Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chatting to my blog

That's what I should do more of, in the way that I used to write letters of old, rather than aspiring and failing to say or show anything original or self-consciously beautiful or structured or important.  In fact the blogs I read that continue and continue to be enjoyable are possibly, I think, by the people who are least concerned with any sense of their own importance, and just do it anyway, without it claiming too much of their own or other people's time and energy.  The tendency of my memory to go into holes troubles me somewhat, here as elsewhere ; I often do think of or see things which I think would be worth putting on here, but by the time I come to sit down with the computer, they have completely evaporated.  Carry a notebook, of course, and remember to the use it.  I don't how people manage to tweet all the time; I suppose they carry mobile devices, and remember to use them.  I lurk on Twitter enough to know that much of what people say there is drivel, but sometimes it's not, but witty and creative.  


Sunday afternoon and I took myself off to Viscomica's place to see puppets, with Iso and Princeling.  We had understand it was a Guignol show, the seeing of which is one of those things in my bucket list (being very backward, I've only recently learned of this expression, though I've had one for a long time), not an important thing it's true, but one of those easily accomplished things. It turned out to be Polichinelle, a French version of Pulcinella, and a kind of  forerunner of both Guignol and Punch and Judy.  The puppets were beautifully made but there weren't many of them, the story was insubstantial, too long for children and too simple and repetitive for adults, and too samey for both, and everyone grew bored before the very charming, faun-like young man whose show it was even embarked on his lecture on the history and etymology of the genre.

But it didn't matter, because the main thing was it was one of those glorious early spring days that take you by surprise, every time, when the low warm sun makes everything flat and pearly, and we sat outside on the grass before and after, and with the change in the hour - not a thing I usually feel very merry about - we did so until quite late in the day.  Last time I saw Princeling and his mum back in the winter he was having a bad day and I was grumpy and critical and interfering, and the memory of it was sour, but he raced round and beat on the car door as I pulled in, hugged me cheerfully, and then there was a small troupe of sturdy, friendly children for him to play with, and best of all a fabulous big old gentle dog, who should have been Nana in Peter Pan and who could catch and manoeuvre a large squashy football between its paws time and again, never letting it roll towards the drive where the cars were occasionally passing.  Sun and spring worked into us and loosened up the stiff places, the boy rolled around and got covered in grass cuttings so he looked like a green shaggy monster, there was a bar with beer and apple juice,and we relaxed and enjoyed each other's company.  We'll get to see Guignol another time.


Another thing, which hardly quite constitutes a placing on the to-do-before-I-die list but which I've been meaning to try for a while,

violet syrup. I was wondering in fact about the alcoholic version, crème de violette, which you come across occasionally, offered as an alternative to crème de cassis in kir and suchlike.  Flower flavours - elderflower, rose, limeflower, orange blossom etc always intrigue me, and the colour of this stuff was especially beguiling, but I have an abiding memory of buying Parma violet sweets as a child, expecting them to be like sherbet or  Refreshers, and being disgusted with them as tasting like soap or talcum powder.  So I thought before shelling out on the boozy stuff I'd try the cheaper non-alcoholic syrup first.  The colour is weird, and does look a little like methylated spirits, but is very appealing all the same, so unusual and delicate.  The flavour? Hmm, still a bit scenty, and improved by the acidity of a slice of lemon, which also adds a wacky bit of lurid complementery colour.  It is rather nice, and goes oddly well with sheep's milk cheese and winter's sweet pickled figs.


The beeswax candle in the glass candle jar goes into meltdown.  'Quick, before it goes out!' says Tom.


Nuccio's Pearl.  This camellia, only planted last year, is flowering quite late, but that's all right.


I saw the first swallow a week or so ago, crossing the field below the house.  I waved to it but saw no more.

Today, sitting out in the warm sun, my hands rough and scratched from dry soil and weeding, I heard a 'kee-wik, kee-wik' overhead, and for a moment I barely noticed it, the combination of summer sensations seemed so normal.  Then I remembered there were no leaves on the trees yet, and it the only flowers were daffodils and hellebores and the brick-red wallflowers,  for the sake of whose spicy perfume, as much as the sunshine, I've been snatching all the time I can to sit outside.

