Allotting time

Dear friends

I’m a little late in posting today. I’ll tell you why…

When I woke this morning, the sun was shining. Now, in our dismal northern European summer, this year that’s been a rare event. I drew back the curtains and did a little boogie at the day. It must be quite a thing to see me dance in my boxer shorts at the bedroom sash window. Normally it’s only a dog walker or two I startle with my hip wiggles and shoulder shakes. Matt is always still in bed and laughing.

I decided, before writing the Posse entry, I needed to be outdoors. The clouds were already boiling up a heavy quotient of rain on the horizon and I had planting to do.

I have an allotment. I’m not sure there’s any equivalent to this on the north American continent, but it’s a plot of land for which I pay a nominal rent – and I can grow anything I like on it, as long as there’s no financial gain to be made from the process. So far this year, I have a glut of potatoes, peas and zucchini/courgettes (depending on your penchant for the Italian or French of this cucurbit…) More on allotments here.

Anyway, by 8 this morning I already had my fingers in warm soil as I planted my oriental greens. I’ve managed to tame about a fifth of my 10 rod plot (about 10 by 25 yards, I think) – the rest is swamped in brambles and nettles and bindweed and nameless other prickly beasties, sporadically brightened by the silken red of poppies. It’s a battle against nature which I have done nothing but lose since gaining the plot in April. Back then, it was an unsightly mass of broken glass, dumped rubbish and metal wire – that bit was easy. But it’s wonderful to grow at least some of what you eat, and I accept that I’ll only ever clear the entire plot bit by bit, slowly slowly. Meanwhile, the old men tut-tut at my wild land, and look in puzzlement at my planting patterns whilst they hoe between their serried ranks of veg.

But the allotment isn’t really what I want to tell you about, because the best bit is the walk home. Matt dropped me off this morning – to return to our house, I have a twenty minute cross-country amble, where I only have to meet one road, and that’s the one on which I live. This journey, this morning, made me sigh with delight.

I live in a truly beautiful place. We seem to have these moments (spiritual hokiness warning!) where something in us vibrates in harmony with our surroundings – on this walk, that’s what I had. First, I cross the river and lose sight of the church tower which marks my home (I live in its shadow). Sometimes, there’s swans, but not today. Instead, there’s the gush of water as it falls down an incline, and the heavy sussuration of trees in the wind. Then I’m faced with the ‘behind the village’ walk – dog walkers (a Staffie and another wire haired terrier were play boxing, the aged owners looking on with laughter on their lips but worry in their eyes), back gardens, old remnants of former cottages, long gone. The scout hut. It really is a disapppearing England.

When I cross the river once again, I’m in a different sort of landscape, a tunnel of green between two arable fields.  It’s like something from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – a footpath so hemmed in by hawthorn that you only have glimpses of the world outside. There’s only ahead and behind as the trees meet above and shut out the sky. There’s a stillness here: although the wind whispers above and alongside you, it doesn’t seem to reach your skin. Long skeletal fingers of cow parsley – in May, a froth of white blossom – reach out to your arms, leaning in to the cool of the shade. It feels like a place you dream.

Eventually, of course, the outside world returns, and I cross a field to a jumble of houses, one of which is mine. There’s a transformation to the light, from those verdant restful hues to the umbers and faded browns of the harvested wheat, their remnants a regular geometry from a distance, up close a chaos of disorder. Underfoot, the ground is covered in a rustling mat of stalks and straw, the hue of summer heat. Although we’ve had the coolest summer I remember, the wheat pretends for me that all is wonderfully warm.

And, so I’m home again, typing in my study and looking south to the  short journey I’ve made. There’s dirt under my nails, and the smell of the outdoors on my shirt and skin. I want it to last. It won’t. Still, it’s all the justification I need to buy a bottle of Chàªne.

  • ogqwat fejvw says:

    ojzwgsn onkvg pinycxzs nlkr fksyoaux ucqxei twfuax

  • Kyra says:

    Delighted to find this entry when I checked in late on my Wednesday night. Yes, I do know about allotments. Often fiendishly hard to get and passed down for generations. So glad you landed one. Our community p-patch system is similar but a lot more recent in origin. Give it a few years, you will get it whipped into shaggy shape. We are also, in the states, pretty much lacking hedgerows, which saddens me. They make great wild habitat and I love hawthorne, but it is prone to blight here. I consider myself lucky to be in the Pacific Northwest, one of the few parts of North America where British gardening actually makes sense.

