Tuesday, 29 September 2009


I got home after 23h, having started to Bratislava Hlavna Stanica at 6h, and in a different time zone too. A day punctuated by waiting, before continuing on the bus, bus, train, walk, metro, metro, bus, plane, bus, train, bus, train, bus, walk sequence I'd somehow thought would be a good way to spend the last day of my trip. At the airport I walked around for 30 minutes looking for something that will fit into my 720 forints. A beer was 730. Sigh. Just as I found I could afford a tiny glass of vermouth, an ex-Kiwi offered me the remains of his money. I was incredibly grateful.

At home, I put down my bag, greeted the others, walked straight on to the garden. Even in the dark I could see the green glow of the lawn, grass that had been but little hairs two weeks ago. I stroked it, like you would a dog. A long, flat green dog.

Further inspection the next day showed more happiness than I had ever imagined. The lawn is still a bit bumpy, but it's alive, and exuberantly so. I gave it a first, gentle trim over the weekend. I really need to decide what else should go in there.

On the herb side, the rocket was doing what rocket does. Enough to steal a fresh leaf or two. A gentle bite - it is still young.

Also more lettucey bits showing. I suppose that's what a packet of cut-and-cut-again leaves should give me? I can hear all slugs in the garden perk their tentacles as I type this.

And a forgotten garlic, stuffed into the ground a month ago. It was a sprouting bulb I'd taken from a friend's fridge, but the sprouts disappeared shortly after planting. Now two cloves seem to have changed their minds, and restarted the process. Should I eat it green or see what happens over winter?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

My hovercraft is full of eels

Packing, again. Somehow the amount of effort doesn't change whether I'm going away for 4 days, or a month.The rush of pre-trip anxiety is hitting me now. Do I have x? Did I tick y off without packing it? And has anyone seen z? I like the butterflies.

And when I'm done, there is a moment of silence. I finish my drink, look around - if I can't see anything I need, it must be in my bag. And I can go to bed.

Friday, 11 September 2009

5 days later

The first signs of life. This morning I couldn't see anything, perhaps I was too hasty. But this afternoon I detected a gentle green stubble. The beginning of the lawn. And looking further, I found more. Hundreds of young seedlings, with a definite preference for the sunny spots. Thin, almost wiry. Much like my face if I neglect to shave for a few days.

And on the herb side, the rocket will always be first. It might become "mixed greens for salads". But rocket is a good start.

Monday, 7 September 2009


When I was young, I would sometimes go for a drive with my father. Late spring, just after planting. We would drive for what seemed like a long time (today I know it wasn't very far), stop, then walk into the still empty maize field. He would crouch down in the red dust and gently scratch open a couple of seeds, see how many were germinating, whether they could escape the hard crust formed after a light shower , then close it up again. Wipe his hand, then walk a few meters further, then check again. I now find myself doing the same.

It started with a bonfire, about a month ago. The chicken coop was moved to the back of the garden and a heap of garden debris was burnt. Fire is strangely satisfying. And, happily, it freed up about half the garden for new horticultural experiments. And it was in dire need of attention. My primary need is for a usable space. Somewhere to sit, chat, have a glass of wine, read. Herbs. Wine. A flower too. Some bulbs maybe? And at the same time balancing the needs of the others with equal rights to the garden.

Brambles had to be tamed, the soil turned over and rubble removed, much of it looking as if it had been there since the war. My spade discovered the stump and roots of a forgotten tree: golden chips against the dark soil. And bulbs, probably bluebells. I perspired. The chaos slowly dissolved, eventually allowing us to move our current few meters of lawn from one side of the garden to the newly flattened earth. This will be where the table goes, at a future barbecue. So it makes sense to place the established grass here. The areas previously covered by grass will be have herbs and edible leaves. Maybe some veg too. It's been years since I last grew my own vegetables.

This weekend saw the latest instalment. The definite arrival of autumn encouraging me to at least get something in the ground before the winter shutdown begins. The last mound of debris was levelled, ground stamped firm, levelled again. A rake would have helped. And then I could dip my hand into a bag of seed, and scatter across the soon-to-be-lawn. Sowing by hand has an ancient rhythm, a calming one. Then, while soaking the ground, think about where to shrubbery should go, where to bulk up the hedge, where the sun shines and where people move.

Now I crouch down every day, discreetly scratch the top layer of dirt away, willing the dormant seeds to life.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

1 September

It is the first day of spring (somewhere else).

Spring 2008