Lady Lindy and why does he call you Eeyore

Previously, I mentioned Charles Lindbergh. No-one tried to repeat his solo transatlantic crossing for five years. And then, the someone who did attempt it in 1932, was a woman – Amelia Earhart. Just as Lindbergh had done, she set off on May 20th. In bad weather she was blown off-course but she did make it to Ireland. Not to Paris, but still across the Atlantic.

What I didn’t realise is that she was selected for the role. There were other potential female candidates, but she had the right look, the right image. She even resembled Charles Lindbergh, and the media often referred to her as ‘Lady Lindy’.

There are two monuments in South Carmarthenshire to Earhart. These mark her crossing in 1928 as a passenger, (and keeper of the flight log), in a seaplane called ‘Friendship’. The records in 1928 were for the first female crossing of the Atlantic, not solo and not as pilot. There’s some controversy about the landing place. When this is over, I’m going to visit both Pwll and Burry Port, the two contenders.

The wearing of two hats, or more, is common in this part of the UK. It’s necessary for survival, for making a living, to be versatile and multi-facetted. We have many strings to our proverbial bows. To an extent, this place attracts diversity and eclecticism.

The lady who works at most of our weddings as our bar manager, is a very talented ceramic artist. Her friend is a sculptor and a teller of jokes.

I know how they work, with the pay-off and punchline. Some can remember and deliver jokes with aplomb. I can’t. Or I’ve never really tried. Pretty sure it wouldn’t be my forte anyway.

Apple decided it knew better when I tried to send the husband a text the other morning. I was in still in bed, answering emails and messages, and writing a haiku. It was about 8.30 and he was already in the barn, doing something usefully DIYish. I was trying to ask ‘have you fed the Eeyores?’ but predictive text insisted I was enquiring ‘have you fed the retirees?’ You know – the ones we keep locked in the barn…

Later, after I had explained this example of smartphone interference, my listener started on one of those man-and-mate-went-into-pub stories. The landlord – to clip short a rather unruly shaggy dog – asked, ‘why does he call you Eeyore?’

Man at the bar replied, ‘ I dunno…’ee yoreways calls me that.’

It’s how you tell them really. You needed to be there.

But isn’t it strange how alien a man-going-into-pub anecdote sounds after all this time?

Stardom, Elvis and a dream

Another May wedding which still stands out for me was in 2012. We’ve not had many with themes, but this was a rock ’n roll wedding. The evening’s entertainment was a pocket Elvis, from Malta, via Coventry.

E. P., an encounter.

Darkness over these ripe Welsh meadows,
las vegas, fretted
by strings of fairy lights, solar, blue,
along May hedges, elder-greening,
blossom-bursting,

by cigarette glow, (a rogue few),
by crackle and hiss of logs from the firepit –
where folks huddle warmed by blankets,
chat, whisky.

Well met by moonlight, proud incarnation,
thrusting the King’s torch, rocking ‘n rolling,
owning that suit, spritelike guest
at this night’s nuptuals, starblest,
incandescent, lighting up
the loin-lost gaze of his admirers,

who have seen a vision, divine
and otherworldly, (in fact from Malta),
shimmying gifts – lyric, liquidity
of hip, of lip, filling full his
luminous leathers.

Now, far from home, awaiting his team,
he shivers in built-up shoes –
I AM NOT COLD; I HAVE PERFORMED.

Elvis takes his leave, cash, applause,
his black truck back,
not loving us tender yet still shaking
some chill, silvery spell,
as tail-lights reveal
sequins shed on bluebell, cow parsley
and nettle at the field gate,
our lane pitted with stardust.

This was earlier in a May that was sunny and warm, but not record-breaking. The bluebells have almost gone now, and the tall nettles are to be avoided. Rather than being new and just there as a reminder of my rather haphazard foraging. Cow parsley miraculously renews itself every night, (after being consumed voraciously the day before). Jasmine still intoxicates, but clematis has been replaced by dog and climbing roses. Hot reds and foxgloves are popping up, and lavender is a few days away.

In dreams last night I was saying goodbye to a friend who was off on a space voyage a few days later…as a tourist. Not as a solo passenger, but I think there were to be just six of them. My adventurous friend and I were drinking tea and eating cheesecake outside. Wherever we were, the spectre of C-19 still lurked behind the arras. There was talk of ‘social distancing’.

