Friday, 28 March 2008
I was tagged ages ago by Irish Eyes to write about recycling.
Very late I am afraid but here goes.
I am the (sole) recycling fanatic in my family. I keep a tall stainless steel pedal bin indoors and it fills up very quickly. I am unashamedly in love with my compost production and I nurture my heap, put absolutely everything you can think of on it, from newspaper to the dust and animal hair from my hoover (and there’s masses of that!). Newspaper rots down quite quickly as soon as it gets wet. Vegetable peelings, garden waste, eggshells, teabags, cardboard, leaves, grass cuttings, every scrap of paper etc. I recycle everything except waste food as that would only attract the local rat population. Apparently urine is the best stuff to ‘activate’ a heap but I haven’t got round to doing that bit as yet!
I have two heaps, one is finished and has the most gorgeous dark compost, the one next to it is in the rotting down stage. I don’t have bins or anything, just two heaps side by side with railway sleepers and wire round them. Indoors, I put every bit of plastic and metal in the recycling bag provided by our local council. Textiles and glass I take myself to the nearest recycling bank though the council will collect textiles from my home on a weekly basis. I have to say that we are very well served recycling-wise by our council here in Wales.
We have bonfires occasionally, our neighbours do as well and we can put stuff on theirs if needs be. Doing all this means we have very little actual rubbish for the dustmen.
I have always loved charity shops and get a buzz from finding a bargain, either to wear or for something in the home. Most things in the cottage are old or second-hand, even M! I’m old enough to remember jumble sales - they’ve died out now haven’t they? I also adore going to car boot sales but we don’t have many in these parts unfortunately.
Anything that can be reused I try to do so, for example I re-use worn out socks etc for dusters. We own two single wardrobes and lying in bed one day looking at them I thought that their shape really resembled coffins…His and Hers… It has become a bit of a family joke that they will be re-used as such one day!
I am not a shoe lover, as long as I have one red pair and a pair of boots I am happy.
Decluttering is ongoing and still proving pleasurable.
Owning as little as possible is quite liberating, I wouldn’t even have a car if I didn’t live in such a rural area without public transport.
God, I hope I don’t sound too holier than thou, I don’t mean to. I’m sure most folk do the same as me, recycling wise, it’s slowly becoming the norm. now, thank goodness.
My main bugbear is the excessive, unnecessary use of packaging used by manufacturers that we have to get rid of, that might be a don’t-get-me-started blog in itself. Little things like the tins of dog and cat food that comes in six packs nowadays and are wrapped all round in plastic. Totally unnecessary. Only this week it was in the news that plastic has become a real risk to the food chain and consequently to our health.
Well I will shut up now, that’s me on recycling, I’ve done as I was asked.
But, before you leave me, if you missed it last time and want to read a funny compost heap story here is a blog about recycling that I wrote in April 20007.
Dear Diary, Topsy turvy temperatures. After a weekend which felt like Spring I wake to fog and frost but there is a promise from Radio 4’s Today programme of sunshine to come. But now even the birds and Sammy Squirrel seem to be having a lie in as there are only a few blue tits and a robin to be seen on the riverbank bird table. It is cold in the cottage and as I have no work to go to today, it will take a hot shower, a big bowl of hot porridge and a hot yoga session to lure me from my cosy nest under the duvet. * I read a lovely blog by dear Woozle the other day about her magical encounter with an owl. It reminded me of a similar experience here at Glandulas, but this one involved a hedgehog. Before I tell you about the Hedgehog Experience I want to reveal another of my passions. It is connected you understand. If you have read all my blogs so far you will have gathered that I am prone to get passionate about things. One of them is recycling and especially all things compost; the saving, the making of the heap and the using of the wonderful end result which makes my plants grow very large. I think the whole process is magical and I am quite obsessive about it. I don’t let a scrap go to waste if you get me. Everything which can possibly be recycled is. I have been doing this long before it became ‘fashionable’. But I am pleased it is becoming a regular activity in lots more households now. Our local council has been very good in the recycling department, selling bins and educating people etc. as well as providing bags for plastic, metal and paper which are collected on a weekly basis. I have a stainless steel pedal bin in the kitchen for all the general compost stuff and my glass I take to the recycling centre (an alarming number of wine and Guinness bottles!). Textiles go to the textile bank. Dog and cat hair, M’s hair, beard trimmings or anything similar are put out in a prominent position in the garden and are collected by the birds at this time of year for nest building. I like to think of them all safe and cosy in a really snug home. Absolutely any paper or cardboard I put on the compost heap, it soon dampens in our Welsh rain and rots down. Newspaper is good too for lighting fires in the cottage, another passion of mine, I must have gypsy blood because I never fail to get one going. I also use kindling wood which is usually the driftwood I collect on our land, washed up by the river. What I call kindling wood the Welsh call morning wood, both nice expressions I think. I haven’t recommended a book to you for a while so here is one. It is ‘All About Compost’ by Pauline Pears, you could try and