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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Hostages and darling letters

There is definitely a seasonal change in the air. Most of the fields have been ploughed now and on our walk this morning I see new winter wheat already beginning to sprout. Pixie was particularly pleased to get out because she had been held hostage by the chest of drawers. She always comes to greet me when I come down the stairs but today she managed to get her collar caught in the drawer handle. She had to tell me all about it - how nobody - not even Beezle had raised the alarm and goodness knows how long she had been there and what time of day did I call this?

Pixie recovering from the hostage negotiations

I managed a drive in the cart with Harry the horse at the weekend whilst it was still stubble. It was a glorious day and he really enjoyed being out. As soon as we got into open spaces he took off like we were  chariot racing in Ben Hur. I remember seeing that film when I was a child with my grandfather and my older sister and was fascinated to see that in the gory bits my sister seemed to be clinging on to the arm of the sailor sitting next to her. Rumour had it that a man had actually been killed in the filming of the chariot race and we sat glued to our seats trying to spot the actual moment. They must have captured it on film because it would have been such a waste not only to have  died but to have ended it all on the cutting room floor.

With the seasonal changes I've been collecting old wood for the moment I have to light the wood burner. However I found myself only attracted to wavy lines which I've incorporated into arches etc in the garden. I am not a practical builder, nails and screws and raw plugs don't seem to work for me, so these are held up with cut up strips of bicycle tyres, Sellotape and chewing gum.
also cut the branches off the enormous willow tree which had started life as a willow hurdle, and wove another one.

Ben Hur has not been the only film running through my head this week. Our friend's son Samuel, is making a film for his A levels and wanted to film Trude(our black Friesian) as she looked medieval. He persuaded his Dad to double up as the young hero in the film. He cunningly disguised himself in a mask, a hood,  cloak and two hairnets and you'd never have known he wasn't who he was supposed to be. Trude was a star - look at that beautiful leg movement!

Dahlia Karma Fusciana
The approach of Autumn stirs the"must clear out" in me. This usually just involves discovering things you'd forgotten about, letters, photos, press cuttings from years gone by etc and spending the whole day looking/reading them - then putting them back.

I like this poem by Carol Ann Duffy.

 The 'Darling' Letters
Some keep them in shoeboxes away from the light,
sore memories blinking out as the lid lifts,
their own recklessness written all over them. My own...
Private jokes, no longer comprehended, pull their punchlines,
fall flat in the gaps between the endearments. What are you wearing?
                                    Don't ever change.
They start with Darling; end in recriminations,
absence, sense of loss. Even now, the fist's bud flowers 
into trembling, the fingers trace each line and see 
the future then. Always... Nobody burns them,
the Darling letters, stiff in their cardboard coffins.
Babykins... We all had strange names
which make us blush, as though we'd murdered
someone under an alias, long ago. I'll die
 without you. Die. Once in a while, alone,
we take them out to read again, the heart thudding
like a spade on buried bones.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

grass foals and new shoes

The clouds have been gathering for some time now so the farmer's been quick to cut down and bale up. I only took this photo a couple of days ago and already the bales have gone, the stubble ploughed up and stinking fertiliser sprayed over everything. The beginning of a new start and for the horses, Harry and Trude a new set of shoes.

oh I was rather hoping for some Jimmy Choos
 The farrier - after remarking that Trude looked as if she was expecting a grass foal - announced that actually her feet weren't the best and she needed to be fed gelatine for a year. This, as all guitarists know is really good for strengthening nails and in her case hooves. Just give her a cube of jelly a day he said.
So I nipped down to the shop and bought strawberry flavoured jelly in bulk -  but would she eat it? It was a bit like giving a cat a toffee. She struggled for a while then spat it out and Harry hoovered it up. Not the plan. Harry's feet are so good they grow in front of your eyes. So now I'm left with loads of jelly in the cupboard.  I can feel some trifles coming up.
Trude expecting her foal made of grass

I've bought some hay in preparation for the winter which I've piled up in the shed. I see that the cats have discovered it as an extra special place to sleep. I think they look as if they're stacked up on the shelves of the village shop waiting to be purchased alongside with the Garibaldi biscuits, Gypsy Creams and oh - strawberry jelly.

