My Diary, Trip


When I was younger, (quite a lot younger actually), I wrote a poem (well, a few words really, nothing as high falutin’ as a poem) and driving to work today I was reminded of that because the way to work can go through a rather lovely wooded area near a river which hosts a cycle track. I love green, I guess it’s the colour of my soul! but it’s not only the colour of MY soul apparently, it is a shade that denotes renewal and resurrection to Christians and it the colour of Islamic paradise.

We all associate green with Spring of course, and are happy seeing the first mist or fog of colour before there’s even a bud to be seen. Might that be some sort of collective hallucination do you think? Because if you look closer there really are no buds. It’s the colour of safety, GO GO GO. The one we expect anxiously when we’re in a hurry, not the red one please! and of course it’s the colour of the Irish. Why is Ireland called the Emerald Isle? Probably truer as tourist-hype than the monicker given to Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda! Unless of course that refers to the sea and in that case I haven’t got a leg to stand on! How many shades of green do the Irish say their lovely island has?

And what about money? The Americans call or called their bills greenbacks and it’s the colour associated with envy in English “I am green with envy at the number of greenbacks that green guy in the office has”. (We also say that people who are inexperienced are green!)

It’s supposed to have healing powers and is the most restful and relaxing of all colours. Curiously our exam papers were always printed on wishy-washy pale green paper. When I asked about it I was told it helps calm student nerves.”They paint prisons this colour too Anne” the teacher said. Yes, well….(But honestly, I think most students need a wake-up colour) However, back to our psychological insights: it can enhance vision, stability and endurance .It takes up more space in the colour spectrum visible to the human eye. And so, finally, here’s my “poem”:

I never do seem to be able

To get enough of green.

The Virginia creeper

Jungles its way over the terracotta tiles

Quilting them.

No leaf mosaic here

In these depths,

The fugues of paler, tinier greens


And my gaze keeps hovering back

Until my retina is forested in green,

Never,never enough……

Not like the kaleidescope of Autumn reds, rarer

Punctuated with grape-blue tiny berries

You can admire them for some minutes,

Even every day and feel content.

But the greens,the greens

Never satiate.

My Diary, Trip

I’m just a gal who can’t say GO…

Actually that’s not the title of the song which is” I’m just a gal who can’t say no and I’m in a terrible fix”.I wish I were like that girl because procrastination is my enemy, Thief of my mini holiday!A gal who can’t say go, me down to the ground! So, eventually, tardily, tootling along in my car admiring the distant hills but knowing all the time that flat land is in my soul. Here the paddyfields and Poplar woods of the Lombard plain. Their flatness satisfies me, flat land, the horizontal lines give a feeling of calm., I’m not interested in the vertical thrusting lines leading up to….where? The really bright acid green of the rice fields, the poplars, green leaves their silver undersides shimmering in the slightest breeze all against that Leonardesque background of blues fading more and more as they are further away from me. I guess the mountains are wonderful to the more energetic souls among you or even the very romantic ones, but give me flat land.

I had decided to go and have a look at the lavender fields of the Oltrepò, but after quite a long ride, the landscape was unrelentingly green. Nice of course, but shouldn’t it be violet?So I stopped and asked a man where it was, and sometimes I’m pleased I have a foreign accent, foreigners are more easily forgiven for their lack of knowledge. ” Signora it was all harvested three weeks ago”! I really should do my research before starting out. So what to do? visit a little borgo, one ot the most beautiful ones in Italy apparently, and it was. Those quiet deserted streets , the climb up to the castle area and the church where I noticed that it’s not enough to be good to get into heaven, you have to climb a lot of steps. A nice little place, beautifully kept, but for me it was more to do with the intangibles: the perfect silence interrupted only by the birdsong, a cool fresh breeze which made walking a pleasure, even at 13.30, butterflies fluttering all around, occasional elderly ladies out walking with their granddaughters, the lady who stopped cleaning her windows to draw the curtains so I could get a decent shot of the gothic arched window….


