Thursday, 28 June 2012

Mullein moth caterpillar spotted today!


Mullein moth caterpillar- the first one I have ever seen.  I found this morning in my "wild" area, feasting on a plant I don't know...(will try and identify later).  I don't think I have ever seen the moth, either, but it's pretty nondescript, isn't it?  They are hungry buggers apparently, but there is plenty for this little one to feast on, and he's very attractive.  Picture not mine but life size.  Can't see any more caterpillars, so he may be a solo visitor.

Mr Reynard in my garden - a word picture

Thanks to Nan, at http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.co.uk/, I am inspired to create my own word picture today.  Last night we had a large dog fox in our garden.  Nothing unusual about that you say, especially if you live in a large city and are visited by urban foxes, or if you live out in the country.  But we live at the very edge of a small rural town, and whilst I have seen a fox make his own path through a field sometimes whilst waiting for an early bus, this is something new.  He has been before - I have seen his droppings several times.  Also, John comes to bed after me as a general rule, and several times he has told me in the morning that the fox visited.  So I told him, after the previous visit, that he should wake me up.

Then last night I got a whispered "wake up!, wake up!, the fox is back!"  We can sit on the edge of our bed and view the garden, and we had a grandstand view of a very large fox indeed. looked quite dark in the fur, with a magnificent "brush", wandering around on our grass.  He seemed to be vacuuming up smells.... that's all I can describe it as..... his nose down and slowly, slowly wandering round.  No pattern to the wander, perhaps he was smelling our cats, which are out there during the day?  Perhaps he was hoping for a wee mousie or two for supper?  Certainly there are 3 chicken next door who are kept in their shed overnight.... but he never went near that side of the garden at all (perhaps his nose is failing him?) So for at least 20 minutes we had the joy of watching a wild creature only a few feet from the house.

Now I know they are killers, and I have been told that they will take the throats out of a whole group of chicken and not eat one of them.  I know that they are hunted as vermin.  I know all this but still, the joy of seeing a wild creature at large in our own garden was just - wonderful.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Nature and Rain Vs Mrs Mac - the result!

Look at this lovely meadow at the end of June 2012 ...... it's my grass (other people would call it a lawn, but its far too full of interlopers to call it that), and it's here because later today, the man who cuts my grass will be here to mow.  But it's just so pretty I wanted a record..... it may not look like this again.  It was the result of a lot of self seeding last year, a hot start to the year, and finally, loads of rain.  This is what gardeners do - they fight nature to make the roses bigger, the lawn neater, the flowers last longer; and endeavour to free the garden of weeds.  That meadow is beautiful though..........

Parnassus on Wheels - Christopher Morley

 from Wikipedia:          
"The name "Parnassus" in literature typically refers to its distinction as the home of poetry, literature, and learning; the Montparnasse area in Paris, France, for example, bears its name from the many literature students who recited poetry in the streets, who as a result nicknamed it "(le) Mont Parnasse".

96 pages only, so you have time to fit it in to life's busy schedule somewhere.  And you must! What a charming little novella this was about a 39 year old spinster who, against her brother's wishes, buys a caravan full of books (the parnassus of the title), a horse to draw it, and a dog for company and sets off on the roads of New England.  Having been her farmer brother's housekeeper, it is soon clear that he wants to thwart her, and in a most disagreeable way too.  Roger Mifflin, who sold her the parnassus and the stock, wants to go home to Brooklyn and write a book.  But he finds he cannot let go quite as easily as he thought.  Imagine thinking that you were definitely over the hill at 39!  Helen McGill, having bought the parnassus and set off on her little "holiday", finds life more exciting than she thought - and who would think that a balding little ginger-bearded man would  be anyone's idea of a hero.........

