Up and running once more

Bright, crisp and clear February morning in Derbyshire. I have shaken off the winter sloth and resumed my story telling! Sorry to my few friends who were following the blog before and wondered what became of me,  and welcome to any new folk!

To bring you up to date, my mother’s sudden death in August last year changed the landscape to such an extent that it took until Christmas to sort everything out.  I also travelled to California, Utah and Wyoming in September, and then the Christmas concert season was upon us.  David and I have just had a week’s break in Madeira to celebrate my 60th birthday- and I am soon to make a trip down to Uruguay to visit Chris who is still working there.  I have written to myself  some stuff about losing my mother, and rethinking through our long and complicated relationship.  The overall sense was that at last she is at peace.   Suffice it to say here that the sudden gust of free time and renewed sense of self her passing gave me  is making me ponder what to do next! 

The cold snap has put aside my good intentions of finishing the winter digging on the allotment. The ground is hard as ice, – well it is full of ice!  waiting for the Zephyrs to take over and bring in some Spring balm.     I have some stories from Madeira which may appear soon.   But, we are definitely back in action!

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Big Marrows

Bakewell Organic Garden members came on an evening visit to our allotment and garden on Tuesday evening. Very pleasant people, several with beards, enjoyed a ginger beer with me in our hut and looked round the various enterprises. Jayne’s side of the plot was absolutely wonderfully tidy as she and Linda had spent all of Sunday clearing out every weed. Mine was a verdant jungle as I have been in London so much, and had my last all-day session there on Monday, but at least I had loads of things growing.  Jayne never appeared, but several were very interested in her bee hive so she would have enjoyed talking to them if she had.  They are starting a new bee club in Grindleford, only three miles from us. I must chase up Jayne. 

 It is our annual flower and vegetable show at Chatsworth on Saturday. I am not at all optimistic. For example, I put in for onions over 8oz and only have two that size, where you need three, the potatoes have a funny scabby thing on each one, and my marrows are bendy.   But at least they are big. Growing a big marrow is the least skillful thing in horticulture. I bet other people’s are bigger though.

We have a large experienced hen who is raising three tiny late chicks. When David went to close them up for the night it was obvious she had been in serious battle with something as her feathers were all over the pen.  Sparrow hawk?  Stoat?  But all three babies were safe, so she must have won the dust-up. Good for her.  Power of motherhood triumphs again.  (see last post)

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Small Stitches

Years ago I took a holiday in Georgia (USA, not Caucacus), and walked round the museum exhibition which was there  about the Civil War (American not English!). The most poignant exhibit there, and one of the most affecting I have ever seen, was the small uniform of a Confederate boy soldier, who had been wounded at least, maybe killed, as the blood stains were still on the clothes. His shirt had been hand sewn with little neat stitches all round the neck and cuffs. Who by?  His mother I am sure. Such love. Such pain.  Oh motherhood.  I expect he was so excited to be going off to war . . .

On  a lighter note, my friend Catherine told me her son managed to get the two As and a B he needs to go to Manchester University to study areonautical engineering. “I can’t think why you’re so worked up Mum, ” he said, “It’s nothing to do with you!”   Was ever a statement so untrue. The poor woman conceived, carried, gave birth to, fed and cared for this ungrateful male for eighteen long and arduous years, forced him to do his homework, sat up to 3 am to make sure he staggered home in  one piece from countless parties, advised him on how to do the million things one needs in order to survive adolescence. 

Now he is going off to study rocket science.  There is a big parable here for us mothers. If you want appreciation, keep a dog I say.

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Garden gate news

Sorry gentle readers for a summer hiatus in the posts. I have been tunneling through a pile of work assessing and writing about the world’s children, and like mole, only occasionally make it to the surface!  But from next week my deadlines should all be completed and I can return to writing more about picking beans.  I have two more trips to London this week and next and then – freedom!

The runner beans are coming through nicely now. We at them for lunch yesterday, along with cauliflowers, and the end of the peas and broad beans. Courgettes and marrows are tumbling out of every corner, and I have started picking tomatoes in the green house. The raspberries are rather like manna, one bowl a day, enough to eat but not to make jam.  Despite the essentially really dry summer, things have grown well this year.  – Oh and my sweetpeas are finally in abundance, –  they took their time but made it in the end.

