Monday 30 January 2012

Still poorly

I thought I was getting better, as my temperature had subsided, but now I find myself with the first Chest Infection of 2012. . . I took myself off to the Doc's this morning before it really got a hold, but won't get the A/Bs until tonight, when my OH goes in to town to collect D from work.

Or leastways, I hope he will be doing that as it's just started snowing. It's too wet to lay right now, but if it starts to freeze later then things may change. This of course coincides with getting so low on heating oil we can't have the heating on and believe me, 11 degrees is COLD. So we have all decamped to the sitting room and the wood burner - the cats too have migrated like Gnus across the Serengeti! Who can blame them?

As I drove out of the Doctor's car park, I thought - as I often do - of the Roman road which crosses the surgery grounds and as I waited to turn onto the road, the line of the Roman road stretched ahead of me, disguised as a gravelled farm track. I bet those Roman legionaries cursed the Welsh winter and missed the civilization of hypocaust central heating and locally-procured olives and fruit back home. (Well, those from the Med, anyway).

Saturday 28 January 2012

Gladeye the War Horse

I'm afraid that I have this post all out of context as I meant to write about this book just after I had seen the film War Horse recently. Then the book got overlaid by a pile of other books and has only just resurfaced again.

It was written by Brigadier Walter Brooke, a lesser-known brother of Brigadier Geoffrey Brooke whose books on horses I have on my shelves from teenage times. Geoffrey Brooke married Dorothy Gibson-Craig and they set up the Brooke Hospital for Animals. Primarily they wanted to rescue horses which had been sold into slavery in Egypt following the end of WW1. Many of the officers took their horses out into the Desert and shot them, rather than have them sold to the locals, as they knew the fate which awaited them. Many thousands upon thousands of horses remained in Egypt, and even by 1930 when the Brookes first started their Hospital, many were still alive, though aged and half-crippled by work. Amazingly her appeal for funds in 1930 (time of the Great Depression) raised sufficient funds to rescue 5,000 ex War Horses and is still doing good work today. You have probably seen their adverts in National newspapers and magazines.

Anyway, Gladeye was Walter's horse, and was his partner from the age of 4 years, to the day of his death aged 29 - a good age for a horse. He was bred in Ireland and was a chestnut with three white stockings and a blaze. Walter was ADC to General Sir John Keir at the outbreak of the war and they were shipped out, horses and men, to the Aisne front, near Rheims. Gladeye tells of his warmtime experiences in the book - being saddled up after dark and taken to the trenches to bring his master back, and how they used to find their way home on the transport tracks, across country, passing columns of limbered wagons drawn by pairs of teams of 4 horses, loaded up with rations and letters for the men, or more mundane things like barbed wire or ammnition.

Gladeye was then sent to Egypt with his master. After the cold and mud of Flander, being camped by the seashore with its golden sands and stunningly blue sea was wonderful, the beauty only being spoilt by the flies and the trams, which had screaming horns. From here, they later sailed for Salonica, which was described as being a true melting-pot of huymanity, with soldiers from France, Greece, Russia, Italy, Serbia and England. If you ever doubt the fitness of Army horses in those days, think of Walter and a fellow officer deciding they would like to go and explore the country a bit - they rode for 50 miles (landing up in the French part of the line), and then they rode 50 miles home again. All in the same day, and because there were no roads, only grassy tracks, they cantered much of the time - certainly on all the flat stretches - although their riders got off and rested their backs walking up and down the hills,

He must have been a pretty unflappable horse as on one occasion his groom took his saddle off and put it to one side, when a shell came and blew the saddle to kingdom-come. Gladeye carried on eating his rations as if he were deaf . . .

This marvellous old war horse went on to lead a full life, hunting, playing polo, show jumping, showing and even ploughing! back on Walter Brooke's West Country farm. One of the lucky ones.

