Sunday 28 March 2010

The Primrose

These used to be under a bay tree,
but now they sit in full sunshine,

looking upward to the Light.

It was with great sadness that I read of the death of 
Elspeth Thompson.

Saturday 27 March 2010

The Man who Works in the Garden

We have two gardens bordering ours -
one that is totally neglected,
and the one with the apple tree
and the hydrangeas.

In my very first blog post
I showed a picture of the hydrangeas
that peeked over the fence -

this one.

The garden belongs to an elderly and now housebound couple.
So once a week, a man comes in to tidy the garden for them
and at first I was grateful. 
But I soon realised that he presented a different problem.
He was on a mission to raze every living thing to the ground.
The hydrangeas were the work of a morning.

So far the apple tree is untouched
but we have a clematis that has found its way into the branches
with one slender looping tether 
 from our side of the fence.
Clematis love to have their roots in the shade
so this is an ideal situation.
But every day I am on tenterhooks as the buds unfold,

on my Clematis armandii

with its jasmine scented flowers.

And now I'm as nervous as Little Weed
because the Man who Works in the Garden 
is coming down the garden path...

and the electrifying effect of those words 
is well nigh impossible to explain
to anyone under fifty.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

A Danish

Following yesterday's enforced domesticity 
an antidote was needed.
What better than a dose of pure clear Danish air?

So Maddy and I,
 poised as we are on the jetty of Life
watching as the last of our young row off into the distance,
went to the Christen Købke exhibition,

and gazed compassionately at this portrait
of his mother.
Her slight frown, stoical gaze, and clamped lips
capturing the expression of a woman
who had brought eleven children into the world
and no doubt waved farewell eleven times too.

This cheerful and confident sloucher 
was his friend the landscape painter,
Frederick Hansen Sødring.
They shared a studio.
I wonder if their mothers were friends.

Frederiksborg Palace in the Evening Light
was a tranquil place to linger.

Christen died of pneumonia aged 37.
His father had died two years earlier, 
but of his mother we heard no more.

Monday 22 March 2010

Real life

Today I have been mostly in the pantry, 
there was a very bad smell.
It had to be tracked down and eliminated.
It emanated from the fridge.
That is all I am prepared to share
as there was not a photo opportunity to be had from that, 
I bring you two better moments from the day -
my Pilates class view from the mat
and a jug of narcissi.

Sunday 21 March 2010

The First Day of Spring with Mrs Miniver and me

It was a Wedgwood day, 
with white clouds delicately modelled in relief 
against a sky of pale pure blue. 
The best of England, thought Mrs Miniver, 
as opposed to countries with reasonable climates, 
is that it is not only once a year that you can say,
"This is the first day of spring." 

She had already said it twice since Christmas - once in January, 
when they had driven across the Marsh to the sea 
and it had been warm enough to lie on the sand without a coat;

(We cycled out to some marshland near us early this morning.)

 and once in February when she had taken the children 
for a lunch picnic in Kensington Gardens. 
The grass had been scattered with twigs from the previous night's gale 
and by the next afternoon it was snowing: 
but while it lasted that day had been part of the authentic currency of spring -
 a stray coin tossed down carelessly on account.

A small and very damaged painting by Paul Maitland
called Kensington Gardens- a secluded spot.
A stray coin tossed down at my feet 
when I had to clear an aunt's cottage after she died.
It was impossible to see any detail 
but a picture restorer took pity on it
and cleaned it just enough so that we could discern 
this Edwardian lady perched on a shooting stick.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Calling and calling cards

Once again I am indebted to Lady Troubridge 
for her advice on this matter.
 The correct manner in which to visit blogs and leave comments is a social minefield and she dedicates twenty pages
to the rules which if neglected
either through ignorance or carelessness will result
in lessening the number of one's friends.

Making the First Advance
The matter of paying the first call is often a delicate one.
Frequently, sensitive people are offended by some unconscious slight on the part of a friend or acquaintance.
The newcomer to a country neighbourhood must wait 
for older residents to call upon her.
If she has friends who can vouch for her and who will 
write to one of her neighbours saying,
"Mrs Smith has come to live near you. She is an old friend of mine and such a charming woman," or something to that effect, 
it is all to the good of the newcomer.

Length of Calls
The length of this first call should not be
more than a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes.
Never prolong a call...
until your departure becomes a relief to your hostess.

When two ladies meet at the house of a friend it is for the lady of highest rank or superior social position to make the first advance.
She should say, "I should so much like to come and see you,"
and should call shortly after...
or this advance may be met with, "That would be delightful -
 but won't you come to tea?
I should be so sorry to be out when you came";
or the more important or older lady might say,
"Do come and see me. I am always in to tea" or "after five",
 or "on Thursdays," as the case may be.
When ladies are of much the same age and standing
it does not matter which of them makes the first advance.

Returning Calls
It is of the utmost importance that calls should be returned promptly, and more especially the first call, for neglect to return it within two weeks or three at the most, or to explain by letter why it cannot be returned, is to indicate tacitly that the caller's friendship is not desired. This, of course is an extremely rude and inconsiderate method to chooses, and if one really does not desire to cultivate a certain friendship there are many less unkind means of indicating that desire, as, for example, the leaving of cards without inquiring if the owner of the house is at home.

Receiving Calls
If a woman has a day "at Home" she should be in her drawing room punctually at the hour at which she has announced
that she will receive her guests.

Calls can be made any time between half-past three and 
half-past five in the afternoon.
Morning calls are only made between the most intimate friends,
 and are not always acceptable even then.

