Sunday, 23 January 2022

A Miscellany of Housekeeping

Just when I feel I have rediscovered my blogging mojo my internet connection gets dodgy. Three times in the last week my connection failed and I have spent many hours waiting for my IP to respond to phone calls; if I have to listen once more to the tinkling muzak while they keep me on hold, constantly reminding me that it would be so much easier if I just went online to FAQ, I shall do them an injury. I must make sure that I get a post out before the connection fails again.

There is a development in the dispute with the neighbour; after much to-ing and fro-ing, and at great cost, we have reached an agreement. I am giving permission for the barn to be repaired and for three months they can erect scaffolding on my land, provided they arrange for the scaffolding to leave me full access to  the passage between the front and back of my house, they replace any plants they damage to a comparable standard, make good any disturbance on my land, and they do not extend the time limit;  furthermore, my permission is valid only for the barn's back wall acc. to the "meaning of the act" (legalese); I am not obliged to grant permission for rebuilding any other side or the interior. Some success, I suppose. 

Blogging mojo is not the only mojo I have rediscovered, after several years of the garden receding into the background of my life I am feeling the urge to get back out and create a place of peace, beauty and solace, culminating in opening again in the summer when the village gardens display their charms to visitors, once covid restrictions are over. We'll see. It's easy to plan an active gardening life from the comfort of my cosy study, but it might not feel quite so urgent when the work outside starts. In the cold of early spring at that. However, gardening is good for body, soul and spirit.

Opening the garden might have a further benefit: mild revenge on my neighbours; if that strip of land cannot be cultivated for months it will show and I'd know whom to blame, publicly. Yes, I know I am acting quite childishly. 

A friend lent me her copy of Colm Toibin's "The Magician"; a fictionalised biography of the German writer and Nobel Prize Winner Thomas Mann; she said she wanted to have my opinion on it. Although Toibin is a greatly admired author I have not previously read any of his work. I am ashamed to admit that I had a prejudice against (Northern) Ireland. For years, before the Peace Process, the news was always bad, I hated the endless murders and maiming, the fighting, the violence, the religious bigotry; I lost count of the number of times I had to leave the underground on my way to and from work, how terrified we passengers were if we saw an unattended bag anywhere in the carriage or how we suspiciously watched each other, looking for signs of terrorism. The relief was great in 1998 when the Troubles finally ended although Brexit is having an alarming effect on the Peace Process.

None of that is anything to do with Toibin, he is Dublin Irish, and a marvellous writer. After nearly two years of choosing lightweight reading material, lots of it, some of it boring and toe-curlingly badly written, I was a bit worried about having to read a book of literary merit and give an opinion. I needn't have worried. Toibin's style is fluent, limpid, even simple. He is totally accessible. The Magician is first and foremost a portrait of the artist as a family man with  Germany's decline and fall always in the background. I can honestly say that I loved the book and will now most certainly delve further into Colm Toibin's work.


  1. Comments on your reading. Glad you have been rightly victorious in your neighborly dispute. Gardening is good for body, soul and spirit indeed. Best wishes

  2. I am glad you came to an agreement with the neighbors!

  3. My gardening plans in January far exceed what I accomplish once good weather arrives. But without plans I would likely accomplish nothing. I'm glad to hear that there has been some agreement in the dispute with your neighbour.

  4. This is a lovely post to read on all sorts of levels. My reading has been mostly lightweight too, and I will explore Colm Toibin. Thank you. And your planned act of vengeance made me smile. I do hope it is unnecessary but...

  5. Finally having come to an agreement with your neighbours must be such a relieve - for them hopefully as much as for you.
    Your plan to return to gardening sounds good and reasonable; as you say, it is good for us. (Not that I would know; my "gardening" extends to taking care of a few potted plants on my windowsills.)
    Isn't it wonderful to discover a real good writer?

  6. You should have followed the advice and gone online to sort your internet connection issues ­čśť.

    Your agreement with your neighbour sounds very legal and I expect money well spent. Nevertheless, good on you for standing up for your rights. Childish pleasures can be so satisfying.

    I am reasonably well travelled and I have seen the deformed Agent Orange foetus in the American War Museum in Saigon, bullet holes in the walls of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest and black people only waiting seats in Cape Town. None compared to my discomfort in Belfast's Falls Road and Shankill Road. Scary!

  7. Pleased that you have a legal agreement with your neighbors and that they have to restore what they tear up. Your gardening idea as proof they have is clever.
    So happy also that you have found a great book to read. Like you I often read--or start to read rubbish. I won't hesitate to dump it when I see it is not going to get better.

  8. Oh, Friko, that's good news about coming to terms with the neighbors and I'm glad it is legally done so if they don't comply you have means to kick them out! And I'm glad to hear yet another good review of the Toibin book. It's on my list to read sometime but my stack is pretty tall for now!

    Here's a thought -- if you have the mojo to do a post but no internet, can you write it in a regular document on your computer you can later copy and paste into the blog program when the internet is back? It doesn't solve your problem and you still have to be on hold forever, but at least you can get the post written while it's in your mind and edit it later if anything changes.

    And I am thrilled that you are getting your gardening groove back. I know that it is hard work but you've always been so satisfied by it and quite the accomplishment. I would be fun to welcome the village to your space in the summer.

