Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"Ramble on"

I'm writing this post because of a comment Sam made after the "Susan's summer" entry here. If you haven't seen his comment, and then Cath's, you may find them there. 

I'll just put up the you tube of Led Zeppelin singing Ramble On right off the bat so you can have it in your heads as you read along.

I'm not a huge fan (I was more of a Jeff Beck girl), but this is a great song, and even though loud and rocky it is in the English folk tradition with its words. I had to look up a couple that I didn't know because I haven't read Tolkien.



J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
Flag of Mordor SVG.svg
Flag displaying the Red Eye of Sauron, Lord of Mordor (based on a design by Tolkien)
First appearanceThe Lord of the Rings
TypeRealm and base of operations of Sauron.

(later ruled by his freed slaves)
Notable locationsBarad-dûr (the Dark Tower), Mount Doom, the Ash Mountains, the Mountains of Shadow (Ephel Dúath), the Black Gate, Cirith Ungol, Gorgoroth, the Sea of Nurnen, Udûn
Other name(s)the Land of Shadow, the Black Land, the Nameless Land
LocationEast of Gondor
LifespanSecond Age  Fourth Age
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth, Mordor (pronounced [ˈmɔrdɔr]; from Sindarin Black Land and Quenya Land of Shadow) is the realm and base of the arch-villain Sauron. It was located in the southeast of northwestern Middle-earth, east of the great river Anduin. Mount Doom, a volcano in Mordor, was the goal of the Fellowship of the Ring(and later Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee) in the quest to destroy the One Ring.
Mordor had three enormous mountain ranges surrounding it, from the north, from the west and from the south. The mountains both protected the land from an unexpected invasion by any of the people living in those directions and kept those living in Mordor from escaping. Tolkien was reported to have identified Mordor with the volcano of Stromboli off Sicily, in terms of geographic equivalency with the real world.

And Gollum

Middle-earth character
AliasesSméagol, Trahald ("true" Westron name)
RaceHobbit (Stoor branch)
Book(s)The Hobbit

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Two Towers

The Return of the King

Unfinished Tales
Gollum is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He was introduced in the 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, and became an important character in its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. Gollum was a Stoor Hobbit[1] of the River-folk, who lived near the Gladden Fields.[2] Originally known as Sméagol, he was corrupted by the One Ring and later named Gollum after his habit of making "a horrible swallowing noise in his throat".[3]
In Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings, the name Sméagol is said to be a "translation" of the actual Middle-earth name Trahald (having to do with the idea of "burrowing", and rendered with a name based on Old English smygel of similar meaning).[4] Several critics speculate that Beowulf's Grendel could have been an inspiration for Gollum due to the many parallels between them  such as their affinity for water, their isolation from society, and their bestial description.[5] Although Tolkien never explicitly stated this, he accredited Beowulfas one of his "most valued sources" when writing The Hobbit.[6]
The Ring, which Gollum referred to as "my precious" or "precious", extended his life far beyond natural limits. Centuries of the Ring's influence twisted Gollum's body and mind, and, by the time of the novels, he "loved and hated [the Ring], just as he loved and hated himself." Throughout the story, Gollum was torn between his lust for the Ring and his desire to be free of it. Bilbo Baggins found the Ring and took it for his own, and Gollum afterwards pursued it for the rest of his life. Gollum finally seized the Ring from Frodo Baggins at the Cracks of Doom in Orodruin in Mordor, but he fell into the fires of the volcano, where both he and the Ring were destroyed.

Most probably this song is where I first heard the word, "ramble". When we in the US use it, we usually mean someone is going on and on telling a story. 
But I have rambled in England. When we two young kids went over in 1971, we were enchanted by footpaths with stiles and gates. We were amazed that we could walk (ramble) right into someone's pasture. When we went with our children in 1992, we actually had to run away from a bull! 
The whole idea of land is different in the two countries. We have private land and public land, and rarely do they meet. The only time I think anyone is allowed on private land is during hunting season, IF the land isn't posted with no hunting/no trespassing signs. Land is pretty sacred. The image you must have seen of a guy with a gun keeping people off his land is not made up. 
I've read in books, and seen on television shows over the years about people parking their "caravans" on someone's land. In Pie in the Sky, a group of people move onto a vegetable farmer's land and the owner can't really stop them. The police aren't going to bother moving them off. So maybe public and private are a bit wound together there? That would never happen in the US. The police would be there in a shot moving them along. 
It's possible that other places in the country might be different. I really don't know. I have a friend in Vermont and she could only put up signs that said to stay outside a certain distance from the house and yard during hunting season. I would be a wreck having animals and kids in that situation. We might have an occasional straggler way up on the land, but over all these years people would come and ask if they might hunt here, and were kindly and polite when we said no. 
I know my cousin on a ranch in Texas would never have anyone come onto her land and make camp. It just isn't done, and isn't even thought of. 
I look forward to my English readers' comments about this situation. I've wondered about it for years, and now may find out the answer.
I also want to take this chance to say how very thankful I am for you who read, and for you who comment. In the world of social media where a quick sentence or a "like" button will do as a reply, I am grateful for the thoughtful responses I get to my posts, and the wonderfully long and meaningful posts I read on other blogs. The blogging world is alive and well, which makes me very happy.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Susan's summer

