Hello…

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Good grief… it’s cold and dark in here!

Just give me a minute – I’ll get rid of this dust, put some lights on and get the kettle on.

I only meant to step out for a minute, but somehow, I got lost for a little while.

I’m back now, my dear friends, but please, help yourself to tea and biscuits and tell me all about what’s been going on in your lives.

xxx

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Buddleia And Butterflies

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When I was a little girl, my grandparents had the most wonderful buddleia bush in their garden – a truly magical place for me to visit and explore , and populate with my imagination, aided of course by a feline friend.

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I can remember sitting beneath the buddleia’s silvery arching branches and looking up into the natural architecture of the tree, an intricate fretwork and interlacing of branches reaching upwards, an arboreal cathedral.

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The flowers! Sumptuous, heavy-headed spikes of tiny purple flowers, overflowing with intoxicating fragrance; the scent irresistibly drawing crowds of various butterflies and bees to feast like gluttonous courtiers at Henry VIII’s table.

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I remember my grandmother carefully deadheading and pruning this wonderful shrub, and my father – perhaps in a fit of envy, or perhaps to please me – visited every garden centre in the region to procure our very own buddleia.

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He even managed to get an orange buddleia (“Golden Knight”) which was quite rare in those days… even though the man down the road has one in his garden. Nowadays, everywhere you go you can see buddleia growing prolifically – apparently it’s quite invasive, it self-seeds on waste ground, hence its nickname of the “bombsite plant.”

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Not bad going really, for a bush whose origins lie in China. Of course, it’s a great source of nectar for all sorts of creatures – some have even evolved flowers designed specifically for a hummingbird.

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Buddleia is also known as the “butterfly bush” and it was originally named after an English botanist called the Reverend Adam Buddle.

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This year, I’ve tried my hand at a little gardening, and to be honest, I have both enjoyed it and found it therapeutic. I’ve even joined a Facebook group for gardeners… Throughout the post I have included some pictures of the visitors we’ve had – I hope I’ve managed to recreate a little of the magic in my own garden that I was lucky enough to experience at my grandparents.

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Rough And Tumble…

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Fluorite (left) ~ to increase concentration, balancing and positive, Moonstone (right) calming and soothing

Not that I would ever engage in that myself… no… Alex and I visited a new crystal shop last week, a lovely lady with some unusual rough pieces of crystal in stock. I am often asked, which is better for using, rough or tumbled crystals and I always reply that there is no right or wrong – it’s simply a matter of taste, personal preference.

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Rhodonite -~ the pink stone in the foreground, good for dispelling emotional pain.

Obviously, if like me, you carry a lot of crystals on you – my partner always warns me to stay away from water… – then tumbles are a lot easier to shove in your pocket and off you go. That’s purely practical though…

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Rough Howlite ~ good for calming the active mind, relieving muscle tension and stress. It’s sitting in a flattened nest of my ornamental grasses, mentioning no names. (Ting)

I asked Liz the same question and she gave me a lovely explanation that completely made sense and that I’ve been able to pass on to other people who ask me without getting too confused.

Rough crystals are basically a mass of energy – polishing them into tumblestones, wands or palmstones, helps to contain and focus the energy and healing benefits. Liz used the example of walking into a room and turning on the light, or using a flashlight. Focus, direction – that’s what polishing does, perhaps making the energies a little more accessible too.

Sometimes, though, rough pieces are simply too beautiful or too unusual not to have… my very first crystal, courtesy of Alex, was a piece of rough Rose Quartz, whose loving, warm energy was a big help at a rough time.

My relationship with my sister is a good example of rough and tumble, although now we are a little older, not literally of course! We have only just – well, about two years now – really started speaking after a fall out of ten years, that ended up being one of our more epic sister scraps….

When we were younger, our rough-and-tumble was slightly more physical. Anyone ever tried an onion fight? No? They can be quite good fun, providing your opponent is smaller and weaker than yourself… The aim of the game is to seize a piece of cut onion and hold it to your adversary’s eye, for as long as possible – or without being caught by your parents.

As my sister is ten years older than me, you can probably guess who came off worse on a regular basis. Like a cat, then, I made stealth my skill… and crept up beside my sister to shriek “BOO!!” in her ear just as she was taking a roast chicken out of the oven… it ended up as an involuntary foot covering.

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Ting… tenderly licking Tooty on the top of her head!

It’s a joy to see the family link between Ting and Tooty, there is a definite bond of love, affection and sisterhood that is exclusive to them and not shared with the other two girls. It doesn’t stop them having pretty spectacular kicky scratchy fights and slapping matches where tufts of fur fly as do the hisses.

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Ladies, please!

But as with most relationships in Life, as long as you respect one another you learn to take the rough with the smooth…

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My sister cats xx

Summer Son

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He was born to her in the middle of the year, when she was bright and warm, full of love and hope. He slipped easily into the world from her body and at once she felt his absence within her.

However, she nurtured him carefully in the outside world and poured all her love and hope and soul into her son, with his eyes as blue as summer skies, hair as gold as ripe wheat and smiles as warming as the Sun himself.

Mother and son formed the perfect unit of two, never needing anyone else, their spiritual footsteps so closely linked they were like one person. Her son grew and thrived.

When does it begin, the slow inexorable divorce of child from mother; the loving, inevitable withdrawal, as he chose his own paths, his own way, and the life that was once so closely bound to his mother’s diverged.

He kept a part of himself for her; but her boy, her bright boy, into whom she had poured her life and soul, left her.

Autumn crept into her bones and winter settled in her heart; yet still she hoped he would return to her sometimes, and bring a little brightness with him, restoring a little of her own youth.

She was grateful, then for the windows of social media that allowed her to look through at her son’s life and glimpse a little.

Eventually, the soul cold winter triumphed and she gave in on a day not unlike the one on which she welcomed her son into the world. It was only later, when he was checking his messages, that he found out she had died.

A Train … And Some Rain.

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I had an interesting day last week. Alex had an audition for an advert, so I went along to keep him company. The casting agency was based in Manchester, so I must admit to a certain curiosity about revisiting my old university stomping ground, especially since I haven’t been back in twenty-something years.

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The day dawned bright and early, a beautiful morning, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Alex had efficiently booked the train tickets online, brushing aside my feeble protests about maybe walking… so we boarded the 9.45 am train for Manchester.

It’ll rain, as soon as we get past the Pennines,” I predicted confidently.

Alex clearly didn’t believe me, as we sped through cities and across moors. Trains make me vaguely anxious, but I behaved well enough, and indeed, quite enjoyed myself, as it’s a long time since I’ve been anywhere further north than Asda…

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We alighted in Manchester Oxford Street station, and my usually reasonable sense of direction deserted me. It’s changed a lot as a city, but I still had an anxious feeling as the sky began to cloud over.

We found the casting agency and as Alex began to get ready, I chatted amiably to the receptionist:

Yes, we haven’t had rain for about ten days now!” she chirped happily. I replied darkly:

Oh, just you wait… it knows I’m here…”

And sure enough, just as Alex came out to get changed, it began to rain. We said goodbye, and as my foot hit the street outside it began to rain in earnest, a million tiny slaps of funny-tasting water all across my face… head… body… feet…

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Yep. We’d dressed for summer, light trousers, t-shirts, no coats or jumpers, and b y some bizarre twist I’d forgotten to change out of my gardening shoes, which a re canvas. With a hole in the sole. Of course.

It rained like it meant it. Manchester knew I was there and did its very best to try and drown me. It reached such a point, we had to dive into a nearby shop for Alex to purchase to umbrellas, while I dripped and muttered in the corner like a madwoman. Feet squelching like demented squids, we continued our tour…

I was surprised and saddened to see that my old hall of residence is under heavy repair, perhaps condemned, a wise decision in light of the Grenfell tragedy. The pub I used to drink in had, by contrast, gone completely upmarket.

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I was quite glad to reach the train station, for although we’d enjoyed a pleasant dinner, I was ready to leave. A thriving city, with a great vibe – but not for me. Too many memories.

As soon as we get past Stockport the sun’ll come out!” I prophesied confidently to Alex. And do you know what? It did!

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On The Love Of Dogs:

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Now. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but as regular readers know, I am primarily a cat person, although I have several canine acquaintances, including a mountainous Dogue De Bordeaux. It’s some years now too since I had my own little dog, but my sister and my mother are both stalwart and faithful dog owners.

I have regarded my mother’s dogs, most particularly her German Shepherds, as sister dogs and daughter dogs, but it wasn’t until an incident the other day that I gained a proper and full appreciation of the true meaning of the love and loyalty of dogs.

Briefly – my mother has two dogs, her German Shepherd called Erin, and a (supposed) lurcher/whippet crossbreed called Rocky. He’s fun and bouncy, hurts like hell when he steps on your toes with giant clawed feet or sends you flying with a casual shoulder barge. I have played the extremely boring game of directing the laser pointer mouse so he can chase it, been on walks with him and saved pieces from my dinner to give him as he has sat gazing soulfully at me whilst gently drooling on my trousers.

I have suffered the indignation of his cold wet nose shoved unexpectedly down my top in friendly greeting and most recently, his bemused examination of my face and throat as I squeak and hoot at him with my laryngitis affected voice. However, what happened the other day touched me most profoundly and moved me – too often we underestimate the power of an animal’s love and emotion, the depth of their feeling for us.

Unfortunately, my eldest son has had some extreme personal issues and my relationship with him has deteriorated to the extent where physical violence was offered, after a lot of shouting between us. Rocky had watched the exchange growing more and more heated and unpleasant and when he raised his fists, the dog pushed himself firmly between us and growled at him. Fiercely and with meaning.

I won’t go into any further details about the argument – it is absolutely no longer my story to tell, but what remained with me was Rocky’s unquestioning defence and obvious love for me in the way he wanted to protect me.

So, in essence, then, I just want to say thank you to all our wonderful, loyal and loving canine friends. Good dogs!

Bread.

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My mother’s freshly-made seeded bread

Looking back at this midpoint in my life, it’s funny to see how many markers are set in childhood, at least for me. By this, I mean how memories, smells, associations, images and even sensations like touch are ingested in early life, remembered both mentally and physically, and how they continue to have an emotional effect in later years.

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Brioche…with onion rolls on the right

When I was a little girl, we used to live in a village- a medium sized one, as it had its own little church and school – but most importantly, a bakery. Just across the road from our house, where it had been for years…

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Fig and walnut, sweet and rich…

I don’t know if it’s still there, I hope so, as it was the genuine article, big old bread ovens, kneading counters and proving trays, a real step back in time.

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Cheese and tomato flabread

And of course, the smell… that wonderful, evocative smell of bread baking, yeasty and warm, soul soothing and body nurturing.

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Wonderful artisan breads, thank you Alex for use of your photo

It was such a treat as a little girl to go carefully across the road with my mother and sister to collect the bread, choosing the great warm pillowy loaves, crisp and still holding the heat of the old ovens.

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Wholemeal…still warm… 

Then, at home, watching my mother break them open to reveal the complex textured inside, a miracle of tiny bready caves conjured by yeast, warm water and flour. A childhood memory layered with taste, smell and feel…

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A machine made cheese and onion loaf

This love of bread has stayed with me, and I am fascinated by the different varieties you can get nowadays…so essentially this is a food porn post… just look at that butter… melting…

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