Browsing Archives for Beverley Nichols

This post originally ran on June 17th, 2008. It remains one of my very favorite posts and Beverly Nichols remains one of my favorite authors. I hope to find one of Beverly’s homes during our stay in London even though none of his homes are open to the public. My plan is to stand on the street in front of one of his former houses (Beverly has since passed) and pretend to be looking for one of my kids… or maybe a lost dog or cat. This way, I have an excuse to wander behind the house and get a gander at the garden. I will have to come up with a different story for why I am snapping photos of everything in site… gathering evidence?… looking for clues?… testing the aperture?… collecting specimens?… Do any of these sound legit?

Evidently, when you live in the English Countryside, in a large rambling Georgian mansion, surrounded on all sides by an outrageously gorgeous garden, the public occasionally shows up and demands a tour.

This is what happened to me a few days ago… except it wasn’t the public.


It was Beverley Nichols HIMSELF!

It would appear he got lost somewhere between Shropshire and Nebraska! I invited him in, made him a cup of tea, and then offered to give him a tour of my own feeble garden. He glanced at his watch and looked at me nervously. I noted his hesitation, was somewhat perturbed by it, picked up a pair of garden shears and clicked them menacingly. Mr. Nichols rapidly agreed to accompany me on a walk through my garden.

As we stepped outside, I explained to Mr. Nichols that I work in a Garden Center, so there is probably very little he can teach me, as I already know everything there is to know about plants and shrubs and flowering thingys. However, if he has any questions regarding grub control, he may want to look elsewhere.

As we advanced to my newly planted shade garden, Mr. Nichols was quick to point out that it was a little sunny for a shade garden.

“Yes”, I answered, “Perhaps… but then again Mr. Nichols, maybe… you are just a little dumb for a smart person!” And then I clicked my shears again.

Beverley cleared his throat. He said that my Hostas and my Coral Bells would probably not do very well in the sun and that I might want to consider moving them to a more suitable location

I told Mr. Nichols to stick it in his stick hole, reminded him that he doesn’t know everything and na na na na na and SEE that little oak tree over there? See it? Can’t you see it? Someday in about ten years that little tree will shade my Hostas just fine!

Mr. Nichols looked at my tiny oak tree muttered something about a wealth of olde oakes and walked briskly towards my Penny Mac Hydrangeas.

I grabbed him by his crisply ironed trousers, clicked my shears a few times and told him to wait up!

He came to a stand still and said shakily, nice Penny Macs.

I narrowed my eyes to two slits and asked him what he thought about my garden path.

He said, well…. uh… um…what exactly are your plans for your garden path…?

I mimicked him in a high pitched voice, “Wel… uh… um… l what exactly are YOUR plans for YOUR garden path?”

Mr. Nichols did not know what to say to that.

He was pleased with my urns.

I told him to shut up.

Then Mr. Nichols saw the new kitty.

I had forgotten how much Beverley loved cats.

I tried to show him my Oak Leaf Hydrangeas also planted in the sun even though they much prefer shade, but he was crouching by the solitary knockout rosebush talking to the new kitty who still does not have a name. I tolerated this for a few minutes, then I clicked my shears and pushed him towards my newest creation… my masterpiece… my Piece De Resistance! I call it my…

Whatever I Grab Before I Leave My Shift At The Garden Center Garden.

It is a wild and unruly collection of Lavender, Tomatoes, Basil, Marigolds, Cilantro, Butterfly Bush, Hollyhocks, Cleome and Valerian I explained to Beverley that this particular garden is kind of … it is kind of um…. moderne... and scraggly… but scraggly on purpose… because that is how I carefully planned it…

Mr. Nichols was as silent as the tomb.

We wandered back to the Annabelle Hydrangea and he breathed an audible sigh of relief.

I asked him if he would like to go for a little boat ride as I pushed the prick of the garden shears into his back. It was then that I realized that I was still wearing my pajamas.

Mr. Nichols pretend not to notice my discomfiture and casually slipped on a life-jacket.

This small act of kindness.

This gallant attempt to overlook my silly pink pajama pants.

Well I didn’t…

I wasn’t sure…



I broke down.

I just couldn’t take it anymore!

Through wrenching sobs and guttural expulsions, and sheets of cottonmouth slobber, I explained that I was never going to have a garden like his garden.



That I was up against a thicket of thorny boys who left their muddy shoes all over my house and who had seven hundred baseball games each before the summer was over and that I had so much dirty laundry to catch up on that I had taken to hiding bits of it in the filing cabinets and under the area rugs and in between my teeth, and that my dishwasher was full again and that we were out of milk again and that my blog stats were abysmal, and that I really don’t know anything about gardening…


Nothing at ALL!

