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!

 

Family weddings for fun

A couple of weekends ago our nephew and his lovely fiancée were married at the Gomersal Park Hotel.

As always here in England, we all worried about the weather; an unnecessary concern as it turned out, because the day was perfect, slightly cooler in the morning, so that all the important people didn’t soak their precious garments in buckets of perspiration, lovely and warm with intermittent sunshine during the afternoon, giving photographs a glorious quality of bright, sparkly light.

I had been asked to take some photos by Lee and Lyndsey at least a year ago, when they first floated the date within the family – August Bank Holiday weekend is notorious for downpours and this probability was high on my radar for potential difficulties on the day. Of course I agreed to do the honours – I do like to take a couple of pictures every now and then, which, if you’re a regular reader, you may already be aware of. I decided to take a positive approach. If I refused to believe that rain might spoil the day and mean that I have to engage in Plan B, then it simply WOULD NOT happen. I’m quite impressed by the power of positive thinking sometimes!

It was probably just as well, because Plan B was not very well thought out.

In fact, it didn’t really exist.

I’m prepared to admit this now, two and a half weeks later, when its actuality is irrelevant. It was never needed, so why worry about it?

So, Plan A was simple.

  • Go to the bride’s house (actually, the bridesmaid’s house but let’s not get too picky here!), an hour and a half’s drive from mine, arriving by eight-thirty on W-Day.
  • Take a bunch of *getting ready* pictures.
  • Follow the bride to the venue.
  • Get out of my car ahead of her arrival in order to capture her arrival.
  • Capture the Wedding Party as they began their traipsing down/up the aisle.
  • Rush to the front and capture the Father of the Bride giving his daughter away.
  • Capture as much of the ceremony as possible, as well as some of the audience/witnesses expressions during sai ceremony.
  • Rush to back in order to capture the newly-weds as they embark along the aisle towards their new life, together.
  • Go outside & capture the guests’ joy at what has just happened -including the throwing of rice or confetti over the new Mr & Mrs Deaves.
  • Begin the process of photographing everyone in every possible combination known to man and mathematicians;
    • NB: Allocate Ushers to the job of ensuring people are where they are needed at appropriate times
    • Make sure the Ushers have a copy of The Plan.
  • Include some of the bride’s personal requests regarding particular images she wanted to capture (there’s a rather fetching log to drape brides over – presumably to show the dress off to maximum advantage).
  • Try to survive this PLAN without having a heart-attack or personal meltdown.

OK. Looking at it in black and white like this, I can see that there are some minor faults.

Perhaps, it may not have been as simple as I had thought.

The first part of the plan went fairly well… I arrived early enough, drank tea, fiddled with my equipment and took about four hundred shots – many of the adorable new addition to the family, ten-day-old Evelyn. I have to say that her Zen-like approach to the occasion may well be an important lesson for all of us to emulate! I have many shots like this one, where she was napping peacefully, looking like a perfect angel.

Ten day old Evelyn lends a Zen-like approach to the proceedings

Ten day old Evelyn lends a Zen-like approach to the proceedings

Lots of preparation shots, including some adorable ones of The Dress, went well too. There was the inevitable photo-bomb, when snapping away on the upstairs landing, *someone* (notice my discretion there – not naming the culprit!) popped out of the bedroom, right behind the bride and her mum, to ask for some assistance with their dress – their state of undress could have been embarrassing. Fortunately, the two subjects shielded the ‘bomber’ and everyone’s dignity was maintained. Phew!

Everyone was readied, one by one. The Page Boys and Flower Girl looked particularly angelic, for a few minutes at least. The bride’s parents adjusted each other’s buttonholes/sprays and smiled lovingly at each other. People always forget that parents have so much invested in these occasions – that little look an indication of the lifetime of commitment they have given to each other, culminating in this special day for their child. It is the look of love. The bridesmaid arrived downstairs, looking perfect. And then finally, here came the bride. Shining with inner joy, she gracefully posed for photos with her family and the wedding party before they all departed, leaving only the bride and myself to wait for her father’s return. Those last few minutes seemed to take an age. I’m particularly pleased with some of the images from this time.

The, at last, her dad returned and smiling broadly, they posed for a final picture at home. Folding the dress into the car, checking all the doors’ ribbons and finally driving off to the venue. Not a sign of nerves.

