The Friday Flower…on Saturday

Yesterday was the end of a particularly stressful week at work and so by the time I had fought my way through the traffic and got through the front door, fed Slipper and finished my chores there was no time or energy left to write my post. So, I decided to write it this morning. The sun is out and the garden is laying heavy with the overnight rain, although the rain is doing wonders for the flowers which are all looking lovely, it’s also bringing out the snails and slugs….the battle I fear is about to begin as I moved my rocket plants and tender lupins out yesterday ……..However, the flower for today just has to be my Clematis. This is Nelly Moser, a beautiful and relatively easy to grow clematis that favours my east facing patio as it gets both sun and shade throughout the day (sun when it decides to show itself I may add!). The flowers are huge at 6-8ins in diameter and it looks sub tropical when in full flower. My Nan loved this clematis and I remember that the one in her garden was simply huge, clambering over the other shrubs and trees. I bought it because it minded me of her, smiling as she enjoyed her gardening, something we can still share even though she is gone. When something holds a memory it is good to hold on to that something……

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Faithful Friend

A tiny kitten pressed tight against  his brother, both dishevelled and a little scared. Uprooted from the comfort of the stable where they had spent their first few months, accompanied by a Shetland pony and the farms population of mice. Maybe that’s where they both learned the art of the pounce practiced so precisely on my duvet protected toes! Slipper, my slightly tubby tabby cat is the softy of the duo, his brother Finlay being the more feisty of the pair. As a kitten Slipper would hide behind his smaller brother and gaze up at me from soft green eyes, a hint of panic and the urge to flee suddenly quelled by the desire to be loved and fussed, which rapidly grew into an obsession. I call him my stripy tiger, his fur plush and dense, pale blonde mixed with every shade of brown form the most perfect of tabby markings, his eyes defined by dark sweeping lines giving him the look of Cleopatra, far too pretty to be a male everyone says. Patiently and somewhat regally he waits for my return from a long day at the office,  always ready at the door with a cry of excitement and a well rehearsed ballet as he dances on his toes in and around my feet. No sooner have I sat down then he is there, face pressed against mine, whiskers tickling and he nuzzles in as close as he can, claws stretched in pure delight and deployed to ensure I do not escape from his embrace. Slipper is 8yrs old now, yet still retains his kitten-like appeal, trusting and loveable, always accepting of attention but completely unselfish in his desire to love and be loved, a truly beautiful cat inside and out.

Slipper 2013

41 Day 278 – Racing With Dad

For as long as i can remember my Father has been a fan of horse racing, a passion that he shared with his Mother, my Gran. I remember going to visit Gran usually on a Sunday morning, Mum stayed at home cooking the Sunday dinner, and the visit was always timed to perfection, we never dared be late thats for sure, our dog would have seriously enjoyed the roast! Gran was a formidable woman, a hard upbringing had taught her to deal with most things life threw at her, raising a large family against a backdrop of World War 2 with 6 children in a small terraced house in the backstreets of Coventry, bombed out in the blitz, losing a husband to a routine operation gone bad, you could say she had it tough. But racing was an escape to Gran, a moment to dream of winning big, the thrill of the chase, the pleasure of losing the stress and worry of the life she led just for a moment, the pulse racing, feeling alive, like she was racing with those horses to the finish line. More often than not she would lose, but she never bet more than a few pence, she simply couldnt afford to, but that did not lessen the enjoyment. I don’t believe Gran ever got to visit a real life race course, taking pleasure from the TV screenings, and although she could stand up to any man she never ventured into the then male domain of the betting office, preferring to send one of her sons on the important duty of placing her bets and collecting any winnings. I remember them chatting animatedly about close shaves and stewards enquiries, fiddling jockeys and bent trainers….I never really understood what it was all about but I observed their exchanges, soaking up the drama. Maybe this is where my love of horses stems from. Gran is no longer with us, no longer studying the form from the comfort of her armchair in the same house that she raised 6 children and survived the war whilst homes around fell in the bombings. But my Dad continues the family passion, Saturdays are the day when he can be found for an hour or two, studying the form in the same way as Gran did, working out the odds, willing the jockey to bring his choice home first, riding every stride to the last. I had the ultimate pleasure of taking him to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup meeting on his 60th birthday, and more recently to Warwick races as a Fathers day surprise. On both occassions we had a ball, winning some, losing some, but always enjoying every moment….jumping around like kids when we won, tearing up tickets when we lost, me and my Dad. Or was it……somehow I think the spirit of my Gran was right there with us, looking over our shoulders and sharing in the passion that i believe we both have because of her, for that I thank her.

