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

Goodbye 2016…and Hello 2017!

Happy New Year from David, Artie and myself. I hope your 2017 is filled with love, laughter and contentment.

Below find a short video celebrating our 2016. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

Christine x

Moonlit – #writephoto

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Composed in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto post.

The sky had turned a velvety indigo, speckled with starlight. The full moon’s white rays danced on the surface of the lake. Its beam like an arrow, pointed to where the woman stood. She had discarded her shoes and stood barefoot on the stony shore. Listening to the trance-like sound of the water as it touched the rocks, she edged slowly towards their icy grip. ‘You shouldn’t be here.’ She smiled coyly, turning towards the silhouetted shape of a man coming towards her. His footsteps crunched as he drew alongside her. She trembled excitedly as she felt his arms encircle her waist, the touch of his cold lips on hers. She pulled away shyly.

‘Neither should you.’ She heard him laugh. ‘Ed, what would your husband say, if he knew you were here with me?’ She chuckled. ‘With a straight woman too!’

‘What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.’ She started walking, gingerly at first deeper into the water. Sharp stones cut into her feet. The fabric of her long dress grew heavy.

‘Why did you come?’ She heard him sigh. ‘And don’t give me that ‘I’m confused’ line. You’re 50! You should know who you are by now!’ Ed looked shocked.

‘Lisa,’ he paused, thinking of the right words to say. ‘You know there’s always been something about you.’ Lisa stood knee deep in water. She could see Ed’s features blanched by the moonlight. He looked ethereal. She shivered. ‘It’s always been about you. 20 years ago, you were all I could see and now…’ he broke off.

‘And now?’

‘I don’t know what’s happening between us?’

‘Me neither,’ Lisa sighed. ‘Though it feels different somehow.’

‘Yes, less possessive.’

‘Have you told Lee about me?’ Lisa noticed Ed’s stance, uncomfortable, with his hands in his pockets.

‘No, what could I say?’

‘The truth,’ she scoffed.

‘He knows there’s been women in the past.’

‘And he’s fine with that?’ Ed nodded.

‘I’ve just not told him that there was one that left her mark on me.’

‘Literally,’ Lisa thought, picturing the scar Ed bore on his chest, where she had sliced him with a kitchen knife after one of their many heated arguments.

‘What are you doing?’ Ed asked, exasperated, as Lisa walked waist high into the lake.

‘Standing in stone cold water,’ she shivered.

‘You’re mad!’

‘I’d rather be mad than dead inside.’ She turned to face Ed, her dress soaking up more of the insidious cold, dragging her downwards. ‘It’s like the moon has nothing to be sad about… her blacks crackle and drag,’ she quoted Sylvia Plath.

‘You’re more sloshing around, than crackling.’ Ed grinned.

‘Join me?’ Lisa laughed nervously, before her scream pierced the night sharply. She’d felt her feet stumble, slip on mossy stones, before her whole body succumbed to the water. She exhaled loudly, raising above the surface, giggling fitfully, thankfully to still be alive. Concentric waves rippled all around her. A man swore angrily as he stormed away from the promontory with a camera and tripod under his arm. Lisa managed to find her feet and stood dripping.

‘You ok?’ Ed called.

‘Yes,’ Lisa smiled. ‘Looks like I’ve ruined his photographs.’

‘Ignore him!’

‘Seems I have a knack for ruining things for people.’

‘Don’t believe that!’ Ed sensed Lisa’s jovial mood was turning.

‘Perhaps it would be better if I wasn’t here at all.’ Lisa looked towards the vast darkness of the lake. Peaks of night covered hills glowed orange with street lights from the nearby town.

‘Never think that!’ Ed gazed at Lisa’s white skin glowing in the moonlit. Her dark hair tumbling over her pale naked shoulders. ‘You look like a nereid.’

‘Come?’ Lisa beckoned, watching as Ed reluctantly peeled the shirt off his back, unbuckled the belt from his jeans.

‘I can’t believe I’m doing this?’

‘You can do it!’ Lisa felt herself slipping further into the icy water, until her whole body was submerged. Her rapid breathing was echoed by Ed’s, who’d waded bravely into the lake towards her.

‘Oh f**k, oh f**k!’ He cried as Lisa held her arms out. ‘Why do this?’

‘I just want to feel alive!’

‘There’s better ways to feel alive!’ Ed bounded through the water, droplets glittering like diamonds in the moonlight, flew all around. The fabric of Lisa’s dress wrapped itself around her legs, threatening to pull her down.

