It would be good to find some quiet inlet where the waters were still enough for reflection. where one might sense the joy of the moment, rather than plan breathlessly for a few dozen mingled treats in the future…
The white wisteria wafts its scent across the veranda. I can smell it as I sit here writing with the French doors open. The pale purple blossoms of the melia tree, sometimes called the Persian lilac, are scenting the night air too, this tree being the nearest we can get to the real thing in this too temperate climate. Lilac is my favourite shrub, I keep meaning to order a root from afar – actually the South Island – and pile ice around it in winter to fool it into thinking it’s living in a cold climate. I miss not having any lilac.
The cabbage tree- not an attractive name – puts out long stems of blossom at this time of year covered with the sweetest smelling tiny flowers, which turn a creamy brown when dried, with black stems; like the melia tree the scent seems strongest in the evening. Sweet alyssum wafts its fragrance in sunshine, and best of all, my precious Reine de Violette rose in the pot by the front door is now blooming.
I’ve carried it in a big square terracotta pot from garden to garden, and its scent pervades the little courtyard by the door for the month that its deep pinky-purple tightly layered petalled heads bloom. So many petals – between 50 and 75 – according to the official description, and bred in France in 1860. Grown from a cutting given by a friend. Later in the summer, the blue petunias in pots will send their sweet smell through the garden, also strongest at night. My summer garden would be incomplete if I didn’t have masses of foaming pale blue petunias in pots – Cambridge blue is their description. And in midsummer we’ll have the strong, night scent of queen of the night, and the datura tree growing in the wilderness part of the garden which spreads its pervasive sweetness when the sun is going down.
In a few weeks fragrant star jasmine will be blooming, it’s crawling up the walls below the veranda, sprawling over the arch with pink Albertine roses and ivy, and growing outside the bathroom window. And I’ve topiary-ed it so it billows out of two big blue pots the same blue as the petunias, just outside the French doors. The scent will drift everywhere… I’d love to have the exquisite perfume of sweet peas in the garden, but alas, I’ve never been able to grow them successfully.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve whittled down the elements I want in my garden, and top of the list is fragrance, closely followed by white flowers which show up in the dusk. So apart from my blue petunias and pink roses, there are always plenty of white lilies, white geraniums, Shasta daisies, fragrant syringa, white Japanese anemones, marguerites, self-seeded valerian, white agapanthus as well as blue, and my favourite white climbing rose Alberic Barbier. That isn’t to say that there aren’t blue hydrangeas shimmering under the trees, a glorious pale gold rose called Crepuscule clambering up a telegraph pole out on the road,( see above) or pink beauties like Jean Ducher which bloom palely all the year. And then there’s Mutatibilis rose which looks like a bush covered in deep pink butterflies about to take flight.
There are two other requirements for my garden – masses of green – so ivy everywhere, box plants and acanthus, and I also ask my long-suffering plants to be undemanding and easy-care, though I contract to water them through the droughts. It’s not a tidy or orderly garden, but an exuberant, prolific little plot, with wilful self-seeded plants welcomed wherever they choose to settle, and every chosen flower and shrub scrambling into its neighbours, cosying up, sharing their space, flaunting their freedom.
Rampant growers like honeysuckle and ivy are allowed to enjoy themselves, instead of wilting under the criticism of real gardeners who despise them for being so invasive. Wandering flaming red and orange nasturtiums have even turned themselves into climbers and threaded themselves through the climbing rose up to the roof, and entangled themselves in an orgy of colour among the pinks and blues of ageratum and lavatera down below in the garden. If it grows, it’s welcome… so though I’m not a discriminating gardener, I am a grateful one!
I learned about flowers from our appropriately named gardener called Mr Appleby. I was nine, and we were living in a rambling Tudor house in Yorkshire while waiting to go to post-war Germany. It had been a monastery before Henry VIII’s Dissolution, and behind it stretched a high walled garden, built of weathered rose-coloured bricks. On either side of the lawn were deep herbaceous beds, the fashion of those times, and indeed, since Edwardian times. At the end, sheltered by the high wall was the vegetable garden, and after we had been to see Bertram Mills circus and I had fallen in love with the trapeze artist, Lady Elizabeth, I tried to practise my rudimentary trapeze skills on top of this wall, unseen from the house.
