Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Desert sunsets and sunrises

 Last year I wrote about my trip to Mount Sinai. Today I thought I'd fill you in with the events that lead up to it, so to speak.

It all started with my husband deciding to go to the Holy Land with our local church. Our priest was enthusiastic, he felt that he needed to go there regularly. It sounded easy, we would just go along on  a coach with people that we knew and he would do all the work of permits and visas.

A few days before our departure violence broke out in that troubled part of the world. Everyone was worried, some considered cancelling the trip. We went to a meeting where the Tour operator gave us instructions. Almost as an afterthought he asked if anyone was concerned about their safety. Lots of hands shot up. Well he said there's no need to be afraid, tourists are necessary to their economy, they need them and will protect them. He went on to tell us that the year before a woman from Florence had decided not to risk the trip and while they were away she tripped and fell in the bathroom, bumped her head and that was that.

We followed an intense itinerary for the first few days and then headed towards Eilat, the California of Israel where we were booked in to the only luxurious hotel on our trip. We could all see the dazzling bright blue sea in the distance and relishing the thought of a swimming pool and then it was decided that we should stop to admire the sunset from a hill before descending into Eilat.
It was a wonderful breath taking sunset right on the border of the Egyptian desert. We could see the watch towers in the distance and were reminded of the fragility of this land.
We got back on the coach ready to head to Eilat, now lit up and twinkling alluringly in the distance, but... the coach wouldn't start. There we were in the middle of nowhere and no one else around. To cut a long story short we nearly saw the dawn as well as the sunset and were unable to enjoy the facilities of the hotel.

It didn't matter though, no one minded, we weren't here for that sort of thing anyway. The next day we went into Egypt to get ready to climb Mount Sinai. Our Egyptian guides were entertaining, friendly and witty. We had lunch by the Red Sea, completely mesmorized by the intensity of its' blue.

We drove through the desert to the base camp of Mount Sinai. We stopped every so often so the Bedouins could sell us their wares. The desert kept changing colour, from warm sandy beige, to rosy pink. Just before we arrived at the base camp the priest stood up to make an announcement. By the way he told us, last year and old man from their group had collapsed and died climbing Mount Sinai and to avoid bureaucratic delays they had propped him up and taken him back to Israel. We all looked at each other not knowing what to say.

We had to go to bed early and get up at 1 am to begin the climb. As were got off the coach in the pitch black darkness we could hear hundreds of different languages and see a trail of torch light winding away up ahead. We were given a guide, a young Bedouin man who could have been my son. He was to stay with us for the duration of the climb. The priest in his eagerness rushed on ahead with a group following him. The guide panicked. He said he'd lose his job if he lost his group. We followed on with the ones with dodgy knees and  breathing problems. Every so often there were kiosks selling refreshments, some of the older ones decided to stay there drinking hot chocolate and eating Mars bars.

Camels kept charging past us, many with people in their beach clothes and flip flops from the Red Sea resorts, giggling and laughing as the camels tossed them about.
As we neared the top the climb became very steep and the air cold. We were given thick blankets that made you glad you weren't allergic to camel hair.

At the top the chattering ceased, all was quiet as we waited for the wondrous sight we knew we would enjoy. It felt like the whole world was up there. We were all together on this one. As the sun came up and cast its glow on the sandy mountains and the eager faces people held hands, kissed, hugged and turned to each other in awe.

We all felt on top of the world.

Just out of interest if you ever go up Mount Sinai, I wore a pedometer and it said 16,000 steps to go up and 10,000 to come down, so we must have come down a different route.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Shops that specialize

Many of us are all so used to doing our shopping in big supermarkets and shopping centres. All  of our shopping is often done under one roof. It is more and more difficult to find a parade of shops each one specializing in different products so when you find them they hold a certain fascination.
 When I was a child a long time ago there was a parade of shops at the end of our road: a newsagent, a barber shop, a greengrocer, a grocer, a baker and a butcher.
On Saturday mornings from the age of eight or nine I would be given a shopping list and go along on my own to do the shopping. It wasn't a long list, just a few items needed for the weekend because the shops were always closed on Sunday. I usually had to buy a pound of bacon, some Cheddar cheese, marmalade, a loaf of bread, tomatoes, a tin of salmon. The shopkeepers and I knew each other by name. There'd always be someone to walk home with, a neighbour or one of my aunts. Sometimes I was allowed to keep the change and put it in my money box.

