Alexander Averin

Monday 29 September 2008

Seasonal Thoughts

Header picture, Connemara Farm is an oil painting by Elizabeth Ryan

Dear Diary.

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree”

Emily Bronte

A blade of grass

Said a blade of grass to an autumn leaf, "You make such a noise falling! You scatter all my winter dreams."
Said the leaf indignant, "Low-born and low-dwelling! Songless, peevish thing! You live not in the upper air and you cannot tell the sound of singing."
Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again -- and she was a blade of grass.
And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, "O these autumn leaves! They make such a noise! They scatter all my winter dreams."

Kahlil Gibran
The Madman Chapter 30

There is life in the river, it’s that time of year again. September is ‘otter month’ and the dogs are very anxious to go out after dark and race straight for the river bank in great haste and excitement. I long for moonlit nights so I can watch again from my window.

We sat in the parlour in the dark last night, we tend to do that more often now and only put a light on if we are reading. I much prefer candles anyway and I guess we are saving money and energy too. It could have been spooky in complete darkness but it wasn’t. This cottage is free of spirit movement, it just carries an air about it, one of benevolence and a strong sense of restfulness. It feels like a prayer of peace.

We talked in the dark like children do in bed after hours and we imagined how, in days gone by, the blacksmiths and their families would have sat like us, by the hearth, probably by candlelight or an oil lamp. Would they have conversed in the same way? Noticed the sound of wildlife, the bark of a fox in the field, the scream of a vixen, the splash or whistling of the otters. Such peace only descends when electric light is banished and I think I will actively seek more of such tranquillity this coming winter.

It’s a beautiful sunny autumn day today. I’m still feeling ropey but am in the mood for sorting out my winter wardrobe. Wardrobe…..that sounds a bit on the posh side, it really means storing away my (very few) summer clothes and digging out the (even fewer) winter ones stashed away in a chest. There are hardly any, just some boring work trousers and jackets I shall probably never wear. Lots to throw out too. I am really in a throwing out mood. Drawers and cupboards will be next. It must be the New Moon.

My wardrobe is just layers and layers that get increased or decreased according to the temperature. I have desires though and will make a list. How I love making lists. Doesn’t every woman?

What do I desire this autumn?

All things purple of course, that goes without saying really.
I have my new purple coat, can’t wait to wear that.

Purple tights, fuchsia tights, grey tights, black tights.

Thermal vests and socks.

New boots?

I yearn for a frock or two (what is happening to me? I normally live in jeans/casual clothes). I can almost see the dresses that I desire. Long sleeved or three quarter length. Longish but not long. Jersey, maybe printed. V -neck or maybe scooped. Mustardy, gold or mulberry? Blackberry, purple or red? Or grey. I just love grey. Perhaps I could become the woman who only wears grey? Or purple? No doubt if I imagine these frocks they will materialise. I am a great believer in creative visualisation don’t you know.

I have quite a few scarves and shawls, I love to wrap myself up in these, they are both warmers and comforters. I broke my neck once and am starting to get a bit of neck ache sometimes. I find wearing a scarf quite soothing. Silk is best.

I need a warm dressing gown to snuggle in. Talking of which, I need to move the bed back to the middle of the bedroom, back to its winter position away from the window with its view of the river and the field. The glass is double glazed but is curtainless and seems to let the cold air through (if you lay right by it you can feel it).

Other plans for the coming season?

The logs are safely gathered in and our Log Angel still calls from time to time, bless him. The logs are drying out well after the flood.

In no time at all it will be home made soup and stew time. Cold, grey days spent baking cakes etc. I love comfort foods and am more inspired to cook in the winter months. Roasts, casseroles, curries, chillis and lots of lovely vegetarian meals.

And books to read…I have a list of those too.

Plenty of writing to do of course and blogs to read, lives to keep up with and on the family tree front there are genealogy trails that seem to never end.

Lots of sleeping and napping to enjoy on winter afternoons.

Early nights with a Good Book or snuggling up under a duvet on the sofa watching a film or something on TV that’s Worth Watching (so rare these days).

Brisk daily walks with the dogs or winter picnic trips out in the car or on the train to places of interest. (Playing at being a tourist)..

Blessings? I have been ignoring them of late so here are five.

The changing colours of the trees.

The power of rest.

Firelight and conversation.

The kindness of candles.


I’ll sign off now,

Go mbeannai Dia duit,


Thursday 25 September 2008

The Wanted and the Definitely Unwanted

Header picture, Connemara Farm is an oil painting by Elizabeth Ryan

Dear Diary,

I’ll start with the Definitely Unwanted.

