Enveloped by a Rainbow

Doughnut building enveloped in rainbow lights copyright GCHQ, used with permission

Doughnut building enveloped in rainbow lights
copyright GCHQ2015, used with permission

For this week’s photo challenge the prompt is the word “enveloped”.  I understand it to mean totally surrounded or covered, and as such I could only choose one photo as illustration.  I did not take the photo, the copyright belongs to the Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, but I was given permission to use it for this blog.  The photo shows the entire doughnut-shaped building, which is near my home, surrounded and lit up in the colours of the rainbow.  This occurred last weekend (17th May 2015) on Sunday evening from 9pm as the sun set.  It was to mark the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.  It was amazing in many respects.  Firstly, that GCHQ would make such a public gesture of solidarity with these misunderstood minority communities; and secondly, that a large crowd of people, including myself, drove, walked, and waited there to see it late on a Sunday evening.  I know parents who kept young children up specially to see it and then took the opportunity to discuss the reason for the event.

Not so long ago it was illegal in this country for men and women to be practising homosexuals.  And it would have been unthinkable to get a job with the security and intelligence services while openly gay.  But of course many people did work in these fields while keeping their sexuality hidden.  One such man was the mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing.  He worked at Bletchley Park, which was the forerunner to GCHQ.  There he and a brilliant young team helped crack Germany’s Enigma Code, which certainly shortened the second world war by a couple of years thereby saving millions of lives.  But when his sexual orientation was discovered, Turing lost his security clearance and was convicted for gross indecency.  His life was ruined by this conviction and his reputation was destroyed.  He was subjected to ‘corrective’ hormonal treatment until, two years later it is believed, he committed suicide by cyanide poisoning.  In 2013 he was granted a posthumous pardon by the Queen and honoured for his work.

In 2014 the film The Imitation Game was made about Turing and his work.  The film is so good that it won an Oscar as well as 51 other awards.  Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode, the acting is outstanding.   The truth may be stretched a little for dramatic effect, but the film is gripping from beginning to end.

My opposition to any form of discrimination and prejudice stems from my years in teaching when I observed the misery it caused to children.  During my 30+ years working in the field of education, I taught over a thousand primary school pupils in state schools.  It is reasonable to assume that they were a fairly representative sample of children raised during the second half of the 20th century.  The majority were from stable, loving and supportive families with parents who worked hard and were able to provide good homes, experiences and opportunities for their children.  But over the years I also worked with many children who were not so lucky.  Lots of families suffered from the negative effects of poverty through no fault of their own.  But in some cases families were dysfunctional due to addictions-to gambling, alcohol or illegal drugs.  There was also a criminal element including a small minority of parents who were actually dangerously antisocial.  Whatever the cause, the children suffered most.

In all those years I only encountered one child with what I would call a ‘wicked’ nature.  He took pleasure in inflicting pain and suffering on other children, animals and even his own family.  Every available agency tried to help him, his parents, and the school, manage and change his behaviour, to no avail.  In those years too I met many confused and unhappy children who had a poor self-image and little confidence.  There were as many reasons as children for this; inadequate parenting, poverty, social, emotional or physical issues, learning difficulties, and sometimes gender issues.

Someone once explained to me that the gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us is crucial to our self-esteem.  School age children are social creatures.  They need to be accepted and respected by their peer group.  They are not born with low self-esteem.  It is an acquired condition.  If, for whatever reason, they do not ‘fit in’ to their group, their self-esteem suffers.  And they may become victims of bullying.  This is enormously important because research has shown that low self-esteem leads to unhappiness, ill health, and a less rewarding and successful life.  In extreme cases it can lead to suicide.

This brings me to the tragic case of a 15 year old boy who took his own life because he was being taunted at school for behaviour which ignorant bullies called ‘gay’.  The effect of this on his family and true friends was so traumatic that some months later his father took his own life and then one of his friends did the same.

This is why I am so proud of GCHQ for lighting up the ‘doughnut’ building in rainbow colours at the weekend.  In this country, and in many others I am sure, the past has been marred by intolerance bred of ignorance and fear.  People have been judged because of the colour of their skin; their accent, age, gender, beliefs, finances, job, clothes, or sexuality rather than their humanity.  There is no place in a civilised society for such prejudices.  Critics have denounced the gesture online as a political gimmick, but if it draws crowds of ordinary families who then discuss these issues with their children then it was a very worthwhile one in my opinion.

