Sunday, 31 May 2020

Crocheting in the Garden

It was another beautiful day yesterday, so after lunch Graham and I descided to take our mugs of tea out into the garden. I took my crocheting with me as well, so Graham was in charge of the tea.
The grass in the front garden in nice and flat to Graham put the mugs down beside him as he sprawled there. The dogs took the opportunity to peer through the front gate and bark at the neighbours in a happy way.
     So there we sat in the sunshine, chatting, watching the bees in the cotoneaster, Graham drinking his tea while mine cooled on the grass beside him.
     Until he said, 'Looks like you won't be getting your tea.' Because there was Bridie with her head stuck in my mug, having a good long drink of my tea. In fact she drank the lot, then looked at Graham as if to say 'Have you left any for me?'
     We have a new little flowerbed at the right of the front door, as you come out of the house. We had bought some new plants (mail order) and then had to find somewhere to put them. There are some lavender plants and one or two others. 'The Pudsey is doing well.' said Graham.
     'Pudsey?' said I
     'Pugsley?' said Graham, 'Something beginning with 'P', I think.'
     Yes, we have put a peony in the new flowerbed. It arrived as a piece of root, with a tiny bud showing at one end. Graham planted it, then we read on the internet that one of the mistakes people often make when planting peony is that they are planted too deeply. So Graham dug it up again and planted it barely under the surface of the soil, and in a couple of weeks, it has started to push up leaves. We don't expect it to flower this year, I think it is far too late for that, but we are pleased to see that it is alive!
     When I am crocheting, I don't always work on huge projects (although I do like to have something on-going). So here are a couple of my latest pieces:

Graham fancied a long, colourful scarf and he particularly likes the 'basket weave' stitch, which is thick and dense. So here is the one I made for him. Of course it is no use until Autumn/Winter.
     Then I was sat one night and my toes felt cold, so I thought I'd have a go at making myself some crocheted slippers.

     I have used one of those wools that changes colour to give the variagated effect. I didn't use any pattern to create these, I just descided to have a go and started crocheting.
     I started with a spiral, which I knew would become the sole at the widest part of the foot, then created the rest of the sole by crocheting rows until I got to the right length - I used one of my shoes as a template and measured it against my foot too. When I felt that the sole was the right size, I simply worked rows around the outside edge without increasing the stitch number, this gave a 'boat' shape which I then crocheted across from side to side to fill in across the top of the toes. I had thought about continuing up and around the opening, to make more of a 'boot' shape, but for the time being these are just what I needed.
     I think I made the slippers in an evening, so it didn't take long at all.

Sunday, 24 May 2020


Earlier this week (18th of May) I put an extract from one of my favourite poems up on facebook.
     To celebrate the birthday of the Arabic philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, Omar Khayyam, I quoted from his epic poem, The Rubaiyat.
Come with old Khayyam ....
With me along some strip of herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown.
Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough,
A flask of wine, a book of verse - and thou
Beside me, singing in the wilderness -
And wilderness is paradise enow.

The English language is rich and diverse and often uses old fashioned or obscure versions of words, particularly in poetry. And right at the end of this quote we have the word 'enow'.
     It is used here to help the lines scan, and to rhyme with the words 'bough' and 'thou', but we don't tend to worry about its meaning, as you can ignore it completely and still understand the meaning of this verse: 'It is lovely to go for a picnic in the country, just you and me.'
     If you bear in mind that poetry is a condensed form of writing, one which attempts to convey a meaning, or feeling, or create an atmosphere in a few words and lines, then every word chosen has to count, has to be of special value to justify its inclusion.
     The prime example of this is the Japanese poetic form, the Haiku.
     Haikus are composed to set rhythms of syllables and must also include a reference to the time of year

