Lost, lavender and another birthday

George the cat seemed confused. Outside the pizza wagon, on the conservatory windowsill, in the yard, up in the vegetable garden. He’s been spending time here for the last few days now, but then, yesterday especially, it was as if he’d forgotten where home was. And he seemed distressed about it.

In the heat of Wednesday and Thursday who could blame him for losing the plot a little? For two days the sheep barely moved till mid-afternoon. A couple of times I had to check that we still had three of them. They were so utterly still. May was, without doubt, a record-breaker, followed by a few weeks of more mixed, more normal Summer days. Then came Wednesday and Thursday. Scorching and humid. Brain foggingly, ankle swellingly humid. The kind of heat when it’s impossible to feel fragrant for long.

The barometer is not entirely responsible for my recent sense of being overwhelmed, under-achieved and exhausted. I’ve found the images of the British beach madness depressing too.

We had thunder and lightning last night; and rain, just enough to clear the air. We watched Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’  – just the one monologue with the brilliant Sarah Lancashire. Excellently acted but bleak. And Radio 4 was right about the appalling knitwear. Have always found Bennett challenging. He’s very talented and has such a great ear for speech, but it’s quite a dark, narrow furrow he ploughs.

On what would have been the beginning of the Glasto weekend, it’s also my elder son’s birthday. Have been round for tea and, inevitably, cake – this time a Hugh F-W carrot cake which my daughter-in-law and two smalls baked bright-and-early this morning. My son took the day off and he woke to smells of baking.

I’ve never been to Glastonbury, (as in the festival). I love the abbey though. It was the place we visited the day I discovered I was pregnant (with today’s birthday boy). I think the scale of the festival would put me off now – smaller festivals, yes, but not something that massive.

The lavender is finally out and spectacular as it always is. I brushed past it earlier. Then, on their way home, the two youngest brought me flowers from the cutting section of one of the polytunnels. And they fed the fish – a pinch each.

A happiness expert spoke on the radio yesterday. ‘Happiness,’ she said, ‘is not having what you want…but wanting what you have.’ And, despite all the conflicting emotions, I do.

Flowers delivered by the youngest two

Fathers’ Day, a damp squib and an emergency cat

Several of us slept badly on Saturday night – maybe it was the loudness of the rain or the shortness of the night. Several of us felt quite tired and a bit flat on Sunday morning. The paper made for dismal reading. Brains proved inadequate for both crossword and sudokus.

Then, on the way to put the donks out, I rescued a rather beautiful butterfly from one of the barns and we collected a handful of courgettes and small squashes from a polytunnel.

Towards midday, between heavy rain showers, there were visits and presents – three fathers together in the conservatory – the husband, the son-in-law and my elder son. Silverback gorilla, (aka the husband), received chocolate, homemade cards, a painted ‘You Rock’ stone, a bottle of homemade elderflower cordial and a jar of homemade lime pickle. We drank tea, coffee and squash, sampled the elderflower gift and ate cake. My daughter made a lemon drizzle cake with raspberries. Orla baked cupcakes for the festivities, entirely unaided.

These past three months have been punctuated by small celebrations on the farm – Easter, an anniversary, a birthday, VE Day and then yesterday, Fathers’ Day. A whole season has passed. The internet was full of suggestions for make-the-solstice-special-at-home ideas. No-one here was especially inspired. The solstice came and went.

Dependent on the next First Minister bulletin, and of course the ‘R’ number, it looks like we will be  opening guest accommodation from 13th July – a reduced number of yurts, no shared facilities, no camping – but some business. Over the weekend we were updating prices and availability on our website. Plans for the remainder of Summer 2020 are still fluid and we’re waiting to receive details about the rules, regulations and protocols. It doesn’t quite feel real yet.

Soon we may be able to see other family members and good friends living beyond the current permitted area. That’s a definite end-of-tunnel light.

A few of my friends, for various reasons, have been much less lucky than I have and have spent the last three months more-or-less alone. One has an allotment to keep her busy. One has a beloved small dog. A third is in real need of an emergency cat. We all need something living – if not human company, then something which grows. Or better still, something which breathes and responds to us. I wish I could dispense, where required, an emergency cat or two.

from the polytunnel on Fathers’ Day

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.

Don’t mention the flour shortage

For a cat in lockdown it’s more or less business as usual. Eating, drinking, dozing, hunting, being fussed, basking, sleeping. Repeat.

For Miss Baxter, life is pretty good. Food and water are plentiful. There is no flour shortage to furrow her brow, no compulsion to spend her days usefully, creatively or socially – facetiming, zooming and skyping. Even if she doesn’t learn a new language, upcycle an old teapot, forage and pound wild garlic pesto into pungent submission, or make the flourless cookies, (as suggested by Hugh F-W), her world will not end.

Because there are no visitors, she’s less elusive than normal. She feels no need to hide away from the noise and bustle of people arriving, leaving and just being around.

Miss Baxter is unapologetic about pleasure.

Throughout the day she follows the sun around the house, finding the warmest spot to lounge, curled up or stretched out, whisker to tail-tip. Just now she’s moved to the conservatory to lap up the full benefit of afternoon rays. The only sounds to disturb her are a few frantic flies, distant bleats and occasional snatches of half-conversations drifting in through the open windows, from the once-a-day exercisers, walkers, cyclists and a couple on horseback, making strenuous progress up the hill.

For a cat in lockdown in exceptional April weather, it’s business, more or less, as usual, but wound down, slowed down and enjoyed with pure, sensuous, feline satisfaction.