Mother, born a hundred years ago today

My little mum was born a hundred years ago today in Larne Co Antrim. None of her siblings was born there, but my grandfather, not the most pleasant or successful person in our family’s history, had lost his farm and was working as a carter, probably in the docks. Mother didn’t like the fact she was born in Larne. It doesn’t have a great reputation. It does have the most hideous roundabout ornament I have ever seen, though it’s fairly new, and Mother never saw it.
The street she was born in has gone. Cousin and I visited a few years ago. In a shop, we found a painting of a hare that Cousin fell in love with. If you ever visit her home you’ll see a print of it on the wall.
I left my details with someone at the museum who told me that the person I needed to speak to to see if there were records of our family time in Larne extant was Marion. Unfortunately Marion was on holiday. More unfortunately Marion has never got in touch with me.
So Mother’s early circumstances remain unclear, though they were obviously pretty tough. I know she was baptised at home because she was sickly and thought unlikely to survive. But survive she did.
There are no pictures of her as a child. I think this one is the earliest one I have of her. She looks like a young teenager. She probably was.

You may recognise it. I posted it in 2013 after she died. Continue reading

C is for Coventry

Regular readers of this page will know that I love Coventry. Celia and I visited on Friday. She hasn’t been there since her teens, so her memories were hazy. My enthusiasm for the place had, I hope, inspired her, but it was mainly because we had seen and enjoyed Where Light Falls, in London, and knew there was a sister event in Coventry,  that we got our acts together and bought train tickets.

I am evangelical about Coventry since it entered my consciousness a a few short years ago, thanks to Sarah Moss’ wonderful novel, The Tidal Zone. Why the city isn’t more widely celebrated I don’t know. I somehow doubt it is in the top ten places visitors to the UK have on their Must See lists. That may of course change in 2021 when it becomes the City of Culture.

Power Up Coventry

The light show was not due to start until five in the evening, but we arrived shortly after eleven in the morning. Somehow, I imagined we’d have loads of the to explore.

Our first goal was the Pod Café which I had read about in a magazine called Be Kind I picked up at VegFest in September. We strode through the town, knowing that on Fridays the Pod closed early. I fully expected that we would be back, meandering and wandering the area near the station before we went home. But the day flew by.

The Pod was great. There was only one choice for lunch so we had that; a vegan pancake stuffed with a variety of vegetables and spices. delicious. I had a hot chocolate made with almond milk and Celia had a latte made with another milk alternative. We browsed the bookshelves; admired the pottery; agreed with the board that talked about the importance of mothers.

The Pod Shelves

The Pod Bookshelf

The Pod – Lunch

Mothering

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Fun with fungi

Looking for fungi is a bit like beachcombing; you have to take it slowly, stop, look round you, look again. Celia has started attending Monday fungi identification sessions at the South London Botanical Institute. It means the weekends are now prime specimen collection time. I went along for the walk on a very mild afternoon. The hunting ground was Ruskin Park.
At first it seemed the park was a fungi free zone, and I suspect Celia was regretting agreeing to go there rather than one of our other local large green spaces. Then we found this:

First find


After that most of our finds were tiny, but Celia’s paper bag started to fill up. Some fungi is amazingly tough and will not be removed from its site by fingers alone. Celia forgot to bring a knife, though on reflection that was possibly just as well. Being arrested on a sunny afternoon in South London for possession of an offensive weapon would not have been high on either of our agendas.
I’m going to just give the other photos numbers and hope that Celia, who should be now be long home from her class, will enlighten us.

Two

Three

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Cemetery Days

Imposing


London is almost fifty per cent green, an astounding statistic for a city that is home to some nine million people (or the metropolitan élite if you prefer). we have an abundance of parks, small public gardens, private gardens, churchyards and cemeteries. The cemetery Celia and I visited on Sunday was not one of the Magnificent Seven. It was Camberwell New Cemetery. Situated next door to Camberwell Old Cemetery. Since generations of my father’s side of the family lived in Camberwell, I half expected to spot the name of one of my ancestors on a grave stone.

I didn’t.

But I did see a lot of graves. Hardly surprising. There are obviously fashions in monumental masonry as in everything else. When I was making arrangements for Aunt’s headstone I wanted something made from local stone. I was thrilled to find the monumental mason was of the same mind, and we spent a happy quarter of an hour agreeing that black marble headstones are an abomination in this country. Evidently not everyone shares our sensibilities. But despite the fact that I was supposed to be looking at plants, I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was behind this grave with its VW ornament.

Camper Van Grave

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A Walk in the Cemetery

I like a cemetery, so when Celia provided me with the excuse to leave my chores and go out to one on a beautiful autumn afternoon I wasn’t going to say no.

We were headed for a plant identification walk. Admittedly I thought it was going to be fungi, and planned to photograph it, leaving the identification to others. Most of the plants held up to the surprisingly large group were tiny, and my attention and photography soon turned in other directions. Celia remained at the front, looking keen. I hoped she’d enlighten me later.

