All posts filed under: garden notes

Lady Emma Hamilton | edge of evening

Postcard from now

The sky is still blue, but the light is just fading. B is out in the garden, painting the shed. (I think he’s been working on rebuilding the shed for three summers! But this is the last thing — until, of course, the whole thing has to be started over.) Today was the Moose’s sports day & I’m tattooed in thin lines of red which trace the gap between my suncream & my clothes. I’m heavy-limbed and sleepy in that particular way that only comes after you’ve washed a hot, sticky day from your body & find yourself fresh in the warmth of evening. I feel like the immediacy of Instagram has increased the distance between the words I write here and the time they took place. We’ve been to Amsterdam & now we’re back. I’ve read books — good books that I want to write about. But, since Pops stopped napping — which is now way-back-when (maybe this time last year?) — I seem to have lost my previous blogging routine. Anyway, it’s here. You’re …

Magnolia, April 2016 | edge of evening

From the bench

Though it now seems almost impossibly unlikely — two frosts & a hail storm this week — there was a day last week when I spent the morning on the garden bench. And though I told you about that morning, I didn’t use the obligatory magnolia-at-peak-beauty photos that I took from my bench. The tree was pruned heavily after last spring’s flowering and so peak-magnolia was slightly less magnificent than the last couple of years (when, in retrospect, the tree was taking up more than the width of our narrow garden) but it was still pretty magnificent. Like the peak of many things, peak-magnolia is a moment that only reveals itself in retrospect. Now the petals have browned, the leaves aren’t yet fully unfurled. Now we are at the ugly duckling stage between early spring and late spring. Between the time when it all seems joyous and miraculous, and the time when you wish it would just hurry up and be summer already. But the chicks of the blackbirds nesting in our neighbours’ climbing hydrangea have hatched. The …

Hellebore | edge of evening

The turn

We had that first weekend when the weather finally turns, the earth creaking on its axis, and instantaneously the possibility of spring fills the air. Old friends came to stay and, though it normally rains here whenever anyone visits, this time the sun shone and it was, most definitely, spring. B & the children visited the farm shop to buy lamb and were also invited to admire the newborn lambs bothering their unfazed mothers in the field. T counted the births listed on the whiteboard — quads, triplets, twins and singletons: 112 lambs born in the past ten days. This morning I’m restless, the weekend worn off. The four hours without children shrinking and expanding as I fidget with the different ways I could fill them. The Year 6 children from school are cycling along the road outside my window, taking their cycling proficiency. I tried to explain to a French neighbour who came over for coffee yesterday what they’re doing out there. It sounded slightly crazy as our road is a dead end & there is …

Making friends with reality

In a way, work is like a love affair. It demands commitment, absorption, and care. The difference is that it is a love affair with oneself, or at least with one’s creative abilities, and with an abstract world of ideas. Learning to Work, Virginia Valian People have a conception, however implicit and unarticulated, of who they ‘really’ are, which I am calling true self and others may call identity […] Some people […] cannot point to a period in their lives in which they were able to act in accord with their true selves. Such people may thus have particular difficulty in trusting their perceptions of their true selves. They impugn their motivation, for example, by thinking, “if it’s so hard for me I must not want to do it.” […] My claim is that people are not wrong about their true selves. A related claim is that to encourage someone to doubt his or her true self is to do them the gravest psychological disservice.Solving a Work Problem, Virginia Valian In planning each weekly …

Garden blues

The eighth birthday party has come and gone. Eight girls and two little brothers sitting round a table stringing beads onto bracelets, sandwiching their pictures between glass cabochons & pendant backings, gluing pink plastic roses to hair clips. Eating pizza, followed by scoops of vanilla ice cream swimming in chocolate sauce and hundreds & thousands. Running in the garden. Playing pass the parcel (commonly known in our house by the Moose’s name for it: parcel parcel). Chatting about their dreams (this particuluarly funny to listen to); discussing their creations. It seemed to be a good one. We remembered her at two — how excited she was when her first guest arrived & she thundered along the landing to peer down the stairs & see who it was. And now Monday lunchtime (or at least it was when I first wrote this). The older children are at school. The Pip-Pop, who at almost two and a half is resisting napping more and more, is sleeping after a morning swim with his best friend. I’m looking over …

