonymity, but unfortunately Blogger kicks me out when I try to comment. I've left a comment for you over at Flighty's instead

    Nikki - another from Flighty - you're all so good when he recommends a post :) I think there are other agendas at work, but it's a bit sad when they're taken out on gardening articles, when there are much more serious issues in the real world to get worked up about.

  26. Perhaps future lightheartedness should be prefaced with: HUMOUR AHEAD just to clarify and warn those who've lost their sense of it.

  27. Folks, I'm getting worried.

    One person out of the whole world said he didn't like VP's article. Now the whole world seems to be ganging up on him.

    It seems disproportionate.

    And it can't be doing VP's reputation much good. We liked her list because we like the other things she does - but we aren't a 'gang'. If she is going to write more things in different places (and I hope she does) then there will be other criticisms from time to time. But we can't follow her around, leaping to her defence all the time.

    It's awkward, really. I want to backtread on my previous comment.

    If I write something and people disagree, or don't like what I say, I feel bad. It hurts. Of course it does. But, in the over all scheme of things, it isn't a world event.

    And when a friend isn't appreciated, we are likely to feel some of the same feelings we guess they might be feeling if we were in their shoes.

    And now I am thinking quite a lot about the person who left the comments on the Guardian site. Maybe he is laughing. Maybe he doesn't know. But maybe . . .

    And in leaving this comment, I don't want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. It's a minefield! I've been a bit tempted to withdraw my earlier comment, not because I didn't mean anything I said - but to reduce the cumulative effect. I almost clicked the little compostbin - but that would leave an hole and make this comment incomprehensible too.

    And there's another thing - imagine all the fun and good writing which would disappear (not to speak of jobs lost) if all the arts critics and reviewers were to stop writing witty and damning posts. I enjoy them. Maybe I shouldn't but I do. So I'm going to wave the flag for people being able to say 'what a lot of rubbish' whenever the moment seems right.


    (Now I'm going to hide.)

  28. Nikki - I've thought about that one too. On balance, I think if I read that kind of thing it would make me less likely to think that what followed was amusing! Perhaps that's just me though?

    WV says Unfun - how apt is that? ;)

    There - now I've just told you I'm saying that as a joke - where will it end?

  29. Esther I’m glad you didn’t hit the compost bin button because I believe you made some valuable points in your previous comment, just as you are with this one. I think I’m going to have to split my reply across more than one comment as I have a lot to say…

    With hindsight I would have written 2 posts – one with my thanks yous and a repeat of the list inviting comments in the spirit of the original piece. The other would be a general post about commenting. You’re right – less people (note – more than one) did make negative comments about the post than made a positive response. However, I believe more people might have made a comment in the spirit of the post had fewer negative remarks had been there. I know when facing a similar situation in the past, I’ve made no comment about the post at all, even though I’d wanted to. I feel I may have done the same with this post as only a few people have added a comment about when they know it’s summer.

    However, the whole aspect of negative comments, particularly on media blogs has been troubling me for more than a year. Some of it just seems plain poisonous and uncalled for. I suspect the same comments as I had would have been made on any guest post, maybe the one published instead of mine that very day had I not submitted it. Who knows? The person you’re thinking of in relation to my post does this on a regular basis and with a number of authors. Several times I’ve almost reported him for making an abusive comment. Most of the time these comments are just ignored, but I’m wondering if my post coincided with a number of people who’ve felt uncomfortable with negative commenting and simply wanted to say ‘Enough!’. I don’t know who a lot of these people are, so it wasn’t just my friends saying ‘Leave VP alone’. In fact, most of my blogging buddies have emailed me about it rather than leaving a public comment.


  30. ...cont

    I know my posts can’t be liked universally and I’m very comfortable with that and with people saying so. However, I have a very strong streak in me that needs to understand why someone thinks that. Had I been able to respond at The Guardian (and assuming I’d not decided to retain a dignified silence), I would have asked ‘Why do you think it’s rubbish?’. They could have a very valid reason for doing so. We may agree to differ, but if there was a reason which would help me improve my writing, then I want to know about it. I’m also fascinated to know why someone who obviously hates the whole idea of blogging, not only reads them, but has also signed up to comment via a cumbersome registration process which would put most people off from doing so. If I was in The Guardian’s shoes, I’d be asking the negative commenters to submit their own guest post(s) to expand on what they think about blogging.