I think I’ll set myself the task of making a list of all the words and phrases I didn’t know, or need, or use, pre-lockdown. I’d like, if it’s possible,  to ban them from my post C-19 vocabulary.

Much to applaud

It was the last scheduled clap last night. There’s been little audible round here, but it’s hard to hear above the birdsong and we don’t have immediate neighbours beyond the tribe. Eight is also a little late for the smalls.

Still, they have painted a sheet with a cheery rainbow message, and it’s suspended from trees facing onto the lane. And there is more to appreciation than applause.

Today began with a call about a donkey escape. One of the cross-rails of their stable enclosure had broken, they’d limboed under it and were off. Happily alternating between chomping on grass quietly, and then, kicking up their heels in joyous come-and-get-me-if-you-can friskiness. They weren’t free-range for long. The lure of two buckets of donkey nuts proved too great, and the bar has been fixed.

Another successful fix is WATER. Late morning the water pressure dropped. We were all planting in the meadow above the polytunnels. We’d sown seed and grown a vast number of wildflower plants. It was time, past time really, to transplant them to the field. But the ground was hard and bone dry. Kids and adults alike were wilting in the heat.

And then the water stopped. The three year old diagnosed the problem as a ‘kink’ (his favourite word this morning) in the hose. Alas, this proved not to be so.

We aborted today’s attempt at meadow prettifying. Miraculously, around 4.30 this afternoon, the water was back on. The explanation? A pump 64 metres down in our bore hole had tripped.

Apparently, it’s the sunniest spring since records began in 1928. And although we’ve still got two days left, it could well be the driest May for 124 years. There are murmurings and warnings about drought…

Red kites and Blue Peter

I’ve been watching a red kite circling this afternoon. I can’t see it now but it’s not far away. There’s that distinctive cry. Back in 2012, when my sister was bottle-rearing the twin lambs, if she saw kites, she would, just to be safe, put Dave and Mildred into the guinea pig run.

We should be getting ready now for our dog show and family fun day. Last year was the first year and it was a huge success. A good turnout, great weather and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It felt very much like the summer fetes of my childhood. But with no rain.

Today is the third anniversary of the death of John Noakes. Watching Blue Peter, and receiving the latest Blue Peter annual as a gift every year, are clear childhood memories. 

Not getting my autograph book signed by John Noakes

I never had a Blue Peter badge,
not one. I wasn’t a joiner,
a taker- part. And as for Brownies,
though the plan was always to get
a raft of badges to buck up
the drab, ditch-water brown dress,
I didn’t. The pony-trekking trip
was also , it must be said, a flop.

Instead I sang, recited, read,
my head full of dreams and stories.

There was a fete once, some wet Berkshire
village green, Bradfield, Burghfield
or wherever, and he was there
with his dog. Was it Patch? What a thrill.

He was there as judge of pets,
art, fancy dress, cakes or carrots.
Or all of them. You know the drill.
And it poured. Relentless.

We sheltered, he and I, under
damp canvas, watching the drips
at the scout tent door, drinking
sweet weak tea, just willing it all
to end. Did I get the autograph?
No. But I stroked the dog instead.

Surely time for shearing

The sheep need a haircut. We’ve got three. They’re pets. The eldest, Blackberry, is a bit scraggy and scruffy now, quite frail with regular foot problems. She still likes being petted, enjoys eating, shouting and she is  indisputably the boss.

The highlight of their day is sheep nut time, early evening. Sheep nuts must be absolutely delicious, but, sadly, slugs like them too. Some huge slithery specimens have made it into the dustbin where the nuts are stored and have gorged themselves. We’ve swapped bins today for a newer one with a snug fitting lid. It might keep them out for a while but I’m not holding my breath. What we really need is hedgehogs!

Our first sheep was Dave. My sister, (who lives in Buckinghamshire), was given two orphan lambs to bottle feed. Mildred didn’t survive, however her brother thrived and became friendly and inquisitive. He soon outgrew my sister’s garden. When the farmer next door offered to take him back so that he could fulfil his ovine destiny, my sister and family baulked at the thought of Dave as lamb chops.

So, he came to us. Or rather, the husband collected him. A round trip of 416.4 miles.  208.2 miles of it were spent with Dave bleating on the back seat of the old Landrover, and in the driver’s left ear. Dave, not Dai or Dewi or Dafydd, was a noisy and nosy individual, who charmed both us and our visitors. Although, we hadn’t planned to have a pet sheep, when he died there was a woolly hole on our little farm which had to be plugged quickly.

