Water Under The Bridge and Sand Between the Toes

“I think…” S mused as he returned home Friday evening hungry for his holiday, our annual trip to the Lake District, “that I’ll try and get away with not buying this roof box. I’ll see how we go….”

S took one look at the pile accumulating in the spare room before picking up his keys and heading to Halfords.

You see, as many a parent will already know and we are only just coming to realise, that one of the things about having a young family is that once kids and essential pushchair are in the car, however roomy you once thought it was, little else fits. This predicament, unbeknownst to S, has in fact served him well of late. Car capacity issues have enforced restraint on recent visits to garden centres as there is little room on the passenger seat for much more than a climber or huechera or two (my obsession with both shows no sign of abating.) But it serves us less well when packing for all weathers, as is necessary for June in the Lakes.

The operation to jigsaw both the car and it’s new roofbox with our selection of cases took a chunk of the following morning which I filled with giving the garden a last loving water – the veg patch having been newly planted with tomatoes, squash, courgette, tons and tons of dwarf and runner beans, lettuces (which I fear will last less than a day, as my peas did, due to the particularly voracious species of slug and snail which reside in our patch) beetroot and radish. The latter not really because anyone likes them but because O’s latest obsession with the CBeebies version of Peter Rabbit features them growing in ‘Mr GerGregor’s’ garden so I promised we’d do the same. Inspired by a book I wrote about last year I decided whilst planning the plot this year that I might try my hand at Square Metre Gardening. Or rather, a bastardised version using bamboo canes lashed together to create a grid in which to plant. I’m hoping this more disciplined approach will temper my usual tendency to enthusiastically overcrowd our modest patch resulting in tomato plant forests, skinnily deformed carrots and forests of rampaging squash. Time will tell.

What I have most definitely over planted, as you might have deduced from my last post where I rattled off the names of all the shrubs I’d crammed in, are the flowerbeds. I now have not a centimetre of soil left in which to plant  – yet my gusto for all things horticultural seems to show no signs of being satiated. Purple-hued płants in particular are a favourite and I’m coveting a neighbours smoke bush. A star in the garden is the penstemon and my attempt to multiply this by taking cuttings is still hanging in the balance …..most have died but one or two look like they might yet take hold. In all honesty even if they do we don’t really have the space in which to plant more…. which has led to my dreaming up ways of creating more planting square-footage whilst trying not to forfeit too much playing space. It is, I must often remind myself, the children’s garden too…..

This internal grapple has inspired an idea for a wooden framed (contemporary) pergola to divide the lawn from the vegetable patch to create a garden ‘room’ in addition to extra vertical planting possibilities and potentially also an anchor for something fun like a hammock or swinging chair. I nonchalantly floated the idea this week to S…choosing my moment not-so-very carefully (home from the pub enjoying a ‘one for the road’ with his mate’). By way of response I received a disbelieving “what?” accompanied by chuckling from his mate who, I can only deduce by his empathetic look, experiences similar whimsical fancies from his own spouse. I’ve decided I might sit on the idea for a while, quietly Pinteresting, until I get a better sense of whether it’s an idea that will be blackballed or one which, with persistence, I might push through. A bit like the sandpit….

The idea for a sandpit stemmed from the guilty feelings l alluded to earlier that I’m somewhat monopolising our green space. I’d originally considered marking out a diamond pit in one of the corners of the lawn until S (I feel sure) suggested utilising a raised bed. I ran with it, relocating its fruity contents (strawberries, raspberries, and varying hues of currant) elsewhere before emptying it of as much of the soil as I possibly could. The next step, I thought, might require the expertise and manpower of S. He remained suspiciously non-committal.

“I think” S said eventually when I’d mentioned the sandpit yet again “that having a sandpit is a ludicrously bad idea. The sand will get everywhere.”

“Nonsense!” I retorted. “And anyway It was your idea”.

He looked perplexed.

“I don’t think it was…..”

Well…he had engaged in a conversation about it which in my book was akin to the same thing. I therefore chose to interpret his reticence as meaning he would have little to do with it but not as a withholding of permission. So I went ahead and did it anyway…ordering bags of playsand from Argos which I emptied over landscape fabric pegged down over the soil. On its discovery O was thrilled, diving in happily …quite literally….before proceeding to confirm S’s fears by treading a Hansel-and-Gretal-like trail of sand through the kitchen, up the stairs and, to my horror, into our bed where he sat busyig himself by unpacking my packing when my back was turned. I hoovered the bed in order to delay the “I told you so…” but I’m not imagining that following O around the house with Henry is a long term solution so may just have to admit S was right sometime very soon …..before implementing a rule destined to be oft-flouted of always brushing oneself off before re-entering the house.

