From Lucy - COW, ROPE, SPRING, SOCKS - Black and White for MONOCHROME WEEKLY

The dark room used to be my favourite place. But it's a long time since I was there. These are the first photos I've taken in black and white with my new digital camera. (I took some with a phone before!) I'm not used to it yet - so I'd like criticism. PLEASE be critical.




For 'Monochrome Weekly' photos - click HERE.

(My black and white photos aren't really up to scratch for MONOCHROME WEEKLY but one has to start somewhere!)

For more of Lucy's photos - Click HERE

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I don't know why I felt compelled to rush out and take photos of the sky this morning, especially since I had decided not to do much blogging over the summer but, as The Fairy Queen (in 'Iolanthe')says of her love for Captain Shaw, "I know it's weakness but the weakness is so strong' - and I couldn't resist.

We had planned to walk in The New Forest (in Hampshire) today but the forecast was for blustery showers and we didn't go. We've got the blusters but not the showers. Perfect weather - except we are not in The New Forest. Never mind. It's been there for several hundred years (and has been waiting for a new name for nearly all of them) and it can wait.

If one goes out with a camera in a rush, little can be expected other than snaps. Here they are.

First, I lifted the camera above my head so the lens was facing directly up - and pressed the button. This is what the camera saw.

Next, I pointed it at an oak twig - and got this.

Then I went to the beach and saw a beer can on a rock (teenagers party there in the evenings)and took its portrait.

One morning. Some sky. Another week. Another Skywatch. Another resolve broken!
For Skywatch Photgraphs all round the world - Click HERE

You can find Lucy's photo blogs at Pictures Just Pictures

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From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - TEN

Continued from.

"Hugh Thorncombe," he said, striding up beside Stephen so he could shake his hand and stand companionably near him while they looked out at the rain. "I hope you're not in a hurry." The Vicar turned to the next in line, Mr Smith, and asked how his leg was.

“Not really,” Stephen replied, glad of the chance to meet the binder twine squire. He didn't mind country drizzle but . . . the rain was getting worse, turning into a downpour. If he waited, maybe it would stop as soon as it had started. Unlikely in November - but it might.

Mrs James pushed past. She'd forgotten to give in her hymn book and was forcing herself against the flow of the crowd to take it back into the Church. Stephen stepped out of the porch to let her through and Hugh felt a surge of panic. What if he lost him? What if the man kept walking? He followed, opened his umbrella and pinned Stephen under the shelter of its rim.

“Miserable weather,” he said, “Especially for visitors!”

"Yes,” said Stephen, peering anxiously into the whiteness of the disappearing churchyard and thinking how unpleasant the walk back to Mrs Jenkins would be. He'd be drenched. Would she let him have a bath? he wondered. Hugh tried to angle the umbrella so he could draw Stephen towards the porch again.

"Not as good as this morning”

“No,” said Stephen.

“It’s a real downpour,” Hugh observed, pressing shut his jacket. You won’t be able to do much for the rest of the day in this. I don’t know what you had in mind for this afternoon but, whatever it was, why don’t you come to tea instead?”

Stephen started.

Hugh noticed.

“We always like to meet new people.”
It was true. Hardly anyone came to eat cat-haired scones for a second time so first time visitors were all they ever had for company, apart from each other. He wondered where Camellia was. Discussing the flower arrangements? Offering to polish the brass? “It’s rather remote here," he said. "We don't have many guests. And I’m sure my wife will be pleased to meet you too," he added encouragingly. "Did you say you lived in Clapham?”

“Not really,” said Stephen, noting how little Hugh minded admitting to having listened to his conversation with the vicar. “Well, not recently anyway. I was just telling the Vicar, I'm touring the countryside. I've missed it while living in America. I've friends in Clapham though," he added. "And a flat - except I've rented it out."

Hugh wasn't sure this fitted so he avoided the Clapham discrepancy.

“Even the rain?” asked Hugh.

“Even the rain,” Stephen agreed.

They stood together, watching it fall.

“Three o’clock?” asked Hugh. “Then we’ll have time to show you round, if you like.”

Stephen was touched.

“Thank you,” he said, putting out his hand to shake Hugh’s and leave. “I’d like that. It’s very kind of you .”

“Do you have a wife?” Hugh asked. But it came out too quickly and he could see that Stephen had noted this and was non-plussed. But he had to know. “Or children?” he asked hopefully.

They seemed such odd questions, and Hugh was so intense in the way he asked, it crossed Stephen's mind to decline the invitation after all.

“Because my wife will want to know how many people I’ve invited," Hugh hurried on. "And, if you’ve children with you, you might like to tell them we’ve got donkeys. Sometimes children are reluctant to go to tea with complete strangers. They always expect to be bored. Donkeys help.”

Stephen relaxed and smiled, thinking he understood. But he wondered, none the less, why Hugh looked so desperately disappointed when he said “No, it’ll be just me.”

To Continue - Eleven

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From Lucy - Steps at Castle Cove - For My World Tuesday

I like the way the title 'My World Tuesday' is ambiguous because it reflects the way our inner and outer realities often overlap.

These wooden steps are at Castle Cove, Dorset in England. They link a sandy beach with a wooded cliff top. There used to be a path along the cliff but landslips have taken it away.

Whichever direction one walks on these steps - whether up or down - one feels one is setting off for somewhere exotic and exciting. However many times I go up them (or down) I feel as if I am entering a new world; a world of fiction and adventure. And this is despite the fact that nothing ever happens there. I walk up. I walk down. That's it. No change. No adventure. Just up and down-ness. But I always feel as if . . . .

Sometimes I wonder if the steps are getting a bit rickety - whether I might arrive one day only to find they have gone.

