Sunday, 23 September 2012

Learning Curve

Where have they gone, the  gleaming Silver Cross coach-built prams, gently bouncing on their sprung leather suspension systems? Where are their silken canopies with the fringed edges?
Where are the little Viyella vests tied with tiny ribbons, the fine cotton nightdresses, the knitted bootees, the smocked dresses that took half an hour to iron?
Matinee coats and matching bonnets........where are they?
Where, in particular, are the hand-embroidered delicate lawn Christening robes, like the hem of that in the photograph? It's about eighty years old now, but I doubt it will be worn again.

Some of them might be on eBay, but most of them are long consigned to the tip and I learn, in my impending Grandmotherhood, that babies no longer have prams.
They have travel systems.
They don't wear little vests tied with white ribbon,
They have body suits.
I won't even mention the nappies, even though I still use a couple of thirty-three year old muslin squares as dusters.

Gone are the days of lying-in, of extended convalescence after child-birth. I did not experience any of that, but my mother did. A couple of weeks of bed-rest on a light diet, then a gradual return to gentle exercise and, ideally, not venturing out in public until one had been 'churched'. My mother may have baulked at that, but probably not at the extended rest period.
'The Churching of Women' appears in the prayer books, a prayer of thankfulness for deliverance and preservation in face of the great danger of child-birth. The baby doesn't get much of a mention, except in Psalm 127, when during the brief service, children are likened to arrows in the hands of the giant, and 'Happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them'.

This makes me feel distinctly elderly, but it's not really so very long ago that pregnancy and childbirth were seen by many  as an illness, a weakness, something to be concealed, something vaguely shameful. Thirty or so years ago we wore smocks like marquees in an attempt to conceal the bulge beneath, whereas now the bulge appears proudly emphasised in tee shirt and crop tops.
Forty or so years ago and fathers waited in the waiting room until they were told who had been delivered, whereas now they attend classes and learn all about breathing and birthing positions, and take photos of the emerging head with their mobile phones.

I am learning, for which I am thankful.
I am also concealing a secret stash of traditional toys, nursery rhyme books and even a seventy-two year old smocked Viyella dress.
I wish I still had the Silver Cross pram, but it was used by at least two other families after we had it, and it was third-hand then.

Good job the parents-in-waiting don't read this blog!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

In It Up To The Elbows.

Late summer sunshine, an unexpected day out 'here' in a wonderful garden, and I find myself unable to resist hauling hanks of blanket-weed out of someone else's fountain.

Of course, there is something quite fascinating about blanket-weed, an algae which floats and bubbles and strangles and spreads itself throughout a pond, and which can cost gardeners a small fortune to control. There are lots and lots of remedies, from floating a bale of barley straw to staining the water black.
I favour the RHS's nicely worded remedy of 'twirling it out with a cane'. I'm sure there are many cane-twirling members of the RHS (the black-tie-and-tails image fits wonderfully) and I have my own plentiful supply of canes from my bamboo grove.

At the same time, I have to admire an organism that can colonise so rapidly and effectively, turning a garden pond into a vat of pea-soup, and spreading its silky hair filaments into a thick blanket.
I know of someone, equally fascinated, who thought the stuff might be spun and woven.
It can't be.
Perhaps there is someone who has tried to cook and eat it?
Please let me know.

So this was a day off from gardening for me, and within a couple of hours I am up to the elbows in blanket-weed, hauling heavy, irresistible ropes of it from this beautiful fountain pond, never even thinking that the owners might be cultivating it for a purpose. Sorry, Spetchley Park owners, if you were!

Then I realise, of course, that my companions, both avid gardeners, are at it as well, tweaking out the odd dandelion, the occasional metre or two of bindweed. Gardeners cannot keep their hands to themselves, dead-heading without even realising that they are doing it.

Some days in my own garden I go out the take some melon peel to the compost bin and an hour passes before I realise it. Suddenly I find that I have a great canvas bag full of prunings and weeds and I will have to make yet another trip to the tip. But then I can't justify using petrol to take just one bag full, so I stay in the garden and fill two more giant bags........and then I realise it's getting dusk.
And I only went out to the compost bin.

A few months ago I thought I could no longer manage my garden, and was seriously considering downsizing. It was news of a coming grand-daughter that changed everything, and made me determined the keep the family house and the family garden going.
Somehow, the garden creates its own energy and passes some of it on to me.
The growth rate this year has been phenomenal, all that heat; then all that rain, then more late warmth. If I have time to sit in the garden I can hear things growing, especially the bamboo.

And the grand-daughter is growing too, for now she is nearly here, and the (blanket-weed-free) pond will have to be fenced off fairly soon, and somehow I have the energy to to twirl a cane and not only weed my own pond, but get involved in someone else's.