Making a Chance Call
A woman calling on a friend or acquaintance who has no fixed day for reception makes some such inquiry as this 
from the servant at the door,
"Is Mrs Henderson at home?". If she receives a reply in the negative the caller leaves her card... and departs. When the servant announces that her mistress is 'not at home' it may mean either that she is out of the house or that she does not wish to see people. In either case the report of the servant must be taken as final and should never be questioned. There are many people who become very angry if they learn that the person upon whom they have called and who they have been told is 'not at home', was in her house all the time. But their anger is not justifiable. The expression has come to be regarded as a civil expression of not being able to receive callers as well as an expression of fact.

Calling by Men
A man is expected to make calls of condolence, inquiry,
and congratulation upon all his intimate friends,
both men and women.
A bachelor taking up residence in a new neighbourhood
is expected to return all the first calls made upon him,
but if he has a sister or another woman relative living with him,
she can make the call in his name.
It is quite permissible for a girl who has made the acquaintance of a
 young man at the house of friends
to ask him to call upon her mother.
The young man may also ask for permission to call.

I hope that helps.

Picture credits from top to bottom
The Rain it Raineth Every Day - George Frederick Watts
Portrait of Madame de Sevigne Writing - French School
Woman in Grey - Jean Baptiste Camille Corot
Caller Waiting - Kenneth Hayes Miller
The Morning Call - Sir William Quiller Orchardson
Cloudy - Walter John Knewstub
Front cover John Bull

Thursday 18 March 2010

Guerilla gardening with Vita

The time for sowing seeds of hardy annuals is approaching.
They can all be sown outdoors towards the middle or end 
of this half-way March month
when an occasional spring-like day deludes us into a belief that winter is over -
poor optimistic us!

...I would like to suggest that we might all go a bit bold and 
enterprising and altruistic this year,
strewing our seeds all over the place, not only in our own prepared flower beds, but also over such waste places as railway embankments, ruined castles, bomb-sites, and even along the hedgerows of our country lanes.

Years ago, I read a book by Maurice Hewlett. 
It was called Rest Harrow.
It was about a man who went walking all over the country, 
sowing seeds broadcast.

I have forgotten the detail of it, 
but I know it made a deep impression on me at the time,
and I determined that if ever I got the chance
I would go walking around, scattering seeds in handfuls, 
which might, or might not, come up.
It was a youthful dream; but now that I am much, much older, 
and much more sadly experienced,
I still believe that we might beautify the countryside by such rash sowings.

From Vita Sackville-West's Garden Book
taken from her weekly gardening column in the Observer newspaper.

Painting The Sower by Vincent Van Gogh.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

All over the place

It was quite simple,
all I had to do was find 
a glazier,
(air gun pellet hole in window pane)
a fencer,
(next door's fallen over fence, which will never be repaired 
if the last sixteen years are anything to go by)
a pond mender,
(leaking and frogs already advancing with intent to breed)
and a decorator,
 (hideous yellow patch as result of leaking roof)
ring them up
and get them round to give estimates.

How many of these things did I achieve?

Woman at the end of her tether.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

A day like this

Outside the air was delicious. 
She could feel it stroking her face as she moved through it, 
but there was no sensation of either warmth or chill...

she wondered why she found this particular temperature
 so charming; and decided it was because, 
on a day like this, 
she came nearer than usual to losing her sense of separate identity.

Extremes of heat and cold she enjoyed too, 
but it was with a tense, belligerent enjoyment.
When they beat against the irregular frontiers of the skin, 
with all its weak angles and vulnerable salients, 
they made her acutely conscious of her own boundaries in space.

Here, she would find herself thinking, 
is where I end and the outside world begins.
It was exciting, but divisive: it made for loneliness.

But on certain days, and this was one of them,
the barriers were down.

She felt as though she and the outside world 
could mingle and interpenetrate;

as though she was not entirely contained in her own body 
but was part also of every other person on the street;
and, for that matter, of the thrush singing on a tree in Eaton Square,
the roan dray-horse straining to take up the load at Grosvenor Place,
the cat stepping delicately across Buckingham Palace Road.

This was the real meaning of peace - not mere absence of division,
but an active consciousness of unity,
of being one of the mountain peak islands on a submerged continent.

from Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther.

Pictures from my walk in the park today.

Monday 15 March 2010

Sunday 14 March 2010

Behind closed curtains

Our broadband is depleted.
My camera batteries are flat.
A period of adjustment is taking place.

Seeds have been planted,

newspapers read,

trees pruned,

gravel laid.

The curtains
are drawn
but the sun is shining
brightly outside.

Friday 12 March 2010

Essential oils

T'internet is having a very... slow... day... here.
It delivers pictures one insolent hair's breadth line at a time
and disappears into a backroom when I click on a favourite blog.

Fortunately I have a secret weapon -
my newly purchased armoury of

essential oils.

Melvyn in our local health food shop could hardly believe his luck 
when I came in with my list from Spirit of the Home.
I said I needed oils for
Calming and Reassurance:
geranium, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, ylang ylang.

'Before you bite someone's head off because you are so irritable and angry'
bergamot, chamomile, grapefruit, lavender, mandarin, orange, rose.

Morale Boosting:
rosemary, 'helps you pull yourself together',
 pine 'helps you put on a brave face',
cedarwood, jasmine, juniper, rose, thyme.

chamomile, frankincense, juniper, linden, rose, sandalwood, vetiver.

'If you're feeling down and depressed or swamped by negativity'
bergamot,chamomile, hyssop, lavender, orange, yarrow.

Have you any idea what these cost?
Melvyn very cannily opened several of them then and there,
and wafted them under my nose to help me part with my cash.