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.