Sunday, 17 June 2012

Don’t Be Dismayed At Good-Byes*

Good Morning Dear Friends!

Welcome to the study at Myrtle House where, after over five hours delay due to technical problems, today's blog is finally taking shape. It is, of course Father's Day and one can suppose that everywhere dads have been somewhat reluctantly tucking into burnt offerings and cold cups from their offspring, whilst looking faux-appreciatively at the inevitable ties and socks and cheesy Hallmark products festooned in vintage cars, cricket bats or below-the-belt remarks regarding bodily functions; let no-one ever tell you that being a man is easy! Such events, of course, do not take precedent here in the heart of the Victorian Quarter; Sal assures me that a lack of funds and opposable thumbs, alongside the inability of shopkeepers to understand her requirements, have resulted in the lack of appropriate cardage but personally I think she simply forgot!

More to the forefront of my mind today however, is the fleetingness of time. Mad and impossible though it seems, today is the first anniversary of the death of the Old Duchess; several times, over the past few weeks and cups of tea and cake with Sister Cate, the realisation has struck us quite forcibly that time seems to be increasing in momentum and that we barely have time to grasp today before it is gone; and certainly never with such impact as when considering the fact that it is a full year since May died.  In many ways it seems as though she has been gone forever; her house is now lived in by someone else; her belongings which she had collected over a lifetime are scattered -  as are her ashes -  to the four winds and the seven seas yet, at one and the same time, it seems only yesterday that we last spoke to her. 
The fact that she lives on in our memories, as vital and vibrant as ever,  helps to blur the distinction between what was and what is. She was a remarkably resilient woman and one I was incredibly proud of and I, personally, find myself reminded of her at the oddest moments. I was re-watching "84 Charring Cross Rd" the other day and remembered sitting watching it for the first time together with her one afternoon and her remarking how much she enjoyed it; like "Brief Encounter" it was the perfect film for May; no violence or suspense, nothing to worry her and perfect for a good weep on your own when no-one else was around. She wasn't a great believer in worrying other people with her troubles, though it has to be said her life wasn't exactly free from such worries and I'm sure I was quite a significant cause of many of them. 
It seems almost facile to say I miss her; I had known her every moment of my life and when that presence is suddenly taken away it isn't easy to come to terms with but, in many ways, I am glad she had the death she did, the death she wanted; independent and without being a burden (her greatest fear) and after the shortest of illnesses.  She was alone when she died but, then again, we all are; it is the one thing we can guarantee no-one else can share with us. So I hope you'll excuse me taking up so much of our time talking about this; I wanted to mark her anniversary in this way and I know she would be very pleased, though probably not a little embarrassed,  to know we were all thinking of her.

Time is up to its old tricks again and I see, with some sense of shock, that it is already past lunchtime, that I have been up and about some seven hours and am quite incredibly hungry; mumbles and grumbles from herself inform me that I am not the only one and surely a walk is in the offing on a quite remarkably dry day? I suppose it is, and with that I shall leave you for this afternoon.

I hope the rest of your weekend astounds you with its sheer wonderfulness and that the week ahead stretches golden-like and full of promise.

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

*Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends. Illusions, p132,  Richard Bach

Friday, 1 June 2012

There Shall Be Eternal Summer in the Grateful Heart*

Good Morning Dear Friends!

Unbelievably, it is time again to bestow upon you a trio of albino Leporidae in order to usher in the first of the month, so in an incredibly loose rhyming manner, I shall say pinch punch first of the month and white rabbits x 3 to you all!  I do hope you like the accompanying photograph, by the way; I snapped it on an evening walk through Mesnes Park in Wigan with Sal the birthday girl and it summoned up for me those long lost summer days of childhood, an idyll if you like which, as I grow older, sometimes seem more unlikely to have ever existed but which also appear to be pinned to the cork-board of my memory . . . ah me!

So it is the first of Flaming June and, being in the North West of England, we are greeted with leaden grey cloud and temperatures low enough to cause a penguin some disgruntlement. Surely it wasn't always this way, was it? Are all those baking hot summer days - and subsequently painful nights with bright red glowing limbs as this was before the advent of sunblock for the masses - an illusion? I think not!  I recall many days on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare  - that wonderful seaside town of my conception - with my skin blistering like a suckling pig on a spit and equally suffocatingly hot days throughout my childhood travelling around Somerset in a Ford Anglia with seats (of leatherette probably!) too hot to sit on . . .  Perhaps it is all an illusion and, like now, Summer was confined to a few glorious days but it really doesn't seem to be the case, not in my memory. The wonderful garden designer Gertrude Jekyll said:

"What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade"

Beautiful words that bring to mind and recall how we feel at our youthful best when we don't fully realise what joys and sorrow life contains and still believe that everything is possible . . . and yet now I look back and realise that age has a certain power and benefit.

Albert Camus wrote:

 "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer"

I believe that it is that invincibility and belief that drives my words and work; the memories and images of those golden afternoons that populate my writing and which I try, however unsuccessfully, to recapture and relive once again.  There are so many words written about summer which I'd love to share with you but I shall restrain myself and end these musings by quoting another of my favourite authors, Violette Leduc:

I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer.  My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music.  It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips

Yesterday I attended a lovely World Food Day hosted by the simply scrumptious Shirley at Food Positive, our neighbour at Ashland House, and encountered some lovely folk including the very passionate and Obsessive Chicken Disordered Alison and her hen Peggy; the outrageously mustachioed Mustard Man Georg proprietor of Otto's Mustards and Pickles and the extremely inspirational Kathy who brought along her bicycle-powered smoothie maker and selflessly spent time nattering to me about all things green and growing . . . There were much and many foodstuffs to partake of from all corners of the world made by lovely people who I didn't have time to chat to properly but whose work I appreciated greatly! The only disappointment was, of course, the weather which was exceptionally wet and kept a large proportion of the public away . . . following hot on the heels of this gastronomic delight was the almost royal progress of the Olympic Torch past our place . . . alas, there was little to see except many police officers on motorcycles and a couple of coaches which was less than thrilling, especially for the people dutifully lining the route.  I believe in the centres of the local towns actual runners were to be seen but I feel it did sort of detract somewhat from the grandeur and historic quality of the event.

And so to today and the promise of an extended Bank Holiday; the excitement in Myrtle House is almost palpable as I look forward to having the time to do some serious writing that doesn't involve grant applications and bids for funding . . . I do feel as though the creative side of my life has been sadly neglected and so I've decided upon a week of culture and relaxation in order to get some more of my thoughts down on paper . . . the prospect of perhaps sitting atop local hills to write or soaking up the atmosphere in Haworth (though in this particular shot it looks rather unwelcoming!) and such places fills me with a very deep joy and excitement. 
Today I think more mundane tasks are on the bill of fare - although a sneaky tea and cake with Sister Cate may rear its sugar-laden head once more; I am deeply in love with the Lemon Tart and Green Tea supplied by the lovely Sharon and Co who always minister to my needs with such care and attention - I think Costa should recognise them for their stirling efforts!

Talking of tea I can feel keenly the call of a cup and so I shall finish this verbiage and away to my day; I hope yours is flaming wonderful and filled with wonder and that the long jubilant weekend is just what you need to put a smile on your phisog and contentment in your heart!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Celia Laighton Thaxter (June 29, 1835 – August 25, 1894)