March 27, 2014

It’s only Wednesday


I’m beginning to feel cursed.  You already know about the temporarily comatose Wolfgang and the definitively dead washing machine*.  Last night/this morning at five a.m. my smoke alarm decided it needed a new battery.  Aaaaaaaugh.  So you’re dragged out of a deep, satisfying sleep (!) by this frelling chirping noise . . . and first you have to decide you’re not imagining it because in fact you weren’t really experiencing deep, satisfying sleep because deep, satisfying sleep is not among your skill set.  Then, having more or less decided that it is a real noise and not the sound of all your brain cells clicking together like billiard balls, and wondering if you need to wake the hellterror and bring her upstairs so she can find the source of this alleged real noise for you**, and you are in the arduous process of getting out of bed*** because one way or another this must stop, it slowly manifests in your sleep-raddled mind that the only thing in your experience that makes a noise like that is a smoke alarm that wants its zonking battery changed.  They programme them to make this decision while you should be asleep, right?  I think possibly they programme them to study the household first so as better to ascertain when horizontal bed time most often occurs:  if you’re a farmer with cows to milk you might well be awake and on your second cup of coffee by five.

So then you get to stagger around trying to remember where you might have stashed one of those frelling square batteries that almost nothing else uses but you’re pretty sure you do have one because you’ve been here before, although it’s so long ago you don’t remember where you put the spare battery . . .  but this is one of those super-frellers that if you try to unplug it so you can deal with it in the morning the BACK UP BATTERY kicks in and there’s no courteous, mild little cheeping, it screams death, dragons, disaster, debacle and defeat and the back up battery itself is one of those horrible tiny round things that you need a Special Tool to open the door of and it doesn’t open and it doesn’t open and it doesn’t open possibly because you have no idea where your Special Tool is and are using a 5p piece and then when you finally do wrench it open the battery leaps out and rolls under the table.  Where you have to be sure to retrieve it before the hellterror eats it.  But the whole teeny stuck battery-hatch thing is not going to happen at 5 a.m. since neither my fingers nor my eyes are up to that much focussing so we’re back to finding a new square battery for the main event.

Okay.  I found it.  I reattached the little wires.  I shut the barglegleebing plastic battery door.  Silence fell.† AT WHICH POINT I DECIDED I WAS GOING TO TURN THE RING ON MY NEW PHONE OFF.  So I could, you know, sleep.  I used to do this regularly on the old machine:  unplug the phone from the machine, the machine silently picks up messages, and the phone doesn’t ring.  YOU CAN’T TURN THE RING OFF ON MY NEW PHONE/ANSWERPHONE.  Who the freaking double grasking whatsit argle frell figured that one out?  THAT YOU CAN’T MAKE YOUR PHONE NOT RING?  The ‘base’ unit will allow its ringtone to be turned off.  Not the portable.  You can turn the volume down—which, just by the way, is about as effective as turning a barking hellterror down—but you can’t turn it off.  Eventually I buried the thing under the sofa cushions and (finally) went back to bed. . . .

* * *

* And—just by the way—Pooka continues to refuse to pick up the internet when we’re away from our home wifi.  I can have all the little ‘signal’ bars that there’s frelling room for dancing the fandango and singing ‘I feel pretty’ and Safari just sits there saying ‘Nope.  And you can’t make me.’  Since Astarte doesn’t have a mobile connection THIS IS VERY IRRITATING.  And yes, while it’s true that we’re all overconnected out of our tiny minds, it IS CONVENIENT, while you’re waiting for something to happen, to be able to whip out your tech of choice and check, for example, on the weather.  You are (let’s say) a quarter mile from your car and your umbrella is still in the car.  Frell frell frell frell frell.^

^ I was at a meeting tonight# and I got there about fifteen minutes early because I’d been worried about the traffic and/or getting lost.  So having failed to check the weather I . . . of course . . . got out my knitting.  I think everyone else in the room commented##:  knitting as nonthreatening topic of conversation among a bunch of strangers waiting for something to happen.

It was the kind of meeting where your fearless leader decides that you should start with something that makes you talk to each other.###  So she passed out sheets of paper headed:  Find Someone In the Room Who . . . and it’s a list, like, has moved house in the last year, plays a musical instrument, loves Marmite.  The first thing on the list was:  ‘knits’.  Nine pairs of eyes immediately swivelled to focus on my name tag.

