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"Duchess, it needs something", said the admiral, pointing to the brick-work supports. "Oh dear," replied I, disheartened.

They do look like arms, or pieces of cathedral buttresses which broke away from the configuration and have been placed upside down. They stick out underneath the window to the left side of our house as you face it. I looked. Yes without a hedge or bush there of some sort, there does certainly seem to be something missing. Maybe many years ago those two supports held a narrow rectangular box with dirt in it out of which flowers grew.

"Well," I replied, "I've got no idea how to affix a flower box to the wall directly under the window so that it will sit on the two supports, Do you?" then "Anyway is it any worse than that electric box to the side of the screened porch with its wires up to the roof, down to the ground and then out to the pole?" "No," said he (authoritative as ever), "that's okay, that's acceptable, everyone knows that one needs wires for the electricity." I don't know, I thought.  And said "Many would scheme and come up with ways to hide that box. They would be mortified at the looks of the front of our house." I admitted it has always "showed" as it's above where the hedge reached even at its highest,but then maybe it was not so conspicuous.

Later I said "we can say we probably have the least pretentious house in the neighborhood. I can pay for a man to come and have the hedge pulled out, make flower beds, others to come and renovate the bathroom, the Irish guys I used to like so much to do small jobs for me for reasonable sums. [It was two Irish men who replaced an older half-broken ladder with the metal one I now have and who painted the bathrooms -- twice!]" I can perhaps pay someone to enclose the porch. But I don't know that I can find someone to put a rectangular box on those two supports that will stay there."

Such is life when I try to improve my house. I've never been much at looks because I'm bad at it. Whatever I try turns out awry in some way, so what I'm trying for is a comfortable environment, a living environment, one set up for me to do what I like to do in it, one I can endure to be in with space and light, I want tidyness, sufficient neatness, order, minimal respectability, soft colors.  Phase two of house improvements began today: a crew of men arrived with big machines to pull out hideous hedge, roots, branches, all of it. They did so and then planted grass seeds and put straw done and watered the large area. Then they made 2 flower beds to the side of house by the two windows, mine and Izzy. They mulched and mulched.  In the back they took away piles of high sawdust from removal of tree this winter and trimmed another tree that snuck up on me and is now tall (I had not noticed it growing way in the back of the yard or would have cut it when it was just a sapling); they, remove all brush and dead branches.


So now all is neat, tidy, respectable enough.

I admit I like a little more. I yearn for daffodils and crocuses in spring, and silver ferns. Caroline planted some of the first last spring but I didn't understand I had to have made a flower bed first not just planted them in the grass. So when they stopped blooming I didn't know what to do and then the mowing men just mowed over the whole business. I did feel bad and now want to make up for this.

The Admiral had promised next week to go to a nearby landscaping-and-garden store and "buy bulbs" ("Duchess, I promise") and plant them. He says we need not wait for spring -- daffodils and crocuses can be planted now. So when we come home from the East Central 18th century conference in Baltimore (Inner Harbour) on Monday we'll go. I'll hold him to it.

Inside the house is easier in some ways. The two new comfortable chairs arrived! The man was kind enough (as part of the deal) to take away the Admiral's now totally broken gliding rocker and another older chair in the house. My matching one has also suffered from the cat's jumping but it's still comfortable, serviceable and I put it in a hall vestibule with some of the books. You can sit and read there. The cats are sniffing the new ones, getting used to them. There is no top to them to leap on any more so maybe they will last better.

During the day I was working simply on re-shelving and re-arranging my books. Among other things I made a historical fiction & film section. For about an hour I moved books and made real improvements. All my women's books are properly alphabetized. Nothing on its side. I put more stuff up in the attic. So there was some upstairs, downstairs work.

potterypumpkinblog
This is not ours. Ours is not shiny, it looks like soft organic clay hardened in a kiln, but not painted, and it has a face carved in to the side. But it is a ceramic pumpkin of this type.

Then around 4 o'clock I realized it was Halloween! I read Caroline's blog. So got ready for Halloween. I dragged over a very tall heavy wooden ladder from the screened porch (leaning against one of the brick walls). I climbed up, reached out and put  a working bulb in area over stoop and hit "on" flick.  We've not had the light there working for months. Then dragged ladder back.  We have high ceilings.  Then I climbed up to the attic again, and brought down out out pottery pumpkin (orangey-brown) and put a candle in it. The admiral promised to light it when the air grew dark. (My mother terrorised me about matches when I was young and I cannot light one today.) In the vestibule before the door I put a stool on which I put a big bowl filled with wrapped chocolate candies. Last year two sets of children came. Not a lot, you'll say. Still I was ready not to disappoint anyone who happened to try the path to my door.

In the event I had some sweet fun for about half an hour or more. Several sets of children with parents in the background showed up just before 7 -- it was getting dark. Only one of them called "Trick or Treat!" All the others just knocked and then when I opened the door either  I had to say, "Trick or treat" or one or two children said it. One child told me it was "impolite" to call out this way. I had the satisfaction of smiling warmly to two single or solitary children who came and looked appreciative of me and my candy and wish they have a happy evening. Gradually my bowl had less and less but then around 7:15 or so the children stopped coming.  The Admiral offered to blow out the candle, turn out our stoop light and close the door. But I said, perhaps some lone child is wandering out there. And lo one did come, a sad face with a father in the background. What had happened to make them come so later. I gave him two candies. There had been children who within a group would come forward a second time for "more."  Remembering Oliver I would drop another candy in.

Then it was over. While eating with the Admiral and Yvette I told (as I have many times before) how when I was a child in the Bronx Halloween seemed to me a holiday meant for older adolescent rough-house boys to show off and be violent or mischievous. They really did mean "trick or treat." Even if they got a treat, they would "trick" a house. They would set up traps; you could on those days buy a sock of chalk and bang this sock on people's doors, spreading chalk dust about. It was not a holiday for adults to make parties at (all dressed as witches), or for very young children to walk about in boxed or home-made costumes and gather candy. Admiral said in the UK Guy Fawkes' day was once for bonfires in empty lots but has also turned into an American style Halloween for children and adults in costumes in some areas.

I'm not against undoing superstition as All Soul's Night and the next day are rooted in fearful gothic beliefs which are useful for art but in life must be handled with care.

Time to watch an hour's movie and then to sleep. Tonight Part 1 of Andrew Davies's 2008 Liitte Dorrit.

When we get back from Baltimore I'll worry about what if anything I can do about those exposed supports with nothing on them to hold up.

Sylvia

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