We’re waiting to hear back from the shearer, hoping he can fit them in soon. It must be unbearable under all that wool.

The old lady herself, Blackberry

Friendship, flowers and heroism

It was the birthday of a very good friend of mine last week. We have decades of shared history and shared memories, children, dogs, holidays and celebrations. We have favourite books in common, and lines from books we both treasure – characters and quotes acting as shorthand for our friendship. Ordinary stuff and special stuff.

In many ways we’re very different – my friend is a practical soul, skilled at her craft, a DIYer, a knowledgeable gardener. She’s visited the Chelsea flower show many times as it falls around her birthday. Not this year though.

In terms of the non-earthly elements – water and air – she is also far braver than I am. She, and her characteristic common sense and helpfulness, featured in a few of my earlier poems.

May 21st, my friend’s birthday, was also the anniversary of the first solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927 by plane by Charles Lindbergh. New York City to Paris. Non-stop. His flight was in response to a challenge set by a French-born New York hotel owner, Raymond Orteig. He offered 25,000 US dollars  to the first successful aviator. Lindbergh followed six aviators who had died in their attempt to make the crossing. His flight in ‘The Spirit of St Louis’ from Roosevelt Airfield, Long Island to Le Bourget Aerodrome, Paris took 33 hours and 29 minutes. Lindbergh was twenty-five. He became a national hero and an international celebrity.

Agatha Christie based her story 1934 story ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ on the mysterious kidnap and murder of baby Charles Lindbergh, Jr two years before. In Christie’s tale, the sex of the unfortunate toddler is changed. Her name in the book is Daisy Armstrong.

Burgh Island in South Devon was a favourite bolthole and writing retreat for Christie. It is also the setting for two of her novels – ‘And then there were none’ and ‘Evil under the sun’. The main building on the island is a fantastic Art Deco hotel which we visited (the husband and I) the day after a Devon wedding in 2011. A trip to the Burgh Island Hotel was a long-held ambition, and the visit and lunch there did not disappoint.

In its blurb the hotel states that it’s been ‘welcoming famous and infamous guests since 1929’. Having been there once for a few hours, and soaked up a little of the very stylish, period ambience, the new ambition, for this neither famous nor infamous woman, is to stay there. Just once. Unlikely, but who knows?

From the delights of Art Deco, back down to earth with a bump. This is what’s happening regularly now with the spaniel. He’s falling. He can’t manage the steps between conservatory and kitchen. We’ve put up a ramp. It’s not helping.

the unsuccessful ramp

Devious cunning or a rare rant

Sometimes I am appalled by cats. So much carnage. Such cruelty.

It must have been a 3-kill morning. There are neat piles of indeterminate innards across the conservatory floor. Now of course, she, the culprit, is stretched out on a sofa, not a whisker out of place, catching the late best of the sun’s rays. Cats have no conscience or moral compass, but equally no subterfuge, no-self-justification, no bending of the rules, as she has none. She is what she is – a killing machine, but she’s our killing machine.

Dreams of trips to Durham and conspiracy theories. I spent a lot of time online yesterday, reading articles and signing a petition or two. The man has to go. I hope he will.

The first thought in my head this morning was that DC’s name, as well as that of Emily Maitlis, (and mine too), all have five syllables. Each one could form either the first or last line of a haiku.

Well done, Emily!
He’s made those who struggled to
keep the rules, feel fools.

Emily triumphs.
‘Deep national disquiet’
speaks for all of us.

Emily Maitlis
says it as it is. He takes
the country for fools.

Savage brilliance
from Emily. ‘Idiots’ –
that’s what the man thinks.

And an attempt at a tanka – why is a five line poem so much harder to write than one with three or six lines?

Gaslighting, I’m told,
is what politicians do,
changing black to white,
making false true, tales of pride,
a long car ride…no-one’s fooled.

Aunt Jane

My cousin Paul died of C-19 a month ago. His mother, Ruby Valerie Jane, my father’s older sister, was a favourite of mine. She was intelligent, rebellious, accomplished, a successful businesswoman and more than a little bit mysterious. Later in life, she painted, researched her mother’s family tree and was, apparently, a champion Scrabble player.

In her youth she was beautiful, an exotic-looking flower blooming in West Wales. There are conflicting family stories about her private life. I wrote this a few years ago about her and found it again recently. Some of it may be true. Or very nearly.

Aunt Jane

Guests at a wedding on a chilly March day, he stands behind her, leaning ever so slightly over her, head and shoulders and half a chest taller – a long, dark, solemn man with a lean-jawed face gazing at the photographer in the distance. No smile on his face but a hand, broad and bony, is resting on her shoulder, the spread of his fingers claiming  all and more of the space between the edge of the velvet collar and the seam at the top of her sleeve. Mine, he says, and aren’t I the lucky one?

The coat is fitted neatly to an obviously neat waist, fastened by a single oversized button. Dark shoes with rounded toes, their platform heels just visible. Gloved hands clutching the handle of a small bag: a hat set at a jaunty angle, perched on formal and elaborate curls. And her eyes are looking at nothing. Even from the distance of over half a century, they’re shiny, dark and unfathomable.

I know now that she married him soon after, that they emigrated to Australia  with her three almond-eyed children. Back home, he, her second husband, was seldom mentioned. She moved to Auckland, then back to Western Australia, was mentioned – the grown-ups whispered – in some scandal or other, and moved on again, this time shedding each one of my cousins in a different establishment – boarding school, art college, university – in different countries across the southern hemisphere.

When she returned, briefly, to the country of her birth, she had miraculously acquired money and respectability, along with an ampler girth and a lavender-coloured chignon. This was when I came to know and love her. Aunt Jane’s conversation oozed humour, a certain worldly, pragmatic wisdom, and common-sense. She was a small, powerful woman who was not to be trifled with!

Too hot to trot, or the blackbirds bathe

I’ve put two eco pond-clean sachets in the trough in the conservatory wall. Sadly, all is still green, gloom and murk. Not in any way fish-ready. Hoping for a miracle I checked again earlier and disturbed Mr and Mrs Blackbird, who were cooling off and enjoying their private ablutions. I’m not sure who was more startled.

The husband is walking the boundaries with someone who may be renting three fields to graze her horses on. It’s been over six months since the last ones moved away.

He called to the old spaniel, who was dozing on the quarry tiled kitchen floor, to see if he too would like to inspect the hedges. Enthusiasm – zero. It reminded me of a poem I wrote in a May when we had both spaniels, and they were young and full of energy. But still capable, very occasionally, of being underwhelmed and lacking in enthusiasm. That poem, ‘Against the grain’ was read on Radio 4 in an Ulster accent – surprising to me, but effective. The only time I’ve had one of my poems chosen to be included on ‘Poetry Please’ and a great honour.

Update. We will soon have three new four-legged guests. Their owner pronounced their new residence to be ‘lovely fields’. But we knew that already.

What’s in a name?

Sister Rosalie -(must have been Mary Rosalie but we missed out the Holy Virgin)- used to take us on a nature walk at least once a week in the Summer Term, but regularly throughout the year whenever the weather permitted. We always followed the same route, wore our hats and walked two-by-two. It was a real treat. Afterwards we emptied the trove of finds onto the nature table, where it was arranged, identified and labelled. Sometimes we’d do leaf rubbings with wax crayons while the lovely sister read to us.

Between then and now, I’ve forgotten many of the names of trees, wild flowers and all the finds I was so familiar with as a young child. So it was a real pleasure when we had a foraging walk and workshop here last year. We love hosting workshops here, whether for a couple of hours, a whole day or a few days. They don’t make us much money, but it is a joy to witness the pleasure they bring to people! By providing the venue and the refreshments, we are sharing, in some small way, the enjoyment felt by the students.

One of the plants we identified with the foraging tutor was very small, bright green, growing in dusty cracks in the yard and on paths. You could easily miss it. Apparently, it can be used to make a pleasant tea. It’s growing everywhere right now. For such an inconspicuous plant it packs an aromatic punch. The name is pretty good too!  

Pineapple mayweed,
pinch between fingers; release
the scent which names you.

Low unshowy plant,
an explosion of sweet scent,
pineapple mayweed.

pineapple mayweed in the farmyard

After the rains return

After the rains return, and children are back
in school, their days circumscribed, filled
with people, vivid with stuff;
and they’ve stopped playing slip-and-slide
or in the mud kitchen, or just
endlessly bouncing on trampolines, will
the arrival of eleven chicks still enthrall?

