The summer weather has been terrific this year and the sunshine and relative warmth has continued into the beginnings of autumn. The sun now sets too early behind trees and the gradient of our paddock for Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I to continue our pattern of evening drinks in the new walled garden that we established earlier in the year. However, the weather has been conducive to relaxed walks through the gently browning countryside and to steady clearing and digging over of the vegetable patch ready for winter.
Despite the dry summer, there is still plenty of beetroot and chard to harvest. Also, I have managed to keep my leeks alive and, having transplanted them in newly dibbed holes, I find I have over a hundred to nurture and then eat through the winter months. That’s a lot of leeks to go into soup with the sack of potatoes I dug up a couple of weeks ago!
Once again I am reminded of the relatively slow and relaxed pace at which I can undertake gardening since my retirement. I have always loved this time of year (and early spring) in the vegetable garden, when creating tracts of freshly dug earth is the main task. Since retirement, I have more time to pause between bursts of digging, to rest my back and to admire the neatness of the bare earth that, following application of some manure, will be poised for next season’s planting and growth.
The past couple of weeks have been a pleasant mix of pottering around the garden, social events with family and friends, and more sightseeing in London. My trip to London was based around an irregular but broadly quarterly get together of old male friends over a restaurant dinner (dubbed ‘The Boys Night Out’). This is working through an alphabet of nations cum culinary styles and we were up to O for Ottoman last week. It was cheap and cheerful and good to catch up.
I also walked for miles to and around the vastness of Hyde Park (with its tediously noisy and ever more numerous green parakeets) and visited the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum.
The Kahlo exhibition focused on her way of life rather than her art. The exhibition makes clear what a tour de force she must have been. She was fiercely determined to overcome adversity (including polio, a near fatal accident, a miscarriage, leg amputation, periodic political ostracism) and she constantly underlined her strong sense of identity. Her love life was lively and complex and her life-long partner – a muralist called Diego Rivera whom she married twice – must have been a patient man. The exhibition is sold out so my recently instigated V&A membership (giving me free, unlimited entry) paid off. The investment of time was very worthwhile.
Eldest Son (ES) and his girlfriend stayed with us for a weekend. It was lovely to have them and the highlight – apart from the curry and the roast dinner that ES asked LSW to make – was a visit to Gifford’s Circus. This is an internationally famous but locally based circus that LSW has seen a few times. It was my first visit and I really enjoyed the energy, innovation, daring and clever humour; it was a real treat in a packed, traditional circus tent.
LSW and I also had a sunny late summer day in Bath. We were there to see Olafur Arnalds, an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist who combines electronica, piano and strings to create atmospheric, evocative music that both of us love. The concert was a great success – great sound, good seats and LSW loved it (always important since I want to go with her to more gigs).
We made time for dinner and also a trip to the American Museum and Gardens set in beautiful countryside to the east of Bath. The gardens are being renovated and extended and will be worth another visit in a year or two. As ever, it seems, we were blessed by wonderful weather.
But autumn with its shorter days and colder, wetter weather is here. That will bring different pleasures.