Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recently Read

  I thought you might like to see the truly magical origami-type pop-up book "Winter's Tale" which I was given for Christmas by my dear friend Mary R . The photos really do not do it justice, but everyone in the house was ooh-ing and aah-ing when they saw it. And everybody had to play with it, of course :-)

I felt like an old favourite to re-read, and I did enjoy this much more than I did the first time I read it. I'm not a football aficionado, but it was very cleverly written, and very atmospheric.

This children's adaptation of Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples is riveting. He had a wonderful way with words, and nothing was dumbed down just because it was adapted for children.

I am continuing my Jewish reading with great interest. I have the vaguest germ of an idea of a book about Orthodoxy, and I am doing some background research. The Elie Wiesel book  Souls on Fire/ Somewhere A Master was  very hard-going and definitely not written in an engaging style, though much was of great interest. So many of the Rabbinic Masters he describes seemed to have suffered greatly with melancholia and depression, some were the Jewish equivalent of Fools for Christ. An on-going thread was their sadness that despite their fervent prayers and strict devotion to living and studying the Law, they could not encourage God to bring about the Coming of the Messiah as they perceived it.  For us, of course, it is obvious that the Messiah was born in the form of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago.

The Michelle Guiness book  A Little Kosher Seasoning was interesting, but quite frustrating in many ways. She coverted from Judaism to Christianity as a teenager, and continues to keep many Jewish traditions in her own family life as wife of an Anglican priest. So much of what she writes about Anglicanism is so alien to what we as Orthodox believe Christianity to be, that I found myself resonating much more with what she wrote about Judaism! There are recipes, ideas of family celebration use for Shabbat and Passover etc. It is a good resource book and very humourously written.

The Surgeon of Crowthorne was a charity shop find that had me whooping with delight. I bought it when first published, many years ago, and after I had read it, foolishly thought I would never read it again and donated it to the local library.  A few weeks ago I was reading something about the OED and thought how much I would like to read it again - and then I found it :-)   The eponymous and quite brilliant Surgeon of Crowthorne was one of the major contributors to the construction of the monumental Oxford English Dictionary, even though he was a paranoid schizophrenic incarcerated at Her Majesty's Pleasure in the Asylum at Broadmoor. It is desperately sad to read, and as the author points out, if he had been treated with modern medication, his ability to work in as self- driven and obsessed  fashion as he did for the OED would most likely have been massively diminished and the OED would not be the work it is now.

Along The Enchanted Way was on sale at a ridiculously cheap price, so I had to buy it :-)  It chronicles the adventures of  William Blacker who has spent many years living and working in rural areas of Romania, documenting how things were changing, and not for the better either.  The Orthodox priest does not come across as a particularly savoury character, but much is sensitively and thoughtfully written about Orthodoxy in the book, and the author attends Liturgy most Sundays with the families with whom he stays.

Stone Kiss was another charity shop Faye Kellerman detective find which I thoroughly enjoyed. 
This is My God by the novelist Herman Wouk is a golden oldie, but new to me, and I found it wonderfully well-written and a tribute both to Judaism and the greatness of the man himself. As he points out, if the Jews had given into the attempts of evil King Antiochus IV to totally suppress Judaism, there would have been no Hanukkah and ultimately no Christianity either......

Head Over Heels In The Dales is the funny and often touching story of a School Inspector based in the Yorkshire Dales. It is an absolutely delightful book for "easy reading". I will certainly be looking out for more of his works.

The Fur Person was part of my birthday gifts from my friend Mary R; she said I would love it and I did ! Cleverly written from the point of view of a Gentleman Cat who, after a riotous youth, decides to adopt two human housekeepers to tend to his needs..... those of us with cats can guess the rest :-)

The other book is "Blue Rhine Black Forest - A Hand - & Day-book" by Louis Untermeyer, published in 1930, and dealing with the author's walking tour of Germany, following the Rhine and thence into the Black Forest. It chronicles a way of life which was  utterly destroyed by the outbreak of the Second World War, and is a fascinating book, telling of many myths and legends of the towns and villages through which he passes.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011


When I went to the Big City recently to do some shopping, it was an interesting experience.

