Showing posts from August, 2007

Women's work

Have you heard of the mass observation project? At the end of the Second World War and for some years after thousands of ordinary people throughout Britain kept diaries about their daily lives. While we were in Newfoundland I read a book called Our Hidden Lives in which five of the diary keepers' stories were told. It sounds as though it might be dull but it was oddly compelling and you became fond of them all as you followed them through rationing and failing to win prizes in the allotment competition and buying new hats and riding London buses. The most vivid and most shocking thing in reading the book was the sense of how little they had and how careful and constrained their lives were: an amount of butter to last a week no more than I put on two slices of toast in the morning; recipes without eggs, without butter, without sugar; terrible food of the sort which sent Elizabeth David stomping off fuming to France and the Mediterranean; no waste, no packaging, no consumerism. And

The garden in August

In August the garden slows down and settles down. The mad scramble to sow and to plant things out which rushed me panting through May and June, no day long enough, is gone. Grass still grows but no longer in front of your eyes. Beans and peas are established and romp away, safe by virtue of their height from the ravages of slugs and snails which wiped out smaller plants only weeks ago. Crops are beginning to be ready. The strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries are over and the apples not yet ripe, but the vegetable garden is producing daily for the kitchen. Vegetable gardening is a great use of August. For flowers I am a spring and early summer gardener. From the first snowdrop and winter aconite through cyclamen, hellebores, daffodils, primroses, tulips, white foxgloves, irises, paeonies, poppies and roses, I am entranced from February to June. But year after year the battered school exercise books which are the closest I get to garden diaries show the entries after July becom

Mood lifters

Here are my mood lifters as promised to Cait: An hour in the garden, not working too hard but poddling:deadheading roses, watering my lavender cuttings, picking some sweetpeas; inspecting the kitchen garden, looking for snails and throwing them over the hedge into the field next door (hope you don't mind Peter) and looking at crops, deciding what to eat tonight, just gentle pottering. Half an hour watching the bantams clucking and busy in the hen run, their contented little noises seem to soothe any angst and I bet if anyone measured the effect of watching chickens would be to lower the blood pressure. Taking a cup of tea outside onto the bench in the sun and watching the view and the birds coming and going (I feel I am getting a theme going here, hadn't realised how many of my mood busters were connected to being outside). Sorting and putting away laundry. There is something about matching socks and making piles of clean, sweet smelling towels that is soothing and satisfying.


I've always wanted to go to Newfoundland, probably influenced by "The Shipping News" and the sense of a place on the edge. Our older son is married to a girl who comes from there so this year we set off for a visit to her family: me, Ian, son, daughter in law, grandson aged one and a half and younger daughter. Younger son was supposed to be coming too but was laid low by glandular fever and had to stay behind. We drove down to Heathrow through torrential rain, hearing on the radio of motorways blocked and people stranded. Miraculously our drive was ok but our flight was postponed to the following morning and H and C, flying down from Manchester to shorten the journey for the baby, had to go back home and try again the next day. But eventually we were coming off the aircraft at St John's airport (small, shining clean and oh so civilised after Heathrow) and being met by C's parents. H, C and baby were still to come so we did feel rather like the support band w