Saturday, 12 April 2014


Give me a corner and I’ll back myself into it. I’ve had years of experience. Allocating two mornings a week for the services of two separate gardeners is a case in point. Both are keen and willing,  and perform different functions -  Paul, the expert, gets to prune and do the careful weeding round delicate plants, and Gardener, who’s been around for ten years but has still not learned that to chop a choisya ternata aurea in half just before flowering will severely limit the attraction of said shrub, does the digging and mulching and tickling and lawn tending, as well as cooking up a mean compost heap. However, at only a third of an acre the actual garden area isn’t big enough to provide ongoing work for two gardeners and their gofer. i.e. me.

Two mornings a week gone on gardening,  a season ticket to hospitals and doctor’s surgeries for all sorts of routine treatments and tests for Beloved as regular as a mum’s school run and a day all-told for housework,  plus shopping and afternoon walkies with Millie, leave little time to  stand and stare. There’s hardly
time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

The cherry tree almost went unadmired until it blazed at me one evening at dusk and I simply had to take its picture. With an old camera, there’s not been enough time to learn the intricacies of the fancy new one.

Paul doesn’t know yet that he will feature in my blog, this picture was taken on the sly while he’s weeding the fernery. Ferns haven’t unfurled yet, so clearing the bed now will avoid trampling them into the ground later.

But nobody can live by work alone, there has to be leisure.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Can you call theatre visits ‘stare’? Sure, I can.

Sixteen visits to be exact, just to be getting on with, between now and February 2015.

Will we still be alive? There’s another corner ready to pounce.

I’m only asking the ‘being alive’ question because we went to another old friend’s funeral today. We’ve been climbing that hill to church far too often recently. I’m beginning to recognise the hymns.
And only four weeks ago we went to her birthday party.

Man muss die Feste feiern, wie sie fallen, my mum used to say. Loosely translated ‘make hay while the sun shines', or 'carpe diem’.

This was brought home to us quite urgently at yesterday’s poetry meeting. A member who hadn’t been attending for a while turned up with his wife. He sat very close to her on the sofa. She read, but he just sat, listening. Not long ago Donald was an excellent reader of poetry, very knowledgable, erudite, an ex Oxford classics scholar and long-time grammar school teacher and clergyman. Now he clings to Audrey, frets and fusses when she’s out of his sight. What is left of his first class brain is rapidly fading and after a life of respectability and courteous good manners he is turning into a coarse vulgarian. Audrey herself is frail and, for the life of me, I can’t see how she copes. But she does. It terrifies me.

I need to get back out into the garden this weekend;  hands caked with dirt and a sore back from bending are marvellous means of dispersing  morbid thoughts.


  1. Dear Lord, what is all that spam above about baptism???? Who is he trying to impress? If me, he's failed miserably!

    I read your blog regularly, Friko, even if I don't always comment. Today I will...I feel for your friend whose husband is losing it, bit by bit. We went through this with my father. When we finally had to put him into a care home, even the nurses couldn't figure out how my poor mother had coped so long. So my heart goes out to your friend.

    Letting go of a worker who does a good job is very hard, I know, but it can be done. I ought to know -- I was the good worker who was laid off! Ah well, with dealing with my father and his problems, I probably would've eventually lost my job anyway! Not to worry, God never closes a door without opening a window. Or so they tell me.

    Keep thinking and writing. And good luck with the gardening situation. xoxox

  2. Yes, I have found gardening to be the best remedy for "dispersing morbid thoughts." It is my great escape. The winter here did not allow for much of that and a price, of sorts, was exacted, but all is emerging again into possibility. I find hands in dirt to be the best form of "baptism." The watering that follows is water enough for me. :))

    Your unflinching look at life is always inspiring, as is your writing.

  3. Oh, Friko, I hear you. I have entered that time of my life when I see friends younger than me die prematurely. At least it seems so to me. I have only recently discovered the bliss that comes from getting dirt under my fingernails in the garden. Sending you virtual hugs, can you feel them? :-)

  4. At least your friend's friends don't turn away from her as her husband changes character.

  5. I know about morbid thoughts. Another scare from my doctor. I call him the old hen. He's driving me crazy. Gardening helps, especially if someone else does the heavy lifting. Now I'm off with the dogs.