First port of call was a craft shop to get DD3 some beading supplies, as she goes to a jewellery-making class in school. I was utterly spoilt for choice, and in the end I stuck to buying beads from a pink/purple colour scheme and hoped she would like them ! I also bought a secure storage container, which will stop the beads from falling out of their individual colour compartments if the box is tilted, which seemed like a good idea.

I visited a few bookshops, but found nothing that I really felt warranted blowing all of my birthday money on, so I was disappointed about that. I had really hoped I would find something really interesting.

Next stop was a religious items shop, in order to stock up on 5-day votive grave candles, as the following day was the 22nd anniversary of my father's death and I wanted to put a candle on the grave for the anniversary and get some more candles for other anniversaries throughout the year.

Whilst I was there, it was quiet in the shop and I was chatting to the lovely shop assistant, who asked if I had seen the grave lanterns which they sold. I hadn't, and was thrilled when she showed me a superb decorative metal and glass old-fashioned lantern, with glass panes and a little door to place the candle inside. It was exactly what I needed, and would look nice for a long time. I have found that the lids of the vented grave candles tend to corrode and look awful even if it rains for only a short time, which means that the container is then too tatty to re-use, which seems very wasteful...... the grave lantern  was very reasonably priced, and it really made my day to get such a bargain !

On a whim, I decided to go and have a look at the cathedral next door.

Oh dear. Oh dear indeed.

The stunning Cathedral -designed by Pugin originally - was completely destroyed by enemy bombs during the Second World War, and an internally stark and modern but externally quite traditional Cathedral was built in its stead.
There are multiple side chapels, one with a very nice reproduction of Michelangelo's Pieta, before which many votive candles were burning. Another statue of the Mother of God had votive candles burning before it, but the majority of the side chapels were obviously never used, and the marble tops of the altar mensae were  left quite bare, not even dignifed with a plain white linen cloth on their tops, not even in the Chapel which housed the relics of two local saints who were martyred for their faith in Tudor times.
To me, this was profoundly disrespectful to those Saints whose relics were enshrined within the altar stones........

There was no immediately obvious atmosphere of  respect or reverence,  and I  didn't get the impression of the building being truly loved and cared for. It seemed very dusty and still dark, even though there was a service due to start there in a short period of time - no lights were on, and there weren't even any sanctuary lamps burning in the Altar area.
 I left the building feeling very sad indeed.  From my conversation with the staff in the Shop, it seems to be a busy and vibrant parish but the Cathedral seemed a little neglected.
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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Birthday Gifts

I had a lovely 47th birthday on Friday.

But oh my, 47 ! Where did the years fly to ? My brain still thinks I am about 30............ even if the mirror doesn't, LOL.

DH and the littlies bought me the DVD set of Francesco's Venice and the DVD of "The Monastery: Mr Vig and the Nun" which I had wanted for ages :-)

Mr & Mrs DoomHamster bought me Porfessor David Crystal's new book "Begat - the KJ Bible & the English Language " and  DD2 & RobRob bought me my very own copy of Eammon Duffy's "The Stripping Of The Altars"...... no more galloping to the Public Library to borrow their first edition copy when I now have the second edition !

Other family members gave me cash and book tokens, which are always most acceptable.

DH took us all out for an early evening meal at the super restaurant where we all went for lunch for Christmas Day, so a jolly good day was had by all.

And then - the other shoe dropped. DD3 has been stricken with a high temp, sore throat and generalised malaise. DD4 has a nasty bout of cystitis and is on antibiotics, though she is almost better now. DD3 is currently languishing on the sofa, clutching her "poorly blankie" (which she has had since a baby, and still loves when she is feeling unwell) and sipping a hot chocolate mocha drink, watching some easy viewing on the TV.

But that's life ! Ups and downs, ups and downs.
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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Thursday's Word

is married all o'er  :

"said of women who after their marriage....become...miserable-looking"
according to Georgina Jackson's "Shropshire Word-Book", 1879
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dark Days

Although we are past the longest day of the winter, I am still amazed at how dark the days are without the amazing light of the snow.

