Category Archives: Sunshine

Lost. Found. Recovered.

Some of you may recall that I recently had a bit of a run-in with one of my neighbours. Welcome to the second instalment…

 

About ten days or so ago I decided to order a copy of this picture as a large canvas print.

Beach Post

Beach Post on Pebbles Beach, Carlisle Bay, Barbados

It was meant to be for my fab hubby to remind him of our perfect Caribbean holiday, which seems so very, very long ago now. We’re having a bit of a tough time right now, what with dodgy finances and (the FAB Hubby’s) heart surgery and a distinct lack of purpose in life, coupled with an increasing feeling of having been tossed onto the scrapheap of sentience. I don’t want to impose my life complaints on everyone, but these circumstances are not helping my increasingly severe depression and most days I spend staring at my computer screen, trying to find any kind of motivation to get something achieved.

Curtains
I have occasional spurts when I try to ‘pull myself together’ like a pair of curtains, but these rarely result in much tangible success, although I do keep on trying.

So actually gathering  enough *oomph* to select and order this picture was a major happening for me. I was so pleased with myself for achieving something.The picture is particularly sentimental for us as it is of Pebbles Beach, in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, where I learned to swim as a small child. Taking Mark there was one of the first things we did when we got into the hire car – the satnav wasn’t working, but I managed to guide him to the place without too much of a detour, largely based on forty-year-old memories and a keen sense of direction. To be fair, the island is only 14 miles by 21 so it’s pretty easy to navigate around, but I was still chuffed to have found it so easily.

Standing on the exquisite white sand in the most brilliant sunshine, I was suddenly eight years old once more, in my tiger swim-suit (long story !), whiling away my days, collecting precious shells and rolling in the surf on Pebbles Beach. The Aquatic Club bar – ‘Pebble Beach Inn’ as it was known then – also had a swimming pool although it’s gone now, having been redeveloped in the intervening years. Patrick (my bestest of boy-friends) and I spent day after day either in the sea or the pool, only being dragged out to eat or drink something then back in the water we went, like a pair of water babies. It’s a strange misnomer, because there isn’t a single pebble on Pebble Beach – and there never has been as far as I can recall, so it was shells that we collected on the rare occasions that we emerged from the water.

Showing my husband of thirty-six years this precious memory meant that finally we could share it together and this of course called for a stroll along the length of the beach. I snapped the picture from the top of the steps, then he helped me jump down the steps and being a rather rotund shape these days, I tippled forward and he, being the gallant knight that he is, staggered forward to help me, so that I would be spared the indignity of rolling into a ball on the hot sand. He’d been taking his specs off and replacing them with his new sunglasses – another, whole different story –  so this process was interrupted during the rockin’ and rollin’ around in the sand.

Fast forward for about an hour as we stroll the entire length of this gorgeous beach and begin our return journey. By now, the heat has gone from the day and the sun is beginning to set -the light is fading exquisitely albeit rapidly, as it does in the Caribbean, being so much closer to the equator and all that. I’m happily snapping away with my new camera at the scenery, the sand, the water, the sky, everything in fact. I turn to take a snap of the FAB Hubby; he’s looking puzzled and just ever-so-slightly panicky.

Why’s he fumbling in his shirt pocket?‘ I ask myself. Then I ask him the same question of course, to which his terrified face blurts out ‘I’ve lost my specs!’.

Now, I should probably explain here that FAB H is virtually blind without his specs. Modern technology has reduced the thickness of the glass these days to something that resembles one of those convex coffee-table paper-weights that people have favoured pressed flowers encased in, as keepsakes or whatever. Jam jars are a thing of the past. Well, mostly anyway. The thing is, he genuinely cannot see a thing without them. So this was a BIG deal.

The entire holiday was on the verge of ruin, for without his eyes, how would he see everything? How would we manage?  Plus, the damned things had just cost an arm and a couple of legs to ensure he had them in time for the holiday. Usually he has photo-chromic lenses which means he doesn’t need separate sunglasses, so there was considerable cursing of the incompetent optician’s assistant whose fault it was that we were now having to negotiate our holiday of a lifetime, minus the ability to actually see anything, since the actual reading glasses had taken themselves off for a little holiday of their own.

