Artist

Alexander Averin

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Tuesday Mar 27 2007 17:11:39
By Cait
Dear Diary. I missed you yesterday. I didn't blog either, so it's buy one, get one free today. Bear with me it's a long one. I’m so lucky to both live in the country and have a job I love. One that I actually miss when I am at home unwell. I miss the borrowers of course, they have become my friends. Many of them have had this virus so I know its every twist and turn; how you start to feel better and think you are over it and then suddenly it hits you again and you feel like a washed out rag. As I was a nurse in a past life many of them do consult me about their medical problems but I don’t mind. I felt much better yesterday; it was a no-work day and the weather was outstanding wasn’t it? It was as if Spring had really arrived and in fact it almost felt like early Summer. I took advantage of it being a day off and appreciating that I felt a lot better (then) I took my current novel ‘Diary of an Ordinary Woman’ by Margaret Forster outside. It is our book group’s choice for this month so I read it sitting on the bench outside the cottage, soaking up the sun at the same time and breathing in warm, fresh air. It felt good as I had been cooped up far too long. The air here is truly like wine, we notice the difference when we go away from here, back to the ‘otherworld. Today though I woke to frost and I had what threatened to become a migraine. I had endured a night full of bad dreams and feeling cold. Hopes of returning to work today flew out the window; the wretched virus was back and fighting. It was very misty too this morning. Up here in the hills we can be shrouded in mist for a good part of a day sometimes or else we can be above the mist altogether, up with the sun and looking down on the mist in the valleys below. It can appear like an ocean or a lake. The first time I saw this spectacular sight, sixteen years ago, it did truly take the breath from me. For an instant I didn’t know what it could be; the silvery, wispy, cloudy and mystical ‘lake’ which seemed to be floating in space miles below me but above the valley below. Autumn is the best time of the year to see this phenomenon though and no doubt I will write more on this and post some photos for you when She arrives. There is a ’new’ bunch of primroses in flower in my garden, a surprise both in location and also in size. These flowers always come into blossom so very quietly, without any fuss but with maximum splendour. Their colour is bright without being too garish, I love them. They are nestling against the fence in my back garden; a new plant which I must have transplanted at some time last year. She sits beside my rare yellow ‘bobbly’ Buddleia, (I forget the genus) but it was bought from a local MacMillan Open Garden sale at a local minor ‘stately home,’ the residence of some local gentry. I have three buddlea now; one was a rather weak cutting from a very dear friend of mine. It took a while to get going but is doing well now. All three plants are covered with butterflies in the summer which is what I wanted to happen as I am slowly trying to create a wildlife garden. I love it when each plant has its own story; when I can take a friend round my garden and show not just the plant but also tell the story that goes with it, the history of how it came to be in my care or how I grew it from seed or cutting. I tried for years to grow Welsh poppies, they just would not germinate in my ground (I had no greenhouse then). I have a very dear friend, E, who also lives in a white painted stone cottage by a river. She is also an ex-nurse, we trained together, we are both bibliophiles, both bookmark collectors, with tastes in common in everything really. Passionate about all things horticultural, she gained the RHS qualifications and now runs her own plant business. As I was leaving her cottage once after a weekend’s stay, she gave me a small handful of her very own Welsh poppies’ seeds and needless to say they really did germinate in my garden and now flower all summer long, well into the autumn and they pop up all over the place. They remind me of our friendship as well of course. E’s white cottage though is set up above the majestic River Wye in the beautiful Symonds Yat area in Herefordshire. Her garden is on a huge slope of course, cliff-like really and reaching down to the wide river bank of the Wye. It is made up of terraces, each differently planted and each with its own secret little pathway. And little surprises and massive hunks of rock meet you as you turn a corner. It is an unique garden and with such ongoing potential. And cats, dogs and chicken can roam free. I’m getting wistful again, I can see I will be going to visit her again before too long. All my plants grow very large though. Even my husband has acknowledged that (and don’t men say size isn’t everything?). I am sure it is the energies in this area and the love bestowed upon them. Just looking at them and sending them your love and appreciation is like a kind of encouragement to grow, do you not agree? * But now it is afternoon and after dosing myself with two of my very strongest painkillers I do feel a lot better. I have showered, washed my hair, had some porridge, some soup and some fruit (not altogether) and I am starting to feel human again. Well enough to get these thoughts onto paper and eventually I hope onto the computer. Today I am wrapped up in my freshly-washed turquoise pashmina which a friend brought me back from Turkey last summer. It is pure cotton and so comforting to my allergy-prone skin. The colour turquoise is supposed to be the healing colour; I am sure it works. I am sitting in the ‘sleepy seat‘ and Molly is on my lap. We are being polite to each other. She really feels that it is her place but she is too gentle to not give way when I insist on sitting in it. But she stays on my lap and I try to write legibly around her which is quite difficult. The snug resembles a Chinese laundry today and you have to battle your way through it dodging the washing hanging from the hooks on the beams. I refuse to buy a tumble-dryer and when the weather is too bad to hang washing out in the garden I hang it from the beams in the snug in front of the Rayburn, the heart of the cottage and which is alight all year round. Some will go on the rack above the Rayburn and some hang on a big black cast iron antique hanging hook-rack , probably originally meant for kitchen utensils. It hangs from a beam now above my drop-leaf dining table. I am sure I am only doing what the women who lived here in the old days would have done. In what I call the wash-house which is what you might call a utility room as it is where the washing-machine, the freezer and the larder fridge live and the wellies and the ‘country’ coats, I have a ’Sheila Maid’ and that is also good for airing. Rayburns are great at pressing too, I quite often fold