I took this photo at 09.31 GMT yesterday morning, and look how dark it still is in my living room !

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Recently Read

This novel is utterly brilliant.
This is the blurb from Amazon:

'Did I say I was Jewish? I should be Jewish all of a sudden?' Argumentative, Yiddish-speaking, 80-year-old Jack Silver has reluctantly returned to Golders Green to care for his 10-year-old grandson, Danny. Unpredictable and outspoken but warm-hearted, Jack is resolutely secular and repudiates everything Jewish. His profoundly troubled son, now a successful middle-aged journalist, has followed in his footsteps, while the brilliant young Danny has been kept in ignorance of his heritage. When Jack is beaten up by an antisemitic gang, it changes everything. He and Danny secretly set out to outwit and track down the thugs and bring them to justice. The hunt takes Jack into memories of his own childhood and the two unlikely heroes discover a shared identity spanning generations that eventually draws the whole family together. 
Desperately sad in places, but ultimately affirmative; I really, really enjoyed it, and am at a loss to know why the copy I bought from EBay in immaculate condition was originally from Northumberland County Library and was officially stamped "withdrawn from stock" when it was only published in 2009 !

"To Be A Jew " was another serendipitous EBay find. A phenomenal amount of information is packed into 323 eminently readable pages. This has been my bedtime book (after prayers and Psalms, and before lights-out!) for a few weeks, and I have really enjoyed it.

"The Morville Hours" was a charity shop find that had me jumping up and down with delight. I borrowed this from the Public library last year and loved it so much I trawled second-hand bookshoops and EBay for months, looking for a copy at a price I could afford, but to no avail. Then when I least expected it, I found it, for 60p !

This review appeared on The Guardian website, and sums it up much better than I can:

The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden
When Katherine Swift arrived at Morville Hall in 1988 she suggested to its owners, the National Trust, that she make a garden. Instead of providing three-dimensional drawings or elaborate planting plans, she wrote about an imaginary garden - in the present tense - as if walking along its paths and borders. She managed to convince the National Trust by using words alone.

Swift, who lives in the Dower House of the Shropshire mansion, writes beautifully: her apples are not the flawless fruits from supermarkets but "the Quasimodos and Cyranos of the apple world, humped and bossed ... with basins ribbed, puckered and russeted". They are easy to pick, last all winter and have solid English names such as "Cornish Aromatic" or "Norfolk Beefing". Her pears, however, remain a mystery to her. Varieties such as "Duchesse d'Angoulême" or "Doyenne du Comice" are like "voluptuous heavy-eyed French empire beauties who demand absolute obedience", for it is said that a classic dessert pear is only perfect for one day.

In an allusion to the monastic past of the house and grounds, Swift takes her structure from the hours of the divine office - the daily rhythm of worship followed by monks, starting with Vigils (celebrated in the night) and ending with Compline (at the close of the day before the community retires to bed). Like a medieval Book of Hours, The Morville Hours guides the reader through the days and seasons in Swift's garden.

But she rarely stays for very long in the garden; she rambles through the history of the house and grounds and also through the past of Shropshire, the locals and of her family. Traditionally February's occupations in the Books of Hours, for example, are chopping wood - and so we read about the art of stacking a log pile; the mini-ice age during the 15th century; the winter of 1946-47 when Britain ran out of coal; her father studying his Greek grammar with his overcoat on; and the different logs in her fire - tulip tree for long winter nights, sweet-scented apple wood or sputtering green holly.

The structure that she imposes is really an anti-structure, as her narrative yomps through all manner of subjects. Memories of her childhood and her difficult relationship with her parents are presented in snippets and through little associations woven into the story of the garden. But there is also much light-hearted detail. In Compline (the last of the hours and a time for reflection), for example, she describes the "seven deadly sins" of gardening, including pride, covetousness ("the inordinate longing ... for the blackest of black hellebores") or lust ("how we lust after strapping young gardeners").

