Sunday, 26 October 2014

The garden needs a headache.

It's that time of year. Everything is overgrown. The air smells wet and soggy leaves clog the lawn. The roses have have a few brave little flowers but the glories of June are behind the. I've a vine that straggles across the back of the house. The quince tries to attack me as I squeeze past it to get to the compost heap. The ornamental pear looks like it's just woken up after a night on the tiles: it needs a haircut. The mock orange was beautiful in June but now it's trying to take over the world.

I don't climb ladders any more - mainly because I live alone, and if I fell off I'd be really stuck. Nobody coming to the front door and finding me out would think, 'I know, she's fallen off a ladder in the garden so I'd better find a way to get in and rescue her.' No, off they'd trot, assuming I was out or had my head buried so deeply in a book I was refusing to answer the door.

And so I have a trusty pruning-man. He comes with his ladders and electric thingies and long-handled whatnots and whizz, snip, chop - and the lawn is thick with twigs and leaves and general debris. My job is to come behind him and sweep it all up, and lug it down the garden to the compost heap. Give us a couple of hours and the garden will have its annual headache. It will look a bit surprised for a day or two, and it might sulk for a while, but by spring all will be forgiven. (Except, maybe, the vine - which has produced just one bunch of grapes in all the years I've lived here. It hung over next door; eat them, I said. But they didn't. And so, in a fit of childishness, I chopped that end off the vine. It has never produced grapes since then.)

The garden sorted, I need to do the same for my writing. Pass it over to someone with a serious red pen. Someone who does not linger over dead wood. Someone who can spot a weak shoot or crumbling branch and not grieve for it. I, too, might sulk for a while But eventually I'll review the remains of my lovely words. It will all feel very bald for a while, but will hopefully blossom next year. For we all know that writing, like gardens, need a serious chopping from time to time.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

I'm finding it hard to write today because

I'm finding it hard to write today because:
  • It's too sunny. I need to be outside to soak up a ray or two before the winter sets in.
  • It's too cold. My fingers are too stiff and I want to curl up by the fire.
  • It's too wet. There's a line in Gabriel Garcia Marquez when he writes, 'It's raining too hard to think.' Oh yes, I know that feeling.
  • I'm too tired. I had a late night and all I want to do today is flop about.
  • The gas person/electrician/plumber/parcel delivery person is coming some time today. I don't want to get stuck into something and then lose my train of thought.
  • I really ought to do something about the jungle that is my garden.
  • I'm meeting a friend for coffee later, so there's no point in starting anything.
  • Next door's dog is barking/baby crying.
  • I need to so more research.
So how come, when I get passed that lot, I love it once I can settle down. All I have to do is turn the computer on, open a file - and the hours fly by. Passing delivery men - pah! A coffee stop - wonderful - but not for too long as I need to get back to it.

I tell the world that I write because I breathe - and that's true. I can't imagine living without scribbling things down. My notebook is beside me (and full of random thoughts) all the time. So why the fiddle-faddling delays to turning the wretched computer on?

(Am I the only one who does this ...?)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sharing your home with wild life.

This is a seasonal post - as some wild life is looking for somewhere warm to spend the winter. And so am I.

Let's be clear. I'm not talking dogs and cats here. Nor hamsters and guinea pigs and budgies. No, I'm talking wild life.

I live on the edge of a market town - I won't tell you exactly where, because I go awol from time to time and it's bonkers to advertise which house will be empty. All you need to know is that I can walk across fields within five minutes of closing my front door.

There are implications in the garden.

I know there are foxes in cities - do they have the same distinctive smell as those in the country? When I walk down the garden in the morning, I always know if one has visited in the night from the pong. Though it doesn't happen often - there's plenty of rabbits in the forest. One summer there were badgers, taking a liking to the fallen crab apples (from my neighbour's tree) and eating so much fruit they were mildly sozzled, which was funny (except for the piles of poo left on the grass). I've had deer, too - muntjac deer who, you may not know, have a particular liking for rosebuds. (Good thing I've never tried entering roses in a show!)

Frogs, hedgehogs - anything is welcome if it eats the slugs and snails. I've also had the occasional slow worm. And birds - oh the birds! I can spend hours by my back door, just watching them.

So you see, I think I've made friends with the wild life in my garden.

And in the house? There are flies in summer, of course. And crane flies, midges, moths, butterflies, and numerous other flying things. Plenty of spiders. Do I evict them all? No - most do me no harm and seem quite happy where they are. I have been known to zap the occasional fly that has really got on my nerves, and will wallop a wasp that lacks the good sense to go out the window. But the rest can stay.

Then, after the harvest and as the nights grow cold (around now), I sometimes get a resident field mouse, come in out of the cold for the winter. One I can manage - he generally hides in the cupboard under the stairs and escapes back to the fields in the spring. I make sure there's no food left out to tempt him into the kitchen (mice wee as they run along, which isn't the healthiest thing in the kitchen). But a family of mice - there I draw the line. I've a humane trap to take them outside, and if that doesn't sort it then I'm sorry, they just have to go the hard way. Rats - I really can't make friends with rats (though I didn't do badly in Laos!).

There's the occasional bird that gets lost in the house - but that's not really a countryside thing. But I have had bats - three times. There must be a colony near here as they dive-bomb the back of my house in the evening, feasting (I think) on mosquitoes. Occasionally one gets lost and ends up in my bedroom.

The dos and don'ts of getting bats to go outside:

Don't turn the light on. Poor thing will flap round and round the light and be truly terrified - much more than you are.

Do - open the window, very wide.

Do go out of the room and close the door (with the light off). By the time you've made a cup of tea the bat will have found her way out.

And you? Who else shares their home with a creature or two?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The wonderfulness of daughters.

Last week one of the daughters had a birthday.

They can be cruel reminders, if we let them be, these offspring birthdays. They are mumble-mumble years old now, so we must be (oh heck) mumble-mumble-mumble, and give another ten years or so we'll be all zimmer frames and meals-on-wheels and watching Flog It on iPlayer ...


We do not have to count years. We don't even have to recall, all those years ago, the nappies and sleepless nights, the mumps and chickenpox, the time when you (insert all bad-mother memories. If you can't recall them your children will). And then the bedtime stories, the birthday parties, playing hide and seek in the forest ... the parents evenings, the concerts, the prizegivings ...

And look at them now, all these daughters of mine (I have four). It's hard to connect them with all that long-gone childhood. But, as each has a birthday, it's time to celebrate what wonderful, feisty, independent, free-thinking, bolshy, unique women they have become.

One of the especially wonderful things about them is the support they give me. I do know I've given them the heebie-jeeebies a couple of times. In spite of assurances I won't put myself at risk, it happens occasionally. (I promise I'll never go playing with tigers again.) It can't always be easy wondering what I'm going to do next. Yet, whatever they say to each other behind my back (let's be honest, we all talk about our mothers behind their backs) they have always been encouraging and supportive to my face.

Who cares if I'm mumble-mumble-mumble with young women like this around me to keep me on my toes.