[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 vegetables are OK but the rest of the garden is a disaster. It’s a sort of vicious circle – I don’t put enough effort into it to make it look nice, so it’s unsatisfying, so I don’t put enough effort in! My latest effort is a rain forest crèche on the dining room window sill. I’ve potted up vast numbers of ‘Greenpeace’ native seeds I was given last Christmas. I have put them in a very expensive potting mix and watered them daily for weeks. They’ve not so much as stirred – ungrateful things!”
“Spring has arrived early and it is a delight to admire the pink flowers of the camellia tree and the yellow ones of the mimosa in the back garden.”
“I fear my first beans will fail despite covers as I had to put them out as the roots were too huge for their starting pots. Dear X upset a box of very expensive Alpine Strawberry seeds, but fortunately they have started to come up in parts, so I am still hopeful. Parsley in the airing cupboard – the first lot caught me out and shot up unexpectedly but I am on the watch for this. Far easier to buy but not so much fun.”
“…the spray for the various beetles didn’t quite do the trick so the result is some rather mucky looking raspberries but they puree all right with a little hard work removing bad bits and the ‘livestock’! They take a long time to pick but as there are so few nice ones the problem of going round giving them away does not arise so much.”
“Other things have come on too, so I have been able with great delight to pull up the last of the over-winter carrots and throw them away. It was getting quite a struggle to separate the eatable outside bit from their vast central rock-hard stem.”
“I have planted some broad beans which the pigeons are rapidly demolishing I think, and some potatoes got thrown in very casually one day. It is all rather half-hearted and vague but I enjoy trying to keep it comparatively tidy to the last. I shall have two tubs and a grow-bag on a patio I hope!! Alternatively of course it might be a bit of flannel and a packet of cress on the windowsill.”
“…independent for shopping etc. if I have to give up the car – I can’t really quite decide if I ought to stop because of eyes but in the meantime go on.”
“Two years ago I slipped and broke both bones in an ankle and was in a wheelchair and incapacitated for almost a year. Though I recovered completely in the physical sense I think that I have not entirely recovered in the psychological sense!”
“So glad to hear that your eyes were ‘better’ with the different man – it is a completely hit and miss game as far as I understand it and one just has to trust them.”
“She does have to have radiotherapy… and I am trying to say that the reaction won’t be nearly as bad as it used to be in my day when we centred the beam in a very haphazard way compared to modern techniques.”
“I cured myself eventually by announcing to the consultant that his precious blood pressure pills were killing me and I was getting lower and lower in spirits – so had tried without them on my own and found myself feeling better. So we abandoned them and I revived at once and am now full of beans – still short of puff but that is now put down to smoking all my life, until a year ago, instead of ‘heart’ which it was first thought to be… The greatest joy is to feel alive instead of permanently half dead and blacking out at the thought of doing anything! …thank goodness this nice consultant is amenable to being told that I don’t want too many of his pills – still having 3 different things to take each day despite knocking the worst one off: what would Maggie [Thatcher] think? I am sure they all cost the earth, and being ancient I get them for free.”
“Did I tell you that the eye-man had another go at me? I think with some improvement. This time he did it under a local anaesthetic. I must say it is not natural to allow someone to poke a needle into your eyeball!”
Letters from gardeners in three countries (aged from 40 to 80!) Strange that we all go on gardening when it seems to have many inbuilt problems! The triumph of hope etc.
” …my garden is starting to look just marginally more respectable in that some perennial plants have honoured me by actually growing. Most of them are still quite small yet, but I feel that when there is growth there is hope that something bigger will eventuate. I still have to arrange a path to my orange tree and compost bin – at present it is what one could politely describe as ‘beaten earth’.”
“The garden has dried up and we have been trying to fit in some of the winter tidy. I’ve managed to prune my trees (though piles of branches still lie about) and dug a big enough patch to put my seed potatoes in, though I don’t think there is any point until it gets a trifle warmer; and have weeded my leeks – which are about the only thing I’ve got growing apart from half a dozen Brussels sprouts which are too small and weedy to pick. I made a couple more kilos of pumpkin soup last week and managed to use up an enormous carrot which was the sole remnant of my so-called crop and which partner was refusing to cook as being too coarse. It tasted well enough as carrot soup with curry powder and the rest in it. I have artichokes too waiting to be dug up and converted in the same way, but they are rather a bore doing, and nobody really likes the result very much – and I have not discovered a way of disguising them. I wonder whether they would just add some body if I mixed them with oxtail, of which we have the remains of a catering-size tin which must be getting pretty stale by now. I have replaced all my strawberries with new ones, but fear with cold weather delaying them, we shall get very little fruit, very late, this year…”
“I got bored stiff with the rain. Days and days of meaning to get on with jobs and only getting short spells at sweeping or digging or something – still bits got done and that is about all I can manage in one session. I had a lovely afternoon today as I lit a bonfire and burnt about 6 barrow-loads of acorns and oak leaves – very, very naughty as I ought to compost the lot, but there are so many and I am not sure about the acorns and whether they turn into leaf mould! There are still plenty left to add to the heap on another day when they are wet and clingy – today they were bouncing everywhere in the wind.”