Pastel colours in a late spring herbaceous border

late spring exuberance

late spring exuberance

The iris is that old favourite Jane Phillips, one of the few good garden plants growing here when I arrived over forty years ago. The white sweet rocket (hesperis matronalis) is a bit battered by the wind but on a calm sunny evening it fills the garden with scent. The centre of the bed is lacking colour this month because the plants died during the winter and I am still dithering about replacing them.

Next month I shall need to trim the hedges but for now they are resplendent in their spring-green foliage.

photo copyright Lynne Revette Butler

I’m bored with being “pigeonholed”

These are some of the definitions of the verb “pigeonhole”  – classify,  categorize, compartmentalize,   characterize,  label,  brand,  tag,  typecast

I can still remember the first time that while I was shopping on the Internet  a message appeared saying (approximately)

“buy just 9 more items and we will  make recommendations for your future purchases; we will know what you want ”

At first I thought this seemed quite clever of them because I frequently go through hours of inner turmoil trying to work out what I want. Soon it was only necessary to buy one product before I was told not only what I might like to buy next but what other people who had bought the same kettle, DVD, ink cartridge etc. had gone on to buy afterwards. Then I was asked not just to provide feedback on my purchases, which I considered a perfectly acceptable request, laudable even, but for feedback on their recommendations.  At this point I cried “enough” and checked every ‘don’t send me’  box I could find to stop companies from either putting me in a category or guiding me towards membership of another one by bombarding me with information about allegedly comparable shoppers.

I once agreed to take part in an on-street survey about the clothing and food shops I used and the lifestyle/hobby magazines I either bought or just read on a regular basis; the participants were to be rewarded with an analysis of their lifestyle group. I took part for three reasons a) my lunch companion was late arriving b) the whole idea was so absurd it was strangely appealing and c) because I felt sorry for the poor woman trying to fulfil her daily quota in a frankly hostile environment. However, after five minutes she decided I was having a laugh at her expense and deleted my profile.  Why? Presumably because the program did not allow for small grandmas who arranged flowers to also ride powerful motorbikes, had no way of scoring the combination of “The English Home”  and “Ms. Magazine”   or cheap denim jeans from M & S with handbags from Smythson.  I was messing with her tick-boxes, it didn’t compute.

I enjoy preparing food for others to eat, I like sliding between crisp, fresh sheets I have washed and ironed,  but, if the call comes, you’ll find me marching banner in hand to defend the right of other women to abstain from these activities without having to justify themselves. I can campaign to stop marine pollution and, in the comfort of my own home, get more than a little merry on a good malt whisky; these things are not mutually exclusive.

I feel I am increasingly expected to fit someone else’s narrow vision of me, that we have not made the expected progress since the 1960’s  when I was burning bras and challenging stereotypes.   If you read my A to Z posts you will know that I do not discuss my creative writing with local friends ; this post was partly prompted by the incredulous reaction of a local lady when I broke my own rule and gave her a full answer to “what are you doing now?” “All the same old things plus I’m working on the second draft of my manuscript”  was clearly not the right answer.

Is it just because I have lived through the 1960’s into my own sixties that I feel abused by society’s continuing apparent need  to pigeonhole me?  The one notable exception is the splendid insanity of Twitter  where I willingly pigeonholed myself in only 140 characters; sadly this does not allow me the opportunity of saying that I have gone back to my  abandoned teach yourself basic Italian course in the hope of understanding  the two, hopefully charming, Italian gentlemen who decided to follow me and who I followed back because it seemed rude not to.

Iris Florentina with raindrops

The spring flowers in my rather exposed country garden are suffering from the cold, wet, windy weather so I am picking more than usual for cut-flower arrangements indoors.

fleur de lys 1

outside with raindrops

The rhizomes of Iris Florentina (now, apparently, properly called Iris Germanica florentina) are the source of “Orris Root”, once widely used in herbal medicine, but now chiefly used in the production of perfumes.

fleur de lys 2

newly picked, in the greenhouse

The flowers have their own delicate scent but the lily-of-the-valley are overpowering it out in the garden.

perfection 6 hours later, ready to be permanently captured in the dry, warm darkroom

All photographs copyright Lynne Revette Butler

Is angst-free writing ever any good?

