My house for a Hockney? Well, I’d miss the spitting cones …



I love it. Well, when it’s sunny I do. Yes, even if it’s ch-ch-ch-ch-chilly.

Today the trees have that Impressionist look about them – les nuages comme des little puffs of Pope-announcing white smoke. Le ciel, bleu comme a robin’s egg.

They’re not poplars and they’re not marching across a field in Picardy, or Limousin, or Burgundy – but they’re tall, spindly and waving at the heavens for all they’re worth, trying to claim the foreground when the sky’s the real hero.

It’s been a cheering few days. Yes, the temperature has left a certain amount – as in, several degrees – to be desired, but the garden’s at last beginning to look like ours.

Rhododendrons and azaleas gone to a happy home in our postman’s son’s garden.

Prostrate rosemary creeping over the ground, sprinkled with dazzling, deep-blue flowers.

Thyme, sage and chives snuggling in nicely.

Lavender boasting bright green shoots of new growth, honeysuckle twining, roses climbing.

Wisteria, pushing out fluffy flower buds.

The fir trees just outside our fence are blurred with soft new needles, the pine cones turning upside down before our very eyes.

Listen …

That spitting sound’s the seeds being ejected.

Did you know that happened? I didn’t.

In Zambia there are trees that produce long, hard bean pods that crack like a starting pistol when they explode and disperse their seeds.

I suppose a gentle ‘spttt’ is more appropriate for an English golf course.

Back inside the fence, our wheelbarrow sits, full of gravel.

There’s a well in our garden. It had a ‘water feature’ on it that made me react as if I had an eyelash in my eye. Involuntary blinking. I wanted it out.

It’s gone. So has the gravel round the edge. As I dug into the hard ground beneath, ready for planting a circle of thymes, a toad leapt from his shady hiding place and startled me. His home despoiled by a meddlesome new gardener.

I hope the magpies didn’t spot him.

We’ve put a ‘Corten steel’ water bowl on the zinc mesh cover where once a load of pebbles lay. Over time the bowl will turn a rusty orange all over. The rust will protect it, so the story goes. That’s why it’s used in things like bridges – places where it’s rather important the metal doesn’t crumble to nothing.


The collection of thymes is waiting to be planted where the gravel and the toad once were

It’s quite deep, the bowl, deeper than your average bird-bath. We thought – hoped – it would be too difficult for the fat, ungainly wood pigeons to drink from it. But they’ve found a way.

I just hope they don’t take to bathing in it.

The pair that have claimed this patch as their own are so clumsy that they slip on wet leaves when padding around on the ground. I can see myself having to get a shrimping net to fish them out.

I didn’t know birds could be clumsy, did you? Or fall?

I saw a robin fall the other day. Trying very hard to reach the seeds destined for finches it stretched too far and fell – yes, fell. He made a quick recovery, but it was a shocking thing to see for one with no previous experience of a dropping robin.

Inside, meanwhile, our walls become calmer. The red and white paper has gone. The blue checked metallic is almost banished. We now have bookshelves – if not enough – and Delius has spent the morning inspiring me over the Saturday newspapers.

Almost ready to swap my pyjamas for gardening trousers and a Cornish fisherman’s smock (that’s a style, not an actual smock belonging to a fisherman), I turn one more page in the review section and there it is – Spring.

In black and white.

David Hockney’s drawings from last spring in Yorkshire.

The Chinese, writes Hockney, say black and white contains colour.

I see it.

Life returning from the winter snow.

I can splash in that puddle, hear those new leaves rustle, feel that dappling sun.

Last year we talked about selling our house and buying a Hockney. A painting, that is. Renting a place instead of buying. Spending our spare time admiring the picture on our wall. Until the day when it was worth a lot more and we could sell it and buy a home – and have some left over.

There was, however, a massive great flaw in that plan. Two flaws, actually, of serious enormity.

1. Our house was worth less than the Hockney paintings we coveted.

2. I’m pretty sure we’d never have let the painting go.

So here we are.

With trees and a well and the music of Delius (from Bradford, like Hockney).

With birds.

And a toad.

(I hope.)

Happy Easter, everyone.

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5 Responses to My house for a Hockney? Well, I’d miss the spitting cones …

  1. Elizabeth S Ferguson says:

    You are full of he joys !!!! happy Easter to you both . Hope to see you soon . Love Liz xx



  2. John Kemp says:

    Happy Easter and happy gardening too. If there were rhododendrons and azaleas there must be quite a lot of space to keep you busy now. Will Anthro-man be taking part?


    • Thank you John, we are enjoying revitalising the space outside. The azaleas were of the small variety designed for small gardens and the rhododendrons had been kept unnaturally confined. The garden is very small in fact but with the lovely big trees and golf course all around it really feels as if we have a huge domain! I thought of mentioning Anthro-man but decided he has had plenty of coverage lately – he did comment that the pebbles would make very good hammerstones … archaeologists, always working. Will reply to your email in due course, been busy putting Before Farming to bed for the last time. Enjoy the weekend! M


  3. Thel says:

    Lou, Happy Easter, Happy Springtime!


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