Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Family Roots

My blog lurches along, in fits and starts. Many things have been bubbling away, they seems to consume vast swaths of time, but if I were to list them all here, the majority would seem very mundane. But I’ll kick start a few posts by telling you about a special event.

We had a family gathering at Kew Gardens in London, to inter my father in laws ashes, long time readers might remember that he died in 2013, his wish was that his body be donated for medical science and we held a memorial service soon after his death.

  After a period of time (12 months in my father in laws case) the body  is returned to the family and they can make their own arrangements, if that is what the donor requested , or the anatomy  society arranges for a cremation and the scattering of the ashes at the crematorium. 

palm house 3

 

Mr Uphilldowndale’s father visited Kew often, it was a favourite place. One of the reasons for his interest was that a family ancestor, was a keen amateur botanist and a number of plants were named after him by his friend botanist Joseph Hooker, who was a director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. So you can see what a fitting place it seemed to be for the interment. The staff at Kew looked after us beautifully, and extended their hospitality by inviting us to stay on to enjoy the preview night of their Christmas lights, this seemed a perfect way to round off the day, it was quite magical.

 

So some photos of Kew by night

The palm house, the lights and flames all timed to music, pure theatre

Kew lights 4

Meandering through the glass houses

Kew lights 6

 

Kew lights 7

Surreal candelabra suspended from trees

Kew lights_

The cacti house seemed other worldly.

Cacti at Kew_

Cacti at Kew 2

The Palm House,

Kew palm house_

ever changing.

Kew lights 3


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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red; a different view

 

 

After yesterdays post, a little background information, on both the installation and the Tower of London.

 

The poppies were planted by  teams of volunteers,

 Poppies Tower of London Vols 2

It must have been an operation planned with military precision.

Poppies Tower of London setting out

It would have been an overwhelming task without a master plan.

Poppies Tower of London setting out 3

(and surely packing them all up again is going to be harder?

Poppies Tower of London box

Although that warm fuzzy glow, of feeling part of something special, is the thing that keeps volunteers coming back for more

Poppies Tower of London setting out 2

My favourite shot form our day (29th August) is poppies with shadows. War casts very long shadows.

Poppies Tower of London shadow

There was something about the mottling  effect of the shadows that reminded me of the solar eclipse in the UK, in 1998, another event I found more emotional than I anticipated.

It was quite early in the installations development when we visited, whilst I’d read about it in the press, there wasn’t the wall to wall coverage there has been in the media this week. So a gripe for us at the time was that there weren’t enough information boards

Poppies Tower of London mechanics 2

Some might call it a theatrical event rather than artistic installation, the weeping window has caught the public imagination.

Poppies Tower of London weeping window

However I did think a bit of ‘set dressing’ might have been in order, when I sold flowers for a living, including poppies, we never let the viewer see the mechanics of our arrangements. I thought the scaffolding pole, lump of timber and blob of foam holding the cascade in place could have benefited from being hidden by a couple of yards of fabric and some cable ties.

Poppies Tower of London mechanics

But working in a place as ancient, historic and protected as this, must come with scores of problems. You can’t go around damaging or changing the fabric of such a place, well not these days, you could in the past.

Poppies Tower of London walls_

We found it both moving and reverential,  but there were, if you looked very closely, little witticisms to be found. What I thought was a can of Coke on a window ledge, turned out to be (when seen with the aid of a long lens) a Beefeater cookie jar, placed just for fun.

Poppies Tower of London little beefeater

Beefeater or Yeoman Warders as they are more properly known, do have something of a sense of fun, see below (and be careful if you are drinking tea whilst watching, you’ll splutter it all over the keyboard).

 

 


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Remembering So Many Losses

WWI

From the family photo album, the boy was their son, he died in 1917 in  an accident when a hay cart ran away. 

 

In the summer we visited the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London, for overseas readers, it is 888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British fatality during the First World War. Designed by Tom Piper and  Derbyshire artist, Paul Cummins, it is an art work that has provoked debate. Which is no bad thing.

tower of London_

Visiting with friends we found it very moving. Our ‘haven’t seen you for ages’ chatter stopped and we all fell quiet.

One life one poppy, hard to comprehend, but we must.

Poppies Tower of London

 

The concept of poppies, being symbolic of the loss of life in the First World War or any other conflict, has deep meaning for me.

As a child we had very elderly neighbours, who lived in a large rambling house at the corner of the lane, my mum used to go each morning and ‘light the fires’ and make them a hot drink  for them. I can remember going with mum on winter mornings, probably in the Christmas holidays, for the thing I remember most distinctly was  how bone gnawingly cold and dark their home was,   that and their Christmas tree, it was a sparse  dour affair, made of  material like thin green bottle brushes it had no  ornaments, just red poppies, in memory of their son who was killed in the World War Two. (I wrote about it on this blog, in 2007)

 

 

One life, one poppy, one life, one poppy, if this art work can make that more tangible to our generation , during this the centenary of World War One,  I think it is working. If the poppies could be white, how nice that would be. As for the glorification of war? No sorry, it wasn’t what our visit said to me. It said what a grievous event it was..

 

When we got home, I went online and ordered a poppy, the monies raised going  top of our to Services charities. It will be sent to us once the installation has been dismantled. It may or may not get here in time for Christmas. If it does, it will be going at the top of our Christmas tree.


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A Reflective Walk

Loweswater-3

I’m not doing very well at posting, after my promise. Not to worry, I’ll get there, it may take a wee while to find my  blogging mojo. I’ve all sorts of adventures stacking up ready, just waiting.

I mentioned whilst the fell race was on, I took a stroll along the shores of Loweswater, en route I stopped to watch the fish, suspended in pools of sunshine, seemingly motionless in the flowing water, it is easier to see the shadow than the fish itself.fish river

I admired a handsome doocot*

doocot 

And look, a fine drystone wall and gateway, becomes something quite magical, by the addition of an over arching span of  Cumbrian slate.

stone arch

I listened to the cows, with their methodical munching and tearing of sward, they may get bad press from time to time, and deservedly so, but I’ve an affection for them.

cattle

In the wood, foxgloves  swayed and cow parsley effervesced in the scattered sunlight.

foxgloves in glade_

At the waters edge, I found a swing.

swing @ loweswater_

I had a go at finding my inner child, but concluded that the child needed to concentrate on having a good time. Play on the swing, or take photographs, it isn’t wise to try and combine the two. I have the bruises to prove it. 

selfie @ loweswater_

*it is 23 years since I lived in Scotland, but some words stay with me in  the Scots dialect, swithering, dreek, and poly-poke are a few of my favourites.


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Mind the Gap

What a long gap between posts. There has been so much happening I’m not sure where to start, or stop.

One thing for sure the weather has been glorious,  and the meadow is in its prime.

Meadow

There have been farewells to say, cards and gifts;  which were almost too pretty to open.

pretty parcel_ 

And I’m pleased I wasn’t responsible for picking the best of the bunch out of this lot! All I had to do was mind the tombola.

Cake comp_

Eating cake was easy though; it always is. 

 

Today sees the start of a different way of being for me, whilst I’ve not got idea of how it is all going to pan out; I do know there will be more time to be out and about with the camera, and more time for blogging. I’ve promised myself that.


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The Further Adventures of Spud the Dog 6th April 2014

 

Have you missed Spud? Here he is, his leg is much better, but not quite right yet.

IMG_8558

 

He got a bit excited today, Jimmy the farmer turned up in his big red tractor, with blade harrow in tow, to do a bit of remedial work on the field, where the pipes for the ground source heat pump were laid*.

big red tractor

 

Jimmy  jumped out of the cab for a natter, leaving the engine running. Time passed we carried on, nattering , putting the world, and the meadow to rights. When somewhat startlingly, the big red tractors engine went ‘Vrooooom, vrooom as only the engines of big red (and possibly green) tractors can.

‘Ahhh’, said Jimmy, knowingly,without missing a beat, ‘the dog will be ready for off then’.

big red tractor dog

Just as well, that as bright as they are, border collies can’t quite mange the clutch and the handbrake as well as the accelerator. A working dog has no time for idle chat and needs to put his paw down firmly from time to time.

 

* I will eventually get around to telling the full story of our magical heating system


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Bright Woollen Things

A visit to the haberdashery shop was in order this morning. The only problem being, apart from the  miserable driving sleet and rain, that my vision for craft projects always manages to exceed  both my skills level and available time. But buying such stuff is always fun.

I found myself drawn to some exquisitely soft  merino yarn, especially the moss green shade.

wool

‘I don’t know why I’m looking at this’ I said to the assistant, ‘I can’t even knit’.

‘Oh you don’t knit with it!’ she exclaimed ‘You just put it in a basket, and stroke it occasionally, its all you need to do’.

I’ve obviously been missing a trick.

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