Friday 27 January 2012

Richard Jefferies by Henry Williamson

I collect Henry Williamson's novels. This one turned up at the Car Boot Sale last weekend and I had to have it. Indeed, Williamson's assessment of Jefferies' personality from childhood made me think he could have been describing poet Edward Thomas's personal development . . . Jefferies was Thomas's first literary hero and he happily roamed the countryside which Jefferies knew and loved - that South Country which Thomas was to later write about, and indeed in 1909 he had his own biography of Jefferies published. Apparently Jefferies was a lasting influence on Edward Thomas's wife, then widow, Helen Thomas, which is displayed in her antidote to grief, "As It Was" . . . THIS is an interesting blog post on the subject.

Here is a little taster of Jefferies' observational writing from a chapter entitled The Life of the Fields:

"It was between the may and the June roses. The may bloom had fallen, and among the hawthorn boughs were the little green bunches that would feed the red-wings in autumn. High up the briars had climbed, straight and towering whils there was a thorn or an ash sapling, or a yellow-green willow, to uphold them, and then curving over towards the meadow. The buds were on them, but not yet open; it was between the may and the rose.

As the wind, wandering over the sea, takes from each wave an invisible portion, and brings to those on shore the ethereal essence of ocean, so the air lingering among the woods and hedges - green waves and billows - became full of fine atoms of summer. Swept from notched hawthorn leaves, broad-topped oak-leaves, narrow ash sprays and oval willows; from vast elm cliffs and sharp-taloned brambles under; brushed from the waving grasses and stiffening corn, the dust of the sunshine was borne along and breathed. Steeped in flower and pollen to the music of bees and birds, the stream of the atmosphere became a living thing. It was life to breathe it, for the air itself was life. The strength of the earth went up through the leaves into the wind."

Have a good weekend - I have been laid up on the sofa today with a Bug which has given me a nasty temperature and aches in every joint, but I am feeling slightly more human now.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Gardening in January

I don 't recommend it. The sun was shining just a tiny bit, so I quickly put my gardening clothes on and headed outside to do battle with the tangle of roots of Sneezewort and Michaelmas Daisies which are heading in all directions and thriving too well in an area I intend to plant a shrub (Viburnum bodnantense "Dawn") which has been languishing in a big planter for 3 years now, being intended as something I was going to take with us and plant in our next garden . . . I have abandoned that hope now, and will put it in when I have finally cleared the Achillea and M.D.s.

I enjoy a challenge, but this one will take a bit longer than the half an hour I managed out there before it started with mini hailstones! The water level was so close to the surface anyway, and although I had my stout kneeling mat beneath me, water was squished over the edges and through the handle cutout! Anyway, I got a complete large rubber trug bucket full of weeds and roots out and I have distributed them to grow on in the wilderness in front of the paddock.

I had my rubbery gardening gloves on but they did little to dispel the cold of the mud that is my long border right now, but I warmed up a bit when I pulled out some half-dead Pansies in a planter and replaced them with some corns I found in a margarine tub in the barn which were wanting to grow and had been overlooked.

One of the positives was that at least the house felt warmer when I came indoors again - we are virtually out of heating oil and no money for any more this winter so things are a tad chilly. Now I'm tucked up on the sofa again, with the wood burner throwing out lots of heat - the best place to be right now.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

What you see is what you get

That just about sums me up. I learned when I was 8 that telling fibs gets you nowhere, and no-one likes a liar. I am an Aries, and too honest for my own good - I always assume other people share my code of conduct - although it is obvious to me on meeting some folk what sort of person they are. They don't have to say a word. I just "know". I have to sit on my hands sometimes, as there are some topics I could get on my high horse about and I am a bit opinionated! Just don't ask me about wind farms, or mass immigration or the employment situation in the UK.

On the Internet though, things are more Shadows and Mirrors and people can assume totally different personas and there are some more dubious characters out there!!! I once belonged to a Family History site where one chap started having an argument with another and boy, were they vitriolic! Then someone twigged it was one and the same person and pulled the rug out from under him/them! There's nowt as queer as folk . . .