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Thanks for the enjoyable post Lee! I feel like I was wandering
    through the countryside with you. The one thing that boggles me
    about Britain is that its this relatively small island with
    such a vast populace, and yet there is still all sorts of gentle
    open farmland everywhere!

    I find as I get older I enjoy the simple things in my environment\
    I’m an urban dweller, but I live in an older neighborhood full
    of beautiful homes and mature trees. I get so much pleasure from
    strolling around, watching the leaves change, and fantasizing about which house I’d live in.

    • Lee says:

      But it does mean we have a severe shortage of forest…

      I love seasonal change, even if I don’t like the dark and the cold…

  • Amarie says:

    That was a seriously wonderful way to start the day, I am adding my gratitude for the lovely post to everyone elses.
    Thank-you Lee

  • Amy K says:

    Thank you for bringing us along on your morning walk, Lee! It sounds so beautiful. I live in Seattle and adore our laid-back, outdoor-loving liberal culture, but part of me aches for northern Wales each and every day. I miss taking shortcuts through sheep pastures and being greeted in Welsh and exploring deserted, crumbling buildings. It’s a deeply comforting combination of age and simplicity that’s much harder to find in the US, I think. Apres l’Ondee was love at first sniff because it reminds me of Wales. Now I need to try this magical Chene. Enjoy your new bottle!

    • Lee says:

      I can see the Welsh thing in apres l’Ondee – it does fit. I’d like to add some hills to my landscape to make it a little more perfect, but I’ll have to live with the gentle undulations of the land instead. I bet you’re surrounded by natural wonder…

  • Patty says:

    I’m late in today, still nursing my hands with new ergonomic goodies that are slowly helping.

    What a gorgeous post. I would love to go on a walk with you. All of my most peaceful memories of my life are tied up with planting and growing. I used to think I hated farming and could never understand why my dad wanted to do it, but the older I get, the more I understand why he loved it so much.

    • Lee says:

      It’s funny isn’t it how ageing makes us feel more comfortable with the rhythms of the year and the natural ebb and flow of things?

      hope the ergonomics are helping!:*

  • sybil says:

    What a lovely post…Made me appreciate my morning walk w/ my dog a bit more, although my surroundings are considerably less scenic than yours!:)

  • BitterGrace says:

    Just wanted to add my thanks for the gorgeous post. I wish I could join you on that walk sometime. M

  • CH says:

    Mmmm….homemade pesto. Thanks for the dinner suggestion! 🙂

  • minette says:

    you describe the kind of place i would love to live in… thanks for sharing your lovely surroundings with us!

  • Maria says:

    Lee, what a beautifully elegiac meditation on the English countryside and its gradual passing. I sense stores of writing gold there. But I’ll be quiet. A writing friend with whom I worked at an educational institution would say, “Maybe you can write about that!” whenever I expressed even mild interest in something, such as “It’s amazing how hot it gets in my office in the afternoon.” :d Well, I exaggerate a little, but only a little. Still, there are serious stores of writing energy in your subject. Thank you for sharing some with us.

    You must get a bottle of Chene–since you can! I hope you’ll do another dance when it arrives. I’ll be the color envy-green till it gets released as a limited edition export.

    • Lee says:

      Thanks M. I felt myself rushing a bit – I’d already missed your pre-bedtime read; I didn’t want to not be there with people’s morning coffee.

      I’ll wear Chêne and think of you.:x

  • tmp00 says:

    Lee- beautiful post; we have “Community Gardens” (albeit too few of them) in places where people don’t have access to land to farm. There’s something quite wonderful about turning a corner in Greenwich Village or West Hollywood and seeing corn growing…

    I love to walk as well. I sometimes take a bus home from work downtown that takes Sunset Blvd. I get off and walk down through the residential streets to my place on (literally, they used to exist) the wrong side of the tracks. Some days I decide on the tunneled canopy of the camphor trees on Maple Drive or in season the lavender blooms of the jacarandas on Palm Drive. It’s not as rural as yours (or as rural as where I grew up) but there is something so calming about that even 20 minute stroll.

    If I’d read this earlier I would have worn Chene in your honor.

    What’s been keeping you from getting a bottle?

  • patchamour says:

    Lee,
    What a beautiful post! Oh, to be in England… It was lovely to have a virtual stroll through the contryside, with all its delights and nuances.

  • Teri says:

    Lee….such evocative prose! I actually felt like I was taking that walk with you. And what a walk it was!

