Layers of Leaves

Layers of Leaves

I can’t resist the photos of my grandchildren, layered in clothes, playing in layers of leaves in the woodland.  Autumn has arrived in the Cotswolds, and it is certainly a magical time of year.


Layers of leaves lie

Overwhelming the senses

Deep in the forest



Carpe Diem ~ Corn


I went to Taize one summer when it was so hot and dry that the magnificent River Loire had almost dried up in places.  Too hot to stay in the car I decided to walk for a while across the fields and I had an amazing experience.    At the foot of the hill were fields of sunflowers, corn and poppies.  I stood alone in a field full of sunflowers, looking up towards the church, as a gentle breeze blew.  The wind caused the flowers to bend and the sound they made was so strange.   I experienced what I can only describe as the spirit moving.

Today’s Haiku prompt at Carpe Diem reminded me of that moment.

Soft wind whispering

Spirit moving through the corn

Speaking to my soul

It reminded me strongly of the beautiful words of one of my favourite hymns:
 Be still for the presence of the Lord
Be still for the presence of the Lord  The holy one is here
Come bow before him now  With reverence and fear
In him no sin is found  We stand on holy ground
Be still for the presence of the Lord  The holy one is here
Be still for the power of the Lord  Is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal  To minister his grace
No work too hard for him  In faith receive from him
Be still for the power of the Lord  Is moving in this place
Icon at Taize

Icon at Taize

The Joys of Cornwall

Derelict mine building at Wheal Coates3

Old tin mines stand tall

Telling stories of the past

On Cornish coastline

I recently spent another lovely week in Cornwall. I wanted to be near the sea while still being near Truro for my hubby’s regular dialysis sessions, so I opted for a cottage in St Agnes. St Agnes is a beautiful, unspoilt little town on the North Cornwall coast. It is full of fascinating relics from the days when tin and copper mining was the main industry. It seemed strange to me to see derelict tin mines visible from behind houses and forming the boundary walls of gardens. In fact tin is still produced in St Agnes at the Blue Hills Mine, the only place in the UK that still produces it. St Agnes is an area of outstanding natural beauty and it has been designated a World Heritage Site. I can certainly see why. I just loved the rugged land and seascapes. Even in our state of unfitness we were able to walk some of the coastal path. This leads to sights that can never be appreciated from the road. One of these is Wheal Coates Mine. It is truly amazing when seen from a distance with its three shafts and its spectacular position on the side of the cliffs. In fact the mine goes all the way down to the sea and at high tide you can hear the waves crashing against rocks through a grid in the ruins. It was possible to get into this mine via a large cave at a nearby beach. There is a local legend that says Wheal Coates is haunted by the spirits of the miners who died there. I expect the eerie sounds of the sea account for the legends.
I’ve always been interested in industrial buildings. I guess this is mainly due to my father’s influence as he was a steel man from the age of 13 and he developed in me a passion for ships, bridges and buildings. The other reason could be because of where I grew up. I lived in the Felling, a shipbuilding and mining area in the North of England. I skipped past the railway station and shipyard every day on my way to school and there was a derelict engine house complete with winding gear at the end of our street of 2 up and 2 down back to back miners’ cottages. These were our adventure playgrounds. Children were never allowed to play on the grass or ride bikes in the municipal parks in those days! Parks were for floral displays and grown-ups to walk in and the park warden was fierce.
Being a traditional and romantic sort of person I regret that industrialisation almost destroyed the crafts of blacksmiths, weavers, spinners, millers and grinders. But I find there is great beauty to be found in the derelict buildings, in the machinery that drove the mines and the mills, and in the engines that turned their wheels and moved their goods

Around St Agnes there are beaches, bays and coves with caves where wreckers and smugglers, no doubt, once hid their treasures. We visited a pub reminiscent of Jamaica Inn. The pub is called the Driftwood and it has a fascinating history. It is a 17th century building which in its time has been a warehouse for the tin mines, a ships’ chandlery, and a sail maker’s loft, before becoming a characterful old pub. It is built of Cornish stone and slate and ship’s timbers and spares. Behind one of the fireplaces in the pub there is a tunnel which was uncovered during restoration. It is said that this was the secret escape route for the wreckers and smugglers of the area as it leads all the way to the beach.