But then, having said that, I have met people on the intertnet who have become the dearest - and lifelong - friends. You begin chatting and just "know" that you are on the same wavelength. These friends are like sisters to me - the sisters I had but never knew as they didn't survive birth/very early infancy. Some acquaintances fade out of your life - friends are for a reason, a season or life, so says the old saying. But sometimes others come back into your life and the chance to develop the friendship further is given.

There are many blogging-friends I would love to meet, and know we would get on like a house-on-fire. Others are a source of inspiration - especially where crafting is concerned. It gives an opportunity for different areas of your creative personality to shine - my drawing "skills" are having a work-out right nowand I even tried my hand at a small watercolour the other day. It was going well till I found the "white" was more pale pink!

I have to say, with my limited internet access at the moment, I feel quite lost without my friends to chat to when I feel the need. I am nailed to the sofa again today as I slept very badly last night - worrying that the alarm wasn't going to go off (our son had to be in work for 8 a.m.) Now I feel like I ran a marathon instead of sleeping last night!

I shall be glad to be able to use my photos on here again too . . .

Sunday 22 January 2012

Car Booty again

I didn't sleep well last night. We had had a viewing yesterday and last night I lay in bed worrying and fretting over how long it will take to sell the house and all sorts of associated problems. I was awake for about 4 hours and felt like death warmed up this morning, which made us late away to the boot sale. Anyway, it was still worthwhile as I got some John D Wood blue and white china in the "Yuan" pattern I collect - 6 cups and saucers, and 5 side plates for £3. I also found four books which came home with me - Henry Williamson's treatise on Richard Jefferies; Crafts from the Countryside by John L Jones, and best of all - one I'd wanted ever since I was doing my degree - The Settlements of the Celtic Saints in Wales by E G Bowen . . . I also got a craft book Decorating with Fabric Crafts, an American book which has some interesting ideas in it.

I also seem to have done a bit of Cosmic Ordering as my OH and I were discussing calling our builder (for advice) who specializes in restoring old houses and working with lime and other natural ecological substances such as hemp etc. We got back from the car boot sale, and blow me down, but he was out in our top field, metal detecting! Apart from meeting up in Tesco's in the run up to Christmas, we hadn't seen him for years . . . We had a lovely chat (all afternoon!) and got worries sorted out. Hopefully I will sleep better tonight.

I'm still on D's laptop . . .

Friday 20 January 2012


I'm writing this on my son's laptop aas my monitor developed a thin blue line of dead pixels and has been consigned to the bin in Curry's. It is being replaced FOC with a new one, but meanwhile I am left bereft and unable to function as normal.

Lynn - I will get back to you ref. postage, but right now it's difficult to function normally, as I have to keep looking up all my signing in details each time I borrow this. The cookery book I found I've discovered is half in Welsh (big section at the back, replicating all the recipes that were in English in the front half). That would be impractical as cost of posting it is for a book half of which is no good to you! I will get back to you and recommend a good one anyway.

Everyone else, hopefully by next week I shall be back to normal.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Frosty mornings

The header photo, and this one, were taken within minutes of one another this morning. I dropped the sash window open to get a better view, but gosh, the rush of cold air nearly took my breath away.

The last few mornings we have had a hard frost, though today was marginally better and it is slightly milder out now. It will take the house a few days to catch up though, as its thick stone and rubble walls have absorbed all the cold.

I was back to volunteering yesterday and enjoyed myself, although it was very quiet - just half a dozen people arrived during the time I was there, and four of those were regulars and just there for the cafe. So I sat quietly, waiting for more customers, reading a book of short stories I'd got from the mobile library a couple of hours earlier. Rather odd little stories, not without merit and capturing the little idiosyncrasies of the human spirit, by author Margiad Evans who spent most of her - short (1909 - 1958) - life in Herefordshire, near Ross-on-Wye, an area I am familiar with myself. I picked it off the shelf because the commendation on the jacket described her as "A close observer of nature, her descriptions of trees, water, rocks, the movement of air and the interplay of light and darkness, are both exact and fluid." I tend to be complacent with my choice of leisure reading and a book of short stories is easier to pick up and put down.

