Our little community garden (Weethes Cottages Community garden, aka WCCG) is front page news! Ok, so it’s *only* the front page of a small weekly, but font page is front page. We are ‘trending’!
A moment of fame.
Not that this was the aim when we set out to transform the overgrown green in the middle of the street into … well, we weren’t sure at that point exactly what we were going to so with it. We just knew that we wanted to do something with what was then something of an eyesore. An oval of grass, 28m-6m, of no particular point or purpose. This was back in November 2019. Fast-forward two years, and here we are. Front page news, with what is now an actual garden. A wasted space, transformed.
It’s been a steep but enjoyable learning curve, for all involved. My own role has been to get things going, and keep it going. This began with a ’round robin’ postbox drop, inviting all who might like to participate. Local Lib. Dem. councillor Penny Young played a huge part in this early stage, steering us forward under the criteria of various current environmental policies, and helping us seek the necessary permissions. We (various neighbours) had been talking for several months about the possibility, but none of us knew how to actually get started. Penny helped us with all of this.
On a practical level, we’ve had some stops and starts. Deciding to go down the ‘no dig’ route, we set to work in November 2019, enthusiastically covering the ground with whatever we could find – I had various pieces of black woven ground cover going spare at the allotment, so we used these, and put out a call (via social media and word) of mouth for large sheets of cardboard – with which we were then inundated, from shops and offices, schools and anybody who’d recently had any large item delivered. All of this we used to cover the entire area, held down (or so we thought) firmly with rocks, planks and various other (again, so we thought) heavy items. The plan being to kill (or, at least, weaken) the grass, in preparation for work to begin in spring. And then … disaster. Typical Cornish weather. A howling gale, lifting everything up and off, so that I found myself out in the pouring rain one dark and windy November night, lifting off everything that had been put down, being concerned that we might find rocks, planks etc hurling through the air doing damage to all of our cars, parked nearby.
Undeterred, we came up with a ‘Plan B’ – still going with the no dig ground cover, but now covering just a select few smaller areas, leaving most of the grass to do its overwinter thing. This turned out to be the way forward, enabling us to plant up small areas as we went, create different features of interest, over time. This also allowed individuals to get creative, contributing as much or as little as they wanted to, or were able. For some this meant regular daily sessions, getting stuck in weeding, digging, and planting. For others it meant buying or donating seeds, plants, or tools, offering ideas. For some it meant being unable to physically contribute, but nevertheless joining in with enjoying the end result; a shared space, to be used by all. Sometimes it’s ben the little details – for example, the donation of a part-tin of yatch varnish lurking in the back of a shed: exactly what was needed to finish off the project name signs, which I made using bits of old wood, otherwise going to waste. All contributions, large or small, have been equally valued.
2020 of course brought covid lockdowns. Here the project really came into its own, as people (who might otherwise be shut up alone at home) were able to work together, yet separately, outside, in shared purpose. This had the effect of really bonding people together, and since then, friendships have grown -as has the garden. A further year on, and this summer (2021) has seen things really taking shape, with the addition of gravel pathways connecting two seating areas, one with a bench and the other with a picnic table, and an ever-changing display from the variously planted areas. In July we participated on the Eden Project’s Big Lunch, everybody coming together in celebration of joint effort. And this week we made it to the front page! Who knows what the next two years will bring, eh?
Not yet, but there will be in a few years from now. Not that I’ll be able to fix anyone’s broken leg, because I won’t be *that* kind of Doctor, but one of those academics with a head full of knowledge that I myself find fascinating but does not necessarily enthral the crowd at my local pub (and is unlikely to save any lives). I am nevertheless feeling both excited and accomplished at being accepted as a Doctoral research student at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. I am also feeling a little overwhelmed, because … well, y’know what they say about ‘be careful what you wish for’ … this of course only the beginning, for now the real work begins (just one week from now: start date October 1st. Gulp).