Just like life really.

For other contributions to - My World Tuesday . . . go exploring!

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From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - NINE

To read this post on a white background, click HERE
continued from
As the congregation filed out of Church, Hugh took note of Stephen properly for the first time. Of course, he had been vaguely aware of him throughout the service, in the way one always notices strangers, but now he was suddenly struck with the idea that this might be Rosemary's husband, sent on a reconnaissance trip in advance of their visit.

It had begun to drizzle and the first people out had got no further than the . . . . . . porch because they'd stopped there to contemplate the weather. Nobody else could move forward. Those caught in the body of the Church huffed and puffed, umbrellas at the ready for unfurling - but mostly they settled for a chat and looked around for something to moan about while they waited. Hugh was trapped behind Mrs Crow who was complaining about her cat’s latest batch of kittens. Mrs Partridge was complaining about reduced postal deliveries. Mr Dint had lost his glasses and Mr Hobbs and Mr Martin were discussing seed catalogues. Hugh peered through the crowd and strained his ears.

'Robert' was already at the door, being said goodbye to by the Vicar.

He heard the man say ‘America’ and ‘bank’. And the Vicar said ‘London’. Mrs Cosborough started up about Christmas not being far away and Hugh heard Stephen say ‘Clapham’.

That clinched it. It was Robert!

If Hugh hadn’t been the kind of man who always sits in the front pew, he would never have got to Stephen in time - but as it was, he simply had to march forward casting loud 'Good Morning's about him and the crowd moved aside. “Good Morning.” “Good Morning.” He held each person's eye long enough for them to realise what was wanted, then stepped into the gap they made for him. Within seconds, he was at the front of the queue.


From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - EIGHT

To read this post on a white background, click HERE

Continued from - SEVEN
On a table near the door, someone had laid out little stacks of books; Book of Common Prayer, a booklet with the latest words for a Parish Communion, and a psalter with an A4 sheet of church notices folded in half and tucked between the pages. He took his little pile, put his collection money on a big brass plate and moved on into the central aisle, wondering where he should sit.

There was bound to be a squire - and he and his family would sit in the front row. He knew where the Church Wardens would sit because their staffs were held up in spring clips on the ends of their pews. Most congregations, he reckoned, had a collection of old ladies who always sat at the back because . . . . . well, he didn’t know why, they just did, so he didn’t sit there either. He slipped into a seat about a third of the way down (on the right hand side, so he wouldn’t crick his neck during the sermon) and looked about him . . .

. .

The church was Saxon in style, with walls fortress thick and the windows high. The sound of the ringing bell was faint and distant now he was inside but the grate and click of its rope mesmerised him and drew him so deeply into the stillness of the place that the clunk of the iron latch and the heavy squeak of door hinges a few minutes later startled him almost into turning and glaring at whoever it was who had destroyed the silence.

A loud voice.

“Morning John!”

The rhythm of the bell faltered slightly and a muffled voice called back ‘Good Morning’ from behind the heavy curtain in front of the entrance to the tower.

Some more footsteps around the doorway, lighter ones, and the door shut with a soft thud.

A few whispers while the newcomers chose their books, then the confident steps of a man who ‘belonged’ coming up the aisle, the sharper tapping of his wife’s heels following and the crackle and rustle of waxed jackets (which turned out to be surprisingly dirty when their wearers came into view).

It was an elderly man and his wife.

Without hesitation, they headed for the front row and settled themselves in. A-ha! - the people from the ‘Big House’ had arrived.

For the next couple of minutes, Stephen was distracted by the way they were organising their books along the shelf in front of them; each one clearly being placed in its ‘usual’ position, and their constant turning to nod greetings at acquaintances filing slowly into rows behind. Not that their greetings seemed especially well received, for the smiles returned were stiff and the replies that went with them barely polite.

He wondered why.

Then, when the man took off his jacket so he could kneel more comfortably to say his prayers of preparation, Stephen noticed his trousers were held up, not with a belt but with a frayed length of nylon blue binder twine. Binder twine!?

The couple spent a few minutes in prayer, then with a lot of scuffling and a few more whispers, they rose from their knees, the woman to sit, the man to walk forward to the oversized Bible which had already been placed on the brass eagle-lectern facing the congregation. He found the Old Testament lesson, read it through once and marked it with a long green tasselled bookmark. Then raising himself slightly onto his toes, he leant over the Book and looked down onto his wife with such a dazzlingly gentle and loving smile that Stephen was completely taken aback.

Another clatter of the latch, another scuffle of feet, and the woman in the front pew turned again to see who had come in. This time, Stephen took more notice.

Her hair was as white as white hair can ever be and her eyes were the bluest of possible blues. Her face was weather beaten, her white skin sun-darkened and grooved with paler little channels where she had wrinkled it against the wind. She seemed awfully tired. Stephen guessed she was about seventy.

And she was beautiful.

To continue - NINE

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From Lucy - Brambles and Bridge - For Skywatch

When it comes to Skywatch Friday, there are all sorts of dramatic skies on display from all over the world. I have lived in places with dramatic skies. I now live somewhere which, though rich in scenery, has skies which are rarely more than blue or grey with a few bits and bobs of clouds. Often, even the bits and bobs are absent.

I have only recently started publishing Skywatch posts so I'd better let you know, anyone who is kind enough to drop in to see, that they are unlikely to be gold or red; more likely, they will be blank backdrops. But I make no apologies for blank backdrops because they are wondefully generous in the way they illuminate the shapes of the shapes in front of them - like this one - with the brambles and the bridge.

Lucy's regular blog 'Pictures Just Pictures' will be back in the autumn.