It was a bright sunny - if cold - day, and the view across the Deer Park was magnificent. I kicked myself for not picking up my camera as I had meant to, as a couple of dozen deer grazed the parkland, and the layered skirts of a massive Cedar of Lebanon showed inky-green against the washed out pasture and the paler trunks of oak, ash and chestnut which thrust branches up against the Wedgewood blue of the sky. I jotted down: "spindrift fingers of sunshine sent golden echoes beyond the trees, and spread a gilt nimbus around the deer." A belated River of Stones entry for the week . . .

As I sat and read and pondered, I was subliminally aware of the noises of people talking quietly in the corridor, of the music played in the Drawing Room (the Polka had my feet dancing), and the heavy deliberate ticking of the Grandfather clock across the hall from me and in my mind's eye, people from the house's past wandered by, preoccupied in their own spent lives, their emotions just a whisper held in the fabric of the place.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Moonlight on snow

Sometimes my memory is jogged by something and becomes stuck like a needle in a groove, hiccuping over and over the same link, finding something different each revolution. Here is one such memory.

We were 16, Tricia and I, when we were lured into the winter night by a snowfall and a full moon in a clear, clear sky which ripped the stars from their anchors and bid them play. The amber-paved streets passed beneath our feet as we left the lights behind us and cut across the Strawberry Field to Mr Starke's. It was light amongst the birch trees, and their elfin twigs supported no snow and showed like dark veins against the snowfall. A dark shadow hid the rotting remains of the ancient side-saddle in the recumbant shed. An old tin bath peeped from beneath a meringue of snow. The moon showed us that we had been preceded by wildlife, showing bird tracks and fox prints beside the fence.

The trees in the copse were the colour of wood-ash, lit by a reflected glow. Not the smallest breeze stirred the ivy which swarmed up the creviced bark of the oak tree where we crossed the stream. The moon splintered into fragments between the trees, and showed us sleeping zebras in the snow.

Heads shot up as we climbed the slope and grazing ponies were aware of our stumbling footfalls and heaving breath. The old hunter mare and her yearling were the first to approach, blowing clouds of soft hay-scented breath at us as they drew near. The moonlight showed her gaunt shape and the filly's toast-rack ribs. No extra feeds for gypsy-stock. Nicky, Cheeco and Maize crowded up, hoping for treats, and nudging our pockets with muzzles as warm as velvet cushions. In the periphery, Amber, wild as a hawk and twice as beautiful, hesitated for a moment, before deciding we were not the threat we were in daylight, and approaching us. We fetched a flake or two of hay from beyond the fence, and shook it across the snow, so there was a mouthful for all. We proffered it to her. Hungry, she grabbed a mouthful and stepped back, but then, to our amazement, stepped forward again and we touched her for the first time, running our frozen fingers down her tangled mane, stroking her shoulder and feeling no fear in her. Other ponies appeared from the shelter of the thick Hawthorn hedge and we threw over more hay.

The old grey mare, Cindy, glowed in the moonlight as she hobbled to another pile of hay, doomed to perpetual motherhood by a shoulder injury. Corinne followed her like a shadow, matching her mother's stride, and then they fed, noses together.

Never venturing near, little chestnut and white Tangy tit-tupped like a clockwork pony at the edge of the herd, still terrified of people. He wasn't to know that his life was ticking away, like the second hand on a clock.

I swear time stood still - that old cliche - in the magic of that moonlit night. None of us, human or pony, knew our futures - they had yet to unfold - and many of them holding heartache and tragedy - and for little skewbald Tangy, death . . .

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Walking through time

Map of early Southampton from Wikimedia Commons.

