Monday, July 31, 2006

Mazen Kerbaj

It's taken me quite a while to track this down - a piece of minimalist music I heard a snippet of on the Today Programme last week(?). It was played during an interview with Lebanese artist, Mazen Kerbaj.

'Starry Night' in its entirety is 40 minutes long. This excerpt lasts just over 6 minutes. As minimalism goes it's pretty bleak (but then, given the circumstances of beleaguered Lebanon it would be) - until the crump of bombs and wailing sirens kick in like a boot to one's belly. Kerbaj describes it thus:
A minimalistic improvisation by: Mazen Kerbaj / trumpet. The Israeli Air Force / bombs
Recorded by Mazen Kerbaj on the balcony of his flat in Beirut, on the night of 15th to 16th of July 2006.© mazen kerbaj 2006

I've never heard a bomb explode - and neither do I want to - and neither can I begin to imagine the pain and destruction inflicted on Lebanon at present - again. His work does not take us to the comfort zone and is as neat as expression of anguish I've come across since standing in front of Picasso's 'Guernica'. Go there. Empathise.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I told you it was a big one.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Here are 3 things I like about this prolonged hot spell:

Sheep hunkering down in the exact shadow of a tree. Their precision is most impressive. They are, I suppose, a sheep-shadow. I like this the most.

Grasshoppers in our meadow doing that rhythmic thing with their legs and putting me in mind of the Corsican maquis - but not of our borderlands. Wish it were more exciting than friction. Wish the meadow - our field - was as aromatic as the maquis. Who knows where the thyme goes? Sorry, I digress....

Putting my hand against the soil and feeling benevolent radiant heat.

As I write this a sliver of moon lies low over the Cambrian Mountains to the west. The last of the light is of the palest blue, describing the horizon. I can just count one, two, maybe three, stars - but know that soon they will be beyond my counting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dan brought us some octopus - which looked pretty good on the plate. Tasted good too. Thanks Dan.

One less.

Some time before dawn when all was silky black and the lanes and fields belonged to the night creatures, before the wood pigeons had kicked in with their hypnotic chant and before the cattle and sheep continued their perambulations, I looked out of our window.

It was the starriest night. Insert whichever starry-sky cliche you want to here (diamonds, twinkling lights etc etc) - it would be inadequate - no one could ever imagine that many diamonds strewn across the heavens. The Milky Way soared above my head, the Pleiades flickered to the north, constellations spread out into infinity. In a moment there was the dart of a falling star - huge and bright. How beautiful, but remember it's someone, something's dying light. I was priviledged to catch that moment.

I remembered I should make a wish but couldn't think of what to wish for - crazy that when there's so many 'good causes' both personal and global. In the end I formulated a somewhat pathetic wish which will remain a secret.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Trelystan Church Fete

.......or the most fun you can have standing under a yew in a churchyard. Perhaps.

Somehow or other I got recruited by the indefatigable Lily Richards (Church Warden of this Parish) into running the plant stall - which is how I came to be standing behind a table of miscellaneous plants, seedlings and mis-shapen vegetables. This is rather unfamiliar territory but I arranged my wares as aesthetically as possible and evolved a pricing strategy that I could both remember and add up in my head. And we were off, sales made and coins rattled into my ice-cream-tub-cash-register.

It was a proper country fete - home made cakes, home made games, raffles, draws, bric-a-brac, children's games and generous teas. Young and old got together amongst the tombstones which stud the ground like so many crooked teeth and enjoyed an afternoon of innocent fun in the shade of massive yew trees.

