Friday, 1 April 2016

Sheer Misery

There’s no point pretending it’s not happening. No point in sticking my head in the sand or hiding behind a nice big woolly mum. It is happening, it is real; Beloved is ill, both mentally and physically. It no longer matters who or what caused it, if last year’s medications tipped him over the edge we must accept it. Playing the Blame Game won’t make a blind bit of difference.

We are once again waiting for an assessment of his state of health and therefore in limbo. I have a permanent headache, feel flat, depressed and obsessed with the situation. It’s like standing at a carousel in the Arrivals Hall at the airport, helplessly watching a big suitcase full of demons going round and round and round and nobody claims it for their own, least of all me.

What on earth can I blog about? Perhaps I could start a new blog: 'The Road To Oblivion’. Or I could list the outings we undertake, singly or jointly, like meals with friends or in the pub, shopping trips; there have been some rare family visits, one where the visitors actually made a difference by clearing some long neglected jobs; there’ve been long or short walks with Millie, depending on the weather. Also depending on weather have been stints in the garden. Nothing has brought any lasting relief, that merry-go-round in my head is merciless.

So deep is this misery that I don’t want anyone to try and coax me out of it. When I told a friend how flat I feel she said that coming out with them to see a movie would be good for me, that I always seem to rally when circumstances demand it. I know all about brave faces and accepting their invitation might have been a good idea but afterwards I still have to go home and climb into my screeching head again.

I’ll come back here when the load lightens, or when we’ve had the assessment. In the meantime forgive me for wallowing in misery.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Miracle of Spring

Come sweetheart, listen, for I have a thing
Most wonderful to tell you - news of Spring.

Albeit Winter still is in the air,
and the Earth troubled, and the branches bare,
yet down the fields today I saw her pass -

The Spring - her feet went shining through the grass.

She touched the rugged hedgerows - I have seen
her fingerprints, most delicately green.

And she has whispered to the crocus leaves,
And to the garrulous sparrows in the eaves.

Swiftly she passed and shyly, and her fair
Young face was hidden in her cloudy hair.

She would not stay, her season is not yet,
But she has reawakened, and has set
The sap of all the world astir, and rent
Once more the shadows of our discontent.

Triumphant news - a miracle I sing -
The everlasting miracle of Spring.

John Drinkwater
English poet and playwright

. . . .and has rent once more the shadows of our discontent . . . .
Triumphant news indeed. Whose spirits do not lighten on days such as these.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


Following news sources online is a mug’s game. There are too many sites which concentrate disproportionately on hyped and blown up bad news. Headlines scream at you, deliberately phrased in such a way that you are drawn in against your better judgement. Result: depression and feeling down-hearted. Yes, bad stuff happens all the time, but concentrating on it to the exclusion of good stuff doesn’t make it better.

Living in a phoney bubble of privilege and positivity is plain stupid, we must face reality. After all, we are part of the human race, living at this time,  constantly confronted with the awfulness of traumatic events. 

Desperate refugees pressed up against barbed wire, children with huge hungry eyes, mass shootings, politicians in the UK all but shredding each other over the EU referendum; and then there’s the surreal and well nigh unbelievable spectacle of Donald Trump. 

But there was better news too more recently:

What, really?
Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall? I can’t have been the only one whose face cracked into a huge sneery grin when the news came through. Finally, something to make me giggle. I loved the pictures of the happy couple, (particularly the close-ups), arm in arm, Jerry in flat shoes, so as not to tower over her shortish groom who's 84, and looks every day of it. 

And so Rupert plays his part. Shifting
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.

However, it doesn’t do to make fun of Murdoch. At 84 his money bags can still cause our craven government to kowtow and let him have all the best programmes on the BBC for a song. Even for the man who can, and has, bought himself everything his mean and desiccated heart desires, the other man’s grass is always greener.

Not that you could mistake him for a sheep; a wolf in sheep’s clothing, more like.

Paul knocked on the back door today. The celandines are out in the hedges.Yes, it’s that time of year, March, the most exciting and provocative month in the garden, full of promise, with blizzards one minute and sun as warm as in May the next, with thunder and lightning, frivolous snow flurries, fierce storms pelting you with sleet and hail and soft breezes to make you throw off your hat and gloves. Yellow-gold March, with daffodil, coltsfoot, aconite, buttercup, dandelion and marsh marigold all vying for the attention of the earliest insects.  

