Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn begins with an 'e'

I’ve remembered to upload selected photos from the Sculpture Trail at Wisley. So here they are. Above is Heron, by Gilbert Shyman, made of rusty old shears and the innards of a bicycle, that the OH and I were quite tickled by. A snip at £825 and quite unique.
I think this rather lovely cat is Standing Cheetah.
The male with baby is called Paternita, which I told a young girl was Latin for fatherhood, but I suspect is a corruption of the Latin, or an invented word. But you get the general idea, just the same.
The coy young lady holding a pair of shoes is Salad Days, Bronze Resin, costing £4,995. I hope she makes her creator a mint.
I think this bird was Eddie the Egret, made of Marble/bronze resin. In an appropriate place near the water at the rock garden.
I always like traditional sculptures of the human form, and I though this was lovely. Not sure though of its name. It may have been Alex, by Sherry Craton Hotchkin.

Very much a female too, but quite a different style: Mobius Regina, is this queenly lady, by Richard Mason.
Great fun, this one, entitled Singing in the Rain, by Everard Meynell.

And back to the traditional, but alas, I can't identify this one. Go along, if you can, and see all of them yourself. There are many others which appealed, too.

As autumn began, I tried to enthuse myself with a little activity and send a couple of stories to e-publisher, Untreed Reads, with a biography. Untreed Reads haven’t read my stories yet, but replied to me that they would like to look at my non-fiction books – that is – The Fruit of the Tree and Cot Deaths – Coping with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They had looked up what I had to say about them on my website, and found it interesting. Fortunately, I didn’t have to send them a ton of paper, as they were both on my computer, although the Cot Deaths files had been converted from another format, and a couple appeared to be corrupted in some way. Their interest came as a total surprise to me, and that, in itself, was very welcome. However, many a slip twixt cup and lip. I won’t get excited about it yet.

We were back in the swing of things with a discussion last week with the other Goldenford Girls about our workshop which we are presenting in Leatherhead on 9th October. I seem to be talking about Structure, Plotting and Dialogue. Actually, we are all covering similar ground with different slants on it, I think.

In the meantime, on Saturday, Irene and I distributed leaflets in Dorking where the Mole Valley Arts Festival had begun, with street entertainment. There was live music, dancing, a barbecue and a very good atmosphere. We gave out seemingly hundreds of flyers about our workshop, though we have only 16 places, so let’s hope they don’t all turn up. It was a sunny day, and gave one heart that summer was not quite over, though today I’m not convinced.

Tonight we have a committee meeting and tomorrow, it’s Guildford Writers again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Visiting Wisley - and a tour round my garden

I’ve had a lot of satisfaction from the garden this year. Firstly, earlier in the year, we planted a couple of pieris, a second hydrangea and a rhododendron, as well as bedding plants, of course. The pieris are in addition to those we already had, and we bought them because of the success of the earlier ones in the garden. A week ago, they were sprouting bright red leaves; now the leaves have changed to a yellowy green; they are a nice backdrop for the cotoneaster, which is just starting to produce red berries. We are soon going to have some lovely autumn colour, but there’s no sign of it yet, because we had too much rain earlier on.

The hydrangeas – this year’s and last year’s are at the front of the house. They started fading after one particularly cold night, so the colours now are muted, though they were an attractive pink and mauve during the summer, the mauve one having started out cornflower blue. We have, in the past, suffered from a lack of summer colour, and they were bought with this in mind and have been successful because we watered them regularly from our rainwater butts. The New Guinea busy lizzies have been lovely, of course; they always are. Come the first frost and they will be finished, but for the moment there is still a display of pinks, reds and whites. In amongst them are three rose bushes, which have flowered for the first time in many years. It’s been such a pleasure to have them back – and all due, I believe, to my neighbour removing her electric fence, so that now it’s her plants that get eaten by the deer, instead of ours. We also planted last year a second potentilla, and that started to produce more small yellow flowers when we had an oak tree at the front pollarded for the first time, and some of our shrubs received more light than in previous years.

Today is grey and rather depressing, so it’s good to think of the recent summer colour.

I had an email recently from Allromance ebooks, offering me the chance to promote myself by sending them a short story, to be downloaded free by their readers. I was pleased to do this and sent them a copy of A Gift of Gold , a short story written about two years ago. I re-read it and was quite pleased with it; a few days later, I received a contract, which although no payment is to be paid to me, protects my rights over the story. I’ll mention it, when it’s available for a free download.

