The Blacksmith’s Apprentice

The Guardians of the Gate
The Guardians of the Gate

‘No! I beg you Sir Knight, if you value your life, leave – lest the castle guardians destroy you!’
‘Princess Miranda, I am sworn to free you from your prison, and I will do whatever needs be to accomplish this!’
‘Sir Knight, I am not imprisoned. You may leave me here in the castle. I need no rescue.’
‘Then, I will enter the castle that we may continue to converse at our leisure.’
With a fine caracole, Sir Knight raised his lance in salute and galloped forward – into the massive fireball of dragon flame that issued from the castle’s two fearsome guardians.
Princess Miranda covered her eyes and turned away.
‘Anna,’ she turned to her elderly governess. ‘How can I stop them from coming here, just to be destroyed by the dragons?’
Anna put a comforting arm around her shoulders. ‘As long as the castle is here, they’ll keep coming, Princess, it’s not your fault. There’s nothing you can do about it.’
‘I must go to Olaf, Anna.’
‘That young smith’s apprentice? Princess, you know you shouldn’t be talking to him. Have you told him who you really are?’
The princess nodded, ‘Yes, he knows. He promised to tell no one. He told me he loved me before he knew who I was. So, I had to tell him the truth.’
She turned back to the window, ‘Why, there’s Olaf now. Oh no. What is he doing? The dragons. No. No!’
‘Princess Miranda. I can’t live without you any longer. I’m coming in, dragons or no dragons!’
‘Olaf. Oh, Olaf. No!’ She leapt away from the window, flew down the stairs and out through the castle door.
‘Olaf. Olaf!’ She ran towards him, arms outstretched.
‘Miranda. I love you.’ He ran forward reaching out for her.
The dragon’s fire engulfed them both – changing to become, instead, a cool spring breeze carrying fragrant cherry blossom and sweet birdsong.
‘Oh, Olaf!’
‘Oh, Miranda!’
Then, as the castle and its guardians shimmered and faded behind them, he kissed her.
True love, surely, conquers all.

…a rose, by any other name…

Hedge Garlic
Hedge Garlic

‘Jack? Jack? Here. Yes, that’s me. Jack-by-the-Hedge is what most people call me. I do have a few other names, Garlic Mustard is about the most useful.

‘Well, I actually am a Mustard, but I smell and taste like garlic. So, you know…

‘Yes, indeed. Hedge Garlic, too. I’ll even answer to Hedge Mustard now and again.

‘No, not really. I’m used to it, I suppose, and they’re similar enough. So, no, I don’t get confused by it at all.

‘Thank you, yes, people do say I’m a useful person to know. I can liven up your salad for you for instance. I’ll admit some people say they don’t like the bitter after-taste, but there’s always someone going to complain, isn’t there?

‘Quite, they’re probably the ones who heard I was useful as a disinfectant. You know how it is – when these things get spread around.

‘Yes, lovely day. The weather hasn’t been bad lately, has it? But then we usually get a few nice days at the beginning of spring, don’t we?

‘Well, as you can see, I was lucky this year – got my flowers out before May Blossom swamped everything – the early bird and all that.

‘You’re local, I take it I’ve seen you passing this way a few times.

‘Right, right. I’ve got family all over the place too. We’re doing very well in America, apparently.

‘Of course, nice of you to stop and chat. I’ll see you next time you’re around this way, no doubt.

‘Goodbye for now then.

‘Goodbye.’

Where do Acorns Come From?

Oak Flowers
Oak Flowers

In the wood behind the house stand many a mighty oak,
Leafless amid daffodils and April’s showery soak.
So many days, so many years, to passing season’s clock,
They’ve added rings beneath their bark made from this earth and rock.

Each weighty tree of solid wood was once a fragile shoot.
Sprang up amongst the winter brown. Drove down to hold and root.
See here, where shoot and root unite, an acorn small and brown.
That grew full ripe, high in the air, ‘til Autumn brought it down.

But ere the acorn cup grows full a magic spell unwinds,
Amongst the Springtime growth renewed within green leaves enshrined.
A promise of full future strength foretelling oaken powers.
Here with windblown leaf and twig the mighty oak tree flowers.

