Tuesday 30 April 2024

The sweet sights and sounds of Spring!

 Yes, I dare to mention it this morning because the sun is shining, the weather forecast is 'improving' and I feel better than I have done for some days.

My bathroom window is one of those 'tilting' ones that opens from the bottom.   Each day - unless it is very windy - my Carer opens it a tiny bit.   I keep it open as long as I can (if the wind gets up it can blow the window wide open), especially at the moment.   Why?  Because Mr Blackbird has to advertise to the world (and, unfortunately to every nasty thieving magpie in the area) that ere long baby blackbirds are due!  One of the side effects of colon cancer is frequent loo visits and it is so wonderful to be greeted every single time I visit the smallest room, with the wonderful song of the blackbird (not quite as melodious as his cousin the song thrush but that is a sound I haven't heard since I left the farm).

'When does he eat?' I ask?   I think he gets most of his food intake from my front lawn where he hops up and down very early in the morning poking his beak deep into the ground every now and then.   But, believe me, he gives me such a lot of pleasure.

As to my lawn!!!   A week ago I sent my gardener a text saying that within a day of his last mowing there were 49 dandelions in full bloom.   Today I started counting them and got to eighty then lost my place. (they don't grow in straight lines so when the numbers rise counting is difficult.)

They are such beautiful flowers,   The piece of ground opposite has a thick border of them in full bloom,   They might just as well have a sign saying "You'll never beat us so why not join us".   In a couple of weeks those beautiful yellow flowers, which are so beneficial to so many insects, will be dandelion 'clocks', each one carrying hundreds of seeds.   And every time there is a Summer south wind blowing gently (well we can hope can't we?) those seeds will find a new home in my front lawn. Don't know whether to smile or weep.

My side lawn, not to be outdone, displays three large clumps of mushrooms.   Not dainty fairy ring types but great hulking fully grown things - not edible, but distinctly noticeable.

It has not been lawn mowing weather.  Monday is my gardener's mowing day.   I expect he began doing just that yesterday but soon after lunch we had a couple of hours of heavy rain.

I shall now put on a coat and have a walk round my bungalow, looking what is out (from the patio it looks as though    Asperula Odorata has colonised a large area at the top.)   The white flowers are just coming out and as they emerge I can just about see them.   They are so pretty but need watching otherwise they take over.  The Mare's Tail - (my enemy although it is quite attractive)- will be well up now and every clump needs cutting off at ground level to discourage it. (You will never get rid of it if you have it, but never be tempted to pull it up - always cut it off.   There is nothing the roots of Mare's Tail like better than a chance to put out another hundred or two shoots from a roughly pulled up clump.

So all you gardeners out there - good luck with your garden this year and remember a plant is only a weed if it is growing where you don't wish to see it.   I have a single dandelion out in the middle of a clump of Grape Hyacinths of the deepest blue.   It can stay (for now at any rate) - it looks divine.

Tuesday 23 April 2024

The Brain.

What a fascinating organ it is.   And for all the research I understand there is still so much we don't know about it.

Can you stop your brain from thinking?   Is that what meditation is all about?   I ask this because I find it impossible not to think.   It would be so good if, when I wake at 4am I could just relax in my snug warm bed and lay there thinking about absolutely nothing.   Can some people do this or is everyone like me? 

I woke up at four this morning; woke up thinking about the days of the week in French.   Why?   And as I lay there going through them over and over again I could only think of six!   Eventually I drifted off to sleep again.   Half way through eating my fruity breakfast a word popped into my head from nowhere.........Mercredi!!!

So please dear readers put me out if my misery.  a) have I got them right?  b) are they in the right order? and c) have I spelt them correctly?  Can't be bothered to look them up myself (truthfully that should read (can't remember how):

Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi, Dimanche.

But, joking apart, isn't it a fascinating organ?  The older I get the more words (especially names of people, places and things) escape me at the moment I want them.  Long after I have stopped searching for the word I want, the old brain will be working  on it and will suddenly (no roll of drums, no fanfare) pop it into my mind.   Sadly by that time I might have forgotten what I wanted it for.

