Mid-April: working with what you’ve got

When you’ve survived a whole British winter, the green of spring leaves – that green – is the most uplifting colour imaginable. It blooms inside the heart and makes everything seem possible.

Already it’s hard to imagine the view from my daughter’s window, my favourite window in the house, as it was during the winter. The tulips are resplendent in flower and the bluebells are out. The seedlings in the plastic greenhouse are doing well: little green spikes, full of expectation and promise, wandering skywards. For a fleeting, beautiful week, the garden was covered in a fine snow of blossom which fluttered down from a neighbour’s tree, landing in white spots on the ground.

And yet as I write beneath my daughter’s window, the back yard and allotments beyond in the fullest flush of spring, I’ve been feeling a little wintry inside. I am finding it hard to shrug off hibernation and motivate myself towards writing. With Mat working full time and me without a car, the allotment has been sorely neglected. I’m told the weeds are doing well.

Even on slow days, I’ve been trying to plant seeds, because maybe that’s one of the best things I can do.  I’ve been planting wildflowers, calendula and nasturtium and have bought pots of forget-me-nots, hollyhocks and bergamot – all good forage for the bees.

I’ve run out of pots now.

Our garden could perhaps best be described as a small yard: it’s an awkward shape, concrete-floored, north-facing, shrouded in full or part shade in all but high summer. Quirky and hemmed in by higgledy old walls and fences which are falling apart, there are steps which lead to nowhere – remains of the foundations of a building long gone – and a raised V-shaped bit which I’m never sure what to do with. It was overgrown with nettles and brambles when we moved in.

Not exactly the dreamiest template, but it is a garden.

You work with what you’ve got.

In the shadiest parts of the garden I grow ferns, bleeding hearts, ivy and hostas. They all thrive. The odd V-shaped bit, which gets the most sun, I use for the greenhouse, compost bin and for raising flower seeds. I’ve turned the nowhere-steps into raised beds for a herb garden and have collected candle lanterns from boot fairs which are dotted around the garden.

I’d love to have a stargazing deck, a hammock, a treehouse, a pond and a lawn – none of which are likely to happen any time soon. After all, the house doesn’t belong to us. But you work with what you’ve got.

Gratitude and a bit of effort transforms my awkward, north-facing yard into a beautiful garden which brings me joy and provides valuable habitat for wildlife.

Similarly, I’d love a writer’s hut or office of my own to work in. I’d like to have a little more time to write. But time will come later; I have to be grateful for the support which I do have and cherish the precious time that I spend laughing, playing with and looking after my daughter.

So I sit beneath her window, my favourite window in the house, looking out over the garden and allotments beyond and the clear spring skies above.  And, even if it turns out to be rubbish, I write something. Even if it’s just a paragraph, even if I spend nine tenths of the time looking up at the vapour trails of aeroplanes and wondering where they’re going, I write something. Even if it takes me weeks to do what someone else could do in a day, I write something.

You work with what you’ve got.

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