Welcome all to my blog. It’s for anyone interested in writing and photography.

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End of an Era

oldgizmo

Since 1977 we’ve had a dog, or even two in our home and lives, with just a month or two between them.  Prior to that, as a child, my parents brought our lovely Labrador home for 15 years. Now, for the first time, I find our home empty. Our dear old dog passed away last week, aged nearly 17. Good going for sure, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Gizmo had quite a life. He was born in the Canary Island of Tenerife. He belonged to somebody we knew, and we met him there when he was young, while we were celebrating our Silver Wedding. Little did we know that one day he would come home with us.

Gizmo moved to Spain with his owner, but sadly she did not keep him. We moved to Spain to discover that he needed a new home. From that time, he was my faithful friend; he seemed to know if I needed cheering up or felt ill, and always gave me a lick of encouragement. During his time in Spain with us, he lost an eye during an attack by another dog. This did not faze him at all. I think sometimes as he grew older, it was slightly more of a problem when things were on his blind side, but not noticeably so.

While we lived in Spain, we acquired another dog, Cara, who was born in the wild and her mother brought her up inside the hollow trunk of an olive tree with her siblings. They had to struggle with life, those dogs living in the Spanish Campo or countryside, so we took Cara as our own and helped find homes for the other dogs. Cara was beautiful and she and Gizmo got on really well.

Cara and Gizmo

Cara and Gizmo

When we returned to England, the two dogs had to wait in the kennels for us to send for them, as we had to find rented accomodation where we could have our pets. What a day it was, soon after we returned, to drive to Gatwick Airport to pick them up. They were as good as gold. I was so pleased to see them again.

Another house move for us all came about after we found a place to buy, and this time I had to be careful that they didn’t escape from the garden into a busy road. We soon made it dog-proof. Cara could run like the wind, but sadly at the age of just 6, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and had a leg amputated.

So, there we were, with one dog with one eye, and another with 3 legs. Cara initially did well, with several bouts of chemotherapy, but didn’t complete the course before she fell ill again and we had the sad decision to make to end her life.

I’d like to think that I will have another dog, one who needs a loving home, before I end my days, but for the present Mike and I need a little break, some days spent on holiday. That and with health issues for both of us may mean that I shan’t have another dog, but my goal is still there.

Rudyard Kipling put it in a way which we dog lovers can agree with:

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passsion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long–
So why in–Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Rudyard Kipling

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Summer-time carnivals

Wool carnival procession

Wool carnival procession

At this time of year there are carnivals, festivals and fetes all over Dorset. We are not able to go to many of them, but we have a small carnival every June in our village. There is a procession which passes right by our back fence, so am able to take photos without any difficulty. The colourful young lady on the left was worth a photo I felt.

Our carnival is very small compared to many, but there are amusements for the children, stalls for refreshments and our local library, which is run by hard-working volunteers, has a stall where you can buy second-hand books, or sign up to support the library.

attractions of the carnival small

For the last two years there have been alpacas at the carnival. Although of course not native to the UK, they are charming animals and becoming increasingly popular on farms. The wool from the alpacas is used for clothing.

Baby alpaca at Wool Carnival3

Young alpaca at Wool Carnival

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Falcons at Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle small 78 dpi

Corfe Castle ruins

Last Sunday we visited Corfe Castle, where they were holding a medieval falconry show. It was fascinating; we learned a lot about how to train the birds in the old way, and were treated to a flying display. We’d had no idea how many different types of falcons exist. On display were a Saker falcon, Lanner falcon, Peregrine falcon and the smallest one was a Barbary falcon. As its name suggests it was originally from the Barbary Coast of Africa, and brought to the United Kingdom around the time of Queen Elizabeth the first.

saker falcon dpi 78

Saker falcon

The Saker falcon seen here was definitely the star of the show when it came to a flying display. The others were in various states of training and were not allowed as much freedom, but this one just loved to soar, right up to the top of the castle, and then swoop down just above the heads of the crowd. It was magnificent.

