Bluebells with the Brontes

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While taking my little dog, Toffee, for her walks this week, I have been thinking about WPC’s cue for my blog ~ ‘Earth’.

It struck me as I wandered across the park and through the woods near my home, just how marvellous the earth is at recovering from what nature, and we humans, subject it to.

We had a short cold spell when the grass was covered in frost and the earth in the woods was as hard as rock underfoot and twisted ankles were a real danger.  Then as the long and wet winter dragged on, the grass became waterlogged and sodden, and the woods were a quagmire with mud.  But through it all, the snowdrop, crocus and daffodil bulbs survived, and bloomed.  When the weather turned milder a few weeks ago, the blackthorn hedgerows were covered in blossom and the daisies started to appear.  Then, just in time for Easter, the sun came out and transformed everything.

Suddenly the grass over the park is green and dry and covered in bright yellow dandelions alongside the daisies.  In the woods the mud has dried up and carpets of bluebells have miraculously appeared in vast swathes of violet among the weeds, ferns and tree roots.  The smell is wonderful and indescribable.

I can see why they are called the fairy flower, they are just so delicate and beautiful and seemingly appear from nowhere.  They seem to speak of childhood and innocence.

As I wandered with my puppy, a poem started to form in my mind.  Then it struck me that many poets, including Shakespeare, have crafted lovely verse about Bluebells, which I could never match.

So, I will include a couple of my favourites here from the Bronte sisters.

Firstly, a really poignant poem by Anne Bronte who suffered so much sadness in her adult life and died far too young.

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.


There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
‘Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;

That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.

Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?

O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood’s hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,

Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.

I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others’ weal
With anxious toil and strife.

‘Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!’
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.

And one by her sister Emily, who also died tragically young:

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.

I was going to write a learned post about Shakespeare and Bluebells but then I thought I could just add this link about the bard’s garden.

Then I thought I could write about the beauty of bluebells but then I realised that I could never match this one by bookishnature

So I think I will just post photos of bluebells from my walks with Toffee instead!

 

Toffee the Terror

Toffee the Terror

Toffee is Trained

Toffee with her rosette for passing her obedience training

If you read my last post you will know that I have a new puppy. She was named Toffee by my grandchildren as her ears are rather toffee coloured on the underside.  Toffee is nearing 6 months old and is still as uncontrolled and crazy as only a puppy can be.

She is supposedly a Pembroke Corgi crossed with a Dachsund but I am convinced there is a bit of Beagle in her.  She will hunt anything and seems to live with her nose permanently pressed to the ground.  She digs up borders,  gravel and pots as if her life depends on it and I can certainly say goodbye to any hope of a daffodil display this spring.

Indoors she seems to have taken a dislike to my soft furnishing style.  She has bitten holes in my towels, pulled threads in my throws, chewed the corners of the cushions, and my rugs are ragged.  My slippers are shredded and my socks all have holes in them.  But somehow she manages to still be appealing.

On the plus side she is clean, preferring to do her toileting under my much loved maple tree.

I have been taking her to ‘obedience’ training classes for the last 6 weeks and against all the odds she passed!

She has a certificate and a rosette to prove it!

I am still amazed that she managed to fool the trainer but I am oddly proud of her.

What brought me to Adlestrop?

What brought me to Adlestrop?

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I recently started my second free course with the Open University at futurelearn.com

The first course was “Start Writing Fiction“, which was a hands-on course focused on the central skill of creating characters.   My current course is “Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing.”  The course aims to explore how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with deep emotional strain.

Readers who were used to following my blog weekly will have noticed that I have written nothing since I lost my little Dachsund, Dayna, who was the subject of my last post.  Maybe other pet owners, especially dog owners, will understand the depths of my despair at losing Dayna.

I am blessed to have a husband, adult children (albeit three of them live abroad), supportive friends and adorable grandchildren.  But, although I love them all dearly, after losing Dayna I was inconsolable.   I gradually slipped into a downward spiral of despair and lost interest in going out, seeing friends,  talking to people, cooking or even eating.  All I wanted to do was stay at home and curl up under a blanket wallowing in my misery and solitude.  I felt bereft and ridiculously lonely.  Hence my interest in finding ways to cope with ‘deep emotional strain’.

