Friday, 27 January 2012

Tea Hut

I thought I might introduce our tea hut at the allotments. It's been too wet for digging, and the weather has been pretty cold and windy. I still go down to dig up a few leeks and other winter veg, and take down some old peels and eggshells for my compost bin. I might tidy up canes or bricks or netting, check on onions I planted in the Autumn, and see whether there are signs of Spring, and there are... rhubarb is crowning, all my daffodils and crocuses are pushing through, there are buds on my fruit bushes.

But, last weekend, I just had an hour with Eric in the tea hut. We boiled the kettle and put classical music on the radio. We sat on our wooden chairs with their heart and flower-patterned cushions, and talked about this and that, and got a bit stiff and cold (although we could have put the calor gas heater on and shut the door. But somehow it's life-affirming to sit there, with the drizzle outside bringing in the damp and the wind bringing in the cold, and watching Carole's raspberry canes bowing in the wind.

The photos will show you our little communal hideaway, a place of clutter and books, and teapots and cups, and Tony's beautiful paintings on the walls, and many clocks, chairs, chests and gas bottles, notices on the wall, tins of biscuits or nails and screws, and bits of everything, and hot tea.

Today, I ordered extra seeds (in addition to the tin full of seeds I already have). Bauhilde black beans. Savoy Cabbage. Belstar Calabrese. Chantenay carrots. Rainbow Chard. Buttercup Squash. Butternut Squash. Pak Choi. Esmee Rocket. Kevelden Wonder Peas. Halblange White Parsnips. Great Lakes Crisphead Lettuce. I love the names of seeds. I'd like to be a person that names seeds for a living.

And I've been a complete garden geek researching asparagus crowns. I'm getting them shipped up from a farm in Kent, they last ten years so might as well make sure I get good ones!

I can't wait for spring. It's the small things in life, that make it worth living. The cycle of things sprouting, growing, fruiting, dying back, rotting, lying dormant, and growing again. I love the seasons and the way the allotment changes every day as the weather and seasons change.

At the moment, my plot is waterlogged in places, muddy, damp, mostly everything has died right back, and the soil is bare or covered, and it's rough-dug or clumpy. The greenhouse is empty, the pond is over-flowing, there are dead artichokes on brown stalks, and dried up fox gloves and gladioli that I can't quite bring myself to compost yet. Rotting sunflower heads, ten foot jerusalem artichoke stems, and bare branches on my trees and bushes.

Everything is waiting, including me, for the time when it's growing time again.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Friendship, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Jaume Plensa

I drove over to Yorkshire to visit my amazing friend Carole on Saturday. We've been friends since University days when we were about 19. Over the years, we've had times where we haven't seen each other for many years, friendships drift like that sometimes don't they? But I count her as one of my closest friends, even through distance and being busy with our different lives.

I saw her recently in the middle of a tough tough week. We met at the services by the side of the motorway half way between our houses, and I realised without having realised until when I saw her that I'd missed our friendship like mad. So, one of my pacts is to see her more.

Less than a month later, and I drive back across the Pennines for an afternoon with her at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I've never been before, and we met in a very windy, cold car park, wrapped up in many layers, and walked and talked, and drank tea, and ate bacon sandwiches, and wandered around the exhibitions. It was great. Bloody freezing, but great. I think I had jaw ache from so much talking, and burst eardrums from the cold, but it was so good to see her.

And amazing to see this exhibition by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa. It seems very apt at a time when I've been experiencing depression again that the exhibition explored a lot of emotional states. I was blown away by how achingly beautiful his exhibits were, particularly the Alabaster Heads, which felt so sad and haunting, and 29 Palms, which is a 50 foot long curtain of wind chime letters that jingle and jangle and throw shadows on the wall, and make up some fragments of some of his favourite poems. To be honest, I loved the whole of his exhibition. Some photos:

Friday, 20 January 2012

Oo, a lovely review

Just found out that there is a very good review of Lemistry in science fiction journal, Interzone.

It's a long time since anyone wrote anything nice (actually anything at all) about my writing. And here's what it says about my story, Toby.

Other highlights in the 'Reconstructed Originals' section include Annie Clarkson's 'Toby' a tale that balances emotional ecology with notions of authenticity in beautifully spare and evocative prose.

How good is that?! It's really pleasing to get mentioned in a review of this really quite brilliant book. Added a little smile to my day.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Writing, Writing, Writing...

