Monday, 30 April 2007

An evening walk

J came home late last night, after a successful London Golf Show. He launched his Caddy Cover umbrellas there in 2006 and decided, last minute, to go again this year. Within minutes of him coming home, there were three pairs of shoes abandoned in the hall, dirty washing in a pile on the landing and opened post littering the kitchen table. Oh, I have missed him!

Today, we spent a lazy morning together and then he took me out to lunch. It was such a glorious day that we made a drive of it and ended up at a country pub near Pershore, serving traditional "Pub Grub".

Afterwards, with full stomachs, we took a leisurely drive home, via "Posterity", a reclamation yard between Ledbury and Malvern, to price up some of the things we'll need when we get planning permission through (!!) for our extension. We made copious notes and fell in love with a few things we'd need to live in a manor house to own, and then carried on home to our waiting hounds.

We quickly changed into our walking clobber and took the JRTs over the field at the bottom of our garden. On the "other site", I took you for this walk and have added some pictures as it has been such a gorgeous day today.

At the bottom of the garden, we have our own private stile into the field. Alfie hurdles it in one, the girls scuttle under the wire and we clamber over fairly gingerly as it is homemade by the previous owners and fairly ancient. We turn immediately right and follow the hedge line as it snakes along towards the farm; a traditional hedgerow interspersed with mature trees. Sometimes after high winds, I come along and collect fallen branches for the fire, and in the autumn sweet chestnuts can be gathered by the bag load.

The hounds races ahead, a blur of white as they snuffle along, scenting out the rabbits. Alfie makes me laugh as he often misses one and then, when he sees it out of the corner of his eye, he’ll turn his head and another one will run just out of sight. It’s like watching a game of tennis! I’m sure the rabbits are laughing at him!

This field is often left to pasture and when haymaking time arrives, the huge rounds of hay become personal look-out points for our mad JRTs. Occasionally we still get the big rectangular bales too, and these are more fun to climb as they are stacked higher. J and I have climbed them too and lain down at the top, soaking up the warm harvest sunshine and breathing in the smell of freshly cut hay. It is one of my favourite smells of the countryside, along with wood smoke curling up from the chimneys in the village, so distinctive from coal.

The field starts to dip down slightly and we come past a natural pond with moorhens and ducks, tucked away and surrounded by trees. Often, the buzzards and crows are flying around here and the crows pick on a lone buzzard, diving at it and calling out in their attack. The path starts to turn upwards once more and the hedgerow is littered with rabbit holes; some disused and swathed in cobwebs, others clearly in use. We come up to the top of the incline again and on the right is a field gate down to the farmhouse, but we go onwards and over another stile towards the trig point.

We have to walk through the middle of the next field, but countless years of ploughing cannot remove that permanent groove of the footpath, walked by so many. Whatever is planted there, be it crops or grass, there is always the mark of the footpath. This year it is rape - NOT my favourite! The farmer does clear the way through when cereal crops grow high, but they are always patchy in this area as if the land is denying them the right to grow on this foot trodden path. Sometimes we find broken pieces of pottery and clay pipe ends; remnants of another era when many hands toiled in the fields.

At the next stile, we usually stop for a breather and to admire the glorious view. Another of our local “big” houses can be seen, surrounded by its own land, sprawling and grey and slightly forbidding. This is The Hall, and when we moved in, it used to be a race horse stable too. We used to love to watch the horses on their daily walk out through the village to open riding, but they moved on shortly after. It is now a private residence once more and horses still graze the fields but not in the same number as before.

We cross the next field, again through the middle, along the mysterious, permanently marked footpath and there is an old abandoned water pump-house over to the right, near the edge of the field. It makes me sad to see it in such disrepair – the old quarry floor tiles are still there, many are cracked, and remnants of rusty machinery.

We enter the final field of our journey. Here there are large, old oak trees standing tall in the middle of the field: three of them in a line. The footpath goes to the left of the first tree, then to the right of the second and then the left of the third; snaking in between them. Here, I lean against the rough old bark and look up through the canopy to the sky. I would love to know just what these trees have seen over the years; how many labourers rested here to drink their cider from crock jugs; to see the teams of oxen or shires ploughing the field. From here we either turn back and return the way we have come, or carry on to the coppice at the end, over the next stile, along a thin wooden bridge (more of a raised walkway actually) and out onto the lane. Directly in front of us is a beautiful old house, dating back to the 1600’s. Local rumour has it that the steps down to the cellar are made from old tomb stones from the nearby church! They grow the most amazing display of sweet peas, which can be seen from the lane in the summer.

