Saturday, May 31, 2014

A beautiful Morning

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.

T.S. Elliot, Burnt Norton
(first of 'Four Quartets')

I had forgotten these words by Elliot, that time is not linear but an evolving space around us, past history falling into our present lives, and occasionally changing the future.  I got introduced to these words by a new blog I am following.

Following the theme of reburial of the dead  as seen from different viewpoints, such an issue has brought forth many opinions.  The reburial of Richard 111 which is different has been decided, though if the contending York side asks for an appeal there may be further shenanigans.  But it seems that this king will be buried in the area where he fell in battle - Leicester and a ceremonial event will no doubt take place, Mike Pitts covers the subject here in his usual excellent style.

This morning was a perfect June day, though in actual fact it is the last day of May, and so I went for a walk by the river, to capture the dog roses on camera and look for the gypsy horses.  Sadly I could not see the horses, they may have moved because a temporary road will go through the lower half of the water meadows as they mend the great bridge next year.
The field is full of buttercups, and the bird song was beautiful, a pale thrush alighted on the fence, a black labrador jumped into the river after a stick, making a great joyous splash. Ducklings sat around on floating branches and the first water lily bud has broken the surface.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Roses and Exhibitions

Wild Roses; Dog rose, burnet rose, field rose, yellow briar, cinnamon rose, one could go on as Margery Blamey's illustrations show.  These  shrubs of wild  roses emerge from our hedgerows in a cascade of white and pink, soon over, till we see their deep red hips.  They never achieve the splendour of the cultivated rose, but as the hawthorn blossom disappears the beautiful wild rose will make an appearance.  I have a feeling it is some what neglected because of the distinct blossoming of its cultivated mate at the same time. 
Why dog rose (rose canina)? well according to Grigson, a Roman soldier got cured of rabies by rubbing the root of a rose against the bite.  Gerard the 16th century herbalist, took up the term 'dog' to distinguish the wild from the cultivated.

Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix's illustration of the wild roses that appear in China... 

There is to be an exhibition at the National Potrait Gallery in Autumn, something we must go to, Fiona McCarthy is the curator....

NPG unveils its blockbuster autumn exhibition with Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960

Can you believe it? an erotic lawn roller by Eric Gill, it just made me giggle through breakfast.  Lawn rollers are not something you see nowadays, we had one for our lawn when I was a child, a great heavy concrete creature that stood in the corner, LS remembered the great steam rollers on the road that probably did more damage to the roads than that sticky black tar they rolled into place.

Plotting a creative arc from the Pre-Raphaelites to Terence Conran, the National Portrait Gallery's autumn exhibition on the life and influence of William Morris is nothing if not ambitious.
It’s also the first major exhibition to really explore the influence the great man had on British design – and ergo life – in  the twentieth century.
The curator of the show is also a coup, with Morris biographer Fiona McCarthy lined up to guide us through the fascinating world of Morris’s far-reaching politics, thought and design via portraits, furniture, books, banners, textiles and jewellery – many of them  brought together in London for the first time.
That McCarthy also counts influential and polemical tomes on Eric Gill and Edward Burne-Jones among her works merely adds to the expectation at the London museum, ensuring that the exhibition will raise some interesting questions about Morris’s enduring influence.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday 28th May

For those who live in Wales, the small village of Solva (just one of my favourite places to live) is to be the place for a new Under Milk Wood to be filmed, so don't book at the Cambrian Inn from the 23rd June...

Most days I trog through the news to find things of interest for LS's blog, sometimes this can take an hour or two.  Sometimes I can spend time chasing news articles through links as I try to nail a particular point, this morning for instance Neolithic long barrows (long since defunct) at Coate, a place within Swindon that is in grave danger of development.  Swindon is looking towards 60,000 houses to be rebuilt in the future, terrible thought but why? I cannot answer that question, we are TOLD by those that rule this is imperative, but as always there are grave repercussions on the landscape.

A friend has just sent a link of a short video of an aerial view of the Cheesewring and Stowes Pound in Cornwall, and it brings back memories of walking up to the Cheesewring and noticing a sheep trapped on a ledge within the quarry.  Of course I worried, knowing that farmers would just leave it to die, and as I watched the trapped animal go from side to side from a distance, my mind became agitated and I did not enjoy the walk.  Well all is well in this little story, walking back and turning round there was an empty ledge and a foolish sheep above still looking over the edge of the quarry and dicing with danger.

You can just spot a dab of white below the edge..
Click on photos for a better view....