Then things went slightly awry – I managed to take an alternative (some would say *wrong*) route to the venue, losing the bridal car in traffic and arriving some ten minutes after them. Fortunately, FAB hubby HAD plan B tucked away at the back of his mind and managed to take some shots for me whilst I found the *right* route and rocked up eventually, a little flustered, but not a lost cause. No siree, not me!

The ceremony went exactly as planned and then we were into the home stretch – just the ‘formal’ pictures to capture.

I may have been a little more successful if I had experience in kitten herding! I think, should I embark upon a venture such as this in the future, I may invest in a Border Collie, a special whistle and take a few lessons in shepherding from Jon Katz and the exemplary Red. That, or maybe a loudhailer. Or, perhaps, a magnum of champagne – that way, I simply won’t care if I’ve managed to photograph everyone!

When all was said and done though, it was a beautiful wedding, enjoyed by all and I hope that the bride and groom will enjoy looking through the three or four hundred photos that I will have eventually have whittled the occasion down to (from the eighteen hundred ++ that were taken!), when they get back from honeymoon in Mexico, later this week. I hope they’ll like them. Then it will have been worthwhile.

Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Deaves!

Thanks for reading once again!

 

 

 

Exciting times are here…

This is the second time in less than a week that I have been gobsmacked.

It’s becoming a habit.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term ‘gobsmacked’, here’s a quick dictionary definition … according the the Oxford Dictionary, it means ‘Utterly astonished; astounded’. You may recall my earlier astonishment was caused by something a little less than pleasant. Probably, the  less said about that, the better.

But this time I am not only astonished, astounded or ‘gobsmacked’. I am bewildered, confounded, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, overwhelmed, staggered, stupefied and amazed. You could, possibly quite literally right now, knock me down with a feather!

Why?

Did I hear you correctly?

You want to know what has caused this altered state of mine?

‘Cause, y’know, I’m like totally together and with-it, ALL the time, never a moment of not-being-all-there-at-all with me! No, siree!

Well, this came right out of the blue, so it did.

I perhaps should start a little way back, so that you don’t get quite the same BAZINGA! and KAPOW! feeling as I did, because I care about you and don’t want you passing out on me or anything… what’s that? ‘GET ON WITH IT!’ Oh, Ok, keep your shirt on!

So, for a while now I have been ruminating the idea of how to become a proper, bona-fida “Artist” – you know so when I give my passport in when I travel and they open up the page that says ‘Occupation’ and where it always said ‘Teacher’ before, well now I want it to say ‘Writer’ or ‘Artist’ or ‘Something Creative’. It’s a bit of a dream really. Like it is real if it says so on my passport.

I’ve been setting up Facebook pages, Tumblr and Twitter pages, as well as Fine Art America and iSpyart.com accounts which have yet to prove their worth, in terms of much other than some very nice comments about some of my work. I’ve shared my work with friends in Facebook groups, mostly ones connected with the Creative Group At Bedlam Farm, where lots of positive support and generally fantastic constructive criticisms are  offered and gratefully devoured by me – I try to do my share of supporting other too, it’s a win-win thing and unique on the InterWeb (as my FAB always refers to it). So far, I’ve sold a very few pieces of my work.

It’s challenging, to say the least, to work out how to make an actual living wage though. It simply can’t be impossible (my mind dismisses the possibility immediately) in this modern day and age of global telecommunications and with access to world markets at the touch of a button.

BUT HOW?

I have thunked and pondered (‘scuse the minor plagiarism there Lisa Dingle!), I have cogitated and considered all kinds of options and possibilities, but the setting up of an actual business requires not only all of that, but some actual structure too. And probably a whole caboodle of start-up cashy-type spondooliks. That’s cold, hard money to you my friends. Not something in vast supply, I’m afraid.

A friend recommended PRIME to me.

‘What’s that then?’ I asked. Rather like you probably did. Just then. I heard you!

So I looked them up on the Interweb and found that the Prince’s Trust have branched out and not only are they supporting business enterprises for all those B.Y.T’s (Bright Young Things)  who are under 25 years old, but they’ve realised that there’s a big old bunch of 50+ people who also need a little bit of help with ventures they want to pursue, which may well be just as entrepreneurial, or even more so, as their younger counterparts. I found out when their introductory course was and where it was being held and booked myself a place.

You have to start somewhere. I chose here.

So, it was today and early this morning, my FAB hubby and I trundled off to Hartlepool and got cracking with the PRIME trainer, Diane.

The introduction course was great. I’ll not bore you all with too many details because that’s not even the good bit.

Not yet anyway.