But today, we turn around and come home, to a nice chilled glass of wine and bowl of Tyrells crisps!

Friday, 27 April 2007

A trip to the dentist and the magic fairy tree

Well, by the end of Thursday I was totally exhausted. Up at 5.15am for the 7am train, arrived into Paddington at 9.45am and eventually at the Royal Free at 11am. For once, I got in to see the doc on time, as there is usually a terrible wait – it seems several of us are given the same appointment time and its first come, first served. So yesterday I got to the head of the queue!

I wasn’t there long but I do have to go back on 10 May to have a 24 hr heart monitor tape fitted, and so will have to stay down with friends as it has to be returned the next day. I’m also waiting for an appointment to do an exercise stress test, where they put you on a treadmill and alter the speed/incline while running an ECG of the heart. Great! Now there’ll be no hiding from just how unfit I am. The doctors were all really optimistic though and said they were 95% certain that I DIDN’T have pulmonary hypertension, and that my heart is under more pressure because my lungs aren’t so good.

So fingers crossed they can totally rule it out by these tests, otherwise they’ve got to do something similar to an angiogram where they put a camera into the actual arteries to monitor the pressure. Yuk, yuk and more yuk. I’m a total wuss when it comes to these things and still have to lie down for a blood test even though I have had them every month for the last 16 years! If they have to do that test, they’ll have to hit me over the head with a huge rubber mallet………

I managed to get an earlier train home and saw the muntjac near Charlbury – I see them most times and they look up as the train rattles by, but other passengers are buried in The Times and totally oblivious. Unfortunately, the earlier train only goes as far as Great Malvern and then there’s a half hour wait for a connection on to Ledbury, but the sun was shining and it was good to come home and listen to the birds instead of the throb of the city. We rumbled into Ledbury at 5.08pm and I walked to mum and dad’s, arriving as mum was just getting out of the car. A quick cup of tea, dinner for them (I’d eaten on the train courtesy of M&S Simply Food takeaway salads) and then mum and I came back here for the night. We were both so shattered we didn’t even drink any wine (!!) but managed to stay up until 10pm but then bed called.

Today I had to go for a scale and polish at the dentist in Bournville (Birmingham) and so was out of the house at 10.30am. It takes about an hour and ten minutes to reach the dentist, but we never changed to a local one because a) this is the dental practice I’ve used since I was a child and b) they WERE NHS until last year, but we enrolled on the budget plan and it’s fairly reasonable, so there we are……..

I was born in Bournville, the home of Cadbury’s chocolate, and the dentist is directly opposite a small wood – Maple Wood. As a child, we used to walk along the path parallel with the wood to go down to “The Green”, which is a village green with parade of shops and Post Office. When I came out of the dentist, I walked across the road to look through the fence at the wood – awash with a carpet of bluebells, and I took a photo on my phone for posterity’s sake. The memories came flooding back and I walked along the path to see if the fairy tree was still there.

The five year old Woozle would put a penny into a hollow of a tree and make a wish to the fairies both mum and nan assured me lived in the tree. At first I couldn’t see it but then, there it was! A holly tree had grown so large next to it that it was covering the front of the fairy tree and I moved some branches away to find the little hollow. It was still there and was full of water – just as it always had been. It made me feel funny – a nice funny and a little emotional. The fact that it was now well hidden made me kind of sad that no more little girls would share the magic of the fairy tree – maybe I was the last one who did. But then there was a part of me that felt glad – it was MY secret place and full of my old wishes to the fairies. I didn’t stick my finger in the water to see if my pennies were still there, and now I wish I had. Maybe next time I go to the dentist, I will.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Not so home alone

Walking three dogs at the same time isn’t easy! We’ve got two of those expandable lead things – one for Alfie and the other has a double connector so that April and Tanzy can share. Usually J and I have a lead each but, as he has now gone down to London, it was just me today.