Everything is about short stories at the moment.

So, I'm currently reading Zoe Lambert's excellent first collection The War Tour. These stories explore wars and all their far-reaching impacts through a diverse set of characters and geographies. It's brilliantly well-researched, powerful, and engaging. I love her writing style, and definitely recommend it for a thought-provoking, eye-opening read.

And I just read an amazing collection of short fiction called It Was Just, Yesterday by Mirga Unge, a Swedish writer. She has a kind of brilliance in writing long, breathless prose that explores mainly but not exclusively young women's voices. Her stories have many surprises, and I loved her view of the world, she has an eye for a short story, that's for sure.

And I'm writing.

Last week I wrote two short stories, one about a nervous man with hands like birds. The other about a phone call where a man discloses his dark secret. They are both kind of sad. I'm writing another which is kind of about me, but a me that doesn't exist. It's one of those 'what if' stories. So, the emotional and physical geography is mine, but the incidents in the story never actually happened (but might have done), so what if it had gone the other way?

I'm enjoying writing, I seem to have a flock of ideas. I'm not sure why, I'm not complaining. I'm trying to find the time to write when I can, and seeing where the ideas take me.

Friday, 13 January 2012

or maybe this is my song of the week

or this

or this

or this

too many songs I'm loving at the moment, how can I choose just one?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Sunday, 8 January 2012

2012 so far...

Driving to the rainy dales. Stew with an old friend. Cinema in the afternoon. Planting, lopping, chopping, composting. The best bath in the world (which is always after the allotment when dirty, tired and aching). Jan Svankmajer in cinema 3 at the Cornerhouse. Lovely late-night talk at the Temple of Convenience. Cups of afternoon tea in old china cups with saucers at the Tea Hive. Working hard. Wind and rain lashing the house. Leaving the office with a smile on my face. Train stations, and homeless shelters, and solicitors, and speaking through interpreters. Arabic, Kurdish Sorani, Kurdish Kamanji, and Amharic. Slowly learning more about Islam. Therapy. GP. Tesco. Dropping in for tea with a friend. Taking myself out for dinner. Qabili Palau and mint tea. Shifting cow muck at the allotment. More tea and lots of laughs. An Eric hug. A small harvest. Bacon and egg butty. Long soak in the bath. Brisk walk through Styal Woods with my lovely friend. Fallen trees and mud and soggy leaves. Scampi and chips in The Ship Inn, with a crackling fire and us talking and talking. Mirja Unge's It Was Just, Yesterday. Gorgeous home made soup, and lazy evening alone, music and pottering.

I feel thankful for today and this week. Sometimes, good days mean so much more than at other times. After a tough end to the year, good days mean everything.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Wellies and Wishes




A bit cold today, but a beautiful bright sun. It's my third January on the allotment, but the photos will show why its the first January I've been able to do any work.

After all the Christmas rain, the plot's waterlogged in parts, very muddy and squelchy. Definitely a day for wellies. It was a day of planting bulbs (a little late, but the weather is so mild), composting 15ft artichoke stems, lopping down three baby trees and chopping the wood up, tidying the greenhouse and weeding my flower wheelbarrow and herb tyres.

It was good to get out there after a few weeks of wetness and rain, and after a tough end to 2011.

I've decided not to do a belly-gazing reflection on last year. I want to make wishes for the new year and look forward.

So, here goes, I wish...

For a good appetite, restful sleeps and tiptop health. For my short story ideas to find their way onto paper. For good friends, belly laughs, and hugs. For love that lasts. For the world to be a kinder place to everyone. For a good growing season. For long walks and hot tea. For talking way into the night. Sunsets and sunrises. For holidays and weekends away. And cars that don't break down. And enough money. For swimming in the sea and picking blackberries and baking and pretty frocks. For home-cooked dinners that are shared. For learning Spanish and dancing, lots of dancing. For calmness. Good films. Music. And time with my family. For bravery and confidence and to always be myself no matter how hard that sometimes is. For less-stress work. For forgiveness and no more goodbyes. For hot chips eaten from the wrapper. For kisses. For gigs and a good birthday. For camping in new places. Picnics on beaches. For Alan's friend to say yes I can visit his chickens. And charity shop bargains. And warm feet. And fun.

I'm happy to share my wishes, they're not just for me.