Today I saw some lovely shops all specializing in something or other, a Sardine shop, a bread shop, a souvenir shop, a chocolate shop and a clothes shop decked out in Spring colours.

This rhyme helps children learn to count, each verse has one less currant bun until there are none left in the Baker's shop.

Five currant buns in a Baker's shop
Round and fat with sugar on the top
Along came a boy with a penny one day
Bought a currant bun and took it away.

I hope you like my photos of the shops I saw today.

Sardine shop

Bread shop

Chocolate shop

Clothes in Spring colours

Souvenir shop

Chocolate shop

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Playing Outside

The longer days and warmer weather mean that after school children can linger to play outside before heading home. What nicer sound is there than children's voices drifting up from a garden or park.

 Here is my poem for the day by William Blake (1757 - 1827) about children playing outside. I hope you like it and it brings back happy memories of playing outside and then going home for bath and tea.

The Echoing Green

The sun does arise;
And make happy the skies,
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring;
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around
To the bells' cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the Echoing Green.

Old John, with white hair,
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say;
'Such, such were the joys
When we all girls and boys,
In our youth time were seen
On the Echoing Green.

Till the little ones, weary,
No more can be merry;
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end.
Round the laps of their mothers
Many sisters and brothers,
Like the birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest,
And sport no more seen
On the darkening Green.

Ice cream time

It's nice to have a garden to play in, but a park is fun too

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

It's Blossom Time again!!!

It's blossom time again giving pleasure to everyone year after year.
There's nothing like the spectacular beauty of a tree in blossom.
Some trees are quite ordinary for most of the year and then at Blossom time burst forth in glorious frothy magnificent stunning displays of soft bounteous blossom of pinks and white, cream or peach. You can tell I like blossom can't you.
 It doesn't last long and a sudden gusty squall could blow it all away so you have to feast your eyes on it while it's there, keep on looking at it and feel the joy of the sight of it fill your heart.

Most of the trees are still quite bare and you have to look closely to see the buds that promise shade for the hot summer sun, so the blossom stands out even more. You have to hand it to Mother Nature, it's such a clever plan. First the blossom to brighten our hearts after Winter and then the cool green leaves to protect us from the hot sun..

My poem for the day is by A.E. Housman (1859 - 1936) He must have written it when he was twenty, didn't take a genius to work out that, he must have got such great pleasure from the blossom just like we do and he knew that it had to be enjoyed to the full for the short time it lasts, each and every year.
 So get out and enjoy the blossom, breathe in its' heady scent. You will find it in the most unexpected places, in gardens and orchards alike. Thank you to all those people that plant trees and shrubs in their gardens that yield wonderful blossoms to be enjoyed by all who pass by.

Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Blossom behind a wall in a garden gives pleasure to all who pass by

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Standing in a field of chocolate

The countryside is humming with the noise of tractors.  They are ploughing the fields to prepare them for the crops. The rich earth that comes to the surface after a field has been ploughed is a wonderful sight, it looks healthy and hopeful.
It took men awhile to realize they couldn't keep on planting seeds and expect the earth to carry on yielding bountiful crops, think of The Dust Bowl in America. Even think of the plants in your garden or in pots on your balcony how you need to keep on turning over the earth, adding fertilizer, adding more earth.
Whenever I see a freshly ploughed field I feel the richness of the soil, how we are part of this cycle, how it needs to be looked after.
Standing next to a field today and looking at the dark brown soil that had been churned up and turned over, it could have been a field of chocolate, what a pity we couldn't survive on that.
Field of chocolate?

Ex-Pat, Immigrant, Citizen of the World

There was an article in the paper last week about the terms used to describe a person who lives in a country that they weren't born in, that's not really theirs. It seems to be an emotive subject.

In the song 'Imagine' John Lennon imagines there are no countries and someone remarked that we wouldn't be able to have the Olympics without countries.

I've written about this in other posts, what it's like to live as an outsider, a guest in someone else's country for whatever reason you happen to be there so I won't go on about it now, but in an ideal world no-one should have to leave their country of origin unless they want to.  Sadly though so many people for so long have had to seek refuge in other countries.  I'll just remind you of what my wise old dad used to say:) 'Wherever you go you take yourself with you.'

