Sunday, 7 June 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I feel I've always known the story of The Secret Garden, without having ever read the full novel until now. I grew up on the Ladybird abridged version, and somehow, having enjoyed it being read to me plenty of times, I never made the leap to read it unabridged. I suppose I knew, subconsciously, that there was more to it but because I knew the bones of the story, it wasn't gnawing at me to go and seek it out.

I'm so very glad, however, that it caught up with me, because I truly adore it. I have several copies now, in various publications, but because this puffin classic version was the least special and least beautiful copy it was the one I chose to bung in my bag day after day, to read a five minute portion in my library tea breaks. Apart from a couple of glorious long bursts of reading for an hour or more over bank holidays, this book has carried over many weeks, and although I was always desperate to get back in the garden and see what was happening, I rather savoured the fact that I was "in" the book for such a long time. That I could hug the thought of it all, knowing that I hadn't yet reached the glorious end, and that everything was still unfolding. 

Now that I have actually reached the end, I am in a state of rapturous warmth and delight. The feeling of excitement, of new life beginning and creeping over everything, a green veil to cloak the grey, is leaking out of every sentence in the book. It all develops so deliciously that even if you know what happens, you don't really understand its full delight until you have read it.

It has been particularly wonderful reading The Secret Garden while Spring itself has been unfurling before me in my own garden and in the world around me. As frothy blossoms have made way for plump leaf buds, and hedges have swelled with Cow Parsley, Bluebells, Red Campion and countless green stems and vibrant green leaves, so has my garden reflected the miracle of growth. I have planted seeds of Courgettes, Nasturtiums and Calendula, deep in the dark, until the sun has persuaded them to burst out and push up and climb and swell with leaves. I have been eager as Mary, watching and waiting as they each emerge from the soil. Every seed astounds me, every year. It is a type of magic that never grows old. 

Last weekend we were exploring the overwhelming beauty of Trellisick Garden in Cornwall. We only had 30 minutes to dash about the garden before they closed, as we were on the way to a family party in the evening. The enormous, deep beds were planted with huge palms and shrubs, but all around them was bare soil. As I stepped closer, I could see the tips of mysterious plants beginning to announce themselves. Starting to say, "Make way, here I come, look out!" EVERYTHING was just pushing up and poised, ready to burst forth and fill the beds with colour and height and scent. After being folded up in a car for so long, I too was in the mood to stretch and bound about. I couldn't contain myself, and skipped around, spotting plant after plant, shouting, "It's coming, they're all just bursting out!" with such glee that I don't know what the other mild-mannered visitors thought, but I don't care really. New life is not something I can be quiet about.  

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