Spring has arrived late but with waves of sun and warmth that suggest it is trying to catch up on lost time. Leaves and blossom have burst into life and colour and the landscape suddenly has that fresh feel of Spring. The carpets of bluebells in the nearby woods are already usurped by the wild garlic and the paths and verges are lined with cow parsley 4 foot high. Already, we seem to be marching into summer.
The recent improvement in the weather has encouraged me to resume vegetable gardening in between trips to London (a cheeky, impromptu visit primarily to see a favourite band, Kefaya) and Nottingham (to see my parents). I have been planting seeds, digging the vegetable patch and putting up a bit of new fencing. For the first time, I am retired from work during a Spring. When I was working, I used to perform what I called ‘speed gardening’ at weekends. This year I can devote time throughout the week to a more relaxed style of gardening.
From bitter experience I know that not all this reinvigorated effort will bear fruit in terms of usable crops. Not everything germinates or thrives and squirrels, deer and badgers have taken more than their fair share in recent years. However, now Spring is here, frustrations with the local wildlife, and memories of needless gluts of vegetables that the animals don’t like, are set aside and the vegetable patch is cultivated once more. Once again, in a few months’ time, we will probably be scouring recipe books and the internet for meals requiring lots of beetroot or courgettes and having beans with every meal.
About three weeks ago, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) had one of her periodic purges of our possessions to populate a table at a village table-top sale. I had my usual power of veto to prevent the discarding of things that might conceivably be useful to me, our sons or any of their as yet entirely unplanned children at some point in the future. However, I kept my veto in my pocket and a car-load of stuff was priced up and went for sale.
Unfortunately, our village evidently has a lot of people who want to offload things but few who wanted to accumulate them. By the end of the sale, due to LSW buying yet another designer tap, she came back out of pocket and only one item lighter. Given the investment of time in pricing all this stuff up, LSW had another go at a local car-boot sale. She had about £60 more success but it’s clear that much of what we are trying to sell is going to take the normal trip to the local charity shops.
We gather so many material goods over a lifetime. Some have a now outdated function and some are purely decorative but are no longer in vogue or have a place. A classic example was an Apilco tea set which we once used and loved but which has been in a cupboard untouched for years. We tested whether any of the sons wanted it and got negative responses (‘its horrific’ said one). They already have what crockery they need and, if they need more, will go online at Amazon, John Lewis or Ikea. Handing stuff down over the generations doesn’t seem to work any longer.
At our age, we simply don’t need many additional material goods. Indeed, LSW is strong – and persuasive in the face of my greater, but softening, reticence – on reducing our footprint by clearing our old stuff out. Thank goodness for the recycling work of charity shops but the dump is also a regular destination.
These thoughts were going through my mind as LSW and I visited the annual neighbourhood open studios events of the last couple of weeks. Lots of creative and talented people were displaying their art and craft work in their homes and in local galleries; some was impressive. In past years we have bought some of the items but, more recently, we have walked around the open studios rather aimlessly. We just don’t need any more things to sit on shelves or to go on walls.
LSW has recently started a ceramics course. My fear is that her work – worthy and perhaps even lovely as it may turn out to be – will be another avenue of stuff entering our home. If so, then at least I will have a bargaining chip in negotiations around hanging onto some of my long-standing possessions for another year. But my realisation that I have to declutter that stuff is growing – maybe I’ll go to the next car boot sale or even learn to try eBay…..