I was just making that up… and in truth I will probably kill all my plants before the summer is over, and I don’t have a full time gardener named Hobbes or O’Toole or Brisbane or whatever his full time gardener was named and I also don’t have a live-in housekeeper named Ms. Wrench, who is terribly overworked because…




I dropped the garden shears in the pond and we both watched them drift harmlessly away as I covered my hands with my face and sobbed some more.

Suddenly I felt a calm hand patting the top of my head.

I looked up into the sympathetic face of Beverley Nichols.

He helped me out of the boat and led me back to my Penny Mac Hydrangeas.

See this bloom, he said.

Yes… I sputtered.

That is all you need. Just one bloom. The bees will come… The flowers will open… The trees will grow… The Shrubs will get more shrubbish…

You will see…

I stared at the pink blossom awhile and felt little prickles of hope dotting the interiors of my fly specked soul.

When I looked back up…

Beverley was gone…

A few days ago I decided to reward myself for catching up on laundry and being a good little garden center worker and for taking care of little boys for thirteen years in a row and for not murdering my husband in his sleep for FOURTEEN years in a row and for Sunday School coming to an end for the year and for my Zumba class taking a summer break and just cause…. So I bought myself some used books from Alibris to celebrate.

During this book shopping spree I couldn’t help but think about my blog and all the people who read it and how they tend to be people that are kind of like me though probably smarter and much more organized with better hair and hopefully not so many paint stained pairs of shorts, but still… kind of like me and maybe they would like the same books that I like, so I decided to chuck a few more into my “shopping cart” while I was stocking up on Beverely Nichols books. 

But you know how it is, one book leads to another and another and another. I started scanning the shelves in my study to remember the titles and authors of my most beloved tomes, even though you would think I would have them memorized because I have read them so many times, but I don’t because of the four holes in my head where the babies came out.

So I started adding a few more books and a few more and a few more and by the end of the night I looked at my shopping cart and at the total cost of my shopping cart and OH DEAR I am afraid I had to go back and get rid of quite a few. The problem is not the price of the books themselves, but rather that Dad Gum shipping!!!

Finally, I whittled the cost down to a manageable amount and pushed the “send” button and here we are at The Country Doctor’s Wife’s Summer Reading Program Book Giveaway Number One. How’s that for a catchy title! Can’t you see it on T-shirts and bumper stickers and wooden plaques for your kitchen walls! ?! 

The first books arrived today! It is kind of exciting to open them as they come from bookstores all over the country. Alibris has it’s own warehouse, but it also is a place where used book stores from all over the world can post their inventory and get their books to the people who want to buy them. When you shop at Alibris, you are not just supporting Alibris, you are also supporting wonderful little bookshops all over the world!

Isn’t that wonderful!

Doesn’t it just make you want to open a wonderful little bookshop!

And even though this post is turning into a post about Alibris and not at all about my Summer Reading Program, I have to tell you that perusing the choices of copies at Alibris is half the fun of finding your book. You will have to decide between the dog eared copy with a few underlines on page 25 from Bob’s books in Bangor Maine and the other copy with minor shelf wear that had a flower pressed in the middle and an inscription that says to Mom with love, Jerry which is located in New Mexico at Martina’s Book Shack. I had to buy the pressed flower copy of course.

The first book I am giving away is one of my all time favorites. Betty MacDonald author of the timeless tale, “The Egg and I” which eventually led to the movie “The Egg and I” which featured two characters from her book, Ma and Pa Kettle, who went on to become part of the fabric of American culture, wrote the book, Onions in the Stew that I am giving away. You may have to read the previous sentence about seventeen times before it starts to make sense.

But Betty MacDonald is far more than the woman who actually lived down the road from the original Ma and Pa Kettle. Betty MacDonald is also the woman who made a tired, overwhelmed, lonely woman with three little boys who’s young husband had disappeared into medical residency, laugh so hard that her gut split wide open and she had to have emergency surgery and got to spend two weeks in the hospital with no-one to care for but herself and her young husband was forced to look in on her at least once a day or look like a cretin to all his co-residents.

Um… yeah – I made that last part up, but Betty and her indomitable spirit did see me though some tough times. She is tough as nails, more resilient than a cast iron skillet and as funny as only a divorced, chain smoking mother of two living on an island off the Seattle coast can be.

Oh yes, she also lived in a great house.

Oh yeah – she also loved to garden.

Onions in the Stew is from the period in Betty’s life after she left her first husband the chicken farmer, moved back to Seattle, married her Scotsman, and found herself living on Vashon Island with a daily commute that involved a pre-dawn ferry boat ride.

This is a picture of Betty. Look at the lawnmower and those bangs! 

I think I will stop complaining about my hair now.

So if you don’t win the book, promise me you will go check it out in your library. Betty deserves it. And so does Don, the bellowing Scotsman. And so do her two girls, Anne and Joan. Go read her. You will laugh yourself silly.

To win Onions in the Stew tell me what you favorite book is in the comments. I will draw a random winner. Contest ends at 8 PM Sunday.

This contest has come to an end.