I had a strange end to my evening yesterday. We came up to bed early (I was really tired). I just wanted to look up something on the computer - two boundary stones I'd seen marked on an old (1835) map of Southampton (my home town) - the Bosell Cross Stone and the Haven stone. I'd never heard of either, so curiosity got the better of me. I found out about them (but Lord knows what happened to them, as they faded from memory, unlike some other places such as the village of Hill on the western borders of the town which ended up giving its name to busy Hill Lane.

Anyway, I digress. I got a Google map up of where I used to go riding, at Testwood. I was horrified to find that though the lane was largely unchanged, where the riding school had been was just a tangle of undergrowth and some sagging barbed wire. When I drove down there 8 or so years back, the outbuildings and stables were still standing although it was overgrown. Now there's no trace of them. It upset me beyond belief.

I knew I wouldn't sleep with that on my mind . . . so I Googled up a map of the area where I used to live in Southampton, starting at old Mr Stark's, where we kept our first ponies. The old couple are long dead - he was in his very late 70s/early 80s in the late 1960s. He had been a blacksmith in WW1 and one of the lucky ones that survived. I like to think us girls brightened up his life a bit, especially when the rats ran over our wellies when we went into the swill room (he kept pigs and we kept our pony feed with his pig feed) with only feeble torches for light on winter nights. We screamed like Banshees!!! One Christmas he and his wife asked us in for a Mince Pie and gave us a small glass of sherry each and then worried themselves witless that we would get home safely after" having had a drink". We were 16 at the time!

Their bungalow is still there. The 10 acres surrounding it no longer houses hens and black Dexter cattle for fattening, or teenage girls' ponies, but has had Christmas trees planted on part of it and vehicles abandoned in one corner.

Anyway, I popped the "walking person" down outside the field on the map and began walking up Portsmouth road, where all looked pretty much the same. I turned into Grange road and then Shop Lane - a couple of new houses, but the rest of it was comfortingly familiar and the fields either side of Shop Lane hadn't been built on so it must still be Green Belt. Then left into Botley Road, and lots of newbuild houses there - some replacing elderly bungalows which had had big gardens so made for good building plots. One place always looked abandoned and scary, and was surrounded by huge trees (the balsam-scented firs). We used to walk very fast past that one! That's long gone and a couple of big houses in its place.

Down past my old junior school, and the little fields opposite, that the gypsies rented and grew strawberries on (and which we cut across to Mr Stark's as they backed onto his stretch of woodland). I was glad to see they are still fields. When the gypsies bought ponies and grazed them there, we offered to "look after" them and I can remember buying hoof oil and the owners telling us to "put lots of that on!" - as they hadn't paid for it! I can still see those ponies so clearly: Shane, a narrow little palomino of about 12hh, Storm a similarly-sized skewbald and Kerry Blue, who was a grey Irish-bred gelding of about 13.2, with a hogged mane which rubbed our faces like a dandy brush when we jumped him. (The record was 4 foot - we maintained!!! - over a single "pole" (read branch), balanced on old oil drums and bricks, and approached galloping up between the old rows of abandoned strawberries. All bareback with just an ex-Army Surplus bit and a bridle made of a length of rope - the loop of the reins ended half way up Kerry Blue's neck!

My school hadn't changed much, nor had the houses by it - just a few newer ones. I wandered the long way back to my old home, as I had to follow the Google route, so along Orpen Road, which used to be "unadopted" and all muddy gravel and puddles in my time. Past the back of Charly Fadden's house - "don't go in the back garden, there's Adders out there" Mr Fadden senior told us. Past where the Target pub used to be and just the other side of the busy Bursledon Road is still the house where Spitfire inventor R J Mitchell lived. The Target was so named because it was built overlooking where the Rifle target practice area had been in late Victorian times, and Butts Road was named for the Rifle Butts there.