The cottage we stayed in was perfect and my joy was complete when my daughter came to stay for a couple of days with my adorable grandson. He just loved the sea and sand, the horses in the paddock and the trampoline in the garden. We took him to Lappa Valley Railway, which is kiddie heaven in my book. Built on the site of yet another ruined mine, there are castles and treehouses and adventure equipment to satisfy any age. There are also 12 steam engines giving rides on trains which Stanley really loved. There is also a boating lake, café, shop and everything you could want for a fun day out. I loved it.
Sadly it will be another year before I can go away again due to the shortage of holiday dialysis spaces around the country. But until then I have my photos to remind me of the fun we had and the beauty of Cornwall. Enjoy!

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:

Palm Sunday 2014

I have celebrated Palm Sunday in many different countries, Kenya, Spain, France, Poland, Italy and UK and it is a church tradition that I love. When I was at work (teaching primary children) one of our jobs was to make the palm crosses for the local church each year. It was an eagerly awaited treat for the 10/11 year olds in their final year of primary school, to learn how to weave and fold the crosses from simple palm leaves.
I have written about other Palm Sundays before and the links are below if you would like to read them. I hope you do.
This year I am laid up in bed with a very nasty case of tonsillitis on antibiotics so I have not even seen a palm!
But I did look at the Vatican website to see the celebrations in St Peter’s Square. My overriding impression is that this Pope, like Jesus, is adored by the people because of his common touch and understanding of what it means to be poor in this world. But my fear is that like Jesus, he is rattling too many cages and there will be those who plot against him. I also see in his face that after only a few months in the job he is looking exhausted and strained.
Two Haiku I wrote last year sum up my fears.

Pope Francis Pope Francis

Cheering throngs gather

In Messianic fervour

Fronds fall at His feet
Calling for His death

Crowds that cheered Him now decry

Innocent, He’ll die

You can see the Palm Sunday in Rome here
And my previous Palm Sunday posts are here:~

NaPoWriMo 4 ~ Lune

Today we were prompted to write a Lune
This is rather like a Haiku which I normally write but instead of 5/7/5 syllables it takes the form of 3/5/3 words.
My attempt is a bit of a cheat as it is both a Haiku and a Lune!

Walking in woodland
Blessed with glimpses of heaven
Revealed in nature

The weather is so beautiful today, the cloud of pollution has lifted and the sky is clear. Obviously the charm I wrote yesterday for NaPoWriMo worked and dispelled the toxic smog!
Spring is such an exquisite time of year in the Cotswolds that I just have to quote Thomas Traherne, the 17th century Poet and Mystic

“Heaven! Is not that an Endless Sphere
Where all thy Treasures and thy Joys appear?
If that be Heaven it is Evrywhere

Taking a walk near The Manor by the Lake today all I can hear is the song of the birds. I feel the warm sun on my face and a soft breeze blows through the trees. A confused woodpecker is pecking at a flagpole on top of the old manor house, which has just been converted into a boutique hotel. Ducks are swimming purposefully on the lake to distract me from their island nests. There is white blossom on the trees. Magnolia is in full bloom and the ground is strewn with daffodils. Just metres away in one direction, is the new ASDA superstore, and in the other, is the litter strewn A40. But here, by the lake, nature’s treasures fill me with joy and I am in heaven.

Walking in woodland
Blessed with glimpses of heaven
Revealed in nature


This is my first Haiku for HaikuSpielen.This week’s theme is Winter. here in Gloucestershire the overwhelming thing about this winter, as in Somerset, is the never ending rain. Combined with high Spring Tides on the River Severn this has led to major flooding in some areas.

Flooding in Gloucestershire 4
February flood
Drains and ditches overflow
Farmers’ winter woe

flooding in Gloucestershire 2 ~ the pub

Farms and fields submerged

River Severn breaks its banks

Washes the landscape

Flooding in Gloucestershire 3 ~ Tewkesbury Abbey

photos from BBC Gloucestershire or Gloucestershire Echo our local newspaper


This post is inspired by the February theme of ‘Pilgrimage’ on  Carpe Diem

Seeking solitude
I journey into my soul
A Prayerful Pilgrim

I have written about my idea of pilgrimage before and have posted links to these posts so you can read them again if you wish. I am aware that a number of my readers have no faith or a different faith from myself. I respect that and hope you will read with an open heart and mind, and enjoy the photographs

Inner Journey
Pilgrimage to Lourdes ~

Sharp ~ Haiku

Inspired by prompt word ‘Sharp’

Sharp satire portrays
In deftly drawn doodles
Truths keenly observed
Look sharp for the train
The city is awaiting
A day out with friends
Sharp pain reminds me
Body’s borne on broken bones
Injured and aching

Grimace ~ Haiku

I was in hospital at the weekend having an operation on my foot.  The pain is indescribable but at least it helped me to write a haiku inspired by this week’s Haiku Heights’ prompt word “Grimace”.

