This life: Garden kept me sane...

Barney Bardsley is a former journalist whose book A Handful of Earth: A Year of Healing and Growing tells the story of a year tending her Leeds allotment.

It is set against the backdrop of caring for her husband Tim, who had been diagnosed with a rare and devastating cancer.

Barney nursed him for 10 years up until his death, her gardening helping her to cope with her grief.

The 51-year-old lives in Oakwood, Leeds, with her daughter Molly, 15, and dog Muffin.

As well as writing she teaches T'ai Chi. All her spare time is devoted to her unruly garden and allotment.

I couldn't live without books. I always have three or four on the go at any one time.

They give me great solace and act as a real stimulus in my life.

Writing has always been part of my life too so I suppose it was inevitable that I would write a book.

I've always written things down, even if it's just big, fancy lists.

There are three things in my life that I'm really proud of.

The first is my daughter. She is fantastic and having her was definitely my greatest act of creativity.

The second is my book and the third is my shed on the allotment.

People talk about men and their sheds but it's just as true for me.

I have lots of lovely photos on the walls and it's an absolute haven, a home from home.

My childhood was very noisy.

My mother loved singing and dancing around the house and was very loud.

I have two older brothers and one of them used to tease me mercilessly while the other one tried to suffocate me with a pillow.

They were real boys and so our whole lives seemed to be based around trains and cricket.

I was a quiet little girl and it felt like torture at the time.

I was born in Essex, although my family originally came from Manchester.

We came to Leeds when Tim was ill because this is where his family is from.

I love living here, you are never far away from a tree and that to me is heaven.

You have the benefits of the city but you can also quickly escape to the countryside.

When Tim was very ill the house became associated with illness.

One way to get away from it was to go outside, go to the allotment and breathe in fresh air.

It became a very important place for me. It kept me strong physically but also emotionally.

Unless you have done it you have no idea how draining it can be to care for someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with lots of little crises to cope with along the way.

Having the allotment added a kind of balance to my life and it also gave me hope.

When you love someone who is terminally ill you know the end is not going to be a happy one.

But the allotment showed me that nature just starts the whole process of life again.

I feel the anniversaries of Tim's birth and death particularly deeply.

I don't sit and sob but they can be difficult.

Thoughts of him will often catch me unawares.

But more often now I can accees the happy thoughts as well.

It means I can reclaim the happy Tim, not just the one that was so ill for so long.

I don't do God but I have a broadly Buddhist outlook on life.

It's about showing compassion for myself and for others; 'treading softly on the earth'.

I heard a Buddhist monk on the radio the other day and he said that people think you have to be hard and fight to get on in this world.

He said that to show kindness was an act of rebellion. That's the real revolution.

If I could meet anyone it would be John Lennon.

We were born on the same day and although I think he had a bit of a mean streak I loved his art and his outlook on life.

He and Yoko got mocked for doing things like staying in bed for world peace but why not?

I loved the philosophy they espoused.

My first love was an actor called Phil Davis who isn't very well-known but is a great actor who has been in lots of films.

We met in Essex when I was 17 and he was 21. He told me I was pretty and no-one had ever said that to me before.

No one's ever said it to me since either, come to think of it.

He wrote me these wonderful letters and we still get in touch with each other from time to time.

The best advice I have ever received was from a woman I met quite by chance one day.

She had a child who was not going to live very long and her life must have been incredibly difficult.

She said it was important to make sure you enjoy the little details of life, like a sunny morning or a nice cup of tea.

I return to that quite often and try to enjoy whatever I'm doing, even if it's the washing up.

It's those little details that keep you going.

This is my joke: What do you call a man with a spade on his head? Doug, of course. I'm sorry... it's terrible, isn't it?

Favortie things...

Author: Shakespeare

Food: Homemade fish pie

Actor: Bill Nighy

Star sign: Libra

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