Part 1. of submissions for the February writing challenge:
From the heart, someone or something you are passionate about.
I am posting the submissions in group`s of up to 15 (in no particular order) to aid reading and review. I hope you enjoy them. If possible it would be useful if you could read some of the submissions, provide constructive feedback to the author and make any general comments over on our Facebook page. If you comment please name the author your comment is directed at or contact them direct via our facebook page.
Jean Faugier – A tribute to a Nurse and Nursing
The first thing was the pain. Everything hurt, strangely even her hair. Not normal pain; this was real, searing, mind altering pain. She blinked and could not focus; in the blur and fog that was now her vision, she struggled to make sense of her surroundings. Was she dead, she wondered ? Was she going blind ? Somewhere in the depths of memory, she knew she had had surgery, the pictures started to take shape.
The whir of the helicopter, the too young-looking surgeon, tall, confident. Information she could not take in about her heart and the sensation of being wheeled quickly. Serious, the word that kept popping into the maze that was now her mind. Little by little, her hearing seemed to return and she became aware of the bleeps and buzzes, so, so many; what was that noise ? It felt as if something needed urgent attention : was it coming from the machines she was attached to ? She tried to turn her head in their direction but found it impossible; she felt like there was a hole in her neck and it just would not work. Whilst in her comatose state, she was pretty sure the surgeon had appeared at her bedside a few times, but had she dreamed it ?
Tears came then hot and fast, and just the act of crying caused almost more pain than she could bear as she faced up to not being dead, not quite, but perhaps dying, attached to monitors and alone. She wondered about her husband a helicopter flight away : was he on his way here ? And was this rain she could hear on a window ? Just another machine.
The hand holding hers came as a slight shock at first and she pulled back a little. Hello, he said, you are OK, I am your Cardiac Intensive Care Nurse, are you in much pain ? Nodding, she noticed the syringe was already in his hand and relief washed over her in welcome waves as the morphine did its job. Well, that was some three days, he said, you gave us a fright and if I am honest, you have not been much company, he added with a gentle smile. She understood what he was telling her and the tears became sobs as she thought of the impact of it all, the loss enrobed in his words, for everyone.
He talked all the time, told her everything he was doing whilst he was fiddling with tubes and monitors. Her husband had rung constantly, he said, was in fact almost at the hospital when they had sent him home as she was not in any state to be seen. God, all these bloody tubes coming out of her neck, her chest, her groin : how does he know where they go ? what they do ? which machine ? But she knew they all linked back to her survival, that was their purpose, just like it had to be her purpose, and now with a hand in hers, maybe, just maybe. He changed the dressing on her chest where they had sliced her open; she felt grateful at that moment that she could not lift her head to catch a glimpse of the mutilation the surgeons had wreaked on her flesh and bone, she could not bear seeing it… But he just said wow, nice job, I have seen worse believe me, and laughed. She noticed the pain had subsided and her sight was clearer and she could now see him better : she guessed not quite 30, and as if in need of feeding up. He told her he was Basque; they build us small but strong, he said, and she imagined he could be a rugby scrum half, or even a Basque terrorist, that would surely be more fun than this. And then she thought no, enough suffering and pain for the moment.
She slept for hour after fitful hour, distressed and troubled sleep, the drugs and pain mercilessly feeding vivid dreams. Whenever she woke, it seemed like he was always there, did he never go home ? She knew he must but hardly believed it. He was there when the surgeon called, joking easily with him about how much time he had spent urging her to pull through. You had him worried, he said to her; so maybe not dreams, then, she thought ? And he was there helping her husband cope with the shock of his first sight of her as he came into the room looking terrified and tired, like an impostor in all the protective surgical gear. She is doing great, he said, and he was rewarded by a nod of relief : yes, she is made of tough stuff, her husband agreed. Such liars, she thought.
Nights were just as full of fear and visions and she related them to him each morning and he provided comfort for the fear and made jokes of the more bizarre hallucinations. Lobsters were all over the room, she told him; he simply asked : where was the mayonnaise ? It’s just the drugs and the shock, he said, it will pass honest, just like the pain and the fear. She believed him, not about the fear, no way, but kept that to herself.
