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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Days of thinking ahead....

A frosty morning and now a foggy afternoon.

The weather is mirroring how I feel....full of cold, and woolly headed . I've got a real head cold with a scratchy sore throat and my ribs ache when I cough. Just the sort of time to sit by the fire and doze.

Boo and Eric have decided to join me....and are being very quiet and calm as if they know I'm not well.

In fact the silence is perfect, just the lick, spit and crack of the fire can be heard as I re read Anna
Pavord's excellent book, The Curious Gardener . Originally published in 2010, I've not looked at it again for a while. The lively, engaging pieces chronicling the gardening year have me smiling and nodding, and they're mercifully short which is just what you need when your head is feeling as thick and heavy as a huge felled log.

Of course my thoughts are now darting, or perhaps sluggishly meandering+ to what I shall plant this year, plus the huge amount of work to be done on the allotment. I'm also thinking about the New Year resolutions I am refusing to make this year.

You can learn so much from gardening, and every year there's the chance to start again, to sow and plant, to try something new and to learn from last year's mistakes.

And in my utility room next to the old scales and the seed tins,  I have this sampler, which I bought a few years back....

with the words taken from a poem from the American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Those words may be seem somewhat trite, but I reckon, that with kind hearts, thoughts ,deeds and words, then 2015 could be a lovely year . As soon as I get rid of this cold of course.....

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The day when I got in the mood for Christmas

It may have taken longer than usual, but last week I finally found my festive spirit. I shouldn't have worried, because there's always one event which never fails to lift my spirits and that's the very special BBC Radio Leicester carol service, held each year on  Sunday afternoon in mid December.

But this year on that day, I went to not one but two carol services.

The first was in the tiny 12th century church in my village. This was a break from tradition ...instead of nine lessons and carols,  Willie's band played and the wonderful Emmanu'-EL Apostolic Gospel Academy came to sing for us, their voices soaring up to the rafters, and we all joined in clapping, singing and smiling.

No matter what our age is.

I left the church feeling buoyed up, and then it was onto another , much grander church  in Leicester, the Church of St James the Greater for the annual BBC Carol Service. Tickets for this service are snapped up within a few days....all 650 of them.

It's a wonderful occasion. My friends and colleagues and I perform poems, prose  and bible readings accompanied by the excellent choir, the New Parks handbell ringers and the Enderby Brass Band play with aplomb. Just not all at the same time you understand.

And the audience join in .....

And in those two services I found the Christmas spirit  I thought I'd lost this year, came flooding back. Love, goodwill ,and the age old stories of the true meaning of Christmas had worked their magic once again.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Days of Bah Humbug

I've always loved Christmas. As a schoolchild I adored the rituals of early December...rehearsals for the school nativity play, the sheer agony of wondering what part I would get, singing at the top of our voices, and been given and allowed to eat a few sweets in our classroom.

When my own children were tiny, I'll never forget seeing my daughter as an angel in the playgroup production of the nativity...and my sons as shepherds.  Of making Christmas biscuits  with them on late dark December afternoons...and getting all of them around the tree to help decorate it. I loved those Christmases...and this special time of year has always filled me with an inner glow, if not panic about forgetting someone's present.

But I don't know what's going on this year. For the first time I've been feeling decidedly "bah humbug" about Christmas. I've become increasingly annoyed with the early and constant bombardment of adverts on TV...and nothing would induce me to do some early Christmas shopping. I couldn't even think of any presents to buy.

 On the first day of December, all the Christmas songs came on the radiom and I seriously thought if I heard Slade's Merry Christmas again I would scream. By now, I was worried...had my seasonal spark disappeared for ever?

Then last week I went to Wistow, a lovely rural centre not far away

.My eyes lit up at all the Christmas plants and gardening gifts ,

and I even bought a few presents from here....

And as I drove home on a late December afternoon...I thought my Christmas mojo had made a comeback

But then, the spark stopped glimmering...and I felt quite out of sorts that I was turning into one of those people who had stopped loving Christmas, even though I'd organised the works Christmas party which was rather jolly.

I kept trying to find my inner Christmas glow without success, and I began to wonder whether it would ever return......

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Then the day there was one

Where have the last nine weeks gone? They've flashed past in what seems like a couple of nano seconds.
Nine weeks since Boo had three beautiful puppies - two boys and a girl who didn't look their parents at all. No, they weren't completely black like Boo and Bow...they didn't resemble patterdales at all and  looked more like border terriers.
After a couple of discussions shall we say, they were all given names - Eric and Rudi and the little brown girl was named Fizz .She had to be ...she's fun and fizzes all over the place.
Of course I would have kept all of them. Well, they're so lovely, so playful, so snuggly and they immediately stole a place in my heart.

