Otherworldly

frosty spiders web

There is nothing quite so exciting as waking up to a fresh snowfall.  The beauty of the spider’s web is out of this world.  This week our landscape has been transformed by the heaviest snowfall the UK has seen in years.  It makes for very exciting dog walks and hair-raising drives!  When I was teaching I used to love a ‘snow day’.  But now that I am a little too old for sledging, sitting at the window watching the younger generation having such fun just makes me wistful.  Then my mind drifts….

It snowed overnight and the roads are a fright,

So the schools are all closed ~ on a Friday!

Mums and dads can’t drive, their cars slip and slide

So its family fun on a school day.

Dogs in bright jackets are leaping for joy

Taken out for a walk, on a school day.

Babies and toddlers peep out of their prams

They’re going to the park, on a school day.

Tiny tots muffled in mittens and hats,

Squeal in delight, on a school day.

Giggling girls, hugging their friends,

Slide down the hill, on a school day.

Teen terrors in hoodies become little boys

Throwing snowballs at girls, on a school day.

Steep slopes draw the daring on sledges and boards,

They hurtle downhill, on a school day.

I sit at the window and, like falling snow,

My thoughts pile up into drifts.

My smiles turn to tears at the sights and sounds

Of my school days, as the frozen scene shifts.

Of ink wells and blotters, of wafers and milk,

Of chalk boards and outside loos;

Of walking to school by the RiverTyne,

Of castles, and coalmines and ships.

And then there are people, who wave as they pass,

Loved aunties and cousins and friends

A younger brother no longer in touch

A mother and father I mourned.

There are icicles hanging near a frozen stream,

The snow covered branches are bending

The field is a snow frosted wonderland

Its beauty my broken heart mending.

I wrote this poem the last time there was heavy snow on a Friday, in 2013.  Here are some of the photos I took then from my window or on my rambles/trudges through the Cotswolds.

These are the days of our lives

 

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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.

 

 

 

What are the streets that have no memories

What are the streets that have no memories

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This unusual public art by Wolfgang Buttress is a 22-metre-high beacon and landmark on the way between Gloucester Docks and the city centre.  It symbolises a candle as a reference to the nearby Cathedral, or a flame to remind us of the many fires which have devastated the old buildings over the years.  The most recent fire was at Bakers Quay, which I wrote about a couple of years ago.

The structure is made of ‘Cor-ten’ steel, which I’m not a great fan of!  It seems to be cropping up all over the place on public buildings and local businesses such as restaurants.  It is supposedly a ‘high strength, low alloy, weldable structural steel, which possesses excellent weathering resistance due to the formation of a protective oxide coating which seals the surface’.  This is supposed to give an attractive finish, but to me it just looks rusty!  I think it is a case of the ‘king’s new clothes’.  I can’t imagine what my old dad would have thought of it, as he spent his life in the steel industry and presumably was not a great fan of rusty structures!

 The structure is etched with the words of Ivor Gurney’s poem, Requiem;

Requiem

Pour out your light, O stars, and do not hold
Your loveliest shining from earth’s outworn shell
Pure and cold your radiance – pure and cold
My dead friends face as well.

Requiem

Pour out your bounty moon of radiant shining
On all this shattered flesh, on all these quiet forms;
For these were slain, so quiet still reclining
In the noblest cause was ever waged with arms.

I have written about Ivor Gurney (1890-1937, a gifted composer, musician and poet, in a previous post. He was born in Gloucester and became a chorister at the Cathedral.  Later, he played the organ at the Mariners’ Chapel which I also wrote about recently.

While serving in the trenches during the first world war Ivor wrote very moving poetry about his experiences, and memories of his beloved Gloucestershire, the people, the history and the beauty of its nature.

A truly thought provoking poem written by Gurney is Thoughts of New England.  It really moves me as it speaks of the Gloucestershire people who emigrated to the New World. Three of my children emigrated, one to New England, so it has a special relevance to me. And, while I can see the appeal of a new life in a vast country with seemingly endless opportunities, like Gurney, I am tied to this tiny island country with it’s history and heritage.  I feel the weight of the past in the rivers, the buildings, the countryside and the people.  Hence the title I chose, which is a line from Gurney’s poem…

Thoughts of New England by Ivor Gurney

Gloucester streets walking in Autumn twilight,
Past Kineburgh’s cottage and old Raven Tavern,
That Hoare he kept, the Puritan, who tired
Or fired, and took a passage in the ‘Mayflower’,
Gloucester streets walking in frost-clear hour —
Of ‘Captains Courageous’ as a boy read, thinking,
And sea-ports, ships, and all that boy desired . . . .
Walt Whitman, history-scraps and Huck Finn’s cavern:
My thoughts went wondering how the New England Folk
Walked twilight now, watched stars steady or blinking —
If thoughts came Eastward as mine Westward went.
Of our ‘Citizen’, the ‘Massachusetts Times’,
And the boys crying them perhaps about their lanes.
But those no historied ground of Roman or Danes.

