Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Strip the Willow

Do you remember that? In country dancing at school during the more tolerable PE lessons, there used to be a dance called 'Strip the Willow.' (What do you mean, you never did country dancing at school? You must have done country dancing at school. Everyone does. Don't they??) From what I can remember the dance entailed two lines of dancers standing opposite each other (freezing cold hall and scratchy PE knickers optional, or not, if Miss Lock was in charge when PE knickers were 'UNIFORM, GIRLS' and you wore them, full stop) and you did various move together, move apart steps, then everyone together, up the middle and weave in and out of each other back to the starting point except you had somehow moved up one place in the dancing order. I think. When it worked, it worked very well. If it didn't work, Miss Lock made us move onto the Gay Gordons. Simple dance for simple people.

Anyway, I was in the garden at 7.30 this morning ready to tackle the stripping of the willow that Andy harvested from our willow arch at the weekend and that has been staring at me from its recumbent and massive leafy heap ever since as if to say, 'C'mon then, if you think you're hard enough.'

And this is where the dance comparison ends because I don't remember dancing a Strip the Willow and getting a) soaking wet b) freezing cold and c) covered in assorted bugs.

Two hours it took me to denude that pile of willow of its leafage. Two hours! But now I have a pile of willow wands ranging in diameter from a couple of millimetres to a good two inches. (Notice how I used both forms of measurement there in order to accommodate everyone's Imperial/ decimal needs? That's another school throwback, because I started primary school in September 1970 and in February 1971, decimalisation was introduced; the teachers were confused, us kiddies were confused and thus it has been every since, never being able to quite grasp the fullness of either system in a proficient way. Pence, florin, sixpence, pound, shilling? Inch, foot, yard, metre, kilo, pound? Who knows? Who cares?)

The longest piece of willow I dealt with was over 15 feet long! 15 feet of growth in 6 months! What's that in metres? About 5? It was huge. It caused me to tangle with the phone line that runs across our garden from next door's roof to our roof, anyway. There are a good twenty wands that are very sturdy and upwards of twice my height and will do very nicely indeed for bean/ sweet pea poles next year. More aesthetically pleasing than bamboo canes, I think.

And there is a bigger pile of wands which are bendy and pliable and of various lengths between 5 feet and 20 centimetres. Ideal for weaving, I reckon. Weaving what yet, I don't know. If you want to do wicker work you have to leave them to dry out for several months and then soak them the day before you want to...er... wicker them...so as to make them pliable enough to bend safely and not have them pinging back from the shape you want them in (basket/ chair/ ornamental goat) and thwacking you in the face.

Even though I was willowed-out, as I was in the garden I thought I might as well do a bit more pruning. I cut back the hops which now have a stem of almost tree-trunk proportions. I cut back the raspberry canes and also had a trim of the gooseberry bush which is right next to the netting gate leading into the hens' new enclosure and which, every time I enter therein, becomes tangled up and causes me annoyance. I also cut back a few unknown shrubby tendrils that were worming their way through the fence from next door's garden. Primrose and Daisy followed behind, either making sure I was doing a proper job or, more likely, hoovering up the bugs I was unearthing.

And that was that. Today, I did do gardening! Inside I went to have a shower. My gardening gauntlets have sprung a leak somewhere because my hands were filthy. And at some point I must have made contact with some irritant because I now have red and itchy feet. As soon as I stepped in the shower, they swelled up and went a most unattractive colour. What's all that about then?

Following application of soothing lotion and the donning of boxing gloves to stop me from scratching, the swelling is subsiding and the colour returning to normal.

But there will be no dancing for me today.

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