We chose a gorgeous spring day to begin catch up in Elizabeth’s garden. As we left Castle Malwood Lodge, leaf buds were at last appearing on the deciduous trees. The sky was a clear light blue, as it was to remain all day, although there was still a chill in the air once the sun had lowered and moved behind buildings. Mum, who came to lunch and stayed on to bask in the sunshine, had to keep moving out of the shade.
Elizabeth shopped, prepared lunch, and collected our mother. Afterwards she started weeding another bed. My task was collecting some of the two year compost from the first bin and distributing it as a top dressing to the bed she had weeded last week. It has broken down well and will be a useful supplement to the still stony soil. After this I trimmed the lawn edges prior to mowing. I was careful not to chop any overhanging flowers. The odd forget-me-not wouldn’t have mattered much, but I didn’t want to cut through wallflower stems. I’m glad it wasn’t me who knocked the head off a fritillary. Elizabeth quickly placed it in a silver egg-cup, along with a sprig of epimedium that had suffered the same fate. Jackie carried out a number of tasks: fitting together and filling the various bird feeders scattered in bits about the garden: raking the grass ready for cutting; cleaning out pebble features; and weeding.
When it came to mowing, we could not get the Honda petrol driven machine to start. Apparently it needs a service. I wasn’t all that sorry.
There were two new golf balls on the lawn. This prompted me to explain to Mum the theory of the foxes conceived on 12th September last year. Briefly, we think the balls are carried here by foxes from the golf course behind the Hampshire County Cricket ground. ‘You should do what Greengrass did’, said Mum. Claude Jeremiah Greengrass is the loveable and utterly hopeless rogue played by Bill Maynard in ‘Heartbeat’, the television series set in the 60s. He had a good line in recycled golf balls. He would send a posse of children to seek out lost balls, pay them a small token, and sell them back to the golfers for an inflated sum. The boys, a bit smarter than their employer, trained their dog to retrieve balls that were not lost, and indeed were still in play. This caused quite a furore among the upper echelons of Aidenfield.
As I pottered around The Firs’ garden, aware of the flapping of wings and satisfied cries of those wood pigeons having been successful in finding a mate, I began to take in all the other sounds of a neighbourhood stirring into life. A bee buzzed busily; small birds whistled tunefully; children’s voices chimed; a light aircraft rattled overhead, in tune with a solitary magpie; a high-pitched electronic car alarm irritated; a power tool droned in fits and starts; my large fork struck the bricks of the compost bin, and the hand fork grated on the flinty soil; the blades of the hedge trimmers clipped rhythmically; and Jackie’s rake rustled the dried leaves and twigs on the grass. Next door had been for sale as long as we have been travelling to The Firs. Recently, new occupants have moved in. One is a particularly unpleasant sounding dog that barks continuously and snarls as if it has a mouthful of ball bearings. Occasionally what I think must be a woman who sounds like a Dalek with a mouthful of pebbles gives the dog as good as it dishes out. This is all a bit incongruous on a beautiful spring afternoon.
Later, Elizabeth did manage to make her temperamental mower work. But by that time I was cooking turkey jalfrezi for our evening meal, so she cut the grass herself. She had discovered how to persuade the machine into stuttering action when, twice, taking it to an engineer to sort out the problem and finding it had no problem when she got there. She decided it must have been the jolting up and down in the car that did the trick. So now she gives it a good jerky walk around the garden.
With the meal we enjoyed wild rice and a jalfrezi bread from a local baker. More like a pud than a naan. Jackie drank Stella. Elizabeth and I shared a bottle of Mondelli reserva chianti 2009.