Sunday Sevens #28

Just a quick round up of my week in a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

red campion

Red Campion

Plant ID: In my last Sunday Sevens, I asked if anyone could ID a plant for me. Thankfully I have managed to ID it myself and found that the plant in question is a red campion.

Book I’m reading: I have recently finished reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr’s book was epic in size but the chapters were manageable. I like short chapters. I read before bed and on the commute to work. I was amazed at how quickly I got through the book as my mum said she couldn’t get into it. The narrative is during the 2nd World War. Two character’s stories intertwine, that of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure and an intelligent German youth, Werner. They only briefly meet in the story but the plot follows them growing up before and during the war. It is a tale of people striving to live when the wold around them is disintegrating. I found it sadly, echoed today’s political environment. The writing is easy to read, however the matter of fact description of death (an everyday occurrence in wartime) is in places shocking. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in historic fiction, though the end feels a little bit rushed.

I have just begun Folly by Alan Titchmarsh, I have no assumptions about the novel, but hope the writing is better than his other book, The Haunting.

The Easter weekend: for me is all about the Classic FM Hall of Fame. Four days of none stop music, counting down from 300 to 1!In January I voted for my top three. It’s hard to pin down just three favourites. This year I chose:

hall of fame 1

Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony.

Mahler’s 5th Symphony.

Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto.

Sadly the only one of my three choices that ascended the chart was Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony, which climbed nine places to number 29! His 2nd Piano Concerto stayed firmly at number two, the Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams held it at bay! Unfortunately Mahler fell out of the top 50, only coming in at a lowly 66! You can view where your favourites came here.

Out and about: On the Easter Monday we listened to Mahler’s Adagietto on the car radio while we travelled to Formby Point. We spent a few hours walking the beach and giving Riley a good run.

We were out walking again at the end of the week, as David and I took Riley for a walk around Liverpool’s Sefton Park on Saturday.

#walk1000miles: Though I have been working longer hours at work this week, I have managed to maintain my average mileage of 25 for the week. On my daily route to work I passed many clumps of bluebells turning the grassy verges blue. Amongst all the swaying heads were a mass of pink and white bluebells. I don’t know whether they are native plants or not.

The Big Bluebell Watch:  The Woodland Trust have a new initiative, to survey all the bluebells across the nation. Click here to add your sightings to the map. I’ve added my lowly two bluebells. I think they could be native as they have white pollen but they could very well be crossed. Have you seen many bluebells where you live?

Bees: This weekend the NW of England has been blessed with some wonderful weather, if a bit cold. A familiar buzz sounded in the yarden. I spotted a male and female hairy-footed flower bee as well as a red mason bee. Have you seen many bees this spring?

hairy footed flower bee female

Female Hairy-footed Flower Bee

Well, that was my week, how was yours?

Until the next Sunday Sevens!

Christine x

Remeniscing

Last night while relaxing, snugly before bed, with Classic FM playing on the air and the lights turned down low, an image from my childhood played before my minds eye. I lay thinking of when I was a child, no older than ten years old. I used to love dancing, to throw my arms and legs wildly around to the music, in no planned coordination. I used to whirl around my bedroom for hours, in my favourite red leotard stitched with gold tinsel. As gloaming approached, I whizzed my preadolescent body around the floor. I danced to (if you can believe it) my mum’s old 33 1/3 RPM’s, called The World of your 100 Best Tunes, which originated from a BBC radio programme. The LP’s featured Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Ronald Binge’s Elizabethan Serenade, (a piece of music that always sends me reminiscing when I hear it on the radio). Among others was Holst’s The Planets. My favourite of all the pieces is Uranus, The Magician, (it’s not played half as much as it should be!) The music is so theatrical! To my child’s mind the music imagined a fantastical parade of skeletons and wild beasts, overseen by a master who wore top hat and tails!

While thinking of this happy memory, lines from a poem by Ted Hughes, part of his award winning Birthday Letters, popped into my thoughts. The poems all address his marriage to his first wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. The poem in question is called: God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark. I think it was the image of my younger self dancing and tinsel adorning my clothes that brought the lines of the poem to my mind.

