March Misc. 2020

At the beginning of the month, I wrote down ‘Women’s Conference’, ‘Mark Drama’ and ‘Growth Groups’ in my bullet journal as the main projects of March. I was looking forward to our short break to Edinburgh in a tasteful arty AirBnB at the beginning of April after all the hard work in March finished. In reality, the Mark Drama just about happened, one of the last mass gatherings. Women’s Conference was cancelled. Growth Groups survived. The Edinburgh holiday was cancelled. Even the booking of a holiday in July was cancelled. I dived into March expecting hard work as well as collecting some pearls at the bottom of the sea but then came up to the surface facing a tsunami. March 2020 is going to be marked in history.

Sunday services and JPCi moved swiftly online. It was actually pretty amazing to see how fast people can adapt and learn to do new things. An unexpected side effect of moving JPCi online was that many alumni were able to join us. It was so good to see old friends and there was a strong sense of ‘we’re in this together’ as we speak from our rectangular share of the screen; as prayers shot across the world.

The afternoon sun bakes my living room and front garden as I type. The cheerful weather has been carrying on day after day, week after week. Maybe it is the halt in global travel which has drastically reduced pollution and given us so much blue sky. I wonder if the weather is better than usual, or is it just me noticing it more because my desk at home allows me to see outside? Rose bushes shoot up wildly. A huge bumblebee scratches his fuzzy head at the concept of glass and keeps crashing into the window. Bumblebees are really gravity-defying creatures, aren’t they? It’s like watching ostriches fly.

On the reading front, Kindle Daily Deal has been dictating my reading programme. As a result, I recently came across a book which I’m not sure how to think about. Maybe more on that later. I listed the things I’ve been doing this month in a previous post called 5 Things to Enjoy At Home Those I still enjoy and recommend. Here I’m going to note down a few random things particular to this household…

Having a Bath

It was more special than it sounds. Last time I requested a bath, the tap came off, the side panel of the bath was stripped open and we ended up with a minor water cut. This time it was uneventful. I sat in water reading Simon Armitage (a British poet, I was reading one of his non-poetry books). The pages got a bit soft in the steam. It was emotional reading about him getting lost and desperate in the wilderness of Northumberland enveloped in heavy mist, while I lay in a hot bath. I tried watching videos in the bath once but with so many Zoom meetings nowadays, you never know if the front camera on your laptop or phone is ACTUALLY turned off. And reading a physical book feels a lot more fitting for a slow bath.

Fussing with the Greens

Last but not least, since I can’t invite my dear friends (you!) home as usual, I’d like to introduce my plants and share with you a bit of my life this way. 

The bathroom. I placed ferns on the northeast facing window sill. Ferns are some of the most alien-looking plants. The way they unfurl their new leaves (‘fronds’) makes me shudder with disgust but at the same time can’t peel my eyes away. You might have met them in the countryside (often marked as ‘bracken bracken bracken’ on OS maps).

The first and second photos above are my favourite type of fern (‘Adiantum’). The delicate fan-shaped leaves grow on black wire-like stems, quiver in tiny movements. This one is a baby. The pot is actually a small coffee cup. The third photo is a new addition to the bathroom (‘Pteris’), also a fern. And the last one on the floor (‘Aglaonemas’) was recently moved from the living room to the bathroom because it just told me that was what it prefered.

If you haven’t heard about this, the bathroom is one of the best rooms to grow house plants. It usually has a big window (compared to the size of the room) to create a bright environment (but usually not with direct sunlight). The air is humid because of showers etc.

The bedroom and the hall. The one above left is a new addition as well (‘Asparagus’, I know! It clearly is not asparagus!) and it’s the only plant in the bedroom, as an experiment. I don’t want crumbs of soil in bed. It’s as baby as the first fern, in the same coffee cup.

The one above right (‘Sansevierias’) is one of the toughest house plants on offer. It’s in the hall because it can tolerate some pretty extreme low light. Our hall is so dark that only fake flowers from IKEA survived. This plant has an independent spirit, preferring you ignore it than fuss over it. So you can try this one if you are just starting or if you have been a ‘serial-killer’.

One of my nameless succulents (from Aldi) is flowering. And it catches water in the most magical way.

The rest are all in the living room. The one below on the left (‘Fatsia’) is a happy teenager, which grows as fast as one. You can just about see a watering bulb plugged in the pot. That thing helped a lot with keeping plants alive (as well as Adam Saul when we went on holidays). The one on the right (‘Ficus’) is my new favourite in the living room. It’s so waxy and dark and perfect-looking. 

Hoya is a trailer (above left), so is Rhapidophora (above right). 

The Palm (above left) has a little story. It was an unloved skinny thing in the office toilet for a long while until we inherited it from a former PA. It now has the most graceful arches and sways when I walk past it. It was the first plant I managed to rescue therefore has a special place in my heart.

The unsightly things on the right are sweetpea seedlings and yes they’re rooted in loo roll tubes (and yes, you got eagle eyes, they ARE standing in a baking tray!). For this purpose, Cushelle loo rolls are the best because the paper comes clean off the tubes. (The loo roll brand in Osborne Road is also good. There were a couple of weeks back in February when I smuggled loo roll tubes home.) And why loo roll inserts? They’re biodegradable in the soil when the time comes for them to go into the garden. Not that I’m an eco-warrier and again plastic pots, it’s purely because plunking the whole thing into the soil is a lot tidier and easier.

Sowing sweetpea seeds is one of the first gardening projects I learnt and one of my favourites. (Hey! A nice homeschooling project.) You push the seeds into the soil (in the loo roll tubes) and just wait. “He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” (Mark 4.27) After a couple of weeks, the most fragile seedlings poke their heads out. So fragile that a sweep of the curtain can break it in half (see the tube on far right as an example). But it grows very fast; it looks different every day. A few weeks later from today, they’ll be strong enough to go into the big scary world of my backyard, where they have to stand again the Newcastle howling wind, and silently witness wild cats tearing up pigeons. Many more weeks later, they’ll be bearing the most delicate butterfly-like flowers twisting on bamboo canes with the sweet scent of June. By August, they’ll be so thick and climbing out of control I’ll have to brutally attack them with a pair of secateurs every day. Life is vulnerable and strong. Watching sweetpeas grow is like watching a miracle.

Life is both vulnerable and strong. I think about this often recently.

(All plants photos are taken by me on my iPhone. Cover photo is by Marko Blazevic.)

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