X and I had a lovely visit to a woodland garden near here yesterday as there was a sale of plants there. X very knowledgeably discussed the merits of something she fancied with an old gent selling it, and we came home with two of them! She is very good at reeling out names of things, whereas I refer to everything as ‘that blue thing’, which is very lazy on my part. Also I find my eyes don’t really encourage me to try to read the labels as I have to get down to it a bit too much and get in everybody else’s way by sticking my bottom out and my head down. But it was a lovely morning and the garden itself was in gorgeous autumn colour, despite very wet grass under foot, so we thoroughly enjoyed our little excursion.
X brought Y over for afternoon tea the other day. She’s amazing for 86 – I gather they were worn out by the time she left!
I’m going to some good lectures – given by an art historian – Renaissance & Impressionists – very yummy and I so enjoy them as they are nothing to do with anything – if you know what I mean! [Er – not really!]
We had lunch and a walk-game. We went for a walk and left a trail of arrows to say which way we’d gone, and they tried to follow. I say tried, because they missed the first arrow and ended up miles away!
I can’t remember if we had been to X on a shopping spree when I last wrote. I bought a cardigan in a revolting khaki which did nothing for my complexion, and a skirt that makes me look like the back side of a bus – otherwise we had a very good day. After agonising over my purchases for days I told Y about them and she said to send them back, it was my money! So I did, and felt much better.
We feel much the same about meals out – they flow off the plate. X is wonderful: if I settle for a ‘do it ourselves’ he buys all the most extravagant things plus wines etc. and there’s no comparison which we enjoy most – and there’s usually exotic things over for days – all at the price of going out.
X is up to her eyes in lists and writing to people to see if they can go and see them – wish I didn’t feel so sure it won’t come off – she’ll be so disappointed. I keep reminding her that from experience, when you’ve worked out costs, double them.
Hope you like the photo of your godson! He and his girlfriend (she’s Greek believe it or not) went to a ‘P’ party – he was a peasant and she a panther. No, it isn’t his own hair, it’s a wig from kindy.
They were here for dinner the other day and X said, ‘We’re driving to Y on Friday if anyone wants to come’ – so I’m going! It’s for their daughter’s 21st. I gather you got an invite! I think everyone except me did – so I’m gatecrashing it! Should be neat fun.
You commented on me tolerating X going to McDonald’s. He hardly ever goes normally so there’s not much point in getting my knickers in a knot over a few holiday visits! What’s the bad press? We haven’t heard it here.
That night it started pouring with rain and still was when we left at 7 a.m. for our pre-booked trip out to the reef. We went in a yacht with 13 passengers and 5 crew. It would have been a lot more lovely in fine weather, but as it was we had to go under motor (nasty diesel smell) and the wind was squalling up to 40 knots, so I fear I was dreadfully seasick for most of the way out and felt ghastly for at least an hour after getting there. Still, eventually I felt well enough to have a go at snorkelling and the crew were really kind and helpful and someone came with me and brought up interesting creatures from below like sea cucumbers and a creature that spits out its intestines like spaghetti to shock intruders! The coral was lovely and the fish amazing, so I’m pleased we went despite the weather.
I have decided on Going Native, and all of the native garden plant books use only botanical names. Common names exist as an appendix at the back. Some of the common names are quite fascinating. Who wouldn’t want a Running Postman (do these occur in Europe?), or a Wonga Vine or a Twiggy Wili-Wili, or a Geebung? … I have discovered that, really, the list for small to tall shrubs of slender habit which will grow in heavy clay, in a Mediterranean climate, in either full or part hot shade, with flowers of either red or white, and are not rampant growers, or drain cloggers, or branch droppers, is quite small. Makes things so much simpler.
Did I tell you the sheep got into my vegs and scoffed the lot – the day we went into X for the wedding. Now a fortnight later things are not so bad – carrots etc. have grown new tops – but the runner beans seem unlikely to come to anything.
I was amazed at the variety I got from the garden. Picked forget-me-nots, yellow freesias, forsythia, winter jasmine, whitebells (no blue ones out yet) and grape hyacinths and one pale pink winter rose. My lily of the valley is about to come out and has really established itself in the rose bed. The widened path looks far less mean – I told the second brickie that I didn’t like having to walk in single file and he promptly put his arm round my shoulders and said, ‘You like to be nice and friendly?’ Last year’s anemones have come out at last too which add a good splash of colour. I’ve just put in my second lot of sweet peas – v. late. Did I tell you I fell for a rhododendron too – pale yellow, and a daphne – but have been careful to leave gaps for some dahlias next month. I’ve dug up the acanthus and put it in a vast and expensive pot at the end of our paving and will move the hibiscus to a bed so X won’t have to mow round it. Our puriri tree is out and we’ve got two visiting bush pigeons.
