Evening at home.
So my mother says, “You should go and try on some wedding dresses.”
And I say something like “mnurgh” and try to change the subject, because I don’t like clothes shopping or talking about wedding dresses or trying on anything ever, and my mother’s on the end of a phone, what can she do? Foolproof plan.
What she can do, it turns out, is sensibly point out the wisdom of trying on expensive clothes before making decisions about them. And also point out that my grumpiness about trying on any clothes ever is not actually a well-thought-out philosophical stance, whatever I may believe.
“Well, but I can see photos of them on the internet.”
“That’s not the same as what they’ll look like on.”
“They’re on people in the photos.”
“But those people aren’t you.”
“But they’re like me. I mean, it’s not like I have extra arms or anything.”
“And you can’t tell what the fabric’s like in photos.”
“Well what’s it going to be, denim or something? Canvas?”
“Just. Go. And. Try. On. Dresses.”
So I went and tried on dresses.
And they were okay! They were all right. They looked quite nice on me. Flattering. (You’d hope, for those prices.) Also, full credit to the shop’s owner for not trying to push any Pretty Princess Wedding Dream on me, and for not keeping me waiting too long while dealing with the appointment before mine in which a party of about forty-three people was trying to find matching bridesmaid dresses to suit both a very pregnant lady and a 7-year-old. I am now satisfied that if I bought a dress that looked like a meringue falling down the stairs, it could at least be a really nice meringue falling down some stylish stairs.
But. Eh. I don’t think I’m cut out for wedding dresses.
Still, I sent pictures to my mother, just to prove I’d been, and she fell in love with the big flouncy one here. Which is not totally unexpected, since my mother has always been more of a fan of me wearing girly pretty things than I have. We’ve mostly reached an uneasy truce on this since the Great Holly Hobby Row of ’89, but what are weddings for if not to argue with your mother over frilly things, right?
“I don’t know, mum, it just looks a bit… sort of… well, it’s all right.”
“It’s all right? It looks lovely!”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“What’s wrong with strapless?”
“We are getting married in November is what is wrong with strapless. November in Scotland.”
“Well, but you could buy a bolero jacket.”
“Well, but then I’d have to buy a bolero jacket. Also I can’t dance properly in a strapless dress. Also it’s too long.”
“They’d shorten it.”
“Not enough they wouldn’t.”
“It’s supposed to be long. What’s wrong with long?”
“I’d fall over it.”
“You would not.”
“I’d have to wear heels.”
“You’d be wearing heels anyway.”
“I would not.”
“You are not getting married in flat shoes!”
“Because it’s not allowed! It’s a rule! Somewhere! Someone must have written it down…”
“Mum, I’m not sure that laughing is helping me pick out my Dream Dress.”
“I’m not sure that being sarcastic about your Dream Dress is helping you pick out any dress.”
“Well, you help then.”
And this is how come I am going back to England to go and try on wedding dresses with my mother.
Spent most of today at a symposium for work, which was great and fascinating despite the Saturday-hating academic tradition of holding symposia at weekends. (And bigger conferences, sometimes. My first ever conference paper was in a panel that ran at 8.30am on a Saturday, because hey, who needs more than three people in the audience anyway, right?)
Anyway, the symposium was in one of the buildings that was built as someone’s grand Victorian house, built with all the marble fireplaces and carved banisters and arty stained glass you would ever need. Took this photo from the hallway, just before the symposium got going.
That the caterers demanded to run everything and then left halfway through the meal, and by the time I realised they weren’t there any more, there was no time left for dessert or cake or a ceilidh, so everyone just went home and wrote bitchy notes about me on Facebook. The minister patted me on the shoulder and said “ah, but at least you’re married,” and then I realised we’d forgotten to sign anything during the ceremony so we weren’t.
That I had at some point agreed to marry Don Draper, although I didn’t remember this. Don Draper was hungover and refused to contribute anything to the discussions other than blearily asking for water.
That I had to find something – a person, an object, a destination, I don’t think I actually knew – but finding it meant going through a locked door, and unlocking the door meant first turning the room’s lights off and flooding it with water, and getting the water meant jumping backwards into a swimming pool through a window to prove I could, and jumping backwards into a swimming pool through a window meant finding the specialist jumping-backwards-into-swimming-pools-through-windows instructor, who was out that day. All while wearing a wedding dress I couldn’t run in. And then once I’d managed all this, the path on the other side of the door was guarded by an axe-wielding two-headed giant, and I could only placate him by promising to sign him up for a health and safety course (which he was ridiculously excited about, I have to say). And then I could finally get to what I’d been looking for, but by then it was too dark to see what it was.
Well, they’ve been outside day and night for a few days, but now they’re hung up in their final position. Unless the weather suddenly turns colder (in which case they’re coming back inside, because nothing in there is frost-resistant other than the ivy and I would cry sad tears if everything in there died), they’re out there for the rest of the year.
Our house is built into the side of a hill, and the brick wall where the hanging baskets live divides the level of the ground floor from the level of the first floor and garden, like so:
Even though the wall they’re against is sheltered and tucked into an alcove, it’s south-facing and gets a decent amount of sun. The lower basket will get slightly less, so hopefully the fuschias in there won’t have conniptions about needing more shade.
It’s nerve-wracking finally putting them out properly, though. They are so small! And so delicate! And they’ll either grow or they won’t, and there’s really very little I can do about that beyond giving them sunlight and water and fertiliser and protecting them from the worst of the elements. There wasn’t much I could do about it when they were inside, either, but somehow keeping them inside gives the illusion of control in a way that putting them outside doesn’t. I can’t control the rain or the temperature out here; I can’t keep insects and other plant-munching beasties off them (although slugs and snails are the worst culprits and they’re going to have a struggle getting there anyway); I can’t make sure the neighbours don’t inadvertently harm their self-esteem. This bothers me.
I also planted the sweet peas out in one of the proper beds, against a wall that’s already covered with a kind of wooden mesh they’ll hopefully enjoy climbing up. Some of them look great and are already reaching the lower part of the mesh, but others look a great deal less enthusiastic about this whole growing business. Hopefully they’ll get used to their new home sooner rather than later, because I’ll feel like a total gardening failure if I can’t even get sweet peas growing.
The beds where the sweet peas live are technically part of the communal garden that adjoins ours, so we share them with four different sets of neighbours. The landlord had always taken care of them before us, and so we dug out the weeds and planted some violas in there last autumn (still going strong, too; violas are amazing). Two new sets of neighbours have moved in since then, though, and both are quite keen on gardening, so I do feel a bit guilty about having claimed those beds when we already have a bit of garden of our own. Not that anyone’s objected, mind – they all seem quite happy with the rest of the garden, and hey, who could object to a nicely-weeded bed of colourful violas? – but still. I assuage my guilt by lending out garden implements and giving seedling tours to the three-year-old who lives upstairs.
“I should’ve married the best man.”
“I should’ve married the bridesmaid.”
“I cannot believe she did that. She knew I was planning to wear my Centauri female headdress today! Bitch. Well, she’d better go home to change, because I’m not bloody going home to change.”
“It’s all right, everyone – the limo broke down and we had to run, but I’m here now! Everyone? Anyone? Honey? …Well, this is awkward.”
“All right, Mr DeMille – I’m ready for my close-up.”
Everything is up and growing and green and wonderful now. It’s still a little too early to plant things outside – we probably won’t get any more frosts, but I’ve seen snow in April before – so at the moment all the vegetables are still living indoors, and probably getting less light than they could do with. Still, they seem to be growing well enough.
The rocket (in the fibre pots above) is the only one I’m really worried about. Yesterday some of the seedlings started to wilt, and on closer inspection it looked worryingly like damping off, which could rapidly wipe out the entire seed tray of my much-loved, much-cherished little seedlings. Because it is a fungal infection, and fungi HAVE NO CONSCIENCE.
Anyway, I took out all the collapsing seedlings and thinned out the rest, and the rocket’s looked just fine since. Maybe not damping off, then? Or maybe I’ll still be able to save some? Not optimistic, though. Hopefully the ones already transplanted to pots above will be fine, even if I lose the rest – and at least rocket grows quickly enough that it wouldn’t be a huge loss to replant it.
