Monday, 31 May 2010

A blue sky and daisy day...

A blue sky and daisy day, lackadaisical daisy day, hazy, lazy daisy day, head in the clouds, blown on a breeze up and away and out to sea, head full of clouds, stroked by the breeze, sunshine shining down on me.

A blue sky and daisy day, nothing to do daisy day, dreamy, steamy daisy day, smell of grass all around me, touching the soil with my shorts bared knee, mind full of colours, too bright to see, sunshine shining down on me.

A blue sky and daisy day, clock stopped slow daisy day, drifting, lifting daisy day, laughing aloud so not like me, for a few moments living completely free, head full of thoughts, too clear to be, sunshine shining down on me.

Daisy, daisy, daisy chain, necklace, bracelet, summer rain, an answer, an answer, an answer do, petals picked by me for you.

She loves me, she loves me not?

She loves me not.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

More dandelions…

Watching the dancing dandelion seeds float in the breeze. Thousand on thousand. Tiny parachutes glowing in the sunshine, each the potential to be some gardener’s bane, each on landing a waiting weed hungry for roots that will feed and grow.

Lawns and pavements, building sites, gardens and pastures, busy roadsides, quiet graveyards - dandelions plant themselves everywhere, anywhere - deep rooted and bitter, bright headed and milky, salad leaved and sunny. A weed is a just flower growing in the wrong place.

Dandelion sunshine falling from the skies, setting up home on earth - and making me smile.

Catching one I make a hex. Float and find home - settle, grow, make dandelion smiles and pattern a grey world with sunshine.

Friday, 28 May 2010



What fishys?

Rumour has it that there are fishy-wishys in this tank, two of them. Well if there are I can’t hissing see them and I’ve been sat here for over a (or should that be an) hissing hour as it is. As far as I can see all that’s in this tank thing is some murky water, a couple of pathetic plastic plants, a silly sunken ship, and lots of the stuff they put in my litter tray. No fishy- wishys though. Maybe it isn't a fish tank at all, maybe it's a new kind of litter tray. Well, they won't get me using it, there's no way I'm going to sit in all that water.

Oh well, I’ve had enough of looking for imaginary fishys, time for a little snooze I think.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The return of the water...

The rain started the process and eventually man – in the shape of the building agents – completed it; although my belief is that nature would have got there in the end.

You may remember that last year the lake outside my office sprang a leak and was completely drained. Fish were moved, plants left to die, and the once beautiful water-filled lake became a parched, mud-cracked, and empty caricature of an African watering hole.

It stayed that way for a while and then nature, in the form of the horrible wet summer last year, did her thing and the lake began to fill up again - not fully to the top but at least half-way and what a difference that made.

After Christmas, when we had all that snow and ice, the pond froze - but when the spring arrived I began to notice that the rushes were returning, greening up and getting taller. A few weeks ago I saw the first signs of tiny Lilly pads on the surface of the lake and a trio of ducks, two drakes and a female, were swimming around chasing each other in a flurried courtship.

Nature was winning.

Lat week the process was made complete. I don’t know who and I don’t know why, but when I came into the office on Friday the lake had been made full to brimming and there were a pair of Canada geese waddling around its edges.

I’ve yet to see if the irises and other water plants return, a couple of footballs and some litter needs netting out, and the lilies have re-submerged with the rising of the water (but they’ll be back) and I saw a damsel fly, the first of the year, flash emerald green past my office window.

I wonder when fish will reappear again.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Summer in the trees…

Trees and roads go together well; a walk along any road through trees an adventure.

Who’s to know what you may find at the end of that tunnel, perhaps a topiary steam train will come rushing towards you with leaf and whistle, forcing you onto the platform safety of the fern strewn verge.

Or add some sunshine to the canopy above and suddenly you are walking through a lightshow of a world; bright and shade, dark and dappled, mossy green greenest - the breeze sharpening then blurring to soft focus.

Cool, still, deep, green, and calm. Listen to the birds; the day is full of birds, imagined trains, sunshine.

Summer in the trees - like drinking ice-cold champagne for breakfast.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The vegetable bug...

After last year I vowed that I’d never bother again. All that effort and hardly anything worth eating, the tomatoes got wilt, the courgettes mildew, the carrots were eaten by carrot fly, and the lollo rosso bolted – why bother?

But then the combination of sunshine and a wife who likes to grow her own produce and who assures me that home grown vegetables taste better (so long as I do all the work) managed to change my mind. So, off we went to the garden centre and before you know it I’m growing what will probably be the most expensive vegetables ever.

Here, take a look at this:
1 tomato house £7.99
1 large grow bag £4.99
2 self-watering
devices £3.00
Tomato food £0.89
Tomato plants (2) £3.00
Total £19.87

So, the best part of twenty quid to produce as best six pounds of tomatoes, making them £3.31 a pound - not including labour. Now there’s a bargain!

