30 Apr 2012

The Great Outdoors - Under Canvas

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When I was a little girl I belonged to the Brownies and then to the Girl Guides "I promise to do my best, to do my duty to God and the Queen, to help other people at all times and obey the Guide law".  I remember the motto after all these years (at least 50).  The best part of belonging to these groups was going camping every year.  We didn't go far - just a mile up the road - but I loved the camping experience.

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 I remember sitting round the camp fire singing songs whilst waiting for our potatoes to cook in the fire and the burnt blackened skins.  Sharing a bell-tent with half a dozen other giggley girls, making up ghost stories in the dark with just our torches to make things even scarier.  We had to make fires with just one match and undergo all sorts of identification tests - all this to acquire our 'Camping' badge.

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The love of camping stayed with me and when I became a teenager I acquired a little tent of my own and the basic equipment that was needed and went camping with my slightly taller giggley girlfriends.  I loved waking up in the morning and walking on the dew-laden grass with bare feet and cooking breakfast on a little stove.  It was great fun and such an adventure to be doing stuff without my parents spoiling it.

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When I first got married our holidays were under canvas in Wales and Cornwall in bracken-filled fields full of cows, no toilet blocks or running water, collapsing fold-up beds and rain-soaked canvas, that when you leaned against, let the rain in and soaked your bedding.  Ah - happy days.

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My love affair with camping carried on well into my thirties, but with the advent of cheap package holidays, it was abandoned, except for one camping holiday abroad near the Pyrenees.  That wasn't so pleasant - all the equipment was provided we just had to buy food from the camp shop.  But the weather was so hot that the tent became unbearable and the insects were three times as large as any in England.  And so my love affair faded - I'm not sure now that I could put up with the discomfort and inconvenience - but it has given me some great times to remember - and if I were a good few years younger - I would do it all again.

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28 Apr 2012

Diaries - End of April

I have always been a great diary reader.  Those people who publish their diaries have given us permission to  have a peek into their world.  As I sit here pondering what I have achieved during April I though I would have a look through some of  the 'Diaries' that I have read and share their writings with you.

The Ivington Diaries
via amazon
Monty Don's - Ivington Diaries

30 April 2006
Sarah says that I am like an old dog plodding round the same beat morning and night, but for me the walk is measured with constant change.  Routine can be rhythm.  My grandfather attributed his exceptionally long life to a routine devoid of variation.  Living was grooved into place for a remarkably fit and healthy ninety-seven years.  Meal times arriving like Swiss trains and he went to Harrods once a fortnight for a haircut and some ham.
Mrs. Milburn's Diaries: An Englishwoman's Day to Day Reflections, 1939-45
via amazon
Mrs. Milburn's Diaries

Tuesday 28th April 1942
There is much raiding by the R.A.F. Oh dear, what terrible destruction everywhere - a terrible war!  Norwich was badly raided last night, while we went for Cologne, and Exeter has had it now and Bristol again.  Hitler is surely Satan let loose.
The War and Uncle Walter
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The War and Uncle Walter

28 April 1940
This morning at home I heard the cuckoo for the first time this season.  The wandering voice with a welcome message.
The Urban Gardener
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The Urban Gardener - Elspeth Thompson

28 April 1996
It's a long time since I've been this tired and this dirty.  I have not taken up mud wrestling (though to look at me two hours ago you might have thought I had), nor some other grubby hobby.   No - I have just taken on an allotment.
Helen Dillon on Gardening
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Helen Dillon on Gardening

30 April 1995
Silver foliage is a brilliant mixer.  Adding something with silver leaves has a miraculous effect on an existing group of plants.  It's like buying a tube of white paint for the paint box - suddenly you can make lots of new colours and paint highlights into the borders with little patches of silver.
A Tale of Two Gardens
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A Tale of Two Gardens - Elspeth Thompson

30 April 2000
Lovely fresh spring growth is everywhere - but so, unfortunately, are the pests that love it, too.  My morning walk around the back garden is peppered with excitement and anxiety in equal measure.  Look!  The climbing rose is covered in pink-tinged new leaves and buds - but just look at the greenfly all over them.
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm
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Notes from Walnut Tree Farm - Roger Deakin

