The second batch of beach clay pots went in for a v e r y s l o w f i r i n g, and I only lost one, cracked at the rim. I’m surprised how pale some of them came out – one of the grey clays must have had scarcely any iron in. Also rather oddly, the blue-green clay fired to a quite strong terracotta, and not surprisingly at all, the dark orangey brown fired to dark orange-red. I think they will look better when dirtied and algaed up a bit. Going in raw:
The third batch are drying out ( v e r y s l o w l y, of course). Meantime I have had an outbreak of porcelain bud vases, which is about as different a throwing challenge from the big rough beach clay pots as you could possibly get. I do make the little vases quite chunky though – my excuse, so that they will be stable if heavy-headed flowers are put in them.
It was difficult to achieve the zen-like concentration needed for good throwing, as the wretched guest poultry, which are allowed to forage on a large patch of grass, a partly-dug vegetable bed, the wild-bit-at-the-back, a neglected border, and a long gravel path, have found the one bit of garden I don’t want them in. Naturally.
They waited until I was well settled at the wheel, and then tip-toed down the grass, carefully not making eye contact with me, to the forbidden territory. I added a new game called broomfrighteners to my sporting repertoire, sweeping the invaders up the garden with gratifying flutters and flaps and squawks. The chooks then stood about ten yards off, doing chicken things with their necks and complaining, waited for me to sit down to the next bud vase, and immediately started doing grandmother’s footsteps back down the garden for the next round. So far, I reckon they are winning on points.
On the other hand: egg and lettuce sandwiches; swiss roll; baked custard; omelette; quiche …
There’s no getting away from it. Chickens make some of the most ludicrously dismal noises in the world, only to be compared to small children learning to play the violin.
This morning I let the guest chooks out to stravage about the garden for a few hours, watching in case they explored into next door or ate my young plants. It was fairly easy to keep an eye on four of them as they scratched deep in the vegetables and weeds, but the fifth was more difficult to see.
Indeed, occasionally I put shoes on and went out to find the highly camouflaged Dotty, as I don’t want to have to Explain Myself to a tearful owner, but luckily she always turned up.
She was more visible when on a green background; an odd-looking creature, her booffy britches fluffed up and twirled by the wind.
The main task for the morning was to lead them up and down the garden a few times with trails of brown bread crumbs, of which they are inordinately fond, in the hope that they will associate me with treats and thus come when called. The evenings are reserved for Fluffers, who has her own indoor space (she is too small to associate readily with the outdoor flock, and thinks she is a person anyway). Occasionally she condescends to use me as a heated mattress.
Chicken selfies. Sigh.
Starting a new subject with a reader is more difficult than picking up an introductory text written with novices in mind. It does, however, have the advantage of offering a full technical vocabulary, and introducing significant writers in the discipline through their own words.
Sadly, the ‘own words’ of cultural theorists (up to Part 3) seem to be quite remarkably dreary – an uglification of English which is hard to forgive, and there are 450 pages still to go. Some of the content is moderately interesting, but Oh! if only we could have it better said! One honourable but momentary exception: Laclau and Mouffe describing their critics as ‘fading epigones’. I had to look ‘epigone’ up in Chambers, and joyed in it, a word at once compendious and splendidly disdainful. Then it was back to uglification for fifteen pages.
This is going to be a long, long, long, long, long, long read.
The beach clay pots are in progress, and I am trying to possess myself in patience and retard their drying to a suitable slowness. This is difficult, as they are completely in the way, all over the kitchen – the conservatory would risk them drying too fast, or unevenly if the sun caught them on one side.
Some of them have cracked anyway, but on this occasion I don’t think it is my lack of patience. The three are all made from the same batch of yellowish-grey clay, which is a 100% failure rate for this particular clay body. Lucky it wasn’t one of the larger batches. I shall not recycle the clay and try again; if it won’t do a slow dry without cracking, I can’t imagine it firing successfully either.
I’ve had some odd things posted to me by various nearests and dearests; this has to be one of the oddest.
