Warning – nudity and flashing images

Oh dear, sorry about the gratuitous title, but there may be some readers who will find the image shocking or upsetting.  I’m certainly not sharing this to shock or arouse.  It’s just that it helps me to tell a most interesting story.

Last Wednesday was Imbolc – February 1st: the celebration of the first stirrings of the Celtic year.  Such events are taken seriously here in Glastonbury, and I’ve always thought it a lovely festival, with the promise of renewal and springtime to come.  Be that as it may, on this particular Imbolc, I wasn’t feeling at my best.  There was a keen wind, the usual grey cloud cover and I’d been to the doctors (something I only do when absolutely necessary – about once every 3-4 years, on average) as I needed medication to clear up a persistent infection.

As the sun was getting low in the sky, I started the ten minute walk home from the town centre to my cottage, which is on a busy road leading towards the famed Glastonbury Tor.  Although I’d stopped to admire a garden full of snowdrops, I couldn’t claim to have been celebrating Imbolc in any sense.  One of my fellow pedestrians, however, had chosen her own unique way to do so.  I heard the light slap of feet on the pavement behind me (feet, mark you, not shoes) and was overtaken by a completely naked woman, jogging lightly towards the Tor (or maybe Chalice Well or the White Spring – they’re all clustered together).  She appeared calm, intent and focused, not in any distress and quite comfortable with her condition.

My first thought was how cold she must be; I was huddled in my padded waterproof.  My second was how easy, comfortable and confident she must feel in her body, to allow the world to see her that way.  My third thought, I have to confess, was that this incident would make a most interesting remote viewing subject for Will.

Consequently, the following Sunday, I suggested he tune into the street outside my house (which he has never visited) at 4.15 on the previous Wednesday, to see if he could locate something incongruous and unexpected.  This was his response:

Got strong feeling of a large animal like an elephant or hippo, a large flat high visibility reflective-like board or screen. Generally a lot of bright colours across the scene. Weaker feelings of a lot of brightly coloured balls moving around.

Right.

Well the large wild animal made me laugh, obviously.  As you’ll see from the video below, the poor lady was by no means hippo-like!  On the other hand we are very rarely exposed to so much bare skin outdoors – especially in an English February – and there was something of the wild animal about her, but not one with fur (and as Will pointed out, the wild animals you would expect to see are far smaller than humans, which could be why his mind gave him a large animal).  As chance would have it, someone had taken this video of her walking past my house in the other direction, earlier in the day and posted it on You Tube, so I was able to show Will what he saw.

But the bright lights and coloured balls??  That had me foxed completely…. until later in the day, when I was mentally replaying my journey home from town in my mind.

Signal Lamp, Siren, Ambulance, PoliceSuddenly it came to me. Moments before my encounter with the lady, an ambulance had gone screeching past – a riot of bright colours and high-vis yellow, momentarily lighting up the grey day.  Its signal lights flashed on and off – balls of light appearing and disappearing.  To William, viewing the scene remotely some days later, the image of the vehicle would have moved across the scene so fast it would have appeared like a screen flashing past.

When I shared that information with him, Will commented:

Yes that fits well.  I only saw it from the side but did wonder if it was an ambulance.  Not usually very good at identifying specific objects unless they’re something that can be expected, due to the scene.

For me – and I hope for you – it was a fascinating insight into how visions are interpreted by the mind.

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You the Creator

Algie and his device

Algie and his device

Four or five years back, when I wrote that book about Life, I called the final section Creativity and Creation.  It began thus:

What have you made lately – a model; a cake; a piece of furniture; dinner; a mess…?  I’ll bet you’ve done quite a bit of creating over the last week or so.  And how did you do it?  You got some stuff; you changed it in some way – maybe shaping or cutting, heating or cooling; you probably mixed it with, or joined it to other stuff and carried on changing or modifying it until your creation was complete.

OK, so you might be protesting that all you did was take a ready-meal out of the freezer, pierce the film lid and put it in the microwave, but you still created a hot, steaming meal out of a frozen lump.  You created something by changing stuff.  Hold that idea.  Hold it nice and tight.

I knew – at an intuitive, rather than an intellectual level – that creating ‘stuff’ was important.  Not just important, but vital.  I also knew that it didn’t actually matter what you were creating.  It could be a painting or a compost heap, a symphony or an ad on eBay.  It was the creative process that mattered.