The Morville Hours could easily have been just a whimsical little book, but Swift brings profound knowledge and insight to her story. She reads the landscape like a manuscript, "a palimpsest of texts", deciphering its history, meaning and joy. The garden itself is a journey through the past, with garden rooms that have been inspired by the story of the house and the people who lived and worked there. There is the cloister garden, in honour of the old priory that once stood at Morville, an Elizabethan knot garden laid out in "swells and washes of pink germander", a canal garden to evoke the formal gardens of the early 18th century and an Edwardian fruit and vegetable plot. By leading the reader through these different spaces, Swift subtly imparts her knowledge of many centuries of British horticulture, from Roman vegetable gardens to Victorian rose borders.

Swift adores the winter and the cold - "there is so much more time to look". Stripped of leaves and blossom, the garden exposes its pure structure and the tiniest details such as the thorns of the roses. She laid out the garden during her first winter at Morville - "a garden of ruler-straight lines ... of black and white paper, of moonlight and shadows". Her vision is in monochrome, when snow, frost and moonlight cast the trees, borders and hedges in their true shapes without distractions. The winter isn't only an end, she writes, it is also a beginning, "when the frost gets to work to purge it of disease and decay".

There are no illustrations (except a map of the garden and of Shropshire) and there is no need for glossy photographs, because this is gardening writing at its best. Swift's prose brings the garden alive in all its details, scents and meaning. Her style is how I imagine the garden to be - evocative, heartfelt and magical.

Another interesting article about the book can be found  here  from the The Times:

When Katherine Swift took on the esoteric title of Keeper of Rare Books at Trinity College Dublin, she left her husband, Ken, behind in their house in Oxford and commuted between the two cities each week. She loved her scholarly work in the grave, beautiful library with its great showpiece, the Book of Kells, and she adored Dublin: “I made good friends in what was then a raffish, exciting, interesting city.” But Ken Swift was not thrilled with the arrangement. They had met at university – Katherine was only 21 when they married – and he missed her. She had often said that what she would like to do, above all, was to make a garden. A serious garden, not grand necessarily, but not a suburban patch either. “Every Friday night Ken would meet me at Heathrow with a sheaf of estate agents’ particulars,” she says. “It was his plan to lure me home. There were diminutive Georgian manor houses we couldn’t afford, gaunt brick ruins with walled gardens filled with nettles, sagging timber-framed palaces…”

Then he found the Dower House at Morville Hall in Shropshire, a National Trust property offered for lease to applicants considered by the Trust to be “the right kind of people”. She first saw it alone, driving through the winter dusk on a Friday from the ferry at Holyhead, arriving after nightfall, leaving the car and walking down the avenue, feeling her way in the blackness. She sensed, rather than saw, the high horizon of a wooded hill, the bowl of land cradling the turrets, pavilions and cupolas of the big house. The windows of the dark, untenanted Dower House “yielded nothing”. It was enough; this was where she would make her garden: “I’d finally found what I wanted to do.”

Twenty years later, she and I sit in the library of the Dower House: white walls, white linen-covered sofas, red silk curtains and a blazing log fire. There is Darjeeling tea and toast, a choice of damson jam, honey and Gentleman’s Relish. Outside the tall sash windows, rain falls steadily on the garden, dimpling the surface of a long, slender canal with its border of tulips and crown imperials, drenching the rose beds with their supports of pillar and rope swag, bouncing off the beehives in the wild garden, soaking down to the seeds of poppy, valerian and wolfsbane yet to snout up through the mix of red soil and rich, black compost.

What was once an acre of rough grassland grazed by cows has become a series of garden rooms enclosed by 12ft-high yew hedges, each echoing a period of the house’s history and the ghosts of its previous inhabitants, Eliot’s “footfalls in the memory”. Digging over the ground, Swift found fragments of china, white marble floor tiles, broken clay pipes, opaque slivers of medieval glass “blue as snow-melt”, and wondered: “Who drank from that cup, who smoked that pipe, who looked through that window?”

