Saturday, 28 January 2017

the curious bench

This bench is in the park area just below my faculty building. I end up walking through the park sometimes on the way to tutorials and meetings. It has a wildlife area, with some ponds surrounded by wildflowers and notices telling you not to feed the ducks, a small playground, a straighforward parky bit big enough to play a couple of football matches on and this bench:

the curious bench

It's an odd thing. I'm not sure if the ladderish raised spiral was supposed to be raised beds or turfed, but they've ended up as grass with grooves worn by the feet of small children climbing it. My guess is that the adult sits on the bench at the end and then the child sneaks up and leaps on the adult's back, though I've not seen this in action.

It has a surprisingly satisfying curve, which looks good from pretty much any angle.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

january cocktail excursion

Q: Why is a cocktail bar like my greenhouse?
A: Because at this time of year it's absolutely rammed with things that are too tender to risk the cold outside.
A: Because it regularly runs a risk of getting smashed.
A: Because it's full of exotics, tenders and pests.

Monday, 23 January 2017

a visit to chalford

A's garden is buried in the hillside. His house butts up to the rock, a mysterious covered passageway separating house from hill. Outside a small terrace stares at the green wall of the other side of the valley, precipitous drops beyond the garden wall down down to the next roof, the next garden, the next terrace. The house came with a wood, but he's not sure what to do with it yet.

This is Chalford, home of Damian Hirst's magic factory, among other things not necessarily associated with villages. Chalford is a working village; and art is the industry.

As we bimble around in cars and on foot attending the necessities of a Significant Party, little hints of the curiosity of the place emerge. In a front garden, there's a model railway set-up, running along the front wall, so the local children can look in and see it. Through the trees, something huge is shrouded in the sculptor's yard. And the looks I would expect my appearance to provoke in the average village are markedly absent.

But otherwise it's very much a village; green pubs with nursery menus and big car-parks; ivy growing out of old stone walls; and endless instructions to "go this way" from the locals, whose habits of parking here and turning there are so standard they have bcome the only way to do a thing. They do have a point, of course, it's steep and narrow.

This isn't our video (I'd taken a film camera, so it'll be a while before we have anything to look at from me) but it's a surprisingly accurate rendition of our experience of driving to and from Chalford.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

tropical bedroom options

The cats have shredded the duvet cover, so I'm seeking out soft furnishings. This year, tropicalia has bled off the catwalk and onto the beds of teenagers everwhere. This is fast fashion territory (Primark) so pick up your January tropicals now or miss them.

I let these lie, and later discovered that we had an emergency back-up duvet cover anyway.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

new old clothes all over again

Q: Why is a clothes swap party like weeding a garden?
A: Because you're always let with far more bags to get rid of than you thought was possible from the size of the job.
A: Because you always relent and let something stay, against your better judgement.
A: Because beautiful things can need uprooting and giving to somebody else.


Thursday, 12 January 2017

getting overexcited about the new westgate

Every night as I walk home through Oxford I pass the new Westgate Centre, springing up above the recently modernised Bonn Sqare. Plans include new trees (contruction included the removal of great many mature London Plane trees, sadly) roof gardens and an easy route down to the nature park past the ice rink.

The lights are because they're working long days. The official opening is October 2017, but informal unveilings are happening all the time. Every day, it is a little further up.

Monday, 9 January 2017

a little bit of bowie shines on

Winter tip run. The sky is grey. The only green comes from the moss and the evergreens.

It's the anniversary of David Bowie's death, and I come to watching this through looking for Bowie and winter. He played the Bournemouth Winter Gardens, and this news spot was made.

I love the flummoxed looks from Bowie's starchildren as the interviewer attempts the confrontational techniques that would have produced fireworks from mods and rockers and even the gobby girls that chased the Beatles.

Here for the first time is the glimpse of a different way; of not needing to defend what is obviously good, and not needing to fight those who are obviously mistaken. The birth of "and what?"

Some of my wallflowers are in bloom, and the hellebores are coming on,and the winter jasmine is sparking away  but I need more winter garden colour, more glitter in the border, more glam in the pots.

It's time to buy some pansies.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

failures of january

My winter clematis has failed this year. I'm not sure why, but it could be that the roots aren't deep and damp enough. There's a bit of green left on it, but mostly it's the distintive brown dessicated mess of clematis wilt.

I'd rather remember it in its glory, last year:

winter clematis

That fence is once again now just ivy, exactly what I'd rather it wasn't. Bloody hedera helix - it does lift a barrier, but where it grows, nothing else does. Although it's hard to separate the position from the competition, as it's also true that ivy will grow in places and spaces which nothing else can manage.

Monday, 2 January 2017

coming back from cambridge

I'm coming back from Cambridge. The air is mild; there were daffodils in the garden of the house where we stayed, and as the party matured into the evening I sat out by their fire bowl, with a high street fake fur coat dropped over my party dress, while my shoes flashed into the night. I wasn't cold.

The next morning chickens came out and clucked conversationally to us. Nothing is worried about freezing to death this year. I gave up counting the flowers out in their garden; roses, clematis freckles, common abutilon hanging against a warm wall.There's hardly been a winter at all this year.

I'm thinking about resolutions for 2017, and I think the most important will be to stop gardening. I know, it sounds strange. But gardening is a form of entertainment, not a job, no matter how Monty Don might set us "jobs for the weekend". It's playing at cultivation, not depending on it for this season's sustenance. Time to treat gardening exactly as what it is - entertainment.

Resolutions for 2017:
  1. Stop gardening when you're bored.
  2. Optimise the garden for party.
  3. Start optimising for easy care and high reward.
  4. Improve your watering experience.
  5. Throw away the old things that are limping on but not really working.
  6. Get rid of some of the pots, for pete's sake. You have too many.
  7. Refresh the strawberries.
  8. Get a new camera.
  9. Get the overhang trimmed away.
  10. Do something tiny.