Thimble sized machines

Thimble sized machines

That idea came back to me a few weeks ago, when I was engaged in my latest hobby – creating  miniature Steam Punk characters and their equipment from up-cycled dolls’ house dolls, wire, watch parts and the like.

Bella: 6 inches/15 cm tall

It takes ages.  I completely lose myself in the process and come as close to absolute happiness and satisfaction as is possible when I hit technical problems and find ingenious ways to overcome them.  There’s a kind of excitement bubbling up inside me as the transformations take place.  Yet that’s been tempered by a mocking voice from my rational mind:

“Why waste so much time on something this pointless?  What use are they?  Shouldn’t I be putting my energy into something more ‘worthy’?”

Amelia - before and after

Amelia – before and after

Lars

Lars

So the internal dialogue has been going.  I can’t deny the rational thoughts.  No one needs a 1/12 scale Steam Punk figure.  Yet at some very deep level I have known that the process of creating them – battling with the limitations of the materials and my skills – is hugely important to me.  I have felt the same as I did when renovating my dilapidated cottage – an initial mental image of how I want the finished product to look, a moment of doubt when I compared that idea to the reality of the items strewn around me, an intense fixation on the eventual result, an unshakeable belief that it would all work out perfectly and – finally – jubilation at having created the end product.

Henry: yes, they're very small

Henry: yes, they’re very small

It needed a mind and voice more finely tuned than my own to put the importance of ‘You the Creator’ into its true perspective.  I found these words in The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher:

It is the tension between the search for fulfilment or perfection and the actual performance possible in the physical world that promotes creative acts as they are understood.  For true creativity always destroys limitations and increases the mental, spiritual, psychic or physical areas of expression open to man.

That’s it.  It applies as much to the time warping experiments I’m engaged in with William to the little figures I’m building in my study.  It applies to every creative process you are engaged in, too.

 

I think therefore I am;  I create, therefore I am The Creator – and so are you.

 

The Back Door

20161002_103854_resizedThere was only one way in or out of my cottage when I bought it – the huge, ancient black wooden door that opens from the street into a shared hallway.  At the end are separate doors leading to my home and the one adjoining it.  A lane runs along the side of my back garden, but there was no access to it.  I decided I’d feel safer if there was a second way out, just in case…

‘No,’ said the man from the planning office.  Due to its great age and architectural interest, my cottage is Grade 2 listed, which means the planning office can stop me changing anything in the building or the grounds.
‘Boundary fences must be left as they are,’ he told me.  ‘If they break or fall down they must be replaced by identical fence panels.  Any changes would have to be subject to Full Planning Permission.’
He then told me the cost of Full Planning Permission and I went very quiet.

Door, Old, Scrape, Entrance, AntiqueThere are ways around these things.  I asked a skilled craftsman friend to construct me a lockable gate that, from the outside, is completely indistinguishable from a fence panel, but which opens perfectly from the inside.

Why, you may ask, am I prattling on about my invisible back gate?  It’s because of a wonderful analogy I just discovered in the writings of Jane Roberts.

The book has taken weeks to arrive.  I had to order it in from the US, and it was far from cheap.  The title would be enough to put most people off: The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher: The World View of William James.  I had to have it though.

Angel, Wings, Feather, HeavenYou see, I trust Jane Roberts.  I’ve been to so many talks and workshops where channels stand at the front in long, wafty, pastel-coloured frocks and proclaim something like, ‘The Angel Ganneril is here with us in the room.  He is pouring his pale mauve energy on to each of you.  He is telling you to hold love in your hearts and to care for the animals.  Feel the tingling down your spine as…’ and so forth.

Fine.  Such people speak their truth and reach many, but they don’t reach me.

Jane Roberts is a very different character; hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-bitten and as cynical as you like.  Faced with a new situation (in this case, unexpectedly receiving messages from a famous, but dead philosopher) she does what I’d do.  She files it away and ignores it totally, on the grounds that the whole thing seems way too unlikely.  The messages keep coming and Jane feels increasingly uncomfortable, as they don’t fit her world view and she wishes they’d stop.  Finally, she realises that she’d better find out what is going on, and why.  She interrogates the evidence, chats it through with Robert, her husband and eventually asks Seth for guidance.  Only when she is wholly convinced that her world view needs to expand to incorporate this new information, does she decide to write it up and publish.

