Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Letter to Monty 8

Dear Monty,

I am concerned about your rhubarb. I am sorry if my tweet came over a bit sarcastic, I was always told that it is the lowest form of wit. Rhubarb has also been giving me trouble and I don't mean in the gastric sense..ever since I mulched it with municipal compost (peat free). It seems I am not the only one whose rhubarb has suffered in this way. I picked up Growing to a Ripe Old Age by Edward Enfield in Hereford a couple of weeks back when looking for Anne Wareham's book. After laughing a lot and picking up some useful gardening ideas, I came across the bit mentioning this very same problem....'It did not die outright,but it produced thin sickly stalks, so weak that they could not stand upright.'

Why does peat free compost make rhubarb die back ?

I have tried to rescue it because Sue likes a good rhubarb crumble...her dad hates it. (we do love him) I have followed the advice you gave a while ago on GW and have divided it up to try and refresh it.

Rhubarb is comical...I am not sure why, perhaps its the name and its association with 'the bowels'. Now there is another preoccupation of the British which I may write to you about on another occasion.

Thank you for letting me ramble on .

Cheers Monty


Post script

I must confess to you that there are some people who may think that you should read these letters, however, I am perfectly happy to continue writing them even if you never clap eyes on them. I am of no consequence whatsoever in the world of gardening or horticulture...I just inhabit the same planet for the time being.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Letter to Monty 7

Dear Monty,

I don't know if you remember me - but I am Paul and I have a postage stamp sized garden below a coal tip in South Wales.

I wanted to write to you about boundaries, they have been on my mind since Thursday evening when Eleanor Flaherty, artist, filmmaker and friend talked about what our next theme could be in our little art group. I know you love boundaries/hedges.

Have you read The Bad Tempered Gardener by Anne Wareham? Well I have and I identify with a lot of her views on gardening and the gardening industry. I think the frustrations expressed in her book arise with many aspects of this 21st Century life - work, politics, religion.

I have read some of your views on religion which I share, I am a bad tempered Christian. Talk about box hedges - why oh why do we try and stuff awkward messy human beings into boxes and boundaries? Being territorial creates so many problems - yet it still seems to be a fundamental part of who we are, we like to create boundaries. I remember being struck by the open gardens of houses in New Hampshire U.S.A. You could walk from one front garden to another without crossing a wall, fence or hedge. Perhaps they have a confidence which we lack?

I have faith which is boundless and open, I experience it in that way, yet the structure of many 'church' organisations seems to want to contain it in ways that make us live dishonestly. Gardens have imperfections and ugly bits (unless you have pots of money and a garden designer to hand) so do we. I laughed loudly on tuesday night when Eleanor recounted the story of the slaughter of a vicious pheasant. Eleanor is usually a gentle soul, but she became so enraged by the unwanted attentions of a meanacing and persistant cock pheasant in her garden, that she slew him with a wooden sword then stood weeping over its flapping corpse - tears of joy and relief. Alleluiah !

I digress. Boundaries can be beneficial both in the garden and in life - we do need them to feel safe and to keep out pests. It is how what is contained within them is expressed that makes the difference. I want to show that I am weak and vulnerable at times, but I don't then want a list of solutions and rules to provide the 'cure'. I believe the cure comes when we can safely express our fears and insecurities within the hedge of acceptance.

So hedges - for boxing in and keeping things under a lid ? NO. For containing and protecting freedom of expression ? YES.

Post script.

We need plant knowledge (we are told) in order to make a garden - well perhaps, but I can't help feeling that knowledge kills creativity. To quote you Monty....'I have no more botany than a bird '
And to quote Anne Wareham .... '.... it echoes my own intuitive sense that the pleasure we find in scent, sights and sounds goes deep.'

Cheers again Monty...do let me know if you are fed up of my letters.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Letter to Monty 6

Dear Montague,

I apologise now for another bleak letter - it's winter so I thought you would understand.

Rat blood in the chicken house - blood blister on my lip having been headbutted by my enthusiastic whippet, and a son with a sore throat who is now unable to take enthusiastic whippet for a walk....and we are supposed to be going to Hereford to meet my daughter and son-in-law for lunch. Do you believe in purpose? I am lost to the footsteps of God.

I often question why we are here in this Welsh valley which is sometimes as black as coal. What is there for us in these hills and stones? Where is the harvest - the first fruits ? I remember sitting in the ICA cafe in London in the early eighties hearing a voice that said there would be a harvest...then I thought it would be to do with being who I am ...an artist with an artists mind on the world. God knows. Instead I got a job which at times has nearly killed any sense of living/being alive in me - but I realise that this is the case for so many people living in this age.

I am who I am despite being known as Paul the 'Nurse' by most people in this community. There is however a voice which still speaks - it is still alive despite being drowned every now and then.

