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Showing posts from August, 2014

Summer Finale

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This day starts smoky from our bonfire. The heat is blown through by a pleasing wind as ash scatters over the washing, over the cut grass. We had cooked potatoes in the flames, got them just right, blazed up inside a pile of ivy root. We watched the woody stems twist. In agonies, Mr said, making mock-horror. They are just born, I contradicted; fire snakes, they wriggle into being. Overhead were stars and dark and one aeroplane flying and the shadowy tall pines. Nearby, blackberry wine, two glasses. In the polytunnel this morning mould is found, it blights the tomato stems. A procession of tainted foliage trails to the hedge and back. Two pots of crisis cropped fruits pause on the picnic table while the fridge is reorganised. To have one's head in the fridge is coolly angelic. The phone rings, it is one of my Dear Readers with some hot tips for Chapter One. She is halfway through the novel so far, in spite of her computer troubles. I agree with her assessments, though the hedge-bird…

Ice Bucket Crystals

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Ruminations on the 'ice bucket challenge.' We didn't have any ice, the freezer being packed with garden and hedgerow bounty (without which winter will be lean in this house.) It was cold enough, being from the outside tap, we figured. Misgivings were not about the temperature of water. There are sides to things, of course. An ice crystal is an appropriate image. Clean water is a luxury of living and a staple; this is what makes it treacherously easy to overlook how lucky we are: we who have this undemanding access. My tomatoes, my cat, my dog, myself, all have this effortless level of supply. I may be frugal with bath water but there it is: I am bathing in drinkable water.  Of course, here, we are aiming to live more naturally, there are plans for a filtered rain tank: I would have an outdoor bathroom, a dry toilet (some people aspire to gold taps, for me the dry toilet is a sign of success) and the permaculture sensibility is a living growing phenomenon, I can't work out…

Housework Shirked

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Each day a quota holds, a minimum punnet. Fingernails clipped short, cuticles sundried, dyed in berry shades: criss cross thorn scars, inked in. The weather blows cold, blooms hot; it seems visible, a haze of temperatures, spiralling. They rotate over crop fields. They echo the blades of harvest. The hedges will be cut too: every day a quota holds, to fetch the berries in. At home, there are two kinds of thing: that which is left, stacked unheeded, undusted, untended, until after picking: that which is paraphernalia for picking (vats for brewing, jam pans, ice cream tubs, bottles, recipes, air locks, siphon pipes, vinegar, sugar, spice and such and such.) This morning plucked meadowsweet bubbles with honey, flavours our fermented tea.  Variations on our harvesting vocation: Friday: Acquaintance made with a tiny kitten. Little Granddaughter has named him, or rather announced a string of names and her parents have picked their least unpopular offering. So he is not called Baby Princess Kitt…

Topsy-Turvy

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Several fruits the squash plant started, lately: each of them had putrefied, no bigger than a fat thumb, grey furred. The stems leaked as they were cut, as all the wide and finely spined leaves were sliced out and a green overflow drifted up against the fence next to the compost bin. Several more fruits were seen, hard greenish fruits that seemed impervious to mould, too late: the stems all cut, the roots dug up. Too late! But here, in the opened space, is room for potted melon plants to unconfine roots. Melons are summer fruit: pumpkins are for autumn? But the pale outgrowths swell healthy, hang content from trellis in the topsy-turvy polytunnel. Outside more blackberries are picked and picked. The hedges bloom butterflies and sometimes one will sit on a dark-bright berry, slurping juice: carefully watched, though as yet none have changed colour. The air is hot or cold without intermediate: summer and autumn awkwardly spliced.


Blackberry Anecdotes

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Saturday, Dog & Me We venture out around the middle point of day, when the tractor boys have slumped for lunch; I guess at cab-warm sandwiches and an energy drink. I have a pot for blackberries and barely stop, just wander and pluck and the layers add up; globules, purple-black, heavy in the heat; I have an eye too for where rosehips are rounding out, for dark dots of elderberry, blue sloes with their whitish bloom, amiable red on the hawthorn stems. We wade the thick grass to the maize field's far edge where a leafy tunnel whispers, irresistible. We had better not tread too far, maize being the kind of crop that will grow behind your back and not tell the way out. I hold my berry tub close, to remind me: these I picked to take home. Jam, wine, cordial, crumble, pie: the recipe is not decided: something, always, is being made.  Sunday, Girl, Little Granddaughter, Dog & Me Two gallons, the big tub holds. At the hedgerow, thirty finger digits drip purple. One delirious Dog runs…

