In a vase on Monday: Advent Angels



Advent, if one can avoid the mad frenzy of the High Street (both real and virtual) and the siren call to buy what you don’t need, is one of my favourite times of the year. I love the stillness of the countryside as flora and fauna settle into winter hibernation and nothing can beat a winter sunrise or sunset. At this moment my garden is aflock with acrobatic birds from the far north feasting on the white pink-tinged berries of the Sorbus tree while the sky is a rosy glow heralding another starry night and frosty start.

My Advent preparations have so far  consisted of making mince pies by the dozen for immediate consumption while today I refreshed my autumn wreath, the base of which I made from a coil of Virginia creeper stems. Now it is wearing glossy green leaves and tiny white flowers from Sarcococca twisted with fresh green and white leaves from Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’.

In my vignette  I have a Blue Kuri squash waiting to be turned into Thomasina Miers’ squash and pasta soup with fried sage and Parmesan. The recipe was in the Guardian magazine of 26 November and it was so good I’m making it again. I harvested 14 Blue Kuri squashes from five plants this year and this is the seventh to come into the kitchen,  although they keep until March in my cool garage. The orange slices are waiting to be dried for decorations involving cinnamon sticks and the succulents were casualties when the biggest head toppled over felling the others in its wake. When I carefully detached the fallen heads I noticed I had several tiny new plants growing in the gritty gravel. I put the stems in water and now I see they have developed fine roots so on a warmer day than today I will pot them up into small terracotta pots. Or maybe add them to my winter wreath?

During this time of waiting and expectation I’ve been thinking of my dear dad as today would would have been his 90th birthday. I hadn’t realised until recently what a stellar year 1926 was to be born: David Attenborough, the Queen, Eric Morecambe and Fidel Castro, to name just a few.

Philip Larkin was born in 1922 and died 31 years ago but last Friday evening a memorial stone to him was laid in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. I didn’t care much for Larkin’s lifestyle but I cannot fail to be moved by his poem “An Arundel Tomb” which he was inspired to write by the tomb of Richard Fitzalan, 3rd Earl of Arundel (1307-1376) and his second wife Eleanor. In his Will Richard asked to be buried  “without pomp” in the Chapter house of Lewes Priory and I imagine his fine tomb was moved to Chichester Cathedral around the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. See how Eleanor’s body is twisted towards her husband’s and how he has slipped his hand out of its gauntlet in order to take her hand in his. The little dogs with their noses blunted by time symbolise the loyalty of the Earl and Countess to their king and kingdom.


Here is the final verse from “An Arundel Tomb” by Philip Larkin.

“Time has transfigured them into

Untruth. The stone fidelity

They hardly meant has come to be

Their final blazon, and to prove

Our almost instinct, almost true:

What will survive of us is love.”

Joining in with Cathy with my succulents. The garden pickings may be very slim in December but I am always inspired by your vases.

London skyline at 15.50, 29 November 2016 

7 thoughts on “In a vase on Monday: Advent Angels

  1. The shade of blue green that your succulents and squash share is lovely and I hope you share whatever it is you do with your orange slices and cinnamon sticks. I was moved by your description of Richard and Eleanor’s tomb and wonder whether it was pre-planned or whether their love was universally recognised by the locals – so touching… Didn’t realise that this tomb is what the peom referred to. THnaks for sharing, Sarah


  2. Your vignette is beautiful. I love the soft, dull color and texture of the squash and succulents. Thank you for sharing about Philip Larkin. I’ve always enjoyed his poetry and would love to see the tomb in person someday.


  3. You’re right, this is a beautiful time if year if you can avoid the commercial madness. Love that blue squash. I had mostly squash failure this year, none at all left now which is disappointing. Must try harder next year! CJ xx


  4. A lovely post, I am going to have to try and see this time of the year which I find depressing, through your eyes. You are right about the sunsets, you captured a beauty. Philip Larkin wasn’ t a very nice man, but then how many artists, novelists or poets are? As long as they create works of genius that’ s all we can expect. I love this poem, in fact we went on a pilgrimage to Chichester to see the beautiful tomb. I am running a seminar on Time and Memory in Poetry next week and I could well have included this one. Instead I am using Larkin’ s’ I Remember, I Remember’ It subverts the one by Thomas Hood of the same title.


  5. I always feel like a rabbit in the headlights at this time of year, stultified by the lists of ‘things to do before C’, so I loved reading this post, Sarah. It has a lovely serenity and calm collectedness about it. Thank you.


  6. A beautiful and reflective post. A timely reminder of what is good to focus on at this time of year. You’ve inspired me to dry some orange slices and make some decorations, thank you. Something very moving about that tomb. Arundle castle is a fabulous place x


  7. I love the colour of your squash and that recipe sounds delicious; just the thing for a cold winter’s day. The tomb is very beautiful and I love the fact that they’re holding hands still. xx


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