What are the streets that have no memories,
That are not underset by ancient rubbish?
Where gables overhang, and the quarters clang
From Cathedral towers, and the slops or dinner dish,
Hurried a man voids handily into the gutter:
And ghosts haunt the streets and of old troubles mutter.
Where steel and scarlet of the military
And routine use flash vivid momentarily;
Imagination stricken unaccountably
At full day into pictures not looked for even,
And children from their play by curfew driven.

Are there men of my blood over Atlantic
Wondering there what light is growing thick
By Severn and what real thing Cotswold is?
Are there men walking slow till tiredness leads in
To write or read till the night’s veil grows thin;
Insatiate desiring what hope would win?
Is the air clear there as Thoreau’s prose,
With frost and sparkling water, and day’s close
As mild, as soft as shows in ‘Evangeline’?
(Since all verse from the air or earth does win).

Do they hear tell of Domesday Book, and not
Think of this Gloucester where the scrivener wrote
Command of reeves first set their lists to begin?
Do they wish walk at evening where the earls went in
And William: Are there not crowns of England old
That first in Gloucester’s Abbey showed their gold?
Can villas contain man in unloving hold
As here the cornered, the nooked low-ceilinged beetle-browed
Houses cloak man in; or the strict thoroughfares
Stone or asphalt-paved ally to man?

Are there great joys in April her high days
For those who cannot high imaginations see
Of other men builded, stirred to a great praise?
Cotswold earthing profound for white material,
Masses of stone gone slender as a silver birch,
Upwards in dazzle to an arching azure.

O where in the new towns shall recompense come,
For the market-days, the week-end trouble without measure,
The crowded four ways and cattle markets boom,
And country faces seen often with so much pleasure?

Can New England think deep thoughts of her bye-ways,
Is Abana and Pharpar a balance for
Severn receiving Avon, at her knot of highways,
Her Abbey township, beneath so high a cloud floor?

But nevertheless one would go very willingly
At the year’s turn, where Washington or Lincoln walked,
Or praise ‘Drum Taps’ or ‘This Compost’, and hear talked
Speech of Lowell, or Hawthorne, or Holmes and be
Pleased with citizenship of Gloucester or Worcester
And companionship of veterans or veteran’s sons
Of the Wilderness or Richmond, see the old guns
That set Chattanooga’s thronged woods astir;
Or woke terror in steadfastness with red anger.

But not for longer than the strangeness lasted.
Severn yet calls not to be resisted:
And the mix of Dane thoughts, Roman, with Middle-Age
Calls all love out to mark on any page.

The glory of Peter’s Abbey high up in Summer,
Or low in Winter’s gloom, and a wavering shape,
Are more than is ever seen by foreign comer
To Connecticut, or Staten or Providence with its cape,
Being loveliness and history and height in one.

And there is nothing uprooted that is not changed.
Better to stay and wonder in the half light
How New England saunters where Kipling loved and ranged, so
And watch the starling flocks in first autumn flight.

The New World has qualities its own,
But the Old not yet decrepit or withered is grown,
And brick and timber of age five centuries known
Are consolation for poverty enough
Against New York, where they say Opera is brilliant,
And the byeways with five dollar notes are strown.
The stuff of Liberty is a varying stuff,
But from Grant’s men. Lee’s men, nobleness should never want.

Here are some of my photos of historic Gloucester to enjoy…

 

 

 

 

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!

 

A Lego Doughnut

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I have made a rather obscure link to this week’s photo challenge theme, which is ‘security’.  But, as regular readers of my blog know, I will use any excuse to write about my grandchildren!

One of the many advantages of spending lots of time with the grandchildren is that I can have fun playing with their toys.

Currently I am enjoying Lego Duplo with Stanley who is 4 and Thea who is 2.  The sets are a far cry from the uninspiring little pieces I remember from when my children were young.  They are so colourful and child friendly now, with animals and themed sets.   Yet they still stimulate the imagination and encourage a world of creative play.

Fortunately I don’t have a tablet, or an ipad, or a kindle, or any of the gadgets they seem to get addicted to as soon as they can hold them these days.  And, horror of horrors, I only have terrestrial TV channels, not games on demand!  So at grandma’s house creative play still rules.

Thea is particularly enjoying the Forest Park and Family Pets sets because she loves animals while Stanley loves the vehicles and characters.  But, however many sets they get, their first desire is still to build the tallest tower!

My older grandson, who has reached the ripe old age of 13, is also into Lego.  He has a bedroom full of it and is very expert.  I don’t even attempt to meddle with his models though, as they are very technical and way beyond my skills.

So, you can imagine how impressed I was to hear recently that part of our national security agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is based near my home, had set it’s employees the challenge of modelling the building out of Lego. This is not just any regular building,  it is shaped like a doughnut, which must be really difficult to model.  But they did it and the result is impressive as it would be with all their skills brought to bear.

I can’t take credit for the photo as it was on the official GCHQ website, but I do have permission to use it.  I think it is brilliant, especially as it was created in order to raise funds for a local charity, Elisabeth’s Footprint, which is very dear to my heart.

Do click on the links to see more blogs on the theme of ‘security’ and if you want to know more about the Doughnut Lego model, or the inspiring story of the marvellous woman behind Elisabeth’s Footprint.

