Monday, 2 October 2017

I've waited all summer for butterflies to appear in my sunny garden, but even the prolific white blossom on the Buddleia didn't attract them this year.  However, suddenly they have arrived. The blossom has died, very few flowers remain, but here they are, fluttering and swooping close to the windows and even settling on the warm bricks of the wall by the door.
Butterfly half in shade by the front door
Other visitors to the garden are the sparrows!

Regular 2 o'clock meetings - perhaps it's Sparrows' Institute,
similar to Women's Institute.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Here we are with the last Bank Holiday weekend of the year already gone. 
It's hard to believe that summer is nearly over but I look back and realise how much I've enjoyed it. 
In June we had a special family gathering in Lewes, that elegant county town of East Sussex with its steep hills and narrow snickets, its historic castle and its gardens. It still has an abundance of cafes and individual shops – one especially appealing is a book shop catering solely for children. And wherever you look there are views of distant hills.
Small shop with a big stock

A View of the hills from Lewes town centre

A month later during Heritage week I was in Devon with a group of friends.  We enjoyed three wonderful outings, all in glorious sunshine. The first was by steam train, leaving a tiny station near Buckfast Abbey for a slow journey through beautiful countryside to another small station, Staverton, where we could walk along the platform and
inspect luggage that would have been used a hundred years ago. 
Then back the way we'd come.
Buckfast Abbey

The second outing was a tram ride from Colyton to Seaton, edging the River Exe on one side and a nature reserve on the other.  Butterflies were everywhere – such a contrast to my own area where there’s been a noticeable lack of them this year.
The pink tram that carried 50 passengers.
 Afterwards our own coach took us to the coast where we chose super brie and cranberry sandwiches in a typical seaside cafe. 
The chandelier there was a riot of psychedelic colours.
The fun chandelier

In contrast, the third outing was to Morewellham Quay – just across the river from Cornwall and classed as “the greatest copper port in Queen Victoria’s reign.” During a guided tour of the mine I was amazed to realise how little most people knew of the mines and the men who worked them.  Of course here in the north-east mines were always an accepted part of life. 

And to round off the summer there was all the fun of "Hamsterley Hoppings," a real old-English village fair just a few miles from home. The sun shone, the crowds were happy.  There were tug-of-war competitions and pet shows and children’s races as well as a blacksmith demonstrating how to shoe a horse. 

There was also a competition to guess the weight of a sheep. The black-headed animal stood quietly in his pen as visitors were advised that last year’s sheep weighed 60 and this one was heavier.
 “60 what?” somebody asked but I didn’t hear the answer. So I made a wild guess and needless to say I didn’t win but I did wonder what the prize might have been if I had.

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.