Blogging update

In recent months my book review posts have filled every weekly slot on this blog. My tagline: “Tasty writing surprises (non-fattening!)” is hardly accurate. My valued readers must feel they know what to expect. So here is an attempt to provide something a little less predictable.

My 7th blogging anniversary is approaching. Sue’s considered trifles was my first blog. WordPress will surely remind me on 23rd July that I have been blogging for 7 years. Anniversaries are good times to take stock of what has gone before and to plan for the future.

While I have been reviewing books, I have not been doing much creative writing. However I have a number of poems (or verse if you prefer) which I have written sporadically over the years. One of those has recently appeared on the blog of another member of the Association of Christian Writers. Trevor Thorn, writing for the More than Writers blog, invited others to contribute their poems about climate threats. As I had written a few rhymes, which met his criteria, I sent them to him. One has already appeared on his blog, The Cross and the Cosmos in a post about light pollution.

Perhaps I should write some more poems about the natural world and faith. Christians believe that God was the originator of everything that has being. That simple statement gives rise to all sorts of debate. However one thing which is certain is that Christians have a responsibility to look after the natural world and to encourage others to do likewise.

Much of my blogging recently has been in the form of microblogs on Twitter. The Sunday evening #wildflowerhour has been keeping me busy. With others from all over Britain I post photos of wildflowers I have seen during the preceding week. When I began taking part in this Twitter chat, I was aware of the names of various wildflowers. I had no idea how many different species of flowers there are in the various families. When I was younger I used to answer hubby’s questions about many flowers I couldn’t name, saying: Some sort of vetch, I suppose. That has become one of our jokes. Now I am able to name a few vetches – correctly, I hope. I am beginning to learn the names of other flowers too. The first thistle I have learned is the spear thistle. I have had to relearn the names of the plants in the Willowherb family. Rosebay Willowherb, I have known from childhood. I thought the only others were greater and lesser, but it turns out that there is Great Willowherb and a whole bunch of others named after the shape of various parts of the plant or its usual habitat. It would appear that the saying attributed to Albert Einstein, “The more I learn the less I know,” is true in this instance. It can feel overwhelming to realize how many different species of flowering plants there are.

It would be easy to become defeatist, thinking: I’ll never learn all of the names, so why bother?

On the other hand walking in the fresh air and noticing one’s surroundings is good for mental and physical health. There is enjoyment in looking at photos other people have taken of plants, which perhaps do not grow in the part of the country where I live, also in seeing the same plants are in flower elsewhere. Experts (and those with more limited specific knowledge) are happy to help with plant identification.

I have begun to use a notebook to catalogue my wildflower photos, but I am taking photos faster than I can update my list. Again it is no good giving it up as too demanding a job. Using a few minutes here and there might result in a useful list even if it has to wait until the dark winter evenings.

Helping to record the wild plants in various areas can go a little way towards looking after the natural world. Through the efforts of activists on Twitter a local council recently protected some rare wild plants from being mown down too soon.

While I am writing about difficulties, I now have a dilemma about a poem I wrote, when my ignorance (about the extent of the willowherb family) was bliss. Thinking incorrectly that greater and lesser were proper flower names, in November 2015 I wrote:

To a wayside plant

Unwelcomed by gardeners,
you establish yourself in swathes
along routes familiar and strange,
spotted from motors and trains
by observant travellers.
In summer your purplish spikes
provide nectar and bright colour –
a change from late-spring white
of meadowsweet and thorn.
Your staggered coloured flowers
at last give way to curled wisps
of white like thistledown,
while your leaves turn red,
or yellow and brown.
Your greater and lesser cousins
are not as well known:
you are the most successful willow herb by far!

Perhaps it only needs a minor edit such as “taller and smaller” to make it accurate.

The Writing on the Wall – Book Review

The Writing on the Wall
Everyday Phrases from the King James Bible

I was sent this book following a promotion on Twitter by Sacristy Press. @SacristyPress and @KJVsayings

The author is Richard Noble.


Book Cover

I am interested in phrases in everyday use and where they have come from, as readers of my earlier blog will be aware.  This book takes one main phrase from almost every one of the sixty six books, which make up the King James Bible.

The meaning of the selected phrase in the Bible, other places it has been used including titles of books, songs and so on and possible changes in meaning over time are discussed.  There is also a short passage giving the background of each phrase’s biblical context.

This slim volume is a useful introduction to the Bible.  I have picked up some valuable insights from it.  In particular I had to recognise that language changes; it is not really a good idea to continue using a word in one narrow way, while the rest of the world has agreed a different meaning!

The book is well produced, including a glossary and an index to phrases, which includes more than the main text.  Unfortunately the cover has the same texture as another book I reviewed earlier.  I resorted to covering it with self-adhesive plastic film.

The emphasis of this book is on phrases, which have stood the test of time.  It is interesting to compare the ones chosen here with those chosen to exemplify each book of the Bible, as is done in The Amazing Collection from Big Dream Ministries.

The author recommends reading a more modern translation of the Bible than the King James Version, which had so much influence on everyday English for centuries.

This is a book to dip into, use as a springboard for Bible exploration and to return to for reference.


Gardening notes

Our garden is a mass of colour from May onwards.  Four varieties of true geraniums –pink, white, blue and a low-growing one I call rock geranium – aquilegia, (also known as columbine) and other flowers contribute colour.

Recently I have been trying to bring a little order into the explosion of new growth.  Although I spend hours in the summer dead-heading, the pink geranium was threatening to become the dominant species.  Left to itself our garden would only have ferns, geraniums, spurge (which I pull up on sight) as well as shrubs including potentillas, hydrangeas and hebes.  Another perennial, which has to be kept in check is alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle).  The seedlings are easy to weed out, but the mature plants become very large.  The flowers are pale green and turn brown as they go to seed.  I chop them off ruthlessly as soon as any brown appears. Some still manage to escape and produce new plants.  You can have too much of a good thing!

Aquilegia among the geraniums

Aquilegia among the geraniums

I have to admit that in recent years I have not done enough gardening and some plants, which could have been removed easily, are now causing problems by growing close to the roots of taller plants.

I am reminded of two of the sayings I grew up with: Nature abhors a vacuum and Laziness has to be followed up.

Plants grow in every available space and try to invade neighbouring areas, such as paths and lawns.  A job, such as pulling out a small plant, becomes a much larger one if the plant is allowed to become established.

At one time we had over one hundred iris flowers in bloom.  These were the irises, which grow from bulbs not rhizomes.  Over the years they have disappeared leaving only a few.  At first it was a mystery.  Had they rotted?  Our conclusion was that they had been eaten by a field-mouse.  A hole in the ground had been a mystery, but we do sometimes see a long-tailed mouse in our garden.  It is a pity that it preferred irises to Spanish bluebells.