Things are making a last concerted effort to flower before being struck down by cold weather. My pelargoniums are putting up a good show. I'm waiting on the dahlias which are yet to do something. Probably as a result of all those earwigs.

Exam results in this week. I'm so glad I don't have to take any more exams. In my day they sent them through the post so you could go and cry on your own somewhere - now you all hugger mugger up at school and compare genius's. How devastating it is to hear someone go "Oh no - Only Ten A stars and a B!"

My late friend and fellow poet Clare Marlow(1944 -2002} wrote this great poem about school.

The Truth About a Vacuum.

In the fourth form, our three hobbies,
giggling, laughing, shrieking,
spilled from bedroom to playground to class
where teachers in sports jackets
corralled us in double-periods
and O-levelled our hysteria.

One day, after break,
Mr Benson (Physics)
briefly engaged our unicellular brains.
"Nature abhors a vacuum." he wrote largely,
which explains the piston, the siphon,
and possibly the universe.

It has been disappointedly so.
The energetic adolescent reservoir
mercifully ran dry,
and nature's abhorrence filled the vacuum
with calm and useful wisdom?
Sadly, no. With profitless worry and indecision
that moves neither siphon nor piston.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

the way of the wild

True gardening weaves the way of the wild within it, the will of Nature and the will of the human.
I don't know who said that but thank goodness for it. I can happily say this is what has occurred in our garden.

I've left a strip of wild grass running at right angles to the bench, like a red carpet laid out to the back door only this is green. It's a haven for wildlife and the ducks, that you can just see peering out by the bushes, like to hide in it and then pounce out at you as you walk past and peck the backs of your legs.

It's fun mowing strips into the lawn. I started off leaving four squares of grass which looked good too but for the last couple of years I've just left the carpet. Of course if you have a small lawn and children you can only do this when they've grown up and don't want to play swingball on it or miniature golf or something complicated with a Barbie doll.
possibly the last of the sweet peas.
The mornings are turning out to be pretty predictable at the moment. Firstly there'll be a pair of rabbit's ears left on the landing - sometimes still attached to the rabbit - but often not. Then there'll be the early morning dog walk which. because all the deer are hiding in the barley very near to home, means you walk for about two minutes, then the dogs run off after the deer for ten or fifteen minutes, come back exhausted and then we turn round and go home. This kind of behaviour has repeated itself every day for the past five or six days. Still I see the combine is out so they'll be cutting it soon and there'll be nowhere for those deer to hide so they'll have to nip back into the woods and we can continue our walk.
 The roses that I've remembered to dead head are doing  a second flush now which is great. I'm impressed with their bravery blossoming amongst stems of blackspot which gets progressively worse as the summer goes by.
Well no blackspot on these.
Both my girls are away at the moment, one in Thailand and one at a festival called Wilderness but here's a picture of Pixie being so happy to see one of them on her return from somewhere else. I think I've already mentioned she thinks she's a lap dog.
 The phlox are on show now, most of the ones in my garden are a not very nice shade of pink.I keep pulling them out but each year there they are again, bigger and more pink than ever. Like those pink geraniums that insist on popping up everywhere, they seem to be the dominant colour in survival. This is a lovely pale mauve called Franz Schubert that is here in a garden I did for someone else. Note to self. Must put them in mine.

It's going to be beach walking weather soon. On most beaches near us you have to wait till later in the year before you can allow dogs on them. Not a bad thing I guess, you don't want sand kicked into your cornet as the dog races past trailing a rope of seaweed or showering you with salt water when they come out after a dip. When we first took Pixie to the beach she was really frightened of a sand castle she found and of course the waves lapping up on the sand were more scary than being attacked by a giant cat. Beezle would be contented with the odd shell  but Pixie was more disappointed with the sea's detritus than him and I saw her staring at a crab shell as if it were a bad throw of the dice.

