A cool, grey day after yesterday’s heat. The front meadow around the fruit trees has now all been mown and the tough, dead, matted grass taken off. I am using the grass clippings as mulch around the trees. I read up a bit about this. Apparently, this is a good thing if the grass has not been treated with any chemicals e.g. weedkiller. If treated grass is used it can also kill the trees. I can safely say no weedkiller has touched this garden for at least the time I have been here, two and a half years.
Lawn seed has been scattered along the paths and around the trees and now I just have to wait. I have found that the best tack is just to ignore parts of the garden once the heavy work is done and then come back to it later. Last year it was just a patch of ground with fruit trees but now there is more coherence and creating the winding paths felt like drawing with a lawn mower. I have a lot to do with very little at my disposal these days so simple sculptural solutions work best. This series of photographs is really for comparison for when the meadow gets going.
I have been reviving the fuschia hedges around the perimeter by cutting them right down and removing the ivy and undergrowth which has worked very well. However, I will be leaving most of the hedges round the orchard wild, they are full of ivy, brambles and wild flowers and it seems a shame to destroy what seems to already be a complex habitat. I have just cut back a few of the encroaching brambles and trimmed the top of the hedge. The bluebells are out and I have noticed that the garden is already buzzing with insects and butterflies.
The libertaria is doing very well in its pot.
The weather is on the turn and we are apparently in for some rain. Again.
Having spent the last few days throwing my little mower around and really putting it through its paces I have grown very fond of it. It has mowed its way through really rough grass and weeds and sometimes to a horrible grinding noise as it came across stones, which it contemptuously spat out – sometimes as far as 15 feet. I am not given to anthropomorphism, especially when it comes to inanimate objects but I feel the little Bosch deserves a name, if only for conspicuous gallantry in the field – “arise, Sir Hieronymous”. It is a machine only meant for mowing small suburban lawns and it, like me, has had to acclimatize to a much tougher country life. Perhaps it dreams of a civilized semi-detached residence in Sunningdale …
I now have a haystack in the corner of the field and three distinct areas of mown meadow.
I have close-mown all around the trees in the orchard and have ordered wildflower seeds. I had estimated the area by some fantastic amount but actually it is an area roughly 50 metres square. Somehow I had calculated 600 metres square!! I will sow the wildflower seeds here.
The next area is at the back of the house next to the painting shed. I have close-mown here too and will just see what come up. Ditto, the area across the path under the tree.
The rest of the meadow has been strimmed to height of about 3 cms and it will be interesting to compare.
It turns out I have done exactly the right thing if I want to sow seeds incidentally so am feeling quite optimistic about the wildflowers.
My lovely neighbour, Fionnuala, has just given me a big bag of grass see which I really need to vamp up the paths in the orchard. God, gardening is exciting …
Into the garden this morning, the sun is out, cloudless.
The air actually smelt faintly of hot cross buns this morning. There is nothing like the air of West Cork. I think if I was lying in a darkened hospital room and someone brought in a bottle I would recognise it immediately. It is indefinable; a slight salt tang, grass, the inevitable undertone of slurry, though I would know it immediately. It is especially lovely first thing and in the evening. The air of an Irish evening after rain or a warm day … the lovely thing about getting up early is the morning air.
Gardening jobs can be divided roughly into two classes:
i. hard work but enjoyable; and
ii. hard work but deadly, deadly dull.
I have just come in from carting barrow-loads of hay off the meadow which I would definitely define under category ii. If leave the mown grass it will mulch down and the goodness will improve the soil. If taken off, wildflowers, in theory, should flourish as they prefer poor soil.
Am giving myself a well-earned tea break now and to listen to the no-doubt ghastly plague news.
Hot off the press: Boris Johnson is in ICU.
If there is a God he is definitely an ironist.
Tea, news, a less-boring gardening job and then more barrowloads ….
Having reviewed my old notebooks recently I think I will start keeping one again. I thought this diary would take its place but actually there is nothing like the spontaneity of a book and pen.
