Linus and The Great Pumpkin Patch

Linus and sally await the arrival of The Great Pumpkin

Linus and Sally await the arrival of The Great Pumpkin

Oh, far too many years ago than I’m prepared to count (I haven’t enough fingers!), I recall adoring Charlie Brown and the gang from the Peanuts cartoons. I used to carefully cut them out of the newspaper each day and paste them into a scrapbook, which was a cheap(ish) way to retain the stories so that I could reread them over and over. Charlie Brown’s posse seemed so idyllic to me, a lonely singleton, inspite of two elder siblings – who left home long before, or at least not long after I was born. I loved the idea of the companionship these characters offered each other. Yes, at times they were rather harsh with each other, but you could feel the love they all shared and I bought into their lives big-time.

As a small child,  living in Barbados between the ages of five and eight, much of my early childhood that I can clearly recall had a very Americanized feel to it. We had many American friends who gave us an insight into their culture as it differs from British, more specifically from English, culture. Some of the traditions of Halloween were observed, perhaps not as ubiquitously as it is today, but certainly more so than in England at the time. Trick or treating was undertaken in small groups around the neighbourhood, usually unaccompanied by any adults and I recall faring well from our outings, which I always enjoyed -especially the dressing-up part.

When we returned to England after Daddy died, in 1969, I forgot about these things. It simply wasn’t noted here much at all – partly because Bonfire Night falls just a few days later on November 5th each year, commemorating the downfall of the Catholic Guy Fawkes’s band of braggarts’ attempt to blow up Parliament in 1604; the run up to this event used to mean a couple of weeks of avoiding groups of lads who wandered around with firecrackers in their pockets and weren’t afraid to throw them at you, if you so much as looked at them sideways. And woe betide any small animal, such as a cat or little dog, for they were frequently mercilessly tortured by these little thugs. I was always incredulous of this event, finding it very difficult to buy into the whole ‘penny for the Guy’ idea. Burning an effigy atop a large bonfire seemed crazy to me, even as a ten-year-old. And I hated fireworks. Loud, noisy, stinky and often quite dangerous, I still don’t see the attraction.

But distraction it was from the whole idea of Halloween. Not really until we returned from Hong Kong in 2005 did I begin to realise how much things had changed here – nowadays, it all goes completely crazy in the stores in the weeks before and you cannot get through October (or even September) without being ‘oranged’ out. It is everywhere. I’m sure it remains a much bigger deal across The Pond, but some places really do get into the spirit, bedecking their houses, gardens and even street furniture with anything deemed remotely ‘spooky’ – fake cobwebbing, giant plastic spiders, polystyrene gravestones, witches’ cauldrons, broomsticks, Frankensteins, vampire bats and black cats being amongst the most popular accoutrements for the evening. In the village where my daughter and grandchildren live, they have a whale of a time, going around together in little groups and thoroughly scaring each other in a safe environment – which is lots of fun for everyone I think.

A few days ago we drove past a local farm who has really got in on the act, growing several thousand pumpkins, presumably to serve the high demand in local supermarkets. Still, they have many left over that they sell directly from the farm shop. I was enchanted by their pumpkin patch though and was instantly transported back to my own childhood, recalling the hours that poor Linus spent, sitting amongst the pumpkins, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the mysterious Great Pumpkin, every year, without fail. Poor Linus. I smiled at the memory and made the decision to get up early one morning to go and photograph them as the sun rose.

Cold. Definitely nippy. But reasonably dry at least.

Still dark as I arose, getting dressed and grabbing the camera and paraphernalia, so that we could leave home and drive to the pumpkin patch before the sun really got its act together. I was worrying that it would be too dark.

It wasn’t.

We timed it pretty near perfectly.

As I took photos, standing ankle deep in mud, crouching down to find a good angle, tip-toeing through the umbilical vines that fed these earthy vegetables, I found myself truly ‘in the zone’. Linus would definitely have approved. The light was magnificently magical.

The Pumpkin Patch - hundreds of them!

The Pumpkin Patch – hundreds of them!

Waiting for the sun to pop up over the roof

Waiting for the sun to pop up over the roof

They have one or two for sale here

They have one or two for sale here

Morning dew sparkles on the pumpkin

Morning dew sparkles on the pumpkin

Pumpkins snuggle into the warm Earth

Pumpkins snuggle into the warm Earth

The sun rises a little higher...

The sun rises a little higher…

Sunrise over the pumpkins

Sunrise over the pumpkins

I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as I enjoyed capturing them.

Thanks for reading, once again!

 

 

 

The village stream

When I see friends posting photos on social websites of the magnificence of Autumnal New England, I find myself longing to travel to see it with my own eyes. One day, I promise myself, one day I will see the glorious, vast swathes of foliage, each tree a slightly different hue from xanthous ivory to bloody incarnadine, with every conceivable shade between. As far as the eye can see. Yes, that is definitely something, high up on my bucket list.

Of course, we have autumn here too, with some glorious examples of Mother Nature changing her garments, each individually becoming more glorious than the one before. Last week Rillington, our local big village, began the annual tree moulting with some beautiful examples of colour and light.

Leaves at Scampston, a couple of Autumns ago

Leaves at Scampston, a couple of Autumns ago

Scampston House and lake have provided me with a beautiful backdrop for some lovely, autumnal foliage photos in recent years. But what of this year, here and now?

The conker trees, horse-chestnuts as they are more widely known, have produced a bountiful crop and I was delighted to capture this image of a child gathering conkers with her family, on the lane from Scampston, clearly selecting her preferred specimens carefully.

A child collecting conkers in some gorgeous light

A child collecting conkers in some gorgeous light

I loved the light – it was a beautifully bright, crisp morning which gave a rather ethereal feel to the atmosphere. I watched as she moved around the overhanging branches, occasionally squealing with delight as her latest find surpassed all that had come before. It was one of those moments that felt like I was watching a film rather than being there in person. October light can do that sometimes.

Strolling carelessly down the lane, I could hardly help but notice the juxtaposition of enduring evergreens and fugacious broad-leaved foliage.

The lane form Scampston to Rillington

The lane from Scampston to Rillington

Holly and ivy entwined along the hedgerow, with bright, glossy Hunter’s Green leaves and almost florescent red berries just shimmering in the morning light.

The holly...

The holly…

... and the Ivy

… and the Ivy

I hummed the tune in my head – although it’s entirely possible that ‘The Holly and The Ivy, now they are both full grown; o-of all the trees that are in the woods, the holly bears the crown!’ may have been trilled aloud, joining the blackbird and sparrows in joyful chorus, I’m not entirely sure. I have a tendency to break into song when alone, out of earshot of most humans and in the presence of such glorious, uproarious splendour of a bright October morning in the English countryside.