New life works its magic, especially
on the young, but more so now.

After the rains return, and blue is scarred again
with the tracks of jumbos,
and birdsong and bleating is fugged
a little more by cars;
yet we can hug, go to the pub, get
our roots done, dive into buzz and bustle,
nine-to-five, the full diary, will
we thrill as business beckons?

When ‘new normal’ is bagged and boxed
for the bin men, will we shrug it off,
slip back?

After the rains return, and news is
other than this plague, will
we submit to gaining our liberty,
while losing our balance? When we stop
waiting for the when and how, stop
clapping, will we chat and gossip
at the gates,

but waste less,
less life,
less time,
after the rains return?

Earth, dust and the memory of ghosts

Earth, sand, mud – what’s not to like if you’re a young child? My daughter and son-in-law have just made their two children a mud kitchen for their newly created garden. There’s great excitement about this. A family friend left a box on their doorstep containing pots, pans and kitchen equipment she no longer needed. So the project is completed and ready for play.

One of the donkeys likes to roll anywhere there’s a loose surface – earth, sand, concrete dust. Her morning routine is two rolls in the farmyard. Down to the ground, onto her back, from there to her left side and then up onto her hooves again, with some effort. Now we have no need to keep the camping area donkey-free, the ladies have the run of the whole field. Over the last couple of weeks, Honey has made herself a grassless, dusty, shallow indentation, an earth bath, in the middle of the flat camping ground. She can now complete her ablutions there. Like Baloo the bear, she’s found her perfect place to scratch.

Earth clings beneath my nails. Over the last eight weeks or so, it’s become difficult to keep my hands properly clean, keyboard clean. My excuse for not wearing gardening gloves is that adult ones are just too big for me.

*************************************************************************************************************

If there are ghosts here, we’ve not yet met them. Or they’re extremely benign spirits, just minding their own business. We had no ghostly encounters in the last house either. But in the house before (two houses ago), where I planted that pittosporum, there were definitely presences. We all felt something.

When we left that house late in 2002, I planted, (or buried), a  glass bottle and this is the poem I wrote about it.

Kitchen comments and weather wishes

As far as culinary success goes, the last couple of days have been mixed. There was fabulous pizza on Saturday evening – take-out again – but that was created by my son-in-law, with my daughter assisting. No, I meant personally. Me. Moi.

My new creation on Saturday was radish greens pesto. Using the leaves on the top of some polytunnel radishes and substituting sunflower seeds for nuts. Absolutely delicious.

The cornflake flapjack experiment today was not a triumph. The plan was to make something simple and sweet to be enjoyed by all ages. And not to waste anything…even if the cornflakes were slightly soggy. And gluten-free. I’d also run out of cupcake cases, so I pressed the mixture, flapjack-style, into a square cake tin. And refrigerated it. Sadly, what went into the fridge as a gooey mess came out of the fridge as a slightly colder gooey mess. No suggestion of setting.

But it’s not all about looks, or even texture. We’ve been happily using fingers to scoop up the stickiness.

                                                                                                *****

Despite the breeze, when we brought the donkeys in tonight, the air was heavy, slightly sticky. The sky was all shades of grey, even bruised grey-purple to the northwest. The right gatepost of the field had rotted away at the bottom. It must have just collapsed today. We felt extremely lucky that the donks hadn’t discovered it, and gone roaming.

May and July are usually are our busiest wedding months. Under normal circumstances, I’d be watching the sky, comparing forecasts and silently willing the weather to hold. or to turn, by the morning of the next wedding. Despite our location – in the west, in the UK – many guests seem to hold us personally responsible for ensuring good weather for their festivities. I blame Pinterest and Instagram.

This desire not to disappoint, meteorologically speaking, weighs heavily on me for the whole season. But, tonight, what we need, what we really need, is a clearing of the air. An absolute downpour.

,

Three pet sheep and a long Latin name

On Saturday, we moved our pet sheep down from the fields by the bike park to the little paddock opposite the stable. Where they were before they had access to far too much grass. We were concerned for their health. Also, the oldest of them, Blackberry, has recurring foot issues and we wanted to be able to keep an eye on her.