All this in the beautiful setting of Trelystan Church. Now while Trelystan is a parish you wouldn't describe it as a village as such. But it is a community of scattered farms and houses and it does have a church. The Church stands alone at the end of a track on the edge of a wood and is surrounded by fields. The Church itself is half-timbered, black and white, tiny and simply furnished. The floor inside is laid with old tombs, the work, most probably, of some local stonemason. Calligraphically both elegant and unpretentious.
It undoubtedly an ancient site, although the Church's antiquity is masked by Victorian refurbishments. Being in a slight dip the view to the west is not far reaching but to the south and east the vista opens out to the distant hills - the Stiperstones, Corndon and Stapely Common. In fact, looking back from close to Mitchel's Fold on Stapely Common one can just see this little white church nestled against the dark woods. Yesterday we were looking over a parched landscape of green and gold and the hills were in sharp relief - surely a sign of poor weather to come?

And come it did. The heavens opened and torrential rain lashed in from the west, our small valley suddenly wreathed in cloud. Fortunately the fete was in its final stages so stalls were hurriedly packed up and everyone ran for cover. The Grand Draw was squeezed into a hall already bulging with people enjoying their 'Country Teas'. More tea was poured and more sandwiches, scones and cakes heaped onto plates.

The rain was shortlived - perhaps 30 minutes - hardly enough to quench the parched earth.

n.b.The remains of the plant stall will progress to Chirbury Church Fete which takes place next weekend. Without me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Met up with our friends from the north - John and Barbara, Bernard and Jennifer and Bill and Brenda - at the RHS Tatton Flower Show. Plants, flowers, gardens and exhibits aside, this is a splendid excuse to get together and enjoy a glass of chilled champagne while swapping news and gossip. We all seemed bronzed, relaxed, fit and well. Only Bill felt inclined to tune in to the world of work. Bill, put that phone away! Now. Lovely to see them all again and thanks, John, for your invitation.

I think the weather was as hot as it gets - apparently the hottest since 1911. (Back here our thermometer under the cat-slide recorded a high of 35 degrees - I imagine on the show ground it exceeded that.) Being members' day it was not too crowded and one could actually get a look at the show gardens without being elbowed, pushed and shoved.

And what were the gardens like? I felt I'd seen it all before - some nice ideas and pretty planting. But the WOW! factor wasn't there. Once again the 'back-to-back garden category came up trumps. My personal favourite was BBC Northwest Tonight's 'Classroom Jungle' designed by Janine Crimmins, described thus:
'This garden is intended specifically for children aged between seven and 11. A jungle theme has been chosen to appeal to a child'’s sense of adventure.The design allows children to feel lost among the plants, and to enjoy exploring their way through the garden. To reach the central seating area, the children must push their way through the plants overhanging a hardwood pathway and step through an opening in the wall. Moving through the seating area, they step out over a pebble mosaic of a lizard, and between two more walls, one low enough to perch on and one with a small window to peek through. The walls are painted in deep red and orange to add vibrant colour to the garden.'

I don't think either the drawing or the photograph do justice to the garden - it was an intensely vibrant space, beautifully planted. Next week it will be rebuilt in the grounds of the primary school in Liverpool who were lucky enough to win it.

Interestingly the Reaseheath Garden which I had admired at the NEC a month ago, and which earned a 'Gold' and "Best in Show', here received only a 'Silver'. I wonder if this was because it lacked freshness and its construction looked a little tired - all the other elements were the same.

We left as the showground closed for the day - there were few cars left in the car park so ours was easy to spot, thank goodness! (All silver cars look the same to me...) Back home to the end of Long Mountain where all was still and quiet. We sat in the garden with a glass of wine and watched clouds roll in from the south. As the light fell a few bats fluttered amongst the trees in the dingle and a solitary owl hooted from Badnage Wood. And so to bed.

Melon update

It's definately bigger than a tennis ball now. Definately.

Posing for the centre-fold of 'Playdog' magazine....

Holy moley!!

Chester went hunting and caught this mole. It was a bit of a suprise for all concerned - Chester looked bemused and the mole died of fright. He/she was a beautiful creature - fur softer than velvet and look at those front feet!

