Saturday, 17 March 2007

Down with Dictators

Writing on the laptop on the kitchen table, frustration sets in. I'm just back from Cape Town and can't help thinking about it: the place is stunning. I sigh. I make another cup of coffee. I look out the window.

It's a sunny spring day but, due to a wind, it's not as warm as yesterday. On the bank beneath the kitchen window the pretty nodding snowdrops that struggled through the ivy have died down but elegant narcissi have taken their place.

Under an old cherry tree the dramatic architectural leaves of Helleborus foetidus and their peppermint flowers look grand. Beyond them Helleborus niger and h.purpurascens – in shades of cream and claret – look equally magnificent. And between all of these are interspersed the dainty daffodil, 'Tete-a-Tete'.

These were planted in true Lucy style: bought in September, planned for planting October, on the 'To Do Next Week' list all through November and finally, in desperation, green tips beginning to show, hastily thrown into the ground all over the place half way through December.

Any self-respecting garden designer would turn in their grave. But what happens - they come up three months later as healthy and happy as any carefully planned and nurtured plantings. And the whole thing looks absolutely beautiful: pure luck.

But it's the birds that really entertain me: a confident robin is standing on the bird table picking at some cornflakes (we only eat healthy cardboard things now) and pecking some grains out of a slice of our nutritious (hard in a day) brown bread.

He’s off as a handsome nuthatch – such a beautiful muted blue with a soft tan breast – appears and hops upside down on the nut holder that hangs beneath the table. His sharp beak makes short work of quite a few nuts – a dunnock on the ground vacuums up his crumbs – before he’s scared off: shy but greedy.

The blue tits and great tits make the most of his departure. Then the sparrows get wind of the action and pop their heads out of the box bush – they look like ladies from the harem peering out from their screens – and decide it's their turn.

I used to be so pompous about bird feeding, “birds shouldn’t be dependent on us feeding them,” I’d spout to my poor innocent clients, “we should plant plenty of species with buds and berries throughout the year” etc etc. I now realize I was denying us all hours of pleasure: what a fool. And, anyway, what is so wrong with a free meal.

Finally, they all depart as a great spotted woodpecker flies in. Dramatic or what: bold black and white plumage and a bright red cap. Then I move at the window and he’s off; very nervous character. The birds have put on a better show than any cabaret.

Now I'm feeling quite refreshed – how beautiful England is in the spring - and start tapping away: marvellous what a little simple pleasure can do for one. Down with dictatorial designers.


No comments: