Sunday 29 May 2011

The pace of space

In these digital days and download nights, it’s easy to get lost in the information overload and the need for speed.  Answers come as quickly as dexterous fingers can text but understanding takes a lot longer.

So after a roller coaster week of truculence, turbulent emotions and time wasting, all carried out at a lightening pace it was good to get home, though as one never not to wear problems like a tight fitting concrete overcoat with matching cement scarf, it took me along time to disrobe.

The calming effects of the garden were slow to work their usual magic on my neurosis due to the weather driven insanity that still seems to be prevailing there.

Instead of viewing this early flowering of some of the flora as blessing I was struggling not to see it as summer rushing towards me like a runaway train dragging autumn and winter in its wake.

The lupins, as already documented have been way to lively, sticking there heads up like flaming torches and living their short flowering lives as if on fast forward, meaning I’ve already been deadheading them like some crazed executioner.

The poppies have emerged from their alien heads at least two weeks early in giant explosions of orange paper, while I still wait dutifully for the chance to clear away the remains of the daffodils.

I have some frankly quite alarming garden potency issues; the foxgloves are standing tall, while in contrast I have an embarrassing case of flower flop in the wild border. This inferiority complex isn’t being helped by the Chelsea Flower show being on the telly everynight with all it’s beauty and smug professionals kicking topsoil in my face.

In such times of wobbles and woes I find a walk across the fields helps to calm the nerves and bolster the resolve, so with my mind jangling with nervous pointy issues I set out with the best intentions to power walk my worries away. This mental mercy dash was cut short by accidentally running into the Railway Tavern at high speed.

So with the assistance of a pint or two my feelings were realised and released letting my mind drift in a childhood direction, I thought how this very pub that I sat in, is a place that has always featured in both the village and my family’s life.

Obviously too young to know or appreciate the drinking delights and so understand the reverence that the Tavern had for adults, it still held a fondness in our hearts as kids.

In the days after the shop closed it served as a place to get childhood essentials, crisps, sweets and pop, with the best thing about it being, you didn’t need to involve the adults at all because in those days you were paid to recycle.

We would search the village for clear gold, empty pop bottles that could be returned to the pub during the day to get money back. We would deliver armfuls of these empties, receiving payment like a reward even though our intentions were never really altruistic at all.

So feeling suitably pleased with ourselves and with pockets full of sweet and salty delights, we would tight rope walk the old wooden fence that ringed the meadow back into the village to one of our many hideaways to feast.

Mum and dad carried on using the Tavern even after we moved, which was good for me, as I would get to go with them back to Aby see my friends and spend the evening at my sisters.  My sisters were married and still lived there with their own young families; I am actually closer to my nieces and nephews ages than my siblings, but more of that later. 

I think my mum and dad were best described as emotionally practical, probably a result of their life’s experience and possibly in no small part to their working class Yorkshire heritage, which made what happened on the journey home all the more special for me.

Mum would lay my head on her knee, where I would pretend to be asleep. She would take one of these rare mellow moments of mine to stroke my hair as the taxi navigated the twists and turns of the Greenfield Road back to Alford. 

This journey was always too short, the car letting me know our progress by the way it swung around the many corners, an experience so strong I can still navigate this road with my eyes closed after all these years, (obviously, not when I'm driving)

 Anyway, awash with drink and eyes opened by the sights and sounds of my walk and mind mellowed by memories, I felt a little more inclined to slow things down, go with the flow and just let the garden grow


Thursday 26 May 2011


With all this unusually warm weather, it is easy to forget that it was only six months ago that Holly and I spent a week snowed in at the cottage. Dom has requested that I post my crazed ramblings from the ordeal that I had previously featured on facebook. Normal blog service will resume tomorrow....

Day 1. The weather continues to imprison me; the perpetual cold is almost a comfort to the intense hunger, every time my frozen stare falls on Holly she turns into a cartoon roast chicken, though as a veggie I'm not sure why she's not a Quorn roast. Maybe it's time to venture out, If only I was brave enough, I'd get off my lazy bum and go to the kitchen and make a sandwich.

