Friday 31 January 2014


I have a friend in Muchelney, the Somerset village
cut off by flood water for the last four weeks.
She was surprisingly sanguine about their plight and
talked of the community spirit and camaraderie
that had blossomed in the community.
Their only way out of the village is by a boat 
that operates an hourly service in daylight.
The rest of the time she dons chest waders from
the local fishing shop where only the larger men's sizes are stocked.

Thameside properties have also been inundated.
In a weird moment of synchronicity if not solidarity,
(my feet are quite dry after all)
I found myself reading Elizabeth Taylor's
The Thames Spread Out, last night.

Rose has been sequestered in an upstairs room
since the Thames broke its banks.

The sun was beginning to set and she knew how dark it got these winter days. 
She took her cup of tea and went out on to the balcony to watch.
Every ten years or so, the Thames in that place would rise too high, 
brim over its banks and cover the fields for miles, 
changing the landscape utterly. The course of the river itself she could trace 
here and there from the lines of the willow trees or other landmarks she knew.

Beyond, on what before had been the other bank, 
a little train was crossing the floods. 
The raised track was still a foot or two above the river level
Puffing along, reflected in the water, it curved away into the distance
 and disappeared among the poplars by the church,
There all the gravestones were submerged, 
and the inn had the river flowing in through the front door and out the back.

'Thames-side Venice,' a newspaper reporter had called it.
The children loved it, and now Rose saw two young boys rowing by on the pink water.
The sun had slipped down through the mist, was very low,
behind some grey trees blobbed with mistletoe;
but the light on the water was very beautiful.
The white seabirds scarcely moved 
and a row of swans went in single file down a footpath 
whose high railing-tops on either side broke the surface of the water.

Rose sipped her tea and watched, intent on having the most of every second 
of the fading loveliness - the silence and the reflections and the light, 
and then the silence broken by a cat crying far away 
or a shout coming thinly across the cold air.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Would anyone like these?

I am still up to my pearls in decluttering.
Yesterday, film negatives,
today, very old newspapers.
Would you like to help me?

What do you find hardest to let go of?

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Clop along*

Given the way the day ended
with more vicious rain and a computer seriously on the blink
(neither sending nor receiving email 
and imperiously demanding login keychain passwords
if I so much as look at it)
it is hard to believe that this

is how it started.

Fortunate then that I had the foresight
to purchase these

so that I can go to my happy place.

*It's definitely 'clop along' not a typo.

Monday 27 January 2014

Spitting blood*

I have been dealing with an iniquitous
mail order company,
(the sort that sends out shoddy little catalogues
aimed at the over 60s),
on behalf of a 90 year old friend
who unfortunately relies on these companies 
for the sort of shopping she can no longer do in person.

I had processed the order online but they had invoiced her 
in the parcel with completely different prices.
They have numerous special offers
which fluctuate and expire daily.
Some of these appear in the catalogue,
but not online, and vice versa.
Catalogues hoarded by the elderly
quickly become out of date.
All of this is designed to befuddle even if you are
reasonably compos mentis.
They had caused great anxiety by telling my friend
 that an amount was still outstanding.
I knew this was impossible.

Emails were ignored so I had to ring them.
Their 'customer service' line
with its premium rate phone number
would have cost me over a £1 just to listen to the message
that they were busy helping other customers,
had I not known I could find an alternative number on the
Even once connected, the girl kept disappearing
supposedly to check things, and the line would go dead.
Eventually she conceded that there had been 'a mistake'.

A mistake that had to be rectified at my expense.

Of course I soon found pages of complaints against
these people online, but my friend does not want
to believe that she has been duped.
She values her autonomy so I have to be careful
not to be seeming to undermine her judgement and choices.
I would like her to bin these brochures in future
but I doubt she will.

Happily Tall Cat is in residence today,
as my blood pressure has soared
and he is the remedy.

* A graphic but useful expression that has been in the news recently.

Thursday 23 January 2014

White hyacinth

Well worth the wait, 
although I do wonder just how much earlier
I should have started forcing them,
for flowering by Christmas.

Their scent a fresh new greeting
each time I return to the room.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

A different perspective

Winter, unlike other seasons of the year,
is a time of looking forward. In Spring and Summer
we are for ever hoping the days will not speed too quickly away,
we long for the violets to continue flowering just a few weeks more, 
we trust the tender green of Spring will not give way too rapidly 
to the density of midsummer,
we hope the lily and the rose will not shed their petals too soon.

In Autumn we look regretfully on the passing of all vivid colour,
we long for the warmth to linger yet a little,
we hope the dahlias will not be cut off by too early a frost,
we dread the day when the swallows are seen no more.