Now the swallows, are clearly back in earnest.  The one above was singing on the old TV ariel, and preening his magnificent tail forks, which have seen him all the way from Africa.  


In the same spot, in the pitted and uneven soil where the old grease trap used to be, a number of wild bees are nesting, and taking advantage of the wallflowers.  A huge black-and-white-and-orange-jerseyed bumble bee, its legs clad with heavy pollen sacs, buzzes in to its home.  It seems to have trouble sometimes finding the entrance, but once it has disappeared underground it is often there for a long time.  Its food-collecting absences are also lengthy.  Though I am sitting very close to the nest sites the bees show no concern or aggression.  Other bees in the same spot are a small amber orange bumble-type bee, and another like a large honey bee, liberally dusted with bright golden yellow, whether pollen or its own colouring I'm not sure.  If you see a two types of bee going into the same hole one after another, there's a strong possibility they're klepto-parasites.


Planted the window boxes with orange ranunculus, white double daisies and pansies like big blue ink blots. 

Peas are putting their heads up above ground, the herbs - mint and marjoram, lovage, sweet cicely, chives and fennel - are throwing shoots lustily.  Odds and ends in the cold frame, but I am always slack about writing labels, and now I can't tell my nasturtiums from my sunflowers, as I can't always tell my marmalade from my chutney.  Ah well, the proof of the pudding...


Enjoying EM Forster out-of-copyright (mostly) on the Kindle.

We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it's no good moving from place to place to save things, because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you're worth, facing the sunshine.

(A Room with a View)



HLiza said...

You really have green fingers..which had always been a thing I'm not..and always make me envious! I have to work out on my planting skills..hehe. Don't worry about the blogging had so far written fascinating stuffs here, letting us to peep into your daily world. I do hope I can do more of that if time permits one day rather than typing one or two lines and adding pics so that the space doesn't look so boring! Hugs to you Lucy..sorry I hardly visit nowadays..

Zhoen said...

Funny, I started blogging as letters to a friend. Long essays, stream of consciousness, and I often in the middle remembered thongs I'd forgotten to say.

Gorgeous colors.

Zhoen said...


I have a cat on my lap, so I'm using one hand here.

Lucy said...

Thanks both.

Hliza - lovely to see you whenever, I know how busy you are, and I don't get around as much as I did. I'm afraid it's the garden centre has the green fingers, I just buy them and stick them in the window box! I think quick blogs with a few pictures little and often are a nice way to go anyway, and probably what I ought to try to do more of.

Z - I rather liked 'thongs'. Thanks Moby. I have to do that with a dog on my lap often.

Roderick Robinson said...

The war affected my beginnings as a reader; aged ten when it ended I found myself reading rubbishy stuff (whodunnits mostly) that belonged to another era since it took time for the post-war publishing industry to get up to speed. As a result my early vocabulary was littered with outdated terms. Notably parma violets. In books from the thirties, now forgotten, villains included people who drank and guess what they sucked to cover up their crime. I had no idea they'd survived post-war. What interests me now is the accidental complicity those forgotten authors invited; phrases like parma violets weren't explained because everyone (that is, contemporary thirties readers) knew what they were. And thus I became part of a strange anachronistic elite. or thought I did until you fractured my time warp.

Out of copyright delights on the Kindle. Just finished Willa Cather's My Antonia, which doesn't seem to get much attention from the chattering classes these days. A very detailed account of late eighteenth farming life among the immigrant communities in Nebraska. And if that summary doesn't turn you off, let me repeat it's the detail that counts.

The quote becomes echt Forster via the addition of "for all you're worth". He had a habit of using iodiomatic phrases like that which leavened his otherwise lapidary tendencies.

Fire Bird said...

I enjoyed this nice chat

tristan said...

anomalous swallow sighting of yore ... i think it was in may 1967 ... flying through heavy snow at malmesbury

Rouchswalwe said...

I am struggling a bit, here in my first inner-city spring, in noticing the signs ... I saw two geese fly overhead on my lunch break today. Haven't noticed any swallows, so it is with joy in my heart that I view your photos, sweet Lucy. So happy to read that you're working your way towards the Creme de Violette! Taste some and then make a nice cocktail with some quality gin and a spritz of lemon and an orange slice.