Houses covered with glorious red leaves

Houses covered with glorious red leaves

More centrally in the village, houses awash in deeply rubescent foliage cannot fail to catch the eye of people passing by -such splendour is hard to ignore.

The tiny stream trickles truculently

The tiny stream trickles truculently

The trickling stream that runs along the side of the road gurgles playfully, reflecting the pale blue sky in repetitious ripples as it bubbles forth under the crossroad and onward, downstream  toward the rushing river.

Morning has truly broken now. We stroll round the corner, coming face to face with the path of righteousness, leading ever upward to the venerable village church.

The path leads upwards into the churchyard

The path leads upwards into the churchyard

In the morning sunshine, the church clock chimes the quarter-hour in a serenely sonorous tone, reminding villagers of the inevitable passage of time.

Time to get ready for the day ahead sleepyheads!

Time to get ready for the day ahead sleepyheads!

I look up into the bright blue of the sky, seeing time from a different perspective.

Time passes strangely slowly sometimes...

Time passes strangely slowly sometimes…

Sounds become markedly muffled; I feel like I am being transported through time, drawn to consider the occupants of this tiny resting place for this ancient crossroads. I begin to notice the tombstones, lying ramshackled and ruined in the graveyard. A peaceful, tranquil air of silence seems pervasive.

Gravestones mark the lives of villagers from long ago...

Gravestones mark the lives of villagers from long ago…

Enchanted, I read testaments to long-forgotten villagers, wondering who they were, what they did with their lives, why they were here.

Frank Wharbeck of Low Moor. Who departed this life on the third of August 1776, aged sixty-six years.

Frank's tombstone Wharbeck

Frank Wharbeck’s tombstone

 

Who loved you enough to raise such a marker on your passing? What did you mean to those around you?

Matthew Pape of Scampston. An Honest Man. Who died on November 14th 1778, aged sixty-five years.

How respected were you to be commemorated on the very church wall?

How respected were you to be commemorated on the very church wall?

You were so well thought of in the village as to warrant your headstone being raised on the side of the church wall, for all to see from far and wide. Who were you? What made you such an honest man?

And Robert, son of Robert and Elizabeth Pennock of Rillington. You died just before Christmas in 1852, aged only twenty-four years.

Robert, son of Robert. Such a young man.

Robert, son of Robert. Such a young man.

What happened to you? What might have happened if you had lived a longer life?

The ghosts of the past are at peace, resting quietly. But they are always here. October light has a habit of playing tricks on the unsuspecting. Time is simply a perspective.

Time is just a perspective

Time is just a perspective

As I return to twenty fourteen, something catches my eye on the grass…  an empty shell, from which a tiny bird has scrambled into the new day.

A broken eggshell ... a new life for a new day

A broken eggshell … a new life for a new day

A symbol of life renewing itself perhaps.

I hope you enjoyed my slightly spooky trek this week. Thanks for reading, once again, my friends!

Lindum Colonia, you’re a revelation!

We’ve been gadding about, here and there for the best part of two months, since researching potential university choices on the Internet only tells a truncated version of reality; it turns out that actually visiting the place in person gives a much more rounded view of what is on offer. It’s just a pity that we have to do them all so soon after each other – it’s getting tedious, giving up entire weekends to traipse around yet another set of corridors and having mountains of leaflets and brochures and prospectuses and other junk. On the plus side, I’ve got loads of new pictures to use as collage materials!

Some places are more intriguing than others. I was very pleasantly surprised by our recent visit to Lincoln -prompted largely by my Neanderthol’s interest in the work of one of the university’s lauded alumni, Jack Howard, who has a massive YouTube following and is now inspiring young(er) film-makers to follow in his footsteps. Some years ago, Toby and his friend, Josh, decided to attempt their own interpretation of one of Jack’s funny videos – New Car. I think it’s pretty funny and I’m hoping to persuade him to include it in his portfolio, when applying actually becomes something he gets round to doing. We also noted that the brilliant John Hurt (Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter movies, for those who are unaware of the massive body of work undertaken by this highly-regarded English actor) was also in the list of the university’s esteemed collegian.

The Humber Bridge - seventh longest single span suspension bridge in the world

The Humber Bridge – seventh longest single span suspension bridge in the world

So we travelled the eighty miles or so, setting off early on a Saturday morning; our journey took us across the Humber Bridge, a magnificent structure that caused all sorts of difficulties during the planning and building stages – taking over twenty-two years to emerge into one of the most striking local landmarks. The Humber Bridge Board have lots of fascinating information for those who wish to know more about it, but I recall the lengthy debate being played out on news and magazine programmes throughout my own childhood and early adulthood too. The main difficulty seemed to be the exorbitant costs that spiralled to a reputed ninety-eight million pounds. At one time, it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world, although it is now the seventh longest.

The Humber bridge

The Humber bridge

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the bridge, it is a mighty and magnificent piece of engineering, spanning the banks of the Humber Estuary on England’s East Coast. Getting photos of it proved tricky as we had no time to stop and find a suitable position to get a good, uninterrupted view. I managed to get a couple of interesting angles from the car as we approached – although the threat of impending rain caused some other difficulties.

And then, on to Lincoln. The university seemed everything Toby was hoping for I think and we enjoyed our tour around the campus and chats with various staff members about course choices. Yes, it all seemed extremely worthwhile, as trips go. We had learned an important lesson from one of our less successful visits to another, un-named town that gave rise to the need to explore at least a little of the local area to round out our understanding of what Toby might be committing to, should he choose to spend the next three years in this place.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

This called for a short car journey up the hill, which I am reliably informed lies at almost two hundred and forty feet above sea level. Given the generally flat landscape of the surrounding area, this means there are some spectacular views from certain vantage points around the city, especially up near the Cathedral and castle. The cathedral was the tallest building in the world for over two hundred years, back in Medieval Britain. Of course, those days are long gone, but it seems that parts of Lincoln retain much of the same rustic charm that York does – unsurprisingly really, given that both have Roman heritages and both were later significant during England’s medieval period.

Classic Gothic architecture

Classic Gothic architecture

The classically Gothic structure of the Cathedral is remarkably similar to York Minster, with an assortment of carved gargoyles, saints and sinners depicted, mostly larger than life size to create an atmosphere of awe that would ensure that local worshippers remained faithful and obedient servants of the Church.

Is it just me, or does that gargoyle look like an Egyptian Pharaoh?

Is it just me, or does that gargoyle look like an Egyptian Pharaoh?

I was delighted to find a glorious vintage Austin bedecked with white ribbon – clearly awaiting the emergence of the newly-weds from their nuptials, which I can only assume must have been held in Lincoln Cathedral – how very grand! The car didn’t look out of place.

Vintage Austin - classy wedding car!

Vintage Austin – classy wedding car!