41 Day 214 – Flowers are the Smiles of the Earth

I dont know if you are anything like me but flowers always make me smile. It started at an early age, my Grandfather George used to carry me around the garden and tell me all the names of the plants and flowers, sometimes stopping to let me smell them. It was a real show garden with perfect borders, expertly mown grass lawns and showstopping roses.  My Granny’s garden was somewhat different, city based and functional with vegetables and herbs edged with bricks and a concrete path down the middle and a railway line behind a privet hedge, but it would flower into life with scented sweet peas, bluebells and cottage garden flowers self set by seeds dropped by the birds that flew overhead and the rhubarb picked fresh was a treat! And so began my life long love of all things flora. Colour, scent, texture and pattern you cannot ignore them, even so called weeds can be utterly beautiful, maybe we should all make more room in our gardens and our hearts for flowers…….

 

Spring-Sensationweb

41 Day 201 – Gone But Not Forgotten

Whilst out walking around the park yesterday I couldn’t help but notice the variety of people around me, families, couples, dog-walkers, teenagers, toddlers, pensioners, even the odd happysnapper such as myself! The sun was shining and although there were sheltered areas covered in a half hearted frost the day was warming nicely. Id taken the path around the lake but as I rounded the corner I saw the bench, bathed in shafts of hazy winter sun, half shadowed by a large rhodedendron bush shining with dew, the seat vacant awaiting use, but in one corner a carefully placed stem of lillies wrapped in clear cellophane. The first thing that struck me was the vivid colour of the lilies against the grey green weathered slats of wood, a contrast of age and of youth.  The wrapper was drenched in diamonds of frosted dew, but the flower stood tall and defiant against the elements, almost like a statement left by the one who had placed them, a statement that shouted out to me ‘You may be gone, but you are not forgotten’…….The inscription was ‘In the memory of George and his loving wife’ …….I may stand and wonder who you were but that someone who left the lillies will always remember you.

41 Day 171 – If the Paralympics did Mum’s, mine would be a Gold medallist!

The 2012 London Paralympics is holding it’s opening ceremony as I write this, it’s on record! But if the Paralympics held an event for Mum’s mine would be the gold medallist in my eyes. At a very young age my Mother contracted Poliomyelitis, in the 1950’s the disease was at it’s peak worldwide and paralysed or killed over 500,000 people per year. Thankfully my Mother survived the trauma of being placed in an iron lung, and being made to wear metal calipers on both legs to enable her to learn to walk all over again, as well as losing the use of her left arm, hand and affected vision not to mention the loss of her childhood and most of her friends, precious years lost. She was told that having a child was impossible, although she had also been told that she may not survive the disease, I therefore am living proof that my Mother was not only incredibly lucky but also an incredibly determined woman. Her life after Polio has been difficult, but she has overcome not only the physical restrictions but also the predjudice of those who see only her disability and not the person. The Paralympics means so much more to me because of my Mother. I have grown up knowing that she has had to fight for everything, battle with her own body to achieve and struggle with people’s ignorance. So when I watch those paralympians compete, strive, win and lose, I see their strength, conviction, dedication and drive, their elation and their despair, but I also see my Mum….Love you Mum xx

 

41 Day 160 – Heaven Scented Hills in The Cotswolds

Many weeks ago I bought a guide book to circular walks in The Cotswolds, a beautiful place frozen in time with chocolate box villages and stunning scenery. Last night I made a discovery in the guidebook that led me to a location I have driven past many times that revealed a secret, and a subject hidden from view, a subject that I have on my list of things I want to photograph! I was joyous! Having had Sunday lunch at my parents we all set off on the 60 mile drive to a village called Snowshill, near Broadway, the location of a 3rd generation Lavender farm in the heart of the limestone Cotswold hills. Its a gem of a place hidden away 1000ft above sea level, and the family use a steam distillation process that is unique in Britain, with its products being sold around the world. For a small entrance fee you can walk freely along the furrows growing with many different varieties of lavender, the heady scent lifts your spirits and you feel a sense of calm as you wander. Today was simply a dream for me, I couldn’t have been happier, the sun shone and and my parents walked arm in arm as I reeled off more than 150 photos! My timing was perfect too as next week they harvest the fields, but amazingly the ticket allows you to return as many times as you want through the season, so I am positive I will be returning to this little piece of heaven!