I put far too many noisy cinerarias in the rose bed and had to move them to a bare place instead, beautiful colours but very strong.
Hellybellys coming up in a nasty bit of ground, which is clever of them and I hope I can encourage them to grow on and survive. Sorry I can’t think of their official name at the moment but you gave me the seeds and they do begin ‘hel’ something or other.
The various bushes look wonderful – especially the one outside the bathroom window and the little one near the gate! Very shape-full and pleasing to the eye. I still haven’t done the last bit of sickling to remove the rest of the long grass patches but there are fewer weeds than there were and the strawberries have been re-organised and set out ready for next year.
I’m growing my own wheat – guess what! More in my next.
I have a fantastic pumpkin plant which sowed itself in a strip allocated to cauliflowers and has now spread in a sort of L-shape about fifteen feet in each direction, threatening to engulf altogether most of my parsnips, carrots and sweet corn, as well as the poor cauliflowers (which weren’t coming to much anyway – they are the most difficult things to grow satisfactorily). The celery has rust, but we can eat bits of it… and my beefsteak tomatoes have blight – but there again, parts of them are excellent as the curate’s egg. The apples are far more afflicted with codling moth than last year… The strawberries are over, the sweet corn looks splendid, and the leeks have done better than usual for me. My main onion crop consists of only about two dozen, but some of them are four inches across… The grapes look good too… I planted three zucchini-type marrows but we didn’t get many zucchinis off them – they grew so fast! Eventually I carted four of them up to fourteen inches long off to church to go in the charity box, and dug up the plants which were covered in a revolting grey mildew by then.
At last I have found a good class to go to. My 85 yr old tutor finally gave up, so this was a relief, as none of us liked to stop going. The teacher I now have is full of enthusiasm and telling us to try every type of medium and painting with cloth, sticks, fingers etc., gouache, that I’d never tried before. Quite a change from my ‘primp-sy’ watercolours.
I have not been to many dancing classes very much at all this year. It has been too much what with everything else. I think I have been rather stressed. The last class for the year should be tomorrow night, so I will go to that, and give myself the idea that this is what I am to do next year. I do enjoy going really, and it is nice to see the others who go, so I must make the effort.
I’ve managed to find time to do a wild flower course one evening a week, mainly because a friend wanted to do it and I went to keep her company. Most of it was far too technical for me (memories of school biology lessons flooded back!) but I enjoyed seeing all the slides the lecturer showed us, and the field trips were good. One beautiful summer’s evening, we went to see a preserved wild flower meadow. After about an hour of being told all the Latin names of everything we were seeing, my brain just seized up! So while all these really enthusiastic botanists were crawling around on their hands and knees examining every last petal and leaf, I just sat and admired the wonderful views.
|[Thanks to the people who sent these letters! All were lovely folk and sadly missed.]
[Quote from Unknown: A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.]
Thanks for the pictures – I am fascinated by them and wish I could do anything as interesting. Please, if it’s not too much trouble, could I have a photo of ‘Tribute to Mr. Campbell’ – I long to see it. I have a feeling that you are developing into quite an impressive artist and that you will soon get wider recognition.
This is to thank you again for the very great pleasure it was to me to meet you… It is a very long time since I have had such a happy afternoon, of so much interest and intense enjoyment… My interest and appreciation were so great that I actually felt a lifting of the weight of years – one of the hazards of extreme old age is a kind of creeping inertia and withdrawal from the present, and you have certainly thrust that aside for me. To see you again is something to look forward to.
Do not NOT let other artists or critics disturb you – let them rabbit on – pick and choose that which you find of help and do your own thing… I don’t know what you are trying to achieve – be yourself !!!
I saw this gorgeous painting of irises of yours in the window. It really is lovely… When I went past the shop on my return there was a different picture in the window – lovely too of poppies! It seems to me your painting has developed enormously with fabulous colour. Why on earth do you have some people anti, I wonder. It is so refreshing to have flower paintings so full of life and colour which after all is the characteristic of flowers not the neat ladylike little bunches with most colour drained out of them.
