Friday, March 20, 2009

They have a new round-about in Penticton - a nice simple one that we had no trouble navigating on our way to see the ophthalmologist.

However, it brought back memories of other round-abouts we have known which have struck terror in our hearts as we tried to find a way off them - headed in the right direction! Mostly they were in Britain, or on the Continent.

We had been to a crew reunion at Coningsby - then journeyed up to Lincoln and were on our way to Buxton.

We set off for Buxton after lunch - this time with George, the Scottish Engineer (Crew) in the lead. All went well for a goodly number of miles, but then we got cut off from him on entering one of the roundabouts, - cut off by four big lorries. Couldn't see where he had turned off, so we guessed. Wrongly. Three times.

Finally, as Lincoln seemed to be getting closer, rather than further away, we stopped for instructions and started off again in the right direction.

From my Journal - 'The countryside changed as we got closer to Buxton - more hilly and rolling - through Robin Hood country and Sherwood Forest. Eventually we started up a long, long hill. There were sheep everywhere. The pastures are all divided with stone fences and the buildings are beautifully crafted with stone. A quarry nearby, no doubt. Surely all of these stones couldn't have been picked off the fields!

Jack and George were waiting for us half way up the hill, and escorted us into town to the Palace Hotel, - a structure of great grandeur. Our bathroom is larger than our whole room was in London. It is an old hotel, - built in 1868 to accommodate all the wealthy patrons of the Spa. It has broad, wide staircases, beautiful old furniture, gorgeous (if shabby) carpets - and pretty fair service.

Went tonight to a pub about half an hour away, and had another very warm communal dinner. The talk never stops. Or the laughter, - or the memories.

Tomorrow we move to another hotel, and have a trip planned to the Derwent Valley dam, where they practiced for the dam-buster raid.'

And on June 12th (back in 1985)

'After breakfasting together at the Palace we all went out to tour the shops briefly, and then to lunch at the Devonshire Arms on our way up to the Derwent Valley. A nice pub - the proprietor is a nephew of Brownies (the Radio Operator) and of course there were the inevitable pictures. Everyone is so interested in this crew of men - I guess there is a certain romance about their friendship for one another, and certainly it must make people feel good to see it.

We stopped at Castleton on our way, - the most picturesque of English towns. A real tourist trap! All of the shops on the main street sell BlueJohn jewelry. We bought some too. Above the town is the remains of a medieval castle, and as you leave the tourist part you pass through lovely old stone residences. Onward and upward through Hope to the dam - the country still full of sheep (lots of Jacobs) but the pastures were then divided by hedges and there was considerably more forest land. Margaret says the village of Castleton is decorated each Christmas with fir trees and the castle is flood lit.

The Derwent Valley is all parkland, but it is also full of sheep who keep the grass nicely clipped. The dam itself was of great interest and I understand was used in filming the picture "Dam Busters".

We returned via the Duke of Devonshires' estate (a stately old home) and what a wonderful flock of sheep he has. They seem to use a lot of Suffolk for their final cross, and these sheep were in superb shape. The lambs were fat, and looked about ready for market.

When we got back we moved our belongings to the St. Ann Hotel - another really old relic of bygone glory. The Baths of Buxton are no more, but the accommodations linger on. Tonight we are sleeping in four poster beds. The rain is beating down and the wind is blowing in gusts. Tomorrow we go to York.'

Well, I did digress, and I have not told you yet about our way around and around and around about Lille - or Njimegan. I was in tears in Njimagen! But these pages do bring back wonderful memories, and I guess I got lost in them. It was beautiful county, marvelous companions and I think each and every day we were together with the Crew would qualify as a Golden Day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We had an early lunch and lingered over coffee, talking idly about Charles' singing group which had visited the local Care Centre in the morning. We reminisced a little, and then fell to discussing the river Thames, and the wonderfully researched book that Peter Akroyd has written about the Sacred River. I was particularly interested in the wealth of Neolithic and Bronze Age artifacts which have been found, concentrated in the short stretch between Twickenham and Teddington. We were discussing the complex geology of the Thames and reading aloud little bits about the relevance to ancient earth ages when suddenly there were strange noises coming from the nether parts of the house.

I went to investigate.

The cat was in the laundry room, swishing her tail and with a wildly concentrated look in her eyes. A mouse, - somewhere behind the hot water heater there was a mouse!

Charles came to investigate.

I left the two mighty hunters behind closed doors, discussing the capture of the creature.