get it from your local library. Talking of books I recently gave you the wrong title of Fred Slater’s book on the natural history of Mid-Wales. It is called ‘The Nature of Central Wales’. Apologies for that. Anyway if you have read this far congratulations and thank you. You are about half way. You are probably wondering where the hedgehog comes in. Here comes my true story. One morning I was taking out the compost bucket, wearing my dressing gown and wellies, as you do. (My neighbour in the Big House is always in the garden in his dressing gown. They are equally eccentric I am pleased to say and as they feel just like family to us it doesn’t matter if they see me thus attired!). Anyway, just as I was about to tip the bucket onto the top of the heap I looked down and got the fright of my life. There was this creature lying there flat on its back, arms and legs akimbo but with an expression which was peaceful,; sheer abandonment is how I would describe it. Or died and gone to heaven. I recognised it as a hedgehog and when I had calmed down a bit but soon. and quite unlike me, had adopted the ‘startled helpless female’ mode I ran in to get M. I told him there was a dead hedgehog on the compost heap, (well I thought it was dead but I wasn’t sure). He came out with a towel while I hung back. He picked it up, wrapped it in the towel and found a cardboard box. He thought it was dead but wasn’t sure either. He took it over the road to the old blacksmith’s forge and put it in one of the rooms facing the road. Then he got an old dog bowl and put some food in it and then another bowl with some water and he left both beside the box. The hedgehog’s eyes were closed. We guessed it was dead. But then the penny dropped, the hedgehog had been feasting on the highly alcoholic leftovers from the fermentation of M’s home-made rice and raisin wine, one of his strongest brews, which he had flung on the compost heap! Had we killed him? Would he survive? Two days passed, we checked on him every day, each time there were no signs of life but on the third day he had disappeared. He must have slept it off! The one and only hangover of his life I hope. He was last seen making his way up the road leaving a trail of aspirin bottles behind him and singing ‘There’s an old Mill by the Stream’ No I am only joking… It is interesting to note that the very old fashioned method of poaching pheasants still used today (?) is to feed wild pheasants with raisins soaked in brandy which makes them so inebriated that hours later, after dark, they are easily ‘collected’. Help, I feel a book title coming on……..I am sure you all know it…. Danny, the Champion of the World, by the dear Roald Dahl of course, God rest him. We dread to think how many drunken birds or other creatures there were that day. Just hope it was a good party. Blessings? Eight today. Hedgehogs. Compost. Home made wine. Washing machines - mine is working away for me as I write. Local honey made by a neighbour. Lovely neighbour, lovely honey. Warmer weather. Roald Dahl’s books, enjoyed by me with my children and now by my grandchildren. I promised to tell you about the Book Club so I may post another blog later in the day to make up for the days I have missed previously. Time to get up now. Carpe diem and all that. Before I do I can’t leave you without the poem by one of my very favourite poets. Benjamin Zephaniah,
I am in luv wid a hedgehog
I've never felt this way before I have luv fe dis hedgehog
An everyday I luv her more an more,
She lives by de shed
Where weeds and roses bed
An I just want de world to know
She makes me glow.
I am in luv wid a hedgehog
She's making me hair stand on edge,
So in luv wid dis hedgehog
An her friends Who all live in de hedge
She visits me late
An eats off Danny's plate
But Danny's a cool tabby cat
He leaves it at dat. I am in luv wid a hedgehog,
She's gone away so I must wait
But I do miss my hedgehog
Everytime she goes to hibernate
. ￼ Bye for now, Caitx
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
I have posted three nice pictures above as I haven't put any up for ages. Hope you like them. Two are reminders of summer and good things to come. One is a brass bed and a cat. I love both.
I wake on Easter Sunday to Radio 4 as usual and the words of Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams who seems to be talking a lot of sense this time and I agree with his sentiments.
Countries should not strive for the control of others and their oil.
Materialist greed will bring about the collapse of our civilisation. It certainly will.
Or as I say… Money is the root of all evil.
Enough doom ‘n’ gloom.
Shall I start with Blessings today?
New Life. In abundance round these parts at the moment.
Purplecoo. But this black dog brings me nothing but joy and is very welcome, I will not be trying to banish her from my sight with a Big Stick.
Darling newborn lambs are to be seen everywhere and the sound of their bleating means only spring and summer to me.
A couple of long night’s sleep. I collapsed at 9pm on Sunday evening and was early going to bed last night too.
Luckily I have a week off work to play catch-up.
Sunshine and snow but why is the latter so non-stick?
Log fires, still needed in the evening.
Good book I am reading at the moment. The Uncommon Reader by the wonderful Alan Bennett.
We have just had a run of those Special Days. A religious holiday. These are the days I find the hardest. It makes no sense but whenever there is an invisible pressure to be happy and jolly that is the time I feel really low and empty. From my own personal research I understand it has a childhood, low self-esteem reason. A feeling that I don’t really deserve to be happy and certainly not be extra-specially so. I’ve never understood the concept of enforced happiness. I didn’t eat any chocolate on Sunday because, for a different reason, for once I didn’t crave it. Perhaps I am just perverse. Well I am actually!