Christopher Morley was an American journalist and novelist whose most famous novel was Kitty Foyle, written in 1939 and made into an Academy winning film.   I would certainly look out for more of his books as this was such a joy, full of nods to other literature, and suggestions of what kind of book should be sold to whom.  The caravan of books was called the Parnassus, and I had no idea what that meant until I looked it up on Wikipedia, hence the paragraph at the top.  As you have probably noticed, there is no cover picture for this book.  That's because in the UK the publisher chose to illustrate the cover with an "old master" - huh - of various persons wandering the hillside which is topped by a Greek temple of sorts.  Why couldn't a fabulous drawing of the Parnassus have been done?  Answers on a postcard please........

Monday, 18 June 2012

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You - Louisa Young

                    The title of the book comes from a pre-printed card which injured soldiers During World War One could send from their field hospital bed to inform close family that they had been injured and that they were in hospital.  The patient, or a nurse on their behalf, just filled in the blanks.  Louisa Young has had an interesting life -  http://www.louisayoung.co.uk/about.html     and her other books include a biography of Scott, the Antarctic explorer who was coincidentally, her grandfather.

Set at home and abroad, the war becomes the catalyst for things that happen in the characters' lives.  Riley Purefoy, a working class lad from the (then) poor area around Paddington Station in London, is taken under the wing of an upper class family who live not too far away, near Kensington Gardens.  In turn he is fortunate enough to get to know a friend of the famly, an artist, who offers Riley's parents a chance for his son - he can live in, help out with his studio, sit for him, and in turn he will get a good education, and maybe even a chance at Cambridge, later .  Peter and Julia Locke, newly wed and in love, so in love, live in Kent; and then Archduke Ferdinand is shot.  Riley joins up.  During the course of his war his commanding office becomes Peter Locke, and thus their lives are intertwined.

There is much love in this book.  Love for soldiers who may never come home, love of self, love of others, unrequited love and the love that keeps the heart beating even when wishing to die.  (It is the upperclass Nadine that Riley has fallen in love with and she in turn loves him; but class intervenes and so Riley joins up).  The book jumps between the soldiers and those left behind, and I like this kind of telling.  I found myself curled up and wanting to get to the end, but not wanting to get there too soon, because then this lovely story would be over; and when it was, I had to re-read the last two pages the following morning.

As well as the love, there are heart-wrenching desciptions of life in the trenches; so much death, and a sinking feeling that actually, no-one knew what the hell was going on, certainly not those in charge.  The pages that describe a late "over the top" push are truly heart-breaking, because of course the reader already knows that this happened so many times, and so many were bound to die by following orders.  There are also factual descriptions of of the work of the great Harold Gillies - a man who worked endlessly attempting to re-build the faces and lives of those who had suffered horrific facial injuries. 

If you know nothing of the First World War, this is a good place to start.  If you believe in the triumph of love over death and adversity, this is a good book to read.  If you love a good tale, well told, this is a story to read, and re-read, and lend to friends.   I loved it.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Look! It's me!

Giggly-google+1 or summat like that told me I could do all sorts of things now!  Well..... call me an old luddite, but I didn't want to set myself up just like facebook (as I don't do facebook either!), but joy oh joy - for me, although you may be disappointed...... I could attach a pic.  So nowI now have my pic on my blog. 

Is it like me?  Well y.e.e.s, I guess it is, although maybe I'd be unrecognisable in the actual street!

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Story of Beautiful Girl - Rachel Simon

 book cover of 

The Story of Beautiful Girl 

by

Rachel Simon  Beautiful Girl is Lynnie, who turns up with a man and a newborn baby at the home of widowed school teacher Martha.  From that moment all their lives are changed, and in the minutes before the police take Lynnie back to The School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, the baby is given into the care of Martha.  This then becomes a story which stretches over 30+ years and is unputdownable.  Lynnie does not speak (speech inpedement or mute?)  The man she came is profoundly deaf and therefore cannot speak, and they have both excaped from The School.....

