Monday, 22 April 2013

First birthday

It's the running wave's first birthday today!  I've started the day's celebrations by having a lovely walk round the block with Tilly.  We saw seven hares, four deer, two graylag geese pecking around in a field, accompanied by a couple of oyster catchers, and we heard the sky lark.  Not a bad bag!
As we walked this morning I was thinking about the content of this post.  It felt important to bring it back to its roots and I thought, therefore, it would be good to look at the origin of my blog's name.

The words are a line from a piece entitled 'The Dominion of Dreams : Under a Dark Star', written by Fiona Macleod (pen name for William Sharp) in 1895.  He/she was a Celtic visionary and romantic of the late nineteenth century.  This extract is used as a Gaelic blessing and in recent years put to music, beautifully, by John Rutter

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you

It seems to me that peace is an increasingly precious thing.  Although it's beautiful, we live in an alarming world.  There is so much going on, domestically and globally, with the potential to rock our boat - if it isn't rocking already.  I find the most peace in my life when I am outside, either in the garden messing around with plants and the quiet earth, or walking with Tilly and feeling the fresh air moving across and around me, but most especially on the beach with the waves, running back and forth, sometime huge and powerful, sometimes rippling and dancing, but always constant and being true to themselves.  








Saturday, 20 April 2013

A random thought!

I remember my mother saying how much she loved hanging up the washing.  I thought at the time she was slightly barmy but her comment obviously made an impression because I still remember it fifty years later.  

Our drying green was at the far end of a long garden and to get there Mum would have to carry the basket of wet washing across the lawn, past the copper beech and the old sunken garden, between a conifer hedge to the top of the garden where the vegetables were grown and the massive weeping lime tree towered over the washing line.  

It wasn't until I was grown up with a washing line of my own that I really understood what she was talking about.  I absolutely love hanging out washing on a beautiful day with a good drying breeze blowing.  Looking up into the sky whilst pegging the laundry on the line gives a sense of space, a little separation from the noise and demands of a busy household, and just a few moments to watch a buzzard soaring in the sky above, hear its mewing call, wild and free, to commune with the other sounds going on around and about, twittering bird song and the wind blowing through the trees.  The peace and quiet is very restorative.  No wonder my mother loved her visits to the drying green!
I just thought I would share that with you!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Hallelujah!

Do you know I think Spring has finally sprung.  What joy!  I managed to get myself out of bed at a proper hour this morning, 0615, and took Tilly for a walk round the block.  Recently I have been lying in bed thinking about doing the deed, knowing full well that I will love every minute of it, but since we got back from Australia I just haven't been able to drag myself up and out.  But today was the day.  It's Mr Gaucho's birthday and I knew I was going to be up to my elbows in tapas dishes for this evening's celebration so I thought that a bit of fresh air would set me up very well for the day ahead.

We walked down the drive and a little Jenny wren was flitting from branch to branch in the wood, and then I saw a beautiful pair of bull finches.  There is a little thicket of blackthorn they seem to enjoy and I have seen them there quite often.  Then, apart from appreciating some lovely shadows made by the early morning sun on furrows across a field of newly planted potatoes, and hearing the sky lark which is always just so uplifting, my next delight of the day was the sight of the hawthorn leaves bursting out.  Look!  Isn't that what we have been waiting for?
I looked across to Traprain Law and the fields between it and me.  Although I have been enjoying that view for three years now it has only been in the last few days that I have really noticed that there are some fields which have a range of the most wonderful colour.  They are red and variations of red - a bit like the Devon soil.  I really don't know why they haven't sung to me before.  Anyway, I was hoping they would be a bit more obvious in this photograph but I think they are just a bit too far away.  You can maybe just pick up the colour.   It's very rich and distinctive.
We walked on and then saw the first hare of the day.  They are such wonderful creatures and it never ceases to amaze me how big they are.  Further on still and we saw another, and then a field with four, playing in the early morning sunshine.  They were really quite close and it was just extraordinary to be able to watch them chasing around in the open and then running off into the wood.  I tried to take a couple of photos but they didn't come out well enough to show here, which is a shame because I just think I am so lucky to see these animals and I am very aware that so many people go through life and never see a handsome hare running wild and free!