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday 26th May

I haven't written much lately as life is quiet and I spin wool furiously.  Yesterday the internet did not work for this computer and so my love spent a couple of 'techy' hours trying to work out the problem, he has so much patience whereas I was quite happy to be not connected.  Anyway the problem was eventually sorted, there is a little 'f' button with the internet sign on and I must have accidentally switched it off.  We turned the computer practically inside out to find the 'switch' one diagnostic tool told us about, what we did find was a place to put memory cards in, which I suppose is a bonus, and my router does not need replacing but the battery for the computer does!
The last scrolls were finished in the studio last week, they are modern paintings done by the sister of a client and have hung round for ages.  So what does that mean? well I can go and spin in the studio, we are not quite sure what to call it now but maybe it will be a 'hobby room'. 

Also we have begun to talk about getting a dog, now my choice is limited here, one that does not drop hair - poodle?, though I dearly love shaggy collies, perhaps in the next house.
Not having a companion animal to walk with has been one of the things I have missed terribly, I chatter on a walk as I record absentmindedly  plants, animals and birds.  LS has got quite used to it, but he does not always want to go on a walk, so perhaps a canine ear will come in useful.
We have been talking about going down to Cornwall again, but holiday cottages are so expensive, and by the time I find somewhere the link manages to get lost.  My aim is to explore middle Cornwall around Lostwithiel, although we have not done the prehistoric remains round Penwith Moor which is as far south as you can go, one of the richest places for prehistory.  Bodmin Moor will always be close to my heart, just for its bleakness, but is really not a place to live on, as the mists come down regularly along with the cold and the wind!

The Hurlers Stone Circles

This 'crystal' pathway was excavated last year, a ceremonial path leading to one of the circles.  The turf has been replaced but one jagged white stone still sticks up in the centre.

A shaky video of the stones

And what I am reading at the moment - Boneland by Alan Garner. . The last of the Weirdstone trilogy  (written for adults this last book).  Colin has now grown up, is a scientist
at Jodrell Bank, but still searches for his twin sister in the stars. Two narratives sit side by side, the modern world and the shaman like figure that guards Alderley Edge.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Paper Mill Lock

Beautiful summer day, and Paper Mill Lock Marina crowded with people, but walk along the river and they soon disappear.  The swallows are here, nesting under the old concrete bridge at least a dozen, and they swooped and dived over the river and the buttercup meadow with such speed that it was impossible to catch them on the camera. 
What else, the Demoiselle damselfly was equally elusive, they hardly settle on the long strappy leaves of the yellow flag before they are off, fluttering the deep aquamarine of their bodies and laced wings justifying their name as the European Beautiful Demoiselle. The blossoms of the hawthorn are fast disappearing, changing from their 'Omo' brightness to a softer creamy-brown, and the cow parsley lines the path with that abundant exuberance of summer.  Will of the wisp lights danced on the water, perhaps a combination of sun and insects, but no fish rose to disturb the slow flowing current.  One batch of yellow irises, that was all and because of the heavy use of nitrogen in the large (think it is 120 acre field) there are not many wild plants which is sad.

And talking of things disappearing, welcome 'Natural England' on the scene, apparently, yes apparently, robins, starlings and wagtails are a 'health and safety risk', therefore open house on destroying their nests and eggs, can you believe it? Hopefully the RSPB will show them the error of their stupid consultation.  There is a Wordpress blog on the issue, which gives the reason that the chairman of Natural England, just happens (boys for the job syndrome) just happens to be a founding member of a company that build houses, and birds are a nuisance when it comes to nesting in the drain pipes under the eaves.  In fact that is what most of the starlings do round here every year, and I have never heard of anyone complaining......

To gentler things, as already my blood boils with furious rage at the stupidity of greed...

Swallow bridge

Buttercup field

Envious place to live!

two demoiselles

old hawthorn

Yellow flag

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday the 19th May

I have been reading Sabine-Gould's book about the Reverend Harker of Morenstow, alongside Daphne Du Maurier's 'Vanished Cornwall'.. Sometimes stories overlap in one's mind and as you chase threads the small world of England closes in.  For instance I found out that Sir Bevil Grenville, a Royalist, who fought in the Civil War on the Lansdown ridge, near Bath, (my favourite walking place) actually came from Cornwall, and just following his family history in Cornwall makes me sad for this man who was killed in the battle so far from home.

