Thursday, 19 June 2008

Writer's plan for a Summer's Day

A Writer’s Plans for a Summer Day
Two of my interests in life are writing fiction and gardening. These activities complement each other. For the first I need a fertile imagination, for the second fertile soil suitable for the requirements of various plants. Sometimes I think that I would be happy if I had nothing more to do than write and garden.

So far, this morning has been typical of an early summer day. Here in Hertfordshire, England the sun is shining but the air is cool. As soon as I woke up I hurried downstairs and started the dishwasher and washing machine to take advantage of cheap rate electricity called Economy 7. I then unearthed the ice cream maker from a kitchen cupboard and put the bowl in the freezer so that I can make mango ice cream later on. Next I turned on the sprinkler to give one of the vegetable patches a good watering.

For the first time in many years I have not grown runner beans. The bees have suffered a disease which has reduced their numbers so the flowers were not pollinated. Instead, I’m growing French Beans. The butternut squash is slow to take off but the beetroot, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, swiss chard, courgettes, cucumbers, new potatoes, different varieties of lettuce, spinach and the outdoor and indoor tomatoes are flourishing and so are the herbs, soft and stone fruit.

The miniature water lily in my garden pond is also flourishing. Pond is a grandiose name for an old bathtub sunk in the ground. My youngest son and I went to a garden centre to buy a pre-formed pond. Those on sale were too shallow. On our way home we saw a bathtub in a skip. All I wanted was a pond to attract wildlife so we asked for and were granted the bathtub. The builder said he would deliver it later and my son excavated a hole for it. Later the builder knocked on my door. ‘Thought you might need these,’ he said and handed me the bath fittings obviously pleased with his good deed for the day. The dear man thought I am too poor to afford a bathtub.

Edged with paving stones my pond looks great. At one time I kept goldfish and the pond became home to a refugee. One night my daughter-in-law woke and screamed. Something wet had flapped on her face. Capri, her tortoiseshell cat had brought her the gift of a large goldfish. My son woke and put the fish in the bathtub. On the following day he put it in my pond. Sadly, another cat or – maybe – a fox caught all my fish.

Near the pond are my potted herbs. While I walk back down the garden path to the house I imagine gardens in times past when herbs were essential for health and flavouring.

When I moved into my house the garden was overgrown and subconsciously it fired my imagination. In my novel Tangled Hearts set in England in 1702 during Queen Anne’s reign, the heroine, Richelda, has inherited a neglected manor house with unkempt grounds which I use to emphasise her situation.

“Dudley opened the lichen-stained wooden gate. They entered the weed-infested drive, on either side of which only the hardiest of the untended ornamental plants survived.

Back straight, head held high, Richelda strode past parallel orchards towards Bellemont House. Embarrassed because she had declared her love, she battled against the urge to weep.”

After turning on the tap and checking the sprinkler was working properly I went upstairs to a small book-lined bedroom converted into an office. This week I will blog, e-mail and tell people about Tangled Hearts. (You can read the first chapters on my website and my blog.) Sometime this week I will work on part Three of my brief history of the Cinderella princess who became Queen Anne.

On most mornings I work from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. with a very short break for breakfast. Today will be no exception. I plan to dig over a patch in the front garden which resembles a cottage garden filled with lupins, roses, delphiniums, cranes bill geraniums and many self–seeded plants such as love-in-the-mist and Californian poppies. I will then mix my home made compost with fertiliser and dig it in before planting a dozen strawberry plants which have fruit on them, pale mauve cranes bill geraniums and penstemons which I bought at the summer fete at my grandson’s primary school. And I hope to find time to pot up some scarlet and white geraniums, lupins and Gardenrs Delight tomatoes which I grew from seed.

Compared to our ancestors we are fortunate to enjoy a wide variety of plants and gooks.

After a lunch of new potatoes and lettuce from the garden with cucumbers, baby tomatoes and a vegeburger followed by mango ice cream I’ll put my feet up and read.

At the moment I’m re-visiting old favourites Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) which was made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. And I will catch up on some research A little History of British Gardening by Jenny Uglow, The English Rococco Garden by Michael Symes and A Taste of History 10,000 years of food in Britain published by English Heritage.

Currently, I’m revising several novels and short stories for which I will seek publishers. On most days I return to the computer at about 4 p.m and work until 6 30.p.m. After dinner I then work until 8 or 9 p.m. by which time I yawn and watch television or read before I nod off to sleep after another happy day.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. My daughter phoned to ask if she and her children, boys aged 6 and 2 and three quarters may have dinner with us. So I’ll pull a homemade macaroni cheese out of the freezer and serve it with new potatoes, garden peas and gravy. They’ll come round about 4 p.m. when I’ll let the boys help me to make the mango ice cream which I’m sure they will enjoy.

All the best,
Rosemary Morris
Tangled Hearts available now.

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