Spring Greens

We’re now in the Month of May and the new Spring leaves are looking fresh and wonderful. It’s a wonderful time of year full of excitement at what will pop up after the Winter and I’ve taken lots of photos of lovely bright Spring flowers but this posting is dedicated to the Greens………..

Beautiful Horse Chestnut leaves with the sun’s rays illuminating them.

Verdure: ‘lush green vegetation’ (OED)

The semi-translucent Euphorbia Humpty Dumpty basking in the sunshine. These plants remind me of flying saucers or as if they have come from Mars……… (vivid imagination).

A lovely Hawthorn leaf – the flowers of which are so delicate and pretty. I think the leaf shape is rather gorgeous too; it catches the afternoon sun perfectly.

The Gunnera with its new leaf growth and flowers. It always looks so commanding and impressive next to water.

Lush: ‘(of vegetation) luxuriant – very rich and providing great sensory pleasure’ (OED)

Some irridescent moss which was growing through the silver-grey gravel.

The new, soft lime-green growth of a Spruce tree in the garden. I love the colour, texture and form.

I thought it was fun how the cows seemed to line up – it didn’t seem very characteristic of their behaviour! Here they are munching away in this verdant scene.

Verdant: ‘green with grass or other lush vegetation‘ (OED)

Elder with flower buds waiting to open. I like the lime-green colour of the buds against the darker leaves.

I love the bright, fresh green of this Perennial Cornflower’s leaves. They are quite hairy. The flowers are all out now, but this is how the leaves looked in mid-April. There’s a ladybird protecting the bud from aphids.

Luxuriant: ‘(of vegetation) rich and profuse in growth’ (OED)

Brunnera Jack Frost with its very pretty heart-shaped, veined leaves. The silvery colour helps the plant to withstand hot, dry areas in the garden as they help to reflect the light.

 
 
An Ash tree with fresh, new red-coloured growth.
 
 
Not quite green – there’s the hint of the ever-increasing bright yellow oil-seed rape in the distance, the presence of which makes a dramatic patchwork of colour in the countryside.
 
 
It will be good to look back and reflect on these photographs in a few months’ time, when Autumn arrives…….
 

“Nor less attractive is the woodland scene,

Diversified with trees of every growth,

Alike, yet various.  Here the grey smooth trunks

Of ash, or lime, or beech, distinctly shine,

Within the twilight of their distant shades;

There, lost behind a rising ground, the wood

Seems sunk, and shorten’d to its topmost boughs.

No tree in all the grove but has its charms,

Though each its hue peculiar; paler some,

And of a wannish grey; the willow such,

And poplar, that with silver lines his leaf,

And ash far stretching his umbrageous arm;

Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still,

Lord of the woods, the long surviving oak.

Some glossy-leaved, and shining in the sun,

The maple, and the beech of oily nuts

Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve

Diffusing odours; nor unnoted pass

The sycamore, capricious in attire,

Now green, now tawny, and , ere autumn yet

Have changed the woods, in scarlet honours bright”.

William Cowper ~ The Task

(available online at: http://www.ccel.org/c/cowper/works/task.htm, accessed April 2011)

Dictionary Definitions from Oxford English Dictionary (revised 2008,2009) Oxford University Press.

Advertisements

Downton Cuckoo Fair

Had a lovely day out yesterday (Saturday, 30th April) at the ‘Downton Cuckoo Fair’ situated in the village of Downton, near the New Forest, Hampshire. This annual Fair attracts around 20,000 people and is held on the weekend closest to the May Day Bank Holiday. The main Downton road is closed on the Saturday and the village is given over to the festivities. According to the village website, Downton is an ‘ancient Wiltshire village’ where people have lived for ‘over 7,000 years’. It’s a very pretty village with plenty of green spaces, and the River Avon runs through it.

According to the Cuckoo Fair website, the Fair gets its name from the Downton tradition of ‘opening the gate’ to let the cuckoo – a symbol of good weather – through. The Fair has been running in its current guise since 1980, but there are records of a Downton Fair as far back as 1249.

