Sunday, 5 June 2011

I have moved to a new blog title.

Hi folks!
I have moved to a new title, as we have changed e-mail addresses.
Here it is....................

Hope those of you who have actually read this blog will maybe drop by!
See you around!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

St George's Day 23rd April 2011 The hottest Easter for 100 years!

This unusual cloud formation was captured on 22nd April as the sun began to set, on the eve of St George's Day, Shakespeare's birthday and what would have been Matt's 35th.
The evenings lately have been an absolute
We have been experiencing some beautiful weather, and already it has been written that this will have been the hottest Easter for 100 years.
And how everyone has so revelled in it!
The smell of barbecues wafting on the air from neighbouring gardens or picnic spots....
The songs of the birds dawn to dusk, and what songs! The gardens are awash with apple and lilac blossom, rowan trees in white, and the next door neighbour's bright yellow laburnum catkins a cheerful sight. Bluebells are now carpeting woods, and have been earlier than last year. Everyone a bit more relaxed, the long, hard, frozen dark winter a distant memory........................whilst the weather holds!!
I am having to water the garden. I got up early and took the second photo from our back upstairs window around 6.45am on the 23rd. Already the promise of a fantastic day's weather to come. Early mist and heavy scents of early summer.

We set off for Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of the Bard himself, and arrived mid morning. The sun was so warm that we both decamped to buy ourselves a sunhat each! I, having left mine at home, and he having been banned from wearing the battered cricket white hat he bought in Brisbane in 2004, when we were visiting our younger son, who was out there for 10 months. It is his pride and joy but has definately seen better days!!
So after a successful purchase, a more sartorially equipped Timelord looking quite dapper, stepped out once again into the rising heat!
We just enjoyed the sights and sounds of people messing about on the river in boats.Rowing boats, canoes, motor boats, and at one point, a lovely cabin cruiser arrived. I was intrigued
and went to ask the owners, who were fixing it to a mooring, if they could get any further down the river.
They had come from Tewkesbury, setting off the previous day, and mooring overnight along the way.No, they said,
you can't go any further down river at Stratford, and they
would be making a return journey by the same route, eventually reaching the River Severn and going on to Bristol. But as they said, everyone should visit Stratford at some point, and this for them was that time.
All along the river banks people were just sitting enjoying the novelty of a Bank holiday weekend that was living up to expectation of a glorious burst of summer. Ice creams being consumed by the dozens, soft drinks, ice cold beers, caf├ęs and bars looking more like their continental neighbours. It felt very much like being in France to me yesterday. Sitting in a riverside pub garden I could almost imagine myself in the warmth of Provence in late spring. Only instead of lavender fields there are carpets of bluebells. So we lazed away the hours until we made our way home. And it was definately a day that Freelance Nerd would've loved.

Friday, 15 April 2011

April 2011. The time of the cherry blossom, once more

This year the cherry trees are in bloom earlier than usual, and are looking absolutely stunning. The blossom has not been
subjected to torrential rain nor strong winds.
March was so dry that as I was driving along the road to Lichfield this morning to collect our moggy, Tiger, from "Posh Paws" cattery, the van in front sent the dust at the side of the road swirling in a cloud.
I have had to water the garden since I returned home from a couple of days in Lancashire.
Other trees in bloom have looked stunning, particularly the magnolias.

I always look for signs of spring after the winter, and watch the horse
chestnut buds swell and grow fat and sticky, the bulbs beginning to peep out from the earth. The birds will begin to sing, even when the early spring days are cold, wet and sometimes blanketed in snow.

We have had some lovely days recently, warm sunshine, blue skies and longer hours of daylight. The robin and blackbird are in full throttle, and I have heard the chiffchaff, who has returned to our shores from his winter sojourn.
Bluebells are now carpeting the verges and so we step into the new season which has arrived, as it always does, almost by stealth!
Easter is very late this year.
Easter Saturday coinciding with St George's Day, and Matt's birthday. He would have been 35 this month.
So, at the top of this piece, is a photo of his favourite cherry tree, across the road from the house, and another one has also appeared. It is a white flowering variety.This one was planted in the school grounds in his memory, and we look out at them both this year, looking particularly

And all is now well in moggy world! He has been exploring all his territory this morning and now retired for a sleep!
Bit like his owner feels!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Alastair Campbell, Matthew and the signed Burnley FC shirt.

This child sized Burnley football club shirt of our Matt's has recently come back into our possession.
It has a very interesting history.
But it needs some background information to explain the significance.