The weather today has been quite perfect.  The wind has dropped, the sun has shone and it has been positively Spring like, as it should be on 19 April!  I managed a short time outside at lunchtime but generally I have been cooking up a tapas storm in the kitchen.  It all went well and we are now well and truly FtoP.  That means Full to Popping.  My mother once got sent from the dining room by her Edwardian aunt and uncle for saying that after a very filling lunch, back in the 1920s!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tree bark

I used to take tree bark rubbings when I were a nipper.  It was a great way to discover that the differences between trees is not confined to the shape of the leaf alone.  When I was walking with Tilly some months ago I passed the cherry tree shown below and thought how beautiful the colours were in the bark.  After that I really began to look at and appreciate the amazing variety of texture, design and colour in tree bark.  It seems to be stating the obvious in some respects but the diversity is quite extraordinary.  Here is just a handful of examples. 
The tree below is an old, local ash tree.  It is not showing any signs of ash dieback at the moment, and fingers crossed it never does.  It has a lovely pattern, a bit like honeycomb.
               

The next tree is beech.  The appearance of its trunk is a bit like elephant hide!  I always consider that I grew up under a beech tree.  There was a magnificent copper beech in our childhood garden in Hampshire.  We had a wonderful swing strung from one of its big, strong branches.  Underneath the tree in Spring there was a carpet of crocus and bluebells.  My sister was born on 1st May, at home, just as the tree was about to burst into leaf and was covered in soft brown-pink tassle flowers.  In Summer we would play in its dappled shade.  In Autumn we would throw ourselves into huge piles of golden leaves which my father had swept up, ready for a bonfire.  He would have to sweep them up again!  And in the Winter you could see the classic, beautiful skeletal shape of a beech. The tree is now just a memory.  Despite, or maybe because, of its size the copper beech was blown over in a gale back in the late 1980s.  I don't think it was the hurricane of 1987 but a year or so later.  Our family had long since moved from the property so I am not sure.  All I know is that the house no longer has the tree as its backdrop and it will always be the poorer for that. However that tree is as precious to me and my memory of childhood as a much treasured play companion.
This rich and vibrant coloured lichen is smothering an old elderflower bush.  
On the other side of the world, in small park in Armadale, Melbourne is this ridiculously photogenic tree trunk.  It is a gum tree.  There are 734 species of eucalyptus and I would urge you to check out Wikipedia's entry for eucalyptus.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Eucalyptus_species
The names given to this amazing array of trees are just fabulous.  They range from simply whacky to simply beautiful.  I find the peeling bark of the gum trees rather difficult to leave alone, partly because they create such lovely shadows, so I include four photos of the same tree trunk here, plus a couple more of another type of the species.  I regret I don't have the names of these two.

The eucalyptus below are known as mountain ash.  They are a far cry from our British Mountain Ash or Rowan!  These trees are giants, growing to absurd heights.  They have a tendency to just shed a branch which, falling from such a great height, can be dangerous, hence the nickname 'Dead Man's Arms'.  They also shed their bark in long curling ribbons and these peelings gather at the base of the tree, creating readymade kindling for the fires which allow the trees to naturally regenerate.  These trees are a bit of a liability because they also explode during the burning off process as they contain so much natural oil
This is yet another type of gum tree with a completely different craggy, shaggy bark
 and the Scribbly Gum which I saw in the Botanical Gardens in Coffs Harbour, NSW.
And lastly from Australia, the paperbark tree which I find fascinating!  It has layers and layers of paper thin sheets of bark and if you prod the tree trunk, it bounces back like a freshly baked sponge cake. 
I took this photo of a rhodedendron in a garden on the west coast of Scotland.  I thought the colour was wonderful and I loved the shine on the trunk.
Back home again and here is the bark of the Scots Pine with its beautiful subtle colours.

Of course trees are home to any number of folk.  Here's Owl, who hangs out around one of the sweet chestnut trees in the drive.
Oak trees have wonderful bark.  The one below almost looks like the craggy old crocodiles I saw in Australia last year.  