 Here is a poem from Emily Dickinson that I like and seems appropriate.

The heart is the capital of the mind;
The mind is a single state;
The heart and mind together make
A single continent.

One is the population -
Numerous enough,
This estatic nation
Seek - it is yourself.

Not such a big place really

Bread - Everything I Own (Lyrics) A song for Father's Day

In Italy it is Fathers' day, Il Giorno del papa, S.Giuseppe,St.Joseph's Day, being the patron saint of fathers.
 Fathers will have woken up all over Italy to be greeted by children reciting poems they have learnt specially and home made gifts proudly presented.
 Like me with my draw of mother's day gifts my husband has many a card or poem hidden in a draw where we keep our most treasured possessions.

My thoughts have turned to my own father. My earliest memories are of wanting to marry him, of snuggling up to his comforting bulk my head tucked under his chin and feeling safe. In the days when no-one had admitted that smoking was harmful I used to breathe in the wonderful daddy- smell of cigarettes and beer, love the feel of his rough tweedy jacket against my cheek and the warmth of him coming through his shirt. He seemed so solid, and strong, he could turn into a growling bear and romp on the floor where we could jump on him and roll against him, no toy has been invented that could compete with that.

They say you look for a partner like your dad. Well when I realized that I couldn't marry him because my mum already had and things didn't work like that, I knew I wanted to marry someone like him, someone who would make me feel safe and loved like he did, so maybe that's what it means.

There are so many wonderful stories about my dad, I could talk about him all day, but memories of him are precious and more and more I want to keep them to myself.  I have a dear friend who sometimes collects me from the airport and we spend the whole car journey home talking about my mum and dad. Neither of us ever tire of talking about them and listening to all our anecdotes. My friend loved them too, he thought they were wonderful.

Every year I used to call my dad on father's day or his birthday as soon as I woke up. The conversation started the same way every year.

me singing  'Happy birthday to you'

him saying  ' Do you know what time it is here, you woke me up'.

me   'I just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you.'

him  'I know you're thinking of me, I'm thinking of you too, all the time.'

Then one year I thought I'd wait awhile to give him a chance to wake up. The phone rang, it was him.

'I thought you' d want to wish me a happy birthday.'

My dad would probably think that the song by Bread was a bit of a tear jerker, he'd tell me 'Not to wallow in grief', 'Not to keep looking over my shoulder,' 'cut the cackle and get on with it.' 'You've got things to do, people to look after.' That was the way he lived his life, while everyone was still talking about the best way to do something he' d done it.

Here is my poem for the day dedicated to my dad.

How I wish that I could say
'I'll go and see my dad today.'
I'd smooth his brow
I'd stroke his hair
I'd let him know
 how much I care
I'd take his arm
We'd go to town
We'd have a drink
In 'The Rose and Crown'
I'd take his hand
Hold it in mine
He'd have beer
I'd have wine
I would thank him
 for all he's done
To show me life 
can be great fun
Sure there's pain
 and sorrow too
But we love each other
And we'll get through

So here's to my dad
And your dad too
Go and tell him
'I love you.'

Daddy duck keeping a lookout

Monday, 16 March 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick along with St.Valentine and St.Nicholas are celebrated the world over by everyone regardless of religion. It's easy to understand why St.Valentine being the patron saint of love and St.Nicholas bringing presents to children are popular and St.Patrick's day is a great excuse to have a knees up and a party, for everyone.
 For the Irish it is a celebration of being Irish, of belonging to a charming, friendly race  and for everyone else it is a chance to celebrate the Irish.

So who was St.Patrick?  His parents were called Calpurnius and Conchessa, Romans living in Britain. St.Patrick was born in Dumbarton in Scotland  in the year 387 and his name was Maewyn Succat, but he changed it to Patrick, definitely easier to say.

When Patrick was fourteen he was captured during a raid party and taken to Ireland as a slave. When he was twenty he escaped and went back to Britain, but then he returned to Ireland as a bishop.