So anyway, the gate?

Well, I’d had a long and busy day yesterday.  I arrived home after dark, to find the package containing my new book waiting for me.  I grabbed some food and a cup of tea and flicked through a few pages.  The first section was – intriguingly – called Front-Door People, Back-Door People, and World Views.

Her analogy runs thus:

img_20150415_112830_resizedWe all have a conscious mind – what she calls a ‘house of awareness’.  This ‘house’ has a front door, the one we open to the world for normal business and interaction, the one all messages are supposed to come to.  But – she continues – there is a second door, ‘a secret back door from the time of our childhood’.  This is a ‘magic’ entrance, one that opens to other worlds.  Sometimes we can see it; sometimes it’s invisible.  Jane speaks of the half-sensed messengers who sometimes call there and of the strange packages and papers left waiting there for us to find.

It made me smile, as I thought of my physical sometimes-there-sometimes-invisible back gate and what an apt way that is to describe the place where I can receive strange, magical information that comes to me.

The front door of my ‘house of awareness’ was very busy yesterday, but so too, in its quiet yet insistent way, was the back door.  Just as I have all the information in Jane’s book to read and understand, so I have other, more numinous information which has come to me from other sources to sift through and contemplate.  I’ll settle to that now.

 

Pink…

IMG_20160510_123740To quote one of my favourite Aerosmith songs (selectively – don’t want to cause offence), ‘it’s my new obsession’.

Why?  Because it’s the colour I’m painting my bedroom: walls, ceiling, the whole shebang.  Not some trendy hot pink, you understand, more a wistful, nostalgic dusty pink – the colour of the columbines that nod all around the garden below at this time of year.

You’re wondering why I’m updating you on my cottage renovations, no doubt.  Well, like I say, I’m slightly obsessed with it at the moment.  It’s trying hard to take over my life.  If I wanted to go all new agey, I could say it’s grounding me (‘Pink, it’s like red but not quite’ – more Aerosmith).  Not sure about that.  Certainly it’s anchoring me in the physical, if you can call wobbling about on a dust-sheet shrouded bed with a drippy paintbrush anchoring.  This self-created cave becomes my universe.  The aches in my shoulders and neck become my whole experience.  Most of all, though, the pink obliterates the ugly, stained, yellowing white that was there before, so I’m transforming my little world.

IMG_20160504_094431The rest of the cottage was finished ages ago.  This one room – the one that didn’t matter so much, because no one else saw it – was left.  I lavished attention on the spare room, so friends and family would have a lovely space to stay in; the study, so that my students had a good place to work; the kitchen, bathrooms, living room and stairwell – all relatively public spaces.  Then, each night, I’d repair to the depressing, grubby box of a bedroom, peer up at the water-stains left from when the roof used to leak and close my eyes quickly.

It’s taken me two years to give myself the gift of a new bedroom.  How pathetic that sounds!

Decorating is hassle – especially when you’re getting on a bit, arthritic and doing it all alone; especially when you work from home and have to keep parts of the house tidy and acceptable for the students; especially when you know all that peeling ceiling paper has to come off, and that it hides a depressing topography of ravines and craters; especially when most of the furniture is too big to move out of the room and has to be eased and shunted around .  Yes, I’d elevated procrastination to an art form.

IMG_20160522_163501Then I discovered something that will doubtless have been glaringly obvious to you; I was feeling cheated – cheated by myself.  And that was a pretty stupid state of affairs.

I reminded myself that I deserved a beautiful space to rest in, sleep in and wake in.  Suddenly, all those obstacles didn’t seem such a problem.  I’m taking them on, one at a time.

Initially there’s fear:  I pull back a piece of ceiling paper and find a gaping 5 cm hole behind it.  Next I tell the fear to move on, and wait for it to subside.  After that, I wait for the solution to come to me.  If I stay in that mindset, it always does.  Then I work through it.

The room, like so much of the cottage, is becoming a testament to positive thinking.  If I can imagine that it will be solved, then it will be.  Not finished yet, but getting there…

 

 

Morning Glory – Memento Mori

IMG_20150816_092603William Wordsworth may have famously wept to see daffodils ‘fade away so soon’.  Lucky he didn’t grow morning glory.

