The phone rings it about one thirty in the morning. I do not open my eyes; there is no need. The conversation is fairly short, Liz begins to cry. There is nothing I can do to help; this is the moment of ultimate truth; nothing is more certain. For a minute, we embrace, Liz gets […]
Patience … or, Some things are worth waiting for
In August of this year we took a boat trip across Poole harbour to Brownsea Island. We were on holiday in Dorset and thought it would make a nice day trip. In addition, we were hoping to spot red squirrels which are native to the island. It was definitely a ‘factor 50’ day, clear blue sky, sunshine and only the lightest breeze – perfect!
There was a tour guide in the church who was more than happy to explain all the features of interest as well as recount the history of the island and its former owners / inhabitants. We were happy to linger in the church and enjoy the coolness of its interior – a very welcome respite from the heat of the day.
I asked the question, do you see many squirrels?
The answer ‘The last squirrel I saw was about two months ago, it came into the church and ran over my foot’.
‘So will we have a chance of spotting some today do you think?’
‘Today? oh no, its far too hot and there are too many people about, you won’t see squirrels today’ came the reply from the knowledgeable guide.
We stepped outside, my granddaughter feeling a little disappointed as she, like us, had been looking forward to ‘squirrel hunting’. A walk around the churchyard followed, a beautiful and peaceful area, perfect for a final resting place. It was while we were exploring around the church that two photographers were spotted, in full camouflage gear, with huge telephoto lenses and tripods. My curiosity got the better of me and we moved closer to the clearing where they had set up their gear. All was quiet and still, a handful of people, like us, waited patiently.
‘What are we waiting for?’whispered little Alice… ‘I don’t know – but we’ll wait and see’
Sure enough, we were rewarded, a red squirrel came into the clearing and proceeded to scamper about, darting here and there, I struggled to keep up with it and couldn’t see how i’d be able to capture it on camera. However, it then discovered a store of food and so the scampering stopped and the photos were taken. What a wonderful 20 minutes, although it was shaded area, the bright sunlight shone through the canopy of leaves and highlighted the little fellow’s red colouring.
I managed to take several photos and when the little fellow was joined by another we were overjoyed.
After the ‘show’ was over, we walked away and continued with our exploring of the grounds.
Acres of woodland, grassed areas for picnics, Brownsea Island is truly an oasis situated in Poole Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Take advantage of the restaurant and tea room too. There’s also an interesting exhibition centre which details the history of the island and its occupants as well as an activity table for the youngsters to draw and craft.
As we sat and waited for the boat to take us back to Poole, Alice turned to us and said ‘She was wrong wasn’t she? ‘The lady said we wouldn’t see any squirrels and we saw two, she was wrong wasn’t she Grandma’
Yes Alice, she was wrong.
Patience provided it’s rewards for us that day. Happy Alice Squirrel Hunter!
Words and pictures by Lizzy Clark
Memories – snapshots of moments stored in the deep recesses of our mind. When we recall a memory we recapture the feeling / experience even just for an instance.
Having lived for over half a century already, my mind’s recesses are chock full of memories which can be triggered by many different things. A song … a word, phrase or accent even … a smell … the title of a book … soundtrack to a film … So many triggers.
For me I think smell and music are the main keys to unlocking memories. For instance, there is a certain chain of hardware / homeware stores which, as soon as I walk in remind me of my Grandparents shop and warehouse. Its not a single scent, more a mix of bars of soap, firelighters, turps, polish, wooden brooms, and general household stuff… One whiff and I am whisked back in time to the age of about 7-9 years old, walking through the passage which joined the house to the warehouse and shop. The warehouse had all manner of items stacked on shelves, hanging on hooks – galvanised buckets, mops, watering cans, as well as tinned food stuffs, bags of tea, sugar and flour and the jars of sweets. The shop itself was a village general store – very reminiscent of the one which features in the TV sitcom “Open All Hours” – same counter, shelves around the shop stocked with groceries of all description, a cold counter with bacon, cooked meats, butter, cheese and milk, and my favourite, the sweet counter – liquorice pipes, strawberry laces, sherbet flying saucers, bonbons and chews.
Memories have lain dormant within my mind for many years – without a thought, until they are triggered into life. Perhaps its age which triggers memories?
We talk to elderly parents, relatives and realise their time on earth is drawing to a close. Perhaps its a way of preparing for the bereavement that we reminisce – remember good times, extract the memories and replay them to recapture the moments. Perhaps its our increasing years. We reach a stage in life where the days ahead will be fewer than those past, we think back and remember…
The arrival of children, grandchildren, new generations brings with it more than a hint of nostalgia and revives memories of our own childhood and those of our children.