So, we chat and discuss and consider and ruminate, but this time it’s with other people. Like, real, live actual humans who have no pre-determined requirement to say nice things to me or even to gasp and say ‘WOW’ when they saw some of my work. So, that bit WAS good.

But that is STILL not the good bit!

The course is winding up, in the last couple of minutes when Diane gets a bit distracted because her phone is buzzing – she’s  trying not to notice but something catches her eye.

It’s the BBC.

Ringing her.

SO, eventually, she gives up all pretence of trying to ignore it and excuses herself for a moment whilst we, her captive trainees hang with bated breath – like that moment before the bell rings and everyone starts clanging and banging desks, scraping chairs and talking loudly as they move on to the next moments of their lives. What DO the BBC want with our esteemed trainer?

She puts the phone down. There’s a glint of something in her eye. Maybe she needs to change her contact lenses? No, Fool!

‘How would one of you like to chat with the people at BBC Tees Radio this afternoon? They want to do a bit of a piece about PRIME and would like to talk to someone who’s doing the course today. Anyone interested?’

OOOOOH!!! PICK ME!!!!! PICK MEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

I am a born Hermione and cannot sit on my hands. Ask a question that I have even an inkling of the answer to and my hand shoots up before I even recognise that the questioner has finished asking the question.

So, long story short, (OK… maybe not so short!) I get to be the person to speak to the nice researcher, Louise.

Cue several missed calls because the reception on my phone can sometimes be very dodgy. A rueful smile at a probable missed opportunity. Oh, well, when twenty minutes passed the allotted time for the call from the radio station, I assumed that the item had been dropped. In favour of discussion about the up-coming deadline (at 11pm tonight) for the football season transfer window.

Then the phone rang. Because of the rush, there was no real time to prepare and I was straight on air.

What did I get out of this morning’s course? What kind of business do I think I might pursue? What are my next steps?

I answered all of these with surprising aplomb I think – it’s not my first time on radio!

Then came the bit that shocked me. Floored me.

Thanks Neil green - my new BF!

Thanks Neil green – my new BF!

The lovely Neil Green, who is probably my new best friend, asked ‘Would it be OK if we were to follow your progress through this project Liz? Y’know, keep up with what you;re doing and so on?’

OK.

So, about NOW is when you can (gently) close my gaping jaw.

And maybe yours too.

I think that’s a bit of a WIN today. The BBC want to follow my progress as I develop this idea into an actual business.

Yep, I think that’s a win.

Thanks Neil!

… you can listen to the podcast of the show here... I was on about five minutes to six I think, so maybe fast-forward to there if you’re interested in what was actually said!

Oh, and just to prove I was in Hartlepool here’s a couple of snaps… you knew there would be of course!

Heugh Headland has a story to tell...

Heugh Headland has a story to tell…

I thought this was a clock that I could orb... but it was just the local college logo. Still...

I thought this was a clock that I could orb… but it was just the local college logo. Still…

 

 

The sky was suitably dramatic over the docks in Hartlepool

The sky was suitably dramatic over the docks in Hartlepool

This gun defended the area from attack during WW1 I found out today.

This gun defended the area from attack during WW1 I found out today.

And when I saw this on the way home… it occurred to me that if pigs might fly, perhaps elephants can too?

And I thought pink elephants couldn't fly...

And I thought pink elephants couldn’t fly…

So… watch this space, as it looks like I am going too HAVE to find a way to be successful now! This was a GOOD gobsmackin’ day!

Thanks for reading, as always!

Watercolours in the hall

We’ve moved many times in the thirty-five years that we’ve been together, my FAB hubby and I. When we first moved to Hong Kong, in September 1992, it was a terrifying experience. Everything was completely overwhelming, foreign and strange. It was also exciting, and wonderfully inspirational.

We had to wait for about two months before our furniture arrived – it may have been longer in fact, because we couldn’t inform the removal company where to send it to until we had an address for it to arrive at and as we lived the high life at the Island Shangri-La – a most luxurious, brand-spankingly new, six-star hotel in Pacific Place – for the first four or five weeks; it was getting on for mid-November before our furniture from ‘home’ came anywhere near us.

Moving to this newly-built apartment in Mid-Levels was a big step. We had arrived in Hong Kong with almost nothing – a couple of suitcases of clothing and some photographs to remind us what our children looked like, back in England, enjoying their boarding school. Even when our stuff did arrive, we had only packed the dining table and chairs, our double bed and some essential belongings – the bronze and rosewood cutlery we’d bought ten years earlier, our best china dinner service and a few other knick-knacks. We’d pretty much sold everything else we owned because we had no idea what we could or couldn’t actually take with us.