Maybe

Early May Blossom
Early May Blossom

Mother Nature’s a quirky old lady, she likes to make up her own rules,
If we try to guess what she’s doing, we’ll just end up seeming like fools.
She likes to sprinkle some Snowdrops, then add a few Daffs just for show.
With a background of brown, green, or even – white if she fancies some snow.
She finds Spring overly pushy, likes to keep her in her right in her place.
Mam does things when she does things – at her own, unhurried, pace.
So, the question that’s waiting an answer, to which we just need Yea or Nay.
Will May blossom blossom for May Day? If she’s willing, then maybe it may.

Blue Belles

Early Bluebell
Early Bluebell

We managed a nice picture of the early bird bluebells this week, so I thought I’d have a chat with Google about them. I was hoping he’d mention that all parts of the plant are reasonably toxic to humans and animals.  Or perhaps, that most of the world’s bluebells are here in the UK, but it’s OK, we’ve made it illegal to dig up the bulbs and to pick the flowers to offer them for sale. Perhaps, even, that they are quite pernickety and take around seven years from seed to producing their first flower and trampling around on their leaves kills the bulbs.

But no.  What he wanted to mutter on about was The Bluebell Girls. This was the name of dance troupes in all the major world capitals started and run by Mary Kelly who became better known as Miss Bluebell. She left school at 14 to become a dancer in a Scottish troupe called The Hot Jocks. In the 1930s she danced in Berlin and Paris – she and her husband were in Paris during WWII and he was arrested by the Gestapo – but escaped with the help of the resistance and she hid him in Paris. Despite having to go through severe questioning herself they stayed there, with their children, until the war ended.

All interesting stuff you might think – and that she was a remarkable lady. But what had caught Google’s eye was actually that Miss Bluebell was the one who introduced the world to the concept of topless dancers.

Good News

Tiny Silverweed leaf - hiding in the grass.
Tiny Silverweed leaf – hiding in the grass.

At the corner, we usually stop to look into the field. It’s been empty for the winter but a few days ago John put his animals out to graze. Not sure how they took it – they’ve been in a nice warm barn and the weather has done its normal April thing and turned nasty on us. In the hedge by the gate, a nice sunny spot, the Hawthorn has had a crisp sprinkle of new green leaves for a week or so. Today we noticed bunches of tiny green nodules – May Blossom in waiting.
The Daffodils have done their thing and are mostly standing around looking weary, this time of the year is hard for them. In the fresh-grown grass, bright yellow Lesser Celandine is peeping out here and there ready to carry the yellow theme on when the Daffs retire into their ageing bundles of leaves.
The dark browny-purple spikes of Rose Bay Willow Herb are already losing their striking dark colouring, as the feather duster of leaves spread and pale – hard to believe within a few weeks these will be four or five feet tall.
Seeing something glistening the roadside verge I bent for a closer look and found this miniature Silverweed leaf still holding a few of last nights raindrops.
There is no doubt, whatever the weather, Spring is here.

Home Thoughts From the Crocalog

The Crocolog Again
The Crocolog and Friends

The Crocalog, he travelled far
He saw things just the way they are.
But, always in his peregrinations
He sought for farther destinations

In thoughts of what he’d left behind
A face not place came to his mind.
He sought strange sights his time to fill
And hoped he could forget, but still. . .

Then, he ceased his self-delusion,
Saw through all his past confusion,
Home’s not the place where the beck bends,
Home is the place you left your friends.

Awake Spring Awake

Hawthorn Leaves
Hawthorn Leaves

Come on. Wake up! The alarm has buzzed.
The hour hand has passed the equinox.
Look in the clean underwear drawer,
And find some pretty pants and socks.

Up, Spring. Get up! Winter’s old bones ache,
His snowy cloak is tattered and torn,
He’s done what he came for and now he’s just
standing around looking all forlorn.

Here’s your green dress — quick, put it on
This is no time for you to start flapping.
Cherry blossom for your hair. Let’s go!
Before they all start slow clapping.