# And no I wasn’t rained on on the way back to Wolfgang.

## But no one else got out their knitting.  Everybody keeps telling me how popular knitting is.  I sure hang out in the wrong crowd.


** There’s no use in asking the hellhounds.  They would open one eye, say eh, it’s a noise, and close the eye again.

***. . . while reluctantly deciding that hellterror involvement is a bad idea.  She’s very good at finding and pointing things out, it’s just that a crucial element of the pointing-out process is barking at them and while my semi-detached neighbour is a paragon of tolerance and patience I think a hellterror paroxysm at 5 a.m. might be pushing it.

† Except for hellterror snores.

Gardening. Continued. Indefinitely.


So I’m cruising a gardening site because I have no self-control and they’re having a HALF PRICE sale* and I come to the description of something under the ‘cottage garden plants’ category.  The heading describes it as a ‘half hardy annual’.  This means it’ll die if it freezes, but it’ll be toast next winter anyway so your job is only not to plant it out too early now.  And then in the description below the heading you are informed that while it is hardy to 18° F—which is pretty seriously hardy—it would be grateful for a little winter protection which if such is provided it will go on rewarding you with a dazzling floral display for years to come.  Oh?  Yes?  Um.

It’s no wonder people think gardening is complicated and confusing.

* * *

* I didn’t tell you I ordered another eight roses, did I?  Speaking of sales.  Peter Frelling Beales had a loooooong end-of-bareroot-season sale AND THEY KEPT FRELLING SENDING ME REMINDERS.  I KNOW.  I READ YOUR LAST EMAIL, THANKS.  I WISH YOU’D GO AWAY.  THE SALE WAS FOR FORTY PERCENT OFF.  FORTY PERCENT OFF ROSE BUSHES????  YOU CAN’T EXPECT ME TO RESIST—TO GO ON RESISTING—THAT LEVEL OF TEMPTATION, CAN YOU?  Well, I can’t, and it was my credit card.  Besides, I have at least a half-packet of that help-the-roots-to-grow symbiotic fungus stuff left . . .

The thing is I got all those roses I bought from the (relatively) local rose nursery planted and then discovered . . . I still had perennial-shrub sized gaps left.  ‘Perennial shrub’ is a slightly flexible concept in my garden, of course, as is ‘gap’:  it’s surprising what (and how much) you can get to grow in a too-small pot if you keep it fed and watered.  This—right now—is also the most dangerous time of year for me—I’ve probably (finally^) done a certain amount of clearing out of winter detritus:  of last year’s annuals, last year’s failures, and the pruning you should maybe have done last autumn but I didn’t not only because I’m absent-minded and disorganised but because if you have a hard winter some things, including roses, will probably die back some, so if you have to take the last six inches off a three-foot stem that still leaves two and a half feet of live plant which you can prune later on if you want to for shape and so on.  If you cut it down hard last autumn, six inches of dead wood may leave you come spring with three inches of live plant, which is risky.  But I’m not a hard pruner anyway:  I figure if a rose bush wants to be five foot—or fifteen—you’ll make it unhappy by trying to prune it to be three or six.^^

. . . Anyway.^^^  This time of year there is probably bare earth out there.  Bare.  Earth.  In MY garden.  Somewhere I could PLANT SOMETHING.  Or wedge a pyramid of pots into/onto/around.  This goes badly to my head.  Despite the fact that by the end of March I’ve frelling DONE ALL MY SPRING ORDERING.  I DON’T NEED TO DO ANY MORE.  Except that what I’ve ordered is beginning to fade into the dank dark mists of the previous winter during which you wrote out copious lists of possible plant orders as a gesture of hope and belief in the future and a quelling or at least muffling of cabin fever#. And of course I never get around to printing out the invoices## of my final orders. . . .  And then the frelling sale come-ons start appearing in your email. . . .

Coming up ten (gleeeeeeep) years ago, when I bought the cottage, I looked at the Way Too Gardenery a Garden that the previous owner### was leaving me and thought, I am not going to turn this into a Rose Garden.  I am going to evolve it a little more toward Old Fashioned Messy Cottage Garden and away from Plantsperson’s Educational Display . . . but it’s NOT going to be a rose garden with a few pansies.