And to end - a rather daft connection, but one that fascinates me every morning.

Opposite my window is a small, smart red mail box on a black metal stalk.    On their morning walkies every male dog in the vicinity stops at that stalk for the same purpose.   It goes like  this:

Stop (and refuse to walk on however taut the lead goes):

Sniff from top to bottom (if it is a labrador, or as far up as possible if a chi hua hua),

Raise appropriate hind leg.

Pee for as long as possble.

Is this instinct?  Does the brain control instinct or is instinct inate in us all?   The dog has no words (except the few he/she learns which are to their advantage: Walkies, Tea Time,) so what makes them do this every single day?  Yes, I know they are covering up - or trying to - every drenching which  has preceded theirs that morning in order to attract every passing bitch.  But without words they can't think ' I fancy that beautiful Basset Hound' can they?

I'll stop there.   Sex comes into everything sooner or later doesn't it?

Have a nice day.   And do pop over to Si's 'Careering Through Nature' to view his superb photographs of Spring flowers - especially that cheeky long-stalked dandelion who pops up to almost steal the show from those dark blue Bluebells.   Does it know that yellow is the complementary colour to blue?  Don't let's go down that route.


Saturday 20 April 2024

Just a thought.

Mr Blackie is singing from the topmost bough of the hawthorn tree next door, two or three 'little brown jobs' are scuttling about in the winter debris under the hedge (and yes they do have wings, not four legs each) and-at 11.03  precisely according to my computer- I have gone round opening the curtains and wiping out the fridge ready for a 12-1pm Tesco delivery.   In other words 'done' for the day - crossword done,codeword  done, supplements read (frankly these days if you have no desire to go on holiday, and no wish to buy anything from the countless pages of adverts there is not enough reading left to keep you going).

So I am off to make a hot choc and lament that I am out of Kit-Kats until 12 - 1pm.   I leave you with a brilliant 'Thought for the day' (Thanks Times Leading Articles)

"It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams"  Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

Something to ponder over your morning coffee, tea, hot choc, sherry or whatever. 

Thursday 18 April 2024


When faced with the fact that The Grim Reaper is on track to meet up with you in the not too distant future you really have only two choices if you get down to basics:  Accept it and sit and wait for it to happen, ending your days in quiet contemplation.  Live each day as if it is your last and enjoy it as much as you can.

I have chosen the latter.   If I feel frail I have a quiet day.   If I have more 'get up and go' (a very relative term when on 'end of life' care is all there is on offer) then I do things I fancy doing - chat with friends,have a hot choc and eat two two-finger Kit Kats kidding myself that two two fingers is not quite as calorific as 1 four-finger, watch day-time TV (especially The Bidding Room which I love for its sheer daft behaviour), go to bed at half past eight having put the blanket on a couple of hours earlier (a single bed is a lonely, cold bed after two happy marriages).   There is a freedom of choice in it.

I read a Book Review in Saturday's Times  -"Running on Empty" by Guy Deacon.   It looked like a good read and good old Amazon Prime had it on my doormat by lunchtime on Sunday.

Guy has had Parkinson's for almost fourteen years after a brilliant Army Career since 1985.   Faced with the awful truth that bit by bit the disease would take away almost all his faculties,he set out to plan and then carry out a mostly solo drive down the length of Africa; his aim being to 'advertise' to the World and to Africa in particular that this awful disease is shared by many the world over and that it is a nerological condition and - in Africa in particular - that it is nothing whatsoever to do with evil spirits, with witchcraft, with anything other than an illness like any other and that it should be treated as such; that sufferers needed compassion, understanding, love, care, medical attention not ostracization.

Believe me it is the most fascinating and inspirational book I have read in a long time.   The scrapes he gets into, the battering hisVW Campervan gets, his bad days when  Parkinson's attacks with a bit more ferocity  than usual.  This often makes painful reading but that is far, far offset by the kindness, the helpfulness and the hospitality he encounters throughout his trek.

