Holly Hobby Hocks

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Holly Hocks

So, I go to St. Andrews for one day to see Angelica, Geoff, Gwynn, Heather, Kalina, Karen, Lucinda, Mitchell, Pierre, and William, and look what happens to my hollyhocks while I am at KIRA. I guess it has something to do with the proximity of the Kingsbrae Garden: my hollyhocks got jealous and wanted me back.

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They were all so pleased to see me. Radiant and smiling, laughter all over their little faces. Little? Hey, they are growing every day, from saucers to side or sandwich plates and all too soon they will be as large as dinner plates.

Hopefully, they will last. My beloved says these hot summer days will quickly diminish them. I hope not. Alas, the foxgloves have gone already. Heavy raindrops battered their flowers and away they went. No winter gloves now for the little foxes. They will have cold paws.

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The sunflower buttons are awaiting their day in the sun. Prepping, not preening, they will soon unfold and follow the sun’s circuit with their faces. We certainly hope so. Meanwhile, consider the hollyhocks, they neither spin, nor do they weave, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

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Bullfight

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Bullfight

The above photo shows novillos, young bulls, on a bull farm in Salamanca, Spain, bred for the bull ring. They are tested in the farm’s private bull ring and the best and bravest are saved for the bull ring. A series of computer programs tests them at six month intervals to see if they are bull ring material.

Spain is divided on bull fighting with Catalonia banning the bullfight while Castilla and Andalusia are ardently in favor of the three, thousand year old tradition. The Spanish flag, in Castille, comes with a fighting bull, in the centre, replacing the coat of arms.

Many opinions exist abut bullfighting, bull running, and the whole tradition of blood sports. I will not state my position. But I will leave you with a piece of flash fiction, perhaps a short story. Each of you, if you wish, may play the game, click on the Bullfighting link, and decide for yourselves where you, and I, stand. Warning: not for the faint of heart … go on, be brave, remember the toros bravos who have perished in the ring.

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Los Toros de Guisando, mentioned in the Quixote, prehistoric stone bulls, verracos, Celtic carvings from the Province of Avila, Spain. The Roman legions carved their names into these stone bulls. Below, a modern bull, also from the province of Avila. I must, at this point, mention my friend Juanra, who took me to see these monuments and encouraged my interest in his wonderful province. Juanra, te lo agradezco, no sabes cuanto.

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Gardens

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Commentary:

How can I write about gardens without beginning with my own garden? Last year’s single stem hollyhock has this year turned into a hollyhock ‘bush’ with ten separate flowering stalks. Yesterday, only one flower adorned the plant, today some seven to ten blossoms have appeared. I am amazed by the presence of so much beauty. Never before have hollyhocks graced our garden. Now I can do nothing but give thanks.

But there are other gardens. Kingsbrae Gardens for example have been mentioned  on this blog before, and I have written a book about them. Many of you will have seen the video we made. If not, the video One Small Corner can be seen by clicking on the link, as can the gardens and the book.

That said, welcome to another set of gardens. Click on the link, and you will be able to discover them and visit them for yourself. Come along, play the game. You know you want to!

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Thursday Thoughts Ubi sunt …

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Thursday Thoughts
Ubi sunt …

Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt? Where are they who went before us? As St. Augustine is said to have written: O homo, dic mihi, ubi sunt reges, ubi sunt principes, ubi imperatores, qui fuerunt ante nos… “O man, tell me, where are the kings, where are the princes, where the emperors, who had been before us” {Wikipedia]. Many philosophers have written on this theme, and many poets, including Villon in his famous ballade “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?” Where is last year’s snow? Cervantes also echoes the theme with this slight variation “No hay pájaros en los nidos de antaño.” There are no birds in last year’s nests.

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Goran Haven, Cornwall, July, 1966. I was waiting to receive the results of my final exams from Bristol University. Clare and I decided to spend a week in Cornwall and ended up in Goran Haven. When we came back, I made her a book of photos from the trip with hand-written poems beneath them. I discovered that book the other day and was taken back to a time when I wasn’t even thinking of coming to Canada. Fifty-three years later, looking at these photos, I ask myself ubi sunt … where did those days go? All those days, the old country, and everything that went with our youth … ubi sunt?

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Same thing happened when I visited McAdam Railway Station: wonderful memories of all the steam trains of my youth. And those railway names: Great Western Railway [GWR], London Midlands Scotland [LMS] , London North Eastern Railway [LNER]. So many things that I can never forget: the smell of the old steam engines, the sound of their wheels going clackety-clack, the taste of smoke and ash when I thrust my head out of the window, in spite of the sign that said, Do not lean out of the window, the feel of those worn cloth seats beneath the fingers, and the sense of excitement and joy when an empty corner seat begged to be sat in. Something else I’ll never forget: the cold taste of a Cadbury’s Milk Flake stuck in an ice-cream on a warm summer’s day.

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Volunteers

 

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Volunteers
McAdam Railway Station 6

Only the old in body
and young at heart know
how to cook like this.

The soda fountain stools,
the horseshoe bar
from the old Royal York,

they merit only the best.
Simplicity rules. Stews
like grandma made them,

lining the ribs,
defying damp and cold.
Railway Pie, recipes

a hundred years old, or more.
bread rolls that melt
into the butter knife,

coffee to kill for. No wonder
the old ghosts walk around
feeding off cooking smells,

sad, gentle eyes, watching us
as we eat, refusing to leave.

Comment: That’s the end of the Railway Pie, I’m afraid. The soup has already vanished. Three lucky people, arriving on cooking day, and receiving a free lunch. What joy, what delight. The volunteers were cooking for another event, outside the station, which was not yet open. Old ghosts watched from quiet corners as we ate. I am sure those spirits survive on the wonderful cooking smells that emerge. I should add how impressed I am at the knowledge displayed by the volunteers at McAdam Railway Station. They now only have their facts at their fingertips, but hey are able to express those facts in a way that draws the audience in and makes every visit a genuine pleasure. Volunteers: thank you for being there. You do a great job.

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Master Clock

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Master Clock
McAdam Railway Station 4

“It came from the Empress,
in Victoria. It won’t work here,
I’m afraid. It’s the clock
that runs all the clocks
and keeps them on time.

It needs a network.
ten, twenty, thirty clocks
that it can control
from its central circuit,
keeping them all on time.

Just like the railway.
The trains were always on time.
Except, just like this clock,
they don’t run anymore.”

Comment: I don’t have a picture of the Master Clock at McAdam Railway Station. I guess I’ll have to take one next time I visit McAdam. This clock can be found in the dining room. Like the Master Clock, it too has stopped. Known in Wales as Grandmother Clocks, these pendulum clocks are designed to hang on the wall rather than to stand on the floor like Grandfather Clocks. Can a Grandmother Clock be a Master Clock? I’ll leave that semantic conundrum to the experts in linguistics. While they are all arguing about it, I will just say that Elsie, who else, told the story of the Master Clock to a group of tourists from Nova Scotia while I was listening.