What else can you do with grandchildren in the absence of gadgets? Well, We build dens, paint, play with sand and water,  picnic in the woods, take the dog for walks, or go to farms, parks and forests.  If it is cold or wet we make up stories, poems and fantastical adventures…

What did you do today?

Did you go to the airport with an alligator,

Or go to the beach with a bear?

Did you eat in a café with a camel

And frighten the people there?

 

Did you build a den for a dinosaur,

Or run through the grass with emu?

Did you go to the fairground with a fox?

Did he win a goldfish for you?

 

Did you play houses with a hedgehog,

Or go ice-skating with an impala?

Did you drive a jeep with a jellyfish,

Or fly a kite with a koala?

 

Did you eat lunch by the lake with a lamb,

Or play marbles with a monkey?

Did you go on a nature trail with a newt?

Now that would be quite funky.

 

Did you eat an orange with an octopus,

Or splash in a puddle with a pig?

Did you quiver and quake at a queen bee,

Then go out and dig?

 

Did you ride the rails with a reindeer,

Or go to the seaside with a snake?

Did you climb a tree with a tiger?

Now that would be a mistake.

 

Did you race upstairs with a unicorn,

Or drive a van with a vole?

Did you make a wish with a wallaby,

Or did you do nothing at all?

 

Did you swim with an x-ray tetra,

Or sail on a yacht with a yak?

Did you go to the zoo with a zebra?

Tomorrow ~ are you coming back?

 Poem by Brenda Kimmins.

snowdrop time

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One of the best things about this time of year in the UK is the abundance of spring flowers that battle their way through the cold wet earth. In my garden the hellebores have been flowering since Christmas, the snowdrops all through February, and the daffodils popped out as March poured in.  This is something of a miracle as I was sure my little puppy had destroyed them all with her frantic digging.  But thankfully they survived her and Storm Doris.

In the park opposite my little bungalow there are banks of snowdrops growing beside a stream, clumps of crocuses among the trees, and a touching display of daffodils that appeared in 2010 spelling out, “Will You Marry Me?”  I walk my dog there every day.

But for a really impressive display I have to go a little further into the Cotswold countryside and take a walk around the Rococo Gardens at Painswick  or Colesbourne Park.

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This year the road taken had to be meticulously planned and carefully executed as my husband came with me to both places. He has been using a wheelchair for the last 18 months due to his medical conditions and the debilitating effects of his treatment.  But over the last two months he has made great progress and started walking indoors with some mobility aids.  He has done so well that I was determined to take him to see the snowdrops.  This would be his first walk in the great outdoors.  It was a bit difficult in some places due to uneven ground or slopes, but together we did it.  Fortunately there were lots of places to rest on the road taken.  It was a lovely afternoon out for us both.

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Leaving my husband to rest on a seat in the Rococo Gardens, I wandered down a gravel path and came across a most unusual sight.  A fairy castle inspired by Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria was carved on top of a fallen birch tree.  According to the label it was created by chainsaw sculptor, Denius Parson.  It really was impressive.

I was joined on my walk, as I often am, by a friendly robin.  I enjoyed the sights as he hopped about bending his head to watch me.  There were banks of snowdrops in every direction, with little clumps of cyclamen and hellebore dotted about, and daffodils just beginning to show.

Enjoy my spring photos from the Rococo Garden.  It was dull and drizzly and the sun was setting by the time we left but the photos show the abundance of snowdrops …

 

 

 

 

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

The Art of Love

The Art of Love

 

Keats quote on River Avon

As we will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend, I thought I would post about my favourite Romantic poet.  Bless him, Keats died when he was only 25 years old but, in a truly inspired period of just three and a half years, he produced some 150 poems.  He said that love was his religion.  It is said that his best poetry was written in the last nine months of his life, when he was madly in love with Fanny Brawne, his neighbour in Hampstead where he had lived.

To follow the WPC theme for this week, which is “Life Imitates Art”, I have added an extract from one of his poems to a photo I took of the River Avon in Stratford, where I often took shade for whole summers on school holidays.

Keats (1795-1821) died in Rome when he was just twenty-five years old.  He had left his home in London’s Hampstead to seek a better climate, hoping this might cure him.  But he left behind some of the most exquisite and moving poetry ever written.

00000948Before he gave his life to poetry, he had qualified as a surgeon-apothecary at Guy’s Hospital in London.  But he had to give that up as his health was fading.  There is a beautiful bronze statue of him in the garden of the hospital, which was unveiled in 2007 by another wonderful poet, Andrew Motion.  I went to visit it with two of my dearest friends.

Keats famously said, “Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject”.

He remains to this day one of the greatest of British poets.  Who knows what he could have achieved had he not died so young of TB. But what he left us, his beautiful poetry, will survive.  And, contrary to what he thought, he will never be forgotten.  In one of his later letters to Fanny he was obviously feeling despondent, as he wrote,

“If I should die,” said I to myself, “I have left no immortal work behind me-nothing to make my friends proud of my memory-that I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remembered”

But of course he is remembered and he was truly loved by Fanny although her family disapproved.  She wore the ring he gave her until the day she died.

