Monday, 29 March 2010

Sprouting seeds

Parsley can be sown all the year round if it is going to be grown indoors. I sowed curly parsley seeds in an old icecream carton on 2nd March. I watered them leaving the soil just moist and put the carton inside a plastic bag. I made sure the soil stayed moist not waterlogged especially as I hadn't put in any drainage holes.
I wasn't particularly hopeful as parsely is notoriously slow to germinate so it was a lovely surprise to see these seedlings.
In the coming weeks I will be pricking them out and transplanting them into pots of their own.

Here are my darling leek seeds. They look so slight it still amazes me that treated right they will grow into delicious stout leeks. I'll be charting their journey to/ and on the allotment over the coming months.

Beans can be sown indoors now as can tomato seeds. As it has been so cold. I am not in a hurry.
In the next week or so I will prepare the ground for my beans. I will dig a trench a spades depth both sides of my frame and fill it with leaves and any other organic matter that doesn't contain perenial weeds or seeds. The idea is to provide ground that is a water retentive as possible as beans are so thirsty. Then I will erect a structure for the beans. I usually build a tunnel rather than a tipee as then I can harvest from the inside and outside.
I have slowed down somewhat as I've got a nasty cold which was preceeded by a sore throat and a cough producing green stuff. I had a fab day yesterday ignoring my cold. I went to see the Wallace Collection and had lunch with a dear friend in its beautiful conservatory. Only ten minutes walk from Oxford Street it was incredibly peaceful.
Today I'm finding it hard just to rest. It's like since I turned 40 I have been overly aware that time is precious but ignorant of the dangers of pushing my body when it needs to rest. On that note I will curl up on the sofa with a blanket and watch rubbish tv.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Short cuts

Today I went to the second day of the Middlesex University Literature Festival. It was wonderful to see a panel of three very different poets (Laura Dockrill, Lizzy Dijeh and Clive Bush), but disappointing that so few students or members of the public attended. Perhaps that says a lot about poetry's reputation. Poetry seems to be a dirty word. By now I should have a good retort for the statement 'it went right over my head'. But how can I when I often felt the same way and used it as an excuse not to reread or think about what I'd read.

All three poets drew on emotional reactions to produce their work. Poetry is intense and emotional and perhaps we are scared of that. The times we can't avoid emotions are when we are dealing with love or death. Perhaps that's why weddings, courtships and funerals are times when poetry is allowed to rear its head.

What's fabulous about Laura Dockrill is that she is a great performer and really engages with her audience. She visits schools and takes poetry to children- I'm sure they are captivated by her.

Clive Bush spoke about what a difference one person can make in many lives by sharing their passion for poetry or music. Doing this can open a door to different world. His anger at how poetry is taught at schools was unmistakeable. I think he felt the door was firmly shut.

Lizzy, born in Britain with Nigerian parents told us how she takes the reader to another very different country but holds on to them by dealing with universal subjects such as family.

I felt alive talking about poetry but also aware that I have a long way to go. I have finally accepted that there are no short cuts, that poetry is a craft and I must put the hours in to get the poems I know are waiting.

Monday, 15 March 2010


Friday I had the loveliest day with my eldest. On Thursday he'd gotten into trouble for chatting and laughing. He'd said he'd been distracted and that he'd found it impossible not to laugh. Friday morning he had a stomach ache and was really wound up about what he saw as the injustice of being told off the day before. So I took him to the allotment instead of school. He wasn't well enough for school.

At the allotment we dug up potatoes. We had a fork each and I told him to feel around them to check the potatoes hadn't gone mushy and to put the good ones in the bag.

We planted raspberries then I got him to cut them down above a bud. He asked what a bud was. I told him to look up the stem and see if there were any places from which there might be signs of life emerging and he spotted the buds straight away. He pruned the raspberry canes.

He dug and found centipedes.

I've started chitting potatoes - charlotte and desiree.

Mothers Day I went back to put some manure around the newly planted raspberries and got led astray by fellow allotmenteers barbequeing chicken which they served with beautiful turkish bread and salads. I sampled various drinks- homemade cherry brandy, plum wine, whiskey and a german spirit. They seemed a bit surpeised when I went back to my digging. I was glad I hadn't cycled as I hink I was over the limit. It was so lovely standing in the sun drinking and eating.

I planted some onions but still have more to put in. One of my fellow allotmenteers has started off carrots in toilet rolls in the greenhouse which he will plant straight in the ground once the frost passes.

I feel so much better when Ive been to the allotment. Happy growing, happy spring!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Tuesday- Walk Day

Yesterday for our walk we visited Myddleton House. The snowdrops, crocuses and snowflakes(?) were out. I'm not sure if this picture is of a snowflake but am guessing it is.

EA Bowles created the garden at Myddleton House and raised many unusual plants there. You can find various plants still for sale that he was responsible for breeding.

I love this bit that is carpeted with snowdrops this time of year. In the summer it has a blue carpet of geraniums alive with insects.

Bowles introduced many different varieties of snow drops here - the ones that stopped me had large flowers edged in green.

A pheasant joined us for our walk for a while - sorry no photo.

Then we went to Forty Hall for lunch. Perfect day!

I think this would make a lovely design for material for a skirt. Any takers?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Blogsplash for Fiona Robyn's new novel Thaw

Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow

These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun. Continue reading tomorrow here