Enjoy your memories, treasure the moments, remember the good times by all means – but don’t forget to live in the present, the here and now. Live – and by doing so create more memories for yourself and those around you.
The memories we leave with others are our legacy – their inheritance, some would argue that treasured memories are possibly more valuable than monetary riches?
words and pictures by Lizzy Clark
Bridging the Gap
Bridges – oh how we need them. Their purpose? to connect – to ‘bridge the gap’. Bridges enable us to do the impossible – cross over water, traverse ravines, travel shorter distances.
Without bridges many would remain isolated – or face a long circuitous route to their destination. Bridges connect two halves of a city for example. Many towns and cities have close relationships with bridges: Nottingham – River Trent; London River Thames; York – The Great Ouse; Cambridge – The Cam – and the list could go on. We have road bridges, rail bridges and foot bridges enabling us to cross to the other side – and yes, there are also ferries but these are slower, and can’t serve so many people at a time. Ferries or River boats are rooted in our history – take the Thames, many were the boatmen who ferried passengers up and down as well as across the river in Tudor times probably for centuries prior to this time and to this day you can take pleasure cruises along the river or cross on the Woolwich Ferry.
Some bridges are sturdy and functional, some more decorative – most owe their construction to the brilliance of victorian and edwardian engineers – Tower Bridge, Forth Rail Bridge. More modern constructions are themselves works of art, take the Queen Elizabeth road bridge over the Dartford Crossing – it sweeps across the river and roads below in a wide, elegant arch – a wonder to perceive. The Humber Bridge, constructed in the 1970s across the Humber Estuary, at the time of its conception it was the longest single span suspension bridge in the world! I lived in Lincolnshire as a child and I remember vividly seeing the progress of the building of the bridge on regular Sunday afternoon drives.
I can’t write about bridges without mentioning the fabulous iconic Golden Gate bridge over San Francisco harbour, and the ‘double decker’ bridge by which you approach the city of San Fransisco from Oakland – what a spectacle that is, as one crosses the bridge by car or coach, the sight of the sky scrapers of the financial district and the lights of the piers along Fisherman’s Wharf is itself a wonder to behold.
As I write of some of my favourite bridges, lets not forget those of the city of Nottingham, my current home – Trent Bridge – a simple road bridge made famous by the Cricket Ground in its vicinity and the two football stadiums whose floodlights are also visible from the Bridge – Notts County’s ground and the home of Nottingham Forest – all within close proximity to Trent Bridge. County Hall, the civic centre for Nottinghamshire County Council stands along one bank, an impressive site when viewed from the river – which flows under the heavy iron works of the Lady Bay Bridge, and passes along the Embankment, with a footbridge connecting Wilford Village to the City.
London has a plethora of bridges, Tower Bridge, although now dwarfed by modern office buildings is still an iconic site across the river and the Millenium footbridge which although dogged by design faults in its early days, now provides a stable passage across the river from St Pauls to the site of the Tate Modern Gallery.
Have a look around your city or town – what do the bridges tell of its history?
Easter time is upon us, with the clocks changing this weekend – moving an hour ahead – we face lighter times after the darkness of winter.
Fresh growth in the gardens heralds a new season – gone are the bare branches as green shoots and blossom cover the trees, and spring flowers bring a splash of colour to our gardens and parks – crocuses, daffodils, snowdrops – all showing their colours to proudly proclaim that spring is here!
Its the time of year that many turn to Spring Cleaning – throw open the windows, clear out the clutter, everything dusted, polished and scrubbed until it gleams. Apparently this is a practice carried out by most cultures with many differing theories as to the origins of the great spring clean.
Apparently the first part of Holy Week – ie Easter – is cleaning time. The home subject to thorough cleaning, carpets, soft furnishings, mattresses, floors & surfaces washed, waxed and polished. It was seen as cleaning and preparing to make the home ready for the great feast of the year, Easter. The practice was possibly taken from the Old Testament, the ancient practice of cleansing and sweeping followed by decorating the home for the feast of Pasch – the Jewish feast of Passover.
Although Spring Cleaning is more prevalent in climates which experience a cold winter, it is not always the case. At Persian New Year everything in the house was thoroughly cleaned to welcome in the new year, and Iranians practice ‘khooneh tekouni’ which literally translated means ‘shaking the house’.
In North America and Northern Europe, during the 19th Century and before the invention of vacuum cleaners and the like, March was seen as the best time of year for dusting the home. It was deemed warm enough to have windows and doors open but not too hot for insects to be a problem. With doors and windows open and a good sweeping brush the wind would carry the dust out of the house! Spring was also the time of year when coal furnaces wouldn’t be run and the soot deposits could be washed from walls and furniture.
