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

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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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A Maritime Theme

 

In need of care

If you live in the UK, have you ever listened to the shipping forecast? (I’m sure other countries with a coastline have a similar service.) For anyone with connections to the sea, it’s a must.

My father worked most of his life on or around the sea, and made a point of listening to these bulletins. Being a young girl, I didn’t appreciate the importance then of the information, but if I tried to say something, I was ‘shushed’ in no uncertain way.

The shipping forecast is broadcast four times a day on the radio, (Radio 4) twice during the day and twice at night. Not only is it fascinating, but for me it can be a cure for insomnia during the hours of darkness. (Perhaps I should send apologies to the readers of the forecasts as that is obviously not their intention.) The names of the shipping areas intrigue and occasionally mystify me, others are more recognisable, such as Dover, Wight. I’d no idea where North or South Utsire are, until I had a look at the web-site for the shipping forecast. They are areas, with islands, off the coast of Norway by all accounts. There are thirty-one sea areas on the map for the forecast.Tools of the trade CBJ

The information is provided by the Meteorological Office and gives news of wind-speed and direction, gale warnings, visibility and current weather conditions. This knowledge is essential for mariners of any description, be it private sailing boats, fishing boats, merchant ships or liners. Everyone who goes to sea takes note, and acts accordingly, or they should.

I’d be interested to know from others around the world how their shipping forecasts compare to ours.

ferry coming in A breeze in the sails Beautiful sailing vessel in Bergen 02.09.09 Black Watch at Flåm Ferry heading out of Flåm, 03.09.09

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Abandoned and Derelict Houses

Sometimes circumstances dictate our priorities, and we may not be able to do the things we’d like to do. My circumstances have been like that for a while now, and it’s meant that I have little time to spend taking photographs, writing, or even reading the blogs I follow. I’ve missed you all, and will attempt to catch up a little but can’t see things improving much time-wise for a while. Never mind, we have to accept life as it is, not as we’d like it to be.

I have managed a few hours out and about though, and have found some buildings which seem mysterious because they’re abandoned or ruined. Why did the people leave them? I don’t know in most cases, but the photos seem to lend themselves to monochrome or sepia mode, so I’ve played around a little with them.

Abandoned 6 monochrome
This one is close to where I live, and I don’t know its story, but imagination can be a fine thing.

Cascading tiles sepia

 

 

 

 

The tiles on this roof are sliding downwards quite rapidly it seems. Was the property struck by lightning? Again I don’t know.

 

 

 

 

Corfe Castle 10 sepia

Corfe Castle is wonderful whether it’s in colour or sepia. The natural colours change with the weather, and it’s always atmospheric.

 

 

 

Knowlton church ruins monochrome

The ruins of Knowlton church have a spiritual feeling about them.

 

Tyneham Village 12 sepia

Tyneham Village is one place where the ruins are there because the villagers were asked to leave to make way for the army during the war, and have never returned. The army still uses surrounding countryside, but the public is allowed into the village a lot of the time, when safety allows.

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Words of Encouragement

The water lilies in our small pond have been good this year.

The water lilies in our small pond have been good this year.

 

When I was a small girl, my father had several expressions which he used to encourage me in life in general. They can apply to a career, your writing, photography, or anything you may be interested in, even life itself. 

One of them was ‘Good, better, best, Never let it rest, ’till your good is better, and your better best.’ This saying seems to be attributed to Adlai Stevenson, presumably the American politician and diplomat.

Another saying was ‘Reach for the sky and you may hit the treetops.’ I’m not sure if that was attributed to anyone, there seem to be various versions on the same theme. Whatever, they are words which I’ve remembered ever since. 

Do you have any such expressions, which may spur you on when the going gets tough? 

 

Spirea and campanula entwined

 

 

 

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Favourite Poems

Do you have a favourite poem? There are plenty to choose from, whether you prefer Wordsworth or Pam Ayres.

One of my favourites is Primo Levi’s ‘To My Friends’. It starts:

 

To My Friends
Dear friends, I say friends here
In the larger sense of the word:
Wife, sister, associates, relatives,
Schoolmates, men and women,
Persons seen only once
Or frequented all my life:
Provided that between us, for at least a moment,
Was drawn a segment,
A well-defined chord.

You can easily find it on the web if you’d like to read the rest of it. To me the feelings in it are true for us all. We have friends we’ve known for a long time, and who have influenced our lives, our views, our outlooks.

The poem resonate with me because it makes me think about people who we meet. Maybe they are not what we think of as friends; some may even have been unfriendly or caused us some harm. However, they may have made some real impression on us. They have touched our lives, and left a footprint on our souls.

Even a fleeting acquaintanceship may affect our thinking and feeling for the rest of our lives and we’ll never forget that person. In fact, maybe we have never even met the person, but they have touched us in some way. That happened recently in the UK and elsewhere too, when a young man, dying of cancer, set about raising funds for other youngsters, rather than sitting in self-pity. Stephen Sutton must have been a remarkable young man, who sadly passed away, but left such an impression on the world that the money he raised went on up and up.

If you’ve not read the poem, I really recommend that you do at some time.

 

Peony on a rainy morning

Peony on a rainy morning

The peony on the left was taken a month or so back in the garden. Its beauty is almost decadent, exotic, like a dancer in a glamorous ball-gown. I just love the way the petals unfurl. Each flower has its own beauty.

 

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