We set off down the lane opposite our cottage and all seemed well for about 30 seconds. Then Alfie decided he’d go this way, whilst the girls went the other. The leads became entangled and I had to stop and unravel the heap of spaghetti before we could go on. And then they saw the pheasant and so went charging off as the leads unraveled, and unraveled, whirring away and then…… clunk! They came to the end of their length and stopped in mid chase – suspended animation as they turned and looked at me in frustration. Ha, ha you little blighters! That’ll teach you.

After about five minutes, I’d got the hang of the brake system: push and hold = stop; reel back, push and hold (so they stop moving!), then reel back a bit more and repeat until reaching desired length of lead. Perfect. So now it’s like driving a team of horses as I try and keep them all going in line, but then when one stops, I can stop them wrapping around each other by reeling in desired team member. I wonder if I can patent this idea for child control too.

By the time we’re half way down the lane, I can smell the rape even before I can see it. It’s not my favourite crop – the smell is so overpowering and the colour so harsh, plus it sends the dogs loopy. We never let them off the lead in the fields adjacent to it as they go tearing in at full pelt, get totally disorientated and when we eventually get them back, they have skinned their faces below the eyes and are smeared with blood from the hard stalks. So, for now, they’ve got to get used to their freedom being curbed.

The sky larks are out and diving and twittering amongst the crops and it’s wonderful to see their growing numbers. The farmers round here are great at encouraging wildlife: the hedgerows are maintained and clusters of trees allowed to stand in the middle of fields. And the bluebells! Wonderful blobs of blue peeking out from the verges, waving in the slight breeze. Further down the other lane is a wood and it is a carpet of blue at the moment – I would take a picture but J has taken the camera with him down to the golf show.

It is another twenty minutes before we get back and I see an empty mug in the sink! Hmmm. At the bottom is a drop of black coffee – Mum!!! The phone rings and she tells me she’d popped in on her way to her next job (cleaning the Church) to drop off her bag for tonight’s stay, and could see the dogs gone but wasn’t sure if we’d just left or were nearly home. By the time she’d drunk her coffee, she had her answer!

I have to cut her short as I’m taking all the books and paperwork regarding the village hall up to the new booking clerk for the official “handover”. This time next week, I’ll be officially off the committee and, after six years, I’m looking forward to the rest.

We get through the business bits and then sit and gossip until I catch a glimpse of the school bus going through the village and realize how long I’ve been. Things to do and all that………. So I rush back up the lane, grab a quick five minutes to write this blog and then I’ll shimmy through the house with the Dyson and cut some flowers for mum’s bedside table, ready for her arrival at 6.30pm.

Tomorrow I’ve got a checkup at the Royal Free Hospital in London and will be on the 7am train so it’ll be a fairly early night tonight for a 5.15am get-up. I won’t be back ‘til 8ish and mum has said she’d like to stay tomorrow too – I’m not home alone too much, after all!!

I’ll leave you all now and probably won’t get to catch up on your blogs until Friday. But before I go, I’m going to copy an email I had today from a friend called “Beautifully Stated”. It’s about life and I think it does sum it up pretty well. Until Friday, then…….. And don’t drink all the wine while I’m gone!!xx

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it's harder every time. You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. You'll fight with your best friend. You'll blame a new love for things an old one did. You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back.

Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.

Monday, 23 April 2007

The Time of My Life - home alone

J is off down to London (again!) tomorrow to work the London Golf Show. The van is loaded with his “Caddy Covers” and he is staying with our friends G and O, who are now back home following A’s funeral.

O will fuss over him like no-one’s business! She is an amazing cook and he will come home at least a stone heavier from homemade apple pie or sticky toffee pudding every night. He doesn’t get that here! I say it’s because I’m watching his waistline and cholesterol level, but really it’s because I just couldn’t compete. I struggle with pastry – my hands are a bit affected by my Scleroderma; enough to find it hard going, but I have made it and can hold my head up high to a homemade lemon meringue pie the other week!

And so I will be torn away from this site to do the “jobs” J does when he’s about. A good thing methinks, as I am in danger of losing my focus this week, what with damp weather forecast for these parts over the next few days. Otherwise, it would be a perfect excuse to stay indoors and nurse the laptop and a cup of tea, instead of my raised beds!

