Friday 30 August 2013

Death of a Naturalist

I'm sad to hear of the death today of Seamus Heaney. His poetry has been a source of pleasure to me for many years. Some of his poems have felt like conversations with a friend. We are much of an age and I had expected those conversations to continue well into my old age. I especially love some of the poems from his first publication and am brought to tears by the funeral of his little brother in 'Mid-Term Break' and to smiles at the imagery and the wisdom of  'Scaffolding.'
The pieces that show his love and respect for his father express exactly what I feel about my own father. 'Follower' tells us that those whom we love and respect never completely leave us. So it will be with Seamus Heaney.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

from 'Follower.'

Thursday 22 August 2013

Country living

There is still some warmth left in the sun but it is gentle, with a lazy, end of season feel to everything in the garden.
There are delicious wafts of perfume from the various varieties of phlox,
and old-fashioned perennials in bloom that remind me of my childhood home.
Not for nothing is the buddleja sometimes known as the butterfly bush!

The red cherry tomatoes are cropping well,
it's tomatoes with every meal!
And I can do a bit of serious bragging about this year's cucumber crop. I should have entered them in Shepton Show!
But to add a realistic note to this rural idyll I'll tell you that not everything in the garden comes up smelling of roses, or of phlox! Our small hamlet has none of the facilities that people in most larger communities take for granted; there is no street lighting and no mains drainage. Every few years  the septic tank in the orchard needs emptying and that was one of the tasks for this week.
It's probably more information than you feel you need.
If so, my apologies!

Monday 19 August 2013

Shepton Show

On Sunday we went to the Mid-Somerset Show. It's a great place for people watching, especially people with dogs. There were a lot of whippets and lurchers, terriers of all kinds but I didn't see one single Smooth. Oh, Maisie, you were very special.
There were people with cows and bulls,
and owners and breeders of all sizes with their sheep.

This being Somerset there were a great many tents selling cider along with all the usual show ground favourites,
and some good music from the Harlem Rhythm Cats.

I resisted buying another wicker basket, although I was tempted.
We are for ever finding pieces of clay pipe in the garden so I was interested to see this clay pipe mould amongst a display of old farm utensils.

Then we went into the flower marquee. The smell of crushed grass, the strange tented light, the perfume of flowers, all so incredibly nostalgic. There were gardens on plates,
'petite' arrangements

and 'tea for two'.
Cucumber sandwiches, of course!
Then we came to the serious stuff - vegetables!
The same chap seemed to have scooped most of the prizes.
I don't know how good the 'Black Cherry' variety of tomato tastes but it would have to be pretty sensational to make up for its very strange colour!
I had an earnest conversation with some vegetable admirers.
"What do you cook with an onion as big as 'e?"
I suggested batch cooking for the freezer and ratatouille.
We agreed that the first prizewinner really knows his onions.
How sensational is his display!
But how good do vegetables taste that have been force fed to such huge proportions for showing?
We weren't too sure.
Outside Himself was having a lovely time ogling old cars and chatting to the owners.

In another marquee we looked at ducks. We used to keep Khaki Campbells. I love ducks, they are so sweet tempered.
'Only third place,' said this Indian Runner, 'What a disgrace, I can hardly show my face.'
'On second thoughts it's quite good, I could have been last. I'll just sit it out and smile.'
(I've heard Indian Runners being described as hock bottles on legs!)
Outside in the ring it was time for the driving pairs. Every aspect of the driving event was a pleasure to watch; the people, the horses, the rigs, the driving skills and not least the very particular judge.

Driver and groom going by,
and back again.
We thought that this very fine lady would be the winner, and we were right. She and her horse came round the ring in great style. Each time she went by everyone applauded and received a very gracious "thank you."
Horses were clipping the fences as we left, too nerve-wracking for me!
The car was parked in a distant field. We could hear the Wurzels singing behind us in the distance as we bumped over the meadow, heading for home before the rush.