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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A New Life - Welcome Maren



We are thrilled to announce that Larry has become a granddad again. Maren Elizabeth Jones was born last night (20th June 2017) weighing 7lbs 12ozs. The population of South Carolina has increased by one ....The family rejoices.

Welcome Maren to this crazy chaotic world. May you always find the light inside yourself.

Blessings abound.


Star

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Midsummer Tree


'You might think that the erection of the maypole is a tradition associated exclusively with May Day (Beltane), but you would be wrong. The raising of the Midsummer Tree is an authentic Midsummer custom found in many areas, including Wales, England and Sweden.

The custom was called 'raising the birch' (Codi'r Fedwen) in south Wales and 'the summer branch' in the north and the dancing around it is 'the dance of the birch'.  In Glamorgan the birch was erected on St. John's Eve and was called y fedwen haf, or 'summer birch'.  It was decorated with ribbons, flowers and even pictures.  A weathercock with gilded feathers surmounted it.  The cock or rooster was a sacred bird among the Celts and a bird of the sun.  The cry of the cock at sunrise indicated the end of the darkness and the start of the day.  Celtic festivals were held from dusk till cock crow of the next morning.

Sometimes one village would try to steal another village's pole and it was considered very ill fated and a disgrace to lose one in this fashion.  The bereft village was not allowed to raise another until they had succeeded in stealing one from elsewhere and the poles were guarded all night by groups of youths and men.  In Carmarthenshire the branches of the summer birch were not trimmed off to make a pole, but were decorated with garlands and wreaths of flowers.

In Sweden and Finland, also, a Midsummer tree of birch was set up and decorated.  The villagers danced around it and lit fires and jumped over them.  In Russia the summer tree is decked with ribbons.' from 'Magical Celebrations Midsummer of the the Summer Solstice by Anna Franklin.

The picture above is of the Midsummer Tree oak in Milton Keynes, a large new city just north of where I live. The shopping centre was built around the tree, but sadly in 2005 it showed signs of dying and eventually did die.  The cause is thought to be bad drainage, but who knows?  Perhaps it didn't like being surrounded by shops!

This year Midsummer falls on 21st June. The days will shorten from then on and the nights will lengthen and the Oak King must give way to the Holly King.

Meanwhile, as the flowers open, open your own heart and look for the light within.  Amidst all the chaos and confusion of our modern world today, walk amongst the trees and breathe in their life-giving spirit.

Blessed be.

Star

you can read more posts like this one at my other blog  Awitchabroad

Sunday, 11 June 2017

What a week that was!






That was a week to remember or forget if it didn't go your way. Why? I'm talking politics this morning because politics has been the theme of the week.  Having called a general election to strengthen her hand with regard to Brexit, Theresa May, our Prime Minister here in England, has ended up with a hung parliament, which you could argue was the worst outcome possible.  The Labour Party secured more votes than expected and the Conservative party did not achieve a majority of MP's (members of parliament) and are now looking to a small party, i.e. D.U.P., the democratic union party of Northern Ireland to support the government as it makes its way into the Brexit negotiations, which start in nine days time.

For my American friends, the Conservative party is like your Republicans. The Labour party is like your Democrats.  Theresa May was hoping to squash the Labour party in the recent election, but it hasn't happened and now she has 'egg on her face'.

So why did so many people vote for the Labour Party with Jeremy Corbyn as their leader?  It appears that many people were not happy with the Conservative party's manifesto, which seemed to alienate many of the older generation who had been loyal to the Conservatives for many years. Additionally many younger voters voted for the Labour party because they felt that the Labour party cared more for the young people's cause.  All sorts of promises were made by the Labour party in order to woo the young voters. Promises that the Labour party could not hope to keep if they did get into power, but as one young person said afterwards: 'Even if the promises were not kept, the Labour party at least showed they cared and had given some thought to the young.

Where did I stand in all this? I voted for the Conservatives because I feel that they are the best party to take Britain forward into a future where we are no longer part of the European Union.

It just goes to show that people will vote with their hearts instead of their heads on occasion. I think the same thing happened recently in America where so many people voted for Donald Trump even though they must have know that he would be unable to fulfil the promises he so rashly made.

Two of the key points of the Conservative manifesto, which upset so many older people were 1) doing away with the Triple Lock (what is the triple lock pension scheme?) on pensions The Conservatives think that older people, i.e. baby boomers and beyond, are getting ahead of the young in the amount of their income and that the balance needs to be addressed.  That is ok if you happen to be one of the rich, like most of the Conservatives are, but quite a different matter if you are trying to manage on a state pension alone, which is approximately £144 (183 dollars) a week, if you qualify for the whole of it!

