Tuesday 31 May 2011


It is perhaps fortunate, 

that the people who monitor

haven't seen 

my opium poppy crop.

By happy co-incidence 
this article gives me a neat tie in
to yesterday's post, 
brought to you from
a field near Didcot power station.

Monday 30 May 2011

English music in an English Landscape 2*

Once again, fortified by tea and cake 
at the Abbey Tea rooms,
where you help yourself then do the adding up 
for the trusting volunteer ladies,

we set off for our walk to the Wittenham Clumps,
this time intentionally and in fine weather.

The Poem Tree 

As up on the hill with labr'ing steps we tread,
Where the twin Clumps their sheltering branches spread
The summit gain'd at ease reclining lay
And all around the widespread scene survey
Point out each object and instructive tell
The various changes that the land befel.
Where the low bank the country wide surrounds
That ancient earthwork form'd old Murcias bounds.
In misty distance see the barrow heave
There lies forgotten lonely Culchems grave.

Around this hill the ruthless Danes intrenched
And these fair plains with gory slaughter drench'd
While at our feet where stands that stately tower
In days gone by uprose the Roman power
And yonder, there where Thames smooth waters glide
In later days appeared monastic pride.
Within that field where lies the grazing herd
Huge walls were found, some coffins disinter'd
Such is the course of time, the wreck which fate
And awful doom award the earthly great.

Engraved on a nearby beech tree by Joseph Tubb 1844-5

Then, to hear the City of London choir at Dorchester Abbey
singing a programme of Vaughan Williams, 
Holst, Gardner and Howells.

* The most viewed page on this blog.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Cordially yours

Three pictures of my elderflower cordial.

Is this what the blog is for?
Well, yes it is really.
It's for reining in this bolting life.
Making cordial was a slow process, 
over in an instant;
from the first ill-judged picking 
of the too far gone flowers in the garden,
to the expedition to find some 
at their peak of perfection in the alleyway,
(not too white, just creamy,)
to the purchasing of enough citric acid,
(not easy in this sad world, 
where I was asked what I wanted it for and 
regarded with great suspicion,)
to the buying and then dissolving 
of the sugar for the syrup,
the paring of the strips of lemon, 
the slicing of the lemon,
the submerging of the elderflower heads,
the 24 hour infusion,
the straining and restraining,
(all those tiny insects),
the sterilising and the bottling
and when I finally  lined them up  
in their specially purchased facetted bottles
I noticed how the light changed the colour of the cordial,
and thought that needed noting too.

Four bottles.
Seven hundred and forty two posts.
It's a record.

Thursday 26 May 2011

In the kitchen. On the radio.

I rescued the last of the elderflowers just in time for the cordial,

made quartered focaccia

and a batch of yogurt
all under glowering skies with stinging rain,
and then those sudden shafts of brilliant evening sun
which can only penetrate our north-facing kitchen
for a few weeks in summer.

This was playing on the radio.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Shape of my Heart

Great song. Great Skill.

Monday 23 May 2011

The Enchanted Places*

We walked in Chelwood Vachery, and went, 
as Pooh might have done,
'down open slopes of gorse and heather, over rocky beds of streams,
 up steep banks of sandstone into the heather again; 
and so at last, tired and hungry, to the Hundred Acre Wood.'

'You didn't discover that it was a river until
you were right on top of it, for it had carved itself
a deep channel through the red-brown, sandy-clay soil.

If you climbed down to the water's edge you were quite invisible
from the meadow above you.

Here the air was cool and richly scented.
The water, brown and mysterious, moved with
unhurried dignity.'

'... a huge ancient beech, one of a group of about half a dozen.

 It looked as if over the centuries it had grown tired of holding
its arms up to the sky and had allowed its lower branches to droop.

One branch in particular came out horizontally
 then curved downwards to rest its elbows on the ground.
And at this point you could sit on it.
Or you could stand on it and walk a little way along it
and then jump off into the soft carpet of 
dead leaves spread out below.'

'Opposite the orchard were the fields and woods we visited on our
flower picking expeditions.
This wood for primroses, the ash plantation for orchids,
the larger wood beyond for bluebells,
the top of that field, along the edge of the bracken,

for cowslips. 
Primroses, bluebells, orchids, cowslips, violets and foxgloves:

Nanny and I would gather a whole basketful.
And it was here - more especially than anywhere else -
I would find that splendour in the grass,

that glory in the flower,
that today I find no more.'

* Extracts from Christopher Milne's autobiography,
dedicated to Olive Brockwell,
'Alice' to others
But 'Nou' to me.

'To remind you of those enchanted places
Where the past will always be present.'

I've put the song here because I loved it and 
played it again and again as a child, 
not knowing that Christopher Milne, 
the original Christopher Robin,
 hated it and was tormented by its repeated playing
by his neighbours at Stowe school.
Eventually he broke it into a hundred fragments 
and scattered them over a distant field.