Looking back over nine Aprils
I haven't blogged for a while and seem to be having something of a blogger's block. There seemed to be nothing new to say. So last week I sat down and just looked at older posts and tried not to think about writing one. One of the lovely things about having written a blog for a long time is the ability to go back and see what I have been doing. It's like reading old diaries. I have been looking at this time of year on my blog for the last nine Aprils and being reminded of so much that had gently slipped into the stream of time.
Here is a photo from nine years ago looking up behind the house to the Victorian privy. We never use it, just in case you are wondering. It has two seats side by side. That must have been companionable. I remember when I was a child going to visit my grandmother's older sister who had one of these. I was afraid I would fall in and it was a great comfort to have the loving presence of Nana sitting next to me, with her bloomers around her ankles, holding my hand.
Here is April 2008 and the arrival of the wooden greenhouse, a really beautiful one made by Gabriel Ash which has to rank as one of the best birthday/Christmas presents ever. I had intended when we bought it that it would act almost like a little conservatory and be a place to sit in the sunshine and out of the wind. It does do that, indeed there are three basketwork chairs in there for that very purpose. I thought it could also house my collection of scented leaf geraniums and it does that too. Somehow some other plants and their accompanying detritus have also sneaked in when I left the door open.
In April 2009 I find we went to Great Dixter which did not disappoint. It is always a bit dangerous to go to somewhere you have long dreamed about. Sometimes the whole experience just does not take off and then for ever after the dream has lost its lustre. Not here. I must go again because the garden was not in its high summer pomp. The tulips were fantastic, as were the meadows, but the borders should be revisited in June or July I think when everything is throwing out its glory. Another thing for the list.
In 2010 things were very different from the way they are now, both inside and out. Inside the house the old plaster came off in the kitchen and the stone walls were beautifully replastered by a father and son team who really loved working on such an old building. And outside the apple blossom was out. It must have been a very warm spring because this year there is no sign of either blossom or leaf on the apple trees, only the plum and the damson blossom white against the sky.
2011 must have been another warm spring because the peonies were in bloom in late April, in all their brief, lush complexity. I love them and every year the heavily cut foliage is a real presence but this year the buds are hard and tight.
And in 2012 the tulips were already flowering! This is Hermitage which has become a real favourite.
And rather less trimphantly, I tried to make an annual wild flower meadow. Funny how I had quite forgotten how much work it was to weed and rake and sow although the fact that I have never repeated it must mean that at some deep muscular level I remember. I used a mix from Pictorial Meadows and produced something that was in many ways lovely but didn't quite work for me.
I see that I described it as a mixture of the glorious and the disappointing. This is a picture from the glorious end. At the other end docks and hogweed flourished. I am glad I tried as I learnt a great deal from doing it. One of things I learnt is that this garden is better suited to perennial meadow. So many of the annual meadow flowers which I love such as the poppies and corncockles do not really belong up here on the hill where the land is meant for sheep and the native flowers are paler and shyer. At some level I knew that when I started but I couldn't resist having a go.
Three years ago I had a go at something else entirely, the challenge to "Live below the Line", to live for five days on a pound a day. The picture shows my shopping for the week. You can see it was heavy on rice, lentils and porridge oats and had to be entirely vegetarian as the money just would not stretch to meat. I found soups were easy and tasty and vegetable curry was satisfying and strongly flavoured. I really missed cheese and eggs, far more than meat! I gave the money I would normally have spent on food to UNICEF. The challenges of the last couple of years with ailing father and father in law have knocked ideas like this right out of my head but I might do something similar again. I have been musing about eating more vegetarian food although I am too much of a meat and fish lover to turn vegetarian but reading about doing this has reminded me that it is just a matter of committing to doing something different. Maybe I will commit to two vegetable based days a week. It would probably be good both for my body and my purse.
Between April 2013 and April 2014, in early November and quite out of the blue, my mother died, tearing a hole in the world. Life became a blur of long drives up and down the country, my sister and Ian and I struggling together to support my father who was already losing many of his functions through the onslaught of motor neurone disease and Ian and I trying to support his father who was failing too at the end of a long and happy life. I remember wandering out into the garden, which had received no attention for months over the winter, and finding the erythroniums in flower and the trees blossoming as if nothing had happened. It is both terrible and consoling, the way the natural world follows its own rhythms.
And last year I went with a friend to Leiden to visit the bulb fields and Keukenhof and to retrieve my long submerged cycling skills. Ian's father had died the previous summer, a few days before the birth of our fourth grandchild. My father was hanging on with extraordinary determination and good cheer as his speech began to desert him. This week was a glorious week of just being me with a good friend who knows Leiden really well. A space to look around again and see how the world works.
And so we come to April 2016. My father has gone. Two new grandchildren have arrived. The hills are still beautiful. The swallows are flying. This is my very favourite time of year. Time to sit and take in the world, to miss those who have gone but be glad that we had them.
Time for more adventures.
Looking back has made it vividly clear that some things change and others recur. I am trying to balance the pleasure in those that recur with striking out and making new things happen. Seize the day and all that. How would you like to seize the day? What adventure do you plan?