Thursday, February 23, 2012


Well, here I am into the third whole day of nine days of solitude - excepting Mol of course.  Tom has finally given in to the pressures, or rather incentives, of the rapprochement * with his eldest daughter and the need to replace his glasses and hearing aids (which are significantly cheaper in Britain than here, and eye tests to be had more promptly) to submit himself to the tender offices of Ʀγᶏἠªוᴚ (that was fun with the character map, one has to do such things or get spammed by rival airlines, that is if they can get past Blogger's diabolical new captchas...)  and head to the UK for a visit, leaving me in sole possession of hearth home and dog.

It needs perhaps to be explained that we no longer travel anywhere together without Mol.  We used to, and left her with G&W who we got her from, and where her mother, aunt and other extended dog family lived. Five years ago we took a five week trip to New Zealand and Australia, and though she was OK, brave and good and well-enough looked-after, it was tough going, for all of us, and we vowed after that we wouldn't leave her again.  The first time after that when we went away for a short trip within Brittany and took her with us, when she saw the suitcases being readied she grew sullen and depressed and only cheered up some time after we arrived and it was clear we were all staying together.  Since then, her mother and aunt have died, and  with her chronic ear problems and general ageing, we certainly wouldn't leave her again.  So we take our holidays in dog-friendly places in France and travel back to the UK for short trips individually.  I do this from time to time, Tom's only done so once before, so I'm glad he's been persuaded now.

He has to stay nine full days to await the making of his hearing pieces, which he was terribly loathe to do, but I have the impression now he's there he is enjoying himself rather a lot, strolling along the Thames Embankment and reacquainting himself with his old London stomping grounds on a huge sightseeing trip with my lovely sister (who has charge of him for part of the time), eating in pubs, fish and chip shops and curry houses, but most of all functioning as an independent adult without need of my facilitating/translating/interpreting services.

I have no real commitments this week at all, no coaching, yoga, nothing much, so I am enjoying a kind of home-based retreat, mostly bound only by the daily structure maintained and observed by Mol, who likes to get up, go to bed and have her meals within normally established parameters.  She's rather quiet, occasionally goes out and looks at the drive, when we get back from walks she runs in rather hopefully, and when she jumps up on the bed in the mornings she rushes to his pillow and barks, but she doesn't mope.

I've found playing with her a bit rumbustiously cheers her up.  We chucked out most of her old toys as she was never a great one for games of fetching and tugging, and it as she got older she lost interest more and more, but then K, Tom's daughter, brought her over a knotted rope toy last time she came, which Mol played with politely for a few minutes then carried off to her beanbag, but she likes K very much and the toy seems to be a happy thing for her, so we've been playing with it a bit.

So we've been doing all right.  Time is doing that funny thing it does when one is unaccustomedly alone of stretching and morphing, for better or worse, largely I'm ensuring it's for better.  I am using the opportunity to eat things I like such as as grilled cheese and French sausages and boudin noir, which not only does Tom not like but finds the smell and sight of fairly repellent - and mostly I thank him for that as they aren't of the healthiest so he's saving me from myself - and I'm getting through  Anna Karenina at an alarming rate - for some inexplicable reason I have reached 50 without ever having read Anna Karenina, which regrettable fact brings with it the delightful corollary that at 50 I am discovering Anna Karenina for the first time - I have the Bergman and Charlie Kaufman DVDs lined up for later, and I am working my way through the CDs of Beethoven string quartets which I dear friend sent me, since I said I had been putting off getting to know them until I was grown-up, which quite rightly it was obliquely pointed out to me, was as no time so much as the present.  And of course, as with Anna Karenina, I'm asking myself what took me so long.

Of course, there's no reason why I can't do any of these things with Tom around, but temporary solitude does tend to be a spur to worthy endeavour. Last time I was away, Tom dismantled and unblocked the kitchen sinks, I can't promise to do anything that worthy...

What I have been doing though, as well as snuggling down with Molly and AK and Beethoven and a lot of smelly and grisly cheese and charcuterie, is a lot of gardening.  It is early spring here now, and no mistake, and I only have to put my nose out of the door to get a dose of oomph to get me out and digging.  I've been resurrecting the raised beds.

Working on them afresh has brought home to me just how much these constructions represent a colossal initial outlay of labour on Tom's part some years ago: building them, double digging, digging in compost and carting more topsoil from other parts of the garden, which probably explains, among other reasons, why he has a ruptured tendon in his shoulder now.  For some years we grew a lot of vegetables in them of all kinds, but in the last couple of years we've rather abandoned them.  Not quite sure why; the structures began to deteriorate, it was considered that perhaps the whole garden needed a rethink, perhaps we just lost interest in home grown produce for a bit.  I sowed them with phacelia, which I then dug in, covered them with heavy black plastic and they were put on hold.