We wandered around the arts-and-crafty market stalls for a little while, noting aptly named streets such as ‘Steep Hill’ and ‘Castle hill’, as well as the infamous ‘Drury Lane’, where I believe that Simple Simon met the Pieman!

Castle Hill Club lies at the top of Drury Lane

Castle Hill Club lies at the top of Drury Lane

Timber framed shops, similar to York's Shambles

Timber framed shops, similar to York’s Shambles

Steep Hill. Clearly!

Steep Hill. Clearly!

We explored some exquisite little shops, again reminiscent of York and The Shambles in particular.  Tudor timber-framed, top-heavy structures abound, giving a quaint, Olde-Worlde charm to the area.

Browns Pie Shop. I feel a need to return...

Browns Pie Shop. I feel a need to return…

Loved the charming olde-world signage

Loved the charming olde-world signage

I desperately wanted to visit the pie shop, Browns, as it had been recommended to us by one of the university lecturers, but we had to make do with pressing our faces up against the mullioned windows, as the tiny shop was full to bursting.

Reflective vase - a feeling of grandeur?

Reflective vase – a feeling of grandeur?

On our return to the car, we looked more closely at the row of cottages that nestle into the Cathedral’s courtyard. In the window of one an elegant vase sat in wistful repose, gazing at the exalted majesty of Lincoln Cathedral. I like the way the reflection of the building is suggested upon the window pane.

In addition, I noticed that the end of the row of terraced houses featured one of these metal fittings.

These hold the houses together when temperatures fluctuate

These hold the houses together when temperatures fluctuate

They were used to help prevent the bulging and consequent collapsing of stone-built dwellings as the stone expands and contracts according to extremes in temperatures. In most cases, the iron feature is visible as a simple cross on the outside wall, but this cross is attached to a kind of axle with a matching cross on the other end that effectively holds the house together, righting the rules of physics that dictate the disintegration of the construction.  In this row though, the ‘x’ is replaced by an elegant ‘s’, but I’m assuming it serves the same purpose.

Number 23: the first houses to have numbers in Britain

Number 23: the first houses to have numbers in Britain

We came across an information board that informed us of the significance of the numbers on this otherwise unremarkable row of houses. Apparently, they were the first houses in Britain to have numbers! Who knew? I, for one, feel cleverer now that I know this interesting little fact. I shall squirrel it away in the corner of my grey matter to be recalled at some general knowledge quiz or another. I felt terribly satisfied!

All in all it seemed perfect and at the end of Saturday, we heaved a great sigh of relief – we’d found the Neanderthol’s Number One choice. Yay! Go us!

It was with reluctance that we rose early again on the Sunday and made our way over to Leeds Beckett’s University – or as it used to be known, Leeds Met – my old stomping ground. Surely, we were going just to check it wouldn’t match up to Lincoln, but at least we’d get a glimpse of the past and have some fun reminiscing. Or would we?

That’s a tale for another day!

Thanks for reading once again.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Carmen Sandiego!

A long time ago now, back in one of my previous incarnations – you know, when I was a Year Six teacher at the very best international school – Quarry Bay School in Hong Kong – I recall loving my job. That was, in part at least, because I was well remunerated and also because I worked with wonderful, creative people who were simply a joy to be with. Many of my colleagues remain close friends with me, even though we rarely, if ever, see each other, face-to-face each day any more. Social networks and increasingly mobile technology facilitate the maintenance of friendships so much more easily than simple letters used to do – I cannot recall the last time I wrote or received a proper letter and I’ll bet you’d have to wrack your brains for the same (your letter-writing habits, not mine because that would be madness!). I treasure their continued friendships beyond reckoning.

One of the by-the-way benefits of social networks is that we also get to keep in touch with many past students. Not every child that I have taught is keen to share their growing pains, as they transition into adulthood, but there are a surprising number of my Facebook Friends who are children that I once taught when they were knee-high-to-a-grasshopper.

How old was that then?’ I hear you asking.And yes, that is because supersonic hearing is not a talent one dispenses with once one leaves the classroom behind – I still have it! Given that I taught at QBS for almost 12 years and taught in every age group except for the Year 1’s and 4’s (I did one term in Reception) it could be anything from age five to eleven. But my final four years were with the ten-eleven year olds, so most of them may even remember a little about being in my class.

One of the very best things about teaching in Year Six at that time was the end-of-year/end-of-Primary-School-careers productions that we used to put on. I loved everything about them; learning the songs, learning the dance routines, getting all the costumes organised, practicing all the little bits and then putting them all together, usually just before the Gala Performance. They were a great deal of hard work, but a lot of fun too and probably the best thing of all about them was the sense of team-spirit that they engendered. Staff always pulled together of course, but the children always surprised themselves with how much they could achieve when they worked together in the big ‘team’.

The reason I’m reminiscing like this is because I came across a photo of my first year six production in 2001, ‘Pandemonium’ – a tale of chaotic happenings amongst the Greek gods and the effect upon mere mortals when Pandora opened the box. It was memorable for many reasons, not least of which was the finale, where Hope was given to Man, to restore some of the damage done by the release of those potentially damaging  evils that had been hitherto locked safely into Pandora’s Box. On that occasion, we were all delighted that one of our students who had been stricken with a life-threatening disease had made sufficient recovery to be our Hope; it was a moment that touched everyone present, one I shall always remember. I realise that there are several of my (then) young charges (Keira McCosh, Thomas Latter, Keith Chenoweth and Anastasia Stitch among them I suspect) who may well be cringing at the publication of this picture, but there are more embarrassing things in life than photos of you aged ten or eleven, dressed as Greek gods & goddesses, surely?  It’s always fun to look back at our younger selves, especially on Throwback Thursdays eh? (I’m looking forward to receiving some interesting responses here!).

Pandemonium - in true Quarry Bay style!

Pandemonium – in true Quarry Bay style!

Not fifteen minutes after I found this picture, I was delighted to be sent a link to this superbly written article by another ex-pupil of mine, Aneri Shah. She was one of the reporters in the following year’s Y6 production ‘Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?’ – loosely based on the computer game with a character of the same name, which our esteemed department head (Dave Smith) created a fantastic, hour-long story from, connecting locations as far apart as Cordoba in Spain, to Shanghai in China, via Buenos Aires in Argentina and New York in the USA. Our roving reporters included Aneri, whose job it was to keep the audience informed of the whereabouts of the elusive Ms Diego, in the hopes that she could be located before some dreadful ‘baddies’ managed to blow up the entire Earth, thereby saving Mankind from certain annihilation. It was a superb production, with all the usual characteristics, some fantastic performances and a not-too-shabby special effect of an exploding satellite to boot, which rather surprised the cast as much as the audience the first time I managed to pull it off – it wasn’t ready by the final dress rehearsal!