Day 2: The weather has taken a turn for the worse and I fear this freezing isolation may be starting to get to me. I've taken to dressing up Holly as historical intellectual figures, Shakespeare, Marx, Einstein, Dodd, just for someone to talk to. She's bearing up well though it was a bit touch and go when she scuffled with herself over Einstein accusing Doddy of stealing his look.

Day 2.  Night falls, the screech of the wind sends shivers through my bones, no links to the outside world, well apart from the iphone, computer, telly, radio and PS3, but still the loneliness envelops me. Holly’s bickering personalities means no one is talking and there is madness in the air, but on the bright side it is the pub quiz tomorrow and she could be very useful.

Day 3. More snow has fallen over night, the whole world seams to be blue grey; it is difficult to see where the sky begins and the land ends. I am becalmed in a frozen sea. Doddy has taken full control now and the incessant woofing of we are the Diddy Men, is pushing me further over the edge, I think a pint and the pub quiz is my only escape.

Day 4. The time had come, I ventured out into the teeth of the storm, battling through the cold white desert that had swallowed the green meadow, the angry winds turning the snowflakes into icy bullets, but it was a journey I couldn’t avoid anymore, Holly already had a bib on, was holding a knife & fork and staring at me in a worrying manner. We needed sustenance.

It had been nearly two hours since my last meal and ten minutes for Holly (a long time In Lab years) to avoid starvation there were two options, making us something to eat or facing the 15-minute walk for a pub lunch. The choice was obvious, Leek & potato soup, a warm baguette, followed by syrup sponge and custard, washed down with a pint. Holly polished off some chicken and whatever else she found on the journey. Will this horror never end?

Day 5. Things are looking up, the weather has broken; the sun has come out revealing the fearsome beauty of the snow, daggers of ice decorating the trees and a million diamonds glistening in the fields.  A five-mile walk yesterday to the Co-op meant starvation was averted and now with the return of Dom and Red Sonia it means Holly & I may be able to leave the village and also have someone to eat if the freeze continues.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Sir Litteralot

I have just come back from a walk around the villages, taking the long route around the roads for a change and noticed nestling among the fantastic froth of what we used to call Bennett, but I think is actually cow parsley, an incongruous bag of McDonald’s rubbish.

Now, not only is discarded rubbish one of my many bug bears but as we live at least 13 miles from one of these fast food factories, it shows either great dedication on behalf of the litterbugs to travel to deposit their refuse or that they have very slow eating habits. 

I often struggle to understand the actions of people, but it is beyond my ken how these feckless, fast moving, fast food fiends, look out of a car window at a rural vista and see a bin. However, strange as it sounds this vile act did bring forward a happy childhood memory or two.

In the middle of the village of Aby were the ruins of an old cottage that we fondly called Elsie Nicks, presumably named after the former owner of the property. A place of wild wood and even wilder ideas, we were wayward warriors, stalking through the undergrowth wishing the swords, bows and spears we fashioned from the sticks and branches around us, were as real as the imaginary villains we fought.

We would while away many a happy hour in this enchanted and overgrown orchard, climbing the apple trees and come September gorging on the fruit until our stomachs ached.

Incidentally this love of tree climbing was one of the rural hobbies my friends and I took with us when we moved to London, much to the shock of those urbanites taking the air in Hampstead Heath.

In between the battles and from the vantage point of these gnarled branches, I would watch the bright yellow lorries with their fruit gum lights, laden with chalk from the nearby pit, thunder past, wafting the roadside flowers in their draft.

In these early childhood days, where the summers seemed sunny and the winters snowy, Aby still had a shop.

This place was exciting and intimidating in equal measure, narrow and dark with a huge wooden counter as impenetrable as castle ramparts. Perched on top of it like some sort of medieval siege machine was a set of metal scales, heavy brass weights stacked around them like ammunition.

Behind this towering edifice, shelves stretched up into the gloom, groaning with jars stuffed with brightly coloured sweets and other items that these child’s eyes chose not to see.

My trance like state brought on by this sugary firmament was always tinged with fear, knowing at some point I would be shocked from my sweet dreams by the shopkeeper.

Never predictable and always frightening, she would rise up from behind the tall counter and glare down at me freezing the words in my mouth. She was terrifyingly grotesque in my memory, silver wispy hair and ancient, her husband equally sinister, moody and menacing to be seen walking the fields, shotgun always at his arm.