The Cuckoo Princess was incorporated into the Fair when it was revived in 1980, but there may have previously been a Cuckoo King.  Here, the Cuckoo Princess, waiting patiently, sits atop the horse and carriage which will lead the procession through the ‘Borough’ in Downton.

The 12 feet high ‘Salisbury Giant’ – alternatively named ‘St Christopher’ – has historical associations with the Salisbury Guild of Merchant Tailors (Sarum Morris website). The Guild would use him as part of their annual celebration of the feast of St John the Baptist – patron Saint of tailors – on Midsummer’s Day. According to the Salisbury Museum, it is ‘probable that he existed by the 1400s’. The ‘original’ Giant, whose wooden frame was rebuilt around the 1850s, resides in the Salisbury Museum. Both Salisbury Giant and Hob-Nob (below) are ‘unique survivors’ from the 15th Century, as others were destroyed during the Reformation (Sarum Morris website).

Traditionally, the Giant’s companion – Hob-Nob, a mischief maker – clears the way for the procession of the Giant. He also seems to either delight or absolutely terrify children! Not a great photograph, but the best one I captured of him on both this day and St George’s Day last weekend – he’s too quick! According to the Sarum Morris website, the Giant and Hob-Nob would have originally been accompanied by, amongst others, Morris dancers. Speaking of which …….

Sarum Morris who take their name from Old Sarum – as Salisbury was once known. On their website, they describe themselves as a ‘mixed Cotswold side’ and their dances originate from villages in Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire. They appear regularly in and around Salisbury and the South during the Summer accompanied by their own replica Hob-Nob and, occasionally, by the Giant.

Sarum Morris musicians.

The top of the Maypole, with the Cuckoo adorning the flag, cast against an overcast sky. Although it did cloud over, we only had a couple of ‘spits and spots’ of rain. The weather, for the most part, was gloriously sunny and warm. The photographs I took of the Maypole dancing, despite getting a fairly good spot, are pretty awful. There are too many elbows, arms and heads of other photographers or the audience in them.

Lots of entertainment was laid on for children including a ‘troupe’ of unicyclists, stilt walkers, Punch and Judy, and fairground amusements in the Memorial Gardens.

There was a variety of music, including rock and folk bands which played outside various pubs, but I particularly enjoyed listening to the brass band music – so evocative of Summer and outdoor events. This band are simply known as the ‘Downton Band’ and are in their 140th year.

We stopped and listened to their rendition of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harem and had  fun trying to take ‘arty’ photographs of reflections inside the tubas; fortunately, the musicians were very tolerant of us!

In addition to all this, there were lots AND LOTS of stalls selling a variety of fayre including arts, crafts, plants, food and clothing, and locals also set out their own bric-a-brac in their gardens to sell for charity. We were very pleased that, for the first time (I think) this year, there were stalls selling vegetarian food. Excellent!

Just had to buy cider from the infamous!! cider stall – ‘Olde Joes Cider’. I wasn’t sure what to pick, but the vendor recommended the ‘single variety’. It was delicious and very welcome after a warm day which involved lots of walking.

What I like best about the Cuckoo Fair is its relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, the variety of entertainment, the huge choice of stalls, food and drink, and the community feel; the locals embrace the 20,000 or so visitors from near and far. Also, although I’ve only been to the Fair a few times, it seems to get better every time.

A lovely day out helped by having glorious, warm weather!

References:

http://www.sarummorris.co.uk/   This website has lots of information about the history of Hob-Nob and the Salisbury Giant.

http://www.cuckoofair.co.uk/

http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/collections/medieval-salisbury/giant-and-hob-nob.html

http://www.downton.org.uk/

http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getfaq.php?id=273

The Salisbury Giant, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/go8a1jrkR_aiiIfKon1LNA [accessed May 2011]

2011: A Day’s Oddity

I had been toying with the title for today’s blog posting; it ranged from ‘Urban Adventures’ to ‘Talk of the Town’. It has evolved, however, into the above.

