Friday, 9 February 2018

Thinking little

If I do precious little in the flower garden, that little is directed
towards providing for what will give us the maximum reward
for the minimum effort over the longest period, 
and into that category come bulbs, 
particularly because from bulbs come all those really early, 
brave forerunners, by many weeks, of spring.
Last year I ordered a huge quantity, 
intending to cram the garden with them.
When they arrived it was blustery and cold 
and I spent a horrible couple of afternoons 
on my knees, with a trowel and my nose too close to the soil, 
my hands throbbing and smarting as I worked.
I loathed those little wrinkled, warty bulbs 
and there were a very great many of them,
and they were all very small. . .
But one of the eternal laws of gardening 
is that suffering and labour are rewarded,
and from January to April we had a succession of flowers
 when everything else was black and bare and depressing;
tiny iris reticulata, with their spotted, recurving tongues, 
in darkest purple and an amazing Cambridge blue;

a special, creamy early crocus, and another the colour of sea-lavender. . .

So far, so Magic Apple Tree, but Susan Hill goes on to list 
tiny narcissi, two or three inches high, with fragile, nodding heads
and names like Angel's Tears and Hooped Petticoat,
blue drifts of Grecian windflowers, anemone apennine, scilla, tritelia.
I clustered the bulbs anywhere, between shrubs, in the grass, under fruit trees
and when they came up, they were perfect,
and it was one of the most successful gardening jobs I have ever done.

It is possible that there are bulbs out there that I have forgotten about
and I shall be pleasantly surprised if they appear, 
and I do know I planted some new tulips, but drifts -
no, I have never managed drifts of anything.

I am reminded of the well-meant encouragement 
given by certain celebrated gardeners 
to enjoy planting a garden even if you only have a window box.
This was once particularly poignant as I struggled 
to keep a pot of supermarket basil alive one summer
after watching one of the aforementioned presenters
wheeling away a barrowload of the stuff to turn into pesto.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Hopeful signs

Mostly at Kew Gardens admittedly 
where the plants are cossetted with deep mulches
but the crocuses are mine.
They had to be carefully unwrapped from their dead leaf shrouds.

This pair of geese has chosen one of Henry VIII's castles as their des res.
There's room to expand and a nice view.

Friday, 26 January 2018


Lately off the needles as they say on knitting blogs -

a sort of long waistcoat tunic in a wool called
Socks that Rock. 
It just needs some buttons but grand-daughter wants to choose these 
herself when she gets back from pre-school.

And a matinee jacket knitted using the Elizabeth Zimmerman
Baby Surprise Jacket pattern which I first made thirty years ago for my son.
I hope it won't be too warm for a June baby.

Friday, 12 January 2018


 All the cosseting  paid off.

A largely unmolested bed of crisp winter salad.*

My thanks to Rocket Gardens for kicking it off.
Their tomato seedlings were brilliant last year too.

*Except ironically, the rocket which vanished.
And the sacrificial Lamb's Lettuce.

Monday, 8 January 2018

All is not as it seems


Short Cat.

We are at Stage 1-
nervous but frequent inspection.

This could take a while.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Tall Cat is patient

but understandably nonplussed.

Monday, 1 January 2018

New Year blues

Our grand daughter was thrilled to be opening presents.
Anyone's presents.
The more the merrier.
The contents? Well they were not really the point of the exercise.
It was the moment of mystery that held her in thrall.

I received many lovely gifts too,
but the sighting of this blue glass gem on a beach that normally
only yields white and green was absurdly thrilling.
I felt as though I had won the lottery.

And yet and yet.
The glass once dry and cached with all the hundreds of other pieces indoors,
has lost some of its lustre. 
The magical feeling of acquisition has faded.

Where does this pull towards possession come from?
It seems to start so early.
And the longer it lasts, the older I get, the more complicated it is 
to shuck off the weighty legacy.

I had a waking dream nightmare, where I was trying to dispose mentally
of all the items in my house, as if in readiness for an imminent move
to somewhere much smaller than my present abode.
The practical difficulties seemed overwhelming.
And yet so many people have to do just this,
perhaps at a time when they are physically least able to cope.

My parents had a large house which easily swallowed 
in its attics and outhouses
the baggage of a long lifetime, raising a family
and running a nursery school from the premises.
My mother was incorrigible.
'You'll have to deal with all this when I'm gone,' she said laughingly.

And when both parents died within five weeks of each other,
that is exactly what we had to do.
It was haphazard and brutal.
A skip was ordered and house clearance people got very lucky.
There simply wasn't time to make considered decisions.

Today I started my Kondo-ing again.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Last minute preparations

Are you ready?

Have a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Spending Christmas

The tree -
pricey Fraser fir but it smells lovely and hasn't dropped any needles.

 Advent windows - small charge for a map.

Waldorf stars - this year with the right paper,
waxed translucent coloured squares all the way from San Diego.



Free gifts.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Tall Cat takes refuge

from the snow.

It must be at least 3mm deep.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Rest cure

 Nothing to read here.

What a relief.
No signs.
No instructions.
No advertisements.

I find myself incapable of ignoring any lettering
however banal.
These days we are bombarded by messages,
but the habit of reading them all started young.
I remember feeling obliged to decipher the words
mesembryanthemum criniflorum
on the back of the loo door at home.
I can't have been more than five years old.
My father had pasted up some pages torn out of Amateur Gardening to
the panels on the door.
There was another sign in his spindly writing taped
to the geyser that heated the water for our baths.
It read,
Remember. Before lighting remove paper from chimney.
We read this nightly and eventually set it, somewhat bizarrely, 
to the hard-to-scan chorus of

In a feeble attempt to stave off this madness
I peel the labels from appliances
and products that cannot be mistaken for anything else.
This may yet be my undoing but so far it offers a little merciful respite.

How do you cope?

Sunday, 26 November 2017


Grateful as always to be able to visit this stretch of coastline.

 But delighted to discover that we have been granted access

to this vast open space,

newly liberated by the council in an otherwise urban area,
from its previous incarnation as a golf course.

Free for all.