He knew that whatever sorrows, difficulties or even tragedies we face in this world, there will always be beauty in nature and art.  He wrote about this in his exquisite heroic poem, Endymion

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 
Its lovliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep 
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing 
A flowery band to bind us to the earth, 
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth 
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, 
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways 
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, 
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall 
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, 
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon 
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils 
With the green world they live in; and clear rills 
That for themselves a cooling covert make 
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake, 
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: …

There was a film called “Bright Star”, starring Abbie Cornish as Fanny, and Ben Whishaw as John Keats, released in 2009.  I haven’t seen it so I can’t say whether it does him justice.  But if you would like to see a clip the link is here.

Below are some photos I took in London while visiting Keats’ statue, Enjoy x

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day everyone x x x

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Henry Stephens invented Stephens Ink and Wood Stain which was used at the buildings of the Great Exhibition of 1851

 

 

 

 

 

The simple song that spread around the world

Church at MariapfarrThere are some times, they are rare and they are brief but they happen, when the horizon between heaven and earth melts away and the future is changed forever. It is often those who have suffered the most who experience such revelations.   Their gifts are a profound peace, the knowledge that all will be well, and total clarity about the course they must follow.

I am sure that it was just such an experience that led a young man from a desperately poor background to create the world’s most popular Christmas carol. A carol which caused soldiers to come out of their trenches one Christmas Eve during World War One to share rations and gifts with the ‘enemy’ and even play a game of football together!

It was Joseph Mohr who wrote the words to Stille Nacht, (Silent Night).  He had a very inauspicious start to his life.  Born in Salzburg in 1792, he grew up poor and fatherless.  His godfather was the local executioner and his mother knitted to make a living.  But Joseph was a special boy.  He sang in the church choir and had a gift for music and poetry.  These talents were recognised and encouraged by the local priest who helped Joseph through school, on to university, then to work as a curate, and ultimately to train as a priest.

But times were hard in Europe during his early years.  As well as natural disasters such as flooding, which destroyed livelihoods and infrastructure; the Napoleonic Wars had seen Salzburg and the surrounding towns and villages devastated, occupied, bombarded, defeated and heavily taxed.  The ordinary people were suffering in 1816 when Joseph Mohr found consolation in the church at Mariapfarr.  There he was inspired to write the words to his carol.

It would be two more years before the carol was set to music by Joseph’s friend, the organist and choir director, Franz Gruber in Oberndorf.   They sang the carol together in German at midnight mass with guitars for accompaniment.  The aim was to bring the Christmas spirit of love, peace, comfort and joy to their community in these difficult times.  They surely succeeded then and ever since.

Joseph Mohr died penniless in 1848, having used all his earnings to provide education for the young and care for the elderly in his parish.  He would never know that his little carol would travel the world being performed over and over again.  It would be translated into over 300 languages and become the people’s favourite Christmas carol nearly 200 years after it was written.

Now that is a legacy to be proud of!

Silent Night Memorial Chapel in Oberndorfhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGA6djLsDgs

Pain

stellas wooden statue 1

Pain is messy

A rebellious teenager, appearing

Defiant, disruptive

Causing chaos

Pain is invisible

A malevolent spirit haunting

Nagging, gnawing

Stealing sleep

Pain is antisocial

An angry mob descending

Erratic, uncaring,

Restricting movement

Pain is cunning

A bully stalking

Defeating doctors, confounding consultants,

Making fools of pharmacists,

Pain is relentless

A silent enemy

Heartless, challenging

Limiting life

It’s the middle of the night and as i can’t sleep my default mode is to get up and write.

I can’t sleep because of the relentless pain in my shoulder which is the result of an injury to my rotator cuff.  I’d never heard of this unseen but essential part of my anatomy until it was injured.  According to Wikipedia, the rotator cuff is a group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder.  Like me, you have probably never given them a thought; but, if they are inflamed, torn or damaged like mine, you will certainly know about it!  The pain in my shoulder is excruciating, especially if I try to lift or lower my arm or twist it behind my back.  It is worse at night because I tend to turn over and lie on the right side and it is my right shoulder that is injured.  I guess it will improve over time and with some simple exercise, but at the moment the pain is hard to manage.  The hospital doctor gave me Co-codamol but they made me sick and most over the counter analgesics don’t even dull the pain.  So I guess I will just have to live with it.

On the bright side, it does not affect me much when my arm is by my side so I can still write ~ YIPPEE!  I think if I was unable to write I would go crazy.

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

Pop, Poets and Plays

Community Choir at Tuckwell

Community Choir at Tuckwell

It’s been quite a cultural summer so far for me in the Cotswolds. I sang in a super concert at the local open air theatre, which was amazing. There were 150 of us aged from 5 to 90 singing together in the community choir. Sometimes we split up and sang in individual choirs, and we sang such a variety of songs. It was great to listen to the other choirs, especially the children. The setting was magical. We were in a dell surrounded on 3 sides by trees and with a stream running behind. On the fourth side was a tiered seating area. All the trees were sparkling with lights and there were candles along the paths and down the steps. The theme for dress was ‘festival’ so there were flowers in our hair and lots of pretty dresses. It took me back to my teenage years in the 1960s. I loved every minute of it. Sitting in the audience were two ladies who are direct descendants of a Gloucestershire poet who coincidentally is the subject of the rest of this post, Will Harvey.

