Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year!

As 2017 fizzles away, I found something in the garden today which holds the promise of good and lovely things for 2018.  The first flowers on my witch hazel tree!  

Happy New Year everyone, from the running wave!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Happy Christmas

All the preparations for Christmas are complete now - hooray!  A bit of a marathon but I love it all!  Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the year (apart from the winter solstice) because it's the day I cook our family's special meal for Christmas.  We don't do turkey.  We have beef wellington, on Christmas Eve, to leave Christmas Day clear for everyone to relax and enjoy - including me!  Today I spend the day in my kitchen, listening to the carols on Radio 4 from Kings College, Cambridge at 3pm this afternoon, and getting everything ready for our Christmas feast tonight.  Oh happy day!

I hope that wherever you are reading this, you and your family have a peaceful and Happy Christmas.  


Thursday, 21 December 2017

The longest, darkest night

Despite today having the shortest number of daylight hours, and being the longest and darkest night of the year, it is one of the best days of the year for me.  For those of us in the northern hemisphere, today is the shortest day, which means we can now start the long gradual climb to lengthening days and spring!  Hooray!

I was awake in the night, as always, and relishing the absolute peace and quiet, when the words of Desiderata popped up in my mind.  I thought that with all the rush and bustle leading up to Christmas, and at the end of a long and generally confusing year for the world, the words of Desiderata might be a good thing to post here, just for a little reflection as we lurch towards the festivities and a new year.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Church of John Baptist, Cirencester

Last week we had a flying visit to Cirencester.  We had about an hour to look around.  There was a small market in the centre of the town, which offered up fantastic honey from Wainwrights Bee Farm.  I bought a jar of Welsh heather honey, which has a very delicious strong flavour, which, curiously, seems very different from Scottish heather honey!  There was also a Syrian gentleman selling a small selection of foods from home, which were also extremely yummy!  
 We spent most of our time in the medieval Church of St John Baptist, in the market square. 
 Lots of knitted poppies piled on top of an old trolley were still commemorating Remembrance Sunday.
Two votive candles lit for my beloved sister, Lucy, and my much loved cousin, Jane.  
St John's is a particularly beautiful church, with ornate stonework, ancient wall paintings, brasses set into the floor of one of the side chapels, and decorative angels.  At the moment there is a huge number of small, sparkling Christmas trees, each sponsored by a different charities.
The painting below is set high up in the main body of the church.  The minister told me it depicted Noah.  One of the guides in the church differed.  He said it was Thomas A'Becket.  I think I rather set the cat amongst the pigeons as they both stood their ground, so I tiptoed away quietly and left them to it!  Personally I think the minister is probably right.  You can just about see a dove with a leaf in its beak, and there's an old chap just to its left.  I reckon that's Noah!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Sunday afternoon walk on Bredon Hill

Mr Gaucho and I are on a winter holiday, staying with family and friends, between Worcestershire and Devon.  Happy days!  Yesterday we took a walk up Bredon Hill, which can be officially called a marilyn (think munro in Scotland, and yes, there is a connection in the choice of the name marilyn!) There are 176 marilyns in England, which have to reach 150m in height.  From the top of this hill we had wonderful views to the south, over the western edges of the Cotswolds.  Lovely.
There is plenty of mistletoe in this part of the world.  Large round lime green clumps of the stuff, which can be clearly seen in the trees, now that the leaves have fallen.  
Part of our walk took us across the Overbury Estate.  They have a significant number of handsome, but disused, barns on their land.  They are all kept in good order but sadly they stand empty.
We were not quite at the top of Bredon Hill, but the views were wonderful.  
 From "A Shropshire Lad" by AE Housman
In summertime on Bredon 
The bells they sound so clear; 
Round both the shires they ring them 
In steeples far and near, 
A happy noise to hear. 
.......
The bells they sound on Bredon, 
And still the steeples hum, 
"Come all to church, good people," -- 
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb; 
I hear you, I will come.

Further on up the hill there is clear evidence of the earthworks of an Iron Age hill fort, called Kemerton Camp, now the domain of sheep!
We passed an abundance of spindle berries, which made my day. I love the gorgeous colour combination of the hectic pink outer casing of the berry and bright orange seeds inside. 
 At the bottom of the hill, in the lane leading down to Conderton, we passed some extremely large and luxurious horsetail plants, Equisetum arvense.  They were so big they looked as though they should have been growing in a botanical garden hot house!
And then these ........
Snowdrops in November?  Sorry, that's just not right.  

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Early morning skies

We do enjoy some wonderful sunsets here, but in recent days the early morning light has been equally beautiful.  Last week, there were still lots of leaves left on the trees, but a couple of sharp frosts has brought many of them down - but not before I managed a couple of snapshots to record them in all their autumn glory.  
The sky last night was vivid with another lovely sunset.  I like the idea of the sun disappearing over the horizon and travelling down under to shine on my family and friends in Australia, before reappearing here again this morning! 
This week the morning light has been more gentle.  The silver birch trees are looking particularly lovely in the soft peachy light, and today I finally remembered to take my camera with me on our walk at around 7.30 am.