Click HERE to see more Skywatch Posts.

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From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - SEVEN

It took Stephen about three quarters of an hour to walk to Thorncombe. The weather was deliciously Novemberish and, although it was too early in the day for bonfires, the damp, grey air seemed to breath yesterday’s wood smoke, and the rotting leaves along the banks of ditches were oozing a pleasant mustiness; the smell of England.

Just as he entered . . . the main part of the village one high, unbeautiful bell began to ring (not very rhythmically at first). In another quarter of an hour the service would start. He was glad about the timing. He liked to catch the atmosphere of a place before anything much happened. He liked to sit down and look around and watch the way people came in, the way they prayed, observe the small muttered greetings, the furtive glances 'the regulars’ gave strangers. Him. He smiled and hoped, very fervently, that no-body would rush up to welcome him or shake his hand so he felt out of place. It did happen sometimes, even in these out of the way villages and, when it did, it disturbed him. He had come to be in the presence of God, not to be grabbed. So he paused a moment and thought. Then went up the three steps cut into the bank at the side of the road, opened the wooden gate and, walking more slowly now, up the curved incline towards the church.

It was a funny feeling this. Everything seemed so familiar: the churchyard raised high above the level of the road, the lopsided gravestones, the chirrup of the odd sparrow, the way the grass was encroaching along the uneven edge of the half gravelled path; then the deadening of sound as he went into the porch, so only his feet were loud as he stepped from the earth path onto stone flags. Then the rough grating of iron as he lifted the catch on the heavy door - this was the best welcome he could have had and its loud screeching (because no-one ever oiled its hinges) collected up the memory of all such church doors when he pushed them open, and it rolled them into one eternal sensation of always arriving, and going in, and belonging. This same scene, the same smells, the same quiet expectancy, it was the same here as in almost every parish in rural England. He smiled, and leaning against the latch, stepped down into the gloom of the church. Smells: smells of old hymnbooks, dusty hassocks, the peppery sweetness of dried out chrysanthemum leaves in cobwebby vases, wood polish . . . . . Home!

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From Lucy - The Tunnel-Double - For My World Tuesday

I took this photo in an old railway tunnel which is now part of a public path.

The image is blurred and double because I moved the camera by mistake. I have another photo with the same view but with a crisper image but I don't like that one anywhere near as much. The blur makes it more like a painting. Not only that but a shifting perspective is part of my everyday life so this photo fits well for 'My World Tuesday'.

The alcove in the wall is where railway workers would have found safety from passing trains. I like that thought; of there being nooks in one's life which are places of safety when the steam trains of life go hurtling by. (Sometimes, I can't help sounding like an Alan Bennet Sermon! ('Beyond the Fringe')

Lucy is having a break from her regular blog at present (until the autumn) but you can see more of her photos by clicking HERE.

For other participants in 'My World Tuesday' - Click HERE or on the button at the top of this blog.

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From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - Six

Stephen rattled down the bed-and-breakfast stairs, plucked a parish magazine from a pile on a table by the front door - and followed the scent of frying bacon into the breakfast room.

It was Sunday - and he was three days into a meander round the English countryside - a sort of re-acclimatisation tour after his return from America.

It was Stoke-Upton, a hamlet ten miles short of King's Hampton and he'd come across it the evening before just when darkness was falling and he was beginning to panic. (He'd prefer not to be lost in the lanes till morning!)

And he'd struck lucky. The cottage was peaceful and old. The sheets were heavy and cool. The blankets warm. The eiderdown heavy and the curtains thin. The cups flowery. The tea strong. The biscuits plain. The air chill. (As was the water in the hand-basin.) The floors uneven. And the welcome was as welcoming as a welcome is when the landscape is otherwise empty of paying guests.

Mrs Jenkins brought toast in a rack and asked if he was planning to go to Church, it being Sunday, and him reading the parish magazine.

“Because, if you do, you’ll have to go to Thorncombe. We’ve got ‘amalgamated’. Would you like eggs with your bacon?”

"Eggs and fried bread. How far is Thorncombe?"

"Holy Communion at ten," she said. "Albert went at eight. Not far. About half an hour's walk. Lunch at one?"

He hadn't planned on lunch.

“Beef," she said, encouragingly. "Local. Yorkshire pudding . . . roast potatoes . . . ." She was wondering what might tempt him best. Broccoli from the garden and our own peas from the freezer. Blackberries. Custard?" she added hopefully. "And tonight . . . will you be staying tonight?"

Yesterday evening, he'd seen big hills with rocky, thorny tops. Pastures and woodland on the lower slopes. He’d driven through narrow lanes lined with ancient trees and thick hedges. There were streams in the ditches and a river in the valley. On his bedside table was a list of local attractions. Post Office. Bus stop - market days only. And a map to show where the library van parked once a month. There was a list of local produce on the back and a box advert for an art gallery in King's Hampton. He knew it - and smiled.


The England he'd missed.

Why not?

"One night."

(Mrs Jenkins smiled too!)



From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - FIVE

Click Here to Read This Post on a White Background.
After the almost overwhelming emotion set off by the arrival of Rosemary’s letter, Hugh and Camellia surprised themselves by settling quickly into the routine of the day. Each hugged to each their excitement and it wasn’t mentioned again until supper.

“I think late Spring would be best,” remarked Hugh squinting to see Camellia beyond the flickering lights of their silver candelabra. Then, in order to conceal his feelings, he peered instead at his poached fish, flaking it to check for bones. “When the lambs are born and their mothers shorn; the ewes look tidier then.”

