“Tulips From Amsterdam”…Well, My Garden…

Isn’t it funny how standards just gradually slide… away…. I say this because I have spent the last four days in my gardening trousers and dressing gown. I did get some funny looks when I ventured out, but..strange times.

We have been lucky with the weather so I have been out in the garden. I love renewing my acquaintance with the flowers of every season as they come through and at the moment it’s tulip time.

Ice cream anyone..these ones remind me of raspberry ripple!

I will spare you my rendition of “Tulips From Amsterdam” by the immortal Max Bygraves, but my grandad used to sing this song to me when I was a little girl, and it’s one of my earliest memories, walking round the gaden with him and admiring the silky petals and vibrant colours of these popular flowers.

These orange ones are fabulous, paired with the white…

Grandad had a fondness for the red tulips, I always thought the black stamens resembled spiders’ legs, but when I grew up and got my own garden I planted some tulips bulbs of my very own as a matter of course.

One for you Grandad…

Now. Although tulips are generally associated with Holland they actually originated from the Ottoman Empire – modern Turkey – where they were cultivated from a native wild flower for the pleasure of one particular sultan in the 16th century.

This year’s Suffragette Corner….

The word ‘tulip’ comes from the word for ‘turban’ or ‘material’, I think, but the shape of the petals and their silky texture always remind me of harem pants…the bulbs were imported from Turkey to Holland where they became so popular and sought after they created their own economic bubble.

I love the purity of white flowers…

They were even used as currency at one point, although I am pleased to say I buy my bulbs at a much more reasonable price, but you can see why they were – and still are – just so popular! Look…

These frilly edged ones are known as parrot tulips, the purple ones are as rich as velvet…

In Sickness…Theirs…And In Health…Mine….

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I don’t know how the present weather is affecting the rest of the country, but here in the East Midlands, the rain has not only flooded the surrounding farmlands and countryside, but also seems to have created a fetid fug of soup like flu symptoms that just seem to be trapped in the bowl created by our natural geology, just circulating endlessly…

Now. Don’t get me wrong, I am not unsympathetic to people who are ill… but I do feel quite strongly they should keep their germs to themselves. It started with a hat trick of grandmas… my mother, a confirmed and dedicated smoker, generally has a smoker’s cough, but on this particular day it seemed a little more…vehement than usual.

You’re going to be ill, aren’t you,” I observed, with trepidation.

My mother is a retired nurse and a Yorkshire woman to boot, consequently she is as stubborn as hell and the worst patient ever.

No, don’t be – hrgghhh! – stupid Samantha – bleughhh-ahh!- I’m fine!”

The dogs laid back their ears and retreated to the kitchen. I did likewise.

Then my partner’s mother had the flu jab and promptly caught flu. I had just run home from getting off the bus, contemplating how to add an extra flourish to my run away with a squat, or a forwards roll, perhaps, when-

SAM! SAM! MAM’S NOT WELL!”

What do you mean?” I enquired, more than a little alarmed because she is getting on a bit and has had a few health problems.

“’ER EYES ARE ROLLING AND SHE’S BREATHING FUNNY!”

I decided this necessitated further investigation and trotted round, curbing an arbitrary impulse to attempt a vault over the gate, and ran upstairs to have a look at her.

Are you all right?” I enquired cautiously, poking my head round the door.

Hrrhhha wahhggrr!”

Ah. Let’s sit you up a bit…”

I helped her sit up and her chest eased a little and I sent my partner back to our house for eucalyptus oil.

A cup of tea, essential oil inhalant and a laugh later, I am very pleased to say she was looking a lot better.

Then, although not known to me personally, I heard that Alex’s partner’s grandma was ill too – I spent some time with the Wishing Tree in my garden, asking for help and healing from the Appropriate Places.

Then I went to my mother’s yesterday for dinner, we were watching “Countryfile” and I asked her for the television guide so I could check something. She sneezed in it, closed the pages and offered it to me.

No, I’ll let you keep that,” I said politely, as the dog sneezed in Mum’s face, triggering another coughing fit.

I returned home to be greeted by the mournful face of my partner, mouth breathing, wheezing and coughing… I thrust paracetamol, honey and echinacea at him, seized my sage and thyme infusion and ginger capsules and fled upstairs.

So. I have been taking powdered ginger in capsule form for about a month, I gargle with sage and thyme infusion, have a spoonful of honey every day, a pack of sanitising wipes to hand and I have anointed myself liberally with patchouli and lavender essential oils, hoping that their overpowering scent will fox any particularly persistent germs.

Just in case though – I have my lovely doctor on speed dial…

*

On a serious note, friends, look after yourselves in this season of illness, and I hope you’ll join with me in wishing my wonderful friend Jean at The Canadian Cats all the very best for a speedy recovery back to full health. Get well soon, Jean, love from all of us here xxxx

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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Laryngitis. What Fun.

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I must apologise for my recent absence – for most of last month a scrubbing brush decided to take up residence in my throat. I know … I seem to have done nothing but whine about being ill lately, but I hate it.

Laryngitis has proved particularly disadvantageous – it’s the first time I’ve ever had it and to be honest, I don’t want it again. Ever. A couple of weeks ago I was helping out at Lizian’s and my voice gave out completely… crystals are the sort of thing you just have to talk about, so I spent most of my time hooting and wheezing and croaking like a demented hybrid of a frog and an owl. Finally I resorted to whispering, leaning forward confidingly to murmur crystal secrets into listening ears… and slightly puzzled faces.

I became a competent mime artist… pointing to relevant parts in the crystal guide books with a broad smile and happy gestures…all the time feeling slightly sick as I consumed yet another variety of antibiotic with chasers of honey and lemon.

I had an annoying ‘phone call with my mother, who is slightly deaf but won’t admit it:

Samantha – what do you want for tea?”

Huw – hee – wah!

What? Stop being stupid! You’ll have to tell me if you want something to eat!”

Eventually I hung up and just texted her.

The dogs thought I was imitating a squeaky toy for their amusement, leaping on me…

The girls, well, they were surprisingly sympathetic… unless they just appreciated my enforced silence…

My doctor – as you might expect, I’ve seen quite a lot of him recently – looked somewhat surprised when I hooted softly into his ear about my scratchy throat and lost vocal ability, but duly diagnosed laryngitis and handed over a prescription for some more antibiotics.

I collected them from the chemist and was somewhat taken aback at the size of them… and the shape.

Currently, my voice is still fading in and out like a badly tuned radio, but I do feel slightly less drained. Bear with me, friends, and I will catch up… unless I get plague in the meantime!

Crystal Eggs and Cats’ Ears

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I love my crystals and often spend ages re-arranging them, dusting them, getting to know them… My first piece that really resonated with me was the Rose Quartz piece that my son gave me, and which I use as my Gravatar. Consequently, I feel naturally drawn to the rough chunks of crystals. I also have a lot of tumblestones, for various uses, from pocket rocks, to putting in spiral cages to wear as pendants or under my pillow.

I went through a phase of worrying about shaped crystals, like wands, eggs and hearts, whether it actually hurt or damaged them in some way… I confided this worry to my son’s lovely crystal lady Lizian with some trepidation – after all, who in their right mind worries about a stone? (I knocked one of my son’s crystal spheres over and I cried because I felt so awful… however it broke along a natural fault line and now has a nice flat base to sit on…) My son’s crystal lady listened to me with great seriousness and then gave me her interpretation which I found both comforting and reassuring.

Rough crystals contain an energy similar to that of a lightbulb – flick a switch and the whole room is full of light. When a crystal is shaped and polished into a particular form, such as an egg, then the energy is gathered and contained, for easier direction and intention, rather like shining a torch… Added to that, the egg is a powerful symbol of rebirth and renewal in itself, and crystal eggs are invaluable tools for anyone who works in crystal therapies. They can be used to detect and rebalance blockages in the energy flow of the body; the pointed egg-end is a useful reflexology or acupressure tool and apart from anything else, they are nice to hold. Did anyone else’s parents have some agate eggs, perhaps in a bowl on the coffee table when they were children…?

Obviously different crystal eggs will have additional beneficial qualities, for example, Agate, although slow working, is a stone of harmony and acceptance. It can aid with self analysis and overcoming negativity.

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Agate – stabilising, cleansing and can transform negative energies…

My oldest son bought me this beautiful Selenite egg… good for overcoming sleep problems and instilling a deep sense of calm. Helpful with meditation.

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Onyx eggs, beautiful and banded, Onyx is strength giving and supportive, yet good at holding secrets. Its capability for holding physical memories makes it good to use for past life healing issues that can affect the present day life.

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My personal favourite, Rose Quartz – in an egg! Stone of the heart, it is excellent for emotional holding, comfort, re-affirming positive intentions and enhancing empathy and sensitivity… as sensitive as a cat’s ears…

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Cats have thirty two individual muscles in their ears that allow them to move independently of one another. Dogs have around twelve, I think it depends on whether they have stick up ears or floppy ones.. Ears are so sensitive and such a vital part of any animal’s anatomy, I’m afraid I find the practice of ear-cropping absolutely abhorrent. It’s illegal now, here in the U.K. – but would you cut a baby’s ears into points to make it look fierce? Likewise tail docking: until only relatively recently, tail docking in certain breeds, such as the Dobermann, was allowed. Again, a barbaric practice as you are robbing the dog of an essential piece of equipment with which to express itself. Having said that, when I was a little girl, my father had to remove the last three inches of his Great Dane’s tail – he was a veterinary surgeon! – because she was an enthusiastic wagger. She knocked the tip of her tail off and it had bled so profusely it looked like Jackson Pollock had been in the house…Tails are also a useful way for humans to tell how the animal is feeling. Rant over.

IMG_5999 (2).JPGErin’s ears as God intended

Back to ears…cats’ ears can move independently of each other, and it’s funny to watch Charlie outside, her ears swivelling like miniature satellite dishes, as she tracks the progress of a dog around the park and listens to me at the same time…Her ears are so delicate and fine, you can see the sun shine through them, lighting up all the little vessels.

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She can’t see us, but she can HEAR US!

Another health point…as their ears are so delicate, if they do go out in hot sunshine, it’s advisable to put sun screen on their ears, especially if you have a white cat, as they can be particularly prone to melanoma. Ear wounds can also bleed a lot. My old cat, Walter, got into a fight and came off slightly worse – he’d never admit it, leaving him with a jagged rip in one ear that lent him a somewhat raffish and piratical air, although he was the gentlest of cats.

It is important to make sure your cat’s ears are clean. DO NOT stick anything in them to check, just look . That’ll do. Or smell. A healthy cat’s ears should have no visible dirt and shouldn’t smell, you should be able to see all the little channels and valleys I them. If they are dirty, or discharging or smelly, and you see your cat constantly shaking its head or pawing at its ears, then it could have mites or an ear infection Then it’s time for a trip to the vet – DO NOT attempt to stick anything in to clean them yourselves and NEVER use human medication on an animal.

Ear drops for a cat. They’re fun to administer. Not. If your cat is difficult (Tooty: “No, I’m just going to lie here like a giant lead balloon with my head tucked under my body..” Charlie: “I’m a lady! Don’t you DARE take liberties with my person!”) then ask a lovely, kind person, who won’t object to being bitten or scratched, to wrap your cat in a towel, then carefully insert the drops into the top of the ear canal. Then gently massage the back of the ear – the fur bean, as I like to call it – to work the drops down. Job done.

My cats’ ears are so expressive, I can tell exactly how they are feeling. Forward and up: “Hi! I’m so pleased to see you! Where have you been? Did you bring any food?”

Relaxed, ears side to side on the head, usually when sleeping. Laid back flat on the head, accompanied by tinsel tail: “That monster’s in the garden again! I’m not going out unless you get rid of it!” One ear, fetchingly turned inside out, like a fascinator on Ladies’ Day at Ascot: just plain silly.

So there you have it. Eggs and ears, delicate and expressive, useful symbols and indicators. Look after them both.

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Perfect, pointed… and actually quite hairy inside!

Pyrite and Purring

Pyrite and Purring

M y first piece of Iron Pyrite – a magical golden bean…

Cats are unique in the Animal Kingdom in that they can purr. A sustained vibration of the vocal chords as they breathe in and out that usually signifies happiness and contentment, it starts when they are kittens with their mother as they knead and suckle, and stays with them throughout their lives, a memory perhaps of when they were babies and first felt warm, safe and protected.

Cats don’t always necessarily purr when they are happy, some purr when they are frightened to comfort themselves, or when they have been injured, to stimulate healing and repair, as recent scientific research has discovered. The wonderful blogs askNapi and Castle Vets Reading recently both did excellent posts on purring and the health benefits of owning a pet in far more detail than me…!

I love the sound of cats purring. To me, it will always be a sound I associate with comfort and love. I have always been an uneasy sleeper. It started when I was very young, and suffered from night terrors. The only way my mother could persuade me to sleep was by allowing my cat, Snoopy, into my room and on the bed, where he would curl, stoically, and proceed to watch over me, the deep bass rumble of his purr keeping the sleep demons at bay. I rang the Cat’s Protection League the other day and was entranced to hear that while I was on hold, instead of music, they played a cat purring… I was almost sorry when my call was answered…

Four Kitties (2)Four corners to my bed, Four angels round my head…

My current four girls all have different purrs and it takes varying degrees of persuasion to get them to purr. My Siamese is the easiest, a simple remark:

Who’s beautiful then?” will set her off.

Oh, you must mean me, thank you, if you insist…” and she rumbles away like a little engine.

Lily is the hardest, but usually a throat rub will begin the tiniest vibration of the smallest purr. Tooty will purr to attract attention:

I’m here, go on, you know you want to stroke me…”

But with Charlie, you have to massage the back of her neck in just the right place to conjure up her melodic purr.

I will never forget my sons’ smiles when they were little, and I showed them how to stroke my cat gently, without hurting him. Walter was the best of cats, forbearing, tolerant, and the smiles on their faces as he rewarded them with purrs as their little fingers learned the texture of cat fur!

Precious Walter 1My beloved cat Walter,  18th March 1993 – 11th February 2010

Obviously then, cats are beneficial not only on a psychological level, but also on a physical level, much like Pyrite. Iron Pyrite is a lovely, positive stone. You could almost touch the healing that vibrates throughout it, like a contented cat’s purr. A typical interpretation is that it banishes inertia and feelings of inadequacy and deflects harm, as it is an excellent energy shield. Emotionally, it can help with melancholy whilst physically it treats bones and stimulates cell formation, perhaps resonating at the same frequency as a cat’s purr.

WP_20160527_10_43_41_Pro (2)A stunning example of a Pyrite Sun (thanks as always to Lizian) that reminds me of a Viking god’s war shield!

My chief procurer of crystals, my son, brought me my lovely piece of Pyrite one day. I was taken at once with its tactile shape and feeling of solidity and strength. Dressed in a uniform shade of dull gold, it is not perhaps the prettiest crystal I’ve ever owned, but it is confident, unassuming ‘worker’ stone as I have discovered. It helps to manage the arthritis in my hip, as warming and soothing as a hot water bottle.

WP_20160527_10_44_17_Pro (2)Rough Iron Pyrite, or Fool’s Gold as it is sometimes called (thank you Lizian once again!) it looks like something that ought to be part of a dragon’s hoard!

Pyrite and purring, comfort and warmth. Cats and companionship, I am grateful to all my cats, the successive generations of my feline family who have purred a soothing soundtrack of love through some of my darkest moments.

All photos were taken by my son!