Saturday, 11 March 2023

What happened to the Promise of Spring?

Yes, yes, I know, it's only March and I live in the northern hemisphere where March often has a sting in the tail, but, come on, my jonquils are flowering their tiny little hearts out! Or rather, have been.

And this is the scene in my garden now:

The ancient beech in the field over the wall  

the border bed between me and the castle

the view into the village

the Japanese ornamental cherry tree.

I love it when the snow accentuates the perfection of the
tree's bone structure

It's quite sad; for the first time in years (covid years) I had formally invited some ladies to come and join me for lunch. I planned it like in the old days, a proper lunch, with a starter, main course and pudding. Simple fare, but much fancier than my solo lunches. So what happens? First one rings up to say she can't make it out of her front door and the other one rings to say she can't make it down the hill from her house into the village. Actually, they would probably not have made it down my drive from the road either. Even a  delivery man refused to drive his van up to the house, but rang to say the drive had disappeared. I KNOW that, silly man, so I suggested he could just carry the stuff up. "Oh, but I am wearing ordinary shoes," he said, "my feet and trousers will be soaked." I am afraid that I said, "that's not very intelligent, you must have known about the snow on your delivery round." You'd think their depot would encourage them to carry suitable footwear for their rural deliveries, wouldn't you? Apparently not. I stayed heartless. His final feeble excuse was that, yes, he knew it had been snowing for 24 hours, but nothing like this in the town he came from. Pathetic.

So, for the last two days and the next two, I am eating the vegetables I had defrosted for my lunch party, a mediterranean mixture of red and yellow peppers with courgettes, shallots, a carrot, celery sticks, sun dried tomatoes, lots of herbs and spices. I didn't want to risk refreezing the dish. Also, four individual portions of tender chicken thighs remained on the menu. Luckily, I could freeze the smoked salmon starter and the garlic bread to go with the main course. But the chocolate puddings still smile at me every time I open the fridge. And there I was, hoping to scale down my consumption during lent!

Life is hard.

PS: because I am still having problems with commenting on some of your blogs I will try and answer any questions or  remarks that require a reaction under your comments  here in future.

Sunday, 26 February 2023

Catchup Waffle.

How is it possible that three weeks have gone by since I last posted? I have so little to say nowadays, except waffle, waffle, waffle. I can never believe that anyone is truly interested in the sort of blog which deals primarily with " and then I did this ....and then I did that." Many of the bloggers of 10 years ago or more have stopped blogging, I notice. In those days I still said mildly interesting things, Beloved was alive, and life was a lot more active than it is now. Come to think of that, I recently had a comment which asked me to contact them because they "had had an interviewee who praised my blog" many years ago. They did refer to an old blogpost, nothing recent, and would like to interview the person behind the blog.

Is that at all likely or is it just a phishing expedition for nefarious purposes? My old friend is still with me, the one who has caught me many times  (he emails at least once a week ) accessing porn and would really like to be paid now for not spreading the tale. He still hasn't learned to spell properly. I assume it's a he, would a woman bother endlessly?

In the garden it's pruning time mostly. Too cold still for dividing herbaceous clumps but pruning shrubs is ok provided I don't do it before frosty nights. There are a few signs of spring but much is still brown and dead looking. Handsome Hunk has been to clear the builders' rubble in the side corridor and repair the dry stone wall around the beds. I have paid him but I am going to take the bill to my neighbour; will they actually reimburse me? There are still plants to replace, they have shot up in price enormously, like foodstuffs and electricity.

This is the ballerina tree in winter, looks dead, doesn't it? I will try to remember to show it again in a month's time when it should have started to colour up a bit with new buds.

As far as gardening is concerned I am becoming aware that there are many jobs I can't really do easily now. Back to the old conundrum, do I move? But, I love my house and garden!  I really do! Last winter has been difficult. I have been lonelier than during the Covid winters and often thought how much easier it would be to live in the gorgeous town of Ludlow, just down the road twenty minutes' drive away. Oh, talking of driving, I have given my car to my son and daughter-in-law; well, not given, but handed over for a generous price. I have regretted it ever since, I may buy another car, there is no public transport here, taxis are very expensive and I can't constantly beg my friends to give me lifts.

Talking of money, I have also updated my Will. It was necessary. According to my solicitor it should be done every two years or so. I am hoping to spend a fair chunk of the money myself, of course, skiing, = (spending the kids inheritance). When I think how little or not at all any of them have been interested in how I survived Covid on my own, it makes me quite angry. Am I oversharing? Too bad.