‘I’ve got you!’ Ed called, reaching for Lisa’s body, holding her firm. Face to face they breathed each others breath.

‘No one must know about us.’

‘Like I’m going to publicise it,’ Ed mocked.

‘I mean it.’ Lisa implored, her consciousness pricked. ‘Paul must never know. It would break him.’

‘We both have something to lose.’ Lisa closed her eyes and let Ed kiss her. It was an impassioned caress filled with years of want.

‘I still love Paul, but he will never understand what we feel for each other,’ she murmured. ‘I love you so much.’ Lisa ran her cold, wet fingers through Ed’s hair, shivered as he muzzled her neck.

‘I love you.’ She quivered in his arms.

‘How can we make this work? We both have very different lives?’

‘I don’t know.’ Ed looked towards the Great Bear and the north star, as a sailor would, looking for direction. ‘We can’t keep using unplanned conferences and meetings as an excuse or they’ll grow suspicious.’

‘Perhaps we should cut our losses, say our goodbyes.’

‘That’s not what I want, nor I believe do you.’

‘But someone’s bound to get hurt.’ Ed held Lisa close, afraid that if he let go, she would slip from his sight. As moonlight bathed their heads, a shooting star carved its way across the sparkling tapestry of the night sky.

© Christine Lucas 2016.


Lines taken from Sylvia Plath’s – Edge.

The woman is perfected.
Her dead
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
Sylvia Plath, “Edge” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes.
Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

Remembering a Kindred Soul… Mac.

A while back I read a blog post by Isobel in which she remembered her long lost animals by lighting a candle.

I thought about doing the same.

I have lost many pets down the years. Recently I said goodbye to the gentle Lady Gouldian finch, Aura.

The purpose of this post will be to celebrate the life and 10 years I shared with my ‘boy’ Mac. I have had many cats during my lifetime but none were like Mac. He took a piece of my heart with him when he left me in 2007.

mac5aI can still remember the day, (like it was yesterday), when I first set eyes on Mac. It was a warm August day in 1997. My 20 year old self, had been to town to get a Sarah Brightman album. Unbeknown to me, my mum and brother, Stephen had been to a computer shop and on their way home had come across a house with kittens playing in the gated area. My mum being a cat lover too, commented how adorable the feisty kittens were and the owner, an elderly woman asked if she would like to take one home. So, come the time I came in through the front door, cassette in hand, a tuxedo kitten had been chosen and was waiting for me.

It was love at first sight! Then began a decade-long love affair!

It’s hard to put into words just what a loving cat Mac was. He was always by my side. He was ‘my’ cat, and would follow me about the house. We used to have fun, playing hide and seek together and he loved his roast dinners, of potatoes and peas. We were inseparable! Mac was there when I was lonely, and I poured my wishes and dreams into him while he sat purring patiently.

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One anecdote was when Mac went missing for a week! Seven days of missing my ‘boy.’ It was hell! Of a day I walked about dazed, come the night I cried myself into a fitful sleep.

One Sunday, I was lounging in bed when a neighbour called. She said she thought Mac was in her house. Mum went to look and low and behold there he was! He had been holed up in the neighbour’s back bedroom scared and probably wondering where I was. Luckily the neighbour had a cat herself and of a night, Mac would tiptoe downstairs, help himself to the dried food on offer and relieve himself in the cat tray. He was such a good boy! I was amazed that the neighbour’s cat did not sniff Mac out, or if he did, he was equally scared! I was just thankful to have my Mac back. He seemed unfazed by his vacation. I never let him out the house again!

Sadly Mac never reached old age. He contracted bowel cancer and became a shadow of his former self. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… saying goodbye. So on the 10th of October 2007, I said farewell to my ‘boy.’ In Mac’s place I received a dark wooden box with a bag inside, tied with a blue ribbon, full of sharp bone fragments…

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…and all I was left with… was memories.

Mac  1997-2007.

The Lovers (a story fragment).

the-lovers-art-nouveau-tarotThe wind ruffled his hair. She liked how it sent his fringe tumbling over his eyes. This would be the last time she saw him looking like this, strong, handsome, his skin glowing with the last rays of a dramatic sunset. As if sensing her gaze he turned to face her. Sadness tinged his eyes. ‘Are you having doubts?’

‘No,’ she shook her head. ‘Though it is a long way down and the river fast flowing.’

‘It is, but we are together. That’s all that matters.’ He reached for her hand. Their shoulders touched as they sat on the railing of a bridge. They looked down at the raging river below them. The breeze smelled sweetly of honeysuckle. ‘Scared?’

