Its been one of those days of learning. Starting with sun on a sprinkling of snow. I devoted myself to the maquette of Hendrijke Stoffels which fills me with enthusiasm, the drawing is so superb (I write about it in part 6 of the Getty crit).
It was too cold to sit out in the conservatory as I usually do when the weather is fine but I noticed the sun streaming through the glass double doors in the hall, so I sat there for lunch. It was really warm though the lemon trees were not giving off that perfume that Goethe loved. Too early in the year I guess, there were lemons of every size up to nearly mature and also a few tiny flower buds.
Because the final lighting can only be controlled artificially on the maquette, I got to the point by 3pm that I needed to wait till dark to continue. So I went out for a walk two hours before my normal time. It was a revelation: instead of a fairly solitary time as usual. I had a number of refreshing human encounters. The most interesting for olive growers was two men harvesting olives with delightfully quiet machines. The first I had seen, though I gather they are a few years old. A crown of 5 or 6 plastic spikes, about 40cm long, rotate on a tubular handle of more than 2m. It runs off a car battery. This simple and gentle device knocks the olive to the ground where they are collected in a net. No dangerous ladders are involved, or fretting of the hands.
Olive growing is now a labour of love. The price of the oil does not begin to cover the cost of pruning, harrowing or mowing, harvesting and pressing but it does provide a delicious, nutritious accompaniment to salads etc. Furthermore it can be stored away in a bottle for when the going gets hard in winter. “Ripe for the Picking” by Annie Hawes is a book which knocks home the importance of this aspect of the olive to the earlier peasantry, it is also a very funny book.
I have started a “Reasons for Rejoicing” series on Facebook. A much needed offering as we face the prospect of a double dip in the economy. My first offering is – The Pope, God Bless him, has taken one tiny step away from dogma, towards common sense. Tomorrows will be – Contraception is allowable to stop the spread of HIV, wow! There’s progress.