Favourite things

Miss Kitty:

Miss Kitty is not my kitty. She belongs to one of our neighbours, I suspect: she’s incredibly friendly and in good health. But we’re friends even so. We first met a year ago when my mom and I were putting up the bird feeder in our garden — all of a sudden this beautiful, grey and silver tabby was bounding across the garden, asking what we were doing, and could she have pets, please? Since then I’d see her a couple of times a week while working in the garden; less during winter of course. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, the first time I was out in my garden this spring she was there investigating my handiwork. She’s grown into her ears since last year, but still she has big beautiful golden eyes. I started calling her ‘Miss Kitty’ to avoid giving her a name, but then that of course became a name in itself. Something about her colouring and eyes makes me think of Takver from The Dispossessed, but that isn’t a very good name for a friendly miss kitty. I’m very glad that Miss Kitty has chosen to visit my garden from time to time — this will suffice until someday, someday, I can have a cat of my own again. If Ursula K Le Guin can say that a cat is the soul of a house, then pretty Miss Kitty can be the soul of my garden.

chocolate helps

When one wakes up in the morning in pain in all of one’s joints; when after an hour even the pain killers aren’t helping; when one doesn’t have a bath in order to soak in and one is not well enough to stand in the shower, what does one do?

One eats chocolate. One drinks hot chocolate. One especially drinks hot chocolate in one’s magical ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good / Mischief managed’ mug. One drinks hot chocolate out of this mug while watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and one eats chocolate whenever one sees a dementor and whenever Professor Lupin gives Harry a piece of chocolate. ‘Eat this. It helps, it really helps.’

Rheumatoid arthritis is frustrating, painful, annoying, draining, tiring. I’ve spent most of the day in bed. I’m about to take more medication, and then I am going to eat chocolate ice cream. Remus Lupin was onto something: If I am going to be miserable, then I am at least going to eat chocolate.

The Icarus Girl

First sentence: ‘”Jess?” Her mother’s voice sounded through the hallway, mixing with the mustiness around her so well that the sound almost had a smell.’

Jessamy is a 9-year-old mystic, daughter of a Nigerian mother and English father. She doesn’t quite fit in anywhere — at home, at school, in England, in Nigeria. When visiting her mother’s family in Nigeria she makes a new friend unlike any other friend she’s had before. Tilly understands her, likes her, is strong and brave and likes to have fun. To Jess’s delight and surprise, her new friend moves to England. But all is not well with Tilly, nor with Jess, and things start to go terribly, terribly wrong.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi was fascinating to read. Oyeyemi seamlessly weaves a child’s imagination with Nigerian and English spirituality, creating a work of magical realism that compels you to keep reading. To be honest, I found The Icarus Girl to be rather creepy, sometimes disturbing. Perhaps I related too much with Jess; perhaps I am so adept at suspending disbelief that I forget to take it up again. But as creepy as I found it, I also enjoyed it. I really liked Jess, and was impressed by how Oyeyemi tapped into a precocious 9-year-old’s mentality. The writing is smooth, effortless. I will definitely keep an eye out for more of Helen Oyeyemi’s novels.

Favourite things

Swans and the sea:

For those who are tuning in or have forgotten: The ‘Favourite Things Friday’ posts are in response to being asked what is my favourite place or thing around Town. I couldn’t decide on any one thing, so instead you get a weekly snapshot of something I particularly love about the town I live. Sometimes they are things I intend to take a picture of, and sometimes, like this one, they happen by pure serendipity.

Renew, reuse, recycle!

We heard about them a year ago.

We’ve received post saying that they were coming.

Earlier this week, the kitchen caddy arrived.

Then the green bins began lining the surrounding streets. When, oh when!, would we receive our own?

Today.

Ros and I have been poring over the new recycling guide that has accompanied the delivery of our new kitchen caddy and green bin. We now have four wheelie bins: Blue for general waste, Grey (Black) for paper and cardboard, Green for cans and plastics, and Brown for food and garden. Food waste can now go in the Brown bin! Even plate scrapings! We have a bin for plastics and tins now! Instead of trekking up to the recycling centre up the road, we can recycle plastic and tins from our own front door — even metal and plastic lids! And we can recycle juice cartons after all — as paper! Oh frabjous day! Calloo, callay!

