It’s a time indeed since being on a bus. This one ground and clanked its way through the villages, past the sea, up the Shute, down the chalk, wound beneath the hills, and at last to town. I shopped: bought only some minute wooden butterflies. After business, there was welcome tea of reprieve. I’ve been reprieved in this place before. And the social event of the day.
Then the bus: out of town through the clogged traffic (glad to see the driver knew his bus width to the inch), below the hills where sheep did picturesque things on the skyline, up the chalk, down the Shute, past the sea, now glowing like tarnished silver in the twilight (a radiance perhaps exaggerated in my eyes), and through the villages.
Today I went looking for a quiet place on the stairs in which to find a teasing line. Instead I found an image, obscure at first but clarifying into black comedy.
I don’t think he or she made it.
So goodbye to the lectures and a brief hello to some nearestsanddearests; full of apple crumble we admired the Close and the cathedral lit by what looked like about seven million lux, killing the stars.
I have swapped my austere hall-of-residence style bed for something even more austere, having no bedstead at all; but the ambience is friendly, and I am cooched up on the sofa with the Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament:
In this boke that cald is Genesis
ther may men see the soth unsoght
How God, that beldes in endlese blyse,
all only with Hys Word hath wroght
Hevyn on heght for Hym and Hys,
this erth and all that ever is oght.
This erth was wyde and wast
and no gud on yt grovyd;
On the heght the Holi Gast
abown the waters movyd.
Milton, eat your heart out.
Yesterday the garden fair was all ice cream and summer dresses. Today was the sort of day when the hills disappear, when the rain streams down your face into your mouth in spite of the storm hood, when water runs into your sleeves as you take a bite of damp cake, when you snap no photos and send no texts in case the phone drowns, the kind of day when the legs of your jeans are so heavy with water that they start to pull themselves down off your bottom as you walk. A few keen gardeners traipsed around, bought a plant or two, and went home for early lunch, no doubt consoling themselves that their £7 entry was going to a Good Cause. The show was officially declared rained off at three, and we packed up as the angrily-flapping canvas tried to take off in the gusts, and just as the ground paused on the verge of becoming an un-driveable quag.
It was, indeed, the sort of day when you strip off your horrible trousers as you walk into the house, indifferent to the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom (or even a closed front door); and when you utter thanks to those trusty old soldiers in your service –
– feet being the only parts of the anatomy which were still both warm, and perfectly dry.
There’s a gracious backdrop to the confusion of cars, vans, marquees, gazebos, trestles and tables, residue from about a hundred geese, and other impedimenta. Crucially, we found the tap.
We were slightly concerned by the number of people attaching storm straps or extra guys to their canvas. We don’t have any for ours. The forecast is fair overnight, but I find my ear is cocked for a change in the wind.
Fluffers has been restored to the correct family bosom, and snuggled to show she knew it.
The garden in general and chicken pen in particular look as if a vigorous pillow-fight has taken place. One of the guest chooks has decided to do a moult (at least, I hope it is just a moult), and every time she flaps or preens a few more bits detach themselves. Already she only has half a tail, with a patch of – quite frankly – repellent bright pink flesh showing through. I keep imagining that one morning I’ll open the roost, release a small puff of quills and down onto the breeze, and a sort of horrid oven-ready bird will come pacing beadily out.
I have to de-spider the door before walking through it, de-spider the ceiling before crossing under it, de-spider the table before working at it, de-spider the glaze buckets before opening them, de-spider the chair before sitting on it, de-spider the kettle before boiling it, de-spider the pots before glazing them, de-spider the towel before drying my hands, and de-spider the kiln before packing it.
Now there are a few glazed pots to go in, and I am a grumpy bundle of arachnophobical twitches.
I’ve trained them too well: every time I walk out into the garden they rush under my feet, looking for breadcrumbs. So far I have managed not to stand on them (much).
You would think I had stamped them all flat when they are lying in their favourite dirt bath, squashed down, spread out, heads extended at bizarre angles, feathers cocked inside out, feet projecting improbably, squirming their wings as if dismembered. In fact, of course, they are just superbly relaxed.
I was not as relaxed as they were, having undertaken a maddening hunt for a pin. I’m careful with pottery tools, but I’m always losing pins. After half an hour looking in every drawer and receptacle, likely or unlikely, I found a brand new one. Where the others have gone, who can tell?
Today was the start of one final collection of beach clay pots, from six or seven different small batches of clay, hoping for some good colour variations after firing. Then I’m going to call a halt – at least until I have grown some new skin on my fingers and the palms of my hands. Exfoliation? Ow!
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 …