Is There Any More Tea In That Pot?

Everyday events in the life of a tea lover.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

December 3rd 2014.

Lichfield Cathedral  December 2014
                                                           December 3rd

Here I am sitting at the desk in our loft bedroom, which used to be first of all, Matt's room, then Alan's. So many memories contained up here.
  I'm looking over the rooftops and trees in the fading late afternoon light.
The birds have already gone from the garden, and apart from the pink-pink-pinking sound of a lone blackbird, everything is still.
The low sun, now sinking slowly on the horizon, is catching the rooftops and tips of the trees with a warm deep-golden glow.Some rogue rays glinting on the edge of one of the houses in the distance.
   The sky was a piercing cold blue earlier today, producing sharp edges and well defined outlines to trees and buildings in the clarity of the sharp air.
                      There was a glorious sunset last night, heralding the frost to come.
As I watch the light fade, wisps of white curl up into the atmosphere here and there, meaning most homes will be warm tonight.
                   The year has begun to leave us, just as December arrives.........
                   And with it the Christmas season begins in earnest.              
Minster Pool. Lichfield December 2014 
        As we walked through crunchy leaves, and damp woody smells this morning, I thought that, for me, to see light shining through trees, to smell the damp countryside and look at a glorious blue sky, is such an escape from the frenzy of preparations which I are taking place all around me.
                    Time to breathe, time to reflect, time to be thankful for all that we have, when so  many, many more have far less.
I love giving presents, and, yes, receiving them too, but not the the commercialism of Christmas as it appears today.    
It will soon be dark.
We are moving towards the shortest day in this part of the Northern hemisphere, when we pass the darkest point, and begin to move on into a new year and gradually lengthening days.
                                           Last weekend was the start of Advent.
A time of preparation, in the church calendar, including the remembrance of Christ's birth in Bethlehem.
     We went to the Advent service in Lichfield Cathedral, last weekend, on a clear, cold night. The Cathedral partly illuminated against the darkness.
       At the commencement of the event, all the lights were extinguished. and we waited for the first candles to be lit.
To sit in a totally dark, packed Cathedral, in silence until the first flickering flame appeared, was a very deeply moving experience. Gradually through the service, as the choir moved to different points in the nave and chancels, to sing each piece of music, symbolising the coming of Jesus, and His promised return again, more and more candles were lighted, until the ancient stones were bathed in their soft glow.
      Darkness to light so beautifully visibly demonstrated.
                                                    Extract from Advent 1955 
                                                          by  John Betjeman
                                                " An interchange of hunting scenes
                                         On coloured cards, And I remember
                                          Last year I sent out twenty yards,
                                          Laid end to end, of Christmas cards
                                         To people that I scarcely know -
                                         They'd sent a card to me, and so
                                         I had to send one back. Oh dear!
                                         Is this a form of Christmas cheer?
                                         Or is it, which is less surprising,
                                         My pride gone in for advertising?
                                         The only cards that really count
                                         Are that extremely small amount
                                         From real friends who keep in touch
                                         And are not rich but love us much
                                         Some ways indeed are very odd
                                         By which we hail the birth of God.

We raise the price of things in shops,
We give plain boxes fancy tops
And lines which traders cannot sell
Thus parcell'd go extremely well
We dole out bribes we call a present
To those to whom we must be pleasant
For business reasons. Our defence is
These bribes are charged against expenses
And bring relief in Income Tax
Enough of these unworthy cracks!
'The time draws near the birth of Christ'.
A present that cannot be priced
Given two thousand years ago
Yet if God had not given so
He still would be a distant stranger
And not the Baby in the manger."
Morning light through trees. 3rd December 2014

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Summer morning thoughts.................August 2014

