In And Out The Dusty Bluebells

Spring has finally turned a corner in England now we have slipped into May. Typically, it being May Bank Holiday here, the weather is still on the chilly side (I have the heating on!) and it’s raining. The forecast promises warm weather by the end of this week, much to everyone’s relief. It has been a good year for spring flowers though and now the daffodils have given way to the most glorious (I think) wild flower displays this country puts on, for May represents bluebell time. Whilst in some locations they often appear in April if the weather is warm enough, invariably it is the non-native species that bloom first.

mXPDKBMIt is a sad fact that English bluebells are unique but being slowly but surely eroded by foreign counterparts introduced here way back in the early 1900s.  Known as Spanish bluebells, they are different in many respects to our own native species but so common now, most people do not know the difference. The plants are common in people’s gardens too, as seeds can be readily purchased and easy to grow. As a consequence, they have self-seeded along hedgerows and verges and able to cross-pollinate with our native species, thus destroying their uniqueness. This is such a shame.

So, how can you tell which is which? There are four simple ways.

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The Spanish Invader

First is colour. In the Spanish varieties (hyacinthoides hispanica) the bell-shaped flowers are pale blue, often white, and occasionally pink. The native English (hyacinthoides non-scripta) bluebell flower is darker, more a cobalt blue. The second is the way the flowers hang on the stalks. In the foreign variety, the stem is upright with the bells flowering around it, the flower heads fairly large and open tipped and more prolific. In our native plant, the stem arches with the flowers hanging on down one side only, and with fewer bells.

English native

English native

The third clue is pollen: the Spanish flower has blue or green pollen; in the English variety it is white or cream. The fourth, and to my mind the most important, difference is perfume. There is no smell to Spanish varieties whilst the true English form will scent a woodland glade with a subtle, honey-like perfume that is unmistakable.

There’s nothing quite like an English wood when it is in a full swathe of blue glory. A walk through these can raise the spirit and lift the heart as they herald the onset of summer. The show is short-lived as once the leaves on the trees come out fully, the flowers vanish. It’s one of the reasons why I love painting bluebell scenes – to preserve this unique English spectacle for longer. Now, if only I could find a paint that has the same sweet perfume…

Bluebells

Being Bored is… Boring

While walking Vivvy last week, I met a woman who told me with great relish that walking her dog was the most interesting part of her day and if she didn’t have her pooch her life would be so boring that she feared for her sanity. Yes, she actually used the word sanity. It shocked me, particularly because this woman seemed fairly intelligent, had all her faculties, appeared in good health and was very attractive, having taken care with her clothes, hair and make-up. Don’t get me wrong, I love walking my girl and it’s a very special part of my day. But is the rest of my day boring? No way.

Cambridge Dictionary Online defines bored as: feeling unhappy because something is not interesting or because you have nothing to do. Okay, maybe I’ve bordered on boredom, especially when I was at work and involved in achingly dull meetings, but I’ll use the time to think about something more stimulating, and for the writer in me that iusually means pondering over a story plot point, trying to figure out my latest characters, or what new marketing technique I could access that would make my latest release a bestseller (well, better to dream big than be bored, right😉 )

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I simply don’t understand the concept of being bored. Being bored is…well, boring.

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Dreaming of walkies, biscuits, and playing with my frisbee. Life’s too short to be bored.

There just isn’t enough hours in the day to explore, indulge and discover so many of life’s wonders – big and small. For me, there is too much to read for a start. I’ve got books on my shelves and on kindle, both fiction and non-fiction, that I fear I’ll never get around to reading because there is always a new book to add. There are projects around the home and garden that have been waiting for years to be tackled. Places to visit – near and far, histories to explore, cultures to discover, hobbies to try… I could go on forever.

Interestingly enough, the Guardian Online printed an article just last week asking “Why are we so bored?” According to this article, part of the problem is due to overstimulation. “The more entertained we are the more entertainment we need in order to feel satisfied . The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.” Apparently, slower-paced activities tend to bore us because we are accustomed to these faster-paced amusements.

It’s an interesting article, but I still find myself with little patience for people who declare they are bored. Maybe I need to grow some tolerance. Guess I’ll just have to add it to the list of things to do😉

April Treats!

April has been a mixed month for many of us but I have been very lucky and believe me I am not complacent. I have sent positive thoughts to all of you but thought I’d share some of my April treats with you in the hope they make you smile.

Technically, my April Treats began on 31st March but I claim poetic licence! My dear niece Rhiannon was 50 in January so I bought her a token for a two hours spa session in Bath. Her daughter Kerys, who is 21, came with us too so we made a merry inter-generational trio. Our adventure began at midday when we decided rather than shopping we would go for cocktails. A favourite bar of mine is All Bar One which serves food, coffee, and alcohol all day plus plays jazz or “good” music, my definition, in a lovely atmosphere. We were fascinated with the names of the cocktails and shakes, some of which had a teapot symbol beside them. Our helpful waiter, Alex, explained the teapots were suitable for two people. I expect Prohibition might have been similar but not as colourful. I wanted a change from my usual dacquiri or margaritta so was happily guided by the girls. Rhiannon and I had a teapot of Raspberry Berry Surprise, the base being gin, and Kerys had a “shake” which came in a small milk bottle, the base was vodka. image6They were delicious, especially with the homemade nachos to soak up the alcohol, but we decided not to have more than one as we had a long afternoon ahead! So a good start.

