And then next summer…
Wait for it…
Following on my last post about the Bishop’s Castle Michaelmas Fair I thought more bubbles were called for. Because, well, everyone loves good bubbles, don’t they? They are not something you ‘grow out of’. Also the joy on the faces of the children was a pleasure to behold. With bubbles cascading every which way, the kids were in danger of bursting themselves, so brimming with excitement were they. Clearly hi-tech toys and expensive computer games can’t hold a candle to this kind of high-pitch, high-squeal-n-dash fun. Besides, what can be more magical than rainbow spheres filled with sunlight, and all emerging from something as mundane as a piece of soggy netting and a bucket. (My take on the Daily Post’s photo challenge GRID)
Tall Will The World’s Tallest Bubbleologist is the man casting his net filled with soapy water. (He’s six feet ten inches tall by the way). I think he’s a magician. He’s also a mean stilt-walker.
Some of you will remember that back in early July I posted Jane Grigson’s recipe for Strawberry Vodka. A good six weeks on, it has been duly shaken not stirred, kept in a dark, cool place, drained and strained, and here is the result – back in the vodka bottle (not the vase, although the liquid contents do look similar). Obviously during the decanting process we had to have a little sip or three. All I can say is this stuff is sure to add gleam, both inside and out. Also the only travel involved in procuring this shot was the trek between allotment and kitchen (me), and off licence and kitchen (Graham), and then to the sofa for a lie down (me again).
P.S. And if you are groaning because you missed the strawberry season, then this recipe will surely work with late summer fruits: plums, damsons, black currants, autumn raspberries, although you might need to add a little more sugar.
For more shimmer and shine please visit Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack where this week her theme is ‘gleaming’.
The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has arrived in Much Wenlock on the coattails of spring, missing out summer altogether. Perhaps we’ll have it at Christmas instead, the barbeque months that, back in March, the tabloids were screaming we were in for, along with prolonged drought and associated mayhem that would, shock-horror, stop people from watering their lawns, or hosing down their Range Rovers. Mind you, these are the sorts of rags that would have us believing it is raining migrants. (That would be people so desperate that they risk all to run away from home).
Anyway, whatever’s going on with the climate, the upshot is that much of the garden and the allotment has a very ‘left-over’ look, which is why I almost want to dash out in the garden and hug the sneeze weeds – bees notwithstanding – for being so vivaciously red and yellow as too much autumn dullness descends.
How can a plant so glorious be real? All the flowers in the photos, in all their wonderful variation, are growing on a single plant. And, as you can see, the bumble bees are gorging themselves. There are also some very tiny emerald beetles in amongst the pollen. Sneeze weed, by the way, is a country name for Helenium, which is a far more gracious name for such a generous plant, although one rarely used in the Farrell household.
And it’s thanks to the bees and other precious pollinators that we are at least having fruitfulness, if not harvest-hot weather. Up at the allotment apples are already weighing down the trees. They look like jewels:
Even the ornamental crab apples look good enough to eat raw. They’ll make brilliant jelly after a touch of frost, which hopefully won’t happen yet.
Then there are the brambles:
And the little yellow squashes that look like flying saucers:
And the runner beans have started to crop (this photo was taken a week or so ago). The sweet peas on the end of the row are there to attract pollinators:
Of course, when it comes to weather, we Brits are never happier than when we’re grumbling about it: too hot, too windy, too wet, too dry. But then even if someone did steal summer, we still have so much to be thankful for. Feeling mellow, however, may not be an appropriate response these days. There may well be some hard lessons to learn when it comes to adapting to an increasingly erratic world climate, and not only for ourselves, but for the people who find their own lands are no longer habitable. We should not be surprised if they risk all to make for the lands of plenty.
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell
I’m on the last lap of Ailsa’s current challenge with this post. These photos were taken last September when we were staying near Dolgellau in Gwynedd, mid Wales. The Mawddach (roughly pronounced Mouthack) Estuary is a glorious place -for mountains, birds and all round peacefulness. You can walk or cycle beside much of it, too, following the Mawddach Trail that was once the railway line from Dolgellau to the holiday town of Barmouth.
