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Hard to Swallow

Greater Celandine

Greater Celandine

When we come out of the gate, if we turn left we go down the hill and over the beck – along the road that takes us to the next village about half a mile away. Once there, we are faced with a tee junction. We normally turn round, at this point.

Just before the tee junction the road passes through a narrow gap between ancient stone walls. At one time these narrows formed a toll gate, but the old-time need to manage the passage of man and animal does not fit well into modern day traffic patterns.

Just there, where the road is at its narrowest, a clump of Greater Celandine clung tenaciously to the slender verge. Celandine gets its name from the Latin for a swallow – it was believed that the flower bloomed when the swallows arrived in spring, and stayed in flower until they left again at the end of summer.

In a midsummer clear up the Greater Celandine bushes were cut away completely, and I was left hoping that the swallows had some form of backup calendar. Today, on our way through the narrow gap – I found a few straggling plants who had fought back and were even in bloom. I was quite awed by their strong sense of duty – I hope the swallows appreciated it, too.

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I Love A Lassie

Harebells

Harebells

– August 4th is the birthday of Sir Harry Lauder, his one hundred and forty seventh birthday, in fact. Worryingly, I can remember him. This doesn’t seem possible. Unless you are young enough to think that singers have always been able to record their songs – even if only on LPs or heaven forbid, on 78s. But, that I can remember hearing songs, on the radio, sung by a man who was born 147 years ago gives me a real pause for thought.

Sir Harry wrote most of his own songs, and one of his most popular, sung in his Scottish accent – suitably toned down until even the English could understand the words – was, I Love A Lassie. I mention it here because, in amongst the song’s various, complimentary and complementary, descriptive phrases, he tells us that his lady-love is none other than ‘Mary, my Scots bluebell.’

The spring flower we call the bluebell in England is called the wild hyacinth in Scotland, and the, much more delicate, late summer flower we call the harebell in England is called the Scots bluebell north of the border.

So, if your name is Mary, or you know anyone called Mary – today’s picture is not harebells – but Scots bluebells. Happy Birthday Sir Harry!

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Who? Us?

Our cows - up to mischief again

Our cows – up to mischief again

Our cows turn up towards the middle of May. They all look very young when they arrive and in many ways are like a litter of puppies, they romp around and indulge in all sorts of frivolity, with no thought for protocol or procedure. During the year, they grow up right before our eyes, you might say, and currently they are going through their rebellious teenage period.
Yesterday, when we reached the bridge over the beck, I, as usual, crouched down to look upstream through the branches of the hawthorn bushes that crowd in along the bank (they don’t want to miss any of the scandal that the beck babbles as it passes by), there, to my surprise, I spied two of our cows nonchalantly paddling in the water. Now, our landlady has thoughtfully provided a fence to protect the occupants of the field from the temptations that marshy ground and sparkling water offer those of youthful and carefree inclination. The cows had obviously pushed the fence down somewhere – cows use their bulk to do this at every available opportunity.
Unfortunately, the other side of the beck, although quite steep, gives unlimited access to the embankment and the railway line, so I thought it best – in the interests of health and safety – to phone the farmer who rents the field and pass the above information on to him.
Naturally, by the time he arrived with his fence fixing kit, all the cows were back within their defined safe area and were grazing innocently – as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

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White Rabbit

White Rabbit

White Rabbit

We walked down to the beck today. In the field on the other side of the bridge there was an unmistakable white splash in the green and brown of the summer grass. The grass is beginning to show its age now. It has been a stout supporter of bovine and ovine sustenance since early spring – it is now feeling definitely jaded.
But, back to the unexpected white splash. Jackie was sure it was a white rabbit so I, dutifully, took a photograph. As it ignored me completely – it was some distance away – I moved right up to the gate and took another picture. Sure enough, it was a white rabbit.
Within the next few days we will be at the end of July and almost instantly thereafter we will have the first day of August. As you may already know – and if you don’t, this is your chance to advance your world view – it is important to say either, “White rabbits,” or perhaps, “Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits,” before twelve o’clock on the first day of the month, to bring good luck.
This, of course, is just a silly superstition. It does, however, have the joyous attribute of all superstitions – it is totally immune to logic. You can’t prove it isn’t – so therefore it must be – true. I, for one, am quite happy to believe it. What about you?

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Did You Order This?

Cow At The Gate

Cow At The Gate

‘Did you order this? I presume you found it on that retailer of books and very long rivers, in Brazil.’
‘No, I don’t want to sound complaining and ungrateful, it’s just that we would have liked to been able to plan ahead for it, that’s all.’
‘Well, yes that’s true. We don’t have a very large range of alternative options, but you’d be amazed at the difference it can make – depending on which end of the field you are, of course.’
‘As it happens, this time, we were caught off guard.’
‘Yes, quite. No one likes to be taken by surprise, especially if the surprise tends towards the unpleasant end of the spectrum.’
‘But it wasn’t just that, it hurt our pride. We do have feelings. Part of our self esteem comes from knowing that we are performing competently, and are appreciated for that.’
‘I’m sure you’re perfectly well aware that, before the onset of any reasonable degree of inclement weather, cows are supposed to lie down.’
‘Just a little prior notice, that’s not too much to ask for now, is it?’
‘Thank you, we will all appreciate that.’

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Nothing To Be Afraid Of?

Mimulus or Monkey Flower

Mimulus or Monkey Flower

Mimulus – or Monkey Flower has invaded the UK. Well, it had a little help – a very strong link with anthropogenic influence (i.e. people) – according to the risk assessment done by the UK Non-Native Species Secretariat. You see it’s an American national – it grows all over the place over there, it didn’t turn up here until about 1812. Once it arrived it sat around and did nothing for most of the time – it was too early to watch television – so it had to make do with whatever British pastimes were available. Bear Baiting wasn’t banned until 1835-ish so he could have popped down the local bear pit, I suppose. But, I’d guess a game or two of quoits, down the pub, would have been the best thing going.

Dr Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) felt Mimulus was needed to help us manage the fear of the known – things we could name.

Quite suddenly, from a few isolated sites in the 1800s – over the last twenty or thirty years – Mimulus has spread. It can now be found over almost the whole of the UK (just last year, for the first time, it turned up in the beck down the road from me, here in the frozen north).

What, then, are these fears that the whole country can name?

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That’s Lucky

White Clover

White Clover

When you take a photo and you ask Google to try to guess what it is, what do you do when he comes back and asks which of the 300 varieties you wanted to know about? Do you just give up and go away – mumbling to yourself about how much better things used to be before we could look things up on the internet. At least in those days you could just make something up, confident in the knowledge that nobody would know any better. These days what was intended to be a simple straight forward question, now has you mired in hours of further research – and sidetracked by all sorts of interesting irrelevancies.
Did you know that a four leaf clover isn’t as rare as a five leaf clover or even a seven leaf one? Until recently the record for the most leaves on a clover was 21 – it was in that book of records that is the mainstay of pub quizzes. But hold on, before you rush off to the local quiz night, the new record is now 53.
Apparently it all goes back to St Patrick. He stepped on to the shore from his coracle and said “Oh, look. A four leaf clover. That’s lucky.”
If that comes up in your next pub quiz – remember you read it here first.

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