It’s quite a long beach it turns out.

We retraced our steps, trying to remain positive, in spite of the increasingly fading light, turning every grain of sand over with our hands and feet, checking to see where they may have been washed into the sea, for, of course, just to complicate matters a little further, the tide was coming in. Fast.

We’d almost given up as we arrived back at the steps to clamber back into the car.

And then I saw them, quietly, even contemplatively, watching the sunset  sitting squarely in the sand, exactly where he’d knocked them out of his pocket when he chivalrously came to my aid earlier.

Lost. And then found again. Just like the beach was.

Perfect.

Now, let’s get back to the present shall we… stop all this lazing around on tropical beaches!

So, I’d ordered this picture to remind him of our wonderful holiday and perhaps to help motivate us both into better frames of mind. I got a great deal and ordered it in a large size – my pictures are meant to be viewed in large formats. This one was about 60cm x 80cm. That’s about 2 feet by about 2 feet 8 inches for those who don’t do decimals.

Thrilled I was.

When I received the email saying it would arrive on Tuesday, I was still feeling thrilled.

On Tuesday I went out of the house for the first time in about … well forever… to go help some friends hang an exhibition in Scarborough hospital. I almost asked my other neighbour to keep an eye out, but she was busy with her three children, so I left it, thinking ‘We’ll be back in good time, it’ll be fine.

Famous last thoughts. ‘It’ll be fine.‘ HAH!

Upon returning home the neighbour and her offspring were still in their garden so I asked about the parcel and she told me our other neighbour, the chap from downstairs, the evil one who made me clean his drains out recently, he was the one who’d taken it in. I sent my son round to go pick it up, but there was some confusion about my apparently ambiguous instruction and the long and short of it was that no-one went to get the parcel that evening. I fretted and worried and got antsy and my *long-suffering men*  ignored my slightly manic state and pressed on with the heavy responsibility of watching TV (or rather, snoring in front of the telly) and raising hell in some imaginary computer game world. Ahem.

Fast forward again to the next morning, when, as usual we were woken by the sound of the recycling truck and staff collecting the recycling waste. Thinking nothing more than ‘Did you put the bins out?’ I turned over and went back to sleep, whilst the FABH got up and pottered about downstairs for a while.

When I rose,  Cleopatra-like, from my slumber a little later on, my first thought was about the picture so I asked if FABH had yet retrieved it and he agreed to put some trousers on and go to collect it. It’s best to not ask about the trousers – just let that one go for now, OK? 

He returned, empty handed, reporting that our (despicable) neighbour had no knowledge of any parcel whatsoever.

I was distraught.

I was beside myself with tormented thoughts.

It wasn’t adding up.

How could he not have known about the parcel? What could have happened to it? Where did the UPS chap leave it?  Did anyone see what he did with it?  These and many more questions began encircling my tiny brain Liz birdies– like the little cartoon birds that used to fly round Sylvester or Tweety Pie’s head when they crashed into something.

I fretted a little more. I envisaged every and any possible scenario regarding my parcel’s fate. Each  a more grisly fate than the last.

The FABH of course remained implacable in the face of potential chaos. He phoned the delivery company (UPS) and we had a delightful conversation with a lovely lady called Sarah, who assured me that the records showed that the parcel had been left in a porch around the back. I explained that this property isn’t what it seems and that ‘around the back‘ are two separate, distinct apartments. She sympathised and suggested that the delivery man might call me himself to explain where he left the parcel. We thought this was an excellent idea and readily agreed.

Then we waited.

Only, I’m not really very good at waiting.

The ants in my pants told me to do it.

I went downstairs and around the back and knocked smartly on my (beastly) neighbour’s door. He was on the phone and clearly, visibly, ignoring me. I could see him through his window. Eventually he gesticulated for me to let myself in, which I did. I asked him about the parcel and he flatly denied all knowledge of it.I described it in detail and he shook his head and threw up his hands, asking me what I wanted to DO about it?