Gardening:the Buddleia

(Delightfully named after the Reverend Adam Buddle although not discovered by him) I’ve just finished one of my favourite garden jobs and I’m sweaty ,dirty ,scratched and happy to prove it. I always cut the spent tips of my butterfly bush because I don’t like the look of them when they’re brown and dead and also because I read an article about forcing a second flowering, both to my advantage and to that of the butterflies. This secondary flowering will be less showy than the first one but all the same….. As you might know the common and garden Buddleia is also known as the butterfly bush. It’s a lovely job though, because you’re buried in the green border “inside” the perfume. There were a few random brambles this time, various biting critters and some menacing bees hovering, waiting to take over!


I’m not the only one overwhelmed by gardens……

The garden has been an inspiration for many artists, probably the most famous one is French painter Claude Monet who acknowledged that his garden in Giverny had inspired so many of his impressionistic works especially his waterlily series.

Islamic Garden with fountain

But he was not the only one. Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla created his garden in Madrid and it was inspired by Islamic Gardens the most famous one of which is probably Generalife, Alhambra in Granada.

“Be joyful with every orange you pluck

From their very presence comes joy

Welcome the faces of the boughs

Welcome the stars of this tree

You might believe that heaven has showered her gold

And for us the earth has forged these golden pomes”

[Ali al_Ballanubi,Arab poet from Sicily]

Pierre Bonnard was influenced by leading English garden designers and his gardens ran “wild and free”.On the other side of the world Frida Kahlo had her own unusual garden at the Casa Azul in Mexico. She used native species in coloured highly coloured pots. One of the most fascinating gardens I have had the pleasure to visit was Jardin Majorelle in Marocco. Jacques Majorelle was a painter with “Orientalist” leanings and his garden was taken over and lovingly cared for by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. When you enter the Jardin Majorelle I think the first thing you notice is the daring contrast of the lush green garden with a particular shade of blue which amazingly looks very very beautiful Film maker Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness which he built on the shingle, integrating his garden with sculpture, driftwood and other flotsam, now seems to be in danger and garden lovers are gathering together to protest and to try and save it. Before we leave the inspiration of gardens I’d just like to touch on gardening and architecture. It is said that the huge, spectacular Crystal Palace (now lost) built for Prince Albert’s visionary Great Exhibition in 1851, was inspired by the “architecture of the Victoria Amazonica floating water lily leaf. Finally I’ll talk about the future: there is a garden which is on my bucket list, well, there are many gardens on my bucket list ! but this one is again in Morocco and it is a garden created by Italian Umberto Pasti who wanted to save some of the autochthonous plants from the savage destruction caused by unrestricted tourism which replaced beautiful, unusual, precious, wild plants with the usual colour of cement to make ugly holiday homes and and resorts with swimming pools and golf courses.


Still overwhelmed by Gardens

A very interesting form of garden known as hortus conclusus, is actually a walled Garden. These pleasure gardens, found in castles and fortresses were surrounded by walls and separated from the noisy, chaotic, smelly life of the castle outside their walls, and were used as places of pleasure and often of courtship. Courtly love probably flourished in them; we find references to them in the songs of the troubadors. In these songs the delights of the garden are symbols of man’s capacity to impose order on nature; an appreciation of the bounty of nature and living things; and a lightly veiled reference to sexual conquest. Boccaccio also mentions them, perhaps making fun of the idea of the garden as paradise.

The ladies of the castle could spend time surrounded by the walls in the shade of trees, among perfumed flowers and pleasing quiet except for the sound of running water. From the monastery gardens it was just a short step to linking the idea to the Biblical Song of Songs:” hortus conclusus soror mea, sponsa, hortus conclusus, fons signatus” ( giardino chiuso tu sei,sorella mia,sposa,giardino chiuso,fontana sigillata/A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride,and a sealed fountain) and thus, the garden of paradise ,Eden, has turned into a representation of Mary’s virginity. Shut out of paradise by the actions of one woman,Eve, we are allowed to get back into it through those of another woman,Mary. Like the garden her womb, her virginity, is closed, impenetrable and unviolate and has given rise to many important works of art.