Monday 25 July 2011

Building Blocks

I have been in London a lot lately so haven’t had a lot of time to enjoy Belleau, hence the lack of blog action, but it does mean that I have had a lot of time to consider support and foundations, what with the fact that the hole in my garden has now given birth to a proper looking building and that I’ve had to spend a lot of time listening to the needs of the not so needy.

Tenuous as the connection is, I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about my own family and how life’s experience builds ones observations, understanding and outlook.

I come from a large family, two elder brothers and two older sisters, with me being the youngest by quite a large margin.  I’m actually closer to my nieces and nephews ages than my siblings, but I think this age gap is due to circumstance rather than planning.

I never had the privilege to meet Margaret and Gary, but saying that the rest of the family only had a fleeting pleasure. Everyone said Margaret was a beautiful baby, but fate gave her only a short time to make her mark, mums scream the only fanfare to signal her short life as she died in her arms.

Gary, a fine fellow by all accounts, had only a year or two himself, the Dr’s never seeming to have the skill or patience to instil hope, telling mum not to get too attached as he wouldn’t survive.

He had downs syndrome, a very scientific description of a life, though better than some of the alternatives I’ve heard. He also had complications, chest bones knotted into a restricting clot.

The Dr’s had said he wouldn’t walk or talk, but mum never gave up hope. She taught him to mouth words by placing her lips over his and managed to get him to stand on his spindly little legs, small victories and an emotional high-risk strategy, as even though his death was foretold the loss stayed with her all her life.

Eerily only one photograph of the many they took of Gary turned out, one of mum proudly holding him up in the background of a wedding shot, a picture that has always haunted me a little.

I guess I owe my life to him in some ways

Sunday 3 July 2011


As I sat on a scorching day, serenaded by the mechanical drone of diggers, cement mixers, local radio and the builders slowly eating my patio and sending my flora and fauna into retreat, it was difficult not to let out the scream that had been echoing around my soon to be open plan, indoor outdoor dining extension of a mind.

Holly, a creature of habit who can be prone to a smidgen of arrogance every now and then, was happy to use the new side door to leave the house but flatly refused to use it to come back in, instead demanding to be lifted through the old door from the gaping chasm that fortified the kitchen, meaning mud mixed with the plaster and dust that covered every room in the house, to create what was either some sort of age old building material or the latest in beauty treatments.

Also in some sort of act of defiance the border opposite the kitchen crater has decided to turn it’s back on the whole hoo-ha, meaning the plants in the front of the border have now shot up hiding those behind. This means I’m either going to have to ask the builders to lift the house off its footings and turn it around,  something I can’t believe would be any more disruptive than the work they are already undertaking is, or do some plant rearrangement therapy next year, which, I’m sure won’t be much of a problem either as the border has the consistency of Swiss cheese thanks to Mr Mole. 

Our season long skirmishes have turned into full-blown war and he’s winning. There’s not a single inch in the border that doesn’t cave under foot and I have the awful feeling that the whole thing is going to implode like a nuclear flower bomb. 

The final straw was that the little blue caterpillars that arrived last year and noshed through the Solomon’s seal by the fence like a shoal of ravenous piranhas and turned its big beautiful leaves into an ugly green skeleton over night, are back. Hopefully I’ve picked enough of them off to avoid last years decimation and left enough to see if they turn into butterflies. 

Anyway the hole got deeper, my patience wore thinner and my mood fell further, so feeling retreat was the better part of valour, I went on a trip around our rural idyll to get some bucolic balm for my nerves. I love wading through the meadow grasses at the moment, a swaying pink wash over green, dotted with poppies and feverfew, it's like walking through a painting.

My first stop was the river, the Great Eau that runs through the meadow opposite, I know that's a grand sounding name but it is actually a small but beautifully clear chalk stream fed by the spring in Belleau. 

Up stream from the cottage is a wooden bridge that is another one of those constants for me, as I spent many a happy hour there when I was a child. So as a place of peace I thought I would stop awhile and enjoy the music of the river as it gurgled and gushed below. 

As I sat there the herd of cattle slowly chewed passed, some stopping, showing as much interest in me as I in them. This included a few serene cows, various calves that leaped around in acts of courage and the bull, who eyed me without turning his head, letting me know who was boss.

This mountainous beast stood only an arms length away, his massive muscles rippling under his white skin with a mind of their own as he guarded one of the cows.  Just as I was thinking what a beautifully timeless country scene, the whole peaceful affair was shattered by him jumping up onto the back of the cow, in what I can only imagine was the start of a game of piggy back. 

The cow didn't seem like she wanted to carry him so moved out of the way and then tried jump on his back, this caused a flurry of excitement and a modicum of confusion among the calves and myself I must add. One brave chap desperate to join in, jumped up onto the cow only for the bull to let him know that this was a private game by using his giant, but thankfully un horned head, to literally throw the youngster into the air.

Interesting as all this was, it really wasn't the peace I craved so I headed home to the squaller for some ritual hoovering.