After yesterday’s deluge the sun is out – I am just scurrying out to rake up more grass and then start mowing …
Fuck these April showers.
Another poem by Blake:
The Voice of the Ancient Bard.
Youth of delight come hither.
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason.
Dark disputes & artful teazing,
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways,
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead:
And feel they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others when they should be led
Well three weeks in.
Yesterday with the help of JJ the field was mown. This should have been done in October/November but as I was away until February it had to wait till now. The grass needs to be cut in order for the wildflowers to flourish. If it is left to rot on the surface the goodness will all go into the ground and wildflowers thrive on poor soil. This is the theory. So I spent a few hours in the lovely sunshine raking up all the cut grass. Lets see!
Today the weather is dreadful so am very glad we got the grass cutting done yesterday. Spent the day listening to the radio and cooking. I have made a lamb stew and as I usually do not make a note of how I cook thought it would be fun to actually document the recipe for a change. It is a very basic recipe which I made up as I went along and simple enough for a child to do. I can smell delicious wafts of it as I write this.
Afterwards watched Sympathy for the Devil a film by Jean-Luc Godard about the recording of the Stones song.
Decided to have a day off in this horrible weather and watch films.
Just about to watch Nightwatching, Peter Greenaway’s film about Rembrandt. I hope I don’t regret it. Well, I did regret it and had to switch off after half an hour.
I have mown paths around the apple trees and narcissi.
Listening to Rameau Les Indes Galantes.
And whilst reading Michael Longley this thought suddenly came into my head: “What clothes we used to wear!”. No idea why.
But what clothes we used to wear!
A tartan nightshirt over leggings and pixie boots.
Layers of junk shop skirts
Junk shop earrings
A pair of striped metallic silver leggings so that I looked like a young tough in a Renaissance painting
Tiny, knitted mini-skirts worn, luckily, with thick tights and flat shoes
A peculiar mustard velour miniskirt that looked like it was made from carpet
Zouaves – does anyone even remember what those are?
A gigantic tank top that must have been made for the fat man at the circus from Flip or was it Mr Howie?
A HUGE blue mohair tam-o-shanter – in payment for the first painting I ever sold
The pièce de résistance – the bottom half of some prison pyjamas, grey-and-white striped tucked into the aforementioned pixie boots under a moth-eaten old fur coat, with diamante clips in my hair – one half of my head shaved. I remember sashaying down some steps at a Hayward opening and seeing Waldemar Januszczak at the bottom slack-jawed in amazement, as well he might. I thought I was the bees knees. I’m not sure what he was thinking, nothing remotely similar I’m sure. Strangely though, I was not a confident young person but I did have a lot of bravado.
Over the winter the rain had pounded the earth into a hard crust and I was rooting about to break it up and allow the earth to breathe.
The scent of the narcissus wafted across bringing with it a sudden shock of memory. Foggy at first until I remembered the flower-shop in Hong Kong. I was seven and we were to be flower-girls for my adored Auntie Marie. She was half French and half Chinese and to me the most wonderful creature in my tiny universe. Marie was a model and was going to marry my Uncle Joe – the most glamorous couple to ever tread the earth – and being a flower-girl was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.
We had walked from home to the flower shop to choose flowers for the wedding. It was hot and stuffy and crowded on the pavement outside. As we stepped out of the heat and dust it felt like plunging with a sharp smack into a cool tank of water, the scent, fresh and green and heady and I drowned happily, my whole body engulfed. We wore pale yellow dresses for the wedding and carried baskets of pale yellow flowers – perhaps they were a type of narcissi. She was the most beautiful bride in her simple pale lace dress.
Marie and Joe went to live in California, divorced and remarried, both happily. She grew rather fat, drank a bit and took to gambling. We lost touch and she died young. I didn’t cry when she died, at the time it had felt almost like the death of a stranger. So why am I crying now as I did not then; driving through the Irish countryside in this cold spring, years and years later, far, far away from that childhood in Hong Kong, with the ghostly scent of narcissus reminding me of the long-lost girl in her pale dress.