The kitchen garden was the first to be planted: “So Ken could have vegetables to cook with.” By now he had moved his bookshop to nearby Ludlow: “He did all the shopping and made dinner every night, so I didn’t have to think about anything except the garden.” She worked alone each day till the light ran out, sometimes longer, feeling her way; everything was grown from seed or cuttings. “We had no money; it took six weeks to dig 1,000ft of 2ft-wide trenches for the yew hedges in stony ground, and I had tennis elbow by the end; I was often so tired I crawled up to bed on my hands and knees.”

As she laboured on, the church clock kept time, striking the quarter hour, recording the progress of her day. “It provided a kind of basso continuo to life at Morville.” She recalled her mother’s copy of the Book of Hours, and the calendar that prefaced it with its illustrations of the horticultural and agricultural tasks allotted to each month: “Keeping Warm and Chopping Wood” in February, “Mowing” in June, “Ploughing and Sowing” in October, “Slaughtering and Baking” in November. The chiming of the clock, the rhythm of the seasons, the sense that she was part of a continuous cycle of life, death and renewal had a profound effect: she would write her own book of hours, recording the arc of a year in time past and time present.

The Morville Hours took 14 years to complete: a work of extraordinary lyrical beauty, both scholarly and poetic, the incantatory naming of things and the writing at times so erotic it makes you weak at the knees. It is a book of fragments – gleaned from the soil, from the stories of neighbours, from record books, from liturgy. But there are, too, fragments from her own story, shards of painful memory: her mother telling her, “Having you ruined my life”; her grandmother, Ada, warning her father: “You’ll swing for that temper”; a terrible row between her father and her husband followed by 30 years of estrangement. “Making the garden mended all of the broken heart and pain of childhood,” says Swift. “Writing the book made things clearer – it was a kind of expiation.”

When she started on her garden she realised how much she owed her father, who had always made gardens wherever they lived, taking cuttings from place to place: “We moved a great deal; he was always taking umbrage at something or someone, falling out with a boss or a neighbour.” She began to include him and his gardening exploits in her book: “Then I felt mean, not writing about Mother; eventually, I had to explain this fearsome pair.”

Her parents, she writes, had a knack for starting over, for reinventing themselves, changing jobs, changing places, changing religion, both continually in a ferment of new ideas, literary, political, philosophical, theological. They were educated out of the working class, but never arrived in the middle, and were uncomfortable with both. Each move meant a new school for Katherine and her brother.

“We never had people round,” she tells me. “We were the ultimate nuclear family, all on our own.” Her parents had tempestuous rows – “My mother would sit weeping at the breakfast table, ‘I only stay for you,’ she said” – and their children were required to take sides: “She enlisted me, always, against Pa, whom I loved.” Later, when she was married, and her father fell out with her husband, she was forced to choose again: “I felt I had to be loyal to Ken.” Father and daughter were reunited after 30 years when he was ill with dementia and her mother moved them down to Shropshire. “I looked after them for seven years; they only had me and the kindness of strangers.”

Outside the cheerful warmth of the library and the kitchen with its ancient Rayburn, the house has an austere chill familiar to anyone who has lived before the advent of central heating. It smells of wood and Imperial Leather soap and the faint citrus tang of the ornamental Seville orange trees, over-wintering in the front hall with its galleried upstairs passageways. One year, Swift was snowed in, alone, roads blocked, power lines brought down by ice: she sat and read by candlelight in an armchair pulled up to the fire, shutters closed, “the tapestries stirring in the draught, carpets lifting on the bare boards of the corridors”. She was, she says, supremely content: “Isolation: it’s what I do best. Gardening, reading and writing. All solitary pleasures.”

She has no children: “I discovered soon after we were married that Ken didn’t want them.” Wasn’t that a terrible shock? Wasn’t she angry that he hadn’t mentioned it? “Well, no, I was a bit surprised, but I was only 22, not thinking at all about babies.” Her own mother suffered “catastrophic” postnatal depression after her birth – “Don’t have children, dear,” said her parents. “I think that was a really good piece of advice,” she says now. “I didn’t want to risk putting myself through what my mother went through. It was entirely selfish, really.”