Friday, July 14, 2006

'Mojo Workout'

As I write this the light is fading slowly and the landscape is suffused with a soft and golden glow. The end of a beautiful day on Long Mountain.
From my window I can see these two wonderful fellows. (I took these photographs earlier - shortly after they arrived.) The piece is called 'Mojo Workout' and is the work of sculptor Lucy Kinsella. The scale is marvellous and I would like to think they were made to sit our landscape. Close to they are so tactile - one can feel the mark of the maker's hand - the fingers' squeeze, push and spread of soft clay making fur and sinew. Energetic and exhuberant they are the essence of the enigmatic and mysterious hare. I'm still so unfamilliar with them that a glimpse catches me by suprise. Now in this flat evening light they are steely outlines - but in tomorrow's light I know they will come to life again; poised flingers of punches.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A murderous, and mysterious, event

Don't ever be misled by tales of the peace and quiet of the countryside. Out here nature is red in tooth and claw. And noisy.

It is particularly noisy outside our bedroom window, almost nightly it seems, but as the wandering herds and flocks have wandered elsewhere and the cow-that-leapt-over-the-fences-and-bellowed* has been led to the bull I settled down in anticipation of a good night's sleep.

Now perhaps it was the moon - full and low in the sky to the south over Corndon - that woke me in the early hours. Or maybe it was the grunt and scuffle of some nocturnal creature in the lane. Curiosity got the better of me and I hauled myself from my bed and to the window. Vague shapes moved in the grass. I picked out two young foxes tussling and watched them for a few moments by torchlight. They seemed unconcerned by the light and continued to roll and tumble issuing grunts, squeaks and shrieks.

'Play' I thought - and then as an afterthought - 'nature isn't playful'. Seconds later as if suddenly aware of being in the spotlight the larger of the two darted to the fence, dragging the limp body of its fellow. It darted through the fence, across into the field and out of sight. Those shrieks must have been yelps of pain as sharp white teeth bit into tender flesh. A murder had been committed and the following morning the body of the young fox lay still in the grass.

I've not studied the social behaviour of foxes so am not sure if this murderous event was characteristic. If it were I suspect the countryside would be littered with vulpine corpses. Perhaps someone out there in blog-world can enlighten me?

The other interesting question is was it 'murder'? (Murder being premeditated and unlawful killing and the law being an unknown concept to a fox.) This thought was more effective than counting sheep and sleep followed shortly afterwards.

*Hormonal - quite understandable.....

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

You want wasps?

So Camberwell has a shortage of wasps. That eloquent flaneur, The Eyechild blogs at length about their absence - that empty airy space wherein once a stripey bastard flew - sounding an almost wistful note......
Ah, happy, sunlit days when wasps drowned in our beer and all was well with the world. Pass the antihistamine.

Well, we've no shortage here judging by the numbers that have plagued my morning's jam making activity. (Raspberry since you ask.) Newly hatched, minging and amateurish critters, and I think, very early in the season. It doesn't bode well.

.......And I didn't know about the Lynx effect. (For full details you really should click the link above.) Although minor details of the incident have escaped over the years I hadn't heard the bit about the 'flame thrower'. As mother, homeowner and policyholder perhaps its just as well. Children, do not try that at home.

Monday, July 10, 2006

We do like to be beside the seaside, oh we do like to be etc.....

Harry and Sam are away from Manchester/Stockport's metropolitan grime and are camping at Shell Island on the Welsh coast for a few days. He's just mailed me these pictures. Looks idyllic doesn't it? Wonder if they're going to eat that egg for breakfast.....

Home from home?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Here's another picture of 'The Melon We Pretend Not To Notice'. Nearly as big as a tennis ball............

Thanks Dan

Yesterday - 7/7 - was the first anniversary of the London suicide bombings; events which have affected the lives of us all - even those of us removed from the Capital.

Shortly before noon yesterday I was speaking on the phone to Dan and as the clock struck the hour he observed that it was the two minutes silence and put the phone down. Thanks Dan for reminding me to take time out to remember those who'd lost their lives, the maimed and injured, their famillies and all those whose bravery, compassion and expertise came to the fore on the day and in the following weeks and months. (And a thought too for London, that cosmopolitan melting pot, that picked itelf up, dusted itself down and got on with business as usual.)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

An electrifying afternoon.