Aneri Shah, big-shot reporter :)

Aneri Shah, big-shot reporter :)

It is fantastic to keep in touch with students from years past – I love hearing about how they are getting on, making their mark upon the world too. I am delighted to promote Aneri’s article, not just because she’s an ex-pupil of mine, not just because she writes so eloquently, not even because what she has to say is really, really important to many people, although those are all really good reasons. I am promoting it because it makes me happy. It gives me just a soupçon of satisfaction to think that a former student is stamping her vital impression in this world. I’m so proud of her, well done Aneri!

Thanks for reading, once again my friends!

Only in Hong Kong…

With thanks to the Travel + Style magazine

With thanks to the Travel + Style magazine

As a Hong Kong resident, a hallowed status that can only be achieved after living there for seven years or more, I used to love reading a column in the ‘local’ paper, the South China Morning Post, that was usually entitled thus – ‘Only in Hong Kong’. It was written by a popular Western journalist, Nury Vittachi, who was also the husband of a colleague who taught my daughters at the famous and rather brilliant Island School. He would regularly describe some of the more eccentric and bizarre aspects of life in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) and it made for some excellent entertainment.

The People of Hong Kong plead for the Chinese Government to honour their pledge.

The People of Hong Kong plead for the Chinese Government to honour their pledge.

I remain worried and concerned for all of my friends who are in Hong Kong as the eyes of the world watch and wait to see how this ‘Umbrella Revolution’ as it is being dubbed, develops. I am continually scanning my Facebook feed for messages from them – for now everyone seems to be doing OK. An ex-pupil of mine bemoaned her ill-health, having contracted a chest infection which prevents her from returning to the streets this evening. I told her how proud I am of her and all of the people there who are taking a significant stand against a dangerous and powerful overlord – the Chinese government. But still, I remind my friends to stay safe.

I am also delighted when there are repeated sharings of stories that fit the bill – ‘Only in HK’ – and the BBC have picked up on several of these. For example, Hong Kong students, diligently studious at the best of times, continuing to ensure their homework is completed properly WHILST they #OCCUPY CENTRAL and other areas! The BBC news page is also quite taken with the idea that protesters continue to tidy up after themselves, three days into the protest. Please, go read their stories, which says so much about the people in Hong Kong. 

Student protesters making improvised gas masks

Student protesters making improvised gas masks

My favourite of the past couple of days has been the protesters who were recycling water bottles into improvised gas-masks, to be freely distributed amongst their comrades, in case the Hong Kong Police decide to attack the unarmed crowds with chemical weapons once more. It is typical creativity that shows us how alive and well Hong Kong actually IS.

When I read this eye-witness account, by a barrister from the SAR I was stirred, emotionally, to want to find a way to do whatever I can to help the cause of the protesters. They are not just political activists – anyone who has ever lived in Hong Kong at all will tell you that politics is a long way down the list of priorities of ordinary people. These are people who, with that very great conviction one holds because of the knowledge of the absolute ‘rightness’ of your standpoint, are doing that which they know MUST be done, if they are to call themselves free people. I’m reproducing the letter in full because not only is it eloquently written, it explains the circumstances far better than I can, from such a great distance. I hope you take the time to read it.

30 Seconds before they fired on civilians
Please share this story. This is my eye witness account and my thoughts on the HK protests.

I was standing in the crowd 15 – 20 metres behind the police cordon on Gloucester Road. My wife and sister-in-law were by my side. So were a small group of friends. We are by all accounts middle class normal and conservative.

The crowd wanted to join up with the students and protesters stranded in Civic Square. So yes, there was some pushing from time to time at the police cordon. There were no weapons. Just umbrellas to defend against pepper spray. The police would grab at the umbrellas from time to time even when unprovoked and spray when they created an opening.

Needless to say, the protesters were easily repelled by police with pepper spray and they made no headway. The crowd started to settle – some people started sitting down.

We being conservative did not dare to go to the front. The atmosphere was co-operative calm and very peaceful for a crowd of several thousand strong.

Martin Lee was ushered into the front. He was helped up onto a concrete bollard to make a speech. He was about 2-3 metres in front of me.

He tried to start several times. But some pepper spray flew into his direction. He was unperturbed. He tried to hush the crowd down. He lifted both hands up and gestured everyone to quieten down. He was given two microphones. He started speaking – he said “friends”.

And then without any audible warning (remember the crowd was relatively quiet as it was anticipating a speech), there was a bang.

I recognised the bang either as a round from a grenade launcher or when a CS (teargas) canister explodes. The grenade landed 2-3 metres behind where Martin was standing.

It engulfed him. I couldn’t see him.

Another canister or round landed 2-3 metres to my left. I grabbed hold of my wife and sister-in-law and we walked away from the scene.

Everyone was shocked and angry. But everyone was calm, urging everyone else not to run, not to step on people who stumbled.

Some people started throwing bottles back at the police. Immediately the crowd told them to stop. And they stopped. This is the most remarkable protest attitude I have ever witnessed.

By this time my eyes ears and throat and lungs were searing. We lost contact with our friends (who were safe) and the three of us calmly walked away. My wife and sister in law started crying – not from the pain but the anguish at what Hong Kong has become – we couldn’t believe that the HK police would do this to its own people whom they pledged to protect and serve.

You have all heard about how partaking in unlawful assembles amounts to breaking the law. The insinuation is that you are morally corrupt to protest in such a way.

This is wrong and philosophically and jurisprudentially indefensible.

We should never confuse the twin concepts of justice and law as one and the same. Justice is fairness for all. The law is merely the expression of justice. If the law is unfair or immoral, it is for our government to bring it into conformity with justice.

If our government fails, the remedy of last resort is peaceful civil disobedience. In other words to protest with the aim of changing the law.

The fallacy of the HKSAR Government’s argument that protests are unlawful and in breach of the law and must be quashed at all costs is due to circular and false assumptions: (i) that the law represents justice absolutely; and (ii) that any contravention is absolutely wrong.

Instead, the twin concepts of Justice and fairness should in reality demand that our government represent our views even despite the fact that it is not a representative government. This is why we have the Basic Law which enshrined the separation of powers between the trinity of law makers, the executive and the judiciary and the promise of universal suffrage.

To the HKSAR government: Your failure to represent Hong Kong’s interests fairly and in accordance with justice is your biggest failing. You have abused the name of the law and undermined the spirit and purpose of the Basic Law. You no longer have any constitutional legitimacy. Shame on you.

To our law enforcement officers: You pledged to serve and protect the people – not to the governmental framework who oppresses the people. You have blindly followed your unconstitutional orders. Shame on you.