Paris in the springtime

I feel like I should be composing one of those end-of-the-holidays school essays, During my holiday, I…The older two have had a two weeks & two days off school, and it has been pretty magical. We started with Easter weekend in Paris. Everyone I mentioned it to asked me whether the children were coming too. All I can (smugly) say, is AirBnB. Take the hotel out of the equation & visiting Paris with three young children is totally blissful. We stayed in the 15 arrondissment —  quiet and residential but twenty minutes walk to the Eiffel Tower — in the apartment of a family with two young daughters who went off to Amsterdam for the weekend. We remembered how much we enjoy living in a city, we saw plenty of sights & for the first time ever could imagine what it might be like to actually live in Paris. So all in all, a definite win. There was a week with B’s parents in their beautiful part of France. Days of sunshine and warmth after …

Risking failure more minor

“Difficultly then, whether of life or of craft, is not a hindrance to an artist.[…] Just as geological pressure transforms ocean sediment to limestone, the pressure of an artist’s concentration goes into the making of any fully realized work. Much of beauty, both in art and in life, is a balancing of the lines of forward-flowing desire with those of resistance — a gnarled tree, the flow of a statue’s draped cloth.” “Leaving the refuge of silence demands the willingness to be seen, to be judged. It demands that we turn away from our desires to please, to fit in, to spare the feelings of those we love, and also from our desire to create a shapeliness that does not reflect how awkward, unfinished, and ambivalent actual experience is. For the writer, the person of public speech, it demands risking the fates of Mandelstam or Horace, Sor Juana or Christopher Smart. Or more likely, risking failure more minor: boredom, triviality, confusion. Risking seeing that we are lesser beings than we had hoped.” Nine Gates: Entering …

Eclipse threads

All I have today are loose threads. Strands of thought. * We were all excited this morning about the eclipse. At school drop-off people were talking about where they’d been in 1999 for the last eclipse. B and I had planned to walk to Cornwall to see it. I asked him to remind me why we were going to walk rather than, say, get the train & he made the peace sign at me. Anyway, we didn’t, but we can’t remember why. His sister’s wedding maybe. Or maybe we decided it was going to be cloudy anyway. Or maybe we realised that walking from London to Cornwall was going to take a while. Who knows? It was our first summer together. Sixteen years ago. This morning, though, was totally cloudy: white-grey sky. I walked into town with Popsy, bought a coffee & we ended up on the Cathedral green just before 9.30. It was cold, very cold, and there was a small scattering of people standing around, trying to work out where the sun would …

To hang out the washing

Birdsong and light in the mornings. Always the coo-COO-coo of the wood pigeon. The days are warmer, almost spring-like. Washing on an airer in the garden. The line, once strung between the shed & the dead cherry, hangs slack now that we’ve had the tree taken down. One of my favourite things: hanging out the washing in summer. Best that the machine finishes before the sun reaches over the houses. The line in light, bare legs in shade. That feeling of promise early on a summer’s day and the virtuousness of a line of washing in the sun. How a sheet whips taut in the breeze. My grandma’s line with its wooden line-prop. Lupins, mint, and pink cranesbill in the long border beside it. The lines at the back of our flat in London: Edwardian maisonettes, a ground floor and a first floor, each with its own thin garden. We were upstairs but had to walk down the steps to reach our line. But the best upstairs lines were high above the gardens so that …

Postcard from now

The Pip-Pop is sleeping. The Moose is trying a full day at school. B has cleaned the loft windows and the sky is dazzling in its clarity. The cloudscape is crisp and beautiful — thin trails of cirrus against perfect pale blue. This morning was cold and misty. Always the change surprises me when it comes. All those months of walking to school with bare arms, wearing sandals. Today I slipped on shoes, knotted a scarf at my neck, showed the Pip-Pop how to put on a cardigan. We walked past glitter-dusted cobwebs, no spiders in sight. The children marvelled at seeing their breath in the air, then disappeared into their lines clutching their book bags. Back home, with ten minutes before we needed to go to the doctor’s surgery, I went into the garden to capture the webs there. Orb webs, mesmerising in their geometry. Beautifully intricate tangle webs. The first leaves of the magnolia turning papery brown. Thick seed pods blushing red. After school, there is swimming. Now there is ironing to do …