It’s a funny old feeling – like the world (well, not the entire world but my own personal little patch of it) has shifted, whilst at the same time remaining the same. The news came on Thursday, initially, by email (followed the next day by a more official letter) and in celebration we (hubby and me) went skipping off downhill for fish & chips on the prom (tiddley-om-pom-pom). Ah yes, we know how to live. Even the intermittent cloudy showers could not spoil it for us. There’s a lot to get organised – a major point being funding (or, at this point, lack of, but I’m aiming to get this sorted ASAP). And in the meantime, this last few days – while I have headspace free – I’ve been plodding on with the edit of my MA thesis material, which I am reworking into what I hope will be saleable products, ie. a series of books aimed at those with an interest in local Cornish history and folklore … (I know, I know, I ‘m being a little cryptic here, not quite revealing the whole just yet. But I will. When myself and my work are ready for public scrutiny) …
Barley moon, Corn moon, Fruit moon … call it what you will … is the final full moon before the Autumn equinox, and a marker point for farming cultures throughout human history, calling time on crop harvests before the weather takes a seasonal turn. Hence the name. A full moon hanging heavy and bright in the night sky, is always a sight worth seeing, and living on the far-southwest Cornish coast we get to enjoy a really clear view of this natural phenomena, enhanced by the relative absence of overbearing electric street lights and surrounding expanse of sea, lending a mystical feel to the whole experience. I really enjoy summer – I function best, both physically and mentally, in warmth and light rather than cold and dark – so for me this time of year has a tinge of sadness, because I know that winter is on its way, necessitating a shift in to hibernation mode. I do however value the ‘pause and reflect’ effect of this seasonal downshift, looking back on the last few months and making plans for what’s to come next.
Which for me of course means bees, plants, and words.
This season for me has not been a good one, for bees. There, I’ve said it. Nothing instagram-worthy about that declaration, eh?! (I did a business start-up course years ago, and the tutor would repeatedly tell us: ‘Make out that you’re a great success, even if you’re not’. Pretending to be something I’m not has never come naturally or comfortably to me, so obviously I struggled with this – supposedly basic – aspect of self-promotion, being unable to con myself – never mind others into *believing*. Good thing I never went into advertising eh?!). Nor has it been a particularly prolific period on the allotment, the obvious point being that I’ve spent so little time or effort there, having insufficient energy and inclination to do so. It has, however, been a good few months on the academic and creative side of things. Proving the point, that it it is true what ‘they’ say: that you cannot have it all (and perhaps should not try).
But back to the bees …
From what I’ve seen on social media chat and also in the news, it’s not been just me. Beekeepers everywhere have had a difficult year this year. Beekeepers in France have been so hard-hit they’ve had to request financial help from their government, with honey harvest in some areas dropped to below half the usual amount. On Facebook I’ve seen others such as myself, starting the season well but by early summer realising that something is very wrong.
I ended last year with six colonies, all separately hived, all doing well; out of these, five came through winter successfully, and I looked forward to what I thought was going to be a great year for honey. And then … The cold wet spring meant insufficient food-forage at that crucial time, and from there they not only didn’t pick up but floundered. Unusually, I’ve had to continue supplementary sugar feed right through summer, and still they’ve struggled. Add to this enthusiastic robbing by wasps, an infestation of wax moths, and the end result is just two out of those five colonies survived. Ironically, this is the two that I moved from one location to another back in June, downsizing from three apiary sites to two. Transporting beehives from one place to the next is a risky business, in this case resulting on one of these two hives becoming queenless, so that I then took the further decision to combine the two into one. Astonishingly, it’s these that have now survived. Leaving me with just this one, supersize (double brood box) hive to pin my hopes on, for overwinter. Fingers crossed they will get through, and in spring I can start again – raising new colony splits from this one hive, to continue forward.
On a positive note, this has given me lots of new beeswax (to be transformed into candles). Far less bee worries over the next few months. And more head space for everything else … which right now mainly means writing. I am currently awaiting confirmation of a place as a PhD research student, building forward on the MA which I completed earlier this year. It is very exciting but also quite daunting. PhD or not, I’ll be taking these ideas forward in the creation of a series of books, which I am now working on (Watch. This. Space) ….
This pop novel is a sequel to FM247: This Is Radio Binfield! joint-authored in 2009 with lifelong friend Andrew Worsdale. This sequel is all the hubby’s own work, and is told via the voice of DJ narrator Lugwin Loggins. Admitted to hospital following an acute psychotic episode, he is haunted by a childhood dream about the killing of the Albanian Civil Rights leader, Ramiz F. Kreshnik, and experiences daily the effects of a schizo-affective disorder causinghim to hear voices – including that of his DJ persona ‘The Emperor’. Attempting to unlock the roots of these issues, his doctor prescribes ‘radio therapy’, motivating Lugwin to compile a playlist of one hundred songs; these form the chapter structure of the book, with each song informing Lugwin’s understanding of how his fractured family background has shaped his mental health, as he seeks to transition from hospital to Community Care. Will Lugwin recover, and maintain his mental health? Can he make his dream of public service broadcasting a reality?
