Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The lush green work in progress

Our garden is not what it was. When we bought this house, five years ago, it had a ‘mature’ garden of unpruned shrubs blocking out the light from the back of the house and a monster privet hedge.
Over time, the Other Half - ably aided and abetted by my Dad (who says, and makes good on the saying ‘I’ll just rip it out, shall I?’) has removed all the shrubs, and chopped, hacked and, yes, ripped out the monster hedge. She has made a new border, altered the shape of the other borders (from straight to sinuously curving) and made a new sloping bed at the back. And now, following the demise of the last two shrubs a year or so ago, she has re-turfed a chunk of the garden. A small chunk, admittedly, but then it’s a small garden.
So we now have a beautiful patch of sink-your-toes-in green just outside the back door. For those of you in the horticultural know, we are aware that this is not the time to put turf down but, in our family, we decide when to do things on the basis not of the appropriateness of the season but of a) having the time b) having the money and c) having the inclination. Actually, c) trumps a) and b) pretty much every time. Inclination (otherwise known as being arsed) is all.
So, for two weeks we have (when I say ‘we’ I basically mean the Other Half who likes to commune with vegetation when she gets home from work on the basis that it tends not to answer back) watered and tended the new turves, hoping that they will ‘take’ and that the edges of each turf will not go brown and die, making the thing look like a shrunken, badly laid carpet.
Thanks to the assiduousness of the OH, it has taken. Hooray. And today when I was sitting on it having lunch (I’m allowed to sit on it, now it has ‘taken’) I was thinking how the process of writing a novel is a bit like this laying turf.

Stay with me here, people.

Each turf is a scene or a chapter and, if you’ve done your work properly and prepared the ground it will ‘take’ because you’ve done the preliminaries, got your subsoil right and put down a good matrix for the turf to lie on. In other words, your book’s structure is well thought-out and you write scene after scene, butting them up nicely against each other and hoping the joins between them don’t show. Or go brown and curl up. You want it to look nice and even at the end, not full of gaping cracks.
If your structure’s wrong, the scenes don’t lie properly, bits of them die because they’re in the wrong place, or you’ve not watered them (aka worked hard) enough.

The WIP, now I’m reworking the first 75% so that the last 25% will work properly has its share of brown curly edges. Some of the strips of turf are definitely in the wrong place and need to be cut up and laid in smaller fragments at the difficult-shaped edges of the garden. Some strips are totally dead and need to be pulled up (not hard because they’re not well bedded-in) and thrown away with a muttered ‘God…that so didn’t work!’ But – and here’s the bit which makes me want to curl up my toes in the lush green grass of it all – some strips are really beautiful. They are in the right place, they are bedded in well and they have nice green edges to match other strips up to. I am pleased with those bits. But they are only about half the story…

Fortunately (also fortunately for you, end of strained horticultural metaphor) the boys are away with their Dad all this week and are helping him move house next week, so, now that I’m on summer hols fron the day job, I have uninterrupted time to devote to the WIP.

Always supposing I can tear myself away from Wife in the North which, I have to tell you is considerably fab. But more about that anon.


Neil said...

I think my approach is more creeping ivy than perfect lawn. If only it weren't. Except for my very special project, which is more like a bonsai that keeps shrinking every year.

KatW said...

My hubbie has been trying to cultivate our grass - this has involved him 1. scattering seed haphazardly 2. Jumping up and down on the seeded mud in his big black wellies in a Riverdance type manner. 3. Coming inside, looking out the window and seeing birds eating just laid seed. And then jumping up and down in an angry stomp type dance.

I fear that my writing metaphorically follows my husband's method of lawn cultivation. Oh dear!

Kat :-)

KAREN said...

Our garden is enormous and diffictult to control, which probably speaks volumes analogy wise!! I doesn't help that none of us have particularly green fingers, but it seems to look lovely in the summer with very little help thank goodness :o)

Alis said...

Neil - A shrinking project, hmmm, intriguing. Most of us cope with ever-increasing projects so this must be interesting...
Kat - yes, we've tried the seed method. Two years running. We decided on turf for two reasons. 1 - cats. 2 - birds. Interesting vision of your hubbie though!
Karen - if the garden was left up to me (fortunately for me it isn't) it would be patchy grass and wildflowers (aka weeds) which have blown in on the wind - definitely an anaology for the way my writing works!!