Heaven-sent.

Today it is pouring with rain again – it’s suitably dismal. Yesterday though – Wednesday the 11th of January 2017 – was Heaven-sent. For the first time since Dad’s passing I woke up to blue sky and white fluffy clouds.

The tower of St. Mary Magdalene's Church South Molton.

View from the yard at work 11-01-17. The tower of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church – South Molton.

I took Wednesday off from funeral arrangements – the undertaker came Tuesday, the vicar is coming this afternoon – and on Friday I shall register my Father’s death.  Wednesday was a work day. It was business as usual – apart from receiving a large bunch of Spring flowers on my arrival from all the gang.

Promise of Spring from 'The Gang'

‘Promise of Spring’  They smell divine.

During a quiet spell – I went out into the yard – where all the scrap metal items are piled ready for sorting and collection.  I pulled out an old lantern that had bits missing – and no glass – but its shape instantly reminded me of Christ’s lantern – in my favourite painting ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt.

Holding my lantern aloft to admire it.

Holding my lantern aloft to admire it.

When I held it up to admire it – the wind caught it and blew through it sideways – and I noticed its shadow on the sunlit wall; I’d struck Gold – and Silver…

Renewed and gleaming in the sunlight.

Renewed and gleaming in the sunlight at the back of the yard.

I wandered up to the back of the yard – with the lantern still swinging in my hand – to where some grubby old fridges also await recycling. The wind was really blowy – cold and fresh – and invigorating.  After several overcast days I felt alive and happy to be back to normal. It is hard to feel truly sad about my Father’s passing because I knew Death was coming and he’d reached a great age. I saw Death which I think makes it easier. To stand at the foot of my Father’s bed – before him when he died was a privilege – as seeing someone being born. It was profoundly mysterious – and I’ll never forget how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right time 10:50 am – to pronounce him dead. If it had happened a day earlier – I’d have been at work.  Just knowing that he’s not here in person is sad enough but I don’t dwell on that thought because he feels very near in a dimension that I can’t explain; yesterday at the back of the yard my Father was with me in spirit. There have been several uncanny experiences since his passing.

SIlver Birches and Sky.

Silver Birch – ‘Lady of the Woods’

I stood under January’s trees and watched the wind stir through them. I could feel their down-draught sweep over me, around me and through me – it was a feeling of complete euphoria. I spun around with my lantern still in my hand like I used to when I was a child – until dizzy –  I should have been working really – and serving in the shop – no matter! So many things pass through our recycle shop; how could anyone know that by donating that broken lantern it would come to mean so much to another person – me. I guess that’s the ethos of our wonderful shop – SMR Phoenix. I’m glad I went back to work if only for one special day until everything is sorted for the funeral. 

Here are the ‘Ladies’ at the back of the yard – how lucky am I to have them so close in all their moods. On some days their long hair hangs perfectly still but yesterday they had the wind through it – Dad.  You can almost hear the rush in these photographs – imagine my feeling – and feel joy too. Here is the sequence – we reach our crescendo near the end – enjoy!ST832974 ST832968ST832969ST832975ST832976ST832979ST832981ST832984ST832986ST832989ST832990

Going home time.

At going home time.

Home.

Home.

 

Unending Circle.

Many happy days on Dartmoor remembered. With Tom in 2008.

Grandpa and Tom – and me!  Dad in his eighties atop a Dartmoor Tor – 2008.

Yesterday, 6th. January 2017 at 10:50 am – my Father died peacefully at home.  He saw me being born and I witnessed him die; our circle is complete – unending.  

One of the things I’ll miss about him the most – is showing him my finds.  It is something I’ve done since girlhood and something that he loved to share in.  When he couldn’t get out on his daily walks anymore – it helped to keep him connected with the outdoors through my eyes.  

For me – the greatest loss of all was the thought that he wasn’t able to go outside and see nature for himself.  I hope he can see now – now that he’s got out through the open window.

Showing Dad my eight-pointer antler find. April 2016.

Bringing the outside in.   Showing Dad my eight-pointer shed antler – April 2016.

Catch you later Dad. X

Dad sitting by his fire. December 2009

Dad sitting by his fire.  December 2009

 

New Year New Moon.

dartmoor-pony-on-walkhampton-common-dartmoor-something-about-dartmoor

Walkhampton Common Alignment: Moon, Hawthorn, Pony. Dartmoor – 2nd January 2017.

Today was my first sighting of the New Moon – of the New Year – and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be to see it than Dartmoor. If that wasn’t lucky enough – I touched it too.

dartmoor-pony-on-walkhampton-common-dartmoor-something-about-dartmoor

Chance meeting with a Dartmoor Pony.

'Once in a Blue Moon.

Once in a Blue Moon.

White Light.