I write these words in bed and as if they sense my maudlin mood my three animals, two dogs and the cat are all over me, all fighting for my attention, all jealous of each other.
Later on, as the day developed, the snow showers moved away. My son S came and spent the day with us which was a surprise and a treat for us as we hadn’t seen him for a few weeks. He seems well and happy, he played his guitar, good to hear that again. Why do Irish mothers of sons worry so?
I give the dogs a good run in the field and have a brisk walk myself. The snow showers have cleared away and the sun is shining. It almost feels like spring. I take advantage of the warm temperatures and set to on awakening the garden, something I have been longing to do. A bit of cutting back the dead stuff and raking up etc. I limit myself to a good hour or so as I am prone to overdo it by trying to do the whole garden in one go. That way leads to a bad back, something I certainly don’t need. Before I go in I fill the wheelbarrow with logs, that’s a job I love doing. I always look forward to the lighting of the woodburner when evening falls.
My daughter bought me a little dish with a quotation on - ’Gardening grows the spirit’. It’s another kind of Feng Shui isn’t it? De-cluttering in the garden certainly frees the mind and has the same effect on me as it does in the home. It also exercises the body and you get lots of lovely fresh air as well.
Less is more that should be my mantra.
I did a few touch-up paint jobs in the cottage. M is feeling well and happy too so All’s Well that Ends Well. God another cliché, my writing tutor would be very angry with me.
Sarah Ban Breathnach says that every day has a hidden gift. I rather like that idea. Searching for it is a good practice. Her book Simple Abundance is one of my bedside books that I dip into each morning as it has an entry for every day of the year.
John O’Donohue’s book Anam Cara sits beside it and is another I dip into. My dear sister grew up in Ireland and she tells me that (her words) he never got enough recognition for his amazing skill, but from all accounts he was a shy and unpretentious man so did not want and maybe would not appreciate too much attention.
But what else does Sarah Ban Breathnach say? If in doubt….. have a bath.
I’m off to have a bath,
Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,
Saturday, 22 March 2008
Stop my music player on the right (to avoid getting two songs playing at once) and listen to Jack Savoretti sing live - he is an ahead of his time singer/songwriter.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure
I’ve been asked to write about fear by our local writing group, it’s our subject for ‘homework’ this month. M chose it actually. Thanks M.
A friend always says that I must think laterally (must !?). Trouble with me is I’m an Arian and being the ‘selfish’ sign we tend to relate everything to ourselves.
Could I write a story with fear as the theme? I doubt it.
A poem? Maybe. But I have to be inspired to write a poem.
A blog? Well that would indeed kill two birds (if you will pardon the expression, I know how many of us are bird lovers).
is the O’Connor motto.
I do have one big fear, it’s a phobia actually which is of being sick. I have labelled it emetophobia. I've just checked and it is actually a word! Phobias are a state of mind brought about by an oftimes irrational fear. We take the fright and our body is affected in all kinds of ways. Our blood runs cold in more ways than one.
True to the synchronistic formations that seem to always surround my life: as I type these words Jack Savoretti is singing these lines
To Hide all my fears
in his song Chemical Courage.
Is it telling me I hide all my fears? I admit I have fears that are far too personal to blog about. I am sure we all have secret fears of which we dare not speak…….to anyone. Demons I call them. Perhaps these demons are only worries, but what are worries, are they just baby fears?
I had a fright yesterday morning when I opened the back door to call the dogs in from their first-thing-in-the-morning outing. There were two red kites, a male and a female, circling the tall pines by the river, close to the back door. They were swooping down into the branches of the treetops where the pair of collared doves have made their nest. I blew the whistle I just happened to have in my mouth. (I blow it to call the dogs sometimes).
I blew it furiously, standing at the base of the trees, waving my arms about frantically at the same time and in the end the kites moved somewhat reluctantly away. The male was just huge, the biggest one I’ve ever seen. I did feel fear then. Fear for the doves and whatever may lie in their nest. I felt what Faith must regularly feel when her doves are under threat from the sparrow hawk. We have one of those round here too and it has been catching small birds from our neighbourhood - it’s heartbreaking but it’s Nature. I just have to harden my heart.
Because I am a mother, a grandmother and a born worrier too, most of the fears I experience are for others, not for myself. No-one was around for me to warn of this, how the umbilical cord is never truly broken and that there will always be a connection between a mother and her child, both in this world and the next.
Talking of which, a friend of mine went with her daughter to a Mother and Daughter Workshop recently, she was telling me about how good it was . She is older than me and her daughter is older than mine, but they too are very close and I would loved to have had the same experience. It used art and all sorts of mediums and one of the things she learned was how daughters carry their mother’s ‘burden’ down through the generations, on and on. I could relate to this. Burden is not the word she used but you will probably get the gist of what I am trying to recall. What she explained resonated with me in the fear of loss that I hold and which has been the wound that I have carried all my life.
