Sunday, 26 April 2015


Dear Monty,

Warm days soon to be turned to cold and wet - hard to believe on such a beautiful day - but the satellites tell us so.

I delight in the garden in spring, it takes you low to the ground as everything happens there first before the leaves fill out the trees and shrubs.

The spring flower succession has improved year on year here since I have allowed self seeding and natural multiplication. When too many plants start to crowd, that is when I move them to new positions. As the daffs die back - violets bloom in a sudden abundance with forgotten forget-me-nots springing up where I did not plant them !

Cowslips also surprise me as they create a tapestry among older plantings of aquilegia and flag irises - it is just thrilling because they arise from what was seemingly dead ground.

The 'lawn' daises wake up and the quaking grass sprouts.

Common blue, speckled wood, comma and peacock butterflies all on the wing. A buzzard overhead today, followed by a red kite. Yesterday it was the peregrine falcon - so great to see and hear it again. All of the garden and woodland birds fell silent and fled the exposed feeder on the budded maple.

It is such a privilege to have the time to mooch in your own garden - to look and listen, to move some plants and leave others to see what happens. Then just sit with a cuppa and a book - this time a re-read of your 'A French Garden Journey' - read with fresh eyes, I had forgotten La Vallee. Your descriptions conjuring pictures in my minds-eye that could even be applied here below the coal tip.


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Fire and ashes

Dear Monty,


Like a dream
Lit up in orange
Blast of heat making waves out of the plastic fence
Sparks like fiery falling stars litter the sky

Acrid smoke makes noxious clouds
The cracking of dry wooden bones splitting our ears

Gas cylinders hiss then throw a torch of blue flame toward the house
No-one hurt in this fire thank God
Unlike the hurt I caused by my own explosion
Damaging as any physical fire.



Kindness, gentleness and self control
These I lack
All I have is ashes.


(The fire damaged our neighbours outbuildings and hedges and the gas bottles didn't explode because the pressure blew the valves up in the air and threw them into his garden!)

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Hills Monty, hills, portrait and violets


A day in the hills above the castle of the night.

 Violets in the pots

Portrait in the making


Monday, 6 April 2015

Living, dying, willow and eggs (a letter to you and Giles Fraser)

Dear Monty (and Giles),

We all love spring, it heaves us out of the dead dreary winter.
It is no coincidence that Easter is fixed at this point of the year with its lengthening days and warmth bringing  hope to the bones. But is the festival Christianity celebrates really all about life ? As usual I've thought on these things over the last few days.

30/3/15 Storms blow around the house. Does Christ's death have anything to teach me ? If Christ had not died I would still be dead and not really understand the death that I lived, although vaguely aware of it in the injustice and horror committed by man upon man and woman and the environment. I would be dead to a life that is held in a secure place not affected by the vagaries of weather or politics or doubt or our incessant territorial ism. It is a death that brings peace. I realise that this can sound exclusive but this peace is truly inclusive. Peace wrought through a death I could not die - this brings me hope that life can be a positive force not a damaging one.

The wind will cause damage as the climate is churning its churning change upon us. Death is important to me - it is more important than I can express adequately in words. Christ spoke over Jerusalem saying ' If you, only you could see this day what would bring you peace' - and what was that ? It was submission to the death of the flesh and blood body with all of its wants, problems and limitations.

My mind is so full of crap - so filled with the lies of what will bring me peace - we are told that more wealth, better homes, better cars, better sex and better national security will bring peace - while there are those who are faced daily with death and poverty, yet we continually think we need more wealth despite already being wealthy beyond the dreams of many.This imbalance cannot ultimately create a state of commonality - a utopia. I honestly do not know how to step out of my greedy thinking  - apart from stepping into Christ's death - and with death to myself comes liberation but not perfection - yet- that comes in a future I honestly do not understand and seems impossible to my logical mind now, but it is implanted there waiting for the time to burst into life. Don't ask me how !

4/4/15 Brimstone - red kite and buzzard mobbed by carrion crows. Green finch, great tit, blue tit , small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies dancing in the warm air.
Resurrection - I'm not sure what it is - plants lay dormant and reappear in spring - we die and disintegrate but pass on our genetic memory to our sons and daughters. The word became flesh in order to die so that seeds can be planted ready to grow to full potential. The word still exists, it has been spoken - still has a voice though cannot be seen in the flesh - can be heard and seen in what remains of the natural world - if we have the eyes and ears to see and hear him in the songs of the birds that remain.

5/4/15 The pond in Craig-y-Nos was full of mating toads and strings of eggs. 2-3 males to every female. Amazing sight to see. Gnats are flying in small clouds back lit by the sun in the garden. Inspired by the willow arches in Craig-y-Nos, I have decided that these rather than dead fences shall form the cloisters in the coal tip garden. Too late for this season because they can only be planted between October and March - that is if I am still trundling along on this planet !

It is always hard to imagine the trees in full leaf and the border plants filling the garden. Just now at this point of writing a raven calls overhead and cohorts of motorcyclists rumble up the valley for their Easter weekend meet up in Mid Wales.

Another warm day - brimstone days, birdsong days - blue hills days.

Giles Fraser of the Guardian writes more eloquently of Easter than I ever could - find him on Twitter @giles_fraser . Here's to you Giles.