 Rudi was the first to go to his new home...he went to live by the seaside in Southsea with my daughter Lucy and her hairy husband Harry and he's having a wonderful time.

 And then there were's Eric, Fizz and their friend Winnie who belongs to my son.

An d here they are with Boo, being trained to sit and stay....

And then came the day for  Fizz to go to her new home.

I was on edge all day Thursday waiting for her new owners to come. I managed to put on a brave face for the last photo here...

But  Fizz has gone to a lovely a farm where Boo her Mum was born and where her grandmother Dinky lived. Amy and her children Joe and Nell all love Fizz very much and she's getting on well with her new friend Flump, a cross basset hound / dachshund.

The fact they are such a great family  still didn't stop me bursting into tears as they took Fizz to her new home.

And that leaves Eric who is enjoying all the attention and enjoying peaceful naps without his brother and sister pouncing on him at all times. He's a quiet boy is Eric. He sits and ponders, and if you're thinking that the name Eric Blair sounds familiar,  well it's the real name of the writer George Orwell.
And the name of Mr Thinking of the Days much loved father.

So there's one puppy left, and Boo looks rather relieved. Three eight week old puppies take a lot of time and energy to look toddler triplets. So she's catching up on some sleep and conserving her energy until Christmas ...when Rudi's coming to visit, Winnie too, so the house will be full of dogs once again.

I can't wait.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Days of being a gongoozler

I bet I can guess what you're thinking ....what on earth is a gongoozler?

 Well my dears, it means that I am someone who's interested in canals and canal life , but who doesn't have a canal boat or live on a canal. It's thought that the word was slang used by canal workers to describe an observer standing apparently idle on the towpath.

But I do live very close to Foxton Locks, which in the canal world is quite something. It's a place on the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire .There's ten locks here two staircases each with five locks, which makes Foxton the largest flight of staircase locks here on the English canal system.
 Staircase locks are used so that a canal can climb a steep hill. Really.

Anyway, Foxton Locks in the summer attracts visitors from miles around. The sun shining on lots of holidaymakers on canal boats, people out for a walk, for a drink, or a meal. I've been coming here since I was a child, usually in summertime. I've brought my own children here, family and friends from all over the world..and in winter too, when wrapped up warmly , it was the ideal place for the children to have an early afternoon walk, to see the swans, ducks, boats and the locks being worked.

But it's only recently I've been coming later in the day. I love it in late autumn and winter when the fading four o clock in the afternoon light brings out the shadows

And a walk on a weekday winter's afternoon means that you have the place to yourself apart from a few other dog walkers.

And a few people living on the canal....

It was cold yesterday afternoon, the sort of cold which you can taste....with a scent of wood smoke in the air

Remember I mentioned staircase locks? Here's what they look like from near their lowest point.....

They are an amazing feat of ingenuity, building and engineering, which were finished in 1814, when coal, wood, materials and feedstuffs were transported on the canals by donkeys or shire horses pulling the boats, when there was a working community along all of our canals. It's no wonder that the Locks are Grade 2 listed.

At the bottom of the locks, there's two pubs which in high summer are packed with people, both inside and outside, spilling out on the decks here at the Foxton Locks Inn and in the pub garden at Bridge 61.

We walked towards the twinkly lights of  Bridge 61, which serves real ales....


which has a timeless quality about it. Originally two large sheds built a hundred years after the locks, it's now a spit and sawdust sort of place, but with a lovely warm fire burning and the type of old cast iron radiators that I used to burn my bottom leaning against at school. Mr Thinking of the Days , Boo and I were the only customers and we had a lovely chat with the owner who's a fount of knowledge about the Locks, having been there for fifty years or so.

And out of the window, we could see across to the well lit Foxton Locks Inn ...and that was also virtually empty

One drink, and it was time to go, but there was a delicious sense of having played hookey on a November day at the bewitching hour between day and night  ....a chance to see the shapes and shadows changing as dusk fell.
On a weekday normally I don't get that chance back is firmly turned away from the windows at the other end of the newsroom at that time...hunched over my computer, headphones on, editing an interview, or furiously writing a cue for a feature on tomorrow's breakfast show. Being busy but missing the atmospheric end of an afternoon . 
And as we headed home, we looked at the lights on the boats and I wondered at those curled up inside who love their life on the waterways. In all my time as a gongoozler, perhaps it's time that I actually got myself on a canal boat, untied the rope and finally set off to find out more......