Book Review. The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin.

Star rating… 5 stars

Set in the 1970’s amidst the ganglands of Glasgow. this book was actually an unfinished manuscript by William McILvanney. It was discovered by his wife after his death and the publishing company approached Ian Rankin to ask if he thought he could finish this unfinished, and thankfully yes he did and what a superb job he has done with it.

The book is the first case for William McILvanney’s well known and much loved Detective Jack Laidlaw, who is a law unto himself and certainly not a team player. He likes to get results but in his own way, on his own.

After the death of Bobby Carter, right hand man to gang leader Cam Colvin, gangland rivalry threatens to escalate and it quickly becomes a race against time and Laidlaw’s seemingly incompetent boss to solve the grisly murder.

Written with good strong characters and a plot that has many twists and turns. it definitely keeps you on your toes. I figured out the killer a few minutes after it’s apparent that Laidlaw has realised who it is. To me this is the sign of a seriously well written book, leading you to the obvious conclusion without any blindingly obvious clues along the way. You have to piece the clues together and this really makes you feel invested in Laidlaw’s character and you unravel the plot with him. I loved every minute of this book. It kept me wake into the small hours reading “just one more chapter”

I would highly recommend this book. If you are a lover of crime novels, Ian Rankin and great Scottish Crime Drama then this is a must read for you.

Publisher: Cannongate

Publish Date: 02 September 2021

ISBN: 9781838854102

Reviewed by: Niki Preston

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Book Review “The Blind Light” by Stuart Evers

Star rating = 4 stars

From friendships to love, lies and deceit this book, although a slow burner has it all. Covering 60 years of British history it’s a book well worth reading. the characters are strong and you certainly have a affinity for them and the twists and turns that leads to the ultimate betrayal; a broken promise.

The book revolves around two central characters, Drummond, known as Drum and Carter. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War and the very real threat of a Nuclear Strike. Drum and Carter meet during their time in national Service, in The catering Core. Their lives become entwined from then on with Carter always being the driving force in Drum’s life and the decisions he comes to make, from marriage and children to moving to a farm right next door to Carter.

Both men go on to marry and have children. The threat of Nuclear War weighs heavy on Drum in particular and he becomes obsessed with Carters bunker in which he believes both families will be safe from any strike. An incident that occurs in the bunker leads to family separation and angst all round.

I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for something a little different. A thought provoking read that gives an in depth view of how ones decisions can rule and change your life forever

Release date: May 2021

Publisher : Pan Macmillan Picador

ISBN: 9781529031003

Reviewed By: Niki Preston

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Accessible gardening, What’s it all about? A guest blog for Michael Perry, Mr Plant Geek.


Accessible gardening, what’s it all about? The Two Fingered Gardener


As a disabled gardener I have written about accessible gardening many times, after all it’s what I do. However, I have become increasingly frustrated by the things that I read. The term accessible gets bandied about as a current buzz word but usually by writers who have no idea what it actually means to be truly accessible. Can you really make a garden entirely accessible? Yes, I believe you can, after all mine is. It has to change as my disability changes but with a bit of forward planning it certainly is do-able.

Accessible raised beds.

Now here is the biggest bug bear for me. Just putting a small bit of decking in a square around an area of garden does not a raised bed make. (in terms of accessibility) Raising the garden by a few inches makes hide nor hair of a difference to a gardener who finds bending difficult, is a wheelchair user or like me, one who has many different issues that requires sometimes sitting to garden, sometimes standing and sometimes just needing to be outside for my general wellbeing. Accessible raised beds should come in all shapes, sizes and heights to encompass us all. After all, find me a gardener who, at times doesn’t suffer with aches and pains, especially back pain. Making a garden with areas containing beds that require less bending, digging and manual heavy gardening is good for us all.