Worse still, now Gaynor’s got me started I won’t be able to stop. I’ve got the vegetable bug again. Already I’m growing sweet corn in a huge pot (£7.50), cucumbers in pots under a cloche (£12.90), lettuce in another pot (£3.00) and I’m in the process of growing a tumbling bush tomato in a hanging basket (£7.00). In total and to date I’ve spent over fifty quid and that doesn’t include herbs.

Those tomatoes had better taste a lot better than ones from Sainsburys.

Minestrone soup anyone?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Beautiful nothing…

You don’t have to look very far to see something beautiful. Beauty is all around us but sometimes it isn’t easy to see, sometimes you might not even notice it as we pass by living our busy lives.

Stop. Look around you. Look. Look closer. What do you see? Beautiful isn’t it.

Just a small ball of ice-blue lichen clinging to a twig; fragile and tortuous in its frost like complexity and below, fused to the surface of a large rock, an aerial map of green, brown, orange, purple, red - what country is that? What planet?

Worlds in themselves, thousands of years in the making, a freak of fungus and green alga, almost nothing really - but what beautiful nothing.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A bunch o’ Wild Williams...

Who doesn’t remember seeing a hazy purple blue carpet of bluebells at some time or other during their lifetime? These, hidden in a little spinney not far from us in North Wales, were discovered by my daughter and her friend Rob, who took the photograph, out on one of their adventures last weekend.

In a good year the hills around our cottage turn iridescent purple blue with them, but this year it’s a little patchy – I hope it isn’t global warming. Fifty percent of the world’s bluebells grow in the UK – they like the cold and damp. The common bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a spring-flowering bulbous plant and has been a protected species in the UK since 1998. So it isn’t as common as its name suggests and it’s illegal to dig them up in the wild or to sell them. The bluebells for sale at the garden centre are Spanish bluebells, lighter in colour, nowhere near as vivid and shunned by any self-respecting faerie.

I remember the bluebell woods of the Chiltern Hills when I was a small boy. On Sundays we’d take a drive over to the hills in my dad’s old back-firing car and walk deep into the beech woods, picking bunch after bunch our hands made sticky by the slimy clear fluid that wept from their green stems in protest at their snapping. I could hear the stems snap loudly as I picked them - the soft, white, fluffy looking inner dribbling poisonous sap onto my hands and making them itch and rash for days.

When we were very young my sisters and I used to look for fairies in the bluebell woods. It was such mysterious and dangerous place, full of shadows and light and faerie tales - bad things could happen in the bluebell woods, after all it was like walking in another world, a magic world.

My Granny Roberts called bluebells "witches thimbles". She used to warn us that the bells of the flowers would ring at midnight calling to the fairies and that if anybody heard the bells ringing then they’d be dead by morning. She told us about old Tom James, a local farmer who heard the bells at midnight and was found dead in his bar on a bed of bluebells by his cowman the next dawn. She said that the cowman went looking for the faeries but couldn’t find them, he looked and looked until he went mad and they carted him off to Stone (the Buck’s County lunatic asylum in Aylesbury). She told us to keep away from the bluebell woods and never wade through a carpet of them for fear of disturbing the spells that the faeries had hung up on the flowers to dry. Terrible things would happen to you if you disturbed the fairy folk. Their spells would stick to you, bringing you bad luck, driving you mad like Tom James’ cowman – or even worse.

She taught us to recite all the old bluebell names - Auld Man's Bell, Culverkeys, Jacinth, Ring-O'-Bells, Wood Bells, Nodding Squill, Wood Hyacinth, Chimney Bellflowers, Bats-in-the-belfry, Gramfer Griggles, Witches Thimbles, and of course her favourite - Wild Williams. I can still hear her asking to be brought back a bunch o’ Wild Williams and to be mindful where we were clomping.

Don’t step on them faeries." She’d say. ‘They has a terrible temper and will prick out your eyes with a long black thorn while you’s asleep if you worrit them – and then you’ll never see those Gramfer Giggles no more.” Granny Roberts had gypsy blood, she taught us this rhyme to remind us to be careful.

If you go a’looking for Bellflowers blue,
Be sure your heart be good and true.
Ask before picking your Culverkeys posy,
For fear of the little ones getting too nosy.
You mustn’t pick the Jacinth blue
Without that permission granted you.
For if you steal their Auld Man’s Bell
Sweet faeries will take you down to hell.

Granny Roberts - she had such a way with words…and children.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Wishing Machine…

So THIS is the Wishing Machine, I’ve heard Foodies talking about it; ‘I better go and fill the Wishing Machine’, and down she goes into the cellar to fill it up. She seems to spend an awful lot of time with it, she’s down here almost every day stuffing it full of those things that they cover themselves with and then taking them out again. Now what do they call them? Clothes I think.

Now why does she do that? She can’t be feeding the Wishing Machine with clothes otherwise the things that she puts into it wouldn’t come out again – mind you when they do come out they’re always damp, so perhaps the Wishing machine can’t swallow and if it is trying to eat them then it’s a hissing noisy eater. It makes a right racket – it’s enough to make your head explode sometimes. Maybe you have to make an offering to the Wishing Machine - if it accepts your wish is granted and if it hissing rejects then it isn’t.

No, I don’t think she’s feeding it or making an offering. Maybe it’s making the clothes all new again? I’ve certainly heard the Whirling Girlish Girl Thing wishing that she had something new to wear. Yes, that might be it. Perhaps that’s how the Wishing Machine works - you open the door, put that magic powder stuff that makes me sneeze in the magic drawer, fill its mouth with old clothes, turn that round thing, say the magic words, and let it make that awful noise for a while. Then you take out the clothes and they’re all new again – different colours, different materials, latest fashions. How clever, it certainly beats going to the shops.

Perhaps I should have a go. Now how do I want to look? Purple’s a nice colour, and I wouldn’t mind a spikier look. Yes, a purple, spiky, punky Misty!

Now where does she keep that magic powder?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lemonade days...

Coke (it’s the real thing), Corona (the lemonade not the beer), R. Whites (I’m a secret lemonade drinker), Pepsi (come alive), Kia-Ora (your projectionist tonight is Eric), Lemon-o-Lime (in that funny bright green bottle), Fanta (which was invented by the Nazis), Irn bru (Bru'd in Scotland from girders), Vimto (purple and fizzy), Cresta (It’s frothy man – frothy but disgusting) and my favourite…Tizer. Oh yes, Tizer the Appetizer! So red, so bubbly, so acidic and sweet, and so full of sugar it made you leap around the lounge like a chicken – how I loved it.

I remember when fizzy drinks were a real treat. Most times all we got to drink at home was tap water or tea (coffee had not yet been invented in our house). Squash, either Robinson’s or of any of the other cheaper varieties, was far too expensive to drink on any day that wasn’t so hot that the tarmac on the road melted and stuck to the bottoms of my sandals – and ice! Well, let’s just say that ice was viewed as a luxury item.

Lemonade days were special days indeed, but Tizer was extra-special. Even the bottle screamed X-S with its black rubber flip-top, red rubber seal, and the label - oh the label, an orange and an apple in perfect harmony. I remember the excitement of the curled wire lock pressed tight against my thumb and the POP of the white capped flip-top as it flew open – Tizzzerrrsss! - and always best ice cold from my auntie Kate’s old Belle-Air Fridge… glug, glug, glug, ahhhh!

These days, fizzy drinks are an everyday affair. Cans and plastic bottles have replaced the returnable glass of my childhood, and caffeine energy drinks have ousted the Tizer and Vimto that I swigged in the warm Thame park sunshine of my boyhood. Back then, when Manchester’s Fred Pickup launched Tizer in 1924, 'Pickup's Appetizer' was all the rage, and after Fred’s death the recipe passed to the Armour Trust before being sold in 1972 to A.G. Barr (the makers of Irn-Bru) for £2.5 million. I remember the Armour Trust recipe – it was redder, fizzier, sharper and better than Barr’s imitation ever was - despite the £2.5 million price tag that Barr paid for it.

These days fizzy drinks just don’t seem to have the same fizz, they’ve become dull and flat – it’s not the real thing, it isn’t an appetizer; you can’t say it’s made from girders any longer and its not even frothy man. I’d almost stopped being a secret lemonade drinker - but just recently I discovered a fizzy drink that takes me back to childhood, one that seems to taste as good as those fizzy drinks back in those times when a fizzy drink was a rare treat.

In 2008 Pepsi UK launched a fizzy drink which they call a ‘Sparkling Cola Drink with Natural Plant Extracts’ and it really hits the spot. They’ve dropped the corn fructose and returned to lots of sugar as a main ingredient, along with apple extract, caramel, coffee leaf, grape tartaric acid, real gum arabic from real acacia trees, cane sugar and sparkling spring water. It’s great. Pepsi RAW is just like drinks used to be; full of sugar and sweet. So full of sugar it almost gets me leaping around the lounge like a chicken.

If only I had my auntie Kate’s Belle-Air Fridge.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The old road...

I’m sure that I’m mad, stopping the car on a very busy A499 to take this picture, risking my life for an old worn stone.

Worth it? I think so, after all it isn’t every day that you see an eighteenth century milestone, 300ish years old and declaring the distance to both Carnarvon and then on to Pwllheli. An English invader milestone, Caernarfon spelt without the ‘e’ and with an ‘f’ instead of a ‘v’, the Welsh way, Welsh being an illegal language back then and a Welshman not allowed to marry an English woman.

This is the new road; clawed out of the rock and soil a couple of years back, they even built a hill to divert it around Clynnog Fawr. The old road used to meander its way through the village preceded by huge trees and solid stone walls flashing past only inches away from the car. On dark wet nights I used to dread meeting a milk tanker or ‘Matey 2’, a huge old friendly artic, on the very narrow stretches – and sometimes rocks would seemingly leap out from the walls and hurl there way towards you.

Not now though, the new, straight, wide, landscaped road is a joy to drive.

I never saw the milestone on the old road; it must have been hidden in the weeds. That was the thing with the old road, you knew that the magic was there, but sometimes you couldn’t see it. I wonder how many times I passed the milestone not knowing it existed, not knowing how far it was to Carnarvon and then on to Pwllheli – a thousand times, more?

It seems that stones are like that, remarkably easy not to notice.

I’m pleased that they found and moved it, made it visible – there’s little point in a milestone if you can’t see it and some would have simply yanked it out and made it rubble. Not that the old thing is of much use, the wind and rain have taken their toll on the carving and you can’t see the ‘miles to go’ at all. All those years standing invisible on the old road and now, visible at last, unable to answer the question it was placed for.

I know how you feel old milestone, I know how you feel.

I miss the old road with its wet and windy nights, articulated lorries, kamikaze rocks - all of us younger and wanting to get there.

At least on the old road I knew where I was going to.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Thirty minutes away from the world, sitting on a mossy stone, listening to birdsong, feeling the warmth of the leaf screened sun upon my pasty winter arm – relaxed.

It won’t be noticed that I’m not there, so busy with their talk of horses. I sit surrounded by the Windflowers, white drooping heads gently moving in the breeze. Anemos, the Wind, sending his namesake Anemones in gentle dance supported by such slender green stems.

What perfect light, everything so sharp, defined and poisonous - a cure for headache, gout, rheumatism, but not remorse, nor disappointment, nor regret. A woodland ghost – vanished, beautifully eloquent, spreading its creeping root-stock below the surface, making me this splendid carpet for a while.
March to May, early spring, before and with the blocking out of light this world rebuilds a leafy canopy for my false petal stars to wither then fall.

Thirty minutes away from the world, just a break, taking it all in – and then with a shout of the name they use for me - I’m called, summoned and taken back.

Picking up my heavy suitcased mind, crammed full of worry, words, full memory - I leave the wood to return to passing time in that other spring.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Mabiog and his wife…

Suddenly from nowhere, two standing stones in a field - a field we’d passed a thousand times before. How had we missed them? They must have been there all along an acres length between them, far beneath the hilltop fort, in opposite corners of the field. Stones don’t appear overnight – do they? Maybe they were hiding from us, concealing themselves.

Later, at the pub, we asked about them.

Ah, Mabiog and his wife, so you’ve seen them then. Not everyone does.

The story goes that old King Mabiog took a younger wife, he loved her very much but the life of a King is busy and full of responsibility, there are wars to fight, uprisings to put down, decrees to be made, and feasts to be held. After a while Mabiog’s wife felt neglected so took a lover, a young chieftain in Mabiog’s council, but their affair was soon discovered and Mabiog confronted them.

Not able to bear his wife’s unfaithfulness, Mabiog had the young chieftain executed and threw his wife out of the fortress, high on the hill that was home. He decreed that none should give her shelter and that she should be left to wander the land alone to make her own way or perish.

Summer turned to autumn, then winter and still she wandered, growing weaker and weaker, until one day she was seen no more. Mabiog, racked with guilt, sent forth search parties to find his wife, it was time to forgive her and take her back in. She could make a bed by the fire alongside his hunting dogs and eat the scraps from his table. But after weeks of searching there was still no sign of the woman so Mabiog set out to find her himself.

He found her in a field, her willowy form walking a league or so in front of him, but no matter how hard he tried he could not catch her up - she remained out of his reach in the distance.

And so they remain to this day, together yet apart - Mabiog close enough to keep his wife in sight but always too far way to ask for her forgiveness and make things right.

Not everybody sees Mabiog and his wife. They are there for all to see but most are simply too busy to notice them in their field – busy with themselves, after all there are always wars to fight, uprisings to put down, decrees to be made, and feasts to be held… if you want there to be.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Bonsai – small trees.

The wind is a powerful force bending and shaping this world of ours, taking a thing and directing, shaping it to his will.

I came across this hawthorn high on the hills above Borth-y-Gest. It captured my attention as the wind had captured it - not enough that as a tiny seed it had struggled to force its way through the solid rock beneath to grow.

Small trees bent by the wind were the original Bonsai, dug up and brought home by wandering Samurai to grace the serenity of their paper screened houses. For a while I kept and grew Bonsai, lifting small trees from the wild or buying from the garden centre and trimming and shaping them into tortured shapes with copper wire. Sometimes they grew, other times they withered – but I have managed to keep a few although I have far more empty Bonsai dishes than full ones.

You need a lot of time and patience to grow Bonsai well – perhaps that’s why the wind is so good at it.

Friday, 14 May 2010

0hf + 0b = ec...

It’s about hissing time that Hisfault cut this hissing hedge, I’ve got a twig sticking in my tail… well, not exactly my tail, but in that sort of area. Ouch!

