06 June 2008

to do list

While I was away from work, I kept a modest to do list. i just could not understand how the day passed so quickly. Although I supposedly had the whole day, I managed to achieve so very little - I was lucky if I scored off one thing each day.

I should count myself lucky. I keep in my kitchen cupboard a book called A Calendar of Country Receipts by Nell Heaton. Written in 1950, it provides a week by week guide of things for the housewife to preserve. Bearing in mind that it was only five years after the lean years of the war, there is plenty of advice on how to make everything from jams and chutneys to hand cream and herb pillows. I checked up what the good housewife should be doing in the first week of June and came across this Pymish description: "So much has to be borne in mind, apart from routine procedures. For instance, it's practically a safe bet that the ideal day for herb harvesting is going to to be the one on which a generous gift of plums awaits your attention. And it almost goes without saying that every season brings one or two major disasters, ranging from over-population by grubs of prize loganberries to the untimely slipping of one corner of the jelly bag". Such catastrophes don't bear thinking about.

I was back at work on Monday and by lunchtime I had around 30 things to do on my to do list. To prevent a complete nervous breakdown I'd promised a treat though, a lunchtime trip to St James's Park to see the Dig for Victory 1940's allotment. It can only be described as big and bounteous. There was not a weed in sight with everything laid out in long rows with big gaps between.

Was I jealous? Not really. The marrow plants growing around the Anderson shelter were rather charming, the scarecrow was splendid and I liked the bee house. But I prefer the intimacy of the patchwork of my own little plot with everything tightly packed in. Even if, according to Nell's advice on June jobs in the garden, "weeds are probably spreading on the paths while you have been busy on more rewarding tasks".

If only. I did manage to reduce my to do list but then I did fit a week's work into four days. Unfortunately that means that you come home exhausted and neglect other housewifely duties. By Wednesday, the cupboard was bare. On Thursday, the cats had been locked out all night and came in cold, hungry and ready for a snooze. And when I checked on the worms this morning about 20 of the poor things had drowned in the bottom layer ( the survivors I had to scoop up), a disaster much worse than a jelly bag slipping.

I bet Nell Heaton wouldn't have let death and chaos reign in the wormery. But then she probably does not have the capacity to live like this Mudchute ginger pig - and I suspect I do. At least this week.

PS I did manage to reduce the to do list to about ten things. Eleven when you add "put up bee house".


j said...

Lovely photos here on your blog. I was doing a search for information on Nell Heaton. I'm a fan of Nell's, or rather, of her work. I know nothing about her, at all.

Very happy to have found your blog- how d'you do?

colleen said...

Very well, thank you. I'm sure we'll be coming back to Nell another day. Do visit again.