Friday 27 March 2020

I am not alone in the Garden

The garden is our sanctuary with dry stone boundary walls that now constitute lifestyle restrictions.
Wandering around I realise that the grass urgently needs a hair cut, but then so do I.  

Large furry bumblebees, along with butterflies, and insects are busily going about their Spring tasks. 
Male blackbirds are squabbling with one another, and I am taken aback at just how aggressive they can be. Various different tits busily flit around the hedgerows but spend time viewing the nest boxes on offer. 'Jenny' wren is observed scurrying around like a harassed housewife beneath the heathers, whilst solitary bees fly in and out of their luxury chalet style accommodation.
Saw 'Freddie' the fox this morning, peacefully curled up and snoozing in a corner of the flower bed. He appeared to have a smile on his face as if relishing the warming rays of the morning sun beaming down on him. 
By spending time quietly and observing Mother Nature I appreciate even more the intricate and magical gifts that she offers.
What a relief it is to know that whilst things have changed so drastically for all of us, she is still busily renewing herself day by day. 

Wednesday 25 March 2020


Meteora is a Greek word which means "suspended in mid-air". 
Meterora is also the name given to our garden statue by the Sculptor who designed and had her cast in bronze. She peers skywards from the top of her pillar, which is suggestive of her passage through space. She symbolises a celestial body, a comet or perhaps the earth itself, hurtling towards an uncertain future, standing as a metaphor for existence. She has sat in our garden for the past 15 years, and suddenly her symbolism holds so much more poignancy for us than before.

Do look after yourselves.......please

Friday 20 March 2020

Sir Edward Elgar 1857 - 1934

I don't want to dwell too much on the current situation which has turned everyones' lives upside-down in one way or another. The effects are many and unexpected, with much upheaval yet to come. We are both trying to focus on the spring flowers, and the burgeoning of mother nature all around us. Take care all of you, and be safe - Rosemary
On Tuesday 2nd June 1857 Edward William Elgar was born.
'The Firs'
The cottage where Elgar was born. 

"I don't expect much from the nation, but if they ever think it worthwhile, I wish they would buy this little cottage. It's the only wish I've got, about the nation and me."
The Firs is now dedicated to Elgar and his life - it was curated by his daughter, Carice. There is a small concert hall which has one of Elgar's pianos, and a restaurant.  Currently the cottage is in the care of the National Trust.
The Severn mentioned by Elgar refers to the great River Severn which rises in mid-Wales then flows through Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire. The county towns of Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Gloucester are all built along its banks. The Severn is the greatest river in terms of water flow in England and Wales, but sadly it has been responsible for much of the recent flooding.
"Whether the countryside makes the genius or however that may be, it is certain that no one was ever more imbued with the very spirit and essence of his own country than Elgar, it was in his very bones. 
Worcestershire and the Malvern Hills in particular were everything to him - the very look of spring coming, the cottages, the gardens, the fields and fruit orchards were different to his mind in Worcestershire...From walking, driving and bicycling there was very little of the county he did not know, and his memory for every village however remote and every lane however twisty and bewildering was extraordinary."
Carice Elgar-Blake on her father after his death in 1934. 

The Enigma Variations are perhaps Elgar's best known works. Of all the variations, Nimrod is perhaps Britain's best loved. 
The Proms began in 1895: in 1901 Elgar's newly composed 'Pomp and Circumstance' March No.1 was introduced as an orchestral piece. This was a year before any words were added (written by A.C. Benson). Henry Wood recollected "little did I think then that the lovely broad melody of the trio would one day develop into our second national anthem". 
Each year henceforth, on the last night of the Proms, the festival season always finishes with a rousing chorus of 'Land of Hope and Gory' sung by everyone present in the Royal Albert Hall, along with much flag waving, and cheering to the music of Pomp and Circumstance.

Monday 16 March 2020

A Repost

In view of the current pandemic I decided to repost this story regarding the 17th century plague that happened in this country and parts of Europe.

