Elinor, our younger daughter is self-isolating until Christmas Eve after being contacted by ‘Test and Trace’. We think she may have been near someone, who has since contracted Covid-19, while she was at the hairdresser’s in Norwich on Thursday 10th December. She is physically well at the moment. Richard and I have no need to self-isolate as yet, because Elinor has no symptoms, but are being very cautious and have limited our journeys to necessary shopping. Elinor is so unfortunate! She had not left our house and garden, except for one walk round the lanes when she didn’t see a soul, for five whole weeks and the one time she went further afield the result was self-isolation for ten days! She suffers from chronic anxiety, so goodness knows whether she’ll have the courage to leave the house ever again! She is very unhappy and depressed and desperately needs a hug which we can’t give her. We completely understand that we must limit our contacts with other people until this pandemic is under control but the damage all this isolation and lock-down is doing to so many people, physically, mentally and financially is unimaginably great. My elder daughter Alice, who has Bi-polar 2 disorder is also having a very hard time stuck in Sheffield, unable to see her friends or visit us. Her husband is unwell at present and is needing a lot of care.
The only thing that has been keeping me going through this year is music. I’ve not been able to concentrate for long enough to get much enjoyment from reading and I can’t seem to string more than a few words together, either speaking or writing. My memory is dire and my arthritis is troubling me a lot. Music has been a balm to my soul, though it often causes me to cry.
I have selected a few pieces of music to share with you that have made me laugh, made me smile and even caused a tear or two.
This first video was shown me by Elinor some time ago and many of you may have seen it already. I hope you enjoy it.
I have always loved listening to music that tells a story or is so descriptive that if I close my eyes I can be transported away from the here-and-now to another world. This next piece of music is best listened-to with your eyes shut so that you aren’t distracted by anything.
I have long been an admirer of Bill Bailey. He is an accomplished actor, musician, comedian and extremely knowledgeable on many subjects. He has also just won the latest Strictly Come Dancing Glitterball prize with his partner, Oti. A very versatile man!
I think most of my British readers will recognise this next piece either from the original Dick Barton radio series or from the Mitchell and Webb ‘Sir Digby Chicken Caesar’ sketches. It’s called ‘The Devil’s Gallop’. It came on the radio the other week while I, along with a few other impatient drivers, was following a tractor and a couple of heavily-laden lorries on the A143 on the way to Diss. It made me laugh.
Just before ‘The Devil’s Gallop’ was played on the radio I had been entertained with a similarly blistering, breakneck piece of music. How many key-changes can you hear in this one?!
I have been listening to the St Martin’s-in-the-Field Thursday recordings of Great Sacred Music for some time now. There are three or four pieces of music, usually including a hymn, and a narration in-between each piece by Rev. Dr Sam Wells. I have found these performances so soothing and comforting!
I recently bought some new Christmas music recorded by the Choral Scholars of the University College Dublin. The first track is a wonderful rendition of In Dulci Jubilo written by Matthew Culloton. You may find that if you keep listening after this track all the others on the album will be played for you!
The whole collection of songs on ‘Be All Merry’ are fabulous but I thought this next recording of theirs spoke to me so clearly about how I am feeling this Christmastide. I hope you agree with me.
I hope you have enjoyed my selection and that you also, can find some solace and happiness in listening to music.
I wish you all as Merry a Christmas as it is possible to have in this troubled world of ours and that we can all meet again in the New Year with hope in our hearts, God willing.
This post, again, won’t be a normal one for me; not that I have been posting very often over the past few years so ‘normal’ is probably not the correct word to use, but that’s by-the-by.