Next stop was the Thermae Spa in Bath, built over some of the old Roman Baths I think, on three floors. We excitedly got changed, donning our robes and slippers (provided) and headed up to the open air pool on the roof. The sun shone gloriously, as the water is a great temperature we floated gently admiring the views of the hills around Bath and the Abbey Courtyard below. On the next floor down are four aromatherapy steam rooms plus a treatment studio. We had previously decided to forgo the treatments and enjoyed the healthy cleansing of the steam rooms, I can’t remember all of them but the eucalyptus was potent! In between each room we had a shower in the mineral shower to refresh ourselves. In the basement is a beautiful pool full of minerals (apparently) and not many people. I gave the jacuzzi a miss and chose just to wallow and enjoy the relaxation. After two hours we showered and changed then on to the food treat.

We were treated by my brother to afternoon tea with prosecco in the Pump Rooms. Wonderful. Linen cloths, crystal chandeliers and classical music quartet playing softly, very civilised. The tea arrived and we were shocked image4as it was impossible to eat it all, we brought some home with us! Delicious doesn’t cover it. Our waitress picked up on birthday celebration so the quartet suddenly began playing Happy Birthday and a gorgeous chocolate muffin with a candle arrived while the staff sang and other customers applauded. Rhiannon didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and was overcome with emotion. She thought we had arranged it but waitress told her they try to do that for special occasions. The staff were professional but so helpful and friendly. A gentleman at the next table took a photo of us image2as a memento. A lady at another table came over to thank us as she had received some bad news so her husband brought her to tea from the hospital and we had made her smile. What a treat, hard to top but …

We came home where Peter, my husband, had another bottle of prosecco chilling and had booked a table in our local Italian Restaurant. We rested and sipped then off the four of us went – more food! It was excellent, usually is, and the waiters also picked up on birthday so sang! What a day. We came home unable to eat or drink another thing and fell into bed happy and content.

Two other treats for me too, one I’ll tell you about next month – Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy in London. Then the Choir Convention in St. George’s Chapel, Brandon Hill, Bristol. We sang our song to 600 other members of choirs from across the West Country. It was a blast!

I hope I’ve made you smile but most importantly I hope you all have a good month of May, perhaps with the odd treat!

www.allbarone.co.uk

www.thermaebathspa.com

www.romanbaths.co.uk/pump-room-restaurant

www.casa-restaurants.co.uk

www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk

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Sassy’s Casserole

This recipe is from a very special friend and one of my favorites. 3 to 4 cups cooked chicken (2 pounds +) 12 oz package chicken stuffing 3 cans cream of chicken soup ½ cup milk 12 oz package of … Continue reading

Welcome, Baby Hazel

I missed my blog on the 8th, so I’ll talk here about what I meant to then. It’s been a worrisome time these past few months and now I can finally explain why.

First, I need to explain something. A few years ago, my sister was diagnosed with Factor V Leiden. This is a hereditary disorder that results in something called thrombophilia, or an increased tendency to form abnormal blood clots. Not good. Anyhow, for her, since she doesn’t have any mitigating factors, they’ll just keep an eye on it and it will be something they’ll have to take precautions with when having surgery.

I recently got tested and thankfully, was negative for this disorder. Three of my nieces were not so lucky. In fact, a couple of them have already had to deal with clots in the legs. Neither of them are even 35 years old yet, by the way.

So, now to talk about the 32 year old niece, who happily got pregnant with her second child. The pregnancy went great until the 7th month, when my niece had a major heart attack. Yep, that tendency to clot…did. It was a very scary time. The final two months of her pregnancy were micro-managed, as was her delivery. She had to give herself heparin shots twice a day and was on meds to manage the clotting factor. She had to be careful. Live life normally, but not over-exert.

And finally, on March 22nd, at a specialty hospital and with a whole lot of personnel in the room, my niece gave birth to our newest family member – Hazel Elyse. They induced and managed the delivery with minimal stress to my niece or to her daughter. And four days later, they were home and introducing Hazel to her four-year-old brother.

So all’s well that ends well, but we were saying a LOT of prayers for those two months. If you’d like to read more about Factor V Leiden, you can do so here. And to finish out on a positive note, here’s some pictures of baby Hazel, including a proud Great-Gramma (my Mom) and one with my brother, a proud, proud Grampa, and rightfully so.:)

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APRIL OR AUGUST??

This gallery contains 1 photos.

  Here we are with another 80 degree plus day.  Crazy!!  Jim got his greenhouse planted last week and everything was up very quickly.  We probably have enough cucumbers to feed the whole county.  Usually we don’t even plant our … Continue reading

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Sorry, I’m late!

Jillian here.  I spent the weekend pretty much in bed sick with a stupid spring cold of some sort. Mostly achy and sore throat but enough to make me too weak to drive or do much. I even skipped work … Continue reading