Friday, September 17, 2010

reading, papers, snails

Posted by Picasa Reading. First of a series.

The plot,where I have been growing vegetables  for the last 15 years was part of a garden which belonged to a musicologist called Roy Douglas. He lived in the house to which it was attached for nearly 100 years. He is at present 103 years old. He was a friend of Vaughan Williams. About 15 years ago the people, who lived opposite us bought half his garden because they wanted to be sure that no one built another house there. I came to cultivate the plot because they were not interested in gardening and offered it to me as an "allotment". They benefited because the land was put to use, and I, because I had only to cross the road to pursue one of my chief interests. To begin with I had to clear the ground, which was covered in nettles, brambles and the stumps of old apple trees. When my benefactors sold the house, their successors allowed me to continue growing vegetables there, but added brick paths and a greenhouse. Until recently, Roy used to walk through his garden to talk to me, but infirmity caught up with him, and in the last year or two he remained indoors, looked after by a devoted carer.
    Now he has left the house and gone to live with his carer. The word is that he has perked up greatly since moving. He has resolved to put the house on the market, which accounts for the clearance that has taken place in the remaining part of his land. After the bonfire of cut down shrubs, undergrowth and weeds, the carer, following Roy's instructions, burns stacks of  his papers. "Some of them go back to 1926," she says. I pass across  the fence some beans for Roy, and some sunflowers. I miss his company when I am gardening, occasional though it was. This morning, the wind, stirring the blackened remains of his papers makes me miss his presence in the house even in recent years when I saw him no longer.

In a flower bed  in Mount Sion, which I pass on most days, they have cut down a shrub growing against a wall. This afternoon, I count,  clinging to the wall, no fewer than 13 snails. A convocation of mollusks?


Roderick Robinson said...

Burning paper has its own significance. Sometimes it can be monstrously symbolic like the black-and-white newsreel shots of bonfires in Germany overlaid with a speech by Goebbels in which the words judische Intellectualismus are distinctly audible. At the other end of the scale a partially burnt sheet of newspaper becomes something mysterious as one attempts to imagine the headlines that lived in the area now destroyed. The brown edges of pages in burnt books take on the shape of contour lines on a map, allowing a somewhat simplistic poetical relationship, something to be avoided on the grounds of banality. Burnt paper has a unique smell. When a thickish wodge of paper is thrown on to a thriving bonfire the flat surfaces initially resist ignition, a brief period of hope, perhaps. With these types of association available it's easy to imagine how your feeling of loss might be increased. Perhaps all this is fanciful but the ideas rose effortlessly from your juxtaposition of ashes and an absent acquaintance.

The Crow said...

I especially like your phrase, "...a convocation of mollusks"; inspiring, thought-provoking, somehow poetic.

Lucas said...

I like your photos of the reader very much (there's something about books and the beach which evokes happy memories). I look forward to this new series greatly.

Unknown said...

The worst thing about the proposed burning of the Koran by that Amrican pastor was not just that he wanted to burn a particular book on public but that he wanted to burn any book.

The snails exposed by the pruning seemed to be engaged in some kind of conversation.

I suppose that reading a book in public is the opposite of burning one in public