Just like many people, I haven’t been able to concentrate, especially when it comes to reading the books I would normally choose to read. As well as anxiety about the virus I have had a bad flare-up of my osteo-arthritis in my hands and feet which has meant I haven’t been able to do much housework or gardening, any sewing or knitting, typing or writing for any length of time, or walk far without pain. (Fortunately, after over a month, the discomfort is now ebbing away.) However, I have been doing a lot of thinking. I have also been sitting with Elinor while she works at her university projects. She suffers from chronic anxiety and this virus has made her unhappy and she too, has found concentration very difficult. If I sit with her at the kitchen table she is more likely to get on with work than if she stays in her room where there are distractions aplenty and opportunities to slide into despondency. She is also aware before I am when I start to drift off to sleep and she gives me a helpful nudge. She has introduced me to many things during our companionable vigils in the kitchen and not all of them are to do with graphic design and graphic illustration – her degree subject. Her on-line ‘research’ has led us down many winding paths, admittedly some more interesting to me than others. We have found many Covid-19 articles as you have too, no doubt.
First, this article from Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. Please watch the video in the article.
I think all of us who are especially vulnerable will find our situation similar to that of the Lady of Shalott.
I have been listening to music. I have been reading poetry and short stories, essays and children’s books. Everything that doesn’t need me to concentrate for too long. I was rather pleased with my choice of Lent reading this year. The first book I read was ‘Simply Good News’ by Tom Wright. I started it before the pandemic got going and even though my reading slowed down I was able to finish it and read my second book, ‘Luminaries: Twenty Lives That Illuminate the Christian Way’ by Rowan Williams, before Lent finished. Tom Wright’s book explains why the Christian faith is ‘good news’ and shows that many Christians over the centuries have lost sight of this. It is an exceptionally easy book to read and explains our faith, or what it ought to be, very clearly. Rowan William’s book is an excellent read with twenty short essays on different people from St Paul to St Oscar Romero who are inspirational role-models. I see that this book has been chosen by the Bishop of Ipswich and St Edmundsbury as recommended reading for this month.
I read and enjoyed Margery Allingham’s ‘Flowers for the Judge’. Allingham’s plots are better in some of her books than in others. However; I don’t read her novels for the plot but for the atmosphere she creates and her excellent descriptions of London in the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s, of her characters, their mannerisms and names, of the weather and how it affects towns, country and people, of the countryside, especially the East Anglican countryside.
I am currently reading ‘A Literary Pilgrim in England’ by Edward Thomas the war poet. This is a book of essays by Thomas about many of England’s (and Scotland’s) most famous writers. The book is over a century old and was published in 1917, the year of Thomas’ death; he was killed while fighting in the Battle of Arras. He talks about the influence ‘place’ had on all these writers and divides the book into areas. For example, ‘The West Country’ has pieces on Herrick, Coleridge and W H Hudson; ‘The East Coast and Midlands’ features Cowper, George Crabbe, John Clare, Fitzgerald, George Borrow, Tennyson and Swinburne. I am enjoying it very much being a devotee of Edward Thomas’ writing.
Our rector, Leon has been working hard to keep us together and in touch as a community of worshippers who cannot worship together in the same place and whose churches are locked. Apparently, worshipping together in church will be one of the last things we will be permitted to do once the lockdown eases. Singing is the main problem as this forces globules supposedly full of virus out of our lungs just as much as coughing and sneezing does. Even if we decide not to sing hymns there will be other considerations that would probably make going to church difficult. Leon puts a short talk on YouTube each Sunday and has also begun midweek services from one of our churches. For the past couple of weeks some of us have been having a Zoom chat for 45 minutes at the usual Sunday service time.
May you all keep safe and well.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
I find listening to music such a comfort! It soothes and calms me, it invigorates and excites me, I couldn’t be without it!
I have spent hours this week driving myself, my mother and my daughter to appointments in Norwich. I am tired and recovering from a head-cold and a migraine and would like to write a post but haven’t the energy or the time.
Here are some pieces of music inspired by the month, the season and or the weather. Some are long pieces and some are short; some are classical pieces and some are not. I hope you enjoy listening to them.
Nova Scotia January – Waltz from Cape Breton played by Helicon.
