Although some mornings are still deceptively cold and we have not seen the end of the winter frosts, spring is definitely in the air. After four weeks I returned to the London home to be met by daffodils, early hyacinths and our first tulip, a golden and red one, in the sun-trap that is our minute front garden – well a front bed. The pots in the back garden are home to hyacinths that are about to burst forth and clusters of more restrained tulips that are hanging back for a few more weeks.
The onset of spring is stirring things up, emotionally as well as in the house and garden. Seeing renewed life around me is foreshadowing how I shall feel in weeks and months to come as the raw sense of loss turns into manageable sadness within a new order. I know that I cannot rush the grief as to do so will only store up problems for later. Instead, I am trying to accept the subdued emotions and tearful responses as well as the little bubbles of joy and satisfaction I am finding in every day delights. And, with spring on its way there are plenty of those short moments and small achievements that constitute little oases of contentment, even happiness.
This weekend, the first signs of spring triggered a burst of spring cleaning. Although I am a natural home-making, it is fair to say that cleaning does not rank high on my list of favourite pastimes. Other than washing down cooking and eating surfaces and keeping on top of the laundry, my approach to cleaning tends to be characterised with sporadic high-energy bursts rather than a regular routine. And like many professionals who deal with other people’s paperwork, I regularly neglect my own and the papers just pile up.
Come the start of spring, however, the bursts of energy increase in time and frequency and this weekend, armed with black bin liners, clear bags for dry recyclates and a damp cloth I tackled the paperwork in the study and the living room.
Ruthlessly I threw out paperwork, instruction manuals, catalogues, magazines, concert programmes… To my amazement I discovered I had kept every job contract I had signed, going back to my first full-time position after university! Manuals and warranties of laptops that have long since given up the ghost were added to the rapidly filling recycling bags. These were followed by business cards dating back to my pre-law life as well as those of people had probably not made an impression on me when I had first met them because I could not place three, five, ten years on. The black bags filled up with dried up pens, mangled paperclips, broken headphones, chargers for the above-mentioned defunct computers and slides of out of date paracetamol and hay-fever tablets.
On emptying the drawers of my desk I also stumbled across photos of my parents on their wedding day, baby photos of me – I realised that even at the age of two I felt the cold! – and pictures of the family cats, including my beloved dainty Smudge. Other treasures included my marathon medal and mum’s memorial card. As my writing bureau had been emptied from accumulated unused paraphernalia, I boxed up the photos and returned the other keepsakes to the little drawer as precious treasures that are worth keeping.
Two and a half hours later the bed in the study was covered with documents sorted into piles for Mr M to add to the filing system he devised for our household paperwork and a tray of personal papers relating to my tax status, pension and rental property, which I shall action or file once call centre lines re-open on Monday. Back in the living room, whilst one corner of the dining table still sports a lap top and a sewing machine, the other three quarters have now been returned to their proper function!
After treating myself with a cup of tea to celebrate this achievement, I turned my attention to the seed packets. Three weeks had disappeared off the radar so I had some catching up to do. The John Innes compost, gloves, trays and pots came out and before long the living room and kitchen windowsills were covered with pots and propagators. In seven to ten days, with a bit of luck (and sun), we should have the first sign of tomato and Romano pepper seedlings and in a fortnight the sweet pea and stocks should start to peep through.* As I marked the anticipated germination and planting out dates in my diary, I also made a note to buy some larger pots for transplanting these seedlings in order to free up space for the cucumbers and squashes.
I have ambitious plans for a productive little urban garden offering both edible treats for the table and fragrant blooms for home-made bouquets. Due to my Paris-London lifestyle, and a lack of wheels which makes trips to the garden centre a logistical nightmare, the garden is admittedly a long-term project. But after my first burst of garden energy this year and on seeing the early product of my autumn efforts, my budding green fingers are itching with excitement. So as dusk fell and the damp air set in, I retreated to the now tidy living room with another cup of tea, my gardening books and notebooks which are filling up with ideas of how our little garden can be part of a more resilient sustainable life.
* Do check back for updates, including photos of my little ones.