Gardening, My Diary, Seasons

An almost perfect day (or the art of making the most of what you’ve got)

wp-1578089233403.jpgI overslept, not you would think the best way to start a day but there it is. I decided to do something I’d been neglecting but which fills me with happiness, take a stroll around the garden and take photos. I started off in the far corner to admire my handiwork on the winter jasmin (J.nudiflorum) and as any gardener will know, plans don’t always come to fruition. But I wanted to pull all the straggly shoots up, wire them in then let them cascade down in an unruly golden waterfall. At the moment it’s more of an unruly stream, but I’m getting there!


Next the big surprise. I found a “vagabond” self -sown raspberry fruiting among my budding Edgeworthia (E.crysantha). That’s certainly worth a picture. And the shrub is going to be spectacular this year, it’s covered in buds. It’s one of the most failsafe plants in the garden.

Then there are the lovely winter clematis (probably C.napaulensis),which taught me a fundamental lesson. Patience. The sterling virtue of the good gardener. It took them 3/4 years fromwp-1578095471597.jpg planting to the first rare and timid flowers but it’s doing well now. I should have remembered patience because when I used to go home to see my mother she always had rows of pots on her sunny kitchen windowsill. Full of sticks and dead leaves. “Why don’t you simply throw them out?” ” Oh no, let’s give them a chance” and to my chagrin, the next time I went home they would be blossoming as if they’d just been bought! She was the best gardener ever. I swear she could raise plants from the dead!


Next stop the chimonanthus. (C.praecox) In my 5-year gardener’s diary I noted on 26th January” bought my dreamed-of chimonanthus at last”. About this time of the year you can smell them even if you can’t see them. They flood whole neighbourhoods with their tantalising perfume. It was and is a beautifully shaped treelet which is quite unusual for a wintersweet (lovely English name for the tree) as it is very often straggly and misshapen. Mine no. I remember trying to bring it home lying over the passemger seat of my Smart worrying about how many buds would get broken off.   Moved to the most important position just outside the patio so I can go and smell it to my heart’s content. One of the most wonderful perfumes in the garden! and in full winter!

When it got too cold to click, I came back inside to read “the Bronze Horseman” Pushkin. Oh how wonderful to have the time to really read and study this incredible poem. It is just so rich. I can’t even begin to imagine what its like in the original Russian.

Music, My Diary

Bach Bliss

Tuesday: Bach’s magnificent, monumental Christmas Oratorio, one of the recurring joys of the musical year. This one was particularly special because it was performed by the Amsterdam Baroque orchestra and choir directed by none other than Ton Koopman. A quick walk through Brera to the Basilica di San Marco, long queues in the pouring rain, on a first come first served basis. I got a seat halfway down but in these cases it’s the ears that count. The acoustics seemed pretty good and it’s wonderful to hear these pieces performed in the places they were written for, presumably churches, it just seems right somehow.

At the beginning it didn’t seem too cold, but most people were already quite damp, the rain had been awful. Still the magic worked as usual, no room for anything but sound, a kind of full immersion in beauty. I know Bach is a sophisticated composer but I always feel intense joy in the mysterious logic of his counterpoint, apart from the fact that I hear it often and many popular English hymns are lifted from his compositions so a lot of it is very familiar . The oratorio is quite long and towards 1130 I began to worry about the last metro as San Marco is some distance from mm Duomo. I had not taken much notice of the journey to the church because I was chatting so I was a little worried about finding my way back. Milan was deserted! 11.45, a few days before Christmas ,how could this be? I stopped to ask 4 different groups of people… but although they were all eager to help, they were all tourists! Anyway I eventually found a genuine Milanese and he pointed me in the right direction; even round the Duomo there weren’t really a lot of people.

My Diary

Chili con carne

How difficult can it be to eat? In Italy, very difficult indeed. It’s a cult, it’s a religion, it’s an obsession. They have the same maniacal attitude to food as they do their clothes . You can tell an Italian at a hundred paces anywhere in the world because how he wears his jeans is a knockout! Trendy, size-right, sexy, perfect. How do they do that? Me? I will have been living in them for a week, trying to beat Mr Ryanair’s baggage rules, climbing rocks to get a better view, sliding down mossy tree trunks, dribbling street food all over them, baggy at knees and bum, I’m a sight and not for sore eyes. It’s the same way with food; they’re perfectionists. I’m not but I still have to nourish myself. I bought chili from the ethnic section of the Supermarket the other day . Quite expensive for a tin of beans I thought. It wasn’t quite as bad as it sounded because the plan was to try it and if I liked the taste I would then find a recipe on the internet and make a real one. So far so good. But it’s in a very old fashioned tin! who owns a tin opener? my neighbour perhaps? He’s on holiday. Could there be one in the garage with the other trash ready to go to the tip?No there isn’t so I have another quick look in the drawer turning utensils over and I found one. Once open I peer into the mangled depth of the tin, it looks awful!

So I decide to add some sausage which I bought yesterday and which today looks horrid too.I do eventually eat it salvaging the beans from the thick sauce. Did I enjoy it?

Music, My Diary

Traumatic concert,continued..

So we listened to a Chopin piano concerto performed by Boris Petrushansky Rusian-born but naturalized Italian; after the Chopin, Prokoviev’s Cinderella suite, composed for ballet. After the concert, back to the tram stop.There’s a certain ferment there, what’s up? A notice telling us rather tersely that there is no tram but a SUBSTITUTE. The very words strike fear into my heart. The well-informed tell me that the substitute is a bus because the troublesome line that made me late coming has finally given up the ghost and stopped completely. Now they tell us! Panicky, I don’t know Milan by day let alone by night with the usual fogged-up windows! Anyway, I started talking to a very nice couple, rather in a spirit-of-the- blitz style and the lady took me under her wing, told me to follow her, (gratitude to my saviour prevented me from being offended when she mistook my accent for German).The bus took us a very short way, we all piled off at another tram line which happily I remembered and in fact it took us to behind Duomo square. A quick stop to take a pic of the “madonnina” seemingly floating above the Duomo due to the fog, then down to the familiar underground.When I got to

Sesto the fog seemed much the same as before which was perfectly ok, it would probably be worse nearer home, we people who live in the sticks have to contend with bigger better worse weather than the townies! In fact nearer home there were fog banks which are more difficult to navigate, but I got home. I guess what I’m saying is never give up!

Music, My Diary

Traumatic concert

Well actually it wasn’t really the concert which was traumatic: it was the journey. I started off in very thick fog and I nearly gave up and came home, thinking about the return journey, which would be late and made amongst mad drivers fuelled by god-knows-what, going out to rave.!! Then I decided to risk it. Of course I was pretty late taking the metro. When i got to piazza Duomo, horribly crowded because of Black Friday, i thought I’d better get a taxi, but there were none there, probably full of shoppers with bulging packages. La Rinascente’s basement store seems to be doing well this year, I saw lots of little black shoppers full of kinky kitchen gadgets no doubt. So it had to be the tram. Maybe I’ll just make it. All was going well though I couldn’t see out of the windows; we need a law against breathing in crowded trams. Then it stopped, we waited patiently for the explanation. None came. It did eventually splutter back into life, start again, but of course, too late. I got to an enpty foyer and had to go to the very top floor so as not to disturb people who were already there. I think I missed the first 2/3 minutes . Actually it’s nice up high,OK you can’t see as well but you’re more comfortable with fewer people around you with their coughing, programme-rustling and jewelry clinking. It’s also darker, so it’s very reposing . To be continued