But if fear is being afraid then I am never afraid. Look out, here comes another cliché. Being brave is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It is called courage. Do you remember the book by Susan Jeffers. I remember reading it many, many moons ago and thought it was a great book. I don’t know what I would think if I read it again now, for when many years have passed, books often don’t have the same effect do they? I believe they come along in your life just when you need them. Often the library angel leads you to them, or the bookshop one, or a friend……
I digress. I do Just Do It anyway (when I feel the fear).
Fear is usually caused by something more powerful that is exerting a power over you causing you dread.
I fear outcomes rather than people. I could fight anyone to the death with my bare hands if I had to defend myself or my loved ones. I suppose what I really fear deep down is being Out of Control, I am such a control freak.
Ignorance can breed fear too and that way leads of course to prejudice
Fear has many partners. Fear and intimidation for one. A lot of fear is instilled in others by bullies; abject cowards who can only work in groups with others - sheep like individuals - who also only feel brave in a group. The only way to treat bullies is to stand up to them I am afraid.
I am afraid - that slipped out - I am not afraid to say it at all - isn’t the English language peculiar sometimes?
Some fear is healthy in my opinion. The fear of heights and crazy funfair rides go into this category. The way I see it is our bodies are being sensible and fighting for self-preservation. It would rather we did not take risks.
But there are those folk who get some kind of kick out of being near the edge, of being in dangerous situations. I’ve never really understood that myself and can think of better ways to enjoy myself.
If you are ever nervous, New Age gurus will ask you to think
‘What is the worse that could happen?.
That’s good advice.
My blessing today is a poem:
die for it--
or the world. People
have done so,
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,
fury of light. But
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
for everyone just
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
Mary Oliver 1935-
Before I go here is an (edited) poem I wrote five years ago at a time I did feel truly afraid, again not for myself so much, as for others.
Impending Invasion of Iraq, 2003
The nightmare starts:
Burnt bodies, dead babies,
body-bags, cremated soldiers,
children fleeing an invasion
brought about by bullies.
Hunters of a prey,
so easily taken.
Bush’s pact with the Devil
Is a fight for control
with Oil as its Prize.
The lies won’t add up.
So many heads buried
deep within sand.
Just my powerlessness prevails.
Filled with sadness for this world,
I am like the child again
who wakes at night in fear.
I’ll sign off now,
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Monday, 17 March 2008
Before I start my homework task I felt drawn to post this poem, it seemed to fit the subject matter.
A Poem by Sylvia Plath
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful-
The eye of the little god, four cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Do you like this poem? I love it, so does my daughter whe actually introduced it to me.
Everyone sees a different meaning in it I think, how about you?
But, as ever, I digress, this is my homework for In The Mud.
Tag five others to do the same.
I have done this before but can’t remember what I wrote so here goes with some more quirks and randoms.
I asked M what was quirky about me and he said I was one Big Quirk. Perhaps that will give you a picture of me. I am a real eccentric, always have been.
I am unconventional. I love being different.
Until they get to know me people think I am a serene soul, quietly aloof and reserved. Under a cool and calm exterior I actually have a fierce Irish temper and a will of steel. I am quiet but I prefer thinking and listening to talking.
I have no ear lobes to speak of which worries me a little as I read somewhere it is linked with serious criminality, Definitely not good anyway. Anyone else out there similarly afflicted?
My dog and I can read each other’s minds.
I can read other people’s minds, sometimes this is not a good thing. Sometimes it is!
I always put my left sock on before the right, left arm in my coat before the right etc, you get the picture?…. Always dressed the children that way. Probably has a name nowadays, that, some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder.
I have survived serious illness twice (so far, God willing) and also two very near fatal accidents. There is a guardian angel looking after me.
I never give up.
If you are reading this and haven't done this before you are duly tagged. Go on, it's painless, you can do it!
Sunday, 16 March 2008
I think of her sometimes when I lie in bed,
falling asleep in the room I have made in the roof-space
over the old dark parlwr where she died
alone in winter, ill and penniless.
Lighting the lamps, November afternoons,
a reading book, whisky gold in my glass.
At my typewriter tapping under stars
at my new roof window, radio tunes
and dog for company. Or parking the car
where through the mud she called her single cow
up from the field, under the sycamore.
Or looking at the hills she looked at too.
I find her broken crocks, digging her garden.
What else do we share, but being women?
I have been asked by In The Mud to write seven random or quirky things about myself.
That will be my next task, later on in the day hopefully. First I have another piece of homework to hand in for Purplecoo. I have been asked to write about Where I Live.
Perhaps my Where, will be intermingled with Why I live here, as we chose to escape to Wales eighteen years ago when we had had enough of life in the south-east of England. I was born in London and moved out to rural Surrey and then Sussex but even though the countryside was lovely, there were different values surrounding us, ones that felt unreal to me. I guess we dropped out really, feeling totally disillusioned with the way things were going at that time in Thatcher’s England. The area was full of yuppies (remember them?) and what I can only describe as pretension. We felt our values were becoming ever-more different to our contemporaries who were caught up in making fast money and the Thatcher’s me-me philosophy.