    I live in a townhome in a major city, so my gardening is limited. But I derive considerable pleasure from ‘harvesting’ peppers, small cukes and tomatoes from the container garden on my deck. Is there anything better than a warm sun-ripened tomato you grew yourself? I’d say no.

    Dusan….a very happy birthday to you and welcome to the world of ‘grown-ups’ 😉

    • Dusan says:

      Teri, thanks! 🙂 *goes off to finish plucking out the odd grey hair*

    • Lee says:

      Warm tomatoes from the vine are a different thing altogether than those bought in the store… Oh my. Mine are still green though – we’ve not had enough heat this year.

  • March says:

    Lee, that was lovely.

    I am insanely happy to hear that you, your house and your allotment are not sitting under 3 feet of water. I’ve been watching the news; it’s terrible.

    • Lee says:

      I can’t imagine being without running water or electricity – and being cut off from dry land. Then I think of how much worse it would be for my neighbour with three kids under four. Gulp.

  • Marina says:

    Lee, it sounds breathtakingly gorgeous where you are and like a foreigner’s (moi) Perfect England 🙂 If I send this post to DH, he will cry, he misses England even more than I do (being half-English…I think the roots are calling him home).

    I think something in me vibrates in harmony with my surroundings most strongly when I am by the sea or ocean. ( Mer-roots calling me home? 😀 )

    PS. Just read in Washington Post of all places about floods in Oxford. Our former local pub is in danger but has a sign up “Open for business come hell or high water”. That’s what I call a spirit! http://tinyurl.com/ynrloq

    • Lee says:

      Remind him about the TV licence. That should do the trick…:d

      I just hope the pub’s beer barrels don’t float away…

  • Tina says:

    this was just so beautiful to read, Lee. I could just imagine everything you wrote. I had a somehow similar experience today, if only just a bit reminiscent of yours. yesterday we had a heavy storm in the afternoon, with several trees breaking down, rain pouring, lightnings everywhere, heavy thunder. at night, the temperatures dropped significantly and it was for the first time after more than 2 weeks that I was able to really let the fresh air into my appartment. this morning, I went to our local market to buy some veggies for lunch. the sky was blue and without a cloud, the sun shining happily, a light breeze in the trees. though I know we are in the mid-summer, it reminded me of those insanely beautiful September days when the heat subsides and you are left with a peaceful, gold light of the sunrays. I was very calm and very happy.

  • annE says:

    Lee, thank you for a beautiful post – it will certainly help me appreciate my day a little more!
    I’ve never walked through the English countryside in person, but through books, I’ve been there off and on for most of my life. 🙂 I look forward to the day when I can make it a first-person experience.
    p.s. I would love to tramp through that green tunnel.

  • Elle says:

    What an absolute joy to read your post this morning! I actually think the wild part of your allotment sounds extremely appealing. I desperately miss wild poppies. I’ve always regretted not having them for my wedding flowers. And I have a deep fondness for bindweed. Anyway, thanks for this wonderful post. I’ll be thinking about those peaceful images during the more chaotic parts of my day. Will go put on some Chene now.

    • Lee says:

      It is appealing, until you fall in it. Then ouch. I must buy Ch̻ne Рam desperate to put some on.

  • Dusan says:

    MY DEAREST POSSE, my scented family, for my 30th birthday I am throwing a virtual party today for each and every one of you my lovelies! I’m bringing my specialty, virtual Sacher torte, and you just bring your smiling faces and sniffing noses. It’ll be a hoot!
    Love you all, my crazy fumeys!
    😡 😡 😡

    • Louise says:

      May I please have a double-virtual slice of the torte? In exchange, I promise not to sing! What fragrance will you wear to the party? Me, I think a squirt of Sushi Imperiale would suit such an important day. B-day squeeze!

      • Dusan says:

        But of course, L, you may have as many as you like! 🙂 And do feel free to sing, if only to cover up my horrendous singing voice.
        I still haven’t decided on my b-day scent, but I think I’ll go with Fumerie. Thanks for the wishes, love! 😡

    • Elle says:

      Happy birthday!! Tossing scented confetti your way. <:-p Hope you have a blissful start to your thirties and are treating yourself to some fabulous scented gift.

      • Dusan says:

        Aw, thanks Elle, you are such a sweetie! I’m having a delish time contemplating which frag will join my collection next. I am almost sure it’s going to be Fleur du Male.
        What fume are you going to wear to the party?
        😡

    • Marina says:

      Dusan,
      Happy Birthday and bestest of wishes!