Mum is coming for a girlie overnighter on Wednesday, so we will eat scrummy food and gossip like girls over a glass or two of wine, and then she will demand Ovaltine to take off to bed for her bit of a read before lights out. I have bought one of those whizzy things to froth it up (off good old eBay of course) so it’s just like the way she does it at home. It’s a surprise, and I can’t wait to see her face!

J will be home late on Sunday night and I will stay up to wait for him. The dogs will only go ballistic anyway when they hear the van reverse on the drive, meaning sleep will be out of the question until he gets in safe. I always worry when he comes home from an event or show, because he has been up at the crack of dawn, worked all day, loaded the van and driven all the way home; totally dead on his feet. It’s a hard life, working on the road, and I’m glad he doesn’t do it so often these days, since he has got his website up and running.

The next one is Bakewell Show in August, and I always work that one with him. We stay in a B&B up at Monsal Head and make a weekend of it; enjoying the scenery of the Peak District and it’s usually good weather (although that’s NOT great when you’re selling brollies, like us!). But I love this particular show because they have livestock, horticultural areas, heavy horse shows, crafts and local produce – a proper old fashioned “country” show. These “Ag Shows” are getting fewer and far between, as the countryside is tweaked and pruned to within an inch of its life. They are changing into glorified markets and the traders, like J, who sell handmade items like walking sticks etc., and offer a good old fashioned service, are being replaced by those that sell disposable, plastic goods that won’t see the year out. But this is the changing face of the world and we are lucky to have the few remaining shows that we work.

I hate it when he goes away. I always think that I’ll enjoy the “me time” and try and plan to do things I wouldn’t if he were here. But the site of the bag on the landing, getting ever fatter, makes me really morose and I flit around aimlessly, totally without focus. When he pulls off the drive, the girls whine for a while (Alfie is an old hand by now) at the emptiness that seems to descend on our home. But then I become a little brisk, for want of a better expression, and tackle things I have put off or take them out for a really long walk. The upside is the lack of mess! How can one man create so much disarray? But by Sunday, I will be eager (ok, so slight exaggeration there) for abandoned shoes and paperwork strewn over the kitchen table – homely mess, as he likes to call it!

The Time of My Life - The Dymock Poets

Have you ever heard of the Dymock Poets? Sadly, not many people have. They were a band of men who, in the early 1900’s, formed their literary community. I love the area in which I live. The countryside, to me, is “real” countryside – working countryside filled with real people, many of whom have been here for generations. But there is a history too, and these men are woven into the atmosphere of the place and those of us who are lucky to live here are proud that they called this home.

Their names were: Robert Frost (an American poet), Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Wilfred Wilson Gibson, and John Drinkwater, some of whom lived in and around the village of Dymock in the period between 1911 and 1914. The “resident” poets were: Frost, Abercrombie and Gibson and they were inspired by the beauty of their surroundings and encouraged by a succession of visitors, including Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater, Edward Thomas, and Eleanor Farjeon (called Associated Dymock Poets!). They published their own quarterly periodical, entitled 'New Numbers', from Abercrombie’s cottage and it contained poems such as Brooke's masterpiece, The Soldier. It was despatched all over the world from the little village post office at Dymock.

Their poetry has now fallen out of favour, but during the early 20th century it was considered revolutionary. The poets used simple language and they wrote about ordinary events and people, moving away from the ornate and emotionally restricted style of the time. Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater and Wilfred Wilson Gibson were contributors to Georgian Poetry and Eddie Marsh, the artistic and literary patron, edited the five volumes, whilst Harold Monro was their publisher. John Drinkwater was the first manager of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in Station Street, which opened in 1913. He wrote several plays for the company; mainly historical pieces and light comedies.

Their idyllic time around the north-western borders of Gloucestershire was to prove short lived. Within three years both Brooke and Thomas were dead, Frost had returned to North America, and Abercrombie, Drinkwater and Gibson were involved in war work. Their writings, however, continue to form an important literary legacy to this day and an exhibition is to be found in the Parish church at Dymock, St. Mary’s, maintained by a dedicated group of local residents.