I had finished the book by yesterday and this morning saw him on Breakfast  TV.   Apparently there is a Channel 4 Documentary on parts of the expedition and there is also a Charity set up to ensure that all proceeds from the sale of the book go to Parkinson's charities.

I hope the author realises that his book is  an inspiration to anyone nearing the end of life.  I have neither the funds, the knowledge, the energy or indeed the inclinatiom to follow in his footsteps (My 'off road' travelling never got started - travel companies for me I am ashamed to say.  Off-road was always got from books and imagination.   I am ashamed to say I like a nice lav and a clean shower). 

But my goodness me it has certainly given my 'get up and get doing something' a giant boost.

Monday 15 April 2024

Still alive and kicking.

I thought I had better put a post on before you all think I have gone for ever.   I feel alright but am a bit frail - not eating all that much but still walking about the bungalow and walking in the garden when the weather allows.   I can't go out on windy days and obviously not on wet or cold days and we have had plenty of those.

I am sorry not to have posted.   I like to read the posts of anyone on my sidebar who has posted and answer them if I can.   But as for putting a post on myself - my philosophy has always been to put on something to make you think.  And at present my brain doesn't seem to be throwing up anything.  Not that I personally have stopped thinking.  World affairs at present make me wish I could stop thinking sometimes - don't know about you.

Life is precious.   If only our World leaders thought that.  When they meet to discuss what to do next  do they think of maimed children,    homeless hungry people, terrified people, those left to die under bombed buildings, those dying of starvation? They can't do, otherwise this awful conflict would not be going on.

Their philosophy at the moment seems to be 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'- no sign at all of anyone thinking 'these are all people - let's talk, let's all pull together in the same direction.' ' Enough is enough'.  As Winston Churchill said, 'Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war'.

Where have all our 'great' men (and women) gone - suddenly everyone 'in authority' everywhere seems 'past it', seems more than ready for the scrap heap? I begin to think there ought to be a world-wide law saying at the age of sixty everyone should take compulsory retirement if they are in a position to be able to have their finger anywhere near the nuclear button.

Sorry about the rant but like Peadar on his Facebook this morning - I needed to get it off my chest.

My gardener has come to attach  a storage unit he has made to house my green and black bins.   Wherever I put them the vicious winds of the past months of this winter have blown them over.   As I write this he is drilling holes to attach the  unit to the garage wall.   It is a typical spring day here - as one of my carers said in a text earlier this morning as she arrived home from Spain "bloody cold" -glorious blue sky one minute, heavy sleet the next and so black you need the light on if you want to read the depressing news in The Times.

Let's cheer up everyone.   It is Spring after all.   Maybe things will get better.  As my father always said (he had a brain full of sayings)  'Nil Desperandum'.

Off to make my gardener a hot choc (and me too of course) (sitting here typing this next to the garage wall is sending my ears into meltdown.)


Friday 5 April 2024

"Busy old foole......

......unruly sun"  as that wonderful MetaphysicalPoet. John Donne" called him.

Last evening I watched the programme on the Yukon River.   I looked at my Atlas afterwards and traced its progress through Alaska.   And during the programme they briefly mentioned the Athabasca River and I know Red lives by the Athabasca Glacier so wonder how far you are from the Yukon Red, if you are reading this. 

It takes seeing a programme like that to make us realise just what cissies we are where the sun is concerned.   I am not a 'sun worshipper'  (one of my carers is ) and if it does get really hot then my reaction is to go and lie down in a darkened room until the sun sets.

But this year, with Easter being at its absolute earliest, we seem to have been expecting Spring sunshine early too.   And we do have to remind ourselves that it is we humans who have imposed dates and names for the Seasons on the World.   Plants know better.   They go on hours of daylight - they don't know when March 21st is or when the first day of Spring is.   And as for the first day of the Meteorological Spring - forget it.  The days get lighter, the shoots pop out of the ground.

But looking at the Yukon proogramme last night (especially as the week before last the river we looked at was the Zambesi) made me at any rate jolly pleased I lived in what is called a 'temperate' country.