  6. There may not be a better antidote to gloomy thoughts than getting out into the sunshine and fresh air . . . It just seems to lift the weight of daily worries right off one's shoulders like nothing else. May you savor your beautiful garden and enjoy every one of those fabulous-looking theater tickets, too.

  7. wow quite the collection of theatre tickets...
    i love the cherry blossoms...if i could have and it not been crazy i would have gone to dc this weekend to the cherry blossom festival....the apple blossoms in my yard are beautiful as well...will be gardening to morrow...

  8. I always love photos of your garden, and am sorry you have a too-many-gardeners problem. But I'm very sorry about funerals. Having recently attended a memorial for my niece's husband, 30 years younger than I am, I'm very aware of my own mortality. However, your theatre tickets sound wonderful.
    Your story of Donald and Audrey reminds me of my parents. They both had Alzheimer's Disease but Dad also had vascular dementia. After struggling to live with him, Mom finally agreed to go with him into assisted living. After he was evicted from there for the third time, my brother had to have him hospitalized. Fortunately, a room was found for him in a care facility in our home town on the BC coast, and a room for Mom, in a different wing of the same facility, came up a month later. My brothers (and I when I visited) would take him to see her, or vice versa, until she didn't want to see him any more. He didn't recognize her, and she died two years before he did, of a broken heart I am sure because they'd been a couple since they were in school.
    I'm finally starting to take my diabetes diagnosis seriously, because I was sent home from the clinic with an insulin injector to study, and am going back to the clinic for "lessons" on Wednesday. I've told my husband he can donate any unopened boxes of my favourite sugary breakfast cereal to the Food Bank.
    I hope you and your beloved manage to stay as well as possible.
    Love, K

  9. I'm just hanging on to the word "fernery" what a perfectly beautiful word. And your friend and his wife. My heart breaks. I've seen this happen.




  10. I understand your thoughts all too well. Keep at the garden. It is the great healer for the body and the soul. I'm sorry to hear of the losses of friends. I think losing one's mind to diseases of the brain or body would be the cruelest end of all.

  11. Ouch. And yes, the garden, dirty hands, knees (and usually face) are a wonderful panacea for pain. And just looking at yours is a big help this morning. Thank you.

  12. I'm pretty good at backing myself into a corner too. Usually it's when I'm trying to persuade somebody of something. You have a very attractive green garden.

  13. Not only that but the contact with the earth staves it off.

  14. I find garden very wholesome, a great and wonderful distracter and healer. My garden makes me happy. I have no idea where I would be without it.

  15. The cherry tree is fantastic! Mine was so severely crippled by well-meaning Upstairs Neighbour that I did not take a picture of the poor pitiful tree in bloom this year, and now it is already more green than white.

    So you still haven't told Gardener about Paul, and he has not suspected anything yet, I guess.

    Sorry to hear about the once so brilliant man whose mental faculties are so rapidly deteriorating. It is scary.

    If it wasn't for his beloved allotment, I suppose my Dad's health would be much worse - physically and mentally. It is (physically) bad enough as it is.

  16. Wenn ein Fest faellt fuer Dich, feiere es liebe Friko! Your mother was right! :-) And still many of those can be found - I can imagine sitting in the late afternoon with an early glass of wine under that cherry tree could be one, ein kleines Fest...
    Ich gruesse Dich!

  17. With your schedule, and juggling two gardeners, I'm surprised you have time for morbid thoughts, Tabor. Just concentrate on how you're going to fit in all those trips to the theatre.

  18. Wrily honest as ever, Friko.

    The services of two separate gardeners, each keen and willing and performing different functions? I don't know why, but this made me smile.

    Carpe diem.

