Today, with a rare Sunday of nothingness to myself – no personal or work commitments – and the weather so gorgeous, I decided to explore a local park.
It wasn’t too hot – the sun was strong, but there was a lovely breeze to offset it a little. I wandered around the entire park: the open spaces, the herb garden and then the ‘wilderness’ at the far end. Spring is a great time to take photos, with that promise of so much more to come, so I thought I’d share a few highlights of my walk here.
Shame you can’t record smells, as when you’re sitting next to a bunch of hyacinths, that’s the thing that strikes you the most:
I do enjoy a good tangle of trees: different types all entwined, like this:
I always appreciate a tangled tree, too:
I love it when all the colours start coming out:
And, finally, it wouldn’t be spring without the daffodils!
After all that sun and fresh air, I feel rather virtuous! But more importantly, I’ve spent a lovely day in a local green space, relaxing fully and enjoying myself. What better way to spend a free Sunday?
Last night, I made the following observation on Twitter:
Summer evenings: defined by the sound of small insects hitting one’s keyboard.
This perhaps didn’t convey quite the annoyance I was feeling when I wrote it. So just in case anyone missed the frustration behind the words, here it is laid out bare.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing at the kitchen table. I do this because it is larger than my desk, the house is empty so I can, and because there are two nice, large windows I can open, a godsend with the recent higher temperatures.
Unfortunately, kitchen light + open windows = insect invasion.
And in support of this equation, there follows an account of my typical evening:
I’m reviewing something I’ve written.
I look down and see a tiny, shelled fly struggling near the N-key. If I’m feeling charitable I might get a piece of card and help it on its way. If I’m not, well, it’ll meet its maker somewhere between B and M. Throughout the rest of the evening, whether I’m chewing over my own work or reading something online, I hear tick – tick – tick as its friends and relatives come looking for it.
While I’m fighting the nano-beetles, a moth flies in. Soon the tick-ing is drowned out by the repeated ching of the moth smacking itself against the kitchen light. This in turn is followed by a pathetic scream when it decides to dive-bomb me. Concentrating, I’ve shut out the ching-ing, and have probably forgotten all about the moth – hence the cry when it reminds me it’s there.
In the meantime, something green with wings is crawling up my screen. “Be gone,” I mutter, or something akin to that, as I shove it away. Yes, this usually kills it, which is not necessarily my intention. Soon afterwards, like the little shelled things, another green thing will appear. And they keep coming.
Another moth. A crane fly. Tick. Ching. It will carry on until I shut down the computer and go to bed, having first wiped all carcasses from keyboard and screen.
Why do these creatures only ever fall on my keyboard when I’m not typing? Why do they always choose the same few keys? Why can the green things not learn from the moths and climb all over the kitchen light instead?
Yes, I could close the windows, or sit in a darkened room. But despite my frustration, I fight a continuing battle with the six-legged visitors and their sound effects, so at least I’ll get some writing done while neither overheating nor going blind.
Whoever first came out with the idea of birdsong and “leather hitting willow” being the archetypal sounds of summer clearly didn’t sit at a laptop in the later hours. Round here it’s tick, ching and the occasional whump of a newspaper being wielded aggressively which are the hallmark of the season. These are the joys of being an evening writer.
In the interests of balance, and to show that I have no universal hatred of insects, here's a picture of a nice one:
Bee. Essex, UK, 2008.
The gorgeous weather and blissful length of the last couple of bank holiday weekends have meant I’ve spent them round my Mum’s, getting her garden ready for summer.
She and I differ hugely in what we want from a garden. Her choice is flowers, while I want to grow vegetables. The debate about who gets to grow what is an annual event, at its height around March/April. Arguably, it’s her garden and she should have the final say, but as I do most of the grunt work (and pay my fair share towards upkeep), the distinction isn’t that clear. So, over the years we’ve reached a compromise: I get to grow (say) two kinds of vegetable and the rest is made to look pretty.
Because of the rotten soil conditions where she lives, Mum gardens almost entirely in containers. You might therefore consider division of territory to be a simple matter. What it actually means is that all the really good containers – the large ones, those with good drainage and no cracks – are automatically reserved for flowers. This leaves the small pots and a couple of disused buckets for my stuff. But I can work within constraints, and provided the containers actually do what they need to, I don’t care what they look like.
One of the things I love most about gardening is its sense of community: “I have too many of these. Would you like some?” Or someone knowing the answer to the exact problem you have. Or, simply, “I thought you might like this.” This swapping and sharing is something we don’t really see outside gardening and, I’m sure, a few other specialist interests.
An extension of this principle is the Landshare
initiative, alongside similar local schemes, whereby gardeners without gardens are matched with those who have land available. I might grumble about my meagre allocation of containers, but I’d sooner have them than not, and I think it’s great that those who want to grow their own can now find a place to do so.
I’ve only come to gardening over the past four years, but the feeling of inclusion whenever I talk to any other gardener – whether I already know them or not – continues to delight me. There’s nothing like being presented with an unexpected cutting, or a few seeds. Or, in turn, giving something similar away.
I can only imagine how rewarding this exchange must feel on a larger scale. And I hope that Landshare is still running later on when my mother decides that a few more geraniums won’t hurt, and after all, who could eat that much celery? Once my pots start falling apart, I might be on the lookout for a spare bit of land. Or maybe just a few buckets that nobody wants any more…