Last week I made a second trip to Wisley to follow the Sculpture Trail and I’ll post some photos, probably next week.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Significant Anniversaries

The Blitz was seventy years ago. I listened to Woman’s Hour this week, describing the blitz on Plymouth, and then Liverpool.

When I was writing Tainted Tree, I wanted to describe an event that took place as a result of a bombing raid, and looked through some books on the war that the OH’s father had passed on to him. I found that there was a major raid on Plymouth and, since a large part of Tainted Tree takes place in the West Country, Plymouth seemed to the be right place to use.

As far as London was concerned, I remember my father describing how everyone tried to persuade him to go into the shelter, but he preferred to stay in the house (on a regular basis). He was rather deaf at the time, so was able to ignore the bangs going on around him at our East London home. He had an ARP whistle which I found in a drawer once, and I believe he had to go out and look up at the sky, and then - presumably, blow it, if he saw a suspicious plane. I wish I had asked him more about his experiences, for as someone said today, the blitz was not just about the courage of The Few, but of the many – those that experienced it in their own homes.

In the road where I lived, when I was a child, a house opposite had been bombed, and remained a bomb site for all the years I remember. And a block of flats nearby were bombed, and I think I remember my mother telling me that they went to look for relations there, but never found them.

Our own anniversary falls on 11th – another significant day - and we’ve been married long enough for me not to be surprised when the OM shows signs of male craziness – a bit like those odd men from Three Men in a Boat. Yesterday, he said to me, ‘We’ve got a problem. There’s a bird up the chimney.’

He could hear chirping, but any bird would not have been able to escape, as there’s a piece of polystyrene wedged there, to keep soot from coming down.

We have a very straight chimney, and I’ve been fooled myself sometimes into thinking that a bird has got trapped, when actually, it’s sitting on the roof singing to itself. I decided not to say this to the OM, as he tends to get a bit huffy, if he thinks I’m trying to evade helping him. He got in a very large dirty plastic sheet and asked me to cut it up. I couldn’t follow his plan, but it seemed he wanted to put it over the fire place, and was then going to catch the bird in a bucket, inside the fireplace (he asked for a box, but I didn’t have one), once he had stopped it from escaping into the room. This idea seemed full of holes to me, and my scepticism must have showed, because he said, ‘Well, what’s your plan, then?’ I said I didn’t have a plan, but I got him a somewhat smaller transparent plastic bag, which he attached to the front of the fireplace with masking tape. He left the large sheet over the carpet, ostensibly to protect it. In the mean time I carried out the nearest thing to my plan, which involved closing the curtains at one end of the room, opening wide the windows at the other end and moving the newly recovered settee out of the flight path.

(I didn’t believe for a moment that any bird worth its salt wouldn’t be able to escape from his bucket and plastic sheet.) After this, he pulled the polystyrene out from the chimney, and waited. It won’t surprise you to know that there was no bird up the chimney. But after we had stopped laughing, and after he had stripped off the plastic, I took the opportunity to clean the grate.

We have a decorator here at the moment and feel somewhat invaded – but he is doing a really good job on places that have become shabby over the years, and also, as a result of occasional floods and burst pipes.

At the weekend, we went to the RHS Gardens at Wisley, which is a nice easy trip for us. We decided to rejoin, even though we still have our membership of the National Trust. Many of the flowers have faded by the end of August, and Wisley has, as an attraction in September, a Sculpture Trail, which we followed. I didn’t take my camera, which was a shame because there was an interesting range of exhibits from some very beautiful bronzes to some interesting designs, for example, a butterfly and a dragonfly of stainless steel, both about two or three feet in size and some other creations which were amusing. We liked one sculpture – I think it was a heron - whose body was made of a motor cycle engine.

The following day we went to Hughenden Manor, the home of Disraeli. We started out earlier, as this was an hour’s journey away.

Thinking it was going to rain, we were primarily interested in the house, but the garden, which we saw after all, was also interesting with very formal planting in its main part, with some mature shrubs in another, and a walled garden full of fruit trees and vegetables. Visitors can play croquet on the grass, as you can see above.

The house, apart from containing the history of Disraeli and his wife, Mary Anne, also had a cellar devoted to the map makers of the Second World War. During that war, all the other exhibits were moved to one room and the manor was taken over, for use as a secret intelligence base, code-named "Hillside". The UK Air Ministry staff at the manor analysed aerial photography of Germany and created maps for bombing missions, including the famous "Dambusters" raid. Now, the cellar is a little museum in its own right describing that period. How appropriate for this 70th anniversary.