Posts Tagged ‘daffodil farm’

1 March 2023

I had been feeling rather alone in my obsession for the Minack Chronicles. There are multiple Facebook pages, although some seem to mostly have posts from a few years ago. And then, while searching for a quotation about what a dream the books are, I found this, a record album based on the series! I have to figure out how to order it, not being familiar with acquiring digital music. It was released in November 2022, proving to me that the series is still winning hearts.

My next book had arrived.

It has a pleasing cover featuring the donkeys, first introduced in the earlier book, The Donkey in the Meadow.

The passages from the book that drive me most to want to talk to you about them tend to be the ones about more personal aspects of the books and don’t give the best idea of the joy of reading about the donkeys, the foxes and badgers, the many birds, and or course the cats that share the Minack with him and Jeannie.

For example, I am drawn again to how Derek knows how lucky he and Jeannie were to have found the place back when it was still affordable. A young woman had come walking up the lane, one of many pilgrims who visited because of the books, and asked the rather strange question, “Have you lost what you achieved? Have you lost the first vision?”

Just a few days ago from when this post will publish, I had a birthday. Feeling very non-peopley because of the recent work frustration about a certain job, I didn’t want much of anything to do with birthday greetings so I reset my Facebook so no one could post a greeting (only those who already knew about it, as I had my birthday itself hidden). Derek was a bit of a birthday curmudgeon himself.

As for curmudgeonliness, Derek complained again about strikes, but had gained insight into why they happen, because of bad bosses. Toward the end of this passage, he bothered me with his thoughts against equality. One runs into difficulties sometimes in reading old books.

Fortunately, I can tell you that in a much later book, his idea of equality has transformed into the realisation that not everyone is born with the same advantages. I think Jeannie may have talked to him about that. I hope I have saved that bit so I can share it when the time comes. Moments like these I just wish I could have had a good talk with him.

I think he was beginning to understand, since he talks about missed opportunities in his own life and then segues to words that explain for me why it is good to take a break from blogging in the winter.

They were still living with no telephone. (Sometimes I might as well not have one, since I don’t turn the volume on, but I wouldn’t like to have to go a mile to a phone booth to make an emergency call.)

Ah, frogs in the big Orlyt greenhouse, where Jeannie had propagated a host of geraniums that she would not sell:

I have a new name for the back patio! Must make a sign!

How very much I relate to Derek’s stories of daffodil thieves! Ive had 100 buds in the boatyard garden (a garden now lost to me) and had them all picked overnight before they could bloom. Derek was a supporter of the Coast Path, which opened in 1973 and made public the little paths that he and Jeannie used to maintain for walking the donkeys, and they were friendly to the ramblers, unless…


And Derek took them!

In years past, when I would catch someone with a big stolen bouquet in Long Beach, I took the flowers away (at least twice) and took them into city hall to put in a vase for more than one person to enjoy. I wouldn’t dare to that now; someone would Yelp about how a crazy gardener ruined their vacation.

As it happened, I had gotten a hardback copy of the next book, which I started immediately after finishing The Winding Lane.

It was like living two lives at the same time, one day to day real life and, in my mind and my dreams, the life of Minack Cottage.

Again, Derek wrote of how their life on the flower farm did not come easily, was not entirely idyllic.

This is one reason that I am so obsessed with this series. Their experience echoes mine of moving here, at just the same age as Derek was when he moved, and becoming jobbing gardeners. Robert and I were indeed so poor that postage could be a challenge.

The flower and produce farm was impressively hard work.

Once again, I got to vicariously enjoy a visit from another favourite writer of mine.

I also very much relate to the personality revelations that Derek shared.

I always had the suspicion that the reason people hired us was because we were cheaper, usually $20 an hour cheaper (the two of us) than other local gardening businesses. This theory seems to be proven correct from a recent work situation that has, I think, made the Minack Chronicles an even more wonderful escapist read for me.

I also love the descriptions of living in a seaside tourist area; Minack Cottage was near to the towns of Penzance and Mousehole.

We often hear the same thing from locals when the weather is bad: Oh dear, this is very bad weather for the people on spring break, or clamming, or a festival.

