A Bit Of A Re-Blog…

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I just seem to have had one of those weeks where I have run out of time, not been able to catch up with anything and I have been using the same shopping list for the past ten days…consequently we have plenty of cat kibbles, a bewildering preponderance of frozen peas, pepperoni and vegan pizzas and an advent calendar for Charlie. The others don’t bother so much but Charlie loves the daily thrill of opening the little doors…

Anyway, I was trying to catch up with my NaNo when I found this little story from a few years ago, and it made me feel a little sad at how bleakly it read, although the original idea was actually sparked by a charming dinner service I saw in our supermarket, with all manner of fanciful beasties…have a read and see what you think, friends, and I will try to be more organised and catch up with everybody…

Alice Updated.

Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”

Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out drinking all night!”

These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.

It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of summer when she had been at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or how she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this.

The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.

Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.

Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”

The tall dark boy with knives in his eyes laughed like a maniac and pushed the glass towards her.

She drank, and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.

When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.

She sat up and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and as warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.

And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock, and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.

She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.

*

Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”

The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.

Murder By Moussaka…

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Not moussaka… 

Now. Regular readers might remember I have a few issues around the subject of food. Don’t get me wrong – I love food, am an avid watcher of cookery programmes and enjoy myself cooking and baking when I have the opportunity.

No… it’s the reverse. The older I get, the more foods I find that dislike me. The other day I went to my mother’s for dinner – I am aware that she thinks my food foibles are pretty much in my head, but I also get extremely anxious whenever I discuss food and what I can and cannot eat with her. She comes from a generation where you show your love and appreciation by eating whatever is put in front of you, clearing your plate and asking for more… it took me twenty years to pluck up the courage to tell her I detest Brussels sprouts…

Look!” she said, gesturing proudly and a little defiantly towards the oven – “I made moussaka!”

Ah.” I said, a little hesitantly. “Does it have-”

Only the tiniest amount of cheese in the sauce, but you can’t expect me to eat it otherwise!”

I subsided, duly chastened and already worried… my stomach rubbing its nasty little paws in anticipation.

Mother served the moussaka, and it lay there, on my plate, plumptious and tempting. Savoury layers of aubergine and courgette, chinks of onion, like little pearls, interspersed with nodules of seasoned brown mince, glistening like the sweat on a lover’s brow, and over all this, billows of creamy white sauce, smooth, subtly beckoning, flowing sensuously over everything…

Reader – I ate it.

And managed to make it all the way home before the roiling indigestion, knotting stomach cramps, nausea – well, you get the picture.

Lying pale and limp on my bed, surrounded by sympathetic cats (well, vaguely concerned if I’m honest) I got a text from my mother.

Hope you enjoyed dinner – see you tomorrow xx”

I can only conclude she was setting up her alibi…

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A butterfly. Butterflies are good.

Ambivalent About Birds…

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Although I welcome birds to my garden – and sometimes my house, usually courtesy of Lily – as part of my wildlife-friendly environment I have endeavoured to create, I have decided I don’t really like them. They’re quite rude.

Alex had a budgie, who was a much loved and sadly missed family member, but even he had issues – a small yellow and green bird with the heart of a lion and the temper of a wolverine.

But yes, birds outside. I was planting some dianthus and violas in the back border when I heard a scream of raucous laughter.

Rude,” I thought, “I’m just minding my own business.”

I heard the laugh again and looked up, prepared to make a cutting remark like “Go away!” when I saw a magpie, perched on a tree branch above my head watching me. It opened its beak and gave another yell of unrestrained laughter at my gardening efforts and flew away.

Then the other afternoon, I was calling Ting. Every time the word “Ting” left my mouth it was echoed by a chuckling rasp, like nails down a blackboard. I looked up, and sat in the ash tree on the park was a jackdaw. It cocked its head on one side and laughed derisively, glaring at me with its pale blue eyes.

Ting! Hehehehehe!” it bellowed, and flew off in a flash of silvery black feathers.

We have a park at the back of our house and I can look out over it from the one of the back bedrooms, and I often see crows and seagulls diving and whirling like fighter jets, executing such tight turns and spins a Red Arrows pilot would be envious. Usually they battle each other, but sometimes they will unite in the face of a common foe and mob the peregrine who flies across every so often in search of food, screaming and laughing like demented banshees.

I don’t mind the little robin, Mr.Gibbs, who is part of the Avian Quality Control team in my garden. He will sit in the honeysuckle and make politely encouraging remarks. I also have a pair of little wrens, charming tiny brown birds that flicker in and out of the hedges, although they have a terrible, booming alarm call if one of the cats wanders too near their territory:

Cat! Cat! CAT! CAT! CATCATCATCAT!”

Now. I have a herb garden, which I planted earlier this year, and I am quite proud of it, not least because I recently introduced my partner to the pleasures of cooking with herbs. I was gazing absently out of the kitchen window – the back door was open – when I heard the most terrible scream.