It Might Be

Honesty
Honesty

It’s beginning to look as though we might have made it through the winter. Winter is always tough. The light is bad to non-existent – even on a sunny day, the sun is so low in the sky that it illuminates very little. We are left with pictures of the sky, pictures of dark objects that might be something interesting or if all else fails, an occasional picture of a train.

But the wake-up clarion call blazon’d abroad by the recent warm mini-spell has shaken the flora and fauna out of their winter doldrums. They are up and running around – putting out flowers, growing leaves, beguiling and enticing members of the opposite sex and bellowing their territorial ambitions at the top of their lungs at unearthly hours of the morning. The weather has retaliated in no uncertain terms. It has grumpily regressed to its immature years and retreated to the safety of howling gales and the comfort of snow/sleet/rain in any random combination. There isn’t much we can do, except try to be supportive and understanding.

The positive aspect of all this is found in little warm and sheltered nooks. That’s where we caught sight of the Honesty featured in today’s picture – tucked under the sunny side of a thick hedge.

You know what? It might even be Spring.

The Return Of The Crocalog

The Crocalog Returns
The Crocalog Returns

The Crocalog you may recall
His lie in wait began to pall.
He thought of all Life Lessons teaches
Of waters blue and golden beaches
Or even swamps with fishy pong
That he could lie in all day long.

Off he set and gave no mind
To those that he would leave behind.
Responsibilities he’d shirk,
No thought he gave to his life’s work
That his career would go to pot
He plainly didn’t give a jot.

But, home is home when far away,
Our traveller found out one day.
He hankered for his soggy beck,
His life to salvage from the wreck.
He’s turned, retraced, o’er hill and foam
Each weary step and now he’s home.

For further information See:- The Crocalog – He Couldn’t Wait – The Dreadful Duckalumps

 

Almost Spring

Dunnock - in the hedge
Dunnock – in the hedge

For a moment Spring was here.
For a moment my song was clear.
For a moment joy danced around.
For a moment new hope was found.

But now I, silent, sit and mourn.
Spring’s promise into scraps is torn.
Where the sun so warm and bright,
From early dawn ’till sunset’s night?

Gone away and left behind,
Dank laden airs, all so unkind.
How can I sing my song of love,
While stifling mists press down above?

Disaster Relief

Crocuses
Crocuses

I left it late – as always. I needed to get this blog done and ready to go live at 11:00 am GMT tomorrow, Friday. All my photos are stored on my server. Once it ‘served’ many purposes; collected and dispatched all my mail; served my websites to all who requested them; stored documents and stored all my photos. But time move on and its functions have been gradually eroded, and now it holds only documents and photos – with some part-time website support. Once a week, on Saturday night/Sunday morning, it does a backup and sends everything it can off into the never-never-land of the cloud.

Today, when I went to find a nice picture to distract you from the cares of the world, I couldn’t find my photos. The server had crashed.

Woe, sackcloth and ashes required immediately!

Well, it’s late, as I mentioned above. I’m certainly not going to go delving into the innards of antiquated computer hardware at this time of night. So, the best I can do for you right now is a photo from my phone.

It’s not too bad – a pair of crocuses that have popped up in a surprising place.

Crashed computers and the loss of at least a week’s worth of photos will have to wait their turn. I can only deal with a limited number of panics in any one 24-hour period.

The Excitement Mounts

Robin On The Hedge
Robin On The Hedge

As we wait, impatiently, for Spring to arrive there are a number of boxes that must be ticked. First, the appearance of the snowdrops, next, usually the crocuses, then the daffodils start to blow their own trumpets. Around this time the Robin starts singing.

Most birds only sing in Springtime – it’s part of the mating rituals and defines their territory (a bit like singing in opera, a good loud voice gets you the best offers.) First, we have a warm-up period where the birds sing in the middle of the hedges or lower branches of trees, often quietly almost to themselves. Soon they get the measure of the competition and start to throw their chest out and give it all they’ve got – from the top of the trees or hedges.

The Robin starts the show. A few weeks later the Blackbird will begin whistling quietly to himself in secret. The Thrush is no shrinking violet; he takes up pole position on the top of any convenient tree and belts his song out at full volume. This prods the Blackbird into action and shortly after he, too, begins his variations on a theme that last until Summer.

