These are the days of our lives

 

snowdrops-and-heelebores (2)

I went to the funeral of a dear man this week who was my next-door neighbour for many years, and, as these occasions are wont to do, it made me rethink the value and purpose of our lives and what we leave behind.

Listening to the heartfelt words of his children and grandchildren I was reminded of the saying, “people may not remember what you did or said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

Not one of them mentioned a gift he had bought them or how much pocket money they had received if any.  They didn’t mention his house or his décor, his car or his clothes.  They didn’t mention his looks or his job.  What they all mentioned was that he was kind; always there for them, would do anything for them, and that they had fun with him.

He was an ‘ordinary’ man, one of 9 children in the 1940s, when large families were more common.  He was a happy rascal as a little boy, playing truant from school to hunt for rabbits in the countryside.  He met his wife to be when he was 15 and she was 14.  They married at 19 and have been happy together ever since.

He grew up at a time when it was possible to get a job for life in a large, local company.  He worked hard, enjoyed the job, was on friendly terms with all his fellow workers, and stayed there for 40 years.

Apart from his family, the love of his life was his garden.  We always used to look after and water each other’s gardens whenever either of us was away.   His garden was a delight but his passion was such that he eventually took on 2 allotments as well.  There he grew all the fruit and vegetables you can imagine, for eating, and to brew his home-made beer, wine and cordial.

Gardening was so important to him that this lovely poem was recited at his funeral.

The Glory of the Garden by Rudyard Kipling

Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all ;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks:
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: – “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives

There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick.
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hand and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!

And it reaffirmed in me the knowledge that wealth, position and possessions, ultimately mean nothing to the people who truly love you.  They remember your smile, your kindness, and how you made them feel.

Although the funeral made me sad and thoughtful, this poem comforted me.  For, like the glory of the garden, this dear man’s goodness will live on, in his widow, his children and grandchildren.  His life had inestimable value to them and to all who knew him.

In memory of my neighbour I will give you a photographic guided tour of the Rococo Gardens in Painswick which at the moment is aglow with snowdrops and hellebores.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Miss Margaret’s New House

When I was a student in the 1960’s I started collecting nursery rhymes and poetry which I could use once I started teaching.  I built up quite a collection in a folder.  I also got into the habit of cutting poems out of the daily newspaper if they appealed to me.  One poem impressed me so much I have treasured it for the last 50 years.  I still have the original cutting.  Brown with age, I’ve now laminated it so that it doesn’t get damaged.  It is called Miss Margaret’s New House and it chimed with me really strongly.

As regular readers of my blog will know, my much loved mum died in 2012.  She lived just a couple of doors away from me, which was really handy when I was caring for her.  But once she had died, the house being so close was a constant source of sadness which I could not escape.

The house was empty and forlorn for months but now new people have bought the house to ‘do up’ and live in.  It seems to me that there will be nothing left of the original house soon.  It now has a huge extension on the back, the lovely hardwood window frames have been replaced with white plastic and the leaded lights are gone.  The kitchen has been ripped out and a new one built in the extension.  The wall between the bathroom and toilet has been knocked through and all the fittings have been replaced.  The climbing roses have been cut down and the rambling hedgerow tamed and trimmed.  All the carpets are gone and modern wooden flooring installed and the walls have all be painted in neutral tones.

I’m sure it will all be lovely by the time they move in, but no longer will it be ‘my mum’s house’.  This is a blessing in a way as I will no longer feel those pangs of sadness as I pass by on my walks with the dog or my grandson.  Every trace of my mum’s taste and personality has gone from the house now, along with her fixtures and fittings, into the skip.

Her style was plain and simple.  She loved the soft pink on the walls, pale green on the floors ~ always Wilton, always 80/20 wool.  She loved roses in the garden, flowers in the house, and dark oak Ercol furniture.  She loved soft cushions and silver ornaments.  Her door, like her heart, was always open to visitors, especially her family.  She never forgot a birthday and was generous to a fault.  Not a day goes by when I don’t miss her.

Now to get back to the poem!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

 She never liked The Firs.  She said

‘Give me simplicity.

Pretentious roofs and leaded panes…

Lord, how they sicken me!

 

I’ll have an honest house one day.

Clean-shaped outside and in.

Where need shall take its dues, and oust

The merely finikin.

 

A downright house, a compact house;

A small house – I am small;

The lone pea in its vasty pod

Is not my role at all.

 

Nor yet for me pert painted doors,

Flame yellow, scarlet bright;

A low house with white window sills,

And trees to left and right.

 

A quiet house, a peaceful house…

Cool in the August heat,

But snug and safe when parching winds

Drive brown leaves down the street…

 

This will I have’, she said and let

It cost me what it may

I shall not grudge that dwelling’s price…

She moved in yesterday.