So the apartment was very strangely empty, even after our belongings arrived. We didn’t really notice because there was so much to see, so much to explore.

One of my favourite places to go was the Japanese department store, Seibu, which occupied a large section of two floors in Pacific Place. It was full of marvellous wonders and most invitingly, had a well-stock art-supplies area that, although a little pricey, seemed like an Aladdin’s cave to me. I spent many hours perusing the goodies and finally decided on some new watercolours and some pastel papers.

Amongst our treasured belongings was a gorgeous calendar with some British Wildlife photos, that I had been given by a relative some years before. Badgers, hares, squirrels and deer frolicked in each different scene. I had intended to put them together in a montage and mount  them together, but I was intrigued by my newly-acquired purchases and decided to have a go at painting them for myself, from the photographs.

I finished six fairly quickly and we took them to the framer’s on Queens’ Road East. It took about a week, but collecting them, rushing home with them and seeing my art work hung on my own walls suddenly made this strange, noisy, utterly crazy city feel like home for the first time. Each time we went in and out of our apartment, they greeted us.

All six watercolours together

All six watercolours together

They have hung out together on the walls of every home we’ve lived in since then – nine in all (so far). They’ve greeted all our our children and grandchildren. They are like members of the family now. I hope you like them too.

Squirrel

Squirrel

Otter

Otter

Mouse

Mouse

Winter Hare

Winter Hare

Duck

Duck

Deer

Deer

 

As always, thanks for reading! 

Sunflowers – nature, glorying in the sunshine

Be honest, who doesn’t adore sunflowers? It’s likely to be a very small group, you can bet on that.

Who doesn't love sunflowers?

Who doesn’t love sunflowers?

Yellow is widely regarded as the colour of intellect, the mind and general happy states of being. Years ago, I read that psychologists had started to use yellow postcards as an effective antidote to depression, the theory being (I suppose) that if you’re prone to depression and you sit in the sunshine, the colour, the warmth and the light helps to lift the spirits and provide a visual mood-massage. I’m not sure how much success those people had with a piece of yellow card, four inches by six, but I have to agree that yellow, as my most favourite colour, certainly has that effect upon me and my mood.

Is it just me or is there a happy face in this sunflower?

Is it just me or is there a happy face in this sunflower?

So, it is surely a given that sunflowers are widely admired because they simply make us happy – it’s hard to look at a single sunflower and not think cheerful notions. In France, many years ago now, we once drove through the countryside, roughly straight down the middle passing some magnificent, enormous seas of sunflowers. The sight was breathtaking. A couple of years before that we had visited the tiny island of Gozo, just to the south of Malta, to find similar fields of sunflowers swaying in the sunshine. They are synonymous with holidays, happiness and contentment.

HE'S SO FLUFFY!!!

HE’S SO FLUFFY!!!

At this time of year, social media is filled to bursting with people’s fascination with Nature’s elixir of elation. There are sunflowers on their own, sunflowers in groups, some with tiny florets and others with gargantuan, dinner-plate-sized heads. Even the leaves, thrown joyfully out to each side are reminiscent of someone shouting ‘SQUEE!!!!’ just for the sheer joy of being alive, warming oneself under the might star at the centre of our solar system.

The bees are getting busy on this massive flower

The bees are getting busy on this massive flower

Sunflowers are essential for pollinators as well of course… at this time of year, as many flowers are beginning to fade, the sunflower stands, like a beacon calling to bees and bugs to feast on the abundant nectar, asking only that the creature transfers a little pollen to other plants, thereby ensuring the survival of the species. Watching the many bees staggering away from the Sunflower Bar reminds me of Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong on a Friday or Saturday night – drunken folk, careening along the pavement to the next bar, smiling and enjoying the experience hugely. Happiness, again.

Until this year though, I had always believed that sunflowers only ever produce one, massive floret, so heavily loaded with seeds that when they begin to fade, they hang their heads in melancholic sadness. Their time is almost at an end and the effort required to lift their faces to the Sun just one more time is simply too much to ask.

Dead-heading requires a pair of sharp secateurs

Dead-heading requires a pair of sharp secateurs

But, I was wrong! Almost all of the sunflowers we planted this year (from the seeds of last years’ superstar sunflower, ‘Sunny Jim’) have produced multiple florets atop their gangly stems. It’s such a surprise to me!

