I like gardening. I love being outside – not quite in all weathers, but most. I prefer a moist soil in which weeds are easily removed, plants dug in and seeds sown. That rarely happens, but it’s a joy when it does. In suitable gear I can find something to do when it’s raining. Not thunder and lightning. In snow or a heavy frost I’m happy to go outside, watch and listen to what’s happening. Footprints show me the route the fox has taken, the neighbour’s cat, the patterns of birds’ feet.

Our garden can be loosely described as a cottage garden. I had in mind an old fashioned garden with delphiniums, larkspur, not too many roses, foxgloves, peonies, primroses, daffodils etc – all flowering in their season. The sort of garden seen on television or in beautifully illustrated magazines. Our garden has its own way of being. Slugs eat delphiniums, lupins, seedlings and this year, even runner beans. So we have no delphiniums or lupins. When we bought the house and its garden, there were established plants, – ferns, Buddleia and some plants I don’t know the name of. And plenty of slugs. Anything I introduced needed to fit in with whatever was already growing and thriving.

Because we have lived in the suburbs of Leamington for over twenty years, changes have occurred. The beautiful oak in the garden at the foot of ours has grown, and now provides shade. Our neighbours’ trees have thickened so in summer our garden is darker. We have a greenhouse and a vegetable patch. Friends have bought us roses, Virginia creeper, Michaelmas daisies and Honeysuckle. We inherited my parents’ bench and a pagoda in Cotswold stone. And, of course, we have added our own choice of plants including an acer, which has developed from being little more than a pretty stick to a wide umbrella whose leaves change colour from spring to autumn.

As I write this, a baby fox walks up to the patio window and looks in. I have never seen a fox so close before. Mice, yes. A wren on the fence killing a caterpillar – I’m afraid so. A pigeon decapitated as it flew into the patio window in an attempt to escape a bird of prey. The kestrel/buzzard sat watching, waiting for it to move till I hammered on the window. Our neighbour spent some time a couple of years ago, blocking the hole in his hedge that was used by a fox to get from his garden to the one beyond. I remarked at the time, it was its garden as well as ours.

And so it is. I’m not at ease with the natural world. The flap of a bird’s wing, the buzz of a wasp, a fox interrupting my writing. I have an idea, a possible plan, inspiration sometimes. But ultimately it finds its own way. There’s a balance between what distracts from finishing a poem, a novel or any piece of writing and what acts as inspiration. When it’s done, I recognise not exactly my own way,  but the form the particular piece needs to take.

References, Reading & Activities

Most of the photos were taken by me. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera to hand when the fox cub appeared so I used a photo from the Natural History Museum website. The photo was donated to Flickr by Peter Trimming (CCBY 2.0) 

It may seem I’m a slow reader – true – but I tend to dip into some books, and read others taking my time. I’m still reading : House on the A34 – Philip Hancock, Downland – Anna Dillon (Paintings) & Jonathan Davidson (Poems), Poetry Unbound. I recommend especially – On Receiving Father at JFK after his Long Flight from Kashmir – Rafiq Kathrari. The Wren, The Wren – Anne Enright. A novel in kindle in French – Sur La Dalle – Frederique Vargas.

In addition I went to a face-to-face meeting of Tindal Street Fiction Group, whose anthology of short fiction, Thursday Nights, is available from all good book shops, especially Voce and The Heath in Birmingham. (if not, from me – leave a comment as a request with your email address). On Saturday, I attended Writing West Midlands National Writers Conference. It was inspiring and informative. I came away with so many ideas, having met new people and old friends. Writing tends to be solitary. The conference demonstrated it need not be so, and that we’re part of a supportive community.