Thursday, 31 July 2014

… Not Everything In The Garden Is Rosy …

Ever had a week where nothing seems to go right … is a little out of sync … a bit jarring … this has been my week.

I don’t mean to sound negative but July is not my favourite month.  Especially not this July.  We haven’t had any rain for weeks and the garden is suffering.  If it wasn’t for my evening watering and deadheading sessions I am sure there wouldn’t be any colour at all.  I haven’t been able to get out in the garden during the day because of the heat – and it shows – it desperately needs some attention.

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On top of which we are giving the spare bedroom a makeover which has meant removing everything, not an easy task – so now the contents of the room are spread over the whole house – boxes of books, paperwork, all my art gubbins etc.  I am not a happy bunny – but needs must – and hopefully in another couple of weeks we will be all straight again – everything de-cluttered and ship-shape.

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But that isn’t the last of it – on Tuesday evening my computer crashed – everything disappeared (sigh) if it’s not one thing it’s another.  Never fear though – I called my trusty computer doctor and he has put it back to rights – ‘a blip’ he called it – I was calling it plenty of other things and ‘blip’ wasn’t amongst them!

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So, at the moment, I am working on a garden trestle table as my desk has been dismantled and demolished and tomorrow the computer will be taken out of harms way whilst the room is decorated – so I thought I’d do a post today rather than at the weekend – just in case I am out of action.

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On the bright side the runner beans, tomatoes and courgettes are in full swing – not quite enough to call a ‘glut’ but not far off – my friend who has just returned from a visit to Monets’ garden at Giverny brought me back a mug with a print of his garden on it – which echoes the colours of my sweet peas beautifully.  And, whilst I was sorting through all my artwork and wondering where to put it all I found this painting which I had forgotten about.

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On the dark side a badger has been in the garden and uprooted all my carrots, half-eaten a few, scattered leaves everywhere and basically ruined the whole crop.  See what I mean – just one of those weeks.

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I know one thing, before anything goes back into the spare room it will be scrutinised, and if it is found wanting, it will not gain admittance – in the end all I want is a simple uncluttered life with just the bare necessities to keep life running smoothly – it’s not too much to ask, is it?

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We didn’t get the rain and storms that other parts of the country had – so it remains hot and muggy and, frankly, pretty unbearable – so if there is anyone out there listening – a few nights of soft, refreshing rain would go down a treat – if it doesn’t happen I may have to resort to a ‘rain dance’.

‘Til next time …

p.s. You’re not going to believe this, but after I had published this post I went out to put the sprinkler on the veg beds – and in the distance, what did I hear, but the rumble of thunder – come on rain – give me all that you’ve got.  Hopefully, no need for the ‘rain dance’ after all – fingers crossed!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

… The Road Less Travelled …

I have just finished reading a very interesting novel about time travel.  I know this has been written about in fiction many times before but this book ‘Q : A Love Story’  by Evan Mandery has a different take on it – one that I found intriguing and gave me pause for thought.  I did miss out huge chunks of this book which I personally didn’t think were relevant to the story, but the remainder was very interesting and thought-provoking.

“When our hero meets Q, one Monday morning at a cinema in New York City, he has met the love of his life.  Their romance quickly blossoms; in the row boats of Central Park, on the miniature golf courses of Lower Manhattan, under a pear tree in Q’s inner city Eden.  Nothing it seems, can disturb the lovers or prevent their approaching wedding.

Until one day a man claiming to be our hero’s future self tells him he must leave Q.”

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The gist of the story is that there are several versions of his future self who come back and guide him through his life and advise him to change direction before aspects of his life start to go wrong.  I won’t give away the ending just in case you decide you would like to read it – but as I said – it did give me pause for thought about my own life – and that little question of  ‘…what if …’.

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When I left school, the Careers Officer asked me what I would like to do with my life.  I told her that I wanted to be a writer.  She scoffed and said that wasn’t a proper job and suggested to my parents that I go to secretarial college where I could learn  skills that would enable me to find work and earn a living.  I guess my parents thought they were doing right by me – but I have always wondered about this other life that I could have had as a writer – maybe if I had pursued it I could have had a few books under my belt by now and made a comfortable living doing something I enjoyed.

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Maybe if my future self had come back and said don’t do it, don’t become a secretary,  you will be bored out of your box for the next twenty years – would I have listened and tried something different.  Or maybe this was the course I was meant to take and each event or decision I have made along the way was the right one which has led me to where I am today. 

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I personally think it would be great  if my older and wiser self gave my younger self advice – but would I take it, or just go along my chosen path regardless and live with the mistakes and, sometimes, the unhappiness, they would bring.  I guess I’ll never know (unless someone invents time travel, that is)!

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I hasten to add that I think I have made some good decisions along the way too.

I was only fifteen when I made that bold statement to the Careers Officer - so perhaps a little young to understand what I was saying or what was involved in becoming a writer. In the end I had a good career, 'retired' at the age of 40 to become a smallholder, then I tried painting for a living and now I write for pleasure - so I think I have had the best of all worlds.

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‘Till next time …

Saturday, 19 July 2014

… Into The Wild …

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.  The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.  The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”  - John Krakauer, Into the Wild.

The morning air was cool after a night of storms … perfect weather for our adventure. Our destination … the Watermead Country Park in unknown territory at the other end of the county.  An hours journey across the city and there it was … completely deserted.

In the background there was the constant noise and hum of the traffic speeding by … but here we were in an oasis of calm on the outskirts of the city … surrounded by acres of trees, wild flowers and lakes … dragonflies, bees and butterflies our only companions.