So many times, I find myself shouting at “Make Over” programs where the lucky recipient is a wheelchair user and lovely raised beds are immediately installed as a brilliant answer to their needs. Never once consulting that gardener as to how and where they can garden. Placing a solid bed that you can only sit sideways at isn’t the best way to garden. Twisting to reach the bed, leaning to reach plants at the back of beds that are far too wide is just frustrating. Consulting the actual person as to what would make their garden accessible rather than appeasing the big companies who just want to get their product on the TV would be much more beneficial. Encouraging disabled people to get out in the garden and experience the many health benefits far outweighs a gorgeous raised bed that is not fit for purpose. If garden companies wish to call a product accessible then please make sure it really is. Consulting someone like myself who actually tests products and uses them all the time could make a huge difference to an ever-changing demographic in the gardening world. People are living longer. The health benefits, not only physically but mentally are finally being realised more widely and even being subscribed by doctors in some cases. Companies need to start recognising how gardeners are changing and start realising just sticking “accessible” in front of a product and whacking up the price isn’t good practise, nor is it encouraging for disabled gardeners.

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When I go out in my garden I feel instantly uplifted. It is a place for me to forget my painful body and just be me. My garden does not judge me and think “she looks funny, with 2 fingers” it just rewards my loving care and attention with vibrant colour, herbs, veg and fruit. It gives me a huge sense of pride in my achievements and a feeling of calm and peacefulness. I have learnt to ignore weeds that I can’t control as much as I’d like. To sit and enjoy my garden as much as I work in it. Sitting in every corner allows me to garden a bit then sit for a while, admire the smells, birds, bees, frogs before gardening some more to the next seat. All my seating is different to allow for my needs. Sometimes I need an upright chair, sometimes one to put my feet up and of course a swing chair to relax with a drink at the end of a good days gardening.

Mr Fothergill’s Press day, Part One


This year has been a great one for me so far, products tests and reviews have been coming in thick and fast and now it would seem after all my hard work over the last five years I am know being considered part of “the press” and invites to attend press days and trade show invites are being received.

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My very first press day felt daunting at first as I had no idea what to expect. I had ideas of very well-known press people all mingling together and little old me sitting to the side with no idea what to do or say. How far from the truth was I? A friendlier bunch you couldn’t hope to meet. Everyone asked what I do and seemed interested in my product trials blog. The whole day was so well organised, full of info and I was truly blown away by the Fothergill Trial ground, it had a huge wow factor as we walked through the field gate that revealed an immense array of colour and smells. I was like a child in planty heaven. We went off in small groups with a Mr Fothergill guide. Ours was Rachel and she was very knowledgeable, down to earth and welcoming, the weather was against us with torrential rain threatening at any moment, but we made it round with only a few spots until the heavens opened. Thankfully we made it back to the marquee just in time.

The trial field was incredible, a vast array of every plant you could wish for. My favourite of the day was the brand new scented verbena “scentsation” I love verbena and was amazed that after six long years Fothergill’s have developed a sweet, delicately scented annual verbena, available for the first time next in next years seed selection. We were given some in a fabulous goodie bag so I will definitely be sowing my seeds as soon as I can next year. With next year being the “year of the marigold” the trial field had every different type you could ever imagine, one even had several shades of oranges and reds that changed and deepened as the flower blossomed. The way the marigolds had been planted looked just like the rolling sea as you looked back down the field.

News for the expanding company

An exciting new acquisition for Mr Fothergill’s is the tool company DARLAC. This will remain as a stand-alone company although now part of the expanding Fothergill family. Having trialled a couple of DARLAC products in the past, I am really pleased that they are now part of Fothergill’s. These are great quality tools that can only add to the excellent reputation that Fothergill’s already have.


A second exciting announcement is the new David Domoney vegetable seeds collection. I was very interested in this new collection as it is aimed at encouraging new gardeners to give it a go. This is my gardening mantra and I’m thrilled that finally there is a range aimed at just such an ideal. The packets are straightforward with no complicated garden terms that can be off putting to the new gardener. I am sure these will be a hit and I urge anyone who feels they want to give veggie growing a go but have no idea where to start, get yourself some of these, you can’t go wrong.


