stories and illustration

Late Flowering


The foliage of this flower, which I pass as I am going out the back gate, is  cadmium red and maroon tined with oxide of chromium green, but the hydrangea flower, which I had originally tagged as a rhododendron, has kept its greeny-white bloom unmarked by rust, and it shines out against the little gold leaves of the background plant. I used to think hydrangeas were commonplace flowers, but think this no more. Today I had a big wasp flying groggily around the studio, quite on its last wings, I lifted it off to the damp outdoors. We cleared out a cupboard and found a tiny daddy-long-legs in an old soup tureen. But these are remnants of insects. There was the sound of feet skittering away in the attic; but they have now ceased, hopefully we won’t have our waterpipes chewed this year. Blackbirds are back in the garden, so when I throw out the apple cores, by the next day they are quite eaten away.

November 16, 2014 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bed of Wild Flowers


Some time back, in late spring, I bought a kind of thin tissuey roll, which was apparently embedded with wild flower seeds. We decided to use a raised bed in the vegetable garden for wild flowers, as we wanted to encourage bees and other insects. The roll was opened out and laid on the bed and thinly sprinkled with earth.  Nothing much happened, except a lot of grass seed from droppings from the bird table.  I thought what a waste of time. Another small packed of flower seed was bought and sprinkled.  Again nothing.  In desperation a packet of wild flower seed from Homebase was produced and this was added to the mix. Still nothing.  A friend who came a month or so ago, after seeing the rest of the verdant and blooming garden, said to me: “Your bit needs some attention,” as she thought it was just a few weeds in what should be a pristine bed.  Then suddenly, overnight it seemed, there were flowers. Plenty of them.  And bees and butteflies and numerous smaller insects. Even a corn cockle, very beautiful, apparently poisonous, which I didn’t photograph until it was on the way out. When I have finished the paintings  I am working on at the moment, for exhibition, I will hover about the wildflower patch with the hover flies and try and capture some insects enjoying the poppies et al. Meanwhile I will collect some poppy seeds, and look out for somewhere I can buy some corn cockles to cultivate for next year.


July 30, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Peacock Butterfly on Comfrey by River Tweed


Good to see the butterflies in action from early in the year, after their almost complete absence from this part of the world last year.  Insects everywhere, one notices that humming in the air, and their clustering on plants they enjoy.  I am keeping a watch on the buddleia along Nun’s Walk, in the hope that when the flowers come out they will once more be covered in butterflies and bees.  In the meantime, the wildflowers that were planted in the raised bed in the vegetable garden are beginning to show above the soil, helped by the intermittent rain and sun; though some of the growth is undoubtedly grass sprung from dropped birdseed.  I am working in the Tardis on the Hare book, listening to the Gypsy King, every now and then getting up to watch the birds out of the window as they cluster round the bird table.  There are a couple of greedy ring doves, but they are too pretty to shoo away. Besides, a bird is a bird. The Midnight Hare is coming along, I think he needs some charismatic eyes.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comeback Flowers


Some years ago I went on a walk along a patch of ground where there were apparently an interesting variety of flowers growing. Ramblers dressed in full gear, myself in my ordinary boots and coat, felt a fool for a moment, but we walked two miles gently on the flat for two hours, so it wasn’t strenuous. However, I remember we searched for the odd flower here and there along this walk, which I believe was the path of a deserted railway line.  Yes, it was a lovely walk with good people. Yes, there were some flowers here and there among the grasses, which we looked up in Collins guides. But in all that walk we scarcely saw an insect, and no birds were singing at all.


Even last year, there was a scarcity of insects.  I didn’t see a butterfly at all until really late last summer.


Years ago, when my son was young, the hedgerows were almost barren of flowers.  Going even further back – I found this old book that I had had when I was young, about nine, and in the end pages (I was an inveterate scribbler in books) I had listed over 150 varieties of flowers that I had seen, and more than 50 species of birds. I thought maybe this generosity of flora had disappeared for ever.


Something has happened. Suddenly we are knee deep in flowers, banks and fields of them.  Not  rare flowers, but beautiful en masse.


The other day I stood quietly and I could hear the hum of insects in the air.  In places that are left without any husbandry the nettles take over, so perhaps this sudden florescence has been managed.  The farmer  has been putting down weedkiller just along the margins of the fields, so that edging the fields is a narrow and very specific yellow line, which I have not seen before. I know that there is an arrangement to mow the verges on alternate sides of the road each year, to allow plants to flourish.  Has anything else been going on?  Are people suddenly not using the same weedkiller or using different methods of stopping crops being infiltrated? Whatever it is, the effect is beautiful, and makes life feel better.



June 13, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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