We looked at properties
(sorry I hate that word, it just slipped out)
in Ireland too, but much as I love Ireland, at that time I felt that the children’s prospects would be better if we stayed in the UK. How wrong I was as Ireland’s Celtic Tiger was soon to rise up and make that country the most opportunistic of all. More importantly it also brought with it a new freedom and positive social changes that I had felt previously were lacking. I still feel a pang that I did not return to my true homeland but it was not meant to be and as things have turned out in my personal quest it was definitely the right decision.
We sold up and moved here having no idea of how we would make a living and we bought a smallholding deep in the Welsh hills with no electricity and with its own water supply. All Hovel in the Hills stuff. It was a dream come true really because for ten years we had dreamed of owning such a smallholding, having chickens, ducks, geese, goats etc. Growing our own vegetables, drinking our own milk. Getting back to nature.
Our dream came true and we moved with our two children, our daughter V, aged twelve and our son S, aged nine, into an old Welsh stone farmhouse which stood , in seven acres of land, well off the beaten track, down an unmade and many-gated road. Our nearest neighbour was a farm, half a mile away. There were fields, a little stream and plenty of woodland. Views to die for. Pretty idyllic really, apart from the many gates we had to open and close to get there! (I don’t miss those I can tell you). I could write a book about it, perhaps I will one day, though let’s face it there are loads of books about with the Escape to the Country theme.
Nowadays though, escaping to the country is a kind of a fashionable thing, more about the Country Living lifestyle and the décor that goes with it though to be serious there are many more pressing reasons nowadays that cause people to strive to escape the city life. Different ones to ours many moons ago. We were probably labelled more of the so-called hippyish variety I suppose. We followed our dreams and took a big step; it was a risk, it is only now that we look back and realise that. But we learned a lot and had many wonderful experiences.
We lived there for five years or so and wished we had moved earlier when the children were younger. It was the right thing to do, the best move and we have no regrets but now the children have flown the nest we live in a little old blacksmith’s cottage about ten miles or so from our original house. There are many, many reasons why we gave up the smallholding which I can save for another time, maybe. I can say though that where I live now is a very special and magical place, there are no bad vibes and everyone who comes here comments on its relaxing atmosphere. I just love it.
Where I live there are hills and mountains, delicious valleys, lakes and streams. We sit surrounded by hundreds of scattered hill farms, all hidden amongst the hills and valleys. Sheep far outnumber people and my cottage is set by a little mountain river. Indeed the love of the river caused me to buy the cottage in the first place. We cannot see another house from ours as was also the case when we lived in the remote old farmhouse.
I exist in a near-constant state of appreciation and wonder, such is the peace and beauty of this part of the world. I am however not part of this land, I am not Welsh, I am proud to be Irish but I chose to live here. I am still an incomer to this country and probably always will be.
I have waxed lyrical in so many past blogs about the country life and the view from my window that greets me each morning. About the beasts and the many species of birds who are my much-loved companions around my cottage.
What else made me move to Wales? To answer that I could tell you what this part of Wales lacks.
Traffic, pollution, crime. People.
(It also lacks shops but that’s a blog in itself.)
Wales is favoured by tourists but this area is still relatively ‘undiscovered’ - it has been called the secret Heart of Wales which is a very good description.
I have an excited feeling in my tummy as Spring and Summer move ever closer because just one glorious day of summer here can make up for all the cold, wet, grey Welsh winters.
I do feel closer to nature here. OK it’s a cliché but it’s true. I don’t need to go away on holidays as I am content to just sit by my little river, wander in the field, walk in the hills, or potter in the garden. Peace comes dropping slow. Talking of which it could be Ireland, it resembles West Cork which is, along with County Kerry, the home of my soul. Perhaps I could explain it by telling you what I miss when I go away from here. I miss the purity of the air, the mists, the hills, the sense of freedom and personal safety. There is no frenzy in the air which is almost tangible when you go back to the Otherworld where we used to live. I feel overwhelmed now when we go to cities or built-up areas.
The downsides are those that probably affect rural folk all over the UK nowadays and that is our slow ‘dismantling’. The fragility of our existence, our feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. Either lost and gone forever or under constant threat are our public services, our post offices, pubs, schools, public toilets, banks, schools, libraries, transport systems etc etc. So, apart from all the beauty which one hopes and prays will always be preserved, (though even that is not guaranteed in some areas!) we are a shaky community at the moment as we feel our democracy is crumbling. But this is probably UK wide, a perception felt by town and country folk alike. However, here we are in a minority, a poor one to boot and the poor relation is being ignored.
But that is the shadow side, let’s not dwell on that. We look forward in hope and with certain unity of purpose. I have not touched on the ‘C’ word yet. The sense of community is a strong one and we get on well here, locals and incomers alike and we shall fight for our rights, of that I am sure.
I am daily inspired living here. Inspired so much that I am often moved with such passion I just have to write about it and I am sure this would not have been happening so much if I lived elsewhere.
They say Nothing is Perfect but even so, Where I Live is pretty damn-near so.
Perhaps all that is missing is the sea………….
Bye for now,
Friday, 14 March 2008
The Week Before War
This day I shall remember,
when all was light and bright about us.
The girls and I, beneath the sun,
were hunting daisies.