    Of course this is a storm in a teacup compared with what else is going on in the world. I’m aware that this whole thing brewed up against the background of the BNP getting 2 MEPs in the Euro Parliament and how the demonstrations against them served to make them look the innocent and more plausible party. That’s another reason why I chose to raise this issue – personal and vindictive comments serve neither the commenter nor the author that well. A constructive debate with both sides listening to each other (or reading in the case of blogging!), takes us much further forward.

    As for art critics and reviewers, yes we all enjoy their witty and damning posts. However, most of the time they also do explain why. I’ve seen a film on the strength of a bad review simply because I’ve understood the reasons why the reviewer hated the film, are why I’d probably like it. However, having said all I’ve said here my favourite review of all time is one for I am a Camera:

    Me no Leica.

  31. BTW - if anyone's interested there's an even more controversial blogging topic that's happened this week. The High Court has ruled that a blogger doesn't retain the right to remain anonymous. I think this ruling will be tested further before we all need to worry about it. I nearly posted on this topic too, but Flighty has already linked to 2 of his blogroll who've written eloquently on this topic already. His post also links to 3 media blog posts which give lots of context and analysis, plus dozens of comments. It's all very illuminating, both in relation to the debate we've been having here and the right to remain anonymous.

    I think it's most ironic that most of the comments are also anonymous!

    Anyhoo, if you'd like to have a look for yourself, here's the link to Flighty's blog post.

  32. Apologies, VP. I hadn't gone back to check that more hadn't been added after I'd been there.


    P.S. I still keep to my overall point though. E.

    P.P.S. I change my mind about the anonymity issue about every ten seconds. E.E.

  33. Hi Esther - I've no problem with that at all. I'm glad my post has opened up the debate a little and so many different points of view have been aired.

    However, there's lots of times when these kinds of remarks have been made, probably ever since blogging started. Luckily they're well in the minority on the whole, though medialand does seem to concentrate them a little more for whatever reason. Whenever I've seen them on other posts I've got angry about it and asked 'why isn't anyone saying this is out of order?'

    Of course one of the reasons why no-one does (including me in the past) is because we believe that by ignoring it, the person will stop it because they're not getting the response they're looking for. With my post they got it for once - in spades and judging by one of the later comments, they were getting some kind of satisfaction from it.

    However, whenever I've seen no reaction to things that have been close to being abusive remarks, I can never get the picture out of my head of someone being attacked in the street and no-one passing by stopping to help.

    I believe there's no right answer - we just look at each post and comments on its own merits and act according to our own judgement.

  34. As for the anonymity issue, I keep changing my mind too. I almost decided to post over at The Guardian in my own name, but decided that might be a bit confusing when everyone here knows me as VP. After getting those comments, I was rather glad I had stayed as VP: it helped to make it less personal.

    One of the comments on Flighty's blogger links is from someone who blogged as themselves and had a dreadful experience of a stalker as a result. Whilst I'm sure that kind of thing's not common, there's a danger that it might increase if we had to reveal who we are.

    If we all had to come out from behind our pseudonyms, it would also take out some of the fun out of blogging wouldn't it?

    After all pseudonyms aren't that new - Charles Dickens was 'Boz', then there's 'Barbara Vine' for when Ruth Rendell wants to write with a 'darker voice' and there's 'George Eliot' too. In the world of gardening there's the much missed 'Tradescant'. Here I'd rather miss 'Plant Mad Nige', even though he's 'fessed up to being Nigel Colborn.

    And if I told Blogger my real name's 'Jane Smith' (which of course it isn't), how are they going to check that's correct? Then multiply that by the millions of blogs out there using pseudonyms...

    That's why I think most of us needn't worry about the ruling. It'll probably only be used when there's an attempt to lie or defraud someone, or when it's 'in the public interest' - whatever that means.

    I suspect the only people who will gain from this whole episode are the lawyers specialising in media issues...

  35. As a regular guardian online reader I would add that pretty much all articles with commenting attracts one or two disproportionately hateful and harsh dissenters throwing pot-shots from the peanut gallery. People are protected behind their anonymity and unfortunately some people use it to be horrid and, whilst I agree they must be allowed a voice, it's annoying when they don't really contribute to the conversation.

    I particularly like Tanya Gold's articles, and you should see the amount of flack that poor girl gets :)

  36. Hi Modern Gardener - you're right this kind of thing goes with the territory. I haven't read Tanya Gold, but I've been apalled at how our online journalists get all kinds of uncalled-for flack.


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