Mud, mud, glorious mud

They came and started the transformation of my garden today. The existing large and, sadly, defunct pond will be moved and the shrubs flanking it on one side have been taken away as, alas, have the extraneous conifers along the back fence. Don’t worry. We’ll place them with something nicer when we change the fence which si going to be made (hopefully) Raffles-proof. The things we do to accommodate our dogs!

The second picture is the floor by the door in my kitchen. Horrendous, isn’t it? It’s the result of the garden being, yet again, churned up. This will be my main job tomorrow: cleaning the clay mud off this floor while the others go off to Howarth’s in search of clarinet goodies. I can only give thanks that this isn’t carpet in this year of ever-present mud. I know that the mud eventually dries enough to vacuum it up but I’m remembering how much becomes ingrained into the carpet fibres. Incidentally, we were warned about riven slate floors shredding our tights and socks, and that does seem to be happening.


My singing teacher tells me I must take a day off to rest my voice which, even to my tin ear, does sound frazzled. That’s fine but how on earth am I going to address the outstanding issues, and there are many of them, in a week, without a pop-up tame accompanist? If I fail it won’t be through lack of hard work, apparently, which is a comfort. To a degree.


My cousin Winky sent me a bouquet to thank me for a “memorable,” week in India, which is nice. Unfortunately the hand-tied posy contained some lilies to which, I think, I’m pretty allergic. A hot tip for anyone in the situation is to cut off the stamens as they are unveiled by the opening flower. I have been too late to do this today and I’m very allergic and sniffly tonight as well as STILL exhausted. Lilies are also very toxic to cats, by the way. Did you know that?



I am not feeling great this evening after a run through of my diploma songs which, whilst not perfect, didn’t seem as downright bad to me as to the person accompanying me. This experience has been enough to shake my already fragile self confidence to the core, despite what I said last night. Oh, you hadn’t realised?

I have shed quite a few tears and been reassured by all sorts of people and sung well (I think) in choir practice. Tomorrow is another day. Well, it will have to be, won’t it?

In other news, Nathan and Chris have been doing preparatory work before ripping up most of our garden and putting something more non-gardener friendly in its place. Don’t get me wrong: I love flowers, I just have this awful propensity to kill everything I touch. We’ll be having a new artificial lawn and some flower beds to be planted in due course.

Sorting out the garden entails hiring in a mini digger, which could potentially damage out lovely new slate patio so Chris and Nathan have spent two days building this ramp, which successfully carried the mini digger over to the grass without damaging the slate.

I think this custom-built ramp is rather a beautiful thing, actually, and I’d love to keep hold of it after they have finished, if possible, not that I have any idea where we could keep it. It makes our garden mobility friendly. It’s a Reasonable Adjustment in the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 that seems appropriate.

Taking down the Leylandii


The next stage of the house project is to reconstruct the garden so that the panorama from our kitchen is lush and green.

We are hoping to have good quality artificial turf laid both because it is low maintenance and doesn’t need mowing, feeding or weeding but also because the dogs have a habit of charging up the garden in pursuit of some imaginary prey and then bringing mud and debris back into the house on their paws on their return. It’s not for nothing that November until about April is called “mud season.” But we’ll always have dogs, I hope, so have to find a way of limiting the aftermath.

So before we move the pond and have the turf laid, we had to undertake the messy task of  cutting back the overgrown and unmaintained Leylandii that provided screening from the small private estate at the bottom of our garden.

We live in a conservation area that runs to the back of our house but the tall trees around us have tree protection orders on them. Leylandii are generally thought of as herbaceous vermin – there are several legal disputes recorded about them – but we checked with the local council just in case. In fact there’s a young oak tree growing to the left of the Leylandii which needs pruning a bit but we have to wait until permission comes through from the council otherwise we could face a very heavy fine. I’m glad of the Tree Protection Orders because I love to look out of my windows and see mature trees, but they can make managed maintenance a little cumbersome.