Like the twin lambs and their own kin,
they were playing, bursting forth with new life,
such was their joy.
Each step was filled with wonder
as I spoke to them of the magic that is Spring,
And we looked for fir cones, pussy willow and sweet catkins.
and signs of those small creatures: rabbit-holes and tiny paw prints.
The Red Kite, he was soaring high above us, like a symbol of my Hope.
And in his flight we spied the Moon and Sun together.
Though it was the Week Before War,
(or should I rather say Invasion),
the Anger which had erupted on my skin, was,
for just a while, forgotten.
And the thoughts of those poor children in Iraq
were cast into small shadow, like the Moon.
But, later on that night when She was Full
I knew that Full scale bombing would begin.
Yet while She had been high and partly hidden,
in a blue and sunlit sky,
Her innocence so gently shone.
And my fears were briefly buried
on the Dark Side of her face.
Written on 15th March 2003
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Friday, 7 March 2008
This blog is dedicated to Exmoor Jane.
Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack
First of all here is the promised pic of our dear Finn, he is eleven now; no he is definitely not a labrador, he's always been a bit of an overweight lurcher, M feeds him rather too well but he still races round. (Finn that is).
Apart from eating, this is another of his favourite occupations, resting by the hearth.
It was World Book Day yesterday. A storyteller came to the library and she read to a group of young children whose ages ranged from one practically new baby, several toddlers from the Toddler Group up to a few of the younger primary school children. There was much interaction with the children using the senses; it went really well and all the children were given free book vouchers as they left.
We can’t call the group Mothers and Toddlers any more as they get quite a few Dads with their pre-school children coming to the weekly meetings in the community hall. Very nice to see fathers sharing the daily hands-on parenting role.
Talking of books and children, I am reading a wonderful book at the moment. It is Blue Sky July by Nia Wynn and is the story of a mother (and a father) bringing up a child with severe cerebral palsy. I will say no more as I haven’t finished reading it and hate revealing all, I much prefer people to discover the joy of a book for themselves. All I will say is if you are a parent of a disabled child you should read it, or even if you aren’t as it is beautifully written.
I heard Blue Sky July on Radio 4, it was Book of the Week a few weeks ago read aloud by the author but I just had to read it for myself. One of my borrowers is a young teenager taking a year out before she trains as a children’s nurse; she ordered this book as she had also heard about it. I was impressed as she is obviously already demonstrating signs of an honest dedication to her future profession.
I have been thinking a lot about language recently, about how writers mix up their words and paint a palette as it were. They can create a beautiful piece of art (or not), be it a poem or a piece of prose by using just the raw material that is after all just a random selection from all the words in existence.
Words can be ’arranged’ in the lyrics of songs, in poems, diaries, letters, plays, novels, books of non-fiction, biographies, newspapers, magazines. Even graffiti. Even blogs! Words are therapy, often both for the writer and the reader and often simultaneously. How could we live without words? They soothe, they teach, they inform. I am an addict of course, I’ve always been a sauce bottle/cereal packet reader, I just can’t get enough of the things.
The spoken word of course is everywhere, we cannot escape from it sometimes, though if you are like me you probably like to, occasionally. I may blog about silence at a future date and also about meditation but even in those two states words will lurk beneath the surface as they float around inside our heads. Well they do in my case, how about you? Have you ever reached a wordless state?
Alison Krauss, When you say nothing at all.
Time for blessings today methinks, it is Friday after all.
M is feeling better, he was a bit poorly in the night. His new Hotter shoes have arrived, ordered on the Internet yesterday afternoon, how’s that for service? And they fit too! We’ve never ordered shoes online before but it was a risk that has paid off.
The sun is out although its appearance is deceptive, I took the dogs for a walk this morning and it was bitterly cold still and snow is forecast for these higher regions of Wales.
Rugby tomorrow, that is something to look forward to though I shall be pulled in two directions as Wales are playing Ireland. I have to support Ireland but I don’t want Wales to be beaten. I wouldn’t be happy with a draw either. How difficult is that? And mad? Don’t answer that.
My dear friend and hairdresser who lives down the road. She has cut my hair into a proper bob again and coloured it for me so I feel much more like me, better somehow and ‘lighter’. Funny how a hairdo or something new to wear can cheer one up isn’t it?
Daydreaming will be my special blessing today. It is one of my favourite pastimes after all but it was my Angel Card that I drew this morning telling me I must do it if I am to be inspired. Never one to argue with the angels I did a bit while I was walking round the field but then I saw the delivery man arrive (with the shoes) and the dogs were racing off to check him out so my reverie was quickly brought to an end. Perhaps I will try again later.
Finally……those especially gifted artists that I love, those authors and their paintings of words. No need to enlarge on that one.
I’d better add a poem by one of my favourite poets and then I will leave you. I have another project on the go and it involves, you’ve guessed it,
much mixing up of WORDS.
INTRODUCTION TO POETRY.
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a colour slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
And feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Bye for now,
Monday, 3 March 2008
It’s only a short one, don’t worry. A sort of follow-on from yesterday's really.