There are two “Poets’ Path” walks which link areas associated with the writers and their homes, (which are not open to the public as they are private residences) and my own hamlet is along the route they took as they walked across the fields to visit each other for their literary get-togethers. Lascelles Abercrombie lived in a timber framed thatched cottage (unnervingly called The Gallows) in a neighbouring village to mine and was the first of the poets to arrive in the area; Wilfred Wilson Gibson followed and he also lived in a timber framed, but part-thatched cottage (The Old Nail Shop) at the bottom of my lane and finally Robert Frost rented Little Iddens, a dilapidated 400 year old cottage a little further away at Ledington (also known as Leadington). This area is sandwiched between May Hill and the Malverns, both of which provided inspiration for the poets, along with the woodlands filled with our famous wild daffodils – the Dymock Daffodils.

I shall leave you with two of their poems:

The Soldier
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam
A Body of England's, breathing English air,washed by rivers, blest by sons of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends' and gentleness
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke 1887 – 1915

And finally, in the haunting words of Wilfrid Gibson: the cosy cream washed living room
Of the Old Nail Shop, we all talked and laughed -
We sat there in the lamplight, while the day
Died from rose-latticed casements, and the plovers
Called over the low meadows, till the owls
Answered them from the elms, we sat and talked...
'Twas in July
On nineteen fourteen that we talked
Then August brought the war and scattered us.
The figures dissolve. The echoes die away. Ou sont les neiges d'antan? Now the Dymock daffodils, albeit thinner ranked than of yore, nod sagely silent in the breeze, a little fugitive sunlight warms the young bones of a new spring's generation...the lambs skip, the guns are spiked, old tragedies lie crumbling below encrusting coats of tear-absorbing moss.

Should you be interested to learn more about the poets, I have posted a link below:

Sunday, 22 April 2007

The Time of My Life

As funerals go – it was a good one. I know that ‘A’ would have been chuffed to bits to see how many people came to see her off and pay homage to the wonderful person who, all too briefly, was part of our lives. They came from far and wide – Canada being the furthest.

‘J’ gave the eulogy and moved everyone to tears one minute and then had us all nodding in agreement at his observations and laughing the next. We all returned to ‘A’ and ‘B’s home and sat in the garden she loved, the sun shining down as we shared memories. Wine and beer flowed, food was laid out on trestle tables and we toasted the life of someone special to us all. Their two daughters, ‘V’ and ‘C’, were amazing. They carried their grief with dignity and supported their father, who is a completely broken man. ‘A’s parents, ‘G’ and ‘O’, are in their 70’s and have taken this especially hard.

‘G’ has withered before my eyes over the last few weeks and when we were looking at all the wonderful flowers afterwards, he plucked up a single rose, wrapped in cellophane, and gave it to me. “This is mine and I want you to have it”, he said. I tried to gently refuse him, not knowing how to handle this frail man’s grief. But he insisted and so I accepted with a kiss and told him I would dry it and treasure it.

This family now needs time to heal – the scars of their grief will remain but they will fade with time. Never more so have the words: “Time is a great healer”, meant more to me.

We left yesterday morning after ‘B’ had come back from walking the dog, which had always been ‘A’s “job”. Poor Monty. He doesn’t understand what has happened, but is morose and insecure. For ‘B’, this is a time to walk and think; replay memories and meet up with people in the park who can share this time of day with him, like no others. And as he wrapped me in his big bear hug, I squeezed him tight and hoped that he felt in my hug what no words can say.

I left you all with my final words on the CL site: “make time to smell the flowers”. ‘A’ lived life to the full and her home was always full of flowers. As we laid her to rest on Friday, a peacock (yes, you did read that right!) walked through the Garden of Rest at the crematorium and stood proudly; emerald green and sapphire blue feathers shimmering in the sunlight. ‘B’ and the girls mentioned it later and said that ‘A’ would have said it was a sign. Birds were another of ‘A’s passions and for her leave-taking to be graced by such a magnificent one was surely the biggest tribute she could have had.

The Time of My Life

And so I returned from Kent and A's funeral, to find.......... you'd all moved on!

I am trying to get the hang of this and not sure how to become one of the team; if anyone is reading this or how to get to everyone's blogs/contact stuff.

I was going to tell you how it all went on the CL site, but then some posts in chat halted all blurb from Woozle and I'm a little unsure whether to continue.........

Hope you guys are all okay and that I crack this purplecoo/www2.blogger thing!