This is the first time I’ve grown them – nursing the tiny seedlings, transplanting to pots and finally planting them outside.  All that messing around for plants that will vanish at the first frosts, never to return.  I don’t normally bother with annual plants, but that perfect blue drew me, and there was a bare archway in the garden in need of some cover.

The flowers, when they finally appeared, were certainly worth the effort.  They are perfect, stunning, beautiful, and very brief.

IMG_20150913_090045All through August, and still now in September I’ve opened the bedroom curtains each morning, eager to see how many flowers have appeared.  Sometimes only one or two, sometimes ten or more.  After breakfast I’m outside peering into the flowers, drinking in their incredible colour and feeling such gratitude for their presence.  By lunchtime, though, they are fading fast.  Visitors who arrive at two or three in the afternoon are told, “Oh if only you’d come an hour or two earlier, you would have seen them.”

Unidentified Morning Glory Wilted 2000px

All that remains is a crumpled stump of a flower, the petals turned in on themselves, as if ashamed of the toll time has taken on their beauty.

It’s an absurdly short life, isn’t it?  Half a day of glory and they’re gone.  Certainly there are more blooms to replace them the following morning, but still there’s something curiously poignant in the energy and perfection crammed into those short lives.

A bit like us, really…

I always rather liked the idea of adding memento mori  to portraits – the skulls, fading flowers, clocks or hour glasses placed on a side table or held in a hand, to remind the wealthy sitter that ‘this, too, shall pass’, that the fine body and sumptuous clothes are a temporary casing with a limited future.

Gloomy?  Perhaps you’ll see it that way.  To me it seems just fine.  I’m here, in this particular body and life for a few brief decades before moving on.  I don’t measure my value in quantity of years, but in quality of life.

So my morning meditation with my morning glory flowers is a mixture of gratitude for the beauty and perfection of this short life, of determination to make the most of every day – every half day, even – and a calm assurance that there will be countless more flowerings of consciousness to come.

Wish you were here…

On the 17th July last year, I spent my first night in my cottage.  There was nothing much here – just me and an ancient futon (long since free-cycled).

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The furniture didn’t arrive until the next day. I can’t say I slept much that night, but still it was a momentous time for me.

The studio now

The studio now

I never managed a house warming party.  The place was full of workmen until well into the autumn, and by then I was so exhausted and crushed by the whole adventure that parties were the last thing on my mind.

So, I decided, this first anniversary would be the perfect time to celebrate.

Upstairs landing.  Note the large hole in the ceiling!

Upstairs landing. Note that large hole in the ceiling!

Obviously, I’d invite friends – people who helped me with the move, people who took me out for a coffee or a meal when all became too challenging, people who made encouraging comments about the changes and kept me going when miracles seemed a little thin on the ground.

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Then I decided to invite all the neighbours.  They’d put up with months of scaffolding, yelling, banging and clanging without a single complaint.  They must have been curious to know what was going on inside but with typical British reserve, few called round to look.

Next, I wanted to invite back the tradesmen who had made such incredible changes.  After all, such people rarely get to see the finished article.  A room is plastered or a shower plumbed in, but to see those rooms decorated and finished would perhaps be of interest.

The kitchen when I moved in

The kitchen when I moved in

And last but not least, although you’re scattered around the world, I’d love to have invited you, my dear supportive WordPress followers.

The kitchen - now

The kitchen – now

Your likes and comments have been a source of such great pleasure and encouragement since the very start of my LIME story.  I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for a virtual tour of the place, and  you won’t get to meet all the wonderful, warm-hearted friends and neighbours who joined me last Friday, but thank you so much for staying with me on my journey through time to reach the point where I can say the cottage is (mostly) in a fit state to enjoy.

I heard some fascinating stories from neighbours…

There was the time the Chalice Well stream, which still flows beneath the front of the building, suddenly overflowed in the middle of the night.  An elderly couple lived here then and were woken to the sound of rushing water filling the living room.  Apparently the water board engineer was unwilling to do anything at first, since it wasn’t his company’s water.  The neighbour who told me the story described how, in very forthright language, he told the engineer that since his van bore the word ‘water’ and this was indeed that substance, he should put these good people out of their misery and fix the leak at once.  Apparently there have been no problems since.

I was told that the little rubble stone garage that lies in a tiny lane of colour-washed cottages just behind my garden used to be a betting office, while the cottage opposite it once sold paraffin.