Perhaps we are a little too excited about recycling. Luckily we are not the only ones. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has a house has been anxiously, eagerly awaiting the arrival of our new bins. You could hear us asking one another excitedly, ‘Has your green bin come yet?’ ‘No, but my neighbour’s has!’ According to the guidebook, we can recycle pretty much everything. How exciting!

Garden: Planting a sunset

Today I planted a sunset in our front garden. I can’t wait for all of the flowers to bloom!

For once the beautiful, clear sunny skies coincided with my day off. I went to the garden centre and bought new gardening gloves as I had worn both of last year’s gloves to tatters, and bought some flowers too. My goal this morning was to focus on the border of the front garden.

So I dug up the border entirely, salvaging the one primrose that managed to survive somehow from last year, and pulling out all of the weeds. Not long after I began, none other than Miss Kitty sidled into our garden. She inspected my handiwork and I assume she approved because she stayed for a few pets, too. I rescued the other four remaining primroses from the pots that had completely gone to weed — the pots I would use for Narcissus and tulip bulbs.

Even though I remembered that I ought to take a ‘before’ photograph, I ultimately forgot in my excitement to start digging. What did I plant in my flower beds? Narcissus, Delia blue red-eye primroses, Delia apricot primroses, and orange-duet violas.

The violas are my new favourites — though I might have to attribute some influence to Patrick Ness, as Viola is such a strong character in his novels. Not all of the violas are blooming, but I expect they will look wonderful alongside the primroses. (Wondering what the blue specks are? Slug repellant — my only weapon against my gardening archnemesis.)

The border isn’t all that exciting until the flowers start blooming, but I’m much happier knowing that it’s done and there are flowers there to greet me when I come home. My next project is going to be the flower bed in the back of this photo, the one under our front window…

State of Wonder

First sentence: ‘The news of Anders Eckman’s death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope.’

Deep in the Amazon jungle, a group of scientists are researching a drug that would revolutionize human fertility. The level of secrecy surrounding the project excludes even the pharmaceutical company that is funding them to truly know how the project is going. Eventually the company sends one of its own scientists down to find out the progress of the drug in person.

Dr. Marina Singh is a pharmacologist, and upon learning of her colleague’s death in the Amazon, she is sent after him. Her employer wants her to finish Eckman’s task of finding out the progress of Dr. Swenson’s miracle drug. Dr. Eckman’s wife wants the details of her husband’s death. Within days Marina is flying to Brazil and the journey she takes into the jungle changes her life forever.

I can’t really summarise State of Wonder by Ann Patchett with any justice. As always when I read Patchett’s novels, I am struck by her lyrical prose, how the experiences of human life and the secrets of the soul unfold with such natural grace. This novel, appearing to move with the steady slowness of the Amazon itself, teems with power and life; it snatches you in its current and carries you away. Read this novel to take a journey through memory and the unknown; to float down the life blood of the world, hearing the buzz of insects, the cries of birds, the calling of the Lakashi; see the drive and sacrifices made in the pursuit of science; to read a tale of loss and discovery.

Spring is in the air…

On my way home today I passed by one of the little garden shops near my house. Already it had a stand out with flowers on display. It being sunny, it being the onset of spring, I could not help but stop. Narcissus! Those tiny little daffodils that Ros was saying she preferred to their larger cousins — I knew she would not object to those in our front garden. Nor the beautiful, purple and orange violas. Nor the primroses. Mentally I filed away which flowers were available and reluctantly tore myself away. First we need to dig up the garden. There needs to be somewhere to plant said flowers.

So yes, dear readers, it is nearing that time of year where you will hear (read?) me wax poetic about playing in the dirt and receive periodic updates about my Victory Garden. As the days continue to lengthen I will be able to work in my garden when I come home from work in the evenings. Maybe Miss Kitty will come round our garden again, maybe I will make some new garden friends. Stay tuned!

(Are you one of my local readers? Come over and play! I will need help digging and clearing out the green house. I have just discovered an amazing recipe for Earl Grey chocolate cake. I will bake it if you help me dig and plant flowers in my front garden.)