I’m looking for birds, I’m always looking for hissing birds, birds are my obsession and there are always birds in here somewhere. They dive in and out of the leaves and although I haven’t catched one yet I will do one day. I’m going to sit very still and just wait. I’m good at waiting, it gives me the chance to have a good think about things- things like politics, philosophy, the economy, words like that, big words with lots of vowels, the big words that come out of Hisfault’s talking box – ‘Radio Four’ I think he calls it.

The other day the man with the funny voice who lives in Hisfault’s radio four talking box said that hedge fun was bad and had helped cause the economic crisis. I have no idea what an economic crisis is nor can I see how hedge fun can cause it. I hope an economic crisis isn't anything to do with a shortage of pilchards, I love pilchards. Hedge fun is easier, it's just what it says – fun on a hedge. Sometimes I stand on the hedge, sometimes I sit on it, sometimes I walk up and down on it – what fun.

Actually now I come to think about it maybe that isn’t much hissing fun at all, if it wasn’t for the birds hedges would be boring -not that there are any birds around.

So no hedge fun and no birds equal… an economic crisis?

That’s it! That’s what an economic crisis is - it’s one of those other things, the ones that The Whirling Dervish Girl Thing keeps moaning about – equations! It’s a hissing equation!

0hf + 0b = ec

Now I understand. That’s the thing about us cats, we can work out even the most complex of problems when we put our whiskers to it… now where are those birds?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Whirling Dervish...

I sometimes dream I’m flying. I guess we all do.

When I wake from my dreams I occasionally make a doodle in my doodle book to capture it and keep it fresh. Here’s one I made after one of my flying dreams and how I think that I came to dream it.

When I was a boy, full of energy and life, I was hardly ever still. I was a whirlwind in constant motion, ‘a Whirling Dervish’ as my Dad used to say. Now I’m not sure if he knew what a Whirling Dervish’ was but it stuck in my mind and remains firmly stucked there still. Holly is like that today, never still, a storm of energy and movement – A Whirling Dervish Girl Thing - as Misty would say.

So, since childhood, thanks to my Dad, I’ve been fascinated by the mystic and exotic world of the Dervish - a mystical dancer standing between the material and spiritual worlds. Their dance is a sacred ceremony in which the dervish rotates to a precise rhythm, around and around, faster and faster. It represents the earth revolving on its axis as it orbits the sun. The whirling dance allows the Dervish to empty himself of all distracting thoughts, placing him in trance as he is released from his body, conquering dizziness.

Conquering dizziness! Incredible! ‘See me spin, see me spin, dizziness overcomin’’.

Sometimes in my flying dreams I’m a whirling dervish flying high over the minarets and spires of Istanbul - empty of all distracting thoughts, in a trance, released from my body - I whirl higher and higher up into the air towards the sun (see me spin, see me spin, dizziness overcomin’). In that dream, I have no tongue - made mute in the great uprising. I spin, a Dervish of the east, ever faster until transported by ecstasy, I fly into the flames of the sun in a final act of whirring.

It’s just a dream, but the Whirling Dervishes are real.

Watch the DERVISHES HERE. Watch until the end and see their serenity.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Dandelion wine...

Did you ever blow a breath of midnight with a dandelion clock? Counting aloud the number of breaths to send the starred dandelion seeds out and away into the warm breeze of a summer’s afternoon – one o’clock, two o’clock – single tiny parachutes drifting away on a fuzzy cloud of dandelion snow - three o’clock, four o’clock - seeding and setting in the vegetable patch.

Don’t do that! My garden’ll be full of weeds.” He bellows from the bottom grass. Won’t stop me though, won’t stop me - five o’clock – have to blow a midnight - six o’clock - get safe – seven o’clock - safe from the lonely one – eight o’clock - safe to childhood - nine o’clock - my childhood – ten o’clock – 1957 to 1969 – eleven - newby when begun, twelve years older when done – Midnight.

Watch out boys, lightening attack!

If only I could write like Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, favourite of favourite books. No, that’s not him above, that’s me reflecting - or attempting to.

Dandelion Wine, written that same year that I was born; small tales shouted and whispered twenty eight years before my birth; a dream of fictional Green Town - Green Town, Illinois. What it must have been to have imagined, lived, wordsmithed that single perfect childhood summer, so lovingly bottled and stored for drinking when winter is upon us, that dream bound American town. How magical to run wild in the gully with Douglas and his friends, to watch as grandfather makes the dandelion wine, carefully packing up the joys of childhood into a magic bottle – I’m part of that story; I journey in it wearing new sneakers and lightening, rites and ceremonies, happiness machines, time machines, green machines, bad death, good death, a game of statues, dark magic, deep lakes, trolley buses, cold, cold ice cream, old ladies and young girls, beer, broken carnival tarot witch, sugar and fat, love and fever, murder, terror, all nostalgia - a book both wonderful and full of wonders.

