29 May 2009


Yesterday I had a sudden urge to take up knitting. How peaceful and soothing it would be to sit in the garden on a warm, sunny day, knitting and meditating. Aahh - I'm relaxing just thinking about it.

The last time I had one of these urges was about two years ago and I have the piles of knitting books, needles, balls of wool and other strange-looking bits and pieces whose purpose is a bit of a mystery to prove it. I think buying all the accoutrements was probably a whole lot more fun than getting down to it and knitting something. I found a half-made, holey woollen object hanging off a knitting needle in one cupboard but I can't honestly say I remember what it was going to be.

So... what to knit? I have two problems here; first, I absolutely hate handknitted clothes - almost without exception you can spot them from 50 yards and almost without exception they're a sludgy green colour! Second, I haven't got a clue what all those weird knitting terms mean; "yarn over" or "slip" or "pass slipped stich over". I know "knit" and I think I know "purl" and I can "cast on" although I haven't a clue how to "cast off".

After several re-thinks and frantic searching through the knitting books I found the perfect answer. It's a cushion. It's knitted entirely in knit stitch. It's all in one piece. Sounds like my sort of cushion cover. As long as I can find out how to cast off in time (if I can't it's going to end up as a helluva long, wide scarf!) it sounds pretty easy.

Only one problem. How many rows of boring old knit stitch can I actually get done before I get fed up with the whole thing and take up fishing. Or gardening. Or cooking. Or...

26 May 2009

Google Weather

Lately I've become addicted to checking out my local weather by putting it onto my Google homepage - well I'm a Brit! It's allowed.

I've noticed that it changes with alarming frequency, sometimes several times a day. It can start off with black clouds, white rain and a grey background, changing to white clouds, white rain and a blue background. A few hours later there'll be half a yellow sun shouldering its way between the white clouds and white rain. Then, just as I think the next development will be a whole sun with no clouds and a blue sky the damn sun gets pushed aside again by the white clouds, white rain and grey sky.

That's British weather for you...

22 May 2009

Trying to Write

I'm looking out of my study window, through the two wolfhound sculptures that sit on the window sill, and out into the garden. The view from my seated position is of trees and shrubs and the colours I see are almost entirely shades of green, backed by a pale blue sky.
The rhododendron is still only in bud but will shortly break out into vivid pink flowers. For some reason the rhododendrons in my garden are always behind those of everyone else. This may sound paranoid, but my poor old backward shrubs are weeks behind everyone else's and are in flower long after all the others have died. I'm living in a rhododendron challenged space - a parallel world.

There's a slight wind creating movement in the foliage. An occasional pigeon visits the ivy that has been winding itself round one of the pine trees since long before we moved here so that its trunk is almost as thick as that of the tree itself.

The sun has just come out, completely changing the colours and accentuating the difference between the different leaves. Some are golden, some silvery; the pine needles are the same dull, blueish green as they are all year round. The pines stand like sentinels in the garden, watching the other trees change from pale green to deep green to yellow, then red, and finally brown, but barely changing colour themselves.

It won't be long now before the roses are out. There are three rose bushes just behind the wooden table and bench, the tops of which I can just see from my position. When the roses come out I'll move my chair a little to the right and put the wolfhounds on another window sill so I can watch them while I'm trying to write.

In the background is the hum of traffic on the road outside, reminding me of how near to the busy main road my house stands. But I've got used to it over the years, and though I'd dearly love to live somewhere quieter I also dearly love living in this house, surrounded by its beautiful garden. So I switch off the sound of the traffic and try to write.

15 May 2009

New Family on the Lake

There's a new family on the lake near our house. The two swans that have inhabited the lake for years have just had their new batch of pale grey, fluffy cygnets. Seven this year which is the same as last year and seems to be about the average.

This is mum with all seven of her brood bobbing about on the waves caused by the high wind this afternoon. I've been meaning to take my camera down there ever since the beginning of this week when they were born but kept forgetting, so this is a week's growth. They get bigger almost by the day and I'll try to take a photo every now and then to record them growing up.