Read about a previous creative gesture by GCHQ in my blogpost Living Poppy in a Doughnut

The Boy

Fragile and different

Defeated by the bullies

He jumped to his death

 

The girl

Remnants of ribbons

And fading flowers weep, where she

Fell to her death

 

The Father

The death of his son

Drove him to despair.  Destroyed,

His life he ended.

 

The Cemetery

Lawned garden of grief

Compassion carved into stone

Too late to show love

 

Intricate and Artistic

Horse Sculpture at Ellenborough park

Horse Sculpture at Ellenborough park

Intricate Blog

Today I went to a May Bank Holiday Fete in a beautiful Cotswold village.  On the way back I had to pop in to Ellenborough Park, which is a beautiful hotel at the foot of Cleeve Hill near the Cotswold Way.  It is a gorgeous hotel, traditionally built in Cotswold stone.  It dates back to the 16th century and it shows!  It just oozes history.  I have a soft spot for the hotel because my youngest daughter was married there in a most romantic ceremony.

In front of the hotel, facing Cheltenham racecourse, there is a magnificent life-size sculpture ~ of a horse.  It is created from what looks like bronze wire and is very intricate!

I just love wire sculpture, especially natural subjects like horses and hares.  I have added a link to an amazing artist in case you would like to see more. http://www.ruperttill.com/retrospective.html

Cheltenham is famous for horse racing and of course the Cotswold countryside lends itself to lots of equine establishments and pastimes.  In 2011 the centenary of the Racecourse was celebrated with a Horse Parade with a difference.  10 Life size sculptures of horses were created and decorated to reflect their sponsors.  The horses were displayed in prominent places around the town before being auctioned at the racecourse for various charities.

Thousands of pounds were raised for a variety of charities.  Indeed Ellenborough Park raised £4,800 for a local cancer charity.  If you would like to see pictures of all the horses, they are here  http://www.cheltenhamartgallery.org.uk/Docs/horse%20parade%20auction%20leaflet_toprint.pdf

William Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations

Shakespeares Tomb3

This weekend rounds up the celebrations in honour of William Shakespeare’s Birth on 23rd April 1564.  I love to be in Stratford on Avon at this time to soak up the atmosphere so I set off this morning full of joy and anticipation.  I was not disappointed.  There were street entertainers, market stalls, a literary festival and scenes of celebration all around.  And, the sun was shining gloriously.  I have written about the special 400th celebration in 1964 previously so you can read about the events that take place in that post.  But today I would just like to share some of my photos with you.

The river Avon is always a joy to walk beside and today the boaters were out in force.

The walk to Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare and some of his family are buried was beautiful.  On one side is the river, and on the other, blossom trees and wisteria covered houses.  I took a detour through the pretty little garden in memory of those who died in the two world wars.  It is a most peaceful place in the older part of town.

There is a beautiful bespoke Iron chair in this memorial garden which took my breath away with it’s beauty.  It was made in Scotland for the Royal British legion

Memorial chair for Royal British legion

When I got to the church it was surprisingly quiet as the crowds had left.  I was able to wander freely and take in the amazing aroma of the masses of Spring flowers which had been laid in the Sacristy all around Shakespeare’s grave.

On the way back from the church we passed The Other Place and various workspaces belonging to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and of course the theatre itself.  I took my photo from the gardens behind the theatre as that is where I used to sit on the grass and do my homework when i was a schoolgirl in Stratford many years ago.

After this I wandered through the Bancroft Gardens to enjoy the live music and to see the Gower memorial.  This famous memorial was originally outside the theatre but when the theatre was destroyed by fire in 1926, it was decided to move it to its present position overlooking the canal basin.  It certainly is a superb position.  On the top of the memorial is Shakespeare himself and around the base are main characters from the plays.  There is Falstaff, Lady Macbeth, Prince Hal and Hamlet.

In the Bancroft Gardens there is a fascinating flower bed filled with plants that are mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. They deserve a post all on their own so I will just quickly show you the flags that lined the main streets.  Ambassadors and dignitaries come from all over the world to pay their respects during the annual birthday celebrations and their flags stand proud.

It was a wonderful day and I came home very happy.  I am really looking forward to next year, 2016.