All of my children are dog lovers and my eldest daughter volunteers at a rescue centre in California.  They recommended that I get another dog – not as a replacement because my precious Dayna is irreplaceable, but as a companion.  So I started to search.   How I found my new dog is a long story which I will save for another day but suffice it to say she is NOT Dayna

My new puppy was 10 weeks old when I got her, and supposedly a Corgi crossed with a Dachsund.  However everyone including the local vet is convinced she is a Beagle cross.  I personally think there is a bit of shark in her too.  She is very cute and slightly crazy most of the time but totally adorable of course.  My grandson, Stanley, christened her Toffee and instantly fell in love with her.  Well who wouldn’t?

 

Anyway, I started the course and I am finding it very  stimulating.  It is brilliantly put together with input from poets, authors, doctors, psychiatrists and research scientists, as well as the wonderful actor Sir Ian McKellen, and the amazing Stephen Fry who defies categorisation!

There are countless opportunities for online discussion with other course participants and it was a discussion about the poet Edward Thomas that led me to drive to Adlestrop today.

Edward Thomas was primarily a nature poet and he wrote his famous poem Adlestrop when the train he was travelling on stopped there unexpectedly on 24 June 1914, just before the outbreak of WW!.  Instead of getting irritated, he used all of his senses to take in his surroundings and wallow in the details.

Edward Thomas joined the Artist’s Rifles in 1915 and sadly was killed in action in France in 1917.  Interestingly, his widow, Helen Thomas wrote two books after his death reportedly to help her recover from her deep depression.

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Edward Thomas 1878 – 1917
Of course Adlestrop Station is no more although the railway line still passes through nearby fields.  Today the fields and the railway line were underwater, flooded after the week of heavy rain we have had in Gloucestershire.  But there is a wonderful bus shelter at the entrance to the village where the old station bench and sign is preserved and a brass copy of the poem displayed.
I went there today as I live just 20 miles away.  It was a cold, cloudy day, and the rain was drizzling down.  But the journey was worth it.  There were swathes of snowdrops by the roadside and in the churchyard.  There is a Yew tree shaped like a cross by the gate to the church.  The writer, Jane Austen was known to worship here when she visited her uncle, the Reverend Thomas Leigh.   There is a beautiful Cotswold stone manor house and a thatched village shop housing the ‘new’ post office. There were young riders in red jackets exercising the racehorses from the beautiful Adlestrop stables.
Here are the photos from Adlestrop

Dayna

 

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I’m posting a photo of my much-loved dog Dayna today sitting in our porch.  This is where I like to sit and write, colour or do puzzles in my very rare free moments.  I am proud to say that until Sunday 16th October, wherever I was you would find Dayna very close by.  In the porch, her favourite spot was the windowsill.  She would sit there guarding me from the world and watching the people go by.  Being south facing our porch is warm and cosy and a great suntrap.  Dayna’s beautiful silver dapple coat of fur would shine in the sunlight as she sat, so proud of herself in her little domain.

Just four momentous years ago I wrote about the little Dachsund, Dayna, that I rehomed.  She settled in quite well after a few minor hiccups!  As soon as I picked her up from her previous home, I popped into the Pets at Home Store.  There I rashly bought 3 very large bags of a good quality dog food, one chicken, one beef and one vegetable variety, which she flatly refused to eat.  I also bought a canvas cage for her to sleep in ~ which she absolutely refused to get into.  I bought a lovely red extending lead to match her very sparkly red collar, which she chewed through during her first walk.

Feeling desperate I appealed to my wonderful dog-loving daughter in Vermont who sent me 3 books packed full of guidance on training your dog:

How to Raise the Perfect Dog by Cesar Millan

How to be your dogs Best Friend by The Monks of New Skete

Dog Stories ~ Everyman Pocket Classics.