28th April
When you look at the water, you look at the surface, as most of us do, most of the time.  But there are literally millions of tiny creatures existing beneath the surface.  So the interesting thing to do is to look beneath the surface, to inhabit that strange land.  Going down into the water is just the same impulse as going up into the mountains, leaving the median territory of ordinary day-to-day life.  You could spend a lifetime studying a hedgerow, or a pond.  Some years have elapsed since Small is Beautiful.
The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen
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The Kitchen Diaries - Nigel Slater

28 April
A still, quiet morning, as humid as a Turkish bath.  I sit barefoot in the garden, sipping green tea and listening to the sound of church bells.  The Mirabelle plum tree at the bottom is a mass of infant fruit the size of a peppercorn.  Now in its fourth year, this will be the tree's first real crop.  The damson, for so long a spindly and struggling bush, has got a spurt on this year, and is dotted with young fruit.  I worry, though, that it will never produce enough for a pie or a pot of jam.
The Tree House Diaries
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The Tree House Diaries - Nick Weston

26 April 2009
I woke to glorious sunshine on my face.  The weather forecast had unreliably predicted rain - and not for the first time. As I rolled over I saw Chris sitting up staring at something.  I followed his line of sight and saw what had caught his eye - a muntjac - the smallest of Britain's deer species.  It was about 15ft away, having a gentle stroll past our camp.  It wandered up to the tree and had a sniff about before Tim rolled over with a groan and a loud fart. The muntjac, startled by Tim's bodily functions, beat a hasty retreat into the undergrowth. 

Each of these entries for the end of April, is unique to that particular person, and shows how interesting and varied individual lives are.  If I were writing a diary entry for today it would say - Raining again, when is it going to stop.

13 Apr 2012

My Little Willow

I only have one tree in the garden
that isn't a fruit tree
my Willow

I love the fresh green leaves in spring
and the perches it provides
for the birds
queuing up for the feeders

I sit beneath its shade to escape the
hot summer sun

And collect its fallen leaves
in autumn

and relish its starkness
in winter

The garden wouldn't be the same without The Willow Tree

12 Apr 2012

It Might As Well Be Spring

Not being a French speaker
I have no idea what she is singing about
but I think her version
of the song
is absolutely charming.

10 Apr 2012


Today the sun is shining
the sky has cleared
and I am feeling light-hearted
after a weekend full of
gloomy weather.
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Everything in the garden
looks green and fresh
the blossom on the fruit trees
is starting to open

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The washing is blowing on the line
the wind is cold and refreshing
I have opened the windows
to let in the spring air

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I am making the most of today
it might not last
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2 Apr 2012

The Sixties - Girls and Boys

Mary Quant My Autobiography
mary quant biography at amazon (click)
 The late 1960's was a very special time.  It is burned on my memory - I can remember names of politicians, sports men and women, events in history and what I was doing.

twiggy wearing a quant dress

quant and vidal sassoon
My ambition was to be able to afford to have my hair done by Vidal Sassoon, which was obviously out of the question on my typists salary - the best I could do was go to a hairdressers that had trainee days, but a girl could still hope.

My friends and I made a pilgrimage to London to stand outside the Quant shop 'Bazaar' on the Kings Road, Chelsea and just look in the window, then on to Biba and the Post Office Tower.  It didn't take much to make us happy in those days!

Mary was instrumental in the mod fashion movement and took credit for inventing the mini-skirt and hotpants, she showed a generation how to dress to please themselves.  The 1960's were the right time for Quant - the decade was characterized by the rise of youth culture in Britain.  Her clothes became part of the London look.
 Two or three films stood out for me that were  typical of their time  - I had teenage crushes on girls as well as boys - as you do! 
 I loved the fashions in the film 'Two for the Road' with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney (Audrey was stunning).

Judy Geeson was my 'crush' in 'Here we go round the Mulbery bush'

Hwyell Bennett and Hayley Mills - crushes on both in The Family Way
Sidney Poitier and Judy Geeson in To Sir With Love

Michael Caine in Alfie (did you know that Cher sang the title song) no neither did I!
These were some of my favourite films - looking back on them now - they were pretty awful - but I wouldn't have missed any of it.