There has hardly been a day of frost this year. But on January 19th, there was frost on the cars, and as I walked into work, one of the houses in the street had a garden wall that looked like this:
I have a great fondness for garden walls. There was a very old one at my primary school, covered with Ivy-Leaved Toadflax and little red mites. Up close it looked like a tiny world; in dark crevices, woodlice lurked. A smooth dust came constantly from the wall, as it eroded in the weather; and lichen clung to its grey surface. We raced across the playground, and landed, hands flat, on that soft, forgiving stone. Sometimes a mite would be crushed on our hands; a tiny smear of red.
One of the first things we did in the garden was to build a wall. We hauled up a pile of rubbish to discover it was the only thing stopping the neighbour's garden (three feet above ours) and indeed their garage sliding into the property. So we hired handy Andy the indie builder to put in a retaining wall, and as he'd just taken out someone's chimney breast, he re-used the bricks, marked as they were with heat and soot, and made us a smart retaining wall, which is still doing a fine job of retaining. "You'll want to clean it up a bit," he said but we never did; I quite liked the look of the marked and strained bricks, and of course the plants didn't care.
The bricks are already going a bit; frost delaminating the top layers, moss emanating from the mortar and the new cracks. But that's really as a garden wall should be. I wonder, is it ready yet for some toadflax of its own?