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Permutations, Perambulations and Pictures

Millie is throwing me a dirty look from under lowered, speckled-white eyebrows: “Can we Please go out? It’s a lovely day.” 

“Oh, very well then.” She’s right, it’s chilly but the sun is out and I really shouldn’t waste the morning. I’m still very much up and down, given to mood swings, feelings of depression one minute, hopeful the next. A brisk walk in bright sunshine would surely do me good. 
It is indeed a cheery morning. We go up the old track leading out of Valley’s End towards Bishop’s Castle until we get to the crossroads, where we turn right, with our backs to Bicton Hill.

Ever since we’ve first lived here I have called this crossing of two field edge footpaths “Gallows Corner”. I can no longer remember who told me this but today, wanting to find out more about this gruesome, now disappeared, relic of past justice I asked several long time residents and local historians; none of whom had ever heard of it. Mr. Wells remembered the stocks next to the Town Hall, now the village museum, where wrong ‘uns, who had celebrated market day a little too carelessly, were shackled by their legs; I suppose they were lucky not to have been thrown into the lock-up proper from where they wouldn’t even have been able to see the fun, there being no window in the mouldy cell. On the other hand, well-meaning burghers might have pelted them with rotten vegetables?

Having walked along 'The Modems’ (again, I must find out why this track across the hill on the Southern edge of Valley’s End has this name), towards Radnor Hill we climbed the stile conveniently cut into the hedge into the next field.  Radnor Hill is mainly limestone, discovered and quarried by the Romans when they colonised this part of the country in the middle of the first century AD, and even today there are remnants of very early quarries on top of the hill, with several smaller and more recent quarries nearer the base.

Back down in the village, having slithered down a still muddy and steep path, via the old pool which has caused so much controversy and falling out of neighbour with neighbour, and along a small stretch of road past the entrance to the alms houses, we turned left to the allotments and the kissing gate, which leads to a track between two fields.  A kissing gate is a type of gate which allows people to pass through, but not livestock. The normal construction is a half-round, rectangular, or V-shaped enclosure with a hinged gate trapped between its arms. The kissing gate is often the subject of chatter about the origins of its amorous-sounding name. The prosaic answer is that it derives from the fact that the hinged part touches – or ‘kisses’ – both sides of the enclosure rather than being securely latched like a normal gate.

That hasn’t stopped many clinging to a more romantic notion: that the first person to pass through would have to close the gate to the next person, providing an opportune moment to demand a kiss in return for entry. I know which answer I prefer.

Kissing gates are often found at the entrance to church graveyards but there is no evidence that this has any symbolic significance.

Once we are through the gate - I have to hold it open for Millie and she snakes through without demanding a kiss - the field track to 'The Green’ lies ahead. (in spite of its name, ‘The Green’ is our tiny industrial estate consisting of three low and rather attractively built structures - one even has arched windows, like church windows. The industry pursued here is entirely rural, causing neither pollution nor noise.) The lower slope of Radnor Wood  is getting closer.

Three ponies and three sheep live in the paddock  at present. The field on the left has some kind of crop growing, possibly rape. Or perhaps winter wheat? I have no idea why just three sheep, when they are so plentiful everywhere else and are certainly never given any special treatment.
One of the ponies comes to inspect us. I often have an apple in my pocket, perhaps that’s why. Millie and the pony sniff each other but then lose interest. (‘The Green’ industrial estate is visible over the hedge on the other side of the paddock). At the other end of the field edge track we climb a stile and return to the village and the ford across the river.