Out with my camera last weekend and snapping dead dandelions much to Gaynor’s bewildered astonishment – ‘Why would anyone want to take a picture of a dandelion?’ Why indeed? Don’t know – but I can’t look at a dandelion without falling headlong deep into Green Town. I see the sun yellow of a flower head, the moonbeam silver of a clock, and I’m in and up to my eyes in an instant - dipping in and out, living a story here, dreaming a tale there.

Often I’ll pick up my old copy and read a single short story of a chapter - then each spring and almost every autumn I read again cover to cover - twenty years or more. I must have read that copy thirty times, with each and every time a different pleasure. Some books are like that, some books seem written for us alone, personal mirrors for each of us to look into, watching, seeing ourselves, our lives, our dreams - reflections and reflection.

Reflections and reflection. Do you have one? If not, read mine, read Dandelion Wine.

Here’s a small sweet taste from the stirring spoon:

"Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers." Ray Bradbury.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Fishy Bob...

This is Holly’s new pet. A friend of hers won it for her at Pwllheli fair this weekend and by the time we got to hear about it… too late, the deed was one, fish food had been bought.

I suppose we could have left it to live in the plastic bag that the ‘hook a lucky duck’ stall had supplied but let’s just say that my judgement when it comes to pets is getting worse. So off we went to Wilkinson’s to get the fish a bowl – well, it wasn’t even a very good bag, not even a string to carry it with. How standards have declined since my childhood when 6d could win you a fan-tailed shubunkin in a drawstring polythene carrier – for another two shillings you could even buy a small glass goldfish bowl to take home and keep it in, but not these days.

We left Wilkinson’s without a two shilling bowl but with a small plastic tank including a turquoise cat-proof lid (sorry Misty, no Nin-nins), a large bag of washed Dorset gravel, two plastic water plants, aeration tablets (drop two tablets into water every three days), weekend food bars (Fishy Bob - or is it Rob? - will not be weekending in Wales, not sure about holidays though) an orange sunken ship hidey-hole (‘Every fishes dream home’), and a good few quid lighter.

We managed to get Fishy Bob-Rob home from Wales without too much spillage, carefully inserting him in the car on the floor behind the passenger seat. The car felt more like an ark than a Vauxhall, what with Misty in her carry-cage peering down at him from the seat above and Fishy Bob-Rob blowing bubbles back at Misty.

It wasn’t until we were home, grudgingly installing the tank on the work surface below the kitchen window, the place where the handy portable grill used to be, in fact still was until Fishy Bob-Rob turned up, that Holly declared… ‘I think Bob-Rob needs a friend’.

And she was right. Fishy Bob-Rob did need a friend so I got one and put it in the tank without telling her. Here’s Shadow, a fantail shubunkin, he’s a surprise – I wonder what she’ll say.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Chester back…

Yes, Chester’s back. Let’s just say that for reasons we don’t fully understand his new owner had a change of heart and decided not to take him after all. There was no fault on Chester’s part and up until the phone call last Wednesday evening she seemed very pleased with how things were going – something must have changed, who knows?

Anyway, Chester remains ours and the summer is here. I have no idea what we do next and at the minute I’m not worrying about it - it was enough to see Holly and Chester together in the field at the weekend. Holly walking towards Chester, a whinny of recognition, then calmness in each other’s company – horse and girl, girl and horse.

Okay so it isn’t sensible, and the money is a concern, and, and, and… we’ll sort something out I expect.

I’m not a believer in things ‘happening for a reason’ and if they do I’m sure that not all the reasons are good, but I’d like to believe it. So if Chester returning has happened for a reason please let it be a good one, maybe a lottery win - a big one.

Yes, Chester’s back and once I’d got over my initial anger (letting go was hard enough), panic (what do we do now?), and fear (is Chester okay?), once I’d dealt with those things… I was pleased - it felt right.

Will this last I wonder? I know me.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Sometimes when I’m driving something will catch my eye and I have to stop the car and take it in for a while. Sometimes I snatch a picture, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I just sit in the car and stare letting my mind wander out and over to whatever has my attention, sometimes I get out of the car and stumble over to touch. Sometimes I come away knowing that I’ve been changed through the experience, sometimes I come away knowing that nothing has changed. Sometimes I come away calmed, lifted – sometimes I come away deeper down than ever I was before.

Four small trees, growing on a wall, in a field, close to the sea. I can smell salt, feel rain in the wind, hear waves fall in the distance. Sheep graze, sheltering from the wind beside the wall. Such small trees. Not a hedge, no not a hedge - four small trees shaped by wind and incident waiting in this field for me to come and stare and maybe bring some change.

Sometimes, this time I caught it up in pictures. Sometimes, this time I let my mind wander out and over, threading through the twisted branches, feeling the softness of the wool caught on sharpening thorns. Sometimes, this time I come away changed, calmer, melancholy but happier.

Four small trees waiting in a field for me - it might have been anything. I wonder what it'll be next time?

Sometimes I wonder what this all means.

Friday, 7 May 2010


Is this half in or half out? I don’t know - and am I climbing in or climbing out of this hedge? I thought I was climbing in, but now that I get here I’m not so sure, maybe I’m climbing out. Either way I seem to be stuck?