Winter from The Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
The Skater’s Waltz by Émile Waldteufel
The Snow is Dancing No. 4 from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy
Winterlust, Polka schnell by Josef Strauss
Der Schneemann by Erich Korngold
Lieutenant Kijé Suite by Prokofiev
Snowbound by Genesis
January by Kristina Train
White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes
And to finish, an excerpt from the first Pink Panther film from 1963 set mainly in the ski resort of Cortina D’Amprezzo.
This year has been….unsatisfactory. Nothing terrible has happened. We are in fairly good health, we are comfortable and very fortunate. But….almost everything we have tried to do this year has not been straightforward. There have been delays, cancellations and anxieties. I think the last update I wrote on our affairs (this is after all a diary blog) – apart from our holidays, a couple of outings and a few posts of things I’ve seen – was in the spring. I seem to have had less time than ever before for getting things done.
We visited Lowestoft on Tuesday this week so that Elinor could attend a podiatry appointment. The weather was cloudy and damp but fairly warm for the time of year. This is Lowestoft South Beach
Richard’s first year of retirement was meant to be a year in which we improved our lot. Retirement after over 40 years of continuous employment was always going to be a bit of a challenge but he decided he was going to see how the first six months went before making any decisions about what he would do with his time. He has found that he doesn’t miss the work at all though he does miss the social aspect of going out to work. Living in the country, some miles from the nearest town means that we don’t see people very often and we have to work hard to get any kind of social life – or go without. He has come to no decision as to whether he takes up a hobby, does voluntary work or any other activity; he has been too busy with the house and driving Elinor about. He has been a church warden for many years and is a member of our church’s PCC (Parochial Church Council). He has recently joined our local Parish Council too so he has employment enough!
Gulls on the breakwater
His retirement began with the death and funeral of his mother, which was not a good start. He has missed her very much; her support of him, her good sense, her understanding. Our holiday in the Peak District this year was taken at the anniversary of her passing and those of you who have kindly followed this blog for over a year will remember that we heard of her death last year as we arrived in the Peaks all prepared to go and visit her.
Looking towards Lowestoft docks
Richard has enjoyed working in our large garden and making a few improvements to it and to our house. We started the year by getting all our windows and doors replaced. We have a new summerhouse and a new potting shed. Our next project was to gut the family bathroom upstairs and the downstairs shower room and get new suites for both rooms and then redecorate. We asked around for suitable plumbers and a couple were recommended. We selected one and he came to see us and plans were made. It was decided that we would also have a water-softener fitted which was done as soon as the downstairs shower room was finished. And this is where things really went wrong. We hadn’t been happy with the speed at which the work was done. Days went by when no-one turned up. There were delays and more delays. We said that the upstairs bathroom would have to wait until we returned from Germany as we didn’t want anything left half done while we were away. The plumber failed to return. He has made no contact with us and has not responded to any of our messages. We had already paid him, at his request, for the work done to the shower room and for the water softener (we ought to have smelt a rat here!) but there are still a few things that need to be finished off properly in the shower room, ‘snagging’ it is called, which now will never be done except by us, in our non-professional way. We have a garage full of bathroom fittings and tiles and also some of the plumber’s and his men’s tools and equipment which they haven’t collected. We must find ourselves another plumber but we cannot face the upheaval until some time in the new year. I hope the work is done at a time when it isn’t too cold!