Then down the hill and past the old Co-op and then the little corner shop which was one of the first self-service shops in the 1960s - I can remember my mum going on about it! I still have a little bread-making recipes booklet I bought there in 1971, for 60p - and use it all the time. The refit was quite a change from the corner shop with the little dark brown pony in a "stable" (more like a prison, as it was dark and overgrown by shrubs) out back, that did the deliveries in the 50s. I can remember always looking in to see him when I took the cut past his stable. He had navicular and went the way of all broken down ponies, sadly.

Past Old Don's, "Don't talk to him dear, he's a bit strange - has a metal plate in his head from the war and he likes little girls . . ." Poor chap - he was always trying to give us sweets and entice us into his house, but whether he was what we would now call a paedophile, or just a sad lonely old man with a damaged head and a liking for children, we'll never know. Our parents didn't worry much and we knew better than to go with him.

Past the Ivy Tree - just a big old Hawthorn swarming with ivy - where the travelling gypsies would set up their caravans when they were visiting neighbours in the area. Once a little strip of a field, it had long become overgrown with shrubs and weeds and eventually got covered in housing, as did much of Weston Common. We used to go in and talk to them and they would come selling things to the houses roundabout - I remember swapping a pair of johdpur boots which rubbed me for a lovely arrangement of moss and Primroses that they'd made . . . All under houses now.

Past my old house, looking small and hemmed in on either side now - it stood in about 1/2 an acre when my dad bought it back in the 1950s, and had been the brickworks manager's house once. On one side was a wilderness of Gorse and Damson trees where the Nightingales sang. In those days, the old trackway to the brickworks still ran down past the back of our garden, and the remains of the brickworks buildings were still there, plus the ponds where they had dug for clay. Much of this area of Southampton had been brickworks from the late Victorian period until the 1930s.

Where Queenie Goddard resided behind her lace curtains and Fir Trees, with her tall hedge which was smothered with the white moonlike faces of Greater Bindweed and divided her plot from the prefabs - all gone and replaced with houses. The next corner shop is now turned into a private house again, whilst a tree still remains in Canterbury Avenue which probably even now has my DNA inside it after I was practising being a Dressage Horse and cantering BACKWARDS (as they do!!!) until I met the tree and came to an abrupt halt . . .

Beauchops, where we bought wool, talcum powder, haberdashery and wool, and also paraffin for the heater for the bathroom, is now a Tesco Extra . . . and the rest of the little row of shops is still serving the public too.

Past the Bullseye pub - still there - and past Checkleys corner shop (now a hairdressers') and down Bunny's Hill, where I once managed to bend my scooter round the one and only lamp-post in sight . . . Then along Botany Bay, which hasn't really changed at all, except for some more permanent dwellings for its travelling community . . .

I still know it all so well - like the back of my hand of course, as you do with your childhood haunts. The stories I could tell - the scrapes we got into - the adventures we had - and the freedom we had to run wild.

I hear that they will soon be filming The Wartime Farm (the next wonderful series with Peter, Ruth and Alec of The Victorian Farm, The Edwardian Farm and previously Escape to the Green Valley) at Manor Farm, Hedge End. I know this area as Cricket Camp. My parents lived there temporarily with other families after the war with dad's parents, when they had been bombed out of Southampton. I walked and rode and dog-walked there year upon year and know it well. Time Team were there, on the edge, excavating the remains of a Tudor warship (I know the exact spot). Happy memories. Perhaps I shall walk round that way next time . . .

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Sewing and crafting

My creative skills have suddenly resurfaced this new Year. You've seen I'm back drawing again - although the one I tried of poet Edward Thomas last night was not flattering. Having said that, it was a very difficult photograph to copy because it was "arty" with the light falling across his face so that the highlighting was very difficult to transcribe. I think it's fair to say that even his own mother wouldn't recognize him from my effort! I also did a slightly better drawing of a horse jumping - full stretch, a superb photograph - from the Racing Post, although the jockey had his elbow out and up and that was damn near impossible to draw as well! I might put that up later, but the Edward Thomas is one for the back of the cupboard!