The downstairs bathroom then

I discovered that badgers have a huge sett in the garden of the house opposite and can often be seen padding past my fence at night.

Same bathroom now

Same bathroom now

Visitors arrived with jars of home-made jam, cordials and honey, plants and flowers, along with friendship, congratulations and kind words about the renovations.

It was a glorious day and I felt so grateful to have such kind and caring people gathered around me.

Now that I’ve proved to my own satisfaction that miracles can and should be expected, and more-or-less finished my repairs and decorating, I’m free to focus on the other passions in my life – the writing, the metaphysics, the teaching and the living of this glorious physical reality I find myself in at this point in my consciousness.

The alcove now

The alcove now

The alcove in the iving room - then

The alcove in the iving room – then

Stone Mullions

2014-02-28 11.01.26A lovely word – mullions – don’t you think? And the sheer romance of having stone mullions (window frames) was one of the factors that induced me to buy LIME Cottage.

Of course they’d been painted and were yellowing and peeling when I first saw the house, but my meticulous builder and his lads cleaned the outside windows back to the original stonework, even going to the local quarry at Doulting (from where the original stone came, all those centuries ago) and bringing back stone dust to mix with the filler for any cracks that needed repair.

The results were fantastic.  I was delighted.

IMG_20150708_100309Then I began decorating the upstairs front room.  Without a thought I started removing the flaking paint on the window frame, expecting to sand it down and paint over it.  That was when I discovered that with minimal effort, I was revealing the stone on the inside too.

Exciting!

I beavered away with the paint scraper – some parts were easier than others, and had soon exposed a decent sized chunk of stone.

My Man Monday arrived the next day.  LIME Cottage and I like our Man Monday.  He’s a wonderful, intuitive odd-job man who adores old buildings and knows exactly how to treat them.  He comes on Mondays because that’s his day off from running his organic wholefood restaurant.  He was as thrilled as I was to see the stonework and agreed that it had to be cleared.  He showed me how to use various parts of a chisel to remove the paint and buff up the surface.  IMG_20150708_100316A YouTube video taught me how to re-putty the glass (surprisingly easy and fun – like playing with Plasticine) and I was happy.

I suspect the stone had remained untouched for centuries.  Then someone – probably in the 1950s, judging by the materials used, had skimmed a layer of plaster over the stone and covered it with a thick golden lacquer of some sort.  I remember the front door of my parents’ new-build house, in 1956, being covered with this same material, and my father’s deep delight and pride at having this new state-of-the-art finish applied to it.  Maybe whoever was the cottage’s custodian back in those days was equally proud of their work.

The next layer – in the sixties perhaps – was a very pretty pale turquoise – just the colour I probably would have chosen myself, had the mullions not decided it was their time to breathe again.  A few coats of ‘brilliant white’ gloss topped things off, but sun and many years of neglect had worked their magic, providing cracks and crannies for my chisel to get a hold.

IMG_20150711_172246I’ve left flecks of the earlier coats here and there.  They are, after all, part of the cottage’s rich history, as are the dents and chips in the stone.

Sometime in the future, no doubt someone will decide to cover the stone again, with some new technological breakthrough.  That’s fine, and as it should be.  History doesn’t stop.  The cottage will do as it’s always done, adapt and change with the ages.

The stone mullions will continue to look out on the road below, The camper vans and hatchbacks, delivery lorries and tankers, tourists and neo-pagans added to their store of memories.

I love to imagine black-clad puritans and straw-chewing ploughmen passing beneath them; earnest men with pitchforks and muskets rallying to Monmouth’s rebellion; gents in curly wigs, smoking long clay pipes; ladies in lace and sprigged muslin frocks; farm carts and haywains; ponies and traps; horse-drawn coaches filled with journeying Victorians, keen to view the Abbey’s ruins; Dion Fortune and her retinue heading to secret ceremonies at her house, just down the road; eager young farm boys hurrying to sign up to fight in the Great War; heartbroken parents heading to church to mourn for them; hippies with flowers in their hair off to climb the Tor…

My beautiful stone mullion windows have seen all that and more, and caked as I am in stone dust and lead paint chippings, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my intimate encounter with their story.

