close to home

I’ll just get this out of the way first – I’m not a moany old git all the time although the temptations and provocations are many – it’s an ad at the bus stop:

What on earth does it mean? Why do I care? Why can’t I just ignore all the bollocks out there? The absurdly coy and sentimental use of the term ‘love child’! And why the asterisks? But it’s an opportunity for me to experience something relatively new. I’m an inveterate reader, although I seem to be losing the ability to read books, except in small pieces. I read official notices, grafitti, people’s T shirts in several languages, posters of all kinds, the destinations on buses, stickers on cars, Metro headlines in the gutter, business names on vans, Thameslink apologies, cancellations and diversions, Thames Water’s justifications, marketing boasts and lies and abusive deceptions, the handwritten appeals displayed by beggars, victorian gravestones in the cemetery, spelling mistakes and rogue apostrophes, big words and small words, faded or flashing, attack words and words that plead: I visit the optician regularly so that everything is clear, even the letters on the bottom line; I can read the number of the approaching bus before other people (and they say, but you wear glasses!) I even read pizza flyers lying on the hall floor. I read the subtitles. I read the lists of ingredients on food packaging. In galleries I spend more time reading the captions than looking at the pictures. I read the phones of people sitting next to me on the tube.

Anyway. Now I know what it’s like for millions of people who maybe just ignore all that stuff because they don’t understand half of it. Only I haven’t yet learnt to ignore it.

One other thing to get out of the way: it’s becoming quite boring, so I’ll just mention it. Last week, on the other side of the road from their last repairs, Thames Water were at it again. I’ve lost count. Is it five times this year and it’s still only May? But it’s all about bringing us world class drinking water. So I read. Enough of that.

The lime trees in the grounds of the Catholic old people’s home reach out at this time of the year:

Nice until it rains. The bus stop is nearly invisible. But we know where it is. It’s by the word ‘water bear’ and a picture of a lumpy blue balloon.

Round the corner, a wonderful clump of flowering rhubarb!

In the windows of the house you can see the reflection of this beautiful tree:

It’s a manna ash – strange name, as in manna from heaven? – spectacular both in Bouverie Road, N16 and on Greek hills. The London Borough of Hackney has been planting lots and lots of trees in the streets, in great variety. Here’s another one, I don’t know what kind, it looks like some sort of sorbus:

Note in the background a typical N16 phenomenon – another loft conversion. There are tiny things to see in the streets as well:

We feed them and pamper them – I mean the pansy, not the dog – and then they go and find a place for themselves in an apparently barren crack in the pavement.

And this – such a common campanula, coming into flower now in thousands of dull brick walls:

I don’t usually look at them much. Because they’re common? If I found this growing on a rockface on Parnassus or Olympus would it appear more beautiful? The blue, by the way, isn’t right – why is blue so difficult for cameras? A pure blue, gentian blue or sky blue, will be ok, but any blue with some pink in it, then the pink is exaggerated. It depends on the light. This next picture is less pink:

Well, here is a campanula – similar species – on a limestone rockface on Parnassus, what do you think?

Meanwhile, in my well fed – overfed? – garden:

It happens most years. Chlorosis. This year it’s worse than ever. I think it’s a magnesium deficiency, exacerbated by too much potash and/or too much lime- that’s what the RHS thought, a few years ago when I sent them picture. So I’ve been careful – no more wood ash on the garden etc., but I can’t get rid of it. Leaves appear with normal colour and then, a few weeks into the growing season, they turn like this. (That’s the worst leaf I could see.) Primroses are particularly affected, some things not at all. So I’ve been down to the chemist’s again and bought some Epsom salts, magnesium sulphate, which is supposed to be good for chlorosis in plants as well as dissolved in a hot bath for tired bodies.

Here’s a scene by the New River just up the road at Woodberry Down.

I missed it but some people actually saw chicks breaking out of their shells! The new Woodberry Down development and the creation of the East Reservoir nature reserve have attracted birds and people to the area. Actually, the swans were always there. Maybe for them the real difference is that kids don’t throw stones at them so much. If at all. And trees don’t get attacked like they used to, although there is conflict over the street trees, something to do with nature versus the car. (And some people still complain about the falling leaves in autumn.) A few doors down from me a newly planted tree was neatly sawn down and done away with, post and tree guard as well, just at the time when my neighbours decided to start parking two cars instead of one on their front yard. But I think trees are winning the war. In Hackney at least.

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