The Plan: A diary style post per month, drawing my inspiration from The Almanac by Lia Leendertz
Each monthly section of The Almanac begins with a paragraph on the naming of the month. February is one of the months whose name seems the vary greatly across the various languages of the British isles. One in particular is a joy – the Manx for February is ‘toshiaght-arree‘:
…toshiaght means ‘start’ or ‘beginning’ and arree means ‘spring’ which is a hopeful and optimistic thought.
An optimistic thought is what I needed. I have struggled through the latter half of February feeling like I could barely function. I have slept late and gone to bed early, been beset by ‘brain fog’. Whenever this happens I fear a bout of depression must be almost upon me, and the urge to just hide under the duvet, to do nothing, is immense. I don’t know if this was caused by illness or my menopausal state*, but it’s been a bit grim. I have been out – to the amazing Spell Songs concert in Birmingham – and though it wiped me out for the whole week afterwards it was worth it.
Commissioned by Folk by The Oak, Spell Songs is a musical collaboration born of the phenomenon that is Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane’s ‘The Lost Words’. This beautiful book has cast its own spell over so many people. It has become more than a book – it’s a movement, a consciousness raiser, a call to action. The songs are gorgeous – but with the ensemble involved (including Kerry Andrew, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever et. al. ) they couldn’t be anything else. I’m so glad I went when my default reaction was to say “no I’m too tired, I can’t face it”.
The arrival of sunshine, after equally beautiful foggy, misty mornings, is a huge mood lifter. The days are ever longer (by about two hours). I go to work in daylight and I come home in the same. We are enjoying some beautiful days this February. Though the day we went to the coast was grey and bleak it was still a welcome taste of sea air – a trip to Dorset is always a tonic. We drove home that day as the sky cleared; the “almost supermoon” (we saw it on the 18th Feb, full moon was 19th Feb) appeared through folk-horror mists as I drove over the Purbeck Hills – if only I had a crystal ball, I’d have known to book us into a B&B in Corfe to stay for anther day.
Our garden is full of birdsong, blue tits dash about all day, and battle their reflections in the widow; they are – The Almanac tells me – busy impressing potential mates (and presumably seeing off potential rivals too). Blackbirds have arrived to eat the apples I chuck on the lawn (I think they eat more apples than we do, or the squirrels steal them). This morning I scrambled up the back of the garden to photograph the mist in the trees and found a tiny nest on the ground, I hope it was from last year. We have evidence of badgers again, though I still don’t know where their sett is they’re making quite deep excavations in the lawn. Muntjac families are coming in to browse on the leafy bushes, which is fine as long as they leave my poor apple tree alone.
I have tidied away all the straggly sweet pea plants, the seed heads and dried up bits are all on the compost heap. I emptied out the green house too, and was sorely tempted to give in to early sowing madness but I know it doesn’t work – leading to feeble leggy plants whcih have hard time once planted out. I must sit on my muddy hands until March and continue planning and tidying, and consulting seed catalogues. I do have some growing things though – the rhubarb has popped up, and so have two rows of garlic I have no memory of planting (that planning thing is a bit slapdash, I admit). The first daffodils have appeared, and a tiny sprinkling of blossom…a taste of more to come.
The very best thing after a morning is the garden is cake (of course!). This month’s Almanac recipe for me was Orange and Pistachio cake; it feels a bit like going on a winter sun holiday. The oranges and nuts give it an edge of Turkish Delight (the real stuff, not the Fry’s jelly like pink wrapped version) and it crumbles a little like baklava; perhaps that’s why it seemed to go better with coffee than tea. Delicious, anyway.
*This article, by Rose George, is the best I’ve found on the subject: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/16/it-feels-impossible-to-beat-how-i-was-floored-by-menopause