Thursday, 24 February 2011

Cabin fever

We were promised a sunny day today. The sun shone - for ten minutes! Oh, February is a miserable month.
I don't seem to have been anywhere for ages. I've got cabin fever, so tomorrow we are taking a long weekend break  and going for a catch-up with family and to visit a few galleries, first to Cambridge and then on to London. 

Spring is coming, but it is so cold and damp that gardening is unpleasant. I know that after just a few days away I'll be happy to come back home to see what is growing.

The fruit trees are underplanted with 'St Patrick's Day' daffodils and their leaves are just starting to push up through the ground.
St Patrick's Day is on the seventeenth of March but unless the weather improves considerably I doubt that we shall be seeing a host of golden anything. 

There are buds forming on the pear tree. If you look at the branches you will also see that they are covered in lichen, a sign of clean air, but also a good indication of how much wet weather we have had to endure.
Yesterday we went on a shopping trip to a garden centre to collect various things to take to London  to replenish our daughter's small terrace garden. We bought a bag of compost, not a big one - it has to be carried up three flights of stairs! 
While I was poking around I found some half barrels suitable to use as water butts outside the greenhouse. The young man who helped me manhandle the butts said that they had been used for storing whisky and that when they first come into the store they smell wonderful!

One is already in place, with enough rainfall overnight to almost fill it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Other gardens 6. Alhambra

Generalife Gardens, Alhambra, Granada, Andalusia, Spain.

When the children were small we rented a house in the Spanish countryside and explored the surrounding area. We visited the hillside palace of Alhambra on a hot summer's day. Gardeners had sprayed the conifers with water to cool the atmosphere and the perfume was wonderful. 
Sensible people were having their siesta.

I had wanted to see this palace and gardens for many years, it is a place that has influenced architecture, literature and music; one of my favourite records as a teenager was Manuel de Falla's, 'Nights in the Garden of Spain.'
It did not disappoint.

The Moorish poets described the Alhambra Palace as 'a pearl set in emeralds', the image based on the pale stonework of the palace being surrounded by dense woodland. The trees were English elms, brought to Spain by the Duke of Wellington in 1812.

There was the cooling presence of water everywhere, with large and small pools, rills and fountains.


They all proved irresistible to my younger daughter. She loves to pootle about in water. 
Just like her mother!

We bought a guide book which informed us that in the early evenings the Moors would fish for swallows in the upward currents of air by the palace walls. Although they will in reality have used nets, Himself preferred the idea of some very skilful fishing with a rod and line! 

'Fishing for Swallows'  bas-relief wood carving by Peter Murphy.

Saturday, 19 February 2011


A friend of a friend wanted to know if anyone living in the country would like to have a bee hive on their land. Guess who they thought of! Himself said  that if they came to our garden they would immediately look at the orchard beyond, which doesn't belong to us, and want to site the hive there. Of course, he was right. Happily Mary, our neighbour, was happy to oblige, and today was delivery day. 

As you can see, it was a soggy, dull day. The hive was well wrapped up in an old sheet until the exact site was chosen.

Unwrapped and in position, and some bees come out to take a look around.
Mmm! I'm dreaming of honey already!

Another good thing to arrive was a box of eggs from our neighbours Andy and Kim. Their hens came from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust. They started out with half a dozen hens but two of them could not adjust to life in the country, fresh air and grass and promptly popped their clogs. The remaining four had a bit of a shock when they experienced their first rainfall ( and I know just how they felt) but Andy erected a canopy to keep the worst of the weather at bay.
Now they seem to be quite at home and are laying well.
The eggs taste delicious!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The King's Speech

"The Kensington Gardens are in London, where the King lives."

This illustration by Arthur Rackham is in a battered first edition of 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens' that belonged to my father. It is a portrait of King George 5th, whose death brought about a very rocky period for the British monarchy. 

At the weekend I watched the Bafta ceremony on television and was pleased to see 'The King's Speech' carry off a good number of awards. Helena Bonham-Carter gave a long but enjoyably quirky thank-you speech on receiving an award for her role.
I took myself off to see the film last month on a cold, dull day. I can't remember when I had last been to the pictures in the daytime. I recall that some years ago I emerged from seeing 'Shadowlands' into a bright summer's evening with reddened eyes and tear-streaked face plain for all to see. 
To watch a film at ten-thirty in the morning seemed positively decadent.