There have been all sorts of commemorative events going on to mark the centenary of the start of World War One. Here in Gloucestershire I was involved in a production of a brand new play called Will Harvey’s War at our local theatre, playing the part of a singing farmworker! The play was based on a previously unpublished manuscript written by Will and only recently discovered. It has now been published as a book entitled The Lost Novel of F W Harvey

Will Harvey, better known as Frederick William Harvey DCM (26 March 1888~13 Feb 1957), was a local man, born in a small village called Hartpury in Gloucestershire. I have very fond memories of Hartpury, as my daughter did her degree in Equine Studies there at the college. The setting was perfect. There used to be a great village pub called the Canning Arms where live Jazz was played every Monday night. My husband and I used to go regularly to enjoy the music, the food, and to chat with the great licensees, John and Jean. Sadly, like many country pubs, after Black Wednesday the Canning Arms suffered in the economic downturn and closed. It is now a private house.

Will Harvey moved to Minsterworth and went to the King’s School in Gloucester, where he met Ivor Gurney, a chorister, who went on to become a noted Gloucestershire poet and composer. Along with Herbert Howells they became lifelong friends. Kings school, being a Cathedral school, has a strong music and arts tradition, but it was listening to Elgar’s, Dream of Gerontius that informed Will’s ideas on beauty and creativity. Coincidentally, I worked at King’s School for a time in the 1990’s and have written about it before http://wp.me/p2gGsd-Gp

After school Will trained as a solicitor, but at the age of 26, the First World War intervened in his life. Within days of the war starting in August 1914, Will joined the 5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a private. After a few months training, the battalion was posted to France where Will proved to be quite a hero. He was awarded the DCM or Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery. Will was later trained as an officer then sent back to France. Unfortunately, during another brave venture into enemy trenches, he was captured and spent the rest of the war in various prisoner of war camps. Although he made several unsuccessful escape attempts, it was in the camps that Will developed his poetry and writing skills. His most famous poem is Ducks, which he wrote after seeing a picture of ducks on the ceiling of his prison hut, drawn by another prisoner

It is often thought that The Wipers Times was the first trench newspaper, but actually the Fifth Gloucester Gazette came first and Will Harvey was a contributor. It was fortunate that Will was allowed to send his poems home for publication. His first volume was, A Gloucestershire Lad At Home and Abroad, which was soon followed by, Gloucestershire Friends, poems from a German Prison Camp. https://archive.org/details/gloucestershiref00harv

He also wrote about his wartime experiences in Comrades in Captivity. Altogether Will had about 400 poems published. He wrote of war and nature and animals as well as poetry for children.

After WW1 ended, Will came back to Gloucestershire and settled in the Forest of Dean. His poetry was so popular that he was known as “the Laureate of Gloucestershire“. But, now married to a nurse called Anne Kane, Will went back to his career as a solicitor in order to earn a living. To his credit he became known as “the poor man’s solicitor”. Indeed, Will was so compassionate to those facing prison that he often gave his services free. This was great for his reputation but not for his business and eventually it had to be sold. After that, Will joined the BBC and spent years promoting the people of the Forest of Dean, its arts’ scene, culture and heritage. Will’s friends, Ivor Gurney and Howells both set some of Will Harvey’s poems to music. Even today his poetry is set to music by local folk musicians such as Johnny Coppin. He sings of Gloucestershire, its traditions, its people and its culture.

Will Harvey is remembered on a memorial stone at Gloucester Cathedral and a new biography is being published this year.

The whole cast on set at the end of the show

The whole cast on set at the end of the show

A Pastoral Post

Pastoral Symphony

Kimbolton in Herefordshire

Kimbolton in Herefordshire

The English countryside has inspired poets and artists since time immemorial. Today we can add bloggers and photographers to that list. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of days in the delightful Herefordshire village of Kimbolton this weekend and it reminded me of one of Robert Herrick’s short pastoral poems from his Hesperides (1648)

I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers:
April, May, of June, and July flowers.
I sing of Maypoles, Hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes.

The Herefordshire area is famous for its orchards and beef cattle. But I discovered a wealth of superb castles and gardens too. There are miles of public footpaths, many of which I walked with my little dachshund, Dayna. One delightful walk at Croft Court led through a bluebell wood which was just magical, the ground a sea of bluebells. I stayed on a farm which grows 80 tons of apples a year, all of which goes to Bulmers, the famous cider makers.
I would love to write a poem to paint you a picture of this beautiful area and I will, but for now just enjoy some of my photos and the beautiful music.

