… white lilac in the hall, smelling of pure essence of nostalgia … (Diary, 17/5/88)

May 17th Tuesday. Into Chichester to have my eyes tested and see about new glasses; and in to the Shopwyck Nursery on the way home, to get a couple of shrubs and two more of the Busy Lizzies for the garden (courtyard). So hot! Really high summer; and the whole countryside white with may. Have white lilac in the hall, smelling of pure essence of nostalgia.

… the soft ‘Growingrain’ will be good for the gardens … (Diary, 29/4/88)

April 29th Friday. Jeremy rang up last night and is coming to see us on Sunday. Very grey and dreary day such as we haven’t had in quite a while, but the soft “Growingrain” will be good for the gardens. Feeling very dozy all day and swimmingheaded. But have had a couple of good ideas for Catraeth, and got a bit of work done.

© Anthony Lawton 2012

(Revised 30/4/2012, replacing my ?Catharts with suggested-in-comments Catraeth)

Barny (the dog) not well (Diary, 17/4/88)

April 17th, Sunday. Ray has put in an enormous day’s work in the garden aided and abetted by Sheila. Barny not terribly well.

© Anthony Lawton 2012

Barny was one of Rosemary Sutcliff’s two chihuahuas. (The other was Sophie).

The garden must be wondering what’s hit it … (Diary, 15/4/88)

April 15th Friday. Sheila bought some seeds from the ironmonger, and this evening Ray has gone off to Shopwyck to get a couple of clematis for the new fence. The garden must be wondering what’s hit it. Lovely show of tulips, the golden ones turning apricot under the dining room and bedsit window, but of course the cream and wine ones I got last autumn have been trampled out of existence when the fence was done.

© Anthony Lawton 2012

… The chiffchaff busy in the garden all morning … (Diary, 11/4/88)

April 11th, Monday. Ray gave the lawn its first cut this afternoon, without the box on. So now, the fumes of petrol having gone, there’s a nice smell of cut grass. The chiffchaff busy in the garden all morning.

© Anthony Lawton 2012 

Rosemary knew the colouring, shape, flight and song of numerous birds, part of her deep knowledge of the natural world. I, on the other hand am most ignorant. So it is the RSPB site that helps me explain (complete with recording of its song) that a chiffchaff is small olive-brown warbler which actively flits through trees and shrubs, with a distinctive tail-wagging movement. It is readily recognised by its song, from where it gets its name. It picks insects from trees, and flies out to snap them up in flight. All this evoked for her diary  and herself, perhaps, by Rosemary’s reference to the bird being ‘busy’. (An intriguing curiosity is that in her diary she writes chiffchaff, but the copy-editor in the OUP version of Dawn Wind has chiff-chaff!)