Monday Meditation: My Walk Around the *Neigh*bourhood

A9782E54-B393-4A09-B173-2A2C704B7C59As I write, it’s midday on Sunday, the sky is a clear blue as far as the eye can see and the sun is bringing out the crocuses and daffodils in the front garden. A perfect time to go for a walk. Except it’s 2 degrees C out there with an icy wind. My crazy husband is out on a bike ride with the club, but I’m waiting a couple of hours for those predicted extra couple of degrees! So, I’ve put on the Prime Chill album, made a cup of 3 Mint tea and thought I would show you some pictures of last week’s walk on a similar day, when I went up to what used to be the horses’ field.

Not that long ago, I used to go regularly to see the permanent residents of this field, Dolly and Annie, two working carriage horses. Dolly was a black heavy, plodding mare who was so quiet and friendly. Annie was a tall chestnut and very temperamental. She was a bully and any other temporary residents were given short shrift, including the foals, often receiving a nip or a kick to let them know their place in the scheme of things. She was quite haughty, looking and behaving more like a thoroughbred. She would always push herself forward for any treats and I often had to distract her so that I could sneak some apple or carrot to Dolly or the foals. But they both allowed me to befriend them and would make their way over from the far corner of the field as soon as I approached, Dolly plodding over in her slow, lumbering fashion, Annie skittish and tossing her tail.

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I was privileged to witness one of Dolly’s foals being born, a really ugly little thing with a huge head, but he was so friendly and funny. Annie had a much more elegant-looking long-legged foal not long after and some months later, on a beautiful summer evening, I stood and watched as first Dolly’s foal started racing around the perimeter of the field, then Annie’s foal joined in. Annie was not impressed and tried to put a stop to it, but then Dolly got the itch and began charging around after the excited foals, pounding the ground with her heavy feet, and before long, Annie had to join in the fun. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. Four horses careering around the field at full gallop, round and round, uninhibited, kicking up their legs every so often with the sheer freedom and fun of it all. Oh, to move with such joyful abandon in the fresh summer air under an endlessly clear sky!

 

Now, sadly, the field lies abandoned. The local authority wants to build a supermarket, petrol station and housing, by a busy roundabout in a residential area at the entrance to the town. Of course there has been a huge outcry and everything has been up in the air for a few years.

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This gnarly old tree used to be the only shade for up to 6 horses, next to a pond that gradually shrank over the years. Now the tree has apparently been struck by lightning, cleaved in two. It wasn’t an ideal situation for the horses: in summer it was completely overgrown with tall thistles and nettles, in Spring and Autumn, it was a boggy quagmire around the perimeter with all the rain. But it was a large space, with a right of way for walkers, who would bring treats as they passed through. I loved taking my young grandchildren there: they, too, saw the baby foal within minutes of its birth. It was a special time. We were on a nature walk at the time, I had given them a list of things to look out for. We had spotted guard-dog geese, a pair of swans with their cygnets, collected feathers, but this was truly a gem.

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Annie’s foal with my grandson

On my most recent walk, I spotted these gates further up the road on the opposite side to the field:

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I don’t know how many hundreds of times we have driven past, or the dozens of times I’ve walked past, but I have never noticed them before. I was always looking over the road for the horses. They are beautiful iron gates with metal flower ornamentation.

When I arrived home, a little sad and angry at what I had found by the field (see next Monday), I came through our gate and smiled. I saw the first real signs of Spring:

 

The daffodil had been proudly standing in bud since early January, the only one to be in such a hurry, and I thought it would be sure to get caught by the frosts, but has withstood everything the elements have thrown at it: frost, hail, rain, snow and icy winds, and now it was fully open. And there, too, was the first forsythia flower, a sign I always look for tell me that Spring is really very close.