Often whilst having to lie flat, she was aware of his gloved hands and the empathy on his face as he completed all the procedures and tasks of caring, she thought he possessed caring hands and an easy friendly caring face. Even as he inflicted pain or discomfort by pulling out tubes, sticking in needles, tearing off dressings, she had no doubt he cared what happened to her.
On Day 6 he wheeled her and her bed out of the intensive care unit to a cardiac ward, smiled, gave her a thumbs up and said to his colleague : look after this one, she is special.
Lucy May Orange – Beginners’ Call
I locked the dressing room door and carefully made my way down the many narrow steps, picking up my skirt as I went, lest the famous theatrical idiom be realised. I marked the quickening of my breath; I tried to suppress this as we stood together in the green room, externally composed but internally pulsing with erratic energy. Five minutes to go. I studied the room, taking in my fellow performers, trying to silently connect to a collective aura. Did they feel nervous too?
A shapeless shadow of self-doubt crept across my mind. Did I know my lines? Had I rehearsed enough? Would the audience identify with my character, understand her and care for her like I had for the last few months? Did I really deserve to be standing here, waiting to go on stage? Was I really good enough?
A slow breath. In, two, three, four. Hold. Out, two, three, four. I closed my eyes and saw the lines I had rehearsed so well dance amongst the darkness. In, two, three, four. I felt her reach out to me. She was there, a comforting acknowledgement. Out, two, three, four. There was no longer any room for negative thoughts. Tonight was the night. A flutter of butterflies flitted through my stomach as I imagined the audience – my audience – ready and willing to be entertained. It was time.
We walked briskly to the entrance of the stage, sharing hushed good-luck wishes and last-minute reassurances. In, two, three, four. Through the door. Out, two, three, four. I took my place at stage right, right where I should be. The hubbub from the audience rippled upon me, raising my goosebumps despite the increased heat from the overhead lights. They were excited. I was excited… this had been my mantra in the build up to this moment. I could not be nervous. No. This was excitement. Excitement made my stomach churn and excitement made my mouth as dry as a desert, but I wanted this. For a fleeting instant my mind scrambled with quickfire questions: why was I doing this? Was it too late to back out? Why was I doing this?? In, two, three, four. I wanted to be here. Out, two, three, four. I wanted this more than anything.
The lights went down. The hubbub faded.
Without thinking, my feet stepped confidently onto the stage. I subconsciously found my place and breathed in. Two, three, four.
The lights came up.
For an eternal second, I could sense the audience in front of me, their eyes focussing on my face, my costume, my hair… I could see the backdrop, the props, I could hear the music, the hushing and breathing… the exhaustion of rehearsals, line-running, practice, nervousness, doubt, frustration, hope, aspiration, ambition caught in my throat as I opened my mouth to speak the lines…
The lines cascaded out of my mouth with a poetic dexterity only achieved through vigorous, relentless practice. In that first second, I was alive… and then I wasn’t. She was. This character I had nurtured, grown and fed for months took over my body and mind. I could no longer see the audience or my friends or props; she could see her life before my eyes. She was real. I was with her, following her, holding on to her, watching her in all her full glory, and it was… magic.
Rieke Schroeder – La vida es un Carnaval…
When I start listening to the first accords of a song, a vibrant energetic flow is crossing my body. I cannot do anything but jump, looking for someone around to share a new opportunity of this powerful and positive sensation. The magical words to enter this wonderful world are very easy to learn: Shall we dance?
Dancing Salsa means to me the flow of energy, the connection of body mind and soul, a moment where anything else is getting in the background and only music and movement counts.
Every dance is a new experience, every new dancing partner is an opportunity to explore a different sensation. I enjoy most when I see and feel how my dancing partner is passionate and dedicated to this instant and we are creating this space of connectivity sharing this moment in time.
Dancing Salsa is my answer of physical, mental, and spiritual balance. I love the rhythm, the power, the energy. It fills my body up with positivity, put a smile on my face and gives my soul an overall feeling of freedom.
Salsa let me put “on hold” everything else, hard times, sad moments, stress, anything. Dancing has this powerful healing about me.
