Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The best of us

The poppy through pigeon netting

I wake up and think first about sunflowers I've repotted, if I should have put fleece back over the seeds because it's been so cold. 

Yesterday, potting on calendula, the healing flower, I was thinking about Helen, my old school friend who died last month. She had hair the colour of those marigolds. 

It is a cliche to associate the allotment with release but I'm happy now with cliche. 

Actually the greatest release is from place claiming. It was purgative, freeing swathes of my front garden last week of ground elder, but what comes back like those bits of root is people staking claims on things. It becomes so distracting and interrupts better thoughts. I've left social media (well most of it apart from the one defining itself with the metaphor of a chain) so how do I stop feeling irritated with the world, with strangers who mean nothing to me?

I plant out mizuma, pak choi, telegraph peas and lettuce, I thank Jeanette for her gift of tomato and chilli plants, I joke with Dave about goji berries and when I do this, the only things jostling are weeds and vegetables. This helps. 

in the herb patch
I watch a long worm, feel how dry the soil is.....and when plants I put outside are scorched from a late frost, when I see first earlies showing and hope mice won't get beans I've sown in the greenhouse, I think of Emily Dickinson's, It will be summer - eventually. So with the earth moving on its axis because of climate change, I know I'm better off among billions whose focus is on growing vegetables, herbs, flowers - put to better work on the vocabularies, metaphors and rhythms of soil. 

And it's the time of year when the birds are everywhere with their beaks full of worms, there are queues on Wilson Avenue because the racing's started again, the foxes are busy at night and it's best really, if there's a top ten list of worries, to be concerned about the pea seedlings and whether the frost has had them, or slugs. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Truth and branding

Whatever you say...doesn't mean it's true

I hold my hands up, I was taken in by branding. It was the turn of the millennium and I had no idea how sophisticated an enterprise it was, making a brand - I couldn't equate this with burning a mark into a horse's rump. How I got my insight doesn't matter but yesterday I was walking down the hill from the allotment when momentarily all the storytelling and the glamour of it, the hotels and process of understanding consumers came back and, like remembering an embarrassing incident, I cringed. 

The prompt was an elderly hipster father on his driveway with a bottle of beer talking to his son in his early teens. The father's snow white beard and hair were immaculately cut and he was looking at his son's hoodie when I heard the word brand. 

And it provoked another discussion I'd had with my son at the allotment, when he was in his mid 20s and he was asking about plants and trees. 'My generation can give you the names of 10 brands without any trouble, but hardly a single name of plants or trees,' he said. He was pleading for knowledge of more than the world of buying and selling, a state of mind taken for granted in Europe and the US, the only system that's called on in these parts of the world to keep what is jokingly called the economy going. He was mourning. 

I can't be bothered to argue against what's happened in the 66 years since I was born because my arguments are unheard by anyone other than friends. I know most of us only directly influence what's around us, our own behaviour. But for speculation's sake, let's go back to the original meaning of brand, the damage and appropriation the word harbours. 

Take alphabet, one of the common words stolen by Google. Its companies claim to overcome ageing, they promote drone deliveries (think of that noise, the birdsong you love....the sound of sparrow wings in the shrub), they suggest they also have your mind on a property list. Are you for that?

Take the activity of branding and hipster on his driveway, imagining that the word brand is a shortcut to connect with his son and son's girlfriend. 

At home I watched a BBC documentary about a group of people in Ethiopia who weave houses with split bamboo, then another about a Masai woman who takes two days to make a wedding necklace. The documentaries weren't brilliantly made, but the people were interesting. A detox. What are we going to do to get out of this mess?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Upcycling and mending

I extended this t shirt with a plain
cotton band cut from a skirt

If clothes tell stories, mine have recourse to all sorts of lives and I'm reluctant to let them go without being certain there's nothing to be done with them. And of course, there's always rags and patches, or stuffing draught excluders. Stuffing for draught excluders tends to be the fate of old knickers and single socks. 

Sashiko stitching helped me alter the neck
of this t shirt

A friend sent me some sashiko thread and needles when I was lining my dressing gown in the winter and I've used the technique to alter t shirts. I constantly pull at t shirts - I prefer boat necks so the thread and running stitch allows me to cut off the manufactured seam and strengthen the fabric. 

The charity Love Your Clothes asks us never to put old clothes in the bin. Not even pants. And fabric scraps? I've been cutting out bunting, sewing muslin face cloths and make-up remover pads, shopping bags, cushion covers, I'm about to embark on a parasol and am plaiting lengths of scrap fabric into a rope I intend to make into a mat. 

Repairing old clothes from Repair What You Wear (with youtube tutorials and PDF instructions)