Tuesday, 5 January 2021
Saturday, 5 December 2020
|Sunrise, 1st December 2020|
As we approach the Winter Solstice, I find myself checking daily the times of sunrise and sunset. This has become a ritual, available on my ‘weather app’ and consulted whilst drinking the first mug of tea of the day. Today, sunrise was after 8.00am – always a bit of a blow. Sunset at 4.15pm is not a surprise, as the light seems to grow duller from around half past three, which is the time when I usually close up the greenhouse for the night, lighting the paraffin stove when necessary. Correction: it is more often than not my kind spouse who does this now, when the air is rather too cold for an asthmatic to breathe in.
Cold air tends to mean a brighter sky though, and we all need as much light as we can get here in Britain during the Winter months. Moments of cheer appear in the garden, and you can imagine my delight to have spotted this primrose, apparently oblivious to the season, flowering in a corner close to the raspberry bushes.
The early sun casts long shadows over the lawn, creating a completely different garden, with soft pastel colours and sharp skeletal forms.
Monday, 9 November 2020
‘Um,’ typed my friend H as we held the usual online conversation a couple of weeks ago, and in answer to my inane query as to how he was doing. ‘Still trying to understand what Tier two actually means. I try to carry on as usual with masked precautions and social distancing etc. But I have to look up what the new Tier two restrictions are, as they are not delivered by a dalek or even a Morris van with a loudspeaker on the roof like they would have been forty years ago. To be honest, it, the whole Covid-19 situation, makes me pine for the 1970's.’
I am old enough identify with his final remark, and to miss the simplicity and straightforwardness of life then, not to mention the genuine freedom we experienced, and which younger generations will never know.
|View from The Monument 1979|
It doesn’t do to dwell on the past, though. Recently I watched a broadcast of the 1977 play ‘Abigail’s Party’ which, unusually, I had never seen before. It felt oddly familiar to see the fashions, the hairstyles and above all the drearily ‘modern’ interiors which we all thought so new and ground-breaking. My memory recognised the smoke-laden atmosphere, which had to be endured both at work and in pubs, buses and trains and in homes. Would I go back? Well, I’d love to visit London again, where I worked for ten years. I would happily take the tube (in a non-smoking carriage) out to Buckinghamshire where I was born and brought up, and glimpse my parents’ house.
|My parents' lovely house in Bucks|
Most of all I would love to sit down with long-dead members of my family and just talk to them. But this is daydreaming, and so it should remain.
To return to our conversation, H’s struggle to find a definition of ‘Tier Two’ was wiped out overnight, and all of us are once again in lockdown for the next few weeks. It’s getting beyond tedious, and it feels to me as though we have marked time for almost the whole of 2020. We struggle to ‘move on’, getting nowhere.
So how do we lift the gloom, other than rummaging through old photos – which is what I confess to have been doing when the November rain prevents me from tidying up the garden. It’s a huge question and I’m not entirely sure I can answer it in a few words. Perhaps we are all muddling along in the same distracted fashion, sick of the media broadcasting what they want us to hear and longing for someone grown-up enough to give us some hope. Whatever happened to those sensible, parent-like figures who responded to trouble with wise words and sound advice? Surely they haven’t, as a species, died out? Or have we stopped listening to their quiet, patient voices?
* * *
|Amersham Playgoers' 'Hay Fever' 1978|
Wednesday, 23 September 2020
We have spent the last couple of weeks taking down our old shed. What remained was not pretty, and our attempts to improve the site and prepare it for the replacement were thwarted by the sheer effort involved in heaving around heavy paving stones and hardcore – it’s back-breaking work.
Two days were completely wasted when we employed the wrong person to help, and our ‘shed fund’ is now reduced by a frightening amount of money spent on him making it – actually – worse! The company selling us the shed have come to our rescue, working out a competent (and rather expensive) plan, which will – I hope – improve the entire corner of the garden. Watch this space!
The dismantling of parts of our lives has not been confined to the garden. The mandatory six years have now passed since I ceased my accountancy practice, and I am allowed to dispose of all the related paperwork. When we pulled all the various boxes of files from the dusty corners of storage, the task looked very daunting indeed. Earlier in the year I made a start and broke the shredder. I always manage to break these machines, and this one was not cheap when I bought it.