‘A little,’ she tried to look nonchalant, swinging her bare legs over the gorge.

‘We don’t have to jump you know.’

‘But you’ll think I’m a coward.’

‘No I won’t,’ he laughed. ‘Anyway, other people have done it, and survived.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes,’ he leaned in to kiss her. ‘You do trust me?’ A flicker of apprehension crossed his face.

‘I do, I love you!’

‘Good,’ she felt him squeeze her hand.

‘Let’s do this!’ She followed his lead and slid her body over the railing. She screamed into the cool evening as her foot slipped, threatening to send her over prematurely. He threw an arm out to stop her, though she lost a shoe, and watched as it somersaulted towards a watery landing. Nervously they turned to face the tumultuous waters below. Holding hands grimly and with sirens blaring in the distance like birdsong, they stepped out into the air.

24 hours earlier…

He still held the gun. His hand shook as he pointed the smoking barrel towards the man who lay at his feet. ‘Put the gun down, Jack!’ His girlfriend shouted, her voice cracking with tension.

‘I can’t, Aimee,’ Jack’s face had turned ashen grey.

‘Oh F**k I think he’s dead! Oh F**k!’ Jack looked at the body slumped face down before him. ‘Let’s go. I’ve already called the police!’ Moments earlier Jack and Aimee, were stepping out of a restaurant laughing freely at an inside joke. The smell of grilled fish lingered in the air. ‘You are awful!’ Aimee playfully punched Jack’s arm before feeling his hands around her waist pulling her towards him. She closed her eyes as he nuzzled her neck.

‘Just give us your f**king money, lovebirds!’ Aimee opened her eyes to the contorted face of a man. He pointed the muzzle of a gun angrily at their faces. ‘Your money, now!’ Aimee clutched at her bag which the man eyed covetously.

‘I don’t think so,’ laughed Jack, moving his body in front of Aimee’s to shield her.

‘Jack!’ Aimee nervously placed a hand on his shoulder.

‘I’m not afraid to use this!’ The man waved the gun carelessly.

‘I think you are.’ Jack edged closer to the man. He was a scrawny, runt, it would be easy for Jack to overpower him.

‘I mean it!’ The man cocked the gun and aimed it at Jack’s chest.

‘Jack, let’s just do what he wants.’ Deaf to Aimee’s pleas, Jack rushed forward. He reached for the gun with one hand and used the full force of his body to unbalance the man. Aimee shrieked! Both men grunted as they struggled. Reaching into her bag, Aimee pulled out her mobile phone. She started pushing at numbers, hastily talking to the operator.

‘Police please, an armed robbery.’ Aimee finished the call as Jack spun round, in his hand he triumphantly waved the weapon.

‘Unlike you, I am not afraid to use this!’

‘You wouldn’t dare!’

‘Jack! Don’t be stupid!’

‘Yes, Jack, don’t be stupid!’ The man mimicked. ‘Look,’ he supplicated. ‘Let’s all go our separate ways. That way no one get’s hurt.’

‘What? And let a snivelling c**t like you, continue to roam the streets!’ The man looked offended.

‘It’s not like I wouldn’t follow you. Find out where you live.’ He eyed Aimee lasciviously. There came a flash of light, like someone had taken a photograph. A loud crack reverberated around the car park. Aimee watched as the man crumpled to the ground like a demolished building. He lay still. A deafening silence followed.

‘Why did you pull the trigger?’ Aimee cried.

‘It just went off in my hand.’

‘Oh f**k!’ Aimee watched as blood pooled around the body. ‘We’ve got to get out of here before the police arrive,’ she pulled at Jack’s arm. He blinked like he had just woken up from a dream.

‘Let’s get to the car.’

‘What are you doing with the gun? You can’t take it with us!’ Jack had flicked the safety catch, tucking the weapon into the waistband of his jeans.

‘Just get in the car.’ He fired up the engine.

‘How do you know how to handle a gun like that!’

‘We handled lots of firearms on the farm. It’s no big deal.’ He sidled the car onto the main road, switching the headlights on when they were away from the scene. Bumper to bumper in traffic they both watched as a cavalcade of sirens flashed past them, heading in the opposite direction.

‘What are we going to do?’ Aimee dabbed at her wet cheeks. ‘Can we even go home?’ Jack shrugged.

‘Damn there’s cameras everywhere! We’re going to have to ditch the car.’

‘Where?’

‘We can ditch it somewhere near my brother’s, then borrow one of his cars.’

