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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Beetles and rabbit heads

This is going to be a short post because I've followed Samuel Johnson's recommendation.
"Read over your compositions and when you meet a passage that you think is particularly fine, strike it out." Actually it's because nothing particularly exciting has happened apart from finding a rabbit's head amongst my shoes. I do hope this is not a Godfather moment as I don't want to find a horse's head in my bed.

"What rabbit's head? I've been here all night- right Beezel?"

 Talking of horses I am not best pleased with the manes and tails of Trude and Harry. Whereas Trude's tail is magnificent

Trude's magnificent tail

Harry. either because he was bored or a bit peckish, has eaten a chunk out of her mane and rubbed the top of his own so it looks like Rod Stewart in the early 70's.

I blame it on the bugs - the horses are feeling very itchy. In fact this year I don't think I've ever seen so many butterflies and moths and it's been a bumper year for the dreaded LILY BEETLE.
They may look marvellous in their cardinal coats but they completely destroy your lilies if you are lucky enough to have any in the first place. Mine have all been destroyed with one or two exceptions. (Casa Blanca, Pink Perfection, Speciosum album - they've all been chomped up)But never mind - now is the time of the Day Lily and they don't seem to like those or if they do they've left mine alone. Day Lilies are purported to have a flower that only lasts a day but it seems that they are always in flower this time of year so they must have stacks of flower buds each one waiting in the wings for its day of glory. There are masses of different varieties but the three I have are
Joan Senior, American Revolution and a fantastic red one called Stafford.The other creamy/white one I use is Gentle Shepherd that I've put in other people's gardens but failed to do so in my own. Note to self - put one in for next year.

Joan Senior


American Revolution

someone is laying very small eggs at the moment!
A lot of things are over in the garden now - some of the roses are battling valiantly on. This time of year the colours favour reds and oranges which I guess reflects the season appropriately. I am waiting for the swan song of dahlias - some already trying to flower in spite of being eaten by EARWIGS! Brian Patten captures the garden lore in his poem.

Who will take care of this garden, who will nurture it?

I will, said January.
I will anchor it to the earth with snowdrops.
I will give it my stone, the garnet.

It is mine, said February.
I will feed it the memory of all that grows.
I will welcome it with amethyst and primrose.

I will coax it with bloodstone and daffodil, said March.
Like a boxer battered by winter
I will lift myself from the frosty canvas of the earth to welcome it.

With diamond and daisy I will seduce it.
I will soak it in shower after shower, said April.
In the yawny earth its seeds will riot.

I will make it dizzy with emeralds
And the fumes of the hawthorn, said May.
It will know of nothing but play.

And I will adorn it with a necklace
Of honeysuckle and ruby, said June.
It will dance to my languid tune.

I will contain it, said July.
I will handcuff it with briar and chrysolite,
Drug it with the scent of roses.

August spoke from the garden’s stillness.
I will weep layer upon layer of sardonyx.
I will teach it the brevity of poppies.

When its bones begin to creak
I will cure it with aster and opal,
promised September.

I will guide it towards sleep with the cold light of sapphires;
For its lullaby I will provide the swan song of dahlias,
said October.

Under the weight of dead chrysanthemums I will bury it,
said November. I will give it a headstone of topaz,
a rosary of berries.

And I will guard its sleep, said December.
On a pillow of moonstone
It will dream of holly and the coming snowdrop.

Brian Patten

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Let sleeping dogs lie

If it's still this hot next week I'll dig out some pictures of the garden in the snow to cool us all down.

Yes -  it's so hot I feel as if I'm running a sanatorium here. Everywhere my eyes rest are animals lying down. Looks like I'm practising The Liverpool Care Pathway in the house (the only place still doing it if you read the newspapers.}This is when our house really comes into its own. In the winter it's freezing cold here and we sit in front of the wood burner wrapped in duvets or go to bed ultra early to keep warm. Even when we've got some wood and the wood burner is lit we still huddle up only  further back, whilst the guests in The Pink Tower languish in the heat I hasten to add - often with the windows open - er hum.