  9. Gardening is a restorative project and something you once loved, especially if you can get some help for the harder stuff. As a Devil's Advocate the improved barn will be nicer to view when it is all done. Sounds like a reasonable agreement that you have finished.

  10. Colm is hit or miss with me. I like some of his work, not all but will check out your recommendation.

    Well done on the agreement and I am looking forward to your gardening adventures once more.


  11. Well, I guess you've come to an acceptable solution with the neighbor. Too bad they chose to be prickly asses. I'd be prepared to hire someone to dismantle the scaffolding just in case. somehow they don't inspire me with confidence that they will abide by the letter of the agreement. Glad you are getting your gardening mojo back. I was out yesterday digging up a cart full of sow thistle in the big backyard yesterday.

  12. My sporadic blogging has left me bereft of the rapier wit and wisdom of your posts. I am determined (okay, semi-determined) to be a more consistent blogger. May the barn challenge proceed with vim and vigor to your benefit!

  13. I've not heard of Toibin, but I've read some Thomas Mann, and so Toibin's book intrigues me. I'll put it on The List, although that's no guarantee that it will get read. Still, intentions surely count for something. I found this interview with Toibin online. I'll start with that; it certainly has the credentials to be more than just someone talking about the book.

    After your comments about your gray squirrels, I posted Eudora Welty's little parody of William Blake's "The Tyger," which she made into a placard and posted in her garden. I laugh every time I read it:

    "Squirrel, squirrel, burning bright,
    Do not eat my bulbs tonight!
    I think it bad and quite insidious
    That you eat my blue Tigridias.
    Squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris,
    Leave to me my small Muscaris;
    Must you make your midnight snack, mouse,
    Of Narcissus Mrs. Backhouse?
    When you bite the pure Leucojum,
    Do you feel no taint of odium?
    Must you chew till Kingdom Come
    Hippeastrum advenum?
    If in your tummy bloomed a lily,
    Wouldn’t you feel sort of silly?
    Do you wish to tease and joke us
    When you carry off a crocus?
    Must you hang up in your pantries
    All my Pink Queen Zephyranthes?
    Tell me, has it ever been thus,
    Squirrels eat the Hyacinthus?
    O little rodent —
    I wish you wo’dn’t!"

    You're just like Welty -- combining gardening and literature!

  14. Glad you were able to reach a compromise with the neighbor.

  15. Create a place of peace, beauty, and solace... your words make me aware that we are all seeking similar and a patch of ground is a good start. Glad you have your issues resolved. Computers and my lack of blocking ability for three months made me cranky. But I am back. Middle of the U.S. is experiencing wild temoerature swings. One day 10 and the next in the mid fifties. My plants are confused.

  16. Frico, I'm glad this development of your dispute with a neighbor; I think they might destroy some of your plants and your path. I'm a restless person and would probably watch the workers every day. But within 3 months it is not possible. It's good that you want to make an open garden for everyone. I think that you have something to show, you have beautiful plants.
    All the best!

  17. I become so annoyed with recorded messages repetitively telling me to seek an answer to my question on the internet while I'm holding on my phone for information. This occurred most recently when we had a lengthy power outage (2 days) and I also had no internet connection.

    Hopefully all will go well now with your neighbor. I had to move ahead independently by detaching his wall from mine due to my neighbor's denial of the obvious. He was not legally obligated to aid in my expense but had verbally told city employees he would when asked, but he never did. I determined to not take him to small claims court ($10K) as likely would be too difficult and possibly expensive for process server in Los Angeles to find him in an apartment there somewhere. Meanwhile, last year I discovered he sold the property so I'll never see him again.

    Do enjoy gardening some when weather permits.

  18. Hi Friko – oh gosh … that's so frustrating and yes I can empathise with the waiting and then the muzak that's played and those inane suggestions … we wouldn't be there if we didn't need to be – sincerely hope it's settled.

    Oh good re the neighbour … I sure hope they comply – good luck and with more luck it'll be finished and you'll have freedom for the late Spring and onwards.

    It's good to see you back and giving us insights into various intellectual things, as well as gardening charm. Gardening is good for the body, soul and spirit – well said. I hope you can find a gardener to help – unless one's in the background.

    The Colm Toibin's book “The Magician” sounds a fascinating read … and one I'll note for the future.

    So pleased to see you here … all the very best – cheers Hilary

    PS - excellent to see ShoreAcres comment with its poem - what a fun read ...

  19. I'm glad the development in the land dispute has made favorable progress and I think you are being quite gracious. I do Hope it all works out as planned and I think development of your Garden space and opening it up to enjoy is a splendid idea and not the least bit childish... sometimes our motivation to move forward is prompted by aggravating factors that took up so much time that we realize we'd rather devote to something enjoyable to us. Would love to see the progress you'll make on your Garden... I too love to play in the dirt and be around nature, but I haven't devoted the time to it here at our new Mini Farm that I should have. You may therefore Inspire me... and others.

  20. I too am relieved to read this.

  21. Good for you. I am excited about your garden project.

  22. With the new blogger things don't update, but then I caught my eye in my reader that you updated! I'm so very glad to read your here with us and I hope everything is still going ok.

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