The Fifth Child


A cooler temperature and continuous overcast skies returned today. This gave me a more satisfactory light for photographing pale flowers which I always find difficult in sunshine.

Our later daffodils tend to be more white than yellow;

defying all attempts at eradication white alliums thrust their way through the soil throughout the garden, iberis thrives on the edge of the New Bed, and;

similarly hued tulips, daffodils, and primulas contrast with brighter reds and yellows;

tulips continue fully to open;

as does prunus Amanogawa at the front of the house.

Blue flowers include the first bluebells and prolific forget-me-nots.

I didn’t like Doris Lessing’s ‘The Fifth Child’. But then perhaps I wasn’t meant to. Even the author stated that she hated writing it. Nevertheless this most unpleasant child demanded attention from start to finish, at which I arrived this afternoon. It is a short modern horror story, details of which I will, as usual, refrain from revealing. Save to say that it involves a nightmare birth and terrifying childhood that puts unbearable strain on a happy family. The essence of its success must be that it comes so close to credible and touches the deepest fears of any parent.

The Fifth Child

Published by Jonathan Cape in 1988, the selection of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Boy Reclining’ as the jacket cover is a masterstroke. The distant, unfocussed, eye in the portrait conjures up our current character and there are echos of the artist’s ‘Gormenghast’ Gothic fantasy series of novels in Ms Lessing’s work. It also reminded me of a cover I once drew for the Queens Park Family Service annual report.

This evening it was warm enough for us to have drinks on the patio before Jackie drove off to Hordle Chinese Take Away to collect our evening meal. While she was out we experienced a heavy hailstorm. This developed into a spectacular electric storm. I drank more of the Fleurie with my dinner.



  1. The garden however should assuage all left over gall from having persisted throughout Ms Lessing’s awful story……….. I do love seeing forget-me-nots, a most underrated little bit of garden happiness!

  2. Oh gosh…the garden is so beautiful, Derrick. I love all of the vibrant colors. I think I’d have a hard time reading a book by an author who said they hated writing it!

  3. Beautiful garden shots, Derrick. I had to look up Doris Lessing. I know her name totally, and must have read something of hers over the years to know her – but none of the 50 some titles rang a bell. I’ll keep thinking on it.

      1. I’ll never be a zealot – I’d rather avoid horrible things than try to change them. But the world needs those people more than it needs me. So good on Doris for the telling and good on you for the listening.

  4. I tried to get into The Fifth Child, but it just grated on all levels, so I figured, life’s too short, and went on to other things. πŸ˜€

  5. Loved the golden host of daffodils and I followed the links to your family tree which was MOST helpful although not necessary to enjoy your posts. How are the knees?

  6. I love to see those Blue Bells Derrick, we had them in our flower beds at our Autumn St home in Geelong West, so many fond memories….

  7. It is a masterclass in exposing flowers. What demons drive the novelists to labour away at something as excruciating as the book you have mentioned?

  8. I like the drawing you did for the Queens Park Family Service as well as the cover of The Fifth Child. Isn’t spring wonderful! It’s a joy to look at your beautiful flowers.

  9. I can say with confidence that I can’t see myself reading The Fifth Child any time soon. Your thoughts on it are quite sufficient for me! Before even starting to read your post my eye was caught by the beautiful drawing at the top. What a multi-talented man you are, Derrick! It is wonderful! (As are the pale flowers. I do love how grey days – such as we have today – bring out those pale-coloured blooms.)

  10. no images of the hail storm? just kidding, lovely blooms and that’s a book I’ve not read… I guess I do not have to waste precious time, what a true gift <3

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