Monday, 30 November 2009

Gardeners' reading

Released from the snug embrace of the Bothy, food half digested, tea warming us from the inside out, a quick scan of the heavens confirms that there is a rare opportunity for a spot of apres reading and an 'x' of contrails in the sky marks the spot under which we should sit. Finally, we grab some upturned crates to sit on before disappearing beneath the lightness of print, losing ourselves between the weightless pages of other worlds revealed.

Jess has become entranced by Jenny Uglow's ' A little History of British Gardening', a potted time line of gardening practice, tracing the activities of keen gardeners from the Roman times to the present day. Delving into the lives of the common garden labourer , the Plant hunters, garden designers, Celts and their Vines, the Monks and their herbs, garden tools, flowers and much, much more.

David is engrossed in a fever pitched thriller set in the ancient city of Pompeii. Robert Harris, author of 'Fatherland' and 'Enigma', takes us to the rich, teaming settlements built at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. The story is set just days before the volcano is due to erupt, decimating everything in it's path.

As for myself I am following Mark Cocker's lines of ragged crows across the East Anglian landscape.

A fascinating picture slowly unravels, as Cocker uses both his gift for prose and his immense passion for this little understood family of birds to bring us closer to the Rook, Jackdaw and the Carrion Crow.

As gardeners we are blessed with 'crow time', when the last shreds of burnished daylight slip behind the silhouetted tree line and the loose convoys of noisy crows head back to their night time roosts. It reminds us of how detached we have become from natures rhythms in our increasingly urbanized existence.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A head full of Twilight

The face of Edward Cullen seems to be following me, he is in my life. I see him in town, in the cinema, in my daughter's bookshelf and most annoyingly his protective, overbearing gaze reads my every thought. What am I to think?, how do I feel about the world Stephenie Meyer has created? I find myself drawn both ways, at once compelling but at the same this teenage fantasy of romance and feuding monsters repels me due to my age! However, my daughter on the other hand lives and breathes this world along with all the other 10-20 year olds across the globe. For that reason it would be more appropriate for her to continue with this post, so take it away daughter!....

When I first saw Twilight, I had never even heard of it. I was at my friend's house to stay the night when we had a sudden urge to watch a film. Most of her films we had already seen, except for one - Twilight. I was reluctant to watch it, but my friend was so enthusiastic, I decided to give it a go.

As soon as it started I didn't want to stop watching, something about it appealed to me. Maybe it was the calming music? Maybe it was the fact that I was also trying to work out what Edward and his family really were? I loved the flow of the film, the action and the romance. I loved the way Edward's eyes changed colour, and he was so strong and fast, but when the movie had ended I hated the fact that there were so many unanswered questions.

-Why did Edward's eyes change colour?
-How come Alice can see the future, Edward can read minds, but none of the other Cullens can do anything special?

I made a vow to myself to find the answers to all of these questions, and I knew how to start. The next day I forced my mum to take me into town and buy me the series as an early birthday present. The book answered my questions, and much, much more. When my birthday came I was given the film. I watched it with my family in the evening. My mum was loving it, my dad making really bad jokes, and me, bored out of my skull! After reading the book the film is slow, boring, dull and different. I strongly recommend that if you haven't already - READ THE BOOKS - THEY ARE FANTASTIC!!!!!!!

I read the others, and soon after, the film New Moon came out. I was so excited! My friend and I had agreed to go together for her birthday, and so we did.

As I walked into the cinema, the Twilight music was playing, I was hyperventilating. Unfortunately my excitement was drowned by half an hour of non Twilight related adverts. But when the film started, everyone screamed. I watched mesmerized and enchanted by the way they had changed the book. This was truly my favourite film ever - but still no way near as good as the book.

This film has brought war. War between Edward and Jacob. In twilight the choice is clear - Edward, but in New Moon when Edward - I can't even say it - is so horrible, most people will chose Jacob. Now there is:


I am definitely Team Edward - even after what he did. I have chosen him because of the way in which he treats Bella, the way he will do anything to protect her and his Je ne c'est quoi way about him. I have chosen to go against Jacob because of what he does later on.

I am really looking forward to the next two films - especially Breaking Dawn, and I hope that through reading this post you will all be jumping on your bikes to get the books!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Full circle

Why am I so excited about ripping out all those wonderful late summer bedding displays? We spend the whole summer building up for just a few short weeks of full on floral fireworks. Giant Salvias, arching Sunflowers, Morning Glory's, Amaranthus, Tithonias, Bananas, Dahlias, Daturas... and the list goes on.

Months of weeding, watering, staking and tying up. And now we are shuffling our toes to the edge of Winters cold blank canvas.

With nowhere to hide on the bare ground, we swing our gaze across the silhouettes of trees and passing crows. So I think it must be the change, I enjoy the distinct seasonal shift.

There's no messing, frost tender plants must be pulled up and tucked away in the greenhouse if we are not to lose them to a sudden frost, and the garden comes full circle as we plan for the coming Spring.

Today was another day of dramatic skies, black clouds sweeping away East on a brisk wind. A brassy sun dropped quickly after 3pm throwing splinters of rainbow light on the gardeners tired limbs.