I have been part of a social activity group in Madrid called salsaaniversario, where people connected, shared, and experienced the wonderful world of Cuban salsa dancing. As a non-profit community we all took part in the existence and development of the group, each one contributing a little grain of sand, helping each other learning new steps, supporting new dancers with rhythm and characteristics of the Cuban Salsa. But even more, it has been a place where I met people with very interesting lives and experiences and found wonderful friends from all over the world.
It is an amazing feeling to be in a place where you see people enjoying, smiling, laughing. It does not matter what your background is, how old you are, what you do for living. In the world of social salsa dancing all what counts is your desire of dancing and having a good time. The objective is not the competition or the high-level performance, but the pleasure of sharing.
Showing your respect to your dancing partner by following a voluntary commitment from the very first notes of music, a mutual attempt to try to understand each other and to catch the tune. Follow the guidance of my dancing partner, to feel being navigated through the song and add my personal ingredient to every dance is the secret of the recipe of the Cuban salsa.
I love to watch the dancing couples and I enjoy a lot when I see the connections between them, a moment to enjoy about 5 minutes maximum, able to create a good energy much longer than this time.
I believe that dancing is a healthy and well-being activity for everyone. It is my aim to make this world accessible in my new hometown Gijón once the pandemic makes it possible. It would be an enormous pleasure to create a local community of dancers that are enjoying the beauty of Salsa Music and dancing.
Natasha Craggs – Thorn Tree Heart
External links to members writing:
Isobel Silver – It’s not SEX
There is one word in the English language that excites me more than any other word.
And although it begins with S it’s not sex! This simple, three-lettered word causes instant pleasure, evokes hundreds of memories and inevitably my thoughts turn to food. My two passions, apart from my husband of course, in life
Sea: “the large continuous area of salt water that covers most of the earth’s surface and surrounds its landmasses” (Oxford English Dictionary)
Loch Sween, a sea loch on the west coast of Argyll, which was designated a Conservation Marine Protected area in 2014, four and a half hours drive from my home in the Northern Lake District, is one of my most favourite places and the only place I can go foraging and find enough of the seafood I adore, on occasions far more than enough.
I grew up on the Isle of Lewis, that far-flung island off the northwest coast of Scotland, eating a lot of fish and shellfish, never thinking of what I was eating as luxurious or even expensive, most people at that time caught fish during the season from the rocks or by boat. Salting the excess for the winter months.
More than 30 years ago my inlaws bought a cottage by the sea to retire to. At the time I had been living away from the island I was born on for over 4 years and desperately missed (really) fresh fish and seafood. My brother had been a share fisherman, supplying me with all sorts of wonderful goodies. Once he arrived with the biggest turbot I had ever seen, barely covered by his jacket, hidden from the prying eyes of his skipper who lived next door to me. So the idea of spending time right across the road from the sea, with a small boat, was hugely appealing.
The summer months can be unreliable weather-wise, but unless there are white horses on the loch, it’s considered safe enough to take the boat out on the water. So misty cooler days, when the midges are at their worst are the best days to load up the boat with all the paraphernalia required for catching dinner and head off.
I will eat anything that lives in the sea, from Seaweed to limpets, to lobster, some people believe Lobster is the king of the sea, but I disagree, controversial I know but the taste of Langoustine (Dublin Bay Prawn) to me, straight out of the pot, steamed and doused in garlic butter, lemon juice and copious amounts of black pepper is orgasmic.
In order to catch these delicacies, bait, has to be sourced. Salt herrings are the traditional bait used by the few prawn boats that fish Loch Sween and can be bought from one of the fishermen. Five pounds worth can last a season, stored in a big plastic bucket, covered with rock salt. Untangling the ropes and pots after a winter under cover always brings a tingle of anticipation and baiting them with the slightly pungent salted herrings brings back memories of eating them as a child, the salt herring mashed with new potatoes straight from the garden and a little bit of butter. To this day I would sell my soul for some salt herring or mackerel.
So, now the pots are baited and the ropes and bouys are loaded, it’s time to head out to sea. There are 10 pots attached to a long rope individually, with a bouy at one end.