However, things are looking up. The theatre visits will be resumed soon. More of that anon.

There is something I would like to ask help with. Many blogs do not let me comment any more. Either not at all or only as anonymous, which means I have to remember to add my name at the end. I often don't.

How do I overcome that? It's Google who says I need to adjust/reset/do something before they let me through again. What do I need to do? Any advice is appreciated. My gadgets are Apple.


Saturday, 4 February 2023

New Hope

After a mild period where lots of brave little souls have pushed their first cautious heralds above ground we have now been promised another cold spell with night frosts. Ah well, we may all be looking forward to Spring here in the northern hemisphere but February and March are often the coldest months of the year around here. Still, aren't they pretty, my aconites and snowdrops?

The pure gold of aconites

Snowdrops to gladden the heart

I saw the GP about my night terrors. There is nothing much she can do, there are no easy medications which would see them off.  The subconscious will throw up all sorts of detritus from a long life which has most certainly had its shadows and dark sides, and still has. What she suggested I do is to see a counsellor if the terrors don't end. In the meantime, I am to calm my mind as much as possible before bed and try to discard anything, people, activities, thoughts, that endanger my equilibrium. 

She is quite right, of course, now, at the end of my years, I really do not need to accommodate the toxicity of unwanted intrusion by whatever, whomever, whenever. That includes people like Freda. I slowly came to understand over the last few weeks that people like Freda are bad for me and that I am under no obligation to put up with them.

I went to a very interesting lecture and slide show on compost the other night. Yes, you read that right, a lecture on compost! Those who have read my burblings for some years may remember that I love compost and am quite a whizz at producing quantities of the stuff which then, with the help of the handsome hulk, get spread inches deep on my flower beds, there to await worms and other crawlies to pull the brown and crumbly treasure into the soil beneath. 

However, this is not really what I wanted to say. The lecturer was a German who had been a physician in civilian life (pre garden lecturing) and owns an ancient farmhouse with land attached to it, which he has turned, over 35 years, into a splendid show garden and woodland. During a break I asked what he thought of the UK, the dreaded Brexit and the political turmoil of the last few years and was he ever tempted to return to Germany. He smiled very nicely and calmly explained that he lives on his land, tends his garden, enjoys his labours and pays little attention to the machinations of the great and not-so-good. He said : "I have my settled status, I have my garden, my hobbies and some good friends". 

In other words, he lives in a comfortable bubble and cares little for the ills the great and not-so-good visit upon us. I too have my settled status (it means we can stay in the UK after Brexit), my garden, my books, a few good friends, what more is there?  

And yet, I find it hard to turn my back on the world and ignore the state of it. Perhaps I must turn my attention more often back to my great love, poetry. Poetry to soothe the troubled spirit and calm the unhappy mind.

This short poem by the Welsh poet Edward Thomas conveys a message of optimism about the approach of Spring:

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.


Saturday, 28 January 2023

Night Terrors

I looked the term up, they are a thing. Maybe you knew? I didn't, until now.

"Night terrors are episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep. . . . . .Like sleepwalking, sleep terrors are considered a parasomnia — an undesired occurrence during sleep. A sleep terror episode usually lasts from seconds to a few minutes, but episodes may last longer. Causes are unknown but can be related to extreme tiredness, fever, stress or trauma." I am rarely extremely tired nowadays and haven't had a fever for years.

For several years I have had nightmares, long, unpleasant dreams, which leave me breathing hard, heart pumping, but remembering the dream. I am usually trying to escape from some danger. Night terrors are different. I appear to wake myself up with a scream or shout, sometimes a speech. Several times lately I have been violent, for instance thumping my elbow into my own pillow and once fighting with the bedside lamp, knocking it over.  I must have won that fight but my hand was bruised afterwards. Once I was half out of bed, one foot on the floor, fighting the bed clothes. One of these days I will find myself on the floor, with no idea how I got there.

I am the least violent person, I have actually been afraid of violence since childhood. I run away from people shouting at each other rather than towards them, my curiosity in such events is nil. I would say that emotional violence or aggression are not part of my nature either. I'd rather avoid any such turmoil.

I have booked an appointment with my GP. I'll come back and tell you what she said. Am I going mad? Is it dementia? Or is it stress?

Now for something entirely different, or maybe not.