Now bear with me, I begin with a right whinge. I have been unwell, so make allowances.

The flu seemed like an endurance test. I craved the oblivion of sleep but it would not easily come and when it did ‘twas only in short fits and bursts. Then once the phone rang just as I had got off to sleep and I was startled into wakefulness, I stumbled downstairs to answer it in case it was something important…….I am such a worrier and always imagine the worst whenever the phone rings....... I felt feverish all the time but couldn’t lose myself in deep sleep or in books and the radio was irritating and so, so depressing.
Gordon Brown was everywhere, cancer drugs available to some and not others, David Milliband, School shootings, the Economy, Gordon Brown…….

Even the pastoral view from my bedroom window both bored and hurt my sore, sore eyes. I had no appetite but forced little morsels down, a small piece of quiche, some tinned peaches, chicken soup laced with cayenne and garlic (that helped). I drank copious amounts of Yorkshire Gold tea, it was all I craved. But still my sinuses felt blocked and raw, my eyes streamed constantly, my throat was like sandpaper.

I shivered and I sweat. I sweat and I shivered.

Flu always carries depression in its wake, it either strikes at the time or creeps up in a cunning way, post-virally. The dogs would visit me from time to time, trying their best to cheer me. They would sit by the bed and gaze at me, their eyes full of love. I loved them back. Crossness soon took over though as I became angry because I had felt so well before the virus struck, as they always do - suddenly. I felt I was wasting time when I could be doing
. Even my pen ran out of ink when I weakly tried to scribble.

M told me that everyone got had this flu.

‘How do you know?’ I asked.

‘I’ve heard everyone talking about it’, he said.

Some comfort there then.

I was not alone.

I soldiered on and tried to console myself - the suffering was nowhere near as bad as a migraine, (it just lasted a hellluva lot longer).

Then to crown it all - this will make you laugh, it’s a real play on words, ha ha. I was eating a bowl of porridge one morning and a crown fell off a front tooth. So now I not only felt like an ugly old hag, I honestly looked like one too.

Tell me honestly Oh Death,

Where is Thy Sting?


And now for the Wanted:

Whinge over, I am on the mend, time to catch up on homework.

Five Things I Always Wanted

(This is Purplecoo Homework. I feel sure I’ve done it before; I am overtaken by déjà vu).

A donkey. Well two donkeys to be exact as I feel that one on its own might be lonely.

I would like to adopt two but something is stopping me. The expense? The time it would take looking after them? I don’t know what is holding me back really. I used to dream of having an animal rescue home - perhaps one has to have some dreams that are just destined to always stay forever as dreams?

To live in the country

I’ve managed to achieve this.

(Oh God, I bet this homework should be things I haven’t been able to achieve but hey ho, who cares? It will be detention for me no doubt).

Let’s get back to what I haven’t got (yet…….. she says, ridiculously optimistic, that’s me!).

A narrow boat.

I often think I could live on one of these

I would love a Romany caravan too.

To write. I do scribble a lot so I guess this could go in the achieved column too.

I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I have one-in-the making but progress is slow (far too much time spent blogging and on Purplecoo?).

I enjoy writing though and that’s the main thing, the pleasure it gives me to do so, whatever rubbish I turn out.

I’m the kind of person that if I did have strong wants then I would go all out for them, some of them. But I am not at all ambitious or materialistic so my greatest needs are simple really and boil down to just the two. To be healthy is number one, to be happy the other. And I wish that for all my loved ones. And for peace in the world. If you think that sounds too naff then that’s tough. Stop reading now.

This should be top of the list really
I always wanted children, to have my very own family, my own flesh and blood. I wanted ten, then six, then four but was only allowed two but I love them both with all of my heart and I am so proud of them and my three grandchildren too.

I always wanted to find my roots
, It took nearly a lifetime but I have done so.

I always wanted to work in a library
. I have achieved that one too

I dream too of owning a book shop but it is an idle dream as I would hate to be tied to a shop full-time.

A few more things I always wanted but never got given?

Straight hair, red hair. Red haired children.

An effortless, powerful, beautiful singing voice.
(Like Celine Dion's maybe? That range and power anyway).

A rocking horse. A flat stomach. An endless pot of money*.

*I will admit that the abovementioned three were copied from my fellow pupils’ homework pages but I identified with them so greatly I just had to include them (so that is not real cheating?).

A camper van.
Love the number plate!

Last, but definitely not least here is a BIG WISH.

