Friday, July 24, 2009

The Summer Garden

I was hoping to have a lot of colour in the garden this summer. Of course, I have had to resort to bedding plants – New Guinea Impatiens (Busy Lizzies) in the bed that has bulbs in earlier in the year. You need to let the greenery die down on its own, but when that’s happened, it’s ready for other flowers to be planted there.

I have other beds, though, which have a predominance of shrubs. Last year, I decided that not all plants can be magnificent and dramatic like rhododendrons. I bought another potentilla, which has a neat yellow flower. I was impressed that the two I already have had flowered throughout the whole summer. As yet they are not doing a great deal, but I have hopes for them. I also bought five or six hypericums (or is it hyperica?). They too have yellow flowers and are also evergreen, which makes them a useful addition – and they have been flowering, though they are quite small, and have lost their flowers, at the moment.

Abject failures have been the two camellias I planted about three or four years ago. (I use the term ‘I’ loosely – I have help in the garden.) Not only have the number of flowers been minimal, but they are also being eaten by visiting deer. If they taste good to deer, they are not suited to our garden. The deer have stripped our roses down to bare stalks, in the past and I have given most away. I also suspect the camellias are now dying because we moved them.

A possible surprise success are two hibiscus (hibiscuses/hibisci) which have been in the garden about three or four years. I’ve discovered that one of them, at least, is covered with buds after a long famine of flowers. Will the deer come along and eat them before they materialise? I have to wait to find out.

I also have two plants in waiting, both planted last year. One is a fuschia, bought at RHS Wisley Gardens and the other a hydrangea given to us by a friend. Neither have flowers at the moment, but I hope that if not this year, then maybe next year will bring a flowering. Photos will be posted if any of the above are successful. The hanging baskets I planted this year contain fuschias and small busy lizzies and they look very pretty. If the rain would stop for a bit, I might take a photo of them.

And talking of flowers – Irene and I will be at the Flower Show in Pirbright, selling our books tomorrow. If you're in the area, come and visit us. Unless of course we are rained off. Let’s hope for some sunshine. It is supposed to be summer.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moon Memories and another memory

I still remember the day in 1963, when Walter Cronkite, who has just died, announced the death of President Kennedy. A much admired journalist, Walter Cronkite lived through amazing times, but I can see him still, trying to retain his professionalism, fighting back the tears, taking off his glasses and putting them back on, as he told the world of the tragedy that had taken place.

Six years later, men landed on the moon, as Kennedy had forecast.

To commemorate the anniversary of the moon landing tomorrow - or possibly today, in some places, I've taken extracts of my description of that day and memories of that period, as told in my autobiographical book, The Fruit of the Tree. Just as men had made an amazing scientific achievement, we were in effect going back to a very basic life style, more befitting the early part of the 20th century.

'...We spent the weekend of the 19th July in Hove, relaxing for a change, before the impending move. We were to wake up early on Monday morning. M. wanted to be in Guildford by eight a.m. to open the office, before driving me to the bungalow. We were ready to leave before seven o'clock and we switched on the television to see the first two men on the moon (Armstrong and Aldrin), eerily bouncing their way over its dusty surface.

Somehow, that historic event made our day seem all the more momentous and adventurous.

I shed no tears as we drove away from the house/cum/office. It had served its purpose. It had acted as a sort of home for two and a half years, but I had sunk no roots there.

There was, however, a problem with our brand new bungalow. There was no mains electricity available at the site of the bungalow and cable needed to be laid along the rough footpath access. The local military gentleman who owned this footpath, and who had shown no distress or even interest at our improving its condition, had put in a claim for compensation for its disturbance. But although it would have been reinstated to its present condition, the compensation offered by the Electricity Board was refused by him, and he stated that it was not just a matter of money! It was a matter of principle!

The previous week I had been to the head offices of the Electricity Board. Perhaps meeting me face to face, they would be persuaded to expedite the provision of our electricity supplies. As an added incentive, I took my son in his push-chair, but got so tangled up with their revolving doors on my first abortive trip there, that I opted for a less pathetic approach on my second visit.

However, although I received sympathetic treatment from the gentleman concerned with our case, my visit made little difference. In view of the refusal of our neighbour to grant permission to the Electricity Board to cross his piece of land, certain prescribed paths would have to be followed, and as you can imagine, those paths would wend their way through skeins of red tape before arriving at a satisfactory conclusion.

We arrived at the bungalow with the bulk of our furniture - our bed - on top of the van, and Michael immediately began work on the most important job of the day - the connecting of our gas-stove, an elderly model, with only three legs. The important thing about it was that it was able to be connected to a bottle of gas. There was no gas laid on, so the cooker was something of a survival kit. Even the iron was to be heated upon it. Old-fashioned or not, together with packets of candles, boxes of matches and torch batteries, our three-legged friend was our sole means of providing heat, hot water and light (as well as cooking facilities) for quite a long time to come.

With hindsight, we know there were things we could have done to make life a little easier. For example, we should have purchased a simple device which allows you to be connected to two bottles of gas and transfer from an empty one to a full one when necessary.

Without this facility, I lived constantly with the thrill - or fear - of running out of gas; and although we usually had spare bottles, I could neither lift them nor manoeuvre the spanner to connect them to the cooker.

It became a ritual to start the day, as we always had, by bathing. This involved heating three saucepans and a very large kettle on the cooker, and as soon as he had emptied his own water into the bath, M. would fill up the receptacles for our son or me. Sometimes I would bath our son first, and then add a second helping of cooked water for myself. The little extra depth this provided gave me a feeling of luxury, though sometimes it had cooled so much, it was only equivalent to the cold water I would have added anyway. I was rather envious of M, as his large frame displaced so much water that he was actually covered by it, whilst I, at a little over half his thirteen stone, could never achieve that and had to be satisfied with sitting in a fairly deep puddle...'

The Fruit of the Tree is available from Amazon, or from my website:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Walking the woods and winding down

The orgy of entertaining is over for the moment. Irene's friends from Germany came over today, with her, of course, and after lunch, most of which - as in Blue Peter - I'd prepared earlier, we went for a long walk, which surely will have burned away a pound at least. If only it would all go from my chin, I'd be most happy with that. We visited the house where Irene used to live where we met many years ago, and then into our woods, past Victorian houses and a couple of 17th century places, which were probably there when Pirbright was nothing but fields and woods; past horses and a group of appealing calves, across our stream and over our little bridge, which our children used to call the Pooh Bridge. The rain stayed away too, so it was a good walk.

Now, having had my party, my annual open house for the Reading Circle and my regular visit from my brother in law, I have no social events planned here for a few weeks. I may remedy that by asking M's siblings over, some time between now and September, but at the moment, it all looks clear, with meetings with friends, and lunches out, in the diary.

Tomorrow, we three Golden Girls will be giving a talk at Bookham library. Tickets have already been sold for the event, and there is apparently quite a lot of interest. I'm looking forward to it; these shared talks always go well. And Bruce, one of my friends on MySpace, has told me that his wife has ordered a copy of Tainted Tree. I'm delighted that another copy is winging its way to the United States, and I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say about it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Me, the Dyson, the cooker and the printer

I’m disappointed to find that winter’s back. When everyone else was complaining about it being too hot a few days ago, I wasn’t (complaining, that is.)

I’ve had a busy few days with more to come. The party went well – about 15 people, and my food went down well, and so did all the extras that everyone brought, including a very delicious chocolate roulade and a lemon drizzle cake, equally gorgeous.

The previous day I was with Jay and Irene, the Goldenford authors, signing books at the Book Boyz, Farnborough. This is the second time, that we've been asked there, which is a nice vote of confidence, though actually, I prefer it when we give talks. On the same day, we raced off to Anjali, a new friend at Guildford Writers, who very kindly asked Irene and me to her book launch. She's written a children's book, The Convent Rules, and I've bought copies for GD2 and GD3, who seem to be in the right age group. She ahd a lovely party in her garden, and generously put out copies of our books on a table for all her friends to see.

