“The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words”

You know me, never one word where 932 or so will do. But today I’m going to give you pictures and little else.

Yes, okay, I admit it, the red words in my last post did cause a minor tiff. Not on a scale that would normally bother me.  But at the moment I’m tired, dispirited and preoccupied with other more important things. So I’m in no mood to vent my fully justifiable fury at the world.

And anyway, it’s hard work, writing justifiable things.

It’s there though, building. Pressure cooker style.

Expect debris.

And no doubt I will feel the fallout. But I will be secure in the knowledge that I am right. (That’s for one of my other online jousters,  who’s always accusing people-like-me of being smug, virtue-signalling liberals. Sigh)

SOOOOOOO.

Gardens. And birds. A double treat.

The quote is from that widely disparaged colonial-style poet Rudyard Kipling. Not my go-to poet of choice, but he happened to be to hand. And it’s appropriate.

So, here we go, my modest back garden and WLBF*.

And my capacious (enough for three or four cars though we only have one) front garden. Largely paved, thank you predecessor (we dug some of it up). And WLBF* there too.

*WLBF?

What Lurks Beyond the Fence – and the reason we were happy with our modest patch of land. Look and you’ll see what I mean…

First, the front section of my springly selections 🙂

Trees to the side of our front garden, in the golf course rough, which LBF

My favourite tree, sort of in front of the garden-ish and also LBF

A white rose planted by our predecessor – and bear in mind, this is early May and it is unfurling already!

The bay laurels have all flowered (we have several) and are looking fat and healthy

Prostrate Rosemary making her bid for freedom – love her pretty flowers!

I don’t usually like variegated things but enigmatic pulmonaria – lungworts – tucked into shady hiding places are gorgeous

Convolvulus cneorum – white flowers are very hard to photograph!

A prostrate ceanothus/California lilac with one of the chive plants that edge the border and lemon balm

California lilac (ceanothus) and buddleia yet to flower and real lilac which never has yet

The yew puts on such bright green growth in spring

Now for the back…

Sempervivum – houseleeks – good for healing burns – rub the burn with the juicy end of a leaf pulled out

Early geraniums and ferns unfurling

Starburst of a the broom just keeps on keeping on – bees love it and it smells like honey – set off by perennial wallflowers

A shy violet has found its way beneath a step – which is good for butterflies to hatch from

Mexican daisies get everywhere and I love them – met them first on the Scilly Isles

More – love them!

Red French lavender

Spanish lavender

Paeony putting on her crinoline, serenaded by bees in the wallflowers

Hydrangea petiolaris, the self-clinging climbing one, those modest white flowers again – so elusive

Ah – and the sky above, free floating spirits only need apply (or those needing solace after stress)

And looking back to WLBF behind our – and the neighbours’ – garden

Finally, I promised you some birds – well, perhaps not quite so soothing, nature after all, is red in beak and talon.

It’s prowling

Intent on menace

Baby snatched 😦 !

But all is well, and all manner of thing shall be well, or at least, on a sunny day, in spring, at the nature reserve on the moss they shall 🙂

 

Posted in Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Nature notes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

The Edge. Part II

Bank Holiday weekend was looming, so the weather was far from perfect. But on Alderley Edge the view was clear and the rain seemed to have withdrawn its threat for while.

Plodding uphill, I’ll be honest, I felt a bit disappointed.

I’d been in the mood for magic.

I’d chosen to wear my 1960s Scandinavian silver ring with the blue enamel. I don’t know why I thought I was a thing to do. The Norse myths, I suppose.

You see how daft a mood I was in?

It’s always like this, when I go expecting miracles.  Like my miserable trip to St Winifred’s Well, to stay with the nuns.

Anyway.

Back to the Edge.

To lichen-clad stone walls.

To ferns, unfurling.

To the juicy green of April leaves.

Subdued skies and dappled views through tall trunks and long branches.

All working its magic as I climbed up to the Beacon.

Which was not what I expected, surrounded as it was by lofty trees.

But then, the paths led on. To rocks – and a vista over the plain.

I found the Engine Vein, where Mary [see quote, Part I] went underground. And learned she didn’t need books, to know.

“The Engine Vein was a deep crevice in the rocks, and along it went the tramroad for the miners who dug galena, cobalt and malachite … Mary was not allowed at the Vein. It killed at least one every year … Above and behind her Mary saw the last of the day. In front and beneath was the slope, where it was always night.” Alan Garner, The Stone Book

As close as I could get to the opening – it is fenced off

I wandered up and down and round and about.

Past rocks stained green with copper.

Natural phenomena, with sinister teasing faces.

I saw those two dark holes as eyes, watching. I stepped back to get a better view and walked into the grabby branches of a tree

And still they watched as I walked away!

Browsing rabbits.

A shy, beautiful jay.

And ominous black birds. Demons in disguise? Guardians of the magic? Or familiars?

I felt a little frisson, as if I was being watched. Silly, I know. But still,  I was glad there were people passing, now and then. Enough for reassurance – but spaced for some isolation.

A bellowing sound rose over an incline. A child appeared.

I smiled.

‘Was that you?’ I asked. ’Goodness, I thought it was a monster.’

