A Little Chaos – the fictional dream

Imagine the excitement in the Writer in the Garden household this weekend: There’s a film about proper gardening. Even Tim Richardson says it’s ‘squarely and actually about gardens and garden design’. Do we need to book? I think we should book. I’m worried it’ll be full….

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Hmmm… we didn’t need to book. Sadly the cinema wasn’t full, not even in Tunbridge Wells, but nevertheless I loved this film. I think you will too – if you’re reading this website at least. There’s a phrase from the great writer and teacher, John Gardner (good name for this post!) to describe how in our fiction writing, we need to allow the reader to enter the ‘fictional dream’ – so the writer takes a step back and allows the story to come to the forefront. And that’s what happened in this film for me, so while I was watching I didn’t care about details. Although if anything I could do with a few more bits about gardening – the scene with Monsieur de la Quintinie whispering to his pears was delicious! And then La Barra interrupting the King in the enclosed fruit garden made me want to be there too.

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Although when I got back, I wanted to look up a few facts.

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And not just for the excuse of gazing at pictures of moody Matthius Schoenaerts as Andre Le Notre…

… who actually was an old man when Versailles was created, and looked more like this..

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And of course the garden designer Sabine de Barra was fictional. Ho hum. Although maybe she’ll encourage more interest in women gardeners in history, such as the fascinating Thomasin Tunstall.

And of course Versailles is Versailles… and the soaring computer-generated image of the gardens at the end made the heart soar too. And long to go back.

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This is a poem I found by Rita Dove, The Great Palaces of Versailles. Click the link for the whole poem, but here’s an extract below. Funnily enough, this wasn’t in the film…

Beulah had read in the library
how French ladies at court would tuck
their fans in a sleeve
and walk in the gardens for air. Swaying
among lilies, lifting shy layers of silk,
they dropped excrement as daintily
as handkerchieves. Against all rules

she had saved the lining from a botched coat
to face last year’s gray skirt. She knows
whenever she lifts a knee
she flashes crimson. That seems legitimate;
but in the book she had read
how the cavaliere amused themselves
wearing powder and perfume and spraying
yellow borders knee-high on the stucco
of the Orangerie.

Why this bench made me cry…

I’ve decided to move my bench posts from my old website, A Quiet Sit Down to here as, to be honest, trying to keep so many blogs in the air was driving me a little crazy, and benches fit in the garden just perfectly.

So to celebrate, here’s an example of why memorial benches matter so much. Meet Leslie and her bench to be found at Rye Harbour…

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… and then this postcard, spotted by my friend Gaynor Edwards, last summer and left pinned on Leslie’s bench. A birthday card on what would have been Leslie’s 70th birthday.

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I know we visit the bench in Chichester dedicated to my parents whenever we can especially on special days. Silly as it may seem, it feels like a chance to sit down with them again. And also, as the lovely Colin shows above, a place to chat too.

It is here now! It has come, the Spring! Dickon says so!

Writer in the garden, pah! Bricklayer in the garden more like… or at least for three bricks!

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Inevitably having a wall built round my garden has sent me back to one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden.

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And then it was even more of a joy when I saw how beautifully Frances Hodgson Burnett writes about spring. So as my garden’s a building site, these quotes are illustrated by pictures from my allotment…

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On that first morning when the sky was blue again, Mary wakened very early. The sun was pouring in slanting rays through the blinds and there was something so joyous in the sight of it that she jumped out of bed and ran to the window. She drew up the blinds and opened the window itself, and a great waft of fresh, scented air blew in upon her.

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The moor was blue and the whole world looked as if something Magic had happened to it. There were tender little fluting sounds here and there everywhere, as if scores of birds were beginning to tune up for a concert. Mary put her hand out of the window and held it in the sun. ‘It’s warm – warm!’ she said. ‘It will make the green points push up and up and up, and it will make the bulbs and roots work and struggle with all their might under the earth.’

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“Things are crowding up out of the earth,’ she (Mary) ran on in a hurry. ‘And there are flowers uncurling and buds on everything and the green veil has covered nearly all the grey and the birds are in such a hurry about their nests for fear they may be too late, that some of them are even fighting for places in the secret garden. And the rosebushes look as wick as wick can be, and there are primroses in the lanes and woods, and the seeds we planted are up, and Dickon has brought the fox and the crow and the squirrels and a new-born lamb.’

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‘I can’t wait! I am going to see the garden!’

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She unchained and unbolted and unlocked, and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm, sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree.

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She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky, and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt she must flute and sing alound herself, and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it.

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HAPPY SPRING EVERYONE!