Tuesday, May 28, 2013

She sits among the cabbages and peas

So it looks like – she said quietly, not wanting to antagonise Ullr, Norse god of winter – that spring has finally sprung. There is more blue in the sky than grey; that patch of weeds in the park turns out to be bluebells; and the bird song sounds slightly less panicky. Pale trembling people are slowly emerging, blinking in the unfamiliar sunlight like post-hibernation hedgehogs. There is tentative talk of Pimm’s, and suncream, and hayfever medication; and I saw someone take off a cardigan the other day (though they put it back on again sharpish). I have even overheard hardy types making plans for barbecues. In short, everything in the garden is rosy.

Or is it? Where there is harmony, may I bring discord. During winter, when everything in the garden is unrosy, I’ll be honest with you: a weight is lifted off my shoulders. The garden in spring and summer can sometimes feel like one great big chore. Weeding, pruning, planting, chucking slugs over the fence – it never ends. Then suddenly in November it all comes to a juddering stop. It’s a bit like the house announcing, ‘Put the hoover away: I’ll not bother gathering dust for a few months.’ It’s marvellous. I lock the back door and forget there’s even anything out there. But just as I’ve got used to all the unexpected free time, the garden wakes up with a Zebedee-like boing, and demands attention.

Last spring I surveyed the muddy Somme that passes for a backyard and did the math. Two small vegetable beds plus two small children equals 26 hours a day. Hmm, think there’s something wrong with my integers there. Then someone told me about Lewes Landshare [http://www.landshare.net/], which ‘connects growers to people with land to share’ (or, had I been in charge of their publicity, ‘connects those with time and energy to those who can’t be arsed’). That’s  just so Lewes, I thought, though in fact it turns out to be a national thing. The Landshare website was slightly tricky to navigate – like some old duffer putting her profile on match.com I inadvertently double-posted – but soon I was getting dates, er I mean replies. The most plausible match was a trained gardener called Horti Culturist (ok but it should be her real name), who lived in a garden-less house in the middle of town. Within days she had ‘turned’ the beds, ploughed in compost, and planted little seedlings that grew up to be beans, chard, beetroot and carrots. It was win-win: she got to grow stuff, one bit of the garden looked nice, and she gave us surplus veg. Somewhere along the way we became friends, and to my relief, she’s coming back this year, with plans for tomatoes and rocket. So I don’t need to demand that Ullr prolong winter any further. Sorry about that, by the way.

Beth Miller. Published in VivaLewes.com and Viva Lewes magazine, June 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hoxton Mum’s May Diary

Weds 1st
Totes excited! So many festies, so little time. Brighton first, obvs. Lovely Mikey Rosen with his droopy eyes and populist spin. Have found cerrr-azy sounding kids’ event for Django, called Flathampton – culturally challenging, plus creative participation: perfecto. And Lysander will heart the play I’ve booked for his birthday treat: We’re All Gonna Die.

Fri 2nd
Everything on the Fringe sounds amazeballs, but so hard to know which will - like last year’s one-woman monologue I Want To Be A Vicar - prompt Lysander to storm out demanding refund. Mind you, he later made me sit through sub-Frankie Boyle ‘comedy’ show during which I was actually sick into my ChloĆ© tote. I said, Lysander, if I want to hear jokes about mental health problems I will jolly well make them myself, thanks very much! Plus you owe me £1100 for new bag.

Sat 3rd
Gutted I missed Early Bird for Elderflowerfields. Bought Late Bird tickets, then double-gutted to discover it’s on the same weekend as Meadowlands! When I worked at the Battersea Arts Centre, heads would roll for such a scheduling faux pas.

Mon 6th
Trotted round town watching the Knots of May do their bell-jangling thang. Lysander, three Harveys down, rudely said that women Morris dancers even less enjoyable than men plus not traditional. Was in midst of eloquent feminist retort, when Django let side down by ripping his flower garland to shreds.  Fear his father is engendering the rigid gender roles we’d agreed Django must reject.

Thurs 9th
Woke at 3am in cold sweat: had forgotten to book Charleston. Rushed to laptop and spent ten minutes blinded by panic into believing that only Melvyn Bragg was left. Thank god managed to get Joanne Harris and Audrey Niffenegger. LOVE Charleston, I will channel Virginia by wearing long cardie. And by sleeping with my friends. Kidding!

Sun 19th
Got festival survival kit ready for our Elderflower/Meadowlands weekend (we are dashing between the two). Hunters wellies, tagine, Jo Malone room diffusers.

Fri 26th
As we were about to leave, those male swine I live with appeared in headbands and TIE-DYE T-SHIRTS. To complete hideous tableaux, Lysander had taught Django to roll a spliff one-handed, and this is a child who can’t yet tie his laces. (His Geox all have Velcro fastenings). Sent them to change and loudly pretended to call divorce lawyer.

Tues 28th
I remarked that two festivals in one weekend sure is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Lysander retorted that he wished the once had been twenty-five years earlier, rather than now. I am so shattered I went to bed without removing my sparkly festival eye-shadow; face now resembles crumpled glitter wrapping paper.

Fri 31st
Thank god I have a month to prepare for July: Hop Farm and Love Supreme (both same weekend, thanks again, Scheduling Fiends), and then of course lovely Mumfords. Fired up JohnLewis.com and ordered latest essential festie must-have: portable Nespresso machine. Totes sorted.

Beth Miller. Published in Viva Lewes magazine, May 2013.