Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Great Day In.

Greatly inspired by these suggestions for an eccentric day out, I turn my attentions to having a great day in, especially as it's wet and windy out there.
My house can offer a variety of attractions for all the family, or even just for me on my own.

The World of Marbles: marbles featured heavily in my younger son's collecting habits. There are two large and heavy tins full of them sitting upstairs. They have been used as decorative items, but before his daughter's next visit they must be hidden away. She's very mobile and will have a go at eating most things.
As I put them into the tins I realise how attractive they are, and how many different sizes they come in. There are technical names, such as steelies for the heavy metal ones (so well able to break a window), and other special names once known to me, but now lost in the mists of time. The sizes range from small to whopping, or even ginormous.
Some are in clear glass in lovely colours, some have coloured glass spirals inside. There are some that are irridescent, and others with bubbles and clouded patterns.
I think maybe it would be nice to classify them, by colour or size, which would involve making separate bags for them, which, in turn would involve a trip to The Lost World of the Attic. I could play all day.....
Then I realise that there is already a specialist marble outlet and it's here.

Lost is a great start to a title. If Heligan was just Heligan instead of The Lost Gardens of Heligan it would be considerably less romantic.
The Lost World of the Attic: is a potentially risky place, approached by means of a ladder. I once was stuck up there when the ladder fell down behind me, and my husband was out for the day. The ladder is now chained to the wall, but there is still a frisson of anxiety as I head up into the heights..
Up there is a world of memories and muddle, a great collection of the sort of toys they don't make any more ( or if they do they cost a fortune). Things made from wood like the rocking horse that belonged to my grandfather, and the sturdy Brio railway ( happily still in production). Things that don't need batteries, and that don't bleep and jingle and flash.
There are some unique clothes from Saudi Arabia, from the time I lived and worked there. There are slave-girls' anklets and bracelets and beads that were made in the middle of the desert. Grand-daughter may need them for dressing-up in years to come.
There is bedding. Oh, so many duvets and pillows which have been to university and back again, but may still be needed if and when there is a great gathering here.
There are computers and boxes and boxes of things to go with them. I am banned from disposing of these. 
They are not mine to dispose of.
There are also keyboards.
The Pareto principle still operates here.
Believe it or not I have been sorting up here for several years now, and never fail to find something else of interest, something that evokes strong memories. Moreover, I have a great view into the neighbourhood gardens.

The Magic Wardrobe: is in my bedroom. I have three wardrobes in there and two of them are fairly well-organised. The third is full of things to be sorted, not the important paper-work, but the letters and cards and things the children made, and things my husband and I gave each other. Things that are still important although it sometimes seems a life-time ago and sometimes feels like only yesterday.How can I discard things like that?
It is possible to be quite lost in here, and to lose track of time, and I fully understand why C.S.Lewis chose a wardrobe as the starting point for one of his most magical books.
C.S. Lewis was a close friend of my elder son's Godfather, who is the author of Jack - the biography of C.S.Lewis. See what memories are triggered?

The kitchen is not without its possibilities for adventure and exploration. There is The Drawer, something every kitchen should have.
The Drawer: is the place where you put things that have no other appropriate place. Occasionally, on a wet and windy day like today, I empty it out in a determined effort to establish some sort of order. There are lots and lots of special tools, all of which will be really useful one day.
There is a pair of wide-pronged forks for lifting cooked poultry out of the roasting tin (why didn't I remember when I was trying to lift the Christmas turnkey with a plastic spatula?), and a special brush for cleaning mushrooms before peeling them. Somewhere there is bound to be a special gadget for peeling mushrooms. There is a little tool for pulling the green bit out of strawberries, and there's a truly impressively engineered fork for getting pickled onions out of the jar. I don't have, have never had any pickled onions, but it's a really nice fork. 
I find a very useful thing for loosening the lids of jars. In fact I find three of them, all for the same purpose, all different, and so I keep them because I don't know which is the best. There are several tin-openers all different, which again I need to keep for the same reason. There is a really antique tin opener, with a cast-iron head of a bull and a sharp and rusty blade.
It is a collectors' piece.
I am a collector.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Empty Sky.

