You know how some weeks can feel like a year? As though you’re wading through the days as though through treacle? When the corners of your mouth won’t turn up despite your best efforts, and the slightest thing makes you either rage or weep? Yep, I’ve had one of those weeks. I was getting on my own nerves with it, let alone everyone else around me. The mean reds got me bad.
This happens occasionally. A hang-over from the post-natal depression that coiled around my brain and limbs 19 years ago (yep, the Teen turned 19 last month), but I refuse to dignify it with the the D-word, because I think its overused and it’s not really that. So I rage at it until it goes away. How the rage manifests or what turns out to be the trigger for sending it away changes each time. Usually good food, getting my hands in the soil and getting out of my four walls helps.
So today I made a conscious decision to soothe my soul and treat my body, not with a trip to Tiffany’s (mainly because a) there isn’t one nearby and b) I’m not now nor have ever been a Tiffany’s person…if they’d care to challenge that view that with a significant gift, I’m open to offers…) but with a trip to a farm shop I’ve shopped at as regularly as salary will allow for many years now. When I first came here, the garden was small, the coffee shop had only a few tables and the fishmonger was in a van in the car park. It’s all changed now.
It’s testament to the owner’s tenacity and passion that it’s grown to almost 3 times the size without making old semi-regulars like me feel pushed out. It’s retained its vision and atmosphere, and still feels like a massive treat to me. Something to be savoured and experienced slowly. I take my time when I come here: each purchase means something, unlike in a supermarket where I just want to get the stuff and get out before I’m signed up for yet another loyalty card.
The display garden has grown enormously, as have the teasels. They towered above my head and glinted in the sun. Bees bumbled around, as happy as, well, bees off their heads on nectar.
My dad finds my awakened interest in gardens hilarious, especially as I now live in a city and for years in the country, ignored all that green stuff that surrounded the house. Apparently an interest in gardening suddenly manifests in a person at around the age of 41, which I am in 2 weeks time. Nuts to you sir, I respond to his laughter: look at all these things, just GROWING, around us, all on their own with no input from us. Why isn’t everyone absolutely agog with wonder at the miraculous tenacity of a dandelion or runner bean?
Truth be told, I ignored all the green stuff around me back in the countryside, back in that other lifetime, because I was 22, floored by new and early motherhood, resentful (never of the baby) of my sudden loss of freedom and wrapped in a suffocating cocoon of PND. Later, when I escaped all that, the garden turned out to have the kind of heavy clay soil that makes even Gardener’s Question Time panellists suck their teeth and go “hmmmmph”, so I never really took to it. Although my climbing roses did quite well, until one day they didn’t and just died.
Anyway, back to this lifetime, a million emotional-miles away from that one, it seems difficult to realise that it’s July already. How did that happen? I’m still expecting to see asparagus in the shops (the UK stuff, not the sad, feeble-flavoured imported tack) and Easter eggs. I am informed by people both older and wiser than me, that this shift in the speed of time is because I’m getting older. I am now in the age range that makes me, according to a recent Telegraph article flagged up on Facebook by a friend that made me grit my teeth, a “perennial” but the term makes me boke, so we shan’t use that again, thank you. Note to all newspaper editors and journos: STOP creating wanky new terms for women just getting on with their LIVES, you utter cock wombles.
It’s only when I stand under the gnarly-dude mulberry tree and spot the berries, that it dawns on me that it really is summer and there is no time to lose in getting my mitts on nectarines, raspberries and apricots. Time to stop moping.
I pause in the garden shop to buy 3 plants I couldn’t resist: a yellow daisy like thing, a tall spiky thing that should have pink blossoms eventually (the hope involved in gardening is really quite touching), and a silvery short spiky thing, a baby cousin to the giant towering teasels. Also seeds – may as well keep feeding this new interest of mine, see where it leads – for a squash so bumpy and ugly it’s own mother would have trouble loving it (I am fascinated by it’s ugliness), for sorrel and broad beans, for nitrogen fixing clover so that I look like I know what I’m talking about but also because a lawn with clover in is a lawn full of happy bees and butterflies, which makes me happy.