A little retreat on the west coast of Ireland.

Here’s hoping,

I’ve just realised I’ve done more than five….

Never was any good at maths. ….

Or homework.

Bye for now,

Sunday 14 September 2008


Let’s Pretend: A Fable of Friendship.
(For Suzanne Fitzpatrick ).
As usual this may contain a few clichés.      
Concord, Amity, Compatibility, Sociality, Familiarity, Kindness, Courtesy, Benevolence.
(Acknowledgement to dear Roget, he too is a friend. Where would I be without him?)
It was inevitable really. She had a name but I would never find her on Friends Reunited, however hard I tried. That was sad. Where was she? Had she died? Moved to another place (in time) (or space?).
Let’s Pretend was my Child’s Best Game. I lived it to survive. Saw visions, dreamed my dreams.
But had I not enough of the power of inventiveness, creativeness, originality?        
Originality. Now that’s what she possessed; my Suzanne.  
She was full of it and insight too,
( always there to guide me).
(always there to understand so well).
Moral sensibility,
(always needed by me).
(always caring for me).
(when I had no hope).    
She was my inspiration. She was beautiful of course, with long red hair and not one teeny curl or wave; a perfect body, tanned and freckle-free.  
(For Suzanne was perfect. It has to be said.).    
She was my ideal (my other half?). Did I conceive her, coin her in my mind? Or was she purely my soul’s creation, a mere figment and a fiction, just an exercise in dreaming, a mere flight of fancy in my brain? An extravaganza? Pure exaggeration?  But as I grew I lost myself in verse and fantasy and took to building castles in the air, with wild, wild dreams and visual fallacy. (Was this too an hallucination?).    
For the land I lived amidst was make-believe. I day-dreamed, cloud-watched, searched the skies (there were never any cuckoos there).    
And all the while:    
Suzy was my divine, my friend and dreamer
and a reader of the runes.
A caster of the stones and my very own Tarot queen.
A myth-maker for the heart and a bringer of True Romance
to my sad, sad life.    
(For she was lively and resourceful and all my hurts and problems blew away). Was she unreal? Illusory in a world where fiction and untruths combine? Was she concocted; fabricated?     
Could she be conjured out of no-where?
What does she re-present?
Is there a website for the non-existent?   Imaginary Friends Reunited, oh what fun.   Back from the Land of Neverness (in Space),
Would we unite again?    
No. I will have to face it, Suzanne is extinct; she’s died, defunct and vanished, is no more, has passed away, moved on, has been promoted and has perished from this Earth.    
Or was she never born, just undiscovered and is she yet to come?
Or self-destructed and all my words unfounded?,
Our bonding had potential but it came to only naught;
she left her trace of Friendship
but it did not stand that age old test
………of Time

Saturday 6 September 2008

Not many words but a lot of water

Dear Diary,

It all happened so quickly.

It was raining. Nothing unusual there eh? One minute I was typing up a blog (the previous one) with one eye out of the window watching the rain and waiting for my daughter to arrive. We had spoken on the phone, nothing was amiss and she said she would pop over for a cuppa. I could see the river bridge from my desk and noticed that the water level was rising and would soon reach the bottom of the bridge. As I typed on I noticed it was starting to wash over the bridge. M said it was starting to flood a bit downstream, this is common and not usually a worry. The heavy rain continued.

I even waxed lyrical again in my blog about the joys of living in Wales and never being far from water (!). My daughter arrived and seemed concerned about the state of the roads, she wanted to ring her brother and warn him. 'Why' says I? What are you on about?

'Flooded roads, she said, really bad'.

The flood was spreading, I noticed that and the rain was becoming torrential. I quickly posted my blog and went downstairs to survey the waters. They were 'over' quite a lot but we didn't think it worth rescuing the bench, the waters were a bit deep, not too deep but we couldn't be bothered, used as we are to moderate overspill! Little did we know what was to come. Now I know why they are called flash floods. It probably took only half an hour before it was lapping at the back door.

The neighbours called round and helped us. My son arrived to help and then my son-in-law too as some sheep had got stranded in the field and were too 'dull' to move to safer ground but luckily E, a friend and my son managed to move them just before he arrived. Everyone got stuck in and helped us. I called the council and then later the Fire Service as I had been told they were in the area and they arrived with sandbags, God bless them. They said the roads were very bad, even for them. They also made drainage channels further up the road to try to divert the water as it flows down two hills in the road to join our river.