‘My grandmother has a place in Snowdonia, we can go there for the time being. Lay low for a bit.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’

‘Do you think someone saw us?’ Jack sighed.

‘I have no doubt.’

© Christine Lucas 2016.


The story behind the story: 

I was inspired to write the above after reading Taya’s short fragment of dialogue (the bridge scene) on her blog page, Dragonition. She has some fantastic ideas on her blog for writers of any ability. Go check it out!

I found the task quite challenging. To take someone else’s idea and change it into my own was harder than I imagined.

I read quite a lot but not everything inspires me to tinkle on the keyboard. Yet, I have so many characters and scenes flitting around my head at present; so this exercise came at the right moment for me. It’s been very cathartic. Who knows, I may even try and add to the narrative and elaborate on why I’ve used a tarot card for the title.

I hope you have enjoyed reading it? Let me know in the comments any thoughts you may have.

Christine x

My Love for the Red Panda.

‘Panda’ from the Nepalese, nigalya ponya meaning bamboo footed.

23666_10150140661800271_1831177_nThe red panda was the first ‘panda’ to be know to the West as early as the 1800’s! In 1825 Frenchman Frederic Cuvier published an account describing the red panda and named the species, Ailurus fulgens fulgens, or shining cat.

By the 1840’s English naturalist Brain Houghton Hodgson had written a detailed study on the red panda or ‘Wah’. Focusing on habitat and diet.

It was not until 1869 that the giant panda was identified. However to distinguish the species, the first panda was renamed the lesser panda.

39755_425944215911_56676235911_4773054_7286609_nIt’s been eight years since I saw my first red panda, having been oblivious to their existence until then. For me it was love-at-first-sight! They seem to be a number of animals all rolled into one, which has caused countless debates as to what family or classification of animal the red panda truly is.

Are they bear-cats? They are cat sized (always a plus in my book) and rather bear-like, though they are not part of the ursidae family.

They bark like a dog: There is little published evidence but the red panda is highly susceptible to diseases like canine distemper.

Their vocalisations sound similar to birds:

A living fossil: Recent DNA studies have concluded that the red panda is in its own family of the Ailuridae, being part of the super-family the Musteloidea, (weasels, skunks and raccoons).

The only similarity with giant pandas is their diet (bamboo) and the false thumb, an elongated wrist bone that acts like a sixth digit. It helps with holding food and climbing, especially head first!

Red pandas are found largely in temperate, deciduous forests, from Nepal to China and Myanmar. There are two subspecies, Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani. Their red fur, one of the densest of all mammals (for insulation), is perfect camouflage during autumn.

Due to living in Himalayan regions, red pandas prefer cooler days. Winter is the best time to find them active.

Although they have a penchant for bamboo, eating up to 45% of their body weight a day, red pandas are classed as carnivores. They eat fruit, insects, eggs and small birds.

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Feeding Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park

Red pandas have a slow metabolism due to being unable to digest bamboo properly, hence being rather sedentary. I’ve noticed many zoo guests just walk past red panda enclosures because they have been asleep up a tree. In most cases you need to visit several times in the hope of catching one awake. Being a crepuscular animal doesn’t help either as they are more active at dawn and dusk.

They are solitary animals, only coming together for mating. The female is only receptive one day a year. The breeding season is usually January to April with birth around June/July. The litter usually consists of one to four cubs, but usually two.

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Photo by David Evans

In 2010 I was honoured to witness Chester Zoo’s female red panda, Lushui move her cub, Lily from nest to nest. They do this to avoid predators. Cubs come out of the nest from around three months, and stay with their mothers for about a year before finding their own territory. Their lifespan in captivity can reach 15 years.

However beautiful red pandas are, they are classified as endangered by the IUCN. The main threats to them are deforestation, hunting, poaching and illegal trade. In China there is a traditional custom dating back to around the 13th century where red panda pelts are given to newlyweds as a sign of ‘good luck’. Red pandas are also predated upon by snow leopards and martens.

Conservation: Exact numbers of red pandas in Asia are relatively unknown, estimates say up to 10,000 adults. There is a worldwide effort to protect the red panda and its habitat. In many of the countries where the red panda is found, their habitat has been designated areas of protection, though these areas are hard to police. The Red Panda Network liaise with ‘forest guardians’ to educate and highlight the need to conserve red panda habitat. They are also working directly with the creators of the Panchthar-Ilam-Singhalila (PIS corridor), which will be the first Red Panda Protected Forest.