Camellia was startled. She’d decided next Saturday would be a good time for Rosemary’s first visit - and here was Hugh proposing they wait for months and months. She’d been making plans for Christmas too. They’d take a great, tall tree from the estate, set it up in the drawing room and cover it with decorations (children always like glitter, taste be damned!). She’d been imagining huge logs in the fireplace (there were loads of fallen branches around the fields) - and piles of parcels for Cressida and Cordelia. (So many Christmases and birthdays to catch up on!). It would, she’d decided, be a story book event; like the old days. She’d ask the vicar to send the choir and they’d sing carols and eat mince pies. How everyone would love it! And they’d talk to the sheep and feed the donkeys and walk through the fields and learn the names of the cows.

“D’you think we should buy a new carpet?” asked Hugh.

Camellia’s mind had wandered so clearly towards Christmas she couldn’t think what carpet he was talking about. Nor could she imagine why any carpet might have any bearing on Rosemary’s visit.

“It’s a bit slimy nowadays.”

Camellia sighed. What had she been thinking? The sheep lived in the drawing room. Forget the choir. It would have to be a Christmas like all the others they’d had in recent years. They’d cluster round the aga for warmth and eat in the kitchen as usual. (They could still have a tree and buy lots of presents for the children.) Did she want to go back in time? No. For the most part, she liked things as they were.

"Hugh," she said. "As much as I want to see her, I don't want a carpet for the sheep. They don't need one."

He looked up from his fish.

"Not for - "

But Camellia was in tank mode, pushing forward without interruption.

"We made our life as we want it." She tried to catch his eye and infuse him with a happy sense of conspiracy - tempt him to smile. But he was wary. "Now." She laid her hands on the table and hoped she sounded business-like. "Rosemary isn't like us." She waved brusquely to show he mustn't speak. "She worries about cleanliness. She likes to live a narrow line; be like the neighbours."

Neighbours? They had no neighbours.

"She worries what they might think."

"And we don't."

It was a flat statement. She looked at him sharply. She knew he was lonely.

"Not in the way Rosemary does, we don't. No . . . so . . . " She was still watching. "Suppose we change everything, everything we like but she doesn't - shift the animals, make everything cleaner than it need be, tidy away my knitting."

Had Rosemary not like knitting? He couldn't remember. Probably she didn't. As far as he could remember, she didn't like much.


He was listening. But he couldn't look as if he were listening.

"Suppose we do all that but it isn't enough for her . . . she arrives . . . sees . . . turns . . . " she was still watching "and goes."

He jumped.

"What are we left with?"

He didn't know. Broken hearts? Life never after?

"A carpet. A new carpet! That's all, Hugh. We could throw everything away and be left with nothing but a carpet." She leaned forwards, peering to see him beyond the candles, their lights stinging her eyes.

“Hugh,” she said firmly. “The sheep live in the drawing room and they don’t need a new carpet. Nor do we."

Hugh’s face twisted. They must, absolutely must, put all their strength, all their effort, all their fortune if necessary, into making Rosemary feel welcome. If it meant throwing everything else away, evicting the sheep, building a field shelter for the donkeys - well, he'd do it! - So long as she stayed. He'd even begun to wonder if her husband might be interested in farming.

“I want them here for Christmas Hugh,” said Camellia, her jaw tense and her eyes stinging.

Hugh sliced a potato.

Silence. Only broken by the strange scrape of silver forks on pottery plates.


“If we leave the sheep in the drawing room,” muttered Hugh. "She’ll walk in, she’ll walk out, just as you say, and that will be the last we see of her. Possibly for ever, Camellia. For ever.”

“She knows how we live,” said Camellia, tart and bitter.

(She didn't like to be bitter.)

“She'll say we’ve got worse,” said Hugh, quietly.


(Tart, bitter and shrill!)

“In her terms,” he said, more gently now. “We're worse. Much worse. Imagine how she’ll see things, Camellia. We’ve got to see through her eyes.”

Camellia stilled and stared.


“Ok,” she said, with a little clap of her hands. “We’ll do it.” She saw him brighten. His shoulders unhunch. She snuffed the candles. She could see him properly now. “And by ‘do it’, I only mean we’ll do what we have to. Just that. The minimum. But NOW. That's when. Not in the spring. The sheep can go on holiday, we'll clear the drawing room and clean the table in here and she can come on Saturday."

It wasn't what he'd wanted and he didn't know how they'd do it, not by Saturday. It gave them only six days in which to effect a massive transformation. Six days and a morning if they didn't invite Rosemary to lunch. Not good - but agreed. Almost.

"A week next Saturday."

"Done!" said Camellia - and she felt something ripple inside her. It was pleasure creeping back in. And with it came a spark of contradictory hope. Perhaps the sheep could stay away till January? Then they might have that tree . . . and that choir . . . and that massive fire - and mince pies - after all?

After that . . . . But she hadn't a clue about after.


For the next episode - SIX

For the post before this - Four

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From Lucy - Hart's Tongue Fern

Harts Tongue Fern - Asplenium Scolopendrium

This fern is growing in woodland where water drips down almost constantly from ledge to ledge.

The sun breaks through in 'spotlights', lighting up one plant, then another.

This photo was taken on 7th August 2009. To see more of Lucy's pictures, go to 'Pictures Just Pictures'.


Esther's Word

In the sidebar, there is a list of words.

Esther is asking what you think of them.

The question is not about their meaning or their associations but their sounds. A word may have a horrible meaning but still sound good. ('Splat' for instance.) Or a word may have a nice meaning but sound dreadful. (Sibling might be an example.)

This is the current word.


What do you make of that?

You can comment, either on this post - or click 'Persimmon' in the word list in the side-bar to leave a comment on her blog.