One of the many pleasures I have enjoyed so far during this lovely summer, has been eating my breakfast at the patio table. The normal traffic sounds in August are muted and even now as I sit here at 8.00a.m. there is a stillness. 
 I am listening to the atmosphere......a distant collared dove, then the tick-tacking of our resident robin in the undergrowth, his spring song now quiet apart from a short phrase or two......    
A fat wood pigeon waddles in the grass under the apple tree, where some of the fruit is already scattered, early windfalls.  One or two are fit to eat, being very sweet and full of summer sun, but the apple tree now being quite ancient at well over 40 years of age, I usually leave them to the birds. The blackbirds especially enjoy them. 
A slight breeze stirs the leaves of the silver birches.
Honeysuckle scrambles..... I love the distinctive smell of the small box hedge in the warmth, bluetits churring, a wren flies past, darting off into nearby foliage, and the sense of stillness punctuated only by the occasional car along our road. 
Even my washing is hanging limply on the line. 
 We have had a "nursery" garden this summer, one of birds. A whole family of goldfinches coming to the feeders, their young ones have been amusing, fluttering their wings whilst making lots of noise pivoting from side-to-side at the same time......." feed me, feed me" ......was their cry.
A pair of blackbirds have been coming to the bottom lawn to feed their one offspring, who is almost as big as the parents! They have a penchant for sultanas, and as soon as I have opened the blind on the kitchen door each morning, they have times treating me to a burst
of beautiful song from the vantage point of the fence. I stopped dispensing sultanas after awhile     .  but they come and enjoy the birdbath, splashing happily and preening their feathers.
        They forage in the shrubs, where there are a lot of small snails about. I watched the male crack open a shell the other morning, tapping it repeatedly on the patio flags, extracting the juicy snail from its home.    
 I am glad we have one young blackbird, after the fox scrambled up our climbing hydrangea at the front of the house and took two fledglings out of the nest hidden there, notwithstanding it was at the side of our lounge window at the front of the house. The latest pair of blackbirds are different, as the male has slightly disheveled plumage. The bluetit family have also fed their young at the feeders and splashed in the birdbath.
The new wood pigeon nest being built by the summerhouse
 I love it out here. And yet, the stillness and quiet herald a shift in the seasons.By mid August the flowering plants are exhausting themselves, and we have had a period of days earlier on. where we had no rain for ages, days of endless sunshine and at times extremely warm. The flower beds were thirsty.
Nest building 
 I am economical with watering, as I try to plant things that in the main, tolerate periods of dryness.
The roses are very hardy, and love the sun. They have been glorious this year.
 It is in the mornings now that I am noticing the shift of the season. I walked in the garden early the other day, around 6.30 a.m. and the air was like the water of a cool clear pool, slipping over my skin. Dew on the grass. A clear blue sky.
Father blackbird feeding his offspring
                   I shift in my chair. The sun is now hot here in my garden retreat.
                                                          Mornings  to savour.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Letter to my dad.....written in March 2010.

This is the last letter I ever wrote to my dad. He was never to read it. It was returned to me by the staff of the residential  home where he was living. The day after I sent it we had a call to say he was in hospital. So we left immediately for the long journey home.      
Versailles on his 83rd birthday weekend. September 2001 
Saturday 20th March 2010.

Dear dad,

I know someone else will read this to you, but I wanted to send you something from the "Housel Bay Hotel" so here it is!
I am sitting in the lounge having had my breakfast, overlooking the bay. The waves are heaving, and crash all round Bumble Rock. It was misty when we arrived yesterday, and the foghorn from the lighthouse sounded eerily through the gloom.
This morning the mist is intermittent and when you step outside, the wind is howling around the foursquare stone building.The seagulls are all wheeling round.
It is supposed to clear a bit later on, what mum would've called "fairing up a bit"!
But, for now, it's good weather for old smugglers!

We'll most likely go over to St Ives, as tomorrow looks as if it will be a better day, when we can do some walking along the coastal paths.
Dad on the cliffs at Lizard Point. 2004 
  There are daffodils out on the cliffs just below the hotel, and when we were eating breakfast, a rather fat rabbit was foraging in the garden here.
 Alfred and Iona at the hotel were asking after you.
It is the quietest here that they have known and we are the only ones staying at the moment. It's the result of the recession, which they said took longer to take effect in this area- hard to believe  but there it is.
I will try and phone again soon, as we are not in an area where our mobile phones work!
  They will work in Mullion.

We had our lunch in Mullion yesterday, before coming here mid-afternoon. We stopped at the complex next to Trenance Farm Cottages, where there is a nice café, and also the Trenance Chocolate Shop, if you can remember that.
It never alters on the Lizard, apart from the odd new houses being built. We love it, all weathers, from the warm and sunny, to the stormy and wild!

