Monthly Archives: June 2012
My Grandpa used to grow a lot of roses; we bought him one for his 80th birthday and I have long since forgotten the name of it. His garden, that it was planted in, is still there, but neither of my grandparents are. There’s that Elvis Costello song, isn’t there? He sings It’s Been A Good Year For the Roses, I don’t know if this is one such year, but I do know that they’ve preoccupied my thoughts more than ever before in my life.
I bought a patio rose tree about a year ago, in a terrible state, on sale for a few quid. It looked like it might not survive but after a little while, it flushed into bloom again, but with two different shades of pink: one very pale going towards apricot and one a proper rich, almost blowsy pink. It’s done it again this year, but with the constant rain, the colours seemed to have become washed out, watered down a little. And, strangely, it has hardly any leaves this year. I just don’t understand it.
A few months ago, I moved another rose that came with the garden. I didn’t move it gently, it was dragged out of the ground and I think I even took my spade to one of it’s more stubborn roots to get it to give up its spot. I then replanted it, knowing that it was the wrong time of year to move it altogether. The rose felt that brutality for a while. Its leaves wilted, some fell off. It looked a poor specimen. I watered it and fed it and asked it to do its thing and now it has started to come back, bearing one deep fuchsia pink, tight-lipped rosebud. I do not deserve it, but nature does that for itself and is far more potent than me with my destructive spade and garden rearranging, thankfully.
I have also bought a ‘Sunset Boulevard’ rose as a gift recently, which I have not yet had the opportunity to give. I must confess that I became intrigued to know what colour it would bloom before I gave it because I had bought it in mind of a particular orangey ginger dog and, as I discovered with half-dead patio rose, you never know exactly what you’ve got with a rose until it flowers. As it just came out this week, I realised that, yes, it will do. It’s a rather Flaming June sort of nasturtium orange, the catalogues show a duskier, softer tone, but I think it is ok. It makes me think, when I think about trying to describe roses in words, that they defy colour description. Really, they do. The closest I can come is to emergency draft in another species of flower using comparison as description. Poor, really. Surely the rose deserves better. Look across a range of pink, or red roses and try and describe each variety in words. Impossible?
At the time of buying the Sunset Boulevard, I also bought a climbing rose, an off-white with a yellow centre. It too has flowered this week. At first, I was disappointed with the small, flat flowers, but I have realised that the scent is so beautiful that I must forgive it its conservative display. And that really is all I have to say about my roses; except that last night I was in someone else’s kitchen with the back door open. The evening sun was shining through, there was a slight breeze. The black and white cat of the house, who has the most magnificent ostrich feather for a tail, was playing underneath a large rose bush about four feet high, covered in fat, shocking pink, fleshy blooms; the kind that Georgia O’Keefe might have painted. I was watching the cat when I saw a single petal fall from one large rose.
We think we know all about rose petals and how they fall, or at least I thought I did: they might float, or drift, downwards and land with silent grace somewhere in a romantically poetic sort of way. This bruiser of a petal did no such thing. It plummeted with a perceptible thud onto the concrete below. It’s probably still there: a big, fat, pink petal pulsating with the universal energy that makes us all that we are.
Markets are places I don’t visit very often and when I do go, I wonder why I don’t. But even when I remember to go, and am in awe of the cost savings opportunities, I find it hard to actually buy things. I am distracted by the many distractions. The shouts of the traders, the jokes they crack with punters, the ramshackle pricing structure, the feeling that I should be up for a haggle. As much as I am drawn in by it all, I am also repelled. It always seems so foreign. Foreign is not a word I like when applied to countries or people, but I am as unsighted down the road, in the market in the car park of the Southend Shrimpers Football stadium, as I remember being when I first arrived in Delhi. Roots Hall Market feels foreign to me.
I go there so rarely, that I noticed a difference from last time, which was probably last year, or the year before. There were not just the stallholders now; now there are cars, and the contents of the cars, tipped or arranged (depending on the driver’s disposition) on the ground in front of the car. It’s like a car boot sale mashed up with a market. It reminded me of the Hackney Wick market which I went to just once, despite living nearby. The Wick market was huge and intimidating. We bought a radio with no innards. Even now, I can’t see a blue plastic carrier bag without thinking of the Wick market, it was the mode of transport for the goods and the bads de rigueur.
The Wick market is long gone, replaced by the Olympic Park. Roots Hall will go in due course too – the football club is planning a new stadium and Sainsburys have their orange eyes on the site. I would like to get into the market shopping thing a bit more before it is gone forever. In the end, I overcame my nervousness the other day and bought 40 pegs, two tubes of Super Glue (one for glass) an Art Nouveau coffee tin (without a lid) and two books: one by Doris Lessing, the other by Enid Blyton. Total cost £4.30. I forced myself to not buy the Concorde Wedgwood dish, Concorde cutlery, stamped British Airways, and Concorde Royal Doulton side plates. Perhaps it is the hope of finding more British Airways crockery that draws me back. A few years ago I bought four British Airways duck egg blue, china bowls; I’ve only got one left now and, of course at the price, I wish that I’d bought a dozen.
