I’ve spent a lot of the last two days in the garden.* The weather has been heavenly, and dirt and sunlight are therapeutic. Today is a bit more of a heavy slog than it was going to be anyway because I managed to forget that the clocks were due to go forward. In my extremity last night I was actually talking to a friend on the phone—I’m allergic to telephones—and congratulating myself on retaining sufficient presence of mind to remember I had to go to bed in time to get up and ring bells this morning . . . and after we rang off and the darkness was starting to close in on me again, some irritatingly chirpy bloke on the radio said, Remember, the clocks go forward tonight! It is now ten past an hour later than you thought! **
Furthermore I’d promised to ring for evening service at Crabbiton, which is suffering an unusually high percentage of ringer injuries, illnesses, and assorted hors de combat. I was inclined to grumble about the time indoors and away from my garden(s), but I brought my camera*** and . . . there’s not a lot of the Christian bible that speaks to me, but ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help’ feels like a warm blanket when I’m colder than sorrow.
* * *
She was growing roses when I was still living in Maine with two granite boulders nearly as large as the house occupying what would have been the back garden if there hadn’t been boulders instead, and thinking of roses as annuals. Diana liked my boulders—most people liked my boulders: they were pretty spectacular—but a good deal of Down East village life was as alien to her as . . . Hampshire village life was to me a few years later. I could feel my face settling into similar lines of awe and disbelief when confronted by an especially gnomic utterance or you-made-that-up-right? local custom—and I thought of Diana in Blue Hill. I’ve told you the story of Peter handing me a basket at the greengrocer’s, the day I arrived in England after our mad this-is-the-beginning-of-the-rest-of-your-life weekend in Maine, and suggesting I pick out some oranges? And I stood in the middle of the floor clutching the basket and thinking frantically, Oranges? Oranges? This is England! I don’t know how to pick out oranges in England! —Something very similar happened to Diana when I took her to Merrill & Hinckley, the grocery-and-everything-else store in Blue Hill, which is a bit notorious for its Ye Olde American feel—Natty Bumppo and Paul Bunyan in aisle eight. At the time she and I thought it was funny—but then Diana was going home again in a few days. (I didn’t tell Peter about the oranges for years.)
Diana was recklessly brave to be going anywhere. Her travel jinx was legendary. That first trip to Maine she got off relatively lightly: the airline merely lost track of the fact that she was on one of its planes heading for Bangor (and she didn’t even know this: I was the one having the nervous breakdown) and it took two days for her suitcase to be located on the carousel in Tashkent and sent back to us. But it’s perfectly true: buying toiletries in an unknown and clearly unknowable culture (especially one that has just eaten your suitcase and has blue livestock in aisle eight) is very unsettling.
Years ago now, but after I’d married Peter and become a gardener too, Diana had been ill, and I gave her a gift certificate for David Austin Roses as a get-well present. She bought three Golden Celebrations. http://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/showrose.asp?showr=2935 They’re like small golden suns, she wrote me.
Once when I was there this winter, there were several new, dormant roses in pots on the front step, recently bought, waiting for a day anyone could bear to be outdoors in, to go in the ground. May they and every other rose already in her garden bloom more than any roses ever have, this summer, in her honour.
** I was, however, on time. Niall was late.
*** Who needs a name. I’m thinking.
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