Monday, May 30, 2011
Someone just asked: Where is Foxglove Lane, I'd love to go there? Good question I said.
Simply put it is the little lane that I live on with a small number of neighbours in rural County Waterford. It meanders along beside a small lake and ends up in Biddy's farmyard after about a mile. It was only tarred as a road about three years ago, until then it was a very dusty and potholed track and, yes there are lots of wild flowers, trees, animals, insects and beloved Foxgloves. Do you remember the nursery rhyme:
Baa baa black sheep have you any wool, yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame and one for the little girl who lived down the lane.
When I remembered these lines recently I re-lived the very moment when a thought was sown in my mind that a girl who lived down a lane would have a charmed existence. So Foxglove Lane then is also a place of memory, of imagination, of escape, of connection with the spectacular as part of the everyday, and now is also a virtual world through this blog.
My virtual Foxglove Lane doesn't linger on the pong of a slurry spreading day or the dangerous amount of illegal dumping which is on the increase here. It can't capture the fear of some of the older people when fast cars fly down the dirt tracks or when drinking parties errupt in the woods. Some day I will photograph the aftermath of the day trippers, or some of the havoc created by pesticide spraying. Maybe.Probably not.
The temporary and fragile beauty that surrounds us all, wherever we live is worthy of some record. As long as it lasts this little piece of sheltered wilderness will continue to provide my inspiration. Thanks for asking and by the way what do you love about your place? It would be great to hear.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Recent research proves the value of listening to jazz. Tonight we are listening to jazz in Foxglove Lane, not because it is supposed to be good for you but because it is wonderful. It feeds the soul and touches the heart.
What do they define as Jazz? Well it 's everything from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Stephane Grappelli and Miles Davis, from the Cuban sound to the New York sound, both traditional and contemporary. All music has positive effects, but the research shows that cool jazz works very well in reducing cortisol the stress hormone, and lowering blood pressure. They say the effects last for about 30 minutes after you have finished listening.
What could it be about jazz that has this particular impact? They don't really seem to know. I think that the stream of creativity and improvisation that occurs in jazz connects very quickly to the listener. The emotion and the sound is coming directly from the musician's core. Sometimes even where there are lyrics, it's the tone and the mood which linger. Even if you hate jazz have a look at Kieth Jarrett, here live in Japan. I think it's easy to see how incredible and uplifting live creative jazz musicianship can be. (One man makes love to a piano is another way of viewing it! ) This does it for me anyway. What particular music is your stress buster?
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Here are the first photos of the earliest wild Foxgloves here on the Lane. The Foxglove is fairly common in Ireland and is especially prolific around here. It's Botanical name is Digitalis Purpurea and the Irish is Lus Mor. They are used in the manufacture of a drug for certain heart conditions and are poisonous if you eat them. I think they are truly the most exotic and spectacular of all our wild flowers and I could photograph and admire them forever. I won't be able to resist more and more photos all through the month of June when they are in full bloom. Prepare to be swooning!
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Winnie is one of the artists who lives on Foxglove Lane. Her house is a haven of peace in among trees, ferns and bluebells. On Sunday she made us lunch and while chatting I decided to feature the cosiest of the cottages around here on this blog from time to time. Winnie's is one of my favourites and she kindly agreed to be the first to share what her home means to her.
What do you love about your home?
I love that its surrounded by green and the way the light and the colours change when the sun comes in at different angles during the day. Also all the little bits of art or china that I have picked up along the way or loved ones have given me. Its very much my space.
What do you miss when you are away?
My bed and lying out on the sofa watching telly or looking out the window.
What's your favourite bit?
The sitting room and my wall of family photographs in my bedroom that I look at just before I turn out the light to go to sleep.
What's for dinner?
Ah well that could be anything from a lovely salad, left over roast chicken, fried eggs on toast or cheese and crackers depending on the mood ! Love pasta and am particularly into butternut squash risotto at the moment or roast veg and basmati rice with a tahini dressing. Yummy........
What do you do on the long dark evenings?
Listen to the radio (including the Archers on BBC Radio 4) till after 7.00pm and have had dinner then watch the TV or talk on the phone. If am very industrious then finishing off some drawing or little job and then going to bed to read for a while. Try to be asleep by 11.00pm but its usually about 12.00.
Well there is a question that even I cannot answer. Probably more of the same unless I do something about it, but then not so sure that I want to do anything about it !!!