With the head removed, two smaller flowers get some time in the sunshine

With the head removed, two smaller flowers get some time in the sunshine

Height is frequently an issue for us as both my FAB hubby and I are around the five-foot-three to five-foot-six marks and when they decide to grow to a height of over eight feet, it makes collecting seeds quite difficult. In order to counter this short-coming (please excuse the pun!), I also planted some red sunflowers which grow to only about three feet tall.

This shows the scale of how tall the flowers are - around eight foot high!

This shows the scale of how tall the flowers are – around eight foot high!

They were put in the ground later than the others as well, so they are only just beginning to flower now. I love the colours – deep russet reds set off with saffron and brilliant cadmium – and the fact that they are a dwarf variety means that they flower at around hip-height, perfect for getting up close and personal with.

Today, the wind was making its presence felt. Blowy, gusty at times, always incessantly moving the flower-heads, making leaves tremble and forcing tiny insects to hang on for dear life, the breeze wafting, whirling and blasting for all it was worth. These are not often ideal conditions for aesthetically pleasing pictures to be created. But, I managed. I’m particularly pleased with this photo of the red sunflower, which is almost SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) – I simply resized it. I like the movement that seems to be conveyed – you can almost feel the wind rushing past, in a violent hurry.

The red flower swayed turbulently in the breeze

The red flower swayed turbulently in the breeze

Gardening, growing things and watching them mature into bright, beautiful forces of nature is a lot like being a parent. Each plant, each flower, each vegetable or fruit has so much potential; all they need is good soil, light, water and a little TLC, to grow and develop so individually. I think I’m finding Zen in my garden. I wasn’t even looking for it.

The last of the butterflies are meditating in unexpected places.

The last of the butterflies are meditating in unexpected places.

As always, thank you for reading – you make my day brighter for your presence here!

 

 

Well, who knew?

I’m a little bit gobsmacked this morning.

Apparently, someone read my post yesterday and thought it was inappropriate. They sent me a rather rude note, likening me (amongst other things) to an unprofessional twelve-year-old. I was mightily flattered, which you’d probably only understand when you get to be a wise old sage like me.

The Golden Buddha sits atop the mountain on Lantau. Thinking.

The Golden Buddha sits atop the mountain on Lantau. Thinking.

My friend and exceptionally professional writer, Jon Katz, has a brilliant attitude towards people with differing opinions, who feel the need to express them everywhere. He acknowledges their need to express themselves and then carries on doing/thinking/behaving exactly as he feels he should. Being swayed by a negative opinion is the downfall of many a public figure. I am so glad that he’s taught me this lesson before I had to encounter it, or else I might have responded thus: ‘I’m so sorry to have offended you! I will refrain from making such infantile mistakes ever again and thank you, so very much, for pointing them out to me in such a kind, gentle and encouraging fashion.’

I get that listening to good, constructive advice is useful and can help you to learn to improve whatever it is you are attempting to do. I am all about the learning thing – as the thousands of students that I’ve taught over the years will probably attest to. I make mistakes all the time and if something I’ve written hasn’t come off particularly well, then I do appreciate helpful, well-considered guidance from people who actually have a clue what they are talking about.

So, I offer my grateful thanks to you, dear MysticMeg, for the gift of your sound, well-grounded and totally useful comments. I shall forever be in your debt.

And I’ll try not to get too giddy about someone thinking I might be some kind of professional writer. God Forbid!

Thanks for reading, my friends, you make my day brighter!

Where do I go to, my lovely?

I always wanted to write. I’ve got diaries that I wrote over forty years ago when I was an embryo.

OK, OK, so I was *SLIGHTLY* older than that. I KNOW that embryos have a little trouble with holding a pencil, what with the whole ‘being-inside-another-human’ concept and all that… anyway, it’s been a very loooonng time since I started writing is what I was saying.

But the trouble with my writing is that inspiration comes and goes. I know, deep in my bones, at the most visceral level possible, that in order to be a *Writer* I should stick with it, write every day, write what I know and, above ALL ELSE, keep AT it. Even if what I write is no good. But of course, that’s hard to do when you are me. My biggest fault is perfectionism.

The gaping holes in my diaries over the years are sad testament to my inability to persevere with putting pen to paper. Or, since these are largely proverbial pens and paper in our modern world of technological pens and paper – i.e. computers & keyboards – in the date-ordered folders in my ‘personal writing’ directory. Or even, perhaps more pertinently, in the archives of this blog.