It is a unique environment.
Well, I'm running our of  this sheet of paper so I will end here.
Hopefully you will be all out of quarantine by now.

I'll be coming to see you before long,

Love Vivien and Stephen


Friday, 7 March 2014

March. 2014. Today it feels like spring!

Birthday daffodils from a friend. 
 I was writing in my journal this morning, and I'll echo the words here in this blog.
"Sitting here just after my breakfast, looking out at the back garden  through the expanse of the patio window.
The sky is clearing from it's overnight rain.
Grey clouds mingling with white, and tints of veiled blue beginning to make their presence known.
The two magpies,who are building a nest a couple of gardens along, have been here looking for twigs and small branches. Cocky, strutting birds, with a swagger, and a sheen of black and white plumage.
Mother blackbird, of our garden pair, is digging up worms in the bottom lawn.
She now overturns clumps of moss in here search.
Father bird sitting on the pinnacle of the summerhouse.
A fat wood-pigeon balances on a branch of our ancient apple tree, trying to reach seed from the feeders, but I have already placed them where the pigeons cannot reach.
The light is returning to this part of our hemisphere, and a sense of spring after the wettest winter since records began.
  Father blackbird is now singing his beautiful song. A glimmer of sunshine brightens the green of the shrubs and box hedge, until it reaches the far boundary fence.
A plane glides round in the sky on it's gradual descent to the airport several miles away."
After breakfast I went to buy a new pair of garden secateurs from a nearby centre in order to complete the spring pruning of the roses. The centre borders on some fields. As I was walking back to the car, I heard the liquid notes of a skylark, soaring up into the clear blue. The first I have heard this year. Such a joyful sound. I stopped to listen.

To a Skylark

Ethereal minstrel! pilgrim of the sky!
Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?
Or, while the wings aspire, are heart and eye
Both with thy nest upon the dewy ground?
Thy nest which thou canst drop into at will,
Those quivering wings composed, that music still!

Leave to the nightingale her shady wood;
A privacy of glorious light is thine;
Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood
Of harmony, with instinct more divine;
Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!
 I came home and began to prune the roses, not needing a coat or jacket, with the sun warm on my face. Spring is beginning once more in that great cycle of seasons and life, with it the season of Lent, which began this week with Shrove Tuesday.

Tiger on my birthday in February.
      A group of us spent Ash Wednesday evening in a time of reflection, and shared Communion together. It was very special.
   So another season of the year unfolds................................................................

Friday, 31 January 2014

Snapshots of time. January 2014.

At the moment, I have been fascinated each day by two magpies in a neighbouring tree, as they have begun to reconstruct their old nest. (This web photo shows one already finished.) They take several weeks, as it is a domed structure, and the inside lined with mud, which dries. 
   I do not particularly like magpies, as they are noisy, in your face, kinds of birds which steal eggs and new chicks from other nests. That is nature I suppose, as each creature has to eat. They can't go out and buy their food.  Yet as I can see them now from my window in the neighbour's tree, they are already busy at the beginning of this grey January day, bringing small twigs in their large beaks, then working together to place them exactly where they want them to be fixed.    
   They have my sneaking admiration for their diligence and effort, being completely focused on the task in hand.               
Early January. Afternoon sun.  
As it has been some time since my last post, I thought I would simply attach photos of random things in January. It has been the wettest month for a century  particularly in the South and South West of England. many places are still flooded. It has also been very mild, and the blackbirds have begun to sing early. I still have flowering roses! Here at least in the West Midlands we have not had the awful floods of Somerset and other counties further South. We did have some snow flurries yesterday, but nothing like the freeze of last January.
    The beginning of February traditionally seems to herald snow in the first two weeks, but we will have to wait and these topsy turvy seasons anything can happen.  
Irises blooming! 

A halo round the sun.  

January roses.

Moonlit sky. 

Snowdrops in Cambridge. We spent a couple of days there on January 26th - 27th. 
A morning walk. Moor Hall Golf Club estate. Sutton Coldfield.
Mid January. 

King's College. Cambridge.
January 27th.

The magnificent King's College Chapel.
Cambridge. January 27th 

Nest building January 30th 2014
Nest under construction in nearby tree. 
Snow flurries. 30th January.