The start of Louise Gluck's new book, Averno, reminds me of Sunday on the allotment, planting my first seeds out. I've put some in pots under glass, but it was so warm on Sunday and there was a dug over plot all ready to rake, so in went short rows of lettuce, leeks, beetroot, spring onions and chard. It's always a risk at this time of year. If there's a wet April the slugs decimate the seedlings. We'll see.
So up there I saw Dave Swann, a great guy who's organising a reading at the Sussex Arts Club tomorrow night - poets, fiction writers, singers. It'll be fun if I can shake off my cold. If I can't I'll just have to sink a couple of glasses and dose myself up with lemsip beforehand. Dave's reading some of his prison stories, which are brilliant, and Lorna Thorpe will be reading some of her amazing poems, too. Plus me, with cold, and others. Anyway, Dave took me round this plot, laid out by a gardener.
Amazingly, it's the same size as mine, but looks like another world. There are sheds, nooks and crannies, different levels, all sorts of things in tyres, a brazier on a pole, seats made of logs, pots, tiny beds packed full already. It reminds me of gardens in magazines or books. The guy who's designed it left me a squash once on my plot as a kind of welcome. I found it, yellow, by the path. It was a lovely gesture.
So I have a mission to bring some texture and levels to my very flat and one dimensional space. I've pruned the beauty bush in the back garden and have two loads of twigs in jars, trying to root them. A willow hedge is appealing, too. I've loved willow since living in Farnham where our house had a willow hedge backing onto a stream at the bottom of the garden. I know that once the raspberries start growing again there'll be some height, and the bean poles always make it look more interesting and productive. But it's an exposed patch and hedges or fences would be some protection against wind, too, and give a little shade. I'd love to build a bender. That may be a project for these days when I have no work.
I've just finished Aldous Huxley's After Many a Summer. What a chilling and depressing story that was. Brilliantly told, with captivating passages of philosophy, questions about why we only have one word for love to cover so many types, the age-old discussion about prolonging life and the nature of good and evil. Its ending is truly shocking. So that spurs me on to re-read Brave New World and I was hunting around the bookshelf the other day to try and find The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. I was convinced they were published in the same volume. Maybe I was wrong. Anyway, they're lost but I'm determined to read more of him.