For fear of taking a bag-load of sand with us to the Lakes by way of adherance to various body parts, the avoidance of the sandpit was therefore strictly enforced as I made my pre-holiday rounds of the garden. O minded little, more interested in being the prime custodian of the bungees whilst his daddy loaded the car. But once we were travel-ready we piled in….sand free…..and headed off on our hols.

As we hit the open road thoughts drifted, as they often do when the sky widens above you, to love, life and the future. 

“We could build our own place you know” mused S wistfully, “we’ve probably got enough equity in the house now, if we sold, to do it.”

“Have we got enough equity in our marriage?” I teased. “Doing up our place nearly killed us.” 

S nodded sagely. 

“It did, but we wouldn’t have to live in the build. That’s what was so hard….” 

We both winced at the memory. Building work is a bit like childbirth in that you soon forget the pain as the results are just so worth it. That said, both experiences are still a bit too raw for me to be considering either again anytime soon. Even my not-so-joking jokes about loft extensions are part of a vision for the future (adjoining rooms for the boys with an ensuite between with O’s current room becoming a playroom) once a bit more water is under the bridge. And perhaps, what disuades me more than all of the above, is the overwhelming feeling of happiness I’ve been enjoying of late….content with my world and every one and thing in it. I don’t know when, if there ever will be a when, I’ll want to be anywhere other than with my little family in the Pebbledashed Pad. Though perhaps one day it might be without its pebbledash…and with a few more purple płants…..

But journies are made for fanciful dreaming and one can do worse I should think than spending a few moments hypothetically planning ones own Grand Design. Or even a Place In The SunOr, perhaps safer, a Relocation, Relocation.  A beach hut or bolt hole somewhere we could escape to each weekend…..near and well equipped enough to be able to throw a few things in a bag Friday evening and be off.  A vast difference from the military operation this holiday required to ensure all bases were covered. Which still, despite our best efforts, resulted in a panic buying trip to Ambleside to buy a sweatshirt each for both O and I which it turned out were needed only one day of the five. But hey….we never complain about sunshine in the Lakes and indeed this trip was perhaps the most glorious yet….

So it was a whimsical state of mind we found ourselves in on arrival – drunken on sunshine, basking in the luxury of enjoying time together as a family and swollen with pride as we introduced the grandparents to their newest addition. We picnicked on Windermere, paddled in the beck, stared out cows as we fearfully navigated the pushchair through a grazing herd protective of its young and feasted on cake, cappuccinos and homewares (me) at our favourite cafe/shop Chesters. And amidst this peaceful landscape, as Baby A and I paced our way through forests, up hills and beside streams whilst S and O went off ‘holiday-swimming’ together, my reveries took a more realistic turn. How to complete the bedroom decoration for example….it having been devoid of finishing touches ever since it was painted Stiffkey Blue before Christmas. (Solution: A picture of a new Portmeiron/TED Baker collaboration found in a holiday-read has inspired further contemplation on colours for accessories whilst the seemingly radical decision to move the dressing table into the bay window to give room for Baby A’s cot has opened up a whole new range of possibilities for a ‘valet area’  (chair, coat stand and full length mirror) once Baby A is relocated into either O’s room or the space which is now the office. The gallery wall also featured into my thinking. In the time it has taken me to deliberate the composition of my wall other bloggers have dismantled theirs deeming them yesterday’s news. Point taken…….but I think I’m still a fan and have decided, with the help of clarity-inducing walking, that the best way to set ours off to its best will be to darken the wall behind it (F&B’s Downpipe to link the view to the garden beyond). A further epiphany – a solution to my wishful post in the new year about collecting art..will be to go DiY and extend the gallery wall upstairs where the kids artwork can be exclusively and colourfully featured. 

But……lIke many holidays this one wasn’t long enough. Still. There are upsides to coming home. Your own, freshly made, bed. The sight of your healthy, thriving garden thanks to a kind neighbour who swished her way through the calf length grass (our excuse: the shed is in the process of being man-caved and until this process is complete the lawnmower is penned in) in order to water it. Good coffee….the percolator at the lodge spoils it.  And the thought of rolling my sleeves up and acting on some of the ideas the Lakeside landscape inspired in me.  

And of course the knowledge that it will all be there for us again next year.



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