We have been off line for a few days, because on Sunday afternoon we were struck by lightning. This has happened before & will happen again: it is due to overhead power cables marching across the brow of the hill. The strike totalled my computer, and killed the Professor’s modem. I now have a temporary lash-up with the spare laptop, achieved by the nice boy from the computer shop, pending a replacement. BT are very curmudgeonly about all this, by the way: they charge you a call-out fee if the problem is ‘in the house’ rather than ‘in the line’. It was indeed in the house, in the sense that 50,000 volts had blown the sockets, but given that they wouldn’t want, and probably don’t actually permit householders to meddle with the sockets I feel that this should legitimately have been their problem. Anyway, we are back on line which is the main thing. We are inclined to blame either Twisbies or Aunts; we had a very blighting Aunt in the house at the time, about which it suffices to say that P. G. Wodehouse was right. Every time an Aunt entered Bertie’s life, nothing but trouble ensued, as you will remember. A clear-sighted appraisal of the essential savagery of the Aunt community, in my view.
There have been some horticultural moments deserving of comment. The Banana I grew from seed appears to be moribund, to my great annoyance. I know exactly why it has dwindled, peaked and pined; Miss Kit pissed on it with diabolic accuracy, for no reason that I could see. I hastily ran water through it hoping to reduce the acid level but evidently haven’t; as a last chance, I have re-potted in in fresh compost & am hoping for the best. On a brighter note. I found what seems to be a self-seeded moutan half-way down the bank above the burn, and have planted it up; and the Apparitional Gamekeeper has worked out a solution to the algae in the pond which really seems to have worked — barley straw is the thing, it seems. It alters the acidity level or something (maybe I should stick some barley straw round my poor little banana?)
We had a completely mad moment at the weekend: the Aunt required to be repatriated to Kirkintilloch, a perfectly terrible little town which could hardly have been less convenient, since it is deep into the spaghetti snarl of motorways round Glasgow (it is, in effect, a Glasgow suburb). We then drove across the central belt to stay with friends who live to the East of Edinburgh, i.e. all the way round the Edinburgh ring-road, and ended up going off to retrieve the Professor’s god-daughter, the youngest child of the house, from another home of posh aesthetes where she had been spending the afternoon. Our host was determined to show us about his ferme ornée, so we all piled into an ancient landrover and zoomed round the periphery visiting a temple portico erected in the middle of a field, a giant picture-frame hung between two trees, a circle of silver-birch with an aesthetic herm in the middle, a lake complete with small temple/boathouse and all sorts of stuff of that kind. I particularly liked a portico used for summer dinner parties; the interior is painted oxblood red and on one of the end walls in Gill Sans is the legend, THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL; an effect funnier than I think I have made it sound. There were some very good ideas, one or two of which we are plotting to steal. The Professor annoyed our host by pointing out that the overall trend of the inscription & the whole thing generally would only really start making sense if he died and had himself buried in the garden (which was true, as is, it is very 21st-century, 99 Special Effects in Search of A Meaning, content-free iconography in an immaculate state of polish and finish). But it really is rather splendid; a bit Jasper Fforde-ish, though — I mean, it was as if we had driven into a book about dream gardens. I didn’t know that anyone outside books & the Chelsea Flower Show actually maintained several hundred acres of real ground to quite that degree of absolutely dandelion-free perfection. But I can recommend being driven at high speed through a barley field in an old Land Rover — apart from the fact that the shake-up is probably good for your liver, the barley swooshes and drums on the underside of the vehicle in a wonderful way.