This photo was taken on 7th August 2009.

For more of Lucy's photos - go to 'Pictures Just Pictures - Daily'.

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From Lucy

Clematis Armandii Leaves in the Evening After Rain

Clematis Armandii is an everygreen clematis. Its leaves are red when young, turning to dark, glossy green as they grow. In the early spring it is covered with clusters of small, white, delicately scented flowers. Snails love it but it grows so vigorously, it doesn't seem to mind them living within its shelter.

This photograph was taken on 21st July 2009. More of Lucy's pictures can be seen at Pictures Just Pictures - Daily.

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From Lucy for My World Tuesday

This ship seems, to me, to be a very big ship!

This photo was taken on 2nd August 2009, looking across Portland Harbour, in Dorset.

Portland Harbour will be the base for the sailing events of the 2012 Olympics.

Lucy posts photographs daily at 'Pictures Just Pictures'

To find photographs from people all over the world who are participating in 'My World Tuesday'  . . . click on the 'My World' button at the top of this blog.

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From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - FOUR

While Hugh and Camellia were relishing their one letter, Rosemary and Robert were ploughing through a week’s worth. The postman had been off sick and there'd been no-one to replace him for several days so it had taken until 10:30 the night before, just as they were going to bed, before he’d finished delivering the backlog.

"We may as well make the most of having letters at breakfast,” said Robert, shuffling through the pile. "Very civilised." Nearly all of it was junk mail, but, eventually, he hit gold. "Ah! Here’s a good one! Very welcome.”

Rosemary looked up from buttering her toast and peered round his arm so she could see the handwriting.


Indeed a pleasure. It was from their oldest and best friend and his letters were always fun, long, witty, tightly written and full of anecdotes - perfect for reading aloud.

He liked America. He worked there. He'd lived there four years and if he hadn't liked it, he'd have come home.

He liked computers. He'd persuaded his bank to send him away to work on them. If he hadn't liked computers, he‘d have stayed in Clapham.

But his conservative core was embarrassed. He insisted that progress should be resisted. He despised technology. (He said.) He drank coffee for breakfast even though it was against nature to do so and he only agreed to it out of civility. (He said.) He was filled with respect for his colleagues - but complained when they didn't wear ties. He complained about the over-familiarity of people he met at dinner parties - but he went to them.

He sent to England for tea. He cut thin sandwiches and invited friends to share them in the afternoon. Everyone laughed at him. Everyone liked him. Everyone knew he was clever. Hardly anyone knew him - only Robert and Rosemary. To them, he told everything.

“He’s coming back!” said Robert.


For the Next Episode - Five
For the Episode before this - Four
And, remember, 'Hugh and Camellia' is also being posted on a white background - click HERE.


From Esther - Monday Maths

Astronaut Ben

Said to Astronaut Len


"I wonder if 90

Is 9 x 10".


But Len didn't hear,

So he said it again . . . . . (Louder!)


"I wonder if 90

Is 9 x 10".

Esther publishes a 'Monday Maths' post every . . . Monday. (More or less.) Some are fun rhymes like this. Some offer the chance for more serious discussion - mainly by non-mathemeticians. (Like herself,)



If VP hadn't brought it to my attention, I wouldn't have noticed that, at thirty-four minutes and fifty six seconds past mid-day on August 7th 2009, the date would be 1234567809.

An historic event.

The challenge may have been to photograph what I was doing at that particular moment but what I was (intending to be) doing at that moment was photographing something interesting. I chose a spectacular place to do it in - but because I forgot what I was supposed to be doing, I ended up taking some less than spectacular photos!

Which I nearly forgot so I had to set out at a run if I were to photograph anything except the pavement at that remarkable moment. Stopped on the way and took a photo of the path I was on.

Almost there.

And there! (I mean, here.)

And something interesting!

(The head of another chatterer.)

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From Lucy

Nettles on the Edge of a Path

These young nettles were photographed in Dorset on 4th August 2009.

You can see more of Lucy's photos at 'Pictures Just Pictures - Daily'


From Mary - 'Hugh and Camellia' - THREE

Breakfast, a week later.

Camellia was complaining that the quality of journalistic photography was no-where near as good as it used to be and Hugh was saying nothing.

That was when Camellia looked round the edge of her newspaper and realised something awful was happening.

She had been expecting him to suggest they go to London for a few days, visit proper galleries and see proper pictures. It's what he always did. They’d discuss which ones - and then not go. That's how it went.

But Hugh was looking very odd and seemed incapable of saying anything. He was holding a letter and his hand was shaking but apart from that he was sitting stiller than she’d ever seen him. His face was white; paper white. Then his colour deepened. Sweat broke from his forehead and his lips parted and closed, parted and closed - without sound. Was this what a heart attack looked like?

She wanted to go to him. She began to stand. But time seemed to have gone sticky and, although she was sure she was moving as quickly as she could, her limbs would hardly budge from the chair and she felt as if air itself was pushing her back.

Hugh’s nostrils flared. She saw him suck large, silent, unsteady, slow-motion breaths. Her ears stopped working. Her body was swimming. Would he die before she reached him?

Then, he wrenched his attention from the half crumpled letter and, gathering his remaining strength, fixed her eyes with his and willed her to sit.

She did. And was flooded with relief so fierce it was as if her blood had been sucked away in a second and replaced the next moment with aniseed. She could feel it flushing her face and trembling her fingers.

Hugh smoothed the letter.
No dieing yet.

Camellia concentrated her face into a frown. She didn't want her eyes to widen too far. They might bounce out and fall into her cereal bowl.

The last they’d seen of Rosemary was when she graduated.