Off-season seaside resorts are a little sad and quiet
We have just had our gas boiler replaced. We use propane gas as we aren’t on mains gas here in the country. It is very expensive but the alternatives, oil or electricity, are not ideal either, both being very expensive too and as we have a gas fire and a gas hob, a gas boiler is the best option for us. We found a gas fitter who was able to get the work done during the second half of October. It was to take three days. In the end it took quite a bit longer as inevitably, problems were found. The fitter wanted it all done by the end of October as he was going to Las Vegas to celebrate his son’s 21st birthday and he did manage to get his part of the work done by then. He arranged for an electrician to come and wire the boiler up but the electrician couldn’t come immediately and when he eventually came he had difficulty with the system. He got it done, so he thought, and we thanked him and sent him on his way but when the boiler switched on the water heated but the pump wouldn’t work. We called the electrician back and he tried again. It still didn’t work. We contacted the fitter when he returned from Las Vegas and he eventually got it going. It took two and a half weeks to fit the boiler and the weather had been quite chilly! Fortunately we have an electric immersion heater which meant we still had hot water, a gas fire in the living room and a portable gas fire which we put in the hall at the foot of the stairs. Elinor got the electric fan heater in her room and the fitter left us another electric fan heater in case of emergency. We wore lots of layers!
At the same time as the gas fitter started work Richard began experiencing severe pain in his leg and back. He saw the doctor who gave him lots of tablets and lots of advice. He was in agony but manfully struggled on until he found that his leg was becoming numb and it was unable to take any of his weight. He fell over a couple of times and hurt himself. We phoned 111 and the medics there passed Richard on to the out-of-hours doctor. I took Richard to Beccles hospital to see the doctor that evening. Richard has a partially slipped disc in his back and a trapped sciatic nerve – not full sciatica as he could still feel his foot! He has still managed to fall over a few times since then – falling down the stairs while I was out with my mother for the day; falling over in the garden while I was out again – but at last the feeling is beginning to return to his leg and the pain has subsided. The hope is he will gradually be able to do more things and the feeling will come back completely. He has been told it will take four to six weeks. At first, he could hardly walk even with a stick and was unable to drive at all. He can now drive very short distances but the damage is in the leg he uses for the clutch pedal and he doesn’t trust himself to be able to do an emergency stop, to drive in heavy traffic, to drive far. I am doing all the driving at present.
The sea front with Richard and his walking stick
Elinor’s college course since September this year only asks for her to be at college for two and a half days a week. Richard is at home most of the time now he is retired. I must admit I miss my alone time and my routines have had to be changed to accommodate these other domestic changes. One good thing is that Richard and I now (usually) share the duty of driving Elinor to college and I found a little more time to work in the garden this summer! I still visit my mother a lot and take her shopping and to her many hospital, doctor’s and optician’s appointments. She is gradually losing her sight and as each month passes I notice she has less energy and is less interested in doing things. I take her to church once a fortnight; the intervening week I go with Richard to our church. I miss going to church in my benefice every week; I miss the people, the churches, the services and the preaching. But, my mother needs me and I can’t let her down. I like my mother’s church and I am so pleased to be able to help her do what she needs and loves to do. There used to be members of her church who collected her and brought her home but not any more. The people who used to do it have either died or moved away and as her church is some miles from where she lives there is no-one now who could easily collect her.
The sandy beach
Elinor did really well at the end of the course she took last academic year. She re-took her GCSE Maths and managed to get a ‘C’ grade which is what she was hoping for. She never has to go to a Maths class ever again! She also got a distinction in her Art and Design course and everyone was very pleased with her. She applied for and got a place on the two year Graphic Art course she had wanted to go on the year before. Despite this achievement she is unhappy that yet again she is the oldest one on her course and cannot find anyone interested in being friends with her. She is lonely. She has been extremely anxious and has struggled to attend college during the past few weeks and has found that working at home has been difficult too. She is frightened of making mistakes and that her work might not be of high enough quality. So she prevaricates and then avoids doing anything and then panics when she realises she is behindhand. It is impossible to convince a chronically anxious person that their fears are unfounded so life at home has been distressing for us all. There is no escape from the constant pressure of it. It is our elephant in the room; except it isn’t an elephant as they are too nice. It is a troll, a gremlin, a monster, a sickness that is almost palpable and it is ever-present.
A Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) eating the tiny crabapples on our species crabapple tree. The Fieldfares have just arrived for the winter from where they spend the summer in Scandinavia
There is however, a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. We have tried over the years, many different ways to deal with Elinor’s mental health issue. In our ignorance at first, we attempted the stern attitude. Well, that failed spectacularly. We then saw many different therapists who tried countless different methods of finding out why Elinor is as she is and then attempting to help her by getting her to talk about things, them talking to her about things, giving her Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and oh, all sorts of therapies. Last winter we even resorted to drugs at the insistence of her GP (family doctor). The side effects were awful and it took until the summer for her to stop getting flashbacks and nightmares.
The Fieldfare again. They are beautiful and fairly shy birds.
A couple of months ago my hairdresser told me that she was seeing an acupuncturist because of depression and anxiety. The affect on her health and happiness had been astounding and she was feeling better than she had for years. She had had regular appointments at first but at the time of talking to me about it she was only going back now and again for ‘top-ups’. This got me wondering if it would be something that Elinor could try. I carefully spoke to Elinor about it but she refused to contemplate the thought of someone sticking needles in her. I tried again two weeks ago when Elinor was tearful and desperate for some kind of relief. She said she might be willing to think about it. She thought, and ten days ago she thought we might do some research into it. She then agreed that it was something she would be willing to try… but those needles..! On Thursday last week while Elinor was in college for her half day I went to see my hairdresser to ask for the name of her acupuncturist. By a happy chance this lady was having her hair done at that moment and agreed to talk to me. I have made an appointment for Elinor to see her next week. We will see what happens.
A small Common toad (Bufo bufo) hitching a ride in the wheelbarrow
Alice, my elder daughter who lives in Sheffield, has directed her first play. It was a great success and Alice enjoyed the experience but found it exhausting. We thought she would need a rest from her drama group for a while but she tells us she ‘accidentally’ auditioned for their next play and got cast! Can anyone explain how one can accidentally audition for a play?
A Scabious flower from the garden photographed in October
She had become unhappy living in the house she shared with a few other young people – they were fine but the landlady was awful – so she gave a month’s notice and found another house with a room to let and moved in at the beginning of this month. She has bi-polar disorder and if she gets over-tired or anxious her health deteriorates. The play and then moving house caused her to be very tired and quite anxious so she did feel under-the-weather for a while. She applied for another six-month temporary job at a higher grade in the university library department where she works, got an interview last week and has been successful! She hopes to start the job at the beginning of next month. Yet again it is only a part-time job and is only for six months but the money is better than what she gets at present and one must never look a gift-horse in the mouth – as they say.
Dog-rose hips (Rosa canina)
There we are. A resumé of most of the events of the past year with many gripes and groans included. What I intend doing is to post a few photographic highlights of the past six months (yes, there were a few highlights!) during the next few weeks. I hope to intersperse these with some current affairs on the approach to Christmas. Whether I manage any of it, who can tell!
Hawthorn berries (Crataegus monogyna)
I leave you with my music selection which is the Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s opera ‘Peter Grimes’. Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft and lived for many years a few miles further south along the coast at Aldeburgh. I love the music from Peter Grimes and these interludes give a taster of the opera as a whole but without the singing! The four interludes are entitled ‘Dawn’, ‘Sunday Morning’, ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Storm’ and the playing time is about 17 minutes.
When we moved to Somerset for 18 months twelve years ago I was very homesick and I listened to this music a lot while we were there to remind me of the coast I love. Looking through the comments on the different recordings on Youtube I find I am not the only person to find this music, especially ‘Dawn’, so evocative of the Suffolk coast and the North Sea.
After the warmest December on record and a mild New Year we have, at last, had a little cold winter weather. Some of the flowers that were blooming in the mild weather have been frosted and turned brown. Others don’t seem to have been bothered by the frost and ice and have continued to flower.
The first ice starting to form on the big pond
We have snowdrops in the garden that don’t look anywhere near being ready to flower but some in tubs have buds that may open in a couple of days. Strangely, a golden crocus which usually flowers in March has appeared in the grass near the end of the drive. The garden is unusually colourful for this time of year.