Dick said...

I'm not chatting to my blog enough either and I'm not chatting to my friends' blogs nearly enough. Not when I know there will be riches to find.

The violet syrup looks just like meths! Beguiling, though. I think they do it in Waitrose. I'll have to give it a try.

Your swallows appear to be seated on very well stocked gun emplacements. Nobody messes with the Kemptons!

Such glorious pictures of what's happening outside your house. Time to re-enter the wilderness that is our garden to prepare for spring.

Unknown said...

That violet drink brought back memories of rather an odd sort. The colour used to evoke the sort of poison that featured in fairy tales. So that when I received. aged 4, a box of chocolates as a misguided birthday present, and was allowed one after meals, I threw those containing violet cream aways, because I was convinced that a wicked witch had laced them with poison. My Mother found them among the roses beneath the window, and never truly fathomed which I had thrown them there. I simply said that I didn't like them.

zephyr said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this springy post. Especially loved the portion about your Princeling.

Catalyst said...

I love your camellia, as well as the orange ranculus. And pansies are always wonderful, like petunias.

marly youmans said...

Rather sad to think of the faun not knowing quite why his work is not pleasing... And I wonder if it would have been, in its own time, and we have outgrown such things.

Lucy said...

And again thanks.

LdP - Oddly the main place I remember parma violets being on sale was at our local outdoor swimming pool sweetshop, don't know why. I remember My Antonia as an early Virago edition, didn't know it was so old as to be out of copyright. The only Forster I'd ever read was that rather soppy bit if gay wishful thinking 'Maurice', which was around somewhere I was working, though I'd seen various film adaptations. I started with Howards End after reading Zadie Smith's 'On Beauty', because that's modelled on it. I'm glad in fact I read OB first as if I'd already known HE, the former, which I enjoyed, would have irritated me, I think. He is pleasingly aphoristic. That quote is dialogue, and the voice of a rather green, intense and possibly sententious young man, but I liked it anyway.

FB - you probably received more or my chatty letters than anyone!

Tristan - I saw a lone and battered swallow here late last November. It wasn't snowing though.

R - not a gin drinker, I'm afraid, but the orange slice sounds interesting, there are some pretty sounding cocktails that require it. Our swallows' migration patterns may differ from yours, they are different, though similar, species.

Dick - they're just little prongs on the old tv aeriel, but I see what you mean! Spring came early this year, and I rather stole a march, (or a March!) on myself...

Plutarch - yes, it's a bit too much like blue food isn't it?

Zephyr - thanks, we had a nice time.

Cat - yes, for a while I though pansies, like petunias, were a bit insipid and formulaic, but I've come to value their brightness and come-again vigour. The ranunculus won't last so long, but they're inexpensive and so dramatic, and I love that they're kind of souped-up buttercups!

Marly - oh, you make me feel churlish! It wasn't unpleasing, the children laughed plenty at the daft bits, especially early on, and audiences hereabouts are not spoiled and are polite and appreciative, so he didn't obviously get a poor reception. He'd toured around the world with it and gained awards, so he wasn't suffering from lack of applause. He might have done better to give us the lecture first while we were still fresh and curious and the kids on good behaviour and patient. One of the problems may be, as with a Punch and Judy, that it's a sweet and sanitised compared to what it was originally. But even modern Punch and Judy usually has a lot of characters and quite a long narrative with a few twists and turns, and perhaps Polichinelle story needed to develop and evolve to stay alive, as you suggest.

HKatz said...

I like the pale violet shade of liquid in the glass, followed by burning beeswax in glass. There's a whole spectrum of colors in this post, in the photos and text.

I admire how you can calmly work alongside bees. I've never been able to do that. It's one reason it's difficult for me once the weather gets warm to sit on a bench in the park and read. I'm too uneasy around them.

the polish chick said...

as always, i'm envious of your spring. we just spent a week in vancouver where they have such a beast, and not until may like ours, and i have great need of green and growing things but, alas, must wait.

that quote, my god, it is brilliant. and it makes me realise that i have never actually read the book but only seen the film, many years ago.