10 Forsythia Grove
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT
May 12 1997
I’m so sorry Harriet. That sounds awful and, without wishing to sound trite, I really do know how you feel. It is, after all, a marriage which has lasted for nearly 20 years. And to my own son! I’m afraid it will take some time to recover.
In the meantime, I do think that your idea of travelling on a container ship to Cuba is a very good one – and should prove to be a perfect distraction. Do be careful though, about whom you invite over to stay in the UK. As you may, or may not, know Cuban citizens are presently only able to exit their own country if they receive a formal invitation to stay from someone resident overseas. And I don’t know how many indigenous Cubans you will be able to accommodate in Hyde Park Terrace! The other thought I have had (or, rather, an acquaintance of mine has had) is on the subject of language. Are you proposing to read out your poems to the ship’s crew in Spanish or English? If I recall correctly dear, I don’t believe you speak any Spanish? Perhaps you will be lucky and someone aboard will speak both languages and can act as your translator?
I, myself, have been engaged in the growing of sunflowers – Helianthus annuus – and tobacco plants – Nicotiana alata – from seed, for these are required in the borders, and kitchen garden, up at Colonel Mustang’s. Sunflowers, of the variety known as ‘Mexican Giant,’ are extremely easy to germinate but much harder to mature into the giant plant itself. Their main weakness lies in the fact that the foliage (and stems) appear to be extremely appetizing to the local slug population. And I have actually seen these molluscs cruising – in their hundreds – across the lawns at the Mustang’s after a bout of heavy rainfall. Slugs are equipped with razor-like dental apparati and, believe you me, are easily able to motor one meter up a sunflower stem and chomp through a diameter approaching two centimeters! It really is most depressing, after all that hard work sowing the seeds and potting up through a couple of pot sizes, when the actual plant is felled by a creature a million times smaller! So far, this year, flourishing upon my window ledge, I have about twelve sunflower seedlings. But how many of these are going to reach actual maturity – given the depredations described above – I couldn’t tell you. I really do feel quite glum about it.
And before you say anything darling, I really can’t bear the idea of polishing them off with those nasty blue pellets. I have seen dying slugs which have ingested these – and they seem to lie curled up in a rictus of pain, with their life’s mucus oozing from them. The only – even more sadistic – way of terminating the life of a slug is apparently by pouring salt all over them. Death by desiccation! In previous years (embarrassing as it is to relate) I have even gone out into the garden – at dawn and dusk – to load slugs into a bucket, loaded the bucket into the Banger 0.9L, and transported them to a field some kilometers distant!
Yours, with love