Thursday 26 April 2018

Springtime resolutions

Now is the time when the soot black twigs of London
and the polished brown ones of the country,
burst out, page-like, into rows of neat green buttons,
which later on become little plumes
or tufts of crinkled leaves;...

Now in fact, is the real New Year,
when all good resolutions ought to be made...
now,when the blood is rising like sap;
when irrational joy, the only safe kind,
threatens to burst your respectable waistcoat buttons;
when your feet, however prosaic your boots may look to others,
are wing-shod and scarcely touch the pavement...

The resolutions which you make in this mood are certain to be good ones,
and stand a very good chance of remaining unbroken.
They will be bold and strong, positive and constructive and adventurous.
From now on, you say, I am going to be as brave as a lion,
as firm as a rock, as kind as a dove, as active as an ant, as truthful as glass;

I will write a poem, paint a picture, compose a symphony, found a business, 
plant a tree, build a summerhouse, and repaper the dining room...
(These springtime resolutions) will provide some sort of answer
to the eternal question:
"What can one do about the spring?"
For something must be done, and soon,
or one will undoubtedly burst.*

See also here for Alicia's take on spring fever.

*Try Anything Twice - Jan Struther

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