Wednesday 30 May 2012

Out of doors*

While our son works through the heatwave for his exams,

I remember the many years
that I spent trying to revise in similar weather conditions.
It was futile of course.
I used to sit out on the baking asphalt balcony
with a text book slipping from my grasp

and the red sun pulsating behind my heavy eyelids.

Summer, after all our weary waiting, is here at last...
On one of these days, leaning out of the window after breakfast
and sniffing ecstatically at perfection, you decide that
it would be a crime to sit indoors at a writing table
on a morning like this: you will take your work
out into the garden and do it there.
What could be a pleasanter and a nobler occupation 
than to sit in the sunshine, green grass beneath your feet,
balmy zephyrs playing with your hair, 
the scent of flowers in every breath you take,
and to write immortal poetry - or even,
for that matter, perishable prose.

But then the snags manifest themselves.
The dewy grass soaks your shoes, the balmy zephyrs, 

flutter the corners of the paper you are writing on 
and scatter the lawn with pages you have already finished...

The sun is the greatest possible hindrance to the profession of letters.
Its light, reflected from the white paper, dazzles the eyes;
its warmth lulls the brain and saps resolution. 
Lids tend to close, coherent thoughts to 
relapse into random daydreaming.
It takes a stern effort of will to write as many as
fifty words without a break...

Lastly there is the garden itself:
and this is the most distracting thing of all...

It is dramatic: things are happening all the time,
clamouring for your attention.
Look again after five minutes, and a big hairy poppy bud,
which was recently all green, is slashed with scarlet.
In another quarter of an hour the crumpled silk
will be bursting right out of it.

*from A Pocketful of Pebbles by Jan Struther 


  1. That brings it all back..

    Nowadays, never being forced to "read a book in anger" is such a blessing!

  2. Love the interior of your poppies with that added black coloring.

  3. I wonder how I ever managed to pass an exam. And if only I'd known that I'd never once be asked for proof that I had!

  4. Good luck to the boy! I loved the piece of writing. I still get such a juvenile pleasure from picking the little pixie hat type covers from the tops of Californian Poppies. Less pleasure is derived from the fact that in the twelve years we have lived here, wind and rain arrive at exactly the same time the peonies flower..... The first flower is just about open and the skies are darkening. Time to get out with the scissors!