 

It took the sum of all she had,

But well content she seemed;

She has them all-the sheltering trees,

The quiet that she dreamed;

 

The low pitched roof, the straight bare walls-

All hers, and perfect, save

For the white window sills.  There are

No windows in a grave.

By Ana Jackson

Miss Margaret's House? No, its mine!

My mum painting in Painswick Rococo Gardens

My mum painting in Painswick Rococo Gardens

My Life in the Glass Cabinet

Preserved Rose from Lourdes

Preserved Rose from Lourdes

August has been challenging to say the least. We needed a new gas boiler ~ expensive but not a disaster you would think. However…one thing leads to another … a burst water pipe in the loft filled up the loft space and soaked the insulation; water came through the ceiling and the loft door soaking all the carpets in the hall, bathroom and airing cupboard. Water then came through all the electric light fittings and the alarms. The gas fitters trying to stop the water managed to put their foot through the ceiling and made a hole in the bathroom wall. We then had a gas leak where the pipes were connected to the meter!
Result ~ 2 regular gas fitters to fit the new boiler, 2 emergency gas fitters to fix the gas leak, 2 emergency electricians to change all the fittings and make it safe, 2 plumbers to change the pipes, 1 handyman to fix the hole in the wall, 2 builders to take down the ceiling and build a new one, 2 decorators to repaint the ceilings and walls in the hall and kitchen, 2 carpet fitters to lay new carpets to hall and bathroom, 1 carpenter to make new loft door, 1 man to replace loft insulation, several insurance assessors and surveyors and a very frazzled housewife!
As if all this weren’t enough my husband then had a nasty fall and injured his leg. It will take some weeks to recover and he is in a wheelchair until it does. Undaunted we decided to go away for a couple of days as it was my birthday on Monday. Not being used to worrying about access I booked a hotel which involved getting said husband and wheelchair up and down several stairs countless times daily. Finding this rather awkward I managed to jam my little finger causing a deep gash, and losing copious amounts of blood in the beautifully tiled reception.
And so dear reader as August draws to a close I am busy getting my little bungalow back in some kind of order. I had to empty the glass cabinet so I could move it for the carpet fitters and today’s job was to clean it and put everything back.
Glass Cabinet
I realised as I put things back that this glass cabinet is a treasure trove, preserving significant moments and key memories spanning almost my whole life.
There are the two little pixies that I bought in Woolworth’s on Felling High Street in 1952 for my mother with my sixpence pocket money. When she died and the house was cleared they turned up amongst her possessions. She had kept them for 60 years and I will keep them now.
Glass cabinet ceramics

Felling High Street when i was a girl

Felling High Street when i was a girl

There is a nativity scene with a painted card background and little plastic figures. This is a poignant reminder of the traumatic Christmas of 1952 when I was in the children’s hospital at Rothbury in Northumberland. It was given to me by a kind visitor and has attained a ridiculous level of significance in my life.
Glass cabinet Crib Scene
There are treasured Christmas cards from friends as far afield as Africa, Russia and Poland. For many years I was involved in an inter-cultural linking charity called Global Footsteps/Rendezvous.
We organised Conferences where young people could interact, learn from each other, share their cultures, have fun, and generally get to know each other. This led to many close friendships, and a couple of marriages, between people who would otherwise never have met. It is a joy to me that I still receive cards from some of the youth and I treasure them.

Glass cabinet Christmas cards from Russia and Poland Glass cabinet Christmas more cards from Russia
There are little things from my children such as extra items for my Christmas crib scene, glass angels, and maple syrup bottles! One of my daughters lives in Vermont where the maple syrup is tapped right from the trees outside her barn.

Glass from vermont IMG_2530
There are paperweights that my husband used to make for me with lovely pictures inside and ornaments we collected from the wonderful places we visited over the years.

Glass from Norway Glass motorbike Glass paperweights

 There are glasses from Anjou and Vezelay, which we collected during a wine tasting holiday in the Loire and Burgundy regions of France.

Glass from Vezelay and Anjou

Glass from Vezelay and Anjou

Crystal Glass from Wales

Crystal Glass from Wales

There is a decanter given to me by a very dear friend when her husband died.  He used to write beautiful poetry and was a very holy man.  So I put a little verse inside the decanter in memory of him:

Life is only for LOVE

Time is only that we may find GOD

Glass Franks decanter 2

There are lots of mementoes from Lourdes, candles, Icons, Rosary beads, statues, crosses. Some of these were given as gifts, some were my mothers, and some I bought myself. I realise that many of my readers are of different faiths, or none, and I respect that. But today I feel strongly that, although I no longer belong to any particular church community, my faith is very important to me. It has been a constant in my life, a comfort in hard times, my anchor, the rock my life is built on.

Memories of Lourdes

Memories of Lourdes

Then of course there are the assorted glasses that I have gathered from jumble sales, trips to the Welsh Crystal factory, or as gifts.  All have a safe home in my glass cabinet…  

As long as my little grandson Stanley can’t find the key!