Yesterday – 30th December 2016 – I went to Exeter – to the Sales. Not to buy anything cut price – rather – a pair of expensive moss-green trainers for Tom – that predictably were not reduced! They were my Christmas present to him which he’d been patiently waiting for since Christmas Day. Buying post-christmas presents – is just something that we traditionally do now – like putting up the Christmas Tree – or taking down the decorations on Twelfth Night – it takes all the pressure off – and lets us enjoy the said simpler pleasures. His challenge was to buy me something for one pound or less but it mustn’t be something to eat – his gift to me is still outstanding!  Something else to look forward to in 2017!

the-exeter-christmas-spider-something-about-dartmoorBy the time – we arrived in Exeter – the light had faded fast – and the illuminations were shining brilliantly in the gloom.  Our first port of call was the big John Lewis emporium – where I instantly fell for a completely ‘useless’ item that was dumped on a sale stand with some other leftovers from the sale.  All of them soiled or broken in some way.  The item that caught my eye was a bronzed armadillo candle with a broken tail. the-john-lewis-pangolin-something-about-dartmoorHe may as well of had a broken wick too because my intention is to never light him. To me – he stood out because he was broken – other than that I don’t know why I wanted him – I just did!

He could almost be the star of a John Lewis Christmas advert – he was so cute and woebegone. After some further negotiation at the till point – I managed to get him for the knock down price of just two pounds!  He is really an Armadillo – but to me, because I can – he is a Gold Pangolin – I just like the sound of the word! 

Moving out of John Lewis to Next – I bought another adorable creature in the form of a cushion.   next-new-season-harvest-mouse-cushion-something-about-dartmoorIf there is one ‘vice’ I need to give up in 2017 – it is my cushion habit. At least I’ve acknowledged my addiction here – so that’s a start.

Our next stop was the sports shop!  All I can say is – mission accomplished; Tom got his desired trainers.

What an unfamiliar world the sports shop was! The young woman that served me must have been one of the most unanimated individuals that I’ve come across – my purchase from her must have been such an effort.  I’m looking forward to the time when Tom has grown out of the ‘Brand Stage’ – and I won’t have to hang-out in these places!

Further on – I made eye contact with a quiet, homeless man – I ‘met’ him down a gloomy alley near the cathedral. He was sitting in a dark doorway – huddled among his belongings.

I had gloves on – my wallet was in my bag – and it was all too much effort.  I – and the moment passed – I didn’t give him anything.

Homeless dossed outside BHS Store Exeter. Something about DartmoorFurther on again – there were some more verbal homeless people dossed outside the BHS entrance.  What a sorry sight on a bitterly cold night between Christmas and New Year.  An indictment on our society if ever I’ve seen one.

I just followed my two sons – and thought my thoughts.  Tom led the way – and we enjoyed one last tour under the Christmas Lights before they’re packed away ‘under the stairs’ for another year.  Tom led us up and down one side-street after another – then suddenly I noticed those soulful eyes again; unexpectedly I was back in the gloomy alley. This time – I didn’t walk passed. I just quickly handed him a crisp new fiver and left without wishing him a ‘Happy New Year’ – that would have been crass. The quiet man said ‘Thank you’.

Well this year has nearly come to its end – and I find myself thinking about what resolutions I’m going to make.  Perhaps – I should stop buying cushions for starters!  I’m going to try to get my priorities right too – like the example of ‘The Gold Pangolin’ and ‘The Homeless Man’ – one cost me just two pounds – an impulse buy that I don’t need even though he’s undeniably cute – where as my crisp five pound note went to someone that needed it more.  With any luck it was one of those special ‘Jane Austen’ notes – I wouldn’t begrudge him a penny off it whoever he was. I’ll never forget those eyes.

One of the most notable things about 2016 – are the number of famous people that have died this year.  I’ll miss the stars that made me laugh out loud. I say miss – I won’t truly miss any of them because I didn’t know them personally.  In one shape, form or another they are still here – on cd, vhs and dvd – and Dear Terry is even on a mug! white-lights-2016-something-about-dartmoorThe exception is a favourite singer who died on Christmas Day.  I keep my George Michael collection in the car – because I like listening to him when I’m in my bubble – driving to and from work.  It’s George and me only time.

I have called my imperfect ‘Gold Pangolin’ – ‘George’ in his honour.  It is symbolic of a man that I think was perhaps too vain – too sensitive for this cruel world.  One only need look at the newspapers that used the least flattering image of him – to announce his passing. So unnecessary.  If only ‘Big George’ had had a suit of gold armour like ‘Little George’ – he may still be here in person. 

little-george-something-about-dartmoor

Now I know why I needed him so.

Never too funky – always absolutely ‘flawless’ – forever handsome, eternal white light – George Michael.

Goodbye 2016. 

* * * * * * * * * *

One thing I know I’ll not be giving up in 2017 – is going outside.  My favourite track… 

 

The Immersive Brontes!

At home with the Brontes feeling their pain.

At home with the Brontes: feeling their pain.  (Graphite study from my collection.)

A couple months ago – my colourful nephew came to visit us from London. I remember listening attentively as he enthused all about his latest ‘money making’ venture – ‘Immersive Cinema’ – apparently it’s a sort of audience participation thing – where you enjoy a meal while being immersed in a fantasy world that has been brought to life around you – as if straight out of the silver screen.  Apparently – being entertained in this way is a booming culture – especially in trendy London circles. Without wishing to pour cold water on anyone’s fire – I kept my thoughts to myself – but couldn’t help wondering who on earth needs to be spoon fed an imagination in this way – and pay for the ‘pleasure’.  I wished him well with his venture of course!  He is such a tonic – always fizzing with ideas – and dreams – and that’s wonderful.

Last night – I immersed myself in some TV – I think it is the first time in over a year that I have actually sat down and watched a television programme of any sort – apart from catching the odd bit of breakfast news in the mornings while on the move.  

What a treat was in store…  

The Bronte Sisters on my widescreen.

The Bronte Sisters on my widescreen.

Everything had been organised like a military operation so that I could sit down and watch – ‘To Walk Invisible’ at 9 o’clock – on the dot.

'To Walk Invisible' on my telly.

‘To Walk Invisible’ on my telly.

Two whole hours of uninterrupted telly – while my two sons set about building a ‘do it yourself’ Gingerbread House – they are twenty-three and sixteen – nearly seventeen. It was a present from eldest son to youngest son who is learning bricklaying at college; an inspired gift that kept them happily amused. While they busied themselves in my cosy parlour downstairs – I retired upstairs to my bedroom where the telly is.  Rather stupidly – the window had been forgotten and was still on the latch from earlier – my unheated room was cold and offered as much comfort as Haworth Parsonage in the 19th century!  I sat down in the armchair with two hot-water bottles – two cups of tea and a blanket around my shoulders – and immersed myself in their unforgiving world.  It would have been nice to have had some powered heating but somehow the realism of seeing my breath condense while still inside – only added to the two hour drama – I was rapt throughout as well as suitably numb!  I thought that the actress who played Emily was particularly powerful – brilliant.  All of them were.

How cold those three sisters must have been inside that roomy Parsonage; wearing long dresses with rising damp – and necklines that exposed them to the grip of every sneaking draught.  My god – I felt their pain!

Something that warmed me up. Two hours later - the Gingerbread 'Parsonage' was complete

Something that warmed me up.  Two hours later – the Gingerbread ‘Parsonage’ was complete!

Back to the modern-day – to where I started.  I guess – I kinda see where my nephew is coming from – although I think immersive cinema is really about this 21st century’s unrelenting pursuit of pleasure and always having ‘a good time’ no matter what the cost is. I don’t get it.

"O dreadful is the check--intense the agony-- When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see; When the pulse begins to throb--the brain to think again-- The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain." Emily Bronte

“O dreadful is the check–intense the agony–
When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see;
When the pulse begins to throb–the brain to think again–
The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain.” Emily Bronte

 

The Wish Hound.

Wistman's Wood - Dartmoor

Wistman’s Wood – Dartmoor.  Lair of the Devil’s own dogs.

Don’t be fooled by their rather airy, faerie, wistful name – The Wisht Hounds of Dartmoor are hellish beasts; huge and slathering with fiendish appetites – especially for unbaptised babies.

Tom looking understandably apprehensive up a tee in Wistman's Wood

My ‘baby’ understandably up a tree in Wistman’s Wood – in 2009.  He needn’t of worried though because he’s been marked with ‘The Cross’.

Their nefarious reputation is vastly more menacing than being trapped on the Moor stifled by the infamous fog – without map or compass and no hope in hell of finding your way out. A terrifying prospect but avoidable if you go out equipped. The only thing that might save you from the ‘Wisht Hounds’ is wearing one of these.

Something my Mother gave me.

Something my Mother gave me.

‘The Wisht Hounds’ are the Devil’s own dogs.  

I can’t claim to have ever seen them – thank god – but I’m in no doubt about their existence – it’s more a feeling.  I’ve been around Wistman’s Wood their reputed lair – when the day is drawing to a close – and they’re palpable.

The Wishting Hour after sunset.

Beware ‘The Wishting Hour’ after sunset.  On the path – somewhere near Wistman’s and the B3212 – safety.

 As you step up your pace to get off the Moor by nightfall – there’s a feeling that they are not far behind; baying and drooling for your blood.  They are a cross between ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and your worst nightmare – only neither of those are real.

Yesterday – Wednesday 28th. December 2016 – I encountered a hunting dog with a less formidable pedigree – unless you’re a fox or a rabbit! It wasn’t on Dartmoor either – but right outside my garage – when I returned home from work at the end of the day.  

He’d lost scent of the others in his pack – and was astray and noticeably confused. On first impression, he was nervous and unwilling to come close but after coaxing – I’m thrilled he came to heel. I remember smoothing his bracken-coloured coat that had patches of black and white intermingled – and of wanting to pick-up one of his muddy fore-paws to greet him. They were broad and spread-out between the toes – and I loved his lolloping action as he came to me. He was a strong, handsome breed of dog – a Foxhound.  His eyes were beautiful – almond-shaped and amber in colour – and he had an unexpected gentleness about him that I fell for.  I also loved that he had that sweet ‘whiff of horse’ about him – that brought back thoughts of Jessie.  I’d quite liked to have kept him just for that!

Jessie tacked-up and ready to go - but never hunting.

Jessie tacked-up and ready to go – but we never went hunting.

I was so taken by the foxhound’s gentle demeanour that had there been time – I would have invited him in for some cat food – to help him on his way.  Alas – no sooner had I got to ‘know’ my new friend – he’d pricked-up his ears to a-calling in the distance. To me – it sounded like someone just calling a pet dog or a cat in for teatime – not his Whipper-in calling him home to the Master. Surely – he’d have sounded the horn to bring any strays to heel?  That late in the day – I’d seen no sign of huntsman – or horses – when I’d driven home – I think they had gone home – to earth.  Really it was for the best that he ran off – because Dobby would have attacked him and vice versa; all hell would have broken loose in my kitchen and I’d have been the cause of it.  Foxhounds are not really suitable as pets.

Dobby. A cat not to be messed with not even by a 'Wisht Hound'!

Dobby. A cat not to be messed with not even by a ‘Wisht Hound’!

Just as I clicked the camera shutter – he took off with-out so much as a backward glance.  In that moment – I managed to snap one shot to remember him by – as I’ll never get to pat him again. I love how my camera has caught his sudden movement as he turned without saying goodbye.  If it wasn’t for this one fuzzy ‘memory’ of our meeting – I’d think I had imagined him. 

‘The Wish Hound’ Not so much a photograph – but a ‘tangible memory’

‘The Wish Hound’ Not so much a photograph – but a ‘tangible memory’

'The Ballad of the Belstone Fox' written by David Rook.

A classic in my life. The film version of ‘The Ballad of the Belstone Fox’ written by David Rook.

Ever since seeing the film version of ‘The Ballad of The Belstone Fox’ at the cinema in 1973 – I’ve been ‘waiting’ – unwittingly wishing – for yesterday – when one of it’s stars – the foxhound – ‘Merlin’ would come lolloping out of the screen – to me.  It was magical.

I hope ‘Merlin’ – or ‘The Wish Hound’ as I’ll remember him by – made it safely home to his kennels before nightfall; where he belongs. 

Dartmoor has fired the imagination of many writers down the ages – including Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ – and David Rook’s – ‘The Ballad of the Belstone Fox’.

And then there are the old stories that are not ‘mere’ works of fiction. 

A Scarf for Eternity.

I like this hiatus between Christmas and New Year – when the ‘big clock’ winds down-a-bit and the cogs all turn at a slightly slower speed until the year ends; it’s a time to take stock and retrospect…

Dad's grubby old John Lennon hat.

Dad’s old walking hat laid to rest on the bookshelf.

This is a tribute to my Father.  He isn’t dead – yet – but he’ll never read  it.

It has been written and compiled for my Mother – inspired by a gift that she gave him this Christmas – 25th December 2016. It will serve also as a record of his room before the inevitable happens.  The time when his room will be dismantled and all his things dispersed among family. Somethings will have to be simply cleared out.

From the four 'corners' of his room - his life.

Lest any of us forget.  Treasures gleaned around the four ‘corners’ of his room – his life.

He’s finished with reading his newspaper – and with listening to music – and watching the telly.  The hours – the days – the nights are long – so he sleeps in a no-man’s land – curled up like a small, hibernating animal waiting for Spring – that he hopes he won’t see.  He goes in and out of consciousness – in a golden room full of memories – but the birds don’t sing – and the crickets have all stopped chirruping a long time since. He’s waiting – hoping to die.  

Dad’s faithful clock that doesn’t keep time accurately anymore – but ticks nonetheless.  It’s also had a ‘healthy dose’ of woodworm in its long past!

To me – and my siblings – he’s eternally ‘Codger’.  A term of endearment that we gave him as children and it has stuck – and has been passed on – to the next generation. It’s a name that he once thought amusing and encouraged – but he denies that now.  He doesn’t like it anymore but he’s really too old to care. Just as well.  His grandsons call him ‘Codger’ too – especially strong, young Tom – my midnight helper and lifter-upper!  

He has been an eccentric father – both hilarious and embarrassing.

He once fixed a hole on the front of his car with a ‘Fray Bentos’ pie lid – and it was recognisable as such.  I’m doubled up right now remembering it – but not at the time when we had to ride in his bodged-up banger!  I’ve never liked his favourite pies – although I suppose I should be immensely proud; Codger was an upcycler before his time!

