Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Rousting Snails in East London

Dave's co-worker Lisa and her boyfriend Xan just moved into a new house in Bethnal Green, East London. (Well, new to them -- the house itself is very old, a historically listed townhouse on a street dating from the early 1800s.) They have a little garden in the back, which they found wildly overgrown. We went over yesterday to help them wrestle it into shape.

They'd done a lot of work already, pulling out gigantic, alien-looking weeds as tall as I am (six feet) and mowing the grass. They already had a big mound of garden waste waiting to be taken away by the council. We added to the mound, clearing the rest of the space and planting some new plants, and disturbing the peaceful, shady rest of about four thousand snails.

At first I was a bit jealous, because their garden is south-facing and gets really good sun.

But as we worked everything began to feel a little parched. I brought Lisa some of the plants I grew from seed -- a dahlia, three hollyhocks, a burdock and an honesty plant -- and we put everything but the dahlia in the ground. The poor things just looked so small and unsheltered amid all that unrelenting sunshine! Their garden has no tree cover, which makes a big difference.

After we worked a while, we all went to a nearby vegan cafe for a late lunch. We talked about the recent EU elections and what they mean -- they weren't the complete populist rout some of us feared, but the major parties did poorly. I'm not at all surprised, since Labour and the Conservatives both have made a complete hash out of the nation and its future over the past few years.

Earlier in the afternoon, Dave got a kick out of Xan's use of the word "shambolic" -- a British adjective meaning a complete mess. Xan was talking about their preparations for our visit being "shambolic" because they didn't get their barbecue grill assembled. It's a good word, isn't it? We should all use it more. It seems especially applicable to Brexit.

Anyway, after our afternoon of work, Dave and I came home to the comparative cool dampness of our big, shady garden. I don't want to curse our luck, but we realized how good we have it. Lisa and Xan's garden will be fine in a year or two, when things have had a chance to mature, but it's hard to beat the welcoming space we have.

(Photos: These chairs were on Lisa and Xan's back deck when they moved in. Needless to say, they bought new garden furniture!)


  1. I'm glad you and Dave are feeling better. You have a wonderful garden, and what a great gift of help for your friends.

  2. I love the picture of the chairs!

  3. Ahh, yes, shambolic - very useful and descriptive word. I have used it for many years (in Australia) so maybe it is the British influence still rubbing off on us. Loved the pictures of the chairs, and glad that you're both well enough to tackle someone else's garden in addition to your own.

  4. Are you sure you are six feet tall and not five feet eleven and three quarter inches? I thought a shambolic was an alcoholic who favours champagne.

  5. Funny, Ms. Cup on the Bus used the word "shambolic" the other day too.
    Those sweet old chairs- yes, they've had their day.
    How sweet of you and Dave to help with the garden. Each garden is so different in its needs, isn't it?

  6. They'll be able to grow some good stuff with a southern exposure. they could have a nice vegetable garden. I have a southern exposure in the big backyard but it also has three large mature pecan trees so most the yard is in shade in the summer. which down here is a good thing.

  7. I don't think I've ever heard the word "shambolic" used. I like it. I think it describes the times we are living in quite well. Love the photos, and really nice of you and Dave to help with the clean up and gardening there.

  8. Different techniques have to be used in sunny locations compared to shady areas but you already knew that.

  9. An established garden is comforting, a new one looks like promise, but also looks like work, change, Shade is important! We have plenty of that here but maybe not for much longer as the forest fires are scheduled to sizzle this summer.
    I would have taken those chairs , made them into some sort of art, You find the best stuff on the street (sigh)

  10. Shambolic is a good word to use to describe the Trump monarchy.

  11. This is such a coincidence. I have just started reading a book and the son's name is Xan, I asked Tom how he would pronounce this, he wasn't sure. Please enlighten us. We are thinking maybe it is Shan ?

  12. You two are such good friends! And it was nice that the experience made you appreciate your garden even more.

    I love the word shambolic! I think I should embroider it & put it in my office at work - perfect for HR!

  13. E: Yeah, we're fine for the time being!

    E: Thanks! :)

    David: It IS a useful word. I've heard it before here, but never in the states, for some reason.

    YP: Are you saying my osteoporosis is catching up with me?

    Ms Moon: It was striking how different the space is.

    Ellen: That's true! I didn't even think about veg -- something we have trouble with, partly because we don't have enough sun.

    Robin: These are shambolic times, for sure!!

    Red: Yeah, and I'm not an expert when there's a lot of sun. It's just not what we have here.

    Linda Sue: Well, these were on Lisa and Xan's back porch, but they'll soon be on the street. Want me to mail them to you? Ha!

    Catalyst: Both the American and British governments qualify as shambolic at the moment.

    Briony: Our Xan pronounces it "Zan," but that's because it's short for Alexander. The Chinese pronunciation is as you said. (We have a teacher at work whose last name is Xu, pronounced "Shoe.") So I suppose it depends on the roots of the person's name.

    Bug: It would make a fabulous pillow! Ha!