My friend the R.C. Bishop called me to see if I had any paintings for the art show last Saturday. Having done absolutely no painting all year due to this and that, I was able to dredge up three old ones – two had to be framed in a hurry. But I was pleased they all sold in the first hour – I said I’d give their charity half the proceeds. I must say, a more undistinguished bunch of paintings in the show I have never seen. It was in much too large a venue – last year it was in the house next door and there was a smaller much more distinguished collection shown to better advantage.
My day with X began in Piccadilly, ended in St. James’ and was very ‘full’ and ‘successful’ i.e. I finally got to the gallery only 16 months after the exhibition that I’d wanted to see had opened!… I thought you might be interested in this Samuel Palmer. It’s possible they still have the picture there – I enquired re one from the 4-months-old similar exhibition to the original one which was unsold in the basement… Yes, I’m thinking I might make a further (small!) purchase…? [small purchase: a Samuel Palmer???]
There is so much bad painting here – what I call ‘brown paintings’ – peasants and palm trees and mud-coloured mountains – boring.
There is also an unfinished cross I started some years ago – a construction of copper mosaic that I have enamelled. My kiln is a small one so have to think in terms of linking large work together. The cross depicts Alpha & Omega – plenty of colour – slimy mud and things at the base and volcanoes and night & day with a sun at the top. Am intending to mount it on a super piece of oak that I found in a builder’s yard – weathered and worn to a gorgeous silver patina – it was at one time a tail board from a small farm cart – I guess 100 years or more past.
…Some splendid Monets – I bought a poster of the Floating Studio – now I know why he did so many waterlilies! The gallery had done the walls the same colour as Barnes had used, which was a rather nasty sort of yellow ochre which I did not think was a very good background for the pictures – but who am I?? They did a big photomontage of one of his hanging arrangements, which was very interesting, as he mixed such different things and made such balanced sort of compositions.
Looking through some of my earlier efforts I came on some things that I did before my pot-boiling flowers and was quite impressed. I must do some more buildings and portraits – I have got into such a rut, but the flowers sell like hot bread and it tempts me.
I think she is such a good artist. Her family are quite unimpressed with her work, and it all seems to be done on odd bits of paper and the backs of envelopes and I am sure will disappear when she dies. There were a couple of portrait heads, Indian?, that I would give my eyeteeth to own, also a landscape in mixed media.
I have been painting quite a lot. X, my grand-daughter, was over with her aunt who also paints flowers, not nearly as well as I do (!) and is peddling them to tourists on the coast, and I was so incensed it gave me the prod I needed. X has contacts with galleries over there and will help me place mine.
I was interested to hear of the Byam Shaw man – I was taught there by a marvellous teacher, Ernest Jackson, only drawing. The painting end was too heavy for me – Prix de Rome stuff a way over my head.
My B&B business is still thriving, nearly all the proceeds of which go into the upkeep of the garden. However hard I try to be abstemious, I always end up spending a fortune on seeds and plants each year, and then wondering why I have to spend so much time watering when the weather is hot and dry! … some things did extremely well, such as roses, peas, garlic, onions and autumn raspberries, while others failed quite spectacularly, in particular, summer raspberries, most tree fruit and broad beans. All my tomatoes and peppers were very late producing anything edible, due to the lack of sun in early summer, but there wasn’t a sign of the usual infestation of whitefly. There’s no pleasing gardeners, is there!
I had a lad who helped with the mowing for most of the summer. Very useful but he did it so badly that it nearly drove me to drink!
The ground is squelchy with wet after last night’s downpour and there won’t be very much more I can usefully do in the garden until it dries up a bit! The poor little seedlings do look bedraggled after it and I might earth them up a bit I suppose, but it seems rather fiddly and pointless to mess with them. Actually the slugs will finish them off in one more night if I leave them I expect – they have devoured a line of carrots, the first line of kale and sprouts and all the dwarf beans to date so there isn’t much hope I feel!
There is quite a large backyard which has an orange tree and some vegetables which I planted. However it mainly looks very run down as nothing has been done to it for years. I expect I will have to battle for several more years to rid it of noxious grasses which just take over if not kept constantly in check. Come autumn I will have planned it (I hope) and can plant some shrubs and ground cover which should improve it greatly. I have things in the front garden now – some cooking herbs, a climbing rose (to hide the iron fence), a white and ordinary coloured lavender, a rosemary bush, and two daisies both of which have a fungus and will have to be destroyed.