    • katy says:

      Welcome to the thirties !;)

      • Dusan says:

        Katy, thanks! I guess it’s time I started thinking about making me some babies, heh.
        😡

    • Judith says:

      Happy Birthday, you young blade!!! Gobbling up your sacher torte happily! And smelling everyone’s ‘fumes blissfully!<:-p

    • patchamour says:

      Happy Birthday!! <:-p May you enjoy many more sacher tortes and lovely perfumes. (Looking for a nice festive perfume -- Aha!) I'm wearing Rosa Flamenca in your honor.

      • Dusan says:

        Patch, thanks for your lovely wishes! I’m popping open a bottle of champagne… clink… Cheers! 😡

    • tmp00 says:

      Virtual Sacher Torte? Yummmmm..

      I hope you are having some of the real stuff to celebrate your day!

      • Dusan says:

        Ta, Tommy boy! Yes, Sacher torte with orange peel and almond shavings (my addition to the recipe). Now what can I get you drink?
        We’ve got all sorts of yummies — mostly salads and canapé… that ok? 🙂

        • tmp00 says:

          Drink? Well there’s that Tallu in me that wants to baritone “buhbuhn dahling, neat!” But there’s also the realist that will ask for a weak wine spritzer. Or bubbly, if you are pouring…

    • Maria says:

      Dusan, the thirtieth is one of the biggest birthdays. It marks a time of transition. The astrologically minded talk of a Saturn return. But it’s just big–that’s all. For me it was huge: I left a miserable marriage. I hope you will make changes that bring a lot of sunshine into your life.

      Now, enough serious stuff. Let me have some of that (calorie-free, I hope) Sacher torte. The orange peel on it is a marvelous touch. I’m contributing a bottle or two of sparkling moschetto to go with the sweet. <:-p I may be wearing Nuit Noire to the party. I haven't decided yet. Muchos abrazos, querido Dusan! Felicidades, mi amigo en tu dia... 😡

      • Dusan says:

        Maria,
        I am impatiently waiting for that Saturn to make its comeback and knock some sense into my current lazy existence, heh. You know, to help me finish college, find a proper job, stir me up a bit. I’m so sorry to hear about your bad marriage but it gladdens me that you were/are built of a sturdy enough matter to leave it behind without feeling embittered.
        I’m afraid Sacher torte is anything but calory-free – still, I won’t take no for an answer. [-x Although I haven’t tried Nuit Noire, I bet it smells wonderful on you…
        Gracias por tus palabras sabias y cariñosas, eres un cielo. Te mando un abrazo fuertísimo! 😡

      • Lee says:

        Styop with your kissing, already!

        Maria – you smell fantabulous.

  • Dusan says:

    You must know how much I have enjoyed this piece of brilliant, inspired writing. I am taking my time taking in all the sounds, all the colours and nuances, all the scents, pathways under cool shades, crazy dances, smiling faces and laughter of the loved ones.
    Thank you for the most beautiful, spiritual yet quite tangible, birthday present. I am open to hugs and kisses now. 🙂

  • katy says:

    Amazing post…
    I think I need a bottle of Chêne too.(*)

  • Louise says:

    Lee-what an exquisite post. I grew up in the Northwest, and always feel allied to nature. You brought me home, again, in a strange way-I’ve not been rambling with you there. But-mostly special thanks, this is a beautiful wake-up before I hit my urban day. Chene rules!

  • Judith says:

    What an absolutely beautiful post! Thank you! And I love Chene too).

    I will admit, though, that I spent a certain amount of time fixated on your morning boogie. :”> I thought Chaya might be in there with me, but her mind was on higher things. :d

    • Lee says:

      Well, the morning boogie is more for laughter than seduction…

      That’s Chaya’s very spiritual, I’ll have you know. Smutty too, of course.

    • chayaruchama says:

      Oh, I’m with you, all right, Judith, my pet !
      Big time….
      But I need to get my cerebral cortex out of the sewer periodically.
      Just for target practice !

  • elve says:

    Beautifully written. I wish I was there.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Holy awe and gratitude is a glorious way to begin my day, and yours.
    Thank you, darling.
    Check yesterday’s email BTW, country mouse- some bunny loves you]

    • Lee says:

      I might be a country mouse, but my paws were originally from the city.

      Love back to the bunny.

  • rosarita says:

    Lee, what a lovely post. Thanks for this start to my day.

  • Andy says:

    This year, I have lost my personal fight against nature. Just a few basil plants in pots have survived 😉
    The few square meters where I used to grow tomatoes and other stuff have vanished under a thick green layer of something very wild and vital. Ah well…