 But now in this heat - the cold terracotta tiles in the kitchen which normally give you chilblains as soon as you step on them - are a fabulous, cool place to lie and the draughts permeating the windows are like air conditioning. Hurrah for small dark cottages. The only animals not lying flat out are the ducks. They are still out there lying down but its not in their physiognomy to lie on their side unless they happen to have died. I had to take one of the ducks to the  vets a while back because it looked as if she wasn't far off from lying on her side. I love the way vets give your pets your surname. "Priscilla Coggin!" they called out and everyone's heads in the waiting room swivelled round to see what was in the box on my lap. Up popped the duck - its neck so long it could have been a snake being charmed out of a basket.

It's been an amazing year for roses though they are drying up very quickly. I'm not watering the garden, partly because there is no tap at the back and as I have a leaky hose I'm loathe to run it through the house even though it would kill two birds with one stone by washing the floor. All the things in pots though are pretending that if I don't water them twice a day they're going to lie down flat as well.

 Oddly, as it's been so cool in the house I've been doing a bit of tidying up. Pixie is madly trying to get rid of her coat and I've collected enough fur to make myself another dog.I found one of her bones behind the chest  - well it could have been one of Jai's of course - she only died three years ago, Either that or a steer found its way into the house and had a slow death behind the drawers. I've also found my old address book and to my horror notice that most of the people in it have died. And yet, like this poem by Tony Harrison, I seem unable to throw it away. as if all contact with those in it will be finally cut off.
Rosa Souvenir du Dr Jamain- beautiful but prone to rust.

Long Distance ll

Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn't just drop in. You had to phone.
He'd put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn't risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he'd hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she'd just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven't both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there's your name
and the disconnected number I still call.

Tony Harrison

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Four legs good, two legs bad

 Yesterday was the hottest day. It has been so hot that the sweet peas in the poly tunnel have all shrivelled up. The ones outside are flowering now so it doesn't matter too much. The polytunnel sweet peas gave us early flowers for a couple of months when sweet peas aren't normally expected, which is a joy, so they had probably exhausted themselves anyway. The tomatoes are looking pretty crisp though.
It is amazing when it's so hot because it is so quiet. No one is out there strimming. No one is out there slashing and burning just quietly burning up themselves. It's best to lead a dawn and dusk life when it's cooler and actually they are almost the best times of the day. Riding through the woods in the early evening is magical and listening to the dawn chorus with a cool breeze blowing in through the bedroom window is beautiful though may be a little too early. I know this because I had to get up at three o'clock yesterday to take my daughter to the airport.

another of those beautiful fringed lilac poppies

 We live on a bumpy unmade road which I much prefer to tarmac but I've had two punctures in two weeks and driving to the airport when it's vital that nothing happens to you on the way made me paranoid. Convinced we'd get a puncture I turned back to pick up the extra long tool for undoing the wheelnuts just in case. On the way we passed a car on the motorway who had had a blowout and as we sailed past I thought"that could have been us!"We got there in time and after tearful farewells I drove back as I had an urgent deadline at home. Well - I got a puncture on the motorway! A self-fulfilling prophecy, a premonition or what? It was the side nearest the traffic so changing it was a nightmare.Ironically, when I'd gone back for that extra long tool, I'd left the most important part of it {the bit that actually goes onto the nuts}behind.  In spite of that I was pleased that I managed to get the wheel off myself and then the jack slipped and wedged under the car and I couldn't get it out. The AA came quickly having spent about half an hour telling me how dangerous it was being on the hard shoulder. Fortunately I'd made some coffee at three o'clock in the morning and must have been an amusing sight, sitting up on the bank drinking coffee and reading The Guardian as the traffic thundered by.