It was warm and sunny when the walk began. Walk is rather an overblown word for the gentle stroll, though the uneven terrain at times could have turned an ankle, and long wet grass played havoc with my less than waterproof shoes.

However, it was the trees and the graves that really got my attention. Actually not just the graves, but people’s names. I have never heard of anyone called Nind before. It could make a rather nice gender neutral first name. Better, in my view, than Farqueson which one person had been saddled with. Imagine trying to get your tongue round that as a toddler. I called myself Ogg. Most small children call me a variation of Lisobel.

I spotted this grave from a distance and broke ranks to take a closer look.

Clifford

Poor Clifford. I hope his parents’ derived some comfort from this sculpture, though it doesn’t look a lot like his photo.

We veered off into a strange little area almost, it seemed, devoid of graves. I happened to be beside one of the cemetery’s Friends, and she explained this was for public graves. I raised my eyebrows in enquiry. Graves where you can have only a very small marker stone, or none at all; cheaper. Like a green burial! I exclaimed, that’s what I want. Untended graves and gravestones get cleared aside, and after one hundred years the grave is reused. Discarded marker stones made a strange sight.

Mary

Jumbled

Another Mary

This grave dates from 1934, but the inked details suggest someone is still remembering.

Remembered

I found these more poignant than some Celia and I saw when we explored further after the plant identification had come to an end. We wondered at first if this was a famous boxer of whom we had never heard,

The Boxer


But when we found this one, we concluded it was a way of recording something the departed was fond of.

Footballer

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Some pictures and thoughts from last week

I am looking at my diary and wondering if I can return to das Boot sooner rather than later. The good thing about being freelance is that you can take time off. The bad thing is that when you do, you don’t get paid.

Cow parsley

Flat earth and cows

But having discussed Mother’s ashes with Older Nephew who is going to think about the issue, our minds naturally enough turned towards my father.

Alert

Stretch

He was a fit man though an ex smoker, an ex Royal Marine Commander, a man who was always on the go. Barely a year after retiring he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage from which physically he recovered well. But it shook him. Suddenly his body had let him down. Mentally it took longer.

One swan with reflection

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A Cat in His Citadel

I know I am biased, but I think any one of these pictures of MasterB in his cushion citadel is worthy of inclusion in 2020’s calendar.Take your time, look at each one and then tell me your favourite. I know which one is mine.

Citadel One


I have spent most of today making slow progress with admin work; doing some washing, some ironing.

Citadel Two


After a few days on a twenty-five foot boat, the flat feels wonderfully spacious. It is also wonderfully untidy.

Citadel Three

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To Blog or to WhatsApp?

My friend Octavia has been away for five weeks and is due back tonight. I’m hoping to see her tomorrow if jet lag doesn’t claim her. It was Celia’s birthday on Friday, mine tomorrow, and we are meeting up with a small group of mutual friends to have lunch in a local, unpretentious gaff at Borough. Yes, there are unpretentious places at Borough if you know where to look. I took my cousin-in-law to the same place for lunch when she was over with Food NI last month, and she loved it.
While Octavia was away, she sent me WhatsApp messages with photographs of stunning views. I suggested she start a blog. After a few days she said that it took her minutes to WhatsApp some photos, whereas it must take me much longer to write a blog post, (I assume she meant the type of post I am writing now), and when she had time to spare, she wanted to relax, not write.
Fair enough.
It did get me thinking though. I use WhatsApp sometimes to send photos too. I think it’s a great medium for quick communication. But as a record keeping app, it’s lacking. It became quite frustrating getting tiny photos to see on my ‘phone when I should much rather look at larger ones on my laptop screen. Continue reading

It’s pretty, isn’t it? No idea what it’s called though.

I can name some wild flowers, but not all, and not as many as I could as a child growing up in the country. Celia is more or less the same. So on our walk in the Surrey Hills last week there was quite a lot of “Look at that pink/blue/yellow flower. Do you know hat it’s called?” “No, it’s pretty, isn’t it?”

We were fine on Scarlet Pimpernels, English Bluebells, Celandines (though at first glance i thought they were Primroses), but that left a fair number of “it’s pretty, isn’t it?” moments. I’m hoping that you will help us to correct our ignorance.

These blue flowers made wonderful displays of colour on some of the shaded parts of our walk/

Blue close up

En masse blue

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In Which Celia and Isobel Go for a Walk in Search of Bluebells

I have so many posts half composed in my head, but unwritten and unposted: stray cats, blogging v WhatsApp, Brexit (again), amazing books, homelessness, climate crisis, MasterB. You get the picture. Maybe in time. But tonight, as we come to the end of Easter weekend, and the sun is shining, the blossom is still blossoming, the air has a gentle, mellow air, quite at odds with the political climate, I want to write about yesterday’s walk in Surrey.

Above the town

Above the town

Farm building

Farm building

Lush

Lush

I was born in Surrey and grew up there. I took its hills, its green fields, its bluebell woods for granted. You still get to enjoy these things in Surrey when your parents aren’t stockbrokers.

Bluebells

Bluebells

In leaf

In leaf

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