Friday, May 20, 2011
Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta or Coinnle corra, are in full bloom right now. They come out just after the spring flowers and before my beloved Foxgloves. A gentle sweet scent is released as as you walk through them. Today it is warm with a light breeze and brings back those childhood memories of long days and playing out in the meadows.
I also discovered another fabulous website called http://www.wildflowersofireland.net a labour of love and a great resource.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I have only been away for a week and this little girly...... and her brothers and sisters ......have made mince meat out of my hollyhocks! I covered up the lettuce plants and Paddy's young cabbages, but didn't think I needed to worry about the flower plants. I caught this photo of the pesky blighter this evening. But I know she's so cute...... we have a kind of complicated relationship.......
Just back from Lithuania. Having seen castles, churches and the beautiful old town of Vilnius, these simple homes in the village of Trakai reminded me of the universal importance of home. They belong to a group of Lithuanian Karaite who's ancestors came from Crimea in the fourteenth century. They are small wooden houses with three windows to the front. One window is said to be for God, one for the Archduke, and one for the Karaite. Each one has a small garden, some have outhouses or orchards and as they are beside a small lake, many have jetties and boats at the end of the plot.
There are certainly issues to be resolved in Lithuania but there is one universal truth and that is the love and attachment to home. It was sad to see the many parents and friends at the airport waving goodbye to their children, en route to work in Ireland. As the average wage there is 200 euros a month it is an essential part of their present development. It is also again a very familiar sight in Ireland as our children go in all sorts of directions to Germany, the UK or Australia. But they are making new lives and homes in interesting ways too. They say home is where the heart is.......
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Sometimes my work takes me cross country from County Waterford to Callan in Kilkenny. Callan is one of the most inclusive small towns in Ireland as it has a number of innovative projects for people with special needs, the Camphill Community, KCAT and L'Arche. (L'Arche have a great cafe, worth making a detour for by the way)
One of the routes I take is over the rambling and isolated Kilmaganny hills, the alternative takes me through Dunamaggin and Lough Brack. On this road there is a graveyard surrounded by an intact wall right in the middle of a field full of cattle. Over the last few months it has caught my attention and I have seen it in bleakest winter, in the snow and now in the spring.
Earlier this week I hopped out of the car and managed to get this shot just before the cattle were on top of me and I had no elbow room to photograph anything! It has a simple quiet atmosphere....
Thursday, May 5, 2011
I have photographed this little tree which grows on Foxglove Lane over the years and at different times and seasons. Although native to Ireland The Hawthorn, also grows in parts of Europe, Africa and Asia.
When I was a child these trees were considered to be either magical or holy and I often saw them littered with offerrings and talismen. Farmers around here would go out of their way to avoid them for fear of the "faeries" who were said to live near them, in them, and frolic beneath them.
Although the blossoms at this time of the year are beautiful, they are never brought into the house, for fear of bad luck. I have also heard that tying a symbolic rag to the tree brings good luck, there are no end of different traditions and tales.
This tree demonstrates the magical quality we have attributed to it. It is so self contained. It stands there quietly unique in all it's proud glory. Yet........it demands our attention when we pass!
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Every Mayday I think of the huge celebrations I attended once in Havana.
On Mayday morning our hosts, a writer, his beautiful dancer wife and his mother aged 85, went scouring the streets to get eggs for our breakfast. Unfortunately we had to go hungry that day and instead joined the throngs on their way to the location for the start of the celebration march. Open backed lorries full of rural farm workers arrived early and the unions grouped under the various banners. The march followed a route which passed by the memorial to the revolution and saluted the political leaders, in this case Raul Castro. It was a bit like St. Patrick's Day, an atmosphere of giddy anticipation with a few sips of rum now and again and a sea of red and blue.
Back at the flat, the elderly mother was muttering about the authorities, hoping her son wouldn't hear her dissent. Her display of glassware which pre-dated the revolution was her pride and joy, and she whispered to us about Frank Sinatra and the glory days of Havana during the 1950's. Dinner was served by the family kitchen worker who had spent the day peeling vegetables and the beautiful dancer prepared for an evening of flamenco and carnival at the crumbling National Theatre.
Later, before the show began, the audience gave a standing ovation to the arrival of a bent and smiling Alicia Alonso, the founder of the National Ballet and the closest thing there is to a Queen. Dance is as important to Cubans as music is to the Irish. On the Malecon, a seafront promenade, groups of young and old would dance on into the morning.......
See a few more photos from Cuba in the "Snooping around some other countries" page.