stories and illustration

Farewell to the Cherry Blossom


When I was very young we lived in a house which had a cherry tree in the yard. The blossom filled me with delight, and when it was fallen I felt sad. My grandmother had an old book of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations to Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, where the plates were all at the back of the book, separate from the text, hand-mounted on thick dark card, with each painting laid under transparent paper. You had to lift the paper carefully, it wasn’t quite tissue paper, to look at the pictures. The book was sold after a family crisis, but recently I bought a new, less special copy for myself, so I can still look at the illustrations.  The feeling I had for the  that original book, the pictures under the protective film, made me think also of the feeling that I had for the cherry blossom, which I could see from my bedroom window.  I still remember the sadness when the flowers began to fall.


In Coldstream and the district round about there are many many cherry trees.  When I remarked on this, my husband told me that a farmer had told him that an order for trees  had been made, an order for hundreds of different trees, but that when the trees arrived, they were ALL cherry trees; and that, instead of sending them back, it had been decided to plant them anyway, here, there and everywhere. There is apparently a whole plantation of them up beyond Lennel, which I hope I shall be able to seek out at next year.

 There are older trees, which have obviously been in place since before the Wrong Order:


And younger trees, which were probably planted after the Wrong Order:


There are also probably variations on the theme cherry that I have not delved into.  The pink cherry is very pretty, but for me the cherry blossom that makes my heart lift is the white cherry.  So it has been good to live amoung these trees, this cold Spring:



The cherry blossom starts to fall, just as other flowers are rising up out of the earth:


And it is poignant to walk home along the path strewn with blossom, when the trees above are no longer shining white along the way:


May 29, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Prettiness of Dandelion Clocks


I have spent time and money on lethal concoctions for the plethora of dandelions on the lawn, and while withering them down to magenta shreds, could not help admiring their persistance, and their egg-yolk (free-range) yellow, shunting itself up day after day, everywhere;  of course borne by and born from dandelion seeds.. . but out today walking on the edge of the newly planted field I stopped by a half blown clock and saw how delicate it was.


Almost impossile to paint, by me at any rate.  The tall bank which I made a canvas of last summer, creating a background of abstract stem patterns, then painting the names of the flowers I had seen there over the top – this bank, in part at least,  is being carved out by machinery, which is also cutting into the land at the far side of the field.  Fair enough, of course.  Only doing on a large scale what I was doing attacking the dandelions on the lawn.  But here at least a small homage to the plant, and its life force:


and its ubiquity, and its prettiness in dispersion and decay, and its toughness in coming back, over and over, at its appointed hour:


May 24, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Windowsill: Portraits, Shadows, Rose


In the evening, the sun coming slant through the nets, reflections, shadows, caught just before I went out.  I want to take some more pictures of the windwsill, but today the louring skies are back, the Leet will be overflowing across the green as likely as not, so no shadows, no light. Yesterday in the wind the cherry bloosom blowing throug the air looked like hail. I shall hie me outside to get some fresh air, and keep an eye out for a day with brightness but not too much sun, so I can take some photographs of a particular tree stump that I liked, up in the Hirsel woods.  For the moment, au revoir.



May 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking Among Trees in the Hirsel


Blossom on the Half-Protected Tree

A warm day at last, so I take the back lane behind the Hirsel golf course, deciding to be out all afternoon. The route is full of shadows, which bend across and take colour from anything in their way, such as this bank and turquoise detritus at the entrance to the lane:

The bridge with the date 1893 crosses the Leet, shallow today, whereas not long ago it was overflowing its banks, benches and daffodils standing in water, and swans swimming above the bases of trees:


The Old Bridge

The daffodils are fading fast now the sun is shining, but primroses are everywhere:


To the left of the path is a patch of swampy ground. This is the kind of place where last summer the insects bit me, sticking to my skin, and I came out in these strange itchy patches all over my skin.  This year I have seen bees and butterflies.  This is to the good.  One year not so long ago there seemed to be no insects around at all.  And last year I did not see a butterfly, even on the buddleias by the river, until September:


Little Patch of Swamp


Catch the Sun

The wild garlic in the woods is like a dusting of snow, or ground frost:


Wild Garlic and Tree-Shadows

There are periwinkles on the wood floor, and the flowers I thought when young were called “Wooden Enemies”, and cowslips, that I thought had almost disappeared from the countryside:




And here is the first bluebell I have seen this year, with its attendant bee:


Bluebell and Bee

And here is the Hirsel itself, seen from the back, across the wet meadows:


The Hirsel, Seen from the Back


A Gate and its Shadow

And a little further on, the fox-branched willows in the wet patch of ground:

hirsel 27

The ground opens out into meadows round the Leet:


The Leet Seen from the Bridge

Across the other side of the bridge is this inscription, laid into the wall:


I turn back homewards, through the woods on the other side of the river:


Throughout the whole afternoon, I have met nobody except one man out walking with his dog.


May 8, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birds in My Room


Julia’s Bird

I wondered how many images of birds I could discover in my room.  The bird with the crown is a panel by glass artist Julia Davies, who lives in Berwick upon Tweed.  I find her work beautiful. This bird is in the window, together with this jug which was given to me by my cousin Lucy, and which should have dried grasses in it but doesn’t at the moment:

april rooms 2

Lucy’s Jug

This box belonged to a friend of mine, Helen Harris, who died of leukemia:


Helen’s Box

This peacock scarf was bought by Tony, my husband, from a shop that used to be in Coldstream, selling objets d’art from France.  I don’t know whether it is French or not.  One day I will have a neat black top and will go out with him looking a tad elegant with this scarf draped round my shoulders (elegance is not my usual mode).  In the meantime, because I find it gorgeous to have around, it is hung over the back of a chair upholstered in red velvet, a chair which goes way back in my husband’s life, and which  I suspect has been witness, if chairs can witness, to many interesting events.


The Peacock Scarf

These birds were a wedding memento from my friend, Jennifer:


For a Wedding, from Jennifer

The little chinese bird in its circular frame cost me £3.50 in a charity shop.  On the other hand, the original Aboriginal painting I bought for £1.25 is downstairs. That too has a wonderful bird on it.


Embroidered Bird

This plate, which I think can be counted as representing a kind of bird (well, sort of), has been in the family for as long as I can remember, and somehow I ended up with it, travelling from Cumbria to Sunderland (in many different flats there), and from Sunderland to the West Country, and from the West Country to Berwick upon Tweed, and thence to Coldstream.  I think it is a kind of Portuguese Wyvern, though I am sure that isn’t a recognised description at all:


Old Portuguese Plate

I start hunting for birds, and find more of them on the big fan:


The Big Fan

and in the picture I did of the table in the porch (the conservatory manque)outside the kitchen, where objects accumulate week by week.  The cockerel is a largish bird that was bargained for over two years by my husband before a price was agreed. It precedes me in the household. The hat is Tony’s hat, he has more hats than any man I ever met, probably more hats than any man in Berwickshire, with the possible exception of members of the aristocracy, who probably have hats in their back rooms and cupboards that have not seen the light of day for many years:


Tony’s Table

There are ducks on my make-up bag:


The Make-up Bag

And peacocks on the brass calendar:


The (Rather Optimistic) 100 Year Calendar

Finally a few books:


Birds on Book Bindings

This little robin was so low down I nearly forgot about him.  He was a present from another Robin, a friend, for whom I have painted robins and hares:

aprilbirds 13

Robin’s Robin

And finally, cheating, a little cushion that was given to me.  If angels aren’t birds, or birds aren’t angels, then… well, whatever.  Peace and Love.


Goodwill to All

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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