How does my garden grow? / Leaving Lockdown in the Time of Corona

I‘ve been silent on here for some time, concentrating on work in the adult world, which left me with little time and energy for anything else. After a break and time to recalibrate, I’m on this page again… Seeing metaphors in my growing garden and this strange time of semi-lifted lockdown.

So.., sew..? How does my garden grow?

Unlike the nursery rhyme, apparently:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells,
And cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Well, I’m not Mary, though at times I could be described as ‘contrary’… And in the elongated, strangulated times of COVID, my garden grew in pretty much the way it had always done – soaking up sun and rain and reaching higher into the sky. The garden is split into upper and lower levels and below, nature tended towards wild, whilst I tamed and pruned and mowed, just every now and again, to keep some sense of man-made order in the tangles of sap and seed that nature decrees.

Buddha looks on in my garden

My upper garden is a terrace and in that I seek colour and variety by planting up pots every year with a mixture of annuals and perennials. These are purchased from favourite independent plant nurseries in May, when the frosts start to thaw out and I can plant species of exotic origin, which will thrive for the short band of summer in the centre of England where I currently live.

But not in the time of Corona… In a land in lockdown I must do things differently… The garden centres were closed or restricting their custom and so, instead, I found plants at local grocery stores, where I had to stand in a long line to buy, or at supermarkets at the end of the day, dried up and wilting. By habit I shop much the same plants, but in lockdown, such choice was denied to me, so I took what I could find… Begonias, which I dislike, dried up petunias that no one else wanted: a half dead pack of lobelia, which my local Co-Op sold to me for a pound – “I can’t charge you full price for that…”

Each find was a little victory – a tiny triumph of patience, with trophies of a successful hunt which were carried home with a small smile of satisfaction.

At the end of May, when I should have been on ‘the holiday of a lifetime’ in Bali, my travel plans scuppered by COVID; I was planting up pots in my garden instead, feeling grateful for my gains, the sunshine and the soil in my fingernails.

And my garden grew through lockdown, with some human care and intermittent attention. As June peaked, the upper terrace revealed its’ treasures of bloom in a rainbow of glorious colours, jewel bright, amidst the green foliage. All this was just in time to impress the allowed number of guests who came to celebrate my birthday in the safely spaced arena of my garden.

Herbs, begonias & blue pots

The combination of plants gathered serendipitously, is decadently different to my norm, but somehow all the more special for it. All those nascent wilting plants have revived, thrived and continued to reward me with new flowers and inspiration throughout the wending UK weather, through out July and now into August, currently hot and sweet, so I spend my spare time in the garden, eating ‘out’ and engaging with the birds and my senses.

And outside the lockdown lid has started to lift. Some freedoms have slowly been restored, whilst others have clamped down, tighter. It’s an odd, jerky time and having now to emerge from my cosy COVID cocoon, I am negotiating it and the changes it brings, one step at a time. Some of the changes are jagged, sharp and unpleasant, but in this Corona time must be worked through, applying logic and compassion in strange, equal measures.

Grapes a-growing, pond and fountain

The authorities in the UK are reacting to the vicissitudes of the virus in an un-co-ordinated and clumsy way. I have some empathy with this though, as responses seem to be for me too, a weird wedding of expertise and knee jerk response. To control this , I break each situation down in to its’ base elements and build them back up again into the shape they need to be. This isn’t always easy in a world of relentless hard work, chaos and shifting sands of circumstance, but it gives a structure in this altered landscape of life and a level of controlled sanity.

And I take care to take care of myself. If I neglect this, which I have at times during the recent crazy path of the past, the madness takes over and I’m in danger of being subsumed by it. So I balance life and work. I focus on my creativity, my rest and recreation and then I have the fuel I need to focus wholly and resolutely on my work.

In the meantime there are the new found appreciations of meeting a friend for a meal, taking a small holiday, going for socially distanced swim and seeing my garden grow. This summer I have spent so much time in that garden and we’ve grown together. I’ve taken stock, I’ve pruned carefully and pulled out the dead leaves. And I’ve pulled the dead heads off plants, so they can breath and reward me with more flowers.

And as to those begonias that I used to hate, well, whilst not invited, they’ve gone and given me an endless supply of large, beautiful yellow blooms. The wilted petunias have provided endless purple flowers and the half dead lobelia – a cascade of sky blue and white to soften the edges of my tended terrace.

So actually, in this time of Corona, my garden has grown beautifully and so, it can be said, have I, without a predictable ‘silver bell’ or ‘cockle shell’ any where to be seen.

