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September musings

The weather changed this week. Having enjoyed an Indian Summer earlier in the month, much-needed rain began to fall. This week is forecast to be showery with some heavy rain. Thunder and lightning keep featuring in the forecast for a few days ahead, but then disappearing nearer the time. Electrical storms are fairly uncommon where we live.

Last week our usual routine changed with visitors for 3 days. Enjoyable walks in the local area with them used up some of my regular writing time. After they had gone home I spent a lazy weekend reading a book a day as well as getting out in the fresh air for a walk and to attend a church service.

This week two mornings have been given up to gardening – one to visit a garden centre and the second to plant the pansies and violas purchased the day before.

A low water-level in a beck

The reservoirs in this county are very low at present. The rain will help to refill them. It was surprising how high the water-level in the nearest beck had risen after a day and night of heavy rain. Previously it was at the lowest level I can remember.

A higher water-level at the same spot

I have recently been reading a book on my phone using BorrowBox. I found it interesting, but there was rather more technical detail than I required as a non-medical person. After renewing it twice and accidentally losing my place by an over-enthusiastic session of cached data-clearing, I have decided not to finish it. Had it been a physical book I might have flicked through to see whether there was anything else of interest in it.

The book was The Changing Mind: A neuroscientist’s guide to ageing well by Daniel Levitin. I found much of the early part interesting especially the references to music – the author is a musician as well as a scientist. It is really too long to read on a phone, so I am abandoning it.

If you find the photos with this post interesting, you may also like Sue’s words and pictures, my blog with pictures in every post.

Thank you for dropping by. Normal service will be resumed soon!

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Paint chip sestina

This week the Paint Chip poetry challenge from Linda Kruschke is to write a sestina. Do visit her blog for more information, her poem and links to the other participants’ poems.


The paint chip words and phrases you have to work with, in the order in which I pulled them randomly from the deck, are antique lace, sawdust, field of poppies, gold medal, safety orange, pinot noir, and the blues. Some of these might actually work well as end-words for your sestina. I managed to use one as such.

Linda Kruschke

Remembrance and memories

I sometimes wonder about family values.
My mother’s claim to fame as a student nurse
Was winning (in her final exams) a gold medal.
Dad fought in World War Two. No field of poppies
For him. Instead capture and farming to feed
The foe, while waiting for release and victory.

For me, not to lose my temper was a victory.
School rules instilled in pupils worthwhile values.
At home we grew vegetables and fruit to feed
Ourselves. If we became ill, Mum could nurse
Us back to health, without recourse to drugs from poppies.
Her devotion and self-sacrifice deserved a medal.

Through service Dad gained more than one wartime medal.
He had been repatriated after the allies’ victory.
Anemones were his gift to Mum rather than poppies.
Availability affected prices and hence flowers’ values.
It was after the war that Mum trained to nurse,
Learning the best ways invalids to feed.

In Trafalgar Square we bought some bird feed.
Soldiers in uniform wore many a medal.
They may have owed their health to a nurse,
And their liberty and freedom of speech to victory.
How have we lost our forefathers’ values?
They have faded and died like winter poppies.

But spring heralds new life; sprouting seeds of poppies
Lead to pepper-pots in autumn to feed
The birds, which live by different-from-human values.
Now Olympic sports competitors gain a medal
As a reward for record-breaking victory.
Never a grudge should the losers nurse.

In illness my children needed me to nurse
Them back to health. Painting tulips and poppies
Led to daughter’s art exam success – a victory.
Beauty does not fill a stomach, but can feed
The mind and spirit. A flower show medal
Is something its recipient values.

Mothers nurse, while babies feed.
Red poppies recall a dead soldier’s medal,
But Christ’s victory far exceeds earth’s values.

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Two books about the countryside

Photo of 'The Women's Land Army' and 'Wilding'

Before I read the books about trees, I had just finished reading The Women’s Land Army by V. Sackville-West. My mother was a land-girl during WW2. Although I must have seen the book many times on her shelves, I had not opened it before it came into my possession. The author, Vita Sackville-West, was an aristocratic woman with knowledge of the countryside and gardening. She wrote many books – fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

The Women’s Land Army includes many photographs and anecdotes collected by the author from land-girls. The Women’s Timber Corps was also included in this book, although it does not appear in the title. In 2008 when the UK government decided to recognise the contribution of those who had served in The Women’s Land Army and The Women’s Timber Corps with badges and certificates, the two titles were used. I found the book very interesting, being able to compare the experiences of other women with the tales I heard over the years. It is well written in the language of the time and reflects the social structure of wartime Britain and the contemporary culture.

Logo and wording about conformity with the authorised economy standards

It was published in 1944 and contains many statistics. The list of possible occupations for women leaving the Land Army as the male farm labourers returned to their homes and work was particularly interesting. Nowadays a wider range of occupations is available to women. Nursing was included; my mother trained to be a nurse. All proceeds from the sale of the book went to the Women’s Land Army Benevolent Fund. It was published by Michael Joseph ‘under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’. There was also a statement about compliance with wartime economy standards. Materials for book production were in short supply like everything else.

The second book was one I borrowed with the two books about trees mentioned in a recent post. It was related to the book about the Land Army as the farming methods, which had been introduced as a result of WW2 had led to a decline in the wildlife in the countryside. Wilding – The return of nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree is the story of how she and her husband, Charles Burrell, allowed and encouraged wildlife to return to his family farm (Knepp) in Sussex, which had become unprofitable due to industrial farming practices.

It is a fascinating book with photographs illustrating the text. There is a wealth of information about agriculture and animal husbandry as well as the personal story of how rewilding a site was not always straightforward. There were regulations to follow and neighbours to pacify! There are literary quotes as well as a timeline from 12th century to 2019, a map of the land in its local context and an index.

The story of how a board of advisors for the project was set up and of places overseas with relevance to this project is fascinating. Explanations of the loss of habitat for birds, which were common around seventy years ago are sobering. The discussion of the pros and cons of reintroduction of some animals, which prey on others, is very interesting. There is a list of all the sources of information for each chapter and another bibliography lists many books about nature.

Wilding represents a huge amount of research and record-keeping. This book won the Richard Jeffries Society/White Horse Bookshop award for Nature Writing 2018. It also gained a special commendation from the judges of the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize in 2019, which was won by Robert Macfarlane’s Underland.

You may be interested to learn that the lady who guided the wildflower walk I wrote about on Sue’s words and pictures had recently returned from a visit to Knepp, where tourism is one of the ways the farm has diversified.

Another surprising connection is that the old castle at the farm was built by William de Braose in the 12th century. A historical novel I reviewed recently has a member of the de Braose family as its main character.