Even more reason to love books

I hope that when you visit my blog it doesn’t take you long to realise that books are an integral part of my life. I love my local library, and the Little Free Library just down the road (but the Little Free Pantry next to it has won my heart!). However, I also have many shelves of books.

As a child I fancied myself as an architect and still love plans of houses. My dream houses I created always included a library. While I don’t have a separate room, I did get bespoke bookshelves made in the lounge. After 20 years I still love them, and get great joy from seeing the books there.

During the time the hallway was in a state of disrepair, many of my books ended up in boxes and languished in storage for too many years. Then the boxes came home and piled up around the place until the carpet went down. (I didn’t want to put them in the bookcases before the carpet went down because I knew we would never get the hall finished. You know how these things go.)

So, recently, not only have I had the pleasure of new carpet, I have also had the joy of putting my books onto the bookshelves, two which are in the ‘new’ hall.

I have sorted and categorised ~ I was a librarian! ~ art books, history books, 20th Century novels, novels from earlier times, 21st Century novels, science books, crime novels, sci fi, travel, memoirs, and children’s books. It makes my heart sing to see that they have space, that they are organised, that they are not higgly piggly in random piles and boxes, and that I have room for more!

I have room because I have removed books from the collection. As many of you would appreciate, this was hard. I have donated some to the Little Free Library and lots to the op shop. However, some have gone to recycling. It makes me sad to think of these authors and their work just tossed away. A number of you are authors and I know how much love and care you put into every word you write. It is such a shame to toss these books, but I need the space. (Please, no comments about digital books needing less space; they are just not the same!)

But some of them haven’t made it to the recycling bin just yet. More on that in a moment…..

You may not know that I volunteer once a week in the library of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, housed in the National Herbarium of Victoria. As you can imagine the library is an extensive collection of books and journals related to botany and botanical history. It also houses collections of botanical art works, photographs and slides, maps and so on.

Recently I have been barcoding the bound journals, where some series reach back into the 1800s.

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It is very mindless ~ take the journal off the shelf, open the back cover, add the barcode, close the book, place it on the shelf, repeat over 1000 times more! However its mindlessness is very soothing, and just what I have been needing.

Which brings me to what I recently learnt about books. I have always known that books take me away to unexpected worlds. They have a therapeutic effect. I remember surviving heart-break as a young thing by devouring Zane Grey novels. They were the perfect escape route and quickly took me away from my pain, but I have never read another since!

By barcoding the journals and sorting my books I learnt another life lesson from books ~ that their very presence soothes me, and handling them, sorting them, looking at them, brings me a great sense of calm. ~Sigh~

And I haven’t quite let go of those recycled books, because I am turning them into Christmas trees!

My book themed Christmas trees began after Dale posted about her recycled tree. A comment she made about trees created with books caught my eye. After about an hour I had created my own…..out of books. My brother cleverly called it the Tree of Knowledge!

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Down in the rabbit hole created by a search of “Christmas trees books” I came across folded trees. Paper, books, origami ~ what’s not to love? I rummaged in the recycle box, found a couple of paperbacks and tore them apart. Yep, that was hard to do too, as I find turning down a corner of the page as a book mark difficult! But I loved the result, especially of the first one.

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Then I made a larger one from an old magazine. The coloured pages gave a really good effect.

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Even the stars are made from pages. This website has all you need to know to make the stars, including how to make a square into a pentagon, which you need as a starter shape. This video will show you how to fold the basic trees.

So, the perfect Christmas trees ~ no messy needles, no watering, no plastic, easy to pack away as they are recyclable and certainly, for the pile of books, reusable…. simply put them back on the shelf!

How have books been integrated into your Christmas this year?

BTW, in the new year I will post about my favourite books of 2019, but I know that Insomniac City by Bill Hayes will be on the list.

 

 

Finally, at last….

While much of Australia has been burning, carpet has been on my mind this week. [Catch up on the fires from Meek’s and Kate’s posts.]

Let me set the scene….

My house was built in c.1910 in the Victorian style ~ a long hallway down the side of the house, leading to the lounge, kitchen, dining area down the back. The bedrooms are off the hallway.

Ages ago we had the place reblocked [ie replacing the stumps that the housesits on]. All the baltic pine floorboards were removed 😞 and replaced with sheets of brown board called yellow tongue. The skirting boards were off and the hall became a dumping ground. It stayed that way for ages.

Why it languished like that is a long and boring story that I won’t go into. It involved procrastination ~ lots of procrastination ~ and exasperation and convoluted plans for under the house [don’t ask!].

