Thursday, March 6, 2008


The snail which failed to impress Ming has left its flowerpot. I marked it with enamel paint and chucked it over the wall.

If it returns - I'll recognise it.

It would have been nice to throw it into Mrs Rustbridger's garden.

Ming saw me tempted.

He saw me not succumb.

A fascinating example - he said - of earthly restraint.

(Apparently, Martians are forever chucking snails over each other's walls.)

Later, I overheard Mrs Rustbridger chatting with the postman. He thinks the Armandii belongs to her.

"I'm impressed," he said. "My evergreen clematis never flowers like that!"

I held my breath.

"I expect it's the combination of soil and position," she said, proudly.

I expect it is.

Nearly all its leaves are obscured by blossoms.

I'm glad the postman likes it.

I asked Ming if he would help me empty the compost bin. Instead of answering, he asked how old I would like the children to be today.

At first, I didn't see the connection . . .

Martians, it turns out, are strong and willing helpers when they are twenty-one.

They filled three wheelbarrows with dense, black, compost.

Ming took two to his allotment. The children spread the rest round the apple tree.

I took mugs of coffee to them while they worked.

They tramped compost across the kitchen floor and the living room carpet when they'd finished.

Then they asked if they could be ten years old at bedtime and would I read to them?

Pleasure warmed me. It's nice to be wanted!

_ _ _ _ _

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For Tomorrow


kate said...

You remind me of Elizabeth von Arnim. You'd like her, if you don't already know about her. I'm sure about this.

kate said...

It took me a little while to find this, but I finally did: the Rose Cottage garden were many snails, and Jen, not knowing what to do with them, but sure they oughtn't to be left where they were, collected them at odd moments into her skirt, and carrying them carefully to the low wall gently tipped them over into the churchyard.

At first she had misgivings, but soon got used to it. The snails had to go somewhere, and where else could they go? The other side of the churchyard wall was the one really convenient spot. Nobody could see them. They were hidden snugly in long grass behind a tombstone; and while snails, she had read, were death to gardens, they couldn't possibly do any harm to a place so dead already as a churchyard. James wouldnm't mind, she was sure, even if he saw them, which he never would unless he went deliiberately to look, and God, Who had made snails, couldn't, for that reason, she reflected, mind either.

So over the wall they were gently tipped; and the heap grew and grew, because it was a nice cool thing collecting snails in the shade, and whenever she wanted a rest from digging she went and fetched a few more skirtsful. And since from the getting rid of snails to the getting rid of other superfluities there is but a step, she soon, becoming callous, proceeded to eggshells and sardine-tins; and it was when she was disposing of her third sardine-tin that Mr. Devenish saw her.

--From Father (1931, E. von Arnim)

Esther Montgomery said...

Kate - I didn't know this - and am so glad that I do now.

The extract you have given is beautiful - absolutely brilliant writing.

I'll have to find and read the whole thing.

And I truly appreciate that you typed it out.

Thank you!


kate said...

Believe me I wouldn't have typed it out if I'd had another option. :) That one (Father) is hardish to find (in digital or paper form); easier ones include The Enchanted April, The Caravaners, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, etc. Project Gutenberg has several online texts -- I recommend beginning (if you're so inclined) with The Enchanted April, although it's not specifically garden-related. (If you hadn't a garden of your own, I'd push you toward German Garden, Solitary Summer, or Father; but you're not so flora-starved to need those emergently.). I think you'll also see quite a bit of Ming in many of von Arnim's husband characters (the most Mingish of whom are based on -- you guessed it -- actual husbands). :)

Esther Montgomery said...

Kate - I've ordered 'The Enchanted April' and 'Elizabeth and her German Garden' from our library.

I've also ordered 'Father' - but that will have to come from outside the county so it will take longer to arrive.

Thanks for the recommendations.