Getting them down to the farmyard was an interesting operation, facilitated mostly by shaking a bucket of sheep nuts. We were also assisted by three small herders, two six-year-olds and a three- year-old. We are now re-familiarising ourselves with how vocal the sheep are.

Over the last few days, bird noise has intensified, but the air has become much clearer of ovine bleating and calling, (from the fields of neighbouring farmers and smallholders). Our three – Blackberry, Gwyneth and Gwilym – are filling the sheep noise vacuum.

The sheep paddock is also close to the new flower bed and to the tyres where we’ve planted seed potatoes. The potatoes, so far, are not doing very well, but I have hopes for the little shrub we planted just pre-lockdown. I’ve always loved any flowers, plants or trees with variegated leaves. Pittosporum tenuifolium variegatum. I don’t know if it has a non-Latin name. We had one before, two houses ago, and it was an absolute corker.

There were lots of odd things about that house. It was beautiful but in the wrong place. It sat awkwardly in a garden which had had two chunks bitten out of it in the name of property development. We planted the pittosporum just after moving in. In the nine years we lived there, it flourished. It grew from a tiny plant to a huge, healthy specimen over eight or nine feet tall. I’m hopeful about this one…

Slow-mo and speedwell.

Sleep and dreams are disturbed and strange. Energy plummeted, then has stayed low for days. I am not alone; we are not alone – in experiencing odd, conflicting symptoms and emotions. So many I know seem to have hit the lockdown wall in the last week.

A friend says – ‘I almost cried yesterday. My toothbrush was taking too long to charge. I felt exhausted waiting for it: the tears were just there, ready, willing me to let go.’

And from another  – ‘I’m not even going to try to teach any more. I’m a parent, not a teacher. Juggling classroom, kitchen and office  has pushed us to the edge. I want our relationship back. Home-school can wait.’

A third friend tells me she’s given up the news for a fortnight now. TV. Radio. The ever-present phone. She’s given it up. She’s at saturation point. There’s nothing she wants to watch or read or hear. She’s full of stuff, sounds, images, information and misinformation – not sad or anxious, just overloaded.

Meanwhile witch-doctors, purveyors of webinars, gurus and influencers assault our senses. We are urged both to enjoy the slow-mo, to be kind to ourselves but at the same time to be prepared, to get in training for the cut-throat competition on the other side of all of this.

I’m not keeping a gratitude diary or forcing myself to look for any end-of-tunnel lights. When I step away, I’m cheered by a small story about the hoopoe blown off course. And by the sight of bright blue speedwell sprinkled in the hedges.

Pelargoniums and a teddy named Baby

Turns out my son had rescued it. It was on one of the sites where he and his team are building a bike track. They rescued the bedraggled teddy and put it into a digger cab as a mascot. A scruffy mascot which had seen better days. When the site was closed (due to the virus), the bear came back here with all the heavy machinery. It moved from floor to pallet to wall to floor again, too dirty and threadbare to have a small human owner.

At some point in the last week, the elderly spaniel picked up the bear and claimed it, the first toy he’s been near in over ten years. ‘Baby’ now goes with him everywhere, sleeping, dozing, waking. Sometimes we have to take it away from his mouth in order to coax him to eat something. There is smelly comfort there and it’s touching to watch. But, with or without Baby, we are very conscious that the dog is not doing well.

Today was a mostly office-bound day, the furlough payroll again, then moving accommodation bookings made before the lockdown extension to later in the summer, this winter and next spring. These may be the final adjustments, or we may need to change bookings again. No one knows.

I expected to greet today with some clarity and with a plan for the next couple of months, but I didn’t. The feeling of wading through lumpy porridge persisted until late afternoon when we went out. The destination was a bench at the front of a bungalow up the lane. There a nimble 90-year-old is selling pink and white pelargoniums. I was given one of these by my daughter-in-law last week. I bought three more for the conservatory.

The wind has dropped now and it’s going to be a warm evening. Spaniel is fast asleep with his Baby.   

Spaniel and Baby
Spaniel and Baby

Paper aeroplanes and a concert (or two)

The children had made and coloured in a flag. We brought plates of food. I am surrounded by people who bake often and well, so I’d got out of the habit of baking. But yesterday afternoon I made a passable chocolate cake. The girls wore party clothes and all four kids flew paper aeroplanes in the garden. We had tea and G&Ts.

