Sunday, 31 July 2016

King Arthur

  I have become completely intrigued by the story of King Arthur. It is the mix of history and legend that is fascinating. Geoffrey of Monmouth started to popularise his life in the twelfth century and so many writers have picked up on that account and added characters, themes and detail. Something about him stirs the imagination and appeals to people of all centuries.
  Yet he has also attracted scholarly interest as academics and archaeologists try to establish where he was born, lived and died - if, indeed, he existed in reality. Any place with connections to him has become a tourist centre and the concepts of the Round Table and the Holy Grail are deeply etched in our minds.
  I am intent on reading the various versions of the narrative (probably in translation!) to see who has embellished the skeleton provided by Geoffrey. This image of him enthroned is from a set of tapestries depicting the Nine Heroes (French, late 14th century) and I have taken it from the Bellerophon Book outline, checked the colours and filled it in. His tunic shows the three crowns of England, Scotland and Brittany.
   My research on King Arthur will be posted in stages on my history blog about visits you can make by bus in Monmouthshire as there are good reasons for associating him with South East Wales, particularly Caerleon.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Bodiam Castle

I am a great fan of Welsh Castles and visit them on local bus routes. Yet I succumbed to the beauty of Bodiam reflected in its moat when I saw it last weekend.

Pity about the bunting: why do they think that's a good idea?  It has something in common with Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire as both are more of a Toff's residence than a military fortification.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


One thing I find impossible to imagine in summer is a snowy winter scene. When flowers are bursting out and it's hot in bed I cannot visualise or feel the cold. Maybe this is atavistic and helps us adjust to the procession of seasons. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016


I have described the disconcerting effect of being stared at by sheep. Cattle,  however, (provided they stay behind the gate) are more comprehensible. For one thing they do not remain silent but make quite loud snuffly noises as they advance. They will put their muzzles right up to the bars - it seems to me this is a gesture of greeting and I always say hello back.

Saturday, 4 June 2016


There is something both disconcerting and soothing about sheep. They look at you as if they see right through you which is discombobulating. Yet they look so like balls of  untreated fluff on their spindly legs that you soon feel rested and reassured after meeting them. They NEVER look sheepish!

Monday, 30 May 2016

A May miracle

This shrub needs no attention and yet produces these amazing blossoms every Spring. What I find astonishing is the impression of weight in light and radiantly white petals that clump together so densely. 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Chickens get peckish

                                                          Come on - let's get her!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Cherry tree

I planted this cherry tree in the wrong place as other trees grew taller than it deprived it of light. Yet it kept shooting upwards into this uncharacteristic shape like a giant pink rocket. Perhaps it is in the right place after all.m

Sunday, 15 May 2016


Each Spring I find I cannot believe wisteria: it appears so suddenly and hangs in huge bunches that look heavy and burst with colour. Amazing.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Mobile phone cover

   This object is the mobile phone cover that I lovingly knitted for my first ever such device. It has a neat button hole and green button to ensure the safety of its precious content and - wait for it - there is a cunning place for the antenna to poke out and catch the signal. In those days you couldn't choose from umpteen snazzy cases and so I got my needles to work.

  If it looks like a sock it's because it is about that size! These early models were quite large, very slow but endearing. I took my creation with me to protect my new iPhone on its way home from purchase pending buying a smart case for a smart phone - the assistants were mightily impressed. So nostalgic!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Understanding French

   I have made serious efforts to improve my French, spending five years bent over grammar books and reading only French novels as well as attending classes at my local U3A. Has it worked?

  Oh yes! When watching Nick Robinson's excellent programme "Them and Us" on our historic relationship with the E. U. I understood the French speakers perfectly - provided they were over 75 years of age at the time we first joined them!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Jubilee River Pageant

   For some reason I keep remembering this fantastic array of boats - I suppose these last few days/weeks have been nostalgic nationally. I was lucky enough to be invited to watch from the Millennium Bridge. The day before had been sunny and people strolled along the Thames to look forward to the event or gave parties in their river-backing gardens.

  The day itself was cold and rainy: I wore 3 layers of thermals and clutched my brolly and collapsible chair decked in flags and bunting, accepting shamelessly any sausage roll or intoxication offered to me. I didn't warm up afterwards for five days when I got back home to Wales.

   But .... that moment when the vessels came through under the distant bridge! All shapes and sizes in a display that hasn't been seen for hundreds of years.  We cheered and yelled and sang and hugged one another.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and my throat catches when I think about it. So well organised and so moving.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

London skyline

Remember the iconic photo taken in the Blitz? Now we have nearly buried that proud dome in multi-storey car parks.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Swan self-awareness

   I have always thought that swans know they are beautiful and here is one making sure!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

May 1st

These jolly dancers are the Isca Morris Men and they have just finished cheering up a dreary wet day in Twyn Square, Usk with their fun. An old tradition for May Day and superbly revived.

You could have gone by bus to watch them.

Friday, 29 April 2016


   After looking round the atmospheric church at Kilpeck I happened to glance over the fence of a nearby field and there was this sleeping calf. The mother was standing some distance away and did not look particularly maternal. I found myself feeling glad a farmer would come to check all was well and trusting a human sense of duty over natural bovine instinct. 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A bus on a bridge

   Since I started my new blog about travelling around Monmouthshire on buses, I have taken hundreds of photos of castles, sheep, churches, daffodils and more sheep! Yet, for some reason, I find the photos of buses passing over bridges the most evocative. Where are they going? Who is on them? Off they drive to some romantic destination and, amazingly, I can go there tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Kilpeck Church

As I have explained I am a great fan of bus travel and am blogging about it elsewhere. Yet out in remote Herefordshire, beyond the reach of bus routes, is a special little church at Kilpeck.