A cow had calved. Unfortunate timing. If they’d stopped to change out of their mud-spattered overalls, they'd have missed it.

So they'd crept into the back of the hall at the last minute and sat there proudly; pleased with their daughter; pleased with themselves that they were there.

Rosemary was not pleased.

“You stink!” she’d screamed. (They did.)

Fifteen years later - a letter!

It took a few moments before Camellia realised Hugh was reading aloud. Time seemed to be tidying itself but sound lagged still.

Faintly, she heard the word ‘husband’.


Delight ignited.

“They’re coming to see us?” . It was a whisper.

Hugh tried to say ‘yes’ .

“Have they . . . .?”.

“Yes,” said Hugh, suddenly explosive and noisy. A grin broke out and his eyes sparkled. Camellia felt her insides jump. And then - a distraction. A great lurch of love for Hugh; it happened from time to time.

. . . the sea-blueness of his eyes . . . their first summer . . . whiteness on waves . . . gulls and children shrieking, indistinguishable.

“Two,” he said joyfully. “Both girls. Cressida and Cornelia."

For a moment, they gazed at each other, wide eyed from their distant ends of the table. Then they bent over their plates and giggled.

“What?!” asked Camellia, suddenly able to speak - though the sound was odd and staccato.

(At least I can speak again, she thought.)

"It could have been worse," said Hugh. "Lady Macbeth."

Camellia felt her hands relax. She was returning to life.

“And Camellia isn’t ordinary as a name, is it?" Hugh continued. What if she'd chosen flowers to remind them of you? Um . . . Buttercup and Marsh Mallow?”

"Foxglove and Bindweed!”

“Dandelion and Burdock!”

They were hysterical with delight. Their dream was true. Rosemary was alive.

And they had grandchildren to boot.

Camellia raised the teapot.

Hugh looked at his watch.

“I think,” he said happily, “I can put off mending that gate for another few minutes.”

For the next episode - Four
To Start at the Beginning - One
For the episode before this - Two


From Lucy - DEAD IVY

Dead Ivy

This photo was taken in woodland (in Dorset) on 7th August 2009. The stems of the ivy had been cut to stop the plant from enveloping completely its host tree.

This photo - and more from Lucy Corrander - can be seen also at Pictures Just Pictures.

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Eleven o’clock. Same time. Coffee time. Clapham.

Rosemary, Hugh and Camellia’s, daughter was sitting in her kitchen, staring resolutely into her wide, white cup.

“I want nothing more to do with them, Robert."

She pushed the biscuits towards her husband, not meeting his eye.

“But they’re your parents.”

Through the window, between gaps in the houses, he could see plane trees in the park, black and bare of leaves. Their branches were spiky and delicate against the grey, grainy sky.

My parents.”.

“And my parents ‘in-law’. They're old. We should offer them care.”

“They have each other.”

She was snapping.

“But Rosemary.”

He was pleading.

“What about our children?”

Rosemary stared at him.

“What about them?”

“They need grandparents. Everyone needs grandparents.”

“Of course they don’t need grandparents.” She laughed. “Lots of people don’t have grandparents.”

He didn’t like her to laugh. It mattered.

Perhaps I should let him see, she thought. When he sees the mess in the drawing room, he'll change his mind. When the donkeys in the hall bite him . . .

. . . how old were they now? . . .

. . . when his expensive shoes had been ruined by fifteen years of urine and accumulated dung he too would want an escape.

"Of course children need grandparents! Doesn’t everyone?"

Rosemary tried not to look as she felt.

Robert kept his eyes on the view. The lawn below the chestnut tree had turned to mush. The flower borders were empty of everything except for a cluster of London-weary evergreens.

“Just let the children have grandparents Rosemary.”

She reached for the coffee pot. It was empty and she slammed it so sharply back down onto the table that its little feet drove dents into the wood. She licked her finger and rubbed at the marks, then, shoving the pot aside, settled for staring at them so she didn’t have to look anywhere else - but, every so often, her finger reached back, as if of its own accord, to have another go at smoothing them away.

“Listen, Rosemary,” said Robert, trying not to sound desperate. “This is something we must do. The children shouldn’t be separated from their grandparents and their grandparents shouldn’t be separated either from them or from any help we can give them in their old age.”

Robert was pompous when distressed.

She suddenly knew he'd planned this conversation. He must have. He was wearing a suit.

Bother, she thought, he's serious.

When her grandparents had lived at Thorncombe, there'd been a huge apple-wood fire in winter (there weren’t sheep in the drawing room then!). And the scent of it had floated up and out of the chimney. It had drifted across the roofs of the big house. It had dropped sleepily into the parkland. The shelves in her room had been filled with story books (not warble fly tracts). When it was time for bed, her grandmother read from them until her until her eyes closed.

Cows and sheep lived in the fields, not the house. There were two cats, just two - healthy and tame - not the countless, nameless, sickly ones her parents let crawl in and out of the cooking pots.

Everything her parents touched turned to mud. They'd turned Thorncombe to mud. But they existed. Whereas . . . Robert . . . his parents gone before he knew them. And his grandparents . . . never met them.

Her heart lurched. She’d always known she’d give in one day - well - that day might as well be this one; at least she’d have got it over with.

“Ok," she said. “We’ll go. We’ll go to Thorncombe.”

She didn't want to see him pleased. Not about this. So she filled the kettle.

“You can change now,” she said. "It is Saturday."

But still, she didn't look at him. "I'll make fresh coffee," she said.

Then, at last, she turned, and smiled. “And while you’re doing it, you can work out where we can buy wellington boots in Clapham.”



From Lucy - For Skywatch

Nothing But a Weed and Some Sky

This photo was taken on the morning of 6th August 2009 beside Portland Harbour in Dorset.