 

LIME Cottage – A Year On

The Big Room at the start

The Big Room at the start

Almost exactly a year ago, a few weeks before I moved into the cottage, I wrote a post here about my lack of progress in getting contractors to do the necessary structural work on the place before I had to try living here.  It finished with these words:

Any remaining challenges are simply Life working out the way ‘I’ – at some level – have chosen to prove to myself that I can play this game and have this particular adventure.

How very true that was.  I decided it’s about time I commented on how the adventure is going, and what changes it has made to the aspect of myself who has spent the last year wallowing about in plaster, paint and tradesmen.

To give a little background here…  I was married for about 30 years to a man who was a consummate craftsman, able to turn his hand to any kind of carpentry, renovation and decorating project and complete it brilliantly.  In that respect, we made an excellent team: he did all the non-bendy stuff – wood, glass, brickwork etc. while I did the floppy stuff – curtains, soft furnishings and finishing touches.  We shared the painting and wallpapering.  So in short, I was no stranger to doing up oldish houses, but I’d never had any cause to use a hammer, chisel, screwdriver or power drill.

Living alone was pretty easy for the first few years.  When something needed doing in a rented house, I simply called the landlord’s agent and a jolly tradesman appeared within a day or two.

So how scared and inadequate did I feel about moving into a 350 year old wreck and only having enough money to pay for big, vital structural repairs, knowing that just about everything else was down to me?  Very, very, very to both.  I’m not exactly in my first flush of youth; I have the white hair and pensioner’s bus pass to prove it.  I had all sorts of excuses to back down, go on renting and have an easy life.

Would I have gone ahead if I’d known that I’d have to spend three months in the company of scaffolding, workmen and rats?

Probably.

You see there was this insistent little voice deep inside me that kept saying, “You’re up for this.  You can do things you’d no idea you could manage.  You have resources you have never tapped, and you’re going to feel SO good about yourself and LIME Cottage when you come out the other side.”

And you know what?  It was right.

The Big Room now

The Big Room now

In the last two weeks I’ve gone through 2.5 litres of wax floor finish, at least 8 litres of paint and used a hammer, chisel, screwdriver and power drill.  The ‘big room’ I barely set foot in for months, as it needed so much work, is now a guest room/ textile studio.  There’s still work to be done – ‘floppy stuff’, which includes reupholstering a teal velvet chesterfield sofa – but I’m confident that I’ll be able to do it.  Webbing, springs, hessian, various fillings and a cover: how hard can that be?

This is the new me talking – the one who has looked Impossible in the face many times over the last year, applied the LIME principle (Life Is Miracles Expected) and – by many of those miracles – made changes not just to my home, but to my Self.

Any remaining challenges are simply Life working out the way ‘I’ – at some level – have chosen to prove to myself that I can play this game and have this particular adventure.

Lime Cottage’s garden goes large

IMG_20150620_193204

Watering my plants, aged 2

I’ve adored plants for as long as I can remember.  Walks with Grandma Grace on the Sussex Downs were always magical, as she told me the country names for the wild flowers we spotted.
“Those are Milkmaids, in their little bonnets,” she’d say, or, “That’s Jack-by-the-Hedge.  This is Bird’s Foot Trefoil.  See how the flower looks like a little sparrow’s foot?”

I found the names and the flowers equally enchanting.

When I was still too young to read, she bought me the Observer Book of Wild Flowers.
“I know it’s rather grown up for you,” she said. “But I thought you could tick the ones you see, very lightly with a pencil, until you’re bigger and you can read all about the flowers.”

I loved that book.  It went everywhere with me and spotting a new specimen was always a tremendous joy.

Grandma Grace is, naturally, long gone.  What fun she’d have in the garden of Lime Cottage, though, if she were able to visit.  There are some cultivated plants here, of course, but much of the colour and beauty is provided by the native species she loved so much.

IMG_20150620_191143

Yellow Loosestrife at Lime Cottage

The spring brings Bluebells and Herb Robert.  Forget-me-nots follow, then Yellow Flags, Foxgloves, Soapwort, Yellow and Purple Loosestrife along with sundry Cranesbills, Speedwells and Dead Nettles.

Most are welcome (Bindweed and Goosegrass less so) but just occasionally I’m thoroughly perplexed by some unfamiliar arrival.