Through the door the discussion grew a little frantic, - I could hear the cane (Charles' cane, not the cat's) pushing things aside, banging on the floor.

Ah, things have quietened down somewhat, - Charles is speaking to Miss Callie with gentle approval - "Good Cat, Good Cat" I hear.

Suddenly, all approval gone, the feline intelligence is being questioned. Loudly. Miss Callie has let the mouse escape....well, of course, - isn't that the name of the game?

She catches it again, - Charles tries to guide Callie and the mouse through the open door, but in vain. The mouse is free! And in behind the washer, where nothing and noone can reach her/him....

I lie down on the couch and feign sleep, - Charles and Callie emerge from the laundry room. Callie comes and lies on my chest, telling me what went on and commenting on the status quo.

It is clear that the answer lies in a mousetrap, generously baited. Charles moves the washer and dryer closer together so that there is room to slide in the cheesy morsel. We close the door, and settle for a little nap, complacently confident that this will do the trick.

We are old hands at this game....

Tonight Miss Callie haunts the laundry room, frightfully bucked at the thoughts of another exciting chase. Nobody has the heart to tell her the cheese was the poor little creatures downfall.....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Memorium for a Lost Garden

Wonderful morning in the garden - mild air, blue sky, the sweet sound of birds, aching back, and all that goes with clearing away the winter debris and making room for the lovely green shoots pushing their way towards the light.

As Charles pruned the roses, and reported hopefully on their condition, I hacked away at tall dried stalks, and as I worked my mind wandered to the garden we left behind us when we moved almost four years ago. The Lost Garden.

It truly is a lost garden - nobody to care for it, and yet there is a wonderfully courageous air about it, as the shrubs bloom and the plants push brave new greenery above ground.

We drive by each Sunday on our way to get the paper. The Star Magnolia is now just starting to bloom....

And though the forsythia has not been pruned since last Charles clipped its glorious branches, it will be beautiful and golden for almost a month.

There are three beloved shrubs in the farmer's way. I understand he plans to shovel them out SOON and I am hoping that rather than destroy them he will be sweet and generous and allow us to bring them to the new garden. There is a fragrant viburnum, which I have for the last three springs tried to replace, and a lace cap climbing hydrangea which is heavenly with blue iris and red poppies. And a rather tattered looking hibiscus that needs to be shaped and loved.

The sweet peas we have perpetuated were planted by Charles' mother on the orchard that his grandfather planted when he returned from the Alaska Gold Rush, and they still grow on the original orchard. We have carried seed carefully from place to place, and they grew vigorously last year in the new garden, here on the pasture.

Our new garden has been a delight to create, but in my memory are all the wonderful hours I spent, early in the morning and in the cool of the evening, reveling in the care of the flowers, - the roses and iris and phlox and daisies. I remember with such great affection all the trees that Charles planted, - dozens and dozens on the three acres that made up the property. Almost all gone now, - yanked out to accommodate a market garden or fruit trees. Alas, alas....

We were so fortunate to have had this Lost garden while we were still vigorous and in the golden years.

We are so fortunate now to have a spectacular view, a quiet pasture, and a precious microgarden to accommodate (in jungle fashion) a wonderful medley of our favourites.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

0h March, - you crazy mixed up month!

Yesterday, from the top of an apple tree which he was pruning, # 3 Son used his Cell Phone to alert me to the presence of a meadowlark in the near vicinity, and thus claims the honour of the first kid to tell mother about the arrival of the meadowlarks, - dear creatures who put end to the rumour that winter will go on forever this year....

Today I heard another one,
and whilst walking Caspar early in the day I saw a big fat robin
resting in the neighbour's cherry tree.

Charles and I drove by the Lost Garden that we left behind when we moved,
inspecting the shrubs and hazelnut trees that the farmer is going to tear up this spring, to make room for crops!
We imagined the Viburnum and the Hibiscus and the climbing Hydrangea lining a pathway around the periphery of the garden.....

When we stopped at the grocery store after church
there were encouraging patches of blue sky.

The girl at the check out counter had smelled skunk this morning.

The wind came up and blew wildly,
this way and that.

When I came out of the grocery store
there were light flakes of snow floating on the wind.

The last pile of icy snow in the garden
has finally released
the Hellebores.

Just down the valley a farmer set his pruning pile alight,
and smoked billowed up to meet the low clouds.

Tonight the air was mild,
and the sky had turned the tender blue of spring.

Across the valley a hollow near the mountain top
held an ephemeral mist,
Spring's hide-away perhaps?