St.Patrick  preached and converted all of Ireland for forty years and died at a place called Saul in the year 461 which is where he had built the first church.
St.Patrick used the shamrock to teach people about the trinity and it is still a well-loved lucky symbol for Ireland.

In Italy the female version of the name Patrick is very popular, and I have lots of friends called Patrizia. Over the years I've met many Patrizias, and they have all found a place in my heart.  I have never met a Patrizio. So to the Patrizias in Italy Buon onomastico and to the Patricks and all the Irish have a happy St.Patrick's day.

Here an English translation of the Italian Song "Il cielo d'Irlanda", special for Derval

The Irish sky

The Irish sky is an ocean of clouds and light,
 the Irish sky is a carpet running fast,
 the Irish sky has your eyes, if you look up there,
 it drowns you in green and covers you in blue,
 it covers you in green and drowns you in blue.
The Irish sky feeds itself with moss and wool,
 the Irish sky combs through his hair under the moon,
 the Irish sky is a flock of sheep grazing in the sky,
 it gets drunk with stars during the night and is light in the morning,
 it gets drunk with stars during the night and is light in the morning.
From Donegal to Aran Islands
 and from Dublin to Connemara
 wherever you are, travelling with gypsies or kings,
 the Irish sky moves alongisde you,
 the Irish sky is in you.
The Irish sky is a huge hat made of rain,
 the Irish sky is a kid sleeping on the beach,
 the Irish sky sometimes turns the world into black and white,
 but after a moment, it makes colours more vivid than they are,
 it makes colours more vivid than they are.
The Irish sky is a woman with frequent mood swings,
 the Irish sky is a skirt spinning in the sun,
 the Irish sky is the Lord playing the accordion,
 it opens and closes up to the music,
 it opens and closes up to the music.
From Donegal to Aran Islands
 and from Dublin to Connemara
 wherever you are, travelling with gypsies or kings,
 the Irish sky moves alongisde you,
 the Irish sky is in you.
Wherever you are, drinking with gypsies or kings,
 the Irish sky is in you,
 the Irish sky is in you.
Taken from http://lyricstranslate.com/en/il-cielo-d039irlanda-irish-sky.html#ixzz3Uj6B7M3s

Working up an appetite for Sunday lunch, l'appetito viene mangiando ocamminando?

It is well known that Italians love food and conversation. Sunday lunch time is the perfect time to combine the two and restaurants across the land burst with life. Everyone's happy as they take their seats with some of their favourite people and settle back and decide what they'd like to eat.  No matter if you have to wait, the drinks will arrive straight away, jugs of prosecco and wine, mineral water and a Spritz for who wants it. There is an endless supply of breadsticks and rolls so raise your glasses and then lean in to catch up with each other's news, discuss the latest Italian political situation, shake your head at some gossip and discuss plans.

 Some expressions you will often hear at an Italian table are:-

 'L'appetito vien mangiando.' The more you eat the more appetite you'll have

'Non si invecchia a tavola.' You won't grow old sitting at a table .

'Piu che ti mangia, piu ti voglio bene.' the more you eat, the more I love you.

These phrases are all designed to make you eat. A lot, and be sure to enjoy it.
The waitress appears, a young girl with enthusiasm and wit hanging over her like a morning mist. Her hair is bright orange, she has numerous piercings, she entices you to try the dish of the day.
While we're waiting for our meal, watching the trays of  pasta and huge mouth watering steaks be handed round someone tells an anecdote.

'A man went into a restaurant and asked the chef what was the best dish on the menu.
the chef told him to walk a mile down the road and then come back and he'd give it to him.

Sure enough the man came back and found his meal waiting. He devoured it all, wiping the plate clean with pieces of bread and then sat back patting his stomach.

'That was the most delicious meal I've ever had. What is the secret''

The chef poured himself a glass of wine and sat next to the man.

He raised his glass and winked ' It's simple, the most simple ingredient of all, a healthy appetite.'

As we were leaving, full of love and joy at having spent time together, happily full and still  laughing we past a blackboard with a sentence by Bertrand Russell written on it. He must have known what he was talking about mustn't he?

