Book of the day: Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett.
“NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GLO M OF NI T CAN STAY THESE MES ENGERS ABO T THEIR DUTY”
DON’T ARSK me about: rocks, fog. I should dearly like to know more about Mrs. Cake.
March really has been a baptism by weather in the garden. Now that Spring is upon us I have temporarily left my indoor captives to their own devices in the hope of finishing the potager before the Easter weekend (clearly a futile endeavour, since Pâques has now come and gone but I am still half a bed short of completion, in addition to the fact that it is still too cold to plant any vegetables outdoors yet). Like Going Postal’s faithful Post Office messengers (unless the writer of the sign was actually French and is really bemoaning the plight of these, ‘Mes Engers’ – seemingly a poor, overworked group of people from the German town of Enger), I have let neither rain nor snow stay me about my duty. In a period of one month I have dug in the frost and bitter cold, in the rain and hail, when the ground has been baked by the sun and, above all, in the glom of day. I did have to draw the line at digging in the glom of nit. Attempting to weed is pointless if it is too dark to distinguish a cluster of roots from a clump of earth.
The only thing sufficiently forbidding to stay this ‘messenger’ is the presence of builders – scarily loud and cheerful creatures who make me want to hide indoors until they have finished and gone home for the day, despite my tyrannical Chou deciding otherwise. He insists that we watch a matinée performance of their progress every afternoon, sitting far enough away so as not to be directly bothersome. Luckily for us the spectacle is one of those terribly fashionable promenade productions, which is so wonderfully practical for keeping an audience, incapable of controlling itself in a calm and sedentary fashion for longer than two minutes, entertained. It probably does not quite rival Ben Whishaw’s performance in the ongoing (similarly promenade) production of Julius Caesar (perhaps the director was also worried about fidgety spectators?), yet it has kept my Chou spellbound on every occasion. (I have it on excellent authority that Whishaw was sublime as Brutus, despite shooting Caesar, face-to-face, with a pistol – that they would change such a crucial element in the play feels to me like a stab in the back.)
Whenever our excellent builders find themselves unable to grace us with their presence (either because they were going to Cardiff to watch France play Wales in the Six Nations rugby tournament and then Storm Emma delayed their flight back, or because, tout d’un coup, they were needed at another building site for a whole week (during our three-week project), or because it was the long Easter weekend) I am able to creep out of my hiding place and get to work. To write that I have been weeding is perhaps a slight understatement, suggesting a pleasant half hour of gentle plucking here and there. My version of weeding involves the merciless tearing from their homes, and subsequent destruction, of several generations of squatting racines (particularly bindweed, nettle and bramble), helped by various instruments of torture – trowel, fork and pick. If this sounds unnecessarily heartless it must be remembered that these are dangerous aggressors, seeking to conquer and rule vast swathes of garden and to strangle any unfortunates in their path, but I confess that I am taking a savage delight in wreaking vengeance upon the conspiring nettles, for inciting my once-obedient gourds to mutiny.
As always, I am rarely alone and have been aided in my campaign by a small army of helpers – most faithfully my petit Chou, who never trusts anyone but himself to handle the trowel. I also have a band of mercenaries at my temporary command, in the form of the ‘Coos’, who will peck enthusiastically at the bindweed whilst keeping a keen eye trained on my weapon of choice, in case a prospective snack emerges from the ground. They favour the ‘illy urm’ above all (Chou-ese for ver de terre). Unfortunately they have a terrible work ethic and clock off the moment their boyfriend, the tenacious Monsieur Coq au vin, saunters over from next door to flirt and worse, despite our best efforts to cool his ardour. Lastly, my hard-working husband has been enjoying a round or two of our current favourite game, ‘Rock Tetris’. It is quite an expensive business, bringing in builders to create large holes in the side of our house that we might have more rocks at our disposal with which to build our vegetable garden, but I am sure the final result will prove that this was money well-spent!
No news to report, and no recent deaths. Everyone seems to be hanging on to life, however reluctantly, in the indoor gloom.
Mots du jour:
Ça pousse – it is growing mars – March potager – vegetable plot Pâques – Easter tout d’un coup – all of a sudden racine – root ver de terre – worm Coq au vin – cockerel stew