Humour held hostage
In agony arrested
Face frozen in pain


Features contorted
Awakened in agony
Pain surges through me


Inspired by Haiku-heights’ September Challenge Day 3 ~ Silver

Each night I take my little dachshund Dayna out to wander in the garden before she goes to bed.  I love to sit at the end of the garden under the gazebo, where it is very dark and totally quiet, to watch the sky and enjoy the last few minutes of the day.  Recently I have been enjoying the tail end of the Perseid shower of shooting stars.  Last night I saw a beauty which seemed much higher than the others I have seen.

Silver arrows pierce

The depths of distant darkness,

And faraway fall


Meteorites make

Momentary magic, leave

Lasting memories


Shooting stars shatter

The celestial stillness

With their final show


I can’t resist reposting a haiku I wrote when my grandson was just a few weeks old!

On a soft white cloud

As silver stars surround him

He silently sleeps

photo (7)

Look at him now just 9 months old!




Tin Mines ~ Haiku

I am loving the totally different landscape in Cornwall.  It is hilly with occasional surprise glimpses of tin mines, relics of an industrial past.  There are bays and coves with caves where smugglers hid their bounty.  Unfortunately our car broke down as soon as we arrived, probably due to the long journey in searing temperatures.  Still it gave me a chance to explore Truro city itself and the beautiful cathedral.  I was very surprised to see abandoned churches, almost derelict up for sale.  Even our hotel is a former convent with a magnificent deconsecrated chapel which is now used as a great hall for weddings and conferences.  Ah well, it is a sign of the times I suppose.  Christianity, like old industries are being squeezed.

Old tin mines stand tall

Telling stories of the past

On Cornish coastline


Relics of the past

Old convents and churches stand

Boarded up ruins


Earthborn stars glimmer
In lustful luminescence
Along twinkling tracks

In the UK we don’t see fireflies, or at least we only see the wingless female which we call the ‘glowworm’. She is in the same family as the firefly and she glows with a yellow lime green light.
Near where I live there is a disused railway track with a colony of glowworms which is protected by the council. When the old track was converted into a cycle track a few years ago, the council paid £150,000 to install special dim, red lighting which turns off at 11pm, so that the glowworm colony could thrive.
Glowworms have fascinated writers and poets such as Dryden, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Thomas hardy and even Shakespeare who eveoked their ‘ineffectual fire’ in Hamlet. They also get a mention in Roald Dahl’s ‘James and the Giant Peach’, when they end up serving as the light in the Statue of Liberty!
Did you know that during the Great War , Allied soldiers used the light from glowworms to read their maps at night?
Fascinating facts I would never have known if I hadn’t been inspired by haiku Heights this week!



Laughter and Lyrics Choir I'm the white haired one 7th from left and caroline is the gorgeous oneon the right of the middle

Laughter and Lyrics Choir
I’m the white haired one 7th from left and Caroline is the gorgeous one on the right of the middle

An emotionally charged post for Haiku Heights prompt word ‘crescendo’.  I joined a ladies’ choir this year run by Caroline Edwards at the Everyman Theatre.  It is held on Friday mornings and several of my friends including those from WI joined too.  Lots of choirs popped up in the UK after the charismatic Gareth Malone appeared on TV to prove that everyone could sing by setting up choirs in all kinds of establishments.  Of course in order to make a beautiful sound you need a great teacher to whip you into shape.  We have Caroline for that and she is wonderful.  She has moulded our lively group of women into a choir!

We have a great deal of fun, drink lots of coffee, eat lots of cake, chat a lot, and have become firm friends who support each other.   caroline runs several choirs who will all get together on 15th July for a grand show at the theatre.  It is a sell out concert.  My heart breaks that after all my practicing I won’t actually be there on the night.  However I have enjoyed every minute with our choir ‘Laughter and Lyrics’.  The last song we are singing at the show is Sing ~ I know that along with a backdrop of video images produced by the fabulous Mark Kempner, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.  I will post a clip after the event when it goes public, but for now listen to Gary barlow and the Military Wives Choir as you read my haiku on ‘crescendo’

Deep emotions flow
To spine-tingling crescendo
Heartfelt harmony
Together we stand
Black with a splash of colour
Hearts break while we sing
‘Latte and Lyrics’
Choir gathers, faces aglow
Singing with gusto

Caroline’s choir grows
Along with coffee and cake
Gathering goosebumps
Perfect performance
As 5000 women sing
Hymn ‘Jerusalem’

I recently went to the Annual general meeting of the WI at Cardiff Arena again.  As always it reaches a crescendo when the 4000 plus women sing Jerusalem.  When you are part of it the sound is wonderful.   This clip is from 2010 when I was one of the women singing.




