Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May has been a beautiful month this year and the gardens are proof of this – even my own small one is looking good and my friend’s unusual, sloping garden is glorious.    
Double Poppies in Friend's Garden
Steep Rockery above the Poppies

 Several estates offer wonderful guided tours by Head Gardeners whose knowledge is breathtaking and makes all the difference to a visit.
The Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park is half an hour’s ride from Ripon in Yorkshire. As its name implies there are steep paths (some with welcome handrails) amongst the most magnificent collection of Rhododendrons ever imagined and leading to the lower gardens with lakes and very realistic sculptures.
Steep Paths at Himalayan Gardens
Rhododendrons in full Bloom
Sculpture of a Swift.

In April there was a Tulip Festival near Leyburn. Again a treat for anybody who enjoys colour in their garden. Tulips, tall and short, mixed colours or plain and varieties that could never have been imagined. Again a guided tour, this time by a man who was expert at planting woods as well as growing tulips.
One of the Tulip Beds

And last weekend Raby Castle gardens at Staindrop were open to the public. No matter how familiar they have become there’s always something to appreciate. This time it was the Cat Mint in great swathes of colour. No photographs available but its well worth a visit.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Happy New Year to my friends across the world.
It is amazing to realise that the first two weeks of January have already come and gone and people are beginning to think ahead to the summer and plan holidays in warmer climates.
But today we have snow!!  Floods are forecast along the east coast and people warned to keep away from the sea-fronts as tides reach their height tonight. Fortunately I am far enough inland not to have that worry but we do have icy paths.
Wherever you are in the world I hope 2017 has started well for you and your weather is better than ours, here in England.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Beatrix Potter

One of the delights of Christmas shopping in Newcastle-on-Tyne has always been the wonderful window displays at Fenwick’s store. This year is no exception as they celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Beatrix Potter’s stories.

On a busy Saturday afternoon the queue to see them stretched all the way down Northumberland Street. As excited children were controlled by impatient parents, taped music deafened any normal conversation.
When the queue finally reached the windows parents pointed to the animals moving gracefully, above excerpts from their stories but I did wonder how many people really thought of Beatrix Potter and her wonderful tales or if  they merely saw beautifully dressed toys in very attractive scenes - all part of their annual Christmas festivities.

Tailor of Gloucester
Tom Kitten

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Last week my bedside clock stopped working and I miss it.

It was a fairly ordinary clock except that its face sloped upwards, making it very easy to read when I woke in the night.  And it didn’t tick!

The original clock

I’ve bought a replacement – it doesn’t tick either. It’s small and neat and digital but it has no character.  It is simply functional and I hate it.

The new clock.

 ‘Why use a clock at all?’ I hear you ask, ‘when a Smartphone shows the time.’  But a phone has to be picked up and “bothered with.” A clock doesn’t. The old one wasn’t expensive.  In fact it came as a free gift when I bought a double bed nearly 25 years ago.  It remained constant through births and deaths, grandchildren and family pets.  Its alarm used to wake me in time to sit up in bed and write for an hour before the day began either at home or at the office.  And it was a friendly face when I came back exhilarated or depressed.
It was there as the double bed changed to a single one, curtains were renewed and cheerful wallpaper replaced the plain walls.
The old clock was such a friend that I can’t throw it away.  I’ll keep it in the cupboard and take it out occasionally to remind me of all that’s happened in the last 25 years.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