I've noticed in this country that while we love to bask in the sunshine and enjoy a bit of hot weather we do prefer it in small doses with a bit of something unpleasant in between to complain about. So by mid afternoon yesterday, and after a week of perfect weather, the heat and humidity was such that We'd Had Enough. Something had to give. Within the space of 15 minutes the weather caved in and we ran for cover. There followed an electric storm of biblical proportions and a deluge of rain. Not suprisingly we lost the electricity. (My computer and router switched off with an alarming 'POP!' leading me to fear the worst - fortunately all appears to be well.)

The lanes turned into streams as water poured off the hills, plants were flattened in the garden. The air had a curious metallic tang as the storm passed through.

And pass through it did, a couple of hours later the air was dry and cool and the earth saturated. It will have done the garden no end of good. The power took some time to be restored and it was still off in Marton when I went down to the Village Hall to the WI's 'Any Questions?' evening.

This was something of an ambitious project for such a small and ageing WI but somehow it had got put onto the calender and wouldn't go away. With the words 'never volunteer...' ringing in my ears I offered to help organise it. As we're fairly new to the area the number of people I could personally cajole into buying a ticket was somewhat limited. I found myself concentrating on the marketing and publicity side - familiar ground - and delegating other jobs. I was however able to persuade the Young Farmers to come along and ask some questions and they were a very welcome addtion to the audience. One of our panel was Wayne Davies, the Chairman of Shropshire YFC who was a brilliant speaker speaking on behalf of both young people and the agricultural industry. He was well received by everyone in the Hall. The other 3 members of the panel, Peter Phillips a Lib Dem Councillor: Shirley Tart, a journalist; and Rosemary Hamilton from the Shropshire Federation of Women's Institutes represented other local interests. Our hall was full, the questions - and responses - thought provoking and the supper afterwards typically generous.

The concensus of opinion was that the evening had gone well - I hope we don't have to do another in the near future though!
Back home through the dark lanes, everything washed clean and fresh. The moon hazy behind a film of cloud, the faint 'baa' of a sheep in the distance and the woosh of the breeze in the wood beyond. Magic.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cow Parade

No, not the 'world's largest public art event' as Cow Parade, currently in Edinburgh, bills itself but Trelystan's equivalent.
At 5.20 this morning these gorgeous girls were outside our bedroom window - better than the previous morning when they fetched up at 3.14 am.

We're roused from our sleep by the sense that there is something out there, a vague creaking of hooves and exhalations of grassy breath. I counted 25 cows and 22 calves who were, for the most part, very quiet.They seem to work their way across the fields, over the hill and up our lane to stand around for a while, when on some mysterious signal they turn round and go back again. You could check out the opposition.

The weather continues to be scorching hot - the thermometer in the shade under the cat-slide was reading 30 degrees at midday which is going some for the top of a (low) mountain in Wales. Having been assured by the man from Severn Trent that there was no shortage of water in this region we've not felt too guilty about watering the vegetable plots. Having gone to the trouble of digging, weeding, sowing, cajoling and nuturing I'm damned if I'm going to lose plants at this stage. After a slow start things are coming along nicely - with the exception of the beans. Which we are not going to talk about. But always read the instructions on the packet of spray............Or don't spray.

The other thing we're pretending not to notice is this nascent melon, which along with a couple of others, looks promising. Something about not counting your melons until......what? I am determined to grow something bigger than a tennis ball which has been my previous best.
I planted these roses earlier in the year, in February when the weather was atrocious. I couldn't imagine the bare sticks that I tucked in the ground ever blossoming. But nature works her wondrous ways and only 4 months later I have these delightful flowers. 'Gentle Hermione' - the pink rose pictured is incredibly delicate and so sweetly scented - it reminds me of Jelly Babies. All the roses are from David Austin Roses - I bought them bare rooted and they arrived through the post, perfect specimens in very good condition.