I found a very useful lightning map, and watched the storms come trogging up the Channel long before they reached my part of the world. Thus I was sitting up ready in bed, curtains drawn back, watching for the first flashes when they began. It was a good storm, though not a classic; lightning in profusion, often every second or two, mostly glowing weirdly in the clouds, sometimes rushing like rivers horizontally across the sky, occasionally laying itself out in archetypal dendritic patterns. We were on the skirts of the action, so much of this happened in silence, with just a few of the nearer bolts banging and rumbling – nothing to frighten the horses – and the excitement was over in about 90 minutes.
Bit sleepy today, though.
lxviii : Read about a hopeless case
Richard Savage was obviously a disaster of a man.
His claims to be a neglected (indeed persecuted) illegitimate child of the Countess of Macclesfield and Earl Rivers seem to have been accepted whole by Samuel Johnson, though posterity sees a possible case of fraud and blackmail. Even allowing the dubious circumstances of his birth, it is painful to read of Savage’s appalling behaviour to his friends and acquaintances, and his extraordinary fecklessness.
Johnson treads a complicated path through his personal knowledge of Savage’s worst behaviour; a delicate hint or two of his own attempts to support Savage; his affection for Savage as his own charming friend; his awareness of other friends’ attempts to help; and his tenderness towards Savage’s failure to cope with life, which amounted almost to a disability. I walked with Johnson through concern, disgust, pity, contempt, regret, and, like Savage’s friends, at last you can only throw your hands in the air, and declare him beyond helping.
But I couldn’t quite join Johnson in his tenderness towards this utterly selfish and infuriating man; which is why I love Samuel Johnson, especially in the middle of the night.
In spite of a deep resistance to all forms of sport, I do believe I have invented a new one: Bumble Badminton. Here is the necessary racquet:
I’m getting quite good at this sport. The stupid creatures ramble into the conservatory when I am potting on, and seem to think I may have nectar in my ears.
Four is probably the maximum number of players, assuming you have enough racquets, but playing solo is safer. I’ve decided that points are awarded based on the distance each stroke moves the object towards the goal (door), and subtracted for the distance it returns in between strokes (one point per yard), and also for false strokes. Two extra points are received when the object is propelled through the egress, and style marks are given when it is struck cleanly from the sweet spot on the racquet (the bristles), or for good playing technique, i.e. nothing else in the environment is contacted.
All points are forfeited if the target is squashed. Breakages must be paid for, and the umpire’s decision is final.
On any list of Silly Things To Do, potting on dozens of plants while wearing a white dress must be fairly high up. But it is my loosest and airiest dress, and at eight this morning it was already hot. Smears might come out in the wash – maybe.
Meantime, the tide of plant pots rose and rose, filling the garden tables, obstructing the paving, covering the coal bin, overflowing down the steps, and lapping at the doors. Plant after plant, knocked out of its small pot, was tucked briskly into the new litre pot with nice fresh compost; I was amused to detect in myself the manner of an old-fashioned nurse doing her hospital corners. If I can fend the slugs off, I trust most of my patients will survive.
This is a table. I haven’t seen it for several years as it has been covered with guinea pigs and seedlings in trays and plants in pots. Look: still shiny!
When not shrieking with horror, I am interested in invertebrates, and was curious about a tiny white crab spider. Turns out that female Misumena vatia are able to change colour from white to yellow to green, in order to match the flower or plant on which they are currently sitting. Like all crab spiders, they are active hunters, not web-builders.
I did wonder what this one will do when the pale buds open and become blue flowers; but perhaps there will be enough residual whiteness to accommodate her.
And I fully subscribe to the active habit label; she was well aware of me near her flower, and as I approached she nipped instantly round the back of the bud to put it between her and me. After making multiple circuits of the agapanthus in pursuit, snapping photos of her bottom as I went, I conceded, and sulked hotly off for an ice lolly.
So: spider bottom. This was the best I could do.