My cat Taz, reclining in Buddha’s shade

Yours – with green fingers and dirty fingernails,

Sandra xx

PS: You can buy the paperback or Kindle edition of the book of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life on Amazon or you can get an author signed copy on my website for just £7.99 including P&P.  You will also find the book on all good book selling websites around the world.

Featured on the BBC, as well as local and national media (including Psychologies Magazine and The Lady), the book was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards. 

Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a sweet bookish structure. 

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here

Wasted Weekends in the Time of Corona

We’ve just had a bank holiday weekend in the UK. For me, this constituted days of lazing, reading, blog writing, gardening, housework and baking, so I’m ready for the week and seasons ahead.

At home alone for days on end, I’m in a delicious little hermit cave of selfish introspection, forgetting my tribe – all the people who exist outside my very own Corona fortress…

However my tribe don’t always forget me and a video call with some friends is arranged. At long last on the call I ‘met’ my goddaughter’s baby girl, which predictably, made me tear up. She’s the grand daughter of one of my oldest friends and it was a three way call with the new Nanna and my other longest serving friend. I’ve known both these wonderful women since I was 5 years old, and in the season of Corona life goes on. People pass and new babies arrive. The cycle of life is no respecter of Lockdown.

Two adoring Aunties and an oblivious baby

As a keen hermit, I’ve been staying away from shops as much as possible. Yet I’d also been pondering how to get my garden in shape this year, now I’ve done the honorary first mowing and pruning. Most Garden Centres are closed anyway. I’d been reliably informed that several local plant nurseries were taking orders for collection or delivery. However they were either crazy expensive or ignored my emails and phone calls. Many of them are simply beleaguered and stating they are not taking any new orders…

On the way to figuring out how I resolve this gardening conundrum, I’m driving to work two days a week, to man a head office and keep the commercial wheels turning. Whilst there of course, I keep a safe distance and take all precautions. At most there will be 3-4 people in the building.

Last week my normal cross country route was hampered by road closure, so I’ve had to drive through a local town. Normally this is onerous and requires patience, queuing endlessly at traffic lights, though at the moment, whilst there is some traffic out there, the level makes it tractable and pleasurable.

Driving through town I saw a local grocer’s shop was selling a plethora of plants on the pavement. I pulled in to park as quickly as I could.

Like a careful child in an outdoor sweetie shop, I browsed the wares, stepping warily around the other shoppers and carefully filling a shopping basket with my treasures of Spring bedding. It felt like a wonderful, secret discovery…

So, during the weekend I planted them out with seeds tucked away in the soil at their roots. It all looks sparse now, but in a couple of months all those fledgling plants will put on a beautiful show. And I’m trusting this will by the time I can have visitors to my garden again 🙏

Also in the weekend agenda was to bake up some healthy snacks to nourish me carefully, as along with my regular exercise of running and walking, I’m currently eating clean(ish) – my diet being fruit / vegetable smoothies, nurturing vegan soups and detoxing by giving up caffeine and alcohol for a while, too.

On the baking front I did a vegan variation of the gluten free banana muffin recipe I regularly whip up. I also roasted up a bunch of nuts and seeds, adding some Himalayan salt and dried fruit at the end to make them even more delicious.

My own home made ‘trail mix‘ of roasted nuts and dried fruit

This cooking, Along with the gardening constituted simple nurturing acts, all of which completed gave me a simple, glowing contentment.

Flourless, gluten free & vegan banana muffins. And yes, they’re DELICIOUS…

My weekend, in amongst all this, was dedicated to writing too. However, as happens so often, my plans to dedicate myself to writing slipped languorously away. By the end of it I’d edited a newsletter for my writers group which is going out to another group of writers in Uganda. I’d also written a blog (see here) on the 75th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe Day).

By the time all this and my domestic goddess chores were done it was 10 pm of the the last day of my ‘endless’ weekend. But my stubbornness set in and so I sat and edited my novel till midnight, not wanting to go to bed in a tired hurrumph. I tried to be kind with myself and not annoyed for making no progress on the short story or planning out the Corona novel I currently have cycling through my head.

Having no where to go, means I have more time to read and I can cheat at that by listening to audio books whilst running, gardening and cooking. At the moment I’ve got ‘I can run’, The Chimp Paradox, and ‘The Signature of All Things’ on the go.

And then it is that the working week and it’s circadian rhythms returned…

Yours supinely,

Sandra

PS: Speaking of books, a huge thank you to everyone who has bought my book so far this month and left me a review on Amazon. My gorgeous feel good book ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ is on special offer for MAY ONLY – get the Kindle edition for just £1.99 / $2.99. And it’s just one of 45 books currently on special promo at my publishing house. It would be amazing if you would buy and review. Thank you 🙏 Click here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BCOJIXI/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_NRNUEbJFMFC46