It’s guesswork where to drop the pots, but there are certain areas of the loch where the sea floor is muddy, this is where the prawns live. Pots dropped, it’s time for a spot of fishing, or depending on the tides, collecting mussels, razor clams, oysters and if my husband is willing to don his wet suit, scallops, another mind-blowingly delicious treat.
I was taught as a child how to “catch” razor clams, and believe me standing in cold water up to my knickers is worth it.
Razor Clams burrow deep into the sand and are very sensitive to motion, so standing still watching for the tiny valve moving as the seawater is being filtered is tiring on the eyes and with the slightest breeze causing ripples on the water spotting them gets increasingly harder as the wind picks up. Straightening my right hand to resemble a rudimentary spade, I slowly lower it into the water and try to jam the clam at an angle, then grab hold and slowly pull it from its sandy burrow. Eaten raw straight from the shell is delightful, sweet, soft, slightly salty, not at all chewy, like the tenderness of perfectly cooked octopus, bite-sized heaven. The fingers of my right hand always end up with tiny cuts, the shells are pretty sharp, hence the name. Of course, cooking them is an option, straight onto the grill and generously drenched in the ubiquitous garlic butter is the easiest option I swear there is nothing on earth that cannot be improved with these two simple ingredients.
Mussels can be foraged at the same time in my particular “Sandy Bay)” at low tide, there’s no particular skill involved, other than looking for the biggest. Because they are not rope grown, the mussels develop little “pearls”, so caution is required when eating them as the tiny pearls can play havoc with fillings. I’ve eaten mussels all over the world but I have to declare scottish mussels the best. Plump, juicy, and bright orange, like tiny edible pillows.
Loch Sween is also home to one of the most important populations of native oysters, not to everyones taste, I love them, freshly shucked and chewed to savour the sweet briny flesh, but Loch Sween oysters stay in the sea, to be enjoyed by the resident otters and other marine life. I buy commercially grown oysters instead.
Wild, wet, windy days are frequent and securing the boat before leaving is vital, as last winter the storms threw the boat up onto the shore, causing quite a bit of damage. Leaving all my favourite things safe for a while anyway.
Sarah Matthew – Passion
Sheep. I am passionate about sheep. There – I’ve said it. I am an ovineophile, a fleece fondler, a sheep geek.
I am also a knitter, a spinner, a weaver, a dyer. My particular passion is for the old Scottish breeds.
One of the great delights of my childhood growing up in a small village in rural Scotland was going off on my trusty rusty bike and gathering henty lags – the wee bits of wool that get snagged off the sheep when they get too close to the barbed wire. The scraps were washed and combed (with my hair comb) and used to stuff my dolls’ pillows.
I love watching sheep too – their slow, considered ambling around the fields and hillsides – amble, eat, sit down for a bit, eat, drink, eat……….
I’ve always found them to be the most beautiful of animals – soft-nosed and smiley-mouthed, their eyes yellow-tinged pools of thoughtfulness. Sheep ponder a lot, you can see it in those eyes.
Then there are the breed names – so evocative, timeless, music to a wool lover’s ears – Soay and Boreray from far-flung St Kilda, the seaweed eating North Rondaldsay, the black Hebridean, the delicate looking Castlemilk Moorit, the tough and rugged Blackface with a penchant for lying in the middle of the road on warm tarmac. There is a whole ovine vocabulary out there too, hogget, teg, ewe and yow, ram, cade, tup, wether……….. and the ancient system of yan, tan, tethera for counting the flock. I remember the names of the cuts of meat – scrag end of lamb, neck, gigot, shank……..
One memorable sheep moment in my life was when a whole sheep was delivered to the house, and my granny and mother set to and butchered it in the back yard with an assortment of saws and large knives, the carcass being rested on an old door atop two trestles. Another memory was much later in life, when I spent a wonderful, if energetic, afternoon running around the Skye moorland on my friend’s croft rounding up his small flock for shearing. Once in the shed, Peter sheared them by hand, using the traditional old shears. I was thrilled to be allowed to have a go; I hefted my chosen yow on to her ample bottom between my legs and made a start. I was painfully, carefully slow, so much so that she fell asleep.