Here’s the Robin, as you can see he has braved the top of the hedge – things must be hotting up in the mating game.

Memories

Chinese New Moon In Supermarket Carpark
Chinese New Moon In Supermarket Carpark

I got out of the car in the supermarket carpark and there, straight ahead of me, was the new moon that had heralded the Chinese New Year a few days ago – so I took its picture, as you do.

Later, getting out of the car at home I looked up and, with less light pollution, a clear sky and almost no moon, the stars glittered their way over my head, from the woods behind the house to the Scottish border. And there was my old friend Orion.

Seeing him took me back a good few years – to when The Dog, a mere slip of a girl in those days, needed someone with her when she went out to do her business in the dark.

I would stand there waiting, and on one clear night, as Orion was pushing his shoulders up into my view I noticed, on the other side of the sky, Venus just setting into the dark clouds along the horizon. So I wrote a poem, as you do.

The Hunter strides upon his way, his sword by his side
Following, following, following with every stride
Westward ever westward but he seeks no game
Still, the thrill of the hunt is on him just the same
This game he plays with a Lady, beautiful and serene
She knows he follows after and makes sure that she is seen
She beckons him on with her eyes but every time he nears,
because she is a Lady, she turns and disappears.

Hope you like it.

Mist

Sheep In The Mist
Sheep In The Mist

The mist moves ’round like circling wolves.
They prowl just beyond sight.
The edge of thought holds them at bay.
I feel them still through this grey light.

The mist hangs heavy, pressing down.
A weight so light to bear.
Sound, dull yet sharp, comes from beyond.
Unreal and strange in this dank air.

The flock, close by, stand, in mixed greys.
Their forms nought but vague mounds.
Are they real or ghostly earth,
Living just in my minds bounds.

A Hard Choice

Young blackbird
Young blackbird

Spotted this guy in next door’s holly hedge this morning. At first, I jumped to the conclusion that the spotted breast meant that we had a thrush here. We do have a local thrush, but he only makes himself known as spring nears, usually by singing, very loudly, from the top of the silver birch tree near the gate in the evenings. Once he announces his presence we expect to hear the similar, but less repetitive, voice of the blackbird as he, too, moves on from his chiding ‘tk tk tk’ as we walk past him in the hedge, to a full-blown improvisation from the larger of the bushes, and, as spring settles in, from the gable end of the roof.

However, on further consideration, we have decided that this guy is probably a juvenile blackbird. Despite the eponymous intimations, blackbirds are only black sometimes. As juveniles, they are often greyish-brown with a spotted chest – betraying the fact that they belong to the thrush family. I’m fairly sure that this guy will be a nice even black with a bright yellow beak by the end of summer.

When it comes to vocal accomplishments, the thrush certainly has the volume – though some might say he lacks imagination. But the blackbird is the master musician, his never-ending variations on a theme are a pure delight.

 

I Can See For Miles And Miles

Criffel on the skyline
Criffel on the skyline

After a mild but cloudy few days, today was more wintery. It was bright and cold, and with the cold came dry clear air.  In fact, it was so dry that all the wet roads dried out  – leaving us with a light dusting of frost on the fields and verges, and occasional patches of solid ice where the night’s rain had left a slightly deeper puddle. The sun shone down on us, but with very little warmth and the frost and ice tended to just ignore it.

Once again, I had forgotten to put my gloves on when we left the house. Gloves complicate everything, from fitting the key in the lock when locking the door – to pressing the shutter release on the camera. You spend double the time and effort, perhaps even triple: take your gloves off; do what needs to be done; put your gloves back on, and repeat every half a minute. Naturally, today, when I came to press the power button on the camera – my fingers were so cold and numb it took longer than if I had had my gloves on.

With the sun being so low in the sky at the moment, we generally walk downhill – into the sun, only stopping at The Dog’s insistence – until we get to the beck. Then we walk home, up the hill, with the sun at our back. This gives us better photo opportunities. This was one of those opportunities. The mountain on the skyline is Criffel, and it is miles and miles away, over the other side of the Solway Firth, in Scotland.