I can’t move in and I can’t move out, I’m stuck… why, oh why did I jump up here in the first place. It’s dark in here and there are things going on. I can hear the birds in the branches, but I can’t see them and I’m sure I can smell mousey smell, maybe that’s why I did this… I can’t remember, I can’t remember.

Was I trying to escape? If I was I really can’t remember what I was trying to escape from, I’m getting confused, I’m beginning to panic. Deep breaths, deep breaths. If only I had a paper bag, I’m getting catstrophobic – I‘ve got all of the symptoms – I feel scared because I’m restricted, I’m worried that I’m going to suffocate, and I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this hissing hedge. Knowing that should help me calm down but it doesn’t seem to be working - calm down, calm down.

Oh no, not that, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, there’s no air in here. If I ever get out of this hedge I’m never ever going back in again. I’m getting all sweaty and shakey and my heart’s racing – it should be about 150 beats a minute and it feels like it’s thundering along at a hissing 250 beats… Meooooow, meoooooow, meowwww – it hurts. On no, this is the worse - and I'm sure that this hedge is closing in on me. I have to get out, I have to get out, I have to get out!!!

I have to get out or I’m going to be SQUAAASHED!

Now – how did I get down here? I’m out, I can breathe again, my heart is slowing down, I’ve stopped shaking. The catstrophobia’s gone. No more hedges for me, not ever, ever, ever!

Better now. Is my nin-nins ready I wonder? All that panicing has made me peckish.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Please press button 'B'...

My daughter Holly is constantly complaining about her mobile phone, wanting to upgrade it, wanting something better. We didn’t let her have a phone until she was thirteen and you should have heard he complain – all of her friends had mobiles, all of her friends had had mobiles since they were ten.

When I was her age we didn’t have a phone. I’m not talking about a mobile - I’m taking about any phone, we didn’t have a phone in the house. If we wanted to make a call we went to the phone box half a mile down the road and dialled using your dialling finger in the holes on the silver dial. There were no numbers stored in the phones so you usually went to the phone box clutching a scrap of paper with the number, usually a very short one, scrawled on it. I remember pressing button ‘B’ to return my unused money, I remember talking to the operator for free to get a number, I remember that the phone boxes were always clean and in perfect working order… ‘Operator, name and address please.’

Our first phone was grey. It had a dial, and a curly cord, and sat proudly on the telephone cabinet my Uncle Len built to hide the gas meter in our hall. Uncle Len wasn’t a carpenter but he knew a thing or to about wood and nails and wood stain, so he built us one just like the one he’d built for himself. There was no plan - he just made it up as he went along, a true craftsman.

We had a party line, which meant that we shared a line with somebody else who we didn’t know. It kept the cost down and in those days you didn’t use the phone very often, so only occasionally did you pick up the phone to hear some stranger talking about Auntie Jessie and her hysterectomy or how poor Timmy had got stuck up a tree and they’d had to call the fire brigade. ‘Sorry’ you’d say before rapidly replacing the receiver - unless you thought you could get away with listening for a while as I sometimes did.

I used to love dialling the speaking clock (at the first pip it will be…), the weather, directory enquiries, the operator - and they were all FREE. But it was when I started dialling Dial-a-Disc to listen to the number one chart topper of the day pop-pickers that the phone lock appeared. There was a charge for Dial-a-Disc. The phone lock was a shiny circular barrel that fitted into the last finger hole of the dial preventing the dial from turning - so after that I had to ask my dad for the key before I could make a call AND put some money in the box for the privilege. It took me weeks of practice to work out how to open the phone lock with a customised paper clip - I got there, thirty eight paper clips later, in the end though.

I’ll never forget the day our trimphone was delivered. It was a momentous occasion with the neighbours and all the family coming around to admire it. Auntie Kate and Uncle Len, Auntie Lena and Uncle Ian, Auntie Lucy and Charlie, Auntie Mu and Uncle Bob, my Gran, my cousins – Linda, Mary, Ian, Gina, Jane, Lynsey, Judith, Alison, Sue, not Leslie though - the Taylors, the Smiths, the Robinsons – they all came around to admire the wonder that was our Trimphone.

It was so sleek, so modern, so two tone green, so angular, so very much now – it still had a dial and holes for your fingers but it didn’t bringggg bringggg it brrrrrrrr brrrrrrrrrred – so much more satisfying. We were quite the trendsetters in our road for a while but it wasn’t long before everyone had replaced their old phones with a Trimphone.

My dad still locked it up though, and I still picked the lock with my paper clip – until he caught me… but that’s another story.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Blue balloon...

Bank Holiday Monday, Nefyn show again, £4 in and a sunny day for a change, cold but blue and clear.

Tents, grass, horses, burgers, cakes, beer, needlepoint, dogs, tractors, events, stalls, sheep, chutney, announcements, plants, cars, eggs, noise – and a bright blue balloon blowing up into the air and away, me watching for ages until at last a small, small, dot on the horizon it blinked out, gone - taking me with it for a moment. Then back to earth and the showground with a slow reawakening.