Slightly stunted pink Hyacinths.
The ‘sticky-buds’ are swelling on the Horse Chestnut tree.
Those four photos were taken the morning after a severe gale when lots of rain, then sleet and wet snow fell. The snow settled for a while but most of it disappeared the next day when the sun came out. The wind had blown the snow almost horizontally and when I went out the following morning I saw walls and tree trunks with snow and ice stuck to them but hardly any snow on the ground.
Small amount of ice on an apple tree.
Melting ice on a window sill
It was a beautiful day
The water-level in the pond has risen quite a lot recently but not as much as we’d expected. Probably ditch clearing and drainage works done locally have meant less water entering our garden. The reeds and brambles need to be cut back here!
Colourful fungi on a dead log.
Even the pond at the front of the house had some ice on it
We continued to get hard frosts at night and then a light sprinkling of beautiful powdery snow on Saturday night.
The big pond
I like the patterns the snow made on the icy pond
We had a hoarfrost yesterday morning but the sun soon came out and the frost melted. I wish I could have got outside earlier!
Cherry tree buds
The moss and lichen garden on top of the brick pillar at the end of the drive
A close-up of the moss with its frosted capsules
I am pleased we have had a few frosts because the birds will only eat the crabapples once they have been frosted.
Richard went to a PCC (Parochial Church Council) meeting on Wednesday evening and came home with two pieces of good news. The first is that we are a stage nearer to getting the screen put in between the Tower Room and the main body of the church at Rumburgh and the second is that when our Rector retires in 2017 we will (eventually) be getting a replacement for him. For some time now, we have thought that we would have to do without a priest when Richard (the Rector) goes. We have a large but sparsely populated benefice and even though we would have tried to keep things going on our own and with the help of retired clergy and the priest from our neighbouring benefice, it would have been very difficult and might have meant that some, at least, of the churches would have had to close. We will have to put up with at least a year’s interregnum before the replacement priest arrives but if we know that we will get a Rector eventually we will cope better.
The piece of music today is a great favourite of mine and very romantic in style. It is quite long (just over 16 minutes) but is in five short movements so you don’t have to listen to it all in one go! This music makes me happy – I really don’t think anyone could help being cheered by it! It goes from a fast ‘Waltz’ to a very romantic interlude – ‘Nocturne’; then to another fast movement – ‘Mazurka’ followed by a slower ‘Romance’. The piece ends with a ‘Galop’. It was originally written in 1941 by Aram Khachaturian as incidental music for a new production of a play called ‘Masquerade’ by the Russian poet and playwright Michail Lermontov. The satirical-romantic play was written in 1835 and has a similar storyline to ‘Othello’. The run in 1941 had to be cut short because of the invasion of the USSR by Germany. Khachaturian later (in 1944) turned the incidental music into a Suite.
Richard and I hardly ever go out in the evening but this week we managed to go out twice! At the end of October each year the Halesworth Arts Festival takes place in The Cut, an old maltings that has been converted into an entertainment venue. The Cut takes its name from the lane it is in – New Cut – which refers to new cuts made to the river when a lock was built in the 18th century and the River Blyth was made navigable from Southwold on the coast to Halesworth.
Last Sunday night we went to listen to a poetry reading by Brian Patten who made his name in the 60’s with the publication of the ‘Mersey Sound‘ anthology. (The other two poets featured in this anthology were Adrian Henri and Roger McGough). We enjoyed the evening very much. Patten not only read many of his favourite poems but spoke about why and when he wrote them. When I was in my very early 20’s and living in Liverpool I went to hear Roger McGough at a ‘Pubs and Pints’ event. A nice re-connection, I thought.
We discovered Brian Patten had known and read with many other famous poets apart from Henri and McGough; Robert Graves, Philip Larkin, Stevie Smith, Pablo Neruda, Allen Ginsberg, Laurie Lee and Robert Lowell. He had shared a house with Brian Eno and had been friends with among many others, Keith Moon and Neil Innes. Neil Innes was in the audience and joined him in a few reminiscenses.