‘You danced on in the dark house, Eight years old, in your tinsel. Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced… Then dancing wilder in the darkness…’

‘Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter –

With Hypnos caressing my eyes and Morpheus awaiting to lace my sleep with dreams, I decided to dig out the poem the next day, re-listen to Holst’s The Magician and write a post bringing them both together. Which I hope I have succeeded.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x


God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark

By Ted Hughes.

There you met it – the mystery of hatred.
After your billions of years in anonymous matter
That was where you were found – and promptly hated.
You tried your utmost to reach and touch those people
With gifts of yourself –
Just like your first words as a toddler
When you rushed at every visitor to the house
Clasping their legs and crying: ‘I love you! I love you!’
Just as you had danced for your father
In his home of anger – gifts of your life
To sweeten his slow death and mix yourself in it
Where he lay propped on the couch,
To sugar the bitterness of his raging death.

You searched for yourself to go on giving it
As if after the nightfall of his going
You danced on in the dark house,
Eight years old, in your tinsel.

Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced,
Floundering a little, crying softly,
Like somebody searching for somebody drowning
In dark water
Listening for them – in panic at losing
Those listening seconds from your searching –
Then dancing wilder in the darkness.

The colleges lifted their heads. It did seem
You disturbed something just perfected
That they were holding carefully, all of a piece,
Till the glue dried. And as if
Reporting some felony to the police
They let you know that you were not John Donne.
You no longer care. Did you save their names?
But then they let you know, day by day,
Their contempt for everything you attempted,
Took pains to inject their bile, as for your health,
Into your morning coffee. Even signed
Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see

Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give –
Whatever you found
They bombarded with splinters,
Derision, mud – the mystery of that hatred.

© 1998

Blogs I’ve Enjoyed in 2016.

Since it’s December and the end of the year is fast approaching, I thought I would share with you all the blogs I have been enjoying over the past 12 months!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oSharon’s wonderful Sunshine and Celandines, has become a long standing blog which I follow. She writes about food, days out/holidays and her life with gorgeous Labrador Hugo. I have enjoyed our blogging friendship and the sharing of writing topics such as joining Wild October!

Keeping with the theme of nature. Another three blogs which I look forward to reading are:

  1. Ramblings of a Roachling, where Louise posts beautiful pictures of her walks and life in the Peak District. She also blogs at 30 Days Wild!were 30 days has become a life long love affair with nature.
  2. Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed writes a fantastic blog with detailed pictures and information on the critters that live in her not so manicured garden!
  3. During June’s 30 Days Wild I came across Emma’s Discovery Hub and Twitter page. Both are full of informative facts on wildlife.
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Grasmere

A source of inspiration for my recently discovered ‘wild’ swims, is SwimmingTheLakeswhere the author is challenging herself to swim every lake and tarn in the Lake District!

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Mexican Quinoa

My favourite ‘go to’ website for recipes is Chungah at Damn Delicious. Her One Pan Mexican Quinoa makes a wonderful nutritious meal and the ingredients can be swapped and changed depending what’s in the store cupboard.

When the mood grabs me, I dabble in a little creative writing. Sue’s weekly #writephoto, where she posts a visual prompt, is and can be stimulating, as you can read here.

Classical music is another big passion in my life. I don’t know how I came about Charlotte Hoather’s blog but I enjoy reading updates on her performances and her studies.

If the London theatre scene is more your thing, then Rukaya vlogs about the many stage shows happening in London!

So there you have it, a small snapshot of some of the blogs I follow. If you have any blog suggestions then do post them in the comments below. I look forward to discovering many more fantastic blogs!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Results!

The Classic FM Hall of Fame countdown on Easter Monday was a bit of an anti-climax to be honest. The top six entries were all non movers! Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending was at number one for the third year running!

Chart 2

And where did the pieces that I voted for get too? Well, as can be seen above Elgar’s Nimrod Variations stayed at number 4! The others are as follows.