…if you’re against strong poisons on weeds and have only a small area, a drop of petrol will go down to the roots in no time, useful for between paving.
For my birthday in July everyone generously gave me money so I could put a water feature in the garden or, as X calls it, my water creature.
The garden has been lovely, always something new… I got quite a lot of strawberries last year, made lots of my strawberry syrup and bottled it. We shall use most of our homemade jams in the tearoom, muffins & jam etc. I may do marmalade and lemon curd for sale as one can make them any time. We have a good fig tree too, some citrus and mulberries besides plenty of pawpaws. We may do things like homemade bread & pate for lunches, and fruit salad. Youngberries and blackberries are growing well. Hazel nut trees have taken and one sweet chestnut tree, one blackcurrant (one small shoot survived the new gardener!) [Green with envy re this list!]
The weather here in Sydney is gradually getting warmer as spring turns into summer. The trees and shrubs are all in bloom so the City looks great. The Jacaranda trees have been stunning. I went on a garden excursion recently – to see some private gardens in the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately it rained all day and it really rains hard here. Anyway we had to spend a lot more time on refreshments than viewing.
The varieties of potatoes have me intrigued. One of the ‘house’ type magazines I bought had a feature on potatoes: it was really quite an education. One rather intriguing one is Purple Congo which is quite small and dark purple. I t mashes quite well apparently, to a beautiful lavender shade reminiscent of a colour some elderly ladies used to like their blouses. A bit off-putting, so I haven’t tried it, even though the writer of the article did promise it was very tasty. I am not going to have any vegetables other than a few herbs in pots. I cannot get enough sun at the right time for them to grow properly. I don’t want to put them in the front, although many home gardeners of Mediterranean origin do. You see these beautifully staked beans and tomatoes in beds next to the roses, which may have garlic or onions growing under them. … I sort of run out of steam when planting the front, as I came to the foundations of the original house in just that strip where I could plant. So it was digging and prising small stones from between very much larger and heavier ones, and chipping off the sopping old mortar. I couldn’t get out the largest: they were just too heavy, apart from being at a depth of from just above my knees down. I would see people drive and walk slowly past me trying to peer inconspicuously to see what I was doing, knee-deep in my own front garden.
“We opened the Tea Garden… We get tourist lunches, old folk from Britain once a week which is great fun and they love coming here – last time a snake obliged by nearly climbing onto the veranda from the bougainvillea! and the sun birds are a treat, not to mention the hoopoes nesting in the corner of the roof (instead of a tree!)”
“Now in South of India, tropical flowers, spices and rain. We are in Hill Station of Ooty and we have a fire.”
[The James Iredell House, North Carolina] “Wish you were here to see the wonderful gardens – magnolia plantation had 900 species of azaleas and a wealth of other flowers… We spent 3 days in Charleston.”
“This has been an interesting day-tour into the rain-forest. There have also been beautiful blue and red parrots and birds called whip birds because of their call. They made me think of you.” [I wonder why???!]
“First time I have seen this tree. It is a frassino tree and grows only in Sicily or Calabria. The manna is used in the trade as a laxative and also for other medical purposes???”
“Wow! I have just seen an enormous wasp type thing about 1.5 inches – HUGE. We got attacked by monkeys yesterday! I was holding a banana – I suddenly became surrounded by monkeys. They looked as if they would climb all over me – so I hid the banana down my top and they went away!” [Lucky the monkeys weren’t too determined…]
“The garden was all palms and wild orchids and lovely plants with green and pink leaves! And a demented cockerel and a bunch of scatty hens… We went snorkelling about 5 times. We saw amazing blue starfish – their fingers were all sausage-fat and bright blue. And angel-fish and other stripey ones and an amazing thing called a half-beak – almost transparent from the side except for its eye which is halfway along its 2-3 foot body. When you looked down on them they were coloured though. We didn’t see many shoals of fish, which made the one of about 300 we saw on the last day all the more surprising! They were white and whiskery with a yellow streak down the side.”
“X related how they’d had a real gorilla in her youth in S. Africa – its mother had been shot – and they looked after the baby and played with it – until one day her sister teased it and it bit her – it was huge by then, about 5 – and their father said it had to go to the zoo. When they left it, it had tears running down its cheeks – as they all had, including her father – sad.”
“The countryside is so beautiful and all the orange cacci [persimmon] on the trees everywhere. They look like primitive paintings.”