It’s just that listening to Woman’s Hour this morning has inspired me to write another blog again today. They were discussing blogs and bloggers but I only caught half of the interview with one of these women bloggers. Her blog is called Petite Anglais and she seems to have produced a book deal from hers, good luck to her.
After Woman’s Hour finished I was keen to get to the keyboard as I wanted to show you my two Mother’s Day presents, firstly what seemed like hundreds of daffodils from my son S and a Carol Ann Duffy poem from my daughter V. V does write beautiful poems herself, but this one of Duffy’s was well chosen and full of meaning for me.
A Child’s Sleep
I stood at the edge of my child’s sleep
hearing her breathe;
although I could not enter there.
I could not leave.
Her sleep was a small wood,
perfumed with flowers;
dark, peaceful, sacred,
acred in hours.
And she was the spirit that lived
in the heart of such woods;
without time, without history,
I spoke her name, a pebble dropped
in the still night
and saw her stir, both open palms
cupping their soft light;
then went to the window. The greater
dark outside the room
gazed back, maternal, wise
with its face of moon.
Carol Ann Duffy
But first this morning I had to go round spreading out those daffodils, S has given me so many
there are enough for nearly every room in the cottage. The colour yellow is uplifting of the spirit and is M’s favourite hue; it is also the antidote to depression and the colour of sunlight, there must be a link there. Let’s hope its bright glare will scare away and dissolve the blackness of the Black Dog that seems to be living in so many people’s homes and hearts at the moment (not mine luckily). If he calls by here I will beat him with a Big Stick for sure.
So before I sit down to write I flit round with the hoover and steadfastly ignore the freshly illuminated dust that is everywhere to be seen on the higher levels in the cottage. Having two real fires, the ancient Rayburn and the woodburner makes for a lot of dust around. But today I just about show willing where chores are concerned.
The yellow sun is calling me from outside so the dogs and I go over the rickety-rackety bridge to the field and as I walk I watch them race round and round. I get such vicarious pleasure watching them do this, especially as Finn our gorgeous honey coloured lurcher is now eleven years old. I will try and post a pic. of him.
The wind is bitterly cold though and I don’t feel like lingering outside. As we make our way back the snow starts falling.
I love snow but don’t hold out much hope for much of a covering.
So indoors I go, a mug of hot lemon and ginger tea is called for and then I am free at last to escape upstairs to the little study and pen a few words. Molly, my white cat is on my lap, she loves to watch the mouse dart around on the screen! She is fine even though has a nasty wound on her neck, a bite from some creature or other, it could be a rat, a mink or polecat
I will sign off now, this was not meant to be a long account but I look forward to being with you again soon.
Hope you liked the poem and the flowers.
I am well into colour therapy and so in my mind I am sending you all lots of Welsh daffodils with all their magical yellowness.
May your spirits be lifted too.
Go mbeannai Dia duit
Sunday, 2 March 2008
Lá an Mháthair faoi shona dhuit
This is a tribute I accidentally stumbled across while surfing the net. However, I don’t believe for one minute in accidents, only synchronicity.
As well as to E my dear Irish mother who was taken from me when I was so very young I dedicate this blog entry to C, my dear sister, an Irish mother too, who shares with me the loss of our mother. If I could have chosen a sister I could not have found anyone more perfect than she.
I haven’t a clue who Joseph R Biden is but the words speak for themselves.
And it was hard but I have left the American spellings unchanged.
Tribute To An Irish Mother
By Joseph R. Biden
My mother Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden is the soul, spirit, and essence of what it means to be an Irish American. She honors tradition and understands the thickest of all substances is blood.
She has taught her children, and all children who flocked to her hearth in my neighborhood, that you are defined by your sense of honor and you are redeemed by your loyalty. She is the quintessential combination of pragmatism and optimism. She also understands as my friend Pat Moynihan once said, there is no “point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.”
But she is more. She measures success in how quickly you get up after you have been knocked down. She believes bravery lives in every heart, and her expectation is that it will be summoned. Failure at some point in everyone’s life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. As long as you are alive you have an obligation to strive. And you are not dead until you’ve seen the face of God.
My mother, I believe, is a living portrait of what it means to be Irish –- proud on the edge of defiance. Generous to a fault; committed to the end. She not only made me believe in myself, but scores of my friends and acquaintances believe in themselves. As a child I stuttered, and she said it was because I was so bright I couldn’t get the thoughts out quickly enough. When my face was dirty, and I was not as well dressed as others, she told me how handsome I was. When my wife and daughter were killed, she told me God sends no cross a man is not able to bear.
And when I triumphed, she reminded me it was because of others.
I remember her watching through the kitchen window as I got knocked down by two bigger guys behind my grandfather’s house, and she sent me back out and demanded that I, to use their phrase, bloody their nose, so I could walk down that alley the next day.
When my father quit his job on the spot because his abusive boss threw a bucket full of silver dollars on the floor of a car dealership to make a point about his employees, she told him how proud she was.