The other sticking point is a bit odd.  Previously, if you got old and could no longer look after yourself and went into an old people's home, you would be expected to pay towards your keep. This happened to my mother. It's a long story, but here is the gist of it: she was coming to live with me, but that didn't work out, so she went into a home. I, as next of kin, had to give the manager of the home her bank book and pension book and the house she lived in, which she had nearly finished paying for, was sold and the money added to the pot. In those days, one was allowed to keep £8,000 (10200 dollars) of the money. This was increased to £23,000 (29,325 dollars)but above that the money went to the home. Now, under the conservative manifesto, the limit would be £100,000, with the expectation that that amount would be untouched by the government and therefore the elderly person would be able to pass that money on to their dependents, i.e. their children. On the face of it, that all looked like an improvement and I'm sure that is what the Conservatives hoped, but there is always a catch. The point is, that if you don't have any money, i.e. if you don't own your own house or have lots of money in the bank, then the state has to pay for your care anyway. So, can you blame the older people for spending their equity now before it is taken away from them.

Lots of people over here have been releasing their equity in their house, i.e. taking the money in exchange for a loan on it with the end result that the children will have little to inherit, if anything. That's a subject for a future post.

So, the Conservatives have upset the older people, i.e. 'biting the hand that feeds them' and a lot of them voted for the other side as a consequence.

And what of U.K.I.P. - the United Kingdom Independence Party? Remember Nigel Farage? So many people voted for U.K.I.P. but have now moved their votes to one of the other parties. U.K.I.P. have fulfilled their purpose and unless Nigel Farage returns to the fray, are destined to die a death for certain. After the recent election their leader, Paul Nuttall, stood down.

I think the main problem is that the country is so equally divided, evident since the Referendum on leaving the E.U. last June 23rd, 2016. Now we have two years to make Brexit happen; the clock is ticking and the government is in disarray. Sad times right now!

Have a lovely Sunday,

Star

Sunday, 28 May 2017

This is what 101 looks like.



Recently Larry and I were shopping for a birthday present for David, my youngest son. We were in the camera shop. Standing at the counter was an old gentleman who was negotiating the best way to have a photograph from a book enlarged. The old gentleman looked familiar.

I walked up alongside of him so I could get a better look. Yes, I thought, it's definitely him, but still I wasn't quite sure.  After all, if it was who I thought it was, it must be 55 years since I saw him last! I touched him lightly on the arm and tentatively asked if he was Mr. W....... He turned to look at me and recognition filled his face. Yes it was my neighbour from when I was a child, growing up in a row of fourteen council houses, built by the council for their employees. I could hardly believe it! I quickly tried to work out how old he must be by adding and deducting years in my head. It dawned on me that he must be at least in his late nineties.

He told me he was 101. Amazing, totally amazing. There he was out shopping in the High Street, complete with shopping trolley and list of items required and he had arrived there on a bus and walked the rest of the way.

He looked so well and was totally 'with it'. I asked him about his son, who was roughly the same age as me and now well into his sixties. He was doing fine, Mr. W..... told me. When his 100th birthday had arrived, and his birthday card from the Queen had plopped through the door onto his doormat, his son and family had arranged a party for him. During the party, which they all enjoyed very much, photographs were taken and a keepsake book was made. One of the photographs had particularly appealed to Mr. W. so he was in the shop, discussing the enlargement of it.

He told me he still lived alone in the same house, right next door to where I lived as a girl and with a little help and a few adaptations to his home, he was managing well on his own.

Whilst we were chatting, Larry was looking at cameras and binoculars and we settled on the binoculars for my son. I believe he was very pleased with them. I interrupted the sale to ask Larry to take a photograph of Mr. W. and me for my own keepsake book! He obliged and this is the result. I was happy to see that my friend was still wearing a tam-o-shanter (hat) as a memory of his Scottish wife, Nancy.

Seeing Mr. W. again after so long revived a lot of memories for me. One of them concerns a blackbird who built his nest in a hedge which grew between our house and the house next door where Mr. W. and his wife and son lived.  My dad used to talk to Mr. W. through the hedge, often on Sunday mornings and one morning, whilst my dad was parting the branches a little bit so as to get the best view of his neighbour, the blackbird appeared from nowhere and dive bombed my dad in the back of his head, drawing blood and causing my dad to exclaim loudly.  No doubt the blackbird was protecting it's nest. It caused a lot of amusement with my mum and I as we tried hard not to laugh out loud at what had just happened.

Mr. W. worked for the council and rode a bicycle. I remember him riding his bicycle wherever he wanted to go. To my knowledge, he never owned a car.  Whilst other people were buying cars, learning to drive and making the road outside our houses ever more dangerous, Mr. W. continued to ride his bicycle everywhere.  A few years ago he had an accident. He was knocked off his bicycle by a motorist who had lost control of his vehicle. It mounted the pavement afterwards, narrowly missing other people, but Mr. W. was quite seriously hurt. His leg was broken - not a good think to happen when you are in your late nineties and he had to go to hospital and spend some time there.  Miraculously he recovered and apart from the fact that he now finds it difficult to get up the stairs in his house, he is back to almost full mobility. He certainly walks well as I noticed.