Long ago when I was young, my dad, myself and eventually my mum, were avid supporters of Burnley FC when I lived in Lancashire.
Every home game would see us atop a double decker bus making the journey "over t'moor", (as folk would say), from Rossendale, to drop down the other side into Burnley itself.
Then we joined the hoards of others all walking towards Turf Moor ground. Come rain, hail, sleet or shine. Snow was more difficult!! In harsh winters the road over the top down
into the town could be closed.
Burnley were in the First Division and a really great side. It is the one and only time I ever attempted to knit anything, and painstakingly did knit one, purl one, in the two colours of Claret and Blue, until I had a scarf long enough.
This I festooned with badges of the Burnley players. I also had a football rattle. I'll bet Health and Safety would ban them now!
In the season of 1961/62, Burnley progressed through some thrilling FA Cup Final matches to reach the hallowed turf of Wembley itself.
There was a ticket lottery, using numbers in the programmes and my dad got a ticket allocated and I didn't. There were two other lads we knew who also got tickets.
So, he decided to take us all to Wembley on one of the overnight coaches provided by the club. Then accompany us all the way to the ground, leaving me with his own ticket, and go back to watch the game on TV at his cousin's, who lived a stone's throw from the station at Wembley itself.
I was 14 years old and had never been to London in my life before.
So it was a great adventure.
We arrived very early in the morning, and after some breakfast in a cafe, dad took us to see the sights, knowing London like the back of his hand.
I was so disappointed with Buckingham Palace, pronouncing it to look like a biscuit factory! maybe I expected the grandeur of Windsor Castle!
Eventually we got to dad's cousin's and had some lunch.
And with mounting excitement we walked up Wembley Way with the chants of the supporters, and the colourful sea of team scarves and flags, not to mention the rattles!!
All along the route were ticket touts, and we also had to keep our pockets secure.
I will never know to this day how dad felt as he left us at our entrance.
I only know it was a sacrifice for him,made voluntarily.
Unfortunately we lost 3-1 to Spurs! But it was still an experience to have been there.
So, on to the rest of the story.
Moving quickly forward, when our Matt was born and still a youngster, we lived in Cowplain Hampshire, and dad got him a Burnley bobble hat, in the hope that eventually his grandson would show an interest in football. Obviously those who knew him would see his love of the game, and also that of cricket.

So to continue again.......
We moved up to Birmingham and the nearest football team had to be Aston Villa as they also play in Claret and Blue. Matt was 7 when he went to his first match at Villa Park. He became an avid supporter, and also fulfilled an ambition when he played on the hallowed turf with a team from work. We were all there cheering him on! They lost, but to him it didn't matter!! he was cock-a-hoop!
Meantime becoming political animal, (and how!) he discovered that Alastair Campbell was going to be in Birmingham at the ICC, giving a kind of lecture and question and answer session.
He got a ticket like a shot!
During the evening Alastair said he had a signed Burnley FC shirt to give to the person who asked him the best question.
So Matt managed to have the mike and proceeded to tell the story of his Grandad Smith and his mum, Vivien, and the trip to Wembley. Then he asked Alastair if he would've given up his ticket to go to Wembley.
Alastair said that was a very hard question to answer, being a rabid Burnley supporter himself, and didn't think he could've done it!!
So he gave Matt the Burnley shirt having signed it.
And what a happy bunny he was!!
He told his grandad all about it and it passed into the Smith archive of stories!
The stuff of legend!
Miss you dad, one year on yesterday.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Oh what a night! An Ashes win. Sydney, Australia, 7th January 2010

Nation’s army

of nightwatchmen and

women thrill to an epic


And what have we all been doing the past few weeks? Gone nocturnal! For me it was great to have something to keep me occupied in the wee, small hours, with my digital radio ear pieces continually plugged in!
At times it was hard not to stay up all night as the excitement grew. I would find myself having dozed off to waken again to some fresh revelation, a new wicket taken or lost, and sometimes confess to going to the bathroom with the small portable radio still plugged into my ears, hardly daring to miss any moment. Sky Player meant we could watch in bed, tucked up warm against the snow and arctic temperatures outside, making fighting off another virus bearable.
But what shall I do now, when there is no more cricket in the night watches. The nation went bananas.
Tweets were coming in to the Test Match Special all through the long hours. And e-mails, comments, texts, was like belonging to a national nocturnal club, as people from all corners of the country were gripped in a frenzy of expectation.
And now the celebrations begin.
And how we have enjoyed it all. The highs and the lows, the Barmy Army, the Sprinkler dance, Swann's hilarious video diary posts, it kept the winter at bay.
And this morning, as I write, it is snowing outside.
But there is a warm glow for England cricket fans everywhere!!

Quotes from the Times today
"Today is a day to celebrate. No, not the result in Sydney, which is of course a splendid thing, but the bonds which unite a nation: a nation which has spent much of the past few weeks trying desperately to stay awake as the late-night broadcasters spun out their epic tale of cricketing drama.

The radio by the bedside, the TV, the blogs and the tweets and the ball-by-ball commentaries: these are where we have gathered in the small hours for England’s famous victory, dedicated cricket fans and newcomers to the game alike."

"one Twitter poster put it more succinctly: “I hate cricket, but its [sic] a good day to be an Englishman.”"

It is also a good day to be an Englishwoman. Among those hardcore fans who have spent the Test series listening to the radio late into the night has been the cookery writer Clarissa Dickson Wright, who made her name as one half of the TV show Two Fat Ladies.

“Terribly exciting it’s been,” she said. “You stay up half the night, then you wake up in the early hours and go to the loo and turn it on and you don’t go back to sleep immediately. It has been amazing. My mother was Australian, so I have the alternative that if things are going

badly I can suddenly decide that I’m going to be Australian. But this year I haven’t had to do it at all.”