The Cuckoo Returns

Cuckoo signals the arrival of Spring in UK

Cuckoo signals the arrival of Spring in UK

Children back to school
Spring holiday is over
The Cuckoo returns

This morning I heard a nearby cuckoo for the first time this year from my garden in the UK. It is amazing to think that many of these cuckoos have wintered in the Congo, having endured tempestuous weather in Europe, flights over the Sahara desert, and droughts in many places, since leaving the rainforests of Africa. They arrive in the UK between the end of March and mid-April. As everyone here knows, they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and then abandon them to the care of the resident bird. Once hatched, they take over the nest, being so much bigger than their host. They especially like the nests of meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers. This is a bit worrying for our local garden birds as we have a few Dunnocks as well as lots of Blue Tits, fat pigeons and some Robins.
The cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. Because of their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they can be confused with kestrels or sparrowhawks. The male and the female are similar and the young cuckoos are brown. Cuckoos are in decline so I suppose we have to protect them even though we don’t like their squatting habit!
They do of course herald in the spring and for that we are truly grateful
Links you might find interesting:
http://www.arkive.org/cuckoo/cuculus-canorus/
http://www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies/cuckoo-tracking

NaPoWriMo 6 ~ A Good hare Day

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For NaPoWriMo on day 6 there was a simpler challenge than Saturday’s thank goodness. We were asked to look out of a window and write a poem using what we observed. Having to be always contrary I decided to look into windows instead.
This is because I went to Cirencester to see the March Hare Festival.

A dreary day in the Cotswolds,
Wind blows and cold rain drizzles down
Stone cottages are looking weathered and worn,
Daunted daffodils and bluebells bend low
Agitated pheasants scurry, flapping over Ermin Way,
Committed we continue, to Cirencester for the day.

Like Brigadoon this market town appears out of the mist,
One of those magic moments, a place by angels kissed.
A colourful celebration reflecting local life is underway;
A Festival of March Hares, some dazzling some restrained,
In windows, doorways, churches and shops creatively displayed

Cultured, cosmopolitan and colourful vignettes,
Cameos of ancient times are captured in mosaic,
Homages to industry, hospitality, trade and faith
Veterans of two world wars amusingly portrayed
Childhoods caught in acrylic, nature, myths and legends true
Captured by artistic celebrities, dignitaries and ordinary people too

Visitors and residents alike, excited and involved
Chat, sharing what they have found, advise, inspire, enthuse
Pubs overflow with merriment, cafes are buzzing too
Music pours from the Brewery Arts, crafters’ skills on show
Working in glass and gold and silver, in wood and pottery and silk,
Local artists interpret the world in paint and pen and ink.

In recent years there has been a spate of large ceramic or stone objects appearing in towns and cities of the UK. Having mentioned it to my daughter last night I know that they have been seen in the USA too. The first time I came across it was when my grandchildren, Ben and Rosie went to London and were photographed alongside large colourful elephants. Wallace and Gromit were in Bristol recently too.
Next I heard of a Gorilla festival in Torbay and Exeter. There was also a festival of decorated horses in Cheltenham in honour of the races. Now there are 5 foot tall hares in Cirencester.
Why hares you might wonder?
Well Cirencester was a very important place in Roman times. It was called Corinium and had very good road links to the rest of the UK, such as Ermin Way and the Fosse Way. In 1971 during an archeological dig in Beeches Road near to the River Churn, a Roman mosaic was discovered depicting a hare. The original is now on show in the Corinium Museum. Hence the theme of hares for this festival. There will be about 50 hares around the town eventually. Most of them will be 5 foot tall and decorated by local people including schoolchildren, members of the public, celebrities and artists. All of the large hares are named to reflect their sponsors. One of the most beautiful hares is on display in the Corinium and it is named Tess.
Apart from the large hares there are lots of smaller hares dotted around the town and there are prizes for discovering and photographing them. I think I will have to go back as I only found 10 large ones! I did however find the solid chocolate one which weighs 10kg in a lovely little chocolatiers called ‘Lick the Spoon’.
The festival does have a serious purpose which is to boost trade and tourism in the town. Judging by how much money I spent yesterday they are going to be very successful!
They are also aiming to raise the £50,000 needed for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to begin to develop the Green Hare Churn Walkway around the River Churn in Cirencester. This new trail project will involve schools and community groups and will have lasting benefits for residents and visitors alike. The hares will be auctioned off at the end of the festival to raise the funds.
I hope they do well as we had a wonderful day, and we will certainly be going back. The Festival of Hares is on until 14th September and is well worth a visit at any age. To give you a helping hand I have listed the names of the hares that are on display at the moment and where you can find them. Tomorrow there will be more as phase two will be hidden around the town! Some of them are in schools which won’t be open now til after the holidays.

Bare Hare at the Agricultural College
Harry, King of the Hill at Kingshill School
Mr Harebushes at Organic farm Shop, Burford Road
Via Albatine at Whiteway Workshops
Harebelle at the Twelve Bells
Flame, The Phoenix Wayfarer at Phoenix Way
Hareoh the Phareoh at St John Baptist Church
Whare’s Davey in Davey Law Offices
Haretherop in Waterstones Bookshop
Harriet in Mistral Clothes Shop
Harold O’Hare in Zippy Pix Photo Shop
Hartley in 51 Dyer Street
Harrison in Hampton’s Estate Agents
Daniel George in Bishop’s Walk
Hopportunity Hare in Cirencester opportunity Group
Corina at the Corinium Hotel
Tess at the Corinium Museum
General Lievre at Gardiner Haskins
Harelequin at Beeches House
Miles, the Millionhare at Limes hair Company
Wooly Jumper outside the Fleece
Madame Butterfly at McGill’s Chartered Accountant
Hicarus at Cotswold Airport
Eostra at Rendcomb College
Sign the Hare at Bingham House

