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.