Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Gather ye roses

I feel so behind with everything, at the same time as moving forward. It was my birthday last week -- 50, which seems impossible, when I still feel the same inside -- and this has been a year of so many changes. There have been adventures, like my trip to the rose fields of Grasse last month, where I saw the harvest of May roses for Chanel No. 5, and renewed my acquaintance with Jacques Polge, the legendary Chanel nose who I'd already interviewed for my book. (He's the dashing gentleman in the hat in the photograph above; I'm the dorky one beside).
Since then, I've been rushing, rushing, rushing -- to the supermarket, away from deadlines, to the Hay Festival, back to the shops, to the dry-cleaners, late for the tube, to and from the school, on to the airport, over to Moscow and St Petersburg, back home, into the kitchen, head inside the dishwasher. None of this is a complaint -- at 50, I know how very lucky I am, and how much I love being at home, as well appreciating the wondrous journeys that Coco Chanel has sent me on.
But anyway, here I am in Crouch End again, deadheading the roses this afternoon, because it's already the end of June. Where did the month go, let alone the last year?
While catching my breath, I'm also trying to gather my thoughts -- the ones that bloom and then fade like petals -- and am venturing into the new territory of my next book. All of which makes it a good moment to post this poem by Robert Herrick, which I love, though in an entirely different way to when I first read it, decades ago, as a teenager. If I could meet my younger self now, I could not tell her to do anything differently -- for if I had tarried, my beloved sons would not have been born -- but I might also suggest that life need not end at 30, or 40, or 50. Of course, sometimes it does -- my sister Ruth died at the age of 33 -- and terrible things can befall us (divorce, death, the ordinary disasters of life that everyone shares). But when happiness appears, as if by magic, then enjoy it -- love life, seize its pleasures, yet also cherish its fragility with tenderness.

248. To the Virgins, to make much of Time

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he 's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he 's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.


Bird in the Bush said...

"But when happiness appears, as if by magic, then enjoy it -- love life, seize its pleasures, yet also cherish its fragility with tenderness."

I have written this in my magic book of inspiration, story ideas and things to do (prioritised in that order!)

Happy Birthday and thank you

Bird x

Justine Picardie said...

Thank you -- very glad that the words I wrote on the wing found their way to you.

kairu said...

A line from the beautiful new film 'Tree of Life' keeps echoing through my mind: "Unless you love, your life will flash by." (It's a long film with little dialogue, so what there is, will stay with you).

My birthday is next week, and I can hardly believe how quickly the days turn into years; even if I love my life still flashes by. My friends' adorable baby whom I first held in my arms when she was a day old has exploded into a wriggly 5-month-old now exploring the joys of solid food. The days are crammed with work and friends and my parents on their twice-yearly visits and the occasional trip. In one week I'll be 31 and in two weeks I'll be in Russia.

I have been reading Linda Grant's We Had It So Good (finally out in hardcover in the US) and it is so achingly true and beautiful I want to cry. For my trip, I'll be reading Sholem Aleichem's Wandering Stars; the last time I read him I was 20 and studying Russian, I can't wait to fling myself back into the rhythms of his language...

Lilacs In May said...

and loop this red rose in that hazel ring
that snares your little ear, for June is short
and we must joy in it and dance and sing
and from her bounty draw her rosy worth
ay! soon the swallows will be flying south
the wind wheel north to gather in the snow
even the roses spilt in youth's red mouth
will soon blow down the road all roses go
- June, Francis Ledwidge.

I saw a clip of The Tree Of Life yesterday, it looks intriguing.

Justine Picardie said...

Looking forward to The Tree of Life. Kairu, when is your birthday? Lilac in May -- thanks for the poem...

kairu said...

My birthday is next Thursday! July 6. The past year has gone by so quickly I almost feel that it never happened. But then I look back and realize how many wonderful things *did* happen...

jaywalker said...

We're still in Yorkshire and spent yesterday in Scarborough and after visiting the castle we walked down towards the town and discovered Ann Bronte's grave without even having to ask for directions. There were some fresh flowers on it and had the few cars been removed, the view couldn't have been much different when Charlotte stood there. We waited for the bus opposite the Grand Hotel where she died.
On a brighter note, the sands looked just as they did when my parents tok me there as a child....the donkeys plodding along the beach, the "rock" shops, the stalls selling little tubs of whelks and mussels, the big wheel and the cries of the gigantic gulls. The British seaside town bathed in sunshine and in all its tacky but wonderful glory!

Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday Justine. It is so beautifully strange how we always feel the same way inside as we age. My father is now very ill and reaching the end of his life and yet I see the little boy in him so clearly. Best wishes for your new book and may life bring you much sparkles this year as you rush along. xx