I ventured out – as pillion – on Midge’s classic motorcycle today – the first time since (I think) 2007. Where does time go? I don’t know – but all I know is, I’d been living the life of a comfort-seeker over the past four years. The entrance of our campervan in 2007 really put paid to my little adventures as fidgety pillion rider. Oh – but today – those feelings of yesteryear came back – especially piquant because of the post five-oh millstone – I mean milestone!

My very feline-looking helmet: purrrrr

Oh the feel of the wind in your face, your long tresses blowing in the wind, the sight of the grey tarmac whizzing past beneath your precariously placed peds……… I can tell you it was exhilarating! I highly recommend it. It makes one feel alive! I had toyed with the idea of taking up riding myself a few years ago but upon hearing tales of accidents and legs hanging off and chaps full of metal plates and so on, decided I wasn’t that keen. Besides, I know how crazy car drivers are.

Anyway, we arrived home and I had a wizard wheeze that we should take a couple of shots of me adorned in my motorcycle garb for a blog posting. Midge obliged and I re-donned my kit and we looked for a suitable back-drop. I chose the garden (well- why not?) but Midge said it had to be the road. I was to walk along the road, stopping at the ‘go as fast as you like as long as we don’t catch you’ signs and he would snap me.

Whatever speed you like as long as we do not catch you (the speed cameras are being turned off to save money)

I got cold feet as I saw a father with his group of young children coming along the road. I didn’t think it was a good idea. I was feeling self-conscious in my motorcycle gear with no motorcycle. I hid in the garden but Midge reported that said chap was loitering. What?!! Eventually he arrived at the garden and observed me once again, making the quip: ‘It’s been a long time since I saw somebody shot out of a canon, hee-hee’. Very funny. It took Midge about 30 seconds to come back with ‘Ah, but it’s a Pentax, not a Canon’ ……….. but the man had walked on beyond earshot by then.

So, there we were: me posing by said signs and Midge taking an eternity to take the decisive shot. The result wasn’t a good one. Not because of any lack of photographic genius on Midge’s part but because – after all – I didn’t look quite like Marianne Faithful : – (

Not quite Marianne Faithful

Anyway, after all that silliness, I wanted to take refuge in some garden shots and pursued the idea of photographing my helmet in the garden after all. This was the result, which reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dave seeing his life through his astronaut helmet.

So – it might be a while until I venture out again on the motorcycle. Midge will probably re-set the suspension and take some air out of the tyres in readiness for his solo adventures – but it was great fun. Eat your heart out Carol Vorderman.

Paying Homage to the Cowslip

The caption which accompanied the photo of the Cowslip on yesterday’s blog posting described this little flower as ‘humble’. Comment has been made at home that Cowslips are anything but humble. They may be small, but they are not insignificant or shy. They stand up big and proud amongst the grasses which are their normal habitat.

So, in honour of the Cowslip, I am going to devote this blog posting to it with some cheery photos which have been freshly taken today – hot off the memory card!

Primula Veris

Apparently the name ‘Cowslip’ comes from the Old English word ‘Cu-slyppe’ meaning ‘cow-slobber’ or ‘cow-dung’ (Source Oxford English Dictionary). This is due to its association in the past of growing in meadows where cows grazed.

Close-up

It is a perennial plant and usually flowers from April to May. The grass they grow in should not be cut until late July in order for seeds to set.

Seed-head from last year

There are a few of these Cowslip seedheads scattered around and I think they are rather attractive with their curly edges and coppery colour.

Pretty 'frilled' edges and nodding heads

Rare Red Cowslip

Here is a rare red Cowslip which was growing in the garden early March this year. The photo is of poor quality – I took it with my mobile phone camera which was awful.

So – here’s to the not-so-humble Cowslip.

Photography Changes Your Life

The title sounds rather over-dramatic – I know – but having my new camera and being able to photograph the beautiful and interesting things which surround me is wonderful. It’s as if my eyes have been opened properly – and I now see the world through different eyes – enlightened eyes. I’ve discovered it late, having recently hit the big five-oh but I’m learning from inspirational stories of 50 year olds – friends and other bloggers – that 50 is the age when new ventures begin.

