Ah, nobody joined us in the invasion of Switzerland. I suppose that they (if you exist lettrice notturna) observed the date and drew conclusions. Quite accurate.
I turn to the other recource for rancid times: the cultivation of my garden. Or gardens, plural, to be accurate. One of the many advantages of living in so remote a place as we do is that there is a great deal of space. (There is also a great deal of weather, but we prefer not to dwell upon that.)
Having just returned from a fervid week in the south (whenever I leave Scotland, I become ill: Procopius was clearly right) has given me ample opportunities to reflect on just how remote remote can be. Most people consider Perth to be North enough to be going on with. We live a good three hours north of Perth. This might have been in some respects a hardship twenty years ago when it took three weeks to order a new book from rural Scotland, and you had to drive an hour to collect it. Now everything that used to have to be brought north in a car full of (e.g. a year’s supply of metropolitan shaving-soap and four pyramid box-trees) can be ordered electronically. I expect two parcels of books and music from Bolivia any day now, provided that the customs do not leap to sordid conclusions about Bolivian postmarks. (They were quite good, on the whole, about paintings of sharpshooter angels from Peru, so I live in hope.)
The cultivation of the garden. Or rather field. The field behind the garden proper. Moved by I know not what genetic programming, we are planting trees. Not just one or two, but thirty of this and forty of that. One summer evening I was at the top of the field with the black dog who is a fool, and looked over the top of the house towards the white castle at the bottom of the valley and thought how nice it would be if there were three clumps of trees down the bleak eastern perimiter of the field where it backs onto farmland. For no better purpose than to frame the castle if viewed from the top of the field. Hardly anyone ever goes to the top of the field anyhow unless in pursuit of the black dog who is a fool, as it is very windy up there and there are usually in residence two Clydesdale horses of our neighbours. Not that they are not very nice horses indeed, but they do nuzzle playfully in your pocket for apples and other things that horses like, and (given the size of them) it is rather like being nuzzled by a double-decker bus.
The trouble is that the trees arrived while we were away and Dr Biswell (who is keeper and constable in our absences) with great presence of mind stuck them into several dustbins full of water. And now they have to be planted. It hasn’t rained to speak of for a month. The ground is (in the Novocastrian phrase of the horses’ owner our neighbour) “like bell-metal”. Anyhow we planted, Dr Biswell and I, from six in the evening until late supper and managed to get about half of them into the ground where the horses can’t get at them. (The horses ate about twenty baby Scots pines last month by way of salad.)
Given twenty years and a nice evening it should all look splendid. For the moment I am left wondering what ancestral impulse compels you to plant fifty (so far) trees in clumps along the edge of a field which serve neither for shelter nor for anything else useful. See remarks about rancid times with which I began. At least if you’re planting trees from six to eight in the evening you miss the news.