Monday, September 26, 2011

Anything you can do . . .

I wonder, do you remember the American musical, "Annie Get Your Gun"? If you do, you can't have forgotten a song which sums up the star's feisty attitude to life.
"Anything you can do," Annie proclaims trenchantly, "I can do better. I can do anything better than you!"
Would you like to give yourself the treat of hearing it again? Then click here.

The reverse was true in the case of hurricane 'Katia'. Having vented the full force of her exuberance on the east coast of the Unites States, she arrived here in chastened mood. Nonetheless, she retained enough vitality to cause considerable damage, and was still whipping through the trees last week when I took Chloe for a walk.

Our communal garden is blessed with eight magnificent horse-chestnuts. At this time of the year they normally produce a modest harvest of small conkers, treasure for the children and food for the squirrels.
As we made our way down the windswept path, we were amazed to find ourselves literally bombarded with flying missiles . . . large and potent flying missiles!
Whipped from the branches by the strength of the gale, the conkers were hurtling out of the trees . . . outsize conkers, the like and size of which I'd never seen before.

Luckily, neither Chloe nor I suffered a direct hit, but it was a near thing. If you look at this photo you'll see Chloe anxiously anticipating yet another bombardment from these newly hostile trees!

But the chestnuts aren't alone in behaving strangely. The other day a friend told me of the unexpected behaviour of her climbing rose, an Albertine. Normally this species flowers once a year in June. This August, to my friend's surprise, her rose had a totally unexpected second flowering.
"Albertines don't do that," she protested, more in perplexity than pleasure.

In our man-made world everything is getting bigger and moving faster. The only thing that seems to be shrinking is our patience.
Forgetting the pleasures of anticipation, we want everything now. Why wait until the summer for the strawberries? We want them for Christmas!

Could the natural world have been infected by our greed and impatience? Last week I had a shock. There, nestling amongst the fallen leaves was something I had never expected to see in September . . . a large clump of primroses in full flower.

"Anything you can do," sang Annie, "I can do better . . . "
Please, beloved planet, don't emulate the bad example of the bloated and competitive human race.
I, for one, don't crave a mid-summer snowdrop!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The other end of heaven

How can true knowledge fade and disappear?
Where does it go? Only the other day
My fingers touched the stars; and yet today
Known formulations blur, to re-appear
As dusty platitudes at which I peer
Uncomprehendingly. It slipped away -
My recognition of the gods at play,
The shaft of light that showed me why I'm here.
But has it really gone, or does it lie
Below the surface of the clouded mind -
A reservoir of truth whose rich supply
Can never be depleted by mankind.
Light will not fail, but we who occupy
The other end of heaven can be blind.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two Little Girls

This is a story of an encounter, an encounter between two little girls. It's a story that needs the minimum words as the pictures speak for themselves.

Four-year-old Abigail, although devoted to the cats in her picture books, had rarely came face to face with the more substantial and unpredictable variety.

Chloe, although familiar with small humans at a distance, had never received a more rapturous reception.

First reactions were loud and highly vocal on both sides!

A little overwhelmed, and in definite need of a more tranquil environment, Chloe headed for the garden . . .

. . . but Abigail held fast to her lead . . . and to her new friend's tail!

Without wishing to be rude, Chloe felt that it was time to plan a line of escape . . .

. . . and found it, a flight of steps from which she could safely survey this persistent admirer.

The advantage gained by the raised step offered a new perspective on the situation.
Contrary to first impressions (and now that she had stopped squeaking) the small human might be fun.
Chloe began to relax.

And so a truce was reached . . . harmony restored . . . plans for mutual mischief hatched . . . and two little girls became friends!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Home Sweet Home

It isn't fair to share grumbles with you, the purpose of these letters is to give you a laugh. But even if, strictly speaking, this isn't a laughing matter, may I download a growing concern, a sense of sadness?

I don't know whether you've noticed, but no-one has a 'house' any more, they own a 'property'. In much the same way, the concept of 'home' seems to have been downgraded (or upgraded, dependent on how you look at it) from a place of personal space and security to a place with a commercial value.

What has crystallised these niggling anxieties so that I'm now forcing them on you?
It's the fate of a neighbouring house, one that I see every day. A large, Victorian building, it recently changed hands for what must have been a considerable sum. Since it was sold it has never been free of an army of workmen. The building has been gutted, the windows have been replaced, the interior (clearly visible through the enlarged windows) has been modernised.

Yesterday, as I walked past, I noticed that the room overlooking the street was now a kitchen. It was full of the latest in kitchen furnishings. But what really caught my eye was the bevy of young women, all dressed smartly in white coats and rubber gloves, who were carefully unpacking a towering pile of very large cardboard boxes. Out of these boxes came china . . . and cutlery . . . and saucepans . . . and jugs . . . and glasses . . . everything that a household could possibly need. Quickly and efficiently, the young women were stowing these goods away in the newly-constructed cupboards and drawers. Within a matter of hours a fully-equipped kitchen, complete in all that any household could desire, would be ready for occupation.

Not once, as I've passed the house, have I seen anyone who might have been construed as the new owner. Not once have I noticed anyone other than workmen or, in this instance, workwomen. Has the purchaser, who presumably paid a vast amount of money for his London home, no interest in what is going on? Has he, or she, no desire to see, far less select, the china and kitchenware that they will be using? Seemingly not, for the very reason that it isn't looked upon as a home. It is a property, a highly-desirable property that is now worth even more than the amount paid for it just a short while ago.

I have an unfashionable, comfortable and cluttered flat. It wasn't designed, it grew. I look around me at the possessions acquired over the years . . . at the fading Persian carpet, given to my parents as a wedding present; at the stool that I sat on as a child when visiting my aunt; at the attractive grandmother clock - it decided to stop working when I was ten, but is still accurate twice a day!
I look at the bookshelves, at the treasured books accumulated not just in my lifetime, but also in that of my parents. I look at the ornaments, mostly from friends, each with its own story. I look at the house-plants, some inherited, some received as gifts, many over twenty years old, all cherished. What are these possessions worth in monetary terms? I should imagine, very little. But that is not the point. It is home . . . and I love it.

All of which leaves me with a nagging question, have we, as a civilisation, reached a stage where we now feel compelled to put a commercial tag on anything and everything before we can give it worth? Where we readily recognise price, but find it hard to assess value?

There, it's cost me nothing to get that off my chest. On the other hand, the value I place on your patience in listening to me, and in sharing these anxieties, is absolutely priceless!