Have you noticed Christmas is particularly early this year? So it's been necessary for the Editor to whip up the hack and start his combustive juices. And the usual question -- do we have news for our friends, or have we just been Greens, pottering along? Might last year's letter do just as well? (Would anyone notice?)
Not all. News we have. Our followers will have noted that the Future Garden ranked high in our Obsession List: our determined chins, our grimly set jaws. And so it came to pass, with a mile or so of new fencing and one lawn instead of five grass patches, beds elegantly swerved and curved by Jo's eye and Ian The Man's edging. We can time the seasons by the weeds and the pests: sycamore, dandelion, couch-grass, slug; bindweed, anonymous, dead leaves, fox. (Fox? Yes indeed, she (or he?) digs up anything that we plant with bonemeal round its roots.)
Monsanto got it wrong. They should have gone for weeds, not feeds. Now that we've read 'Gene Splicing for Complete Idiots' we shall soon proudly offer you Green's Improved Dandelion. Who will be able to resist something that is self-seeding, edible, attractive, slug-resistant, hardy, and undaunted by drought. Next year's model to be available in colours to match your computer, and the year after will see Green's Lithophagous Worm, the answer for gardens placed on top of overlooked quarries (ours, for example). (Probably be very popular amongst prisons.)
Anyway, enough about the G-word, even if it has claimed too much time and sweat this year. Come and help enjoy it. Contribute a feature or two -- carve an Egyptian hieroglyph, a runic inscription, maybe some Ogham or a Pictish decoration. Unfortunately all the books on hieroglyphs concentrate on 'Folks, please give a big hand to the shade of the Worshipful Toastmaster of the Great Ramses' rather than something Really Useful like I met a traveller from a recent land, Who said: Watch out for frost tonight..."
What other news on the home front? Well, this year we've seen both our sons in POSH SUITS, to our amazement. Owen, indeed, got through more news in three days than some of us see in a few years: at 24-hour intervals he moved from Salford to Leeds, got his finals results (just fine) and became a parent with Kerry of a small loud healthy son (Alex, also just fine). So now Jo and I are Aggrandised Parents. Alex has done all the usual things, filling photo albums and washing machines. We'll try not to go on about him too much in future years. Meanwhile Owen is composing music ('I can't be too pissed to pack' is one of his fine titles), programs, and job applications, in that order of enjoyment. Yes, the suits go with the job interviews.
Eventful for Martin too. ThoughtGang (the band previously and less eclectically known as Whiskey Before Breakfast) (= M plus Cath, Nigel, and Kevin) decided to go their separate and eclectic ways. We were sorry to see the era end but they all needed to move on and we shall watch with interest. M is now spending time writing a lot more music and has been touring as part of the Eliza Carthy Trio. We heard them supporting Joan Baez (in case you've lost your memory or are too young to have one, she's a fine singer and a fine person) &endash; and yes, that was where M was wearing an amazing suit AND posh shoes. What a year!
By way of contrast to our sons' music -- sampled hiccups on one side, keys flickering at a thousand miles an hour on the other -- T has taken up the viol. By August he was producing moaning noises. So was the viol, but he's relentless. Jo has smartly realised that she can get away from all that by going singing. She was remixed as a soprano last year so she can sing everything all over again and it'll all be different. Masses in the Lake District (Ambleside is especially recommended for massing in) and madrigals by abbeys (the original Bare Ruined Choir?). (No, we had clothes on. &endash; Ed.) She even came down to Sidmouth Folk Fest with Thos, to sing all day and dance till dawn (or 10.30 pm, whichever came first), but alas got hit by food poisoning the day before so had a rather gentler time there than intended. Best Thing was Bottine Souriante, maniac musicians with jewel-like timing. Despite Jo's dire state we almost got up and danced.
What else? T has been travelling quite a bit this year. In February he had his street cred rating with the Lads moved up a few hundred percent by being refused entry to the US of A, and being taken back to the next plane under armed guard. At last someone was taking him seriously. He tried again in July but that time nobody took him seriously and they let him in, so he spent a month in Corvallis. The atlas takes Corvallis quite seriously, but maybe that's because there's nothing else much going on for miles around. It's a quiet town full of rhododendrons and wooden houses, where he pottered away with the computer science department. On July 4th he God Blessed America along with his hosts. Best Thing was the Kinetic Sculpture Race: home-made person-powered vehicles, essentially four-poster recumbent bicycles tricked out as 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' and the like, are raced over various kinds of terrain, part of a weekend inspired by da Vinci. Most Enviable Cultural Practice: the car drivers are considerate and courteous, and they always stop for pedestrians and bikes.
Travel seems to have been getting around this year. Thos has been also working in Amsterdam, City of Stoned Tourists. Best Thing so far has been going to concerts, notably Rostropovich conducting; nobody got up and danced but someone did shout boo. Most Incongruous Thing -- a place called The Beethoven Nightshop. "I'd like an Eroica and two Apassionatas, please. And maybe a Pathétique on the side."
We spent a weekend together in Delft, down the road from Amsterdam. It's just the size for a weekend, enough to see without feeling overwhelmed, lots of charm and no graffiti. A cross between Cambridge and Bourton-on-the-Water. Sad, though, that the tile industry has dwindled to pure reproduction of old designs. In the Twenties they created some very lively new designs but apparently today there's no market for new designs. Went to Lisbon for Jo's 50th. Had a great time despite being stranded in Zurich (pronounced 'too rich', or in our case 'not nearly rich enough') en route. Don't ask. It was all to do with NATO bombers, or so some say. Lisbon was very enjoyable, especially the Gulbenkian museum. Most Enviable Cultural Practice: Portugese restaurateurs get terribly worried that you might starve to death while you're waiting for your food to arrive, so they bring you a little something to keep you going. If you're in a cheapskate restaurant it'll only be a lump of cheese, but only a wee bit up-market and you get a plate of prawns in their shells or a platter of serrano ham. By the time your meal comes you're full up. Most Unexpected Thing: to get into the Tram Museum we had to state our ages and prove them with our passports.
T is still trying to run a contra dance club. So watch out, if you get within range you'll be hoofing it or strumming in the band or he'll know the reason why. Cries can be heard from his sleeping form &endash; Ladies chain! I need more fiddles! He thought he was in heaven when he met a whole orchestra flying home to Leeds but they all claimed they couldn't play fast enough .
Visitors also need to beware our local festival &endash; thither too you may be dragged if you forget to bring an excuse. It's been going well, lots of events, lots of people, lots of sunshine, and lots of fun. It's also been a superb way for us to get to know half the population of Chapel Allerton. We stand around in our orange stewards' T-shirts between the street bands and the plant stalls, dreaming of the day when they're both replaced by Green's Even More Improved Dandelion &endash; now plays the guitar and eats slugs.
Look &endash; we've reached the end without even mentioning the M-word.
Season's Greetings from
Jo & Thomas Green