Saturday, 26 July 2008

Top Talk with Tanni Grey-Thompson

Top Talk with Tanni

In her usual modest style, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson DME asks me to describe her as an ex-athlete, “I seem to spend most of my time in meetings now” she adds a little wistfully. “I love being outdoors and always trained outside in any weather – wearing thermals and a bobble hat in the winter she laughs. The ex paralympian (14 times medal winner- 9 Gold, and holder of over 30 World Records) tells me she is much more into gardening these days. “I used to just hack everything back, she confesses, but we have recently moved house and have got a lovely mature garden so we have decided not to ruin it. If I didn’t like the look of something I just used to pull it up and then find out it was a plant. Ian (Tanni’s husband) won’t let me have a chainsaw so I have to make do with my hedge cutter, which is quite good for hacking actually!”
“I think I get my hacking skills from my Mother, Dad loved ivy and let it grow everywhere and Mum would keep hacking it back. They weren’t great gardeners, I remember Dad climbing up the apple tree to prune it and getting stuck. Mum just said, “I told you so.”

We are planning to grow some veg in the new garden. My first attempt at tomatoes was using grow bags outside the kitchen window. I used to open the window and throw water at them. I fed them too much or at the wrong time and all the flowers fell off. I s’pose I’m a bit of a random gardener really. We recently bought 10 goldfish for our pond and the next day Carys (10 yrs old) came sauntering in and casually said, ‘well, one’s dead already Mum’.”

“But,” she says proudly, “I am compulsive about recycling and get really annoyed about the amount of packaging used. When I buy new shoes I always refuse to take the box. And I love jumble sales and second hand clothes. My family have always been really embarrassed about it but now the clothes are called ‘vintage’ and it’s cool. They got mad with me when I picked up a jumper I liked and they said, ‘you only brought that in last week’! The worst thing is I have to tell everyone about my bargains. I was at a posh do a couple of weeks ago and someone asked where I got my lovely designer dress from – I had to tell them I only paid £2 for it from a Charity Shop. I think it’s a Welsh thing – I just can’t keep it to myself!”

Cool Clothes

One of Tanni’s new ventures has been co-designing a range of clothes for disabled children and adults. The new Tanni&Anni Range at Rackety’s caters for people with special needs, disabilities and wheelchair users, all of whom have busy and exciting lives. “People in wheelchairs used to have to have their coats put on back to front,” explains Tanni, “which is a bit humiliating to be honest.”
Children’s T-shirts have funky messages such as ‘Wicked on Wheels’ and ‘There’s no need to stare, I know I’m cool!’ Check out for the full range or call 01538381430

Running for Marie Curie Cancer Care

I first met Tanni at the launch of last year’s BUPA Great Welsh Run. Typically, as she was no longer competing as a professional athlete, she was mischieviously threatening to dress up as a chicken to complete the course. Unfortunately she can’t make this year’s race, tomorrow (27th) but I will be running again, with celebrities from Eastenders, Emmerdale, This Morning and of course, Lynn ‘the Leap’ Davies. We are all proud to be raising money and awareness for Marie Curie Cancer Care and would love to see you there. Join us at Cardiff Bay at 9.30am Sunday 27th to cheer us on our way and pop into for more information.

Did You Know?

National Parks Week runs from the 28th July until 3rd August, promoting Wales’s Brecon Beacon’s National Park and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, amongst others. You are encouraged to join in the many activities on offer during the week and simply enjoy the beautiful scenery and surroundings.
Children were asked “Who likes shepherd’s pie, Sunday roast and kebabs?”
“We do!” They cried
“Where do they come from?” they were asked
“The shops!” was the reply.
National Parks Week is celebrating the year of Food and Farming and reconnecting people to the landscape that provides their food and local produce. Visit