There was no justification, no situation that made it necessary, no rational objective in the circumstance to fire chemical weapons on us, a peaceful crowd exercising our right to civil disobedience with a legitimate public interest objective.

For those who are still trying to defend the actions of the Hong Kong police force for some self-serving interest, Shame on you.

For those who don’t know already, Martin Lee is a Hong Kong politician who has repeatedly called for the honouring of the principle of Universal Suffrage that was agreed by the Chinese Government in 1984. He is a very well known public speaker in Hong Kong, who has often spoken with great passion and loquaciousness on all topics that are related to democracy. He is a reasonable and well-respected man.

It is so important that the stories such as the one this barrister has documented are heard around the world. I will continue to keep my friends in Hong Kong in the foremost of my mind over the coming days. They need our support.

Democracy for Hong Kong was agreed on in 1984...

Democracy for Hong Kong was agreed on in 1984…

Thank you for reading, once again.

 

 

Hong Kong this evening: you are NOT alone

I rarely make comments on political issues, for a variety of reasons. But I can hardly stand by and watch, saying nothing when my television screen and my Facebook feed bring me  tortured images of a community that I shared so much of my life with, on the verge of anarchy.

Tear gas fired onto the streets of Hong Kong (pictures from S.C.M.P)

Tear gas fired onto the streets of Hong Kong (pictures from S.C.M.P)

Tear gas? On the streets of my beloved Hong Kong? For what reason?

In 1984, when the Wicked Witch of the West, A.K.A. Margaret Thatcher, sold Hong Kong’s future down the river, we knew that there was a distinct possibility that China might not honour their side of the deal, ensuring a stable society for at least the first fifty years after the handover. Here we are, seventeen years in, with exactly what free-thinking Democratic Party members feared. But those of us who believe in developing good relations, promoting the idea of co-operative learning from each other through understanding our similarities and recognising our humanity in each other, feel terribly betrayed by the Chinese government’s shocking refusal to allow universal suffrage in the election of representatives to high office.

China, you MUST honour your pledge to promote peace and stability. You must understand that the world will not stand for these bully-boy tactics.

Protesters get some harsh treatment from the HK Police

Protesters get some harsh treatment from the HK Police

The people on the streets in Central, in Causeway Bay and in Mong Kok this evening are not armed with any weapon other than that which is the most important. They have their faith in what is right.

Occupy Central stage a sit-in near government buildings

Occupy Central stage a sit-in near government buildings

I am saddened by these terrible scenes of chaos and oppression.

Armed only with umbrellas, peaceful people attempt to protest the bullying tactics of the Chinese Government.

Armed only with umbrellas, peaceful people attempt to protest the bullying tactics of the Chinese Government.

I can only watch from afar, but I am thinking of my dear friends who are still there because Hong Kong is their home. I can only hope that the powers that be will come to their senses sooner rather than later.

This is a terrible night.

Support Hong Kong people in their bid for universal suffrage

Support Hong Kong people in their bid for universal suffrage

Please note: my pictures tonight are not *mine* – they are from the South China Morning Post’s website and from the BBC Newsfeed on Facebook.

 

Imminent arrival at our destination

Thirty-five years is a long time, a lifetime, donkey’s years, or a coon’s age. It’s also a blink of an eye, a jiffy, an instant, a mere moment. It sort of depends upon your yardstick really doesn’t it?

It’s the length of time that has passed since I met my partner in crime, my love, my soul-mate – actually, that and a little bit more in truth. We’re not celebrating an anniversary or anything, it’s just that for most of that time it has been us and our progeny against the world. I note, in passing, that our next anniversary will be our thirty-fifth. Of course, as soon as this thought entered my head, I found myself Googling ‘thirty-fifth wedding anniversary’ and discovered that the traditional gift for that occasion is coral – with ‘blood coral’ (found only near Italy) being the most precious – whilst the modern gift is jade and the precious stone is emerald. I can see a Chinese carved dragon of coral and jade, with glowing emerald eyes looming in my future, which seems to cover all the bases there!

For almost thirty-five years though we have not been alone. Our first child, a beautiful and much-loved daughter came along fairly quickly, followed by her cherished sibling just eighteen months later, so our early years together were as a complete family unit. As our girls grew and our horizons expanded, we ventured further afield and found ourselves in the Far East, Hong Kong before the handover. Our teenagers accepted the challenge of a third child arriving on the scene, doting on their little brother with obvious pride and joy. And then they left to pursue their own lives – which is exactly as life should be. The call of university in far-away England was always going to be strong and for several years, it was a really difficult time for us, as parents, with our girls so very far away. Pride in their achievements, both personally and academically lay hand-in-glove with the heartache of missing them so terribly much.

How grown-up they all seem!

How grown-up they all seem!

Our son became almost an only child; perhaps many perceived him as such if they didn’t know of our older children. He’s only seven years older than our eldest grand-child which seemed almost negligible when he was smaller. It’s been challenging at times to re-experience parenting from such a different perspective. I think, for my own mind at least, it may be easier to raise two children together than doing it with a singleton. Childhood is more fun when there’s a close sibling with which to share everything. An important element that featured in my own childhood, I think Toby has experienced more solitariness than I would have liked. On the other hand, of course, there’s the up-side – he is not afraid of ‘being alone’ and has a level of self-confidence that being an only child often brings. And on top of that, he has sisters, grown adults now of course, with whom he shares a different, more relaxed relationship; they are connected by a strong bond and are finding more to like about each other as each day passes. They look forward to being adult siblings, supporting each other through all that life throws at them.

But now he is ‘The Neanderthol’, a strapping almost-adult with magnificent strength and character, of whom we are very proud. His life lays before him as an open book, waiting to be written. He has ideas, some of them hugely entrancing, that will require a great deal of hard work and commitment to achieve, but I have little doubt that he will succeed. He’s that sort of chap. When he says to people that he wants to be a feature film director, their initial smirk of experience soon yields to a genuine smile of appreciation and often develops into the unmistakable glow of awe as they realise that this is not pie-in-the-sky for him, he just doesn’t yet know exactly how he will achieve this lofty desideratum.

So, we find ourselves this autumn, pondering the next step with him.

Options are multitudinous. The most obvious is university – we’ve travelled this road before, although it’s a little different today, with tuition fees, student loans and all the considerations of future employability weighing heavily in the mix. and so it is that we find ourselves travelling from circus to circus – sorry, that should say ‘Open day to open day’ – at the various institutions that offer courses in film-making, television or alternative media. Many of these are channelled through acting or performance-related options and the purpose of seeing a number of different facilities is to try to make sense of which is the most suitable option for him. It’s a minefield though!

