Rebecca F sent me the most exquisite tulips last year and I have never forgotten them. With tulip fever dreams already blooming around us I knew that this fifth generation British company were the perfect sponsors for this month’s subject of Family.
Smith and Munson were founded in 1949 in South Lincolnshire and are now fifth generation flower growers.
It all began with George Smith, whose daughter Hilda married Jack Munson and formed Smith & Munson Ltd. Jack Munson was a champion grower, famed for his Begonias. With a huge increase in the demand for cut flowers, Neville Munson mixed the farming with bulb growing. Returning from his commercial horticultural course at Writtle, Stephen Munson could see flowers were the way forward for the business and they have blossomed ever since. The latest generation is Edward Munson who graduated from Harper Adam’s University in 2015, where he studied Agri-Business. He has inherited his predecessor’s love of horticultural knowledge and will no doubt continue the family business with the same love of growing and passion for flowers.
I can only apologise for the barrage of beautiful tulip images that I will be posting over the next few weeks. Smith and Munson are actual tulip whisperers, they pick the very best varieties for the season ahead, use the latest growing techniques and with decades of experience, they produce top quality beautiful blooms. Even their glasshouses are a vision of beauty!!!
From one harmonious happy tulip blooming family to three books exploring family dynamics, from the everyday complexities to hidden secrets that can threaten the intricate infrastructures that we weave between parents and siblings…over to Rebecca F:
Leaning in, letting go – this month, we’ll be delving into all the messiness of loving and living, of sibling love, of motherhood and mothering, of tangled relationships irrepressible, feelings undefinable. All three reads explore how family can shape our past, present and future and what happens when we unravel and have to inhabit the space in between. Welcome to February’s Are You Sitting Comfortably.
The Garnett Girls – Georgina Moore
‘It has once been her and Richard’s table. Twenty years later and she would not collect empties from that table. She only had to look at it to see Richard’s nicotine-stained fingers, the mess of scattered Rizlas and tobacco, his wallet and probably a beer mat shredded as they talked, red wine pooling on the varnish. She could hear his smoker’s laugh, see the way his eyes danced when he looked at her. His eyes had changed colour as fast as the sea, from blue to green and back again. Sasha had his eyes.’
Georgina Moore’s The Garnett Girls asks the question whether children can ever be free of the mistakes of their parents. Margo and Richard’s love affair is the stuff of legends but when it burns itself out, Margo is left paralysed in its wake, leaving her three daughters, Rachel, Imogen and Sasha, to run wild. Years later, Margo’s complicated love life brings little comfort as she entertains from her cottage on the Isle of Wight. Her silence when it comes to Richard and her painful past threatens to prevent her girls from finding their own happiness.
Rachel is held hostage with the weighty responsibility of keeping memories of their childhood and now crumbling home, Sandcove, alive. Imogen feels the pressure of making a perfect match and Sasha is haunted by a secret that threatens to shake all four women’s lives to the core. I read this in one sitting. Set on the beautiful beaches of the Isle of Wight, The Garnett Girls brings complicated family dynamics, sibling secrets, betrayals and bonds and will have you hooked from the start.
Molly Keane’s Time After Time
‘In every beginning there is a certain tense of excitement, a brief time of discovery before all is familiar, to be accepted or discarded. It was like this in the first days of Leda’s return to Durraghglass. Her evocation of a past time was so strong that even the house yielded up its cold poverty as she pulled the past into the present remembering pictures or silver, long ago sold, so vividly that their lost qualities restored themselves, ghostlike, to their empty spaces.’
Our Classic this month is from Irish novelist and playwright, Molly Keane, the queen of black comedy. With a penchant for writing the unspeakable, Keane’s first ten novels were published under a pseudonym, M. J. Farrell. Her most famous novel, Good Behaviour, tells the story of a widow clinging onto her youth with Keane’s perfect overtones of acerbic wit and acid melodrama. With lashings of a fading Anglo-Irish gentry as backdrop to her books, fans of Nancy Mitford will love her brilliant style as well as a tongue in cheek quality, not unlike the author’s literary heroine, Jane Austen. A fascinating character all of her own, Time After Time is perhaps my favourite of Molly Keane’s novels.
Three sisters, April, May and Baby June and their only (and one-eyed) brother, Jasper, live at Durraghglass, a once beautiful mansion in Southern Ireland. With the house falling down around them, the sibling Swifts are held together by memories of long-lost youth and their ‘darling Mummy’ but little else. When a surprise guest, Cousin Leda, arrives from Vienna, the past becomes ever more present as dormant desires and passions are brought to the surface and her very presence threatens to challenge Durraghglass’ state of inertia. Time After Time is a rollercoaster of a social comedy – funny, light-hearted but also devilishly black. The characters are maddeningly eccentric, and Keane’s dialogue is sharp as she explores the way we are with others and the dynamics of a not so harmonious household.
Twelve Moons: A Year Under a Shared Sky – Caro Giles
‘Soaked in the night, I try and pour myself into a book, to lose myself in someone else’s mind for a while. If the sky is clear, I can step out of my bedroom, heart bumping hard because of the man at the bottom of the stairs, and tiptoe onto the landing. If I am lucky there will be a moon, and this means I can breathe once more. The moon rejects the witching hour and spins magic in the tides, where the real witching takes place. I can bask in the glow splintered by my dusty window and wait for time to catch me up once more.’
Caro Giles’ Twelve Moons is our Wildcard choice for February. Caught between wild seas and wide Northumberland skies, Twelve Moons follows Caro and her tribe of four daughters – The Mermaid, The Whirlwind, The Caulbearer and The Littlest One – over the course of a year and with the moon as fellow traveller through dark times. There’s a beautiful yet brutal honesty to this memoir which deals with the wildness and wilderness in mothering and single motherhood. I found Caro’s writing both illuminating and powerful as she explores the truth to be found when life isn’t quite the way we imagined it and learning how to flourish in the spaces we find for ourselves.