Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fledgelings, Cat and Hose, Spinnach

The baby blackbirds in the wisteria opposite fledged this morning. There was a great to do. I don't know how many there were, but most of the noise was coming from the depth of the lime tree on the corner.One little creature sat bewildered in the middle of the road. Afraid that it would be run over, I shooed it towards the pavement. At at first it seemed transfixed but before I could pick it up it fluttered on to the railings, and and hid behind a flower pot. Later to day it is perched on the fence stretching its wings and fluttering from spike to spike.

Spinach seedlings germinating after only five days.

The promised rain barely materialises. So, standing with the hose, I spray the courgettes, beans and lettuces. The pretty, tortoiseshell cat who has now taken posession of the garden is fascinated. The water running through the hose is what attracts her. Is it some kind of snake? Soon I role up the hose and she returns disappointed to find it gone.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tunnel, Ablutions, No Priority

Posting a letter early in the morning and hearing the sounds of morning ablutions gurgling in neighbouring drainpipes; a faintly, soapy smell in the air.

Gliding under the Channel to celebrate Heidi's birthday in Calais with our friends Peter and Pammie.

Spotting on the pavement a roundabout warning sign with the words VOUS N'AVEZ PAS LA PRIORITE, and photographing it for more general application at a later date.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Forehand drive, Nicotiana, Bizarre

Planting the last of the Nicotiana seedlings(Very Fragrant) which I raised from minute seeds. The earth in the flowerbed was desert-dry and hard. Had to break it up and scoop out holes and fill them with potting compost to make them more welcoming. The seedlings, once watered, sat happily in the their holes and did not flop.

Checking the word "bizarre" in the dictionary. My friend, Peter tells me it is the only word in English which is derived from Basque. Chambers says: "From Sp bizarro, gallant, brave, possibly from Basque, Bizarra, beard. The Oxford Dictionary, which I need a magnifying glass to peruse (Because mine is reproduced "micrographically) casts doubt on the Basque origin, but does refer to Basque as a possible origin. The French, of course, adore the word, and love to linger on the "rr" like an angy purr. And here's a new word: Puberia, (or to avoid misinterpretation, perhaps Pubberia, useless information of the sort generated from a discussion between the second and third pint.

A forehand drive, hit with the centre of the racket and a satisfying, resonant thwack, returning the ball into the corner of the court so that it clips both the baseline and the tramline.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Mint, Cool after Heat, Baby Courgettes

The persistent mintiness of Morrocan mint.

Coolness after the heatwave and the rain seeping into the earth and pushing into the air the aroma of oils and resins.

The first baby courgettes, smaller than a little finger: with their flowers intact, they barely need sauteeing.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ouragan, Blackbirds, Haloumi

Noting that Ouragan, the French word for hurricane, sounds like someone saying hurricane with a stage French accent.

Last year and the year before a pair of blackbirds produced a second brood in the wisteria above our front door. On both occasions cats and magpies arrived to threaten the fledgelings. This year there is no nest in ours, but there is in the wisteria opposite.The nestlings fledged in both years during the men's final of Wimbledon. Today, watching the parents busy with the young: roll on the finals.

Haloumi cheese grilling on a stall in the Farmers' Market.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Alexander McCall Smith,Lavender, Vin Rose

Hearing Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No l Ladies Detective Agency, on Desert Island Discs. He chooses the comforting things you would expect him to choose including Soave Sia Il Vento from Cosi Fan Tutte.

A bank of lavender, blue and white, in the former rose garden in Calverley Park.

Vin rose (can't get the accent) on the terrace of The Hotel du Vin in the shade of a green umbrella.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Mona Lisa, Rose Search, Philadelphus

The Mona Lisa still resonates when I wake this morning. I went to see her last Friday because I had never taken the trouble before. It is not the picture exactly, but its context, which strikes me. It now has a wall to itself at the end of a long hall full of other Renaissance paintings. A crowd of at least a hunded people seems permanently in attendance. Some hold cameras above their heads others like me just gape at the poorly lit 77cm x 53cm icon. She now has something else to smile about.

Looking for and finding Rosa Moyesii with the help of Google. It is like being introduced to someone you pass in the street but whose name you didn't know. How do you do?

Three white, faintly blushing peonies, push their heads altogether through a single slat in the picket fence, which I pass going up the hill. They must be late flowering because mine have all turned to seed heads. They look like mischievous children dressed up for a wedding.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Safety Pin, Rhubarb, Tortilla

Awoke thinking about the safety pin. The cleaners had left it on the jacket I wore to the wedding in Paris. Safety pins are gadgets of superb design. I put this one in my pocket, certain that it would come in useful. At the meal that followed the wedding, the eight-year old daughter of the groom, had a problem with the strap of her party dress. Out came the safety-pin. A minute later I received a thankyou kiss.