At each event, we cruise through the corridors of power – although I am heartily sick of seeing endless corridors that lead to studios or black-box suites where our offspring COULD be learning how to fade-in camera 4, if only the rooms were unlocked for this inaptly monikered ‘Open Day’, which might be better called ‘Closed Day’ in many cases.  The best experiences are those in which the tour-guide has an engaging and outgoing personality (which is what you might expect from ambassadors for a performance arts programme) coupled with an intimate and authoritative body of knowledge about the courses, the facilities and the general pros-and-cons of this establishment, which should persuade you to enrol immediately. So far, we’ve only really come across this in Salford.

Salford is, for those who don’t know the place, not a salubrious or particularly beautiful part of England. Even the people who live there, known in the Urban Dictionary as ‘Salfordians‘ would probably agree that whilst beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, one would not necessarily be beholding the town at the time. There is definitely a distinctive pride in the town of the significance of their heritage – the dark and gloomy Victorian mills were a mainstay of the growth of Empire, built on the backs of the workers who churned out goods to be shipped far afield, the manufacturing centre of the universe in the nineteenth century. These buildings’ purpose now long redundant, the area has faced the challenge of regeneration as effectively as the Time Lord, ‘Dr Who’, with the creation of the brand-spankingly new Media City at the core.

Gone are the slums, the filthy rows of mean terraced houses of my youth. L.S.Lowry would not recognise the place any more – many of his straightforward representations of the local landmarks look completely alien when compared with the modern landscape of the town. As a youngster, living in nearby Stockport, being a huge football fan I was occasionally treated to a visit to Old Trafford, the most hallowed ground conceivable in my mind at the time. I recall wending my way through row upon row of red-bricked houses, usually with gleaming white-painted, scrubbed-within-an-inch-of-their-lives stone doorsteps and hundreds of dodgily parked cars for what seemed like miles around the ground. None of this is there any more. I snapped a few photos of the new (to me at least) vista with Old Trafford across the river from Media City. It looks serene these days.

Ah, the hallowed turf of Old Trafford beckoned...

Ah, the hallowed turf of Old Trafford beckoned…

We visited a couple of weekends ago, with a degree of trepidation – Yorkshiremen and Mancunians have long held each other with suspicion, harking back to the Wars of the Roses I think, which raged during the fifteenth century. Five hundred years of rivalry, in business, on the sporting field and in pretty much every respect means that each is at least a tad wary when not on home ground. It’s taken me this long for my Yorkshire family to forgive me for being from ‘The Other Side’. It felt oddly comforting to cross the M62 into Lancashire after such a long absence. I’m not sure my FAB Hubby and the Neanderthol felt the same! The view over the ‘Clouded Hills’ (William Blake’s words from ‘Milton’, immortalised in the hymn ‘Jerusalem’) is definitely one to inspire though.

Did the Countenence Divine shine forth upon our clouded hills?

Did the Countenence Divine shine forth upon our clouded hills?

As Toby delved deeper into the increasingly attractive facilities that Salford University has to offer, I found myself looking at the surroundings with a photographer’s eye. (What? You’re surprised? Who knew?)

Media City - a utopian experience?

Media City – a utopian experience?

Media City is where television is made now in England, for the most part, the BBC and ITV moved many of their London-based operations to the new conurbation in the north a couple of years or so ago; it is pretty self-contained, but possess it’s own, modernistic beauty.

The Peel Centre re-interpreted with pampas grass from the gardens

The Peel Centre re-interpreted with pampas grass from the gardens

The buildings are functional, of course, but also less bleak than I’d imagined. There’s a real ‘buzz’ in the air. It *feels* creative. I can’t define that. I can’t put my finger on what makes it so.

Maybe some of these pictures can help define it for me?

 

As it says on the tin... the University of Salford, which lies at the heart of Media City

As it says on the tin… the University of Salford, which lies at the heart of Media City

Glass buildings are wonderfully reflective

Glass buildings are wonderfully reflective

Petra - the first Blue Peter Dog - has a statue in the Blue Peter Garden

Petra – the first Blue Peter Dog – has a statue in the Blue Peter Garden

A Blue Peter Badge is something to treasure!

A Blue Peter Badge is something to treasure!

The Blue Peter Garden, transferred from the roof of Broadcasting House in London, delights children of today so much more because of its accessibility to all in its new location at Media City.

The Rudbeckia is still flowering profusely int he Blue Peter Garden

The Rudbeckia is still flowering profusely in the Blue Peter Garden

The ITV building...

The ITV building…

Delightful opportunities to appreciate perspective...

Delightful opportunities to appreciate perspective…

... and the BBC

… and the BBC

The Lowry Museum intrigued from inside and out…

The Lowry Museum roof is a  testament to simple lines, shapes and textures

The Lowry Museum roof is a testament to simple lines, shapes and textures

The Light Railway tram to Eccles made me think of times long past

The Light Railway tram to Eccles made me think of times long past

… whilst other structures, such as the cable stayed footbridge over the water, are all about the linear qualities.

The bridge over to The Other Side

The bridge over to The Other Side

Now… I wonder if you can recognise the original inspiration for these orbs?

Of course I orbed it!

Of course I orbed it!

Ok... this one is a bit of a give-away!

Ok… this one is a bit of a give-away!

Yet another give-away ...

Yet another give-away …

I cheated with the colours on this one though...

I cheated with the colours on this one though…

This one should be easy!

This one should be easy!

I'm making this too easy, aren't I?

I’m making this too easy, aren’t I?

But there are two different BBC buildings!

But there are two different BBC buildings!

All I can do is hope that, if this is the place where my neanderthol chooses to stride out on his own towards, it’s a place where he might do well. Find success.

Then we will truly have achieved what we wanted in life. And being alone, without the constant presence of at least one scion will seem less like a challenge and more like a new adventure. We’ll be waiting for that chapter to unfold.

Thanks for reading once again!

 

Lest we forget…

Fallen Heroes - the poppies tumble out of the Tower of London

Fallen Heroes – the poppies tumble out of the Tower of London

In 2014 we have been continually reminded that this is the centenary of the start of The Great War. During my school days, which do indeed seem like an entire lifetime ago now, I was remarkably interested in this conflict – for reasons unknown at the time. I think I was probably around twelve or so when I first became aware of the fact that the entire world had been at war with each other on two mighty occasions during the twentieth century. I can recall, as clear as day, my thoughts about this – ‘When WILL Man ever learn to live harmoniously, side by side?’ I think you can probably tell that I was a child of the Sixties, born into a generation that truly believed that Peace on Earth not only was possible but is what we will bring about – Man’s crowning glory of an achievement.

Whilst I cannot profess to being a devoted student of war, my interest in The Great War was piqued by the tales my mother was continually regaling me with, which focussed mainly upon World War 2 – she lived through it as a young adult whose equally young husband had fought in Burma, was captured and held as a Japanese prisoner of war for around three years, only to return to a strange and unreal *normality* and somehow they had both survived. I now know that she possessed an active imagination which resulted in many of her tales being augmented truths rather than reliable historical fact, but none-the-less, she inspired me to consider the consequences of war from a practical perspective – how ordinary people reacted to the fluidity of rapid change and carried on, regardless.