Inspired by Haiku Heights prompt word “Lunch”

I have simple tastes when it comes to food, especially lunch.  In winter there is nothing better than home-made soup and crusty bread with lots of butter.

With fresh home-made soup

Crusty bread from the oven

A nourishing meal


I think the best lunches I ever had were on holidays travelling in France.  It was such a treat to buy wines, cheeses, French breads, and wonderful cakes from the patisserie.  My favourite cakes were called “Religieuse” as they look like a nun in her habit.  They are usually made of choux pastry filled with the most delicious cream and covered with ganache.  A bit like an éclair, they are usually coffee or chocolate flavour they are simply the best cake ever.  A picnic by a river in France is my idea of heaven, especially if it is near the Pyrenees!

Soft cheese on French bread

Religieux to follow

And café au lait


A picnic is best

Sitting by a river on

A warm sunny day


Today I got a photo of my son enjoying a pint.  His term is over and holidays are just beginning. Tomorrow he sets off for Bali in Indonesia for a friend’s wedding.  Happy days.

End of the school year

Liquid lunch to celebrate

Happy holidays



Inspired by Haiku heights word ‘Moral’.

Fairness and justice

Honesty and compassion

Gentleness is strength


Every night should be

Like Christmas Night for me, filled

With wonder and awe


As I sit and suffer this weekend,  the moral of this haiku is to listen to my own advice and stay away from children with colds!

Snuffling and sneezing

Grandchildren spreading their germs

Thought I was immune

As I missed the deadline for the last 2 prompts, Eccentric and Stone, I am adding the links here in the hope that you will take the time to read them.

Eccentric ~

Stone ~

Eggs ~ Haiku

This post is nspired by Haiku Heights prompt word which is Egg.

Fast food for fledgelings

Nesting under bleeding heart

Five healthy chicks hatched

robin gathering mealworms to feed its young

robin gathering mealworms to feed its young

Naturally at this time of year there are birds nesting and I am lucky enough to have a variety of birds in my garden.  We have watched fascinated as a pair of robins burrowed a nest into a large plant pot where they successfully reared 5 chicks.  We have also seen Blue Tits nesting in one of our bird boxes.  I am very lucky to have a variety of bird boxes all hand made by my clever daughter.  She adapts them to different species of birds and they seem very popular!

Vacant possession

A luxury detached home

Built for a blue tit

My Blue Tit's Bird House

My Blue Tit’s Bird House

The first thing that popped into my head was not the birds nesting in my garden!  It was the Russian Christmas at Chatsworth House that I went to a couple of years ago.  Chatsworth is a gorgeous stately home set in beautiful Derbyshire countryside.  It is beautiful to see at any time of year, but especially so at Christmas when every room is transformed according to a theme.  The Russian Christmas appealed to me as I love Russian culture and crafts.  The photo shows a room filled with hanging eggs decorated by local school children.  It is a Russian tradition to decorate eggs, usually at Easter, as a celebration of life and a promise for the future. The eggs are called, ” Pisanki”

In coldest winter

Celebrating life and hope

Pretty pisanki

Decorated eggs at Chatsworth

I Decorated eggs at Chatsworth

Bridges Part 11 ~ Haiku

Over Severn‘s Gorge

An iconic iron bridge

First cast in furnace

Another view of the bridge

Another view of the bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The years float away

On day trips to my birthplace

By ‘Blinking Eye’

English: Millennium Bridge, Newcastle to Gates...

English: Millennium Bridge, Newcastle to Gateshead This elegant tilting pedestrian and cyclist bridge is the lowest above-ground crossing of the River Tyne. It has become something of an icon of Newcastle and Gateshead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lifetime abridged

Sorrows surface in snatches

Sanitised soundbites


Brick by brick I build

A bridge to carry me home

Made of words and deeds


Related articles

Bridge ~ Haiku

Today’s post is inspired by Haiku Heights prompt ‘Bridge’.  Bridges have always held a fascination for me.   My father worked all his life in the steel industry and I loved listening to him explain the engineering behind the iconic structures that fascinated him.  There was no shortage of inspiration in Newcastle on the River Tyne where I grew up as a child.  Having 7 bridges in less than a mile close to my home on that great river, each one totally different yet perfectly suited to their task,  there was always something to look at and learn about.

