Lost and Found

St_Eanswythe_FolkestoneIt’s been a death-intensive year for my family. After Dad dying in January, my much-loved Uncle Bill died a couple of weeks ago. His funeral was last Thursday at a pretty church in Hemel Hempstead.

The ‘moor’ of Boxmoor is a small green space on the edge of an ever-growing town that has swallowed up the cottages and cowslips of my Mum’s 1930s childhood. When I was small, heading to the millpond by the canal with a fishing net, it was a wild expanse of trees. Probably with bears.

So it feels timely that a poem I sent to the fun Verbatim Poetry site back in the summer inspired by, yes, death, has just been posted. The Verbatim Poetry idea is to add punctuation and spacing on to non-poetic text, from ‘road signs to shampoo bottles.’ It is, I warn you, addictive. As well as editing any text in front of me, I now scan it for verse potential, which often means talking aloud to myself in shops and other public places.

I took my poem – Floral Tributes – from the excellent and informative handbook produced by the Natural Death Centre.

Up until today I felt I’d lost my regular blogging ability. The Weekly Blog Club was such a wonderful impetus.

Now found: my own much-needed ‘just get on with it and don’t rely on wonderful Janet E Davis to encourage you’ push to post regularly again.

By the way: the photo is a different churchyard: St Eanswythe in Folkestone on a summer’s day. Definitely my favourite saint with superpowers as she made water run up hill.

Here is a wonderful description of another favourite and local to me cemetery, with some stunning photos – the gloriously gothic Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park: visited by The Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life on a a misty winter morning. Beautiful and moving. And that’s enough death, thanks.

Guerilla Garden Grows

It’s almost a year since I mentioned my forbidden garden: the plants in pots I’ve smuggled on to the roof. Here it is today, on a murky Tower Hamlets morning.

It’s growing. There’s a leggy hydrangea that had been given up for dead, not far off opening into handfuls of white blossom. Sweet peas are climbing up a thriving bougainvillea among the violas.  I bought that for a pound, to use as an attractive stick, as the stall holder said it had had it. It’s a bit of an interloper in my urban cottage garden but can only add to the life among the bricks and concrete.

The bright pink pelargonium is part of an original more than 16 years old: it sat on a Barbican  balcony all that time until my daughter’s father brought it here a few months ago. The white peony smells sweet and delicious: my husband bought it for our 4th wedding anniversary (‘flowers and fruit’) and was disappointed that it wasn’t the blowsy red dramatic version I remember from my gran’s garden. I think it’s perfect.

A constant supply of ants covered the three tight peony buds and I have to confess to some ignorant attempts at formic cleansing,involving dregs of coffee cups. Then we found out they are needed to open the buds. Well, there’s a thing.

The peony is next to a rose of almost blue, from Watney Market, some fading snapdragons and more sweet peas: my favourite flower (apart from all the others.) It’s the first year I’ve kept them alive so long, on a roof blasted by wind and scorched by sun.

I still have to wash the bay leaves very, very thoroughly, as  various people who wander the roof still see a public urinal sign that’s invisible to me. The caretaker is still turning a blind eye and the bees are back in force.

I set up my wobbly wooden table to write. I’ve reached an understanding with the lone magpie who hovers around, explaining that I am not superstitious and so will not say good morning to him. The peregrines that usually roost over the way don’t seem to be around this year. I blame the invading parakeets. But there’s a single blackbird too, at dusk, with the loveliest song.



Digital on, real life off


Floral_door_St_Bartholomew_the_Great_KarenJKHartCafe_window_St_Bartholomew_the_Great_London_KarenJKHartSt Bartholomew the Great is a picture perfect church in the City of London. You’ve probably seen it, even though you may not realise: it featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, The Other Boleyn Girl and more …

I first went to the church years ago, when I lived nearby in the Barbican. The Cloister Café is gorgeous: I had tea there a while back with esteemed artist and illustrator Gareth Hopkins.  Then, not long before Christmas, after a Bart’s hospital trip (for a first mammogram – ouch – but just do it, if you haven’t and should. Saves lives and all that), I went for a restorative mince pie with my husband.

The prompt for this post was a Twitter chat with the Queen of Storify, Kirsty Marrins. She’d noted a comment that someone hadn’t thought the Shard worth a visit as there was no wi fi. Kirsty, I think rightly, wondered if this was because he or she (or an organisation, I don’t know) couldn’t immediately share their experience with Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

I’ve already posted about leaving Facebook. Lack of a smartphone means I tend not to post many real time photos on Twitter as using the front-facing camera on my Kindle (non-3G) tends to bring on nervous collapse and whatever I wanted to snap has long gone by the time it’s sorted. On the positive side, I have never had so many photos of my hair.

I try to be in the moment and enjoy what I’m doing, or at least experience it. I posted about my Dad’s funeral last month; although I can’t say I actually enjoyed it, there was a freedom from trying to record what was going on that felt liberating.

I mentioned to Kirsty about a cliché that I’ve seen for myself: tourists who only see the Mona Lisa through camera lenses while they stand in front of it in the Louvre. I’m so advanced in years that at university, camera films had to be sent off in envelopes to be developed.

I have albums full of early photos of my daughter and comparatively few of her since I started taking digital pictures. All those processed, over the counter pics somehow mean more than the gazillions of digital shots that I’ve barely ever looked: such as those above. I didn’t take them for instant posting but I hadn’t got around to looking at them until I just scanned my Kindle to see what was there.

According to 2011 stats from the Digital Photography School, of the 50,000 of the people they surveyed, nearly half took between 20 and 250 photos a week. I bet that’s gone up since.

We had a lovely time at the café, by the way, with tea and coffee and reading the papers, buying charity Christmas cards and having a chat with the woman on the door about types of incense and wedding flowers. I somehow don’t think that would have been the case if I’d been busy telling everyone ‘ZOMG Hugh Grant was here.’