Diary of the Plague Year: Day 57 11 May 2020: Wildflowers on my Walk

I finally issued forth on a walk today. I am not exactly a keep-fit fanatic and my vow of walking every day has flown out of the window. Since my previous walk the wildflowers are in lush profusion. The scent from the rose was heady. Walking along the verges was soft and mossy underfoot.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 56 10 May 2020: Mowing again

I feel the garden sometimes tells me what to do – whatever I decide to do, it means doing a lot with very little. It means using my imagination as I simply cannot afford to go mad buying plants. The tension between order and anarchy is something that I love and is something that occurs in my work as well as in the garden. I love the contrast between a sharply mown line and blowsy wildflowers. It feels like doing earth art, drawing in the grass. I have mown a semicircle with a wildflower bed surrounded by a path. I may plant a tree there or one of the white hydrangea cuttings I am growing in pots. I also put cardboard – to stop grass growing around the roots – around the trees and shrubs by the wall. Planning another cherry tree in the corner. And another tree by the boiler-shed.

Lots of little wildflowers are appearing as well as much more clover than last year.

Unbelievably, I need more lawn seed.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 52 6 May 2020: A fire for cheerfulness

Yes, it is the 6th of May and I have lit a fire. Really for a bit of cheer on yet another dank, dark day of rain. The upside is that my new trees will be drinking it all up and it is just what they need. I used twigs, that I had picked up from the garden, as kindling and they blazed up very nicely. Hadn’t thought of doing that before and had been putting them on the compost heap.

There is another layer of silence these days and the birdsong is very clear. Ditto, the noise of insects though, of course, not on a day like this. The meadow is also greening up nicely. It will be interesting to see what comes up.

Meanwhile, over the water, it is clear that that Boris Johnson and his band of appalling cronies has presided over a complete and utter shambles. The care home deaths are a SCANDAL and I hope there will be an investigation and an official inquiry. Saw an extract of Johnson on the news – it was pure doublespeak. He is a sinister and bad man.

In bed last night listening to the cows. They make the most peculiar noises. If someone had told me a troop of howler monkeys had escaped and were larking about outside the house I would not have been surprised.

Have decided to have an afternoon of films – The Street, followed by A Room With a View.

Just finishing Michael Holroyd’s biography of Lytton Strachey – “He had only a year to live”.

We had the second Zoom workshop for the Creative Writing class yesterday evening. My computer kept crashing, so frustrating, so had to load Zoom on my phone. Not ideal. There is some really brilliant writing from the class. This week’s assignments are either:

  1. Describe yourself as a fictional character.
  2. Describe the feeling of being wet.

We also need to write a short piece prompted by the word “flask”.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 48 2 May 2020: the death of my gardening jeans

My trusty gardening jeans have finally come to the end ….

Finished mowing the path and sowed lawn seed. Unwrapped the new cherry and pear trees. Oh dear. The roots … what a sad sight. Well, if nothing else I have learnt that gardening is sometimes the triumph of optimism over deep misgivings and stark reality. In they go. The cherry is by a sheltered spot next to the wall by the gate. The pear is in the Dingly Dell in place of my much-lamented Magnolia Laevifolia. Presently, I am on the hunt for Golden Creeping Jenny Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’. I am trying to remember the Latin names as garden centres, rather snottily sometimes, do not recognise their vulgar names.

Had Tea by Skype with D, P, S and L. All in Sussex except for me. They are planning a visit once this is all over.

Other than that had a very lazy day, cutting out cardboard circles for my trees and shrubs as anti-grass devices. Feeling daunted by the new hedge clippers.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 47 1 May 2020: On the back roads

May Day.

As it is such a beautiful day I took a roundabout route home from Clon today and stopped to photograph this house. The overgrown, secretive front gate. The birds on the gateposts are owls.

The back roads were deserted and the bluebells were blowing. Their colours vary, sometimes an intense matt lavender in the shade of trees and after rain an electric, varnished blue. You only have to look at a sunny sky and back again at bluebells to understand the impossibility of describing blue.

A magical house on the back roads

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 46 30 April 2020: Pollarding

Blessed, blessed rain. It rained all night and this morning the garden was shining and varnished with wet. I had started to tackle the far corner – it has been a mess ever since a huge tree fell during Ophelia and the stump was overgrown with a plethora of crazy branches all growing inwards and crossing. So I decided a bit of amateur pollarding was in order. There was a pile of rotten wood in the corner by the wall so I just added any other bits I found and chopped up the cut branches too. Apparently bees and other insects love it. I also trimmed two hawthorns that were horribly ingrown – I could almost feel the relief. There are some fallen slates by the wall which look as if they could provide habitats so left them where they fell.