Barbary falcon small dpi 78

Barbary Falcon

Falconry at Corfe Castle dpi 72Although the Barbary falcon was the smallest, it appears it’s the most fearless, and I certainly wouldn’t want to meet it when it’s hungry! It will attack an eagle, or any prey it deems worthy, without a second thought, whereas the other falcons may look for an easier prey.

We thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hours we spent watching and learning, and in such a beautiful place as this.

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A Tale of a Coincidence

This post has a tenuous link to my last post, in as much as it mentions Thomas Hardy. It has previously been published in Crystal Magazine, and is a true account.

Woolbridge Manor

My father’s painting

When I was a child, my father used his spare time, of which there was not a lot, to paint with oils. He was a keen amateur artist, pursuing this as a hobby, not with any thoughts of monetary gain. The paintings adorned the walls of the various homes we had during those years. Some scenes were taken from post cards, including some I loved of lakes in Switzerland. They made me want to travel to the scenes portrayed. Others he painted in the Dorset countryside, and seaside. He had been a sailor, still was in so much as he was a Trinity House Pilot employed in bringing in ships to Poole Harbour safely, and taking them back out of the harbour when their loading or unloading there was complete. The sea or other water frequently became a part of his paintings.

Whenever he was painting, I became used to the aroma of the linseed oil and turpentine and grew to love the smells. I enjoyed watching him employ different brushes for the various types of work he was doing, and admired his skill.

During May to June 1959 he painted a scene which at the time was not familiar to me. In the foreground, grass and flowers border a river, churning along towards a bridge. On the opposite bank, trees, more flowers and grass, and behind a large house with prominent chimneys. The Manor at Woolbridge seems to draw you into the scene. After all these years, I don’t know whether he made a sketch or was able to sit in the meadow to paint on the spot. This painting took up residence finally in my mother’s dining room, in the home she lived in after my father’s death.

By this time I’d long left home, so only gave it a cursory glance on my frequent visits to my mother. Eventually she spent the last ten years of her life being cared for in a rest home, with her own home being rented out to pay her fees, and her belongings were put into storage. It was all very sad, but it was what she wanted for herself.

My husband Mike and I moved from where we’d lived for fourteen years, in Cornwall, to Spain during this period, and when we moved back to England after a couple of stressful years in Andalusia, (but that’s another story) had no idea where we would live, as property prices had shot up in those couple of years.

We looked at properties as far as Swindon, as they were cheaper there, but we knew we would prefer to live further south. We couldn’t afford to return to Cornwall. Prices there were exorbitant. We ended up living in Wool. Still the painting did not cross my mind.

When my mother died, my brother and I sorted through her belongings, deciding which items to keep and which to donate to charity shops. Several of my father’s paintings were among the effects, including that long-forgotten painting of Woolbridge Manor, the setting for part of the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.

We frequently walked our dogs, now reduced to one old boy who can’t walk the distance any more, to the Manor on Sunday mornings to look at the scene, painted years before by my father. The view has not really changed since those days. The water is sometimes calmer, sometimes rushing along. The flowers in the picture are not always there, depending on the season but the trees remain. The Manor house itself is easily recognisable by the chimneys alone. I feel as if I can walk straight into the painting. It means a lot to me now, more than it did when it was first painted, as it reminds me not only of the artist, my father, but of my mother and her homes. I can truly say that financial value, which it probably doesn’t have anyway, is not as important as the emotional value we give to some objects.

What a coincidence that we ended up living here. The painting has pride of place in our lounge.

Woolbridge manor

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New Centre near Hardy’s Birthplace

Thomas Hardy visitor centre

Living as we do in the lovely county of Dorset, we have many reminders of Thomas Hardy. This year a new Visitors’ Centre has opened near the cottage where Hardy was born. It’s been built with the aid of Dorset County Council and the National Trust, plus a lottery grant.

The exterior is constructed from local trees; the interior is smart, although I had thought there would be a larger shop area. There are some items for tourists to buy, such as postcards, and jars of preserves.

What is good is an educational area, with charts and books to help children. Thomas Hardy loved the countryside around the cottage and noticed all the flora and fauna. He would have loved the fact that others could learn about the area, which provided backdrops for many of his novels and poems. We tend to think of him in terms of his writing, but he was also an accomplished artist.