In future, aside from hoping to see some more of those little blue bowls, if I get brave enough, I’d like to take a camera; in the meantime I took a mental snapshot with words, and fiddled it into a haiku.
Cheap seventh-hand books
fingertips, furtling, play spines
On dust, piano
Traveller with half a heart
Guarding an open mind
A purpose as a blessing
Ajudge, all of it
Everything, in time
Not outta, yet
An energy, particle, a vibration
Or a wave
The barrier, a door
The ebb and flow
The moon falls out of the sky
A writer, the reader
The grit, but no pearl
The cat and the mouse
The singer, a ligger
The 10 year old was sent to her room for hitting her 7 year old sister on the head with a teaspoon. Whilst engaged in a text exchange vis the error of her ways, versus her total justification for said action, she produced this: ink on the back of some wallpaper (untitled).
For the record, here is the unexpurgated version of the texts
-It’s not my fault! She put yogurt on my pyjamas
-You shouldn’t hit people, no matter what they do.
-I didn’t mean to hurt
-Well it was bound to hurt wasn’t it?
-I have reasons why I can be so mean
-If you hit someone with a piece of metal it is going to hurt.
The Rev. Richard Coles referred this morning to the church fêtes that he is no doubt required to attend in his patch, and as he referred to it on BBC Radio 4 I am sure he will now be invited to even more, possibly up, as well as down, the land. I wasn’t really listening at the time; I had been much more taken with the earlier item on the church being requested to carry out exorcisms (uncommon) or deliverances (more common). It seemed incredible (in the literal meaning) that one member of the clergy had carried out thousands of such requests.
Anyway, shortly after I heard all this in the car, and with me only half-listening to the item on church fêtes because they are, after all, dull, we stopped at some lights right outside a church with – would you believe it – a fête in full bloody swing. Kids are in the back and I’m suckered – again. Every year, this happens. Oh yes, I think, got to support the community and the kids are begging because the church have got their mercenary wits about them and have made sure every child in the hood can see the bouncy castle from the road, and I cave in and we go.
This year, I at least had the presence of mind to ban face painting as the queue is always long and slow and the results mainly horrendous… So with that interdiction in place, and only a small quantity of change in my purse, that is the other lesson learnt over the years -what money you go in with you are not going to come out with, exchanging it for a minute on the bouncy castle, a go on the rigged coconut shy, and the pile of shit on the stalls is compulsory – we went in.
I took the dog because that always makes people stay away from me, seeing as I look like a single mum from an encampment under a hedge, but when when I got there I remembered it would be jolly bad form to let him cock his leg at a fête in a churchyard, which made me a bit tense and probably, wordlessly, conveyed itself down the lead to him as he fixed his aim on the nearest headstone. Or maybe it was the sudden yanking of the lead I went in for when I suspected that thought of even crossing his mind.
You can measure the passage of time by your annual attendance at the church fête. My oldest no longer begged for anything much. She turned down the bouncy castles and the Lucky Shit, I mean Dip and stood round being cool for most of the time. At one point she disappeared before hoving into view round the bell tower, with a burger in hand. She had not asked if she could buy it, she had taken her own money and paid for it herself. That’s very nearly a teenager on my hands. Thanks church fête for pointing it out.
The weather is what the English try not remember as being June weather: chilly, extremely windy and threatening to rain. I was told that some of the stalls had removed to the safety of the church hall. I was glad about this because it meant that even the children ran out of rubbish to spend money on and I was able to leave with one pound intact; also, there was less for the dog to cock his leg up.
I just wandered around, wondering at the English and their ways. A woman of at least 30 had her face painted, another woman was berating her partner (?) about the need for courtesy and politeness – she was doing this very loudly and was quite aggressive. Some of the stall holders were clearly enjoying wearing the traders short aprons for money, jingling their change at you if you even entertained the look of a potential customer on your face for a millisecond. There were singers, one was quite good. Then there was the Phantom of the Opera which reportedly caused a child to go walking about with her hands over her ears. There was also a curious gentleman with a keyboard. He seemed incapable of standing still whilst playing and singing, and during an interesting rendition of ‘Fly me to the moon’ he managed to variously: whack himself on the head with his fixed microphone and tangle his legs in the legs of an upturned chair which one suspects he started his set seated on. He completed his performance by playing the keyboard whilst kneeling on the grass, in which awkward position he could not keep still either.
It was about this point someone did approach me to make a fuss of the dog. He was a tall man with a carrier bag and I could see, almost immediately, that he was hanging over the dog so much that Rudi’s tail had jammed itself between his legs and was stuck to his undercarriage. I made my excuses and moved off to inspect the weatherbeaten plant sale. Lobelias @ 30p – bargain. The wind got up, I decided it was hazardous now and we made to leave, but not before we had to step round the same dog-lover we had escaped minutes before. This time he was lying on the ground with his head on a spaniel; the spaniel’s bemused owner was still holding the lead whilst talking to someone and pretending that a complete stranger wasn’t lying on his dog. I could see it in his eyes: this is not happening. And so it wasn’t.
Until next year.