The end of the lawn was dominated by a big pear tree, where we sat in striped deckchairs in its shade having afternoon tea, and where my step-grandfather would sit on summer evenings reading the Times while he smoked a cigar, it’s rich aroma reaching my bedroom window as I peeped out.
I didn’t go to school while we lived there, and had lessons in the afternoon. In the morning it was my job to arrange the flowers in every room throughout the beautiful old house, and keep them freshly topped up and watered. It was bliss. I had carte blanche to pick flowers! Mr Appleby tended to guard his glorious peonies from me, but let me have enough to keep the vases looking quite ravishing. He taught me the names of his precious plants, and became a great buddy. From his big saggy pockets, he would drag out for me giant gooseberries from his garden, pinkish with long soft hairs all over them, his biggest strawberries, juicy, golden William’s pears, yellow-fleshed purple Victoria plums and red russet apples. I used to hide in the pear tree so as not to have to share these treats.
He told me the names of the tall, smoky blue delphiniums, rosy hollyhocks, pink foxgloves, serried ranks of pastel coloured lupins, and golden rod. They were massed at the back of the borders. Then there were the middling sized flowers, lavender, peonies, pink and white and deep red, dahlias, (I didn’t pick them, too many earwigs crawling around inside) purple irises, stocks and phlox and larkspurs, day lilies in deep maroon, snapdragons massed in mixed jewel colours, delicate grannies bonnets, scented sweet Williams; in the front of the borders were clusters of cat-mint, the soft, furry sage-coloured leaves and pink flowers of lambs lugs,(the country term for ears), yellow cotton lavender and clumps of pinks, the fluffy ones with a gorgeous pepperminty smell.
Then there was purple ajuga and harebell-blue campanula, and snow-in-summer nestling in crevices among the stone flags of the terrace. The names felt like poetry. And smothering the trellis which hid the dustbins outside the kitchen door were pink Dorothy Perkins roses.
Mr Appleby was a weather-beaten, wiry little Yorkshire-man, who wore battered old trousers and an unbuttoned jacket which in novels would be called rusty black, with a grubby white shirt with no collar – in those days you changed the collar, not the shirt, using collar studs, front and back. On his head he wore a flat cap, and he had bright, beady black eyes. He spoke with a broad Yorkshire accent that was hard to understand. Sometimes he took me on walks around the countryside where I learned the North country lingo of becks and scars and fells, which I later learned were the ancient Viking words for stream and cliff and moor. Once he showed me a tiny field mouse peeping out of its miniature nest which was a round grass ball, slung between the top of the stems of two cornstalks growing amidst a forest of other golden stalks, blue cornflowers and red poppies.
Those things I learned from Mr Appleby one summer nearly sixty five years ago have never been forgotten. Who knows what we ourselves unwittingly leave in the memory of the children we encounter? What words, what thoughts, unconscious sharing of experience, spontaneous gifts given without intent, moments that lingered down the years… what imperishable knowledge that helped to lighten ignorance and enlarge understanding, what fragments of fact that sparked a child’s consciousness ? To be the person behind those memories … that must be a very special sort of immortality.
Food for threadbare gourmets
This is a filling meal I make for my husband when I can’t think of anything to give him! Dr de Pomiane, the French-Polish food writer adapted it from a French peasant dish, and this recipe is a much dollied up version of his solid peasant dish. Remove the skin and pips from a medium sized tomato (soaking the tomato in boiling water loosens the skin).