It makes my brother in law, who tends lawns and gardens professionally, want to scream. He’s also not very approving of the moss in mine, but the moss makes it bouncy to walk on.
Then into the farm shop proper where as much as possible is sourced as near to the shop as possible. The air smells of earth, strawberries, proper bread and the tang of ripe cheese. I am more than partial to a ripe cheese – during a recent excursion to a pub with a museum friend, we coined the term “cheesegasm” for that ripple of feeling you get when a particularly ripe brie hits your tastebuds in a silky, creamy explosion and you have to pause and almost weep at the intensity of it…
Ahem. Look: broad beans picked so close, I could almost see the field.
Whilst I wait for my allotment plot to become available (upon which I will use the rest of the clover seeds to fix nitrogen into the soil, thus ensuring better soil and better crops – I do know some things, just not as much as I’d like), this will do very nicely. I filled my trolley with these, the pods feeling like velvet, plus little pointy bobby beans, whispery-skinned shallots, the tiniest of baby cucumbers and lettuce so frilled, it might be worn as a dowager duchess’s lace fichu.
I approve greatly of the lace fichu; a garment designed to provide modesty in ladies wearing the low-cut gowns of the Victorian era. Frankly, I often feel dresses need some sort of modesty vest insert, plus sleeves you can add on by means of poppers or velcro. Or, you know, dress designers that realised women came in all sorts of sizes and were not necessarily all happy with the idea of waving their bare upper arms and abundant chest to the world, so made sure they made (decent, not frumpy – I’m not quite ready for salmon-pink crimplene) clothes for them too, not just those who can wave with gay abandon.
However, vegetable heaven aside, woman cannot live by greens alone, unless they are the delicately shaded green pistachio and rose layer cake (the sponge was a gorgeous minty-green) in the bakery section. Or the mini macaroons. Or the (definitely not green) strawberry cheesecake. Or the…
I tear myself away before I get thrown out for drooling on the plexiglass shield.
Whilst I valiantly resisted the lure of the above, I couldn’t withstand the siren call of the fresh-baked scones, especially as I knew I had clotted cream at home, and needed to pay late homage to National Cream Tea Day. So one of them made my lunch. There is nothing finer, after all.
It’s interesting, and slightly odd, to note that my pronunciation of the word has actually changed over the years. Initially I was a sch-oh-ner, now I’m a sc-on-er. I have no idea why, unless it was years of working with someone who pronounced it that way, but I failed to pick up on her diction for the word theatre, “the-Aa-ter”, which was her passion. Even now, I will occasionally phone her and casually ask what she’s been to see, just so I can hear her say the word that way.
See, healthy: the jam has fruit in it. And yes, jam first. I’m not a heathen, for god’s sake.
Of course, I also buy cheese: a smoked, orange-blushed number and a softly eat-me-now oozing brie to go with my crusty bread. Breakfast tomorrow morning is now catered for. Yes, I eat cheese for breakfast occasionally – there are days when muesli and yogurt just will not do it for me.
And the fruit bowl, hand turned by a woody friend of mine, is now full of the cheeky rosy glow of nectarines and apricots. The fridge has a punnet of strawberries in so ripe, that the air inside almost seems to glow with the smell of them. I think those will mostly be eaten as they are, with my fingers, brought up to room temperature, also for breakfast.
Later, I roast the piece of lamb I’ve bought with so much garlic I am currently the woman you need to call for anti-vampire patrol, rosemary (am I the only person who still doesn’t get the point of rosemary but uses it because, tradition, anyway?) and lemon. Potatoes and cherry tomatoes basting in the meat juices. Nothing like a decent feed to take you out of your funk.
There. A better cure for the mean reds than any staring in the window of a luxury jewellers, croissant in hand, immaculate black dress a little rumpled from the night before. Although I’ve no doubt that having Audrey Hepburn’s figure might help.
Should you be in the Warwickshire area, at a loose end, and with an enormous desire to shop properly, this is where you need to go. Have yourself your own cheesegasm.