My new home is at the opposite end of the village from my son and family, which is near enough for me to message them with the usual cry: 'The PC has gone weird' and far enough away for them not to turn up too often at meal times. It's also nearer to the local primary school than their place, for me only involving a 15-minute walk across the local park, so when both parents are otherwise engaged I've picked Olivia up. This particular day, the idea was that mum would pick up Olivia, who would come out of school as usual at 3.15pm. Meanwhile, I could have a well-earned rest…
At 3.10pm the phone went: 'I've lost my car keys!' said my daughter-in-law. Given it would take her over 30 minutes to walk to the school, this was a bit of a problem. After a very brief 'discussion' along the lines of 'why don't you always leave them in the same place?', I turned off the phone, leapt into the Up! and set off down the hill. No spaces in the car park, so parked on the road and set off at a sort of run, across the park toward the school. The last time I did any serious running was when son Richard was a baby – i.e. 39 years ago, so I was somewhat out of condition. Nevertheless I 'jogged' on and reached the school just as Olivia was coming out, thankfully avoiding a heart attack but somewhat breathless.
'Granny, what a twit you are! You are still wearing your slippers!' she informed me. I pointed out that if anyone was a twit it was her mum… of course, the keys turned up eventually under one of the sofa cushions. Having recovered from my exertions, I diplomatically refrained from making suggestions as to how such an event might be avoided in future.
Men and myths
Some years ago, I bought a copy of Robert Graves' The White Goddess
in a charity shop. I know I read it, but revisiting it I'm amazed I made it through. I'm now on page 123 and he's introduced a 'summing up of the historical argument'. I'm glad he's done that, as if I was his PhD supervisor, I think I would have asked: 'Where is your argument?' The first 122 pages are (I think) mainly about ancient Welsh poetry in riddles, which expands to cover most mythologies in the known world. I don't know whether Robert Graves had ever read Jung – he certainly does not appear in the voluminous index – but Jung would have made short work of all these intricate links with 'archetypes'.
It may be complete waffle, but it's beautifully written and so concentrated that it's very good for insomnia. As my 'book at bedtime', I can usually manage only two or three pages before nodding off. Graves and his family spent many years in Mallorca – the favourite walking destination of the late Mr B – and for his time he must have appeared a rather bohemian type. His romantic adventures make Boris Johnson's rather tame – and at least Graves had some charisma, unlike the former. Skipping to the end of The White Goddess
, he appears to be suggesting that he couldn't help falling in love with all these women – 'the Goddess made me do it'.
Interestingly, one of Graves' sons, Tomás, an artist and graphic designer, some years ago wrote a much more accessible book called Bread and Oil
, originally written in Mallorquin language, in which he is fluent, as Pa amb Oli
, which is also the name of Graves' rock group. Tomás, in my inexpert opinion, writes as well as his father but rather differently – and with his book the argument is clear – that Mallorca risks losing its traditional culture if it abandons its culinary heritage. It has been a battle for Mallorcans not to be subsumed by the more powerful Spanish overlords, and its near obsession with its language reflects the fact that dictator Franco tried for years unsuccessfully to suppress it.
I was in a restaurant in Mallorca once, perusing my Spanish phrase book, when the irate waiter snatched it away with the rejoinder: 'Not Spanish but Mallorquin'. I did purchase at great expense a Mallorquin dictionary (lost in the house move) but I'm sorry to inform Graves junior that I found it a very odd language – a sort of amalgam of French, Spanish and Arabic with lots of 'xs'. Tomás, however, in contrast with his intense father, seems to be an amiable and jolly fellow with a genuine interest in his native country's culture. I suspect he would have much sympathy with Scotland's desire for independence and would probably be able to avoid some of the darker aspects of the movement. Certainly his book would be the one to accompany me on my desert island, even if Graves père would send me to sleep!
The pathetic fallacy strikes again
I'm sure I mentioned not long ago the idea that the weather reflected the emotional state of those suffering from it, the 'pathetic fallacy' – it has been a cold and wet spring, and the few sunny days have been greeted with relief here in rural Aberdeenshire. But apparently the weather throughout Europe has been similarly bleak. Earth weeping for the stupidity and cupidity of its inhabitants, perhaps? Although in one way I have benefitted from this constant rain, as it has been good for the many plants that friends and relations have donated for my new garden. Over a few weeks, it has gone from minimalist – i.e. nothing but a grassy slope – to an incipient jungle reminiscent of a similar development in my previous garden.
I know one is supposed to go around drawing plans and producing scientific studies, but my style has just been to dig a hole wherever one would fit, stick in the tree or shrub and hope for the best. So far, amazingly, everything has survived, even the huge flowering currant donated by my daughter-in-law as it was overshadowing their small garden. And now a friend is following me from beautiful downtown Banchory to the less beautiful but rather nicer village of K – and has promised me even more plants to rehome.
I did discover one useful hint from the Beechgrove Garden
– that if you cut away unwanted grass turf and turn it upside down, the grass will obligingly die and fertilise the garden. As I'm a gardener who could never see the point of lawns, this was well worth knowing.
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant