The great green glory of nature is encapsulated in the hypnotic rustle and sway of the grasses, surrounding Coate Water.
Nine years have passed since I last trod upon this pleasant land. Sadness and loss formed the backdrop of that visit. It took the wedding of a special family member and much coercing to get me to make the journey.
Time with family in celebration and basking in the warmth of friendship have made many happy memories.
In drinking deeply of the verdant oases of Swindon, Portishead and the surrounding countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset, I have renewed my love of England, country of my birth.
Invigorated and refreshed; we soon commence our return to Australia, via Italy.
Dandelions I have seen growing in verges and parks near my home in Sydney appear to be a smaller variety to the ones I grew up with in England, UK. My assumption that this ‘weed’ is not native to Australia is confirmed on the Survival and Self Sufficiency website.
This dandelion somehow survived a recent lawn cutting in the park to produce the familiar feather light ball of seeds I knew as fairies. I would release them by blowing on the ball to watch them float gently into the air. The medicinal and nutritious properties of this humble plant may be responsible for its magical reputation, you can find more about this on My Virtual Flower blog.
I had managed to dodge the coughs and colds during this unusually warm Antipodean Winter until this week. My throat feels like I’ve been gargling with broken glass. The last time my throat felt like this I was 10 years old. I remember waking up lying on my back, unable to move anything but my head as I was pinned down in bed by well tucked in stiff, crunchy sheets and blankets.
I opened my eyes a fraction, the ceiling seemed so far away, the highest I’d ever seen. When I turned my head to the right a marble fireplace against brown and cream walls came into view. I could hear the sound of hard soled shoes slapping and squeaking on a highly polished brown Lino floor. To my left and opposite there were other beds in the room and the murmur of people talking in hushed tones. My throat was so sore that it hurt to speak, relief came in the form of a nurse telling me that I needed to eat ice cream and jelly for tea and cornflakes for breakfast.
Having tonsils removed is now a day procedure, for me back in 1973 it involved three days stay in the Birmingham and Midland Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital. A grand Victorian red brick and terracotta tile building in Edmund Street. The Grade II listed building built 1890-91, by Jethro Cossins & Peacock in a classical “Queen Anne” style opened as a hospital in 1891 and closed in 1989.
The image is the front of a card from my family during my stay in hospital.
The Victorian Society – Brimingham
Reading about the deforestation of The land in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa inspired me to find out more:
“Around 1000 AD, before humans arrived in New Zealand, forest covered more than 80% of the land. The only areas without tall forests were the upper slopes of high mountains and the driest regions of Central Otago. When Māori arrived, about 1250–1300 AD, they burnt large tracts of forest, mainly on the coasts and eastern sides of the two main islands. By the time European settlement began, around 1840, some 6.7 million hectares of forest had been destroyed and was replaced by short grassland, shrubland and fern land. Between 1840 and 2000, another 8 million hectares were cleared, mostly lowland or easily accessible conifer–broadleaf forest.” (1)
“One of the largest and longest-living trees in the world, New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) belongs to the ancient conifer family, Araucariaceae. Kauri’s final size depends on site and conditions, but heights average 30–40 metres and trunks can reach several metres in diameter. By 600–700 years of age, kauri reaches an average diameter of over 1 metre. Kauri can survive for 1,000 years or more (with an average diameter of 2 metres), but trees older than 1,700 years (average diameters over 3 metres) are now rare.
In just over 100 years, logging and burning transformed the northern landscape from forest to farmland. By the early 1900s, most kauri forest had been logged. Although there was growing concern for the survival of remaining native forest, the high value of kauri timber meant that the forest was still exploited. A final push to extract the last of the kauri swept through the north in the 1920s and 1930s, reducing the forest to the few patches that survive today.” (2)
The image of Queen Elizabeth II on the face of these coins link the currency of New Zealand to the UK, my place of birth. For me these metal shapes represent the destructive power of humanity over nature and their fellow human beings in seeking material wealth. They exist because man mined metal from the Earth. Gold and silver are symbolic of the Sun and the Moon all three are essential for life as we know it; what a paradox.
(1) John Dawson. ‘Conifer–broadleaf forests – Loss of conifer–broadleaf forests’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Jul-13
(2) Joanna Orwin. ‘Kauri forest’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 11-Jun-13
In world terms my closest family are from a tiny area on the planet. Dialects within the United Kingdom are diverse and can vary dramatically within a short distance. My father’s family were from Shropshire and Kent. My mother’s from Birmingham and the Black Country.
My accent is heavily influenced by my relatives from the Black Country and Birmingham. I can still hear my mother saying: “Stop pithering about”, meaning “messing around” or “wasting time” and my grandfather saying “Ar” meaning yes as in “ar I am”. A popular method of transportation in Birmingham is the “buzz”.
One of the many sayings that originate from the home of my ancestors is an actual place. The Wrekin is a hill in East Shropshire. It gave birth to a popular phrase used in Wolverhampton and the West Midlands: “All around the Wrekin” meaning to take an indirect route to a location or to more commonly avoid getting to the point during a conversation.
In secondary school I landed the part of MacFarlane a Scottish Doctor in the play Hobson’s choice. A combination of not being able to master a scottish accent and having such a strong Brummie accent led the director to rename the character Dr Stonehouse, after a pub in Birmingham so that I could play the part in my native tongue.
I didn’t consider my accent a burden until in the last year of secondary school my family moved 25 miles south to Droitwich Spa, in the county of Worcestershire. This was the first time I was teased about the way I spoke. As if it were yesterday I remember the moment in a French lesson when In a broad Brummie accent I read Marie-France et Jean Paul vont en vacances en Espagne. I was rewarded with the waste paper bin bouncing off the back of my head much to the delight of my peers.
At the first opportunity I left home, to go to college in Blackpool. My studies took me further north on work placement to a Lake District hotel. This time my nemesis took the form of a Geordie, (person from Newcastle). They thought it was hilarious to repeat what I was saying with an exaggerated accent. “I’m going to the shall-eyes”. The chalets were two demountable buildings out the back of the hotel serving as staff accommodation.
I find it amusing when people realise I’m from England. I tell them how long I’ve lived in Australia and they say “you haven’t lost your accent”. I have no intention of losing my accent, but it is inevitable for me to pick up a bit of the local twang, “fair dinkum mate”.
The foundation of my accent was laid by my family; softened in response to peer pressure and has evolved by moving county and country.
Pet fish have featured for most of my life, Mozaic is featured above.