Early painting by Thomas Hardy

Early painting by Thomas Hardy

The area around the centre has been improved, so that it’s possible now to walk through the woods to his cottage, good for the able-bodied, while those, like us, who are not so mobile can use the original lane up to the cottage. The whole area is a nature lover’s paradise, and great for people to walk their dogs.

Hardy's birthplace Higher Bockhampton

The Cottage where Thomas Hardy was born

In the summer, it’s wise to look out for adders, especially in the nearby woods.

Bockhampton 004

Thorncombe Woods near Hardy’s Cottage

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If It’s Good Enough for Philip Larkin ….

bee on cherry blossom

Recently I read a quote from Philip Larkin. He evidently published an average of only four poems a year when in his prime. He said ‘Silence is preferable to publishing rubbish and far better for one’s reputation.’ It’s a relief that so prolific a poet could feel like this and acknowledge that sometimes the best words just won’t come to you.

It can happen to us all. Sometimes whatever we write just doesn’t gel. Perhaps we have our minds on problems elsewhere, or maybe we have health issues, and we can’t relax sufficiently to produce our best work. What’s the best way to deal with it?

We all have our own ways of coping. If there are problems we can solve, we should do so. If there are no solutions, acceptance is the only way. Sometimes going for a walk gives us time to clear our thoughts. How do you resolve it, or does it not happen to you?

majestic cliffs West Bay

Cliffs at West Bay

On a different note, my husband Mike and I had our first visit this year to West Bay, about an hour’s drive away from home along the Dorset coast; the cliffs there are so imposing. We like the place. The small town is not particularly attractive; it has far too much concrete for our liking, but there is also a certain quaintness in some parts. Also, and this is the big plus, it has the coastline. I rest my case.

As you can see from the photo, the cliffs are not too stable now, so I’m not sure those people should be so close to them. On the west side of the town, areas are now roped off because of further cliff falls. It’s a shame, as what looks to be a lovely little beach is no longer accessible, but that’s nature. We’re looking forward to our next visit.

West side of West Bay

Falling cliffs make this a dangerous area

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Candlemas Day and the weather

chusan palm with snow

Whereas January seems to drag on interminably, February is rushing by as if to lead us as quickly as possible into spring in this part of the world.

What was your weather like on 2nd February? This date is Candlemas Day in the Christian calendar, when in the Roman Catholic church candles have been traditionally consecrated. It began with the old custom in Rome where candles were burned for the goddess Februa to keep away evil spirits.

The question of the weather is due to a myth; if the weather is frosty and fine, more cold weather will come before winter ends. If it’s warmer but wet, the worst has gone. Of course this only works in the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps those in the Southern Hemisphere have another myth. It would be interesting to know.

I’m not sure what we’re due now for the rest of this winter, but it certainly seems that spring is on its way, although the month did start off cold. The 2nd February was nothing special as regards the climate, but on the 3rd we woke up to find our garden covered in snow. We don’t have much of it here, and it was all gone by the end of the day. Fortunately I’d grabbed the camera to take a few shots of it.

snowdrops and cyclamen in background

As the month has progressed, the early flowers are blooming, the frogs are becoming more active in our pond and signs of life are appearing everywhere. Hooray.

On the writing front, I have a couple of small projects on the go, written in snatched five minutes here and there, which is not great as the continuity is lost, but I have to get the words down  to start with before I can work with them.

 

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Hopes for the Year Ahead

Mahonia leaves on frosty morningEvery day I’m grateful to be a part of this still wonderful world, even with all its problems. I’m so thankful that my life is relatively comfortable, with none of the terrible situations that many other people find themselves in. Despite that, if that if I had to choose my least favourite month it would be January. The climate here is such that the start of the New Year is often grey, cold and dismal, with quite a lot of rain. We’re looking backwards at the old year, and forwards to our hopes and aspirations for the next 12 months.

Some animals hibernate; that sounds an enticing way to spend January. Either that, or if circumstances were such that I was able, I’d travel to a warmer climate, returning when February arrives. Our health is never as good in winter, we all feel exhausted and we spend time trying to avoid surgeries so as not to contract one of many nasty bugs.