Chart 1

The next set of results are for the Big Garden Bird Watch 2016. Follow the link to see regional results which opens up in Excel.

birds

Did you see any of these species in your garden/yarden? My results for the year can be found here.

Sunday Sevens #5

The fair weather on Good Friday, here in the UK, lulled us into a false sense of hope that it would last the duration of the long weekend. I have recently heard the term yarden and thought it was apt to my green space. It is a yard but not quite a garden. David and I made use of the sunny weather and planted out the french beans.

I also scattered a packet of the free wildflower seeds I received from Grow Wild. They are a national outreach initiative from Kew Gardens which aims to transform local spaces into wildflower havens. Visit their website if you would like to request your free pack.

On the radio, I have been enjoying 12 hours of music each day this weekend, as Classic FM count down the top 300 pieces in their Hall of Fame. It started on Friday with the piece at number 300 being the theme from John Williams’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. I wonder where the pieces I voted for will be?

While relaxing to the music I took the opportunity to sit and devour Melvin Bragg’s novel, Grace and Mary. It is about a son who is coming to terms with his mother’s dementia and also follows the story of her birth mother. It is a sad read. The narrative started slowly but it soon picked up speed and I read it in a few days.

Recently I was recommended a book. The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan. She is a new author to me. I referred to Amazon so I could put the book on my wish list, but I accidentally pushed the Buy it Now button and the message on the computer screen read: your order will be delivered to your Kindle. I hadn’t intended on buying the novel, but perhaps it will be a happy mistake as I begin to read it this weekend? Have you bought anything that you didn’t intend to? 

Earlier in the week I watched David Tennant’s version of Shakespeare’s Richard II. Previously I had enjoyed his Much Ado About Nothing with Catherine Tate. I found that play hilarious! Richard II was a different beast entirely. In Act three, scene three Richard is talking to the Duke of Aumerle about the impending loss of his crown. The nihilistic attitude of Richard struck me to the quick! I pray I won’t be so defeatist in the face of my struggles!

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Richard II: What must the king do now? …
…must he be deposed? … must he lose …
I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer’s walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little little grave, an obscure grave.

 

The fourth year anniversary of my father’s passing will be on Monday, so David decided to cook a curry. My mum and my youngest brother joined us. It was an evening filled with food, laughter and cava, and where we talked the world to rights! It’s always nice when the family can get together. For the table’s centrepiece I bought some spring flowers. My father liked tulips so it was a fitting commemoration.

I’ll sign off now by wishing you all a very happy Easter, and if you don’t celebrate it then have a happy Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #1

I have wanted to try another blog challenge (after my 12 hours of Day), for a while now and recently Sunshine and Celandines posted a list of some inspiring challenges to do! So I thought today, I would give Sunday Sevens a try!

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At the moment I’m feeling ‘pumped!’ Seeing the late winter sunshine this morning has given me a much needed boost to my mood. I awoke on a lazy Sunday to bright blue skies!

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Winter sky

On Monday I cooked my Mum’s favourite meal from my repertoire. Quorn Swedish Meatballs and Spaghetti! The recipe is pretty straightforward and does for 3-4 people.

  • 10897834_10155104847620271_8473106121928313571_nCook 140g of spaghetti (for 2 people) or 280g (for 4)
  • In a pan fry 1 white onion (chopped) and 2 garlic cloves (crushed and chopped)
  • When the onion is soft add a jar of Dolmio sauce for meatballs (or any tomato based sauce), 1 tbsp of brown sauce and handful of frozen peas
  • Crumble one low salt vegetable stock cube and add a bag of Quorn Swedish Meatballs, (or other vegetarian equivalent)
  • Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stir occasionally. Serve on bed of spaghetti.

Tuesday was the Christian celebration of light, Candlemas. Once again, Sunshine and Celandines wrote a lovely blog post on the subject. I find it fascinating that most religions of the world have some kind of festival of light! Apparently Snowdrops are also called Candlemas Bells and symbolise the ending of winter. My perusal of the garden at the weekend brought the wondrous sight that I have Snowdrops growing!