illustration by Jessie Wilcox-Smith
As a small child you probably danced around to this nursery rhyme ending up in a heap of laughter at the end when you all fell down.
However, there is a much more sinister tale connected to this childish rhyme which I was reminded of when visiting childhood haunts in Derbyshire.
The ring of roses is alleged to be symbolic of a rosy skin rash which turned purple, a plague symptom in England during 1665. The posies were herbs and flowers carried as a protection and to ward off the smell of the disease. Sneezing or coughing was a final fatal symptom, and 'all fall down' - death!!!
Eyam - a village in the Peak District of Derbyshire.
The village of Eyam has drawn visitors for centuries. Situated in magnificent scenery it has both a grim and heroic story to tell. A contemporary window in the church of St. Lawrence tells the story.
In 1665, cloth arrived in the village from a London tailor which was infested with flea larvae from rats responsible for spreading the plague.
After the first deaths, amongst whom was the tailor, the inclination of the population was to flee. However, the young rector, William Mompesson, won the villagers' agreement that nobody should leave until the infection passed. This was in order to protect the population of Derbyshire, and ultimately the rest of the country.
Emmott Sydall, a young girl from Eyam, had for sometime been courting Roland Torre from Stoney Middleton, a neighbouring village. When Eyam was closed off, the sweethearts continue to meet secretly calling to each other across the river. As the months wore on, Emmott lost her father and 5 of her siblings leaving only her mother and herself. In fear, Emmott begged Roland to stay away. They were never to meet again for on the 29th April 1666 she too perished. When Roland was finally able to enter Eyam after the plague was finished, he was given the sad news. He lived to an old age but never married.
The message went out that Eyam had been turned into a quarantined fortress, with requests that food should be left for the villagers at a parish boundary stone well outside the village.
Elizabeth Hancock had the heartbreaking task of burying her husband and 6 children within 8 days. Stricken with grief, once the plague was over, she fled Eyam to seek refuge with a surviving son in Sheffield.
Most of the tombs are still near the homes and fields where they died, not in the churchyard. It was important that they were buried immediately. 
The plague lasted in the village for over a year, during which time ¾ of the population perished, including Mompesson's wife. Derbyshire and also the rest of the population up and down the country was saved, and Mompesson, who survived, entered the annals of English heroism.
The tomb of the vicar's wife, Catherine Mompesson, in the churchyard
Two of many tombs to be found scattered all around the village.
In this little row of cottages 18 people died.
We decided to go in search of the boundary stone, and were surprised how far the villagers had to walk along terrain which must have been very difficult to negotiate during the cold and snowy winter months. 
Food was left at this parish boundary stone - the villagers paid for it by placing coins in the small holes, cut into the boulder, which were filled with vinegar to disinfect the money.
A generous benefactor was the ancestor of the Duke of Devonshire, from Chatsworth House, who donated food and medicine to the village. 
The Bubonic Plague was caused by a bacterium spread from rats to fleas, and as recently as 2004 it was discovered that those who survived the Bubonic Plague had a chromosome which gave them protection. This same chromosome has been shown to still exist in direct descendants of those who survived the plague.
However, COVID-19 is a virus, which was thought to have been spread from China as a result of eating bats, but is now considered to be from Pangolins, whose meat is a delicacy in China - the Coronavirus has now been dubbed 'the revenge of the Pangolin'. 

Thursday 12 March 2020

Early Spring Escape

We have just enjoyed a welcome few days break. It was good to get out of doors and have the opportunity to recharge our batteries. As the crow flies, we did not travel far, in fact we could still just see the northern end of our high Cotswold escarpment whilst walking on top of the Malvern Hills.
 The Priory Church in Malvern is one of the finest Parish Churches in England, parts of which date back to William the Conqueror. Much of the medieval stained glass is still intact and the ancient tiles seen upon some of its walls simply add to its uniqueness, and reveal its medieval monastic origins. Whilst most ecclesiastical buildings were damaged during Henry Vlll's dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1541, Malvern Priory somehow managed to escape. 

If you look carefully at this photo you will see two working gas lights - one near the entrance porch and the other on the far left of the Priory. More about these will be revealed later.
The Priory was originally occupied by a community of up to 30 Benedictine monks. The rule of St Benedict required that they spent around seven hours each day in study and prayer, and up to nine hours working on manuscripts, cultivating crops, caring for the sick and providing hospitality to travellers. The monastery included a farm, fish ponds, gardens, and domestic buildings with dormitories for sleeping, kitchens, an infirmary, and a 'Guesten Hall' for welcoming visitors. The attached, Abbey hotel, where we stayed, now uses some of those domestic buildings.
A unique view of the Priory, only viewable from the hotel's dining room, a room where we enjoyed breakfast and evening dinner throughout our stay.

The impressive nave columns, and arches, date back to 1085 when Aldwyn founded it as a Benedictine Priory.
A close up showing some of the details to be seen in the early, rare, Medieval stained glass windows, which date from 1430 - 1502, and illustrate stories from the Old Testament.
The rare medieval tiles seen on several of the Priory walls would also have featured in other medieval ecclesiastical buildings at that time, but sadly most were either damaged or forever destroyed following the dissolution of the monasteries.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 
With apologies to those who have not read the Narnia series.
The almost life size papier mache head of a lion sits at the exit door from the Priory's Eastern Porch, and represents Aslan, derived from the Turkish word for a lion. He belongs in Malvern Priory because C S Lewis spent much of his childhood at school in Malvern College, and although not all of his experiences were happy ones, he loved the Priory, and it is reputed that the wardrobe in his novel is based on the Priory's East Porch.
The east porch - "is this the way into Narnia?" Sadly we didn't have time to find out, but may be we will next time!!!
You can see a gas light in front of the pillar - another feature also very much associated with Narnia. At night time when Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy walk through the wardrobe and into Narnia, the forest is heavily laden with snow, but the scene is brightly lit up for them by a large free standing gas light. Working gas lights are a prominent feature still seen today in and around the Priory churchyard and also along several of the adjoining Malvern streets.