My intention is always to write something. Every day.

I have simply loads of ideas that float in and out of my head. ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s true; if you could construct a gadget that could see *inside * my head and show you my *thoughts*, you’d be amazed at the complexity and variety of seemingly unconnected randomness that fills up all the space there. And, believe me, there’s a WHOLE lot of space in there.

What’s that I hear you saying? There IS such a gadget that already exists? REALLY?

Oh. You mean, like, an x-ray machine don’t you? 

NO? 

Oh. I guess you mean one of those massive MRI thingies then instead? 

Well, yes, I suppose it’s possible that you could use one of those to see inside my head, but, you’d get a really strange, sectional version of what’s going on there which is no help really – what you actually need is a full-colour, cinematic, Peter-Jackson-directed, motion picture with panoramic vistas and Wadja-like close-ups, to fully understand what’s going on inside my noggin. Yep. nothing less will do.

So, back here in the real world, my dilemma is causing me some difficulties. Since I don’t actually have access to Peter Jackson, or any underling who might be obliging, to produce movies of my stream of consciousness, I have to find and then string actual words together to describe the chaos that inhabits my grey matter. AND NO… I am NOT talking about my grey hair… thank you! 

I have been remiss of late. It has been fourteen days since my last posting… and that was a repost of someone else’s comments about my book. (I have a vision now of a Catholic Confessional, dark and impenetrable, with clouds of incense creating an unreal, other-worldly atmosphere. Deep silence pervades the set, save for the gentle snores of the priest, which isn’t good for my self-esteem… see, this is how it’s going to have to be now, with me WRITING all the background stuff that’s going on – get use to it!). Flattering though the comments were, it is hardly original content and that IS what I am aiming to produce with each new missive from the Grange.

And it’s not like there’s been nothing going on for me to be inspired to write about – quite the opposite in fact. I suppose it’s the eternal paradox: do I live life to the full, finding something exciting in each and every moment of the day to wax lyrical about or, alternatively, do I devote all my hours to writing about stuff that’s materializing from my mind, which effectively means that I live in a world of fantasy, rather than experiencing my life as it happens?

I know, I know, the secret of a successful writer’s life is getting a perfect balance between the two. Or in other words, as Douglas Adams would have us believe, 42. See… there it was again, yet another tangent to try and map for you… it’s exhausting inside my head! Now, I have peculiarly unnatural aliens traveling in a clinical alabaster space-ship irresponsibly transforming into random shizzle, having accidentally engaged the Improbability Drive. Marvin, the paranoid android, is mumbling mutinously in the background. GET A GRIP woman!

What with brilliant birthday parties – Gregstock 2014 is very likely to return next year, when it will be renamed ‘Gregstock 2015′, unsurprisingly – and wonderful weddings, family Do’s have been in good supply and have a multitude of storylets that are simply aching to be told. But this isn’t the place for them today.

A while ago, I teased you all with a promise to scribble about a local beauty spot, Castle Howard, made famous by all sorts of TV and film projects that have used the stunning pulchritudinous elegance embedded in every stone that harks from the period of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, as a backdrop for their conniving and a-scheming characters aplenty in such diverse productions as ‘Brideshead Revisited’, ‘Twelfth Night’,’Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties’ and most recently, ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’. I’ll leave you to explore the excellent website for more details on this bastion of English heritage – it’s well worth a browse. Just click on the link above.

So, without further ado, here are those images of part of the Castle Howard grounds – we arrived too late in the day to visit inside the gardens, but even the Garden Centre and picnic areas are so prettily photogenic.

Looking both ways along the drive to Castle Howard

Looking both ways along the drive to Castle Howard

 

At the top of the long driveway stands an obelisk that commemorates estate workers killed in two World Wars

At the top of the long driveway stands an obelisk that commemorates estate workers killed in two World Wars

The coach house marks the entrance to the grounds

The coach house marks the entrance to the grounds

The Coach House gets an orb treatment

The Coach House gets an orb treatment

Ornate ironwork tops the gates

Ornate ironwork tops the gates

These are gates that mean business!

These are gates that mean business!

Garden paths are immaculately laid out

Garden paths are immaculately laid out

 

An estate house nestles into the landscape

An estate house nestles into the landscape

How detailed each stem of barley is!

How detailed each stem of barley is!