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Top Talking with Politicans

Top Talk

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, Jenny Randerson, describes herself as a ‘self taught gardener’. “My experience has come mainly from taming a wilderness,” she laughs, “it’s a large garden by urban standards, about quarter of an acre, and we’ve had a complete mix, including an orchard, a veg patch, rockery, grass and even a pond. We have recently abandoned the veg to try and reduce the amount of work. Whoever invented elections every May was obviously not a gardener as it’s a crucial time to be sowing seeds in the veg garden. Both my husband and I get totally involved in electioneering so we have no time for the garden then. It’s a wilderness now; it’s heading towards being a wildlife garden but not quite created itself properly yet. We love rare, wild flowers and my husband Peter, who is a Botanist by training, always mows very lovingly around a beautiful little orchid we have growing in the middle of our lawn.”
Jenny is also an avid composter. “None of our household waste goes out in the bin, she says proudly, “it’s all composted and we have a wormery too. In fact when we moved house, the neighbours thought we were mad because we bagged up and moved the compost before moving the furniture!”
How else does she do her bit for the environment? “My weakness is the car,” she admits, “I have recently made a rule that if I have to do a long journey for work then I will use the train when possible. My son refuses to have a car; he lives in London and cycles everywhere, (“I’m no good on a pushbike,” she confides, “my Mum wouldn’t let me have one”). “ He won’t take short haul flights either and when he and his Dad went ski-ing, they went by train. It took longer but they really enjoyed it and saw so much more.”
Jenny returns to talking fondly about her garden. “It’s a tremendous source of peace which is priceless; it’s not immaculate but I love it. We have a summer house, which is called the ‘Summer Palace’ as it took so long to build, and I sit in there with my papers working in the evenings. It’s great thinking space. Gardening is also such good exercise – productive exercise, far more productive than those silly treadmills.” She concludes passionately.

Wonderful Wormeries (and more)

I have sung the praises of Wiggly Wigglers for some time – they are such an amazing company and are also growing at a rate of knots. Suppliers of all things ‘green and beautiful’, their already extensive catalogue now includes delights such as Wildflower Turf, Sprouting Seed Pergolas, unusual veg (including blue potatoes), cement shopping bags (made by a woman’s co-operative in Bangladesh, these cotton lined recycled bags once held 50kgs of cement), and the most beautiful natural flower bouquets. They still supply simple-to-get-going wormeries, insect houses and composters as well as books, DVD’s and expert advice. The catalogue is packed with tips and great ideas and information and is just a fabulous read. Do get a copy or call 01981500391

From Russia With Love

Having just returned from a whistle-stop tour of Russia and the Eastern bloc, and whilst Hubby was absorbing historical and political facts, I thought I’d share some of the less conventional facts that I remember. In Poland, white asparagus is grown extensively and the crop has to be kept covered with soil (like potatoes) to prevent sunlight turning the spears green. This makes picking the crop quite an art and the last year or two asparagus has been left to rot in the ground due to the skilled harvesters having sought work elsewhere. In Russia, people in the service industry are attending courses to learn how to smile; The Hermitage at St Petersburg has so many exhibits on display that if you wanted to see each one it would take almost 3 years; Helsinki has recently imported foxes to control the rapidly growing rabbit population in the City Centre; Tallinn has only 4 hours of daylight each day during the winter months. Five years ago Moscow was experiencing winter temperatures of around - (minus)28 degrees but last year the lowest temperature recorded in the City was +8 degrees..... and it still didn’t raise a smile!

Cor Slimey!

An entirely new species of slug has been found in Welsh gardens. The white, nocturnal, carnivorous slug has been christened the ‘ghost slug’ or Selenochlamys ysbryda (ysbryd being Welsh for ghost) by scientists at the National Museum of Wales and Cardiff University. Ben Rowson said, “We thumbed through old Russian and German records and found that they’re entirely new. As it is an undescribed species we christened it with a Welsh title which we think is the first time a Welsh word has been used in an animal’s scientific name.”
The ghost slug feeds on earthworms and could, potentially, become a pest though more needs to be discovered about it first.
Did I mention Wiggly Wigglers sell worms?