Anyway, once they were pruned, the absence of Leylandii showed a hole in that treacherous willow tree that has cost us thousands of pounds in extra underpinning all because our neighbour refuses to cut it down or back properly. It has sentimental value, he says, as it was planted there over 50 years ago by his son, but the fact is that willows do not belong near houses or on top of hills. They suck all the water away from everywhere and cause subsidence.

The next task is to move the pond, first removing all the poisonous fag ends tossed onto our garden by thoughtless builders. After the lawn will come some raised beds and, next year, some flowers. Aw!

Fresh orange


Well, it’s not quite the clutter-free space it should be but this is the view from my utility room where, this morning, as every Sunday morning, I tackled the second tranche of ironing of the week, whilst listening to #TheArchers omnibus.

I liked the sun beyond the doors but I also liked the orange things that I have scattered around my blue and grey kitchen to provide a contrast.

The kitchen roll holder, the box for all the wires and the bin are all Wesco from Germany but that Kik-step had to be ordered especially from Cramer in America. I wanted an orange one, you see, and the UK company makes only black, white, red and blue. These things are important.

I’ve always been a fan of orange. It’s deeply unsophisticated as colours go, but it’s so cheery.

Mum! Shivaji’s staring at me.


He’s not made of gold. He’s a plaster statue painted with gold paint and I’m not even sure how we acquired him. I think it might have been on the trip to India just after we we married, when the young men of my Grandmother’s village took the OH to an illicit beer shop whilst I stayed making conversation with my aunts.

The village was, even then, very strongly BJP, (Bharatiya Janata Party,) and, although at the time I did not detect much of the stirring Hindu chauvinism and nationalism, the fact that the young men of the village were coalescing around a youth representative was indicative of what was to come.

So this bust of Shivaji, the Maratha hero and scourge of thew Mughals and British, was presented to my English OH, and has sat on one of our Billy bookcases for more than 20 years.

At first I was quite proud to have him up there watching over us as a reminder of the power of intellectual strength and courage and sheer bloodymindedness. Now, though, I’m not so sure.

A few years ago, a second cousin of mine who is quite famous as an educational standup was giving one of his lectures at the diamond wedding anniversary party of my aunt and uncle, who lived in an historic castle in the countryside. I didn’t catch all that he was saying, but even then, translating for my English speaking cousins, I was quite disturbed by the jingoism of the sentiment he was stirring up. People lapped it up, of course, which is one reason why he is so popular, but I was really shocked.

As you know I visit India regularly and every time I go I see more nationalism and chauvinism and the strengthening of Hindu first policies which don’t chime well with atheist, liberal, feminist me. Of course India is by no means unique in this tendency to blame The Other for anything that goes wrong, but I am witnessing and hearing about the increased marginalisation of minorities and I’m really disturbed by it.

To my dismay, Maharashtra voted for ever more right wing parties in the elections last year. To say one could compare it to a UKIP/BNP coalition is probably an exaggeration, but at the time the rhetoric made it feel a bit like that. One manifestation of this in Maharashtra is the increase in BJP flags everywhere and that major rail termini and airports are renamed after this Maratha nationalist hero, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

We have taken all our stuff out of storage and we’re starting to arrange the objects d’art around our new space, and Shivaji glares at me from my sideboard. MsDD often complains that his gaze follows us imperiously around the room, and it would appear that he is watching our every move like some sort of gimlet-eyed raptor.

I’m not quite sure what to do about it. I am daily more uneasy at the prominence of this symbol of Hindu nationalist ascendency in my new kitchen but I’m not quite comfortable with chucking him in a skip, partly because he makes a good story.

A disclaimer here: I don’t pretend in any way to be an expert in Indian and Marathi politics and I am fully aware of how sensitive a subject this can be, especially when discussed by an outsider with the reviled “Western Values.” All I’m doing is saying how I feel, how uneasy it makes me, how alarmed I am at the chauvinist retrenchment I witness, and I’m trying to do it with a bit of honesty and lack of hubris. Which might not go amiss elsewhere.

Incidentally, that village, that I first visited when I was about three years old (my mum had won some money on the football pools which had enabled her to visit her family for the first time in about four years) was really rural and unremarkable. It is currently proposed as the site for Pune’s next international airport. Progress.


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