No one is better than you. You are every man’s equal and everyone is equal to you. You must be a man of your words, for without your words you’re not a man. Her pragmatism showed up when I was in eighth grade, a lieutenant on the safety patrol. My job was to keep order on the bus. My sister and best friend Valerie acted up. At dinner that night I told my mother and father I had a dilemma. I had to turn my sister in as a matter of honor. My parents said that was not my only option. The next day I turned my badge in.
I believe the traits that make my mother a remarkable woman mirror the traits that make the Irish a remarkable people. Bent, but never bowed. Economically deprived, but spiritually enriched. Denied an education, but a land of scholars and poets.
When I think of my mother I think of the Irish poem ‘Any Woman’ by Katherine Tynan,
A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden is Delaware’s senior Senator and last night was honored by the American Ireland Fund of Washington.
I am the pillars of the house;
The keystone of the arch am I.
Take me away, and roof and wall
Would fall to ruin me utterly.
I am the fire upon the hearth,
I am the light of the good sun,
I am the heat that warms the earth,
Which else were colder than a stone.
At me the children warm their hands;
I am their light of love alive.
Without me cold the hearthstone stands,
Nor could the precious children thrive.
I am the twist that holds together
The children in its sacred ring,
Their knot of love, from whose close tether
No lost child goes a-wandering.
I am the house from floor to roof,
I deck the walls, the board I spread;
I spin the curtains, warp and woof,
And shake the down to be their bed.
I am their wall against all danger,
Their door against the wind and snow,
Thou Whom a woman laid in a manger,
Take me not till the children grow!
I have posted that one before, it is also a favourite of mine.
Here are a few more poems.
In Memory Of My Mother
I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily
Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday-
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle-'
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life-
And I see us meeting at the end of a town
On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us - eternally.
The Little Irish Mother
Have you seen the tidy cottage in the straggling, dusty street,
Where the roses swing their censers by the door?
Have you heard the happy prattle and the tramp of tiny feet
As the sturdy youngsters romp around the floor?
Did you wonder why the viree* comes to sing his sweetest song ?
Did the subtle charm of home upon you fall?
Did you puzzle why it haunted you the while you passed along?--
There's a Little Irish Mother there; that's all.
When you watched the children toiling at their lessons in the school,
Did you pick a winsome girleen from the rest,
With her wealth of curl a-cluster as she smiled upon the stool,
In a simple Monday-morning neatness dressed?
Did you mark the manly bearing ofa healthy-hearted boy
As he stood erect his well-conned task to tell ?
Did you revel in the freshness with a pulse of wholesome joy?--
There's a Little Irish Mother there as well.
There's a Little Irish Mother that a lonely vigil keeps
In the settler's hut where seldom stranger comes,
Watching by the home-made cradle where one more Australian sleeps
While the breezes whisper weird things to the gums,
Where the settlers battle gamely, beaten down to rise again,
And the brave bush wives the toil and silence share,
Where the nation is a-building in the hearts of splendid men--
There's a Little Irish Mother always there.
There's a Little Irish Mother--and her head is bowed and gray,
And she's lonesome when the evening shadows fall;
Near the fire she "do be thinkin'," all the "childer' are away,
And their silent pictures watch her from the wall.
For the world has claimed them from her; they are men and women
In their thinning hair the tell-tale silver gleams;
But she runs her fingers, dozing, o'er a tousled baby brow--
It is "little Con" or "Bridgie" in her dreams.
There's a Little Irish Mother sleeping softly now at last
Where the tangled grass is creeping all around;
And the shades of unsung heroes troop about her from the past
While the moonlight scatters diamonds on the mound.
And a good Australian's toiling in the world of busy men
Where the strife and sordid grinding cramp and kill;
But his eyes are sometimes misted, and his heart grows brave again--
She's the Little Irish Mother to him still.
When at last the books are balanced in the settling-up to be,
And our idols on the rubbish-heap are hurled,
Then the Judge shall call to honour--not the "stars," it seems to me,
Who have posed behind the footlights of the world;
But the king shall doff his purple, and the queen lay by her crown,
And the great ones of the earth shall stand aside
While a Little Irish Mother in her tattered, faded gown
Shall receive the crown too long to her denied.
A Mother's Love Is A Blessing
An Irish boy was leaving
Leaving his native home
Crossing the broad Atlantic
Once more he wished to roam
And as he was leaving his mother
Who was standing on the quay
She threw her arms around his waist
And this to him did say
A mother's love's a blessing
No matter where you roam
Keep her while she's living
You'll miss her when she's gone
Love her as in childhood
Though feeble, old and grey
For you'll never miss a mother's love
Till she's buried beneath the clay
And as the years go onwards
I'll settle down in life
And choose a nice young colleen
And take her for my wife
And as the babes grow older
And climb around my knee
I'll teach them the very same lesson
That my mother taught to me
A mother's love's a blessing
No matter where you roam
Keep her while she's living
You'll miss her when she's gone
Love her as in childhood
Though feeble, old and grey
For you'll never miss a mother's love
Till she's buried beneath the clay
Thomas P Keenan
Bye for now.
Go mbeannai Dia duit,