William Shakespeare was born on 23rd April 1564 as I said and I was lucky enough to live in Stratford in 1964 when the 400th anniversary was spectacularly celebrated.  He died, also on 23rd April, in 1616. So next year will be the 400th anniversary of his death at the age of 52.  Great plans are afoot for commemorative events worldwide, and and as it falls on a Saturday it should be a great occasion in Stratford.  It will seem strange to commemorate his birth and his death on the same day, but I hope to be there!

Bust of William Shakespeare

Nature in Motion

My friendly long tailed tit landing

My friendly long tailed tit landing

This photo is a fluke but I love it.  I had been hoping to get a photo of my cheeky, but very friendly, fledgling long tailed tit as he pays his daily visit to my door.  I snapped quickly with my phone and this is the result.  It is literally as he is landing and it looks as though his feathers are screeching to a halt.  He is still learning how to fly after all ~ And I’m still learning about photography!

One of the things I love about blogging is communicating with fascinating people who enjoy the same things as I do.  Recently, through various posts, I have discovered that Sarah Longes who blogs “One Day at a Time” at Mirador Design, loves garden birds as much as I do. Recently we were conversing in the comments section about all the fledging birds we have in our gardens.  In mine there are robins, blue tits, blackcaps, blackbirds, pigeons, sparrows, chaffinches and a very cheeky long tailed tit.  This little bird is a bit of a rebel.  While all the others are happy to hop about under the apple trees or sit on the fence, this sociable little bird gets very close and personal on a daily basis.  His mother must despair of him. He shows no fear, but great curiosity, as he flies right up to my french windows and perches on the door handle.  He seems to enjoy watching me as I potter about the house and when I sit down by the window he stares straight into my eyes.  It truly is amazing and I have got so used to it that I look forward to seeing him now.  I will be really sad when he grows up a bit and flies off to pastures new. I promised Sarah I would take some photos of him so here they are.  They qualify in a post on ‘Motion’ as they show my little bird landing and getting ready for take off.  I love the blurred one as it literally caught him as he landed and it looks like he had to do an emergency stop!

My last group of photos are from a day out by the lake yesterday.  While my husband was enjoying his fishing I was amused by a family of ducks.  There was a mother and father and 9 ducklings which were obviously very young.  8 of them were very adventurous and wandered off all over the lake but one seemed quite nervous and often stayed very close to mum.  It was charming to watch so i took lots of photos of the ducklings in motion.

A Fresh Lead

As always I found this week’s photo challenge fascinating in where it leads me.  If you manage to read to the end I think you will be as amazed as I was!

The word ‘Fresh’ immediately led me to photographs I had taken of my adorable granddaughter picking fresh fruit and vegetable from my garden.  I love to do this in season and then cook with the children, soups, pies and crumbles.

But then yesterday was rather special in many ways, not least a solar eclipse!

It was also officially the first day of Spring yesterday here in the UK; a fresh season with fresh delights.  This is when I switch from sauntering through the Gloucestershire countryside seeking out snowdrops, to heading for the Herefordshire borders hunting out wild daffodils.  The best place to see these beautiful fresh flowers is in what is known locally as the ‘Golden Triangle’, namely the villages of Dymock, Kempley and Oxenhall.

wild daffodils native to the golden triangle

wild daffodils native to the golden triangle

I have mentioned before that snowdrops were picked commercially by the local women and children of Sherborne to be whisked off by train to London and sold for 6d a bunch in flower markets like Covent Garden.  Similarly, daffodils were picked commercially in the golden triangle.  You can read about the daffodils and see some beautiful photographs on the Glos Oracle website if you would like to know more.

And enjoy this poem by A. A. (Alan Alexander) Milne (1882-1956), famous for his stories about Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, Tigger, Piglet and the rest, who wrote that, ‘winter is dead’ in his poem Daffodowndilly

Daffodils in my garden

Daffodils in my garden

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,

She wore her greenest gown;

She turned to the south wind

And curtsied up and down

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbour:

“Winter is dead.”

As is often the way on my days out I got totally sidetracked and ended up in a fascinating little place called Upleadon.  Named after the river Leadon, this is a small village with a fascinating history and some superb buildings.  But what struck me as I drove over the hill in glorious sunshine was what looked like snow covered fields in the distance.  As I got closer I realised it was actually a vast expanse of farmland covered in polytunnels.

Having explored, investigated then googled I discovered that Upleadon has been a fruit growing area for hundreds of years.