The ginger cat that visits the vegetable garden frightens the birds. But I could not begrudge it the shade of the rhubarb leaves where it lay all morning.

Preparing a tortilla and eating it with freshly picked salad. The potato and onion omelate - more like a cake than omelate - golden brown with a mosaic inside of soft onions and potato cubes, is one of the 10 best dishes in the world.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ladybird, Blackbird, Bird Shower

I spot a ladybird among the broad beans - a lone sentinel against the promise of blackfly.

Last night a young blackbird is on our roof, a segment of worm in his beak. Despite the presence of the worm he emits an intermittant clucking noise. It is not the quick, chattering, warning signal which these birds utter when cats or people appear, nor yet the fulsome territorial song you hear at dawn or in the evening, but rather a plaintif announcement of disorientation. We watch as he grows more agitated. Then an answering sound comes from the garden across the road. He perks up hops along the gutter and eventally takes off to land on the telephone wire which extends across the road. Then with a second attempt he makes makes it into the garden opposite. This morning before I am awake enough to look at the clock I hear the clucking sound again.

Another blackbird this time in the vegetable garden where I am watering the beans with a hose. I point the hose upward to reach the more distant beans. The parabola of water falls on the beans and on the bird. The bird hops away from the water though it doesn't complain or fly away when I pursue it with the stream of water.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Baguette, One Wheel, Xanadu

A plump old man with grey hair and an uncomfortable walk crosses the road in front of the boulangerie. He wears jeans and a shabby blazer. In one hand,he has a baguette from which he has broken off the end. From the other hand he nibbles the broken off piece of baguette. Across the road he enters the door of the corner building. A few seconds later one of the shutters on the first floor flickers.

A young man rides his bicyle on one wheel. He leans backward balancing himself as though he is on a rearing horse.

A neighbour at dinner tells me he knows one English poet - Coleridge. And one poem Xanadu. I am especially pleased because I have already today been reminded of the poem by the presence of Kublai Kahn in Invisible Cities, the subject of a recent blog.

Firemen, Swifts, Revelry

A parade of firmen with saucepan helmets assembles in the Champs Elysee and marches toward the Arc de Triomphe to military music. Two fire engines, their ladders extend half way up the archway, provide a guard of honour. A huge tricolour hangs beneath the arch. The firemen stand to attention as the brass band plays.

Swifts dive and shriek,above the traffic where Rue Galilee biscts Avenue Marceau.

Three jolly men laugh and drink Champagne at a table outside the boulangerie on the corner. An hour later they are still there, laughing even louder at jokes they share with no one else. They are joined by a fourth man and another bottle of Champagne.

Spanish, Invisible Cities, Hedgeless fields

On the Eurostar to Paris we are surrounded by spanish speakers: are we going to the right country?

In Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino I read: "There is a sense of emptiness that comes over us at evening, with the odour of the elephants after the rain and the sandlewood ashes in the braziers..." A haunting image like much of this strange book, which consists of a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn. In it Marco Polo describes cities he has visited in his travels, but which seem to come out of his imagination.

Between Calais and Paris there are broad fields of different crops divided not be hedgerows, but by occasional trees that look like spectators on a touchline.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bean poles, Fox, Purslane

Erecting my second set of bean poles, this time for climbing French, rather than the coarser runner beans. Two rows of 8ft bamboos face one another. I bend them inward and tie them so as to form a v-shape. Then I secure them by placing horizontal bamboos along the length of the row. Two extra bamboos at each end, facing the entire row, reinforce stability.It is an ancient, traditional structure which generations of gardeners have followed. It's satisfying like building a house.

I had surprised a fox on the compost heap a few days ago. What was it up to? It loped off in a bored, unhurried way. Today there was no fox when I opened the gate into the vegetable garden. But the imprint of a large animal on the grass and leaves on top of the heap suggested that someone had been curled up there, enjoying the wamth, or the hay-like smell

Purslane. Setting plants of this succulent herb,which I had never grown before,
into a wide circular pot. It has plump green leaves. The French call it pourpier. Promise of a new salad experience.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Hoeing, Morris dancers, beech bounces back

A girl quitely hoeing on her own in a vast bed of rose bushes, not yet in flower, at Penshurst Place.

A group of Morris dancers opposite the station. They wear shirts, squat black hats with trailing ribbons like pigtails, and spats. One wears a mask which is joined to a cloak. Does the sharp, black pointed face represent a dog, like Anubis? Or is it a blackbird? The familiar music comes from an accordian, a guitar and brass instrument. I can't see it properly because I am sitting at the Cafe on the other side of the road. Suddenly the dancers hoist a girl, who seems to be one of their party - surely she's not a passer-by - into the air. They move off because there is not much room between the bus stop and the frontage of BBC South East's shop and headquarters.

A beech sapling in The Grove, which someone has beheaded. It sends out new shoots all the way down its stem.