Anyway, I can still remember how to sew cushions. These materials (half metre lengths of each) took me a long long time to chose - but what bliss it was choosing! The prints are from the Amy Butler Daisy Chain range. I wanted to make something extra for my middle daughter as she got sold short over her birthday present after the boots I thought I'd ordered were out of stock. The themed colour for her bedroom in the house she's sharing is turquoise and I LOVED these materials. The bold floral print looks very 1970s and retro and the yellow design on the other material is so pretty. Fortunately they don't match any of my colour schemes or I'd have been tempted to keep them myself! I just need some zips for them now, but that will have to wait until the weekend. To make the material make 2 cushions from each length, the backs are plain white glazed material - from the 50p a pair Lidl curtains!

My eldest daughter is having two cushion covers made from the purple Liberty print which I have hidden as much as possible - far left. She expressed a yearning for Liberty prints, so I thought I would do her a brace of cushion covers too. As she occasionally comes on here (and would you believe, did just before Christmas so she saw the Bunting destined for her!!!) I've hidden it as much as possible, but I'll put a photo up when they've been posted off to her.

Of course, I couldn't be left out and I spent FOREVER drooling over fabrics at The Cotton Patch Shop (I shall be back!) before finally plumping for one which had leapt off the page at me (a Kaffe Fassett design). Like G's fabrics, it matchs absolutely nothing in this house, but I DON'T CARE! I've wanted to paint our bedroom in Pansy violets for years - this is the nearest I shall get to purple in the bedroom!

Sunday 8 January 2012

Walking into the view again

I have had a very busy - but creative week - and I am afraid my commitment to A River of Stones now seems rash. It will have to be sporadic:

A River of Stones

As I walked, a chirruping stream sang a cascade of watery notes.

The landscape looked like winter had laid her petticoats out to dry.

The new wind farm above Brechfa. I'm afraid the words "wind farm" are not good ones in this area. I wish I could support this alternative energy technology but it is not cost-effective, not practical, is a placebo given by the Government to their totally impractical commitment to the Kyoto agreement, and a total rape of the countryside.

Looking towards the coast. On a clear day, you can see the hill topped by Llansteffan Castle. But not this day . . .

Through the trees, the top of the hills above Llanfynydd.

This sort of moss takes full advantage of our high rainfall and will colonize virtually any tree or branch or stump. I am being fanciful, but to the top rightt of the tree it looks rather like a human face and the broken stumps of branches could almost be arms!

Close to the start of my walk, the sun came out properly.

Above and below - evidence of practices from the past. These trees were once cut and laid, but then left to grow probably for the past 30 or 40 years. I'm glad to say that this particular skill is now being encouraged once again and there are new practitioners in the countryside.

The sun was breaking through and lifting my spirits as I strode downhill.

The photos above and below are typical of the landscape hereabouts. Fields of a few acres which formerly were much smaller but mechanisation and grants have encouraged farmers to grub out old hedgerows and banks to make the fields more easily managed. The tree of choice for boundaries in the past was either Hawthorn or Blackthorn to garner respect from livestock! When allowed to grow on, they make respectable trees.

Looking South-Eastwards down and across the valley of the Cothi. Right in the valley bottom are a couple of our neighbours' properties.

With such a diffuse light, the grass on the hedge banks was the only splash of colour.

Where it continues mild, amazingly I found this Blackberry still in flower, sheltered from the prevailing (West) wind by a thicket of Blackthorn.

Saturday 7 January 2012

My shop is almost open . . . you can browse anyway!

HERE is the link for the C&C shop, made necessary by a big vet's bill for Tippy's treatment (I've another bill to come too.)

A while ago I mentioned having an embroidered vintage tablecloth etc stash which I needed to downsize before we move and several people on blogs and forums expressed interest. I have listed some things in my shop blog, and there will be links to other bits on e-bay (later today hopefully) and I will add more items, including books etc in due course.

