21 May 2023

Song on a May Morning

A Time to Dance

I am up early - very early.  I hail May in all its finery, walking an ancient drover's way, heady with the scent of blossom:

The fields are frilled with white:

Mist curls up from a stream behind the dewy flowers:

A Muntjac hesitates ahead of me:

A Hare appears to beckon me on:

In the sky, the swifts are screaming, Here I am! Here I come! Now I'm gone!

While the bold Sedge Warbler rasps his territorial tune, Here I am! Don't come near!

The Meadow Pipit surrounds himself with prickles: 

The Avocet Pas de deux is safe in the water:

And a Short-eared Owl just stares me out:

It is a beautiful time of year, though every season has its thing (Er, shouldn't that be Everything has its season?  Ed.)

No. There is something of beauty in every season, and the blessing we have is that in this neck of the woods, at least, there is variety from month to month, even from day to day.  Here three Prickets (Fallow Deer bucks in their second year) peer at me across the bulb field,

And a Turtle Dove looks down on me from above:

Things that are entirely seasonal.  I just hope that they may come round again.

On my way home, I am struck by the shadow of the church, which reaches out to (but falls short of) the village. 

Only a year ago I would share these walks with Amanda. Now she cannot join me across country on rough paths.  We are limited to the paved ways of the Hunstanton Promenade and such.  To every thing there is a season.....

Song on a May Morning
Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
Hail bounteous May that dost inspire
Mirth and youth, and warm desire,
Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,
Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcom thee, and wish thee long.

John Milton

Oh, and here's a Painted Lady (Vanessa to her friends) with barely a fortnight to enjoy this life.....

Blink, and it is all over.......

To every thing there is a season, 
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; 
a time to plant, 
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; 
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; 
a time to mourn, 
and a time to dance;


16 May 2023

Flowers for my Queen

My Lady of the Camellias  

(or, rather, Azaleas)

It's a grey, damp morning as we enter the formal gardens at Sandringham, but then many of our days are grey and damp. I don't want to confuse Mental Health Awareness Week with Amanda's dementia, but who now knows how anxious she may feel?

So I have brought her, with her wheel chair, to see the gardens that the late Queen Elizabeth II loved. And my love may love.... In the cloudy light the colours are soft:

And the air is fragrant:

Ramsons vie with Hostas:

And the ground cover, like the light, is green and pleasant. It is, or it can be, a green and pleasant land.....

Amanda has a slight cold, but I have wrapped her up warmly, and she seems to appreciate the calm and the colour:

The flaming flowers (Azaleas, I believe, though I am not an expert - Rhododendrons, and not actually Camellias) being particularly attractive:

In  all their shades:

Though it is difficult to know what is going on in the remnants of her mind. Would she rather I didn't take her picture? Is she more interested in the passers by?

A great Horse Chestnut tree is alight with flowers:

And goslings, feeding on the luscious grass, demur to the house and lake:

I want to think that she appreciates these colours and the delicate scents around us. I want her to be happy in the closure of her mind. I don't want her to be anxious.... and, though I am not trying to diminish the significance of Mental Awareness Week, with its theme of Anxiety, I cannot entirely separate this need for awareness from the depth of Amanda's suffering. We are surrounded by beautiful flowers:

Wisteria is often associated with love and romance, due to its fragrant, showy flowers and lush green foliage. In Japanese culture, Wisteria is known as fuji, which means lady of the wind, so perhaps it is apt that I take these pictures with my FujiFilm camera. The association with grace and beauty has made Wisteria a popular symbol of love and affection.


And Camellia flowers symbolise love, affection, and admiration (you have to forgive me here; I wrote this thinking these flowers were Camellias, but have since been put straight - thank you Sarah!):

White Camellias (even if they are Azaleas....) symbolise adoration and are given to someone who is well-liked:

Pink Camellias (as above) symbolise a longing for someone and are given to someone who is missed:

Red Camellias (whatever!) symbolise love, passion, and deep desire:

These are flowers fit for a Queen.  They are fit for my Queen.

*     *     *     *     *

Dedicated to our dear friend Irene Boogerman, who passed away peacefully early this morning:

Amor รจ palpito dell´universo intero,
misterioso, altero,
croce e delizia al cor.