 "Bevil Grenville, thinking to repeat his victory at Stratton, led his men uphill to seize the guns.  He fell, mortally wounded.  Thereupon his standard bearer, Tony Paine, seized Sir Bevil's young son John, a boy barely fourteen, and clapped him upon the dying man's horse, and the boy tears smarting in his eyes, brandished his father's sword and rode in the enemy's pursuit" 

Du Maurier even when she writes factual books cannot but embroider and illustrate her stories, and when I started reading her book she shocked me from the first page.  She opens with a story when she was 5 years old the gardener had caught a snake in the garden, but instead of killing it outright had nailed it to a tree with a knife, saying that it would be dead before nightfall.  She of course keeps an eye on its wriggling around, and sure enough the poor creature was dead at nightfall - how cruel....

But this is what it was like, and another story of Du.Maurier, which I will record because the telling of it was so good..

Pistol Meadow;  In the mid 18th century a transport ship of soldiers were washed up on the rocks at Lizard Point, and a couple of hundred corpses were washed ashore.  The locals found them at low tide jammed into rock crevices, tangled in seaweed, half hidden by stones and also a great quantity of firearms had washed up as well.  Just above the cove was a tiny meadow, the sort that Tangye talks about that fall down to the sea and are only good for growing daffodils.  Anyway it was here the local people dug pits for the bodies and carried them up the cliffs, but overnight a great company of wild dogs descended on the corpses and devoured them. 

This so upset the people that all their dogs were driven out of the villages for miles around and "In after months, and even years, so it was said, the Lizard people shunned the companionship of dogs".  Of course Du.Maurier visited the meadow, no wild flowers, just mounds surrounded by stumpy gorse, shaped grotesquely by the wind. I just love a truly gory story, maybe she just visited the wrong meadow. Telling this tale to LS and he suddenly says our friend down in North Hill also says that there are still wild dogs round in Cornwall - yikes...

Soon when LS has finished in the studio, we are off for a picnic at Paper Mill lock, scotch eggs are done, baked in the oven, and there is even some potato mayonnaise from last night.  We had our first English asparagus, which was delicious and a treat at this time of the year for tea last night, reminding me when as a child my grandfather always cooked asparagus (upright in the saucepan of course, so that the tips were lightly cooked) with a poached egg and a dish of melted butter...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hyland garden

Tall spurges


The witch's house

Dark spurge
A short video of the 'World' garden, with its bluestone walling from Wales.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May flowers

Happy moments; Last night we found a missed call on our phone from Sunday, and tracked it down eventually to my son Mark. So I phoned his mobile, no answer, but a few minutes later he called back; this is an event, he never calls me.  But apparently (poor lamb) he thought it was 'mothering sunday' I explained it was the American one and he had missed the one we normally celebrate in this country...
As he works in Bath, he stays with his father during the week and then returns to the flat he shares with his friends in Bristol at the weekend. It was a funny long conversation, he had watched Wild Essex, and wondered if Essex was really like that and that he intended to get Macfarlane's book.  This is the child who would never venture out into the countryside for a walk, similar to my eldest grandson Tom, I have always bribed my children to go for a walk with the dog. Dragged them out moaning and sulking, it was so much easier to be by myself.  Tom was maybe the worst at about 4 years old, he would measure the distance we had to walk between trees, a 100 yards here equalled a glucose sweet, a long walk equalled a sticky bun from the bakers on the way home.  There was that terrible time he stood on a spiky thistle and screamed the race course down, because he thought he had been bitten by some terrible unimaginable creature.

That was how I started my blog this morning but time moved on, firstly we went round the hedgerows early this morning to collect elderflower to make that fizzy drink........

then later to Hylands garden for a walk, for the moment only the wistaria in all its glory...

Incredibly exotic wistaria tumbles down from pergolas, walls and balconies at this time of year, the branches twist round their supports in a firm grip and for a moment you can walk under a tunnel of  a sweet smelling blue haze..... 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday 13th May

This I found on my weaving group, an abandoned textile mill near Aberystwyth, The Daily Mail has a lot to answer for, but it's archaeological photos/articles are often very good.  There is such sadness in these photos, abandoned in the 1980s the owners and workers must have walked away in despair not even rescuing the wool, perhaps a bankruptcy case.  Nature takes over, surprising there is no sign of the moth that loves wool, machinery rusts, the roof gives way and a time capsule is caught for a few decades.
My fibre has arrived and I spin samples from them, not quite the colours I saw on the website, but pretty greens, an intarsia blanket beckons, but first I must add some dyed wool of my own, blues....

Sunday with our visitor we walked through the bluebell wood above and the lovely sheen of blue was gone, the bluebells so soon over.  Two pubs were visited, Chris wanted to experience the English countryside, and of course the pubs.  He got introduced to Wally at the Cats pub who gave him a tankard to take home, and then after a meal we went down to the Fox and Raven, and another walk by the river.  He is selling quite a bit of sake in this country, but of course to London restaurants.