Good, windy summer weather brings Oh good, some wind for the kite flyers!

And this, so true, We used to love working at the homey and personable garden of Klipsan Beach Cottages, before Mary and Denny retired. Now I think a good, personal touch place to stay would be at our friend Wendy’s cottage, which used to be her father’s and for which she has great sentiment, Pacific Alder Cottage. She likes to spend time there herself. And I still love the Sou’wester Lodge, because I like vintage trailers; it also has four cute cabins. (I sent a friend there who, it turned out, is claustrophobic in trailers, oops!)

Our area of seaside towns has the same problem as Cornwall did when Derek wrote this in about 1979:

The vacation rental problem is a great dilemma here, where workers cannot find affordable places to rent.

He mentioned the Merry Maidens again…

…and again, I mourned that when I was there in 1975, I did not walk down the winding lane, just a little over a mile to Minack Cottage. I must share this again: upper right circle is Merry Maidens, lower middle circle is Minack Cottage with its view of the Barn Barges rocks. (The other circle is where their helper Jane lived years before.)

When I finished Where the Winds Blow, I faced at least five days wait for the next book, the only one I didn’t have. When it arrived, I would be able to read them all. In one sense, the wait was a reprieve, leaving me four books still to read before Jeannie’s death, a loss (albeit though it was over a quarter century ago) that I dreaded. I had some other good books lined up, so at least the predicted perfect reading weather would not be wasted.

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late February 2023

I have owned this book since a trip to the UK in 1990, where I bought three of them but had never read them. I had realized they were a series and am always determined to read a series in order. They were hard to find here before internet buying and so had languished on a shelf. Now, reminded of the series while reading the Cornish setting of The Salt Path, I had read the first two books, A Gull on the Roof and A Cat in the Window and could finally read this one that I had owned for decades, one of the most beloved of the series that delves deep into the workings of Derek and Jeannie’s daffodil farm and off-the-grid life in 1950s coastal Cornwall. They had left a high society life in the city for country seclusion, without even a road to their cottage. Jeannie had been a publicity director at the very fine Savoy Hotel; Derek had been a journalist and a member of MI5. In the books, he always give her credit for giving him the courage to keep working their rural flower farm even when it seemed that it might not succeed.

Derek’s wife, Jeannie, and their helper, a teenager named Jane, were tadpole rescuers.

This was twenty years before the Coast Path walked by Raynor and Moth Winn and Mark Wallington. (When the path did appear, Derek and Jeannie were supporters of the idea, as long as cliff farmers were asked which route would be best to pass their cultivated fields.)

Thoughts of Monty, their beloved orange cat who had turned Derek into a cat lover (although at that time, he thought he would never have another, that Monty was the pinnacle of catdom and none other would do.)

Meanwhile, Skooter and the Greys snoozed away the reading day on a comfy chair.

Derek’s thoughts about animals were exemplary, something that increased in him after he moved to Minack (and had learned to like cats as well as dogs). Boris is the drake of the title.

The passage below reminded me of the infuriating moment when a drone flew over my head while I was turning my compost.

I liked the idea that Jane had of how to deal with such problems (in this case, Dutch bulb sellers who had sold them daffodils that were not good sellers in the flower markets).

(…an imaginary bow and arrow). That might be the only violent (imaginary) scene in the entire series, other than some real life memories of World War II.

I appreciate the candor with which Derek ponders his flaws. This was a continuing theme throughout the series, as was, in the early books, the financial difficulty of depending on flowers and veg to make their living, while at the mercy of coastal storms. They never regretted having left their glittering city life even during the early years when, as he revealed in later books, they didn’t even have money for enough petrol to go anywhere else.

Imagine picking daffodils for market while bent over in a gale..

It makes my job look easy.

Having now read three Minack books, I was entranced and eager to begin the next one. I couldn’t stop then to make a blog post about how much I loved the latest book because I couldn’t leave the feeling of being at Minack while reading. Even though I did stop for some telly with dinner in the evenings, the rest of the time was reading. Because each book is about 180 pages, I could sometimes read two a day, and as I read, I could hear the coast wind and imagine how it would feel to be picking the daffodils.

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