Time stood still in the camera shop as we remembered our past and the staff were most obliging.  Not one of them hurried us on or caused us to feel rushed.  When one gets to 101 surely one has earned the right to 'stop and smell the roses' for as long as it takes.

He truly is a remarkable man and it was such a pleasure to meet up with him again.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Sunday musings


 Welcome Sunday - my favourite day of the week and always has been. It's the one day in the week that I feel I own, but it doesn't always work out that way of course. I've been feeling more than usually creative lately and fortunately that feeling corresponds with the time of the year. It's no good feeling creative in the garden in the middle of December is it!


I planted some Morning Glory seeds in a hanging basket at the beginning of April and the cold weather killed the lot so I've bought another packet of seeds and I'm trying again. Lately it has been so dry that I've had to water the garden twice a week, but this morning at 6 o'clock it rained heavily for twenty minutes and that has restored the garden somewhat.

I've been sewing - making a little dress for my grand-daughter Ruby:


When I finished that, I found a doll pattern to make, for me this time. I'm practising on me... yeah, right! She can have it when she's older, probably!

Did I tell you I'm learning to play the piano, teaching myself? It goes slowly, but I'm finding it very enjoyable.



and last week I made two loaves of bread, which turned out fine except a bit dense.  My bread always turns out a bit dense! I'm working on that.


So what have you'all been doing or making this week?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A Visit to Lincoln Castle


What could be more fun than a visit to a real castle? A few weeks ago Larry and I visited Lincoln castle, which is in the vicinity of Lincoln Cathedral, see previous post.

It would be impossible to do the castle and its history justice in a short blog post so I link here to the website where you can read about it more comprehensively. Do take a look in case you ever get to visit.

We didn't know what to expect as there has been recent refurbishment of the castle especially the castle walk, whereby you can ascend to the top of the wall by the battlements and walk around the whole castle, which gives spectacular views of Lincoln itself. Larry is not keen on heights and I had a sore knee that day so we viewed the walk from below, but for those less elderly it would be extremely entertaining.


This position atop a very steep escarpment has been a strategic vantage point right back to when the Romans invaded Britain and beyond, but this particular castle was built on the command of William 1 (William the Conqueror) in Norman times. William came over in 1066 with his army of Normans and slay King Harold following which he became King and ruled over Britain for 21 years and is known for building many beautiful churches and several castles. The Normans, being Christian, were also responsible for establishing Christianity amongst the pagan people of this island.


It really does feel safe between the castle walls. Whilst we were there we could imagine what it must have been like to live in such a place.





A rare picture of Larry and me together.  We were just admiring the courthouse building when a kindly police sergeant happened along and offered to take a picture of us together. We were grateful to him.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Lincoln


A couple of weeks ago, Larry and I went on a few days visit to the cathedral city of Lincoln in the East Midlands (of England).  Lincoln has recently been celebrating 800 years since the Magna Carta was signed. You can read about it here.

It's a fascinating story to immerse yourself in.  We were fascinated to see all these little barons in the shop windows, each one individually painted and displayed.


Within Lincoln castle walls is a vault where one of the original copies of the Magna Carta is kept under lock and key and protected by guards.  No photographs are allowed in the inner sanctum, but copies of the Magna Carta in scroll form are available to buy from the castle gift shop.

Here is Larry standing outside the vault. The Magna Carta is fascinating of course, all written in Latin on sheepskin with King John's original seal intact on one of the three documents.  on the wall behind Larry is a translation of the Magna Carta into English. It fills the wall, carved onto the wall itself in relief with the most important sentences coloured in gold. Very impressive. To see the document, you have to descend some stairs and go through alarmed doors. It reminded me a bit of when we went to the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels. Here is the link that tells you all about the Magna Carta.


We stayed in a hotel right opposite the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral. Here it is, lit up at night. Picture taken from our hotel window. We also had a balcony so we could sit out and admire the view! We were treated to the cathedral bells, which were loud, believe me and wonderful, but they were quiet at night, after 10 o'clock so we got our sleep.

The cathedral is enormous and stands proudly on top of a very steep hill.


The hill was so steep that neither Larry nor I felt we could tackle it so we stayed at the top throughout our stay! The next picture gives a flavour of it, although it is difficult to capture on film just how steep it was. Larry took this from a coffee shop where we sat and enjoyed a drink and watched the people go by. They walked in front of us to the left of the black and white timbered house and when they got a bit further on they just seemed to disappear. Larry went and had a look and said that there must have been (steep) steps at the end because the people just seemed to drop off the edge.

By the way, the picture is correct. The buildings really are like that!


There were lots of small artisan shops in the vicinity and we enjoyed looking at those. It was lovely to get away from the big stores for a week and indulge ourselves, talking to the locals and finding out what it was like to live in such a beautiful place. I was particularly interested in how they managed in the winter when the roads were icy or snowy or both. I cannot imagine trying to stay upright in those circumstances.

Then there was the castle, but I'll keep that for another post.



Happy Sunday!