In captivity there are two long term initiatives for breeding, the Red Panda Species Survival Programme (SSP) and the European Endangered Species Programme (EES) which offers a ‘stud book’ of potential mates.

Popular culture: There have been a number of depictions of red pandas on many platforms over the years. Another name for the red panda is the Fire Fox. Mozilla use this name for their web browser, though their logo is ambiguous.

Cinema: In 2008 DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda with Shifu, being a lose representation of a red panda! A year earlier an animated Barbie film, the Island Princess had a red panda as a friendly aide.

In 2013 Pocket Gems released a game called Animal Adventure with a red panda as one of the main characters.

14115498_10153971399038869_7066728288936528819_oThe future…is still uncertain.

At the time of writing, the WWF have announced that the giant panda’s status has improved from endangered to vulnerable. Hopefully the red panda being under the ‘umbrella’ of conservational efforts for the giant panda, will start to feel the effects of these protection methods soon?

 

And finally: Sadly, earlier this year, the Red Panda Network announced that poaching of the red panda had increased in 2016! Their annual International Red Panda Day (17th September 2016) will focus on anti-poaching initiatives.

The road ahead may still be long but there is hope for the future of the red panda. Conservation efforts are starting to produce results for not only the giant panda but tigers also, why not for the red panda? They have so much going for them. To me they are sweet, endearing animals, they are all superstars, none other than Ming Ming!

Thanks for reading.

Christine x


Further reading:

Angela Glatston: Red Panda: Biology and Conservation of the First Panda.

Whence the Red Panda? Flynn JJ, Nedbal MA, Dragoo JW, Honeycutt RL.

http://redpandanetwork.org/red_panda/about-the-red-panda/

http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/red-panda

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda

If you have been inspired by what you have read, then why not continue the message? You can join in with this years International Red Panda Day at your local animal park/zoo.

Scrambling and Swimming

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For weeks I have wanted to return to Derwentwater in the Lake District. This time to walk the path towards Catbells, overlooking the lake and then to picnic at the lakeshore. Early on Sunday, David and I headed back up the M6 to Cumbria, hoping to do just that!

The two hour drive ran without hiccup. Unlike the last time we attempted to go to the Lakes. That time they shut the M6 due to a fuel spillage and had to re-tarmac the carriageway. Thankfully not this time!

There is a limited amount of free parking by the signed Catbells path. However we passed a field that had been opened up for visitors to the area at £3 per car, for the day. I thought that was reasonable. Saying that, we managed to get a spot in the free car park!  There is also a bus that passes through on its way to Buttermere or you could walk from Keswick. There are many possibilities.

For around 1.5 hours we followed the path towards Catbells summit. The views from the path were spectacular. I wanted to do the walk just to see them! The sun shone warmly down, while fluffy clouds scudded past. There was one part of the path where we had to crawl on hands and knees to climb over a rocky spot. I don’t like climbing. I’m even worse at it than walking! There was a second more treacherous section just before the summit which curtailed any further attempt from me! Though young children and dogs happily leapt over the rock towards the top!

We headed back along a safer route towards the car to pick up supplies for our picnic by the lake.


Can I let you into a bit of a secret? I had an ulterior motive for heading back towards Derwentwater. It all started in February when David and I took a walk around Llyn Idwal in Snowdonia. I stood on the shingle beach, looking at the clear fresh water and imagined what it would be like on a warm, summers day. Of sunbathing and paddling in the lake.

The seed had been planted.

A week later saw David and I, up at the crack of dawn to visit Haweswater and Derwentwater, in the Lake District for the first time. I fell in love with Derwentwater and I wondered what it would be like to put my toe in its waters?

Later, after watching hours of YouTube videos and researching swimming in lakes/rivers in the UK, I was hooked! David thought I was mad! A week ago I purchased a swimsuit, neoprene shoes and goggles. I was all set to go swimming, but where? Though the lake can be busy with boat traffic and the shore popular with dog walkers, I chose Derwentwater to be my first!

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I was a little trepid to begin with. I worried about the temperature of the waters and wondered if I should postpone for a warmer day. However I wanted to attempt it. I had dreamed about it for weeks! I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes on the walk, so I had no real excuse not to try. The day had been pretty amazing up till then. Embarking on my first ‘wild’ swim would be the cherry on the cake (figuratively speaking)!

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. I slipped on a stone and plummeted onto my backside! The air was laced with my nervous giggling! I hadn’t been in water since I was a teenager, (a long, long time ago). I attempted the breaststroke and found that my legs and arms wouldn’t coordinate! I’d forgotten how to swim! However I gained in confidence. My long term memory kicked in and I remembered the technique. I managed to swim backwards and forwards with mayflies flying off the surface of the lake and wonderful views all around. David, who was happily dry onshore, watched on taking photographs.

