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Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of the Internet, but like most inventions throughout history, it can be used for good or evil. Also, it cannot be ‘uninvented’.
On the good side it provides us with a wonderful means of communication which can be a lifeline for the lonely. Think of all the grandparents whose offspring have emigrated to a far-off country where they are bringing up their own children without proximity to family members still in their original countries. How wonderful social media and programmes such as Skype are to those families and friends.
The knowledge we can gain through the Internet is also so useful, although we do have to be careful not to believe everything we read. Sources have to be reliable.
Now, however, we hear more and more about the ‘Dark Web’, a furtive area where paedophiles, terrorists and other criminals hang out. Most of us wouldn’t have a clue how to access this, nor would we have any desire to do so, but nevertheless it is there. This is the evil side of the Internet.
Recently my own telephone and Internet Service Provider suffered a huge hacking attack. Many personal details have been stolen and it is believed this information is being sold on the Dark Web, leaving customers of the company involved subject to having bank details and personal details used by others. Personally one of my friends has lost money from her bank account. We are all being told to be as vigilant as possible, not only on the web, but also in accepting phone calls which may prove to be scams.
Undoubtedly the criminals are clever; what a pity they can’t use their abilities for the good of mankind rather than their own selfish ends.
Our most recent project at the photography group was for the subject to be backlit. I know that sometimes we can achieve an interesting silhouette in this manner, but I wanted to do something different. I pulled out my reference book and looked for a photo project which would fit the bill. I found something like my attempt on the left. I’ve yet to receive feedback from the group as we’ve not had a meeting since June. We start again this coming week.
Since we now don’t have a dog to keep us at home all the time, which of course I have mixed feelings about, we are trying to get out and about a little. We feel as if we’ve been hibernating when this time of the year would be the time to consider doing just that. It was not just dear old Gizmo who kept us at home, although we couldn’t stay out for too long with him as he was so sick and there was nobody I would ask for help in his care. We have had a tough few years with my husband’s health too, with so many hospital appointments for tests, plus some for me. Thankfully he seems a little better now, or perhaps his medication is controlling things. In any event, we have had to try to put small steps out into the world for the moment. We had one night away in a hotel to start with, not too far away, but we were able to visit our niece and her little girl and then head off to the hotel. On our way home the next day we called into a National Trust property – Lytes Cary Manor, near Somerton in Somerset. The various gardens of this restored mediaval garden are lovely, and I particularly liked the Apostle garden with its topiary. Each small garden though has its own character, and is laid out as a different ‘room.’
Our one night away was a success and we felt able to tackle a couple of nights next. We had some work done on the house while we were away. To have stayed there would have been rather uncomfortable as we had to clear all the furniture from our lounge for two days while new flooring was laid. This involved one day when the men put some screed down. (I think that’s the term for it.) In any case it had to be left overnight and some of our furniture was in the kitchen, to which we had no access. Ideal to leave them to it we thought.
We didn’t go too far this time either, but managed to get a bargain break in Bournemouth. We were very lucky with the late September sunshine, and the hotel had a swimming pool. We took advantage of this before breakfast each morning, a rare treat.
Bournemouth is a busy seaside resort, but also with plenty of shops and gardens. The old shopping arcades are particulary pretty. We enjoyed our break away and the new flooring looks good now we’re home and sorting things out.
Since we’ve been home, I’ve started writing again, albeit slowly. I’ve not had much time to do so recently, and have been struggling to get going, but have recently submitted two poems to different publications, plus this morning I’ve printed out a short story in preparation for submitting this. More of that in future posts.
It’s always worth trying to find somebody so hope this will help this man find his sister.
Some people don’t believe in coincidences. I find them fascinating. If you were to visit for example, a barely inhabited island in the Pacific, and on landing were greeted by a neighbour from your home town in England, that to me would be a coincidence. That actually happened to my brother.
A while back I wrote about the coincidence of where Mike and I now live, and a painting by my father. There was another coincidence in our lives. This happened nearly 40 years ago. Mike and I had been married for a couple of years and had been living in a flat (apartment) over a freezer shop on Hayling Island, Hampshire. It was fine, about 5 minutes walk from the beach and convenient for local shops and our occupations. What we wanted though, was a garden, so we set about selling the flat.
We moved to the mainland, which was joined to the island by a causeway, so didn’t involve a boat trip to get to work. The house we chose was in an area called Bedhampton and had a good-sized garden. Plenty of work to do in both house and garden but we didn’t mind that in those days when we were fit and active. We grew vegetables and kept chickens.
Shortly after we moved there, my mother came to stay for a week or so. As we were walking from our house to the local shops, she suddenly stopped and pointed at a large house. ‘I know that house,’ she said. I could hardly believe it as I’d never heard of Bedhampton prior to moving to the area.
It turned out that the house, just one road away from where Mike and I now lived, was the very house where my Mum and Dad had spent their honeymoon. It was war-time, and I think he must have been based at the time around the Naval bases of Portsmouth. There was not much time or money for a honeymoon, so they had simply enjoyed a few days not too far away.
What quirk of fate brought us to that particular house? Was it coincidence or a fluke? Are our lives mapped out for us? Questions to ponder for us all.
I’ve called this photo ‘pretty maids all in a row’. The sailing boats were out in force on Sunday morning. This was taken from Peveril Point near Swanage.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the summer, it’s wise to look out for adders, especially in the nearby woods.
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?
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.