caralockhartsmith

stories and illustration

The Little Path of Flowers

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I was told that at the top of the path that runs from Lennel up to the little cemetary there was an abundance of wild flowers, and since I am on the trail of this abundance this year especially, I took the  walk through the lower wood, across the steep lane, then into the far wood, where in the spring the rooks have their nest in the trees by the river, and make the most stupendous noise.  Today there are only a few desultory caw-caws. The path winds upward quite steeply and comes out beyond the trees, there is a clear spot where you can look down on to the Tweed, and there is the trail of the small path almost vanishing beneath the flowers (I dont think many people can walk this way):

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I don’t know how long this lusciousness of wild flowers will last.  I have noticed that at this time of year the paths are strimmed, so that whilst there is a lining of plants, this lush delicate growth is cut back to the margins.  Of course, if the land was left untended, then nettles and docks and sorrel would take over, as has taken place just beyond the river on the other side of Coldstream Bridge, in Another Country.

I have been trying this year to capture these fleeting moments while I can.  I have also taken pictures of individual plants, so that later in the year I can go through my photographs and recognise the individual species, so as to try and emulate, over a couple of years, the more than 150 different species I had written down as having seen when I must have been about ten years old.  I can’t remember going out looking at flowers at all: if it wasn’t for a list at the back of a book I would hardly, consciously, recall this search at all, though I know it was my grandfather who took me out on Chailey Common in Sussex when I was very young, looking all round, and especially keeping an eye open for autumn gentians, that used to grow there – maybe still do.

I stopped by this bench, with its touching inscription:

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And looked down over the Tweed, and the fields beyond, with the young wheat growing:

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If I sit on the bench where Esme loved to sit I would have problems seeing the water, as the foliage is so dense.  But it would be a lovely spot to sit anyway.  I continue up the path, looking at the flowers on the way:

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Until I come to the cemetary at the top of the path:

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It is very peaceful up here. Some of the gravestones are too sad to photograph, so I took a picture of one celebrating the life of a couple who seemed to have had long lives, for their time, and a handsome gravestone to commemorate it, deep within the long grass:

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And on the way back down the high road, to end on a cheerful note, I see this rose in the hedgerow, starting to fade at the edges here and there, as roses do, but a splash of lovely colour amid the green:

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June 26, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Pastel and a Photograph Propped up on a Windowsill

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This is a pastel of my grandmother done when she was young, by her aunt. My grandmother Eva Macpherson came from Newfoundland to Europe, and her aunt was Margaret Campbell Macpherson, “Aunt Madge”, who also came from St Johns, and lived in France from 1899 till she died in Verseilles in 1931. Her companion, Josephine Hoxie Bartlett, had to abandon the studio when the Germans invaded France,  so there are probably painting and pastels that have disappered. I have carted this pastel of my grandmother through many vicissitudes. It has inhabited a house in Liddesdale, rackety student flats in Sunderland, a house in Berwick upon Tweed. The photograph  in the decorative frame, which I have also had with me for many years, is of myself as a baby, with my grandmother.  The reflections come  from the sun of the solstice shining through the glass.

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Walking the Oxenrig Path

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It is a long time since I walked up over Oxenrig, which is where I go when I want to feel far away from roads and houses.  Later in the summer, walking up there, one sees hawks and hares, though this time there was little sign of wildlife. except for wood pigeons, which are ubiquitous. Noisy-winged birds,  I can even recognise the sound they make when disturbed, invisible, in a thicket of trees..  Instead of acres of wheat there is a lot of rape crop planted this year.  But the feeling of walking over the hills and far away is still there.

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A chaffinch on a treetop tweeted me up the road, where looking back I saw my husband walking along another route.  I wish I had taken a photograph of him rather than the chaffinch.  He is dressed for walking, in his gear and straw hat, and thinks I am taking a photograph of him. He looks like a French Impressionist out on the prowl for subject matter. He goes down one road, and I go up the hills, past the first poppy of the summer that I have seen, through the piles of stone, and out on to the path, taking a look sideways at the array of yellows, and the gate to the field:

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 Then on up the path. At the top of the hill I look back towards the farm, which no longer is the egg farm, but is still being used, I  heard activity in the sheds as I was passing, and there is a strangely old-fashioned tractor there, like something out of a fifties farm set, rather than the machines like small houses that thunder slowly along the roads round here.

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The road goes up and down, up and down, it is good for the respiration, I don’t notice that I have any asthma at all, inspite of the hills and the rape fields, possibly because it is so peaceful up here, and I am going at my own pace.

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At the bottom of a hill is this rather sinister-looking enclave, where they raise chicks, or maybe where they did raise chicks, I don’t know whether this is chick chicks or other chicks, anyway, I did see a hawk scything through their at low level last year, obviously on the qui vive. Everything is open now and looks a bit derelict, the pine trees make for dead ground cover, it is a bit of a Mr Todd kind of a place.

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So it is nice to see a healthy-looking bee among the plants outside:

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The path goes up and down, up and down, past the pylons which I have always found exciting, even when I was a child:

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Past the stream strengthened with stones caged in wire, this stream I couldn’t cross last summer further down the fields, as I was trying to find a short cut back to the town. Here it is almost dry, and looks more sinister than it is, as I am photographing facing the sun:

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I have walked quite a few miles now, there is no going back the way I came, so at each hill I look forwards to try and spy the gate at the end of the path. There is a small sheltered woody area, and then the path opens out, and there is the gate leading back on to the road, only a small road, which will eventually lead back on to the main Duns road, which will eventually lead me back to Coldstream, stepping into the verge when cars go by at a furious pace. There’s still some way to go:

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On the small road, the buttercups line the roadside, and I walk along the unfamiliar route (I usually turn back and retrace my steps) I am still taking pictures of the roadside as I go:

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And  I say hello to the same stream I saw, in its different guise, on the Oxenrig path, as it now crosses under the main highway . I am nearly home.

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June 19, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Comeback Flowers

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

Farewell to the Cherry Blossom

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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.

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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:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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

The Windowsill: Portraits, Shadows, Rose

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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.

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

Birds in My Room

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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:

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Lucy’s Jug

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

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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.

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The Peacock Scarf

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

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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.

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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:

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Old Portuguese Plate

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

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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:

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Tony’s Table

There are ducks on my make-up bag:

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The Make-up Bag

And peacocks on the brass calendar:

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The (Rather Optimistic) 100 Year Calendar

Finally a few books:

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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:

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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.

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Goodwill to All

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

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