I have also – today – joined the ranks of photographers looking to capture that amazing shot of a tourist attraction or pretty river scene. (I had, for the last two weeks, stayed within the garden and village, taking shots of flowers mainly).

Pretty River Scene

There I was today, though, peeping around trees, crouching down, walking backwards (trying to avoid tripping over a kerb), craning my neck, kneeling down, looking up, looking down – actually looking a little bit wild probably. You get some very strange looks from people when involved in getting that perfect shot. I really enjoyed myself though and got some interesting shots which I’ll post at some point. Another thing you discover with photography is that you lose all sense of yourself – and time.

I’d also been wondering whether photography is a science or an art. I think it’s probably a combination of both. I want to photograph scenes and images which resonate with me and which I enjoy looking at but I also want to learn techniques in order to become better at photography. For example, I’d been so excited snapping the beauties in the garden that I was forgetting to check ‘untidy’ features – something which Midge pointed out.

These two photographs exemplify a couple of my mistakes:

I'd included a broken leaf and a piece of twig in this photo. I was completely oblivious until it was pointed out to me!

 

I was creating shadow on this shot but, in a strange way, I like it. I know it would have been much better without the shadow, but I like looking at it! More art than science in this case! I think it adds interest.

I discovered a new photography term the other day – bokeh. From my understanding, it means blurring captured in a particular way. There must not be any defined edges in the blurred area. I experimented with it and came up with a couple of interesting shots. I’m sure they are not the required effect but it’s good to learn different techniques.

This was an early attempt which didn’t quite work – there’s too much definition in the background

 

This still isn't quite right - but I like it

I have one which is a little better than this and I’ll upload it onto my photoblog in a few days.

All-in-all, I am becoming rather obsessed with taking photographs. When you see the tiny detail on the very small forget-me-nots, you realise how much you’ve previously missed by not looking at nature closely enough. It does create a deeper connection with nature.

Up close and personal with the humble Cow-slip; Primula Veris.

I remember last year, I became impatient with Midge because he stopped to photograph some steps whilst we were at the Swanage Folk Festival. I couldn’t understand why stone steps could be so riveting.

I understand exactly now…………

 

Sunny Sunday Garden

I’ve been trying to formulate the words for a blog posting about how wonderful the last two weeks have been. How the gift of a camera and a new-found passion for photography, along with a deeper connection with nature, and the arrival of a long spell of beautiful warm and sunny weather, have combined to generate in me renewed vigour and rejuvination.  However, up until I typed that (rather long) sentence, I hadn’t been able to put the words together in any semblance of order.

Isn’t it strange how when we stop trying hard to do something, it just happens. We are a strange species. Anyway, because I couldn’t find the words and I wanted to mark this wonderful feeling in a blog posting, I took a walk around the garden to look for some inspiration. Here are a few photos which encapsulate what’s happening in the garden this Sunny Sunday afternoon.

 

Speckled Wood Butterfly

This beautiful fellow landed just in front of me as I ventured into the garden – at first minus my camera. I ran upstairs to fetch it hoping he would still be in place and he obliged. The Speckled Wood is a common butterfly in Britain and prefers dappled shade sites although the male sits in the sun waiting for a passing female! Isn’t he a wonderful specimen? He sat and let me photograph him for a while and as I walked away, he took flight.

 

Speckled Wood Basking in the Sun

 

Here he is fanning open his wings probably to attract a passing female……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Centre of Attention

I wanted to photograph the interesting pattern the flower bud of the cornflower makes but took this shot of a ladybird on top of one instead. There are lots of ladybirds in the garden this year – perhaps the neighbours are organic gardeners too. If you look closely, you can make out some of the aphids attacking this plant. Should see some blooms in a week or two.

 

Starry, starry tulip

Starry, starry tulip

 

This pretty yellow tulip was all alone but in full glory at the south edge of Bed 1. It’s at an unusual angle as its stem was bending and twisting to allow for full sun exposure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atmospheric Shot?