In the last year or two though, growing our own has undergone something of a revival, with fresh herbs, then people gave us spare artichoke plants and potatoes that could be sown if they sprouted before we ate them all, and we've slowly started to uncover and patch up the raised beds.  This year, with more time to myself and new enthusiasm, I'm buying plants and seeds - peas and beans, pink and tree onions, pumpkins and mesclun and rhubarb and red and white currant bushes, and reclaiming yet more growing space.

It's a case of make-do-and-mend; no major demolitions or grand new carpentry projects, just some whittled stakes from last year's hedge cutting, a bit of lashing, 

and some of the old, endlessly useful, fibre roof tiles banged in to hold up the sides and keep the soil from falling out between the gaps, and hopefully the beds will be good for a few years yet.

And of course, quite a lot more digging, and hefting of compost, but with the initial work having been done so thoroughly, that's not onerous.

And then there's the matter of the compost, and I've got others working on that.

I'm in love with annelida... OK, they aren't everyone's idea of gorgeous but if you are a composting gardener, or an angler, or a garden robin, you'll get excited by these: brandlings, tiger worms.  Not your ordinary sluggish big fat mauve earthworms, but the really top-of-the-range, humus-is-us, sporting model worm.  And our compost bin is full of them, the wiggly, wriggly little darlings.  We once bought a wormery, a big plastic compost bin with a tap on from a specialist supplier in England, with a batch of these.  It never worked, conditions weren't right; batch after batch of the worms just died and left an oozing festering mess.  Now they've arrived and are working away quite of their own accord.  I try to make sure I don't chop them with the spade and put as many as I can back into the bin, as they don't really care for working in ordinary soil, but prefer converting neat vegetable matter into compost.

Anyway, I suppose you might want to see something more conventionally pretty in the garden, and there are a few things,

like crocuses.  Not too many, and only the mauve ones seem to do well.  Fortunately there are the hellebores.  I'm aware I photograph and post these every year, but they are such a joy, and we have acquired one or two new ones this last year or so, the pink and white ones, and the more wine red one is the best it's been.


 *relatively speaking, there was never any falling out, she is too gentle and loving and good-mannered for that, and no reason for any anyway, but a bit of drifting and unintended distance.


christopher said...

I love this post. Thank you for sharing as you do. I am actually holding back a little as I write this.

As far as captcha is concerned, I dislike it because sometimes I can't decipher it. Then I feel like I am being accused of being a robot. That offends me. Sometimes I get into a continuous loop and even when I think I get it right captcha says I didn't. Hissssssss.

Tom said...

Well done! Wonderful! I'll not say least not here.

Fire Bird said...

lovely hellebores. enjoy your solitude!

marja-leena said...

Lovely post and gorgeosu photos - your garden is way ahead of mine. And I envy your many raised vegetable beds. Our yard has too much shade.

And the solitude is wonderful, for a while, though I usually miss Him most in the evenings when he's away.

That captcha is indeed terrible, I feel like i'm losing my vision.

Rouchswalwe said...

I feel hugged after reading this post. Just the other day, I was thinking about how I've lost touch with gardening now that I live in the city. No community garden and the green space around the building is limited. Perhaps I'll grab my little shovel anyway and work some tiger lily bulbs into the edge of the parking lot. The landlord will never know how they got there ...

Tom! Please drink an English Ale for me!

herhimnbryn said...

That felt like a long letter from a friend, thankyou.

I to hate the new word veri thingy. It takes ages to work it out( even with my specs on) and then I have to repeat the whole thing!

Zhoen said...

You inspire me. But you knew that.

I do love a few days to dance to my own rhythms, even though I miss D terribly.

Roderick Robinson said...

We are parted rarely but when we are the house has a different acoustic, as if it had lost its ability to resonate. Very occasionally, and not for half a decade now, I have watched a movie (typically American B-feature gangsters) which I know she would have hated. I also go to bed later and sometimes eat inordinate numbers of cream crackers, spread simply with butter. The dullest foodstuff known to mankind.

The longest absence occurs in December when she and Occasional Speeder visit a Christmas market, usually in Germany. Often she urges me to come with her saying I would enjoy it. I'm sure I would but I don't for two reasons: the minute-to-minue responsibilities would become mine and she would be denied the slightly breathless account of small problems solved that she clearly relishes once it's all over. You'll have that pleasure to look forward to, despite any texting and/or phoning, as Tom recalls more obscure, minor matters which didn't seem worth mentioning at the time.