Well, it isn’t.  It’s a rose garden with a few pansies, clematis, delphiniums, foxgloves, primroses, fuchsias, begonias, dahlias, hellebores, daffodils, hyacinths, a few tulips, one trillium, snowdrops, crocuses, lungwort, corydalis, epimedium, geraniums/pelargoniums/whatsit, two bleeding hearts, snapdragons, cosmos, one hydrangea, one gardenia, daylilies, irises, dianthus, dwarf Japanese maples, Japanese frelling anemones, camellias, dwarf rhododendrons, peonies . . . some other stuff, including several things I either don’t know the name of or have forgotten the name of . . . and a flowering currant, a corkscrew hazel and an apple tree.%  It’s a rose garden with friends.

. . .  It’s okay though.  You can click on the Peter Beales link, the sale is over.  I don’t recommend you sign up for their email list, however, unless you live somewhere Beales won’t ship to.

^ No, no!  You’re supposed to leave your rubbish alone over the winter!  It gives WILDLIFE SHELTER AND FOOD!  ‘Wildlife’ includes the frelling mice I yesterday animadverted, as well as slugs, snails, vine weevils, lily beetles and black spot fungal spores.  And my incredibly spoilt local bird populations don’t eat seed heads or berries or rose hips.  And the bats are hibernating.

^^ There are fashions in pruning as in most things.  Some years I’m in fashion.  Some years I’m not in fashion.  Feh.

^^^ Buckminster, our vicar, gets quite a lot of stick for being easily distracted.  Church services when our vicar is preaching+ have been known to run on quite a while over time because Buck has been chasing hares (again).  I was thinking this Sunday while everyone was giggling that it’s a good thing no one at St Margaret’s—so far as I know—reads Robin McKinley’s Days in the Life.++  Especially Buck himself.  It might give him ideas.

+ You want to get home on time, pray Buck is not preaching.

++ With footnotes.

#  Yes, you can get a cabin-fever equivalent even in the south of England, although in my case anyway the lack of daylight is almost as claustrophobi-fying as not being able to get out the door because of the snowdrifts.+  This winter, of course, the solid wall of falling water that went on for about three months accentuated that shut-in feeling.

+ Pay the guy with the bulldozer scoop on the front of his muscle pick-up who clears your driveway for you promptly.  Never mess with a guy with a bulldozer scoop on the front of his muscle pick-up, especially not in a winter with a lot of snow.

## I’d only lose them.  So why bother.

### Trained horticulturists.  Double feh.

% And I’m TRYING AGAIN with the witchhazel and the magnolia stellata, drat them anyway.  And does anyone know how to get a frelling foxtail lily to FLOWER?  The beastly thing is coming up for the third year in a row but I’ve yet to get a flower out of it.  But three of my meconopsis are alive.  YAAAAAAAY.

Return of the Frelling Indoor Jungle


What first struck me about Anette’s post is how surprisingly similar to mine where her garden is in the march into spring.  The small skinny trough at the foot of the stairs to the cottage front door, which I recently posted a photo of full of crocuses, is now blindingly yellow with eager, enthusiastic little Tete a tete daffs.*  I have primroses everywhere.**  I have all those Little Blue Things I can’t keep straight.  I have several varieties of lungwort, the pink, the blue, the pink and blue, and the white, with variously interestingly spotted and mottled leaves.  My crocuses and snowdrops are mostly going over and my early iris aren’t out yet at the cottage although they are at Third House.  And I certainly have the little wild violets which while I don’t want to be without them ARE A TOTAL THUG and I get a little hysterical when I find them colonising another of my pots where if radical action is not taken immediately they’ll have crushed whatever I planted in that pot into a victimised corner with its hands over its face crying for mercy.

Spring.  Yes.  Spring.

And then last night we had what Nadia’s mum today told me jovially was the coldest night this winter—except that it’s supposed to be spring—and while yes, this is the south of England, and we’re only talking a few degrees of frost, we’re talking a few degrees of frost when everything has been rioting out in relatively warm sunshine for the last fortnight or so ARRRRRRGH.  And I have a Winter Table full of potted up dahlias and begonia tubers.  ARRRRRRRRGH.