Neil Innes? He is the minstrel in this clip.
He is the singer here
My father who was a cabinet maker, once did some work for Neil Innes in the 70’s when Innes was living in Lewisham. My father had no idea who Innes was and felt sorry for him and so undercharged for the work. ‘His jeans were split at the knees and he was obviously short of money’ said Dad. I think we were the ones who were short of money – always. My mother explained who Dad had worked for.
The other performance Richard and I attended was a concert by the ‘Aquarelle Guitar Quartet’. I don’t think I could describe them better than the blurb in the programme so please click on the link to read it and see the programme of music they played. There is also a recording of them playing.
The programme included classical – old and modern, jazz, folk and film music. I loved ‘Opals’ by Philip Houghton who is Australian and uses the Australian landscape as inspiration. ‘Folia’ by the American composer Ian Krouse was amazing.
The four young men, who had met when they were at the Royal Northern College of Music, were charming, amusing and very talented and I would urge you to see them in concert if they play anywhere near where you live.
I would like to say a big thank-you to all of you who responded so kindly to the news of my mother-in-law’s death. I was quite moved by all your comments and I have duly passed them on to Richard who also sends his thanks.
Chris and Richard cannot do anything now until probate is granted and that may not take place for some months as there is a queue. We will probably meet up with the family in Manchester as usual just before Christmas and have a meal together in memory of Joyce.
Cymbidium Orchid. I repotted this Cymbidium many years ago when it became terribly pot-bound and split it into about six new plants. I gave away two and kept four and this one plant has decided to flower again at last.
Cymbidium Orchid. The flowers are so exotic!
Richard is slowly getting used to being retired – a difficult thing to do after having worked continuously for many decades. He has taken possession of his new car, done a fair amount of work in the garden and he is taking turns with me driving Elinor to college.
Elinor is coming to the end of her first week back at college. She is finding it all quite challenging but so far has coped bravely with all the changes to her routine.
Elinor’s Art. When Elinor attended her enrollment day she was asked to produce a piece of art work that gave some idea of what she was like or what kind of things she liked. She loves fairy tales, myths and legends.
Elinor’s Art. The students were supposed to find an old book and use it in the project – either cutting it up or sticking things in it. Elinor couldn’t damage a book even an old already-damaged one, so she inserted her pop-up picture into a book of myths with paper-clips.
I am trying to get on with the back-log of household chores I should have been doing through the summer. I had had such plans, but somehow the time slipped away and I still have two freezers to defrost and lots of cupboards to sort out. Having two one-week holidays to prepare for and then get over is definitely more work than a two-week break!
Great Crested Newt? (Triturus cristatus)
When I moved my wheelie-bin full of rubbish from it’s spot near the house in order to take it to the end of the drive for emptying, I saw this creature had been hiding underneath. It obligingly waited while I ran into the house to collect my camera. Great Crested Newts are a protected species throughout Europe as they are becoming quite rare through loss of habitat. If this is a Great Crested ( or Great Northern or Warty) Newt, and I suspect that it is, we will have to be very careful how and when we do any pond maintenance.
Perennial Sow-thistle (Sonchus arvensis)
I have been seeing a lot of these big shaggy flowers as I drive about the countryside. The flowers are about 4 or 5 cms across and are such a bright cheerful yellow – not a common colour at this time of year. They are large plants and can grow to about 2 metres in height.
Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) with Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
This is a verge by the side of a fairly busy road on the way to Norwich. I saw a lot of these little yellow Toadflax last year but never managed to photograph them. I was determined to get a photograph of them this year and parked off the road and walked back to see this group, dodging fast-moving articulated lorries as I went.
I hope you agree with me that it was worth the trouble I took to get this photograph. I think these little flowers are really special. They are little yellow snapdragons and can grow to about 50 cms in height.