There is so much more to write about new and exciting Fothergill plans for the future and my experience of this fabulous press day that I have decided to write two blogs on this topic. So I hope you have enjoyed reading so far and please come back for part two.

Book review: Emeralds by Karen Platt

Book Review. The Two Fingered Gardener

“Emeralds” written by Karen Platt


Every year has a colour associated with it and the colour for 2017 is green. So, what better way to celebrate this than a review of a book that is totally dedicated to green flowers and foliage plants. Emeralds by Karen Platt is just such a book. The only book of its kind, to be wholly based by colour, it really is an outstanding book. Over one thousand green flowers from the exotic orchid to the more common annuals that can be grown from seed, all in one book! An incredible amount of work must have gone into this book and I for one found it wholly awe inspiring.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a lover of lots of green in my garden. I have a love of bright bold colour and have never really considered green as a major need in my garden. However, reading this book has challenged my opinion making me realise that actually green foliage plants can add major structure and interest all year round. I have found this book a useful reference book that is fabulous to dip in and out of with beautiful glossy photos creating a stunning book to help you pick out some great plants. It even has a wonderful section towards the back based on design called “designs on green” which includes hand drawn design ideas based on a green plant theme. This is excellent if you’re stuck for ideas or just need a bit of inspiration. Ideas include themes such as work and play with an office space and family space. The ideas are extensive and there’s something for everyone. It provides a good platform to add your own individual style.


Each species includes useful descriptive advice on such things as leaf and flower shape, eventual size and the type of overall structure. There are also really informative lists for most varieties available. Particularly useful if you have a space in mind but no idea how to use it. There are brief handy planting tips and the book is alphabetised making it easy to locate the plant of choice. I particularly like the way it is divided into foliage and flowers plants. No endless trawling through pages and pages to find some inspiration or something unusual to revamp an unloved corner.

Supplier information can be found at the back of the book. A superb addition to any book. There is nothing more annoying to find a plant you really love then have no idea where on earth to find it. I really love the way Karen has laid out the entire book, it just works. It flows well and looks the bees’ knees. Not only is it informative, its inspiring and challenges your design and planting schemes. If like me you love a good garden that you can pick up, learn something then possibly change your perception on your own garden and the plant choices you make then I would absolutely recommend this book to any gardener. Whether an old pro or complete novice there is something for everyone.



If you wish to purchase this wonderful book it can be found at:


The author has also kindly offered a reader offer of 50% off when bought directly from the above website. Offer code: 50OFF

Happy reading.

Pro-seeder by The Good life supplied by Mr Fothergills seeds Ltd

Seed sowing has always been one of my pet hates and absolute loves all rolled into one. Having two fingers makes this one of the hardest and most frustrating jobs of the year for me yet it also signifies the beginning of the gardening year. Even if the weather is abysmal, as it usually is in this country in February you can still get your garden fix with a bit of seed sowing. The anticipation of the tiny seeds producing something amazing never ceases to impress me. Nature at its very best.

Then you open a packet of seeds and they are so minuscule you can hardly see them. I cannot hold the seeds in my hand, nor can I easily pick them up. In the past I have ended up just sort of throwing them at a seed tray and hoping for the best. Obviously then you get clumps of seedlings all together and you end up losing half your  when it comes to thinning out. Not any more with this brilliant product that I was sent to trial. The pro seeder is designed specifically for individual precise sowing. Seeds of any shape and size can be sown accurately in trays and pots.


How does it work?

The design is simplicity itself. The bulb shaped rubber section is squeezed gently to release the air then you place the nozzle end close or directly onto the seed and release the bulb section so that the air sucks up the seed and holds it securely while you transfer the seed into the tray or pot, gently squeeze and the seed is released onto the compost. You know where the seed is, exactly where you want it! Repeat this process until all your seeds are sown, a job well done. No more over seeding or wastage at thinning time. This really is a very handy tool that produces professional sowings every time.

The product comes with three different sized nozzle attachments for different sized seeds. They just push securely onto the end of the nozzle. There are also cleaning wires to clear out the attachment needles should they become clogged after lots of use. There is a handy chart included that suggests which attachment is best for the chosen seed. The seeds can be emptied into the storage cap, found under the bulb section containing the attachment needles or onto a sheet of white paper ready to be sucked up. I found the white paper easier, especially for really tiny seeds as they showed up more clearly therefore easier to suck up.

I found this product very easy to use. It doesn’t require any strength is your hands to squeeze or release the bulb section, it is lightweight with no fiddly bits. The packaging was great as it was straightforward to open, no scissors or annoying plastic to try and rip off. The Cap on the bottom was easy to pull off and although the needles are small they are simple to push on and off. Really the only thing you need to remember is to squeeze the air out of the bulb away from the seeds otherwise you end up puffing the seeds all over that place. I did this on the first use and although it made me giggle I soon learnt to do it properly.

I would give this product 10 out 10 and I don’t do that often, so it must be good. Yes it is time consuming but you get great results every time. It is actually quite relaxing to use, I found myself completely engrossed in the task at hand and actually thoroughly enjoyed sowing seeds for the first time ever!

So an all-round great seed sower that I will be using every time I sow seeds from now on. A well thought out product that does exactly what it was designed to do. No fuss no mess no waste. Neatly sown seeds time after time. A wise investment for any gardener seeking an easy fuss free way to get those seeds growing.

Follow the link below to buy this product.

Multi Pick Tool from Garden Gear

Multi pick review

 Darlac Multi Pick

The last few weeks has seen me bobbing about the garden with my multi pick in hand looking for anything that needs picking up. I have found loads of uses for this great tool. It is especially useful for grabbing things out of reach, picking up discarded plant pots and generally helping to end bending down or over stretching in your garden.


This product is extremely lightweight therefore easy to carry around, the gripping trigger is gentle yet firm so doesn’t need any strength in your fingers or wrists making it ideal for those with arthritis. I really thought the rubber pads on the end for grabbing were great, soft for any delicate things such as soft fruit picking. I even discovered they are great for helping planting up delicate new plants. If like me you struggle to bend down meaning you can’t get to plant in holes in your borders, this tool is brilliant for holding the plant gently and gently popping in the hole, no damage, no bending, job done. I then realised it can also help if you have any wayward climber tendrils that you just can’t get at, the multi pick with it’s soft pads acts really well as an arm extension and you can pull back the tendrils ready for tying in.


Another handy thing is that the soft rubber pads can be removed to reveal harder ridged pads that can be used for things that need a firmer grip, such as picking up plant pots or pruned rose stems that have fallen out of reach. One idea that is a real asset to any of the more squeamish gardeners is snail picking. I hate touching snails, I just go all girly and run away, not helpful when they are eating my flowers! Now though the little blighters are picked up with ease and disposed of quickly.


This tool then has many uses just let your imagination run wild. I would recommend every gardener to get one, they are not pricey yet well made with endless uses, go on treat yourself.

Wolf-Garten Seed sower and lawn edging Iron

Wolf-Garten product review

Seed sower and lawn edging Iron


That time is here again for me to share my product tests results with you all. Two new products that I have never used before. One because I simply thought it was for sowing veggie seeds so no good for me as I am strictly a flower girl and a lawn edging Iron that I have never used because James is in charge of all aspects lawny.


Seed sower

I am amazed with this clever tool. How wrong could I be thinking that it was for sowing lovely neat rows of veggie seeds and no use for flowers? Very wrong apparently. This neat round tools with various sized holes is a very nifty gadget and great for sowing areas of wildflower, others I’m sure would be equally successful but this is what I used it for. The operation is as simple as it can be. Separate the two halves, one of which is clear so that you can see when your seeds have run out. Pour in your seeds of choice, push the two sections together place the tool which now becomes a wheel into your border, trough, compost or wherever you are sowing and push the wheel along. Out come the seeds at the correct interval so you cannot over sow and if like me you panic and just chuck everything in, this tool takes away all of that panic. It does the thinking and sowing for you. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed using this piece of great gardening kit. I had a huge silly grin on my face the whole time. Once germinated the whole border should be ablaze with poppies and wildflowers.