  19. Yes, I see time rapidly passing by each and every day - I do not have time to think about it - its just life - I'm making hay till I can no longer make hay - enjoy each day as long as I can, enjoy all the things I see and do till I cannot open my eyes or get out of bed. I have lost some very dear friends and family, but life goes on until its your turn and until then "I'll be making hay while sun shines". I have also watched a dear friend deteriorate with his mind - he had Alzheimer's and was a good friend and most knowledgeable and opinionated and to see it slip away over the course of a few years was heart breaking. How fortunate I am to have Great Health and I shall make use of this. Have a wonderful day. Lovely photos and nice to see photo of Paul working in garden.

  20. I need to take a bit of time to stare myself, I've been doing too much lately.
    Your garden looks lovely.

  21. Being busy in my garden takes me awAy fom my burdens. At this point of my life and all the pains and aches that come with age, I would love to have an extra pair of younger hands to help me with all the work there is to do.

  22. I love following your world. And yes, I'm seeing more people I know face more and more health challenges. More funerals. More visits to the hospital. And I figure someday that will be me. And I hope I have enough younger friends that they'll be around to smile and help me through!

    I envy your lovely garden -- a reminder to call my Garden Warrior and have him start on the cut back. Yesterday I hauled branches that came down to during our hard winter to the curb for what they say is free pick-up. We'll see about that. Everyone has big piles in their front. I was lucky and my pile is smaller. Still, I'd like it gone.

    Your season tickets sound wonderful -- and good for you! I'll be eager for your take on all the wonderful things you see. Sending a happy day your way -- j.

  23. Friko, time and schedules and calendars, and even hands on clocks are increasingly on my mind. This bothers me more and more. I increasingly yearn for time to stare. I begrudge time that I donate to unwanted causes.

    And yet, when I see a full moon, I do stop and stare (more than a simple gaze.) In a few minutes (time again) I am going out to see what's abloom in Central Park. The exercise will be good, and the staring will be welcome antidotes to that cramped feeling in my own corner.

    Thank you again for your wondrous writing. xo

  24. Ah Friko, even with the mention of morbid thoughts you manage to make your post highly entertaining. I guess "seize the day" is good advice no matter your age. Your garden looks lovely - here the daffodils are just beginning to bloom. I wish I was close enough to borrow one of your gardeners. Having worked all the vegetable beds in the last two days, my back is feeling much older than the rest of me!


  25. Gardens, how would we notice small changes without them?
    I do admire your glorious garden in spring regalia.

  26. Hello, Friko, your sakura (cherry tree) blossoms are so wonderful. I don’t know what variety, it has bigger and deeper pink blossoms. Thank you for sharing: you nicely inserted the picture of your sakura blossoms in this post. I like to stand beneath the boughs simply to stare at them in full bloom or to catch the fluttering petals in the wind. I agree working with dirt, mud, and insects in the garden is a way to disperse morbid thoughts. Enjoy gardening.


  27. I'm sitting like a slug in front of my computer this morning, feeling the aches and pains of unaccustomed labours in the garden yesterday. Any morbid thoughts, including discovering plants that failed during the winter, are tempered by delight at wriggly earthworms, frilly-topped tulips and glorious sunshine. After church today we'll be out there again.
    Your writing is another delight, Friko. Always insightful.

  28. I missed baptism spam?! Drat.

    That cherry tree is glorious, as is your fernery. (Is that a word? Well, it is now.) We absolutely do not have growth like that in the deserts of Southwest America where I live, so I'm vicariously gardening through you, I suppose. The ONLY thing I recognize in that photo is a daffodil, and that only because they had them in north central Idaho where I lived for a time. It's gorgeous, though. So much green! Wow. Just… wow.

    Sorry to hear about your friend's brain. I find that sort of thing happening increasingly more and more to me, of a sort, as fibromyalgia looms larger and larger in my life. I told my husband that it's as though my vocabulary and intelligence are on the other side of a semi-porous glass wall… sometimes what I want leaks through, but more often than not the facts, thoughts, words, etc. that I want are locked behind a slick barrier that I cannot penetrate. I feel for him. It must be so frustrating to lose that sharp mind and not be able to do a thing about it. I'd be terrified if I were you, if I were him, if I were his wife… the whole thing is just awful. Being human is a tremulous thing, every aspect of us so fragile. Your friend's funeral so close on the heels of her birthday is another testament to that. So sorry for your loss. Be careful with those hymns. They get stuck in your head. I've not been Christian for well over a year now, and I still find myself singing about Jesus; just can't help myself. The tunes are gorgeous. I just wish they had different words.