[Love is a heartbeat throughout the universe,
mysterious, altering,
the torment and delight of my heart.]

La Traviata

Giuseppe Verdi

5 May 2023

For King and Country

 On a wing and a prayer

In 1964 Joseph Losey directed Tom Courtenay, Dirk Bogarde and Leo McKern in a film, wrapped in eighteen days at Shepperton Studios on a budget of just £100,000.  This was For King and Country.  

During World War I, the British troops are entrenched at Passchendaele, Belgium. Amongst the volunteers, there is a young British soldier, Private Arthur James Hamp (Sir Tom Courtenay), who is the sole survivor of his original company. Hamp spent three years in the trenches, and this makes him a veteran. He has never been accused of cowardice, but one day, he simply decides to leave the war behind him and walk all the way home to Britain. In Calais, France, he is challenged by a Military Police patrol, who promptly arrests him for leaving without permission. Hamp's commanding officers decide to convene a court-martial and charge him with desertion. If found guilty, Hamp could be shot by a firing squad. Captain Hargreaves (Sir Dirk Bogarde) is assigned to be Hamp's defending attorney, but he seems sceptical about the deserter's chances of acquittal. During their first talk, Captain Hargreaves is impressed by his client's utter sincerity and naivete. He learns that his client volunteered on a dare by his friends back home, spent three years in the front-line trenches, remained sole survivor of his company, and that he decided to leave the war and return home. When Hargreaves asks Hamp why he decided to leave the war, Hamp simply says that he got tired of watching his comrades die, and that the noises of war made him sick. On top of that, Hamp argued he received news from home about his wife's unfaithfulness. All of these reasons made him want to leave the war behind and return home to England. Captain Hargreaves remains unsympathetic. The military doctor's report indicated that deserter Hamp does not suffer from shell-shock and Captain Hargreaves accepts that fact. However, suspecting that his client's case is a more complex and peculiar case, Captain Hargreaves believes that Hamp is not responsible for his actions. He prepares the best he can for the upcoming court-martial.....

What has that got to do with the price of fish?  I hear you clamour.  Well, here's a quote from the film.  The officer in charge of the court-martial asks Dirk Bogarde if Tom Courtenay is a lunatic, and then says:  There must be hundreds of thousands of men who are in an unhappy mental state but who have not absented themselves from their duty.....

And at some time tomorrow (May 6th 2023, as I write) the Archbishop of Canterbury will invite us all to swear an oath of allegiance to someone whose family name used to be Battenberg.  

[I sometimes go by other names..... but I don't swear by them]

Please don't misunderstand.  I have nothing, absolutely nothing, against Charles, but I cannot forget Peter Cook (as an agent) auditioning (the one-legged) Dudley Moore (Mr Spiggot) for the role of Tarzan.  Your right leg, I like, says Mr Cook, It's a lovely leg for the role.......  I've got nothing against your right leg.  

The trouble is, neither have you.....

In my world (I shouldn't say that - it isn't my world) the hierarchy is not god-given, nor is it inherited.  There's a food chain, and so be it, but the worm doesn't need to turn.  The worm is a worm; the hawk is a hawk.

In the following sequence you can see a male Marsh Harrier passing something to his partner, while a distressed Lapwing looks on.  The female drops the package, but then swoops down to try to make amends:

And such, is life.....

Private Arthur James Hamp was executed for his innocence.  And things have not changed.

In another corner of the universe, a Mute Swan needs to take to the wing. Does it pray as well? Or is it just a myth? 

Leda, where is she now?

And that Grey Heron (the one in the picture above) takes umbrage and lifts away, strong but touchy, proud but in disregard of the rules.

And then settles, ruffled but unthreatened by arrogance or questions about his mental equilibrium:

Forgive me, but this has nothing to do with nothing. I have nothing against Charles's right leg, nor against his right to life, but there are fundamental questions about sanity that still need to be explored, and when someone spends £250 million pounds (of taxpayers' money) on an unnecessary attempt to gain popularity when that money could have helped save a life, or a species, I retain the right to raise an eyebrow....

With very much love......

F**King & C*untry