I am very excited. There is dirt in my nails that no amount of scrubbing will remove, and in the nicest possible sense of the word, I am filthy.
We tell ourselves that nothing has changed. That we have achieved very little and our goals are as far off in the yonder as they ever where. Because we are haunted by the sentiment that life must move on, we suffer a shiver of disappointment when we look back and see that despite monumental daily
effort, life today is just what is was then and life tomorrow will be exactly the same because we do not have the will, the money, or the wherewithal to make it different.
But we do ourselves an injustice when we fail to stand back and look at the minutiae of our lives from a different perspective. When we do not recognise that every teeny weeny teeny step towards our domestic goals are steps in the right direction. Steps towards a future where the front garden is awash with lavender, the kitchen isn’t quite as dilapidated as it is today, and there is at last a sensible place to store shoes you had forgotten you owned…
Mark and I lived in this house together for seven years before he upped sticks. But in that time we never once shared a bottle of wine in the garden. We didn’t peruse garden centres looking for the perfect container plants, eat bowls of strawberries decked with home-grown mint, nor plan for the day our new baby would want to scatter sand in every potted rose we had taken the time to nurture with the potassium enriched blessing that is a mouldy banana. Indeed for seven years the backyard was a wilderness we only ventured into to put out the bins or hang out the washing. I don’t know why. I only know that the garden wasn’t part of the comfortable rut we had buried ourselves neck deep in…
Now it is what it will be until Summer brings it to glorious life, or a lottery win scatters pound notes like seeds into the terracotta pots I have buried in mud for three months at a time to age them. And yesterday I found myself embarking on Project Lavender Postage Stamp. Re-inventing the front garden to tell the world that here within lives a Vintage Housekeeper in her glorious prime, not a woman so self pitying, she wouldn’t care if weeds grew up the walls and blocked out every inch of light, while cobwebs spun through her hair and her Babba found himself the next big thing in feral kids…
And so it was that I found myself sitting on a flowery cushion in the weed strewn earth of the teeniest patch
of garden probably on the planet. Without my lilac gardening gloves
on. Or even trousers tucked into my socks so worms wouldn’t wiggle their way
up my thighs. Digging with my bare hands at the roots of the weed that
has had me harassed for twelve months, and saying Good Morning to every
stranger who passed me. Once tugging at the roots of a particuarly mean looking specimen so hard I tumbled backwards, legs splayed, just as the vicar walked briskly past beaming a great big "Howdy!" at me, while I struggled to recover from both the indignity and indeed the ludicrous matter of a man of the cloth throwing American greetings around like so many dandelions.
But mad vicars aside my point is this: I keep finding myself feeling edgy. Feeling as though the past twelve months have given me an opportunity to prove a point and I have nothing to show for it. But it isn’t true. Baby steps have proved to be huge strides in disguise. Here is the woman who last year would have screamed in horror at the thought of perching her bottom in mud. Who felt exhausted at the very idea of pulling out a single weed and simply didn’t understand the miracle that is gardening. Even on a tiny scale. Here is a women who, in so many respects, got brave…
So now at dusk I light a tiny collection of tea lights in storm lanterns scattered around the garden, and I wander about plucking out snails, pinching out unruly shoots and choosing to miss Coronation Street for the bliss that is watching things I have planted spring to life, before regretfully putting my precious auriculas to bed in the laundry room and whispering goodnight to my baby tomatoes. New rituals that are mine and mine alone.
My fingernails are dirty. I have a new leather-bound parchment papered journal ready to document the plans I am making for Project Postage Stamp, the blackbirds have found themselves flummoxed by a protective layer of pretty broken vintage crockery around the base of my plants and I am learning that just like in nature there is no hurrying what will not be hurried. Not puddle jumping three year olds, splintered hearts or a decent bowl of soup….
Take baby steps. Find a way of marking your progress and mix yourself a Mojito in quiet celebration of all that will, no doubt, one day be.
Oh and find a place to store your shoes because there is no hope for the kitchen.