Toast two thick slices of sour dough bread on one side. Spread the untoasted sides with Dijon mustard, grate two ounces of cheese – Gruyere is recommended for purists – I usually use cheddar which is in the fridge – and pile the cheese mixed with the tomato on the mustard side of the bread. Grill until the cheese goes golden, then lay a couple of rashers of streaky bacon on the cheese mixture. Grill until the bacon starts to brown, and serve with black pepper. (De Pomiane didn’t use bacon or tomato – instead when thick slices of cheese had been grilled, he put butter ON the melted cheese!)
Food for thought
“The characteristics of the English are largely unsensational, and since they do not readily fire the imagination they easily slip the memory, but they are nevertheless fundamental and formidable. A love of law and order and a respect for government by consent. A belief in honest administration. A dislike of hurting people and if a hurt be done a great effort to put it right. A tolerant people, offering a hand to victims of intolerance. Skill in devising ways of improving the lot of mankind but a dreadful inability to follow those ideas through. A sweet countryside, but appalling ways of cooking what that countryside produces.”
President Truman describing the English, on being honoured with an honorary degree at Oxford after his retirement. Dreadfully honest, I suppose you could call this somewhat measured and restrained tribute !
After three years in foreign parts – tropical ones, with only bougainvillea, cannas and frangipani to excite me, I found myself walking in an English field of shiny buttercups and shimmering green grass … hawthorn hedgerow cascading with pink and white blossom on one side, river on the other. I could hear a cuckoo. It felt like very heaven.
I was eighteen and this was how I had remembered the scenes of my childhood… shades of Sir Walter Scott’s:
Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land…
We were living in a house lent to us by friends, far out in green hills and deep valleys. Offa’s Dyke was reputed to end in our garden, just above a huge S-bend in the River Wye. Offa lived from 757 to 796, and invented the penny. His dyke separated Mercia from Wales and stretched for ninety-eight miles from north to south. Whatever the truth of the rumour, behind the un-used stables there was a huge mound stretching into the back garden from the fields and woods beyond, and covered in hazel and hawthorn.
Our nearest market town sported a magnificent ruined castle stretched above the river, and further out, poetic Tintern Abbey. And at nearby Devil’s Pulpit, a rocky outcrop looking over the river and across to the abbey, there was the usual legend of someone leaping his horse over in the dark, and coming to a sticky end far below.
The house was part Queen Anne and part Georgian, with a charming regency style wrought iron porch stretching along the garden side of the house. It looked over a lawn, where two ancient lime trees hummed with bees in summer, and seemed like silent sentinels in the wintry mist which hovered among their thick tangle of branches in damp winter months. Beyond the lawn was a ha-ha, but not deep enough to keep out the piebald pony who led a small herd of young steers through the gate-posts, up the drive, over the ha-ha and across the garden while every-one else was at church one morning.
By the time I’d rushed downstairs to shoo them away, they had meandered on into the little sheltered garden with a sundial, and pushed their way through the scraggy hedge which gave onto a lane, leaving only their deep hoof-prints.
The lane led down to a farm house, but before I got there, I would branch off through the woods with my puppy, and take the winding path which meandered down to the river. Just below the tree-line, and in the grass which borderedthe riverside was the ruin of a tiny fifth century church, only its outer walls still standing, empty windows framing the sky, ivy climbing part of the grey stone walls, and tangled brambles guarding the foundations. In spring the woods were filled with bluebells and windflowers. It too seemed like heaven.
The house was faded and gentle, dreaming in the silence of the country-side, no neighbours within sight. My bedroom had pretty flowered wallpaper, pale green painted thirties furniture and long windows looking over the garden. It had a soft sweet atmosphere. The other place that I loved, and where I spent solitary afternoons engrossed in a book was the so-called ballroom. Not a grand one, its claim to fame being the ceiling which had been copied from some famous library in a grand house.
Apart from the large and somewhat threadbare faded old carpet on the polished floor, the only other furniture in the room was a big drab-green brocade-covered Knole sofa, and a large gilt mirror over the carved fireplace. That was all I needed. On sunny days I sat on the cushioned window seat, on other days I curled up on the sofa. When I shut the door the silence and the solitude were absolute.
