My senior grandson celebrated his 9th birthday a week ago. I remember the day he was born very clearly and the absolute joy when Nick, Dan and I went to see him, a few hours old. His proud father holding a swaddled bundle, a little golden child. He has three siblings now and three cousins on his paternal side of the family. He is the eldest son of an eldest son of an eldest daughter. In terms of sibling expectation that’s quite a responsibility to carry. Fourteen of members of the family sat down together for his birthday meal: a “hot lunch” as his brother Joel would say. That is, roast meat and vegetables and a vital component, buckets of gravy.
Back at the ranch a few days later Nick has taken to the mop, the duster, the Dyson. Estate agents are going to view our house and I am told cosmetic efforts beforehand are worthwhile. As I sit in the clinical wasteland which is my life-launderd kitchen I feel some control is slipping from my reach. Best I go outside and clear up all the rotting vegetation and yet another carpet of oak leaves.
Once outside I realise I haven’t worked in the garden for weeks. The snow, French time, so many indoor jobs; all have served to cut me off from the great outdoors. There is a positive surge of pleasure and energy in reconnecting with nature during a major clear up in the garden. There are green shoots and on the terrace by the pond I find plantlets of desirables in tasteful crevices which I hope will be left by the wielder of the pressure hose.
Deer predation continues to be a problem but at least I can sweep up the small pellets they leave as contributions. These are easily sprinkled amongst deserving pots. I find self-set Hellebores and other perennial seedlings which I plant up in clay pots to wait in the wings. I believe in working with the plants who will work with me. Whilst working it strikes me that I should email my gardening friend, Anne, in France. I will tell her I have been outside and I am ‘une heureuse lapine’, but I doubt it works like that in French!
A couple of days later I am sitting by my computer at the top of the house, with the last bowlful of a pheasant casserole, which serves as a tasty lunchtime soup, beside me on my desk. The unmistakeable sound of a pheasant calling summons me to the window. A large cock pheasant is perched on the wooden rail sleepers which serve as a terracing feature in our neighbour’s garden. The call is described as a raucous cackle, but I think it sounds much more like a klaxon.
He stays around for a couple of hours coming down onto our lawn and amongst the beds and when I next hear him, it is a series of agitated calls. Rooney has crested the side steps and confronted the pheasant at the lawn level. The pheasant slowly retreats across the grass and up the steps, unhurried, sounding his horn, confident, I think, that he is just too big a mouthful even for our fat cat. Rooney makes no effort to follow.