Thursday 7th May

It’s been just over two weeks since I last spoke to you and to be honest life, in our neck of the woods at least, hasn’t changed much at all although the busy road we face has lost much of its busyness which is one of the bonuses of this difficult situation.

Thank goodness the weather has been very good and the garden is flourishing with the early appearance of some plants we don’t usually see until later in the season. We were able to supplement these with a splendid collection from Daisy Roots, and isn’t that a splendid name. Having tried several plantsmen/ garden centres in the area this was the only one prepared to, or able, to pick up the phone and fulfil my request which was basically west facing border and I like whites, bronzes and lavenders and purples. I gave a budget and lo and behold the next morning as promised a fine collection of perennials appeared on the drive. By the time I speak to you again they should be looking beautiful and ready for a photo shoot.

So, how have you been spending your time in lockdown assuming that you haven’t been able to go to work. To be honest it hasn’t yet been too much of a problem for us but given my “underlying” problems has meant that P is also unable to go out just in case he brings back any unwelcome nasties for me. Our big treat is a car drive to one of the many quiet sketching locations we’ve discovered in the past with a picnic of sorts, sometimes a real special and at others not much more than a couple of biscuits and a thermos. I know we must sound like Howard and Hilda * but we haven’t resorted to matching jumpers yet. One year when our daughters were spending Christmas Day with their respective in laws we had a Christmas car picnic which included hot food and sparkly augmented by mince pies and coffee. We drove home in late afternoon listening to the repeat of the Kings College Festival of Carols on the radio, it was magical. Sometimes the most simple things have the greatest resonance. * characters from Ever Decreasing Circles, an 80s sit com but don’t bother looking it up.

My view from the shed. Should have taken down the washing line but hey, this is real life.

Monday 11th May

It’s bright and sunny but there’s a strong breeze rattling the neighbours’ two metre fence which is in need of some sort of flying buttresses to give it some stability; I criticise the fence only because it was put in place by previous owners whose interest in DIY appeared to be non existent. It creaks and groans as if in pain and were it not for the support of an ancient Iceberg climber planted by me many years ago would probably have toppled by now. The Iceberg is a star and was. recommended by my sister when I asked for advice on which sturdy rose to buy. My cherished Acers are at their best and responding to the stiff breeze by dancing wildly as if to escape their pots.

But my trip down memory lane this morning was inspired by the picking of a small bunch of Lathyrus which is attempting to colonise the boundary hedge in our front garden.

Stunning colour from the Lathyrus.

I spent my early years in Beamish, a small and pretty village in County Durham approximately equidistant from Durham City and Newcastle and surrounded by a vast amount of countryside. At some time there had been a working colliery well hidden from the village but eventually all that remained was the beam engine which lowered and raised the miners’ cage to and from the coal face. This in turn was transferred to Beamish Museum where I assume it still remains as a huge monument to what was once such a vital part of the area’s economy. But back to the Lathyrus. Less than a half mile from Chophill Pit on the outskirts of the village was a row of stone cottages with large front gardens which to me, living in a gardenless terrace, were a joy. Most residents took pride in their gardens and I loved looking at what was growing and when, but, the great joy was nearby where an older terrace had been abandoned when the tenants were offered brand new council houses with bathrooms and indoor lavatories. The gardens became overgrown, some plants died from neglect, others choked by weeds but the hardiest survived; I recall Lupins, the rose Albertine, lilac, Marguerites and Lathyrus which covered just about everything it could reach. Picking armfuls of these treasures was such a joy.

I recently asked a school friend who still lives in the area if the village had changed much and she said no, not really. I sometimes think a trip back “ up North” would be a nice thing to do but at the present time there are other priorities.

Monday 18th May

The weekend was bright and sunny but sooo tedious given our lockdown which in our case is a double whammy give my underlying problems and my doctor’s instructions not to go out. But the garden is looking splendid and so it should given the care we are lavishing on it.


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