A Green Crab's Shell
  by Mark Doty

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like--

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws'

gesture of menace
and power. A gull's
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
--size of a demitasse--
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer's firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this--
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
revealed some sky.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Brevity of Poppies

In spite of the brevity of poppies the ones in my garden have worked hard at producing a myriad of different colours and shapes(thanks partly to Chiltern Seeds) I think this one said "Lilac fringed pompom" on the packet and a braver description you couldn't hope for. It's certainly accurate and doesn't make you wonder how on earth it's going to turn out - like the names of paint colours.

 It must be fun sitting in front of a mound of paint charts thinking up silly names. I wonder how someone looking at turquoise came up with "Blithe Spirit" and what colour does the name "Debutante" conjure up? Would you imagine "Independence" to be a shade of blue and exactly what shade of green is "Aladdin's Green?" My favourite is "Bronze Mum" which is probably the colour you turn after you've hit the bottle when the kids have gone to bed.

 A friend of mine sent me this wonderful picture of an Irish wolfhound. I wish I'd dressed up like that when we went to the Irish Wolfhound Fun Day. To be in a field with forty or fifty other wolfhounds is a joyous thing. There was no barking, no growling, just a lot of lying around and cheers when in the veteran class the winner was ten years old. Such a brief life but every day packed with joy. What colour would a paint be that was called "Brief Lives?"I remember the leaflet someone sent me before we collected our first wolfie - Jai. "Think carefully" it said. " before you have an Irish Wolfhound, they are not as other dogs. Everything will change. Your life, your house, your car will be totally re-arranged around him.  They do not realise just how big they are."
I'ts all right for you stretching out. I'm squashed here.
 As I write this Pixie is panting under the table which makes a change from sitting on my lap. She and Beezle chased a couple of deer through the wheat fields this morning. Because the wheat is so tall now you could just see their heads bobbing up and down occasionally. I think the deer tricked them  because after a while I could see the deer just by me behind the hedge and the dogs had gone miles unable to see their prey. They make a formidable hunting team though. Beezle has the speed and Pixie the stamina. The sound of her feet thudding on the ground as she gallops after some vertebrate makes you feel as if you're caught up in the 2.30 race at Cheltenham. Beezle's loyalty as a top companion was rewarded when he won "Best Companion Dog" at the Fun Day. He had his picture in the Irish Wolfhound Club Magazine with his name Beezle Honeysuckle. printed underneath. The only dog in there who was not a wolfie.
Malva moschata album looking good before the heat wave.

There -  "Agapanthus White" I'll write to the paint company

 It's that time of year for Shows. Most of the villages around us have held a flower show this weekend and there are numerous Agricultural and Steam Fairs  dotted around where you can buy back all the stuff that was nicked from your shed.

This is one of my favourite poems. It is by George Mac KayBrown

Hamnavoe Market

They drove to the Market with ringing pockets

Folster found a girl
Who put lipstick wounds on his face and throat,
Small, and diagonal, like red doves

Johnston stood beside the barrel.
All day he stood there.
He woke in a ditch, his mouth full of ashes.

Grieve bought a balloon and a goldfish.
He swung through the air.
He fired shotguns, rolled pennies, ate sweet fog from a stick.

Heddle was at the Market also.
I know nothing of his activities.
He is and always was a quiet man.

Garson went three rounds with a negro boxer,
And received thirty shillings,
Much applause and an eye loaded with thunder.

Where did they find Flett?
They found him in a brazen circle.
All flame and blood, a new Salvationist.

A gypsy saw in the hand of Halcro
Great strolling herds, harvests, a proud woman.
He wintered in the poor house.

They drove home from the Market under the stars
Except for Johnston
Who lay in a ditch, his mouth full of dying fires.

George Mackay Brown