Monthly Archives: May 2016



It’s been full of garden, which now takes on a lunar air.

1 lunarUnattractive, but Murphy’s law often provides a dry spell immediately after planting out veg, and the watering craters will probably be needed.

2 againAs many times before, I am trying to photograph this rose, and failing.  Whatever the camera, the colour becomes strident, the lavish yet fine ruffling looks coarser in the image, and we don’t have digitised scents yet.

3 centrePity.

Stony conversation


Today it was all about pebbles; and rocks; and minerals; and fossils; and sand.  (Click for the gallery)

The elephant’s tail


I do not know where to start.  The only bearable tactic is to do a few things nearest to hand and avert the eyes from everything else.  I rely heavily on the extraordinary staying power of the vegetable world.  (Click for the gallery)

But there’s no doubt about it: I am a terrible gardener, I’m not showing photos of the vegetable garden for about a hundred very good reasons, and I am all behind like the elephant’s tail.



The current fad is for twiddle muffs.  The local hospital is appealing for some, to comfort the restless hands of patients with dementia, so I thought I would try one.  I hope they do work for the patients.

1 twiddling

I can no longer sit down in the conservatory.  Every surface is full of seedlings, and now the recliner is filled up as well.  I was using up old seeds and thought the germination rate would be down, so I sowed an excess.  I think every seed must have germinated … especially the radicchio.

2 not sitting

The latest firing produced the second round of lace pots and porcelain bud vases.  One of the lace planters slithered through my hands, fell, and struck the concrete with a sounding clang.  Bizarrely, it then bounced, and was neither marked nor cracked.  That high fired stoneware delivers value sometimes.

3 tough

This vase looks like a teeny tiny cooling tower:

4 power station



Why do I put myself through it?  I wondered, digging wearily on the neglected veg plot.  Why, indeed. I’ve seriously considered a monoculture this year.  I could plant early peas … main crop … traditional climbing peas … mange tout … sugar peas …

I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it, which is why I have seedlings of runner beans, sweet corn, and tomatoes, and a few other bits and bobs.

seedlingsBut I know where the priorities lie.  I’ve planted three rows of peas today, and ordered two extra kinds of pea seed too.  It’s a law of nature: there shall never be enough peas; but nature is what we were put here to rise above.

other seedlings



In spite of feeling as if I have been busy, there seem to be a lot of items in the ‘finished’ pile:

1 Beetons

Mrs Beeton turns out to be Mr and Mrs Beeton, and a curious story of feminine career building, early death and commercial failure lies behind the triumphantly durable Book of Household Management, or BOHM as it figures resoundingly throughout.  The Victorian detail is good (I won’t forget a medicament named Peristaltic Persuaders any time soon) and Hughes did well as she revealed a segment of society trying to work its way to gentility while remaining tied to commerce.  And no safety nets for the fallers, either.

2 doctors

I had hopes of this, which consists of introductions to a number of major classics supposedly showing the links between said novels and medicine.  While I am all in favour of doctors being encouraged to humanise themselves through literature, I was disappointed.  For one thing, the author seems to think that doctors can’t cope with a novel unless they have been told exactly what happens in the plot INCLUDING the ending for each one, and these feeble summaries are what Salinsky offers instead of insight.  Secondly, while referring to his male authors as Kafka, Joyce, Tolstoy etc., he cosies up with ‘Jane’ and ‘Emily’ when naming the authors of Mansfield Park and Wuthering Heights, and when it comes to Middlemarch he is not only over-familiar but deprives Eliot of her chosen pen name and refers to her as ‘Marian’ throughout.  Some people really make your hand itch for slapping.  I’m glad that I only paid 50p for his rotten book.

3 octopuses

Montgomery waxes lyrical over her subject, and in a way that is fine, as the octopus is indeed a most extraordinary animal and I was longing to hear more about it.  I somewhat believed in the intellect she attributes to octopuses (though possibly not the emotion) as on the rare occasions I’ve had a chance to look at an octopus, there was certainly a sense of it looking back at me.  The idea of an animal whose intelligence is distributed through its legs and which therefore may be able to think without actually using its brain, and whose legs may also be able to communicate directly and independently with one another, is a glorious imagination-stretcher.  To tell the truth I could have done with more about octopuses and less about the author and her friends…

4 the ash

The ash.  Robert Penn’s experiment was to see how many items he could have made from a single tree, with no wastage.  As he travels from craft to craft, he praises the ash for its various qualities and reflects on the shrinking number of people who still work with wood, although occasionally heartened by new blood like the man who is making wooden frames for bicycles.  While reading one is uneasily aware of the spread of ash dieback in Europe and of the ash boring beetle in the United States.  Will we have to do without in future?

5 readers

Next came The reader on the 6.27, a comfy read with a lot of wishful thinking in it.  On the other hand, some of the comedy is delicious:  the elderly amputee tracking down his missing limbs, smidgen by smidgen (I’m not Salinsky and I’m not going to say what happens), and the security guard who can only converse in alexandrines, are both welcome new acquaintances.

6 lovers and others

And then there was Love, the second volume in Victoria Hislop’s collection of short stories.  With a title like that you know you are in for a pretty gloomy time, and so it proves.  The stories are uniformly excellent, however, and a few allow you a little glimpse of cheer; Carol Shields’ Words, for example, while not exactly ebullient, has an enjoyable tale of words heating up the world and having to be rationed, and what happens when someone does his duty too well in this respect.  The heart of Denis Noble (Alison MacLeod) was another which achieved optimism, flavoured with a judicious pinch of weirdness.

I’m not entirely sure how I am going to cope with the third volume in this set, though.  It is ominously entitled Loss.

A classic May bank holiday weekend


So, what to do with it?

1   Watch the squalls come over.  This one had hail and a small tempest inside.


2   Take your coat off and toast in the sun.  Once, anyway. For half an hour.

3   Cut the grass, whining and complaining throughout.

4   Do a lot more rolling out.

5   Get some small benefit for having once suffered geometry.


6   Stack the kiln.  As it heated, I thought I heard an odd noise … as of inadequate joints suddenly letting go.

7   Measure out exactly one gram.  The display of my new toy puzzled me by changing randomly:  turned out it was my breath on the weighing tray.

one gram

8  Stir and sieve until too cold to bear it any more.

9   Watch Shakespeare.  I’m still waiting for a production of Henry V which doesn’t fudge the hypocrisy and self-deception which I personally think that Shakespeare sneaked into his portrait of our favourite monarch.

10   It was, however, a mistake to watch Shakespeare, cook tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s dinner, and hand-wash my best jumpers, all at the same time.

Above all, however, stay home.  The tangle of motorbikes, cyclists and tourists on the road was perfectly horrible.