I am at that stage in life where my children need me less and my mother needs me more. Of course with me in France, and her in the UK, we haven’t lived in the same country for very many years, but I am blessed to have my mom close enough for me to drive and spend a few days with her every month.
My Mum is a feisty character: sweet, funny, loving and a peacemaker but feisty nevertheless. She is a woman who in her years, while raising a big family, also fought fiercely and successfully for educational policies in the UK. As I observe her grow older and do everything she can to remain independent in her own home, I’m proud to see how that blend of feistiness and good humour gives her strength and joy.
This week she is spending a few days in hospital, and I’m amused to see the nurses and doctors meet her for the first time. She has shrunk over the years (she won’t mind me telling you that) and their first impression is of a small white haired lady who on a hospital bed looks quite fragile. It’s not until she starts explaining – with a charming smile – which of their prescribed medications she will NOT be taking… and WHY … that they get the measure of her. They love her!
One of the fun advantages of visiting with my mum is that she has the good taste to live only a stone’s throw from Vita Sackville West’s garden at Sissinghurst. (” Ah Vita! What a strong woman you were! If only I could have lived as your neighbour when you were creating the gardens back in the 30’s!”)
How I would have loved to have watched the place take shape as she and her husband Harold Nicholson repurposed buildings and experimented with planting schemes until the garden came to maturity. The 17th century buildings have evolved from pig farm, to prison for French soldiers, to a poor house and back to a farm.
Vita and Harold (you can tell how much I would have loved to have been on first name terms with them!) bought the property in the early 1930’s and opened it to the public a few years later. Today it is world famous and attracts visitors from all over the planet, in particular to see Vita’s white garden.
And each month, as I drive past the narrow lane that leads down to Sissinghurst castle and gardens, I smile as I imagine Vita bumbling down the lane in an opened top automobile, dreaming up her next planting scheme. She was a gifted writer, she contributed to newspapers and between you and me she would have made an outstanding blogger!
So these few images and thoughts today are in celebration of strong minded women all over the world. We can each do great things in our own small, or not so small, way. And remember, there is nothing like a little feistiness to keep the world on track.