The lake water was surprisingly mild for a cool day. I found it strange that there were eddies of warmer water here and there. I didn’t stray too far from the shore, my upper body isn’t that strong. I didn’t want the day to end in disaster, not on my first time!

I climbed out after 10 minutes and got dressed. I sat snuggling with David on the lakeshore, shakily cradling a hot cup of coffee. I felt buoyed by the occasion! Buttermere next!

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We ended the day with a little woodland stroll, where we heard the calls of a cuckoo, saw a carpet of bluebells and watched sheep and their lambs get fed. The whole day was wonderful. I went home thoroughly tired but energised. I am eager to go on my next walk/swim.

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Have you been swimming in a lake or river? Have any suggestions on where best to swim or of beautiful scenic walks to take?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #9

This past week has been very uneventful! I have been scraping the barrel, trying to find things to post for this week’s Sunday Sevens, devised by Threads and bobbins.

This week our yarden has been graced with the arrival of not one but two dunnocks! At the beginning of the week we could hear a male singing for a mate and near the weekend he brought his conquest to the yarden! It has been lovely watching them flit about the plants, sifting for insects and grubs. I hope they bring their fledglings in the following months.

Below you will find two videos of them both. The video of the female shows her shaking her tail in preparation for mating, she seems a right floozy, although the male seems to just want to look for food!

Okay, I know I am cheating by posting videos but I really don’t have many photographs to share with you.

20160424_174616I’ve been doing a lot of cooking this week. On Monday I made a carrot and lentil soup and on Friday I made a chickpea and vegetable pilaf. Both of which I never took a photo of! Then on Saturday I remade a One Pot Mexcian Quinoa but I have already blogged about this, here. However I did take a picture of David’s dupiaza which he cooked last Sunday.

Christine and Ewan

 

 

On Tuesday I fell in love.

David and I visited his brother and sister-in-law, who have a delightful son, Ewan. I was surprised when he crawled over to sit on my knee and then proceeded to poke me in the face. lol.

I can’t wait for him to start talking, there is so much I can teach him! 😀

I have recently, been enjoying the rerun of the BBC productions of The Hollow Crown. The four feature length films are adaptations of William Shakespeare’s history plays, comprising of Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2 and Henry V. I missed them the first time they were aired in 2012. If you have not seen them, you can view then here, for the next five months. I would highly recommend them, even if you don’t like Shakespeare. I find that I appreciate his writing as I age.

Even though the weather has returned briefly to winter this week, the sun has been out quite a lot in Liverpool. On Saturday, we took stock of the yarden. The dahlia which I thought was dead has new shoots coming from its tubers and the clematis that David’s mum gave me has at least two buds on it, and still growing! We may have had failures with the french beans and spring onions (blame Artie for that!), but the maris bard potatoes are growing from strength to strength! Fingers crossed we have a harvest!

To be honest I’ve been in a grumpy mood all day, equally mirrored by the foul weather. Why is it that when a bank holiday beckons the weather turns dire? Anyway, I tried to keep the depression at bay by making a gorgeous dinner of curried red lentils. I’ll do a further post on this in the future.

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To raise my spirits I took a snap of the daffodils I bought yesterday. They are unusual as they didn’t have the usual signature trumpet but I can’t find online what type of daffodil they are.

Anyway, I hope you have a pleasant week ahead.

Christine xx

A Lady of Leisure.

Costa treat

Costa treat

Monday was the beginning of my ‘much needed’ week off work. I started it by going for a coffee with my mum! We braved the drizzle and took the bus to Allerton and our favourite Costa! It was a nice indulgent treat but the indulgence didn’t end there! The next day Mum and I went to Liverpool One’s Odeon and went to see Jurassic World! It was an enjoyable romp and it was nice to just switch off for a change! There were some nail biting moments which had mum and I squealing like children! 😀

I spent the ‘hump’ with Artie who seemed to enjoy the company.

2015-07-14 22.29.24In the garden:

There has been a flurry of activity at the feeders this week. Visiting were lots of baby Starlings all greedily helping themselves to the fat balls. Amongst all the flapping of wings were four House Sparrows, two males and two females. They happily explored the garden. I saw them under the Honeysuckle and at one stage all sitting in the branches of the small Buddleia I have in a pot! However they do not stay still for long and we believe we have more Sparrows visiting than first thought. I am hopeful they will continue to visit the feeders, they have such lovely sweet characters.

