Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Wild flowers

I love wild flowers, always have.  Many many photos of me as a young child show me clutching a small posy of flowers - heather and harebells on the common in front of the church in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire where I was born and grew up, primroses and a few wood anemones from the copse on my uncle's farm outside Odiham, and I would pick a handful of wild daffodils every year for my mother on her birthday in April.  I knew where they grew and my father would drive me round to pick a small bunch for her.  We used to take big family picnics to the South Downs near Harting where the purple pyramid orchid was really quite common alongside all the other lovely downland flowers that grow on chalky soil, and also there was the bee orchid.  I can't imagine it is there now.  When my brother was at prep school in Sussex I loved the winter white carpets of snowdrops which grew in the woods around Alfriston where we used to go for Sunday lunch.  And probably the headiest memory of all were the bluebell woods we would go to every year, again as a big family with cousins and co., for sunny Sunday morning breakfasts in early May.  Just lounging around on rugs amongst the wonderful wild hyacinth smell and the blue stretching across acres of oak woodlands was just the biz.  

Wild flowers have been a constant in my life.  'Flower' was my first word!  These days I sense their fragility because they are under threat from a number of quarters.  Hence my delight to see some wonderful wildflower meadow planting either side of an approach road to a reasonably new estate in Haddington.  It was just a joy and I went back a few days later with my camera.
I love moon daisies, or maybe you know them as marguerites or ox eye daisy.  Like many flowers they have regional names.  They hold a lovely memory of an afternoon spent picnicking in a field of daisies, clover and sorrel when I was a Brownie.  I was a Sprite!
"Here we come the sprightly sprites, 
Brave and helpful like the knights"

There is some sorrel mixed in with all these beauties.  For a reason I can no longer remember, I used to chew on sorrel leaves when I was young and always referred to them as tomato soup! Maybe the tart taste of the leaf reminded me of Heinz Tomato soup which was my firm favourite!
There is a wonderful wild plant charity which I subscribe to on a monthly basis.  Plantlife is well worth looking up.  They do wonderful work to help us hang on to our glorious wild flowers, mosses, fungi and woodlands.  I spent last Saturday afternoon helping out on their stand at The Big Tent festival near Falkland in Fife.  I will show you photos from that event another time but just for now I would urge you to learn more about Plantlife.  Wild plants need all the supporters they can get.  I am going to volunteer to study a small area which they will allocate to me and I report on at least once a year.  It seems like a very modest contribution but every little bit helps.

I was bowling along a local road on Sunday and came to a screeching halt when I saw these.
The daisy flowers are chamomile.  How about this for a relaxing vista!
I'm just listening to Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture on the radio and of course looking at these photos.  It's a wonderful combination!  Whilst being aware of all the horrors and man-made heartbreak going on in the world, these flowers are a very necessary reminder that not everything on this planet is crazy.  That's one of the vital roles wild flowers play in our lives.  They are a reminder that there is beauty all around us.  

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Budding artist in the family!

My youngest grandson is proving to be a bit of a budding artist.  His class teacher clearly thought so when she set her young pupils the task of copying Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' and he produced his interpretation with a considerable amount of flair.  We agree with her and I am certainly very proud of his efforts, so much so that I am going to show you here!  He has really looked at the copy of the original (the real one being in the Museum of Modern Art in New York) and observed the mark making and use of colour. 

Here's the master's version
and this is what the young 6 year old pupil saw,
with a considerable eye for colour too.
And here is an original still life which I absolutely love!
Maybe not be sunflowers but I would say he's getting there.

Anyway, the praise that the young artist has received has really stimulated his interest in Van Gogh, so much so that last week he came along with us to the private view of the new exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, Van Gogh to Kandinksy, which he really enjoyed.  I think some of the older attendees were rather tickled to see such a young child taking a lively interest in the paintings!  It's a good exhibition if you are able to go.  

He's off to a Picasso exhibition next month so goodness knows what he'll make of that!

Saturday, 14 July 2012


Goodness me, the beach was a busy place this afternoon!  

This morning the weather was dire.  More grey skies, rain, and the air was unseasonably cold. More like Melbourne in winter!  However this afternoon in our little corner of Scotland the skies cleared and the sun shone down.  This clearly winkled a reasonable number of people out of their homes and by the time Tilly and I got to the beach there was all sorts of stuff going on.  Take a look.

I think this chap was trying to kite ski.  There wasn't really enough wind but full marks for trying!
A mum on the ever-present mobile.  
A driftwood installation.
Actually there were two.
Fishermen, of course.
A beach party.
A surfer.  The waves weren't that big but he was persistent and caught a few.
A guy with a paddleboard who eventually went out to sea quite a long way, considering the size of the board.  No great whites in our part of the world, thank goodness!
Tilly did a spot of digging.
There were others poking about in rock pools, some just standing and gazing out to sea, a few real walkers and a handful of people like me wandering along, enjoying the sight and sound of the running waves.  Lovely.

Friday, 13 July 2012


I was a bit worried that I may have missed the frothy heads of elderflower while I was in Australia. Last year I made some excellent elderflower cordial using the recipe promoted by my very dear friend 60 going on 16 and stocks needed replenishing.  So I have been mightily glad to see the elderberry bushes still sporting their lovely flowers.

I don't think the blogging world needs another recipe for making elderflower cordial but in putting together this year's batch it occurred to me that visually it has to be one of the prettiest of production processes.  So here's my blow by blow account of making the precious stuff - in three photographs!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

A bit of a grey day in the end

Sunday, 8 July 2012

When I woke up this morning my first thought was "Ah, men's finals day at Wimbledon".  Always a bit of a highlight day in my year.  And then I thought of poor old Andy Murray getting up with the collective weight of all our expectations on his young Scottish shoulders.  

I have never been entirely convinced that he has the real mental grit to become a great champion but I have to say that today he did us proud.  Federer is a fabulous tennis player, commanding the tennis court with a classic, graceful, awesome game that is just wonderful to watch.  Best of all he uses a single handed back hand instead of the double fisted effort which I have never warmed to. Federer is a master and there is real artistry in his game and I'm glad that if Murray had to lose the championship title, it was to him.

Anyway Andy, you played a ripping game and we are proud of you.  There was a wonderful resolve to be seen in you today and, as you say, you are getting there.  One day soon I am sure one of those grand slams will be yours.  In the meantime, on this very grey evening, here is a running wave for you from your beloved Scotland.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Honeysuckle and wild roses

So, I may have missed out on the creamy blossom of the hedgerow hawthorn whilst I was away, but the honeysuckle and wild roses which are now in bloom more than make up for that.  The countryside is looking absolutely stunning.  

The briar roses have that wonderful appley smell which you just catch as you walk by,
the foxgloves in the woods around our house are looking wonderful
and so are the fields further along the track.
You need to be listening to the soaring sky lark whilst reading this - just for the full effect!

It's good to be home - although I am sorely missing that little girlie in Melbourne.  Good thing I took hundreds of photos to remind me that we were together for a while.