The old toll bridge at Penmaenpool
We followed the route to the most southerly point where the Mawddach meets the sea, at the bleak little town of Fairbourne. You could call this place a failed resort. In the late 1800s, and after the arrival of the railway, baking flour magnate, Sir Arthur McDougall developed it into a holiday destination for English East Midlands workers. These days, though, it has a desolate air, although it does have a magnificent beach. We bought an ice cream at the dingy seaside caf, but when we broached the sea wall to see the sea, it was so windy it blew our ice creams away and all over us. That’s not supposed to happen when you go to the seaside. Nor did we have Mummy to wipe us down. What a pickle.
Fairbourne Beach looking towards Barmouth
“These are the things that I want in life: 1. A library of my own; 2. All Rudyard Kipling’s Works; 3) lots of money so that I can make poor people happy.”
Evelyn Ashford aged 14, 1937
I don’t know who took this photograph of my aunt, Evelyn Ashford. Probably it was my father. I’ve posted it before, but now we’ve cleaned it up a little. It was taken at Pitch Hill, Surrey in around 1937 when Evelyn would have been fourteen. This was the year when she was forced to leave school to both take care of an invalid mother, and then to start work as an apprentice in the local draper’s shop in Guildford.
Given the high hopes she had for herself, leaving school before sitting her Primary School Certificate would have been a deeply wounding blow. In an English exercise of that last year at school she wrote:
“These are the things that I want in life: 1. A library of my own; 2. All Rudyard Kipling’s Works; 3) lots of money so that I can make poor people happy.” She also wanted to have lots of REAL friends and play Madame Defarge in a stage version of Tale of Two Cities. The people she most wanted to meet included Jean Batten, famous New Zealand aviator, H.G. Wells and Alfred Hitchcock.
She did not achieve these ambitions, apart from the Kipling works perhaps. All her life she struggled to make up for her lack of education. All her life she did what she could to enthuse and encourage others to make the most of themselves in whatever community she found herself. She also survived being bombed on a train, breast cancer, and accidental attempts on her life through medical negligence. But she ended her days, cut off from all of us, her mind in another place: abiding in that state they call dementia.
I have written more about her life in other posts, but I always come back to this image of her, on the trig point at Pitch Hill. She died a year ago last October at the age of 90, but still her spirit survives in this photograph: a truly independent spirit I think; one that still has the power to move and inspire.
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell
Inspired by Ailsa’s challenge ‘independence’ at Where’s My Backpack Please visit her blog for more interpretations of the theme.
It was late September when we headed for Southern Maine. By ‘we’ I mean Graham, my sister Jo and her chap, Bob, and I. The trip had been Jo’s or G’s idea, we couldn’t agree who had started it. But it felt like a jaunt, or as G put it later ‘Four Go Mad in Maine and Mass.’ We were going with the aim of meeting up with our third cousin, Jan, whom I had never met (being away in Kenya when she and Craig had visited the UK). Jo had met them, though, and shown them around Shropshire. Now Jan had kindly invited us to stay in her beach cottage for a week before travelling on up to Richmond to the family alpaca farm.
The day was hot as we drove up from Boston, but already I could feel summer slipping away. There was a dreamy, dusty air about the small towns we drove through, the civic gardens still brightly neat with flowers, yet with that ‘nearly over’ look. Salem, Gloucester, Portsmouth, Kittery, Biddeford, Saco, we passed on through, except for a quick pit stop at Kittery, and our first taste of Maine clam chowder. The first of many ‘tastes’ I should say, since we all became hooked on the stuff.
And so well and severally chowdered, we sped on northwards up route 95. The trip was taking longer than we had reckoned on. Being the end of the holiday season, the highways department had started digging the road up for what seemed like miles. We could spot no useful turn off, and we were keyed up in the knowledge that Cousin Jan was meeting us at the cottage with the keys at 3pm. Back at the farm, the alpaca moms were busy having babies and she was on tight schedule.
But then just when we thought we’d never get there, there was the sign we’d been looking for. Ocean Park. We turned off the highway into the maze of pretty lanes and avenues that make up this quaint seaside community.
Our destination was in fact just a step away from the beach, in what had started out as a single storey, verandahed cabin, but later had been jacked up on cinder blocks to provide another floor. The verandah had been enclosed and turned into two rooms. Jan told us that the cottage had originally been the 1920s retreat of an Englishman who had lived in India. Many of his books were still on the sitting-room book shelves where he had left them. He had apparently later created the lower floor for his mother so making two little houses in one.
