As I sit at our kitchen table, listening to talk of the war in Ukraine and Russia’s nuclear threats on the radio, having had a broken night with a seven-year-old with Covid which sent his temperature spiralling, I am looking out onto our garden, offering a little corner of peace.
On the last day of winter, the snowdrops are nearly over, hanging on raggedy alongside brash King Alfred’s Offspring daffodils. Delicate Tête-à-tête narcissi with orange trumpets and starry pinned back yellow petals are out and pale lilac crocuses have spread across our lawn (what’s left of it after the trampoline and dog have done their worst).
I can see three different hellebores from where I sit, all self-seeded: purple, greenish white and palest pink. There is much work to be done, after neglect and winter storms have wreaked their worst, but with milder days coming my enthusiasm for getting out in the garden is returning.
Yesterday, I spent an hour at our new allotment, digging to take my mind off the terrible international news. Plot 1a is overgrown with grass and every spadeful is an effort, but it is a beautiful spot to spend in the late afternoon sunshine, looking out onto the downs. As I dig, I try to imagine what it might look like in the summer, with garlic, potatoes, beans, raspberries, cavolo nero, rainbow chard and more.
Voltaire’s advice at the end of Candide – “We must cultivate our garden” – has never rung more true. There is little I can do to influence events in Ukraine, although my heart is with the people there and I will offer whatever aid I can. But spending a little time working in the garden is a reminder that life goes on and that as well as death and destruction, there is beauty and creativity in this world.