However, if that all sounds much too negative, January can still be lovely. There is nothing nicer than a bright frosty morning, when a walk revives the spirit and allows you to think about your writing, or anything else you may have in mind.

Last year was not a particularly good one for my writing. Time was very limited; after I’d finished caring for my sick husband, and my even sicker old dog, and with my own health issues, I was often too tired to concentrate for long periods. I had a few letters published in newspapers, a poem accepted by a magazine, several other poems accepted for anthologies and one or two pieces, both fiction and non-fiction published in small press magazines. I have another article pending with a main-stream magazine; they are retaining it for further consideration, so still hope there. However, the last occasion they did this, they kept the article for about 18 months, and when I queried, they sent it back saying they wouldn’t be needing it. By that time it was really out-of-date, so I couldn’t send it anywhere else. Ah well, nobody said it would be easy.

Still, one thing about January is that it brings to us all fresh hope. Happy writing everyone.

fungus with frost

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What is on your Christmas Wish List?

WoolxmasdeerWhether you are a follower of Christianity or not, this is the season when many people celebrate. It’s lovely for children of course, but sometimes I wonder if we’re all just too greedy. When I was a child, I was as excited as children are today, but we received in our Christmas stockings such things as an orange, a pencil sharpener, crayons and paper to draw and colour. As I grew up, these items became things like book tokens, always the most welcome of presents.

 

Recently we had in the UK what was called Black Friday. The name seems to be because it was the first day that the stores in America went into the black after all their expenses. That is what I have heard. Anyway, the event arrived in the UK from the USA, not one of the better imports I have to say.

The films on the news of people fighting over bargains in the shops made me feel rather sick. It was just obscene to see these people, when so many people in the world are suffering, perhaps from lack of food, or fighting. Whatever the reasons for their suffering, greed in people who should know better is not an attractive thing.

By all means enjoy your celebrations, but my Christmas wish list would include peace for others, enough to eat, a comfortable home and lack of fear. For myself I would wish for no expensive perfumes, or the latest gadgets, but better health for my husband and myself and if it is to be, a peaceful end of life for my dear old dog.

What is your wish?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. festive setting for photo group

Bill and Ellen's nativity scene

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The Isle of Portland, Dorset

St George's church

St George’s church

To call Portland in Dorset an island is not strictly true. Although it is known as the Isle of Portland, it is joined to the mainland by the Chesil Bank.

My first memory of Portland is when my husband and I were house-hunting, many years ago, and we looked at a couple of properties there. We were not impressed either by the homes we could afford, or Portland itself. It had the appearance to us then of a drab place, dominated by a drab prison. Recently we had another look at the place, and found much to be admired.

Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy hosted the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games Sailing events. This brought many people to the area, and many assets were added. It is a very popular location for many water sports.

Nature-lovers will find many sites of interest to them, with unusual flora and fauna to find. Walkers love the place, and there are lots of viewpoints for them to admire the panoramic views.

One of the most famous of Portland’s products is the limestone which has been used over the years for many well-known buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. The stone is still quarried here. Many quarries have been turned into tourist attractions. We visited Tout Quarry Sculpture Park, where over 50 examples of sculpture are on display. Sadly there has been some vandalism this year, and some of the pieces on show have been damaged. Hopefully they will be repaired to their former glory.

Sculpture of octopus, Tout Quarry, Portland.

Sculpture of octopus, Tout Quarry, Portland.

St George’s Church at Weston on the Isle is a magnificent Georgian building, no longer used as a consecrated building but still open to the public and helped by volunteers.

Also on Portland there is a castle built by Henry VIII which overlooks the  harbour, one of the deepest man-made harbours in the world. It is a civilian port, but also there is a harbour on the northern shore which was a Royal Navy base during both World Wars.

A museum and a lighthouse are other visitor attractions. Whatever your interests, it seems Portland has something to offer. Now that we have rediscovered it, and found that it offers many photographic opportunities, we will be back.

I am the walrus

I am the walrus

 

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