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.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Sissinghurst off-duty

The tower is under wraps.
From a distance it looked as though an office block 
had sprung up in the Kent countryside.

The garden is deserted.

You can listen to chattering birds

instead of chattering people.

The narrow paths were only ever wide enough
for one person and a wheelbarrow.
200,000 people have squeezed down them in the last season.

This is the earliest display I have ever seen here.

The stone sinks at waist height
are especially well suited to small bulbs.

Snow drops and crocuses are held clear of wet grass 
and splashing soil.

Snow Bunting lifts its face to yours.

I must remember to pot up some snowdrops
in the green this year.

These are outside South Cottage
and this has been opened for an exhibition

of some of Vita Sackville-West's bits and bobs
removed from her writing room while restoration takes place.

As the caption says, there are many objects in the collection which
you wouldn't expect the National Trust to look after,
(see above)
but these are being looked after in perpetuity
and include her Christmas present lists,
(see below).

The Burlington Magazine still runs. Ben was getting that in 1941.
Simpsons and Gamages are no more but a Boots token is always a safe bet.
I think that Harold must have been getting a gimlet not a glimet.
But did he really want a glass bowl for bath powder and puff 
or was that a gift that could benefit Vita,
like the new car tyre for Jack Cooper the chauffeur?
I hope his duck-ducks have been looked after in perpetuity.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Looking West

Mise has put up her quarterly post.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Busy bee

Having a three year old around
is good fun.
We cooked up some pancakes
when I might not have bothered otherwise

and did an experiment with bicarbonate of soda and 
vinegar mixed with food colouring.
The internet is full of good ideas for things to do with children
(all I had recourse to when mine were young was Child Education Magazine
and a book called Something to Do)
and the means to carry them out is available at the click of a button.

If anyone needs a plastic pipette or 20 litres of white vinegar
I'm your woman.
Something went a little awry with my order.

My phone was requisitioned for these rather arty shots.

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.