I've been pleased with the variety of poppies that deemed to flower this year

 I've discovered why the ducks aren't laying. I found a hole in the back of their house and ever since I blocked it up there have been eggs! The pigs are the other side of the fence and with them come the rats. Not like our nice pet rats, these are huge, pit bull rats and obviously had been stealing our eggs.
At the moment all the pigs have gone which is another reason it's so quiet. I feel sorry for those pigs, they are kept in a huge barn and don't see the light of day. It' s doubtful they'd lead a rebellion like in Orwell's Animal Farm, though some of them did get out once. They were rounded up and I'll never forget the sight of them swaggering towards me in the early morning mist, their bollocks swinging, looking like a bunch of sailors coming home after a night on the town.
Pocket too hot to do anything but sleep

Pixie too hot to do anything but sleep
The Australian poet Les Murray sums it up in this poem


Us all on sore cement was we.
Not warmed then with glares. Not glutting mush
under that pole the lightning's tied to.
No farrow-shit in milk to make us randy.
Us back in cool god-shit. we ate crisp.
we nosed up good rank in the tunnelled bush.
Us all fuckers then. And Big, huh? Tusked
the balls-biting dog and gutsed him wet.
Us shoved down the soft cement of rivers.
Us snored the earth hollow, filled farrow, grunted.
Never stopped growing. We sloughed, we soughed
and balked no weird till the high ridgebacks was us
with weight-buried hooves. Or bristly, with milk.
Us never knowed like slitting nor hose-biff then.
Not the terrible sheet-cutting screams up ahead.
The burnt water kicking. This gone-aleady feeling
here is no place with our heads on upside down.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

kimonos and tumble dryers

The barley in the field is as high as an elephant's eye and it is so beautifully warm that I'm sitting here with the doors flung open regardless of the ducks who have come in and are chucking water around from the dogs' watering hole. It is amazing how all these animals are so accepting of one another. Now the rats have gone there is no longer the aura of a food chain in the house with all the various species and sub species. The rats, although by far the most intelligent, would be at the bottom, continuously eyed by the cats who would sit patiently by their cage waiting for some convenient escapee. They would watch them lazily as if they were a particularly good programme on the t.v. knowing that if only they could get their paws on one of them it would save them the trouble of having to tackle something altogether bigger and more vicious in the outside world. Rattus rattus can deliver a nasty nip.

the heavenly lilac fringed poppy
I loved our rats, and although they had a big cage I still felt sorry for them being in an enclosed space. They were often out of course, wriggling up someone's sleeve or hiding up a jumper. I loved their delicate paws and their quivering noses and they are loyal pets. But one would always die before the other and then you'd have to replace it, then the second one would die and so it would go on and on and eventually we had to let the last rat live on her own for a bit. Now the bottom of the rat cage makes a very good propagating tray.
At last - after several years the eremurus has flowered
A man came round to mend the tumble dryer this week. He spent hours with all the bits laid out on the kitchen floor and then declared he couldn't fix it. I don't mind, they are enormous consumers of electricity, so we shan't replace it. There is now a huge gap where it once was. May be we'll get someone  to build a cupboard, though we have toyed with the idea of just putting up a wooden door with a cat flap in so that Pocket can have his very own house between the sink and the washing machine.
some of the roses that are out in the garden at the moment
 Pixie wasn't too keen on the man who couldn't put the tumble dryer back together. There must have been something about him she hadn't seen before or perhaps she hadn't liked the colour of his shirt. When she was a puppy we were given a long list of people she should meet before she was of a certain age, people like a man in uniform, a vicar, someone wielding a walking stick. We are pretty isolated where we are so I just made use of the dressing up box and would regularly appear wearing a false beard, sunglasses, a variety of masks and hats. The kimono and the Turkish dancing girl were perhaps a wee bit excessive and she's yet to meet a pirate. But when she does - hey - she won't mind him at all. And may be next time the repair man comes I'll give him that kimono to wear.

Rambling Rector in the apple tree
With last week's blog in mind, my friend Jack sent me this poem by Charles Bukowski, who also had a man come in and mend something.


a girlfriend came in

built me a bed

scrubbed and waxed the kitchen floor

scrubbed the walls

cleaned the toilet
the bathtub

scrubbed the bathroom floor
and cut my toenails and 

my hair.

all on the same day
the plumber came and fixed the kitchen faucet
and the toilet

and the gas man fixed the heater

and the phone man fixed the phone.

now I sit in all this perfection.

It is quiet.

I have broken off with all 3 of my girlfriends.

I felt better when everything was in 

it will take me some months to get back to normal:

I can't even find a roach to commune with.

I have lost my rythm.

I can't sleep.

I can’t eat!
 I have been robbed of my filth!

Charles Bukowski