We did make it to Hereford and had our lunch in a church where we talked of being real - being the failing people that we are and celebrating those who do the real things of life - work - get tired - look after family - look after their environment - walk the dog - make gardens, music, art, money ? argh how I hate the stuff...bring back bartering.

Monty I confess to you now that I crave attention, love and acceptance - it shouldn't surprise me that I do so, perhaps it is something peculiar to all of us even if we find it difficult to admit. Writing a blog, 'speaking engagements' making paintings - all symptoms. I love to be needed and wanted, to be useful to have a purpose. There is so much made of 'fulfilling your purpose' today that if you get it wrong you feel such a complete failure. Life is simpler than that. It's not about chasing things. The 'Guru' books question whether you are fulfilling your destiny - it makes me laugh because my ultimate destiny is death along with everyone else in this life. But eternity, that is another matter all together.

I now realise that I am not going to be the great speaker, artist, teacher that I thought I was destined to be ! Instead I am fulfilled by the sound of a robin singing, even on a damp dark morning, or by seeing the sun between the trees on a frosty morning - knowing everything will pass away all effort, striving, all fame and fortune. When the sun lights up a garden none of these things matter.

Cheers Monty.

Paul (I will have to stop reading Ecclesiastes)

Monday, 9 January 2012

Letter to Monty Don 5

Dear Monty,

Just noticed that my letters are a bit heavy - must be the weather, so to lighten things up a bit I thought I would share my drawings of vegetables. These are no ordinary vegetables, they were a gift from another artist and gardener so they were very precious things.

Giving produce or seed is so much more profound than giving any other kind of present don't you think?

Cheers Monty,

Paul the still deluded 'artist' and 'gardener'.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Letter to Monty 4

Dear Monty,

Did you know that Emily Dickinson the poet used dashes as punctuation? It is an alternative simplistic form of punctuation that I have always used in my journal - because I know my punctuation and grammar leave a lot to be desired.

The sun shines in the 'studio' filtered through the 'Italian' trees. - lighting up Boris the Simmental Bull. Framed in plaster now drying - like a vision - a moment of clarity.
Life is poised on a knife-edge. The distractions of wants, needs and rights cloud our days with a fog. I struggle through looking for the light. The jewel of it shines through from time to time.
This is my soul laid bare on this earth I came from - from dust I came to dust I return. Boris is an expression of where I came from and where I go - the cattle on a thousand hills.

My surname means castrated bull ! That is how I feel in this life...castrated by a job which is itself castrated by tick boxes and audit. What I am is a collection of experience and memory, of poetry, art, conflict and faith. Cows in some cultures are sacred. Boris is my sacred bull - he is the truth of my life. There is an honesty to working the land which is lost in our materialistic age. I cannot work the land, but I can garden and paint and carve plaster.

Cheers Monty.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

letter to Monty Don 3

Dear Monty,

I am so sorry for leaving it so long since I last wrote to you in my journal.

2 days of emptiness - my emptiness and bankruptcy. Today victory over the negative thoughts. Who knows the mind of God ?
Who has all the answers? Amen - beginning and end. End to arguments over what is right and wrong, teaching and practice, end to division, end to wars, end to hatred - my hatred, my jealousy, my selfishness. End to what I am now....what I will be God knows.

Will there be an end to gardens ? Art will fade away, research and knowledge will fade away, material things will fade away....it is all foolishness...it is all temporary. Perhaps gardens are the only things we make which speak through the foolish fog of our lives. Perhaps gardens contain a kind of wisdom - not the grand plans so much as the act of gardening- wrestling with nature,soil and plants all by the sweat of our brow.

There was a garden in the East.

Cheers Monty.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

3rd september 2011 2nd letter

Dear Monty,

'The Glory of the Lord has risen upon thee' just listening to Messiah by Handel.

I looked at the garden this morning after watching GW last night- and it looks scruffy and without merit in comparison with your garden !!! Then in my jealousy I said to myself- well that Monty Don and Sir Roy Strong can afford to have 'proper' gardens....I thought this despite hearing you say that it can be as joyous having a small patch as rolling acres! Then worse than this I thought huh, 'Jewel' garden that's very pretentious naming a garden in the first place !
Oh see how I slide into a mean spirited mindset....then after feeding the chickens, the clouds lifted- the sunlight breaks through just for a moment and lights up my'Italian' garden...and little jewels appear...new cystus flowers just opening....literally like small jewels in amoungst the green...and the rose beyond....scruffy roses...scruffy beyond !- but jewels.

I too have a jewel garden and I can see what a privilage it is to have a small scruffy patch of ground...with robin song, frog croak and chicken cluck.

Here endeth this mornings lesson. Amen.

Cheers Monty,
Paul the deluded artist and gardener.