Friday, April 10, 2020

A Quieter, More Peaceful Time Returns

Most of us can remember a time when life seemed much more peaceful.  Childhood, generally, when the worries of the world escaped us, and endless afternoons could be spent perched in the branches of a tree or tucked up on a window seat, reading and dreaming.  Indoors, there was time to experiment in baking, under mother's watchful eye, attempt dress designing for our dolls, explore the excitements of crochet and knitting. Meanwhile, your brothers experimented with Meccano or tried to make model planes, applying glue liberally wherever it wasn't meant to go.  Outdoors, every hedge, every stream, every new flower appearing in spring was a cause for excitement and celebration.  Gardening, first wildly, digging up new seeds to see if they had sprouted yet, later more carefully, tending each little miracle as it pushed timidly out of the ground.  And at the end of a busy happy day, you tumbled into bed and slept soundly until the risen sun beckoned you to new adventures.

Life got in the way of course over the years.  It usually does.  And new cares and responsibilities, as well as new inventions, new technologies, all moved us away from those quieter times.  Suddenly it seemed as if there was never any time to do anything.  Funny, when you consider all the labour-saving devices, from dishwashers to ready meals, that were now on hand, but there it was.  We were all far far too busy just keeping up with life.  Who has time for gardening, craftwork, reading for heaven's sake?  Indeed, one of the most frequent comments heard when one was knitting a sock in a cafe was 'Wish I had time to do something like that...', usually followed by a sigh as the speaker looked at her nails or checked her mobile phone for new Facebook postings.

Well, to paraphrase Yeats, all is changed, changed utterly.  And yes, in the midst of all the panic and fear, a calm beauty is re-emerging.  Somehow, there now is time for all those old pleasures and practices.  Time to really admire those beautiful little violets coming up everywhere, a true sign that spring is at last here.

Time to sit silently and share the delight of a little dunnock or hedge sparrow taking a refreshing bath.

And time for baking too.  Old recipe books, tucked away in the library for years, were hauled out and dusted off.  Favourites were re-made, sampled, pronounced excellent.  Fudge was made, but didn't last long. Who needs shop-bought, factory-processed sweets?

Finally, there really was time to tackle those WIPs or Works In Progress in the knitting bin, of which far too many had piled up.  Sock Madness began in March, as it has done for fourteen years now (and I can well remember that very first one back in 2007, when I was in San Diego for some reason, and worked wildly on my pair all through La Jolla and Julian and Borrego Springs, finally to finish and photograph them triumphantly at that strange vestige of a long-ago flood, the inland Salton Sea. 

This year's first pattern was called Wohin? after the lovely Schubert lieder which asks where a stream is wandering to.  Because of that nice link, I asked DH to find me an inspiring picture of a stream. Which he duly did.

From that inspiration, came these:

Who?  Oh that's Brogeen.  Now you won't have met him before, he is New.  Arrived very late one night on the doorstep, purred, accepted a handful of food, and then trotted into the hall, asking politely where his bed was to be.  Checked online, with the local vet, and finally got a call from a farmer up the road who roared cheerfully down the phone, 'I hear ye've got a lodger!'  One of a large litter, apparently, small Brogeen was bullied by older cats, and was always straying.  'See how ye get on with him,' suggested the farmer.  'But he'll need neutering soon enough, he's getting to that age.'

Well, that's one of the responsibilities everyone should observe - find a stray, take steps to avoid future trouble.  He romped through the simple op, and was back stealing the other cats' food in no time.

Ah yes, the other cats.  Trouble loomed blackly on the horizon.

Paudge Mogeely, most senior of the tribe, hated him on sight, and didn't restrain his language.

Marigold and Pawtucket (aka The Scut, and you'd know why if you met her) retreated to a safe location to discuss the matter.  Then emerged into the fray, to teach this upstart a thing or two.  Didn't matter, Brogeen (he's named for a famous Irish leprechaun, incidentally) sailed happily on his confident little way, eating everything that was laid before him and quite a lot that wasn't.  Life was good, and every moment to be enjoyed.

It was intended that he should be planted on my brother, who lost a  very similar cat some years ago, but the current social conditions/lockdown have made that option not possible for the moment.  Whether he ever gets there or not is something to be discussed later.  Much later.  In the meantime, the little lad is happy to lend a hand with anything:

Like this blue gansey in progress, which had been laid out on the lawn to show a difficult saddle shoulder join, of which I was quite proud.  'Ah sure, let me sort that thing out for you!' cried Brogeen.  Fortunately Donegal Tweed yarn is quite tough and capable of surviving kitten attacks.

Generally the household zoo is very good about following the lockdown rules.  Marigold and The Scut do their daily boxing exercises indoors:

while 'Troushka does her bit with delivering the groceries safely:

and Paudge is very careful about not going further than the back field for his hunting:

The garden is getting plenty of attention too.  It had been rather neglected in the last couple of years with books to be got out to the publishers (gosh, forgot to tell you about the new one, revealing the shocking secrets of ancient Ireland, will do that in the next post, remind me if I forget), but now was the time to tackle the wilderness.  In Ireland (as in most mild wet climates, one would imagine) leave a neat garden for ten minutes and it's The Wild Wood before you know it.  Ivy creeping down from trees re-roots at intervals and ends up with a length and thickness that  Tarzan could use.    Brambles (yes, they're nice when they produce blackberries in autumn but an unpleasant neighbour the rest of the year) are also great tip rooters.  But the monbretia!  Now I love monbretia as a wild flower, and it's one of the sights of West Cork lanes in summer:

When it gets into your garden, though, it multiplies like - well, have you ever seen a nest of mice?  Millions of the little things, with the escapade repeated over and over again nonstop?  Well that's what the monbretia does too.  It not only multiplies and crowds out everything else, it eventually stops flowering because there are just too many corms underground.  They spread, attach themselves to bush roots, attach themselves to each other, grow and multiply until you could dig up a square foot of them at least six inches thick, like - like nut cracknel!

See that wheelbarrow full?  That much was taken from the tiny square of dark earth you can see behind them in the flowerbed.  And there are still more in there! 

But there is great joy in having time to sit at the upstairs window with a coffee and watch the birds in their spring preparations.

The wren letting everybody know that he is building his little cock nests, and ladies are courteously invited to inspect and approve.

The song thrush meditating on whether to take a bath now, or wait until the sun gets higher.

And even a starling, showing that while his voice may not be the most melodious, he always gives it everything he's got!

So although at first it was a little disconcerting to be ordered to stay home, to realise that many shops were shut, that events and entertainments to which we had become accustomed were cancelled, slowly it became more and more relaxing.  Time to return to simpler days.

Stands the clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

Yes, actually there is.