A sheep’s beauty is greatly enhanced by its utility. For time beyond measure they have provided meat, wool, skins, milk, horn, dung, bones. Really, what more could a woman want from an animal?
My love of everything sheep comes as no surprise to me as most of my ancestors on my mother’s side of the family were shepherds. My granny was shepherding in the highlands at the age of twelve, before she went into service at fourteen. Her family moved to where the work was – from Ardnamurchan and Rannoch Moor in the north to Megget Head in the borders, Carsphairn in the south west. There was plenty of work to be had, it wasn’t that long after the highland clearances. My great, great uncle froze to death one January as he was out looking for sheep in a blizzard – he was twenty six.
There was an old tradition, which was carried on until the early twentieth century, of a shepherd being buried with some wool from his flock in the coffin with him. This was so that when he reached the pearly gates, God would know he was a shepherd and therefore excused his inconsistent Sunday attendance at church as he was off with the sheep.
It is a sadness in my life that I never got to keep my own sheep, but being such a lover of these most gentle of creatures, when my time comes, I wanted to be buried with wool in my coffin. If I knitted my own shroud, no-one would be at all surprised.
Ian Hicken – The Defender
Peter sat quietly seething in his favourite armchair in the lounge. To say he was angry was an understatement. Earlier in the day, he had learnt that once again his parents had been ripped off, fleeced of their hard-earned savings by yet another scumbag. In their eighties, his parents were no fools but somewhat naïve of the scams and deceit that had seemingly infiltrated every segment of modern-day society.
This recent incident had brought back vivid memories of the times before where unscrupulous men, women and toerags had taken advantage of his Mum and Dad´s trust in people. “Well he seemed like a really nice bloke,” or ” I took his word for it as he seemed to know what he was talking about,” his Dad would often say in his own defence. “I even made him a cup of tea and gave him some of the cake left-over from your Dad’s birthday,” Mum would reply as if it was all a bit of a shock that someone willing to eat cake and drink tea would do such a thing.
There was that time when the double glazing salesmen had cold-called and told his Mum and Dad that a couple of their windows seemed hazy and really need replacing. Two and a half hours later, after an intense period of hard-sell, Peter’s Dad wrote the cheque for the deposit and signed the contract for new doors and windows. They had only been replaced three years ago and were in good condition and were not hazy as Mr Double Glazing had said. “He had a really nice suit on and seemed like a lovely man and, his Mother goes to the same church as us, so he said,” Mum added.
Shortly after that, there was the car salesman who drove to Mum and Dad’s house with a six-month-old Mazda, just to show Dad and to warn him that his 3-year-old Clio was at the end of his warranty period and he really didn’t want to be breaking down on the roads as they are today, at his age or end up with an expensive repair bill. The Clio had a textbook service record and had 18,000 miles on the clock. Fortunately that time, Peter’s Dad had telephoned him for a second opinion about the price of the Mazda.
Peter sat staring into the mist of his frustration and annoyance, what else could he do apart from trying to explain to his Mum and Dad that times had changed and some people were just devious and out for a quick profit, crooked or otherwise. He recalled the seven tubes of miracle gel his Mum had bought out of the newspaper, guaranteed to cure arthritis and eliminate pain for good. It was endorsed by a couple of men and women in their seventies playing tennis and a chap in a white coat who had helped formulate the potion. At thirty pounds a tube it must be good despite only having herbal extracts and a secret ingredient. “Well, you’ll try anything when you are in pain.”
Then there is the phone calls and text messages, calls from banks, calls from internet providers, calls from credit card companies, calls from Amazon, calls from the Tax Office, text messages from banks, parcel delivery companies, texts from PayPal, scam, scam, scam. Fortunately, Peter’s Dad has cottoned on to these scams and generally responded with a firm and bold “Bugger Off”. His Mum has trouble hearing on the telephone so rarely gets past “just hold the line, I’ll get my husband.” Peter worries that as their years pass and their judgement becomes impaired, as it does for many elderly, and as the scams become more sophisticated, his Mum and Dad will be taken in and possibly lose out financially and emotionally to this type of crime; it can really knock a person’s confidence after being scammed. It is unscrupulous and abuse. On several occasions, he has explained call barring and call blocking but it often gets forgotten in the heat of the moment.