I asked for permission to check his outbuildings- an aluminium shed and another, smaller, store-box, but it wasn’t there. I was even more puzzled now and asked him what I was supposed to think when I’d been told that the delivery man had left it in his domain, but it seemed to have simply vanished. As he sagely nodded his head and attempted to stand up to encourage me to leave, he slumped, in a drunken stupor, to the floor. After helping him to the nearby sofa, I took my cue and left. Clearly, I wasn’t getting anywhere there.

Upon my return, the delivery driver, Carl, rang and we discussed the situation with him. He suggested that usually in these cases, the ‘thief’ makes the mistake of putting the packaging into the rubbish bin, to which the FABH calmly stated that it’s unlikely he’d find any rubbish in the bin as today was collection day… and then we both looked at each other in horror as the realisation of what might have happened set in.

With tears (of anger, frustration, utter disbelief and the ultimate pain of loss) rolling down my face, we thanked Carl for agreeing to pop by the next day to check on the location of the parcel and then all we could do was sit and wait. Again.

I am really rubbish at waiting – we’ve already established this – so around six-ish, I went to call on our other (Polish) neighbour to see if perhaps Carl had been mistaken and left it in his kitchen instead. He hadn’t. And it turned out that our Polish friend had actually seen my parcel in the other neighbour’s kitchen.

What can you do when faced with such evidence? Clearly, I live next to an unstable and apparently vindictive man who thinks nothing of stealing our mail. I considered going to the police, as well as our mutual landlord, but persuaded myself these options seemed drastic. I even emailed the council in the hopes that someone might have spotted the brand-newness of my parcel and put it aside perhaps… to no avail of course. I didn’t sleep a wink and when Carl arrived the next day having taken a good look around the neighbour’s property, he agreed that the only thing to do was set everything in motion to replace the picture. He promised to drop the necessary paperwork off early next week and then he left.

Imagine how delighted I was yesterday morning then when Carl arrived with my replacement parcel! He confided that the paperwork hadn’t been required since, upon ‘further investigation’ (I know not what that entailed), my dastardly neighbour had admitted that he’d taken the parcel in and then put it straight into the recycling collection. Part of me still mourns for that lost picture, but at least now it’s sitting where it’s meant to be – above the sofa across the room from the FABH, so he can be re-inspired each time he looks at it.

Lost. Stolen. Recovered. Or at least replaced.

It’s a picture with a story to tell…

Thanks for reading again!

 

 

 

 

 

Autumnal whimsy

Last week I posted some pictures of autumnal trees on my other blog and had every intention of writing more about them here. But, life takes over sometimes and I simply had no time. I suddenly realised today that if I don’t get them up soon, it’s going to be Winter – as we all know,  ‘Winter is Coming’! As a huge Game of Thrones fan I simply couldn’t resist that one.

So, in the three and a half minutes I have this morning I decided to at least get these pictures up and then I can write about them later – it seems like a good compromise. Some were taken in Harrogate, Yorkshire, on the magnificent Stray right in the centre of town. Harrogate is definitely a place I’d love to have lived, it has it’s own special charm and grace, unequalled anywhere else I’ve been to. One day, perhaps. Some others were taken in the sleepy village of Sledmere, which is on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, dominated by the grand stately home there, Sledmere House. I would love to spend some time visiting the house and grounds there – one day, perhaps.

My life seems to be about just that right now; Perhaps. One day. There are periods in life that can be difficult to deal with and this is definitely one of them. Still, at least there is hope. Hope is most important. I’m hanging onto that idea whilst I get on with the minutia of life. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Thanks for reading again!

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!

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Thornton-Le-Dale’s hidden magic

Aren’t dogs fabulous? Pet-sitting for Dad for a couple of days this week, I’ve been motivated to get out and about for longer walks each day. When Candy, Dad’s seven-year-old Staffie, returned home on Wednesday, we we left without an obvious reason for going out to walk other than the joy of simply doing that. For many years my lower back pain has been worsening, to the point of forcing me to retire from the job I loved so much for so long – teaching. I had practically come to an almost total standstill, finding myself longing for the days when walking was not only a useful method of transport, but actually fun too. I have been just about able to take some very gentle, albeit rather brief strolls until very recently.