Fixing the hall was always on my To Do List, moving from month to month and year to year. A couple of years ago I had a burst of enthusiasm and project managed us into painting the hall from a butter yellow to a plain white. The skirting boards were sanded and painted, in a delightfully named paint, ‘Pale Lady’. That’s a lot of skirting boards, as the hall is 12 metres long!

Then things stalled again. In another burst of enthusiasm we got things out of storage. ‘Things’ were mainly boxes of my books, stored when we did the reblocking, which had no where else to go but be piled up in hall.

So here we were, with boxes of books and other stuff, skirting boards leaning against the walls, noisy flooring and draughts. I had had enough. No more procrastination, no more “I need to do this [insert long term unrealistic plan in here] before we get the carpet down”, I was determined. I was also determined that we were going to outsource as much as possible. No unrealistic plans for us doing it ourselves.

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This photo shows the hall in a rather respectable state, with only some of the piles of stuff.

First job was to get our handyman friend, Ron, to put the skirting boards back on. He was so willing and available, many thanks to him.

Second job was to choose the carpet. The hall is not only long but rather dark. The carpet needed to be light and have an interest down the length of the space. Most of the choices were dull, but as soon as I saw the right one I knew it was the Right One.

So, I ordered, paid, organised the layer to come. We moved boxes and book cases and stuff; we vacuumed; and I waited for The Day to finally come.

Brett, the carpet layer arrived on time and was an immediate whirlwind of activity.

 

Our only glitch was the front door. We had to take it off and shave a centimetre from the bottom, to allow for the new height of the carpet and underlay. While the Fella did the cutting and I did the supervising, Brett did the heavy lifting of taking the door off and then putting it back on. I was so grateful!

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Our rather forlorn front door

Brett cleared all the scraps up and was gone, off to his next job, leaving us with a miracle!

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It is soft, it is quiet, it is wonderful ~blissful sigh~ 

And it is DONE! No more hurrying down the hall with down cast eyes. These are areas of the house to be proud of.

The hearth in the bedroom was another one of those “One day we will fix this up” things. No more, because I decided to cover the whole thing up with carpet….. problem solved!

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Let me show off, just a little more….

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Note the clear and dust free surface of the bedside table!

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Ahh, I could bore you for hours and insist on showing you more photos; instead I am going to walk up and down on my new carpet in my bare feet….and maybe even vacuum it again!!

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P.S. I mentioned my brother in my last post, another whirlwind, helping us clear the garden of weeds. He was chuffed that so many of you asked whether he would come and do your gardens. However, he wanted you to know that if you live in Japan he will be there in on the next plane, anywhere else, sorry, he’s a no show. ☺️

Time to stop and prune the roses

My original intention was to write a post with a very different tone. I was halfway through it when I was called away. That gave me time to reflect on what, and how, I had been thinking. The original was to be of the ‘poor me’ type, the ‘give me a break’ type. I had even written an opening disclaimer telling you to flee without reading more!

As you know my Fella, aka Terry, and my Mum, aka Mum, have been in hospital. Mum’s discharge date was put back a number of times. I was the sibling to pick her up, so my plans had to change as well. (Fingers crossed that she is on her way home as I write.) Then, the other night Terry woke me as he needed to go to Emergency ~ thankfully not heart issues, the reason for his earlier hospital stay, but a very badly infected toe.

I fully expected them to dress the wound, give him antibiotics and send him home…..but no. He has been admitted while they investigate the circulation in his feet and legs. It was that news that made me start the original post.

You see, I like to be in control of my time, I like to be organised. While I am content to make Terry and Mum my priorities I get frustrated. Both are within the Hospital System which has to work at its own pace, with the best interest of the patients in mind. So with each visit there will be different news, or maybe no definite news, leading to changes of plans. And my plans have to change too.

While I was walking home from yet another hospital visit (different ward, different view!) I suddenly thought “I have no control over this, let’s just roll with it.” There’s a quote along the lines of Life happens while you are busy making other plans. Life can just do its own thing and I will give up trying to wrest it into my shape for a little while.

However, there is a collorary thought ~ make the most of the pockets of time.

That brings me to the roses of the title of the post. I had a pocket of time when I came back from the hospital, and the roses were calling, as August is almost too late to prune them in Melbourne. I could have mooched around, pretending to tidy up, or I could have blobbed on the couch. Neither would have given me back a little bit of control. So I grabbed the secateurs and braved the garden.