Saturday, 6 April 2013

One year ago exactly

It is exactly one year since I retired.  What a brilliant year I have had and I may have said it here before, and I have certainly expressed it many times out loud, I haven't had such a good time since I was ten years old.  It's just so blissful to realise you have time to be doing anything you feel like doing and not cramming it into an hour for lunch.  Just to be free to do what I want to do, or even nothing (not that that has happened much in the past twelve months) has been just fantastic!  I am very blessed.

Today my young walking companion, Grandson M, and I went for a wonderful stroll through a wood which nestles into the Lammermuir Hills.  There was a stream, a lake, a trail for little ones to follow with Glingbobs and Tootflits to look out for, and an awful lot of peace and sunshine.  It was magic.  But the best bit for me was just appreciating that I had time to stand and watch my grandson doing his best to clear some of the little dams made by twigs, leaves and winter debris along the stream to allow the water to run and gurgle more freely.  He was doing what all young boys should be doing, messing around with sticks and water and we didn't need to be anywhere else, there was no rush, we had all the time in the world.  

I was not able to take any photos today as my camera has been hijacked for a trip to London by Grandsons J and C.  They are having a belated seventh birthday treat, although I suspect the Beefeaters at the Tower of London will be the ones in for a treat - those two boys have some very good lines.  However, using a photo from a different day I can tell you about another brilliant feature of our walk this morning which was the abundance of young wild garlic leaves.  What joy!  Wild garlic pesto will be forthcoming by the end of the weekend, and I will leave you with the recipe for wild garlic pesto.  It's totally delicious, great with pasta, obviously, lovely served in a dollop with roast lamb, splodged on top of a minestrone type soup, or just as a dip with some good bread.  Enjoy!
                                       
Wild garlic pesto

2 large handfuls freshly picked wild garlic leaves
50g shallot, spring onions or leeks
50g nuts (can be pine nuts, walnuts, mixed nuts - whatever)
200ml olive oil, sunflower oil or rapeseed oil
50g grated cheese (Parmesan, goats cheese, your choice as long as it is a well flavoured hard cheese)
half teaspoon of sea salt (to taste)
half teaspoon caster sugar

Unless the garlic leaves have been picked from the roadside don't worry about washing them but do pick them over and remove any coarse stems, other leaves or bits of grass you may have picked at the same time!

Put all the ingredients with 150ml of the oil into a food processor and blitz for about one minute until everything is finely chopped.

Fold in the grated cheese, salt and sugar.

Store in a clean screwtop jar in the fridge.  Pour the remaining oil ((50ml) over the surface of the pesto to stop it discolouring.  You can mix the oil into the pesto before using it.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Heading off into the blue

One of my favourite paintings is Winifred Nicholson's 'The Gate to the Isles' or 'The Blue Gate'.  I will probably be infringing copyright to include an image of the painting here but it is easily found on a plethora of other blogs, this being one of them http://gauguinsloft.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/paintings-of-scotland-by-winifred.html
I love the gate which invites you to explore what lies beyond.  In the distance you can see the paps of Jura in the Western Isles.  It's just glorious!

I have a painting by Philip Archer, Principal of Leith School of Art, in Edinburgh, which also depicts a footpath running around a grassy hill and leading off into the blue.  It is a very inviting image and I just want to be walking along that path to see what lies around the corner.

My favourite walk offers the same sense of anticipation.  I love this point on the walk, heading up hill through the sea buckthorn, the fine bladed grass neatly cropped by all the rabbits who live amongst the sand dunes,
 nearly there, with a little glimpse of telltale blue
and then stretching across in front of me is a truly wonderful beach.  It's as good as any I visited in Australia and I just love it.  It's appeal is enduring and it never fails to please.  Actually, I think I may have mentioned it before, now I come to think of it!
And of course the waves are endlessly fascinating to me.  I love the way they just keep on coming, running, and washing the beach clean again, all ready for tomorrow.
If it is blue and sunny tomorrow, as it is today, I think we might drag the troops away from their stashes of chocolate and go to the beach for a barbecue lunch and a spot of sandcastle building, before they go back to school next week.