But in Winter it is otherwise.
We do not miss the dead and gone chrysanthemums;
we are almost glad to see the last of them.
We do not wish the leaves to stay on the trees for ever,
nor do we regret the disappearance of the luxuriant summer growth,
for this is a time of expectation,
a period of waiting, or watching, of listening.
Daily we look for the faint stirrings of returning life,
hourly we strain to catch the first notes of the birds' song
and on every sunny day we hope we may find the earliest primrose
or the red stars on the hazel bough.
And though these aspirations and expectations
are often shrouded in mists and fog, yet those who turn away from 
these inclemencies, avoiding the rigours and buffetings of Winter,
 do forgo a part of their inheritance and the beauties only to be seen in

"This precious stone set in a silver sea."

Text taken from Garden and Hedgerow by Ethel Armitage,
plates by Lucy Burton, published 1939.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

That voice

or this one

this one,

or this one.

Whichever way - I've been singing it all day.

None of the judges turned round for Bob, but
plenty of other people have jumped into the ring
since his performance on Saturday.

Monday 20 January 2014

The aquamarine

As found.

And a few paces further on -

the perfect setting.

Made my day. 

Thursday 16 January 2014

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Comfortably ensconced

We seem to be the regular all day snooze venue.
I have to eject him rather firmly
as darkness falls.
'Go back to your family,' I say.
'They must be missing you,' I say.
'You can't stay here,' I say.

He looks at me very reproachfully as he is shown the door.

'See you tomorrow morning,' I say.

Monday 13 January 2014

Another speck on the horizon

Spread over three continents as we are today,
sons nearly 7000 miles apart,
I note that the elastic has never been stretched further.

Luckily I have plenty of silly pictures to peruse
until everyone is back down on British terra firma
where they belong.

Friday 10 January 2014

A speck on the horizon. . .

. . . by now.
He has flown away back to Japan,
but not before we booked up places to stay 
when we go to visit him during the cherry blossom festival.

Watching the cherry blossom forecast
will make a pleasant change from watching
the weather forecast.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Daffodils for Mummy

Daffodils for Rachel.
Resolutions for Sue.
Socks for Jane.
Vintage cakes for Mary.
Tulips for Freda.
Keeping warm for Amanda.
Rome for Alice.
Appendicitis for Steerforth.
Almost no internet for Leo.
The meaning of life for Liivia.

Jonquils for Lucille.

Monday 6 January 2014

Not getting the rays

We had thirteen minutes and fourteen seconds
more daylight today than on December 21st.
It's painfully slow progress.
I'm not feeling the benefit yet.
In fact I am feeling more seasonally disaffected than ever.

On the other hand it was spookily warm this morning
 at 6.30 on the way to the station.
My new thermometer had blown off the wall of course
but it read 12.5º C under a clear starry sky.

Meanwhile I read of a wind chill of -50ºF in Wisconsin 
and boiling water turning to snow when thrown from the pan.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Living in the present

Our bodies and minds are restless,
forever searching for something better to do.
Our days, too, can be encumbered with a thousand irritations, 
worries, regrets for what has happened, 
and fears for what may occur.
Filled with trivial duties, unexpected memories
and thoughts about what we have to do,
they become a battleground strewn with
the debris of our thoughts and intuitions.

To escape this exhaustion, the thing to do is
to sit, wait and be still.
Fidelity to the moment is a deliberate,
focussed attention on the here and now -
wherever and whatever it is.
Forget the future (you cannot live there);
ignore the past (it is over);
concentrate on the only reality,
the one in whose presence you are now privileged to exist.
What is to be known is here.
All that exists is now,
in all its mysterious presence.

Timeless Simplicity  by John Lane.

Also mentioned in the book,
and I was reminded of this by a comment that 
being in the present while cleaning the bath 
would be hard to cope with,
was Stanley Spencer's experience of sublime happiness while
carrying out menial tasks during the war.
Now the exhibition
Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War,
sixteen large scale canvas panels
from the Sandham Memorial Chapel
has come to London's Somerset House.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Stormy weather

It's going to feel a little bit breezy out here
in the wide open spaces of this blog.
I am battling against a head wind with my rudimentary
understanding of Blogger.

Bear with.

Edited to add:
Thank you for your encouragment.
I just need to find a way of making a banner fit across the whole width now.
Rather miss my old one but it was too chunky.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Moving on

Well I seem to have missed the Christmas boat
(it was lovely thanks),
so I will shimmy into 2014
with nary a backward glance.

There hasn't been nearly enough fresh air and exercise
over the holiday
 but we snatched two beautiful beach walks,
in breaks in the tempestuous weather we are having.

I should probably be brave this year
and do something about my rather restrictive template
so that I can post larger pictures.
I'm just afraid I'll mess up the whole thing
and be unable to retrieve this format.

We'll see.