I am just relaxing after a busy weekend, bit upside down I know, but I gave up the nine to five a few years ago for the unpredictable world of running my own business. Famine and feast are two words that kind of fit best, at times I am running around like a headless chicken, at others I am filling in time. Later on I will be transforming myself, Mr Benn style, into a decorator as I tick off another of those jobs on the list of things to do. Mug of strong tea mashed, radio on and away we go  under coating skirting boards and stair rail complete with loads of fancy spindles.

It is not that I do not want to paint, it’s that I want to get into the garden, I have got a case of cabin fever, not surprising after the recent rainy season. I did pop into the greenhouse on Saturday after training in the morning to take stock of how things are coming along. I have some really healthy looking broad beans, runner beans coming through a tad early, french beans and courgettes looking good and the first tomato plants nosing through just right. I am growing five varieties of tomatoes this year from cherries to beefsteak these lovely fruits are my favourites. All the veg is grown at the back of the house where our raised beds are, we also have a fruit section with Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, blackcurrant and a few Apple and Plum trees trained along a fence. It is not a huge patch, we are not self sufficient but it is fun and nice to eat your own stuff.

The Purple Sprouting Broccoli has not done that well but the Spring Cabbage are now growing quickly and the first sets of onions are sprouting nicely, best get another couple of rows in. I also have a fantastic selection of perennials ready to go into the front garden to supplement what is there, some I bought as giant plugs and potted on, the others I grew from seed, like my veg. Hopefully if all goes well and I control the Forget Me Nots and slugs we will have a beautiful cottage garden this year complimented with a wildflower bed on one side. My love of gardening is quite recent, the last three years or so and modest in scale, I am a novice and there are lots to learn. I love it though. I love the idea of taking the seed, nurturing it and watching it grow into a thing of beauty.

It’s a complete contrast and counterpart to my martial arts/self defence training. Earlier on Saturday morning we had a great session, we put in a lot of new drills, they involved the application of some free-flowing street based scenarios. We do not train in Ju Jitsu on a Saturday morning, it’s really tough, anaerobic, bag, pad, body armour beating stuff, followed by grappling, ground fighting and a bit of light bare knuckle sparring. It is controlled violence, we train the body and the mind. Violence is about degrading your opponent to diminish their ability to defeat you. If I can legitimately do so using pre-emptive force that is my first option with due regard to the law of course. However, we train for all scenarios, on Saturday I put a drill in where you have been knocked to the floor and a group are closing in on you before you can get up, its lashing out punches and kicks from the floor for thirty seconds, no finesse, brute force to drive them back. Obviously they hold shields and pads, it’s a great drill, but it is also great to try to get people we train with who have had little or no experience of real life violence to begin to understand the chaos of combat. Its fast, ugly and mean. I have been down in fights before when the boot is coming in, it is not good when you have multiple attackers homing in on you and you end up on your backside. Lash, scream threats, get up and fight, fight like something possessed is what is needed in my humble opinion. But hold on here, we have travelled from the peace and tranquility of my fruit and flower growing to the world of violent combat, what is going on? What is wrong with me?

Well there is a link, it’s all about growth. I used the two examples above as they stand almost opposite one another, creation versus destruction, genesis versus nemesis, beauty and life versus ugliness and death are only compatible in that each are a part of my personal growth and my desire to further my understanding and knowledge in not just two but many other diverse fields of interest. I am interested in growth, not just the obvious form in the plants themselves, but in the different ways in which we develop as individuals. Personal growth goes on throughout life, we reach out and embrace a variety of activities to enrich our lives or we should do to avoid stagnation. If you were asked what is your hobby, what would your answer be? Would it be a single thing, several or multiple activities? My answer would list the two things above plus reading novels, cooking meals, going to the theatre, watching rugby, watching films, going walking, studying history, sociology, politics and keeping up with the news and sport, local affairs and just loving where I live and the most important just sharing my life with my wonderful family.

Variety is indeed the spice of life, I saw just a bit of Hugh Fearnley -Whittingstall on the telly last night and he was preparing salads, one involved chopped parsnips and red cabbage marinated in orange juice and with some dates on top and some slices of orange. It looked gorgeous and just the thing I would have walked away from, until recently as my wife takes pleasure in pointing out. That is because, as she says, everything is great when I decide it is. I suppose that the egocentric in me, and she is correct, as usual, I will be preparing this together with some other really exciting recipes I saw on River Cottage and shock horror, there is no meat. Music to my vegan and vegetarian daughters ears. I love my meat but sometimes other things must be tried, so I am going to mix my fruit and veg in these revolutionary, to me, combinations. Stepping out of the comfort zone is never easy, but I do it on the matt, so why not in the kitchen. I am going to ‘mix it’ in both arenas and grow a little more as a result. I am going to grow my own self.

It’s only a little change, a bit like seed germinating and breaking the surface for the first time, will it grow to maturity, who knows but if protected from the frost and slugs, not to mention the dreaded Forget Me Nots, it may well thrive and blossom, just like some of my perennials, we will wait to see what emerges and if it is a thing of beauty but we will not know unless we try.

So my mission in the next couple of weeks is manifold, dietary experimentation is in the air, the physical and combatives training is getting ramped up, enjoy some fantastic walks in Wales and Austria, I have a long list of great books, Sgt Rory Miller is here next week, the garden awaits and my family surrounds me, I am going to continue to grow myself so that I in turn can continue to help others grow, happy days. PS, below is a link to the recipe for the salad I mentioned above, go on, have a go. Life is good, grow into it and throughought it, enjoy it and remember to continue to grow your own self, others cannot do it for you, life is not a supermarket, you will need to get your hands dirty sometimes. Garry.

Lovely Salad