Thanks to the pain management clinic at York Hospital, I have learned to better understand my pain and through a variety of strategies I’ve been able to improve my activity levels significantly, to the point of being able to walk for increasingly longer periods, pain-free. Last week I managed to do a complete circuit, down the back lane and around to the front of our house, a distance of about a half-mile or so, with little difficulty; this week I’ve extended that to walk about double that. Twice a day. So really it’s quadrupled the amount of walking I find I am able to manage. Yay, go me!

So, now that we are dog-gone once more, how could we maintain this daily walking schedule? What motivation did we need?

The answer is simple – I just wanted to be out there, walking. BECAUSE I CAN! It’s no great mystery – walking is, for me at least, one of the most enjoyable forms of exercise I can get.

So, the real question was, ‘Where?’. Living as we do, in the Vale of Pickering, where walking is a generally relaxing and fulfilling pastime, surrounded by nature so beautiful and refreshing, choosing which part of the area to go for a walk is the difficult part. There are so many places to go. I’m going to have to draw up a list!

My FAB Hubby, Mark, suggested a short jaunt around the picturesque village of Thornton-le-dale and I didn’t need much persuasion – we frequently drive through the village on our way up to the Moors, which is by far my most favourite place on this Earth. I’ll write a piece about the Hole of Horcum one day, when I find enough adjectives to gush effectively enough about its divine serenity. But that’s another story.

I wonder if the diagonal harvesting is more efficient?

I wonder if the diagonal harvesting is more efficient?

A fairly short drive of about fifteen minutes from here, through the vale to the tiny village of Allerston and on to the infamous A170 which leads along the top edge of the Vale of Pickering to the picture-box-pretty village of Thornton-le-dale. If you keep on the 170 for a few more miles after Pickering, you would come to the magnificent White Horse at Sutton Bank, where the Vale of  York reaches the town of Thirsk stretching out for miles, leading you deep into Herriot Country, also known as The Yorkshire Dales. World famous beauty, right on our doorstep!

At this time of year the farmers create a patchwork of yellow, as the golden crops are safely gathered in with massive machinery. It is quite a sight and I was particularly taken with this intriguing pattern across a field that spans a considerable gradient, away up on the hills. I wondered if the diagonal lines had proven more efficient than the usual method of travelling up and down, parallel to the hedges.

Arriving into Thornton Dale, as the more modern name of this village is being accepted, you can feel the ancient history that permeates the air. It seems that the first settlers here were Neolithic, with evidence of burial grounds just up the hill through Ellerburn Wood onto Pexton Moor dating from 300BC. The Angles are most likely to have given the village its name as the dense forest of Dalby nearby probably held thorny bushes.

Lady Lumley's Almshouses have stood here since the late Seventeenth century

Lady Lumley’s Almshouses have stood here since the late Seventeenth century

The village is simply filled with gorgeousness. Following the sparkling brook by the main road, we found a parking spot immediately, right by the village cross and eagerly embarked to investigate a place that I had only stopped in a couple of times before. The Lady Lumley Almshouses are currently undergoing refurbishment, which was a little disappointing, but I will go back later to photograph them – it’ll give me another reason to return!

Magical water flows swiftly, only a few inches deep, right through the centre of the village.

Magical water flows swiftly, only a few inches deep, right through the centre of the village.

The clearest water, presumably coming down from the Moors, flows through the centre of the village, casting a magical spell over visitors immediately. It feels like a physical embodiment of Chi – the life-force of the village. I made a secret wish and felt a peaceful sense of calm simply watching the fast-flowing water as it danced vivaciously towards the little bridge.

Bridges over the brook are numerous in Thornton Dale

Bridges over the brook are numerous in Thornton Dale

The bridge to Lavender's Tea Shoppe

The bridge to Lavender’s Tea Shoppe

A short stroll shows where the stream  was divided, presumably by the Victorians, to provide power to the houses that face onto the village green. Some of these have been amalgamated into a charming tea-shoppe planted with an abundance of lavender. Each of these houses has a small stone bridge to provide access over the water.

More bridges lead to the homes and businesses from the road – wildflowers complete the picture of serenity.

Aubretia thrives by the brook

Aubretia thrives by the brook

I orbed it, of course!

I orbed it, of course!