Now, if anyone can tell me how I can open a 2nd hotmail account, and then link the blog to it so people can get in touch with me directly, I'll be delighted! Brain currently in Frazzled mode!

Thursday 5 January 2012

Drawing . . . Rackham would have got first prize!

This took me hours - but it has been a good exercise in seeing what is really on a page, and interpreting it. I bet it didn't take Arthur Rackham anything like as long to execute, but he drew and painted all day long. Still, after pretty well a break since school days, with a few forays inbetween - mere arty hiccups - I am reasonably pleased with this. Mind you, I just could not get the hoof right (the foreleg with the darker shoe) - such an odd angle, and I rubbed out and drew it SO many times. Likewise I am not happy with the near hind leg, because whatever I did I couldn't get it to give the horse the movement and power that Rackham did. I think I have the length and angle of the second thigh wrong. I am surprised there is a rider AT ALL as I'm not good at people and stupidly, did the horse first and then had to fill in the rider!!!

Anyway, this - in its entirety - is Beaumains defeating the Green Knight.

Click on it twice for all its imperfections!

Tuesday 3 January 2012

A little bit of rain . . .

The floodplain of the Towy at Llandeilo.

A River of Stones:

Contorted Hawthorns queue to dip their toes
In the Towy's murky waters
As islands of green float by.

I was aware of gale in the night, but this house was built in the lee of a hill, and protected by tall trees, so spared the worst. I didn't hear the rain at all, but it must have deluged down as this morning the river was still very high and there were all the signs that it had been higher still. For starters, the lane was still under water when we drove down the hill and we had to reverse all the way back up again and go out over the top.

I ventured out later with my camera, and took some more photos. Above shows the river quadrupal its usual width, though it has been even worse in other years.

The stream took the short cut here, and went straight across the lane.

This one shows how the stream bank was trashed so the water level must have been a good couple of feet higher.

The river had been through this gap, but it also comes up through the drains.

This is fairly normal, the river rising and dropping several feet in a few hours.

Below is the leafage left behind by the river being on the road.

I also took photos when we were in Llandeilo, where the Towy had burst its banks just below the town. I'll post those tomorrow.

Artistic inspiration

Yesterday I was so inspired by Ann Somerset Miles' blog Journaling the Journal, and wanting to do something similar, I decided I would blow the dust off my sketch pad and have a go. It's only copying, rather than drawing freehand, but hey-ho . . . For inspiration I used a lovely book I found at the car boot sale recently, "Hedgerow" by Anne Angus, a local artist (Carreg Cennen way) and naturalist.

Birds don't come naturally to me. I did these first. I am at home with horses and flowers, as I know how they "work". I was secretly rather pleased with the birds . . .

And then I went blog-hopping and really blew my mind: Look HERE for starters, and HERE for starters!

So, a new year and a new start . . .

Monday 2 January 2012

Landscape through Trees

A River of Stones:

Bee-banded ferns caught my eye,
And lifted it to see
The sun on green fields,

Mossy roots and Green Trees . . .

Sunday 1 January 2012


I had time to think today . . . mostly when I was baking, trying to keep a flow of baked goods going into the oven and coming out ready to feed us for the week. In the name of frugality, I never put the oven on for just ONE thing any more.

Anyway, first of all I was thinking of a New Year's Resolution that I read in today's paper, where someone (whose name is already forgotten) resolved to learn a new word each day, to broaden his vocabulary and keep words alive. I loved that idea, and my word for today is dossil. That is probably extinct in usage now as it was "a plug, a spigot, a roll of cloth used for wiping down an engraved plate in printing; a pledget of lint for cleaning out a wound." Note to self, now look up pledget . . .

Do you remember A River of Stones from last January? I thought I would revisit it and join in again for this January. Whilst I was washing up, I looked across the yard and noticed:

As dusk falls in the yard, drowned cherry logs glow amber.

As I fed the outside cats their teatime meal:

A robin challenges the dusk with his song and,
Head cocked, awaits the reply.