Barley grows in the rolling Howardian Hills

Barley grows in the rolling Howardian Hills

 

Exquisite violas, with a touch of an orb...

Exquisite violas, with a touch of an orb…

Rudbeckia embracing the sunshine

Rudbeckia embracing the sunshine

Rose sunbathing, drinking every last drop of sunlight

Rose sunbathing, drinking every last drop of sunlight

Warrior for the light - painted rose

Warrior for the light – painted rose

This chap could get to work in my garden if he likes...

This chap could get to work in my garden if he likes…

Water features abound at Castle Howard

Water features abound at Castle Howard

The fountain's trickling water soothes

The fountain’s trickling water soothes

Daisies galore in the Garden Centre

Daisies galore in the Garden Centre

They are surprisingly well camouflaged!

They are surprisingly well camouflaged!

The peacocks strutted all around us, quite oblivious to our intrusions.

Peacock painting

Peacock painting

Photobombed by a peacock

Photobombed by a peacock

And, finally, Yorkshire folk are generally very direct… this sign adorns the roadside, just down the hill from the obelisk.

We tell it like it is here in Yorkshire, Tha' knows!

We tell it like it is here in Yorkshire, Tha’ knows!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Most Wanted Crafty Books: Sew Iconic by Liz Gregory

Akashic Liz:

Well, I thank you so much for your lovely comments! It’s always wonderful when someone has truly enjoyed my work – thanks again!

Originally posted on Books For One....:

Sew Me A Good Time....

Oh if only I was a super whiz on the sewing machine! I would be able to make all the beautiful things I see everyday on those richer  more exfoliated people on the that big shiny screen. And when I finally develop the skills for frills one of the first books I’ll be picking up is Ms Gregory’s Sew Iconic so I can have all the Hollywood haute couture for myself.

Inside she’s broken down ten of the most recognisable movie dresses into simple easy to follow steps and it will even include a CD so you can print out the patterns as well as online videos for those tricky techniques that translate better when shown. She also gives thorough advice on what fabrics to use and even how to accessorize your finished piece!

Of course the expected dresses like Marilyn’s white billowy halter from The Seven Year Itch

View original 195 more words

Wishing upon a star

Yesterday evening I was on my way to bed after a busy and eventful day.

We’d walked back over the road once more and up into the treeline on the hill opposite our home. It’s all changed since last week. There is an air of Summer’s end in sight.

Cornfield

Cornfield

The corn grows tall

The corn grows tall

Oh, don’t get me wrong, the sky is still blue (most of the time) and there is glorious growth in abundance everywhere – not least in the field where, just a few months ago there were hundreds of sows and their tiny piglets, now there’s a sea of corn (we call it maize here in the UK). Every time we walk past, I am reminded of Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams… ‘If you build it, they will come!’.

 

The white house stands sentry

The white house stands sentry

The white house across the as-yet-unharvested field of barley sits contemplating each moment at it passes, like a sentry, checking all the comings and goings of the season.

Gnarled branches whisper in the breeze

Gnarled branches whisper in the breeze

Gnarled branches are a-buzz with bees’ gossip, as they shelter from the audacious zephyr that whips my hair into my eyes as we walk.

This reminds me of Van Gogh's haystack

This reminds me of Van Gogh’s haystack

The breeze blows secrets through the grasses

The breeze blows secrets through the grasses

Haystacks withstand the wind's efforts to topple them

Haystacks withstand the wind’s efforts to topple them

Last week, this field held thigh-high hay

Last week, this field held thigh-high hay

Haystacks stand, neatly assembled, sentinels of straw, marking the changing season’s zenith with stately pride. The wind whips straw snippets into tiny eddies, as if to remind the Earth of its’ power. The Earth listens, as the most attentive student, eager to drink in all that Mother Nature has to offer.

The chums are nearing perfection

The chums* are nearing perfection

Autumnal hawthorn berries call to the birds

Autumnal hawthorn berries call to the birds

But the berries on the hawthorn and on the brambles speak of a turning of the wheel of time. As apples and chums* ripen on their branches, we move ever forward into the light, mindful that these dog days of Summer are almost at an end.

Apples ripen in the warmth of the Summer Sun

Apples ripen in the warmth of the Summer Sun

Our march takes us on past the treeline, up into the woods. Past the ripening apples, deeper into the densely wooded paths. On, ever travelling up towards the light.