Let's invent a couple, let's call them Fred and Freda. You've got to know them better during the last two plus years, you have spoken on the phone more often and you have actually seen more of them during visits which have lasted from between two to three days. You've tried your best but have realised that you simply don't like Freda. You consider her to be a bossy, manipulating bully who is trying to bully you as she bullies her family. For Fred's sake you have put up with her, mostly walking on eggshells, keeping quiet. Obviously, you have not allowed her to bully you, which makes her stomp off in a huff.

You like Fred although you can see that he is very much under Freda's thumb. There are other circumstances which make the relationship tricky. But although you are sometimes offended by their actions you put up with them, again, keeping quiet. You'd like to remain on reasonably good terms with Fred.

WTF are you going to do? Did I mention stress earlier? The night terrors may have nothing to do with this relationship but the time line is similar. Coincidence? Possibly.



Sunday, 8 January 2023

Happy New Year?

 I know I am late to the show but 'good riddance to bad rubbish'.

 Can 2023 be as bad as 2022 was?There are those who say it will be even worse. The end of 2022 was the time when I literally had sleepless nights for the thoughts percolating inside my skull. Poverty, war,  social and political disintegration, the health system collapsing, people debating what to go for, eating or heating. The homeless freezing in bitter cold, single mothers, pensioners, people on the minimum wage, resorting to food banks and, this winter, for the first time, to warm banks; working people taking on several jobs and still unable to make ends meet. And the rich getting richer all the time. Energy firms laughing in the face of our children's future, making heaps of money, crooks making millions out of Covid by supplying unusable PPE (personal protective equipment) and walking off with the cash, unhindered. 

I am spitting nails.

The impulse when one has seen as much chaos and unkindness for so many years is to turn your back on it. Greed is everywhere, lending a helping hand or doing a kindness are concepts which appear to be getting lost in the general praise for taking care of number one.  I am one of those cowards who find coping with the state of the world ever harder, turning my back on it all easier and easier to do.

That is wrong too, it makes me into just another 'me-me-me'. But what is there one individual can do? What can we do? Maybe kindness is the answer. Kindness to each other and kindness to our environment, our planet. If we think of kindness, the freedom to be our best selves may follow. 

That is my wish and personal resolution for 2023.

I have been poorly and very lonely for most of December, I have still not quite recovered but things are looking up. It is probable my physical health has played a part in my emotional unhappiness but the despair at what I see and read day after day is no less real for that. 

I promise to be kinder in 2023, to myself and others.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

This And That

Considering that I reckon myself to be a keen gardener it is really quite astonishing that I should have forgotten to prune my roses, all 50+ of them, including shrub, bush, climbing, rambling and dog roses. I have made a start and pruned more than half of them over the past few days. I have the holes in my arms to prove it. Roses are pruned twice a year round here, once in autumn to stop the wind rocking and loosening the roots and once in early spring to encourage new growth. Sadly, there were quite a few buds and open flowers left, but I cut them all back ruthlessly. I haven't done so always but that means that the new season's growth is all topsy turvy and wrong. Pity. I do so love the last rose of summer, left blooming all alone, (as Nana Mouskouri used to sing). I often brought the last one into the house at Christmas.

Several of you expressed an interest in what I called my ballerina tree (weeping pear); here it is with the golden leaves of autumn which are silver in spring and summer. The leaves are all off now and the thin silver branches which you can just make out are all that's left.

Enough of gardening.

I have started to go out to one or two of the social clubs again. Admittedly, I have to force myself, particularly now that it's dark by 4pm and often cold and windy and wet. Yes, the rains have come back with a vengeance. Mustn't grumble because the soil really needs it.

People's habits have changed a great deal over the Covid years, I am not the only one who has become a recluse. When I drag myself out I usually enjoy the get togethers, I chat and show an interest with the best of them but, truth be told, there are very few people whose company I have seriously missed. Over the two years I have "lost" two formerly close-ish friends; one hasn't said why and the other believed I had criticised their Covid behaviour. Sad, but I'll get over it. So little touches me deeply nowadays there must be something wrong with me, something I inherited from my Dad, who also rarely felt the need to socialise; strangely, when he did, he was the life and soul of the party. People used to think of him as a jolly good fellow, which he really wasn't. Certainly not as far as company was concerned.

Losing friends for rather trivial reasons means that the friendship wasn't all that solid anyway.

