Sunday, 31 May 2015

I Stroke A Hedge

I trailed my fingers through a beech hedge as I walked home earlier, then retraced my steps to run my hand though it again.  The leaves were still (just) young, tender: at the bright stage.  They felt soft, feathery, light.   I particularly like this moment in the hedge's year.  Soon, the leaves will have stiffened and darkened: assumed a tougher and more mature posture.

The clever thing about a beech hedge is that, even after the autumn frosts, it retains its brown leaves. Through the winter, many of the leaves cling on, so, though deciduous, it provides all-year-round cover.  

The clever thing about a beech hedge is that the old leaves only drop off as the new ones push their ways through.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I Indulge In A Paradox

It's a month till my annual camping trip with my longest-serving friend, Helen.  The trip marks the anniversary of the start of our 50th year celebrations and therefore their end, allegedly.

Some of the pleasures of camping are unavoidable, and are largely to do with shedding - shedding walls, ceilings, fridges, the internet: baring body, mind and soul to the considerable elemental forces of a field in Wales.  Some of those pleasures are, however, to do with acquisition - particularly, the acquisition of new equipment which allows campers to camp-lite.

It's a paradox, but camping shops are full of sleeping bags, tents, roll mats and cooking equipment all lighter, more compact and streamlined than the ones you already have.  You need to buy more to have, to carry, less.  The technology is alluring, and helps to leaven memories of soggy, heavy, camping without integral groundsheets, under canvas, on camp beds.  My worst ones concern being a camp leader in a wet August in Cornwall.  With slugs.

So yesterday, I popped into Millets for the third time in three weeks.  Inbetween my visits, I've been thinking about what I can justify spending on new cooking equipment.  Trangia, the Swedish ultralight camping stove specialists, have been seducing me with their impeccably designed stoves,  mini-stoves, non-stick pans, kettles and mess tins.  I have been imagining extending my camping recipe repertoire beyond various forms of risotto into scrambled eggs, friend eggs, poached eggs, coffee.

Millets clarified the situation for me yesterday by having most of these items in their sale.  And by offering me an extra 15% off if I buy them in May.  There's nothing like saving money to induce a flurry of spending.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I Plant A Plant

I was planting some cowslips that my longest serving friend's mother gave me from her garden when it struck me that I was planting a plant.  I started thinking about this satisfying state of affairs.

I have subsequently become a little obsessed with words that exist both as nouns and verbs, and which can be used in the same simple sentence.  There are quite a few of these, but top of the list so far for me is 'pod' which - in addition to leading me to think about bending to pick peas in a summer garden, then podding them, eating them raw - can also be spun through 180 degrees and remain itself.

So far, my thoughts have led me in this circle:

I drink a drink
I request a request
I dance a dance
I risk a risk
I touch a touch
I kiss a kiss
I whisper a whisper
I promise a promise
I wave a wave
I text a text
I drink a drink

I realise all this has very little to do with cowslips.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

I Kill A Bird

On my way home today, I was driving into town - no more than 20 mph - when I noticed a bird flying in on the extreme right of my peripheral vision.  Its arc was wide and in a moment it had flown down and in towards the underside of my car.

Everything about this death seemed soft: my foot on the brake; the bird's low flight; the quiet thud of its body - bone and feather - against the wheel arch; the flurry I saw in my left wing mirror.  Even the scale of this loss -  perhaps a thrush? - seems soft, against all the other losses.

All evening, I've felt a blur of regret, a sense of what Gerard Manley Hopkins calls "cloy" in his devastatingly beautiful poem, Spring.  I've felt the ache of gratitude for all the life of this blustery Mayday - for "all this juice and all this joy", for the "rinse and ring" of it.