The lettuce is doing really well. It could do with some thinning out now, lest the stems merge to become one super-dense rectangular lettuce mass that will achieve sentience or something, but I’ve put it off because honestly I sort of feel like a murderer thinning out seedlings. I know, I know, it’s good for them and I couldn’t plant all these lettuces anyway and damping off is more likely when they’re overcrowded. I should get to it. Maybe tomorrow.
The cucumber seedlings are growing like magic beanstalks. Really impressed with how well they’re doing, particularly because it turns out cucumber seedlings really don’t like being transplanted at all and have a tendency to wither and die if you try. (Obviously I found this out after merrily planting them in seed trays, which will teach me to do my research beforehand in future). But here they are, transplanted and growing like crazy.
Sweet peppers are growing less like crazy since they were transplanted, which is a shame and worried me quite a bit for a while. I’m about 90% convinced I overwatered them by accident after transplanting, and they just didn’t do much growing for a good while afterwards. But they seem to have regained their enthusiasm now. Tiny baby true leaves!
Tomato plants are growing away happily and efficiently, too. Heaven only knows what I’m going to do with all the ones I don’t have room for. Hey, maybe all the wedding guests can go home holding a tomato plant!
These are carrots, which again, really really don’t like being transplanted, and thus are probably going to produce evil twisted forked mutant carrots in the future. Ah, well. At least they’re growing fine now.
And onions! I am a bit worried about the onions, too, because onion seedlings seem so pathetically inefficient. They come through in bent-over loops because they can’t quite break away from the seed husk, and then proceed to bend over more and more until the non-root end pings free, with the black rotting seed husk still attached. There are better ways to do this, onions! Anyway, the advice I read seemed divided on whether or not it would help to snip the loops, so I snipped the loops of half the seedlings and will see how they do comparatively.
These are some of the snipped-off onion loops, seed husks attached. Lovely. But it turns out that cutting through onion seedlings makes the entire room smell of chives, so the onions might claw themselves back into my favour yet.
My wedding will be so romantic! It’ll be just like in ‘Cinderella’, where my sisters mutilate themselves to fit into my shoes while I cackle in revenge for my life of domestic drudgery!
Okay, maybe not ‘Cinderella’. Maybe more like ‘The Little Mermaid’, where I’ll meet my perfect handsome prince without anything gory at all. I’ll save him from drowning, fall in love at first sight, end up swept away in his arms as his princess. So sweet! And mermaids are so pretty! Except I won’t get to be a mermaid any more, because I’ll have to drink poison to make myself human and I’ll lose my voice in exchange for having legs and feet and when I walk on them it’ll feel like swords stabbing me with every step, and then the prince will marry someone else anyway and I, in sorrow, will dissolve like foam on the sea.
No, that’s worse.
Maybe more like ‘Sleeping Beauty’, where a total stranger will wake me from my years of sleep with one perfect kiss and we’ll live in harmony forever. Okay, not exactly a conventional way to start out a relationship, but it’ll work out! And it’ll work out even better than it did in the original version, where that wasn’t a kiss she got from the handsome prince if you know what I’m saying and I think you do, and she didn’t wake up, not until after she’d given birth to twins and one of them sucked the splinter out of her finger, and then the handsome prince who was actually a king turned out to already be married and his wife demanded that the children be killed and fed to him – but even that one worked out okay in the end, right?
On second thoughts, forget the fairy-tale thing.
The cucumber seedlings on day 9:
Looking good! Better than expected, in fact; I wasn’t planning on seeing all of them germinate, so probably I’m going to be handing out cucumber plants to friends and family and neighbours and colleagues and passers-by who don’t walk away fast enough in months to come.
The hanging baskets and the plants for my window-boxes are still being gradually hardened off to prepare them for the outside world. They’re now up to spending a full day outside and only coming in at night, so I put them out before going to work and bring them in again when it starts getting dark. Alas, today brought heavy cold rain and hail showers right after this morning’s glorious sunshine, which wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. Poor little plants are looking a bit betrayed and disappointed in me now.