‘We Live Our Lives Full’

To have a horse named after your book is really something special. Thank you to my friends A & J for liking the title of my first novel enough to use as a name for your pride and joy (or one of your pride and joys, anyway). Craggan Dhu is being trained to be a trotter.

I have fond memories of going to races as a kid; Mum and Dad in good gears, men in hats, ladies in dresses. Hot dogs, candy floss, pies, fizz, damp, white-bread- tomato sandwiches and the thrill of the horses racing past – the smell of horse sweat, bruised grass, the secretive sound of reins jingling and whips and the steam-train-like, snort-breathing of the horses as they thundered past. Of collecting thrown away tickets to check once home again in case among your hoard is a winning ticket, accidentally tossed away (beer consumption maybe helping the chance of that happening. Also, it being back when punters unapologetically littered the ground with old tickets, rather than putting them in rubbish bins). My brother Terry was always the tinny one; the lucky one to pick up a cast-away ticket that had won a place or a win. Maybe that’s why he still follows the horses now, and owns trotters.

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Our garden is as far from a House and Garden magazine garden as it is possible to get. I think of it as rumpty. Ragged. Organic. Wild. Rampant. Unplanned (the surprise of foxgloves above just one example of the eclectic nature of our surrounds.)

I am in love with our echium bank – the slope that falls below our house has become festooned with a forest of these odd, architectural plants. The bees love them and so do we.

Who needs to buy a Christmas tree when you have the soar of these Christmas-tree shaped plants waving under your nose, right on cue? When they stop flowering they dry out into sculptural forms that hold their own particular attraction. Underneath, the half-grown, next generation plants hunker down over winter; ready to sprout in the following Spring.

I can look out at these friendly, spindly giants from where I write.

This orchid is another example of our garden’s propensity to throw up surprises. Where did it come from? I suspect (if I can rely on a distant memory) from a pot plant I decided to plant out after it refused to flower; despite my tending and patient waiting over a period of several years for it to do so indoors. This was an orchid given to us by my late father-in-law, all of twenty years ago. So. After twenty or more years, it looks like it has decided to flower in our garden.

Advent begins this Sunday. At the church I go to, the vestments and alter cloths will change from the green (of Ordinary Time) to purple. ‘While it is challenging to keep in mind amid holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and joyful carols, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting, much like Lent, and there are a variety of ways that this time of mourning works itself out in the season.’

I think it’s good for the soul (spirit) to take time to mourn. There is much to mourn – the older I get the more there is, so it seems. Knowing that celebration and joy will follow – the idea of the dawn following the darkness of night – being the promise that makes any mourning bearable.

At present (and thanks to my friend Jenny Powell for putting me on to this) I am listening to this. In particular, the episode featuring the two poets – David Eggleton and Victor Billot. What NZ poet David Eggleton had to say – as well as the poems he read out – was for me weighty with a reassuring wisdom. “We live our lives full but we make sense of them by looking back and the patterns that form and (patterns) we realise were there all along, but we don’t become aware of them until later on. There is a continuum … ” just a snippet of his thoughts on where we stand at the moment in history; in society; as kind of like being in the middle of a river that continues to flow, despite everything. I liked what he said. It brought to mind the saying, ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ (French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849). ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’

The key could well be what David led with – We live our lives full. Despite the state of the world / state of the particular country you live in – whatever cycle we find ourselves in at the time – we live our lives full.