Now I have to warn you that while I have done nothing in the garden for at least 6 weeks, the plants, especially the weeds have been very busy. The following photos show the garden warts weeds and all. You may have some fun identifying many of the different weed species!

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I am being positive, enjoying the contrast of the silver succulent with the green weeds!

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So, one rose bush before pruning.

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And after. That’s better.

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Hidden between the mallows and the winter grass and the nettles are some treasures, doing their own thing. Some are a little munched around the edges, but look how many flowers are on the blue berry bush! (That’s the last photo.) You can also tell that I have recently discovered the ‘selective focus’ function on my phone camera. It blurs the backgrounds, making the weeds look rather attractive, as though I grow them specially to be background plants!

Yesterday I grabbed another pocket of time and went up to Kyneton to see my exhibition for the first time. I was so proud to see my work hanging there! I will write a post and show you photos. However, if you can’t wait, make sure you are on my newsletter list, as I will be showing off there very soon. To add your name, click here. (No spammy stuff, I promise.)

The best laid plans……

You may have noticed that I have been quiet of late. I hope you have been imagining me creating masterpieces from my time at my artist-in-residency. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case because life took a sharp right turn.

I came back from Portsea fired up with creative ideas and plans. I went up to the Old Auction House in Kyneton, to pick up my paintings from the exhibition. I had a fabulous talk to Rhain and Jo about creating cards, notebooks and accordion books to put into their fabulous shop. They were so enthusiastic, positive and helpful. So, I came back enthused and settled to work on Thursday.

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That’s when life tossed me a curly one. The Fella had to go into hospital that night. He is fine, and back home now. I won’t go into detail. However, if you have ever spent time in hospital with someone you love, you know that it is a tiring, draining experience. Any spare time is devoted to catching up on sleep, bringing other people up to speed or just mindlessly blobbing in front of TV.

He’s home, and that’s fantastic! While there are ends to tie, including a hair appointment which I changed three times,  I am hoping to get back to work this week. Lucky I made notes from my chat with Rhain and Jo, because I would remember so little if I had to dredge their advice from my memory.

Hopefully this week I will have made more progress. If you would like to know more about my art work, sign up for the fortnightly letter from my studio. Delivered straight into your inbox but no spammy stuff.

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[I have turned off comments for this post. I know you are sending me positive thoughts, and I appreciate them, just know that all is good now.]

 

Monash Light

One of the delights of being at Point Nepean, or Mon Mon as the Boon Wurrung people call it, is the abundance of walks.

If you receive my newsletter, which I have been sending out weekly while I am down here, you may remember me talking about walking Wilson’s Folly, a track between London Bridge and Police Point. (If you would like to get the letter from my studio just jump to here to sign up.)

The other day we went on another good walk, to the Monash Light. If you are ever down this way ~ and wouldn’t it be something if you could visit here? ~ you would like this walk. It’s not difficult, with a couple of steepish hills and lots of steps up the tower, which are good to get the heart rate up and the gluts working! Mostly you walk through lovely moonah habitat on a soft, sandy track.

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Looking down the track to Port Phillip Bay. Can you see the marker right on the shore line? That’s the one the sailors lined up with the Monash Light.

 

 

The big attraction is the view from the tower ~ 360 degrees.

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The Monash Light was a navigation beacon on the Monash Tower, which is on the highest point of the national park. It was erected in 1932 and extinguished for the last time in 2005. The Light played a key role in the safety of ships in Port Phillip Bay. The entrance to the Bay, the Heads, is only 3 kilometres wide and reefs reduce the navigable channel to just one kilometre. Just inside the Heads are extensive sand banks, called ‘The Great Sands’ (well named!).

Matthew Flinders explored the area and  wrote:

“The depth of the remaining part varies from six to twelve fathoms and this irregularity causes strong tides, especially when running against the wind, to make breakers, in which small vessels should be careful of engaging themselves”

So whatever aids ships could use was very welcomed. The Monash Light was a ‘leading light’, which is, I guess where the expression comes from. The light was lined up with another marker on the shore for ships to navigate the channel safely.

The Light is now used as a receiving station for wave buoys in Bass Strait. (Don’t ask what ‘wave buoys’ do….although any thoughts welcomed in the comments.)

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There are wave buoys out there somewhere!

Lastly, while I am lecturing you, let me tell you why it is named Monash Light. Most Australians would have heard of Sir John Monash, the esteemed Commander of the Australian Armed forces in WW1. His victories, which were the turning points of the war, were based on planning, integration of all available resources and a belief that he had a duty to the safety and well being of his men. Apparently Monash was the Commanding Officer at Point Nepean between 1897 and 1908.

However, if neither maritime nor military history is your thing, just enjoy the views.

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Those building beyond the trees are the Quarantine Station. Can you see the two ferries and a ship on the Bay?

Of course, I loved the textures and patterns of the windswept vegetation. I think I will be creating a tapestry or two from this landscape.

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That’s Point Lonsdale lighthouse way off in the distance.

 

 

My new love affair with Port Phillip Bay

I grew up in Brighton, a bayside suburb. I would like to say that the beach was a big part of my life, but I can’t. We lived about 3 miles away, almost as far away as you can get and still be in Brighton. I was never much of a swimmer, and am even less of one now.

It was a part of my childhood. We would head down to the beach after a hot day at school. My memory is that we would arrive about the same time as the cool change would blow in! Often we would swim in the Brighton Beach Baths, a stretch of sand and water enclosed by iron railings. Like a swimming pool, but with sea water and waves. There’s a smell that always takes me back to the changing rooms. I guess many people were happy to pay for the diving board at the deep end. For me, I was, and still am, happy to meander along the shore line, paddling, looking, picking up shells.

Brighton Beach is one of the long sandy beaches that circle Port Phillip Bay. The Bay is wide and flat, the waves gentle. It has always been one of the backdrops to my life, but never something I really thought much about.

Until I came down here to Portsea. Now I have fallen in love. As I have said many times, I am fascinated with the play of light across the stretch of water I can see from my studio. The water can be pure silver or a series of sparkles or deep blue as the wind whips up the white caps. The clouds throw shadows onto it. At sunset it turns pink and grey. Sometimes I can see clearly right across to Queenscliff, but when the rain comes in, I can’t see very far at all.

I am captivated by its moods.

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Beauty is a great beginning for a love affair, but intrigue is important too. I am intrigued by the Bay’s geological history.

Wikipedia says this about its formation

Port Phillip formed between the end of the last Ice Age around 8000 BCE and around 6000 BCE,[2] when the sea-level rose to drown what was then the lower reaches of the Yarra River, vast river plains, wetlands and lakes. The Yarra and other tributaries flowed down what is now the middle of the bay, formed a lake in the southern reaches of the bay, dammed by The Heads, subsequently pouring out into Bass Strait.[3]

Indigenous people were living here then. They have been here for at least 20,000 years, and probably twice or even three times that long. Before it filled, the Boonwurrung would have hunted kangaroo and cultivated the yam daisy on the plains. It is quite mind-blowing to know that people witnessed the formation of Nairm, as the Boonwurrung people knew the bay.

In fact they have seen the water dry up too. About 2,800 years ago the Heads, the small opening at the southern end of the Bay, closed. The basin, which is fairly shallow, dried up. Good hunting ground again. However, about 1,000 years ago the ocean broke through and water cascaded in. It is thought that water levels would have risen quickly.

The Boonwurrung remember the event through their story, and have passed it down to the current generation. You can read Aunty Carolyn Brigg’s telling here. If you are interested in reading more about the Boonwurrung, jump over to their website.

Before I move on, let me acknowledge that I live on Aboriginal land, of the Boonwurrung people of the Kulin Nation. As I walk this land I pay my respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging, and hope that I walk with an open heart and an open mind.

Even now there are many sand bars and shallow channels at the entrance to the Bay. Ships require a pilot to guide them in and out of the Heads, and to set them onto the shipping channel that will give them safe passage to Melbourne. The channel runs close to Portsea, and seeing the big ships glide by enthrals me.

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I love to watch the ferries ply between Sorrento and Queenscliff. They leave on the hour, and usually come into my view after about 25 minutes. So who needs a clock when you have the ferries?

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This body of water, that seemed so mundane in my childhood, has a rich history. It has sculpted the rocks that I am fascinated with, and is home to the weedy sea dragon, one of my all time favourite creatures. To see one in the wild is up there on my list of Things That Would Make Me Very Happy.  This one is cruising under the Portsea pier. I always look when I walk the pier.

I am not sure that I want to see the mass migration of spider crabs, but it is the biggest migration in the marine world, and it happens in the Bay. As it occurs in early winter,  it might be happening right now, by the light of the full moon.

Often we need to see the ordinary from a different point. Once we see the extraordinary we are more likely to treasure it. What do you see from a different point of view?

