I slept very well the night of 15th October 1987. I attribute that to the exhaustion of being a young mother with a six year old and an 18 month old.
Morning came and when I tried unsuccessfully to turn on the lights, I realised we’d had a power cut. Living on the outskirts of the West Sussex village of Storrington, we were used to periodic outages. It wasn’t until my husband John opened the door to take the dog for a walk that we knew this wasn’t a normal power cut. This was serious. Trees and branches were strewn across our lane. A large oak had come down on our neighbours’ driveway – just missing their house. Overhead electricity and telephone cables had snapped, their loose ends hanging. (more…)
Someone once said: “Gardening is cheaper than therapy…and you get tomatoes.” I think that pretty much sums up why I do it – all those hours spent digging, weeding, feeding, composting, pruning, watering – losing myself in these chores, enjoying the great outdoors…and then the reward: those sweet, juicy tomatoes.
I call myself a transplanted New Yorker (the gardening pun is intentional), having moved to England many years ago. I grew up in the Westchester County suburb of Pleasantville where my mother had a small garden in which – I admit to my shame — I never took the slightest interest. It was upon marrying an Englishman and moving to the beautiful Sussex countryside that my addiction to gardening began. The gardening bug bit me and I’m still infected. Americans would say I’ve developed a green thumb; the Brits say I have green fingers. But as far as I’m concerned, I happily use both of my hands and all the digits on them to make things grow. (more…)
Books that Made Britain is a new BBC TV series that premiered on Sunday afternoon, 16th October. It featured Sussex writers from the present day (eg Kate Mosse) and the past (poet Hilaire Belloc) plus a new writing project, ‘A South Downs Alphabet’ in which I am participating. In the 1939 celebrated writer Eleanor Farjeon created ‘A Sussex Alphabet’ – a series of poems, each one celebrating some aspect of Sussex, literally from A to Z. The South Downs National Park Authority and The Write House (an independent group of local historians and writers) joined forces to produce the new version – reprinting Farjeon’s with it. (more…)
It’s Sunday morning in Beijing’s Jingshan Park, just minutes away from the Forbidden City where the stern face of Chairman Mao looks down on passersby. But here it’s all smiles. Why? Because this is where the Chinese go to have fun.
Looking round, we seem to be the only Western tourists. But no one seems to mind or even notice our presence. Youngsters are playing a game we’ve never seen before – like badminton but using their feet. With well-placed kicks, they keep the flower-like shuttlecock off the ground, passing it back and forth. Others are skipping rope but with a big difference: the rope is at least 8 metres long with half a dozen youths jumping simultaneously. One misstep results in a tangle of legs as the entire formation collapses. This happens several times as we watch, causing the young skippers to double over in laughter. Nearby, several women are twirling long streamers of multi-coloured ribbon. Like perpetual motion machines, they carve out figures of eight in the air. The colours flow and blend as in an optical illusion. Minutes pass. We stand still, mesmerised. (more…)
Have you ever been to Paradise? Well, I have and it’s called Kerala.
Statuesque herons silhouetted against lush green rice paddies. Elegant coconut palms leaning languorously towards the water’s edge. Here the smiling locals move slowly and gracefully in the noon-day heat. The contrast after busy, throbbing, dusty Delhi is staggering.
We have boarded a traditional houseboat or kettuvallam for a 24-hour trip in the Kerala Backwaters – 1500 kilometres of canals, fed by 38 rivers that drain into the Arabian Sea. The houseboat is constructed of wooden planks held together by coconut fibre ropes, using no nails. The roof covering is made from bamboo poles and palm leaves. The exterior of the boat, which is painted with cashew nut oil, glistens in the sun. (more…)