Saturday, 13 December 2008
Sharp faces pushed forward into the icy streets on the morning of the 12th. Treaded peddles slowly turned, creeping car tyres eased gingerly along sparkling ribbons of tarmac. The pavements were sugared with frost and a constant procession of commuters focused on getting to where they were going, clouds of watercoloured orange draining down against the clock. With an after work music session to look forward to we spent the day de-icing the paths and cleaning out the greenhouse. Sleeping giants were gently nudged from their quiet hibernations, the heavy tubs of cropped Bananas and Daturas pushed aside and the drying tubers of Dahlias were packed together under the bench.
The beautiful perforated tiles that run down the middle of the greenhouse got swept and scraped of enough loose compost to fill a large wheelbarrow, revealing their intricate forgotten patent designs. As the mid section was cleared to provide a seating area for the musicians, clouds rolled over the glass roof, I hung my coat on a long piece of wire hanging from a roof truss by the door and it spun there slowly. The spooky winter moods of the Irish song smith, Fionn Regan, egged the spirits on as his brilliant album 'The End of History' played in my ears. Picking up my broom and bending forward I rubbed a clear line to the door at the far end. Pausing momentarily I looked through the glass towards a grand building of Cambridge whites, where a small black bell is recessed, a favourite view of the former home of the late Nora Barlow, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin.
Dark shapes of rose thorns crowned the gloom as the day folded in on the reflections of fairy lights that bounced back from this brittle shell. A trio of musicians emerged from without, tentatively moving around in the candlelight. Under their bowed wings magic instruments were tucked away inside soft bags of cloth, holding the treasures of aural traditions stretching back. As the camera rolled and a microphone recorded the greenhouse session for our film, 'Garden Stories', warm tunes wove together, making magic, casting spells, summoning the ghosts of horses that once stabled here. The area adjoining the greenhouse was once used for this purpose, but now holds two huge compost heaps in the open air. The rusted iron baskets that the horses would have fed from a hundred or so years ago lie at the foot of a wall of crumbling bricks, all that remains of that bygone era. With empty stomachs fueled on sticky slices of cake and fizzy wine, the festivities go on. Night birds with bows and a penny whistle shake Disney dust down on the little lights of bikes that quickly disappear, unaware of this music and the web of planets, slumbering on a bed of cloud above their heads. Music opens the door, and reluctantly I slip away...