Slow painting

Friday, 8 August 2008

Summer reading

Among my summer reading this year have been three gardening-related books, quite apart from a more or less constant diet of Monty Don's 'My Roots', 'The Jewel Garden' and 'Fork to Fork', which I find essential ongoing reading.

First up, read quickly over an evening and the next day, was 'Trowel and Error', Alan Titchmarsh's autobiography. I found it in the tiny library of my home village in the north. I'm not a particular Titchmarsh fan, tho with Monty Don no longer on Gardeners' World I'd be delighted if Alan would return and save me from weekly fury at the sight of Carole 'plunting' her scarf. Anyway, the book was a good, unpretentious canter through the trajectory of parks department apprentice to national figure.

Then 'The Morville Hours', by Katherine Swift. I had high hopes for this, and put off reading it until I had enough time to savour it. Based on the structure of a medieval Book of Hours, and the divine offices of the monastic day, it's the account of the author's creation of a garden reflecting the history of those who had lived in the house and area, from Celtic Christianity onwards. The further on in the book I went, the more I was aware of determinedly savouring its 'profound knowledge', as one reviewer put it, and trying to revel in the descriptions of plants and flowers and seasons. I finished it feeling just - sad. For all its fraught beauty and richness, I felt an emptiness at its heart - an unhappy childhood, her parents' unhappy marriage, her own childless semi-detached marriage which then ended - which left me thinking, 'poor woman', and from the perspective of my tiny suburban garden and part-time allotment, not envying her beautiful, infused-with-meaning garden one jot.

Now I'm in the middle of 'A Little History of British Gardening', by Jenny Uglow, and enjoying every word of it. After 'The Morville Hours', it's an absolute delight, and I'm having to spin it out so that I don't finish it too quickly.

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