[Don’t forget you can see my daily doings on Instagram or Facebook. It’s more than my daily latte, I promise!]

 

My heart is heavy

Australia voted yesterday. There are two parties that could expect to form government ~ the right-wing Liberal Party and the more moderate Labor Party. The Liberals have been in government for quite a few years, and what a chaotic, mean spirited and clueless Government it was. The Labor Party was consistently ahead in the polls, although the leader, Bill Shorten, who happens to be my Member of Parliament, was always behind Scott Morrison.

So, I was quietly confident, and quietly excited, because the Labor Party was talking about policies that would give some hope to the issues we face. They talked about closing tax loop holes that would free up money to be spent on cancer care; the Liberals called it a Retirement Tax. Labor had policies and ideas to do something about climate change. The Liberals, who have a rotten record on climate change, wanted to know where the money was coming from; Shorten rightly pointed out that we couldn’t afford not to act.

And so it went on. Labor proposed ideas, the Liberals harped on about high taxes and ‘you can’t trust Bill’.

Watching the count last night was a shock. Not only did the Liberals return to government, but with a bigger majority. They won seats. Morrison is hailed as the Miracle Worker, winning the unwinable election.

Meeks has more detail on her blog Meeka’s Mind.

To add to my woes of the last 24 hours, there was no Democracy Sausage at my Polling Booth 😳 and our teapot had an accident (yes, I am looking at you my Lovely Fella!).

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I had a restless night last night, despairing over what this says about us as Australians and as world citizens.

This election has been a choice, and I feel that voters have chosen self-interest rather than a better future for us all. The Liberals are no friends of the environment. Malcolm Turnbull was dumped as Prime Minister because of the climate skeptics in his party. The huge Adani coal mine will go ahead and the nonsense of ‘clean coal’ will be investigated. The talk about ‘future generations’ is simply talk.

My mind spun last night, and then got stuck on one thought ~ I felt powerless, without control. So, I need to take control of the things I can, starting with my garden.

Why the garden?

  • It brings me joy, digging and planting brings me peace, and I need that.
  • There’s exercise too, well known for regulating mood.
  • In my little patch I can encourage pollinators and microorganisms and birds and butterflies. The world needs havens for these.
  • It helps me monitor seasonal changes and moon cycles.
  • My veggie garden is in the front yard, getting maximum sun, encouraging others to see that even a little bit of soil can grow something. Many vegetables are very easy to grow.
  • Because it is in the front yard the Fella and I can do a little to help foster community. We often have conversations with people walking past. Indeed just yesterday I had a chat with a neighbour originally from Lebanon about rosemary. She told me that it made a very soothing tea for colds. Last time I wrote about my garden I told you that we have a system with another neighbour ~ her veggie scraps for our excess produce.

Fired up, today I went to the local nursery and bought:

  • pea straw for compost (organic, but in a plastic wrapper ~ go figure that one)
  • Zoopoo ~ compost from animals’ waste at the zoo!
  • Red mustard seedlings

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  • Seed potoates
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I don’t plant them very deep, and then cover them with mulch
  • Spring onion seedlings
  • Garlic
  • Seed packets of turnips, pal choy and swedes

Already growing are the peas, an earlier sowing of garlic and silver beet.

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We are heading into Winter, even though the weather is still warm and dry, but things are still flowering in the backyard.

Nerines

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a corn flower

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a foxglove (yep, that’s a bath at the back of it….don’t ask….)

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the white correa

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and who can resist a dandelion?

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The pots are doing well (can you see my new Japanese fish kite?)

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and the worms seem happy in their little worm farm. (This photo looks a little strange….the washing is hanging on the line a couple of metres behind the worm farm, not dangling in it!)

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There are other ways to help the world too, but my little patch of healthy garden is an important start for me. Let me leave you with this quote, where Leonard Woolf, husband of Virginia Woolf is speaking:

I will end… with a little scene that took place in the last months of peace. They were the most terrible months of my life, for, helplessly and hopelessly, one watched the inevitable approach of war. One of the most horrible things at that time was to listen on the wireless to the speeches of Hitler—the savage and insane ravings of a vindictive underdog who suddenly saw himself to be all-powerful. We were in Rodmell during the late summer of 1939, and I used to listen to those ranting, raving speeches. One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers… Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: “Hitler is making a speech.” I shouted back, “I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.” Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard. Leonard Woolf, “Downhill all the way: An autobiography of the years 1919 to 1939”