His mother smiled, turning her doting gaze down on him.

The child, not long ago a toddler, looked at me with an empty face and cold eyes. Raised a stick he was carrying. Pointed it at me.

A broken twig had left a nub behind and his thumb went to it as he stared at me.

And I realised.

‘Oh no, are you killing me?’

His mother realised too. Shocked she gasped, ‘Henry, no, really!’

Hmm. Maybe remnants of dark Old Magic lurked there after all…

Back at the car park I bought a cheery orange lolly-ice from the ice cream van. Ate it beside a hedge of May blossom, scanning the horizon.

Then set the sat nav for home.

Fool that I am, I tapped, ‘avoid freeways’. Again. Thinking the traffic – by now it was approaching 4pm – would be worse on motorways.

‘Recalculating route,’ the maddeningly calm voice said, before I’d even started.

I turned around. Set out.

But The Edge had put its curse on me.

She-who-must-be-obeyed led me down long country lanes to ‘road closed’ signs. Stopping me from accessing every available route, or so it seemed.

I was trapped in a spider’s web, woven by malign traffic spiders.

And my journey time had gone from 1.5 to 3 hours.

Once more I found myself in the constituency of former Chancellor, George Osborne. I gritted my teeth and drove. Reached a small town, relieved that at least there I’d find some signs.

And the first signs I saw were for:

An Aston Martin dealership

A luxury watch supplier

Financial asset management

and

“Advanced rejuvenation”.

By this time my head was bubbling with rage.

I’m going to leave the words I typed just as they left my fingers – so you can see how cross I (still) was:

I am glad when people do well in their lives, but there’s soemthign about the thought of a man who earns £20,000 an hour* for speaking that makes me furious. That and thde fact that he is an MP, with duties, and a slary, and a family firm that make shim money. Hoe gredy can one man be? And isn’t it immoral? this man’s recebtly been key to the running of the ocutnry alebit badly – he was the argcitect of the faile austerity prgamme after all, whose targets wreemnsieed and whos ergiuem sasw poor people iwht one spare bedroom penalised whiel the rich got spared some of their inheritance atx.

As I left that prosperous Cheshire town, I was seething.

And then I found what felt like salvation. A dual carriageway.

But.

Ms Satnav suddenly lost her voice.

The road was so new she didn’t recognise it.

I screamed inside. And began to panic. And finally, switched her off.

I had no map book. I didn’t know (sad but true) whether I should be going east or west. Which made choosing a motorway a gamble.

I mentally threw the dice. And found myself at Manchester Airport, Terminal Two. Weary, but at least now I knew which way to go …

Back the way I’d come.

At last, with (almost) a feeling of joy, of coming home, I joined … the M6. And a queue. A veritable jam.

I assumed it was volume of traffic. But eventually I crawled past the cause.

A black car, crumpled. Air bags deployed. Nose inwards from the central reservation.

Two other vehicles, one on the hard shoulder. A scatter of debris on the road. Stunned looking people standing still. And no emergency services.

It had happened very recently.

And I was lucky.

I put George Osborne – and pitchforks – out of my mind. Journeyed home calmly.

Did a little supermarket shopping. Ate a salad. Had a glass of wine.

Slept. And woke.

Then, loading up the pictures from The Edge I finally felt the magic.

Just one last thing.

There’s a character in The Stone Book called Old William. Not old but deaf and never married.

I want to end with his words:

“That’s what comes of reading,” said Old William, ‘”you’re all povertiness and discontent…”


 

*I made the mistake of looking up, then adding up, how much George Osborne was paid (expected to be paid as they put it) for speaking engagements between September 2016 and March 2017.

The answer is £941,584 for 46.5 hours work. I didn’t include the pennies though of course look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves as Mr Osborne no doubt needs to ensure. On top of this – and not listed – the travel and accommodation costs were paid in the majority of cases and we are talking locations from Hungary and Dubai to the USA.

The site that let me into these fury inducing statistics is here if you want to be incensed by his other ‘member’s interests’:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/11145/george_osborne/tatton

Posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then, Thinking, or ranting, or both | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The Edge. Part I

As any sensible grown-up knows, traffic on a Friday afternoon before a spring Bank Holiday weekend is likely to be bad – and unnecessary driving best avoided.

As any sensible adult would almost certainly agree, if there’s also a train strike on that Friday, it’d be doubly foolish to set out on a jaunt.

But then, I wasn’t being a sensible adult.

Our house looked like an adolescent had been left in charge for a week. I’d been all alone. The academic was researching in Ghana. I was just – um – reading. Weird things.

It began with The Stone Book, by Alan Garner.  A book which gives me strange feelings inside. Not fear. Not joy. Something in between.

Enough to make me wonder about the world.

About the connectedness of minds, of Nature, history and prehistory.

Of the presence and absence of time.

And timelessness.

Here’s what the blurb at the front says (bear with me, it’s long, but will be relevant):

‘Astride the golden weathercock at the top of the new church, Mary looked down on the Victorian village that her father had helped to build […].

Mary wished she could go to school and learn to read. She wanted a prayer book to carry to Chapel. Other girls in the village had books, although they could not read, and used them for pressing flowers.