Uh-oh, Lily’s got a bird!” was my first thought.

I ran outside to find the source of the enraged screaming and fluttering, fully expecting to see Lily at least dragging a pheasant, when a black feathered ball of rage shot past me.

There, in my lovely herb bed, was a battle royal. Two male blackbirds were having a massive punch up, going at it like professional wrestlers. One seized the other by a wing tip and flung him into the parsley- which was flattened by the force of his landing. He rebounded off the sage and dived for the other, grabbing him by the leg and upending him into the lemon balm. The other one retaliated with a solid body blow that knocked him into my thyme – I’m very fond of my thyme as it has therapeutic benefits as well as flavour – and that was when I decided enough was enough.

Oi! Get out of it you little b$%*&@*s!” I shouted – most unladylike, I know, but I had glimpsed what they had done to the chives.

They turned and looked at me.

Fair cop guv!”

And fled.

For such little birds, they fought with surprising ferocity – easy to see they’re descended from dinosaurs!

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Now – butterflies I like!

Gardens Are Good!

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My garden earlier on in the summer

When I was a little girl, I used to love watching “Gardeners’ World” (and still do, actually) with my Nan and Grandad. The presenter at that time was the wonderful Percy Thrower, another Shropshire resident like my grandparents, and those evenings spent in the company of my beloved grandparents and the gentle voice of Percy Thrower stared a love of gardening in me.

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These petunias are called “Galaxy” – you can see why!

It’s only in the past two years that my love of gardening has been able to translate itself into the creation of my own garden. For some reason, it was assumed that I didn’t like it, the dirt, the labour, the bugs… However, this misunderstanding is something I have endeavoured to put right.

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These are “Ray Sunflower” – love the name!

Also – the link between gardening and the benefits to mental health are undoubted. That veritable green-fingered gardening god Monty Don and the brilliantly brave and lovely Rachel De Thame have both in recent programmes talked about the emotional connection with their garden. I found it very moving.

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One of my wonderfully tactile ornamental grasses, “Pennisetum Rubrum” – or “Basil” to his friends..

I am perhaps a somewhat chaotic gardener. I start out with the best of intentions (“Why don’t you make a plan Mum?”) but then I get carried away digging, or something, and I forget what I’ve planted where… It’s like my birthday every day in my garden when Spring arrives, as there are new surprises sprouting up all over, much to my delight.

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I named this one “Casanova”…although he is more properly “Pennisetum Fairytales,” just couldn’t keep his hands to himself on the bus home!

I love the stately beauty of tulips, the robust colours of dahlias, but perhaps my favourite, well, in this year just gone at any rate, have been the petunias and ornamental grasses. The grasses bring a lovely flow and movement to the garden which I find ineffably soothing, and after a stressful day, there is nothing more I like than to come home and dig a few holes, plant some things, tend to others and communicate my love for my garden, watched, usually, by my four faithful girly gardening buddies.

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Not unsurprisingly, one of my favourite books is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I would like to finish with this quote:

If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden”

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Stichtite And Suspicious Sisters…

 

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There is always something new and wonderful at Lizian – the colour of this stone drew me at once, a wonderful lavender purple, with a soap-soft feel to it.

Stichtite is a protective stone that opens your mind to being aware of how negative attitudes can damage, giving comfort and support while you learn how to adjust. It’s a happy stone that offers companionship and calm while helping you to open and attune your mind, emotional awareness and opinions.

I would hate to even hazard an opinion as to what Ting and Tooty were up to the other morning, other than to say it made me extremely suspicious…

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“We’re just sleeping…honest!”

I was pottering about in the bedroom wiping a trail of muddy paw prints off the windowsill that someone had thoughtfully left for me (“Got to keep her occupied, haven’t we…”) and I happened to look up and out of the window – our bedroom overlooks the close, which is sort of L-shaped, with a blind spot at the top corner masked by a hedge.

Just at that particular moment, Ting and Tooty came hurtling around the corner. They were a good couple of hundred yards away and they were really going for it – a full out cat canter, monkey sideways gallop, tails up and to the side.

They came, absolutely belting down the road, neck and neck, even though Tooty is a lady of the larger persuasion, hurdled the garden gate like a pair of tiny steeplechasing horses and vanished.

Seconds behind them came my neighbour in his car – he screeched round the corner, pulled up with a jolt outside his house, flung his car door open and ran into his house, looking upset.

I went downstairs and into the garden, just to, you know, ask if they’d been up to anything.

Hi Mum! Any treats going? Whatcha been doing?”

I was upstairs – I saw you both running. Anything you’d like to tell me?”

Nope.”

Sure?”

Yep… absolutely nothing… you might want to avoid him two doors down for a bit though…”

Ah.

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Ting’s Evil Genius face…

A Vision Of My Old Age

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She wandered, this woman, age indistinguishable from the lines on her face. Up, down and along, the breadth and width of the country. Her face was strangely calm, bleached and blanched of the pain of past emotion, past trouble, past life, that had scored their marks indelibly on her skin with a sharp instrument as bitter as words.

Instead, now, she raised her countenance to the kindly sun, let the rain fall upon her eyes, the snow colour her hair and the wind slap her cheeks. At night she slept – never in towns, never on streets where malice and pain lingered, collected in corners like dirty washing up left too long, grey and grimy.

Instead, now, pressed against the earth, curled against a tree, buried by leaves or grass she found her rest.

She wandered, crossing the country, past looking but always searching for a memory. She filled her eyes and mind with sights and sounds to comfort her empty heart. Home; a memory, warmth, light, family, children – curdled like milk left out too long, sour and tainted with expectation. She sometimes took that memory out and carried it, looked at it like an untrustworthy torch, flickering and weak, two small faces raised to hers – “Mummy!”

Then she put it away, put it away in a box at the back of her mind and continued to wander.

She walked north, feet drawn by ancient blood memory and right-feeling, walking away her own family history but unknowingly walking where her ancestors had first come ashore, first lived in sight of the rest of the world.

One early morning, as she lay in the shelter of an old hedgerow she became aware of a fox looking at her, and perhaps stirred by the echo of a family pet, dog or cat, she stretched out a hand to it. It regarded her steadily for a moment, nose working busily to process all the rich human scents and then it turned and slipped away into the undergrowth again.

She sighed, a little saddened, but rose to her feet and raised a calm face to the horizon.

I stoop again to tighten the knot in the rag that’s holding my boot together and walk on, heart beating in time with the rich pulse of the earth.

Dragons and Dreamboats

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I was helping out at the shop a few weeks ago, not at all obsessively rearranging the incense in alphabetical order and dusting the crystals when a man approached the counter. Not an unusual occurrence in itself, admittedly, nor particularly was the conversation that followed.

Hello.”

Hello,” I replied, assuming what I hoped was a pleasant smile of welcome, rather than the grimace of abstracted concentration that I was wearing only moments earlier.

You’re Not Liz,” the man stated.

No, I’m not,” I agreed equably. (That’s my name when I’m at the shop… NotLiz…)

Oh. Where is she?” the man asked, with a faintly pained air.

I generally have two answers to this oft-asked question, a) “Not here” and b) “I don’t know,” both of which are true, and pretty accurate. I decided on b) on this occasion and offered it as kindly as I could to the man, as he seemed both disconcerted and a little upset to see me.

I regarded him – a smallish man, long grey hair in dreadlocks, assorted crystals and pendants hung around his neck.

He looked back at me, still pretty much unimpressed by what he saw looking back at him, a middle-aged woman, duster in hand, face probably smeared liberally with incense dust… He bent to rummage in his back pack and produced a handful of … sticks.

I wanted to show Liz these,” he said.

Ah.” I said. “What nice, um, sticks.”

He looked directly at me then and replied, a little indignantly:

They’re not sticks, they’re wands! From the Glastonbury Thorn!”

That’s nice,” I said appeasingly, “what are you going to do with them?”

The man looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses and said:

I’m going to make things on them!”

Of course you are,” I said, reassuringly, not wanting to offend him, or sound doubting of his artistic capabilities.

No, look!” he said, and reaching into his hair, pulled out a – dragon and passed it to me to hold. Not a real one, obviously, but one made of clay, beautifully detailed and very true to life – as I would imagine dragons to be.

That’s beautiful!” I exclaimed, impressed, and handed it back to him.

He tucked it away safely in his hair and bestowed a faint smile upon me.

Goodbye.”

Goodbye,” I said, and the man walked away.

Now. I have mentioned Mr.Handsome before, the very nice man I first encountered on the bus with my mother. Well, the other evening, I was walking back up the hill from my mother’s with Alex, and I was trying to describe an acquaintance to Alex, waving my arms excitedly (I actually hit someone the other day) and talking about “Pete’s Dragon”, the film, of course, when who should I behold, striding manfully towards us, accompanied by two little dogs, but Mr.Handsome… just as gorgeous as I remembered, white t-shirt, blue jeans, tall, dark haired – well, you get the idea.

I looked up fleetingly – he gave me a brief, polite smile- and I looked down again, cursing my shyness. Alex beamed happily at him and I thought, “My word, he is handsome!” and decided my best course of action was to style it out, talking meaningfully about dragons and waving my arms. Like a nutter.

And then he passed us. Alex looked at me and asked: “Was that him?”

I said: “Yes…”

Then Alex replied: “Hmm…white t-shirt, blue jeans, well groomed… he was looking at me!”