The Old Post Office has a sentry on guard

The Old Post Office has a sentry on guard

I was saddened though to find that the village post-office has closed since my last visit. I had been charmed by the Post Master there, an elderly man, who knew everybody in the village personally  and who took great pride in treating this knowledge with honour and respect. It’s a terrible shame that we allow these traditions to die out. All that’s left now is the pillar box as it stands on guard duty at the edge of the stream.

With a sense of adventure, we traversed the first bridge. The scent of woody growth and clear, fresh water pervaded and we were instantly treated to the bucolic scene of a small weir, with ducks happily negotiating their naps or foraging for food within. The light here became even more entrancing than before, as it dappled the water through the tiny gaps in the leaves.

The light dappled over the water mesmerizingly

The light dappled over the water mesmerizingly

And then, the grandest surprise of them all presented itself! I had never suspected that there was a beautiful pond, complete with wildfowl of various kinds and a  well-worn path around as well as benches at strategic points.

The Pond presented itself as a secret revealed

The Pond presented itself as a secret revealed

How could I not have known this was here? As ducks, drakes, coots and moorhens quacked and chuckled, the exquisite surroundings seemed to take on a life of their own – I felt almost as if I were looking through a Pensieve: given a unique, Dumbedorian opportunity to view Paradise.

The white duck swam serenely by...

The white duck swam serenely by…

Ducks and other wildfowl clucking and nattering to each other, to me, to anyone who was listening; young children with their mothers, mid-day joggers, teenagers and older couples dotted around The Pond, all drawing life-affirming sustenance from simply being there.

Picnicking in the sunshine by the pond

Picnicking in the sunshine by the pond

An elderly couple enjoy an ice-cream across the pond

An elderly couple enjoy an ice-cream across the pond

I was utterly bewitched.

The duckling was separated from his mother

The duckling was separated from his mother

A tiny duckling had lost its mother.

The duckling spotted his mother and just went for it...

Splash! In he goes!

Splash! In he goes!

The duckling spotted his mother and just went for it…

He peeped and piped on a lofty note, increasing his alarm as the moments passed – his dive into the water when he spotted his parent was euphoric and a delight to witness.

The Hole in the Wall

The Hole in the Wall

Through the hole in the wall a modern car-park was secreted – I determined that I would have to bring my children and grandchildren here and this convenience made it even more accessible.

Age before Beauty!

Age before Beauty!

Growing against the wall are ancient roses and other flora – I came upon these lovely examples that immediately made e think of the old adage ‘age before beauty’ – so that’s what I called this picture.

The Morning Glory basked in the sunshine

The Morning Glory basked in the sunshine

Whilst the Morning Glory flowers drank in the sunshine, we decided to head back towards the car. I needed longer, but since Time waits for no man, reluctantly I had to draw away.

Tome waits for no man...

Time waits for no man…

So, of course I orbed this too!

So, of course I orbed this too!

Brambles Antiques marketing ploy - an elderly delivery cycle

Brambles Antiques marketing ploy – an elderly delivery cycle

The antique shop on the corner by the crossroad holds a plethora of delights to be explored another day; the bakery’s fine produce provided a delicious lunch and trinkets of sublime synchronicity bade us a fond farewell.

My daughter and her daughter's names called out to us...

My daughter and her daughter’s names called out to us…

We will definitely be back!

As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Goosey Gander – Yorkshire style.

I love living in Yorkshire. Ask any Yorkshireman, or woman for that matter, and they will tell you that it is indeed ‘God’s Own Country’. That quiet pride is absolute – you would never convince them otherwise, regardless of any evidence to the contrary – and is actually remarkably inspiring.

I have a hundred and one, nay, a thousand and one examples of why this belief is held.

I could show you pictures of the bucolic countryside. I’ve done that many times before – just scroll through my archives and you’ll see what I mean.

I have some more fabulous pictures of the exquisite Castle Howard, set among acres of rolling Howardian Hills, a certifiable place of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the road signs say so, it must be true!), which I’ll get round to posting about in the near future. It is a gorgeous place indeed.

I’m on the lookout for pictures of Yorkshire faces, young and old – but that’s a project for the future.

A Yorkshire gaggle of geese...

