Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Gardens in May

A Mammoth Task

Raby Castle near Staindrop is a perfect place to be on a fine May day.  Walk in the acres of parkland where the deer roam freely; or sit in the 18th century garden with its ornamental pond and wide view of the castle; or find a quiet seat to read or create a story.
But the most dramatic feature of the gardens must be the Cloud Hedges; twice as high as a man and almost the same thickness. They are Yew, the darkest green and they’ve been there for 230 years.  According to the Head Gardener, it takes six weeks to clip them all, starting at the end of August and lasting until the middle of October. What an incredible achievement.

In contrast

Russell Square
garden in London is contained between busy roads and tall dense buildings and is obviously appreciated by all those people who live without gardens of their own. It is beautifully planted with herbaceous borders and gentle hedges and lime trees trained to provide a covered walk – all in the shade of trees that have been there since the park was created.

Near Waterloo Station in the heart of the city, traffic constantly roars past the sky-high buildings and even the trains are above eye-level, but turn a corner and discover a haven of peace – a beautifully kept garden surrounding the church of St John the Evangelist.  Satisfied pigeons sit contentedly on the smooth lawn.
The special feature of this garden is the mosaic work; small toadstools peeping out from under the trees and large benches big enough for 3 or 4 people, as well as a semi circle of seats near the entrance.  And around them all, beautiful flower-beds, tall roses and a small herb garden offer an escape from the busyness of the city.

                 "Our England is a garden, and gardens are not made by singing:-
                   'Oh How beautiful!' and sitting in the shade .
                                                            Rudyard Kipling, "The Glory of the Garden."                    

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Magic of Kindle

Next week I will be having a short holiday with the luxury of reading on the journeys both to and from London.  In the past I’d have carried one book and hoped I enjoyed it.  Now I own a Kindle – that amazing machine that can retain dozens of novels; so easily chosen from Amazon and downloaded with a single click.
For this holiday I have specially chosen a book written by a friend of mine, Avril Joy.
It is entitled “Blood Tide” and she lists it as a PI Danny Beck Novel; a detective story set in Newcastle-on-Tyne and Weardale, both areas she knows well.  It is a very different genre from her earlier books, “Sweet Track” and “The Orchid House.”
The cover of this one points to suspense and tragedy – wet streets and the long legs of two police officers.
I have followed the progress of this novel since it began and can say with certainty that like all of Avril Joy’s books, it will be a fantastic read.  I can’t wait to begin.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Red Shoes and Other Stories


A few days ago I uploaded a collection of short stories to Kindle and experienced such a feeling of excitement and satisfaction when I saw it highlighted in the Kindle Store and then with a single click downloaded to my own machine.
It really is amazing that such a thing is possible.                                         

Its title is “Red Shoes and Other Stories.” As you can see above, its cover has distinctive lettering over brooding water.  Two of the stories involve the sea, but they are all varied, each with its own genre, but linked by a single theme of “Searching.”
 Searching for happiness; for an identity; for a grand-daughter’s flat and for a long-gone childhood.
On the Kindle site a large arrow above the book invites readers to look inside and, like magic, the book opens.

One friend has already downloaded and read it.  She says “I loved the stories.  I like the way you write from a point of view that is not obvious.”

So, I do hope other people will discover this book. At 80p it’s great for a train journey or a motorway coach ride............ or simply a bedtime story.Red Shoes and Other Stories

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Holy Island

Holy Island. Lindisfarne.
Waves Crashing on The Stony Beach.

On Saturday I paid my first-ever visit to Holy Island.
All week the weather forecasters had predicted rain and temperatures colder than Christmas, but they were proved wrong. The sky was blue; the sea was shimmering as we crossed the Causeway to join 40 friends from the Escomb group of churches and reflect on one of the most important centres of British Christianity.
The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful as we walked through the village to Fiddlers Green and St Cuthbert’s Centre where there would be laughter and fun and a shared lunch that proved to be enough for tea and supper as well. Afterwards with the tide surrounding the island completely, we walked for about two miles enjoying the experience of being separated from the world.
We went down to a flat beach and looked across calm water to a tiny island that St Cuthbert had used as a retreat and is still used to this day – completely isolated for nine hours at a time according to the tides.  Then we scrambled up a stony hill and discovered an incredible view across to the Farne Islands and Berwick and beyond. Below was the busy harbour with its fishing boats and lobster pots and above was the castle, gaunt against the skyline. In the water, seals' heads popped up to welcome us.
Changing direction, we walked on until we reached a very different beach, stony and pounded by a rough sea. White waves threw up beautiful brown seaweed and that particular smell always associated with the sea.
The lane back to the village was The Crooked Lonnen, running between fields full of lambs, all fat and healthy in the sea air. Bluebells, surely bluer than usual, flowered in the verges with small clumps of white daisies beside them.
Back amongst the stone cottages and country inns we came across a tiny craft shop selling pottery and beautiful jewellery and with a shadowy bookshelf in the centre. I was surprised and delighted to find Erica Yeoman’s novel “Devil’s Drove” on sale.  Erica is one of our Whitworth Room-to-Write group.
Wood carving on the Font cover.

At 4 o’clock there was a short service in the Parish Church of St Mary with its rich stained glass windows and beautiful wood carvings – a life-sized one in the south aisle is of six monks carrying St Cuthbert’s coffin on the first stage of its journey to Durham. It is named The Journey. A smaller carving on the font cover represents the Holy Spirit descending to a child.                                                                                         

At 6 o'clock we crossed the Causeway again; quite safe now but still very wet; a reminder of the tide that rules the lives of all who live or visit there just as it did thousands of years ago.