I had an amazing week last week! I accompanied my dad on a special visit to Buckingham Palace. He'd been invited as part as part of a group of veterans who took part in the epic battle at Kohima, which was the turning point of the Japanese offensive into India during the Second World War. Earlier in the year, His Royal Highness the Duke of York, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, had placed a wreath at the memorial at Kohima, and he'd subsequently asked to personally meet some of the veterans.
My dad (pictured) had an incredible story to tell. His plane, a Hurricane, had caught fire on a mission over Burma and he'd had to parachute out into the jungle, many miles behind the Japanese lines.
He lost his emergency rations as he landed and had to survive in the jungle, finding his own food and water whilst coping with mosquitoes, leeches and snakes (and being charged by a black panther) while using a machete to cut a path as he tried to make his way back to his squadron. He eventually fell ill and was rescued by a tribe of Nagas (known at the time to be head-hunters). They nursed him back to health and twenty eight days after parachuting into the jungle, he was re-united with his squadron. Dad's amazing story is one of many told in Robert Lyman's superb book, Japan's last bid for Victory.
His Royal Highness talked to all of the veterans, each of whom had a remarkable story to tell, and then made a very moving speech thanking them. On leaving, Dad and I were waiting in the courtyard for a taxi when there was a sudden panic amongst the Royal household. Her Majesty was hosting a state visit and she was about to drive in…and that meant they had to get us out of the way, fast! It was like a comedy sketch as all the key parts of the palace were being closed off for the arriving dignitaries and the Royal household couldn't work out where we could go.
Eventually, we were ushered, at speed,through staff quarters, up and down small lifts, through private quarters of the Duke and the Princess Royal..and then out through the one door they could open. So we enjoyed a totally unexpected viewing of many rooms in the Palace that aren't part of the normal tour!
After all this excitement, it was a relief to get back to the garden. I'm lifting the first blackened dahlias at the moment and continuing to rake up the falling leaves. I pop the leaves in black bags, make a few holes in the bottom and then store them behind the compost heap. In a year or so, they turn into the most wonderful crumbly leaf mould. I love it, it's magic for planting and, of course, it's completely free.