'L'entusiasmo è per la vita quello che la fame è per il cibo.
Bertrand Russell

Enthusiasm is to life what hunger is to food.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Italian violets, English poems

Some friends invited us to see their magnolia tree. The blossoms don't last long and so we hurried round.  We were offered coffee and cakes and sat admiring the thick white flowers on the tree. Then our friends said they had discovered a patch of violets and would we like to see it.  Violets don't stand out so much until you get close up and then the perfume of the violets was quite intoxicating. I couldn't stop breathing in their light sweetness. The air was quite cold in the shade and it reminded me of a verse by Christina Rossetti.(1830-1894).

'As violets
Recluse and sweet,
Cheerful as daisies
Unaccounted rare
Still sunward gazing
From a lowly seat.
Still sweetening wintry air.'

As we walked round the garden signs of spring were everywhere., and so here is another verse for spring, this time from Shelley,(1792-1822) really lovely, hope you like it.

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere,
And each flower and herb on earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of it's wintry rest,
The snowdrop and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with sweet odour sent,
from the turf like the voice and the instrument.

Here are my photos from this lovely Spring afternoon.

Magnolia flowers deserve a close up

Daffodils in Italian gardens

These violets gave off the most wonderful heady scent

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Beatles - P.S. I Love You

Some of my favourite songs used to be about the postman and sending letters.
Return to Sender, by Elvis, Please Mr.Postman and P:S I love you by The Beatles.
The postal service was such an important part of our lives.
 There was always such excitement when the postman brought parcels and the unmistakable light airmail envelopes bringing news from loved ones abroad. Many of our friends and neighbours went to Australia.  My dad's friend had a toyshop in Wiltshire and every Christmas we received a parcel from him. The thrill of seeing it arrive at breakfast time was immense. I can't remember many of the contents of those parcels, but oh the joy of the brown paper wrapped parcel.

The Royal Mail was so reliable that we knew that if we posted a Valentine's day card on the 13th February the object of our admiration would see it drop on his mat on the morning of the 14th, Valentine's day. Not so in Italy once. My mother-in-law wrote regularly to her mother in Florence and the letters took two weeks to arrive, just a 3 hour drive away. Phone calls were so expensive that news had to be sent by letter.

Last Christmas I discovered I could order Christmas puddings and crackers by post and they only took a few days to arrive. This week my chocolate Easter eggs arrived, all by post, so exciting.

A few years ago I ordered some underwear from a well known British shop, beginning appropriately with the letters BRA... so now you know who I'm talking about.
 I ordered things for me and my daughter-in-law for a wedding.
 The weeks went by and a few days before the wedding they still hadn't arrived. I went along to the depot, a large warehouse outside the town, in the middle of nowhere. I walked up to the men in there drinking their coffee and pleaded with them to look for a box with a ribbon printed on it, from Britain. They looked at me in amazement, put their coffee cups down and searched the entire warehouse. No sign of my box.

That evening I complained to my husband about the Italian postal service.  I was so disappointed.
The next day at lunchtime our bell rang and I opened the door to see the head of the Post Office eagerly holding out a box with a ribbon on it, addressed to me. I all but hugged him with joy.  My husband was ecstatic.

'Only in Italy would the head of the Post office give up his lunch hour to  personally deliver a package to your door. We know when to be kind.' He was so proud.

I could only agree.

So I dedicate this post to all those working in the post office and the warehouses holding all the Christmas puddings and Easter eggs and also to love letters ending with
'P.S I love you.'

Old letters can bring on the tears but make you glad for all the love they brought

Parcels containing Easter eggs are best left unopened for awhile...

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Beatles- Here Comes The Sun

An early flowering plumbago

A city garden

This is one of the most lovely songs to listen to on a day like this.
Looking through a bridge to a garden below

 On a city walk today there were lots of signs of Spring.
 Everyone has cast aside their Winter jackets and coats. Everyone was walking with a smile on their face and a bounce in their stride. All the while joyous bird song is the soundtrack of the day.
  Groups of school children on day trips chatted and laughed and took selfies galore. the ice cream shops were wide open for business.
 Glasses of spritz, beer, sparkling water all gleamed in the sun, their bubbles rising continuously to greet the warm Spring air.

Here is my poem for this lovely Spring day by the Scottish poet R.Tannahill (1774 - 1810) also known as The Weaver poet.