Could I cope with a good six months of the year being dark and icy and bitterly cold and with living in such a remote settlement that if I wanted a new vehicle or a new settee I would have to either wait for the thaw or stand out watching for a vehicle coming up the frozen river with a whole load of things for various drop off points.  Thinking about it certainly tends to make one get things in proportion.

But the beauty of it all is unmistakeable, the joy on that day when the sun first breaks through on the horizon; or the morning when you wake up and hear your first drop of water plopping off the end of a huge icicle.

It made me remember flying over I think maybe Greenland and seeing where a glacier met its Waterloo, the sea.

But come on there Mr Sun - I know you are warming up, I felt you on my face when I opened the front door this morning - get a move on and warm a few 'cockles' - we are getting desperate.

If only we could learn to accept each day as it emerges for what it is.   But then, if we are farmers and our fields have been under water all winter and the ground is too wet to put our new-born lambs out, and if we let our milking herd out on the fields they'll plough it up for us in a couple of weeks, who can blame us for lying awake worrying?

Monday 1 April 2024

Might put a heading on later if I can think of one.

Writing my posts is becoming more difficult day by day I am sorry to say.  I like to read those who have posted that day who are on my side bar and comment on their posts.   But by the time I have done that I am too weary to think about what to put on my own site.

So - reverse way round today and let's see how it goes.

I live on  a very pleasant estate of bungalows, detached houses, semii-detached,  a few flats - a nice mixture and nice trees and greenery around and quite a few green spots.   The top of the estate, where I live, has a lot of different bungalows - detached, semi=detached, large, small -a good mix and all have pleasant gardens and from what I see most seem to have retired couples, widowed men or women, one or two single folk of both sexes and not many children in them.   But judging by who walks past there are plenty of children further down the road.

It is a wetish, greyish day, chilly and with a brisk wind blowing.   My pot-hole 'rain-gauge' at the bottom of the drive suggests it has been like this all night. Coated -dogs and anoraked- human beings walk past on this Easter Monday (I think unless you have a dog or are a strong-minded fitness freak you would choose to stay in today but there is nothing worse than an ' it is way past our walk time' stare from your best four-footed-friend to make your guilty feet get their wellies/boots on.)

And so they mooch past, pale green pooh bags swinging from the hand which is not holding the lead.   I wonder what they are all thinking about (remember we are all 'oldies'  up this end so no smart phones held aloft).   Heads full of words, words, words - so easy to think on a relaxed walk but then ten minutes later when you get home, try to recall something you saw and tell your housemate and you are raking about in  brain so full to over-flowing with words that you need a giant metaphorical sieve in order to recall some important noun or something without which the whole story you wish to relate becomes useless.  And if you are under sixty and don't understand what I have just written in that last sentence don't worry - you'll arrive there soon enough.  Make the most of it while you have it.   'It' being perfect recall. 

According to Matthew Syed in yesterday's Sunday Times, Professor Neil Lawrence  has written a book called 'The Atomic Human' in which he suggests that communicating with our fellow-humans by speaking to them is an inefficiant way of transmitting information - one to two hundred words a minute -  compare this with two connected computers which over wi-fi can transfer information thirty million times faster.   Syed suggests that all humans have some degree of 'locked in syndrome' when it comes to communication with others.   We know what we want to say but we just can't get it over to the listener.

And, says Syed (and I wholly agree) that we humans have what he calls 'implicit forms of communication' which no machine can replicate.  We are made free by poetry, prose, painting, music and love.

Do read his article if you can.  It is incredibly mind-bending, for me at any rate.   I have always argued that Picasso's 'Guernica' - a picture which says more than a thousand words on war and fascism can possibly do to me - is quite literally 'stunning' when you stand in front of it.  Stunning and quite frighteningly unforgettable.

And on a lighter note (because I always manage to work this into my posts as Spring approaches - still in its slippers, especially when Easter is as early as it can be-)

'Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

is hung with blooms along the bough;

and all along the woodland ride

is wearing white for Easter-tide'. 

Try telling somebody about a cherry tree in bloom which you have seen and I will guarantee they won't get the picture as well as Houseman does in 'A Shropshire Lad'.

Hopefully see you tomorrow.