I was born in the merry month of May, the month when lily of the valley blooms and permeates the air with its heady fragrance. Is it any wonder that I love that flower? My grandmother’s birthday was May 14th. I was supposed to be her birthday present but was a tad lazy and was born on the 16th. Although we did not share a common birthday, Nana and I certainly shared our love for these dainty, bell-like white flowers. (more…)
Food shopping always meant the supermarket – where my choice was from an uninspiring array of pre-packed produce. Then I discovered the joys of the farm shop and became one of its most loyal customers. The owner, Harry, sold fresh fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, and a selection of locally-sourced meat and sausages. His ‘pick your own’ was legendary, attracting customers from miles around. (more…)
Despite having central heating, we still needed the extra warmth provided by our open fire. Dave would saw up logs which I learned to stack. My urbanite background meant that I knew nothing about laying or starting a fire but I was an apt pupil. ‘Banking a fire’ was a term that stymied me. Wasn’t ‘banking’ what you did with your money? (more…)
My knowledge of British birds was embarrassingly limited. Imagine my excitement when I spotted a very large, most unusual specimen on our bird table – only to be deflated when Dave identified it as merely the common wood pigeon. Dave continued my avian education by identifying other British birds for me. He ‘warned’ about magpies: ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’ – making me slightly apprehensive if I spotted a solo bird in our garden. (more…)
Striding across a field with Dave one cold January morning, I stopped suddenly. ‘Who’s coughing?’
I asked. Eyes twinkling with amusement, he replied, ‘That’s a pheasant calling.’ There, on
the other side of the hedgerow, was a beautiful male, feathers aglow in the winter sunshine. (more…)
Dave and I revelled in exploring the Sussex countryside. We came upon many charming, centuries-old churches, each with its own special history. I was enchanted by one in particular which we found
at the top of a long winding lane, overlooking the Downs. I felt instinctively it just had to be the venue for our first Sussex Midnight Mass. (more…)
‘Whatever made me think I could do this?’
I fastened my seat belt with shaking fingers as the BOAC VC10 prepared for take off from New York’s Kennedy Airport bound for London on that memorable September evening in 1966.
The next ten months would change my life forever. (more…)
I am not religious in the conventional sense but to me, going to the theatre is a quasi-religious experience which I’ve enjoyed since age 13. My theatrical debut – in the sense of my first outing to the theatre – was when my parents took me to see a Broadway production of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ — and from that age instilled in me a kind of code of conduct of acceptable behaviour in the theatre. One thing was certain: you were never to consume food in your seat at any time. (more…)
When I first saw southern England from the air, I was struck by how ‘pretty’ it all looked – a charming, higgledy-piggledy, irregular patchwork of myriad shades of green. I thought to myself, “Yes, you were right, William Blake – this truly is a ‘green and pleasant land’. “ I was just getting used to England’s more subtle colours – different from New York’s brashness – when April arrived. Before my very eyes, the fields began to sprout little tufts of yellow that, over the weeks, spread out like a paint spill, growing in intensity so that they almost vibrated with colour. My gentle English countryside had completely dazzled me with its WOW factor!
‘Is it mustard?’ I asked Dave – which was the only thing I could think of that could be that colour. ‘No, it’s rape.’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ I spluttered, thinking he was being rude. Then he told me about rapeseed oil. I had no idea that it was so good for you – with healthful Omega 3 fatty acids plus vitamin E. I felt sad when the flower heads started to fizzle out – like champagne going flat – and looked forward to the return of the rape next spring.
Then May arrived and England surprised me yet again with stunning colour. This time it was bluebells. Walking through local woodlands was like wading through a sea of intense blue, and I revelled in it. My camera could not satisfactorily capture the beauty around me: the trees just coming into delicate leaf complemented by the buoyant bluebells beneath. Dave explained the difference between the true English bluebell versus the interloping Spanish variety, and the threat that the latter poses. It was all I could do to resist the urge to grab my trowel and dig up all the foreigners!
Published in the Spring edition of Country File magazine
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