 Last Saturday I went to see “Kynren, an Epic tale of England.”
It is a spectacular open-air night show that has been on the tongues of Bishop Auckland people for the past year. In fact after such a build up I half wondered if I might be disappointed. I certainly was not. The show was magnificent with a cast of hundreds of local people. 
It covers the history of the area as seen through the eyes of Bishop Hensley Henson.
The backdrop mysteriously changes from Auckland Castle to Durham Cathedral to a disaster in the coal mines and all beyond the setting of a lake that sometimes swirls in mists and at others is clear and bright. Music provides a background and fireworks accentuate the effects.
There are marching armies, battles between the English and the Scots; horses galloping and riders jousting, as well as quiet scenes of rural England with sheep and calves and geese walking quietly beside a group of young people.
 A beautiful boat sails over the water carrying Queen Elizabeth 1st to meet Shakespeare and later Stephenson’s Rocket complete with passengers steams its way across the arena leaving the 7000 strong audience gasping its appreciation. Queen Victoria arrives in an open carriage and the Bishop in a Rolls Royce car.
When the ninety minute show finally came to an end the whole audience rose for a standing ovation.
As we made our way back to the courtesy coach that would take us to the car park we agreed that the organisation had been flawless.
Congratulations to everybody involved.  They deserve it.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

 The world is in turmoil over Britain’s vote to leave the E.U.
Football fans are furious with the English team for their poor performance against Iceland on Monday night. The defeat was made worse by the fact that Iceland has only 3000 inhabitants and is new to the World Cup.
The weather here fluctuates between extreme storms and balmy sunshine.
And yet the day to day lives of ordinary people go on as usual.
In the past weeks I’ve had some wonderful outings – a day trip to Alnwick and the amazing Barter Books shop that is said to be the biggest second-hand bookshop in the country.  From the half dozen I hoped to exchange they accepted one – with a red binding and gold lettering, it was of Lisbon in the nineteenth century. How it came to be in my Mother’s bookcase I’m not sure unless it was from her well travelled and charming neighbour but it must have been the next best thing to seeing the country for herself.  That same lady gave me a beautifully presented book of garden flowers, slightly shabby but with gilt edges to the pages and flimsy paper protecting each illustration  It seems a strange thing to have given to a little girl but I still have it and take it down now and again and look at it.   It also features in my novel “Bridge to the Moon.”
Another trip to Northumberland was to Belsay Hall with its amazing Quarry gardens. On a perfect June day the drive there was stunning with long views over the hills and white blossom in the hedgerows as well as village gardens with yellow Laburnum and bright flowers.  Belsay’s gardens are so sheltered that every plant seemed to be in flower at the same time.
A magnificent Handkerchief tree at Belsay.
In complete contrast, on a damp afternoon later in that week we visited Rokeby Hall near Barnard Castle. No flower gardens here but a pleasant walk to see Greta Bridge and the Meeting of the Waters. Sir Walter Scott had been such a regular visitor to the house that there was a bust of him as a young man, in one of the dining rooms.
Bust of Sir Walter Scott

 He was said to have written the ballad “Rokeby” while staying with his friend John Morritt.

And so life goes on. Whatever is happening in the wider world - good or bad; ups and downs, private lives continue and can still be fulfilling.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Cactus in all shapes and sizes.
A bank of Lilies.
Yesterday I visited Harrogate Flower Show. The weather was perfect - hot and sunny and the crowds appreciated it as they bought bulbs and plants, bushes and even bedspreads.
The whole atmosphere was friendly especially in the afternoon when many people took a welcome break to sit down and listen to music from a tent in the centre of the show-field.

Faces of a different kind.

In very different weather, two weeks ago on a damp and blustery day my daughter took me on a nostalgic visit to Seaham. When I knew it, years ago, it was Seaham Harbour with three huge pit wheels turning continuously on the sea front while ships carried coal or timber in and out of the harbour. Now that harbour is empty and houses have replaced the pit wheels.

The empty harbour

However there are three new statues on the seafront that are eye-catching and unusual. They commemorate the history of this small mining town over the last two hundred years.

This Wooden Statue of Lord Byron and his Bride.
One of the quotations on Lord Byron's statue

This very popular statue of "Tommy" is a reminder
of the Seaham men who fought and maybe died in  WW1

And this Realistic Metal Statue represents three Miners
ready to go below ground and probably miles out under the North Sea
 to hew coal in their Next Shift.
The Plaque below the Miners' statue.