After her father died in 2002, she and Ken separated, and he went to live in Ludlow; Swift took him vegetables from the garden, made up window boxes for his new flat and still regularly fixes his computer. He read each chapter of her book as she wrote it. “We are still very close; I do love him. He didn’t garden but he always understood the point of it; why I was always exhausted, why I never wanted to go on holiday. We did go away once, to Paris in winter. At Sacré-Coeur I wanted to light a candle and we wandered round looking at all the plaster saints with their votive offerings. There was one with very few candles: ‘That one,’ Ken said. It was St Joseph, the patron saint of understanding husbands.”

For five years now she has lived with her partner, Sandy, an old friend from university days. He is upstairs watching football, making occasional forays into the library to bring us fresh tea and stoke the fire. Without him, she says, the book might not have taken so long, “but life would not have been so much fun”.

Still, she often sent him away so she could write undisturbed, hanging blackout curtains at her study windows to avoid distraction, eventually taking herself off to a borrowed one-room cottage on a remote mountainside to finish it, spurred by an increasingly urgent publisher’s deadline. “It was so high, there were no birds except for the occasional raven and buzzard. I looked out from my desk into thin air and felt sublimely unselfconscious.”

She is thinking about her next book: “Something about mitochondrial DNA – passed in plants only through the female line; about mothers and daughters, looking at questions of place and belonging. Of things being uprooted.” It is all much on her mind – her 20-year lease on the Dower House is up in August this year, and she doesn’t know whether she will be offered a renewal or, if she is, whether she will be able to afford it. “I never knew what the future would be here,” she says. “It was like falling in love: you know it will end in tears, but you do it anyway.”

Extract from The Morville Hours :

As my days spent alone in the garden turned into weeks and the weeks into months, I got into the habit of leaving the front door of the house open – not just unlocked, but standing open to the garden – from spring to autumn, all day long. I would open it first thing in the morning to smell the air and close it only at midnight as I went to bed. House and garden became extensions of each other. The kitchen filled with plant pots and tools and string, the hall with boots and jackets and gloves, the bathroom with tender seedlings. Plants spent part of their year in the house and part outside in the garden; I could tell the time of year from the tide of greenery in the house. And gradually I came to know the creatures who shared the house and garden with me: the jackdaws who roosted in the roof space; the black newts in the cellar, dining on woodlice; the harvest spiders and the tortoiseshell butterflies who found a winter home in the dim recesses of the ceiling; the swallows who reconnoitred the bookshelves in the hall for nesting places in spring. Outside, there were other creatures and other worlds to discover: the citadels of bees and ants, the papier-mâché galleries of the wasps, the subterranean refuges of badgers and moles. Then there were the wanderers – the animals who came and went unseen: the night owls and the foxes, the birds who left their arrowed footprints in the snow. The cats were louche go-betweens, at home in both worlds, belonging to neither.

I found companionship too in the other people who inhabited the same landscape – the tramp, the hedge-layer, the stockman, the gravedigger; the sheep-shearer, the farm labourer, my neighbour who tended the vines, the lad who brought the logs, the butcher who delivered the meat – present-day inheritors of those figures in the calendars of the Books of Hours. Country people seem to have all the time in the world. Not really, of course. Concerns are as pressing here as elsewhere. But there seemed to be a country courtesy which required that conversations over the field gate or in the lane or down in the Church Meadow be unhurried – a mutual satisfying of curiosities, an exchange of information, a bond formed: Welsh voices, Shropshire voices, Black Country voices, telling stories of the land and the village and its people.

Gardens are about people first and plants second. Like our multilayered language, gardening is made up of different elements, bits and pieces from far and near, now and long ago, taken and incorporated into the vocabulary of plant and tree, the grammar of path and hedge. I divided the garden up, hid each part from the nine others behind high yew hedges, played a game of multidimensional chess with myself. In my 21st-century garden, bits of the 17th century are still here – and the 19th and 16th and 18th – poking through the gauzy surface of the present like Marley’s pigtail. And there is China and America and Africa, as well as Shropshire. And stories – many stories, of this house and the people who lived here, and of the people who live here still – handed on from person to person, told and retold, a skein of stories. Like the lavender my father took as he moved from house to house, from one job to the next, and I from him, taking cuttings of the lavender, and cuttings of the cuttings, and cuttings of the cuttings of the cuttings, rooting it each time in a new garden.

