During my sick and deluded years as a Wannabe Welsh Woman I had competed in a choir and it had been enjoyable for us all, at the National Eisteddfodau. We had even won in the Wannabe categories!
After the whole ‘being found in the river’ experience I had a couple of pieces of poetry accepted by a postgrad. group of students compiling an anthology. This is the one I wrote in the agonies of rejection after failing to get a teaching post. It is playing with the idea of the Eisteddfod prize ‘The Throne’, or ‘Yr Orsedd’ and the name of a starkly, viciously beautiful mountain not far from here, called Cadair Idris, meaning Idris’s Chair. The beauty of the Welsh language is captivating, and I love the sound and seductive rhythms of ‘cynghanedd’ but just as I fell inexorably out of reach of any teaching post, so can a climber find Cadair Idris a fair weather friend, to his peril! Yet will he climb!
Let my bastard blood
seep between your noble stones
and my shattered bones mingle
as quiet clay with shingle
free my spirit at dawn
in the manifold songs of birds
and eternity’s secret silence
quell all my wasted words.
There, that wannabe person, was buried or at least had a sort of funeral! The poor, stripped down kernel and spirit of me was all that stooped, unpacking a dream in the Welsh wind on a sunburnt hillside. As before, when all seems to have gone ahead and left you wondering where to start on a new course there is a lightheaded feeling and a distinct lack of luggage! My inventory read:
Nothing to lose but
2 fields, badly fenced, parched and overgrazed and I later discovered, registering zero in two vital plant nutrients. These mostly let to:
a fiery tempered and impulsive grazier.
a garden with a large shed, compost bins and two small greenhouses
a fork, spade, trowel, rake etc
a marge tub of assorted seeds in questionable states of viability.
Also several fruit trees and bushes, mostly lost under waist and head high weeds.
I needed to stake my claim and ordered some fencing materials. When they came I had to carry all the posts one and then two at a time on my shoulders out to the field. That took over a day. I fenced off a section of one of the fields. I dug a hole for each fence post and so progressed at a rate of about 5 posts per day. After about a week all the posts were in place and Rod came and helped with the task of putting the fence wire on, which has to be tensioned. That was something I couldn’t have done alone, and which required a special pulley. It was perhaps a year later, during a visit by my parents, that my father and Rod made a style half way along the fence so that we could easily access the higher part of the field on foot. I taught Tamsin to jump it for tennis ball retrieving purposes.
The fence completed, further winter jobs included tree planting in the new part of the field now known as ‘The Orchard Field’. Rabbits subsequently came and ate a lot of those little trees, which was a shame as my mother brought them and helped me plant them. However, I ordered some rabbit protectors and planted some more from a little nursery of trees that I’d planted when we first moved here, and which had for some inexplicable but fortuitous reason not been rabbit ravaged. The resulting little spinney in what I endearingly call my conservation and woodland margin area is still linked inseperably with the happy memeory of tree planting with my mother. My younger sister gave me a pond lining and I later added a tiny pond to this area in the hope that it would be attractive to frogs and maybe even newts but so far, they have not discovered or occupied it. Last year I heard there has been a terrible disease which depleted frog populations around Britain, and that the movement of frogspawn was one of the causes of the spread. I was glad I had not contributed to this disaster, though that was more due to lack of gumption and frogspawn than good management!
Another arduous task which took up more time than a mere winter and which is always ongoing, was to clear the grass and weeds which had a stranglehold on the fruit garden. That is all I can say on that, other than that I didn’t use weedkiller for obvious reasons and it took much time and perseverance. Rod took to some riotous rhododendron with the chainsaw and I poured stump weedkiller around the battleground. We didn’t realise at the time that this toxic plant is also toxic in its gaseous form and so had bonfires of it. We live to tell the tale, perhaps not for as long as we might otherwise have done, though! Despite all these measures, the pernicious triphid is making a comeback and there’s nothing I can do other than keep cutting it back and mulching as I am now officially Organic in tooth and law, thus the stump killer is out of bounds!
In the depths of winter 2006 I submitted drawings, plans, including a business plan and an application to the Ceredigion Planning Authority for a 48 foot polytunnel. There followed pleasant telephone conversations, further letters, visits from planning staff who took photographs, further slightly more testy telephone calls, emails, outraged petitions and more visits. I reasoned, pleaded and gradually watched my plans for the business’s first summer get blight and wither and generally become aphidised beyond productive posibiliies. Their line was, it seems, “You can’t go ahead without our say so and we can’t go ahead because we are either off sick, on holiday or overloaded with backlog.” I was sidestepping frustration and preparing for a wedding. I let wedding plans occupy my mind and sewing dresses for eight bridesmaids occupy my useless hands.
The polytunnel planning permission was finally granted in June. Before the tunnel could be erected, we needed to make a level space for it. We called in the man with the digger, who by then had a lot of summer work and he couldn’t come for 6 more weeks. I worked on the veil. Rod built a temporary shelter for all the young wedding flower plants, tomatoes and aubergines. I bought bags of compost, pots and poles to meet their growing needs. The wedding was called off. The weather turned wet as June turned to July. One rare sunny day true friends and family came to help put up the polytunnel. Apart from an idle but mischievous breeze, the conditions were ideal. A lot of exess topsoil which had been mounded up during the levelling process occupied half the capacity of the polytunnel and had to be dug back outside. The volunteers set to with generous willing and worked furiously through the swealtering day to a cider swilling evening. At last I could ‘move in’!
I washed the aphids off each aubergine plant, leaf by leaf, and planted them in the new polytunnel beds. They were mulched with well rotted manure which Ian and I barrowed up the hill and then ripped white card, to reflect light to their hitherto light starved leaves. The plants grew amazingly and looked beautiful and sturdy. Their pale purple flowers burst forth and then, like bare-bottomed toddlers, wearing skirts but who’ve forgotten their knickers, the aubergine fruits began to appear beneath the petals’ frills! I had about 60 aubergine plants.
It was about that time that I sat in the polytunnel reading John Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, to take my mind off my grief over the broken engagement, the pain, and my incomprehension of how things had suddenly gone so wrong. I remember drinking gin in the afternoon and writing terrible bitter things in my diary. I had sleepless nights and tried to relax in the warm, private womb of the polytunnel, but I had damaged the atmosphere with my rage and grief and attempts to cat nap failed. So did the aubergines. In their ones, twos and eventually dozens they rotted at the ‘toddler’s bottom’ stage and fell onto the mocking, curling card mulch. The blight on the tomatoes which had set in before I planted them into the polytunnel ruined that harvest too, and presumably polluted the beds for future ‘solenaceae’ crops. I resented the unapologetic, uncaring planning authority. I filled the house with large bunches of would have been wedding flowers and enjoyed the endless supply of sweet till you’re drunk on them sweet peas’ scent. I wanted to bring some cheer to my hurting daughters too. We regrouped as a family, if not as a business!