A Yorkshire gaggle of geese…

Today, I thought I’d treat you to some of t’local wildfowl, who are clearly from Yorkshire as they have that streak  of stubbornness that is de rigeur for any living thing around here. Last week we drove over to Hornsea, to visit Dad for a short while. The journey time is shorter if we snake through the tiny back-roads, up and down the Wolds. Passing through several small villages, the route is always delightful. Chocolate-box village ponds are frequently populated with wildfowl, happily swimming around or nesting on tiny islands tucked away in the middle of the waters.

Sometimes though, they like to spread out a bit.

The Neanderthol was driving last week and had his first experience of having to yield to nature. There’s a tricky right turn at Burton Agnes, with significant volumes of oncoming traffic exiting Bridlington pretty much all day long. Toby was concentrating. I could tell he was because his mouth had stopped moving – he’d been chatting nonchalantly for most of the way up to this point and when he wasn’t chattering, he was singing. So, this deafening silence was a true indication of his heightened concentration level.

The indicator light was ticking away. Click. Click. Click.

Four cars, a bus and a motorbike passed. Click. Click. Click.

A white van was definitely speeding round the corner – sensibly, Toby waited.

A tractor appeared at the corner providing a gap in the traffic flow long enough to ensure he could manoeuver safely out of the junction, which he did, with a heavy sigh of relief. And then, with admirable speed and just a hint of compunction he slammed on the brakes; it seems he’s been well taught when it comes to emergency stops. Thankfully.

The reason for his sudden adjournment of our journey was immediately apparent… a flock of geese had settled themselves across the larger portion of the road, making thoroughfare tricky, if not actually impossible without considerable commotion and probably a flurry of feathers to boot.Geese congress

The pond at the side of the road has a low stone barrier which serves (mostly) to prevent vehicles from accidentally careening into the water; today there were at least two dozen geese and a few ducks draped elegantly over the obstacle, stretching out across the roadway, for all the world attending to important business, in congress about the current warm-weather contingency plans or some other vitally significant topic.

I grabbed my camera and leapt from the car to capture a few portraits.

What do you think Mabel? Shall we let her through?

What do you think Mabel? Shall we let her through?

A couple of geese came to greet me, to investigate my credentials and give me leave to continue with my soul-snapping project.

Hmm... she looks pretty innocuous wouldn't you say, Sally?

Hmm… she looks pretty innocuous wouldn’t you say, Sally?

One or two looked at me rather shiftily. I shrugged off a feeling of disquiet and snapped away, smiling benignly at these creatures.

Eey up lad! Watch where you're puttin' that lens!

Eey up lad! Watch where you’re puttin’ that lens!

Can I help you?

Can I help you?

One inquisitive bird was despatched to check out the vehicle.

She waddled off towards the car placidly, head slightly to one side. She traversed the entire length of the car, taking in every detail as her gaze moved up and down continuously. Once at the back of the car, she hopped down from the curb, investigated the rear intently and then moved to the off-side, again checking all the details as she went.

You are cleared for entry - but be careful!

You are cleared for entry – but be careful!

She finally nodded once, presumably to confirm that she had found no WMD’s on our vehicle and we were finally given leave to pass through the checkpoint, unimpeded.

Just don't go ruffling my feathers, you hear?

Just don’t go ruffling my feathers, you hear?

We heaved a sigh of relief simultaneously and left them to their committee meeting, smiling broadly as we waved goodbye.

Or is that a Parliament of geese (surely, that's 'owls'?)

Or is that a Parliament of geese (surely, that’s ‘owls’?)

 

Thanks for reading – please stop by again, for more stories about life on t’Grange! 🙂

Moving house or McNofly Manor

Last year, around this time, I wrote a piece about some of our summer visitors, the house martens, or as I prefer to call them, The Crazy Gang. For those with short memories (myself included) or for those who didn’t read the story about Marty McNofly, you’ll have to scroll down the page to find it, but the story about Marty McNofly is here.

Marty McNofly last year

Marty McNofly last year

I love to see our little feathered friends and watch their antics as they swoop and dive around the back garden’s air-space, clearly under instructions from flight control central somewhere – although I couldn’t imagine where that might be. Someone must be controlling their flight paths as I’ve never seen a mid-air collision yet and goodness only knows how they manage not to crash into each other on their manic manoeuvres!