Isn’t it always the way that you never actually visit places that are right on your doorstep.

Today we were changing that.

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We started walking along a footpath and immediately came across a botanists dream … wild flowers in such abundance that I stopped counting the varieties after  a few minutes.  I was in paradise.  Pea vetch … Meadow Cranesbill … Devil’s Bit Scabious … Cornflower … Meadow Vetchling … Evening Primrose … Great Mullein … Ragwort ..  Knapweed … Teasel … Welted Thistle … Corn Marigold … Meadowsweet … Hedge Bindweed … Dock … Horseradish … the list goes on. 

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There were hides situated around small ponds … each one was visited in turn.  The first was the Sand Martin Hide.  A wall had been built for the Sand Martins to nest in … we watched in awe as the birds flew back and forth to feed their young … they flew at speed with perfect accuracy aiming at the holes where hungry little mouths opened to receive the insect delicacies.

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If you look closely you can see three little chicks in one of the holes waiting to be fed.

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The next hide was in a woodland clearing where a squirrels antics kept us amused whilst various birds came down to eat the seed left out for them.  But we hadn’t reckoned for the next hide which was elevated and gave a panoramic view of a lagoon where Herons stood on one leg waiting to pounce on unsuspecting fish, gulls and wading birds aplenty … horses grazed the short grass at the side of the lagoon … totally unaware of our presence – in the distance you could see the haze over the city as the sun rose higher in the sky.

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Initially the park was used as farmland and then used for gravel extraction. In 1989 the park was developed from these disused gravel pits.    In 2005 it was designated by English Nature as a local Nature Reserve, this provides the site with further protection from potential development.

To have this gem on the outskirts of a big city is a huge bonus for city folk and country lovers alike – to think we have lived in this county for all these years and never thought to visit before.  You can be sure that this will be the first of many more visits.

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We have no real wilderness around where we live … but going back to the wild for just a day nourishes the soul and feeds the heart … I am so glad we made the effort to get out of our comfort zone and see nature in the raw.

‘Til next time – stay cool!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

… A River Runs Through It …

We drove down the narrow lane with trepidation … what would we find when we reached our destination.  The sign, half hidden by roadside grass and nettles, pointed us in the direction of Sculthorpe Mill … we were hungry … looking for somewhere to eat … what harm would it do to go and have a look … I felt sure we would be disappointed and the only lunch would be a stale sandwich in a rundown pub that no one ever visited because they didn’t even know it was there.

How wrong could I be.  At the end of the lane … there it was … in all its glory … an old water mill.  A beautiful 18th century napped flint building …

Sculthorpe Mill

We smiled at one another  knowing that our original thoughts had been a little misguided.  Most of the pub-turned-‘eatery’  places  that we had visited had been   modernised to within an inch of their lives – all very pleasant with scrubbed pine tables and floors, lots of artwork on the walls etc. but not a lot left of the original building.  But the mill was like stepping back into another century … heavy oak beams, soft leather sofas, thick carpets and a congenial host. 

The old fashioned dining area was a series of small intimate rooms, two or three tables in each with just the gentle background noise of  diners chatting whilst enjoying their food.  After a delicious lunch of sea food we left to go and explore the surroundings.

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There were only one or two buildings in this little hamlet, both of which had once belonged to the mill, but were now private residences … there was nothing else but water, the mill race going under the mill building and the beautiful River Wensum, clear, shallow and fast flowing.

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“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.”
Laura Gilpin

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Seeing all this lovely clear water really made me want to go wild swimming – see this quote I posted on one of my now defunct blogs

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At the time of  Domesday, three watermills were listed in Sculthorpe. By 1225 the mills belonged to Richard Botte and the de Hasseneye or de Hasseneia family with the latterday Sculthorpe watermill, along with ten acres of land becoming known as Hasseneia Mill.
The final structure of Hasseneia mill was built on a large strip of gravel and silt above an ancient ford that was once the river crossing point for the Romans. The building was made up of flint rubble with brick dressings that probably came from an earlier mill with a new Norfolk pantiled roof. According to a plaque on its rear wall, this new mill was built in 1757, possibly just after alterations of the river course.

Having ground corn for many years, the mill probably ceased working c.1947 and was becoming derelict by the 1950s.

labrador dog enjoying a swim

“The Carmel is a lovely little river. It isn't very long but in its course it has everything a river should have. It ... tumbles down a while, runs through shallows, ... crackles among round boulders, wanders lazily under sycamores, spills into pools where trout live ... In the winter, it becomes a torrent, ... and in the summer it is a place for children to wade in and for fishermen to wander in.”
John Steinbeck

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It certainly has had a chequered history according to the website see here – but to me it was just an idyllic setting, a lovely old building and with a surprisingly beautiful garden.

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sculthorpe

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“The river itself portrays humanity precisely, with its tortuous windings, its accumulation of driftwood, its unsuspected depths, and its crystalline shallows, singing in the Summer sun.” Myrtle Reed

I have to say that writing this post has brought back happy childhood memories of Dad taking us to the mill in the village where we used to live, on Sunday mornings, jam jar and fishing net in hand, to catch sticklebacks and minnows, whilst poor old Mum was left behind to cook the Sunday lunch – aah happy memories indeed.

So, if ever you are travelling on the Fakenham Road near Sculthorpe – look out for the sign, keep your eyes peeled, you might miss it – then see for yourself this delightful place.

“ Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.  All was a-shake and a-shiver – glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.  The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated.” – The Wind in the Willows.

‘Til next time – take off your shoes, sit on the bank and dangle your feet in the water – I can’t think of anything better on a hot summers’ day. p.s. this is not a sponsored post.

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