     The Rubaiyat is a series of quattraines, these are verses of four lines. Some of these verses are independent thoughts, others are series within the overall poem which are used to express a philosophical idea, so every word chosen has to fulfil several functions: It has to tell a story; it has to help the rhythm and the rhyme of the poem; it also has to help express the philosophy behind the words.
     So what does 'enow' actually mean?
     English words are a devil for having several meanings, and also for those meanings to change over the centuries, and 'enow' is one of those. It can mean 'enough', or be a contraction of the words 'even now' which in turn can mean 'at this moment' or even 'immediately'.
     Issobel Gowdie, the Scottish Witch, used the phrase 'even now' in her shape changing chants to change from woman to hare and back again. She says:
I am in an hares likeness just now,
But I will be in a woman's likeness even now.
     To us modern English users, the word 'now' simply means 'now', but to Issobel Gowdie there was a difference between 'now' and 'even now'.
     'Now' implies the continuing present, the time that we are currently occupying, but 'even now' changes that present to something else, a new reality, immediately.
     So what Issobel means is:
'I am currently in the shape of a hare,
but I choose to immediately change to the shape of a woman.'
       So which meaning of 'enow' do we find at the end of this Rubaiyat quattrain?
      Khayyam and his translator, Edward Fitzgerald, are creating a scene, a picture, with these lines of poetry.
     There have been many different translations of the words of Omar Khayyam over the years - indeed Fitzgerald himself made at least five versions - but the one I love best and have quoted from, is his first version. Bear in mind that this was not only Fitzgerald's first attempt at translating these quattrains, this was the first time ever that these Persian's thoughts had been translated into English.
     Because Fitzgerald chose to translate the quattrains into a poetic and rhyming form, this translation has been criticised as not being an accurate rendition from the Arabic.
      But this is not a dry work of scholarship, this is a celebration of the wit and wisdom of Khayyam. The words which Fitzgerald chose, encapsulate the spirit as well as the inner meaning of the original words.
      He has used the word 'enow' simply because of all its meanings and all it implies. Khayyam is saying that all he needs to recreate paradise on earth in contained within this verse. That this is enough paradise for him. But also that if these conditions are fulfilled, then, for him, Paradise immediately comes into being, for a fleeting instant Paradise is realised here on earth.
     He does not need the dry arguments of the religious ascetic to get him nearer to heaven, all he needs are simple pleasures, food, drink, peace and a beautiful companion.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Nature Notes from a Witches Garden

Whether we are in lockdown or not, nature just carries on doing its own thing. And it certainly is around our garden!
     Just outside our back door is a cotoneaster bush which is a fantastic place for wrens which we often see hopping in and out. But it has also become a potential nesting site for our robin. He likes the new hazel arch/pergola/tunnel which Graham recently constructed and flies around trying various vantage points.
     We are pretty sure our robin is a 'he' because he seems to be trying to tempt a female to come and build a nest with him. The other day he was in and out of the cotoneaster, but always carrying a piece of nesting material in his beak, as if saying 'Hey girl(s), look at me, see how good a potential mate I am, making this nest ready for you!' However he wasn't building a nest, then going to fetch more material, it was always the same piece he was carrying about.
     The pigeons on the other hand definitely are nesting. Right behind our coal bunker is an old elder tree, almost smothered in ivy. This seems to be a popular configuration, as we had a similar tree at the back of the garden, which finally gave up the ghost and collapsed last year and that had been a nesting spot for pigeons for years. So this year they have decamped to the new nest site in the ivy covered tree by the coal bunker.
     We can see them from our western living room window as they land on top of the tree then shuffle in amongst the ivy.
     But they are not the only pigeons in the garden. There is another one in the front garden, and it seems to be less experienced in picking the ideal nesting spot, as it has chosen the jasmine bush right by the side of the front door.
     Now, this has several disadvantages that I can see: First there is not a lot of cover on the stems it has chosen for its nesting site. But the main 'fail' element is that it is directly by the front door, so every time the front door opens, the pigeon is disturbed and flies off with much noisy flapping. Or if the postman or a delivery driver comes up the front path, the bird explodes out of the jasmine and away.
     But it is still persevering.
     I often see it pausing on the edge of the bird bath, with some improbably long twig in its beak, which it flutters off into the jasmine with.
     I like watching nature in action. I love to see the wild life, where it belongs, out in the wild.
     The emphasis here is on the 'out' bit.
     So the other day, sitting at the living room table, I happened to notice some ivy on the top shelf of the nearby bookshelf beneath the window, and thought that it must be a piece left over from the christmas decorations. I pointed it out to Graham who went to have a closer look and found that no,. it wasn't plastic, it was real ivy growing up the inside of the wall!
     Graham pulled out the ivy, then shot outside and round to the back window to where we know we have some ivy growing on the outside wall. He found two airbricks and both had ivy growing into them.
     There followed much scrabbling about and removing of ivy!
     Not all stuff is growing in the wrong place though.
    Since Graham built the new garden arch/pergola/tunnel, we decided there was a small but wasted area which would make a nice flower bed just by the back door. So this week he has transferred some ransomes (wild garlic) from the side garden into the new flower bed. He has also dropped some wild flower 'bombs' into the same area, so hopefully we will have a profusion of wild flowers later on.
     Anyway, the ransomes are in flower, and very pretty they are too. But not only pretty, they are surprisingly tasty.
     Pick one of the white, star-like flowers and pop it in your mouth. You will be surprised at how honey-sweet it is, then as the honey fades, the warm mellow taste of garlic starts to build.
     These flowers are lovely scattered on salad, but also on roast beef or chicken.
     If you are growing them or any other flowering alliums in your garden, do have a taste of them.
     This is a seasonal treat not to be missed.