Monday, May 16, 2011

The scent of lilies

Lilies in the front room


Orchids in my bedroom
Justine carried over a maroon glass vase of lilies, I carried the orchids, freesia and roses. The house was suddenly tropical as if the temperature had been racked up and I was not in my own home at all, but a hotel. Justine and Fi got married the other day and were off for a week's holiday - how kind of them to bring me the flowers. So every room was renewed and the front room was locked in the perfume of lilies.

I love the climbing roses that people train around doors and on fences. My mother's always had Alberic Barbier - it divided our house in Farnham from the neighbour, it scented the evenings but it dropped petals at a touch. When Justine brought the lilies, I had vases of tight buds that Vera gave me when I went round to help her trim her yellow rose. Like Alberic Barbier, Vera's climber has blossoms that are perfect as they open, then full-headed last a day. So these flowers, from florists and far away, have kept the ox-eye daisies on the allotment for a while longer. The roses are finished, some of the lilies, most of the freesia, but the orchid is still magnificent.
Mandela, roses, freesia in the kitchen

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A fox at the Handmade House and a Green victory

Chickens alert to the passing fox
I had my back to it, but Mum and Jane saw it flash past and the chickens flapped to the roof of their coop when a fox rushed through the garden of the Handmade House towards the sculpture trail.

We were having lunch after looking round, particularly at Jane's paintings (Jane Fordham) and Emma's jewellery (Emma Willcox). I've worn two of Emma's bracelets for years - never take them off in fact, and Jane's work is all over my house.

The Handmade House is on the outskirts of Ditchling, the village at the foot of the Downs made famous by Eric Gill. Last year I bought Mum a duck - she's mildly obsessed by them - and this year they're joined by crows, owls and a kingfisher. Jane's paintings on wood are intricate images of plates and cups, as well as two standing nudes and a line of intensely colourful individual fruits.

I'm not sure what open houses say about Brighton or the difficulties artists have promoting themselves. The approach is just like that in Venda, the north of South Africa, where artists sell what they can from their homes. It's a  feature of the Brighton Festival, anyway and this year the success of the Greens in the city - 23 seats on the council, the single largest party - has added another layer of significance. Brighton, as always, ahead of the country, has a chance to distinguish the city, hopefully using its phenomenally creative population to make a mark on the future.

The Handmade House. Beards Place Farm, 98 Lewes Road, Ditchling, BN6 8TZ 01273 845355 

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Larks, poets and census

This morning I walked Roxy, my neighbour's dog.  The racehorses were out exercising and there was an exaltation of skylarks. Sheepcote Valley's one of their main breeding sites. It was bitterly cold but that didn't put off a bird watcher, pointing his lens between the elders. I wandered over to him to chat about red kites. I knew they were in Wales and the borders and didn't know they were in Sussex. But I was intriqued by a large bird of prey perched on an allotment shed the other day. Its wings were unmistakably russet. He told me there'd been sightings, so I checked... it seems I'm one of many who've been lucky enough to see one.

Yesterday I was in London for a meeting about the Young Poets Network which is being set up by the Poetry Society. I met some inspiring writers and my son performed in the evening. We talked about what young writers need, how we can help them. There were some brilliant ideas and we recorded a collective poem about what we wished we'd known when we started to write.

I returned home to another letter from the census threatening me with prosecution. I filled in my form. I sent it off. Apparently the organisation co-ordinating Census 2011 (run by the Office for National Statistics) is so incompetent my form has been lost.

This morning after my walk, I emailed Glen Watson, the 2011 Census Director. I asked if he'd read Kafka and Orwell. I promised to visit him at his office in Titchfield and sit in reception until he apologised for threatening me with a £1,000 fine and criminal record. I received a reply by return and he says he believes me. Will his reply stand the Kafka test? We'll see.