Don't let that title put you off, but I do want to begin with a moan, a rant. I saw an advert on television last night for Heat magazine I think it was, and at the end they promised what I am sure said 'startling revalations'. Surely they can't have made such a blatant spelling error? It wouldn't surprise me though, you see it all the time. Business letters sent from large companies, insurance firms and the like, with grammatical or spelling errors, that in my day frankly, would not have been sent. My own pride in my work would not have allowed it, and my eagle-eyed bosses the same. Is that missing today, pride in one's work? Aren't people bothered about being the best they can be, are they too busy, with too many demands on their time to check letters before they're sent out? I might point out that in my secretarial days there was no magic 'spell checker' other than myself.
I have to say I am not much of a one for goggling at the television mindlessly, just soaking up whatever comes on. Adverts are something that if I look at, half of them I don't understand - usually blokey ones to do with cars I find. I do like the graphics on those for a certain bank, with people getting on a train, going to interesting little houses and so on. But there is one that I always, always watch, as soon as I hear the dulcet tones of Jason Lewis, the so-called 'Aero Bubbles Hunk'. Now you will have to excuse this temporary lapse into frilly, silly, girliness.. I know it's not befitting someone nearing bus-pass age, but you know, I do want to grow old slightly disgracefully, and I think sighing over this young man, together with dancing around to the latest by Boyzone (can't get the tune out of my head for hours, know all the dance moves as well from watching the video on a certain website) is part of that growing old disgracefully ethos. I can even watch the Aero ad via the computer as well, if I should feel the need.
I went to a crafts exhibition recently, and the crafts on display seemed to fall into two categories...'Can't do that myself' and 'Can do better than that myself'. Not that I am blowing my own trumpet, but sometimes when I look at the standard, the quality of hand-crafted goods on offer in various places I go to, I wonder how they conned their way into the shop, because to be frank with you, the finishing often leaves a lot to be desired. Why spend hours making something that you hope to sell for a little profit at least, but not make sure it is finished neatly? And why do people moan about the cost of handmade gifts? The consumer wants something different, yet isn't prepared to pay the extra few pounds to get that difference it seems to me. Even worse are those people who come and look at the crafts you have made, say greetings cards, and you hear them say to their friend, 'I'm not paying that much for a card, I could do that myself at home.' So why don't you bog off and do it then? I have felt tempted to say, in the past, before I learnt to hold my tongue, count to ten, engage the brain before opening my mouth.
I haven't actually sold anything for a long time now, but our village is planning an autumn fair next year if this year's is a success so I might have a stall with my 'handmade comforts' as I call them. (Comforts which have come in very handy these cold nights I might add!)We are only a small community really, but there are a lot of smaller villages on the periphery and for big events we all come together, pool our resources so to speak. This year we have work by several local artists, in oils and watercolour, fabric and clay, plus home made preserves, goats cheese, a herbalist is having a stall, someone with calendars made from photographs of the surrounding area, and a used book stall.
They always ask me for books on the basis that because our house is full of them, we might not miss the odd box or two. If we don't stop buying at some point though, then we'll need an extension to house them all. But I'm not very good at giving books away, except those rare ones I know will only be read the once and then languish on a shelf, gathering dust. The rest get read at least once more, several times in the case of some old favourites. But somehow, I always manage to gather together a small boxful, but then come home with several books to add to the collection.. or go into the box for the next time they ask!
As I sit writing this, marvelling at the technology that allows me to sit in the garden, in the summerhouse, using a laptop and not a wire in sight, the ageing cat of an equally ageing neighbour down the road, is basking in the fleeting moments of warm sunshine, under a large hebe.. and when I say large, I mean large, at ten feet high and in circumference! It is hard to recall it when it was first planted in the nineties, a small, two foot stick of a shrub and now look at it, big enough to have a woodland type area beneath it, where I grow cyclamen, anemones, snowdrops, lily of the valley seem to like it here as well.
But looking at the size of this hebe got me thinking about how we don't really notice things changing. I can't remember this shrub as it grew, have no recollection of what the area must have looked like before this giant was as it is now. It must have looked completely different ... well, I know it did because the garden itself has evolved over the twenty years or so that we've been here, but though I can remember the various changes I made, I can't remember watching them mature. When we first came here the garden was given over to green manures in a large vegetable patch, growing alongside asparagus and not much else. There were a couple of ramshackle sheds made of packing crates, and it was intriguing to read the labels on them, the names of people who used them, where they were sent. Of course, this social history was fascinating, but 'scruffy' didn't adequately describe the state of them, and when the word 'ramshackle' could be applied, before it got to 'fallen into disrepair', we demolished them and had a grand bonfire for friends and neighbours on a field belonging to one of them.
I rather like sheds, I know they are supposed to be 'a man thing' but I love them and have several around the garden, painted in different colours, plus a summerhouse and a new one of those, slightly modified, will be added to the garden next year for Himself. (That's my other half.) But we have a shed for gardening equipment and DIY equipment, a shed wherein sleeps the cat because she hates being closed indoors and MEOWS loudly if you won't let her out when she says. Coming in to eat, having the occasional cuddle, is about as near to removing the feral from her as we have got, and as she is now fifteen, I doubt it will get any less. And we have a small shed for storing apples and seeds, old riddles and other hand tools, and all the paraphernalia for potting in, plus the greenhouse of course. All dotted about, and the only one you can see from the house is the summerhouse, the prettiest of them all of course, painted green and purple.
But the cat I mentioned... he is old, fat and deaf as a post. You can get up to his nose when he is asleep and the only way he will know you are there is if you blow gently on his face. Of course, our equally old cat doesn't go in for blowing gently, more a smack across the chops and a meowing session which roughly translates as 'Wha' d'ya think you're doing in MY garden, push off fatso.' And so the said old, fat and deaf cat does just that, shambles off muttering about not being left in peace, to find another, more secluded spot in the garden. The one problem with him is, that he finds these spots, and you can't see them, but you suddenly put a foot on him, accidentally and it's hard to say who's more surprised or frightened.
There was also a large expanse of lawn when we first moved here, plus a line of everyone's favourite ... huge, overgrown conifers, all down one side of the garden. A bit of a concrete path, some straggly hedging, a couple of washing lines, an ageing apple tree (which is even older now but more productive, with the most wonderful Bramleys), and not much in the way of colour. The garden was for growing veggies, hanging out washing, dogs and cats peeing and pooing, and children to play in, so it was all very green really. Flowers didn't get a look in, but looking back, I can see that the previous owner was ahead of his time possibly, growing green manures in the mid-nineties? We have done a lot of work over the years, getting rid of lawns and resowing a new, smaller one, creating different areas for growing veggies and soft fruits, planted trees, created shrubbery, beds and borders, a small dry garden, and installing a pond. Now we have a wonderful composting system of bins and boxes, green manures still play a part in the garden. There has always been a lot of comfrey growing here, so I have a small waterbutt with comfrey in the bottom in summer, which I use for the tomatoes and squash plants in particular. There are as many rain butts as there are sheds, because each shed has guttering leading down into a butt, plus one on the house, so we do our bit to save water.
'Save water, bath with a friend' ... remember that? I wish I'd taken advantage of it more then, nobody wants to bath with me now... even the rubber duck has to be bribed to come in the water!