River Tyne god

River Tyne god

It is recorded that Hadrian built the first bridge on the Tyne in AD 122 before he built his wall.  He named the bridge Pons Aelius in honour of the his family name.  The family crest was a Goat’s head which is where the name ‘Gateshead’ is thought to derive from.  From then on records show there was a crossing at this point over the centuries until 1248 when it was destroyed by fire.  But in 1250 a medieval bridge was built with turreted guard towers, a chapel, shops and houses on it.    In 1771 that bridge was virtually destroyed by a great flood but in 1778 a Georgian bridge replaced it.  This bridge made navigation difficult at times and dredging impossible upriver so an opening  bridge was proposed in 1851

The seven bridges at the heart of the city are

Gateshead Millennium Bridge, known as the ‘Blinking Eye’ because of the way it opens, was opened in 2001

The Tyne bridge, was opened by King George V in  October 1928.  My mother was 3 years old then and remembered sitting on her uncle’s shoulders on the bridge actually watching the ceremony!

The Swing Bridge was opened in 1876 to enable ships to pass along the Tyne.  At its peak the bridge swung open 30 times a day.  In 1924, 6000 vessels were said to have passed through.  The opening mechanism is still in full working order and the bridge still opens on special occasions.

The High Level Bridge was needed when the railways came to town!   Originally trains had to stop in Gateshead and passengers were then ferried across the Tyne to Newcastle where they were faced with a very steep climb up steps to the city.  This bridge was designed by Robert, son of George Stephenson.  It is double decked with rail lines above and a road beneath.  It was the first bridge of its kind (double deck rail/road) in the world and was made of 5000 tons of local wrought iron and cast iron.  It was opened by Queen Victoria in September 1849.

The Metro Bridge is officially called Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge as our Queen opened it with Prince Philip in 1981.  This was designed and built to cater for the new integrated transport system from Newcastle to the coast at South Shields.  Believe it or not when I was a child in the 40s and 50s in gateshead/Newcastle we still travelled on trams or trolley buses!  The Metro was after my time, but I have been on it in recent years and it is a superb system, being fast, clean and efficient.

The King Edward Bridge was opened in 1906 by the then King Edward VII.  It was desperately needed as railway travel was now so popular that the High level Bridge could not cope with the traffic.

Lastly on this short and busy stretch of my favourite river is the Redheugh Bridge.  To be honest this is the third Redheugh Bridge as the original two were unfit for purpose.  But the final one was a triumph of pre-stressed concrete with 4 lanes for traffic and one path for pedestrians.  This bridge was opened by the Diana, Princess of Wales in 1984.

Any Geordie will tell you that the view from the train as it crosses the Tyne is enough  to set the heart racing.  Just the word, ‘Bridge’ set my muse going so I am posting some of my haiku here for you.

Captured on canvas

The city of my childhood

A lifetime abridged


Train carries me back

Beyond landmarks unchanging

Loved city unfolds


From the bridge I see

My family’s history

Slip away from me


Poor men paid a toll

A penny from a pittance

To cross the ‘Coaly Tyne’


Painted bridge belies

Oily blackness deep below

Hidden history


Under the arches

The homeless shelter each night

In cardboard boxes


Standing on the edge

She saw no life before her

Flowers lie there still


bridges on the Tyne painted in watercolour by Ron Thornton.jpg

bridges on the Tyne painted in watercolour by Ron Thornton.jpg

The 1781 stone bridge, with the High Level Bri...

The 1781 stone bridge, with the High Level Bridge in the background, from an 1861 illustration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge t...

English: The Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge that carries the Tyne and Wear Metro over the river Tyne, viewed from Forth Banks in Newcastle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gateshead Quays across the River Tyne at night...

Gateshead Quays across the River Tyne at night – Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the Sage Gateshead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story – Haiku

He said “you can’t make

a silk purse from a sow’s ear”

His meaning was clear

This post is inspired by the haiku heights prompt for today ~ “Story”

This was the comment made about me at the age of 10 by the Headmaster of the school I was expecting to go to when me moved across the country for my father’s job.  I had missed a lot of school due to illness so was way behind others of my age.  I also had a Geordie accent which he equated with being uneducated.  These factors led him to believe I was stupid and not worth educating!  My determined parents decided to move me somewhere else thank goodness!

His words have stayed with me always and inspired me to become a teacher.  Eventually I became a Headteacher.   My aim was to value every child, to educate them to the best of their ability, and to develop in them self confidence and high self esteem so that whatever their talents they could go out into the world prepared to lead full, rewarding and satisfying lives.

I guess it is a milestone in my story!