Sunday, May 12, 2013

After the holiday

Jo nudged me awake. “Are you awake?” she whispered. 

“I’ve been awake for the past five days,” I growled. Another hour of sleeplessness wasn’t going to make any difference. 

Next door we could hear Izzy singing. She makes up the lyrics as she goes along. She’s singing about mermaids on sunny beaches and Truffle our dog marrying Boots, the monkey from Dora the Explorer. 

It’s 4am. Five days after our return from Los Angeles, Izzy still has jetlag. As a result, so do we.

Izzy’s hours are the polar opposite of what they ought to be. She sleeps from 6am till noon, then stays awake till four in the afternoon, when she promptly falls asleep wherever she is. 

“That looks really comfy,” she says, eyeing the dog bed, and within seconds she’s out for the count, ignoring the licking of three mutts determined to evict her from their territory. She wakes up at suppertime, after which she’s buzzing till the early hours. 

We’ve tried breaking the cycle, but it’s no use. Our daughter’s body clock seems to be set permanently on Pacific Standard Time. 

The only solution is to keep ourselves on Izzy’s hours, and sleep when she does. Which means losing half the gardening day. Outside I can hear the ground elder mocking me as it smothers the flower beds. 

“Can’t catch me,” it laughs. It’s right: in the small amount of time left in the day, I have other priorities. Seedlings to prick out, courgettes to harden off, tomatoes to pot, peas to sow, delphiniums to stake. The deadly advance of the ground elder can wait. 

Taking two weeks off in May was always going to be tricky. This year it’s been disastrous. It’s not just Izzy that has jetlag: the plants do as well. It’s as if the time is out of joint for the entire garden. Tribes of daffodils still gaily occupy the flowerbeds, while everything else is pushing through, fighting the weeds for space. Sit down for a quick cup of tea and another green baby shoot appears, demanding attention. 

Five weeks behind schedule, it’s as if the plants have been lying in wait for me to go on holiday before a clarion call summoned them to action all at the same time. I have never seen such horticultural chaos. 

Californians don’t have the same problem. They don’t really have seasons: roses bloom all year, tomatoes fruit when you tell them to, you pick lemons straight off your own tree for your gin and tonics. In fact they say they have two seasons: the fire season, when your house can burn down, and the wet season, when your home, if it has survived the conflagration, gets swept down the hill in a mudslide. For the rest of the year, all is serenity. You turn on the air conditioning, set your water sprinklers to twice a day and a team of Mexican gardeners comes and does the rest. 

On our fantasy property hunt last week, the estate agents, or realtors as they call them, thought I was eccentric asking to see houses with land. I said it was for the dogs, which is partly true, but it’s also because I need space for my vegetables. 

“But there’s a Wholefoods down the street,” was their bemused response. 

I was excited when they said there were stables down the road: not that I want to ride, but it sounded like a plentiful supply of good manure for the soil. We saw one place with its own avocado farm. For a while that sounded romantic, until they told us their water bill. 

As I write this, I think it’s nearly dawn – it’s hard to tell, the sky is so heavy and grey. I heard Izzy shrieking that C-Beebies has come back on, so it must be after 6am. It’s raining, of course. 

I’m looking through the morning papers online and I see the absurd Michael Gove wants us to leave the EEC; property prices are rising fast in London – and still falling up here; no sign of an early summer, then. 

I’ve just popped in to check on Izzy. She’s fast asleep again, of course.

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