31 March 2008
According to Jocasta Innes in my very early edition of the Pauper's Cookbook, you can use them to make Paigle Fry, a flower infused pancake. It's probably against the law now. Just as well.
There were some grape hyacinths too, but my battery expired before I could capture them. Here are some from home instead, to welcome in British Summer Time.
29 March 2008
Behind the shed, aspidistra and wild garlic have been planted in the damp and shade. Like everything else, they need a bit of time. They should like it, provided that the slugs and snails don't get the better of them. And by sheer coincidence, there were some recipes from Hugh F-W today for wild garlic in the weekend Guardian- scrambled eggs, wild welsh rarebit, nettle and wild garlic soup and skordalia. Next year maybe.
Beyond the back of the shed, we have not made much horticultural progress. I shall be putting my onions and chitted potatoes in as soon as the weather and my cold improve. In the meantime, I have had to look for floral pleasures elsewhere. Displays of a more woolly kind...
And shelter from the wild and wet elements.
I know, I know. So predictable. But I am little poorly, you know.
27 March 2008
Then I noticed these in the kitchen the other day, abandoned no doubt just before dawn after a night at Slimes by my son. Perhaps he'll realise one day what he is missing and they too will become garden wear.
26 March 2008
I was reminded of Colette's father, probably because the Woman's Hour story this week is Cheri. After his death, she discovered that the beautifully bound books purporting to contain tales of his escapades as a zouave captain were, in fact, completely empty. He clearly enjoyed the rituals of writing, rather than the fact. I know the feeling.
My own pretence took other directions. I looked at the Seeds of Italy catalogue and made a note, for the second time, of the radicchio, beans and squashes I wanted.
I admired the tidiness of my table over a cup of tea or two.
I kept watch over the street, with a cat for company.
Then, as it got dark, I thought that soon the evenings would be lighter and warmer, so I should remind myself of how nice it is to have a night indoors in the warm before I finally settled down to some serious database mining. And writing this.
23 March 2008
I am celebrating with some 78% chocolate with cocoa nibs and will get back out of bed when the house warms up a little. This indulgence (excuse?) does at least give me some time to tell you about yesterday. After we had done our shopping at Globe town market - Easter flowers from Joannes, scallops from the Downeys, fruit from Leslie Herbert, veg from Patrick Goggins,- we visited St John at Bethnal Green. I've walked past the church hundreds of times and yet never looked inside. It is one of three London churches designed by Sir John Soane, austere and beautiful, flagstone floors, peeling paint, dark wooden pews, with empty nameplates leftover from the days when you could pay for a private pew. Yesterday it was a buzz of activity with excellent women of the parish busy getting ready for the easter celebration. Dustpans and brooms stood around in corners with buckets of flowers waiting for expert hands to arrange them. And there were visitors, like us, who had come to see Chris Gollon's Stations of the Cross, a project which had taken eight years. The last painting, the Crucifixion, had been finished just a few days before and put up with the paint still drying. It was fascinating to see how the work had progressed. The earlier paintings were full of cartoonish noisy grotesques, the same kind of faces you see in hectic towns anywhere if you look closely. The later ones were much starker, elegiac. Together they were incredibly affecting and moving. You can see them all here, you can read what other people have said about them here or you can buy his work here. Even if you don't normally follow links, do take a look. If you want to get the full effect, you will have to go and see them yourself. In situ.
I could tell you more about the day. The visit to the Tate to see the Camden Town painters (interesting, in parts, especially the faces of bored, proud Londoners and the move of the city to the country) and Drawn from the Collection (see the Tacita Dean blackboard); or the visit to my aunts; or how quietly pleased my mum was with her big bunch of lusciously pink tulips; how irritated I was to have forgotten to take my camera out with me; how delicious the scallops were when we had them for tea; how good the barley wine tasted; or how I am unashamed to have had the bed warmed by a hot water bottle.
I shall be studying for the rest of this week, so I'm secretly hoping that the weather will stay cold as otherwise I shall want to be out having fun. In the meantime, I'll leave you with these easter flowers from one of John's school gardens that I have been saving for you - enjoy your holidays.
21 March 2008
I couldn't find the yeast, so the cupboard was tidied .
John scrubbed the floor.
I cleaned the windows until they sparkled (almost).
But the buns never got baked because we had a visitor, showing off her first pair of shoes.
18 March 2008
And after an afternoon of being caked -out, it was good to share the burdens of the office with the two Johns. The uncharacteristically gentlemanly young John...
who had been cooking himself and provided home-made pizza for tea. And his more earthy father.
The tradition of wearing the green, even though it may have been several generations since anyone in the family was born in Eire, held on when I was young too. If we had no green frocks to wear, we at least wore a green, white and gold emblem or some shamrock. Old habits die hard, so no surprise then that I'm still called to dress up for the day on 17th March.
And although this was hardly party wear, I did want to be dressed in the right colours for a celebratory Irish Stew and Guiness with friends at Ms McKibbin's later that night. The flower stall at Embankment had no green flowers to offer for a little gift my friend, but these budding hyacinths at least were the right tone.
And artlessly displayed by a true lady artist.
