Wednesday, February 24, 2016

To every thing there is a season

Last summer’s berry harvest was perfectly timed for illustrating a series of juice labels with the highly creative team at Stromme Throndsen Design.
And that was when I resolved to take better care of our fruit bushes. 

A few years ago we planted black and red currants, gooseberries and raspberries. They always bear fruit but somehow their maintenance had slipped out of focus. I thought they came under my husband’s domain and my husband thought I had commandeered their upkeep!

I chose a mild day in January to do some restorative pruning. It was a joy to lavish attention on the bushes, cutting out old stems and trimming side shoots. This year’s buds were already pink and swollen, bearing promise.

And I promise I'll have my paintbrushes at the ready, come the summer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shrove Tuesday

batter, noun; 
a semi-liquid mixture of flour, egg and milk or water, used for making pancakes or for coating food before frying.

batter, verb; 
pummel, pound, buffet, thrash, lash, clobber, bop, biff.

It has been a lively week.
One day grey skies, the next blue.
One day calm and the next unruly.
All the more beguiling.

I have watched the wind carouse with hitherto orderly rows of poplars.

I have heard the wind whistling through the gaps in tight-knit hedges.

It has scattered fragments of untidy clouds across the horizon.

But the ash tree stands firm. Resolutely clinging to fat bunches of keys, waiting to unlock spring for us all.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Great Train Journeys

A Mind's Journey to Diss
By John Betjeman

Dear Mary,
Yes, it will be bliss
To go with you by train to Diss,
Your walking shoes upon your feet;
We'll meet, my sweet, at Liverpool Street.
That levellers we may be reckoned
Perhaps we'd better travel second;
Or, lest reporters on us burst,
Perhaps we'd better travel first.
Above the chimney-pots we'll go
Through Stepney, Stratford-atte-Bow
And out to where the Essex marsh
Is filled with houses new and harsh
Till, Witham pass'd, the landscape yields
On left and right to widening fields,
Flint church-towers sparkling in the light,
Black beams and weather-boarding white,
Cricket-bat willows silvery green
And elmy hills with brooks between,
Maltings and saltings, stack and quay
And, somewhere near, the grey North Sea;
Then further gentle undulations
With lonelier and less frequent stations,
Till in the dimmest place of all
The train slows down into a crawl
And stops in silence.....Where is this?
Dear Mary Wilson, this is Diss.

Monday pm.
I am at Diss Station too.
I’m waiting to board the ‘Sir John Betjeman’ train. How charming that it has a name as well as a destination.

A man has just edged past me with strident pink rhubarb stems and a bunch of yellow daffodil buds poking out of his holdall. I must trudge up the garden and check my rhubarb when I get back home.

There is a feral cockerel patrolling the station, looking for lunchbox leftovers. He is friendly, and has long and glistening sickle feathers. I’m certain Sir John would have liked that, he was very fond of Diss.

Now I’m on the train, sweeping through Betjeman’s landscape, heading for Liverpool Street.
Wide fields, winter wheat, weather-boarded barns and listing trees under infinite skies.
Before we get to the 'new and harsh'.
Stratford and beyond.
Sir John would barely recognise that.