Agog

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It was as though the essence of festival had been tube packed then blown up. Our vantage point was excellent, we clearly saw: it was fire fragments of candied fruit, fairy lights, tinsel sheen; glitter flowers, gaudy wrap; they burst into the night, blitzed out, dropped jaws: such brief and glorious pauses. We drove home, down lanes, tiny, roofed in hedge: labyrinthine: the moon was three quarters fat, shining. Our bellies ruminated burger and chips. I should like to be a spark, of sorts, I think, while the road opens out to streetlamps and there are silhouettes behind curtains. Just one spark, and we should have a camper van, and drink more coffee on more beaches and just one grain of sand on the beach of brilliance, that's my ambition, one amongst the throng that calls to you and says this is it, is it not enough? Look closely, it is all this beautiful, it is all delicious, and you don't need much and how lovely were those fireworks, one is all agog.
A late night: and a nervo…

Sea Salt And Socks

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Water rises, slowly, in the balanced dish, in the thin china flaked with corn that went unrinsed after last night's supper, the tap squeaks. Other dishes too are stacked, the edges ripple overflow: water pours, with intermittent squeak, stirs up the stagnant strip of flat in the washing up bowl; tiny reflections tremble. Grey light sighs over crumbed worktops. A towel on the floor in front of the washing machine, striped in shadow, dotted in sand. Where are the wetsuits? Unrinsed, one suspects; smiles, raises up the window blinds to bulked cloud; thinks of yesterday. How warm it was: how we sat with the sun-bloom on our faces, on the way to work, straight from Perranporth beach, in the car drinking cold coffee and how the rain came down! The air chilled. It even had that smell, that faint spice of autumn. At work we were pale with sea salt and dusty sand. At home, warm socks waiting.






Lunch On South Hess

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At Princetown we set out. (There should be a Princesstown, I decide. The Little Granddaughters would love that.) Overhead clouds are passing, grandiose, pausing to monologue, wandering, yet intently, stage left. We start with a hill, The Chap advises, then the rest of the walk will seem easier. North Hessary Tor suffices to warm us up: me, The Chap, Houseguest Ben and effervescent Dog. She spins in dry dung, chases birds she'll never catch. How many people die here, Ben asks, after the instructions on bogland and hyperthermia. He observes the cloud drama and pulls up his hood. Thousands, says The Chap, kindly smiling, but less now there is good mobile coverage. He has full kit. We have water and dried fruit. Dog chews some grass. We can stick to the path, I say, let Chap go wandering. He has highlighted our map for a rendezvous lunch. The path we drop down to was a railway, once upon a time, when the quarry was a grand business.  My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my work…

Straw Music

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Down the river lane and at the wide corner strawberry patches carry leaf, not flower, not fruit: but elsewhere; Barton, Carzantic, Treniffle; blackberries fatten. Four pots of jam have been made; blackberry with banana; one is opened for breakfast; another picking pot is full in the fridge, will be pudding later. The hedge is tentacled, prickled with mild perils, thorn, wasp, horsefly, nettle. Young green berries, hard as carapace, have their small heads nodding. Dog is grateful for the breeze; she sits to wait and listen; the recycling truck is late this week, has all its windows down and the radio loud. Clouds draw and a gate is open; we explore, we make the cut straw music, a late summer plink. Here the berries are not abundant, nor ripe, but the field is gold-red striped, puffed with stray seed. In the corner where the stream drips thorough Dog frolics in its hollowed bed, roofed in oak leaf; and out comes the sun. 










100 Years

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05/08/14: Last night we lit one candle, turned out the electric lights, let the house stand quieted, in memoriam. It was late when war was announced, a summer's late evening in 1914: some other family may have sat, then, freckled by sun, with a dog snoring and their grown boys playing cards, the radio on. Perhaps they made tea, as is still the custom, not knowing what else to be busy with. Keep calm and put the kettle on. Speculate that it should all be over soon, let other worries fuzz a cover: bombs will scare the dog, who will clear the guttering if the boys enlist? If… 06/08/14: Morning rain is musical; percussion on leaf; in the twist of a sluice like faraway bells. 



Don't Forget Your Torch Batteries

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(A report from the TAGB Southwest Summer Camp aka Our Family Holiday) Eight nights under canvas, six days of Tae Kwon-Do training, weather most obliging.  Saturday: arrive, sign in, pitch up your tent. In summer Cornish roads are squished. Caravans bounce off hedges. Even motorcyclists get wedged, with steam squeaking out of leathers. Bored children cry, throw up brightly coloured sweets. Tracks over moor lands pulse with headaches of lost families and Satnavs advising turn around, turn around, in every direction. Even with the advantage of local knowledge it is such relief to reach the open field, kick off shoes, pace out under the pine tree edging. We raise our tent easy: those less practised are spotted and offered help. Boy and I are training this year: Mr is injured. He will be cooking and playing in the sea (not simultaneously.) Forays for supplies are made. There's a fish and chip van in the village and decent coffee available from the Post Office. At eight pm the camp meets. …