Anyway here are some photos that show the awe-ful power of Nature. I can't convey the noise, the rush and poweful roar of the waters, you will just have to imagine it. At least it was daylight, if it floods at night it is even more frightening.

And in future? We have plans now to cut down some trees across the other side of the river so the water can flow by more easily and to put in some heavy boulders on this side in 'cages' to build a wall to prevent further flooding.

Friday morning.

September 5th 2008


The flood begins

We caught the sight of the bridge being 'moved'

Views from my bedroom window

Edging towards the back door

Edging towards the front door

Back garden

Well it's Sunday now, it's a day off and I am hoping that the worst of the rain has passed. The river has receded, she is flowing really slowly by as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. I will have to begin with housework, laying all the rugs again and general cleaning up. Then I will have to try to put the garden to rights by clearing all the flood debris while assessing along the way what is 'missing'. I know I have lost a lovely bench, loads of pots, nearly all my plastic garden chairs, special stones and a little stone squirrel. All our logs are wet as they were in the riverside forge across the road.

A little stone frog has been found on the riverbank though; I have named him 'Lucky'. And lucky is what we are, because, although it came very, very close, the flood water didn't enter the cottage. The rain stopped just in time.

There are so many folk worse off than me, all over the UK and I should not moan about a bit of tidying up.

A little footnote:  The granddaughters have been by and pointed out that Lucky the frog could swim and that is why he was safe.  Silly Nanny!

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia guit,

Friday 5 September 2008


My home, my hearth. Spot the angels?

Dear Diary,

I've posted this poem before but make no apologies, I love it so.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

William Butler Yeats

I’ll try to keep it short; these blogs have been rather lengthy of late. Bear with me; I sometimes get carried away.

Yesterday I was confined to bed, stricken with a 12-hour migraine and couldn’t go to work. Shame as I love my job.

The weather today is dark and wet, wet, wet. But I feel better.

A positive blog is called for.

Especially needed don’t you think as after the last blog posting where I tried to redress a balance by pointing out the downsides of country living? It was so negative. Ugh! It seemed to ring bells with a few others though.

But now for the good news:

As I lay in bed yesterday in the recovery phase, weak but pain-free, I got to thinking. A kind of epiphany overcame me. A political one.. All my past blogs probably say it all and I don’t need to elaborate on the joys of living here. My joy usually overfloweth. What I did realise though was that probably all the ‘negatives’ mentioned in that post, apart from the weather, were in our hands - we humans could change these downsides easily, I realised it was a political thing. Isn’t everything?

But back to what I love. Where do I start?

There is no sense of rush, no sense of fear or even a touch of suspicion. Everyone smiles at each other and says ‘Hello’ whether they know the person or not. You don’t feel guilty talking to children. No-one is out to impress anyone else with their latest acquisition/status symbol. There is no class distinction. There are so many interesting characters around, locals and incomers alike who all have their own interesting stories to tell.

OK so it’s not my beloved Ireland but it is as beautiful and poetry is all around us. All that’s missing here is the sea.

We do travel miles to shop/get anywhere but thanks to the Internet we are able to do less driving and shop online - the speed and the efficiency of the delivery service is fantastic. Can I also hand a bouquet to the Post Office for what excellent value for money their service provides and everything is delivered daily with a smile too. And when we do have to take to the roads each journey is a treat for the soul with heavenly views changing around each bend and if, like me, you are a cloud-watcher, there is no better place to live. The roads are well maintained and practically empty. My own ‘B’ road links two ‘A’ roads, is eight miles long and I always say it is one of the most scenic routes in Wales. Mountains, hills; water is never far away as well with our rivers, streams and waterfalls. Our air is like nectar.

We have the best of neighbours, we think of them as family. We have made special friends who we love. There is a lot going on and plenty to see, places to explore. It is easy to find solitude and walk for miles without seeing a soul.

So far we have (some) small schools remaining, long may it be so.

We have an excellent library service (I am not paid to say that).

We have a fighting community.

The sense of community is strong and everyone cares for everyone else. We are all touched by others’ misfortune and made happy by their joys..

We have our wonderful Air Ambulance who I cannot praise highly enough, I owe my life to them and also to the ‘ordinary’ ambulance service. (God bless them both).

And speaking personally I have good health (usually!), a wonderful part-time job (close to home) and both of my children and of course the grandchildren, live close by.

There is wildlife in abundance, birds–a-plenty. And my dogs and my cat say they love it too!

Here's Molly giving me healing yesterday.

And here's a young heron by our river.

Our own green valley is special, it wraps itself around us, our little cottage nestles on the banks of its pure river, it carries a sense of peace within it.  I feel safe. I feel connected.