 

This shot of the tulip looks a bit weirdly atmospheric. It’s here to serve as a reminder that when I’m composing a shot, I need to make sure I’m not creating shadow on the object!

I’ve a lot to learn……

It’s a pity because when blown up, the markings on the petals are quite spectacular.

 

 

 

Poppy Ready to Pop

The poppies in the garden had been mainly confined to the uppermost patio area where they are in full sun. I had always hoped they would seed in one of my bedding plots but it never happened until this year!

I am so pleased that I have lots of poppies coming up in Bed 2 which is a dappled area as seen in this photo. The bright yellows and oranges will be a delight for the eyes all through the summer.

It’s strange though: I can’t be sure whether I sprinkled some seeds on this plot last year or whether I simply thought about doing it. I prefer to think that the poppies chose that area.

Serendipity.

Connections

I’ve had a wonderful week and am feeling quite light and cheery. It’s been a week spent indulging in pleasurable pursuits which have marked a milestone in a memorable way.

Tiger Tank

Went to Dorset earlier in the week and visited the Tank Museum in Bovington which was missed out on a previous visit. There’s so much to see there, it can’t be done in one day. Included in the price of a day ticket, however, is a year’s pass allowing the visitor to go back unlimited times during the year. A really fun and informative place to visit. Recommended.

Nestling

It was such a lovely warm day, we took advantage of the extended daylight after the weekend clock change, and decided to drive to the coast where we discovered a hidden-away path which led down to the sea and away from the madding crowd. Not that there’s much of a madding crowd in Dorset; it’s a very peaceful, rural county. Saw these idyllic houses nestling by the sea just beyond the hill which seemed to comprise Strip Lynchets but I’m not sure. Must look that up on an Ordnance Survey Map.

Met up with some friends from years gone by on Wednesday. The subject of age came up and my friends related how their lives changed in positive ways when they reached 50 which cheered me up. They had both embarked upon new adventures work-wise and education-wise which led to better things. It was just the sort of thing I needed to hear which has added to my cheerfulness. I noticed that one of my friends was wearing purple trousers which made me smile. She is the sort of person described in my earlier blog posting about the type of woman who can – as it were – carry them off. She also described how she had taken to wearing motorcycle-type boots – clompy, lace-ups with straps. Brilliant!

What's Afoot?

Had some rather marvellous presents. I am now the proud owner of a ‘proper’ camera as I have developed (pun intended) an interest in photography. I’ll be posting some of my pictures here and on my new Photo Blog.

I don’t really know what I’m doing yet – the manual consists of 250 pages, so it will take me a while to understand how it works. For now, I’m mainly pointing and shooting and hoping for the best.

Maybe taking up photography in middle age is my equivalent of getting a Harley.

There’s been a lot of evangelising about electronic books lately as if they are the best thing since sliced bread. Another present I received was a complete surprise.

Antique Book

No – not an e-book, but an antique book associated with my favourite philosopher: Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It’s a book which aimed to clear away some of the misconceptions about him. I must admit , I’m not sure whether to store it away safely for posterity or whether I should read it and enjoy it. I think it will be the latter. 

J-J Rousseau Frontispiece

Must take care of the spine; I am a notorious spine-bender…..

So, after a week which included some wonderful surprises, good food and wine and excellent company, accompanied by lighter evenings, the garden bursting into flower and leaf, and a new surge of energy and motivation for my studies, I’m feeling rather mellow. This is a wonderful time of year; one full of hope and promise. It’s strange how when you think you are standing still, you suddenly discover that a lot has changed and that your life has moved on in ways which you don’t recognise until later, and then something happens which takes you back to a time in the past. This morning I smelled the warm, damp soil outside – a combination of warmer temperatures and overnight rain – and it took me back to the Glastonbury Festival a few years ago. A time when I felt younger and more vibrant. However, I really have no reason to believe that hitting the ‘big age’ should automatically mean I don’t feel young and vibrant anymore. It’s simply a matter of attitude.

En Avant!