Lucy's Blog is Pictures Just Pictures

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Mary Sharpe is taking a break from writing 'HUGH AND CAMELLIA' over the summer - but the 'story so far' will be re-printed here over the next few weeks, ready for her to resume in the autumn.

Hugh walked heavily up the five steps into his house, filled a bucket with water from a standpipe under his most valuable painting, went into the drawing room, swung his shoulders back as far as they would go and, as forcefully as he could, threw cold water across the ancient carpet.

Sheep droppings bobbed along on the flood and slewshed with a rush against the pile of damp straw he’d raked into the hearth earlier that morning.

Across the room, beyond the sofas and chairs, a small flock of sheep clustered beneath a standard lamp. Hugh eased himself straight and nodded a greeting but they trotted over to the windows and watched him anxiously from the corners of their eyes.

Calmly, trying to look reassuring, he went for more water; more and more water - until the last of the debris was flushed into the hearth. Then he forked the whole dripping mess into a wheelbarrow, bumped it out down the steps, across the yard and into the kitchen garden - ran it up a plank and tipped it onto a heap of mouldering straw and manure. After that, he leant the barrow against a wall and stretched.

It was a cold November day - but he was happy. His back hurt, his arms ached and he was weary; desperately weary. But he was used to that - and happy.

Everything, in fact was as usual. The fields were waterlogged and most of the tracks impassable. The few animals he hadn’t brought indoors were muddy and listless and nearly as tired as he was and even the air inside the house was damp and cold. But it was winter - and the kitchen was warm.


The kettle was simmering and Camellia’s scones were warm on the Aga. There was bread on the table, newly baked, and his favourite cat was sitting contentedly next to it.

A scene from thirty winters.




But when he reached to take a mug from the dresser, his fingers gave way. The mug dropped, a plate shattered and the cat scrambled over the bread and went to settle more comfortably in an armchair on the other side of the room.

Camellia, startled by the noise, came in from the scullery.

“Just a mug and a plate,” said Hugh, flexing his fingers. “I expect it’s the cold.” He held them for her to see; red and swollen. “They gave way.”

Camellia wiped her hands on her apron and kissed him. Then she shoved the pieces of plate to the back of the dresser.

“We’re getting old,” she said, pouring the coffee. “We need a day off.”

“A week!” said Hugh rubbing the dirt from his hands. “A month. A year!"

Then he sat at the table.

Camellia smiled.

“More than a day and you’d pine!”

She brought scones but his spine jerked and pains flickered down his arm when he reached for one.

A holiday?

Too many animals.

Too much work.

“Maybe one day,” he said, judging his moment and grabbing at a scone between spasms.

But he hardly meant it.


To continue - Two



There's a programme called 'Gardeners' Question Time' on BBC Radio 4. It has been part of my life for . . . well, the whole of my life. Like The Archers.

And, from time to time, the questioning gardeners ask about plants and trees which some of the 'answerers' think are patently ridiculous for anyone in England to be growing at all - like olive trees. "Well," they go. "You can grow an olive tree if you like but you won't get any olives". Then lots of other gardeners write in and say things like, "My olive tree has fruit - five genuine olives.". And the people on the panel smirk a bit (I can hear them doing it) and say "Five olives does not make a crop". And people like me think, "Yes it does! - In Dorset!".

A couple of years ago I had five olives on my tree. They ripened to black. I ate them. (I wouldn't have offered them to anyone but me.) And I stood and chewed, and walked around for a bit - chewing - and thinking, very proudly, how wonderful it is to own an olive tree.

This year, I have two bunches with little green dots of olives. BUNCHES! Of OLIVES!
Ha! Gardeners' Question Time. I'm not going to starve if my olive crop fails but I am going to be very pleased with my bunches. (If they ripen.)

I expect it will stop raining one day - the clouds cleared and the sun came out briefly yesterday afternoon.

The word (For Wednesday) was . . . still is . . .

Click here for the transcript of an Olive Tree discussion. This one happened quite far north in England where the growing conditions are very different from where I live now so it's not really fair to use it as an illustration. On the other hand, it gives an idea of the jolly sort of atmosphere which pervades the Gardener's Question Time Programme - which people (like me) enjoy as much for its entertainment as its information.

Esther's Blog is - 'Esther's Boring Garden Blog'


From Lucy - Triangles


Lucy Posts Photographs Daily at Pictures Just Pictures

This one was taken at Sandsfoot Park, in Dorset.



It doesn't stop. Everything is green and lush.

That's enough, thank you.


For a bit.

A few years ago I grew an impressive group of tomatoes. The plants were huge and fruitful and the wonder of anyone addicted to side-shooting. (I don't.) (Side-shoot.) Secretly, I attributed this success to my recently demised guinea pigs who had had their run on that bit of garden. Then blight set in. Baskets of shrivelling, fossilising, thick-skinned, un-ripening tomatoes with brown marks. Delicious. Ha!

I left it a few seasons.

Last year - tall, sturdy plants with lots of flowers. The flowers fell off.

This year. One plant in the ground. Fruit appearing. Two in pots (with fruit appearing). (Another in a pot too small. No fruit appearing. Ignore that one.)



Flowers hanging damp and dripping - how's a pollinator supposed to get in there? Self-pollinating? No, everything's stuck. Stuck together petals. Pollen turned to mush.

Oh, the joys of life! Hey nonny-no!

I once heard that the foll-diddle-rolls in Elizabethan madrigals are where the rude bits have been censored - or to hint at things which could only be sung out loud in taverns. Swearing to music!