Oh – and he fought for his country – called up at just nineteen.Dad at nineteen. Something about Dartmoor

He’d often regale us with valiant stories from far-afield but back when I was young and impatient – I didn’t listen appreciatively.  I was ignorant about war and probably a lot of things – still am. I remember him telling us how he had been holed up on-board a troop ship for three weeks in the Med – ankle deep in vomit.  There’s no need to mention what action he saw; the tricorn hat, scarlet coat – and medals on his chest – say enough.

My father at Chelsea. He didn't like the hussle and bussle of city life - so he returned to the country - and we've been together ever since.

My father at Chelsea. He didn’t much care for the hustle and bustle of city life – so he returned to the country – and we’ve lived together ever since – always.

Dad wearing a different kind of hat – these days!

A larger than life 'Dragonfly' that hangs in ' his last window on the World. I made it for him.

A larger than life ‘Dragonfly’ that hangs in his last window on the World.  I made it for him a ‘long time ago’.

He’s past it now – and we don’t mention the War – or anything. We only share my ‘hairdressing skills’.  I can remember from a very young age being asked to rub his head – or do the exact same thing of combing his hair.  Only then – there was a lot more black.

Wise words above a dying man's bed. I can remember them above thethat hung for years above the marital bed.

It’s alright for him – I do have to get up for work in the morning!  Pertinent words above a dying man’s bed.   I can remember this sign above their marital bed when we were kid’s – five of us!  It evidently had a different meaning in those golden far-off days – before divorce!

I could recount so much about my father – but time is short and the Internet wouldn’t be big enough – so to the job in hand.  

Snow falling on snow. Dad's long hair upon his pillow.

Snow falling on snow.  Dad’s long, wispy white hair laying upon his pillow.

Because I’m a night-owl – I’m the one who ‘puts’ the old man to bed – it is my last job of the day.  Codger is permanently in bed you understand – he hasn’t got up for over a year – but he needs straightening-out, pulling-up and tucking-in  – and a good drink of water before I trundle off up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire.  He hibernates most of the day apart from when his carers and nurses come in to do the necessaries – but on my shift he is perceptibly more ‘active’ and verbal!   He expects me to do one last thing before I’m dismissed – “Comb my hair Melly.” he assertively asks! Dutifully – and lovingly – I stand at his side – sometimes half-asleep – me that is – and I run the comb through his snow-white hair for ten minutes or so until I’m done – in! 

“It’s soothing.” he says – as my eyelids begin to shut!

The warmth inside his room coupled with the tick-tock of his clock makes me sleepy – but the bugger of it is – he’s deaf and he can’t hear it!  He’s been – and still is – an awkward old bugger at times!

Inspirational words. KBO "Keep buggering on." He will.

KBO – Winston’s motivational acronym on Dad’s wall.  “Keep buggering on.”  I will.

In this ‘hour’ – he sometimes asks me ‘Who’s that behind you?” There is no one else up.  Perhaps it’s just that man in a long black robe waiting in the wings again to collect him; he’s cheated ‘Death’ before.

His room is full of memories and warmer things – and photographs of when we were young.  Nicholas, Simon, Caitlin and Rosie – and me. I’m his middle daughter and the only one out of his children that he saw being born.

When we were young. Photos taken by Dad on with his Leica. I'm the fat roly-poly one in the washing up bowl - top right!

When we were young.  Photos taken by Dad with his Leica.  I’m the fat roly-poly one wedged into a washing-up bowl – top right!

There is a small Christmas tree in his big bay window but there weren’t any presents under it this year.  He doesn’t want or need anything – he’s tired of all that – of living.  Musing about his room while I combed his hair last night – I remembered something that I put next to his clock for safe-keeping on Christmas Night; a pure cashmere scarf to be kept in it’s cellophane wrapper for later – from ‘his’ Sallie – our Mum – Granny.

Where we all began.

Where we all began.   Aged 28 and 17 respectively on their wedding day.  St Peter’s Church – Hangleton, Sussex.  12th. January 1952.

The ‘dragonfly-blue’ scarf is not for wearing now – because he doesn’t need it under his toastie warm ‘blanket of snow’ – a 13 tog duvet with a fleece atop.  Rather – she bought it in readiness – and it comes with instructions for use.  The scarf is for when he falls into the deepest of sleeps – the coldest and longest sleep of all – to keep his neck warm – for eternity.

From here to eternity. Dads new scarf from Mum.

From here to eternity.  Dads new scarf from Mum.

For a man whose life is almost over – I think it is an inspired, loving and useful gift – that only ‘his’ Sallie could have thought of.  She chose his colour – because he always built ponds to attract dragonflies. The scarf is a testament to their love that has withstood the test of time – even though they’ve been divorced longer than they were married! Somewhere light years from here – they are together on his motorbike – with her arms tight around his waist – forever.  

Five children – and five grandchildren later – this is for them too. For Jason, Archie, Araminta, Tom and Tobias – and to all his sisters and brothers – nieces and nephews. . .

And for Helen – his main ‘Homelife’ carer. 

