Ah June, that first burst of Summer before the mugginess sets in, that step-up from the promising but changeable May yet still unsullied by the monotonous heat of July. Dragonflies flit round Sir John’s pond in Walpole Park, potatoes and blackberries put out their surprisingly pretty flowers, bumblebees bumble around looking a bit like regular bees who have let themselves go, and all the world is at peace on an endless Sunday afternoon when the church clock does indeed stand at ten to three.
Alas, this week’s workshop eschewed the prospect of meeting plein air across the road, and so the picnic of poesy was instead spread across the lawn of the Library. Opening up the hamper was Roger Beckett, who has been thinking about star-gazing despite it being close to the longest day, while Pat Francis has been handing round the greaseproof-wrapped sandwiches and musing on the driftwood of language in a poem she says she found inside a bottle. Peter Francis meanwhile poured out the Thermos into plastic beakers as he compared the glorious sunset to stained glass windows, and Doig Simmonds started up a shaggy dog story about the one that got away as he tore open the crisp packet and placed it centrally on the rug for all to dip in. Alan Chambers passed round the pork pies as he highly recommended a Summer exhibition at the Tate, alas from many years ago but clearly still vivid in his memory, while there has been no Summer slacking from Daphne Gloag as she polishes her prologue of possibility and polishes-off the first of the chocolate fingers. Owen Gallagher then took a calm workmanlike approach to dividing the Victoria sponge evenly between all present, and took it as a cue to praise the white-van denizens who keep our world painted, oiled, and weeded, before Martin Choules gave a brief ode to a big fish and a finger-wag at a lizard as he gathered in the paper plates.
Of course, Walpole Park used to be the grounds of Pitzhanger Manor, and maintaining it fell to Eliza Soane. Not literally maintaining it, of course, she barely knew one end of a trowel from a wheelbarrow, but overseeing old man Haverfield the Younger as he pottered about rotating the sunflowers and fluffing up the hydrangeas. Officially, it was her husband who drew up the grand plans for the plantings in strict accordance with architectural principals, but it fell to Eliza to be his clerk of works and make sure that things got done.
But then, at least in the garden, she could avoid those damnable poets and their mooning around a daffodil by any other name. She was not such a wilting violet herself to blush at the thought that all of her bower’s pretty blooms were no more than the plants waving their willies in the air, even if she were far too sensible to ever say so, but she did have a natural mistrust for any poet who boldly claimed that their ‘luve’ was like ‘a red red rose’. Aye, Rabbie, she knew just what you meant.