 The carvings round the door are original and there is some discussion about their meaning. They might represent Adam and Eve but could be one serpent eating another in the triumph of Good over Evil. If you look carefully you can see the tail of one snake in the mouth of another. The whole site, including the interior of the Church, is full of atmosphere and it is well worth a detour.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Spring colours

What I find marvellous about this time of year is the day when, suddenly, yellow flowers give way to other colours. Daffodils yield to magnolia. Fabulous.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Which pronoun?

When I started my new blog: "On the buses - in Monmouthshire" I became instantly aware of the difficulty of choosing a pronoun. Other bloggers who perform amazing feats of endurance and initiative such as crawling round Wales on hands and knees use "I" as they are rightly proud of their epic achievements. Yet I am encouraging bus use, sight-seeing, short or medium walks and CAKE at the end. The French are so lucky to have "on", an all-purpose, gender-free pronoun, increasingly used instead of "nous".  I do not wish to sound bossy by telling "you" what do do but "one" is too starchy and I have to use something. I think I will say "you" when I urge you to exert yourself and "I" when I sit down for tea and gateaux.
A fascinating footnote to this is that "your" can mean something close to "our" particularly if pronounced "yer". When Hamlet says to Horatio: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy," he is not accusing his friend of a limited imagination but means that anyone's philosophy may not include ghosts. This is the same extension of meaning as the gravedigger's: "your water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body." It is not truly possessive here and could be omitted in both instances.

Monday, 4 April 2016

The Archers

I am an addict, timing my evening meal to listen and reliving it all in the Omnibus on Sunday morning. Like everyone else I have followed the Helen and Rob storyline with mounting interest and unease whilst being aware of the help it is giving to women who are abused psychologically and physically as well as victims of the new law of coercive control. The acting by both is first class and the scripting mostly excellent partly because the theme has been thoroughly researched. It was an error to introduce Ursula and the element of Gothic horror that came with her but the rest has been chillingly realistic, accurate and painful, particularly when Henry has been involved. The violent scene on April 3rd was gripping. I have asked two questions on Twitter: are Kirsty and Jess the only characters in this plot who are not totally self-centred? - and a wider one which lifts the programme into a different genre. Is it true to say that The Archers previously dealt with right and wrong but that it has now encompassed good and evil? Whoever stole that money from the church did wrong but Rob is truly evil.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Encountered in the wilds

Although I am a great advocate of public transport as you can see from one of my other blogs, I admit there are some things you can't do on a bus. Recently my daughter and her partner came to stay and he expertly drove on a precipitous back route from Hay-on-Wye to visit Llanthony Abbey. By the side of this one-track road we saw five of these Highland Cattle peacefully gazing and grazing. This one is in full winter glory but will shed hair naturally for the summer. Despite the ferocious-looking horns, they seemed friendly, though no-one was allowed out of the car to find out and she/he was photographed through the open window: I love the way the knees are neatly tucked under.
Photo courtesy of Martin Mulligan-McArthur

Friday, 18 March 2016


Spring has come when the daffodils sound out. They do not peep or shrink but brazenly trumpet to the world whether they are in a single clump or in groups. Wordsworth found them soothing as they danced across his inward eye but I find them challenging and noisy. Yet the smaller version, popular with locals councils, just do not have the same charisma as they sit meekly in their pots and planters.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Cohort study

I have just caught up with the facts about the March 1946 study of all babies born in one cold week.  Health visitors went out to every woman who had given birth in that week and asked questions about the free extra pint of milk, who managed the house during her confinement, how much was spent on clothes for the infant (anyone else remember matinee jackets?) and for the mother herself, for example. The results shocked the nation since it revealed how much worse the experiences of working class women were compared to the better off and its findings were in time to be incorporated into the new NHS with free maternity care and other benefits. Since then the babies have been followed throughout their lives (they are now in their late sixties and most have enjoyed taking part) and similar studies have been undertaken. I think that is a brilliant and original scheme, carried out at a time of need and deprivation: do we have the imagination now to think up anything similar?

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

A modern habit

I have noticed recently that, when someone is interviewed on the radio, they begin their answer with: "So". To me this is a joiner if not a true conjunction and perhaps this is its function here. It does sound rather strange though.
Interviewer: Where were you brought up, Mrs Blundell?"
Mrs B: "So ... I was raised in Lancashire ..."
Has anyone else been stuck by this? Better than Mmmm perhaps.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mindfulness meditation

I use an app on my tablet to do this each morning. Today, when the soothing voice mentioned the activities of daily life, I jumped up before the little bell rang. Memo: it isn't over till the thin lady pings.

Community Speed Watch

These jolly and dedicated people are checking the speeds of vehicles which could cause accidents near our small town. I have an irrational impulse to slow my walking pace when passing them but they assure me it doesn't matter. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Website needed

I went into a bookshop in Monmouth yesterday and asked for a little guide entitled: "Walks from Monmouth bus station of less than five miles with no stiles or steep inclines but including a castle visit, a pub lunch and some brief retail therapy." To my grave disappointment none was available and so I request that one of my attentive readers starts a website with this information. See you all in the pub!