I think Wessex Water might have resisted the temptation to hand VP an invitation to tour the Sewage Works the very moment she got off the train. That's carrying a Dorset welcome to un-necessarily enthusiastic lengths, I would say.

And I think the park gardener who decided to chainsaw the bushes by the bench where we were eating our lunch-time picnic could have done his hedge tidying before her visit, not have waited until she was here.

The people who tarmaced the way home just about managed to finish in time - as long as we kept moving, our feet didn't stick to the ground.

I think Worthing and Didcott might have asked her if she minded her trainers being caked in grey Lyme Mud . . . or Kimmeridge Clay . . . or whatever it is . . . before they took her on that particular sea-side walk. (That's another route where you have to keep moving. If you don't, you sink. And you keep sinking, or sink as far as your knees (or something) until the Coast Guards come.) (Lucky they kept walking!) It's good for strengthening your leg muscles. Your shoes are much heavier when you reach home than when you started out.

And it didn't rain on the day she arrived.

Or much the next day.

Then it did.

And it still is.


And I would have quite liked not to have had a fit while she was here. Still, it wasn't a 'bad' one - and that's life, isn't it? Rain and falling off your chair. And having VP catch you when you do. (Begin to fall off your chair!)

(Thanks VP.)



(I'm hoping she'll come back some time. Then we'll be able to have the coffee on the beach we promised her - and as we would have done if it hadn't rained . . . and take her to see the woods-which-I-thought-Ming-had-taken-her-to-except-I've-just-discovered-he-took-her-to-see-his-favourite-road-instead. (Favourite road indeed!)

Esther Montgomery's Blog is at 'Esther's Boring Garden Blog'.

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From Lucy for 'My World Tuesday'

Skull and Crossed Bones

Church Ope Cove, Dorset, England.

The graveyard where I took the skull and crossed bones photo is a very lovely, no-longer used one in woods, on a cliff, high above the sea next to (and, partly within) the ruins of a mediaeval church below the remains of William Rufus' (Norman) Castle which is even higher up the cliff.

This is my first contribution to 'My World Tuesday'.

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Why do we not like maths?

Some do. I know that. But most don't. And for those of us who make up that 'most' - the answer seems obvious . . . maths is difficult . . . and, (we say) most of it is irrelevant - we never need it once we've left school . . . except . . . except . . . there are lots of things (difficult and irrelevant) which we a happily do (and with interest) long after we've left school; for the whole of our lives, indeed - so how can our resistance be explained . . . ?

I think, I think it's because there aren't enough boxes in maths. By a box, I mean a context which shows something is complete. And by a 'context', I don't mean a real life one or a useful one . . . but one which bestows the satisfying sensation of having seen something right through to its end. A bit like a crossword. A crossword is irrelevant and useless and doesn't contain all the words in the world - but we feel satisfied when we've filled in the answers . . . and if we don't get them all done today, we will let them simmer in and out of our minds until the last clue falls into place . . . and, if it doesn't, who cares? It's only a game. And because it's a game, we might come back and do another puzzle, another time. But maths . . . well, it seems open ended, far too open ended, it goes on and on for ever and we never seem to come to the end of any of it.

I was unwell for a couple of days in the last week and sat in bed trying to work out how to make three columns on a blog. Html is about as frightening as maths and the page went blizzy in front of my eyes. It simply merged into a blodge. I should have been resting, not sitting up trying to make three columns - but I couldn't stop, I simply couldn't stop until I'd got them.

And the experience was liberating. If I could spend a whole day making a page with three columns and extras when I had absolutely no need for them - and feel, not that I'd wasted my time, nor what an idiot I must be to take have taken so long - but pleased instead that I'd learnt something new - why couldn't I spend a day doing just one algebra question and go to bed happy knowing the hours had been used well? Or working out why a negative multiplied by a negative is a plus . . . . ?

My skin has broken out in a sweat.

I've gone cross eyed.

When the moment comes, when I set aside time to tackle negatives, I won't want anyone to see what I'm doing. Nor will I want them to tell me it's easy. Definitely I won't want that! Because it isn't. (Easy.) If I owe money then borrow twice as much more, then I'm three lots of money in debt, not suddenly and miraculously in credit. (Have you noticed the withering glances of mathematicians if you advance this objection? It's a terrible faux pas.) I managed to fail my maths G.C.S.E. four times - mainly because I was so frightened of numbers my vision went all wrong and I could see only a big, white, emptiness where the page should have been. If I concentrated, I could make the mists clear in little patches and catch glimpses of small groups of equations or triangles. It was like looking through a telescope. How can you pass an exam if you physically can't see the questions?

Sometimes, if I'm trying to work out how to do something on the computer, someone will come by and say 'Oh, you just press this, then this, then this, then . . . there, I've done it for you! See?' Am I pleased? NO! I'd rather spend HOURS trying to work it out for myself, I'd RATHER FAIL than have someone interfere and do it for me! So why don't I chose one difficult box - the multiplication of negatives (instant clammy skin) and work it out for myself? If I got three columns by using html, I reckon I should, given time, be able to multiply negatives and land up with positives.

I've even found a use for three columns. (This blog!)

Maybe I'll find a use for negative numbers.

(Sounds like spinning straw into gold to me.)

For more posts by Esther Montgomery, go to Esther's Boring Garden Blog.

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From Lucy


For more photos from Pictures Just Pictures, Click Here.



This is a developing blog and today's development is to have news in the sidebars - and the first guest blogger with news is Philip Brown of The Westbury Heritage Centre in Wiltshire.

If anyone else has news for The Third Column, especially if they are local bloggers ('local' being a stretchy term) - get in touch and we'll see if there's a space.

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