There were also the many Goldfinch ‘charms’ visiting. One family must have been successful at rearing their young as they brought about four babies to the feeders. All are welcome! 😀

I had to dig up my Michaelmas Daisy as the mildew was spreading to other flowers. The vinegar spray did not help I am afraid! Looks like I’ll be heading to Lady Green Garden Centre in the near future!

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The rest of the week:

David had Thursday and Friday off. So on the first day, we went to Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent to see their art instillation of fairies, by local artist Robin Wright. We got in for the 2 for 1 offer via Stoke on Trent’s tourist website. Saved us nearly £10! The next four hours was spent walking along the mile long lake, viewing the many art displays in-situ and enjoying their gardens.

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While walking we came across a flash of colour! It was a small part of the lakeside given over to wild flowers. The sight was stunning!

Wild flowers

Wild flowers

One of the attractions at Trentham was their Bare Foot Walk. I had decided the night before that if I had the chance I would try it. So in anticipation I packed with our lunch a small towel to wipe my feet! 🙂 David thought I was mad, but I threw off my shoes and socks and jumped on the wooden stepping stones.

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

The wood was presently warm and comfortable unlike some other surfaces I encountered. Small stones, wood chips and coals were the hardest and most difficult to walk on. I made very slow progress!

The excitement of the day really knocked us out! So come the evening we relaxed and watched Maleficent.

Friday dawned cloudy and cool, We decided to make the most of the day and headed towards Lancashire to see the Pendle Sculpture Trail at Aitken Wood. I don’t know if it was due to still being tired from the day before or the fact that we seemed to get hounded by horrid flies for the two hours we were walking (one even tried to bite me!), I didn’t enjoy the day as much as I thought I would! The weather didn’t play ball either as it was rather windy on the hills and the sun rarely showed!

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The wood was good for wildlife spotting and we bemoaned the fact that we should have brought our ‘bigger’ cameras instead of our phones! We really were not equipped for taking any decent nature sightings. Another visit will be on the cards in the future!

On the walk we spotted:

  1. A Linnet, but not 100% certain.
  2. Tuffted Ducks though again I am not certain. I really wished I’d brought my bird ID book!
  3. Great or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  4. Blue, Great and Coal Tits, I recognised them! 🙂
  5. Goldfinches
  6. Three rabbits
  7. Seven butterflies, two were Red Admirals and two Gatekeepers!
  8. A few moths
  9. A hawk hunting, could have been a Merlin, though not certain! 😦

My identification skills are decent enough for when it comes to garden birds, but when I am faced with birds I don’t see regularly then I find them difficult to ID! I think many more days out in the country are needed to hone my skills!

Saturday turned out at be a busy affair as we had family around for a curry and film night! We ordered from my favourite takeaway, Saffron and the film we snuggled up to watch was The Kingsman, it had it’s funny moments!

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Now Sunday has arrived and I’m feeling blue, work looms gloomily on the horizon! I’ve enjoyed my time off work so much! Maybe too much! It’s been lovely. I have spent time with family and seen and experienced new things. I’ve spent today at home with David and Artie and tried to get my nervous finches to feed from the hand. Two already have the courage, Chocolate (Bengalese) and Rainbow (Gouldian) but poor Romeo (Bengalese) is still hesitant!

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Here’s to the next week off 🙂

Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony!

I’m not an expert in classical music. I don’t know much terminology nor can I decipher notation. I listen just because it makes me feel. Some pieces make me feel serene: Allegri’s Miserere, some make me want to dance, Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2, and others just simply take me to a place both spiritually and emotionally that is unparalleled by any other medium! For me, Gustav Mahler’s music does that above any other composer. I may be a bit biased as Mahler was the composer who made me turn away from my ‘pop’ loving years of the 90’s to re-acquaint myself with classical music, but his symphonies especially his later ones from the 5th onwards often have me quaking with a mixture of heightened emotions!

Gustav-Mahler

Gustav Mahler

There is joy to be heard in Mahler’s work for example his 1st Symphony bristles with youthful energy. Love is to be found in his 3rd Symphony, not only human love but of nature too. His 9th Symphony is filled with heavy pathos and heartfelt resignation but it is not done in a depressive way, it’s more of an enlightened way, which enables deep soul searching. And then there is the fear and tragedy that punctuates his 6th Symphony and resonates so powerfully in his 2nd!