A Bit Early

First Snowdrops
First Snowdrops

You know when you have people coming to visit, and you said about two-ish? Then at two o’clock you just need to have a quick vacuum round and then everything will be ready, so you get the vacuum out and pull the wire out all over the floor and are down on your knees messing around with wall plugs to try to find the one you can take out without switching something important off? You finally find a spare socket and plug in and are about to switch on – when there is a knock at the door.

Your guests are standing there. ‘Hello,’ they say, ‘You did say two o’clock, didn’t you?’ as they notice you in your tracksuit bottoms with the vacuum in your hand.

We find ourselves in a similar situation. Here we have Snowdrops springing up all over the place and we really thought they wouldn’t be here before the end of January. A few more days, a week or so at the most, and we’d have everything in apple-pie order – but no they’ve turned up now.

Well, what would you do? Shall we sit them down with a cup of tea while we finish the cleaning then go and get changed? Or shall we try to bluff it and pretend they’re right on time and that we were just putting the vacuum away?

A Place to Ponder

shadow at the railings
shadow at the railings

It was a nice this morning, so when we came to the bridge over the beck, I stopped to look over the railings.

The beck was chuckling away to itself in a contented sort of way – not as if someone had told a funny joke but more because it was feeling pleased. Everything that shouldn’t be there was being washed off downstream – and anything that should be there had been manoeuvred safely to somewhere it would stick. Life was organised and arranged to its complete satisfaction.

The hedges, as we wove our way down the hill, were full of the cheerful cheeping of various assorted small birds and we had received a warm ‘tic, tic, tic,’ from a passing blackbird. The nasty cold wind of the last few days had blown itself out and there were only a few small fluffy clouds to mar the blue of the sky.

Standing there, the sun was warm on my back – a pleasant change indeed – the sun doesn’t have much time for us these days. He is putting in a lot of overtime down in the southern hemisphere at the moment, you know.

The general feeling of relaxed contentment was contagious and I stood there for a while contemplating my shadow, thrown on the far bank.  Is this, I wondered, what they mean when they talk about our ‘Comfort Zone’? The Dog finished snuffling in the brambles and became restless enough to interrupt my reverie, so, reluctantly, I left my warm spot and started back up the hill, homeward.

The Circle Of Life

Tractor
Tractor

When we arrived at the corner and could look into the field, we noticed immediately that the gate was open. At first, we thought that, as it was quite a mild day, John had, perhaps, left it open to air the field. It probably gets quite musty in there – shut up all summer. Next year’s occupants are currently languishing in the barn, I’m sure they would be pleased to know that their field was being properly prepared for them.

But no, on closer inspection, we detected his tractor, in the far corner, down near the beck. We realised at once that something, far more fundamental than merely taking the net curtains down and washing them, was going on. In fact, last years mowings were being returned to their appointed place in the scheme of things.

What we were viewing was nothing less than The Circle of Life. The grass was mown in late summer – then stored until just the current contingency occurred. Then its big break came – and it was fed to the cattle sequestered in enviable luxury within the byre.

The cattle leapt into action! They immediately began the task of processing the raw material. Soon, John was able to perform the final stage in the ritual. He loaded the end product onto his trailer and returned it – with all due ceremony – to whence it came.

Midwinter And The Midday Sun

Midday Sun on Midwinter's Day
Midday Sun on Midwinter’s Day

Here we stand, at the turning of the year.
As much before as is behind.
Paths are vague – timidly ahead we peer.
Will time to come treat us unkind?

Here I stand, my shade cast heavy and long.
It lies ahead unless I turn.
Words are vague – but play an old-known song.
Will time bring us new rhymes to learn?

Hedge Trimmers

Hedge Cutting
Hedge Cutting

This morning, as we left the house, it was obvious that something was going on. What a noise! We wandered out of our little lane and turned down the road – the sound getting louder and louder as we approached.

As we’d guessed – hedge trimming was in full swing. This is the ideal time to do it from our point of view. The hedges have become very overgrown, and now that they have all gone to sleep for the winter they won’t wriggle and squirm while they are having their hair cut. A couple of weeks ago we had several days of frost and that softened up the berries on the various plants and bushes. The birds and small mammals immediately took advantage and relieved the bushes of their fruit in very short order.

