Monday, 16 April 2018

Magnolia days

There was once very little choice in paint colours.
I remember Brilliant White being heralded as a breakthrough,
previous whites tending towards the yellow.
You could also have Primrose yellow
and a peachy pink, eau de nil and a rather chilly blue,
but magnolia won hands down in the popularity stakes,
despite not resembling any magnolia I have ever seen.

A quick check around tells me pale grey is the new white,
(Elephant's Breath by Farrow and Ball if you're feeling flush). 

What fun it must be - choosing the names.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The greyest of days

The monotony relieved by

Andreas Gursky at the newly refurbished Hayward Gallery.
It has taken two years and the 66 restored pyramidal roof lights,
letting in 'God's daylight' as decreed by Henry Moore 
 make a big difference to the atmosphere on the upper floor.

I don't think they did anything to improve the loos though.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Sunday mornings go for a ride

They got the tower out of its wraps just in time for my birthday.

It was worth the climb up to the top
to examine the new oak shingles,
although French not English oak, according to the rather
dispeptic guide at the bottom.

Apparently the newly restored flagpole 
is planted over the clock mechanism
which is why it is forever 7 o'clock at Sissinghurst.

The raised troughs are exquisitely replanted.

My vote for best arrangement in a shell at the Spring Show went to this.

Although deluges have resumed we had a reminder
of what spring could deliver in the woods
on a perfect day at the weekend.

I found a tin of tomato seeds. 
Is it too late?
It's hard to work up any enthusiasm for potting compost and seed trays.

Yours sincerely, wasting away. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2018


 I grasped a small three-pronged toasting fork
(for I have as yet no batterie de jardin)
planted one foot firmly on the lawn
and another gingerly in the middle of the bed,
bent down, and began to weed.
Four hours later I stopped, not from choice
but because Mrs Shoesmith wanted the toasting fork for luncheon.

As in many other affairs,
it is all a question of attitude.
I had not been weeding for five minutes, 
bent double like a pair of compasses with my head a foot from the ground,
before I became aware that my whole outlook on life was changing.

The mental and spiritual accidie which had been enveloping me
for nearly a year dropped off me like a cloak.
Problems which had seemed insoluble
laid their solutions ready-made at my feet with a neat flourish.
Situations which had seemed as unmanageable as rogue mules
crept up on their bellies and fawned.

Short stories whose characters had turned to wood,
essays which had refused to come to a point,
poems in which laboured craftsmanship had numbed and weakened
the original impact of beauty -
all these presented themselves to my inverted brain
in their finished form, masterly, unsmutched and point-device.

So uprooting grass and groundsel on my way,
I moved happily though inelegantly along;
and at every step the advantages of gardening 
became more and more clear to me.*

* Upside Down Reflections from a book of essays Try Anything Twice
Jan Struther, author of Mrs Miniver

Friday, 30 March 2018

Hard rain and daffodils

A gray day...but, strangely enough, a gray day 
makes the bunches of daffodils in the house have a particular radiance, 
a kind of white light. 
From my bed this morning 
I could look through at a bunch in the big room, 
in that old Dutch blue-and-white drug jar, and they glowed. 
I went out before seven in my pyjamas, 
because it looked like rain, 
and picked a sampler of twenty five different varieties.*

It is the moment now. Daffodils, many different kinds,
are glorious, in spite of a whole day of hard rain and wind...
It is the moment because the leaves on the trees have not yet sprung, 
so the light and blue sky shine through feathery, just swelling twigs. 
The structure is still visible and that is what gives the effect of stained glass.

* Two extracts from Journal of a Solitude - May Sarton
entries for May 15th and 16th written in Nelson, New Hampshire.
So I mustn't complain about this late cold, wet Spring -
she had another seven weeks to wait.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Desperate measures

As winter renews its grip

I have resorted to bringing indoors the 
 hopelessly optimistic blooms and blossoms
which have been repeatedly bludgeoned by snow and icy winds.

In a bid to entertain a housebound three year old
I started fiddling with some loo rolls and a taller inner tube from
some tinfoil which had a slighter smaller circumference.

Et voila, the Twisty Loo Roll Dressing up Girls© were born.
So far there are four interchangeable heads,
two tops, two skirts, and two leggings per girl.

Grand-daughter, rearranged the body parts to her own satisfaction
and to my slight distress, but she's gone home now
and I can play with them to my heart's content
refine the design and add to the wardrobe.

I had boys.
I've waited a long time for this.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Smoke and mirrors

Still coughing.
And thinking about the 500 pub-goers and diners of Salisbury 
who must be wondering whether it is really a sufficient precaution
to wipe their phones, glasses and jewellery with baby wipes
to get rid of traces of Novichok, a chemical more toxic than sarin.
And then what do they do with the baby wipe?
Pop it into the recycling bin?

And here I am worrying about how to dispose of my old electric toothbrush head
in an environmentally responsible way.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

A shot in the arm

The snow has all but gone here in the south
and I'm waving a hopeful hanky at the departing Cold.
These anemones have been a cheering sight.
I've had enough of hibernation now.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Notes from the sick bay

Well it's hardly original of me I grant,
but I have a Cold.
Or it's had me, for about a week now.
Who's counting?
The days and nights are merging in a mess of screwed up tissues,
creased sheets,
menthol inhalers,
Miss Marple DVDs,
turmeric drinks because the internet says it's anti-inflammatory,
honey and lemon because that used to be good enough,
and the annoying thing is,
it's looking so bright and inviting out there.

I ought to be out in it.
I ought to be doing so many things.
There are birthdays to attend to.
And spring cleaning.
And grand-daughter to play with.
But I have a Cold.
And no one else must get it.
I'll come back to that important point.

My mother never got colds 
and I tell myself I have inherited that handy gene
because it really is quite a rare occurrence.
I saw this one eyeing me up a few times
but laughed it off.
Look who's laughing now.

Yesterday I thought I had turned a corner.
The violent sneezing stopped and the diaphragm stopped hurting.
(A cracked rib surely?)
I even spent most of the night asleep instead of wandering around at 2.40 am
(a time nobody should see twice a day) 
thinking the house seemed a little surprised
to be hosting me out of hours.

But no. The Cold had a new plan.
Travel down boys. Check out the bronchi.
See what mischief we can do there.

So now the coughing has started in earnest.
The forty a day sort of cough,
which coupled with the turmeric stained fingers is all too realistic.

Dr Google has been consulted again.
Plenty of fluids, 
stay hydrated, 
create a moist atmosphere - yes got the message
Advil (why do I always end up at Mayo clinic?),
it's a virus so don't even think of asking for antibiotics,
if you've got a fever and chills and you're over 65 and pregnant
and you've been ill for much longer than one week you wuss, 
maybe then consult your physician. I mean GP.
But they've all got it too.

So stop feeling sorry for yourself.
It's only a Cold.
Nobody wants to hear about it.

And crucially, just before you're completely recovered
and you will be, give or take three weeks,
and even though wraith-like in appearance,

one of your nearest and dearest will get it
and not only will they cast a baleful eye in your direction,
despite all your hand washing,
but they will need nursing.
And the sick bay, so recently vacated

will be occupied again.