In the drawing room where everyone gathered, I amused myself by reading ancient copies of bound Punches from the book-shelves, and cracked up over stiff Edwardian jokes. Once, after a fearful row in which my step-grandfather took my side, calling me his little high-brow, I managed to get the wireless to myself to listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and so I dreamed around the place, head in the clouds, picking flowers, adopting two wild kittens as well as the puppy, and driving everyone else mad.
I didn’t know anyone, but once a boy nearby invited me to a hunt ball at Tintern, and the rather erudite and elegant bachelor who lived on the corner further down, in a house filled with books and good furniture invited us to a pre-ball party. I thought he was much more interesting than my escort, and found the ball very dull, spoiled with too many in Malaya.
In Jane Austen’s time I suppose I would have loved the older man hopelessly, and ended up marrying the boy. As it was, I was catapulted into the army, my father hoping that “it would wake me up”.
Thirty years later on one of my trips back to England I went to see the house. I hardly recognised it. The beautiful grey stone walls had been covered with suburban ‘pebble-dash’ cement and stones. The grounds seemed to have been subdivided anda boring brick bungalow built in the new area. A row of dark evergreen windbreak trees replaced the charming informal groups of old deciduous trees down by the vegetable garden, and the ha-ha seemed to have been filled in. I wished I had never come back.
I drove sadly on down the lane. Walking through the woods, nothing had changed there, and thirty years had passed over the ruined church with barely a blink. Just a few more stones tumbled off the end wall, and the empty windows more crowded with ivy. Nature is gentler than mankind.
These memories were prompted by reading Clanmother’s lovely blog on Tintern Abbey
So it looks as though my tea-break is over… it’s been a busy one, with lots of family commitments as well as my own, but I’ve been so touched by messages from my blogging friends – with so many blogs to read, I find it truly wonderful to be remembered and to receive so many messages encouraging me to return. Thank you all, so much. My word press settings seem to have changed since I took my tea-break, and I can’t work out how to put in pictures or any other paraphernalia, so in some ways this is an experimental post!
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
Ah well, Friend and I have been at it again. Meeting to have a glass of wine to catch up and discuss the mechanics of hiring chairs glasses etc etc for an eightieth birthday party she’s organising, we take to heart the dictum of always having something to eat with the wine. We’ve discovered a wonderful new spread to eat with a small chunk of roll.Roast a couple of aubergines, and scrape out the flesh into a blender. Pour in a cup of cashew nuts, ground coriander and ground ginger powder to taste, the juice of a lime or a lemon, and salt to taste. Whizz this into a thick textured paste and enjoy with relish and some bread or biscuits!
Food for Thought
A grace found in an old book of recipes…
Lord, forgive us that we feast while others starve.
Bishop Charles Gore at a banquet
Bloggers return – some of the balls I was juggling have now rolled down-hill metaphorically, others I’m still tossing in the air, and catching.
In spite of the wonderful messages received when I bowed out, I had begun to sink into a little pit of my own making in which it seemed arrogant to expect other bloggers to read my writings… in fact, I suddenly lost confidence in myself.
But as time has passed, to my amazement, people are still reading my blog, and clicking on likes and follows, and some blogger friends have sent messages of support and comfort, so I’ve taken the plunge again, and am returning to the joy of blogging.
I’ve comfortable now with the fact that this will only ever be a little boutique blog, as it were, and I will never again (I think) become hooked on the ups and downs of stats! So back to the joy of writing for its own sake and the fellowship of bloggers … who I’ve continued to read.
I’m sitting at my desk which is just by the French doors onto the veranda. When I look up, I see the turquoise sea framed by the red blossoms of the pohutakawa tree at this time of the year, and watch the fishing boats chug out to sea. The veranda itself is fringed with the fresh green leaves of white wisteria which grows around the outside. In spring the long white racemes perfume the veranda, and now, the scent of a datura at the bottom of the wilderness part of the garden, reaches my desk.