On Friday I met up with a work colleague I had not seen in almost three years! We caught up over a Costa coffee and buttered toasted teacakes! 20160205_112255

At the start of 2016, I suggested to David that he should cook at least one meal every month, to give me a bit of a break! Saturday’s have become the day when we try cooking something different. So this Saturday he planned the evening meal.

Last month David made a curry, and again this February he decided to make another one. He is determined to find a recipe that tastes like our favourite take-away, Saffron! For almost three hours he took over the kitchen! The curry turned out to be one of David’s best! He served it with rice, and sides of naan and vegetable samosas!

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David’s Pasanda 

While David sweated in the kitchen, I sat with Artie and relaxed while listening to John William’s soundtracks on Classic FM!

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Artie

Have you undertaken any blog challenges?

Christine x

2016 Classic FM Hall of Fame.

It’s 20 years since Classic FM started their yearly poll on the nations favourite classical music.

In 2016 I have voted as follows:

My choice for number three: goes to Antonín Dvořák Symphony No 9 (From the New World).

I chose the scherzo as an example of the vibrancy of the piece. Though I do love Leonard Bernstein’s 1962 version with the New York Philharmonic.

Over the past year I have enjoyed listening to the 9th symphony, when it plays on the radio. It makes me want to know more about Dvořák, of his life and his works.

My choice for number two: has got to be Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from his Enigma Variations.

It has always been a piece of music that stops me in my tracks. Whether it be cleaning, cooking or changing the bed sheets, I always have to stop and think, to reflect as the music drifts around me. I chose this piece last year and it reached number three in the chart, so who knows. Maybe we can get Elgar and his Nimrod to number one??

And for my number one, this year: I have picked a Rachaminov, but not his piano concerto number two, (which is divine) and had my vote for previous years! I have decided to go against the grain and vote for his symphony number two! It is only one of a few symphonies that I can listen to in its entirety. The others being Mahler’s 5th, Beethoven’s 5th (you can see a pattern there? – must be something about the 5th symphony!), Sibelius’s 2nd symphony and Dvořák ‘s 9th symphony!

In previous years I have been glued to the radio, listening with bated breath as to which composer achieves the accolade as being the nations favourite. In 2016 I shall worry less about whether Rachmaninov or Vaughn Williams gets to the top spot. I will just be enjoying the countdown over the Easter weekend.

Will you be voting in this years poll? Who will get your vote?

Christine x

A Typical Saturday!

Most of my Saturday’s start with a trip to the shops. There is only two of us and Artie (the cat), living in the house, but every weekend the shopping bill nears or exceeds £100!! 😮

Today’s shopping consisted of buying lots of fruit and vegetables and cat treats! 🙂 People say I spoil Artie, but with a face like this, how can I not?! 😀

Artie

Artie

Usually by noon we are home, the shopping is put away and I have attempted some kind of flower display with a new bouquet I have bought!

Recent flower display

Recent flower display

We occasionally have lunch in the living room. David lets the finches come out of their aviary to stretch their wings and fly around the room. Today, Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches sat on the sofa with me!

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

After lunch, it is all about cleaning the house. It can take up to two hours! If I am alone, it can take more! David helps by vaccuming while I do the dusting, dining room and bathroom.

If it is sunny outside then I forego doing the floors until Sunday and go out into the garden and enjoy the flowers, birds and insects.

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Today though, it was cold and cloudy so after doing the chores I listened to Classic FM and noticed a House Sparrow visiting the feeders.

After 5pm I turn my attention to the kitchen. I listen to Saturday Night at the Movies while making a start on the evenings meal. Tonight’s meal was my version of a Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with home-made Wholemeal mini loaves. I got the recipe from the Change for Life website/recipe app, though I adapted it.

Recipe for Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup:

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil for pan
  • 2-3 garlic cloves crushed/chopped
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 1 chilli chopped
  • 1 pepper chopped
  • 2 celery ribs chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 850ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can mixed beans
  • 1 can sweetcorn or frozen
  • Handful of red lentils (it was a last minute addition)
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander (I got ours from the garden!)
  • Pinch of ground black pepper and salt to taste
Coriander

Coriander

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the onion until softened.
  • Then add the celery, pepper, chilli and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes (use your discretion as to when to stop cooking.)
  • Add the chilli powder and the tomatoes and bring to the boil.
  • Pour in the stock and add the tomato puree, mixed beans, sweetcorn (drained if tinned) and lentils (if using). Heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  • Add the coriander (if using) and season with some salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and serve with a slice of wholemeal bread
Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup

Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with Wholemeal Mini Loaves

For the wholemeal mini loaves I followed the recipe I use for easy white bread. I just changed the strong white flour for Allinson Wholemeal Seed & Grain Bread Flour. It’s delicious, I don’t think I will ever go back to baking with just white flour again!

Saturday evenings tend to be a mixture of wine and music while David often plays on GTA5 with his brother and cousin. At the moment I am reminiscing about playing Final Fantasy VII in the 90’s. The story was engaging, had a baddie that you love to hate (Sephiroth) and the music written by Nobuo Uematsu was out of this world too! You can listen to Final Symphony on Spotify, though I actually bought the mp3 from Amazon!

I shall sign off now and enjoy the last remaining light of day.

Goodnight!

© 2015 Christine Lucas

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary…

…how does your garden grow?

I’ve not written since Easter when Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending was voted no.1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame. (N.B. I did not vote for it!) Since then I have been pottering about the garden and seeing how things are growing. I am quite proud with the plants I have, all, whether new or old are flourishing, so much so that I thought I would share some pictures with you.

The tulips have all grown from their bulbs and the rhododendron and hellebore give much colour/definition to the shaded area of the garden.

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The magnolia and acer trees are looking fantastic and the flame of the forest has sprouted!

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Older plants, such as the primulas and aubrieta have flowered again, and the wallflower has not stopped flowering all winter!

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I have also bought some new plants too. I have bluebells sprouting for the first time, come May I hope they flower.

Bluebells

Bluebells

This Saturday I went to my favourite garden centre, Lady Green and bought another coriander. As this herb is only an annual I am having to buy it every year, but I will keep the seeds and hopefully be able to grow it again next year! In addition to the coriander, I went a bit ‘mad’ and bought a camellia. I have seen some recently and thought they were beautiful, though they are not great for wildlife, I bought one to see how it fares in my garden!?! I also bought a fritillaria which looks bizarre and smells even worse!

My mum kindly gifted me with some lovely orange lilies the other day, which I planted alongside the other newcomers to the garden!

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I have seen my first bees of the season flitting though the blossom of my mum’s tree next door and I took some lovely photographs of a visiting common wasp happily pollinating the laurel bush.

Common Wasp

Common Wasp

On Saturday I had a visitor from a ‘Hover fly, or Drone fly, (true fly)’ who flew about my dining room before trying to exit from my kitchen window (which I opened). I am rather saddened to say that I was hoping it would be something more ‘exotic’ like a solitary bee, but I guess a fly resembling a honeybee is something unique as well.

Hover fly, or drone

Hover fly, or drone

I was listening to podcasts of Alan Titchmarsh on Classic FM the other day and he said something I thought was profound. He said, ‘half the fun in gardening is anticipation, looking forward to things coming out, rather than them being there all the time.’ I agree with the statement wholeheartedly. These past few months while awaiting for bulbs to grow and other plants to awaken from winter has had me peering out of the windows daily.

I have Lily, orchid and gladioli bulbs planted so come summer I will be continuing to peruse my garden to see what has stood the test of nature!

Bulb gowing

Bulb gowing

Firsts for 2014.

With the year drawing to a close, it got me thinking. What have I newly enjoyed in 2014?

Firstly the 1995 guitar concerto by Richard Harvey was an eye opener! I just had to stop and listen when I first heard it on the radio this summer.

Will Todd and his touching choral music is the artist of the year for me, so much so that I got his new album Lux et Veritas for my birthday.

And Patrick Hawes’s Highgrove Suite is magical.

Of course my appreciation of Gustav Mahler’s music was expanded with my reawakening to his 9th symphony!

I hope you like my suggestions. What were your musical highlights this year?

Christine x