Henri’s birthday will be with her mum in Denmark. This land is her land. It lives deep in her childhood of long summerhouse holidays, the beach nearby, surrounded by daisies, cornflowers, poppies and pine trees.
We are lucky in London to live close to Hampstead Heath, more like countryside than a city park (though less so in lockdown). There were picnics after primary school. Later, flying kites with the kids – perhaps more my thing than theirs. Always long walks. This we still do.
The roof terrace was more mine at first. Climbers, annuals, often in primary colours, reds and blues. Then came the allotment. The girls would visit with Henri, picking beans and peas and flowers. The roof terrace morphed, became more architectural. Better plants and pots. Henri fending off my over-enthusiasm.
Then she found the summerhouse, a Nordic beach hut with her childhood friends close by. Crucially, not too far from her mother. Northern woodland with a sea soundtrack. Almost no intervention here, though we plant bulbs at the edges, and an occasional birch or beech.
There are perfect hepatica and primrose, cowslips and snowdrops in abundance, shy violets snuggled like sleepy mice in shelter. Here, Henri shrugs off the UK and the city. She lightly wears her Danish identity. She mows the grass, trims the edges. I sometimes try to take away her secateurs.
We live outside. We eat to the sound of the sea. We wander around in wonder.
We often go down to the beach for the sunset. Sometimes with a summer beer, occasionally a winter whisky. I have slowly learned a lesson here. I don’t always need to shape a garden, an inside or outside space. It is even better to let land reshape you. Happy birthday, Henri. Tusind tak.