This long room stretches the width of the house, so that when I go to the other side of the house, and open the French doors at that end, the ravishing smell of the queen of the night pervades the front garden. Especially when it rains.
As I write, a shining cuckoo is singing its piercingly sweet song, and a thrush, now relieved of the cares of parenthood, and forsaking the empty nest in the honeysuckle by the garage door, is warbling joyfully somewhere near the oak tree. And the sound of water is the background to their song as waves break on the rocks below.
It’s that peaceful lull after all the hustle and business leading up to Christmas. The tail end of a cyclone has passed through, leaving us with drenched gardens – but clear bright skies and sparkling blue sea. The orcas I had seen came back and a pod of six, including two babies, took over the next bay, chasing a swimming dog, and going “ viral” as they say, all over the internet.
In the lead-up to Christmas, everyone gets their lawns mowed, the wide grass verges by the road trimmed, and their gardens manicured. Then the tents and canopies start going up, and families arrive from all over the country, and camp on front lawns for Christmas.
Christmas – time in this country is hedgerows festooned with billowing banks of climbing pink roses which I think must be Dorothy Perkins. They grow wherever settlers farmed over a hundred years ago, and have scrambled along dusty lanes and country roads ever since.
Christmas here is also blue and white agapanthus which too, have spread along road sides, and gracefully adorn banks and garden entrances, even though this spectacular flower is now condemned as a noxious weed! They bloom at the same time as the pink roses and the red and orange flax flowers, from which the turquoise and black tuis suck nectar with their long beaks.
The red blossom of the pohutukawa tree, the New Zealand Christmas tree, and flaming orange cannas spreading alongside the blue agapanthus, are also part of the brightness and exuberance that is part of an Antipodean Christmas. No spare leafless trees, pale skies and frosty hillsides here. Instead it’s the peak of summer before the flowers wilt and the hills go brown in the blazing sunshine which always seems to arrive with Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, I drove through pouring rain to our nearest big village in search of a half bottle of rum, to make a coffee and rum sauce for the walnut- coffee meringue gateau. Through the wind-screen wipers I saw a dead bird on the road ahead. I picked out the speckled wing feathers and coral- red head of the bird, and recognised a banded rail. These are rare flightless native birds which live on an island sanctuary out to sea.
I had found a baby corpse on the road some years ago, and put it in the deep freeze, before contacting the Department of Conservation. They were rapt, came rushing out and dashed off with the pathetic little frozen body to put it on their map. They knew the birds had reached a spot on the mainland quite a way from here, but had no idea they might have spread to the mangrove swamps where I had found it.
The bird which I now wrapped in several plastic bags (thank you, maligned plastic bags!) was full grown, and heartbreakingly beautiful with its long pointed beak for digging into mud for food, delicate markings and elegant little legs and clawed feet. It spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the deep freeze, amongst frozen bread rolls and my husband’s emergency steak pies, and today I rang the department. Out they came again, and even remembered the last one I had delivered into their hands. Very satisfying to know that a rare breed seems to be multiplying nearby.
And now the New Year looms… I was rather sorry we survived the end of the world. I’d been looking forward to annihilation in a split second, and no more wars, no more cruelty to animals, children, women, men, or the planet! I had thought it would be great to have a fresh start somewhere down the track, and do it right next time – peace on earth – goodwill to all life, animal, vegetable and mineral, and all people whatever their colour, race, religion or sexual orientation.
It would also have been great in that distant future to acknowledge that there is only One Creator, whatever we choose to call him/her or it, Dieu, Yahweh, Allah, Lord Vishnu, Great Spirit, Gott, Divine Source, and therefore no need for religious wars, hostility, judgement or condemnation…. but it seems that we have to clean up our own act now, before we can have that peaceful future!
Maybe one way to start would be to take fourteen year old Minnie Haskin’s advice. George the Sixth, the Queen’s father, used these words to hearten the nation in his Christmas broadcast in 1940, when the islands of Britain stood alone against the terrifying brutality of Nazism.
