Archive for the ‘Borrowed’ Category

Spring ?

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

A poem I just came across, written by Philip Larkin.
And, a second, by Amy Gerstler;

In Perpetual Spring

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval
plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they
plop into water.
Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion   
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.
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Spring? Watch!

Just spotted in the background of BBC British nature programme Springwatch:

“SPRING!

SO EXCITING WE WET OUR PLANTS!”

Minding My Peas and Cucumbers: Kay Sexton

The following is taken from the whimsical (but of course) Minding My Peas and Cucumbers, written by Kay Sexton. I spotted it first time in a charity shop in Lichfield, but was looking for a walking map of London (yes, honestly!) and, after a quick scan left it on the shelves. Returning this week, however I walked – almost straight to it – and paid the £1.99 (because two whole pounds would have been just excessive wouldn’t it?) and began to read it. There are many attempts to write about allotments, many are twee, some are bookish and few reflect the quintessential character of British allotment gardening. This one gets pretty damned close: a concoction of advice, mystery, wonderful description and nicknames and techniques.

I would recommend it (having read it from cover to cover in less than three days) – but especially if you can get it from a charity shop and help someone else along the way.

Read the following and tell me if it reminds you of your own experiences, gardening or other:

“They (new plot holders) arrive as loud and demanding family groups and shake down to a single individual, almost never the actual plot tenant, who will quietly, slowly often painfully become a dedicated grower. The beefy young dad with his ear-splitting rotavator will appear three weekend s in a row with his barbecue, lager and cronies, and from then on his wife, pushing the baby in a buggy, cajoling the toddler along and with her hand tools in amongst the nappies and juice bottles, will always be the person who visits the plot, spending hours multi-tasking her crops and her kids.

Every year there’s a bossy woman in paisley wellingtons, who turns up with a car full of cuttings, monogrammed pruning implements and adult children with aspirational names ;

“Iolanthe, could you please put down your phone and lay the pot-herbs out in a pleasing design. Jasper, stop sulking and help your father with the hazel hurdles.”

After a few weeks, she will vanish. In her place a silent son- or daughter-in-law. Tim or Sarah … will almost invisibly develop the plot and their own self-confidence, until one day they are the whole site’s go-to person for brassica hints or grafting fruit trees and their plot causes newcomers to stand and stare…”

Thoughts on First Rhubarb

“Just had our first rhubarb of the season – delicious! And to think it all started with a rhubarb crown that my grandfather (born in 1898!) cultivated in Staffordshire!”

Forgive me; I have to start this post with something my sister dashed on to Facebook earlier this week. She and her husband live in Wiltshire and I loved this name-check to our grandfather (we always called him “Grandy”), but cannot help wondering what – if he could have read it (he couldn’t read, belonging to a generation where this was the norm) –  what he would have thought.

Because he was a thinker, albeit lightly and locally – and a great one for gardening and nature.  I like to think that he would have been pleased that love of growing-your-own and the nous to cook it still runs in the family. There are times when, on the allotment I am reminded of his quiet manner, folkloric expressions and native intelligence.

He lived a life that spanned man’s first ever controlled powered flight and the first manned landing on the moon. It is hard to imagine what anyone would need to live through now to see so much progress and expansion, but was happy to tend sweet peas, walk twice a year by the sea and work hard every day on the local farms and, at the nd of his life tending the walled gardens at the local manor.

Image: thelivingstonpost.com

Digging

 

by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
This one came to light at a poetry group I attend at Great Wyrley Library (last Wednesday of each month). The theme was “Work and Leisure”.
Something about this one struck me: something indefinable. Work versus leisure? The roles then and now?

April Rise

If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.

Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy green, and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud.

If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.

Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates,
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans.

Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.

Laurie Lee

Spring Cleaning …

 

The River Bank

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring- cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said ‘Bother!’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, ‘Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.  DSC02275

‘This is fine!’ he said to himself. `This is better than whitewashing!’ The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow till he reached the hedge on the further side.

DSC02281

It all seemed too good to be true. Hither and thither through the meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting— everything happy, and progressive, and occupied. And instead of having an uneasy conscience pricking him and whispering ‘whitewash!’ he somehow could only feel how jolly it was to be the only idle dog among all these busy citizens. After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.

DSC02279

 

The above is, of course an excerpt from Wind in the Willows, by the great Kenneth Grahame: quintessentially English and it leapt into my mind today as I watched my plot neighbours going about their businesses.

 

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