After a chilly night and a grey morning there is a blank page. It may be a lack of coffee or sleep, or perhaps the change in routine today that has me waiting for a call before I can start, but it is definitely one of those days when I just can’t seem to get myself in gear. Oh the necessities are done, such as they are, but even the dog seems to be feeling it and is not her usual energetic self.
So what do you do when you have been sitting there staring at the blank page that requires your absolute presence and attention? When the confidence of verbalisation seems to have taken an unscheduled holiday and inspiration has gone absent without leave?
You could have another cup of coffee… except you’ve run out. So you wander to the village shop and that kills half a clock-watching hour. You could read… but you are not going to be able to concentrate knowing there is Stuff awaiting your attention. Chocolate is usually good, but you didn’t buy any and you can’t justify another walk to the shop… that’s just time wasting. The trees are pretty though, covered as they are in blossom.
Funny how that takes you back. There are trees and plants that I immediately associate with certain times, places or people. Take May blossom (hawthorn), for example… I always think of Grandma Annie who wouldn’t have it in the house until after May Day because, she said, it was bad luck. Laburnum is Grandad… there was a beautiful laburnum outside the French windows of his sitting room. I can recall even now watching the birds in the halved coconuts suspended in its branches while he told me how poisonous it was. I was very small and that is probably the first lesson in herblore that I remember.
Quince you seldom see, and when I do it is my late mother in law I think of. Aline taught me to make quince jelly with the misshapen fruits from the ancient orchard by the lavoir at the Chateau du Sou. She held the keys for the old keep for the Rosicrucians who owned it back then. A strange and beautiful place it was, now restored and romantic. I prefer to remember the silent waiting of night in the dilapidated hall and the whispering ghosts in the cobwebs.
Japanese quince, on the other hand takes me straight to my great grandmother. The dark stems and bright, old fashioned flower contrasted against the young green of the hydrangea bush beside the front door. She would have me pour the tealeaves and dregs from the pot at its roots to preserve its colour. It didn’t work, but we poured anyway. Beside the gate was a red rose bush… and I have never found another to match it for the velvet depth of its petals nor its perfume. As it burst into spring there would be the carpet of lily of the valley beneath it and the scent of the lilac… a combined perfume to make heaven envious.
Mind you, the lilac was special too. Paddy lay buried beneath it. And Paddy was a very special dog who has a place in the family annals. My mother wrote his story long ago, submitting it to a publisher who sent it back saying it was too far-fetched and no-one would believe it. We have been blessed with some golden hearted dogs in our family. I wonder if she still has the manuscript…
Forget-me-nots remind me of my late husband, they were his favourite flowers. Thistles, my best friend. Roses… well, there are tales I could tell, and some I have. And of course, yellow tulips .. there is a story there too.
For me, my favourites are the simple ones… the wildflowers like cuckoo pint and ladies mantle. I love the diamond raindrops caught in the leaves of alchemilla and the deceptive fragility of geraniums. I love, too, the massed glory of a carpet of bluebells or wild primroses, or a horizon full of heather…
But there was wisteria in bloom today too, cascading over the veranda of the little white house in the village. I have always wanted to grow wisteria. It is one of those plants that takes time to mature and, in all the gardens I have ever made it is one of the first I have planted. Every time I have put down roots, so has a small wisteria. Except here. Every home I have made, as soon as the wisteria has been old enough to bloom I have had to move house, for one reason or another and have never seen it flower.
With my heart firmly in the heather these days, perhaps I should plant a wisteria here too….