Guess Who Snores?

Not me, of course. Not even the Caped Gooseberry, unless he has a cold.

It’s the cat.

I always knew she was a noisy cat. She has a profound purr which seems like a full-body workout, the way it hurls her back and forth on her chassis with the force required to produce that much noise. And she appears to have the remarkable talent of falling asleep while still purring, which allows her to get her beauty sleep while everyone else is kept awake by the jack-hammer impression.

She does eventually fall so far asleep that the purr shuts down, although you have to be careful about stretching your legs in case she decides to restart the warning buzz to remind you she’s there.

But it is once she’s finally asleep that the real noise starts. Thankfully she’s not a habitual snorer, because you can spend a lot of time lying awake wondering what the noise is before you finally home in on the innocent-looking bundle of fur at the end of the bed.

Could it be the wiring, you ask yourself. Is it the next-door neighbour using power-tools in the small hours? Is there a blowfly trapped in my pillowcase?

I at last realized it was the peacefully snoozing cat, and was then kept awake by trying to render an accurate description in the medium of words. It was such a strange unsnory noise. It sounded – and this is the best analogy I could come up with at that time of night – as though she had swallowed a bee whole and it was now taking advantage of her unconsciousness to attempt an escape.

White Cat Sleeping
She doesn’t so much snore, as buzz.

This is still less disturbing than her son, who has a much less vigorous purr, but who has taken to groaning dramatically in his sleep. Like the squeak of a high-pitched door, opening oh-so-slowly, or a tiny teenager being told to clean his room.

He’ll be lying there, totally relaxed, with nothing but a gentle rise and fall to prove he’s actually still in the land of the living, and then suddenly, this eldritch moan. He doesn’t appear to be distressed, or in the grip of a dream (none of those little twitchy paws). He just delivers this drawn-out groan and then carries on sleeping, while everyone stares in his direction.

Sleeping Golden Cat
Not that I can talk, of course. Because I can, and I do, and what with me babbling in my sleep, the cat buzzing and the ‘kitten’ groaning, it’s a miracle the Caped Gooseberry gets any sleep at all.

Convolvulus: A Commination

I’ve always liked the idea of being a gardener. I took Horticulture in the fourth form, and Agriculture/Horticulture in the sixth form. I even toyed with the idea of becoming a landscape architect. Gardening is a classic Little Old Lady enthusiasm, and an area in which I have always felt I fell short of true Little Old Lady-hood.

sea-of-flowers-217683_640Because when it comes down to it, I have seldom ever actually gardened, and I think the reason for this lies in my childhood. We moved house frequently, so while there was always gardening to be done, we seldom hung around long enough to see the fruits of our labour. In fact, when I had to grow a garden for school (back in my primary days) I had to grow it at a friend’s house, so as to ensure continued access.

The result of all this was that I subconsciously filed gardening under ‘thankless toil’ and never did it unless I had some particular reason to – such as the vegetable garden I grew in the fourth form. My excitement when I saw something I’d planted actually produce knew no bounds. I even dragged my mother out to look at them when she got home. I don’t think she understood why I was so excited about pea plants producing peas, but she duly admired them all the same.

My enthusiasm – particularly as far as weeding was concerned – was rather dented by that same garden, however. While getting down to weed’s eye level to wreak havoc on the little pests, I discovered that weed’s eye view is also really-quite-large-frog’s-eye-view. I don’t know which of us had the worst fright.

So without anything much to motivate me, I seldom gardened; and my occasional bursts of enthusiasm were not enough to make the garden thrive. Such enthusiasm as I had was dampened by the regularity with which the weeds returned and the seeds I’d planted failed to grow. Now, however, being the sole lady of this little demesne, I find that my attitude to gardening is slowly changing.

Instead of the source of unremitting toil which will never render any return, I am beginning to look on the garden as something which is mine to nurture, and which will repay my efforts on its behalf with Good Things – food, and pleasant scents, and leafy sun-dappled shade.

So I have started to garden, little by little. I have dipped my toe into pruning, weeding, planning, repotting, planting – including some seeds which actually sprouted (magic beans from my mother). We’ve even eaten some of the produce of our garden (mint, nasturtiums, redcurrants and lemons). And yet, into this nascent Eden has crept a snake: the accursed Convolvulus, or bindweed.

Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) (7171469057)The Caped Gooseberry has been waging daily war on it for weeks (my hero!), and yet the evil flourishes. “Have at him, chop him up, turn his roots upward to the sun, don’t let him have a fibre in the shade, if you do he’ll turn himself  t’other side up and be as green as a leek in two days,” as Thoreau observed in Walden.

Convolvulus is like the plant version of the Black Death: even a tiny bit of infection left behind can turn into a full-blown epidemic in a matter of days. If it was edible, we could feed the world with it. As Dave Barry said of crabgrass, “it can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.” And unlike bubonic plague, its victims don’t have a 50% chance of survival. If they aren’t rescued when the Tendrils of Relentless Destruction coil around them, they will be gradually choked to death. It is the Boa Constrictor of the plant world, and it grows a good deal faster.

And so I have been moved to compose this comminatory sonnet, addressed to the vile midnight strangler that creeps about my garden.