Before I finish I thought I’d let you know that I will be adding a little music now and then to my posts. It will be up to you if you choose to sample my choices; they will be quite varied and you may find something you like!
I listened to my new C.D. (the one I bought second-hand at the coffee morning) the other evening while cooking. I have to listen to something while cooking as I find it calming. It would be so dull if all we human beings were the same, but I still find it amazing that some people cook to cheer themselves up or calm themselves down. If there is nothing on the radio I listen to music or the spoken word on C.D. I have an i-Pod but invariably as soon as I put it on someone comes in to the room and starts talking to me. My i-Pod is for when I am alone! If I can’t find anything to listen to I either get very grumpy or I start thinking of something – making plans or decisions etc. This is when things get a little risky! I sometimes get so caught up in my thoughts that I go off to look something up in one of my books or to ask someone a question, and then I might get distracted by something else. Before I know it I’ve left a half-prepared meal for ages and I have to rush to catch up or, even worse, something has got burnt and I have to start again. So, I listen to something that will keep me in the kitchen and stop me wandering off.
I listen to all sorts of music – I have an eclectic taste (to use an extremely hackneyed phrase). Classical, pop, rock, country, folk, world, religious, old, new – anything in fact, as long as it’s interesting/clever/tuneful/brings back memories and so on.
The new C.D. is a classical one; part of a Russian Masters series, it is of Sviatoslav Richter playing three old favourites – Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Sergey Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.1 in D flat major and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto No.1 in D minor for Harpsichord but played on the piano. All recorded in the mid 1950s . Just because a recording is old does not mean it should be cast on the scrap heap and ignored. Richter’s playing is sublime and stands the test of time.
The Tchaikovsky was played too much during the 50s and 60s and then not played at all on the radio for a very long time – people had got bored with it. It is lovely and reminds me of when I was nine years old and a member of the London Youth Band. I had just started playing the clarinet and in our series of concerts I had to play a solo with other new members in a section in the middle of the concert. The rest of the time I had to stand on a chair at the side of the stage with other young children and play the tambourine. The tambourine had long ribbons on it and we all had to shake our tambourines and beat them in absolute unison or the band master would scream at us and go purple with apoplectic rage. He was an old army bandsman and treated us young people like soldiers. Everything was regimented – we even rehearsed in the barracks at Woolwich (where that poor young army bandsman was murdered last year). The band master (like Mozart’s father) always told the audience how old we were but always said we were younger than our actual ages. As if eight or nine wasn’t good enough!
This first year I was in the band, one of our oboe players, who was also a fabulous pianist, played the first movement of the Tchaikovsky No. 1 with the band accompanying her. I was entranced. By the following year I had been promoted to the ranks and played 4th clarinet and helped to accompany her again.
One of our regular pieces was the music from the film ‘The Dambusters’ and the band master used to get the father of the girl who played the oboe/piano to shout from the back of the hall, “What about ‘The Dambusters’!” as if he was a fan totally unconnected wih the band, at every concert for many years. I’m sure nobody was fooled!
Prokofiev’s music always reminds me of a girl I used to work with in South-East London. In the early 1980s advertisers on TV and the radio had just started to use classical music a lot in their adverts. We are used to it now but then it was really exciting and new. A colleague and I were discussing this in our lunch break and we were trying to name all the pieces we recognised. An electrical goods company had just brought out a new music centre (this dates it for certain!) and they were using Prokofiev’s ‘Dance of the Knights’ from his ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’. My colleague started singing the tune and I joined in and then we both said Prokofiev together. “Nah!”, said the girl, “Panasonic”. Which proves just how effective classical music can be in advertising.
Moments from a Norfolk Country Cottage. The furred & feathered & the worn and weathered. A Druid Herbalist with a Passion for Cats, Vintage, Dogs, Interiors, Nature, Hens, Organic Veggie Food, Plants & Trees & a Kinship with The Earth.