Cider orchards were cultivated next to many of the farmsteads including Middletown before 1700. In 1627 a garden was known as the cherry hay and in 1678 an arable close was called perry grove field.In 1739 it was reported that Thomas Hammond’s estate included several thousand fruit trees from which one tenant had made 100 hogshead of cider in a year and in the late 1770s it was said that the fruit from orchards in Upleadon made excellent cider. Among orchards planted in the corn fields by the early 19th century were several of squash pears and in leasing Lower House farm in 1817 the landowner James de Visme reserved pear but not apple windfalls. Both apple and pear trees were also cultivated at Middletown which was one of the farmsteads with its own cider mill.

(Victoria History of Gloucestershire XIII, draft text by John Juřica: © University of London 2011)

I was really struck by the juxtaposition of the ancient church of St Mary the Virgin which has a thousand years of history, and the really modern cultivation methods.  It appears that polytunnels have caused some controversy as they can be rather unsightly when they cover large areas of farmland.  However, as a consumer I have to say I am delighted that I can buy (or pick) fresh local strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, Victoria plums and blackcurrants from mid-June to August and different varieties of apples and pears from September to Christmas.  An added bonus is that growers use much less herbicides and insecticides on fruit grown in polytunnels as they are not as prone to rot or disease.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Upleadon

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Upleadon

Now here is the bit that just took my breath away literally and gave me a fresh lead in my family history search.

As I was searching online for the history of Upleadon I came across a fascinating document held by the Gloucestershire Archives.  It was the file of documents re: Thackwell Roche estate.  The former Roche estate at Aghada (in county Cork, Ireland) came into the possessionof the Thackwell family in the second half of the 19th century.  The Thackwells were related to the Roche family of Trabolgan.  Another document describes how the Thackwell Roche estate comprised Norman’s Land estate near Old Rock, Dymock, (here on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border in the Golden Triangle) as well as lands in Ireland.  Believe it or not my great grandfather William Roche was the son of James Roche and he comes from that very area.  I have searched for years for information on his family.  I know his mother died when he was young so his father remarried and took his new wife and the other children to America in the second half of the 19th century.  William, being 15 was old enough to join the Royal Navy as a boy sailor so he was left behind.  he joined a training ship, HMS Conwy in 1855 and spent the next few years rising through the ranks.  By 1861 he was sailing on the Victor Emmanuel, and thereafter he sailed the China seas on tea clippers as First Mate.  He never saw any of his family again and I have searched for clues as to their home and their destination.

Who would have thought that a trip to take photographs of daffodils in Gloucestershire would throw up a fresh lead for me to follow in the archives.  It is just amazing and I am thrilled.

Poets Paths

Early Bird

Reward 10

This early bird got more than one worm!

 

Goodness this weeks photo challenge was a nightmare for me.  I’m often awake early but the thought of getting out before dawn with a camera or anything else for that matter is anathema to me.

There have been times of course when travelling, that early starts have been enforced.  You can read about my trips to Lourdes or America by clicking the links.  But I am really an evening person.  I would happily do housework at midnight or write poetry and my journal at 2am.  But I don’t really come back to life before 8.30 in the morning.

However, I did make a special effort just for the challenge and was rewarded, not by a visual revelation as it was quite dull, but by the dawn chorus of birds.  There was an owl hooting plaintively in the woods over the road and countless little birds singing their hearts out in the bushes in my garden.  I know their song is just a warning to competitors to stay away but it does sound delightful.  I wish you could hear it!

5.20am from my front window

5.20am from my front window

I did however want to make my day worthwhile by taking more photographs so I am posting photographs of the early apple and cherry blossom in my garden.  A bit of a cheat I know but I hope you enjoy them.  We are having a wonderful spring, warm, sunny and dry so the blossom is perfect.

Afloat

my grandchild afloat in her mother's womb my grandchild afloat in her mother’s womb

Goodness I have been down memory lane again with this weekly photo challenge  In fact I went through various stages ~  philosophical ~ historical ~ scientific ~ photojournalistic ~ spiritual and ended up just reminiscing.  I have included a 3D photo of my youngest granddaughter afloat in her mother’s womb and a beautiful photo of a good friend afloat on Taung Tha Man Lake in Myanmar (Burma), which I did not take but have permission to use. So here are my offerings for the theme Afloat!