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.”
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
Our plum tree is bowed under the weight of a lavish harvest of dark purple plums which are only so-so for eating raw, but delicious when cooked. Every-one who receives a basket of these fruits also gets the recipe I use – borrowed from Nigella Lawson.
To a kilo of plums – more or less, use 300 ml of red wine – more rather than less! Nigella says stone them – I don’t bother, the stones come out quite easily when cooked.
Put the plums in an oven proof dish. In a saucepan boil the wine with two bay leaves, half a teasp of ground cinnamon, two cloves, one star anise, and 200g of honey. Pour over the plums, seal with foil or a lid, and bake for an hour or longer at 160 degrees, until they’re tender. You can keep them in the fridge for three days, and you can freeze them.
Serve with crème fraiche, ice-cream, or custard. I also think they’d be good with rice pudding on a cold day.
The aromatic scent while they are cooking is so delectable that I’d love to catch it in a bottle and spray it regularly around the kitchen.
Food for Thought
A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 Great American writer, humorist, publisher of Ulysses Grant’s memoirs, friend of Helen Keller. Abolitionist and anti- segregationist, anti- vivisectionist, anti- imperialist, pro women’s rights.
Born when Halley’s Comet was closest to the earth, and died the day after its return seventy five years later..
He also said; ‘Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.’
There isn’t a notice saying ‘people give way to birds and plants’, but it’s fairly obvious. It’s quite a mission for anyone to come to my door. First they have to dodge the overhanging branches of the red bottle brush tree, rustling with singing tuis and silver-eyes, and monarch butterflies fluttering in and out. They have to make their way past this tree, between banks of blue agapanthus bending over the path, and down the steps, before pushing past self-seeded white valerian springing across the steps, and bending down beneath the overhanging branches of the plum tree, laden at the moment with tiny red fruit which will ripen into lovely sour little plums by Christmas – perfect for cooking with red wine, bay leaves and cinnamon…
I hope they will avoid stepping on the bricks where some self- seeded love- in- the- mist are pushing their way up in the cracks, and at the bottom of the steps, they have to avoid a self- seeded garden of valerian, orange nasturtiums and that wonderful purple spiky flower which I think some people consider a weed, because it grows so prolifically. I particularly love self seeded plants.
As they reach the door, the curling suckers of the purple wisteria I was forced to cut back before it prised the roof off, are beginning to wave their pale translucent leaves, and the honeysuckle I grew from a cutting taken from a country road is just beginning to sprawl across the trellis.
The other path into the garden is just as tricky for visitors. They have to negotiate two steps down onto a side path. But I erected a trellis arch above it, and now it’s enveloped with Albertine rose and all its prickles, intertwined with ivy and star jasmine. No room to put their hands on the trellis to steady themselves as they come down that path. And having negotiated the steps, they then have to dodge the overhanging branches of the guava tree – its fruit is the nice red tangy sort, which makes lovely guava jelly, but also makes the path hazardous when they drop.
When visitors get here, they never notice the lovely antique wrought iron French door knocker I’ve nailed up by the door, so after using their knuckles to knock tentatively and fruitlessly on the door, they make their way round to the French doors. When they finally get inside, a warm welcome awaits them, and they’ve worked for it!
Last year I wouldn’t even let them go down the main path, and re-routed everyone to the hazardous steps and prickly roses. There was a blackbird nesting in the bottle brush tree. I twined fine chicken wire around the trunk so that the beloved and wicked little black cat wouldn’t get up there. She had sat on the steps under the trellis for weeks, and I hadn’t realised why until winter, when all the leaves had gone from the Albertine, and there was a half finished nest, abandoned by some canny thrushes. The blackbirds made it safely. I used to tiptoe up the path and look up very slowly so as not to frighten them and there would be a head and a tail peeping over the nest, until the day when there were several little heads and open beaks stretching up instead.