Helen at 'home' - with Dobby fast asleep on the other chair.

Helen at ‘home’ in the ‘spiritualist’s chair’ doing her paperwork.  With Dobby our cat fast asleep on the other side.

The ‘big chair’ can tell more stories from Dad’s childhood and of much harder times between the Wars when his life was unsettled in more ways than one.  It is no wonder that he is so embedded now – in his golden room – in his home of the last forty odd years. He’s surrounded by those who love him and who’ll look after him to the very end. 

They say ‘old soldiers never die – they just fade away’.  In Dad’s case it has proven to be true – it has been a long, long – long goodbye… 

Still in the land of the living! Being kept warm by his sheep blanket – a previous gift from ‘his’ Sallie – for use this side.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Addendum 18th March 2017. The Art of Remembrance. 

Memento mori

A place to return to every now and then so as to look back and remember – whilst moving on…

A short footnote – in response to Caitlin and her heartfelt comment – 18th. March 2017.

Above and below – is the original poem mentioned in my reply.  I bought it towards the end of 2016 through Ebay – not knowing for certain exactly when Dad would die but I knew it was coming towards me in the New Year – 2017 – we all did.  It serves as the most perfect Memento Mori along with a luminescent drift of his snow white hair – cut on the 6th. January 2017 – after he’d died.  The springtime photograph of Tom and his Grandpa – taken when Tom was four – or five – could almost be a metaphor for Old Father Time himself welcoming in the New Year – this year.  My corner to Dad is in Loveday’s space also – they share it.  I don’t linger in their realm too often but it’s always a comfort to have them behind me in a literal, visual, spiritual and metaphorical sense – as my life moves forward ever nearer!

Tempus fugit!

Tempus fugit!  Don’t return to Dad’s empty space to often – (here).  Just now and again to remember his ‘Golden Room’ and therein all our treasured memories of him.  He would want us to be cheery – and he’d be sending us on our way now.  In life – he never wanted us to overstay our welcome in his ‘Golden Room’ – he liked his own space too much even for us towards the end. (See photo six above and know that expression!)  Remember how he’d get rather irascible if we were in there too long!  In ‘forgetting’ so I’ve remembered again!

A pocketful of Love.

Christmas Past - Christmas Present. The littlest gifts under the tree are often the biggest.

Christmas Past – Christmas Present.  The littlest gifts under the tree can be the biggest inside.

Christmas unwrapped.  Monday 26th December 2016. 

This Christmas – I have been blessed. I’m sitting here on Boxing Day surrounded by tokens of love from my family.  The room is cold as the woodburner is out now and hasn’t been laid – yet I’m feeling warm.  Around my shoulders – I’m wearing a silky-soft, forest-green velvet throw that my eldest son – Archie gave me from his emporium ‘Next’.   As I speak – he’s already manning the Boxing Day Sale back in Bath. Barely twenty-four hours have passed since he stopped – and arrived home after midnight on Christmas Eve – Christmas Day.  And now – time and work have whisked him away again – back onto the wheel that doesn’t stops turning…

Although he isn't here - he is. I just have to look at these cloche lights that he gave me as a pre-Christmas present - and each little light reminds me of all the hours of work that he has put in to

Although he isn’t here – he is.  I look at these ‘Next’ cloche lights – that he gave me as a pre-Christmas present.  Each little light reminds me of all the hours of work that he has put in through his life – at school, at university – and now – as a deputy manager at Next…

Now to my niece – Araminta – who has made me something that I want to share with the world; my world.  This way my youngest sister Rosie who lives in Vienna – can readily see what the clever daughter of our clever sister Caitlin – has created especially for me.  It’s our little club – and you are welcome here!

Her gift is nine inches square on the outside – but the inside is limitless; a metaphor in itself – for a miracle girl who at birth weighed about as much as a mushroom! She weighed merely a pound…

Complete with a little magic mushroom that she bought. I shall keep it in there always as a lucky charm.

Complete with a tiny magic mushroom that she bought.  Araminta – I shall keep it in here always as a lucky charm.

That little girl who so loved pinks and purples has grown-up – and twenty years on – has made a velvet bag just for me.  There are no sides – no bottom – ‘just’ a pocket within a pocket – that overflows with love…

Araminta is in her final year at Plymouth University and she has a huge workload to design and make – and complete – so to have squeezed this in too is ‘just’ Araminta in a nutshell – or a mushroom!  She’s earned a first with honours – from me.

Honoured. Something made for me only.

Honoured. Something made for me only.

My ‘pocketful of love’ has been designed for use. It isn’t a bag to be just stroked and admired – it is to be used in all weathers as a goodie bag – for Auntie ‘Melanie Magpie’ to take on her walks. For gathering leaves, stones and feathers – and any other shiny things I may pick up on the way!  I love how Araminta has chosen earthy-coloured fabrics – and embellished the flap with a beautiful felted stag. He has such a benevolent face – I feel certain he will attract all-sorts of finds into my magical, bespoke-made pouch.