And just to record another late 19th Century poet famous Yorkshire called Ammon Wrigley, to be found on Andy Hemingway's blog.... reading the poem and Ted Hughes came immediately to mind....

And one grey rock, like pagan god,
Solemn as death, and lone,
That oft, maybe, the hill tribes made
Their ancient worship stone ;
The strange wild people of the past
Have vanished race on race,
And we, like shadows on the grass,
Now pass before its face.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thinking aloud

We woke up early to the sound of the dawn chorus, tea was had and now two hours later, with the sun shining I contemplate the day.  The sounds outside are noisy with the starlings chattering to their young, they must have left the nest  and now these parents with a hint of fear in their voices call to their young. There is also a strong breeze which blows through the maple, the wind often rattles around the windows in the front shaking the curtains but today it takes the dark leaves of the maple and worries them.
This weekend a friend of LS is coming down from London, he is an American, living in Hawai and sells Japanese sake wine to the restaurants there. Slightly exotic to me, but his main charm is that he is friends with Gary Snyder, they, including LS, all lived and became monks for a time at the Ryosen-An temple.  Snyder's name always brings forth my favourite bit of a poem, he wrote....

Clearing the mind and sliding in
to that created space
a web of waters streaming over rocks,
air misty but not raining,
seeing this land from a boat on a lake
or a broad slow river,
coasting by.

This is how life always feels to me, all week I have been under the stress of a foolish worry, I want to rid myself of it but it plays constantly there,  the birds and the wind for a moment 'clear the mind' and I also slide into that 'created space' of nature, and as I go round making toast my mind drifts off to great dragonflies floating down in the old garden, territorially staking their claim, as they hover in the air great golden eyes staring into mine.
I have started  reading Derek Tangye's book, the flowers they once grew on the Cornish cliffs for selling in the market in the 60s.  Freesias, calendulas, daffodils and violets, and I am once again taken back to childhood and the smell of chyransatheums, the smell of autumn their great golden heads a mass of tiny petals.  Go into a supermarket today and we get flowers flown in from Africa, pretty enough if you like the look of artifical flowers, but those small bunches of violets and snowdrops that one could buy at the shop were the greater treasure. I love the bunches of dahlias you can still buy in summer at the greengrocer, a mass of colours, or the sweet williams in their ruff of leaves.
Just to add to my reading another book arrived last night, Du Maurier's Vanishing Cornwall  a celebration of the land she loved.."Here was the freedom I desired, long sought for, not yet known.  Freedom to write, to walk, to wander, freedom to climb hills, to pull a boat, to be alone....I for this, and this for me"
The world has moved on since Tangye and Du Maurier wrote their books, there are other nature writers filling the spaces they have left, a modern twist on nature not so tender, times change. To return to Snyder, who documented his thoughts through a modern American history, the time of Vietnam, and who despised his country for the destruction of its forests, rivers and plains, he wrote as an environmentalist, passionate about the natural world in all its forms.  For a moment he reminds me of Edward Thomas, and that great nonsensical poem which captures the perverse nature of our own long-lost country history, the poem called 'Lob'

And yet withal they shot the weathercock, just
Because ’twas he crowed out of tune, they said:
So now the copper weathercock is dead.
If they had reaped their dandelions and sold
Them fairly, they could have afforded gold.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday morning

I am having a moody Wednesday morning, sat next to my computer whilst spinning listening to Mozart's clarinet concerto.  It reminds me that the world is beautiful and mathematical in its composition.  Did I dream it yesterday but Sir Neville Marriner is dead, no news on Google, my heart always uplifted when I heard those magic word St.Martins-in-the-Field, and those light notes of Mozart came over the airways.
Early this morning whilst throwing out the bread for the birds I took a photo of the nasturtium plant that overwintered, it's bright yellow caught by the sun.  The usual kerfuffle with the birds coming down to feed, the magpie swooped by with the collared dove in hot pursuit, twice he tried to land but the dove was having none of it. Yesterday whilst walking back from the shop, two magpies harassing a crow above our heads, so much egg stealing at this time of the year!

I have ordered some coloured fibre to spin, having given up on my dyes for the time being, they always come up too strongly the new colours are in a variety of sea shades for a project that  has been pottering around in my mind.  One of the colours alongside I had though to range from turquoise but got captivated by such names as 'Sage', 'Sherwood' and 'mint'

I notice from my stats that Mundon church has had an unusual number of hits, and this is probably due to the photos of the petrified oaks that McFarlane clambered up into in his programme on 'Wild Essex (I was a bit worried about this), but I expect the trees have almost become solid rock. Looking at the church, the photos were taken in 2010, I wonder if one is allowed inside yet?

