Christine Stovell, author and freelance writer, on living and writing in West Wales
The Escaped Garden
Our house sits some 600 feet above sea level in a wooded valley overlooking Cardigan Bay. The garden runs to about a quarter of an acre and curves round the house on three sides with a traditional lawn/veg patch and seating area at the back of the house, a sloping wooded area at the side and shrubs and lawn to the front. Our long-term plans for it are still thoughts in progress - for the first year we mainly watched to see what grew - but the combination of work deadlines and last year’s non-stop rain mean that everything in has well and truly escaped, so this weekend we took action to reclaim the sea view.
The intermediate zone
The hacking back's fine... but what do you do with all the cuttings?
Preparing to shred...
One branch down
One tree down
We now know that every hour of hacking through the undergrowth creates two to three hours of shredding and log sawing. But the end result's worth it...
Unfamiliar sounds drift up through the open shutters from the narrow street below; excited Italian voices exchanging greetings, motor scooters sliding over the cobbles and city cars squeezing into non-existent parking spaces. It’s my birthday and I’ve woken up in a dusky pink room with flocked walls, gilt mirrors and I’m in ROME! It’s wonderful! After years of yearning to visit Italy I’ve made it; we’re here! First, I open my birthday cards and have a good cry because everyone’s been so kind to me, then we head up for breakfast in the rooftop restaurant with its amazing panoramic views across the city.
There’s rain in the air so we book a bus tour so we can get a sense of the place. As we pass the Colosseum the commentary dryly informs us of the thousands of animals killed here, the 98% mortality rate for gladiators and then observes that the drink enjoyed by spectators would probably be distasteful to modern palates. What? Only the drink?
“… they do things differently there.” So begins L P Hartley’s 1953 novel, The Go-Between, with its ageing narrator, Leo Colston, looking back at one particular summer in his childhood and his unwitting part in a secret affair. This opening line also serves as a reminder that we stand on shifting ground whenever we survey the past. Our perceptions of those retrieved memories change with time and experience as I rediscovered last week when Tom attended an academic conference at my old university, UEA. Although my experience of studying at UEA was a positive one, the cumulative effect of a couple of bad decisions took its toll during my final year. I've always looked back with some regrets about what could or should have been, but as I walked round Norwich revisiting old haunts I started to be a bit more forgiving towards my anxious and confused younger self. I started St Andrew’s Hall which was the rather incongruous setting where I saw the Stranglers at the height of their no…
‘What just happened?’ asks a stunned Rose. I’m speechless. If I had a paper bag, I’d be breathing into it. Rose and baby Joy are staying with us whilst Si and the team are working on their house. Today’s plan is to wander up to the local goat farm, show Joy the goats and maybe buy some Christmas presents in the shop. As it turns out we’re wildly off the mark; it’s true the goats look adorable in their setting of breathtaking scenery, but this isn’t a petting farm. As we discover when we blunder into the office looking for a shop, it’s a serious business selling serious products. In an effort to save face I ask if it’s possible to buy some milk and in ‘lost in a translation’ moment find myself lashing out on the goat equivalent of Dom Perignon White Gold.
Back home, I discover that what I’ve bought is a course of Chuckling Goat kefir, a very powerful probiotic designed to restore gut health and repair all the damage caused by sugar, stress, environmental toxins and antibiotics.…