They stay close to their parents for most of the time they're growing. There's a particular grassy patch at one point beside the lake where they all regularly come ashore and groom themselves, resulting in a mass of feathers lying on the ground; from the long, curly white adult feathers to delicate little puffs of grey fluff from the cygnets.

Eventually, in late autumn, there will be a day when the youngsters just aren't there any more, chased off by their parents to go and find homes of their own whilst the amazing cycle starts all over again next spring.

This family is just part of the wildlife surrounding this beautiful lake. There are Canada Geese, Moorhens, Great Crested Grebes, Gannets, Grey Herons and Mallards. But the swans are the boss of the patch and have even been known to drown ducklings by holding them under water.

I walk by this lake every day of my life, usually early in the morning, with Misty and it's the most amazing thing to see the effect of the changing seasons. It's one of my Zen places.

8 May 2009

Scents of an Early Summer

A warm day. At the bottom of the field where I walk Misty at lunchtime the scents of summer are all around. Like ephemera they dance away from me just as I think I've caught them. Tantalizing scents from my youth waft by, laughing as I reach out towards them - nature's perfumes - my inbreath longer and longer in its search until I have to let go, still just missing the memory.

But the joy of reaching allows me to truly take in and ponder on the scents; herby, grassy, warm with the merest hint of sweet - maybe from the falling May blossom, maybe the foliage itself, newly grown and stealing the blossoms' grip on the branch.

And all the while, on the breeze float tiny seed spores, their white, delicate parachutes carrying them away to begin again the joyous cycle of life.

4 May 2009

May Day Bank Holiday

On the Sunday of May Day bank holiday in the morning we went for a walk with Misty at Nutley (this is our name for one of the many walks we have on the Ashdown Forest). The day was overcast and a bit windy but not cold. Underfoot it was dry despite a little rain the night before - dried out no doubt by the wind.

The first pond on the walk was very short of water; no more than a few large puddles and Misty wasn’t interested in paddling - too much horse poo about to track down and nibble. She met a Greyhound with a small dog of indeterminate name, and a couple of labradors, one a six month old puppy who may have had a little more than just labrador in her.

The gorse is out in full, luxuriant flower at the moment and the faint vanilla scent is wonderful. All the trees have flowers of some sort on them and spikes of ferns are unfolding themselves out of last year’s growth. I love the way they unwind themselves and manage to find all those leaves from such small rolls.

The second pond is shrinking fast and what’s left is very muddy looking. Misty had a drink there - she likes that pond better - and so managed to get her feet muddy despite my efforts to keep her clean! The dead trees that stand a little way off from the pond are stark against the sky, their spiky branches pointing accusingly at the new growth surrounding them.

In the afternoon we visited the Country Show at Blindley Heath. By the time we got there it had started to spot with rain and it drizzled on and off the whole time we were there. There was a funfair and a ring which had, whilst we were there, a parade of old cars followed by the hounds from the Surrey & Burstow Hunt and a food tent which had the usual displays of pickles, pies, cakes, sweets, meats and jams.

But what made it worthwhile for me was a display of various types of gundog. There were some unusual ones - an Italiano something-or-other, Clumber Spaniels - plus the ubiquitous Retrievers, but what made the day for me was a group of Hungarian Wirehaired Vizslas. They were beautiful; about the size of a Pointer, in various shades of tan, with lovely wiry coats and beautiful beards (I do love dogs with beards|!). There were three in a pen and a couple outside on leads - one was a beautiful boy, dark tan in colour with the most amazing yellow eyes, the other a six-month old puppy, slightly lighter in colour and oh so beautiful. I had a chat with the breeder who told us that they are very affectionate dogs and like to keep their owner in sight when out. Could this be our next puppy?

We have to make a decision at some time about whether we have another dog or not. It would be unfair to Misty to introduce a puppy when she’s an old lady and it would be nice for her to have a companion. Although I think she likes all the attention an only dog gets! I feel some research coming on...