clothes and sheets etc and place them on the rack over the hot Rayburn and voila! They iron themselves. I discovered this miracle trick when we first escaped to Wales and ran our first smallholding without mains electricity. I gave up ironing altogether and just used the ‘Rayburn method’. It is amazing what you can get away with when you have to. I am very keen on old country remedies, household tips etc. I will pass on some more to you in future, sorry I am, getting into ‘old granny mode’ now somewhat! I have been musing on modern life again today though. What about? Well Village Life actually. Wondering whether villages will be a thing of the past if things carry on as they are. Lots of CL folk live in the country but cannot really call themselves villagers in the ‘old’ sense of the world. For what makes up a village is being taken from them: the schools, post offices, butchers, greengrocers, newsagents, surgeries, hospitals, cafes, churches and chapels, transport, pubs etc. Isn’t it a shame too when a local village pub turns into a restaurant and is no longer a meeting place for locals to sit and chat over a pint? Or when the school closes and even the smallest of children are bussed out to another school miles away. A lot of folk certainly live in the countryside but cannot be called villagers. So will perhaps the journals about 21st Century village life become historical memoirs of those bearing witness to the death throes of village life? Should they be re-entitled ‘Village Death’ or ‘’What Was Once a Village’ Life might be more appropriate? Shall we try and be positive? Let’s look to the new entrepreneurs in the countryside and let’s fight tooth and nail for fairtrade for our hardworking farmers, before they all emigrate and let’s not forget the fishermen and let’s encourage all the local organic growers and local food producers and all who are trying to hold together and save their local communities and their services. Unless we do this will the countryside become nothing more than a theme park fit not even for retired people to live in because there will be no services to support them? Is the time for all of us to really think global and act local upon us and in more ways than one? * Last night’s television news told me that the bird visitor numbers appear to be decreasing but I have not noticed it myself in my little nature reserve. I was al little concerned about Norman nuthatch though as I hadn’t seen him for a long while. (Are there any other nutters, excuse the pun, like me out there who give names to heir visiting wildlife?). Norman and his wife Norma nest and rear their young every year in an alder tree trunk on the riverbank next to the compost heap. I never forget when I first saw a nuthatch. They are the only birds that feed upside down, it’s quite comical to watch them feeding on the nuts. This morning though he was acting out of character and was upright on the kitchen window bird table tucking into some wholemeal bread and eyeing up the lump of dog’s fur which my son had placed there yesterday after a dog brushing session. I told S that the birds would like some of Finn’s ultra soft honey coloured fur as it would make great d├ęcor and a most desirable property, might even set a trend. I look forward to the nest building season each year. We have put up numerous bird boxes around the place and also over by the forge. The lovely old couple who lived here before us were resident here for more years than I had been alive when I moved in. Sadly they lost a son in childhood and the tree which was planted in his memory is over by the forge, We have put a nest box on the trunk and every year a pair of pied flycatchers nest in it. Our neighbours have a lot of nest boxes too and several owl ones. We are so lucky to have a lot of owls around us. One sits on top of the telegraph pole outside my bedroom window and peeps in at me as I lay in bed. Very Harry Potteresque. Our neighbours are away at the moment taking a well earned short break in Ireland before Easter and the start of their busy season. They own three shops, one in Aberaeron on the west coast of Wales and two in Hay-on-Wye. They make and sell jewellery and wind chimes and the shops also sell a wide range of raw crystals, rocks and gemstones and a a huge selection of candles. All things New Age, their shops are truly like Aladdin’s Cave. They also own a little home made fudge shop in Hay, (many flavours, all delicious) My dentist is in Hay which is a 90 minute round trip from here but I never mind going there. The town is full of second hand bookshops, lovely litlte clothes shops, good gift shops and some excellent restaurants. Last year my daughter and I did some of our Christmas shopping in the town and for once buying Christmas presents was a joyful adventure, not the wretched ‘humbuggery’ experience it usually is. A friend and I meet in Hay every few months for lunch (we always have a special dessert!) followed by just a little bit of retail therapy in the clothes shops. We like taking on the role of ‘Ladies who Lunch’ from time to time, a preparation for the time comes when we both retire from the library service! And of course every year in early Summer there is the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival to look forward to; not to be missed. I have just read what I have written and it reads like a tourist advertisement for Hay, apologies if I have gone OTT again. Blessings? Chicken and free range home made eggs because I have just had a phone call from one of the granddaughters and she tells me that their new chicken have arrived today. They have one each, including Mum and Dad and they have each had to name their own of course. The names? Hetty, Lottie and Penny Red Hen (the girls in age order, 10, 9. 5). Clarissa and Myfanwy (Mum and Dad’s respectively). I have to get this right, I have my orders. * Staying on the chicken theme. Chicken soup, great for colds according to Jewish tradition. Yellow flowers Other people’s gardens, their inspiration The lifting of clouds. * Before I go a poem, it is a sad one of mine, sorry, but I am wanting to keep up with the ‘yellow’ theme for today. Yellow I am yellow. I am cheerful, always optimistic, the antidote to your depression. You try to escape me, but like Welsh poppies I endure. Reaching out the best I can to you While you are in retreat. While you are in retreat, Whole seasons see me smiling and swaying. Blowing and peeping round corners. Watching you pass. And trying so hard to make an impression. To shine on your grief and reconnect our spirits with my buttery glow. At end of summer I give up, as I myself am wilting, blown too hard, dried up and coldly crisp through fading away by fate’s regeneration; I too am down. My yellow’s gone and I am merged to make the shade of nature’s dirty brown, which is the colour of the earth, but not of cheerfulness. ©Cait O’Connor

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