I recall being fascinated by the concept that people truly believed, in 1918, that the terrific horrors they had lived through surely were the worst possible things that man could inflict upon each other; that this Great War had assuredly, unquestionably and inexorably been The War To End All Wars. I learned that the benefit of hindsight when considering the mistakes of the past is an oft-misused idea and that to truly understand something you have to consider a person’s actions at the time, without the luxury of retrospection. It’s an important lesson in life, a transferable nugget of knowledge that guides the wise. If only I were wise enough to recall this at important times.

My mother often talked of her father, my granddad, Tom Sharp. She spoke of his gruffness, his taciturn, dour manner with all folk, except perhaps for a gentle twinkling when he spoke to her and her young son. She had clearly been frustrated with his reticence when dealing with others, perhaps wishing he could be more pleasant and cheerful as she felt she had to be. What little she knew of his story I cannot say, but perhaps as a young adult her own life had been so scarred by the events of World War II that she felt, as many young people often do, that it couldn’t possibly have been any worse for him so he should shake it off, forget about it and move on with his life.

She talked of him because through that return to wartime, when sense and reason had departed, she lived with him in a small terraced house in Crowther Street, Stockport. All during the Manchester Blitz, when the Doodlebugs reigned terror upon ordinary people, they clung to each other and survived. Manchester is only a hop-and-a-skip north of Stockport and as home to much of the manufacturing of the arms and weaponry of war, including the famed Avro Lancaster bombers, the city was a prime target. I’m not sure if it’s one of her fantasies or not, but she used to tell me of her work in the factory at Chadderton, where she worked on the Lancasters; it’s entirely possible as it’s only about eight miles, which was a distance she could have travelled by bus to work each day.

Stories of my mother’s wartime experiences I’ll keep for another time – it is Granddad Tom that I’m thinking of today. Only last week when we visited Salford (again, that’s a whole other story!) we found ourselves in the Lowry Museum for a little while. I love to visit galleries and see paintings, sculptures, Art, up close and in reality. Not printed in a book or photographed and available online. But actually, here: right here, in front of my own eyes, where I can observed the brush techniques the artist chose to employ and consider what they might have been envisaging, imagining, conceptualising. I’d managed to sneak a gallery visit into an altogether different trip and was pleased we had made it. Looking at the ‘Match-stalk men and match-stalk cats and dogs’, as Lowry’s paintings have come to be fondly known, took me back to my youth, when Stockport had looked much like many of the scenes depicted with such child-like simplicity. I swear I knew some of the people represented – and I definitely knew the animals!

L. S. Lowry's depiction of Crowther Street

L. S. Lowry’s depiction of Crowther Street

 

 

Imagine my surprise and delight then when I came upon Lowry’s portrayal of Crowther Street, the very same street where my mother, granddad and brother had lived during that terrible period! They had lived there after the war too, for my brother has occasionally told me about his early memories of the place – sliding down the ‘Brew’ (which I think is an old Lancastrian word for steep hill) on a wooden board, nearly killing himself in the process! Granddad Tom used to stand on the doorstep outside their home at Number Five, watching the world go by, tapping our the contents of his pipe on the side of his tin leg. I was touched by the shared memory of a place and a relative that I never knew.

The tin leg intrigued me though. My brother describes his memories in an entry on his Facebook page: ‘My own grandfather (maternal) lost a leg at Paschendaele . It simply disappeared as a shell landed on his artillery wagon, killing his six horses. He was a horse farrier sergeant major and immediately detailed two gunners to go and look for his leg! He was given a tin leg and I remember that it banged like an oven door every time he knocked his pipe out on it!

In another post from my brother, I’ve discovered that our grandfather served in the Royal Horse Artillery for twenty-seven years prior to being invalided out of the Army after his brush with death at Paschendaele. Now this is a man I find I want to get to know. He is one of many hundreds of thousands of men who sacrificed much in service of their country during that egregious conflict. Thankfully, he was spared his life otherwise I would not be here today.

So when I see the commemorative events that mark the centenary of the First World War, I think of the senseless waste of human life yes, but I also think of my grandfather – how that one event must have soured his enthusiasm for life, yet in spite of it all he survived. He returned home from the madness and resumed his life with his family, fathering at least two more children in the following three years after the Great War. He further survived the death of his beloved wife, from complications in labour with their last child – the little boy survived; my eighteen-month-old mother’s only younger sibling. It’s no wonder really, that he was so out-of-sorts with life after that. Perhaps mum could have cut him a little slack for the hardships he had known in his long and difficult life.

I am overwhelmed with sadness when I see poppies each November – it has always affected me on a deep level. When I heard, earlier this year that an artist had created the magnificent ceramic poppies installation at the Tower of London, I was determined to ensure that I took some time to go and see it in real life. In person. Like viewing the Lowry paintings, the actual reality of the piece means so much more than just looking at them online.

Ceramic Poppies by ceramic artist, Paul Cummins

Ceramic Poppies by ceramic artist, Paul Cummins

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to see them this week. It really was a moving experience – consider the symbolism, the presence of each poppy, crafted with care and compassion and planted with equal benevolence by volunteers and patrons – each poppy representing a fallen hero from the many battles during the Great War. The venue of the Tower of London is an excellent idea, largely because of the additional symbolism of this as a place of power in times past. The hustle and bustle of the modern city is never really transcended – but then I imagine that would have been equally difficult in the squalid, unforgiving trenches on the Western Front and elsewhere.

For King and Country - the Rose wades into the bloody conflict

For King and Country – the Rose wades into the bloody conflict

I took many photos, of course, you would not expect anything less, I’m sure. I found myself looking for contrasts to create some contiguous images that might provoke mixed feelings. As I walked around the perimeter walls of the Tower, I noticed a heavenly perfume and was drawn to these beautiful roses, flowering in the mid-September sunshine and suddenly had exactly the juxtaposition that I was seeking. Roses, representing the beauty of individual souls alive in a sea of cold, ceramic poppies, seems so appropriate to me.

Private George Pearce died at Galipoli in 1915, aged just 22 years

Private George Pearce died at Galipoli in 1915, aged just 22 years

Funnily enough, the family of a fallen hero had a similar idea, I discovered, as they left a small bunch of roses tied to the railing, giving a brief account of their loved ones’ sacrifice. I found it very touching.