Our poor spaniel is suffering so no walk last night, or tonight. After putting the donkeys to bed and clearing up the worst of the chaos, we watched some of the VE Day coverage, including Katherine Jenkins. Her dresses were extraordinary.

I think it was the summer of 2007 – definitely no later than that – when I went with the husband and his father to see Katherine Jenkins live outdoors in Aberglasney Gardens. My father-in-law had all her CDs and it was planned as a special treat for him. Because he was in a wheelchair, we were led to the front row. He had an aisle place and we sat next to him. He knew every number, from wartime classics to arias and he either hummed or sang along to all of it. People shifted in their seats and shushed disapprovingly in a very British way. We were embarrassed but my father-in-law didn’t care. Or was blissfully unaware. He was having a ball.

Looking back I think – good for him! He caught shingles not long afterwards, and never fully recovered.

Today, after the First Minister’s announcement, I blocked out booking calendars for another three weeks. Worries nibbled around the edges of my thoughts but I pushed them away. No visitors for a while yet. Don’t know where, don’t know when…

I want to make a giraffe’s head

The donks look awful right now. Their coats are between seasons, and they don’t shed prettily. Twice a year, there’s about a month when they appear unkempt and unloved.

They’ve rediscovered the last dandelions as a tasty snack to nibble on their way out to the field. Herb robert and cow parsley are considered delicacies too, but fat hen is out of favour. They know what they like. Docks of course are a big no, and they avoid most wild flowers with precision. But we have to distract them,( as you would a determined toddler), from eating  the oxeye daisies and the willow hedge.

Do most children still know about dandelion clocks, buttercups under the chin – ‘do you like butter’ and making daisy chains? I hope so.

The youngest ones’ mum is feeling better, on the mend anyway. She is enthused by a new project, constructing a giraffe’s head which will hang on the end wall of their cottage. For decoration.

‘Like some people have reindeers on their wall,’ her six-year-old explained to me helpfully. So, while we ladies were using the cottage on the back of the farmhouse as a hair salon yesterday afternoon, the children were collecting oddments of chicken wire for the sculpture.

My daughter-in-law gave both me and my daughter a trim. I can now see out of my fringe and while I don’t feel exactly like a new woman, I feel like less of an old one. We ate cakes again and the conversation moved from giraffes to incubating chicks to the easing of lockdown – the hows, whens and whats.

We’re planning to emerge briefly from ‘quarantine chic’ later today and have tea in honour of VE Day. I’ll bring out assorted vintage tea sets after lunch. Some of us may even put a dress on.

The season advances daily. Jasmine is opening against the wall in the farmyard, joining the clematis and the potato tree ‘Glasnevin’. There’s not a strong scent yet, but yesterday evening I went right up close to inhale the perfume. Sunset was staggeringly beautiful.

Garlic and the fairies

Going to the doctor, or the dentist, is viewed currently as a last resort. Other bugs, illnesses and health problems haven’t suddenly stopped but we like to pretend they have. We’re avoiding surgeries and hospitals, unless we can’t avoid them.

Even the three-year-old knows about the ‘nasty virus’. A couple of days ago I printed out some information sheets for very young children. ‘Coronavirus’ is a character in a picture story designed to explain but not to frighten. I printed out two copies for the youngest. They’ll be able to colour them in as well.

I delivered a box of ‘Celebrations’ to their cottage earlier. Their mother isn’t well so I’m not sure what we’re celebrating, but the children will enjoy them anyway. Walking back to the farmhouse I picked a couple of hedge garlic leaves. And ate them. We’ve got chives in the grass, clusters of wild garlic by one of the yurt platforms, (sadly without its yurt right now), and hedge garlic is growing everywhere. Any passing vampire would doubtless get to the bottom of the lane, sniff the air, have a re-think and turn back. At this time of year anyway.

But the tonic fairies have visited in the night. The bottle crate is full and it’s mostly populated with empty fevertrees. Our secretive visitors may not have found a vaccine for C-19, but they could have picked up a little malaria immunity.

Last night’s supper was gin-free but the garlic was flowing. A vegan mayo experiment changed, due to the addition of ramson leaves, into a runny but tasty dipping sauce for fried potatoes. Mary Tudor famously said that when she died and was opened up, ‘Calais’ would be written on her heart. It might be ‘garlic’ written on mine, but hopefully we won’t find out.