Araminta – I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Rather like your little green velvet bag – I can’t adequately express just how deep down your giftedness has gone – other than to simply say I love my bag – you. X

My eldest sister Caitlin – also ‘surpised’ me – rendering me speechless twice in one extra-special day!  Three exquisite hand-blocked – hand-dyed ‘snowflakes’ to melt my heart – Ivy, Mistletoe and Belladonna.  All my favourites wrapped up together in a gift that crossed time – let my camera say the rest… ivy-something-about-dartmoormistletoe-something-about-dartmooratropa-belladonna-deadly-nightshade-something-about-dartmoorI have been completely spoiled this Christmas by my ‘nearest’ and dearest…

A 'Red Cross' parcel from Vienna - from Rosie to make my heart sing. Full of L'Occitane poitions for my rough hands!

To make my heart sing.  A ‘Red Cross’ parcel from Vienna – from Rosie –  Full of L’Occitane potions for my rough – and ready hands!  Thank you Ro! X

One other gift that touched me – was something not for me but for Tom – my youngest grown-up boy… 

‘Granny’ – our Mum and matriarch of our little club – gave him – me – something that brought back time.  

A zooooomba-ing

Just zooooooooooooooom right back….

To memories of a golden-haired boy that used to zoom everywhere on a big bright yellow ‘Rabo’ Scooter…

A flash of yellow comedown the mists of time - something that Christmas 'just' does.

Flash of yellow and gold…

Whatever the weather! A boy after my own heart.

Tearaway!  A boy after my own heart – out in all weathers!  (In this photograph he’d actually put his coat on – it must have been tipping it down!)

No family is complete without a patriarch – and so I end this entry with a dusting of Winter Snow…

A kiss under the mistletoe with Old Father Time. X

With a wide awake late-night – early morning kiss under the mistletoe – with Old Father Time.  Our Michael – soon to be ninety-three in January.  X

A Happy Christmas.

I'm off out now - for a long walk...

I’m off out now – for a long walk…

 

Ooh! Some Christmas Eve Tingles.

It’s Christmas Eve – and I have been for a long walk.  A long walk – not so much in distance but in time.  A luxury when there are so many more pressing things to do before tomorrow comes.

I spent a solitary hour or so in ‘Shedland’ – and took with me a gift of my favourite Evergreen – for the naked trees that grow there.  I left some on the Giant Oak that lives in the middle of the clearing where I found my second shed antler way back at the start of the year.

Mistletoe for the naked trees in 'Shedland'.

A garland of Mistletoe for the naked trees in ‘Shedland’.

I didn’t expect any gifts for myself – because ‘Shedland’ has given to me all year round.  Nothing stirred in the wood apart from the wind.  I think all the animals lay quiet in anticipation for Midnight – when they can magically talk to each other.

When finally I emerged under the cover of dusk – I stopped at the crossroads nearby – and watched the last vestiges of daylight turn dusky-pink and amethyst…

Time to stand and stare at the crossroads on Christmas Eve…

and see the brightest star come out in the darkness.

Half-way round my route – I heard something “breathing” in the hedgerow – not an animal but some bleached, dried grass moving at the roadside in the wind. As I stopped again and listened – I found myself remembering the last paragraph from ‘Wuthering Heights’.

listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

A memory of Summer Past.

When finally – I arrived back in the village – roughly two hours – and an indeterminate bit later – I walked back through the churchyard where the porch-light had been left on after the Christingle Service earlier.  It was so lovely – to end my Christmas Eve ramble by walking up the path towards the bright light – as Emily’s words fluttered back into my head again…

"I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fl uttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

“I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”   From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

A beautifully peaceful Christmas Eve treat.

Crowning The Year with Light.

23rd. December 2016.

Pre-Christmas review of my ramblings through The Wood – through The Year…  

"O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Your branches green delight us!"

“O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Your branches green delight us!” Baubles and raindrops helping to illuminate the way to my door.

2016 has been a fruitful year for me – in terms of my experiences under the greenwood trees. in-shedland-something-about-dartmoor

I love being with trees – and glimpsing the lives of the creatures that inhabit our beautiful woodlands.  I love unearthing things too…

My bountiful year started in April when I set myself a quest – and found an extraordinary red deer antler cast from an ancient animal. 

Shed Red Deer Antler.

Moment of recognition before unearthing my ‘eight-pointer’ Red Deer Antler.

Come May – I’d ‘stumbled’ upon new life – curled-up just a twig’s throw-away from where I’d found my ‘out-stretched hand’.

Living breathing Bambi. Newly born Roe Deer in 'Shedland'.

Living breathing Bambi. Newly born Roe Deer in ‘Shedland’.

I call this magical place – ‘Shedland’.  

Doorway to 'Shedland'.

Doorway to ‘Shedland’.

A Raven's cathedral - Dartmoor

A Raven’s cathedral – Dartmoor

Then there have been innumerable visits to ‘Ravens’ Haven’ on Dartmoor – where I found my biggest ‘writing quill’ yet!

My gift from the clever Ravens of Dartmoor.

A couple of weeks ago – I found myself again – in Avalon Orchard under Glastonbury Tor – picking windfalls from the sparkling wet grass. Huge red and gold orbs that filled my palms.

Avalon Orchard - Glastonbury Tor.

Timeless Avalon Orchard – Glastonbury Tor.

I have also entered a new wood – and witnessed that elemental beings really do show themselves to those that believe…

The trees speak bliss to me.

The trees speak bliss to me. Emily’s silhouette in a tracery of trees at the edge.

Then in early December – I visited my old haunt again – ‘Ravens’ Haven’ on Dartmoor.  On entering – through the Hawthorn Grove – I discovered a beautiful fluffy young sheep – quietly lying on the dewy bank beneath a tree.  He was completely alone.

The Lamb lies down on Dartmoor.

The Lamb lies down on Dartmoor.

At first sighting – I was worried he had been injured or was unwell – because apart from opening his eyes – he strangely didn’t move.  I could have stroked him – he was that gentle and unafraid.

Close enough - I didn't want to disturb him unnecessarily.

Close enough – I didn’t want to disturb him unnecessarily.

I kept a vigil for a little while near his side – as his breath condensed in the cool evening air.  In the quietness, I determined that if he was still there on my return – I’d investigate to see what ailed him.  

Meanwhile – I enjoyed my ramble through the cathedral of tall trees.  As ever – high-up in the roofless ceiling – the clever ravens were keeping a watchful eye on me.  When I returned – to the spot where the lamb had lain down on Dartmoor – I found he was no longer there – and oddly no where to be found in the immediate vicinity. He’d invisibly moved on to pastures new; the Lamb had risen.

As I was leaving the area to go back to my car – I stood at the bole of an old friend; ‘The Great Holly’ who stands at the entrance to the wood…

Holly

A much visited friend throughout 2016.

– and there saw I in the darkness – boughs laden with blood-red berries.

The Holly Bears the Crown...

The Holly Bears the Crown.

There was something especially confirming about this Dartmoor experience.

On a merry note…

My good friend the Squire – came-a- calling at the shop.  With a “Ho Ho Ho!” he made his presence loudly – and warmly felt – with mince-pies and a tipple of port for the gang on duty!  After a joyful interlude – he quickly popped-out to the town square…

On his return to the shop – I caught sight of him standing proudly in the doorway – sporting a huge Brussel Sprout tree with a profusion of larger leaves sprouting from its top!  “Behold the Greenman liveth!” – I mused to myself.  

Then I just happened to say – “Ooh! I do love a man bearing a big Brussel Sprout tree!” and with no more ado he gave it to me – all thirty-three curved, knobbly inches of it!  Not content with giving me just one either – he went back down to the town square to buy himself a replacement – and doubled his gift to me. 

What a lucky ‘girl’ I am.  Enormous pair of sprout trees from my good friend the ‘Squire’!

If there is nothing else for Christmas Day Dinner – my two sons can be guaranteed a generous helping of their ‘favourite’ vegetable – all served up with lashings of gravy and bread sauce – only!  In all seriousness – this may come to pass like the inevitable wind.

Mother has been fiscally irresponsible again – and bought another piece of beloved religious art!  A ‘priceless’ watercolour and pencil study – after William Holman Hunt’s visionary painting – ‘The Light of the World’ of which there are three versions.  I miraculously found a fourth on Ebay – with a price tag for less than the price of a free-range Christmas Turkey – and evermore sustaining!  (Besides – I don’t eat turkey anyway!)

I love how somebody has taken the time to copy the original so meticulously – they must have loved ‘The Light of the World’ even more than I – or Peter do – if that is possible!

Behold I stand at the door and knock.

Behold I stand at the door and knock.  This version is testament to the artist’s faith – and love – whoever they are – or ‘were’.

For me – Holman Hunt’s mastery of light and imagery – mirrors my own experiences of being inside an English Woodland throughout this wondrous year.  Of being there in that quiet moment when light breaks through the trees – as a door opening on a new dawn…

'Shedland' 2016.

Woods are where I find The Light is closest of all.  Being flooded in Shedland – 2016.

'The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt

The fourth ‘Light of the World’.  Tinsel and lights reflected in the cellophane that still wraps him.  The picture auspiciously arrived on the 21st of December – at Winter Solstice.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Dedicated to three other luminaries in my life…

My Sons bringing the woodland home – Christmas past.

Behold a gentle man in the flesh. My beloved Uncle Peter – and fellow worshiper of ‘The Light of the World’. We share a love of art – and poetry – and lovely old things.  I see the light in his eyes always. X

Everyone enjoy Christ’s Day!

(If after eating too much – you feel you need to get out for a ramble – there is nowhere more reviving than being inside a beautiful green cathedral.)