Two 'angels' in the hearth.

At night when I walk outside and the skies are clear, I can see the Moon, the stars and the planets and I am at one with the Heavens.

The Welsh say ‘Hiraeth’.

What more can I say?

I love it.

It’s my home.

Bye for now,
God Bless,
Go mbeannai Dia duit.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Another Day in Paradise?

Phil Collins
Another Day in Paradise

Dear Diary,

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen

Before I start I had better say that this is not a 'complaining' blog. How could I complain about living where and how I do? And watching the Phil Collins video brings its all home. (Dear Phil, he used to be a neighbour of mine when we both lived in the same Sussex village).

Let's face it, to have a roof over our heads makes us lucky when so many in the world are starving and/or homeless. My own mother was an Irish immigrant, pregnant and homeless in London in the 1950's, so I have every sympathy for those who need shelter. The following words are just to show the 'downsides' of life in rural Wales and to illustrate how:

‘Nothing is perfect

My son-in-law said that to me once and the words have stayed with me. This phrase can be applied to everything in life I guess.

My son-in-law is very bright and very wise - well he chose my daughter didn’t he? My daughter is also very bright and very wise so they make the perfect couple.

I digress.

My previous blog post was full of much lyrical waxing, so much so that it seemed to inspire envy from those who would like to live here in the ‘happiest part of the UK’.

Well here and now I am going to redress the balance somewhat. It may be because it feels like winter today, for as I look out of the cottage windows there is a gale blowing and the rain is blowing horizontally across the field. Anyway here are the downsides of life in rural Wales.

The jobs are few and far between and very low paid. It is/was the lowest paid county in the UK. Career opportunities are so poor that most young folk have to leave the area to find work.

The cost of living is high because of the above and also petrol prices are higher than most places in the ‘Otherworld’.

We have no big supermarkets and therefore spend more on our basics than those who do.

Public transport is practically non-existent and what there is doesn’t run often enough or at times that would link in with people’s work/social lives.

You could not live here without a car (unless you used taxis all the time).

Travelling time. You will use/waste a lot of this in order to do anything. My dentist for example is 45 minutes away and he is private (no chance of finding an NHS one). Hospital appointments, or visiting loved ones who are ill, God knows how people without a car or enough money manage this one.

The climate – this one doesn’t usually bother me but this summer has been exceptionally poor. The only consolation is that it has been poor everywhere.

The growing season is short up here in the hills, the temperatures are lower than elsewhere.

There is a dearth of shops. This is an advantage sometimes as one is not tempted to spend money. But it’s difficult to plan meals and you need to because you can’t just pop out to get whatever ingredient you need for a recipe you fancy. Because you have to travel miles for ANYTHING you soon learn to stock up well when you do go shopping (yeah, yeah, who am I kidding here?).

It is miles to an A & E. We have NO county hospital and of late the Air Ambulance (God bless them) has been employed on more occasions than it used to, all funded by local people too.

We are plagued by berludy motorcyclists every weekend who treat our roads as a racetrack. They honestly scare us.

Do they get caught?


Guess who saves them (sometimes)? Our dear Air Ambulance.

If we creep over 30 mph in a 30- limit do we get caught?

You betcha.

Low flying jets regularly scare us (and the animals). It’s sometimes like living in a war-zone.

Mobile phone reception is nil in a lot of areas (including my area). Ditto TV reception, thank God for digital.

Broadband speeds? Don’t ask. (Mine is 1.1 Mbs). If you can get it you are lucky, some folk still can’t, imagine - in this day and age.

Anonymity? Be prepared to lose that if you move to the area. Everyone knows everyone and gossip can and does get ‘distorted' shall we say?

The flipside of this of course is the wonderful sense of community that exists but let’s not venture back into the world of advantages here.

We lack a diversity of cultures, we see the same old faces (and a few young ones). It’s easy to see the risk of becoming ‘insular’.

Tourists too can irritate some folk though they shouldn’t as they are contributing to one of the main sources of income in the area.

And speaking personally now. We have no central heating, coal has gone up to £16 a bag! Calor gas prices have also rocketed and logs will be next I expect.

I had better stop now. I can’t think of anything else to be honest.

A future post had better be on the advantages of life here. I promise that will be a LONG one, honest……

But really, in every aspect of life, if you sit down and think about it, you can always weed out the negatives, it’s all a matter of perception. It’s best to just concentrate on the positives and always remember what my dear son-in-law says:

'Nothing is perfect'……………