Earlier this year, whilst sitting in a waiting room after arriving much too early for a hospital appointment, I had just begun to read my newly purchased issue of a writing magazine when details of a mini-poetry competition caught my eye.  I have never entered a poetry competition, in fact I have not entered any kind of creative writing competition since I left school, but  writing “8 lines incorporating foreign words and phrases”  seemed within my capabilities so I pulled out a pen and the appointment letter from my bag and  less than five minutes later I had written the following lines on the back of the envelope.

Une Visite To The Café

This café looks familiar, I’m getting déjà vu

I think I came here with mon père or was it avec tu

Mon Dieu, it’s that rude garçon who fondled my cheveux

Well if he touches it again I’ll poke him in les yeux

I don’t know what to order, perhaps some fruits de mer

Followed by du canard with lots of pommes de terre

I’ll nibble on some fromage, swig champagne with my brie

Then, when I’m feeling très joyeux, I’ll try that Maître d’

I couldn’t bring myself to the point of actually submitting the mini-poem for the competition and it has taken me weeks to understand why. I was not concerned about rejection of my writing; hundreds of people must enter these competitions every month and only one can win. I was not fearing humiliation as they would be most unlikely to print “the standard of this month’s entries was very high except for the appalling rubbish submitted by Lynne Revette Butler” next to the winning poem; only those involved with judging the competition would  know if I had somehow embarrassingly  misinterpreted the instructions. Eventually I worked out the cause of my reluctance;  insufficient angst during the creative process was to blame. In fact no angst about the content of these lines, not even the slightest trace of it, had disturbed my mind during those few minutes sat in the waiting-room chair or subsequently. I was happy with it from day one. My anxiety  over submitting my poem was due to my lack of anxiety while writing it.

Is this a common feeling if you have not sat up into the early hours with your red pen?  Yes, I know I’m only talking about eight lines of  nonsense, but I cannot get past the feeling that I simply did not suffer enough when I wrote them.

The Restoration of a Gertrude Jekyll Garden

I recently visited the garden of the Manor House at Upton Grey, designed by Gertrude Jekyll  in 1908 when she was 65.

By the time Rosamund and John Wallinger bought the Manor House in 1984 the garden was little more than an unkempt jungle; it is now considered by many to be the most accurate restoration of a Jekyll garden in existence.  My photographs show the burgeoning green growth of spring;  for photographs taken in summer and details about visiting the garden please use this link to the Wallinger’s website

The Yew Tree is thought to be over 2,000 years old; the close-up shows a hollow centre and new outer growths of the trunk as described in my earlier post Y is for Yew Trees.

View towards the Rope Walk

The Nuttery

The Nuttery

View from The Tennis Lawn

Formal Garden from The House

Formal Garden from The House

The Yew Tree

The Yew Tree

Wild Garden Pond with Ancient Yew at centre back of photograph

Wild Garden Pond with Ancient Yew at centre back of photograph

Differences; my discarded “D” post

This is a post I  wrote  for  “D” in the A to Z challenge but I thought the link was rather tenuous and used the piece about writing a Diary instead.  

Whilst editing my manuscript  I noticed that I have unknowingly fallen into the bad habit of using the same word for slightly different meanings rather than using one of the alternatives.  Was I surprised or amazed? According to my dictionaries these words are interchangeable but apparently this was not always the case.

An old anecdote about Dr. Samuel Johnson is a good illustration of this point.  When his wife found him kissing one of the female domestic staff she said “I am surprised.” In response the Doctor said “No, I am surprised, you are amazed.”  Presumably he meant that he had been “caught unawares,”  been “taken by surprise,”  whilst his wife was “taken aback,”  felt “bowled over and flabbergasted.”

Nuances between words in the English language (as taught during my schooldays) are being lost and increasingly one word covers all situations; does this matter when new words to describe our possessions, emotions and actions are entering our vocabulary at a rapid rate? If my grandchildren ever want to experience the full  joy of reading classic literature from past centuries I think it does matter for, rather than just having to look up an occasional unknown word, they may struggle to comprehend the author’s meaning at all.

I know the difference between saying “that’s old-fashioned”  and “that’s so not modern, grandma.” The difference is about 50 years.