Mary’s father was a stonemason, and he could read books and also the inside of stones. When Mary asked him if she could have a book, he took her under the hill where the stone came from. ‘Follow the malachite,’ said Father. And Mary walked, by herself, deep into the layers of the earth. When she returned she knew a wonderful secret, and she did not need to ask again for a book.’

Now, there are many, many things about this book that make it obviously written for me.  But not needing, or wanting, books, you may surmise, isn’t one of them – and you’d be right.

Yet, the more I watch and listen and learn from the world out there – and the world inside – the more I realise that book-learning’s only a thin dimension of all the learning-to-be-done about our planet and all that’s in it.

There are so many aspects of this book that make a butterfly unfold its wings in my insides, it would take forever to explain. So, here’s just one.

Some time ago I wrote an unfinished novel about a young woman. Eve and the Serpent, it was called. Eve met a man who played saxophone in an orchestra. He also played a period instrument. And the instrument was a serpent. Or, more accurately, an ophicleide.

Now, I don’t know about you, but despite being familiar with classical music, I didn’t grow up knowing about ophicleides. I only found out about them when I researched serpents (of the musical kind) for this book.

From an 1888 French catalogue (Public domain via Jean Luc Matte)

The Stone Book features an ophicleide.

Alan Garner is famous for his weird and magical children’s books. Some of you may have read  The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath.

A little while ago, I began to take an interest in Norse mythology and wrote about it in relation to trees. Which is when I discovered ‘brisingamen’ originates in Norse mythology as the necklace of the goddess Freya.

Alan Garner says he does not write for children, he writes for himself. I read the two ‘big’ books as a child and they are marketed as children’s books, but the final part of the trilogy, only a recent publication, Boneland, is very deep, much more adult in tone to my mind – bonkers but brilliant! It is only thanks to my lovely friend Ginni that I have this quartet featuring The Stone Book. One of the best presents ever.

I love connectdnesses – and so revisited the Garner books. Twice.

The second time this week.

I was so enthralled – in their thrall – that I had to go. I had to see The Edge for myself.

Alderley Edge (where I believe an elderly Alan Garner still lives) is in Cheshire.

Cheshire is regarded as the posh bit of northern England. Into which it barely scrapes, being more like northern midlands to my mind.

It’s a stockbroker belt. A place of high house prices and footballers.

‘Real Cheshire Housewives’ on TV.

On Friday I set out to drive there, selecting ‘avoid freeways’ on the sat nav since I was all alone.  Because between me and the Edge is the M6, a motorway I’ve mistrusted ever since I was 21 and the best friend a girl could wish for was killed on it in a car crash.

But … Bank holidays are also the time when roadworks appear at the least convenient times and places. And after two ‘detours’ I succumbed. Parked. Re-set the sat nav for ‘fast’ and joined the cantering hordes on the dreaded M6.

It was only then I realised I was heading for Manchester airport and felt a pang of guilt. If I was going to drive there for a jaunt, why not to pick up the homecoming traveller on Saturday?

Sigh.

So much guilt. Over so many things. Over so many years.

But on  I pressed. Past the constituency of our former Chancellor of the Exchequer (we’ll come back to George Osborne later) and finally, to Alderley Edge.

There’s a ‘village’ of that name below the actual Edge.

The high street was busy. Stuck behind a black, Porsche 4×4 which was waiting to turn into the car park of – where else – Waitrose [foreign friends – this is an upmarket supermarket] – I watched an unrelenting parade of white or black, shiny 4x4s heading in the other direction and began to regret my venture.

What if the Wizard café (my first goal) was secretly ‘stockbrokers only’?

Well, there was no turning back, now.

The Porsche turned. I ploughed on. Up the hill. Past men in ear protectors mowing other men’s lawns. Past gates and walls and rhododendrons. To the top of the hill and ‘you have reached your destination’ – a rough roadside car park. Not the Wizard’s place.

Two men in real workmen’s gear stood chatting. The Wizard’s Tea Room raised a smile and a wave of the arm. So, on I drove. Found it. Parked.

And heaved a sigh of relief.

It was small and dark inside, but then wizards are comfortable with darkness, I imagine.

The Wizard of local legend revealed an army of knights with milky white horses sleeping beneath these hills to a farmer whose white horse he needed and paid with treasure.They wait till they are needed to save the world – meanwhile large black birds keep watch …

I ate a toasted bacon sandwich – delicious, thick bacon, no fat, perfectly cooked – and drank Cheshire tea. The ‘loose leaf’ tea, oddly, came in a bag – albeit a large one.

The time had come to brave the hill.

Fearing disappointment, I reached a gate and hardly dared pass through. But then I saw a sign: ‘To the Beacon’.

I thought of the eve of Gomrath.  Of the fateful decision of Susan and Colin to light a fire.

And how close the world then came to ending.

It didn’t feel like the lonely place atop a hill where two scared, cold children had lit a fire which burned cold and raised a fearsome ancient force. But this was just the start…

Well, that’s enough for today.

Part 2’s about vistas, visions – and a rather angry me.

Posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments