Garden Life

I think sometimes that we forget how beautiful the world around is truly is.

I know that I’d like to think that I appreciate nature: I recycle, I’ve read Farmageddon (a view-warping literary adventure), lapped up David Attenborough’s series, and avidly followed Steve Backshaw on his latest adventures on Venezuela’s Tepui. But really I live in a city and so easily forget about the world outside sometimes. Despite having a magical home set on the Avon Gorge with a verdant garden descending down one side, I forget to really go outside and just sit, feeling my ears sting as the sharp spring air slithers past me. I take my dog Rhubarb for walks on the Downs and like to kid myself that the walk home I took from the hairdressers the other day really was getting my breath of fresh air. But today I followed Rhubarb down the garden just thinking, and I stopped wondering when I really stopped spending time outside.

I can recall all the games I used to play in the garden, all the hours we pass through with no computers and worries. Then I reflect on this sunny day I’ve just spent locked inside the house worrying over my essays and applications, and I feel like something is missing. Sunny days don’t come often in the British spring, yet I can’t just leave the work and go outside because this feels like a luxury, an indulgence.

Just stepping into the garden for a few minutes can cool down my rushing head, then again that may have been due to brain freeze from a breeze not as warm as I had imagined looking out the window. But really sometimes just escaping the confines of walls, of technology and social media is the best way to relieve stress. It seems so fanciful to suggest the cliche of re-connecting with mother nature, but for a head clouded with stress it’s the simplest relief.

And so ode to the gardens that are always there for us when we need them, even when we really don’t appreciate them as we should, I’ve decided to recap on a couple of my favourite books inspired by glorious gardens. After all, you don’t have to go to the mountains of Venezuela, or the peaks of the Arctic to enjoy nature.

 

The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett

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I don’t’ think it would be possible to think fondly on your youth without mentioning The Secret Garden. Alongside The Little Princess, few books really had such an effect on my childhood, especially when coupled with the achingly beautiful film adaptation, featuring probably my first real crush, Dickon. For a trip down memory lane I can’t recommend an afternoon snuggled up inside of the pages of Burnett’s book, but if you can’t spare the reading time then there is absolutely no judgment for cheekily opting for the film, something I may have done the other weekend. Just remember your box of tissues as I always get a bit weepy at the end, because Mary deserves to be loved.

 

Tom’s Midnight Garden– Philippa Pearce

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Another one in which I may or may not have become slightly weepy. There is clearly something about a book featuring a solid garden theme that really plucks at my heartstrings. I think I used to spend countless nights awake in bed waiting to see if I could have my own midnight garden, sadly my childhood was crushed by a lack of and therefore I blame Philippa entirely for building my hopes up and then cruelly dashing them, meaning that any failures I’ve had since are the result of her cruelty.

 

The Children of Willow Farm– Enid Blyton

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I am very aware that I am going on a children’s book theme here, but this piece has sparked up some whimsical nostalgia for me and I can’t stop. This little gem from Enid Blyton is one of the few books that my mother used to read to us all constantly (not to suggest that she didn’t want to read to us, but as a doctor she had very little time), technically it’s concerned with a farm and not a garden but it’s all in nature really so let’s no be picky. I adored the tales of the children from the city learning about the wildlife of the country. However, as with Tom’s Midnight Garden this book left me disappointed with my own life as no Wildman called Tammyman ever gave me a squirrel to keep as a cherished companion. So thanks for the dashing of hopes and dreams Enid.

 

Bitter Greens– Kate Forsyth

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To move away from the realm of the children’s book, this is one of the books that got me through the tube to work over the course of this summer, and when the strikes happened it was a godsend for the hour long stints on the Overground. Touted as an alternate take on Rapunzel it has the ability to conjure up memories of youthful fairytales, yet offers so much more. There is the mystery of who Rapunzel truly is, the female narrator from the court of King Louis XIV, and courtesans of Venice. Truly this book cannot be pinned down to one tale, but is a series of tales interlinking. At first I was puzzled by it, to tell the truth, as it subverted every expectation I had about the book, crushing the cynical side of me that grumbled at the thought of another retake on a fairytale. The garden is a key motif for the fairytale, yet also plays a key role for the exiled Charlotte Rose de la Force, it’s a wonderful book that gives you just what you don’t expect.

 

I could go on for hours about the wonderful books I have read, and perhaps in another post I will indulge my literary love, but for now the spring sun is shining and the dog is begging me for another walk.

Emily Atkins

Born and bred in Bristol Emily is a girl with a love of the West country, but a niggling feeling that she needs to get out and see more of the world, starting with Scotland for university. When she's not writing, she's studying for her Classics degree, googling Mary Berry's latest recipes that inevitably she ruins on first attempt, and browsing the Lonely Planet dreaming of far away places to visit. Interested in everything from exercise and food, to literature and travel, she's always looking for new things to explore and learn.

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