A flowery tale

Organiser of forthcoming village Garden Safari rings to congratulate me on prominent photo of self, husband and garden in this week’s local paper, apparently appearing above photo of local MP who will also be opening garden to public. Am forced to point out that standards of local journalism are perhaps not all that they could be, as no press photographer has visited us since previous Safari two years ago;  though am of course greatly relieved that we have not had to repeat our awkward pose with trowels and rictus smiles among the peonies.

Preparations for Safari pleasantly interrupted yesterday by visit from nephew who has finished first year at university and is leaving bike with us over summer. Slightly disconcerted to discover that actual teaching for year stopped some time in March, and spend some time discussing Value For Money,  as well as Roman Britain, music festivals in Czech Republic, and interesting perspectives on our local cathedral city afforded by his part-time job in its McDonald’s. Wave goodbye to him at bus stop as primary school disgorges excited children and exhausted parents from annual PFTA Summer Fayre and am struck by how distant my many years of Children’s Tombola or Hook-A-Teddy duties now seem.

Enjoyed reading my lovely friend’s post on inspirations for gardening, and spend some time thinking about influences on own garden; narrow it down to all the books, magazines and blogs I’ve ever read, and all the beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and realise that I might have been slightly over-ambitious trying to encapsulate all of this in a small plot regularly trampled by dog, tortoise and ball-playing children;  though still hope that one day it will magically combine the best of Sissinghurst,  Christian Dior’s Garden and my late mother’s lovingly-tended Herbaceous Border.

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Days of wine and roses

Spend happy few days staying with sister and family. Have offered to Make Myself Useful while sister Juggles children, work, mother-in-law, imminent house move and organising the Church Fête,  and hope that my talking to her incessantly while she continues to do all the above will have made All The Difference.

House sale proceeding rather faster than anticipated, and sister’s family will be renting for some time until new house is found; this does not stop us making forays into surrounding villages and towns in hope that Perfect House will somehow magically appear, but   succeed only in realising how beautiful everywhere looks on a sunny June day.

Leave sister making prototypes of jungle animals for monthly Children’s Activity Morning in village library, and return home in time for lunch party organised by friend in honour of her son’s 21st. Relieved on his behalf to confirm that this forms only part of his birthday celebrations and have merry time sitting in rose-filled garden, talking about Network Rail,  children’s names and cat cafés, and trying to ignore his rather Loud second cousin at next table explaining at length to his companion why the bottle of wine I brought was Not Great.

Weather continues to be sunny and bright, poppies are blooming in garden, and daughter’s exams finish at lunchtime.  Feel that housework today may be rather Cursory.

Home and Away

New week, new month and better than expected weather lead to surprisingly positive Monday mood; go for long walk with friend and determine to Clean The House From Top To Bottom.  Get as far as first child’s bedroom before all enthusiasm evaporates, but carry on in spirit of Dogged Determination, thinking about roses, menopausal rock stars and Rear Window.

Afternoon spent cooking and discussing Themes of Hospitality and Homecoming in The Odyssey with daughter who has AS exam tomorrow; any remaining brain capacity quite exhausted as a result, and am secretly quite relieved when son later rejects offer of Help With His Spanish Revision in favour of cricket nets and Test Match Highlights.

Will be spending rest of week staying with sister while husband takes Sole Charge of household; feel excited for all sorts of reasons, and only concern is What To Pack for week which will apparently include cold rain, strong winds, warm or Very Warm sunshine, and thunderstorms.

Unconsidered trifles

London friend e-mails with nine pages of colleague’s annual Eurovision predictions and says that she is All Agog for next diary instalment.   Delighted by image of busy urban professionals eagerly awaiting news of Pensioners’ Lunch Club, Horticultural Association Coffee Morning and Almshouses Opening Ceremony, and am happy to report that they All Went Very Well. Friend’s performance in The Winter’s Tale was also A Triumph, though cannot help thinking that Players may have rather overestimated village’s enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s late Problem Plays; lady next to me says she preferred their production of  ‘Allo ‘Allo.

Am very grateful for everyone’s reading suggestions after last diary entry. Cannot sadly find any of the recommended books in village library, and current reading consists of Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature (pure pleasure) and Facebook (general bewilderment); younger son particularly horrified that I have joined latter and spends some time trying to find and then Block me, in spite of my repeated assurances that I have joined only in order to ease administration of Tuesday walking group and have not the slightest desire to be his Friend on Facebook or indeed anywhere else.

Feel like spending all my time now looking at images of Chelsea Flower Show or pottering around own garden.  Will freely admit that it is not really a spring garden or a late summer garden, and that it does not look particularly impressive in the autumn or winter either;  but for a few weeks in May and June find that there is no place I would rather be.

Let’s Make Things Happen

Start reading through rather daunting pile of Prospectuses brought home by daughter after recent University Admissions Information Day. Pleased to note that every single university in United Kingdom is a) World-Class b) Cutting-Edge c) held in particular regard by prospective employers and d) situated in or near the best city in the country for students. (Though only one apparently Provides You With Everything That Allows You To Be All That You Can Be, rather in style of Bleu de Chanel advertisement that has unreasonably infuriated me for last few Christmases.)