This latest incident came alongside several of a similar vein, cold callers wanting to resurface driveways, roofing companies driving past and noticing some very dangerous loose tiles that might cause extensive leaks and damage, and, “a lovely lady called Jean who wanted to demonstrate magnetic mattresses and chairs that she was sure would ease their aching bones.” A nice young man call Craig had noticed their guttering had ferns growing in it and he and his mate would clear the guttering and clean up the soffit boards to prevent serious water damage all for fifty pounds, now… Turns out Craig and his mate moved their ladders around the perimeter of the house, enjoyed Mum’s cups of tea and biscuits, took the eighty-five pounds “as it was a much bigger job than first thought,” and disappeared into the twilight world in which they lived. Of course, not a leaf, moss, gutter or soffit board had been touched.
Peter’s mind was all over the place, his emotions fluctuated from anger to feeling wounded, from disgusted to upset and helpless. He was aware that his parents would continue to struggle with such scams, they were from a different generation, a time when a gentleman’s handshake was as good as a signed contract. As they age, as their ability to see through such deceit declines, they will become more open to abuse, more likely to be taken in and less likely to utter those two definitive words “Bugger Off.”
As Peter calmed, he fantasised about the steps he could take. His thoughts soon escaped reality and he dreamed of revenge and retribution, not only for his own parents but for parents, grandparents and the vulnerable everywhere…he imagined the impossible, recruiting an army of sons and daughters to join him in becoming Defenders, protecting the vulnerable, seeking out the deceitful, tracking down the culpable and calling them to account. His train of thought momentarily halted as the alarm rang on his mobile reminding him that he had a doctors appointment. As he got up from his chair, his thoughts echoed in his mind as he imagined and reimagined his growing army of Defenders, the seeds of an idea took shape, there was no going back, he picked up his car keys, checked himself in the mirror and muttered: “watch this space you scumbags, watch this space.”
Bethsarim Brinez Albertsz – Electrical Storm
There are only two words I can use to describe the first day of our uniting.
It was at the end of summer, and I know that sounds cliché, like a teen flick but not like the ones from Hollywood, ABC, Lifetime or WGN…
The Aruban summer really ends in October, when the cooler winds land and dawn is freshest.
I still see you there, walking towards me as the morning sunlight cooly floated in on the breeze. Sunlight dropping in playfully like drops of rain through the heavy tree canopy.
My heart full of laughter as you walked around the corner of the street. I sat there looking at you from afar, as you strutted in my direction. Wearing camo pants and military boots.
Around you a flash of blue light swirling up and above you, light I could perceive but not see. The eye of the hurricane was headed for me and I couldn’t help but throw myself and my heart into it.
Getting to know you is the sweetest adventure I never planned to go on. Ups and dows, twists and turns, very moment apart for 7 years. And every moment together now since 5 years ago.
All sparked in a moment where your electrical resonance sucked me in, and the closer we are together into the eye, our I, the more stillness and peace we have within us.
You are my heart, my life, my breath & my home.
It is you. It is me.
Together, forever and ever.
In our electrical storm.
Sally Anne Johnson – Rhubarb and Raspberries
It all began with a seed, as it so often metaphorically does, but in this case, an actual seed… one that would germinate and, with tender love and care (although to be honest the back-breaking act of pushing an overladen wheelbarrow of cow shit is rarely thought of as a tender act) become a wondrous thing – food, real and for the soul. I’m no expert, but count myself as an enthusiastic amateur and the joy, distraction and escapism, both physical and psychological can truly be considered therapy any day.
As a child born in early 70s Norwich, the advent of convenience foods, by which I’m referring to the wonders of a Vesta freeze-dried Chow Mein, Smash and Cook-In sauces, my mum’s culinary skills were in stark comparison with my grandparents’ recipe-following, endless blanching of vegetables to fill a large chest freezer (there were only two of them!) and a seemingly never-ending fly-attracting collection of vegetable peelings by the front door. They were just a thing “old” people did, like washing plastic freezer bags and saving every possible reusable receptacle; how little did we know then what wise people they were, through necessity or habit, no doubt, but the planet thanks them now. As do I.
