Pottering

clematis

Tom is away, working in Ireland at the moment. I really miss him, but I am distracting myself by working very hard on my YOKES, and am enjoying pottering in the garden in my spare moments.

leeks

I cannot use a spade (I have tried, and I just fall over), and we knew there was going to be a limit to what I could feasibly do this Spring in the garden in Tom’s absence. But with a couple of raised beds, a plastic lean-to, and many containers, I’m not doing so bad.

lettuce

I brought salad leaves on in the lean-to, planted them out in a raised bed and have been amazed at how well they are doing. I don’t want to speak too soon, but as yet they have remained mercifully unmolested by pests – the raised beds have a protective cordon of bark and copper tape, which has proved an effective slug deterrant. More remarkably, perhaps, the deer and rabbits have not yet taken the opportunity to chow down on my tasty crops. There are certainly rabbits and hares in abundance in our environs (I enjoy seeing the hares if I’m out on an early morning walk) but so far, there have been surprisingly few in our garden. My neighbours (who inform me that we are usually overrun with bunnies by this point in the Spring) think that Jesus (our cat) has something to do with it. He has been seen out on the prowl in the early hours, and kindly leaves headless rodents on my doorstep, as well as those of my neighbours, from time to time. If the rabbits are concerned that they or their offspring might meet the same fate, it is all to the good. But I have no idea how he is seeing off the deer.

Meanwhile, in my containers, the beans are doing their bean-thing. . .

beanpole

.. . the cabbages are looking cabbage-y . . .

cabbage

. . . beetroot is sprouting . . .

beetroot

. . .and some tatties, which my dad and I planted rather late a couple of weeks ago, are starting to appear.

tatties

There will be fruit too – raspberries and strawberries.

strawberry

. . . and there are tiny gooseberries on the tiny gooseberry bush!

gooseberry

Yesterday I took the squash and courgettes from the lean-to and planted them out in 10 litre pots to see how they do.

squash

If I see a spare space in a container I pop in a petunia. . .

petunia

. . .and the back of the garden has presented me with other, unexpected floral delights.

iris

But what I seem to have most of are tomatoes. I started growing them from seed in the bathroom several months ago and their flowers and trusses are now starting to appear.

tomatoflower

The lean-to is now taken up with eight very vigorous tomato plants, and I have probably twice that number rotating in and around the house. My mum ventured yesterday evening that I might have grown too many tomatoes.

What do you think?

manytomatoes

Please to note the housemartin, to the right of the photo, on its way to its nest under our eaves. Their nests are beautifully compact and sturdy and I love to hear them chit-chattering above my head when I’m sitting outside knitting at the back of the house. Last year, when the housemartins had finished with their nests, a few were occupied by late broods of swallows. Will that happen again this year?

Every day, in one way or another, I am grateful to be living here.

swings and roundabouts

jesus

Jesus is back. He was discovered at a neighbour’s, lured away by the promise of full Scottish breakfasts, oodles of milk, and a general lack of workmen and disruption. He is looking a bit scraggy, but certainly no thinner . . . We are keeping the wee man inside for a few days and the neighbours have been politely asked to stop feeding him fried eggs and sausages.

But my hopes of a nice, quiet few days were dashed when an idiot joyrider drove a car straight into the side of our campervan, which was parked outside our flat. Happily, no-one was injured, so I can show you what happens when a speeding car hits a stationary campervan.

van

As well as crushing the chassis on the driver’s side of the van, the force of the impact pushed it backwards into a parked car behind. The damage is significant. After some back-and-forth with our insurers, they are coming to take it away to look at it this morning and I fear that will be the last we ever see of it.

I am terribly upset. For me, that van – which we refer to as the wazzwagon – is so much more than just a vehicle. It has played a crucial part in my recovery and gave me hope at a very bad time. It has enabled me to enjoy the landscapes that I love, and has taken us all over Scotland. It may be that it can be repaired, but I very much fear the insurance company are going to want to write it off. Poor wazzwagon.

van-1

box

boo

wazzwagon

vansky

wazzwagonsky

Please keep your fingers crossed for it.

Summer days

brollies

It is a while since I’ve known a spell of weather like it.

The verges have bloomed into wildflower meadows.

wildflowermeadow
bee
thistles

Everything seems sharper, brighter, a dappled world of light and shade.

contrast
light

The evening air is soft and fragrant.

honeysuckle

Folk stroll about, bare-armed, leisurely.

path

Inside, the new rooms are cool and clean and very pretty.

pie

Bruce prefers the shade.

hotdog

We are looking forward to a quiet weekend, with no workmen, and no dust. It will feel like a tremendous luxury to simply cook and enjoy a meal together in the kitchen. While the relocation stress continues, things are out of our hands for a wee while – our only worry at the moment is Jesus – who has not put in an appearance for 11 days. Jesus is an elusive creature, and he has been more than ordinarily elusive of late while the workmen have been here. Still, 11 days is a long time, even for a self-sufficent and resourceful feline like him. Come back, Jesus.

jesusphiz

September

It is is a lovely time of year.

of fruits . . .

. . . seedheads . . .



. . . and turning leaves.


Jesus seems even more than ordinarily contemplative. . .

. . . and Bruce enjoys sampling the Autumnal undergrowth. . .