Along with Spring Cleaning many people now are keen on ‘clearing out the clutter’ ‘downsizing’ and ‘feng shui’ – all practices based on the principle of ridding oneself of items which no longer have a use. Indeed one of the Feng Shui practices is well worth considering – it is said that you should gather all of your possessions in one place – so for example, empty all wardrobes and drawers and place all of your clothing in one room, then take each item and decide if it ‘brings you joy’ – keeping only that which truly ‘brings you joy’ – of course anything which does not fit or in need of repair should be instantly discarded. Belongings should then, according to Feng Shui, be put away in an orderly manner so that all are visible – the idea being perhaps that if we can see everything nothing is being forgotten.
Crystals play a part in Spring Clearing and Feng Shui – it is said that Amethyst placed in a bedroom helps with restful sleep, and rose quartz placed in the corresponding ‘relationship corner’ of a property helps maintain a harmonious home whilst citrine placed in the ‘wealth corner’ attracts prosperity and abundance. The Relationship Corner is said to be the furthest right hand corner of the property from the main entrance, and ‘Wealth’ area is the furthest left hand corner.
Paid a visit to Stawberry Hill recently. Horace Walpole, son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, created Strawberry Hill in the 18th Century, between 1748 and 1790. He built and extended what was known as the ‘old small house’ to create the masterpiece of Gothic splendour that opens its doors to visitors today. The originally ‘old small house’ was known as ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall and was owned by a Mrs Elizabeth Chevenix, a well-known ‘toy woman’ or seller of trinkets.
Its a remarkable building and well worth a visit. Timed slots are booked in advance, in order to keep numbers to a manageable level within the rooms. Almost all the rooms have guides within who are well informed and tell the history of each room. Each visitor is also presented with a booklet, based upon Walpole’s original publication ‘Description of Strawberry Hill’ which guides the visitor through the house, room by room. I won’t go into detail here about each room, better to pay a visit to Strawberry Hill yourself – however something in one room caught my interest which I will share with you now.
Horace Walpole was very particular with the decor and furnishing of his grand summer villa. Indeed it was originally designed to hold his vast collections amassed when he was on his Grand Tour. Mr Walpole’s bedchamber was chosen by him due to the view it afforded over the acres of parkland in which the house was then situated. After Walpole’s death, the house passed through the family via tenuous links until it became under the possession of a Frances Lady Waldegrave in the mid 19th Century. She redecorated Walpole’s bedroom in 1856 with a rose patterned paper as was popular at the time – she also had built a closet. During the restoration some of the rose patterned paper was torn and beneath it was clearly visible a blue and bronze coloured flock wallpaper. The Lady’s rose bedroom had been achieved by papering over Walpole’s original paper. Sufficient pattern was visible for the restoration team to have reproduced in order to restore Horace Walpole’s Bed Chamber to its original decor. Flock wallpaper was a hand-made luxury product. It was made by applying adhesive to a roll of paper formed of joined sheets, using a carved wooden pattern block and shaking over it finely chopped wool fibres. The printed rolls were then pressed to imbed the fibres to create a velvet-like pattern. The flock wallpaper was originally hung in Walpole’s room in 1755-56, just over a hundred years later Frances Lady Waldegrave covered it with rose pattern machine print paper, made in France, and a hundred and fifty years or so after the lady had redecorated, the room was restored to its original pattern and colour.
Patterns and Layers form the natural world – look at plants, flowers – the symmetry and patterns are truly a wonder to behold. Crystals too have their patterns. One particular stone I’ve been looking at recently, Obsidian, displays some fascinating patterns.
Obsidian itself is a volcanic glass (SiO2 plus MgO, Fe3O4) – naturally occurring and produced when ‘felsic’ lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth. Felsic refers to igneous rocks relatively rich in elements that form feldspar and quartz. Obsidian, although mineral-like, is not a true mineral because as a glass it is not crystalline. Obsidian is hard and brittle and fractures with very sharp edges, in the past it was used for cutting and piercing tools and has even been used experimentally as surgical scalpel blades.
Pure obsidian is usually dark (black) in appearance, colouring varies depending on the presence of impurities. Sheen obsidian contains patterns of gas bubbles remaining from the lava flow – whereas Rainbow Obsidian is so called due to an iridescent, rainbow-like sheen considered to be caused by inclusions of magnetite nano particles.
The pattern of Sheen Obsidian is fascinating to see and enhanced by polishing and shaping the obsidian pieces.
Take a look around, can you see the patterns in your environment, surroundings, look beneath the layers… What’s hidden beneath?