Work is already in progress on a prequel rewrite, currently working-titled FM247 On The Air, and you can read more about the man himself here: just pop up the the menu bar and click on ‘Rob Spooner – FM 247.
Meanwhile, my own writing ventures have been (temporarily) side-lined, in favour of family fun, as we’ve had our granddaughter staying with us for the summer. Here she is (together with next door’s cat) ‘modelling’ grandpa’s book, perched on the bench outside in the community garden (which we – ourselves and neighbours, as a collective – have been creating this last couple of years, and which I keep intending to blog about but as yet haven’t – but will – i really will! – be doing very soon).
10.48 PM. Just a few hours since my previous post. Mission accomplished. I attended my first (of what will be many) ‘live session’ of the Memoire writing course, as per today’s previous post. Like a lot of people, this whole Zoom-meet thing is quite new to me … well, not *completely* new, because my MA was by distance learning, studying ‘at’ the University of Wales Trinity Saint David via the magic of modern internet connection. So, not entirely new. But new enough. And then there was lockdown. And now we all have Zoom fatigue. The positives, nevertheless, still outweigh the negatives – most obviously, now, being able to ‘attend’ a course hosted by a tutor in Canada, along with fellow students all around the world, accommodating different time-zones, altogether in cyberspace. Live chat and interaction – plus – bonus! – the whole thing gets recorded, so we can watch it again, whenever, wherever, and however many times we might want or need. A wholly different experience to my undergraduate studies, way back when …
But I digress ….
Topic for the evening was ‘memoire as poetry / poetry as memoire’ with guest speaker Canadian poet and glass artist Kim Mckellar – who, I confess, I had never heard of until now. Here is an example of her work …
Poetry is an art that I myself am yet to master. Yet. If ever. One day (perhaps) I may try. Perhaps. In the meantime, this first session was inspirational, and energising … yet it left me depleted. I’d not known what to expect, found it difficult to stay focussed, and then when it was over I felt fidgety and strangely emotional … Simultaneously flat, weirdly tearful, yet oddly also rested and lifted. Only one thing for it: a hot, deep, bubbly bath. With tea. And chocolate. Waiting for the kettle to boil (for said tea) my gaze followed through the kitchen window to this climbing rose (pictured, below) currently sprawling, in full bloom, up and over the back fence. Framed against a dramatic sky (not yet dark with night, but heavy with impending weather) it somehow matched my mood. The picture does it no justice: poor lighting and insufficient techno-whizzary to make full use of the camera settings. I’ll take another tomorrow. In better light.
I acquired this rose almost exactly five years ago, in the first week of July 2016. It was then very small and scraggly, merely a couple of short stems with a few leaves but a strong root system, bursting to escape the 5-inch pot in which it sat, grasping onto life, in a forgotten corner of my mom’s overgrown back garden. She had died, suddenly, just a few days previous, five weeks short of her 80th birthday. I brought it home and planted it out in my own garden, where it has since grown steadily, extending its reach to fill almost the entire fence, drooping indulgently over into the back alley, all sprawling branches, sharp thorns, and abundant foliage. It flowers every year at this same time, marking the anniversary of her passing with an ever-expanding display of outrageously glorious magenta pink blooms.
It must mean something, I am sure. I just don’t quite (yet) know what.
Well this is exciting. A change from the more usual blog focus on bees, garden growing and health. Last week I enrolled on a creative and nurturing writing course. A memoire-writing course with award-winning Canadian playwright, performer and best-selling author Alison Wearing .
Yes, I know that I just finished an M.A., I have a few projects on the go, and am applying to start a PhD (fingers crossed) this coming autumn. But this is different. A side step from formal academics to more personal endeavours languishing far too long on the back-burner. I am beyond excited, as I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time (several months, in fact) but I kept putting it off, awaiting that mythical *one day* … you know, the ‘one day’ that never comes …
Well, that ‘one day’ is now here. Result being that, simultaneous to feeling ‘beyond excited’ I am somewhat apprehensive … because of course now there is no excuse. Nowhere to hide. The time is here. The time is now.