http://www.cotswoldlavender.co.uk

41 Day 160 – Saturday Afternoon Views from The Village I Grew up In

My Father was from the city of Coventry, my Mother from a rural town in Shropshire. A few years after their marriage I arrived but Mum hated city life and so they moved to a smaller village called Burbage in Leicestershire. This was where I was to live until the age of 22 when I moved out into the town of Hinckley a mile up the road from Burbage. The two places almost merge together now but there is a really different feel in the village from that of the town. Burbage has held onto its village way of life with many cottages, churches and pubs to be found in a small area, mainly due to its prosperous past. As it was such a nice afternoon I decided to revisit some of the places I spent as a child, Burbage Congregational church’s hall was the location for the Playgroup that I attended prior to going to school, the Methodist Church hall was where I ran my dance school of 10 yrs, many happy hours spent teaching children of all ages how to dance. I drove to the centre of the village and walked around the grounds of the main church St Catherine’s with it golden weathervane shimmering in the late afternoon sunshine, and onwards to the smaller parish church of Aston Flamville, a hamlet on the outskirts of the village, a beautiful gem of a church, small and welcoming, a place you can step back in time as nothing has really changed for hundreds of years. Driving further round the village I parked up and walked onto the park where I spent hours with friends, and Saturday afternoons watching the cricket with my Dad, a match was in full swing as I arrived although it looked like the visitors were winning! I love the shot of the Pavillion where the expressions say it all, as does the chap laying flat-out on the bench! The image of the old factory shows the knitting and textiles industry was thriving here although it has long since gone and is now the home of a photographic studio, the pub opposite which was once full of workers now a trendy bar and meeting place. The image of the blue door is purely for the colour, although Id love to know what was hiding behind….a cottage garden maybe? And there it is, a small insight into the place I grew up in, a place I have known all my life and loved to share with you all.

41 Day 159 – Portrait of a Right Bunch of Charlies!

For those of you who adore bears this one is for you! I started to collect Charlie Bears a few years ago when my Mother bought me one as an additional Christmas gift……and then every Christmas thereafter! Its kind of become a Bear obsession, although they haven’t broken out of the cabinet yet! The problem I have is that there is a wonderful toy shop in Bowness in the Lake District and each time I visit I feel drawn to the bears! The last purchase was a limited edition collector bear, oh those eyes just begged me to buy it! As a child I was not one for dolls, it was always soft toys that drew my attention. Whilst holidaying in Devon we always visited a group of craft shops and one was a soft toy makers….and so the obsession was born, managing to persuade Mum and Dad to buy one although the budget was tight and so it was always the smaller ones that I used to have, but that was enough for me, something to cuddle up with in the caravan and fall asleep with on the long journey home. Some of us never really grow out of our childhood passions, some collect dolls, some collect toy cars, others toy train sets……but why should we grow up!?

A Right Bunch of Charlies!

 

41 Day 158 – Riot reported in Town Garden

Ooh I do love a dramatic headline! I was reading the newspaper round my parents house this evening and noted how the more dramatic hadlines grabbed my attention, so I thought Id apply the same logic to my post tonight. Plus I have to say that the colour’s going on in my Dad’s containers are simply riotous! Pansies are a fairly widespread garden flower and I remember as a child planting them out with my Dad’s careful guidance and then once they had flowered and the seed heads dried out I used to collect them and scatter the seeds in the hope that they would return the next year, and happily they did! Only Id manage to scatter the seeds all over the patio and so most of the new flowers were appearing in the cracks between slabs! But I love pansies, the flowers always seem to look like faces smiling up at you come rain or shine, a truly cheerful little flower. The other images are of a slightly more hybrid flower, the Fuscia, my Mum’s favourite. I always think they look like tiny ballerinas twirling and pirouetting at the end of the stems, so delicate yet quite a long lasting flower (weather permitting). The problem with these is that they require quite a lot of management especially over the Winter as they really don’t like a hard frost. But the rewards of careful effort are stunning, where would we be without flowers?