NaPoWriMo 5 ~ Golden Shovel

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The prompt for day 5 of NaPoWriMo I found incredibly difficult. The challenge was to write a “golden shovel.” This form was invented by Terrance Hayes in his poem, The Golden Shovel. The last word of each line of Hayes’ poem is a word from Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem We Real Cool. You can read Brooks’ poem by reading the last word of each line of Hayes’ poem! It was a tortuous process but so rewarding as it introduced me to a poet I had not come across before, Terrance Hayes.
I chose a short poem to use for my golden shovel:

Jamesian
Their relationship consisted
In discussing if it existed.
-Thom Gunn

My inspiration was a walk back from town yesterday. I was admiring a beautiful display of daffodils when I was suddenly aware of a group of boys playing football nearby. They suddenly charged after the ball and threw themselves down on the grass with no thought for the flowers, bent, broken and crushed by their bodies. And so my poem was born…

Plodding through fields of daffodils their
Yellow hearts performing, I pondered the relationship
Between plants and poetry.  Concluding it consisted
Of long periods of silent suffering in
Deep, dark soil, alone.  Discussing
This is futile.  But bleak experience can be transformed if
Hidden hurts are buried in fertile soil for long.  It
Results in a joy and beauty we never knew existed.

Phew, I hope day 6 is a little easier!
daffodils by a fallen branch at St Peter's Grange, Prinknash Abbey

NaPoWriMo 3 ~ Charm to disperse Toxic Smog

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Today’s prompt asks that we write a charm, spell or rhyme.
In view of the unusually high level of air pollution in the UK at the moment, that is the target for my spell!
I just came back from a walk with little Stanley and I was grateful for the huge Chestnut trees that grow near my house. Trees are brilliant at soaking up the pollution from the traffic. I hope my spell will get them to soak up the toxic smog and Saharan dust that is filling our skies this week. It is so bad that although Stanley and I could hear the helicopters which regularly trundle across the skies to a nearby small private airport, we couldn’t see them because the smog was so thick and low. Very disappointing for Stanley so a spell is required!

O chestnut tree, o chestnut tree
Bend your branches, listen to me
the air is full of toxic dust
Its hard to breathe although we must

O chestnut tree, o chestnut tree
Lower your leaves, listen to me
Dark clouds are forming in the sky
Helicopters are hidden although they fly

O chestnut tree, o chestnut tree
Turn your trunk, listen to me
Buildings and vehicles are shrouded in sand
People are suffering throughout the land

O chestnut tree, o chestnut tree
Call forth your conkers, listen to me
There’s an invisible killer in the land
We need you now to give us a hand

This rhyme seems gauche but it has a serious side. The local council have plans to cut down all out lovely mature chestnut trees to make way for a third lane on the bypass dedicated to buses. Not only will this be the end of conker collecting in the Autumn for the local children, which has been a joy for generations, but it will be the end of our one and only dedicated cycle path so cyclists will have to share the very busy main road. This is something I have strong feelings about. The whole project is money wasting madness.

NaPoWriMo 2 ~ Shishi ~ The paired lion-dogs that guard the entrances of temples

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This haiku is inspired by one of the creatures from from Japanese legend. Shishi is the paired lion-dogs, one male and one female, that guard the entrances to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The Shishi have magical powers to repel evil.
Jp. = Shishi 獅子 or Kara Shishi 唐獅子, Chn. = Shíshī
Also known as Koma-inu 狛犬 (lion dog) in Japan

I chose this topic for two reasons. Firstly I have a cast iron garden chair which is very decorative and it has a lion head at the end of each arm rest. Secondly, one of my daughters used to be a dancer and she worked in Japan for a year when she left LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). She loved Japan and the people she worked for who were so kind to her. One day she went for a trip to see a newly built temple. In order to raise money to complete the temple roof tiles were being sold with a dedication on them. Knowing that my interests are spiritual she Paid for a tile to have my name and a blessing carved on it. I think it is probably one of the most unusual, the most thoughtful, and the most wonderful thing anyone has ever done for me.

