stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Photos that make me smile

This post was inspired by the incomparable Kerrdelune in her wonderful and inspiring blog Beyond the Fields We Know who unexpectedly found some photos of herself as a baby. It is usually her own photographs that are so immaculate and beautiful, but to see the innocent kernel of a person, before the forces of the world have made their mark, made me ponder.

When my Eldest Daughter began work for a firm called Mother, she asked me to find photographs of myself when young, and scan them and email them to her. Their business cards showed pictures of, yes you guessed it, not themselves but their mothers! And the card said on the reverse "Proud Mother of Eldest Daughter" (or whatever their name was). This was the one she chose :-

I used to go to classes at the local ballet club from the age of four, I think. I had just won my first cup in a competition as "Tom, Tom, the piper's son" and there I am with the pig my father had made for the dance. I can remember the feel of the stiff pink canvas, and where the metal armature poked through the stuffing of its legs. The costume was sunshine yellow and dark blue satin, made by my mother. I was so pleased to have won a cup, it meant much more than medals for first place. (I still have my haul of medals to this day) We used to go all over London to competitions, with a different ballet solo learned each year. And also group dances. It was a great discipline - we had to learn new dances quickly and efficiently, and perform them exactly as taught. But then I think ballet, although full of convention, is a good teacher. My body learned to do what I asked of it, and I had an early grounding in French (the common language of Ballet steps etc). I can copy movements easily, even now, and find learning. say, t'ai chi much easier than most of my friends because of it.

I loved this costume, it was a lovely grey silk with a moire pattern, and the sleeves were pointed over my hands. The little layers of net in different greys and blacks represented plumage, I was Little Trotty Wagtail, and am photographed waving enthusiastically to Jenny Wren. My style was lively and suited to bird characters apparently. Don't you love the little white feather patches over my ears? I can feel the Kirby Grips digging into my scalp right now! I was asked to dance a solo at the Annual Display (a great honour) and so had my photo taken at the dress rehearsal. My mother was mortified that my knickers showed! But at least they were white, and I had a less floppy pair on the day!

But this is my favourite photo from my childhood.It was taken on a country holiday in a place called Risely in Bedfordshire. It was on a farming estate, surrounded by cornfields and we stayed in the lovely old manor house. It had a lawn with elegant cedar trees, a tennis court and a summerhouse that turned to catch the sun. Some of my first memories I think - a toy penguin that stood on a polished piano, and being given a doll's pushchair with a handle that you squeezed to make it say "Mama". Very sophisticated for those post-war days!

My mother had me quite late in life, eight years after my brother was born. I was a much wanted child, and I treasure this photo. You can feel the love. She looks so young, happy and carefree. And I know that my Dad took it, enjoying the moment too. My big brother was probably off somewhere helping with the harvest. Maybe I found my love of the countryside there, for I was a London child. It took twenty eight years, marriage and a yearlong trip to India before I came to roost in the countryside eventually.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Glimpses of spring

In these dark days, after our small cold snap (London had a scattering of snow, but not down here in the South West) there are small signs that spring is around the corner.A variegated periwinkle (vinca major) is flowering, and preparing to conquer the world by sending out runners and shoots everywhere. It causes me a bit of heartache when I have to curtail its rampant growth later on in the summer.

I only planted this shrub last summer, and it was a thrill on this dark morning, to see its cheerful waxy blossoms. Chaenomeles japonica, (flowering quince) does particularly well in our village. Large bushes can be seen against many sheltered walls and fences. But January is a bit early to see blossoms, especially on such a tiny plant.

Hurrah for the snowdrops! Always such a welcome sight in January.

The border under the rowan tree - hence the spattering of white bird poo on the cyclamen leaves, as the tree holds a couple of bird feeders! You can spot snowdrops, a pink polyanthus and - hiding in the middle at the back - a couple of Christmas roses or hellebores (helleborus niger). Their pink flowers are almost green at this time of year. I will try and take a better photo as they come out a bit more.

And the patio pot of winter pansies has been colourful all winter. With no frost to speak of, the blooms have been continuous. The small spears of dwarf daffodils will be budding and flowering before long. Great swathes of daffodils are flowering beside the roads here, months earlier than normal.

The cold spell of freezing temperatures seems to be over, and it feels quite warm again by comparison. Not the winter weather that I remember as a child, when chilblains were common - from coming in with frozen toes and toasting them in front of the fire.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A new pastime

Something has been encroaching on my blogging/blog reading time. I have a new....errrr - OK let's be honest here - obsession. I was going to say hobby, but that may not be accurate. It may be a temporary passion, but its quite addictive.

Its called Geograph

I love maps. I can sit and read them happily for hours, like an ordinary person would read a book. Two of my main subjects at school were geography and art, and I very nearly became a mapmaker. TheHQ of the Ordnance Survey (see their wonderful online Get-a-map) was only a bus ride away from my home - it was very tempting. As it turned out, I did other things.

Thus when I found Geograph - a project which aims to record photographs for every grid square in the country - I was hooked. First I did the obvious, and went through my stash of digital photos to see what I could upload. Then I got greedy, I wanted to be the first to claim an image for a square.

So I looked at all the unfilled areas near my home, and planned a car journey that would go through as many as possible. OK, eventually I will put my walking boots on and go into the uncharted interior of Dorset. but in winter I shall do it the easy way. Last Saturday I spent a happy afternoon with map and camera in the Sydling Valley and on the hills above it. (see some of the results above)

Of course on Sunday that meant I had to spend the afternoon uploading them. Its great fun - you have to chart - in minute detail - where the photograph was taken. The process is moderated, by on duty geographers, and I had one rejected (too small, it was taken on my phone!) and one demoted to a supplemental status.

The project appeals to so many traits in me - the mapper; the photographer; and the cataloguer. Oh and the competitive part of me too. There is a leader board! But no way do I have the time to upload the thousands of photos that some sad people manage.

I am off to Sherborne this afternoon (another blog post probably) but I have just looked at the website and checked it out. Nearly the whole journey has empty Geograph squares!

Just charging up the camera right now, and allowing extra journey time. Me, addicted?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shipping weather forecast = gales!

"The Meterological Office has issued a gale warning in Portland, Wight and Dover".......

During a brief lull in the rain, we decided to go for a stroll along the deserted and unspoilt end of the beach at Weymouth. The wind, however, hadn't let up and we discovered that the local kite surfers were out in force. It is a brilliant spectacle. These guys are experts and can manage to sail elegantly in harmony, and can manage to lift high out the waves and do mid-air manoeuvres that are stunning.

It seems as if the sport needs several skills - they made it looks so easy. I found it difficult to capture an image that shows exhilarating it was to watch. And also impossible to catch someone midair (the last one doesn't do it justice) ~They turned a windy stroll by the sea into something quite unexpected. I hope when the Olympic sailing events are held here in 2012 they are as much fun to watch.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Turn again, Whittington...

As he left London, Dick Whittington heard the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside saying to him "Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!" That was at least four hundred years ago, and today there is still a change in bell ringing that is called Whittington's.

However, I heard no bells today as I thankfully boarded the 17.25 South West train service home from Waterloo to Dorchester South. I had got the 07.10 train up to London, in time for a meeting of the trustees of the UK Community of Interbeing (I now edit Here & Now, the newsletter - apologies for a slightly out of date website, there is an interregnum in webmasters). I may be a Londoner born and bred, but the city seemed grey and grubby today. And I was glad for the lack of bells.

I returned to Dorset night sky filled with stars and a large moon rising. She looked wonderful. I feel so sorry for Londoners with their unnatural orange skies where nothing can be seen.