Weather warm, sunny and spring-like (though all forecast to change in time for sons’ first cricket match of new season tomorrow);  hang out washing in happy consciousness of its great literary tradition, admire emerging tulips,  think about making a birthday cake, and vow to be much more diligent Diarist from now on.

Catching of happiness

Am finding it difficult to work out whether time goes a) very fast or b) very slowly. Still slightly reeling from realisation that at next General Election all three children will be eligible to vote, receive e-mail from school about Friday’s Solar Eclipse and possible Selfie Danger; have only vague memories of the pre-smartphone 1999 eclipse (much of that era is rather a Blur), but life with only one small toddler does now seem very very distant.

Village life meanwhile remains somehow timeless, and annual cycle of events is beginning all over again: Mothering Sunday Crafts (done), collating of Horticultural Association Annual Schedule (to be arranged), first outdoor Cricket Nets (2nd April – probably in the snow). Receive letter from Rotary Club sub-committee confirming involvement in biannual village Garden Safari in June and asking whether am planning Additional Attractions for visitors; feel that it will be quite enough of a challenge trying to make garden presentable to outsiders, but  wonder whether could list Tortoise, who proved major hit in 2013 (slightly redeeming herself for having previously chomped through most of flower-bed).

Spend lunchtime not listening to Budget, and thinking about International Day of Happiness on Friday. Am planning –  rather aptly, I feel –  to spend it with friend visiting from America.

The year’s at the spring

Spend some time yesterday evening trying to think of intelligent and inspiring answer to Woman’s Hour request for The One Piece of Advice You’d Give Your Daughter.  Actual advice to daughter to a) stop working b) watch Emma and c) marry Mr Knightley suggests that such an answer may be some way off.

Preparations for Horticultural Association AGM on Friday proceeding apace; scheduled speaker on Growing And Showing Daffodils now unable to attend, but friend manages to find last-minute replacement happy to speak about Poisonous Plants. Cannot avoid slight sense of déjà vu as begin to draft report on The Association’s Activities in 2014, but hope that AGM audience will find marked similarity to last year’s report reassuring rather than otherwise.

Return books to village library, unread and late; librarian as always kindly and understanding but conscience remains burdened as Problems With The New System preclude payment of 42p fine. Make last-ditch attempt to encourage sons’ reading with book marked Unsuitable For Younger Readers.

Universal agreement around village that today is A Lovely Day (Although That Wind Is Still A Bit Chilly); am confidently informed that the weekend will be Glorious.

Many parts

Yesterday’s attempt to combine orthodontist trip with Family Day Out in local cathedral city much brightened by unexpected encounter with student nephew and his visiting brother in Waterstones; do not resist Pavlovian urge to ply them both with food, and head to one of several Mexican restaurants nearby for A Proper Meal (nephew takes photo of vegetables to show his mother). Discuss travel, McDonald’s, Twelfth Night, and the difference between burritos and enchiladas (none of us knows);  wonder, not for first time, whether aunts have the very best role in family life.

Rejection from final publisher concludes short-lived ambition to write Brilliant Bestselling Book. Surprised to realise that am not too disappointed, and spend happy time day-dreaming about all the other exciting things that I might quite possibly do in future. Am very glad in meantime that own experience of provincial life bears as much resemblance to the relentless unpleasantness of The Casual Vacancy as my literary career does to J.K.Rowling’s.

Nature and nurture

Wake up to light dusting of snow. Put out food for garden birds, make soup for friend recently discharged from hospital and take dog for walk, with pleasing conviction that have become bountiful life-affirming Earth Mother;  illusion soon shattered on return when realise that elder son has forgotten packed lunch.

Friend remarkably cheerful, given circumstances – though agree that Much Could Be Written  about her hospital experiences. Her eldest son appears (surely at least a foot taller than when last saw him) and makes elaborate and delicious coffee for us before driving his mother to distant physiotherapy appointment. Feel there is much to be said for older children.

Evenings now noticeably lighter, and snowdrops and hellebores beginning to appear in garden, but decide in view of relentlessly cold weather forecast to postpone all thoughts of spring, and embrace winter with evening of food, fire and The Musketeers.

Saplings

Younger son touchingly excited by early morning Snapchat reports of snow nearby, but winter’s arrival in village marked only by heavy sleety showers. Go for long and extremely muddy walk with group of friends; discuss schools, puppies, and preparations for this week’s Village Pantomime (all apparently at rather Fraught stage).

Afternoon spent planning Horticultural Association programme for forthcoming year with fellow Committee members; overall result rather similar to Horticultural Association programme for current year, but do spend considerable time discussing new classes for spring and summer shows which will a) make colourful display in village hall b) attract new entrants and c) give Committee members an unfair advantage (Treasurer particularly excited about his Sweet Peas this year). Struggle as usual to think of original yet inviting titles for Flower Arranging classes; own suggestion of commemorating Waterloo or Magna Carta met with wholly deserved derision.

Reading material so far this year good but sad book about marriage and good but sad book about children; wonder whether should perhaps try something good but happy next.