29 May 2023

Postcards from Mallorca


Es necesario amar siempre....

It is necessary to always love, even after having loved....

Or - The art of growing old.....

Dear Little One,

We are in Palma de Mallorca for H's birthday....

Of course you should be with us, but, sadly, it cannot be.  We did come here together, with the girls, in July 2004, long before you became ill, staying in a lovely B'n'B in Soller with a swimming pool and a view of the mountains.  I would say, You remember?  But, you can't....


It is strange, to me, that I only recall fragments of that stay. My recollections are usually pretty clear, but some of this has slipped. It was the summer after we moved to Harpenden, and I think we were all pretty exhausted.  We must have left shortly after the end of term and it had been a fraught year. I probably didn't want to remember.....

One thing we didn't do, then, was visit Valldemossa and pay our respect to Frédéric François Chopin, who stayed here for a cold and wet winter in 1838, coughing blood and composing his Preludes. He is still here, in spirit, with his friend, French novelist Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, also known as George Sand (the taller one):

Though in a way he looks better without his trousers:

I have always loved Chopin's music - his Nocturnes have soothed me through many a stressful moment, and though he had a pretty miserable time here and was not at all well, it is curious to see where he resided. At the end of December 1838 he wrote to a friend that he was staying, Between the cliffs and the sea, [in] a huge deserted Carthusian monastery, where in a cell with doors larger than any carriage-gateway in Paris you may imagine me with my hair unkempt, without white gloves and pale as ever. The cell is shaped like a tall coffin, the enormous vaulting covered with dust, the window small. In front of the window are orange trees, palms, cypresses; opposite the window is my camp-bed under a Moorish filigree rose-window.....

The view from his cell garden has not changed much..... As George Sand wrote in A Winter in Mallorca:

It is a sublime picture: the foreground framed by dark, fir-covered rocks, the middle distance by bold mountains fringed with stately trees, the near background by rounded hillocks which the setting sun gilds warmly, and on whose crests the eye can make out, though a league away, the outlines of microscopic trees, delicate as a butterfly antennae, but as sharply black as the stroke of a pen in Indian ink on a field of sparkling gold.

Yet the sea lies still farther in the background and, when the sun returns in the morning and the plain resembles a blue lake, the Mediterranean sets a limit to this dazzling vista with a strip of brilliant silver.

So.  That was one visit.  

H and I also had a look at the Cathedral in Palma, which I do remember driving past with you. It is a formidable building, but lacks some of the delicacy I have always associated with you.  I think you might have gasped. I think you would have understood how God was so important. But I don't think you would have been touched to your heart.  There's a confusion about it which doesn't seem to suit your sense of peace.....

And anyway there are still men at work on the detail:

In a way a more impressive building is the fifteenth century Sa Llotja (La Loggia, in Italian). Once a kind of stock exchange, it was where merchants met to trade on the waterfront, before, later, becoming a warehouse. You would have danced in here!


We went to Deià (one time home of Robert Graves) where, almost twenty years ago, we had swum in the clear waters with the girls, and had some lunch on the beach. This time H and I were lucky and, having walked down a steep and narrow path to the sound of numerous Nightingales, (H with a broken foot, though she didn't know it then) we were given a table at Ca's Patro March, where we had some wonderfully fresh Sea Bream and Squids.....

She happy!

Later that day we swam at Puerto de Soller and relaxed on the beach (where S had cut her foot - you remember?  No..... We had to go to the hospital?  No?  Ah well. It was a drama, but no harm came of it.....)

Anyway it was relaxing this time.  And then we took the tram up to Soller and then the rickety old wooden train back down to Palma. Again something we didn't do (I think) last time.

On our last day, as H wished, we went to a beach club [Balneario Illetas] where we rented an umbrella and sunbeds (as you loved to do) and read and lazed and thought of ice cream and cool drinks.....

We had a little lunch here too, surrounded by the smart and the lovely. There is a fashion here for women who are beginning to grow older to have special lips.  I am so glad that you (like me) didn't go down that route.....

I think it must be the Sangria.....

In the evening, which was warm and still sunny, we walked around Palma, enjoying the. buzz, and taking our time. You would have loved the shops, the sights, the clothes, the shoes!

The people, as far as we could determine, were friendly and kind.  The Paseo (Passeggiata in Italian) is a relaxed start to the evening, for those with friends:

And even, perhaps, for those without:

We missed your company, terribly. You would have made us happy, though this was not a trial. It would have been lovely to have wandered and chattered and smiled with you - as we did, on our last trip, before the pandemic, to Kraków - you remember? No..... Ahhhh.....

It was pleasant to drift along the Avenidas, to step in and out of bars, to sit for a while with a drink, as people do:

It is nice to think, for a moment, that the world is not all anxiety, unkindness, greed and illness:

And to find a genuine welcome, and good food, to round off a long day of pleasure.... Thank you Carlos and La Rosa Vermutería:

I just wish you could have been with us - you would have been so happy......

Later, I get lost in the old town, wandering with a mish-mash of memories. Thoughts of the time we came here, with our young girls, and thoughts of the many many trips, all over Europe, and the world, that you and I made.  

I remember our later excursions, when you were tiring and I would put you to bed in our hotel and then slip out for a drink and a read of the current book. So I wandered, leaving you to sleep and me to dream.

This time, I have Chopin in my head. Opus 55, No 1 in F Minor will do. Beautifully paced for a darkling stroll. Plaza Mayor is bright but quiet:

The nearby alleys are even quieter. People have their secrets. I nurse my sadness:

Given the lateness of the hour, the state of the world, and our thin-skinned vulnerabilities, it is no wonder that even the graffiti is confused......

Good night, sweetheart. I will see you soon. It's been a good trip and H has had a good time. I'm only sorry that you couldn't be with us, but such is the hand the dealer grants us, and there's nothing to do that will change the cards.

I cannot help but feel a sense of guilt, but know that you would not wish me to succumb so..... You were, I suspect, always stronger than me, so..... 

Salud!  Little One....

Para ti!

There is no art to growing old. There is only art to life.....

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 è 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