It is Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, entitled the Resurrection, that I now turn my attention to.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performed the Resurrection twice this April, on Wednesday 29th and again on Thursday 30th. I booked tickets for the Wednesday performance. It was almost a full house! We were in the ‘cheap seats’ up in the gallery but we had a perfect view of the brightly illuminated orchestra.

Mahler's 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Mahler’s 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

I read the programme notes before the concert and Stephen Johnson mentioned that in the early performances of Mahler’s first three symphonies, Mahler gave detailed accounts of each movement and what ’emotions they aroused.’ However he was not entirely satisfied with having to tell the audience what to feel, what he meant by his music. Mahler said, ‘In my conception of the work I was in no way concerned with the detailed setting forth of an event, but much rather of  a feeling.’ This remark resonated with me and on the night of the concert the feelings became manifest sending goose flesh and shivers all over my body. In fact the performance of the Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Sir Andrew Davis reverberated deep within my body and I felt the effects long after I had left the hall and stood shivering outside awaiting my bus! Even David who is not a Mahler fan said he felt ‘shivers’.

Sir Andrew Davis is not a conductor I have seen perform before. I know of his reputation but have not seen him conduct live. He is a conductor of much energy, jumping and jigging on the podium with his long tail coat flapping. He did not carry a baton but commanded the orchestra with the shape of his expressive hands. You could see that he really had fun with the orchestra. His years of experience showed. I was surprised to read that Davis was 71 years old he really moved about with the energy of a younger man, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him!

Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis

The sound from the orchestra was breathtaking. In the 2nd Symphony there are moments of light hearted fun (the Ländler) and solemn solemnity as found in the Urlicht performed by the Mezzo Soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers. I could find no fault in her performance, nor that of the choir, however Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo said the ‘German text wasn’t as crisp as it could have been.’ The brass for me still played a bit ropey at times (though they got the loudest cheer come applause) and some passages sounded a bit muted in the hall. In her review, Catherine Jones said ‘even the controversial new acoustic, which tends to over-amplify the brass, acted in the work’s favour by adding depth rather than overpowering the whole.’

Alfred Hickling reporting for the Guardian remarked at the ‘frenzied’ attack Davis gave Mahler’s second. I found that the pace was ideal, though brisk it sounded better than some languishing performances of the symphony. Hickling commented mainly on Davis’s appointment as Conductor Emeritus. On the night he was presented with the award and made a speech saying he was ‘deeply touched and honoured’ by the gift and relished ‘the prospect of making music regularly,’ in Liverpool, a ‘wonderfully vibrant city, of which the Orchestra is the finest jewel.’ I’d have to agree. While Davis was making this speech and the orchestra and chorus performed Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion Op.7I felt overwhelming pride and respect for the Liverpool Philharmonic, and with this being their 175th year anniversary there is much to celebrate!

My most favourite part of the Resurrection Symphony (apart from Urlicht) is about 10 minutes into the finale. It is the orchestral version of the hymn like chorale that will finish the symphony. When I listen to this part that steadily builds up into a triumphant crash of percussion interlaced with strings and trumpeting brass I always imagine the golden rays of a rising sun stretching its light over a slumbering countryside. Sheep rear their heads from a night of rest and a horse drawn carriage trundles along a narrow country lane. Under Davis’s command the Liverpool Philharmonic played this passage to awe-inspiring heights, some would call it apotheosis, (no recordings I’ve heard come close to it!) The sound filled the entire auditorium! My heart swelled with emotion and I have never heard the orchestra sound so loud, so passionate, so emotional, I indeed had a tear in my eye!

The only jip I had was with the audience, of hissing coke bottles being opened, mobile phones tinkling and the guy behind me humming along to the choir! But none could detract from the performance which culminated in the most rousing finale I’d ever heard!

What would Mahler have thought? If he had heard the mobile phone he would have undoubtedly stopped the performance, like he did when someone had a coughing fit at one of his performances.

Though undoubtedly what Mahler would have thought is of little consequence. Personally, I came away from the hall feeling satisfied. A young couple in front of us talked about how religious the symphony was. I have a feeling Mahler’s Resurrection is more emotional than religious, whether it is a ‘spiritual religious’ or a ‘spiritual emotional’ is another discussion. What is for certain is that there is no ‘judgement’ in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. Stephen Johnson in his programme notes says that, ‘the 2nd Symphony marks a huge progression from darkness and death through to light and affirmation of life and love.’ There ‘is no judgement…There is no punishment… an overwhelming love illuminates our being. We know and are.’ It can only be a good thing to be all knowing at the end of it all. The end of all things.

© Christine Lucas 2015.