I spent a lot of the time holding my breath in suspense, although the film was neither a horror movie nor a violent American production. Some moments of the film I did find horrid, but 'The King's Speech' is a true story of recent history. I have problems with both books and films that purport to tell the facts and then fail to do so. My only quibble with this film was fairly minor; in it Churchill was portrayed as being a staunch supporter of 'Bertie' from the start, although this was not the case as in real life he initially supported Edward, the elder brother. It could most accurately be described as 'faction', the story of the battle of King George 6th to conquer his stammer.

I had a speech impediment as a child,  and, like 'Bertie', had lessons to try and sort the problem. I was unable to pronounce the letter 'r', rather unfortunate when your parents have christened you 'Rosemary'.  To call yourself, 'Losemaly' at age three is cute, but by the age of eight it feels like a disaster. I recall listening each year, with the rest of the family, to the King's Christmas broadcast. His speech, and especially the silences between, made me apprehensive and it was a relief when the broadcasts were over. Watching the film I was just as anxious.

By the time that I was old enough to be aware, the king had become an accepted and well-loved monarch, due in large part to his refusal to leave London during the Blitz and his desire to identify himself with his fellow Londoners.
I was educated at a small Moravian school in the company of a number of missionaries' daughters from all over the world. When the king's death was announced in assembly, sun-tanned and beautiful Yvonne, one of the missionary girls, fainted dramatically, no doubt fearing that chaos would follow in the wake of his death. I was as impressed by Yvonne's faint as much as by the announcement of the king's passing.

Along with the rest of the audience, this film profoundly moved me. Many of those watching had lived through the years that were being portrayed, there were sighs of recognition and tuts of disapproval. Wally Simpson was never going to be accepted into the hearts of the British public no matter how well she dressed and even though she did rid us of a weak, immoral king!
At the close of the film there was a spontaneous burst of applause.

Coronation mug for Bertie's father King George 5th.
Crickey, those days are long gone!

Garden update.

A week ago today we cut some lower limbs from the walnut tree. Several days later I was perturbed to see the sap still running freely from the untreated wounds. By the weekend the loss was reduced to a steady drip. I'm hoping that the cuts are now drying and healing, but it is raining so hard that it's impossible to know.
The greenhouse staging is full! I'm repotting the auriculas, cutting off dead foliage and checking the roots for vine weevil grubs. It's been a hard winter for all my plants, especially those in pots. My auriculas are not looking good!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day

Seriously Entangled.

My heart is seriously entangled with an Englishman.
We do not speak about it much
or struggle.
If we did there'd be a muddle of emotions,
unwanted, for an Englishman.

But sometimes I forget,
his laugh makes me kiss him,
his smile catch hold his sleeve.
I am good at dramatic gestures,
like holding hands.

But mostly in public I remember to remain
so no one who sees me can guess at the pleasure,
quite without measure,
of seriously being entangled!

I went to Marks and Sparks to buy their Valentines special offer.
 Lazy? Moi! What do you mean? I cooked some mushrooms and made a salad to go with the steak and chips!

Coquilles St-Jacques for starters 

and a 'cheeky' little strawberry and champagne souffle for pud.

Not forgetting the chocolates!

Thank you M&S.

Enamel broken heart brooch by Janet Haigh

No broken heart for me today - Himself has finished the greenhouse staging.

 Happy Valentines!

Enamel, ceramic and fabric brooch by Janet Haigh

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Heart Space

On Saturday we drove to the city of Bristol for the opening of our friend Janet Haigh's new venture, Heart Space Studios, a venue for fabric workshops and display.

I can't thread a needle but I took some homemade buns

and biscuits.

It was a lively and colourful event,

not only the work on display but also the visitors.

I wore my button heart.

Cloth button and kid leather heart made by Alice Goldie.

If you're feeling creative, why not book a workshop?

Good wishes, Janet and Steve, on your exciting new venture!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
the grass is ris
I wonder where the birdies is.


Well, I'm probably a bit premature and I happen to know that the 'birdies' around here, the pheasants at least, have mostly been eaten! But the garden is waking up after a long winter and the small birds, wrens, tits and the like are very much in evidence. 

This is how it's looking inside the greenhouse, just awaiting some staging along the ends so that I can start potting up and seed sowing.

The wood for the staging is drying out after a downpour in a bit of much needed sunshine.

There are promising -looking buds on the camellia bushes

and the spring bulbs are flowering.
A nice carpet of snowdrops.

Inside the hyacinth bulbs are perfuming the house.

But the dog remains unconvinced that winter might be over, (she is not a natural optimist). She is still in her cold weather position at the back of the wood burner.