This green garden is a tangle of shrubs and plants. When we first came here, there were only big smooth grey river stones sitting on weed-mat, and planted with cactus, a few succulents and spiky yuccas, which I gave away. The grand-children helped me toss the stones into a corner, but most of them were cemented in around every garden bed and along every path. A demented stonemason must have spent a fortune on these big round river stones. So the only thing to do was cover them. Out came the cactus and the rest, and in went ivy – I just couldn’t get the weed-mat up, so I planted ivy on top.
Big square terracotta pots with my topiaried box plants were spaced along a terrace, and now it’s a green garden with a few beds riotous with self seeded flowers and perennials like hollyhocks, fox gloves, day lilies, ageratum, lavatera and marguerites. In autumn, dahlias and white Japanese anenomes brighten the green backdrop. At the moment bright orange cliveas, nasturtiums and pink and orange impatiens light up the bosky green bower.
A friend with a flowerless sculpture garden -with just trees and grass and water – came to see this tiny garden last year. She said: “It talks to me – all those flowers have a meaning for me”. They have meaning for me too, holding memories of childhood, past gardens and friends. The Mexican daisies that I carefully allow to spread, even though they are on the politically incorrect list, came from a friend called Oiroa, Oi for short. They’ve been known to us for nearly forty years as Oi’s daisies, and their roots carried from garden to garden. Then there’s Keith’s Kreepies, the little purple spreading ajuga.
In a big pot by the front door is a rose that has also been carried from garden to garden. I’ve Googled a description of it, and now know it’s a Reine des Violettes which has no prickles. The scent fills the whole garden for the month that its deep pinky- purple tightly layered petalled heads bloom. So many petals – between 50 and 75 – according to the official description, and bred in France in 1860. It was given to me by a friend who’d spent six months at Findhorn, the famous New Age centre in Scotland where they grow astonishing crops in poor sandy soil by communicating with Gaia – the consciousness of the planet- and the devas of the place. Marjorie came back home and put these principles into practise on her farmlet where she grew macadamias to fund her husband’s sub-Antarctic Islands explorations in his yacht, and grew most of her own food. She gave me this cutting from a rose growing by her door.
At her funeral her daughter told us that at a gathering some years before, each person was asked to say what creature they thought they were like. And what creature they would like to be. Gentle un-assuming Marjorie felt she was a worm, beavering away out of sight under the earth doing a vital job, but hidden and un-appreciated. She said she would like to be a bee, doing another vital job, pollinating and making honey, buzzing around in the sunshine, enjoying the beauty. The third aspect of this exercise was how others saw her. And they saw her as a thrush, a beautiful song bird, bringing joy to the garden and to other gardeners and friends.
Her daughter told us that the day Marjorie died, her garden was suddenly full of bees buzzing in all the flowers, and as her girls gathered at the house, the air was alive with the sound of thrushes singing. And when she left the house for the last time, a flight of birds flew over the garden. Gaia knew her faithful daughter, and Gaia “works in mysterious ways”.
Food for Threadbare Gourmet
Still pushing the barrow for broccoli, I love the way the Japanese serve it with sesame sauce. Whenever we are out together in a Japanese restaurant, my daughter and I always order it. You can buy bottles of sesame sauce, but it’s not the same. I can’t be bothered to get all the Japanese ingredients just for this, so I adapt the bottled bought stuff, by adding it to a little mayonnaise – the bought stuff – and stirring it altogether.
Or I make a peanut sauce, which is not the same, but just as delicious. You need four tablesp of peanut butter, two tablsp of brown sugar, one tablsp of vinegar (I use cider vinegar) two tablesp of water, and three tablsp of soy sauce. Mix them altogether over a gentle heat until smooth. I use crunchy peanut butter so it has some texture. Pour over steamed broccoli, this makes a delicious vegetarian dish.
Food for Thought
Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look like this. I’ve travelled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.
I agree with him! This is another quip from Will Rogers, famous part Cherokee cowboy, entertainer, wit, film star and newspaper columnist who died when his plane crashed in 1935