I was out at a committee meeting on Monday night, and out at Guildford Writers on Tuesday, having spent half the day at Irene’s. In a great rush, I copied out a bit of my novel which I’d written on holiday. Then I told the printer to print 7 copies – but I forgot to specify which pages. While I was away from my desk, putting on my makeup, the printer did the first 18 pages of the novel, and then ran out of paper. At this point I realised what I’d done – that that the printer now thought it had to print 150 pages seven time – and did the only thing I could. I turned it all off and went. Unfortunately, when I returned and switched it on, it still had this instruction in the memory and went on trying to churn the document at a time in print 1” high at the rate of one line per page. (It always does this when it’s been disrupted – it likes to have a bit of a nervous breakdown.) I sorted it out in the end.

Today, I have been wielding the vacuum cleaner and dusters and polish. I have no cleaning lady any longer, and so it was necessary to deal with the post party crumbs and the lurking spiders making cobwebs in corners. Having done an entire morning’s cleaning, I set to work on making a pizza and some chocolate brownies as nibbles for the Reading Circle, who came this evening. The brownies collapsed in the middle, but Michael ate all the soggy bits sitting in solitary confinement while the circle was under way.

This was my impression of the book, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

This was my first experience of Maggie O’Farrell, and initially, I was slightly irritated by it. It seemed a bit self consciously literary, with many onomatopoeic sounds brought in for no good reason. However, my reservations soon dissipated and I thought it was very good and enjoyed it very much. I very soon was empathising with the two main characters – Esme and Iris, who share some characteristics – like enjoying seeing the world from under the table.

I realised early on one of the most important facts about the story - partly because it was reminiscent of my own novel, Tainted Tree, and that rather spoiled the denouement about two thirds of the way through. I didn't regard that as the author's fault, as I was reading extremely carefully, on the lookout for clues. I didn’t guess at the ending though. A very good read.

Tomorrow, My brother in law is coming to dinner, and then the weekend is quiet, which will give me a chance to catch up with some of the things I should be doing. Next week, amongst other things, I expect to be meeting up with Irene’s friends from Germany; and we, the three Goldenford witches, will be giving a talk at Bookham library next week. A number of tickets have already been sold.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Goldenford witches are flying again

A calm few days, since my return from Freiburg. The Son&Heir was supposed to come here last weekend with the family, but he put his back out, transporting his bike on to a train, and hasn’t been able to drive long distances. I thought cycling was supposed to be a healthy occupation. We weren’t able to go there, because accommodation was fully booked up for graduations.

There’s a more hectic weekend to come, with a party at my house for some friends, on Sunday, and on Saturday, I shall be with the other Golden Girls at Bookboyz, 28-30 Kingsmead, Farnborough, GU14 7SL, from 1 - 3pm. where we shall be signing books. After that, we’re off to the launch of a children’s book – The Convent Rules, by Angali Mittal - in Clandon, near Guildford. I am leaving M to his own devices, but I shall have to hide my good frying pan and saucepans, in case he decides to cook for himself. Tomorrow, I shall be getting in food for my do, though others will bring extra salads and desserts.

I thought I’d add in these additional pictures from our trip to Titisee – a well-known lake and beauty spot about 40 minutes away from Freiburg, where we went on our last day in Germany. Irene has already put a photo of three witches in her blog, and I too chose these, as being reminiscent of the three witches of Goldenford. I also loved the wall of cuckoo clocks – would have brought one home, if M hadn’t been around.

With non-stop sunshine, I have no excuse for not dealing with most of our post holiday washing. Tonight rain is forecast and I hope my New Guinea Busy Lizzies will get a drenching – and that, after that, the sun comes out again.