In comparison their son, who now through adult eyes, must have been in his early thirties and best described as special, was a happy soul, a gentle man who was often seen and heard chuffing around the country roads pretending to be a train.

He would leave in his wake roadside verges that were a riot of beautiful colour, metallic flowers that would shimmer in the truck blown winds. On closer inspection these nodding blooms were in fact toffee wrappers from his mums shop that he had painstakingly tied to the grass stems. 

Maybe with a little thought litter can be beautiful.

Saturday 7 May 2011

An Urban interlude

Well, after nearly ten days away from London, the concrete and steel crash of my return this week seemed a little more intense, taking more time than usual for me to get into my mechanised city stride.

Its funny but it feels sometimes that summer is denoted there by the state of dress of the waves of people that wash up against the outside of the pubs and restaurants, rather than natures markers. However, I can’t deny this does have it’s own special early evening lure, it’s the daytimes I find a little suffocating.

This was brought home to me this week on my first day back. As I was riding the tsunami of rush hour commuters from the mess of bags, wires and phone focused faces that make up the tube, I noticed a blind lady taking refuge from this surge of flotsam gushing by.

I offered this castaway my arm and we happily chatted as we navigated what seemed like miles of tunnels, twists, turns and moving stairways, a journey made more perilous because they had closed the normal exit.

We finally made land spotting a gaggle of underground staff flocking in what looked like a feeding frenzy. I led the lady over to them, selfishly breaking up their conversation, as my visually impaired but very able companion needed some help in finding the correct course through the maze of possible exits.

The reply to the blind lady’s request was a casual pointing gesture from the larger of the male staff, backed up with an ‘over there'. I carefully suggested that the 'blind old lady' might need a little more detail, to which he replied to her 'exit seven'. Seeing that we could be becalmed here for sometime, I thought it would be easier if I just took her on to her destination and be a late for work.

We finally found our way to the surface and gulped the barely fresh air, only for me to be accosted by two women, who ignoring the blind lady on my arm asked me if I wouldn’t mind taking a survey.  

After breaking away from these sirens we arrived at the Coliseum, the lady’s final port of call, where I led her up the stairs and opened the door for her, however, our fond farewells were cut short, as a family noticing the open door and fearing they may have to put their phones down and open it for themselves,  sailed past us, nudging my blind companion and I out of the way.

The point to all of this was that I learnt a couple of things from the experience: Firstly, being old and blind gives you the super human power of invisibility, and secondly, maybe its better to roll with the waves of attitude and ignorance, as even though this chatty and happy soul was the victim of all the buffering she didn’t complain once, which couldn't be said for the huffing and puffing throng around us. In fact even though she wasn't able to see the morning unfold she had time in all this thrashing about, to feel that it was a beautiful day, a lot more than the fully sighted people seemed to notice.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

White rabbits

It's May and usually at this time of year I can monitor the growth in life and gaps in the garden, with just the right mix of surprise and anticipation to relax into some sort of expectation, but what with the unseasonably sunny weather, the back to back bank holidays and the ever present shadow of the recession I’m a little turned around.

There is bonkers behaviour in the flowerbeds, as already outlined in earlier posts, with the back and front gardens behaving like they are in different time zones.

In contrast to the bouncy bushiness of the front and no doubt due to the triffid like actions of some the plants stealing their slow starting neighbours sight of the sky, the back border has spaces and a general ragged appearance. Being a born worrywart I’m not sure whether to let nature take her course or get involved and feed my wild flower buying addiction and over plant.

In one of my many vain humane attempts to stop that malicious mole from using the garden as an underground assault course, this badly cut wig of a border is also beginning to look like a mini wind farm with all the children’s windmills powering nothing but my anxiety.

The good news is that reinforcements in the form of a bold-as-brass family of Thrush have moved in and sent the snails into retreat. There is an almost constant and comforting rat-a-tat-tat as armour busting beaks with the assistance of a stone or two, break through the defences of these merciless molluscs.

The clematis has also exploded over all in its path creating a fantastic pink mushroom cloud that hangs over the table and shed.

I think my general malaise isn’t being helped by the fact that it’s back to London tomorrow with all its pomp and problems. 

Roll on next weekend.