This spring a very vigorous something began to entrench itself in the centre of a flowerbed.  I couldn’t decide whether it belonged on the compost heap or deserved a place in the garden, but since I was curious, I gave it a stay of execution and waited to see what it would be.

The leaves were soft and downy, their shape familiar, but I couldn’t recall seeing anything quite like this.  With the most amazing rapidity, the stem became a trunk and the plant was peering down at me from at least 8 feet in the air.  I’d never seen anything like it.  Even if I’d been able to hack through it, by now I had no intention of doing so.  It’s sheer rampant energy and determination had earned it a place in the garden.

Clusters of buds began to form.  Now these DID look familiar – I’d seen this species many times before, but only at a tiny fraction of the size.  The clusters of buds multiplied by the day – there must be several hundred now.  Each day, I’d hurry down to see if any had opened.  If this was what I thought it was, I would be in for a spectacular show.

Yesterday I finally got my reward.  This huge beauty was smiling down at me.

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Out came the Concise British Flora (the Observer Book having long since vanished) and I hunted for a species of mallow that grows like a triffid.  There it was – a Tree Mallow!  Apparently they’re very rare in England – only found occasionally on Cornish cliffs.  How it had found its way into my garden is a complete mystery.

It’s not perhaps as tidy as its cultivated cousins, and it has certainly laid claim to a huge patch of ground, but I’m delighted with my ‘tree’.  It flowers, the book tells me, from July to September, so it seems that I’ll have a flower-filled summer.

Being biennial, it will go out in a blaze of glory – leaving as suddenly as it arrived.  I have a feeling, though, that its offspring will return.

Wise, sometimes then, to wait before making a judgement.  So glad I did.

Lime Cottage Update

Living room - then

Living room – then

A few words of explanation to those who are new to Janonlife and haven’t been following the LIME story…

Last year I took a huge step into the unknown and bought an empty, ruined shell of a place – against the advice of many, I might add – because, despite the collapsed ceiling, the cracks in the walls, the leaking roof and the rats, it felt like home in some strange way.

Owning an ancient cottage had always been a distant dream, although I have to admit, my reveries had revolved around buildings with a little more superficial charm than this one at first presented.  It was an ugly dung brown colour with peeling paintwork and an unpleasant 1950s extension at the back.  A neglectful landlord had literally left it to rot over many years.

The first six months of 2014 were taken up with structural surveyors, planning officers, solicitors and insurers.  Not fun.

Living room - now

Living room – now

The next three months revolved around electricians, carpenters, plumbers and builders.  The cottage was encased in scaffolding; the garden was lost under ever-expanding piles of builders’ rubbish and I was hiding somewhere inside amongst the dark and dust. Drilling, hammering and inane banter on tinny radios had become the backdrop to my everyday life.

I’m not pretending it wasn’t stressful and difficult, but I was kept together by the kindness of others and the endless synchronicities and small miracles that took place.  I adopted the belief that Life Is Miracles Expected, which is how the cottage earned its name.  I found that I needed only to focus on a desired outcome to any situation, and the resolution would be perfect.  The cottage’s main gift to me has been to enable me to see the whole of LIFE that way.

In mid autumn, the workmen drifted away and the cottage and I finally had the chance to bond.

“Well, at least you’ve got a blank canvas,” a friend remarked grimly, when he looked around.  True.   I’d never tackled solo decorating before, but having started on the tiny pantry and been pleased and surprised with the result, my confidence started to grow and I moved on to work on whole rooms.

The kitchen - then

The kitchen – then

I know my limits, and have a loyal, friendly band of workmen/handymen to draw on when a task is beyond me, but those limits of mine have grown fewer as I’ve mastered new skills.

When a man arrived yesterday to dismantle and freecycle an unwanted wardrobe, I was able to offer him the use of my power screwdriver.
“That’s a tidy little piece of kit,” he told me, as he finished.
Certainly is!

The kitchen - now

The kitchen – now

Even drilling holes in the 350 year old stone walls no longer holds fears for me (well not many, anyhow).

This week a specialist lime plasterer is coming to give the upstairs walls a new spring coat in traditional style.  Then I’ll be back to the paint catalogues, vintage furniture boutiques and charity shops to begin the next stage.

I suspect it will be never-ending.  I hope so, because despite the costs and the effort involved, I’m loving the creative process of renovating Lime Cottage, and I feel that the cottage is enjoying it too.