And now the outdoors calls again, the sun couldn’t be brighter: it’s bouncing off windows and cars. Incredibly, we are forecast snow on Tuesday! Have a wonderful week, we are confined to barracks having the parquet flooring in the hallway refurbished, pictures soon.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

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I swear I saw Spring creeping around the corner all cloaked in purple and gold …

Storm Doris seems to have abated at last. She blew in, shook things about a bit, knocked over a few fences and pieces of garden furniture, flattened the more delicate bulbs that were just opening up and then blew out again, but not before treating us to a deluge of rain and bone-chilling temperatures. But there was a spectacular double rainbow two days in the last week. Excuse the terrible photos, I had to take them through the window when it was pouring down and very, very dark.

The sun shone today and there are many more bulbs in bloom. It’s so uplifting to see some colour back in the garden.

There’s a bit of tidying up been done, paths weeded and repaired, trees pruned, lawns cut; husband’s busy painting new edging for the borders (he doesn’t like the colour, ‘Wild Thyme’ a light green, he wants ‘Somerset Green’ which is more like an army barracks, but he’s in bad books because he dug up much-nurtured plants along with the weeds, so he doesn’t get to choose!)

The garden isn’t in its full spring glory yet, but here are a few early snaps:

The delicate mauve crocuses on the left have been Doris-ed, as have some of the older and taller cousins of these dwarf narcissi, but there are more waiting to show off when it’s safe to come out.

PS After I wrote this, husband was pacing around constantly looking out the window pondering over what the weather was going to do and if he could go on a bike ride. I was trying to concentrate and in the end I said he should go, it was overcast but he’d be fine…

Oops…

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

A Rare Family Get-Together

img_1537We had my 86 year old mum staying with us for a few days last week and my brother and sister-in-law were able to make the trip up north from the south coast to spend the day with us on Friday. They had only recently returned from a family visit to the US, and Paul was suffering a creaky back from the plane journeys and playing with babies and toddlers, so I was extremely grateful that they made this special trip.

Mum only gets to see them about once a year as they live so far
apart and they spend a lot of time in the States visiting their son and daughter’s families.
She is very restricted in her mobility now and extremely deaf, we don’t know how much longer she will be able to travel here as it is a real struggle for her to get in and out of our car and up the single step into the house, so these get-togethers take on greater significance as the months go by.

We had a lovely day, swapping photos of our grandchildren and funny stories from our childhood. Mum learned about a few things my brothers used to get up to! She is always amazed at my powers of recall but she later told me a story I didn’t remember at all, of when we were very young and she looked up out of the front window to see cows in the garden, and in her neighbours’ gardens. They were trampling the borders and churning up lawns. Some roadworkers had left the gate open to the field they were in further up the street and they had escaped. This was a brand new urban council estate, so although we lived on the edge near surrounding fields, this was an unusual sight to say the least. We were the only ones in the street with a phone and someone suggested she call the police. She said she lived to regret it as she was called as a witness in the prosecution of the elderly farmer, whom she felt very sorry for.

Before Paul and Jila had to leave, we managed to perch on our new very firm sofa for a rare family photo:

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The Three Not-So-Wise Monkeys!

The following day was really warm and sunny and Mum and I were able to have lunch outside in the garden. She’s not able to sit out in her own garden and loves the peace and quiet here. We are very fortunate to have a back garden that is an oasis of sun and tranquillity, despite living on a very busy road. Often, there is just a distant hum of an airplane and the thwack of willow on leather from the nearby cricket club or a cheer from the bowling green around the corner. Mum loves the birds, but unfortunately can never hear them singing (she refuses to wear hearing aids!), which is a shame because the robin was trilling his heart out in the hawthorn tree for her. She is developing cataracts too, so she couldn’t see him, either.

She did however have some afternoon entertainment watching her son-in-law ‘scrumping’ or picking apples from the tree for her to take home. He was bumped on the head more than once from falling produce. He hade made an apple crumble the previous day which she enjoyed and she was going to take some apples back for herself and her neighbour.

I am always on pins when Mum is here in case she has a fall, but the visit passed without incident. She enjoyed speaking to our daughter on the phone on her last evening here and we sat up relating more stories from the past. I am always conscious of soaking up all the details when she speaks and I jot down dates and places. Her memory is starting to go in and out now, so I make the most of these moments.