Don’t get me wrong, I remain eternally grateful to both my dad for surrendering his small vegetable patch when I fell in love with all things equine and was gymkhana-ing on a thrice-weekly basis, also to my mum for keeping abreast of the never-ending stream of hay/straw/hair imbued washing (yes I sneaked in the odd numnah or girth, but I couldn’t be held singularly accountable for the washing machine repair man needing to be called in again, could I?)… Nevertheless, although the love of horse-riding remains to this day, I am, more likely than not, to be found “down the patch” from February to November and sometimes in between! (the only reason I stopped procrastinating about writing this and finally got my green finger out, albeit at the eleventh hour, was that rain stopped play).
So, after a day of the afore-mentioned backbreaking wheelbarrow filling, pushing and emptying yesterday, I find myself a) dreaming of a muscle-relaxing bath and b) asking myself (as perhaps others will too, I mean, I could just go to my local supermarket, greengrocer or farmers’ market) “why?”
Perhaps I’m insane? Just in that kind of way an overprotective mama bear defends her young though. I greet my greenhouse guests in the morning and wish them Good Night when I close up, lest an over-inquisitive wild boar or deer should come exploring. You can truly be yourself in front of your plants, they don’t judge in the way others might… I speak to them; I apologise to “weeds” for pulling them and explain it’s only through the misfortune of location that I’m removing them: I sing to them; and have particular songs that soundtrack certain jobs, nothing says winding up twine like The Police’s “Wrapped Around Your Finger”.
On the other hand is the argument for the garden having helped me retain some semblance of sanity; I would have gone bat-shit crazy in Lockdown if I hadn’t had access to a garden I’m sure, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I loved the extra solitude it brought without the background hum-drum of the N634.
When I lost my beloved dog, Sprout, to liver failure, I believe, hand on heart, that taking out my frustrations at the injustice of him being just 8 years old on attacking the ever-encroaching brambles (with a bit of primal screaming thrown in) helped me cope. Even now, I still miss him every time I go down the garden, but nowadays I’m accompanied by my cat Chris Evans, the ginger whinger, who has done a sterling job of picking up the baton and making sure I’m supervised
Although I am a firm believer that nature is in control and she will take it all back when she chooses, nothing compares to a (wo)manmade bonfire, just the way to deal with those pesky bramble cuttings, the snap crackle and pop of an exploding seed pod, the raw throat and burning cheeks that only a good old burn-up can ignite, a cleansing benefit of having to deal with non-compostable garden waste. There is, I believe, also an indulgent sense of dominance, an echo of our cave-women ancestors literally keeping the home-fires burning. Not only that, deciding where a plant can and can’t grow is truly narcissistic, unless of course you’re planting daffodils.
Other benefits: I love learning and it’s an almost daily occurrence where the garden is concerned, regularly trying to learn from my mistakes, turning to my books (among my favourites, those inherited from my late grandad and one received for my 40th birthday from my dearest and most longstanding girlfriends) the internet, TV, friends, neighbours and pretty much anyone who’s ever had a go at growing. I’ve learnt new vocabulary, just this week I encountered the wondrous “peduncle” and have been liberally crow-barring it into all squash-related, of which there are many as any keen Asturian huertacultualist (yes that one’s mine) will tell you, conversations ever since.
The delight of obtaining seed, mostly through exchange but with the odd purchase too, sowing, nurturing, tending, harvesting and then having to discover new recipes to deal with an unexpected glut (chocolate courgette cake anyone?) preserve, pickle, store or swap and most importantly eat and enjoy what I’ve grown continues to amaze me. Last year, when work dried up, thankfully the ground didn’t and now, with my organic credentials assured and a COPAE certificate in hand, I hope to be able to support myself through those lean summer months as befall an English teacher abroad.
Which brings me to rhubarb and raspberries… why? In truth, there’s a financial interest, but how wonderful that actors are still taught to mumble “rhubarb” to create the appearance of conversation and I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t childishly still blow a “raspberry” every now and again.
Anyway, I can’t stay here waxing lyrical about all things vegetable, those tomato seeds aren’t going to plant themselves are they?