I also decided to make a photo-montage of the scene that I encountered. My wide-angled lens is good, but I wanted to create something that gave at least some indication of the grand scale of this installation. I took seventy-two shots from the same spot. Then I’ve pieced them together into this montage. The original file is massive of course – around 1.3GB (gigabytes – that’s a whole bunch of pixels!), so I’ve resized it to make it reasonably accessible on this blog. Also, since I did this on Wednesday, I’ve discovered a much more effective tool to stitch the individual images together – but I’m not re-doing this one yet! I hope you enjoy looking at it too.

Montage of the poppies surrounding the Tower

Montage of the poppies surrounding the Tower

I’ll leave you with your own thoughts about this piece of artwork – and will be remembering my Granddad too.

Thanks for reading this evening – your presence here keeps me going!

 

Fairy City – in my front garden

‘Quick Mum!’ The Neanderthol exclaimed, excitedly. ‘You’ve GOT to see these mushrooms!’

Now, between you and me, my soon-to-be-an-official-adult-but-in-the-meantime-is-making-the-most-of-being-a-Neanderthol son rarely exclaims excitedly. Except when he’s in a tizz about something. Or if a hairy arachnid strolls into his line of sight. I imagine that might be quite amusing, if I ever stopped and looked over my shoulder to capture the moment, but I’m usually too busy legging it in the opposite direction to notice, so I’ll just have to continue imagining his expression.

So, when Toby vociferates at top volume, it grabs my attention, which in this case was a good thing.

Grabbing my trusty Canon and a squishy quilt (well, you wouldn’t want an old lady like me to have to scrabble in the gravel now would you?) I dashed outside to see the cause of the commotion.

Look what grew like magic overnight!

Look what grew like magic overnight!

Indeed, some quite magnificent fungi has sprouted overnight. Clearly, this is evidence of the existence of fairies. And magic. And fairy magic.

I can totally see tiny fairy faces, albeit perhaps a little on the grubby side – these dwellings are decidedly dark and possibly even a little dodgy-looking –  opening doors and skipping in and out of their miniature homes.

With my photographic mentor’s words (‘Move your feet!’ and ‘Get down low!‘) ringing in my ears, I snapped away, looking for colour, texture, defining shapes and light. Always, looking for the light. They were remarkably co-operative subjects.

You’ve gotta love magic. All I need now is a little pixie-dust…

The textures on the 'roof' of these fairy homes are exquisite

The textures on the ‘roof’ of these fairy homes are exquisite

Colours on the 'shrooms are so delicate...

Colours on the ‘shrooms are so delicate…

'Shroom City

‘Shroom City

Fairy houses with a delicate decor

Fairy houses with a delicate decor

Thanks for reading again!

 

 

September gardens

I miss Summer already.

She hasn’t left us completely, yet. When I go outside, I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my back, especially if it’s the middle of the day.

But the garden is looking increasingly sparsely populated, in terms of flora and the grass isn’t growing so fast, if at all. As each patch of glorious summer colour fades, I find I am mentally preparing for the onset of Autumn. The conker tree is looking patchily bronzed, the apples, plums and chums, drupes of incalculable quantity, have almost all fallen or been collected, greedily, for jam-making and fruit-pies. Some of the hedgerows still hold drooping bundles of blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants, but these are needed by the birds and small mammals that inhabit the countryside with us. The bright red haws speak of the coming of Autumn, more loudly and clearly than even the nocturnal cries of our resident barn owl.

Autumn is nigh.

But, being a somewhat disorganised gardener – one day I have promised myself, I WILL construct a planting timetable that will give me a more bountiful harvest throughout the summer and into the autumn, but sadly, this year is not that time – I planted a few things rather later than would be ideal. Take gladioli, for example. Various horticulturalists advise planting in around February to abut the end of April to achieve a garden full of repeated blooms throughout the summer months. I found a bag of corms in early June and thought ‘What the heck?! I’ll just get these in now  and we’ll see what happens’.

This is frequently my mantra when it comes to gardening. I haven’t even the smallest Scooby, a Scoolb-let if you will, about how to make the garden grow. All I know for sure is that plants want to grow. If you give them a little care and attention, lots of watering and a good talking-to once in a while, they shoot out of the ground with a desperation that could be unseemly, if it weren’t for their unbridled enthusiasm for *life*. Possibly, there’s a lesson or two to be learned from our little plants.

So, mid-June and my gladdies have just hit the soil. Actually, I did think of them earlier, on the 16th May, as that was the FAB Hubby’s grandma’s birthday – her name was Gladys, so I always think of her when I see these beautiful flowers. But for some reason, I still didn’t get round to putting them into the ground until mid-June.  Of course, the real benefit of this is that they are finally, just about now, beginning to flower.

And they are so pretty!

The Gladiolus Rse Supreme has finally bloomed!

The Gladiolus Rse Supreme has finally bloomed!

A lovely variety,Gladiolus Rose Supreme – ‘warm salmon flowers with creamy hearts’ – is simply gorgeous. I’m thrilled that they’ve started to bloom, at last, because they really do brighten the day.

Such pretty markings and colours

Such pretty markings and colours

Gladdys' sensuous curves  charm seductively

Gladdys’ sensuous curves charm seductively

curves sm

Silky petals so delicately hued

Of course, I couldn’t resist orbing the gorgeous girl…

Gladys' Orb

Gladys’ Orb

 

I also found that there are still dahlias flowering right outside my studio – every time I think they must be about to give up the ghost, another bud pops up and BOOM! There’s another beauty shining forth for all they’re worth. I would happily say that they are indeed worth their weight in gold. The bright cardinal coral of the red dahlia and the xanthus, golden hues of the yellow dahlia are the last vestiges of the Summer of Hope.

Red Dahlia says 'I'm still here!'

Red Dahlia says ‘I’m still here!’

Golden Dahlia peeks coyly at the sun

Golden Dahlia peeks coyly at the sun

When I see them, I am reminded of all the hoping I’ve been engaging in – hoping for some inspiration, hoping for a new direction for my career, hoping that each day will bring warmth, sunshine and a modicum of contentment. I am still hoping.

And then, of course, there’s still the sunflowers. I posted some photos of them recently, but they always seem to outshine themselves with each new day. So, I’ll leave you with some more of these glorious giants – the tallest are well over nine feet now – and their multi-headed splendiferousness.

He's just SO FLUFFY!

He’s just SO FLUFFY!

Busily collecting pollen

Busily collecting pollen

This sunflower's head is simply huge - bigger than mine!

This sunflower’s head is simply huge – bigger than mine!

The multi-headed sunflowers follow the sun all day, together of course!

The multi-headed sunflowers follow the sun all day, together of course!

I'm always amazed at the gravity-defying antics of bees

I’m always amazed at the gravity-defying antics of bees

I love these red sunflowers - such dramatic colour!

I love these red sunflowers – such dramatic colour!

Thanks for reading again!

 

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