Wait wait I hear you all cry. This sounds too good to be true there must be a downside? Unfortunately you’d be right but it is only a small irritation. The packaging is a complete nightmare and unless you have someone nearby who has very strong thumbs you’ll be struggling to get the packaging off. It is a sort of popper affair that you have to push very hard from one side whilst holding the pack at the same time. This is I might add the only issue and Wolf-Garten are not alone in this area. I would still recommend this tool especially if you have large areas to sow and indeed I bet it works wonders for tidy, evenly spaced rows of carrots (and other veg).


Lawn edging Iron



A fabulous looking moon shaped lawn edger that is perfect for professional finishes to your lawn. It has a bevelled edge which is sharp all the way around the crescent shape. It slices through the grass edge like a hot knife through butter leaving a smooth edge in its wake. Both myself and James gave this one a try and we used different sized handles. I had to use the shorter handle due to my height but it was the perfect height for me. I did struggle but this was not the tools fault. I find it very difficult to stand on one leg so when I lifted my leg to place my foot on the edger I nearly ended up head first in a huge conifer! Not the look I was after. Once the giggling had stopped and I regained my composure I tried again and did manage to push it into the ground with some effort, again my fault. When it came to James’ turn he could see the advantages of this tool straight away. It when straight into the lawn with hardly any effort from him at all. He found using a longer handled helped as he could pull down on it as he pushed down with his foot. Making the whole process quick and smooth. The neat edge you are left with is something to be proud of and really does make you feel proud when standing back observing your new nearly edged lawn. Passers-by will be jealous of your efforts.

Again the packaging had the same opening issues as the seed sower but that is a tiny thing compared to how useful this tool is going to be. If, like James you are a proud lawn owner one of these needs to be on your list of “must get tools”.

Loving my Mobile Garden

Last year I was approached by a really lovely man who saw my appearance on Gardeners’ World. On hearing me say that eventually I will end up in a wheelchair he thought that his Mobile Garden would be the thing for me. Very generously he then gave me one of his mobile gardens that have been specifically made for wheelchair users. Initially I was a tad sceptical as I have been offered many “designed for disabled user” products which have turned out not to be user friendly at all. As soon as I saw this extensive piece of kit I was instantly impressed. It was clear straight away that a person with a disability had been involved with its development which doesn’t happen that often.


The mobile garden has been a life saver. It has enhanced my ability to access my garden on many occasions that otherwise would have meant staying indoors and looking longingly at the garden but pain levels have stopped me. If I am having a particularly painful day, which is getting more and more as the years go by I can not get out in the garden however having this product means I can get to my fab mobile garden. I can pull up a chair if needed and know it will be the right height for seated gardening. No extra back ache from stretching too far or having to sit sideways and attempt to garden. Have you ever tried to garden sitting sideways? it’s very hard and all that twisting doesn’t do you any good. I can get my legs underneath and have the garden in front of me. Fabulous! When I am able to stand It is the perfect height and with all the different sections I can carry out all sorts of gardening, whatever takes my fancy.

So far I have used the mobile garden for almost every gardening activity from sowing seeds, taking cuttings and growing them on. It has been great for over wintering my baby plants such as foxgloves, geums and hardy geraniums to name but a few. I have used it to plant bulbs that I have forgotten what they are, once they flower I quickly dig them up and plant where they are meant to be, with a label. Due to the depth of the garden the roots of bulbs and plants can’t go too deep so its perfect for a nursery area until plants are big enough, making it perfect for hardening off  plants and they can stay out with a cover on over night so no need to bring in and out, in and out constantly. which is impossible for me anyway as I can’t put things down on the floor.

