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A Potter's Moll: The Hand, Nose And Chin Of The Weatherman

...I can hardly believe that the Robisons have entered the twenty first century to the extent that we have bought a slim-line, digital TV. We don’t watch a lot of television, mainly news and documentaries, but we did eventually come to realise that it was not normal for us to see only the hand, nose and chin of the weatherman as he stood alongside his chart. On the Luddite side of things, though, we did buy it from a small local retailer and not a giant chain, and it was probably the smallest screen on offer...

Liz Robison's diary of a busy life is always a delight.

Do please visit the Web site of Liz's potter husbgand Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

A bit of a gardening theme to begin with this week. Things are definitely beginning to grow now. Yesterday was the first day for ages I could honestly say it was comfortable to be outside in the garden without a fleece on. I split snowdrops and planted some violas in containers – I like them better than their more blowsy sisters, pansies. I put my tomato plants in bigger pots and staked them, ditto some green and yellow peppers.

Last year was the first year I had tried to grow peppers and they were absolutely washed away in the terrible rainy summer we had, so fingers crossed for better luck this summer. Today I have surveyed the garden shed. It’s a disgrace and needs a good bottoming, as we say in Yorkshire. I don’t understand how I have acquired three bulb planters (or three hundred plant pots), so action needs to be taken. It is one of those jobs that are quite satisfying when you roll up your sleeves and get down to it. The window has a beautiful view down the valley and across to the moor.

Regular readers may remember that in my last column I talked about a poem, Toome Road, by Seamus Heaney. He used the word omphalos, the Greek word for navel. I have since discovered that the word was applied to a column outside the cave of the Oracle at Delphi, which the ancient Greeks believed marked the centre of the universe. That makes sense in the context of the poem, and makes Heaney even more erudite than I first thought.

A slight digression here – in 1970 when I was an exchange teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, a young, dark curly-haired Heaney came to do a poetry reading at the school. He was spellbinding reading his work and very unpretentious and charming to me who had the job of meeting and greeting him and generally looking after him.

Many years later when he won the Nobel Prize for literature, I wrote to him via his publisher to congratulate him and I enclosed a photo of the young him, which had appeared in the Huron High School newspaper. Imagine my surprise a few months later to receive a postcard from him saying: ‘You were very good to write. I appreciate the press-clipping service too.’

When I was trying to track down the meaning of omphalos a friend said she had heard of a plant called Omphalodes that has the common name of Navelwort. So yesterday when I saw one in the local garden centre I jut had to buy one didn’t I? It is a perennial, spreading, easy to grow, clump- forming plant with bright blue Forget-Me-Not type flowers. A very nice addition to the rockery.

A friend brought us some of his homegrown rhubarb and it was wrapped in newspaper. This made me feel very nostalgic and reminded me of many things from the past. We made much more use of things like newspaper then. I love paper bags, greaseproof and brown paper, sugar bags and flour bags – anything that is not plastic. My Grandmother was a grocer and my dad grew up working in the shop. He was a very skilled wrapper of butter, bacon, an ounce of Colman’s mustard from a big tin. A big ball of string dangled from above the counter that was also skilfully used.

I try to avoid plastic bags as much as possible and always take my own cloth ones to the supermarket, but there are undoubtedly some things that plastic bags are useful for like emptying the vacuum cleaner bag and picking up dog mess.

I can hardly believe that the Robisons have entered the twenty first century to the extent that we have bought a slim-line, digital TV. We don’t watch a lot of television, mainly news and documentaries, but we did eventually come to realise that it was not normal for us to see only the hand, nose and chin of the weatherman as he stood alongside his chart. On the Luddite side of things, though, we did buy it from a small local retailer and not a giant chain, and it was probably the smallest screen on offer.

Now I have a dilemma – it has started to rain heavily, so do I stay indoors or go and tackle that shed? More from me in a fortnight,

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