Gloomy winter's now awa'
Soft the westlin breezes blow,
'Mang the birks a' Stanley shaw
The mavis sings fa'cheerie, O,

Towring der the Newton woods,
Lav'rocks fan the snow white clouds,
Siller saughs wi' downy buds
Adorn the banks sae briery, O.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Carrot cupcakes for kids

One of the most pleasant afternoon activities with small children is surely making cakes.
 We all must have done it at some time in our childhood. Who doesn't remember the joy of being allowed to eat all the cake mixture left in the mixing bowl? It was always a disappointingly small amount and often tasted better than the cake once it had been baked.
 My favourite mixture was the Christmas cake, all those nuts and cherries in a rich creamy mixture.
 Of course our mothers knew we'd be sick if we ate too much.
In a way cake making was like a science lesson. First we creamed the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. Next beat in the eggs with a fork making sure the mixture doesn't curdle and lastly fold in the flour with a metal spoon.

My daughter made carrot cup cakes while my grandson and I eagerly awaited the task of cleaning the bowl. Carrot cake sounds like a healthy idea but is so much nicer with a rich creamy topping of cream cheese and icing sugar, so the end result might not be so healthy, but certainly delicious.

Here is my daughter's Carrot cupcake recipe

For the cakes

150g butter
150g sugar
2 - 3 eggs
150 g plain flour and baking powder
2 - 3 grated carrots (150g)

For the icing

2 small packets of cream cheese
200g icing sugar

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the grated carrots. Fold in the flour.
Spoon into paper cupcakes and bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 °.
When the cakes are quite cold top with the icing.

Put a small amount of the cake mixture and then the icing in a small bowl for anyone who wants it!!

Getting everything ready

Line your trays with the cupcake papers

Grate carrots carefully

Mix well

Half the fun

Ready for a party

Thursday, 5 March 2015

A poem for March

March used to be the first month of the year until 1752. Scotland changed the first month to January in 1599. March was called Martius by the Romans, from the god Mars, and it received the name 'Hlyd Monath' which means loud and stormy month from the Anglo-Saxons.

Here are some days to look forward to in March

1 March - St David's day
8 March - women's day
17 March - St.Patrick's day
19 March- Italian fathers' day, St.Joseph's day
25 March- Lady day

Last night we had a terrific storm with thunder and lightening galore. Streaks of lightening zig zagged across the sky and the rain slashed the windows. It was quite exciting watching from indoors and this morning the sky was crystal clear. Snow capped mountains in the background and the first signs of Spring around the lake. I was delighted to find some pussy willow but it was too advanced to be picked and taken indoors. I did that once and it burst all over the room.

Here is a lovely poem about March by the American poet William Cullen Bryant (1794 - 1878)

The stormy March is come at last
with wind, and cloud, and changing skies,
I hear the rushing of the blast
That through the snowy valley flies,

Ah! passing few are they who speak
Wild stormy month in praise of thee,
Yet though thy winds are loud and bleak
Thou art a welcome month to me.

For thou, to northern lands again
The glad and glorious sun dost bring
And thou hast joined the gentle train,
And wear's the gentle name of Spring.

And in thy reign of blast and storm
Smiles many a long, bright summer day
When the changed winds are soft and warm
And heaven puts on the blue of May.

Clear sky after the storm last night

Pussy willow making an appearance

Snow capped mountains in the distance

The countryside still looks quite bare but just wait a week or two, it's going to be an amazing Spring

Songs that pull the strings of your heart

The days are so much longer now. On a sunny day you notice it most. No longer coming home in the dark. In the morning it is so lovely to be waking up to bright sunlight easing its way through the shutters and throwing the sunbeams into sharp relief. The temperature rose to around 20 degrees c today and my thick jacket seems ready to go into hiding until the chill of the Autumn evenings beckon it out. I might keep it close for awhile in case it gets cold again.
 One year we went away to Tuscany for Easter with are lighter clothes and the weather was freezing. We watched our son horse-riding from the warmth of the car, heater and radio on to keep up our spirits.
Every day now my ears are acutely aware of the sound of the birds. It's a sound that tugs at my heart strings. It's a sound that fills me with emotion. Images flash before me quite randomly. I go back in time- I'm studying in my bedroom, I'm taking my children to the park, I'm sitting with my mother, I'm waiting for my turn at the doctors, I'm cooking the evening meal and I relish the present as I hear once again the sound of children playing and the joyful sound of the birds. Thousands of memories and all those moments were filled with hope, because of the birdsong.
You can start looking out for nests in the hedgerows and banks and trying to identify the birds by the different notes they sing. One of the best songsters is the Song Thrush and is familiar to us everywhere. the plumage is brown above and buffish white beneath with very dark brown spots on the breast. She lays her eggs between February and July , usually four or five of a beautiful bright turquoise blue spotted with black.
The song is loud clear and full, and sounds a bit like 'did he do it, did he do it, Judy did ' and 'Come out, come out'.