I love the triangle sections that can be removed if you want to use a bigger area. Having separate sections allows you to have seeds in one section, cuttings in another and so on. The fact that it collects its own rain water is a useful addition especially as it means for schools, community gardens or residential homes it can be used inside as well as out without the need for a water supply and you can water your plants, seedlings without making a mess, all the water runs into the internal water storage. It has a tap at the bottom to access the water however it is a bit tricky to get at as it is so low down but I’m not sure it could go anywhere else, if it were higher the water wouldn’t run out.

Although the garden looks heavy it is on lockable sturdy wheels allowing it to be moved with ease. You can spin it round to access all around or you can move it around the garden/indoors, wherever it’s needed really. It comes with a central umbrella for added shade and the triangle sections are brightly coloured so it great for visual impairments too. It doesn’t end there either. Ever get stuck trying to fill a wobbly hanging basket? Well the mobile garden comes with a handy basket holder so you have both hands free to fill your basket. You can have all your tools, plants, compost handy all at the right height, making it truly accessible to practically anyone.

I’m sure I have included everything. I know that there are some new adaptions and additions in the making for the mobile garden which I for one can’t wait to see. These mobile gardens are intended more for schools and community use rather than single gardens but I can honestly say if you want to boost your well being amongst pupils, residents and communities getting one of these will go a long long way in boosting good mental health and a feeling of achievement that may not have been possible before. I know many people who feel down hearted when they feel they can no longer garden. Getting out in the fresh air and having a go really does lift your spirits. When I’m out getting stuck in at whatever level my mood improves, my mind just wanders freely allowing me to forget my pain, even for a few minutes. For these few reasons I can honestly say that investing in one of these mobile gardens is definitely going to be worth every penny.

Product review number 4, Wilkinson Sword Border fork and spade

There comes a time when even I have to admit defeat and sadly this test was it. I have tried and tried in the past to use border spades and forks, from ladies versions to children’s sized however I simply cannot find a way to hold them without bruising my arms. I have to push my left, diddy arm through the front of the handle so that it sticks out through the back, which is a very uncomfortable way to stand and gives me huge bruises, along with this I am unable to lift my leg high enough to put it on the foot plate, so really its all-round no go for me, However up steps one very eager tester in the form of my hubby, James (you’re getting to know him quite well know) and off we pop into a very mild and boggy garden in search of something to dig. What better way to test a border spade than digging a hedgehog tunnel! Brilliant now the little chaps and chapesses can wander in and out as they like. We do try hard to encourage as much wildlife as we can into the garden.
Firstly James noticed the slightly angled handle and wasn’t really sure what, if any difference this would make however he soon realised that it made for a much improved hold on the spade. The fork is angled forwards slightly in the same manner. They both have a red soft grip section around the handle too which means less slippage when you get all hot and bothered. The spade and fork were equally light weight meaning much less exertion is needed for the arduous task of digging. The forward position of the handle also allows for much easier turning over of the soil or in our case the compost bin, when using the border fork. As we now have a bigger, open compost bin it has become rather overfilled and hasn’t been turned as it is meant to be but with this easy grip, light fork it was so much easier. A nicely weighted tool that means you really can carry on for longer. The old fork would get lots of leaves and bits of rotting veg stuck on the tines but this one appeared much less prone to this and a simple shake soon made anything drop off. James has enjoyed these two products so much he has already retired his old ones. Well not really retired they will be getting a new garden as our Son will getting them. He has a fabulous new, blank canvas garden which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
Overall then two great products in a good price range. If you need a good quality, lightweight all-rounder then go for these. They are not big and bulky but are certainly more than capable of giving you years of good digging. As I have said before the wooden handled garden tools are fast becoming a favourite with James. He loves the soft yet strong feel they offer. He feels fully confident to tackle any job, all we need to do now is keep everything crossed we get some hedgehogs.