We live in a faraway, forgotten corner of England. In fact we only just live in England, just inches away on the map is Scotland. Gretna Green, no longer that haven from the harsh realities of English marital law but still holding weddings at the Blacksmith’s Forge, is just one stop up the motorway. We have an airport. It was so long since anyone had flown from it to anywhere on a regular basis that, when a large transport company bought it, protests from the locals about the noise of aircraft taking off and landing, means that they haven’t been able to use it yet.In a part of the airport complex is the Solway Aviation Museum. I’ve know it was there for ages but I couldn’t imagined that it would have anything worth looking at. However, the latest batch of family to pay us a visit wanted to go and see it – they’re into aircraft and such like and that should be encouraged.
The first thing we found when we arrived, was a notice saying that the museum existed on donations and was run by volunteers. I personally didn’t feel this was a good start – but we paid our moderate entrance fee an set off on the recommended route.
I will just say that we found a hidden gem. I could say much more but it would be too embarrassing for me to have to admit how far from the mark my assumptions had been. It was brilliant!
The photo at the top is one view of a very large display case full of military aircraft. I think the image below is the description of it – amateurairplanes pops in here from time to time, I’m sure he’d know.
Eeyore, of course, wouldn’t understand the problem. I’m sure any thistle that hadn’t been bounced on, would be reckoned a good thistle. In Scotland, in 1687, James VII (James II in England – even in those days, apparently, you needed two jobs to make ends meet) decided to reinstate the Order of the Thistle. There isn’t any record of there ever being one before, so it must have been unofficial. The Thistle had certainly been around in Scottish royal circles for a few hundred years or so. In Edinburgh, around 1768, the Encyclopædia Britannica decided to use a stylised Thistle as their emblem.
None of the above, while interesting no doubt – if you’re interested in that sort of thing, is the least relevant to the current discussion. You see, if you ask Google to tell you what he knows about thistles, the first thing he will want to know is “Which one of the two hundred varieties do you mean?” I begin to feel as if I’m dealing at a horse fair – you know.
“How much is that one?”
“Well, what do you think it’s worth?”
In the end, after trawling through more Thistle’s than you ever thought existed and which, to my untrained eye I have to confess, all looked very similar – sort of, like Thistles. You know?
We went for a slow amble this morning – The Dog is still limping a little, but she needs her fresh air. We pottered down to the beck, pretty much as we always do, actually. On the way we noticed that the Silverweed was in flower. Our patch of Silverweed grows between two clumps of Buttercups, so we had to be careful that we were looking at Silverweed flowers, not Buttercups. The Dog became bored with all this rooting round in the vegetation, trying to trace the flower stalk back to its parent plant, and sat down in the middle of the road to wait.
The French name for the plant is Richette, this roughly translates as, “wealthy with gold and silver,” – it’s on the Internet, so it must be true. This is a reference to the gold of the flowers and the silver of the leaves. The leaves are silver because they are covered with fine hairs that reflect the light. Last year, I noticed that by the end of the growing season, the leaves had lost their silvery sheen and had become a boring green colour.
But it’s the roots that saved the world. In Ireland, during the infamous Famine and Clearances of the 1840s, many of the disinherited starving were able to eke out their existence by eating the Silverweed roots. In Scotland too it has saved many lives in time of hardship and in the Outer Hebrides it is known as The Poor Man’s Potato.
In Celtic folk lore it is called “The Seventh Bread” – with the obvious inference that when things were hard it would give you one last resource.
There are still large numbers of bluebells about – true most have lost the deep blue they had when they first burst into flower, but even as the colour drains away and they become pale shadows of their former selves, glimpsed through the trees, a large spread of flowers carpeting a glade, or perhaps just a patch of sunlight, can catch your breath. Bluebells are one flower that definitely improves with quantity. As a single flower the individual blooms are an attractive enough bell shape, I suppose, but I’ve always felt that that great chunky stalk rather spoilt the effect. It’s no wonder that, over the border in Scotland, they chose the far more delicate Harebell for the Bluebell of Scotland.
Flowers, in general, do seem to excite the senses more when we perceive then en mass. Think of a carpet of primroses for instance and the more delicate violet is absolutely lost individually but quite eye catching if you come across them dominating a patch of roadside verge, short grass or moss.
A clump of bluebells on the roadside, is interesting enough – the first time you see them but, really, you might as well pick a bunch to take home and put in a vase. They are just not ‘full on’ flowers, they don’t have the size or texture to make a coffee table or sideboard their own. Buy a bunch of dahlias or chrysanthemums if you want flowers in a vase, cut flowers have been bred for the job. Bluebells come into their own when seen out of the corner of your eye through dappled light filtering through leaves. It’s that stab of beauty, that millisecond surge of emotion so beloved of poets. That’s where bluebells come into their own.
Here’s a picture of a helicopter – so all we need now is a rhyme.
The Dutch Air Force is visiting, they were protecting Scotland at the time.
It’s nice for them you know, to have some hills to protect,
the tallest thing in Holland are the dykes, or so I expect.
They pop over here whenever things at home seem a little flat
and save us from invasion – or something like that.
I’m sure that in the Air Force, peacetime is just a bore
but if it’s all the same to you chaps, we’d rather not have a war.