We have Lucy staying with us while Tim and Clare have gone to Santorini for a week, so the house resembles a kennel of wild dogs, who rush around  all the time. Three seems to be a much more ganglike number than two.  Thank goodness we have a huge garden for them to play in.  

Two hens have hatched out little late clutches of eggs, which is nice, but will probably produce yet more young cockerels.  There seems to be a very nasty plague affecting garden birds down south, with huge tumours growing out of them. Hope and pray that it does not spread up here.

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Happy Days

A little bit of heaven in the allotment today.  made up of fragments of satisfaction, including;

sitting with Jayne in the summerhouse while I explain to her that a mars bar is really all from  plants and can be included in one’s five a day vegetables. (I will explain later if necessary!)

Digging up fresh round white and red potatoes ready for lunch, and finding enough peas and late broadbeans to go with them. 

talking to the little black cat who has come to join us there.

being presented with the first peach from Jayne’s peach tree, smelling its skin, and swopping it for a few spuds. – what a deal!  I can’t believe this little tree has come through the worst winter on record and is now giving us fruit. – well two at least – there is a second peach coming along behind!  We now have to wait for the grapevine to deliver.  There is a wonderful quote from someone which goes, “Those who believe that all fruits ripen at the same time as strawberries know nothing about grapes.”  The best can sometimes be trusted to be left till last.  

My work at Comic Relief has been extended for another three weeks, so August won’t be the summer break I expected, but hey ho. we all like to be needed.  I am planning a break out in September.

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Volunteer Army

They are cutting back our regular armed forces and relying more on territorial army reservists. One rationale for this is that the US army and European forces makes for more use of part-time reservists than we do. The Israeli army has a whole nation of post conscript reservists constantly at the ready to return to the fight.   The idea is to give more training and equipment to the TA , but I think it will further militarise our national thinking and public policy, not soften it. 

Apart from many other misgivings, this made me think more about the nature of attachment and commitment, and how it will diffuse or under emphasise the extreme nature of soldiering in its effect on the psyche. Post traumatic stress and suicide among ex soldiers remain at an unprecedented high. Not only might you suffer irreperable damage to body, but your brains, nervous system and emotions can be fatally scrambled by active duty. 

Can someone sustain the adrenalin levels needed to become a hired killer, in and out of civilian normality?  Are we natural fighters and killers, so switching into attack mode is relatively easy, or is it a matter of turning off natural pro-human kindness and gentleness and reluctance to shoot someone’s  guts out?    Violence is so atavistic and hormonal, but it can also be a controlled stream of venom. It has become institutionised by politics for centuries.   Thinking about this is very heavy on the head and heart.   People have died in Oslo over the last twenty four hours, through a car bomb and gun attack.  I watch the pictures while eating my wheaty-bang breakfast, and pray for their parents.

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Layer cakes

I have come to a small degree of self knowledge over the years and realise that one of my traits is to triple layer my cakes. If I have one heavy project on the go, requiring maximum mental concentration, then my immediate response is to balance another equally knotty problem on top of it, and with miminum encouragement, when sleepless nights beckon, balance another on top of that.

So at the moment I have the £million pound seven partner assessment to complete by early August, compounded by a second one , of similar size. I then have the final weeks’ work of my sabbatical cover job to complete, and tidy up, with several pieces of work involved. Then I have promised to complete editing David’s book on God, and have just decided to forge ahead to write a screen play/ first episode treatment for a TV series on the aid business!

My bossy brain is so much too big for my little boots that it is hilarious.  In the meantime I am catching up with my dear little blog. You, sweetie are my solace and side salad, in more ways than one.   Sunny Saturday morning here- singing at a wedding later, and shelling broad beans.  I am a firm believer in the adage. “Before enlightenment- chopping wood. After enlightenment- chopping wood.”  Our latest buzz word in the upper echelons of coping with global misery is “granularity”. It’s good to slip it into conversations if at all possible.    Well, the broad beans are the granularity in my life. Good for them.

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