A day off booked and in the diary and a weather forecast full of wind and rain. I am going to visit Karen at Artist's Garden to see her and to look at her garden, last seen in cold and empty February. The weather map on the BBC site shows a violent pulse of blue and green storm sweeping the North West corner of Wales in the morning. After breakfast here in the North East corner it is windy, the air cool and brisk with the promise of rain, as I let the hens out, open up the greenhouse and decide that I will go, rain or no rain.
Westward, rising high on the Denbigh moors and the wind is snatching at the car. It is too high and bleak here for trees. Buffetted sheep huddle by piles of stones, pummelled by the wind. I head down to the A5 and find the short cut through Ysbyty Ifan is closed to traffic. The sainted sat nav sends me down towards Dolgellau. As the car descends below the treeline there are branches on the road and new leaves whipping through the air, torn from the trees in violent handfuls. The rain spits on my windscreen and, as I approach Blaenau Ffestiniog, the storm hits with full force. For the next half hour I drive into a wall of water. The wipers thrash but make no difference. Occassionally a vehicle comes the other way, throwing up a tsunami of water as it passes. A glimpse of scudding black water as I round a corner and I know I am driving along an estuary. The rain closes back in. I love it.
As I approach Harlech the storm begins to abate. It is still raining heavily but grey stone houses and streets appear in the arc of the windscreen and the castle is clearly visible on the skyline through the rain. Out to the west I know there are sand dunes and sea but the rain whisks me past them. When I arrive at Karen's she puts on her waterproof to come out to say hello and we get drenched running from the car to the house.
The kettle is on. A bulb catalogue is on the table and we immediately talk alliums. She asks about my brother. There is the somewhat surprising warmth of a friendship which would never have come into existence without blogging. Ludicrously I now cannot remember the details of how I first met her face to face and how a connection forged on the internet moved on a stage. That's daft. It can't be more than two or three years ago so surely I should remember what happened but I don't, she feels like an old friend, like one of the friends I made years and years ago when my children were small.
It will be dry by one o' clock, I say. We go out into the garden wrapped in fleeces as soon as the rain goes. It is still grey and blustery and cold but the garden is bursting with peonies and new roses and the big empty bed by the wall is full of the promise of its late summer planting when she will open for the National Garden Scheme. The new area for plant progation and plant sales is up and running, full of plants and temptation, some bought in, most grown from seed or cuttings. The vegetable garden, now under the supervision of shedman, is immaculate and about two weeks further along than ours.
Blown back inside, we have lunch and then the sun comes out and things need looking at and thinking about all over again, so out we go again into the glittering garden. We talk about my garden as well as hers, other people's gardens, other people, whether or not it is worthwhile for those who live where we do to be members of the RHS (verdict: only if you want, as I did a couple of years ago, to go back and back to a local RHS garden over six months of so, to help you with your thinking about seasons. It is a worthy organisation but it is way too South East centric). We laugh quite a lot. She gives me some erigeron daisies and a huge gift of plants from Dobby's garden which includes a fabulous number of pulmonaria seedlings. Jane (Dobby) must have known that my obsession at the moment is beautiful, complicated ground cover. I doubled the width of what I always think of as my native tree walk, grandiosely if you saw it. It needs the spaces between the now establishing trees and the newly planted shrubs woven together in a tapestry of shifting shape and colour. The plants need to sit in their setting of overgrown field against the backdrop of hills and valleys. So many things would not do. Pulmonaria are just right.
I look at my watch for the first time in hours and the day is almost gone. How does this happen?
Time to go.
The drive back is in sun and glittering light. Light bounces off the sea and the estuary and the trees shimmer with rain-caught sun. I think about stopping to take some photographs but I am keen to be home again to Ian and my father in law so, as this morning, I simply keep on driving. You will have to imagine it.
And home to smoked mackerel and new potatoes and the marmalade cat and later a glass of red wine.
Seize the day.