Serene and smiling

Weathered guardians of childhood

Casting out evil

Buddhist temple in Willan, UK

Buddhist temple in Willan, UK

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Comings and Goings

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday


It was Mothering Sunday in the UK yesterday and I had a wonderful day. Having accidentally dropped a hint on ‘What’s App,’ my three children who live abroad remembered to send me cards, flowers, text messages and most importantly, their love. I am very fortunate though to have my youngest daughter and my adorable grandson living very near me. They came round for lunch bearing flowers and a beautiful gift that little Stanley had personalized. It is a ceramic train that he painted red and it has his little finger prints all over it ~ I will treasure it always.
As usual Mothering Sunday brings a mixture of feelings. It is less than 30 months since my mum died and my emotions are still very raw. My mother lived in the same road as me, which was great when I was caring for her. But now that the house is empty and up for sale, I find it sad to go there and deal with its disposal.
The house is on a corner plot. At the front there is a lovely park with a stream and woods beyond where my children played when they were young. In the distance there are the beautiful Cotswold Hills. After my mother became unable to move around, she sat at the front window literally 24 hours a day. She loved her views and the constantly changing scenes being played out ‘over the park’. The sequence of events has varied little over the years, although the main characters grow, move, die and are replaced.
Early in the mornings there is the noisy clatter of the milkman who still delivers pints in glass bottles to his customers of many years. When my son was a teenager he used to get up at 4am to help the milkman with his round to earn his pocket money, before going to school.
This is followed by the dog walkers who go out in all winds and weathers to exercise their dogs before going to work.
Next, the many locals who work at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) pass by. GCHQ is a major local employer and is housed in a magnificent building nicknamed ‘The Doughnut’, because of its unusual shape.
Sometime later, the mums, dads, grandparents or carers taking children to the nearby schools pass by, the children happily skipping and chatting as they rush along the pavement. The parents are usually struggling with pushchairs, schoolbags, toys and umbrellas. It is noticeable that no-one seems to use prams now, just very complex buggy systems.
Later the local retired men gather on the corner of the field having collected their daily newspaper. They sit on the bench, put there in memory of a previous resident, and put the world to rights.
Once the children are settled in school, the dog walkers come out in force. Some are on a mission and walk briskly from one end of the field to the other. Others gather in little groups to chat while the dogs run about, sniffing each other warily before chasing each other and playing boisterously together. There are professional dog walkers who bring 4, 5 or even 6 dogs at a time to get their daily exercise. Then there is the dog trainer, a very serious young man, who displays an impressive control over his beautiful sheepdogs as they sit, lie, wait, come or fetch at the sound of his voice or a brief series of whistles. His praise is their only reward.
Much later the local postman, Gary, comes and parks his little red van opposite the house. He must walk miles in a day but he is always cheerful and concerned for everyone on his round.
Occasionally, in an ageing community, there will be a paramedic’s car or an ambulance outside a house. News of this travels fast, usually via the hairdresser, which is how most local news is carried round the estate.
There have been a few dramas and terrible tragedies on the park in the past. Some years ago a distressed young man sat in the local pub talking to himself and having a pint of beer alone, with a rope beside him. Although people thought this was strange no-one thought to interrupt him, get involved, or get help. Later of course he was found hanging from a tree in the park. I do wonder if a well-chosen word, a friendly face, or an offer of help might have saved him. But people don’t like to intrude on others’ privacy.
Another young man was found dead in the playground after an apparent accidental overdose of drugs. Such a waste of a life, and so sad. The night does strange things to people and young men seem to be particularly at risk I think.
But most of the time the park is a happy, friendly place and the scene of a lot of fun and games.
Four years ago it was noticed that there were daffodil stems growing in a strange pattern on the grassy field. Now virtually every grass verge in the Cotswolds is covered in daffodils each March, either wild or cultivated. In Cheltenham it is the first thing that greets visitors to Cheltenham races. In the forest there are so many wild daffodils that there is a dedicated daffodil walk.
But it was very unusual to see them growing in this spot and they had appeared so mysteriously. As I walked my dog each day I noticed the pattern growing but it was not until the flowers appeared that the message was clear. The daffodils spelled out “MARRY ME”.
The local newspaper begged for details of who the romantic person was who planted this unusual proposal and eventually a young man owned up. He also revealed that his girlfriend had said “Yes”.
I walked there last night and the words are still visible. Isn’t that a lovely way to propose? I find it very touching.
I have lived opposite this park for 30 years and I never tire of it. It brings me a great deal of comfort to know that in her later years when she couldn’t get out and about, my mum was able to sit and enjoy this bustling and beautiful little corner of the world.
The house is empty and silent now except for prospective buyers being shown around it. No doubt they will renovate the whole place with new bathroom and kitchen and decor. My mum’s home will be unrecognizable and the past will be obliterated, every trace of the lovely couple who lived there will be gone. But they will never be forgotten.

If you still have parents, or anyone who is special to you, do tell them before its too late.
This poem was included in the funeral sheet for a dear friend of mine who used to travel ACROSS to Lourdes with us on the Jumbulance. I have written posts about our trips to Lourdes before. The poem was written by Susan M Greenwood of North West Hosanna House Group

If with pleasure you are viewing
Any work that I am doing,
If you like me, or you love me, tell me now.
Don’t withhold your approbation
Till the Father makes oration
And I lie with snowy lilies o’er my brow.
For no matter how you shout it,
I won’t care so much about it,
I won’t see how many tear drops you have shed.
If you think some praise is due me.
Now’s the time to slip it to me,
For I cannot read my tombstone when I’m dead.

More than fame and more than money
Is the comment warm and sunny,
Is the hearty warm approval of a friend.
For it gives to life a savour
And it makes me stronger, braver,
And it gives to me the spirit to the end.
If I earn your praise bestow it,
If you like me, let me know it,
Let the words of true encouragement be said.
Do not wait till life is over
And I’m underneath the clover,
For I cannot read my tombstone when I’m dead.