* * *

* They smell good too, although there are other daffs with more scent:  Cheerfulness, for example, or Erlicheer, which are probably my two favourites for fragrance, but they don’t keep on and on the way that trough of Tete a tete does.  Maybe the cursed mice are getting them.  I can’t keep bulbs going at all in the back garden because of the sodblasted mice:  I net a few pots every year and am getting better about remembering to take the gorblimey netting off before it strangles the bulbs trying to come up through it^ and that’s nearly it for spring bulbs.  The local field mice, frustrated of their once rich banquets of tulips, may be indulging their grievance by eating daffs instead, although they’re not supposed to—daffs are one of the bulbs you’re supposed to plant if you have a mouse problem.  Ha ha.  But my garden ought to be jammed full of daffs and it’s not.  The one bulb the local vermin seem pretty reliably not to like is hyacinths and I do keep a few pots of crocuses going by storing the pots in relatively inaccessible areas the mice can’t be bothered to hire a helicopter and a rope ladder to attack.  Mostly I resign myself to replanting crocuses.  Or netting them.  They’re tiny enough they can usually scramble through the netting even if I forget to take it off.  Ahem.

I keep the plastic half barrel by the kitchen door that I use as a waterbutt covered so nothing is tempted to drown itself.  But the pink bucket also by the kitchen door which is my kitchen-waste compost bucket, in the weather we’ve had this winter fills up with rain because since it’s been always raining I haven’t often felt like going outside to empty it into the compost bag that the city council carts away every fortnight and turns into, you know, compost.^^   As a result I have twice found a drowned mouse floating among the apple cores.  I do not mourn—if they stay out of the house I’m grudgingly more or less willing to take a ‘it’s their planet too’ attitude, but they’re still evil bulb-eating marauders—but, yo, dufflebrain, why?  You’ve got an entire garden full of fresh tasty plant life and you’re diving for apple cores and slimy vegetable peelings?  Unfortunately the hellterror discovered the second cadaver at the same moment I did NOOOOOOOOOO —providentially I nailed her before anything irretrievable happened but she now carefully examines that frelling bucket every time she goes into the back garden.

^ It can take hours to cut a lot of half-grown shoots out of heavy plastic small-gauge mouse-proof netting.  You don’t have to ask me how I know this, do you?

^^ I’m more than happy to buy it back as realio-trulio plant-stuff-in-it compost for the privilege of not having to take up the space in my handkerchief-garden for my own compost heap or heaps,+ since to do it right you have to have more than one.  But I do get broody about a wormery occasionally.  You can get quite little ones and, you know, it’s critters.

+ I have THREE compost heaps at Third House.  Which must be appropriate.

** With reference to a conversation about nomenclature on the forum I haven’t a clue about what’s correct.  I think of what I grow as primroses—both the double ones I think I’ve posted photos of^ and the little wild-type ones like in Anette’s photos which also lurk in corners of my garden.^^  The fancy ‘laced’ and all the other exotic-looking ones are, to me, primulas.

Cowslips come out a little later—I have a fabulous rust-red one just beginning to unfurl now. I have no idea where it came from, and I don’t think I knew they existed in any colour but the basic species yellow.  It’s in a pot which I clearly planted, so I must have rescued it from somewhere, recognising the leaves as primrose/cowslip and therefore worthy of rescue—is it a volunteer?  I don’t know.  Gibble.  But when I said that cowslips, theoretically endangered in the wild, are weeds in my garden, and someone told me loftily that weeds are only plants in the wrong place—yes, I know that one, thanks—I was referring to the way they grew, not that I didn’t like them.  I think they’re darling.  I’ve been known to hoick out a few of my surplus, put them and a trowel in a plastic bag, and take some hellcritters for a stroll over suitable countryside and whack them in in a bank somewhere—since they’re endangered in the wild.  This is probably illegal or something and since I know it’s desperately illegal to pluck wildflowers or to dig them up I live in fear of someone catching me at my guerrilla gardening and jumping to the wrong conclusion.  But if I didn’t, um, weed them, I’d have a garden with nothing but cowslips in it.

^ If not I will.


Spring is here, guest post by Anette

Spring is here.

Spring is here.

