'Go anywhere nice over the holidays?'
It's the last Saturday of the Easter holidays and after two glorious weeks off, I'll be back at the day job on Monday and answering Small Talk Question No.1 after any term break: 'Did you go anywhere nice?'
I've never understood the great need to get away. Yes, I'm an introvert and a homebody, but I don't think that in itself explains why I'd just rather stay at home thank you very much. I imagine the thing that clinches it is that I really, really like my home, and am seemingly incapable of ever being bored. There's just so much to do! And learn! And make! Calligraphy practise continues and I've had to stop myself racing forward and trying to design my own lettering, because I just haven't had the training or experience to make a good job of that. So I'm concentrating on Copperplate and hope that with a lot of practise, I may be passable at it, and not just to people whose idea of hand lettering is scribbling on a delivery note.
The big joy of this time of year though, is the garden. We've been here a year and a few months, and it's the garden that's given me the most joy. Well, that and the stove. And the lovely little rooms. And the slopey ceilings... Ok, I like the whole house. But I think the garden is where I've invested the most time and energy. When we arrived it was a scrubby lawn, with a brown painted shed plonked down bizarrely near the middle on one side, and a slightly wonky patio at the end. Having lived in a rented house for many years, and on a boat beforehand where the only gardening I could do was with containers on the roof, this was still exciting.
The first thing to go was the shed. It was sold on eBay to two lovely friends from the Midlands who had both lost their wives and had decided to start working an allotment together. They came along, took it to pieces and took it away, pausing to fix the wonky bolt on the gate for me for me before they left. Then we wasted no time in putting up a summer shed, a marvellous cross between a summerhouse and a shed.
There followed a great deal of digging, and running around the place with bits of string and measuring tapes to make flowerbeds, and more digging to create a proper seating area near the house, which had a strip of gravel about three feet wide between the doorstep and the lawn. It took weeks. Then came planting. And more digging. And more planting.
Most of the non-rainy parts of the last two weeks have seen me merrily running around the garden with a trowel, digging up weeds, pulling up things that didn't make it through the winter, and doing the big job that I'd set myself for this break. Painting the summer shed. As you can probably tell, we squeezed it right into the back part of the garden so that we could make maximum use of the space. Last year I'd whacked some stain on the front, but with so so much to do with making it into a proper garden, had left the factory stain on the rest of it, after checking that it would safely last the year. This Easter, I painted it. All of it. It involved squeezing into some very tight spaces, and making a long roller out of a broom handle and some gaffer tape. It reminded me a lot of the boat years, when I'd supplement my student loan with money earned painting boats, balancing on scaffolding boards in the dry dock or leaning down over the sides while they were still on the water. It took a coupe of days but it is DONE. And I put screening behind it to stop quite as many leaves and bits of crap falling down there over Autumn.
I love it SO. MUCH. Having the summer shed dark instead of light has made the garden feel so much longer, and it makes the greens of the plants really ping. Things are only just starting to get growing properly, as there's a little micro climate out there between the bank and the house that means it takes an extra couple of weeks to get going in spring. All the plants out at the front of the house have been blooming for weeks, but back here, the daffodils are only just starting to open. The seeds I planted in February have been doing ok, but growing very slowly. I do have a heated propagator, but the old lady cat has arthritis and has been using is as a bed with her blanket folded up inside. Spoiled rotten. But it helps her feel better. Will be requesting a heated mat for Christmas!
When I think about how far this space has come since we moved in, I feel so hopeful. There are several large shrubs and small trees that should really take off over the next couple of years and will, with a bit of care, grow into the lush, calm jungle of a garden that I've always wanted. Everything that happens out there is an investment in a probable future, which is an idea that calms my frantic little brain when it's running away with itself. We've just had some lawn edging delivered, which I today covered in live yoghurt and blenderized moss to give it a head start. That'll be the next thing to do, then I have a new rode to plant and plans for a wooden arch over the first narrow strip of lawn which will then have even more roses grown up it. I'm so excited about what it's all going to turn into.