Re. Anna K. By now you must be in a very happy position. A long period of postponement followed by a delightfully "virtuous" discovery that this is easily the most accessible of all the Russian door-stoppers. Also, that had the novel been titled accurately it would not have been called Anna, Vronsky and Levln but Levin, Anna and Vronsky. For Levin is surely one of the most rounded characters in literature and is there to provide the believable counterbalance against the lovers.

Is there a chunk missing from your post? Ah, no, an asterisk link many metres away from its original appearance. Mol would have been safe in Levin's hands.

Tom said...

Rouchswalwe, I have every intention of so do today. I'll be thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

So, so lovely, every bit of it. I'm on a sojourn myself, alone too, and the wide open spaces of time can be a little intimidating. So I take heart from this post. And the beautiful photos remind me that spring is not far off in the northlands where I live.
- alison

the polish chick said...

even in the loveliest of marriages a little time away is nice. and i understand the coziness of enjoying your peaceful solitude. mr. monkey went away for a week twice in the last few months and i couldn't forgive him for each time picking a week in which i worked far more than usual, being therefore unable to truly enjoy my solitude.

and your spring, oh your spring! after an abnormally mild winter, we have now been pummelled with snow just as march is peeking around the corner. being a good (although very much lapsed) catholic, i feel like it is our penance for a winter spent mostly on the good side of freezing.

your photos are beautiful, as always.

Unknown said...

The sight of that newly turned soil is good for the soul. I have quite a lot of it now ready for sowing and rarely if ever been so far ahead.
Crocuses re not easy to make interesting in a photograph. By looking straight down on them you have succeed where most fail.

Catalyst said...

I love those crocuses. Took me back to my boyhood in North Dakota where they were always the harbingers of spring.

HKatz said...

I love the look of those worms. After it rains hard here I like to look out for them so as not to inadvertently step on one - but these are rather nice to look at. Also love the photos of the new flowers.

You're making good use of your more solitary time. Your dog is certainly a good companion.

About Anna Karenina, I read it when I was a teenager, but at some point I plan to reread it again, because I for sure will appreciate it more.

Beth said...

Lucy, glad to hear you are enjoying and making use of your rare solitude. Thisd will be my year for hellebores: your gorgeous photos have convinced me!

Sheila said...

Oh, Lucy! Sigh of content, sigh of content, another long sigh of contentment!

And I'll have to be content with looking at and thinking of your lovely gardening adventures, it seems, as my time continues to be taken up by other activities. The most gardening I've done this week is cutting some daffodils to bring in and place in a vase.

Thank you for sharing all this. It's just lovely.

Lucas said...

A very enjoyable post. I can't remember who I am quoting from byt it reminds me of "The universe lies by the garden path..."
Your flower pictures are so outstanding they take my breath away. Today I was looking at crosuses in the park and you have caught their yellow centres and luminous pettles so perfectly! Many thanks.
Also I have found a great search engine called Ixquick, which works like lightening, and also doesn't store info on its users.

Meggie said...

Lucy, what a very splendid and beautiful post! Loved seeing Molly, so well and happy. Your news of your garden, makes me slightly not my thumbs!

Lucas said...

Also want to say how much I enjoyed the Handbook for Explorers in its new three dimensional format. It is a beautiful book to pick up and read, in fact I couldn't stop reading it until I got to the end. I think the subtlety of the colour photographs and the way that they interweave with the text is crucial to the success of the project. B & W might work as you implied in earlier post. For me, it is the way the photos work subliminally, now calling you to go into them, now directing you to the poems, all without any overt obviousness. I was really affected by this and also realise that it is a very difficult yet worthwhile thing to realise pictures and words together. I don't think it matters which come first: the words or the pictures. The evocatation of time and place works very well in the current colour photos and full poems, and even though Blurb books are quite expensive, they do represent high quality, as you yourself have said. It is a book which looks, feels and is a real book. Is Blurb a form of publishing, and if so how does it differ from traditional forms? Discuss.

marly youmans said...

"Sport worms": really like that!

Hellebores are lovely. We just had a Snow Day, but today we have sunshine and the windows are cracked open in the bedroom.

Have a wonderful time in semi-solitary with Mol. It is good to have a retreat now and then.

Pam said...

The very thought of becoming distant from my daughters makes me feel weak. I'm so glad he's gone to see her.

I wonder if Tom would like to come and minister to our slightly slow-draining sink while he's in Britain...