  29. We will all make this passage. It is just your poet's time to stand and stare...A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare. I thought exactly this same thought the past few days when I have gardening for me and others like crazy!

  30. We had some gardeners come to civilize our property. It's a certified wildlife habitat but was becoming somewhat unmanageable. I was out there this afternoon, in the sun, planting early vegetables, and I had to stand there in awe of the beauty around me. I could even tolerate my complaining back.

  31. When my people were still living in Sussex (they later moved to Shropshire),one of our gardeners was Norman Wisdom's son (if that means anything). We soon got rid of him; useless and too expensive!

  32. Some our old friends passed away, but life continues..
    Hope the work in garden will give you more optimism, Friko. Spring is newness in life of plants continues too. Love your photo of tree in blossom!

  33. In our elderyears we live with the knowledge of death creeping ever nearer, so you are right to seize the day.
    Blessings from Dalamory,

  34. Oh my, there's great humour in this post Friko, I have grown to so enjoy your humour. I greatly appreciate the way in which you weave life's sadness and reality into your writing.
    Then you blow me away with such visual delights such as your Cherry tree - just wonderful.

  35. Alzheimers is the cruellest disease of all to strike a couple , turning a happy partnership into Sufferer and Carer .
    Audrey sounds as though she's coping , with grace , and I admire her .

  36. That German bloke has a lot to answer for. You know the one...Mr Al Zheimer.

  37. As inspiring and witty as ever, dear Friko. This is so thought-provoking a post and quite well-punctuated with the beauty of gardening, the burst of cherry blossoms in particular. 'Fernery' got me thinking; had never heard of it before!
    Keep digging - one never knows what buried treasures you might chance upon!

  38. Even in posts like these, when you glimpse sides of life that cause worry, you do so in a sweetly amusing way - without poking fun or disrespect. Your camera takes lovely photos, whether old or new - but with a yard and view like yours, it is a bit easier to have lovely results.

  39. Hi Friko - my SIL has a Paul .. but he means well .. isn't that cherry so full of bloom - delighted to see the shot ... and then friends - it's a challenging time of life for one and all ... and so sad to see some deteriorate in front of your eyes, with a frail wife beside him.

    You'll get your garden time and those aching backs, broken nails, dirt encrusted fingers ... and enjoy the warmer sunnier weather ... just hope the visits ease up ... but all those theatre tickets - how fabulous .. enjoy! And forward thinking is the new age ....

    Cheers Hilary

  40. You say you are morbid, Friko, yet planting and tending a garden (even with the aid of two gardeners) and booking theatre tickets for a year ahead, speak to me of an unwillingness to let go of hope for the future.

  41. Wonderful writing and glimpses, friko.

    I will soon turn 67 and my knees are bad, but I look ahead with vigor. My garden, my writing, my family including half a baseball team of small children, my house by the sea...I hope the next ten years will be the best and then I'll yield to inevitability. I know anything may happen at any time, but here-now I look to be astonished.

    Garden away, girl. And stare.


  42. As I've contemplated moving, one of the things I take into account is the yard - I don't care what they have planted there since I'll likely tear it out, I just want a hospitable place for putting my hands to work in the dirt.

  43. Oh
    how I understand your words.
    The gardening, the aging, aching, sickness and death happening to so many that I am close too.
    Your Cherry tree is beautiful
    and I am so weary from company, thinking of cleaning the beauty surrounding me that is rapidly
    growing wild.
    Again, your thoughts are mine as I spend sleepless aching nights,
    carry on and cannot help but wonder what do the days ahead have in store for this one.

  44. Back to the garden is always a good plan!


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