Jan was sitting out on the lawn reading when we arrived. The sunlight had that honeyed September glow, but the sea breathed autumn at us. Jan was worried we would be cold at night since the cottage had no insulation. She had come armed with extra duvets from the farm. It was an odd feeling that meeting. Although we were strangers, I felt instantly embraced by family affection. For one thing, Jan so looked like my Aunt Evelyn.
Apart from the occasional and poignant call of a passing train (a sound we grew quickly to love), Ocean Park is a serene and leafy enclave. A place out of time. Most of its houses date from the late 19th century when the Free Will Baptists founded a family summer resort there. The presence of water and a grove of trees were requisite for such a retreat, while religious and educational meetings and all round self-improvement were the focus of the gathering’s activities. The Tabernacle Temple meeting hall is still there amongst the pines and maples.
Meanwhile, a couple of miles along the beach, the resort of Old Orchard Beach aka OOB, could not be more different. In season it is teeming with humanity, the coastal strip lined with cheap boarding houses and motels. It is not the sort of place we would normally go to in any season, too much razzamatazz and bustle, junk takeaways, and nowhere to buy real food. But now, at summer’s end, it did hold a certain doleful fascination – you know, the kind of fascination of the David Lynch Twin Peaks sort.
What else can you say, off-season resorts are simply desolate. When summer ends they lose their reason ‘to be’; the body is there, but someone has switched off the blood supply. We wandered up and down empty streets, feeling somewhat perplexed. Most of the shops were shut. The rides at Palace Playground had been wrapped up for the winter. There was scarcely a soul around.
It was only when I had a notion to take the Downeaster train to Portland, and we ended up in the library, trying to find out how to buy tickets (the station machine being terminally out of order), that it was all change. Inside the library it was humming with cheerful librarians and young moms with kids. And so just when we thought we were all alone on Planet OOB, lovely human life was discovered. The librarian even let us use the phone to reserve train tickets, and then print them off from her computer. So thank you Libby Library, you surely know how to give good service – in or out of season. We hope, too, that by now you have reached your building fund target. ‘Support Your Local Library’ – that’s something we all need to do.
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell
Follow the links for more bloggers’ off season off centre posts:
Ailsa’s Travel Challenge Off Centre at Where’s My Backpack
Related: …of Maasailand a travel piece that was long-listed in the Brandt Travel Guide writing contest 2000
This climate change business is most perplexing. There was a time when winter was a time to get the digging done. Not so the last few years. With the autumn comes rain and more rain. By November the ground is sodden, the soil claggy. My wellies become giant boots in seconds if I am unkind enough to the soil to walk upon it. This year the situation looks set to last until March.
Certainly we have intervals of splendid skies like this, but these periods of unrain never last long enough for the soil to dry out. All I can do on my plot is pick a few overwintered vegetables (leeks and greens), add fresh supplies of pony manure to my compost bins (a nice man who keeps horses dumps regular supplies out in the lane), and well, take photographs.
The light was just going when I took this first photo, but the burst of clouds above the bare ash trees made me think of Ailsa’s energy challenge over at Where’s My Backpack. Simply to see them filled me with energy, and made me think that the generally dreary look of allotment gardens in February had its scenic qualities too. And of course there are signs of spring. Lurking inside this nest of purple and green is an emergent winter cauliflower, in real life, little more than an inch across.
And the marigolds that grow themselves all over my plot, are coming into flower, although they proved a little hard to capture in the biting wind. Perhaps these hopeful signs mean that I will soon be out digging.
Where’s My Backpack – go here for more responses to Ailsa’s ‘energy’ photo challenge
I was born on Halloween, so here I am today – not too scary I hope, wearing my autumn colours. The Team Leader snapped me by the bridge over the River Teme, in the ancient town of Ludlow, Shropshire. We went there for my birthday lunch.
It was warm enough to eat outside at The Green Cafe, a wonderful little restaurant that sits on the riverbank between the bridge and the weir. It serves divine food in rather cramped quarters, because it is simply so popular (voted third best in Ludlow, which is quite something in the foodie capital of Shropshire).
After lunch we wandered around ancient streets that were full of autumn sunshine.
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