Convolvulus arvensis (akkerwinde) How I do loathe thee! Let me count the ways:
I loathe thee to the depth and breadth and height
Thy tendrils reach, and roots spread out of sight
Which all within their choking grasp embrace.
I loathe thee with the effort of each day’s
Repeated work, as my man fights the fight.
I loathe thee, as do all who see aright;
I loathe thee with the fullness of my phrase.
I loathe thy hypocritical false flower,
As with pure white thou seek’st to fool the eye;
I loathe thy strength, thy killing wield of power;
Thy weakness, using others to grow high.
And so my curse, from roots to usurped tower:
To twine about thyself, and, strangling, die.

with a nod to Elizabeth Barrett Browning
and No.43 of the Sonnets from the Portuguese (they aren’t)

Dresses, Whole Dresses, and Nothing But Dresses

I made the decision: I’m moving to a dress-only wardrobe. Separates: farewell.

This isn’t due to some profound philosophical or metaphysical principle, it just makes simple sense. Over half of my wardrobe is dresses anyway, and I find myself increasingly irritated the other half of the time by the fuss of finding skirt, top, and more than likely under- and over-layers which will all work with each other.

A-line skirtsI could, of course, have just formed them into regimented ‘outfits’: this top always with this skirt, etc etc, but frankly, that defeats the whole purpose of separates, viz: that you can mix and match. I always found there was rather more mixing than matching going on, and it was a sore trial to my overdeveloped sense of aesthetics. I had the eye for it, but I didn’t have the wardrobe for it.

For some time now I have been dreaming of a simplicity of wardrobe akin to that of the Caped Gooseberry: every day he wears a collared shirt, trousers, and as many warm layers as are required to reach the point marked x. Amount of thinking required: virtually nil. (At least until he married a woman who insisted that colour be taken into account. Maroon, for example, should not be worn with pale green. I do not think I am being unreasonable in this matter. After all, I have to look at him more often than he does.)

TeofilThe problem is that dressing as a woman is not the same thing as dressing as a man. (I do not wish to dress as a man. I don’t have the figure for it, for a start.) Men can buy a pair of trousers which will quietly go along with every shirt they own, and do so for years at a time. Women’s garments seem intended to be attention-grabbers every one, each piece struggling to upstage the others. If you want something more neutral, it is pretty well guaranteed to be black, unless you luck out and find something grey. And even then, it is intended to be worn for a year or two at most, after which it will die the death of planned obsolescence, so you have to go and buy some more. I can’t be having with this.

Admittedly, part of the problem is that I am very choosy about my clothes. I want them to be of a colour that suits me, in a style that I like, and of a fabric that breathes. I don’t wear see-through clothing (defeats the point of getting dressed), or polyester (plastic has its uses, but clothing should not be one of them), or short skirts, or frills, and I definitely don’t subscribe to the view that if you wear a long skirt you’ve got to ‘balance’ it by showing more skin up top, as though women owe the world a certain proportion of their surface area.

Miranda Kerr at InStyle Women Of Style Awards (2)Imagine what the world would look like if men who wore ankle-length trousers had to wear shirts which only buttoned half-way up. (Sorry. Would you like some bleach for your mind’s eye?) And if they chose to rebel and wear a shirt which buttoned all the way up, people would assume they suffered from low self-esteem…

Back to the dresses, however. Having all these criteria does make it rather hard to find clothes, particularly on a budget. I can’t remember the last time I bought anything in a shop, other than an underlayer. It simply doesn’t seem worth looking any more, since everything I find is either of poor quality, a colour or style I don’t like, or too expensive. Or all of the above. I have long been a fan of second-hand shopping, but it’s getting harder to find what I’m looking for there, too. I try to shop like a tiger, but all too often these days I shop like a tiger in a tofu warehouse.

As much as I like the idea of wearing, say, an elegant Thirties-style suit, such things are not to be had for the asking. They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To. And people would be more likely to notice that I was wearing basically the same clothes every day, than they would if a man did it. (This man, for example.)

Shocking Pink SchiaparelliElsa Schiaparelli said a woman should never be afraid to be seen in her suit too often, but then, that was eighty years ago. Anyway, do I really want to take clothing advice from a woman famous for the shoe hat and the lobster dress, whose signature colour was shocking pink, a colour I would walk over hot coals to avoid wearing?

So, the dresses. As Hoda Kotb said, “I usually go for a dress. No matching involved. I am bad at matching! I like easy and when you’re done, it looks like a second skin. I wear dresses every day for that reason. It’s easy!” Easy is simple. Dresses still allow for plenty of variety, of course. A light, flowy summer dress; a dress of tailored wool for winter… And of course you can add warm layers, which only have to go with the dress, rather than two or more other pieces.

Mistake me not: this is not to say that I’m going through my wardrobe and chucking out everything that isn’t a dress. In the first place, I tend to wear my clothes until they die of extreme old age, and in the second place, I don’t have sufficient dresses to manage year round. Yet. As always, it’s a work in progress. But at least now I have an idea of what I’m aiming for.

Museo del Traje - MTFD062753 - Figurín de un vestido de Madeleine Vionnet

Have you been hankering for greater simplicity in your wardrobe? What steps are you taking? I’d love to hear!