Magical orbs of light beckon

Magical orbs of light beckon

Walking towards the light

Walking towards the light

Magical orbs of sunlight dapple the path, casting a spellbinding aura over our venture. I am calmed yet excited – there truly is magic everywhere I look. Our walk this afternoon is meant to distract me from the interminable waiting whilst my friend across the ocean weaves the final strand in the web of surprise that we have all been planning for over a month. This magical light now heightens my sense of anticipation, as if the very earth beneath my feet is counting the seconds as they tick by. ‘Are we there yet?’ Nature seems to ask.

As we begin our return, we pause momentarily at a high-point on the hill, looking back over the Vale, drinking in the enchanting view. My unsettled mind is temporarily sated as I project my gaze around the bucolic scene.

An expansive view of the field

An expansive view of the field

... and the rest of the Vale

… and the rest of the Vale

It lasts until we almost reach the busy road, when the traffic impinges upon my sense of composure; now I am eager to return to Cyberspace, to find out if the deed is yet done. Are we there YET?

Settled back at my desk, I click to the place I know I’ll find answers – Lisabel (Ms Dingle’s new nickname, having achieved this glorious subterfuge so successfully) is not there yet. I check back every couple of minutes. No, not yet. This waiting is utterly interminable…

And then the words appear on my screen. ‘Hi’.

We all know she’s arrived. It’s going to take her a few minutes to set the scene up properly. I start downloading my photos, so that I have something to DO whilst I wait for these final moments.

And then a video is posted. It is 2 minutes and 34 seconds long. Several people beat me to watching it and the exclamations are, as expected, of sheer delight and wonder and happiness and joy. I excitedly click to watch.

Nothing happens.

Well, actually, the black rectangle where the video should be remains blank.

Several kind people try to help me but, no dice. The Universe is telling me to learn the lesson of patience. It’s a lesson I doubt I will ever truly *get*.

There’s only one thing for it. Switch off and back on again. Twice.

And finally, FINALLY, I was able to share in the joy.

The Creative Group at Bedlam Farm have been plotting to find a way to give something back to the group’s creator, Jon Katz, who had (unexpected) heart bypass surgery only a few short weeks ago. We all felt that we could work a little magic for him and his inspirational wife, Maria Wulf, to help them recover from this ordeal. The decision to offer them a spot of Disney magic seemed perfect. I’ll let you read about the gift from Jon’s perspective (click on his name to find the link to his side of the story) but for us, the wait was over and the magic had been performed. I am really delighted to have been a very tiny part of that magic.

So, difficult as it was to drag myself away, I decided to retire to bed – we are five hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time in the US. I was pleased beyond measure at what had been achieved.

As I started to draw my bedroom curtains, high up above the treeline that we had been exploring earlier shone a miraculous, magnificent, magical moon.

All thoughts of my bed flew from my mind as I raced to locate my camera and tripod. I had to turn my computer back on to check how to adjust the settings for my task – to

The August moon beckoned me from my bed...

The August moon beckoned me from my bed…

photograph the moon and the night sky more effectively than I’ve managed before. I set the camera up and captured my first picture. Thirty seconds of exposure – that’s a very long time – gave me this view. To me, it seems to glow as bright as the very Sun it reflects.

Full moon with passing clouds

Full moon with passing clouds

To take my second picture required a change of lens. As I turned my back on the moon something caught my eye in the Northern sky behind the dark shadow of my house.

A shooting star! The first one that I have ever seen myself!

Magic happens. It happens all the time. All around us.

I made my wish upon a star and stood delightedly staring at the awesome night sky, as each of the billions of stars revealed their cosmic presence.

There was the glorious constellation of Ursa Minor – the Great Bear. Also known as The Plough, The Big Dipper, Saptarshi Mandal, the Northern Ladle, The Butcher’s Cleaver, the Grober Wagon and a dozen other names in every country on this Earth. Such a clear, uninterrupted view across billions of miles.

Can you see the seven stars of the Plough?

Can you see the seven stars of the Plough?

How can one not feel the magic of the Universe when we gaze in wonder at the skies above us?

Yes, I was wishing upon every star last night.

I hope that some of my wishes might come true.

Thanks for reading!

*... ooh, I nearly forgot to tell you about the chums! We cannot decide if they are a type of cherry or a type of plum – we’ve had horticulturalists, gardeners, cookery experts and all sorts of folk tell us they don’t know what these fruit are, but as they taste like a cross between a cherry and a plum and they make fabulous jam, we call them ‘Chums’. Hope that helps!

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