The sharp arrow of the weather vane spun in the half light of the compound and the interior of the tool shed glowed a welcoming glow. A brief chorus of clanks and clunks of tools being put away, a Robin sang and the slow squeak of the weather vane brought another day to a close.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

My Simpsons habit

Who's your favourite Simpsons character? Standard question really, the same one that could have been directed at anyone from any background of any age in the last twenty years. Note that it is assumed that you like the Simpsons to begin with.

Okay, maybe there are a few people out there who don't, but personally I haven't met any, although one of my work colleagues only saw his first episode last week, pretty good going for someone who owns a television. Not surprisingly, he enjoyed it.

The reason that I bring this up is not because of the long running TV show, but because of the comics which have been going on for nearly as long. I don't know why I wandered into my local Forbidden Planet comic shop, back in 1997, I know I felt out of place and slightly embarrassed about my age, I was 30 at the time, little did I realize that this is about the average age of a comic shop customer.

Once inside, I was confused and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of comic book titles. I ended up looking through the back issue boxes where I found a divider labeled 'Simpsons comics'. I bought several back issues that day, including the first one that I laid my eyes on, issue no.21. The bright block colours jumped right off the cover, my hands felt cold and clammy, my heart raced and I felt that childish need to have, to own it now!

To the present day it remains my most consistent title that I collect, I even had a letter published in issue 93 in 2004. In it I referred to a storyline that ran in issue 11, entitled 'Fallen Flanders', in which Ned Flanders is abducted by the aliens Kang and Kodos whilst on a family camping trip.

The aliens create an evil clone of Ned and send it back down to Springfield. High jinx and evil doings ensue with Bart and Lisa hot on the trail to solve the mystery.

Cut a long story short, the original Ned is repatriated with the Flanders clan after Groundskeeper Willie fires a canon upon the alien spacecraft. In the meantime Ned's evil clone has seen the error of his ways, and realizing that there is only enough room for one Ned Flanders in Springfield he heads out of town in the direction of New York, off to spread some 'okely dokely' Samaritan goodness amongst the big city folk.

I've spread my comic reading wings since then and now pick up a whole bunch of different titles, the problem I face now is how to keep within an acceptable budget. One things for sure, my kids love comics, especially The Simpsons, and are already squabbling over who will inherit my ever increasing mountain of pulp.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering who my favourite Simpsons character is, it's a tied first place between the deliciously wicked Mr. Burns and the god fearing good neighbour, Ned Flanders himself!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Storm Light

... or ' More leaves, rain and a little more herb action'. Intrigued?, then read on.

Those naughty nagging winds have been whistling up our coat tails again today, throwing our trugs aside, scattering the contents and tearing the last shreds of golden dignity from the Beech trees. On the bright side this is probably the last leaf raking session of the autumn. No more bad jokes about leaves, no more looking for the lost set of leaf boards, the towering leaf heaps can now be left to gently shrink back into themselves, and no more dreaming up leaf sculptures in the mind as the rake tines scratch rhythmically across the ground.

In the last hour of the day it was hard to concentrate on our herb trimming duties as the sky went through a series of dramatic light changes. A layer of smokey 'blue cat' clouds tumbled across a golden anvil of light on the horizon and weighing down upon this was a thick stodgy cake of dark grey intent and wisps of paler grey cloud fretted through it like steam.

Every minute or so I stopped snipping with the secateurs to check how the spectacle was progressing. Half an hour elapsed, in which time my coat zipper was pulled up to a point just below my nose, I stood watching with my camera held ready in hand, but annoyingly the horizon fell away below an interference of buildings and trees. Damn it!, if only I could have knocked all the bricks and mortar out of the way for a clearer view.

Storm light, it was inevitable that the rain would surely follow, and with the first spays of water came a confetti of Black head Gulls battling against the strengthening wind. Just moments later the heavens opened and small line of gardeners could be seen running with their wheelbarrows towards the warm, dry sanctuary of the bothy.

Wet fringes sticking to foreheads, wet fingers curling round hot cups of tea and coats hanging dripping in the corner. A warm fug of laughter and chat rounded off the day.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Wind, rain and herbs

Winter gardening makes me feel a little isolated, not in a bad way, it's just that all that outward stimulus has been pruned back. The flowers of late summer are dying down, the exuberance of growth shrinks back into the ground and even the weeds appear to be stunted.

Fewer people pass us by, and the ones that do, hurry past and are less willing to stand and chat. I suppose that in our winter garb we look less approachable. Stubbly, pale skinned, muddy, disappearing under ever increasing layers of work clothes, we look more like survivalists than gardeners.

One of the nice things about this time of year is that we get to catch up with ourselves, clean the garden slate so to speak and reorganize things a bit. Seeds are ordered, projects mulled over, bulbs are planted by the thousand and Springs potential can already be felt!

In the past few days we have been sprucing up the herb/veg garden, so out went the Basil, Runner Beans, Sweet Corn, Pumpkins and Sorrel, the herbs got a hair cut and down came the Hazel wigwams.

Trimming the Thyme and Oregano is a lovely calming activity, the smell of fresh herbs clings to your fingers and the watery air is punctured by the sound of chuckling Magpies and the high thin calls of small groups of Redwings passing overhead.