16 March 2008
I also managed to plant some garlic. For years I used to plant “Christo”, originally bought in an old fashioned seed merchants in
The soil is still wet and cold, so we’ve been turning the manure in to try and lighten it, though it still does not look too welcoming to me. We’ve also been preparing the bed for the asparagus by raking in sharp sand to lighten the clagginess of the heavy soil (grateful thanks are due to our kind neighbour Sally for her generous gift!). And to these neighbours too for theirs.
And getting ready for the vernal equinox, the daffodil bulbs we transplanted a few weeks ago seem to have survived. Hardly comparable to the swards which have appeared all over the borough in the last few weeks, but a start. But only one stick of rhubarb under the forcer, not enough for a feast yet.
And today, the rain has been a good excuse for staying at home and catching up. I managed to assemble a little temporary greenhouse to house some seed trays of tomatoes, aubergine and peppers. I’ve also put in some lettuce and leeks to transplant later when the soil warms up. Rather an elegant little construction, I think…
13 March 2008
Then tonight walking home in the lamplit half darkness, the patter of the drizzly rain on my new, taut brolly was soft and gently comforting, like being inside a tent.
No pictures,today - I could not catch it. You'll have to close your eyes and listen if it's raining where you are. Or use your imagination.
10 March 2008
These tall umbelliferous plants are lush and glossy. They are ususally found in damp places, by ditches, in leafy lanes. I'm told that they are edible and used to be eaten as greens at the end of winter to see people through to the time when more appetising vegetables would be available, so fitting that they are here to see us through the last days of winter.
Down at the other end of Cable Street you can see a rather more exotic planting if you look out of the train window. These agaves were brought home from West Mersea WI in nine inch pots some while ago. Here in London, they are perfect for growing in the brick filled aggregate that passes for soil in a south facing school garden - and perfect for keeping rowdy school girls on the path to righteousness rather than running riot through the plants.
It just helps to know they're there when you're insulted on the District Line for being unhappy about intrusive personal stereos, trying not to throw back insults, trying to remind yourself that it isn't as bad as it seems.
08 March 2008
10.30 - looking north, Mile End Park, approach to the Green Bridge which crosses the A11. So many daffodils being buffetted about by the wind.
12.36 - another treat on the way to the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green, a jumble sale in a church hall. Booty: two books and a little galvanised watering can for an apprentice gardener.
13. 15 - and for John, a piece of home made bread pudding and a cup of tea. I abstained because...
15.30 ...I had tea and tart at Patisserie Valerie. The birthday ranunculus (ranunculi?) I bought my friend were an unexpected match for her embroidered coat.
20:00 - Outside the Tate Modern, Prouve's Maison Tropicale, a kit building for the tropics, on the banks of the chilly Thames. And inside, Duchamp, interested in shirts and sheets blowing on lines (moving sculptures) too.
21:45 Walking home from Mile End station, a young woman in front of us leapt with a small scream. A frog on the pavement - safely placed over a garden wall by our local hero.
Biggest surprise - that I am still awake.
07 March 2008
All of that management training has stood me in good stead. The good plot holder has the competence of the most skilled project manager, thinking not only about what to sow in spring, but what follows on afterwards and where it has to go; what needs sun and what can be sown in the shade of taller plants; what will be in and out quickly and what will stay; what the risks of frost are against the potential benefits of planting early. It's all in the planning. I've noticed, for example, that our next door neighbour has a vine which, while looking spartan in winter, will soon spread and grow to create a shady corridor on one side of our plot which will suit quick growing lettuces but be hopeless for courgettes. And that we can use our beans to create at least some privacy from passing wheelbarrow convoys.
We have just sown our selection of sunflowers this year, all shapes, all sizes. I know that they are not a particularly sophisticated choice, but I insist on growing them. They are simple, the sort of flower a child would draw. They look good on allotments and they make good cutting flowers to bring home. I am especially fond of the rich amber and dark velvet of the more modern types, hinting at the arrival of autumn (see, we have not even had spring yet and I'm thinking about autumn).
After great consideration (it was a toss between them and the dahlias) , we finally decided to cram as many as we could into the soon-to-be bed at the front of the shed. If we are lucky, we will have a gaudy garden full. And later on we can check to see, courtesy of our artist in residence, how successful our planning event has been.
06 March 2008
So there you have it.
03 March 2008
02 March 2008
I am, of course, pretty fussy about my washing – it has to be hung out properly, pleasing to the eye, no dissenting darks in the middle of the whites, although modest stripes are acceptable. The washing in this painting by my friend James passes muster.
My washing fascism does allow coloureds on the line, preferably co-ordinated. I used to have a peg bag, made from some second- hand fabric found in a ragbag, gaudy, spotted handkerchiefs - red and yellow and orange - hanging on a clothesline. It was so much admired by my sister-in-law Karla that I had to let her have it. She told me later that it had inspired her to learn fabric design. You can see one of her much laundered tea towels here with my Mother’s Day new blue teapot (with non-matching grey jug -is there colour blindness in the family?).
But my obsession stops once the washing is done. Ironing is rarely done in this house I relent occasionally, but only in the most exceptional circumstances, weddings, funerals, job interviews. Karla’s pressed shirt wrapping paper is lovely, but pure fantasy as far as I am concerned…