On several occasions I have attempted to video the aerobatics but they just move too quickly and all I’ve managed to capture so far is a load of blurry blue skies followed by several minutes of brick wall, focused on the little mud edifices that they call home. The construction of these nests are a miracle of physics if you ask me – globules of mud mixed with bits of straw and presumably some regurgitated bird-vomit stick these nests to the walls of my home at various points, just under the guttering or the eaves of the house.

In early April we usually see them all flying around, restoring last year’s nests, adding patches on where necessary and lining them afresh with soft feathers to make room for their new arrivals.

The incessant chattering of the females as they sit on their eggs makes it so easy to anthropomorphise their conversations.

What do you mean you can’t find any mud? Get back out there and get me some TOP QUALITY mud, or, so help me, I will SCREAM until you do!‘ she berates the poor little chap.

Sorry, pet! Don’t get so excited dear, you know it’s bad for the little ones to hear you screeching… I’m going, I’ll be back when I find some of the best mud!‘ the beleaguered male marten attempts to soothe as he hastily retreats into the big wide world…

Yes, it’s an age old story of course. This year was no different. Approximately fifteen house martens returned in mid-April and the daily chit-chattering began in earnest. it is always hilarious to watch them as they come and go.

I was thrilled to see that Marty and/or Martina (his little sister) had most definitely returned to re-occupy the nest they were born into last year. In fact, the day they arrived back was such a lovely warm day, that I’d had my studio door open to let some fresh air flow through as I worked on my latest creative project. The nest is about five or six feet west of the door, so it was an easy thing to miss the nest and mistakenly end up in my studio – or at least that’s what I thought the first time it happened that day. And the second too.

By the time Marty had flown in and out of my studio eighteen times though, I began to realise that he was just saying ‘Hi!’ and ‘Aren’t you glad to see me?’ and ‘I missed you too!’ I was really thrilled that he was clearly communicating his pleasure at returning to me. Delightedly, I chattered back to him for the few moments that he stayed indoors.

Hurray! Marty is home!

Hurray! Marty is home!

‘Oh, Marty! how lovely to see you!’ I exclaimed.

‘Is everything OK? Just how you left it? Good, good, I’m so glad to see you!’ I interjected between his chattering.

So, you can imagine how I felt a few days ago when I saw him popping into the nest, delivering some delicious tid-bit to his new missus. I realised I was behaving like a proud grandparent!

I swear, he smiled at me as I waited to try to listen in to the goings on in the nest… sure enough, there were the same quiet little chattering noises that I’d heard him making last year.

There were definitely tiny baby Marty’s in the nest! They were still too small for me to catch photo’s of, but I was so looking forward to seeing the little baby martens as they popped their little heads up for the first time.

But it’s not meant to be.

Disaster struck.

The broken nest lay in tatters among the alpines...

The broken nest lay in tatters among the alpines…

A couple of mornings ago, I found this amongst my alpine plants in the nearby flowerbed. A small clump of straw, mud and bird droppings. With a few soft feathers for lining.

It’s the remains of the nest that has clung to the guttering outside my studio door for at least the past two years.

As soon as it dawned on me what it actually was, my eyes shot straight up to the nest-site.

It’s gone.

I don’t know what happened. Perhaps the owl or some other night-creature had spotted it and somehow attacked it during the night. Perhaps it was a result of the downpour, accompanied by the gale-force winds from a couple of nights ago. I don’t know what happened.

I only know there’s a hole where the nest was.

And the babies that I’d heard chirruping quietly a few days before were gone.

I now that women my age often have trouble with what is termed ’empty nest syndrome’, but I’m pretty sure that’s not meant as a literal term.

The empty nest - it's a *real thing*

The empty nest – it’s a *real thing*

There’s a small part of me that has hope for them. Perhaps, just possibly, maybe, it’s not inconceivable that the baby martens were older than I had imagined and they had somehow fledged before we had a proper chance to get to know each other. They would be flying off somewhere, safe and sound. And they will return home next year. As usual.

I really hope that’s what happened.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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