Monday, May 5, 2014


Yesterday LS and I mooched around Blakes Wood, in company with cuckoos, woodpeckers and bluebells.
The bluebells have gone 'over', the sun is too warm for them, but they still line the paths and form thick bands  of extraordinary hues under the trees.  LS, he is just a little jealous of my new camera, has brought his tripod and I stand for long periods of time as he videos this pretty vista, so soon over.  Not that I am unhappy soaking in the mood of the trees, listening to the bird song.  We watched Robert McFarlane last night on TV he has made a programme about 'Wild Essex', and he also wandered through a bluebell wood near to the town of Billericay, describing them from a Gerald Manley Hopkin's poem  about this wild plant of our country.
A paradigm of art —
this grace of blue
conjured out of the moil
of roots and rotting leaves and mite-stirred soil.

The cuckoos, were a happy surprise, we have heard them before but not last year.  Two flew over, I even captured their clear call on a video, so it is a welcome back for these intruders of other nests, the black and white woodpeckers with a flash of red on their under bellies were also nesting and got rather agitated by our presence. Blakes Wood is a popular place for people to visit and though we saw many people going too and fro at the entrance, once in the woods and it became quieter.
McFarlane argues that wildness goes on in these  scrub lands of dereliction that mars so much of Essex's landscape.  This is true where water meets land,  such as the  Dengie marshes, which is dominated by the ugly form of a nuclear station  but is also host to many migrant birds, as they skim the air in great clouds of acrobatic grace.

Interlaced stitchwort

Yellow Archangel

Coppicing of the sweet chestnut

Wood spurge 

Canopy where the woodpeckers live

McFarlane books

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Walking along the river bank

Stilled legendary depth:

It was as deep as England. It held

Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old

That past nightfall I dared not cast

I start with Ted Hughes poem of Pike and you can find the rest here,  one of my favourite poems, he starts the poem with the tiny pike caught and living in an aquarium eating each other up, and then goes on to describe the old monster pikes that live in the monastery pond.  Well yesterday whilst out walking along the river and admiring the baby ducklings, three separate clusters, we came up on 5 little ducklings with no mother, they had I think been swept out by the current of the mill water into the river.  As they swam around unsure, there was a great rustling and upheaval in the water and one duckling pulled down.  Pike said I sadly, luckily the duckling surfaced and swam frantically towards the bank where he seemed to have climbed up wet and bedraggled.
This is of course nature, the pike has to eat and ducks bring a lot of babies into the world, so this sudden tragedy witnessed unexpectedly by us is no more than a happening on the river.
I have started to use the video part of my camera, so at the moment you will only get brief flashes of what takes my fancy, such as this swan, which swam calmly by.  Uploading to Youtube takes ages, considering I only take about 20 seconds of filming.  But these little ducks seem safe behind the boom that keeps the detritus of the river from the mill stream.
Cruel Coppinger;  This is a supposedly true tale of one of the wreckers taken from R.S.Hawker's book. Coppinger was a Dane who had washed up on the beach by Morenstow, a great wreck of a man he married a local girl, took possession of her home when her father died, and terrorised the neighbourhood beside being very cruel in the shipwrecking business, (probably a good model for Du Maurier's Joss).  But this  tale tells of one of his little cruel tricks.  He had invited the vicar of Kilkhampton to dinner one day, now the vicar hated rook pie, so Coppinger had the table laid with a rook pie and roast rooks, which the poor vicar had to eat as he was hungry.  A few weeks later the vicar invited Coppinger to a meal, and they also had  pie, whether rabbit or chicken Coppinger could not say.  But after he had left he felt inside his pocket and found a cat skin and head, so the vicar had had his revenge....  But not for long,  the vicar whilst out walking along the lane heard the sound of hooves behind him, Coppinger came riding by on his wild mare, and beat the poor vicar to a point of nakedness, so that all his clothes lay in stripes... now those were the days of lawlessness!
What else?  Well of course, this first day of May, and the hawthorn blossom sparkles along the hedgerows, much earlier in its timing then Geoffrey Grigson's mentions in his book of May 10th.  It is a magical plant of medieval times, said to keep away fairies and witches and also storms. Though blackthorn is much earlier, hawthorn is one of the true signs of spring and May Day.

Paul's Scarlet I think, the hybrid hawthorn out at the moment