For academics as well as students, this is back-to-school season – the moment when one puts away one’s research (one has never done quite enough), begins to prepare new lectures (groan), and faces the busy realities of a new semester. For me, this also meant hideously long days, commuting in the dark, and rarely ever getting outside to enjoy what I like most about this time of year. But this September is different: I shall continue my research and writing (huzzah) and I shall walk with my dog in the woods every day (an even louder huzzah). I no longer have the job or the commute. . . but I do have the boxes.

Forty-nine large boxes to be exact. They contain my books, which have just been sent up from my office in Newcastle. They are currently blocking the stairwell of our building because there is no room for them in our flat (which is full to bursting with my books already). Could anybody recommend a good bookseller who might be interested in purchasing a large collection of eighteenth-century literature, history, and criticism? I am completely serious. American revolutionary history and women’s writing a speciality. Anyway, I’m going to be offline for a few days while I sort through the contents of the boxes of doom. . .

sprung

Surely one of the most satisfying things about any kind of journal keeping is the Gilbert White-like sense it can convey of seasonal continuity or change. At dusk yesterday, Jesus’s plum tree burst into bloom. I note that last year, after a particularly long and evil Winter, it had just started to flower on April 4th; in 2009, blossom had started to appear on March 23rd. I don’t know what the plum tree was doing in 2008 because I didn’t mention it. However, I do recall hailstones the size of golf balls at Durness – it certainly wasn’t plum blossom weather.


nor were there butterflies . . .


. . .or beetles on the budding gorse.

Anyway, the Spring weather is glorious, and we have been out enjoying it at The Braids



hang on . . . are those your feet on a rough path, in normal shoes?

you fookin bet they are!

and what’s Tom doing off work on a Thursday?

Well, today he is on strike, and a walk was just what was needed after a morning on the picket line. If I had any labour to withdraw, I would certainly be withdrawing it.

Slow-cooked lamb for supper. The windows open. A good day.

at home


It’s still snowing here.


Snow is one of those things about which Jesus definitely is Not Sure.

Just check out his plum tree. . .

The wee man is spending the day inside, but me and Bruce have been out with the camera. I love the transformative effects of snow, even on the greyest winter day.



It was very quiet out there.

Though Bruce tried his best to make a ruckus.

Spare a thought for poor Tom, though, who set off for Liverpool this morning and is currently stuck on a stationary train somewhere in deepest Cumbria. Familiar Words of Doom have been uttered: “Replacement Bus Service.” If he ever gets there, Tom will be spending a few days at a conference. This will be interesting for both of us, as we’ve not been apart since I came out of hospital. It feels significant. Tom is really quite amazing: as well as working extremely hard in the World of Spleens all day, he then comes home and performs far more than his fair share of household tasks so that I can save my energy for my rehab. I know I couldn’t have managed the past ten months without him, and he is top of the list of the many things I feel extremely lucky for. But it seems a good time for me to try a few days of total independence. I am doing quite well at the moment. I mean, I feel a little peculiar all of the time, but lately the little peculiar that I feel has been slightly less. My norm seems more normal, in other words. I have found myself wondering two things: 1)whether this constant-vague-peculiarity is really subsiding or my brain is just getting used to it and 2) whether people realise how generally weird things are for those who have had a stroke. (I know that brain-injury sufferers who have linguistic difficulties carry around explanatory cards to be whipped out in difficult public situations, and there have been several occasions over the past few months when I have wished I was wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “HELLO! I’VE HAD A STROKE.”)

Physically, I am definitely still getting better, though the improvements are slow and incremental and sometimes hard for me to see. In fact, other people seem to notice these improvements more than I do. On Saturday, for example, we ran into a physio friend of ours who regarded my walking as something quite incredible (which I suppose it is, considering that the part of my brain that was most damaged was the bit controlling my leg and foot, and that some of my medical team thought it was unlikely that I’d ever be able to walk without a stick, brace, and one of those electronic thingummies). Recently, when I’ve been out with Bruce, I have even tried running a few steps. This is really very difficult – there is nothing my left leg likes less than moving at speed – but over the past few weeks I have progressed from five lopsided steps to twenty five. It feels quite exhilarating.

While I am on the subject, and as much for my benefit as anything else, I want to record an experience of a couple of weeks ago, after which my gait seemed to noticeably improve. Mostly, on my daily walks, I just pootle along as best I can, but there is a nice flat stretch of about half a mile where I try to make every single component of my gait correct – this takes more effort than you would imagine, and Bruce often becomes frustrated with what he must regard as pointless dawdling when ahead lie innumerable sticks and squirrels. Anyway, I was covering this gait-focused half-mile a couple of weeks ago, and found that I was walking really well – the knee seemed to be working without locking (a recurrent issue), and my steps were smooth and even. This continued for about half a minute, and then I suddenly had a terrible attack of vertigo and nausea – I had to hold onto a tree while I waited for it to subside – and then took Bruce the shortest way home. There then followed the particularly evil bout of fatigue (mentioned in this post), but a few days afterward I found myself capable of walking six-and-a-half miles from our flat to the Modern Art Gallery and back. I have wondered since whether, at that moment, my brain finally made some sort of useful connection, and that this somehow caused the crazy nausea. In any case, since then, my leg has certainly had more strength and stamina and my knee has been acting more reliably.

Anyway, I seem to have rambled far away from the ostensible subject of this post – which was supposed to be the novel experience of doing my own washing up and cooking for a few days. On the subject of which, I better go and put my supper on. . .

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