Incredibly easy to push the problems of those who are not the same as us to the back of your mind.  To give them a label without knowing if that label is correct or not.  Please do, when you get there, read Rachel Simon's notes at the end of the book.  She has a sister affected in this way, and her research is solid.  I can confirm that this was not only an American problem.  For some years after WW2, (from the start of the National Health Service) both my parents worked at a mental hospital.  Una, a good friend of my mother's was incarcerated at 15 because - she came from a good family and had the inconvenience to fall pregnant! She was in her 40's when my mother met her.  My father was an upholsterer - in those days the hospital was run, very much like the one in the book, as a self contained village.  My father's workshop assistant was Walter, shell-shocked from the first World War, who could no longer speak.  I do not recall stories of ill-treatment from that hospital though, quite the opposite, and many years later my husband worked there in the maintenance department for a few years, so I feel that I do know something of this subject.

Back to the book then.  It's a rollercoaster of a read - the main characters are not in touch with each other (to say more will spoil the story), so we see how each life develops without any of them knowing of the others.  I must say that the last few pages moved me to tears - many ends were tied up, and I finished with a feeling of satisfaction of having known Lynnie and the other characters.  This is the first of Rachel Simon's books I have read - but I will look out for others now.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Lytes Cary and Hound's Tongue.....

    Today we were off on a visit to Lytes Cary Manor, a 15th century  manor house in Somerset, originally the home of Henry Lyte, the translator of the Nuewe Herball (New Herbal) - he was a herbalist, and this was translated from the Dutch.  Under a glass cover is a first edition of this book to which he had added ms notes of his own findings..... imagine! a 600 year old book - dedicated to Elizabeth the First - now available to view in the reign of Elizabeth the Second.  Ignoring the Victorian additons, this was a small manor house, and was restored in the early 20th century, when the gardens with a nod to the Arts and Crafts movement were laid out, Henry Lyte's original gardens having been long lost.  Lovely little house in a lovely setting.  Yew hedges in abundance, and the roses just starting to perform around and about.  I spotted a climbing rose with blooms like little pink balls - the petals did not open further - I coveted that, I can tell you!
And in the plant shop I spent too much money...... no, never too much if stuff is coming into my garden.  But why had I never seen or heard of this lovely thing before?  This is Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum Nervosum) and yes, they really are that exquisite blue!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

Ellen Foster Ellen Foster is 10.  Her father is an alcoholic, her mother is sickly and very early on in this short novel returns from hospital and commits suicide (her father watching the pills go down and telling Ellen her mother will be fine after a rest).  It's clear very early on that Ellen will have to be strong to get through the early part of her life.   Ellen has a black schoolfreind, Scarletta.  She's welcome at that home anytime, but somewhere along the line she's been indoctrinated with wrongful information about "coloureds" and finds the smell of the home and the food, and the drink, hard to cope with, going thirsty rather than drink out of the same bottle Scarletta has drunk from.  She's taken in for a while by one of her school teachers, and then by her grandmother, who detests her with her very being, for the sin of being her father's daughter.  Eventually, she finds herself with a foster mother or "new mama" as she refers to her.  The story jumps back and forwards and I found myself wishing hard that life would eventually treat her well.  I read it in a oner - couldn't put it down - and was delighted by the style of the writing, and by the character of Ellen herself - a little lady who needs to be brave and hard-faced whilst everything in her world is mayhem.  She's a great, great character - and the others we meet in this short book make a great supporting cast.

First published in 1987, this was Gibbons' first book, and what a book.  Told in the first person, and in the present tense, which will not suit everyone, but suited this book fine, this is Ellen' s story of her early life.   There is a feeling of truth being stranger than fiction here, and I could not resist looking up Kaye Gibbons on Wikipedia...... look her up yourself.  She has had one hard life too - mainly because she is bi-polar, and this has obviously effected her life dramatically.  She's got children of her own, but it's obvious that struggling with her own mental illness has been hard.  She's quoted as saying that she finds she writes best when she is on the manic side.  I need to seek out her other books now and see if I like them as well as I do this one.   No idea how this one passed me by, but guess that it was not given much of a chance in the UK and I found it myself, clean and new (and 22 years old!) in a second hand book emporium. So glad.