So, the bushes have dozed off and the cupboard is bare – who could possibly complain that the rampant growth of spring and summer is being tidied up and made shipshape and Bristol fashion.

No doubt it will also assist with the search for the best nesting site as soon as spring turns up next year.

Same Old, Same Old.

Holly Leaves
Holly Leaves

Poof! Well, we’re back to the old grind. A blog, once a week, on Friday. In many ways, it’s comforting to be back. It was exciting writing a poem a day with no idea what the subject of our rhyme would be – until we had a photo to work with. Mostly, we managed to use an image taken that morning on the phone – We did cheat a couple of times, but I’m sure you didn’t notice.

Today’s picture is of holly leaves. During November we had a picture of them that included some nice bright red berries. Today, you’ll notice their absence.

Holly Berries are very hard – and even birds find them indigestible – until we get a good frost. The cold not only softens the berries, but it also changes them chemically to make them more nutritious. We have had a few frosty mornings lately, and the berries must have responded to the cold. The birds didn’t stand on ceremony, Christmas or no Christmas, Holly branches with no red berries troubled them not at all. They had cleaned the bushes out completely a few days after the frost.

Needs must when – well, you know.

The End

The End
The End

NaNoWriMo Day 30 – The End

Thirty days,
Thirty ways,
We found time
To write a rhyme.
Now it’s done
Thirty-one,
We will not do.
No rhymes we’ll hew
From solid words.
Beast and birds,
Plant and flower,
In hedgerow bower,
May safely doze.
We’ll stick to prose.

Moving Scenery

Moving Scenery
Moving Scenery

NaNoWriMo Day 29 Moving Scenery

The moving finger writes – and hedges fly past.
Some of life’s moments are ephemeral, but some last
The message can’t be seen without the wall
Life is fleeting feelings, context is all

Time plays its games in clear focus years
The shorter the perspective the more blurred it appears
Seconds, minutes, moments, in tumbled profusion fly
Our gaze flips between and watches life pass by

Clean-Up

Leafless Trees
Leafless Trees

NaNoWriMo Day 28 – Clean-Up

Summertime is full of fun
But when outside play is done,
Each and every sleepy head
Now must make its way to bed.

Tired from all the sunshine play
In the bright, long summer’s day
Shed their leaves just where they stand,
To snug cots take Autumn’s hand.

Winter’s gales will soon be here
Driving dark clouds grey and drear.
Round about tree trunks she weaves
Sweeping up those cast of leaves.

Leftovers

Leftovers
Leftovers

NaNoWriMo Day 27 – Leftovers

The plate is empty.
The last drops of gravy wiped away.
Roasted potatoes,
Gone now their glorious array.
Where the roast parsnips?
They were consumed, no place to hide.
Here, I’m left standing
Like a piece of gristle pushed aside.

Ivy

Ivy Flowers
Ivy Flowers

NaNoWriMo Day 26 Ivy

The Ivy bears a berry, so Christmas carols say,
And later in the winter, many birds will survive.
When bitter Ivy berries are the feast of the day
And, as other food is scarce, they help them stay alive.

But it’s too soon for berries, there’s other food around.
Now, through rain, hard frozen hail and later cold snow showers,
The Ivy waits its proper turn, its berries are still bound,
But to honour its faithful promise it now puts out its flowers.

 

Smoke

Smoke
Smoke

NaNoWriMo Day 25 Smoke

Smoke, blow free
Blow where the winds will take you.
Let it be.
Blow where its whisper sends you.

Up, up, rise.
You’re free! Go higher and higher.
Who dares flies.
You’re free from the heat of the fire.

Forever

Clouds
Clouds

NaNoWriMo Day 24 – Forever

The world keeps turning on her way,
The clouds blow by.
Sunrise, sunset, day by day,
No one knows why.

Yet, there is comfort in this fate,
For humankind.
Tomorrow will today abate.
Our fate unwind.

Sunset

Sunset
Sunset

NaNoWriMo Day 23 – Sunset

Day follows the sun and sinks to the west.
Gone is the noontide day-bright zest.
Time does his rounds and gives his best.
And the sun moves on and leaves us to rest.