I've had a couple of jobs done round the house and garden. The terrace has been relaid, and a bathroom  has been retiled. So much for moving! I emailed a friend today simply to restart post Covid relations. To my surprise I learned she and her husband want to downsize, they have sold their house and are in the process of getting rid of "stuff" prior to a move closer to family. Here's hoping that their family doesn't up sticks for a new job or something like that. It so often happens. Besides, the couple have many friends round here and will have to start from scratch in their mid 80s. People do the strangest things. 

Monday, 14 November 2022

Books, Gardens, and a little Lesson in Humility

I have only very recently discovered a new to me, very powerful, story teller: Elizabeth Strout.  "Olive Kitteridge" is a beautifully observed novel, each chapter introducing and later revisiting and fleshing out a set of characters, all interconnected, living in a small town in coastal Maine, New England. It took me a long time to accept the emotional pain and troubled lives Strout uncovers for the reader, but she is gentle and empathic at all times and her characters, though complicated and flawed, become likeable in spite of themselves. I am glad I persevered, I have already bought "Olive Again" and will certainly explore more of her books, which are quite famous in the UK now, since she won the Pulitzer Prize.

I have been reading a lot of lightweight mysteries, as well as rubbishy novels which I've given up on (life's too short to let irritation take hold); lately I have felt that a better reading diet would do me good, so I've downloaded Anne Tyler, Penelope Lively, Rose Tremain, Maggie O'Farrell, Ali Smith, and a few others whose work I don't know yet; and for light relief, Nancy Mitford and P.G. Wodehouse. I have just counted the unread books on my Kindle, including non fiction, Travel, Myths, Nature and Poetry, there are 40 books in total. The unread books on my shelves come to a hundred or more; is it time I stopped buying new books?  Is it possibly an excuse that my Kindle books are all very cheap, under one £Sterling, all offers by clever booksellers and publishers to draw the unwise in? Winter is coming, it's too cold and wet to do much gardening, and I can most often be found curled up in a comfy chair with a book (or Kindle) in my hand. 

Talking of gardening: I haven't yet mentioned the Open Gardens on the last weekend of June. As always, visitors seemed to enjoy themselves. Saturday was cool and damp and windy and there were fewer than a hundred people all told.

On Sunday the weather was glorious, warm and balmy, neither too hot nor too cold and crowds turned up.

I sat on the sun terrace and had generously placed a few garden chairs around, there are always lots of people who have need of a sit down and many gardeners enjoy a natter about all things horticultural. As do I. There are also a few benches dotted about here and there and visitors are always welcome to make use of them.

I had quite a number of enquiries this year about trees; I watched a group of people clearly wondering what sort of tree my elderly walnut tree was and seemed unwilling to accept my explanation - in a nice way and with much exclamation of surprise. Not many people nowadays have walnut trees in cottage gardens. Another couple was smitten with my weeping pear tree. I admit it is a rather splendid specimen, I hadn't cut its umbrella of thin, graceful ash grey branches and silver leaves at all this year. It looks like a ballerina in a wide hoop skirt about 2 ½  metres across. I too would admire it if I came across it in somebodies garden.

I am glad that I decided to put myself through the effort and hard work; I freely admit quite an important reason for my decision was to show the world my "suffering at the mean hands" of my neighbours. (He actually turned up, the cheek of the man!) That's not all, of course, I like gardening and am quite proud of the result of my labours, as well as the positive feedback from visitors. Nearly everybody always praises my views; like I told the estate agent who came to value my house "It's a location to die for". Well, maybe not quite.

There is something I learned from the Open Gardens too, something about a failing I know I have and have had forever: I am inclined to judge people by their appearance.

There was this elderly couple, late 60s maybe, a little drab, even shabby looking, with the colour of people who work outdoors, gently strolling about. By and by they reached the sun terrace where I was sitting and stopped to chat about a plant or two, I forget which. I don't know how it happened - did they ask who tended the garden?, was I the only gardener?,  did I live alone? how did I cope? ; eventually, in the most unassuming manner, without in the least pushing themselves forward, they opened up and said that they had both been widowed and quite accidentally found each other and saved each other from the blight of loneliness. I was right to think that they lived on and off the land. She said "he brought a flock of sheep into the union." They were quietly happy and contented, probably not very well off. I had the impression they had everything they needed. So there was I, sitting on my sun terrace, with a house behind me larger than one person needs and proudly showing off my garden to these people who have so much more than I have in my lonely existence. Me and my stupid middle class superiority, I have swallowed wholesale the idiotic English attitude that class matters. Time I remembered where I come from.  I have envied the little couple ever since.