We reached the Autumn Equinox yesterday, and it is beginning to show in the garden. The colours are starting to fade into that gentle richness which defines the new season.
Many of the annuals will need to be cut down fairly soon, but I’m leaving them for as long as possible to do so. The thought of yet more dismantling is a gloomy one, especially at a such gloomy and depressing time in all our lives.
We need a little bit of hope to hold on to, and mine might be the choosing of some bulbs to plant during the Autumn months ready for Spring flowering. As my late father used to quote (from ‘Macbeth’):
Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.’
We all experience such days, and this little phrase is true, even when those days feel endless.
The highlight of September has been a rare visit from two members of our small family on one of the sunniest days. We are a very close family, so such meetings are precious. I close with a bright, cheerful photo taken by our son on that day - somehow he has made the garden look stunning, and I hope you will enjoy it too. Keep safe, and above all, stay healthy!
Tuesday, 18 August 2020
The mole, who periodically decides to throw beautifully sifted earth up on to my lawn, has returned this week. We share this mole with the friend in the neighbouring garden above ours, and for all we know we may be sharing hundreds of little velvety creatures living beneath our properties.
We never hear them, unlike the raucous rooks and magpies who feel the need to shout at each other quite often during daylight hours, and the irritating squirrel currently tearing unripe hazelnuts off the branches overhanging the garden, barking and screeching as he does so.
August is often a trying month, during which half the country takes it into their heads to set off on holiday while the other half sits it out staunchly at home, happy to complain about the first half. This year has proved more difficult, if only because the weather has been inconsistently wet and at times unbearably hot. Then there is the virus… but we won’t go into that.
I have been reading about the German occupation of Europe during the Second World War, from the point of view of those sent from Britain as spies. ‘Prince of Spies’ by Alex Gerlis took me through the first week of August and was so thrilling that I promptly read its sequel ‘Sea of Spies’. In the first, the very likeable hero is sent to Copenhagen, where his mission is fraught with danger. In the second, he is attempting to find out whether the Germans are developing the notorious V1 and V2 rockets, and a terrifying journey into and across Germany follows. Both the first book and its sequel are well crafted and beautifully written. They make tense, gripping reads as well as adding well researched facts to one’s knowledge of both places and history at that time.
I have peppered this blog post with garden views. The poppies and early roses are long gone, but all my hastily planted Cosmos are now blooming wildly and many roses are in their second phase. The sunflowers have hated the extremes of weather, but my American Canna which stubbornly refused to flower last year has perked up in the heat and produced one gorgeous red bloom.
Finally: this particular Blog is dedicated to my father, Noel Unsworth, who fought with the King’s African Rifles in Burma during WWII, and for all those brave souls who fought with him, 75 years ago this week. This was one of his favourite poems:
― William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Friday, 24 July 2020
The lawn stretches out in front of us to left and right, ending at the long fence which marks the boundary between us and our neighbour. I am not a fan of this fence: old, somewhat rickety and apt to blow backwards and forwards in the wind, it needs replacing. We can’t afford to do so all at once, but we managed two panels last year, and hope to put in a couple more in the Autumn. I particularly detest the colour, but I guess it could be worse!
To the right, the Devon bank stretches down to the corner where a bent old conifer used to grow at an alarming angle. We took this out a couple of years ago, deeming it a potential hazard in high winds.
The site is shady and damp, so we planted Rhododendrons and Laurel, with Hostas and a little box border. Much to our surprise they have thrived, although a sharp frost caught the Rhododendrons early this year and they did not flower. They also hated the drought in May, but I watered them copiously and fed them, and they are now showing signs of a late flowering! Watch this space…
Moving left and back up a steep part of the garden, the lawn curves round the edge of the terrace bordered by a rockery.
From this point you can see my ‘Buddleia Corner’ where – more by accident than design – I have put in cuttings from other Buddleia plants which had grown profusely, along with one which I found against the house wall when we moved here, and which I have encouraged.
Looking back up the garden from the fruit trees is one of my favourite views.
Moving back towards the arch we are finishing our walk. You are looking back up the lawn at the greenhouse and the shed - which is fast disintegrating! We have taken the plunge and ordered a new shed which - because of the pandemic fall-out and thus a national shortage of sheds, will not arrive until September or October. There goes the money paid for the holiday we were unable to take in April, and fingers crossed we will get our refund as promised next month!