26 January 2022

Morning mist

A couple of weeks ago, it was practically dark at the hour – 4.30pm – I began writing this. Now at that time the pale blue sky has barely a hint of late afternoon in it. This gives me hope. 

This winter is being particularly irksome – because I’ve finally admitted to myself how very much I hate being cold; because we’re all tired, to a greater or lesser extent, of this pandemic life; because… who knows why. But I’m getting a bit desperate to be somewhere else, doing something else, under a different sun.

Enough moaning. Actually, the sun has been shining most generously and on Monday the thermometer (the one in the car, I should say, not the official one) rose to 15°. I could open a not-so-positive parenthesis here to say that 15° is a hair-raising temperature for mid-January but I’m going to restrain myself.

In town, even the sunniest days entice only smallish crowds of people out: I perceive much self-discipline due to fear –  not so much of the disease itself but of the huge inconvenience of being quarantined, unable to work, unable to indulge in that very small amount of mobility that the general situation allows anyone with even the slightest sense of responsibility. 

The corollary of this is, of course, that topics for musing on get ever fewer: I simply don’t have the input I’m used to… or at least not the kind I feel I can/should write about. With few punters on the streets my favourite occupation – observing my fellow humans – is sadly curtailed.

Occasionally though, world events blow through. Like the vast and terrifying undersea volcanic explosion in Tonga on 15 January which sent visible shock waves through my Umbrian garden. If truth be told I hadn’t even thought about it until I saw in the press that a pressure surge had been registered all around the globe, its progress mapped by weather stations in back yards the world over. Cue some immediate scrolling back through my records.

The wave was perfectly visible. It passed through here late that evening, pushing the reading on my PWS sharply up, sharply down then through a series of weird wiggles. Buffetted by an event 17.5K km away, I felt very connected to the rest of the planet.

A surprise visit from a work colleague of long long ago (we worked out that we’d probably last seen each other in 1998) also ushered in a vision that I’d almost forgotten in our increasingly circumscribed world. Rome, Zurich, Paris, Naples, New Orleans, New York, Venice… he seemed to have been everywhere in his journalistic jet-setting life. Not that I ever really lived that kind of professional life but it used to seem normal to meet people who did: it now feels like a different planet.

At times I begin to wonder, too, whether even what goes on at the town end of our bumpy lane is slipping beyond our ken. For CdP gossip nowadays, I have to scour the local press… something I really don’t have time or patience for. Every now and then some scandal pops up on Twitter, like the shopkeeper with historical artefacts dotted round her emporium. I mean, in normal times, I wouldn’t need to resort to on-line tattle for nuggets like this: it would be the checkout-line, market-stall talk of the town, the culprit’s name on every lip. Now, though, I don’t even know who that culprit was. Where have my news hound instincts gone? What’s happened to the town’s insatiable appetite for pettegolezze?


All of which leaves me with my garden and my woods, and of course my robin with whom my love affair continues. Last Sunday he bobbed in and out of the rosemary bushes on one side of the drive as I weeded and mulched and pruned in the bed on the other. He was there all afternoon, flitting ahead to perch on the almond tree when I pushed wheelbarrow loads of stuff over to the burning pile. It all felt very Secret Garden.

As I have so so many fallen oak leaves, I’ve been resolving the overflowing leaf-compost bin problem by putting them directly on to beds. I always do this in some areas of the garden: my agapanthus, for example, get their oak leaf overcoats every year and always make it through even the coldest cold quite cheerily. (I recommended this once to a neighbour with a long avenue lined with spectacular agapanthus. I don’t know whether it was pique at my un-solicited advice or whether he was telling the truth when he said “sounds messy to me… and I don’t like mess” but he didn’t do it. I admit to a slight sense of smugness the following spring when he told me he’d lost the lot.)

But having read extensively to dismiss any lingering doubts about ‘oak leaf toxity’ and all the various dreadful things that oak leaves are going to do to your vegetation, I’m using them everywhere. My savoy cabbages look lovely poking through their oaky duvet, the speary leaves of garlic too.

I use them and I use them but there are still great swathes of the things lying all over the lawn, which will be doing no good at all. Then again, the word ‘lawn’ might bring a guffaw from anyone who knows my garden… and I have a plan in the back of my mind to turn my patchy grass into something more sward-y next spring. Yes, yes I know that my motto is “if it’s green and you can mow it, it’s a lawn” but my mowable weed collection is now corrugated and lumpy and just too sad. Something – even some minimum intervention close around the house – needs to be done. 

One thought on “26 January 2022

  1. Pingback: 25 April 2022 | La Verzura

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