A walk around the house widdershins

We walk through the porch and turn widdershins, north, and into the shade, past the barn door where tomatoes have set themselves in the compost around the hydrangea, frazzled by the morning sun,


Tomatoe plants

and the well with its old hand pump, water deep, four, five metres now from lack of rain, festooned in ivy and wild irises.


Left, along the north-facing wall, the old barn, window below and shutter on the hayloft above,


windows attic.jpg

and what was once the main door, stuck fast now and patched at the bottom with tin and old planks.


old main door.jpg

Turning south, along the west-facing wall, the passionflower, transplanted from Bordeaux, mown down twice, a stem recovered (twice), rooted and replanted (twice). This stuff is indestructible.



Left again, along the south-facing wall, beneath the study window, like the Gobi Desert. Hollyhocks are hanging on, and the roses planted this year with two cutting of the old vine. Morning glories thrive, but bloom only in the morning.


beneath the study.jpg

Hibiscus grows everywhere here, great luxuriant bushes.


Another vine cutting, happy that the sun has moved around, and nasturtiums that will grow anywhere.


Even the sun-loving plumbago has bleached in the fierce sun this year. From delicate sky blue, they have turned almost white.



A sad cutting of honeysuckle brought from Bordeaux shot into life here and rambles everywhere. A small pot of sage bought on the market is a huge bush now.

sage bay honeysuckle.jpg

Back into the porch where geraniums, basil, bay cuttings and hydrangeas sit in the shade and watch the evening sun bake the meadow grass.

plants in the porch.jpg

Time to water it all now.

Author portraits

A question that has been bothering me for a while is whether it is indispensible to have a mug shot on my author pages.

It isn’t that I am particularly shy, or particularly ugly, but I don’t like having my picture taken. I am horribly self-conscious and take terrible photos. I usually have my eyes closed if it’s a flash, or I’m grimacing against the sun if it’s an outdoor shot. If the aim is to attract readers, unless it works on the same principle as drumming up trade for a freak show, I’m not sure my face will be especially good for business.

I have read the advice, to wear nice clothes, pick a venue that will convey a suitable image to the readers, smile, and let them see (the whites of) your eyes. The last photos I took I thought weren’t too bad, until the children said: “But look at what you’re wearing! Why do you wear such weird clothes?” They said I looked as though I was wearing camouflage to hide in a mossy forest. Except for the red jeans. I’m going through my wardrobe now to find myself an image.

Since the aim is to project a particular image, every aspect of the picture takes on a sinister importance. What will people read into my taste in woolly jumpers (it was cold the day of the camouflage moss), that I wear bright coloured jeans, that my front teeth aren’t quite straight? Then there’s the fear of looking completely inappropriate for my target readership. Like the gay cowboy and BDSM writer who looks like somebody’s gran, or the just-out-of-high-school Barbie doll who writes about the final days of patients in a terminal cancer ward. What are you supposed to look like if you want draw YA readers? Their best friend, their gym teacher? Will it put them off if you look like the Pope or a police inspector?

And where do I pose? For the authorly look: in the bureau peering over the top of the laptop? For the natural look: in the garden, squinting into the sun, with the crumbling garden shed in the background? Me, alone is not natural anyway. I am surrounded by people and animals all day, every day. In fact it would be more natural to be snapped staggering to the table carrying a cauldron of steaming pasta.

But does anybody take much notice of author pics anyway? Personally, I only notice the ones that make me bristle, like the pretentiously intellectual ones, or the haughty, glamorous ones. I tend not to remember the cheery, relaxed photos of people who could be my Aunty Molly or Uncle Jim.

Much as I would like to look like my profile pic, I do not in fact look like Sophia Loren. I don’t look like something that lives under the sink either. So, do I take the plunge and expose my real face to the world? Have you? And did it hurt much?

The thing under the sink
The thing under the sink

Pic courtesy of atomicShed/Foter/CCBY-NC-ND