View the PDF: Spring_is_here

KES, 123


“Where’s Tulamaro then?” I said experimentally.  I really had to get over this obsession with asking questions.

Murac nodded toward the darkness over my right shoulder.  “He stands to Defender.”  He turned his head and nodded over his own left shoulder.  “Galinglud also stands to Defender.”

“Galinglud?”  I’d never heard of Galinglud either.  If I ever saw Flowerhair again I’d . . . gah.  What was I saying?

Yes, but where the hell was I?  And why did it seem so . . . persuasive?  I was willing, even eager, to believe that I was imagining Murac but feeling as if I’d recently been pounded into the ground by something a lot bigger and stronger than I was was very convincing.  So was the feeling of Monster’s mane over my hands, and the slow expansion and contraction of his ribcage between my legs.  I wanted to take comfort in the ‘slow’—that he wasn’t breathing in little rapid hysterical grunts like some thoroughbreds I had known—but it might just be that he had lungs the size of Zeppelins and even shallow anxious breaths took a while.

“Tha has choice, choose Tulamaro,” said Murac enigmatically, and with a gleam in his eye I didn’t like at all.  I couldn’t tell if it was a, ‘Galinwhatsit stole my horse/sword/girlfriend and I want his head on a spike’ gleam or a ‘Nobody told me I had to play fair with Defender and she turns such an interesting shade of puce when I say something alarming’ gleam.  Not that he’d said anything yet that wasn’t alarming and how would he know that puce wasn’t my natural skin tone?

“Well,” I said in the kind of voice I imagined a first-grade teacher who wanted to be a nuclear physicist and hates kids might use on the first day of school to her new class, “we should go look at this Gate, shouldn’t we?”

I nudged Monster forward.  Although I was startled when he went.  As if he were accustomed to being ridden by middle-aged women in nightgowns who were, furthermore, trembling like entire forests of aspens.  He didn’t fall into any chasms either.  I was almost sorry.  Falling into a chasm would have been one solution.

As Monster took his first steps the rustling around and behind us began again.  I thought of the unknown Gate . . . and what I knew about the black thing.  I was so tired.  And I was so not built for heroism.  And if I survived this I was going to start wearing black satin pajamas to bed.  No, black leather.

“How many of us are there?” I said, conversationally, in a voice that surprisingly did not quaver.

“Few,” said Murac, and he didn’t sound blithe at all.  “Too few.”

Lie to me, I almost said, and I may have bitten my tongue keeping the words back.  I tried to tell myself that I’d been expecting to die under the third stroke of the black thing’s sword;  it wasn’t that much different, half an hour or an interdimensional eon later.

I thought that the darkness around us was trying to break up, but what it was breaking up into or against or over or under wasn’t making any sense.  Streaks of darkness would fray and splinter, and there would be trees, and then there would be no trees, and then there would be what might be trees but like no trees I had ever seen before.  There was water and rock, and then no water and different rock;  there were—possibly—buildings, and then no buildings and then . . . I had no idea.  Maybe sleeping dragons.  It was as if the landscape itself were a palimpsest.

And which view was real?  Define real.  The black thing couldn’t possibly be real—that I was talking to Murac couldn’t possibly be real.  I was leaking again:  the tears ran silently down my face, dropped hotly onto my collarbones, ran down the inside of my nightgown and became cold.  But there were so many reasons to shiver.

Trying to stare at the shifting nothing/everything ahead of us I said, “Where is this Gate then?”


Where?” I said, trying to keep my temper;  I have many years’ practise of shortcircuiting fear into anger.  Anger fluffs you out and makes you bigger, like an angry cat;  not very helpful when you’re facing unknown terrors in a strange world, but it was all I had.

“I don’t know,” said Murac—and that answer made me feel so crazy and hopeless and ill I might have thrown up, if there had been anything in my stomach to heave.  “I cannot see Gate.  Tis yon, there, in darkness, in confusion.  Tha is Defender:  tha find ’er, Gate.  Tha look.

I looked.  I looked as if my life depended on it—which, presumably, it did.  I looked as if I could conjure order out of misrule;  democracy from anarchy;  a gate from splintered reality.  I looked at the seething mess before me as I had often looked at my blank computer screen.  With loathing.  With despair.  With hope.  With determination.  With a desire to keep eating.



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