Snowdrops and daffodils brighten he banks of the river. The waters have receded, although the river ‘was out’ when we had those endless heavy rains earlier this year and at the end of last year;  the levels have sunk, roads are clear and 4x4s can cross the ford again. I wouldn't like to try crossing in my small and ordinary car but then, I don’t have to. Valley’s End has a perfectly good humpback bridge built as recently as anno 1450 and still going strong. Well, with the fairly regular exception of lorries crashing into it, causing the locals no end of amusement while watching desperate drivers trying to extricate themselves without doing too much further damage. Many times drivers who had miscalculated the angle from road to bridge simply shot off, leaving the scene of the crime in as great a hurry as our narrow country lanes would allow. But, no more. Valley’s End has installed a camera! The guilty party will be caught and made to pay! Unfortunately, the parish finances are none too healthy and I am not sure that there was enough money in the kitty for both camera and film.

Millie was right to get me out. I am feeling much better. Tired, of course, after little in the way of exercise for several weeks, but I might take heart and go off again tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Well, there you are then . . . .

yet another reason to smile.

We made marmalade,
14 jars of it.

Although it’s a bit late in the year for making marmalade,
this lot should see us through to the end of it.
I use thinly cut Seville oranges which are at their best in January.
Mind you, it’s perfectly alright to cheat and use ready cut prepared oranges too.

Bittersweet and sticky,
marmalade on hot toast is real comfort food.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

New Year New You -- What Happened?

Do the Chinese go in for New Year’s Resolutions?

Mid-February already, so what’s happened to your New Year’s Resolutions?  Kicked into the tall grass and lost or thrown under a speeding bus and squashed flat? That ambitious contract many of us enter into with ourselves, being absolutely determined to lose weight, get fit, take up the ukulele, travel the world on a tricycle, blog regularly....etc. etc.

What, you are sticking to it? I don’t believe you. For the sake of the vast majority who made rash promises while in the company of others, equally inebriated, I sincerely hope you have forgiving or short-memoried friends; if these friends aided and abetted you in your folly or made similar promises, you are home and dry. Resolutions? What resolutions? Never speak of them again, at least until next New Year’s Eve comes around and the embarrassment at a year-long failure to pull your socks up and finally master Mandarin Chinese brings a hot blush to your face.

New year, new you, entirely new life, was the slogan of an online advertisement sent to me (and a million others) by a  department store with a seemingly benevolent face in early January. I was told that completely remodelling my home, buying the latest colours, hard and soft furnishings, would leave me revitalised, as new a woman as my new home; a woman enabled to stride forth into this shiny, brand-spanking new year with renewed vigour and determination, master of my fate and able to control and overcome all obstacles in my way. I may be exaggerating a bit here, but not by much.

What is it with this new year rubbish? Why do we tell ourselves that a change in the calendar year will make all the difference?

You may recall that 2015 was an annus horribilis for me - as the Queen would say - a year of disaster and misfortune. Towards the end of it things improved a bit but there was never any hope that all would be sweetness and light once the numbers changed. I am no more in control than I was in 2015. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions now. In another life and at another time, there were long years when I promised myself that “next year I will be brave, take courage and make changes” but I never did until my hand was forced by outside circumstances and change imposed itself on me rather than the other way round.

No resolutions for me last New Year’s Eve except the one: I would develop the ability to take what was coming, to accept and, hopefully, be without overwhelming resentment. Well, dear ones, I can’t even do that. In many ways life is easier than last year but my attitude hasn’t changed all that much.

When I ask people paddling similar leaky canoes like mine how they cope they tell me “just get on with it, there’s nothing else you can do” I see the resigned look in their eyes. They’re right, of course.

Resignation and resentment, two singularly unpleasant and unattractive attitudes. Where’s that speeding bus? If any state of mind ever deserved being squashed flat, these two do.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Another Reason to Smile

We Germans like our Bratwurst!
It is claimed that there are 1,200 different varieties of sausage in Germany.
For now, I am enjoying this one out of my frying pan;
eating it leaves me almost cheerful, in spite of the calories contained in it.

by AP Herbert

If there’s a dish
For which I wish
More frequent than the rest,
If there’s a food
On which I brood
When starving or depressed,
If there’s a thing that life can give
Which makes it worth our while to live,
If there’s an end,
On which I’d spend
My last remaining cash,
It’s a sausage, friend,
It’s a sausage, friend, and mash.

When love is dead,
Ambition fled,
And pleasure, lad, and pash,
You’ll still enjoy
A sausage, boy,
A sausage, boy, and mash.