I have also given myself some DIY pollarding – the dreaded lockdown haircut. I have lopped about six inches off and had to stop as it kept getting shorter and shorter as I tried to even it up. I find that my nails need to be kept very short too for gardening and all the scrubbing and washing of hands generally.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 41 25 April 2020: Cole slaw

I had some leftover veg in the fridge so decided to make cole slaw:

A quarter of a head of red cabbage
A head of fennel
Two carrots
One small onion
Dried dill
Greek yoghourt
Salt and pepper

Chop all the veg into small pieces, add the mayonnaise, greek yoghourt, salt, pepper and dill and hey presto a really delicious cole slaw.

Fresh dill would be better but in these straightened times ….

Apart from cooking and cleaning – I cleaned behind my fridge today and surprised a large spider who looked very at home and most put out at being disturbed – I have also started a writing course. The course has been organised by Cork County Council Arts Office and is free. Novelist Denyse Woods is running it and we have been set our first assignment. We could choose to write 200 words on either of the following:

1.  The J-cloth had seen better days …

2.  Apart from the staff, there were three other people in the library….

I chose the J-cloth naturally.

I would be interested to know if choosing an inanimate object to write about as opposed to the human is psychologically revealing in any way.  It probably means I am a psychopath, this seems to be the latest buzzword and all roads seem to lead to psychopathy these days.

Anyway, I got thoroughly carried away and ended up writing a short story in the end. Based on the J-cloth.

In other news, my lovely little Bosch strimmer died on me last autumn so in a moment of madness I ordered a new one. It is a Worx cordless strimmer and so far so good. It did a great job in the orchard and now I just need to tidy up a few overgrown corners. The only drawback is that the battery takes aeons to re-charge but on the upside you can use the same battery for all other Worx tools – very tempted to get a hedge trimmer now.  The instructions were in the usual hieroglyphics. It was like deciphering the Rosetta stone trying to work out how to put it together.

Some outstanding garden jobs:

1.  Make inventory of all plants – I have a chronic memory for plant names and so before it’s too late …

2.  Trim hedges.

3.  Cut dead brambles from back wall.

4.  Weed flower garden and plant out all pots with cuttings.

5.  Re-seed lawn and path through back meadow.

6.  Put out bird bath.

7.  Create insect log hotel.

8.  Clear outside perimeter wall.

The meadow was the main task and now that is out of the way …



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 35 19 April 2020: the Hobbit house under the hill

Afterwards went to my friend J’s to get some veg.

J lives in a magical spot in what I always think of as a Hobbit house under the hill.  It is very protected from the wind so moss and ferns grow in profusion.

Depending on the season I get lettuce, leeks, chard, tomatoes, courgettes, parsley, kale or  mixed leaves. I can honestly say it’s the most delicious veg I have ever tasted and all organically produced.

Today it was chard and mixed leaves.



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 29 13 April 2020: Rock cakes

A wild and windy night, rain.

Woke up to the sun with the wind rollicking around the house.

Went to get petrol and deliver soup and Panadol to B and to discuss our plans.

Came back to post my poem.  An illicit meeting with R who arrived with rock cakes from Hurley’s Garage Shop, very welcome.  We had a little tour round the garden – R’s enthusiasm very infectious.  Plans for a pond and a hawthorn fairy fort.

We decided the present situation is like going back in time when hardly anyone would have had cars and would have walked/cycled/bussed everywhere and that our isolated existence, when we are actually getting to meet our neighbours out walking and chatting over the garden wall, is very like the old days.

I am actually breathing a huge sigh of relief.  My working life up till now has been one of scrabbling about/having to shift/keeping my studio going on a pittance/doing part-time jobs I loathed in order to keep going/worrying incessantly about money/having to give up the studio eventually/leaving my beloved garden to move to house where I could live and work. Now that I cannot work and am not feeling under pressure to get a job I feel I have shifted down a gear and have time for the necessary daydreaming and drifting about that is so necessary …. given the horrible time so many people are having it seems wrong but there it is.

Paradoxically I have been watching Call My Agent set in Paris pre-Covid, chronicling the histrionic day-to-day business of a theatrical agency. I love it, it’s hilarious full of French stars doing cameos and obviously having the time of their lives, Natalie Baye! Cecile de France! and it is so gloriously urban. The first thing I am going to do when this is all over is take the ferry to Roscoff and the train for Paris, sit in a cafe and then lunch at Le Chartier.

Spent the afternoon writing an application for Arts Council funding. It would be interesting to do a project based on postcards. Am working on it.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 27 11 April 2020: Red Cabbage

Meet Dutch – I drive into Clon every Friday to pick up my veg box. The fruit and veg is all organic and delicious.

Today I am cooking red cabbage to go with the last of my lamb stew.

  1.  Chop I red onion.
  2.  Fry in butter and olive oil until caramelized.
  3.  Chop about a third of a red cabbage.
  4.  Add to onion.
  5.  Splosh in some cider vinger.
  6.  Add a teaspoon of honey, two crushed garlic cloves, a bayleaf and some thyme.
  7.  If necessary splosh in some water.
  8.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

I will be interested to see what this is like – adapted from an online recipe.

Clon was like a ghost-town on Friday. I took some pics of some of the shops and Emmet Square where there is usually a busy market.