Sunday 29 November 2015

28 Nov : Trees

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy

This huge installation in the courtyard of Burlington House, funded by an innovative Kickstarter campaign, is composed of trunks and boughs bolted together to remake idealized trees. In the context of the exhibition inside which features steel rods removed from the wreckage of schools crushed in a catastrophic earthquake, remnants of the artist's studio after it had been bulldozed by the authorities and reconstructions of a prison cell, these trees felt like a bold statement of hope. If you look at the photo you will see a young couple in the centre who are watching their tiny daughter and I found it unbearably moving to see her running through the trees, Ai Weiwei's vision of her future in China.

MissM had encouraged me to go to this exhibition but I was reluctant because I was sure it was over-hyped. How wrong I was. The courage of the artist in exposing corruption and censorship in China makes it a humbling experience to walk through the galleries and I would urge anyone who lives within reach of the Royal Academy to visit before it closes.

Friday 27 November 2015

27 Nov : Eden

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
Master of the Embroidered Foliage
(Active in Brussels 1480-1510)

my continued quest to gain design ideas from history...

Notes to Self:
Liking: water feature, standard apple tree, aquilegias and irises.

Not liking: creepy little chap in the background.

MrsM needs to grow hair.
MrM needs more practice balancing ivy leaves.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

24 Nov : Hellebore

Urghh...wet, wet, wet. Cold, dry, blue winter is good but cold, wet, grey winter is horrid. I braved my garden to get inspiration but only went as far as the edge of the patio before plunging back into the house like a bear who has accidentally woken from hibernation and left the cave too early. I took a photo of Hellebore as evidence that I had been outside and noticed that the winter flowering Jasmine is looking very stylish so will show you that another day but right now I am going sit on the sofa and watch Monty Don enthuse about William Kent at Rousham. Don't judge me.

Monday 23 November 2015

23 Nov : Silver

As I walked towards the trees the late afternoon sky was muted silver and I was reminded of our dinner party on Saturday night. The table was set with new beaded silver mats which shimmered in the candlelight just as I hoped they would, logs crackled in the fireplace, corks popped and our dining room filled with gusts of laughter. In the middle of the table there was a low vase of white narcissi and their sweet scent drifted towards me throughout the meal. It was a very happy evening and remembering it today I feel so grateful for the friends who shared it with us.

Friday 20 November 2015

20 Nov : Design

The Lady and the Unicorn : À mon seul désir
(Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris)

MrsM decides that she will not be idle during the winter months but will dedicate herself to a study of garden design through the centuries (although not necessarily in sequence) which will facilitate a profound understanding of the untapped potential of her garden.

There is much to learn from the medieval concept of Hortus conclusus and so MrsM decides to start with the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry 'Taste' .

Notes to Self:
* must have wild flower lawn
* black grass unusual choice - hardy?
* dwarf rabbits - v.cute - hire?

* lawn edging! yes!!
* rose trellis too low for privacy if knight drops in for tea
* strong use of pollarded trees but too high to pick fruit
* long cape to prevent wet dog paws - nice idea
* need parakeet or similar to eat from hand
* is there enough space for unicorn?

Wednesday 18 November 2015

18 Nov : Diversion

St Pancras champagne bar

My mother-in-law says...

Did you know that Limestone Edward lived in the village where I grew up during the war? [MrsM admits she didn't know this] Well, there was only one person who could look after him because he bit off a man's head [MrsM looks aghast. MissM explains sotto voce that Limestone Edward was a horse. MrsM feels slightly weak because she had assumed he was an architect] Well my dear, one day I was pushing my doll around in a little pram. You could let children do that in those days because everywhere was so safe. Anyway, I pushed the pram under a fence and I was in the field with him. He saw me and rolled his eyes and gnashed his teeth and charged. [Audrey does dramatic reconstruction of rolling eyes, gnashing teeth and rearing hooves] So I scuttled back under the fence with my pram and capered off. [MrsM notes concept of 'safety' has changed over past 70 years. MrM considers how close he came to not existing] Of course they shot him when he didn't win the Grand National. [MrsM pours some more champagne to revive herself]

Monday 16 November 2015

16 Nov : Contrition

We did find the secateurs in the end. We also found my favourite mug which had decided to go feral. But not until MrM had sifted all the recycling and raked up all the leaves. Unfortunately, the secateurs were in the bag of bulbs-yet-to-be-planted so not only did I have to explain the uncomfortable reappearance of the secateurs in the kitchen but also the unplantedness of the bulbs. It was all rather awkward until I remembered that I had a degree in Botany and started discoursing on vernalisation, the problem of this unusually mild autumn and my concern that planting the tulips too early might be problematical. Then I made MrM an extremely delicious supper in a craven attempt to get back in his good books.

Sunday 15 November 2015

15 Nov : Galanthus

Today we went to Polesden Lacy thinking to find some peace. We set off across the lawns, dodging excited children and dogs, walking towards the furthest corner where there is a small spring garden. In January this earth will be alight with snowdrops but if you look carefully you can already see tiny shoots. We may not have found quiet but we did find hope in the darkness.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” 

Howard Zinn

Tuesday 10 November 2015

10 Nov : Blue

Window Box : Fall 2015

In more autumn window box news I can reveal that the tiny pale blue trailing Violas have trailed delightfully. The dark blue Panolas have been a bit sulky and are only just starting to put themselves out a bit. Of course they may have thought that they would always be in that comfortable pot in the garden centre, living the high life surrounded by their Panola pals and cared for by proper gardeners. It must have been a bit of a shock to be emptied out, split up, placed on a cold windowsill and then upstaged by hard working Violas. Life can be harsh sometimes.

Monday 9 November 2015

9 Nov : Orange

I regret to report that I am currently using the Secateurs of Shame which are bright orange and cannot be lost. Unlike the Ultra Secateurs which have titanium edges to the blades, extra safety features and green handles. MrM has lived under emergency measures for the past year with the strict understanding that he must not, ever, on any account, even think of using the Ultra Secateurs which have my name written on them in capital letters for the avoidance of doubt. They have retained their fresh-from-the-box look due to a religious attention to cleaning and oiling. All of which will not help them when they reach the recycling centre in the pile of clippings where I last saw them. All I have to do now is explain the incident to MrM but that is a problem for Future Alice. In the meanwhile here is somebody else's front door and somebody else's Pyracantha.  

Friday 6 November 2015

6 Nov : Confession

I am all over the shop at the moment. It is as though I have stumbled and am having difficulty picking up the rhythm of everyday life again. It is probably a reaction from the Big Birthday Bash but I am not going to indulge myself for long because there are many things to do. Today I was invited to lunch in January which means Spring is just around the corner so unless I get those last bulbs in the ground there will be Bulb-aggedon. The Gaura is looking bedraggled and dripping onto our postie making him even more despondent so need to sort that out. Finally, my dream of a Hellebore border needs to be translated into action - they are not going to walk down the garden and dig themselves little holes. So I am going to write a List. It will be a thing of beauty with priorities and action plans and targets. There will be no more idleness.

Thursday 5 November 2015

4 Nov : Salisbury

When I Am Among The Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Mary Oliver.

From Thirst: Poems
© Beacon Press, 2007