In the garden this evening I look up at this and I listen to the silence.
All through the summer the swifts and swallows and martins have screamed and scythed their ways through the warm air and I have watched their acrobatics, sometimes so high that they are specks against the clouds, at other times barely skimming over the vine arch.
There has been great and noisy activity in recent days, and then......then they have gone. Off on their vast journeys, following the winds and the stars and who knows what other invisible forces that draw them back to warmth and light.

This is the turning point of the year as we begin the dip into darkness.
Different birds will come, and if you visit places like Slimbridge you will witness the drama of other great migrations as so many birds make a refuelling stop on their vast journeys.
So the skies are not empty, only of the swallows and swifts who, for me, symbolise the changes in the seasons. I am so happy to see the first arrive, and so sad to realise they have left again. I wish them safety on their perilous flight. It just feels empty now, with the sort of feeling that autumn can induce.

I remind myself that I have a splendid crop of beans, and the sweet peas are still blooming busily enough to provide me with a vase full every day. The grapes are changing colour, even though I treat the vine with all the brutal force I can summon, attacking it with shears and loppers.
It thrives on punishment.

I have Russian tomatoes ripening. One of my Russian friends supplied me with tomato seeds as I was leaving Southern Russia in January, and thanks to a kind friend with a greenhouse we raised and distributed a great many plants. Some of the Russian plants are of the beef-steak type and others are plum tomatoes. They are huge and healthy, like Russian shot-putters, but I think they need a few more weeks of Black-Sea type temperatures (40 degrees or so). They, too, migrated by air to their new homes in Middle England, although they may not do so again unless the summers become warmer.

My elder son has migrated back to Central Asia, half a world away.
Even Grand-daughter has had her first flight, enjoying the turbulence of the return trip.
So my heading is wrong.
The skies have actually been very busy indeed.
They just feel empty.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Panda Food for Thought.

I have not forgotten Tian Tian and her plight. As you can see, she is welcome in my garden at any time.

I have seven different types of bamboo growing here, spread around the garden. But, I should add hastily, they are not spreading varieties, but clumpers. They will eventually increase in girth, but only slowly, unlike some types which you need to plant and stand back as they race away.

Bamboos are very special plants, as bizarre in their habits as the Giant Pandas who feast on them.
Like the pandas, they have strange, sometimes self-destructive habits. Some may only flower once every few decades, even once a century, and after flowering they may die. In this way whole forests can be wiped away, and the pandas who need them must travel to a new habitat.
The bamboo in the photograph was grown from seed after a plant I bought flowered and died in its first year with me.Luckily it is easily grown from seed.The specimen above is about fifteen years old and eight feet tall, so a forest can be reborn at a speed which makes it almost possible to watch.

Many of my bamboos came from Jungle Giants, a very interesting nursery which supplies a wealth of information  as well as a wide range of plants.
I think my garden is now mature, like me, and I can simply appreciate what I have seen grow there. With the bamboos there is a lot more to appreciate than just sight. There is wonderful flickering movement and soft noise, like rain falling. They give stature and form to the garden all the year round, and now I also have a constant supply of canes of any size to act as support for other plants. Indeed, I may put up a sign at the gate to say 'Pick Your Own Bamboo Canes'.
I am not using them to their full potential, but in time I may be inclined to build a fence, or a little tea-house for Grand-daughter, or another oriental-type bridge. The possibilities are there.

In this country bamboo is not as appreciated as it is in the Far East, where bamboo groves are an aid to contemplation, symbols of strength and uprightness.
'Strength and uprightness', I think as I potter in my own bamboo grove
Exactly what I need as the arthritis kicks in.