My husband drove her home on Sunday, checked all her lightbulbs, plugged in lamps, checked the timer and clock on the heating and fixed the timer for her security lights. She is always happy to be home and is much more confident in her own surroundings. I am grateful that he does all this for her and makes the long and difficult journeys to bring her here and take her back, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see each other.

Some October garden photos (copyright: me)

Bees, Baskets & Begonias: Summer Flowers At Last!

imageChance would be a fine thing! We haven’t had any consistent sun in weeks. However, many of you were kind enough to appreciate my post I Love My Garden! and I thought I would take a break from posting healthy recipes and do another post for the spirit, showing the gardens now that the summer flowers are finally coming out. It has been a long month of deluge after deluge, which has fed the weeds and flattened many of the flowers, as well as sapping our souls, but it is refreshing and uplifting to look out of the windows and see all the colours and the bees! They love the pink and purple flowers and are so busy at the moment – if you look carefully you can see them.

If you’re viewing this via email, you’ll need to click onto the blog to see the slideshow.

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The sharp-eyed amongst you will spot that the title is something of a misnomer: because it has been bucketing down with rain, the begonias are in fact still in the greenhouse waiting to be planted! They are my husband’s domain and he has been tied to a paintbrush in the interim, struggling to cover blue tester paint patches with white – did you know you’re not supposed to put test samples directly onto the walls? imageNo, after years of doing exactly that with no problems covering it with the chosen colour, we now have a large blue ‘m’ in the middle of our chimney breast showing through cream stain cover and white emulsion! Apparently, you’re supposed to put the test paint on a piece of card and hold it up to the wall! Really?! How is that going to give you a realistic image if your wall is a different colour or texture?! Don’t say I never teach you anything.

It’s been a trying few days.

We need some sun!

Hope you enjoyed the show and if you have a surplus of the yellow stuff, we’d be extremely grateful if you could send a bit our way. Thank you.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

I Love My Garden!

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(Image Credit: timelesswheel)

It’s yet another heavy, darkly overcast day and I felt so disappointed that yet again there was no sun showing off the garden to it’s best advantage. Yesterday, I had watched as the rain distorted the view we have from our kitchen window, and sighed. I have always looked forward to this time when all the blossom and the rhododendron flowers burst forth in a synchronised display and the garden looks altogether very pleased with itself.

I could see that there would be more heavy rain before long which might ruin the display so, checking first that it didn’t feel as wintry as it looked, I decided to make the most of it and sit outside drinking not only a cup of licorice and cinnamon tea, but also drinking in the spectacularly colourful show around me.

I love my garden. I love the peace of it. I can sit there in contemplation and hear only the birds, the bees, the occasional thwack of leather on willow in the distance (that’s cricket to my American readers!) or wood on wood from the local bowling green. Sometimes I can hear young children laughing and splashing in their paddling pool – children laugh so uninhibitedly, it always brings a smile to my face.

My garden is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; it is informal, wild plants have insinuated themselves and been welcomed if they fit and don’t get greedy, while other cultivated plants have self-seeded in nooks and crannies, like the pink nemesia covering an ugly corner of the path, and have been allowed to take up residence.

I never fail to have my spirits restored and uplifted when I’ve been in my garden, even for just five minutes. Breathing in the fresh air scented with floral perfumes and sometimes wood smoke fills me with joy and gratitude. I feel renewed. Any stresses and frustrations are lifted for a while as my brow unfurrows and I lift my gaze from the ground and up towards the sky, the trees, the shapeshifting clouds.

I am always grateful that I have been fortunate to have this space and I wanted to share a part of it with you.

Forgive the quality of the pictures, I only have the iPad camera!

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The baby apple tree will hopefully have a better backdrop soon: my lovely daughter has volunteered to paint the garage against which it stands after I gave up on the fairies performing this kindness over the past couple of years!

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The bright pink azalea and the irises are from last year when the sun was more generous with its rays, this year the frosty hail and constant rain destroyed the azalea flowers before they could sit for a while and be admired, while the irises are still thinking about waking up.

I hope you enjoyed the show!

Copyright: Chris McGowan