Listening to the match was one thing, but sharing the experience was another, especially in the Scottish town of Musselburgh where Dickson Wright lives. “I have lots of friends on the other end of the telephone to whom I can say: Gosh, were you awake for that bit?”

Perhaps one day an economist will tell us how much productivity has been lost during the Test series as people have sat dead-eyed and listless at their desks, doing nothing much more than remember the last Cook century. Until then all we have is these confessions.

Alex Rees, 31, who runs a carpet business in West Sussex, said he has turned his whole day upside down to watch every ball.

“I’ve basically gone nocturnal,” he said. “I’ve been coming home from work, going straight to bed at 6pm, and then setting the alarm for midnight and watching it through until the morning before going to work. I’ve even been eating lunch when they have lunch, and tea when they have tea.

“For the first Test I wore my cricket whites and put the pads on when England were batting in the first innings.”

Mr Rees admits that he has fallen asleep at his desk a few times, but is in no doubt that it has all been worth it.

“My brother, who’s a teacher, has been doing the same hours and we’re both saying we can’t wait to get back to normality. We’re feeling a bit sluggish now,” he said.Others have come up with novel ways to share the load and ensure that they are up to date with the latest score. David Long, 39, a surveyor,said: “There have been a couple of mornings where we needed early wickets, so I said OK I’ll see if we get a breakthrough and then the wickets kept tumbling and it’s two in the morning.”

His eldest son, who is 9, is also “cricket mad” so despite the late nights he has been unable to avoid lots of early mornings."

And to end this post I leave you with a photo of Matt in 2004, in cricket whites. he fancied himself as a budding batsman! I've lost count of how many times we've both said, Timelord and myself, " Matt would have absolutely loved this! "

And how he would have celebrated!!!

Monday, 4 October 2010

October musings. 26th October 2010

What is it I like about being outside.
I think ever since I was a child, I always loved to feel free, and that freedom was in fields, and streams, hillsides and trees.
Playing outside made time stand still, until the spell was broken by being called home for meals.
I like the smell of damp stone walls, and the grittiness of a country lane, the sound of wind sighing through trees.
Childhood felt like forever.

Being introduced to the Lake District was a veritable feast! Here were greater hills, and fells and colours coming and going with the weather.
Raging torrents, quiet becks, light on water, a sense of absolute timelessness.

I have loved to be on top of a hill, or fell, as it reduces other things to a correct perspective. Time to just glory in the view laid out far below. It still is the same today, when I can finally struggle to the summit of wherever we choose to go. Thinking time. Special time. And this autumn, I have had the sense of loss more keenly, of those hills and fields of my childhood, as my dad is now no longer there, buried alongside my mum, and surrounded by the view he loved. Last year, I did not have the time to appreciate the changing colours of the leaves, and the feeling of the year winding down. I was sorting out the sale of dad's home.

So, I have relished spending time in the garden. Grubbing about in the soil, and watching the maple by the summerhouse gradually turning into a deep deep glowing red. Still a work in progress!
Yesterday was a glorious day. Crystal clear blue sky, and sharp light. leaves backlit in the late afternoon, with the sun lower on the horizon.
Damp earth, clearing fleshy nasturtiums, bitten by frost. A first pruning of the roses.
Robin singing, goldfinches twittering, and sparrows squabbling on the bird feeders! A noisy, sociable family.
And today, with its leaden sky, and rain, I can still go in my mind's eye to the glory of yesterday remembered.
October is a last burst of summer before the garden is put to bed.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A treasured find.

Last year, in the process of sorting out dad's paper's and house, (he had asked me to put things in order), I found a diary tucked away in the very back of a drawer in an upstairs wardrobe.
It said,
"1940 War Diary", and as I began to read it, I was transported back to the days when my dad was a young man of 20 years old, stationed in London during the Blitz.

I put it down and the next morning I told dad I had found it, and did he want it destroyed? (as he would never talk about the War, except to relate an odd funny story or two).

I also said to him that it had moved me deeply and it was really important to the family that it was preserved and read as a lasting testimony and record of that time.
He asked me not to read to him, but said I could do with it as I wished.
So only after the subsequent events of him moving into the Residential Home last April, 2009, and then the sale of his house, followed by his death in in March this year, have I been able to work at scanning in each page and editing them.
Since then I have had it typed, as the whole diary was handwritten, all 187 pages, in a small note book.
It documents the times of all the air raids, and the sense of gritty determination of folk to carry on as normally as they could and keep a sense of humour.
A young man revealed through his writings, one of 20, having his own thoughts, feelings and sometimes writing in the current slang of the time.
A treasure to find.
I am in the process now, of having it published.
But several weeks ago, The Times newspaper was asking for reader's stories about the Blitz, for a feature on the 70th Anniversary , which began on 7th September 1940.
I sent in an extract from dad's diary, but did not hear anything afterwards, until yesterday, as I opened the paper, there was the extract in print!
It will be dad's legacy to us as a family.
So in the month that holds what would've been his 92nd birthday on the 17th, I was pleased to see it there.
(Click on the extract to see the larger version. )