I found these books insightful and very helpful, but obviously Dayna has previously read one called How to Get your Owner to Do Whatever You Want, so she wins hands down.  One week and three leads later we got the measure of each other and Dayna had got me trained.

Dayna would eat fresh meat or fish, any kind of cheese, pouches of lamb and rice with vegetables, or tins of expensive dog food.  On no account would she eat dry food however expensive ~ 3 large bags of which were donated to the local animal rescue centre.

Dayna would walk for miles very happily with a short chain metal lead.  She had no interest in being on a long extension, preferring to be within a couple of inches of my feet, preferably between them so I am in danger of tripping.

Dayna had no intention of ever sleeping in a cage, however softly padded or comfortably den-like whatever the Monks of New Skete say!  She prefers to sleep within licking distance of my foot in a soft bed with a fluffy cushion.

We had some great days out. In Pershore for the Plum Festival we sat outside a cafe in the sun where every passer-by fell in love with her.  At the seaside she gloried in the freedom of the beach.  In Wick at the Confetti Fields, she climbed on a trailer and surveyed the scene.  She had such a big personality for such a small dog.

When my two adorable grandchildren came on the scene she was gentleness personified.  As babies they soon realised she was a real-live fluffy toy who loved to play with them.  As Thea grew into a toddler she would dress Dayna up in hats and cover her in jewellery.  Stanley would include her in all his games too. For him she was a dinosaur or an obstacle in the way of his bike or on his train track.

How could something so small have so much control?  I don’t know but she was everything I could want from a dog:

Loyalty, trust, companionship, healthy walks, fun, and bucket-loads of love.  She was worth her weight in gold.

Then on Sunday, the anniversary of my mum’s death, Dayna was tragically killed on a busy road near our home.  She was being taken for a walk on a new lead which somehow came loose as she excitedly pulled to cross the road in a hurry to get back to where she was happiest ~ in our little bungalow, with her little pack ~ her domain, her world.

My heart is broken by her loss.  She is irreplaceable.  But her memory will shine on in our hearts forever.

 

 

Partners

Partners

I just have to post photos of my grandchildren to illustrate this week’s photo challenge.  The theme is Partners and these two are definitely partners when it comes to getting up to mischief.  But they adore each other!

Following on from the surprising result of our referendum on membership of the European Union this week, I feel sad that our partnership with the other European countries is coming to an end.  So many people gave so much to bring peace and partnership to Europe during the wars, not least the combined services of army, airforce and navy.  In their honour I am posting some photos I took on Remembrance Day at Westminster Abbey in London.

I can’t resist putting in some of my favourite photos.  Of course my little Dachsund, Dayna, is a wonderful companion for me, but her hero is my husband.  When he is at the hospital for dialysis she often sits beside (or on) his slippers waiting for his return. The pair of ponies share a field near me so I guess they qualify as partners.  And of course the garden birds are my constant delight and we have a partnership.  I feed them regularly and they reward me by coming into my garden and sometimes even into the house like this little one!

And last but not least, partners for life ….literally!

My mum and Dad lived in parallel streets as children and went to the same school.  They were friends from the age of 8 and eventually married in 1945.  They were inseparable until my father died in 1993 and she followed him some years later.

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My mum and Dad on their wedding day in 1945

 

Victory

 

Oh my goodness I know I should be writing a learned and worthy post on the theme of remembrance for this week’s victory prompt, but I just have to diverge.  I beg your forgiveness for the poor quality of my photos but I was laughing so much as I took them.

This sequence took place on Tuesday morning as I looked after my adorable one year old granddaughter.   The lounge, hall and bedrooms were filled with toys for her to play with, but now that she can walk the kitchen is her favourite place.   For the kitchen is where my little dog hides in her bed when grandchildren appear.

There truly can be nothing more amusing than watching a one year old negotiate with a dachsund.  It was clear the poor dog had no chance of winning and eventually she had to give up her bed, which she did very reluctantly.  Then it was blankets out as soft toys and granddaughter moved in.

If there is such a thing as a saintly dog, my little dachsund truly is one!  She is so good natured and patient under severe provocation.

 

 

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.