Monday 11 May 2020

Victorian Kitchen Garden

Sunday was Mother's Day in various countries, including the USA and Canada. Unfortunately, by the time I remembered, my usual Toronto flower shop wasn't taking any more orders for Sunday. The second-Sunday-in-May Mother's Day was founded by an American woman named Ann Jarvis in 1905, and she worked like a filial bee to make other people recognise it, too. Later she resented its commercialisation and tried to get people to boycott it. Hilarious! Her original idea was that sons and daughters should write heartfelt letters of gratitude to their mothers, not enrich the coffers of Geo. Hatcher, Florist, et alia.

This strikes me as a very American story. Naturally British Mother's Day, or Mothering Sunday, arose from mediaeval traditions in which the people of the British isles went home to their birth villages on Laetare Sunday and brought their mothers cake. How natural! How organic! How typical of Britain to have another excuse for cake.

Not having any real children, I solicited my Polish Pretend Son for new photos and speedily received them. One has my four-and-a-half-month-old goddaughter appearing to read a large book. I believe it is called Polska: Najlepszy Kraj na Swiecie, but I can't see the title, so I'm not sure.

In the morning, Benedict Ambrose and I set up our chapel, got dressed in our church clothes and sat down before Warrington's Fourth Sunday after Easter Mass. The homily was again a corker, this one making an oblique yet still daring reference to a powerful and IMHO disgraceful prelate. It also mentioned Alfie Evans and condemned the lack of care that ensured his death, which was even closer to home, as Warrington is in the Diocese of Liverpool. We were told that the way to confront the "reckless hate" of our violent world is to "ride out and meet it." By this the homilist meant we should be good Christians and embrace the suffering that inevitably comes with that.

Then we pottered about a goodly bit. I queued up outside Tesco to buy a bag of compost, feeling once  again that I had fallen into an alternative universe where the Soviet Union had won the Cold War and now everyone has to line up outside shops. Then I lugged my compost home and repotted the one faithful courgette.

Theological reflection: Our sitting-room windowsill is crowded with unresponsive pots. The leeks and one courgette flourish, but what of those silent, unmoving, invisible runner beans? What of the other two courgettes? What of the the basil, cucumber and thyme? Does Almighty God look upon humanity and see millions of seeds that do not sprout? Does He leave them on the terrestrial window sill for up to 100 years on the off-chance that they will spout even though, being omnipotent, He knows which ones will and which ones won't? Clearly He must rejoice more over the great saints, as I rejoice over the the leeks and the faithful courgette, than He fumes over the unyielding seeds. But actually I now see the first signs of live from one of the pots of thyme and one of the cucumbers, which reminds me of the joy in heaven over repentant sinners. End of theological reflection.

The faithful courgette got bent slightly in its repotting, and "I'm a bad plant mother," I cried. But I propped it up with a wooden skewer, and this morning it is standing up straight on its own again. In other plant news, both last night's weather forecast and the lady downstairs said that there would be frost in the night, so I put newspaper and cardboard on the vegetables and brought in the strawberries for the night.

When I got back from Tesco, we had leftover Chinese for lunch and then watched the first episodes of The Victorian Kitchen Garden, a series B.A. watched with his grandfather in the 1980s. We took a short break between Episode 1 and 2 to dust off the cappuccino machine and make cappuccinos, and I felt positively euphoric. The Victorian Kitchen Garden reminded me of what I loved so much about British Stuff when I was a child. Recollected childhood anglomania hit newly acquired adult interest in gardening, and whoosh! Maximal Happiness.

Then we went for a walk and came upon an abandoned Victorian property with ruined greenhouses, potting sheds, a walled garden and all. So we enjoyed walking and climbing all over that, and I enjoyed taking photographs, and I was once again reminded of childhood. As a child I enjoyed tramping though the ravines of the Don Valley and trespassing on the Don Valley golf course, one eye  out for the "Greener" I had been warned about. The "Greener" was more Mr. McGregor (of Peter Rabbit infamy) than Boogie Man; if he existed, I think he must have been a groundskeeper, or a collection of groundskeepers, who chased children away.

We were almost home again when the hail began to fall, and I rushed for some cardboard to protect my beloved broad bean seedlings. Then the lady downstairs warned me about the frost, so I hunted up some newspaper and continued to mother my green babies. Meanwhile, B.A. busied himself in the kitchen and rustled up a delicious Sunday supper of pork roast with fennel, apples and our homemade apple cider. I had some of the cider as I looked at photos of kitchen gardens on the internet, and it was quite good.

After supper, I spoke to my parents over Skype, and then B.A. and I watched a third episode of The Victorian Kitchen Garden. 

"This is so good," said B.A. "This is so innocent and so pure."

I predict that we will be watching nothing but gardening and cooking shows in the evenings for some time.


  1. Cooking shows are our go-to for marital tv watching. Right now we are enjoying the Great Canadian Baking Show, which is just as pleasant as the British version, only with more homey accents!

  2. Ah, homey Canadian accents! Oh oh oh. Now I am homesick for Toronto.