Time is strange, very fast and very slow, a perfect example of the law of paradox.
Time flies when you are having fun, drags when you are bored or scared, where you have entered another’s time scale and lost the minute’s metronome.
There’s a card that says “If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk.
For a while longer, fall in love.
But if you want to be happy forever, plant a garden.”
As the holder of the International Award of the Purple (as opposed to Green) Fingers, I am not a born or even born again gardener.
But housewifery extends to gardens – care for living things to see if they will flourish.
Like the shrub I stole from dying outside a neighbour’s five years ago, outraged that they didn’t think to water it.
Why would you torture a plant like that, any more than any other living being?
I brought it home under cover of dark and nursed it first in its pot, then in the garden, cutting off with the care of a child’s first hair cut every bit of brown and dead I could see. I threw plant food at it, watered it and without knowing waited. (Learning to wait and when to stop waiting is one of life’s greatest lessons.) Earlier this year I moved it into a big pot where it thrived and this morning, as I pruned it, I heard myself say “You’re beautiful” as I used to say to the white rose that contained the ashes of my beloved big white bullterrier Spike. Stroking those leaves was the nearest I could get to his long remembered ears.
At the other end of the garden – at the other end of the garden, don’t get excited, all of 20 feet – is Honorine Joubert, a Japanese anemone that I had also moved, this time from a pot into the garden where I hovered over her like an anxious mother.
Honorine is the only plant variety whose name has stuck with me, probably because it’s French instead of Latin, and wonderfully apt for a feathery white bloom with a great sense of drama.
And I talk to Honorine too who had a prolonged Gallic sulk when I moved her and I had to go through that phase that sentimental gardeners will recognise where she might live but then again she might die and it was out my hands and I had to be patient.
I count her belated but honoured blossoms like a miser (eleven this morning, after the rain).
This morning time is on hold.
Today I shall be on a stage in front of somebody for the first time in ages, and like lots of other things, when you are in the habit, you worry but then you get on. When you break the habit or it is broken for you, the worry increases exponentially. I have sympathy all over again for experienced actors who find stage fright growing not shrinking as they get older.
It isn’t that you haven’t got a skill set, it is that your access to it is blurred by pauses.
In my case, long pauses.
Radio is fine because nobody can see me sweat and as long as the voice holds up
(so far so good) nobody knows how fear crawls into my hair and trickles down my back.
Public appearance is always tricky – look at the number of clangers dropped at any awards show and those people have every kind of assistance at their disposal.
So you are dependent on time, on how to spend it while you wait and when to stop waiting: how to fill the time while you do wait, keeping focus without over rehearsing and all of that.
And I shall be going through it all over again in two weeks’ time, no easier but just as joyfully, when the photographer Sukey Parnell shows a film she made about women and age at the London College of Fashion, sponsored by The Forum for Fashion Design and Visual Art Practice. Apart from seeing my face however briefly on a big screen, I may find somebody to explain to me what a “hub” is? I can only think of wheels.