Nefyn Show, the same every year and each year different. I’ll let the photographs speak, the photographs say it all - apart from my balloon.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Blonde expressions...

I had a bath at the cottage on Sunday evening. I don’t take many baths in Wales preferring the speed and efficiency of the shower, but for a change on Sunday I decided upon a bath – and a nice large glass of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany my bath time fun and my rubber ducks.

Thing is I’m finding it harder to get in the bath these days and it isn’t just because of my increasing girth. These days the bath is surrounded by countless bottles of shampoo, in fact hair care product covers just about every available bathroom surface. It’s a teenage girl thing, and my daughter is a teenage girl with serious hair concerns - it's either too straight, too curly, too blond, not blond enough, too frizzy, not frizzy enough... what would she do with her time if she was bald I wonder?

So our bathroom in Wales resembles the hair care aisle at Wilkinson's - although, on inspection, it seems that none of the imaginatively curved, brightly coloured, plastic bottles seem to hold anything as mundane as boring old shampoo. These containers could be straight out of a Harry Potter book– they aren't shampoos at all, they are Elixirs, Sources, Treatments, Programmes, Extracts and Potions - nothing as simple as a shampoo for just washing your hair. Professor Snape would be proud to have them in his storeroom.

When I was a boy, in the days of the nit nurse, it was simply Vosene or Cussons, although at Christmas you might be treated to some Matey shampoo – making bath time ‘a bubble of fun’. I remember on more than one occasion having my hair washed in washing up liquid because we’d run out of real shampoo. Mind you, back then pretty much all bubbly liquids were made from the same batch of detergent (according to Stinks, my physics master) and they probably still are. The difference is that these days they are given fancy names by celebrity hair dressers charging fortunes for a tiny drop of extract of walnut / monkey gland / sage / alo vera / David Beckham.

Here are just some of the names given to the collection that surrounded me during my weekend bathtime soak:

Blonde Expressions’ - Now I wonder what those expressions are – ‘Dunno?’, ‘Not sure?’, ‘I don’t understand.’ – and I wonder if there are shampoos for other hair colours – ‘Red Reactions’ for bad-tempered redheads, or ‘Brunette Philosophising’ for that very clever (but plain) girl with the dark hair, maybe even ‘Mousey Mumblings’ for girls too shy to speak up.

‘Full Recovery’ - This is the one to use after a few too many alcopops, or is ‘Full Recovery’ really an alcopop dressed up in shampoos clothing, a sort of hair of the dog for your hair - or should that be dog of your hair for your dog?

‘Dazzling Shine’ – Now this one seems pretty straightforward until you read on – ‘Get that One in a Million Shine.Mmmm, one in a million – so that would indicate that for every million people using this product only one of them will get a dazzling shine. So what will the other 999,999 get - a dull dullness maybe?

‘Seductively Straight’ - I could read all sorts of innuendo into this if I really wanted, but for now let’s just say that I won’t - it wouldn’t be the PC thing to do.

And finally, and to combat ‘Seductively Straight’‘It’s a Curl Thing’ - Now that you’ve finished shampooing your hair to get it seductively straight it’s time for a new curly look, and whilst we’re about it let’s chuck an appalling play-on-words for good measure…What do you mean ‘I don’t understand’?

Oh, I see – you’ve been using the Blonde Expressions again haven’t you and it seems to have really worked this time...I don’t understand indeed.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The holy goats...

We always look for the wild goats as we drive down the mountain road from Yr Eifl towards Pistyll, the sea suspended between the twins (a pair of hills) in the distance – it’s a breathtaking view. We always look but we’ve never seen any goats, wild, fuming, or furious.

But we always look, hoping - after all they were once seen eating the flowers from the graves in Pistyll churchyard, or so it's claimed.

The wild goats are meant to be descended from a holy herd kept by pilgrims to graze the cliffs back in the time of St. Tudwall. Later the Irish workers who came to work the quarries of Trevor and the lost village of Nant Gwrtheyrn, providing the stone that build Manchester and Liverpool, brought their own black and white stock from Ireland and some escaped and cross-bred. At least that is how the story goes, but we’ve been looking for over ten years without a sign of so much as a single goat hair.

And then on Friday as we turned the final hairpin at the bottom of the mountain and there they were - three long haired, hard horned, Billy Goat Gruffs quietly grazing amidst the bluebells in the setting sun. At last, the fabled wild goats of Yr Eifl!

We weren’t the only ones who stopped to take a picture and soon there were half a dozen cars watching them munching away on the hillside. I asked one of the other goat spotters if she’d ever seen them before and she said that she hadn’t despite living on the Llyn for over forty years! She also told me that spotting the holy goats was guaranteed to bring good luck.

Here's hoping that the holy goats really do bring me some good luck and it's not all Baaaaaa Humbug - I could do with some luck at the moment.