Here is my poem for the day by Norman Gale about the song Thrush.

A Creed

How sweet the hedge that hides
a cunning nest,
And curtains of a patient
bright-eyed thrush,
With five small world's beneath
her mottled breast!

Though life is growing nearer
day by day,
Each globe she loves, as yet
is mute, and still
Her bosom's beauty slowly
wears away.

At last the thin blue veils are
backward furled,
Existence wakes and pipes
into a bird
As infant music bursts
into the world.

And now the mother thrush
is proud and gay
She has her cottage and
her pretty young
To feed and lull when western
skies turn grey.

The song thrush and her lovely turquoise egg

Monday, 2 March 2015

Here come the daffodils

Daffodils are making their annual appearanca.  The great thing about them is that they come up every year and burst forth in a dazzling golden display on the banks and in the parks all over the town, in abundance, and they don't mind what the weather's like, they just appear.  The winds of March can blow as much as they like but daffodils are hardy and stand tall and strong, their petals don't blow away. I'm very grateful to everyone who has planted daffodils and other Spring flowers where we can all enjoy them.
 Of course the best poem ever written about daffodils is by William Wordsworth but I've written about that lots of times, so just for a change here
 are two verses from 'The Winter's Tale' by William Shakespeare telling us that the daffodils' appearance heralds the Spring.

'Daffodils, that come before
The swallow dares,
And take the winds of March
with beauty

Winter's Tale Act Four

'When daffodils begin to peer
With heigh the doxy over the dale;
Why then comes in the sweet of the year
And the red blood reigns in the winter's pale..?'

Daffodil is known in Latin as Narcissus pseudo-narcissus. Italians call them Narcissi. In some parts of Italy they are called trombone because they look a bit like trumpets.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Limericks, tongue twisters, rappers, Put some beat and rhythm in yourlife

The very first limerick that I had to learn off by heart at school was this:)

There was an old man from Peru
Who dreamed that he ate his shoe
He awoke in the night
In a terrible fright
To find it was perfectly true.

Just by reciting this I greatly entertained my parents, cousins and friends. Time and again I reeled it off and time and again they laughed. It was a wonderful feeling. I had the power to make them laugh. It's a wonderful feeling to make people laugh and it's also wonderful to be with people who make you laugh.
When Jessica Rabbit was asked what she saw in Roger Rabbit she replied that it was the way he made her laugh.
Limericks will usually raise a smile, they are mostly nonsense. It's also the rhythm and the beat.  The origin of the limerick is unknown. It might have come from the chorus of an 18th century Irish soldiers' song, 'Will you come up to Limerick?' However it seems to go right back to the Middle Ages in France and an 11th century manuscript demonstrates the limerick's cadence:-

The lion is wondrous strong
And full of the wiles of wo,
And whether he pleye
Or take his preye
He cannot do but slo (slay).

Edward Lear was very fond of limericks and wrote many in his  'Book of Nonsense', (1846). Here is just one example.

There was an Old Man of Dumbree,
Who taught little owls to drink tea;
        For he said, 'To eat mice,'
        Is not proper or nice,'
That amiable Man of Dumbree.

Any tedious task can be made more enjoyable by putting in some rhythm and beat.Trying to play around with words and making them jostle along together in an entertaining way is a good way to make a language more lively. Tongue twisters help you understand some of the absurdities of English. Here is a verse that is both a limerick and a tongue twister, but I'm not sure who wrote it.

A tutor who taught on the flute
Tried to teach two tooters to toot,
Said the two to the tutor
'Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tutors to too?'.

An owl drinking tea?