And me? What is my story? My father carving my name in the speckled green side of a vegetable marrow so that I could watch the letters stretch and grow as wide as my own four-year-old smile. Violet-blue Michaelmas daises and basking tortoiseshell butterflies. Fossils in wrappings of cotton wool. Books on leaning metal shelves. The smell of pipe smoke in a cold room. A typewriter. Blue hyacinths. Iron Age forts and the worn steps of church towers. A dozen clocks chiming the hour for dinner. A black-and-white marble floor. A yellow climbing rose. Clouds passing over the hillside. Each a fragment of memory, a lost moment, a shining and irreducible “now”.

You can smell the spring even before it arrives, like a seafarer becalmed for months on the wide expanse of ocean, scenting land before he sees it. Caught unaware, stooping perhaps to collect milk from the step; one morning it is suddenly there, on the breeze, unmistakeable after the long months of winter: a smell compounded of greenness and rain showers and damp earth; a hint of balsam, a rumour of hyacinths – pregnant with the ghosts of flowers-to-be, like Flora’s breath. The clock strikes, the sound reverberating across the Church Meadow like ripples of water in the Mor Brook. Nine o’clock on a spring morning. How can you resist? The village is quiet; husbands, wives, children all dispatched to office or school; hum of early-morning traffic silenced; scrunch of postman’s foot on gravel been and gone. Leave the mail unopened, the milk where it stands on the step. Follow your nose into the garden.

Even the rain smells different. April is the month of sunshine and showers, rainbows and reflections, of small, puffy, white, fair-weather cumuli which bubble up into cauliflower-headed cumuli congesti behind your back and take you by surprise. Intent upon some late pruning, I hear the rain before I see it, rattling on the leaves in a rising wind. “Only a shower,” we say, sniffing the air. And it is: gone as quickly as it came, with ragged fragments of sky left in the puddles of the drive and a glaze of silver on the rose leaves.
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Wednesday's Word

is bag of nails

American thieves' cant. Confusion; topsy-turveydom; from "bacchanals".

Apparently, in London, boys would gather around the windows of pastrycook shops and surreptitiously nail the coat-tails of onlookers to the sills of the window frames. The victims would have to tear their coats to free themselves of the nails....... and this was recorded by William Hone in 1826 in his "Every-Day Book ......of Popular Entertainments".
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The Mind Boggles a Government Job Centre advertising vacancies for "Psychic Readers".

I kid you not.

 Go here to read the always interesting blogger Archbishop Cranmer's take on the matter........
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I Love Photographs !

I found a website for a wonderful photographer, whose work includes Welsh views around the Brecon Beacons, about an hour's drive from here.

This particular link should take you to the Flickr gallery of his work..... please let me know if it doesn't!
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Flight Of The Bumble Bee - By Foot !

And how good is this piece of  Bach, from a youngster ?

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The "Wachet auf" for piano :-)

amd for organ:

and for guitar and flute:
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Tuesday's Word

.... is catchpule.

The game of tennis.Evidently from Belgian kaatspel, as the ball used in tennis is called kaatspul, and the chace or limits of the game kaats.
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Monday's Word

 - is "winbrow".

An old fashioned word for eyebrow, from the Middle Low German  winbra and hence from the Old High German wintbrawe  (1400-1600)
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Monday, January 03, 2011

Obscure English

Everyone seems to love my calendar !

The author, Jeffrey Kacirk, has produced several books, his Altered English seems to be the one on which the calendar is based.
I will post today's and tomorrow's words in the morning :-)
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Sunday, January 02, 2011

What I Had From Mr & Mrs DoomHamster

This brilliant desk calendar from my eldest daughter and my son-in-law has already had me rolling on the floor laughing and it is only Jan 2nd :-)

The word for this weekend is "Scurryfunge", defined as "A hasty tidying of the house between the time you see a neighbor and the time she knocks on the door."

That's my life, folks - I am a slob.

I admit it............ I would much rather read than do any more than the most essential housework.
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