After what has felt like months of fine weather, with wall-to-wall hot, sunny days and balmy nights, this weekend we finally have wind and rain.
Our lawn, never lush at the best of times has become a crispy, brown carpet, with only the weeds still flourishing.
Last weekend I spent hours potting up several dozen plug bedding plants, which I'd ordered back in March when the lockdown began, fondly imagining a riot of colour all over our patio during the summer months. When they arrived late last month, the entire collection fitted into a slender A4 box, and the plants themselves were millimetres high.
Undaunted we made 78 pots using newspaper, and the tiny plants were carefully bedded in compost. Each morning I put them out on the patio, mostly in the shade to protect them from the blistering heat, then each evening I tucked them carefully away in an outdoor cabinet, to protect again rogue frosts, and the depredations of slugs. I watered them carefully and watched over them, willing them to do well.
Despite my motherly concern, quite a lot of them died. Some of the survivors were shrivelled and stunted, but grimly hung on, seemingly for spite.
By last weekend, when I judged that the threat of frost was over, and in a last ditch attempt to save the survivors, I planted them out in pots, adding fertiliser pellets and watering them assiduously.
Over the past week I've hovered over them, checking their progress and hoping that they would forge ahead, freed from the constraints of their tiny pots. So far, so good. They all appear to be growing and some of the more thug-like specimens are thriving. I'm cautiously optimistic that over the coming weeks they might even flower.
PP has taken a more practical approach to horticulture and has transformed a languishing bed into a vegetable patch, and utilised two large storage containers into beds for peas and beans further up the garden. After a slow start, her plants, which have almost all been grown from seed, are growing fast. It's a tiny veg patch so we won't be anywhere near self-sufficient, but we're looking forward to some homegrown salad and vegetables later in the summer.
The sudden drop in temperature has spurred me to wheel my kiln into the dining room and prepare to do a series of firings. I've had several boxes of greenware doll parts ready to soft-fire since last year, along with dolls to soft-clean, and more which have been bisque fired and awaiting china painting. I haven't counted them all but there do seem to be a lot. Which has propelled me into a decision which I've been putting off for ages.
When I've completed all of the firings (which will take several months over the summer) I'm going to sell my remaining molds, dollmaking equipment and my lovely kiln. I think that the dolls, when finished, will keep me going for the next year or so, after which I'll no longer be a dollmaker.
Despite tentatively working towards this retirement goal for some time, it's still a bit scary. This is what I've done for over 30 years, and I've mostly loved every minute of it. But if the last three months of lockdown have engendered anything resembling an epiphany, it's that life is fleeting and incredibly fragile. A simple virus has snuffed it out in over 40,000 people here in the UK, in just three months. We need to stop putting off doing the things we really want to do and enjoy the time we have left.
So, the timer is now counting down and I'm feeling almost optimistic.