"The sky is gray and white and cloudy"

The old Simon & Garfunkel song is a perfect description for today, along with a temperature in the 40s, and rain pouring down.

It feels quite odd to be writing about perfect summer weather.

In the last entry from Susan Hill's marvelous The Magic Apple Tree  A Country Year, the spring season, I told you that I almost couldn't believe she was writing about a real place. And her summer season is even more like an English paradise. It is all the things that we Americans think we know about the olde country. It isn't that she brags or paints a rosy picture. Not at all. For example, she tells the not-so-good, as well as the good when it comes to gardening and weather in particular.

No, I'm just talking about all those magical things that we Anglophiles love so much. I think just by listing the words you may understand what I mean.


We do not have them. We have woods, period. In England more than a wood there is a forest.
It is a small wood, as all the best ones are, for small, in woodland terms is friendly and safe. It is forests that are terrifying and impersonal, deadening miles of landscape. Small woods [the plural of her wood, not woods like here] like this one, which is triangular in shape, can be walked in and through and out the other side of, can be known, and there is light at the edges, only in the very heart of it is there that oppressive green darkness, in which you glance over your shoulder, sounds are exaggerated and your heartbeats and breathing come a little faster.
 We have over 200 acres of woods, which are just as she describes. Since my earliest reading about a "wood" in England, I have recognized that this in what I could be happy walking in. My woods can be dense, they seem endless, and I fear I would get lost. And, I must admit, I've never gone in alone. I love our open fields. I love the little bits of the woods where the loggers have cut down the thickest areas and left open spaces where I can see out "the other side of". When you go hiking in the mountains, it is all slogging through woods until you reach the magnificent views from the top. That is not my idea of fun, though I did it a fair bit years ago. My hiking heaven is a hill in England or Wales where it is all open and you can see for ages. A hike that is magnificence in every step.

And add to that wood a host of bluebells, well that is pretty much my idea of what heaven must be like!

Herbaceous border

How I love to hear these two words. From the dictionary it sounds like the term originally meant plantings of herbs, but now it means what we call a perennial border. Such a boring word, whereas "herbaceous" conjures up densely planted beauty. I can "see" the words.


Here you might hear "sunroom" but not conservatory. My three windowed study (two south and one west views) is my little homage to the word conservatory. Just now I have six plants in here.


Apparently there are some in the US, but I've never read of them in an American book. I suppose in this case it is the romance of the unknown, but it sounds lovely to me.

Courgettes and Marrow

This book taught me the difference. Courgettes are what we in the US call summer squash and zucchini. And marrows are courgettes run amok. They can be huge. I mean really huge. Susan Hill writes, "Showmen used to put a special glucose drip to their marrows, and on this diet of sugar and water, and rooted in neat manure, a marrow will take over the world."

Women's Institute

They have probably changed with the times, but how I would have loved such a thing had I been born earlier. I love the idea of women getting together and doing all the things women did in those days - all associated with home - like baking and jams. But also, from what I've read, there were lectures that gave women an insight into the wider world. Over here, there is (was?) the Grange for rural women, though I think men were in it, too. But nothing like a village group of women like the Women's Institute. Of course, we don't really have villages. We have towns or cities.


Susan Hill writes of village life.
In summer in Barley, as in all the villages around, there are cricket matches, on the playing field at the top of the steep hill called Norman Way, where spectators and visiting batsmen waiting to go in and batsmen who have just got out spend as much time looking out across the Fen to the hills beyond, or lying on their backs watching the clouds drift by as they do watching the progress of the match. In the wooden pavilion, the identical model of every other village cricket pavillion up and down the country, the ladies toil over making sandwiches and the place smells of that white dubbin [prepared grease used for softening and waterproofing leather] that goes on the boots, of urn tea and freshly-cut cucumber and leather, and on the perimeter of the field, among the tatter of hawthorn and elder bushes, the children play in and out, and during tea the small boys have their own few overs on the pitch itself. 
These are the sights and sounds and smells of every English village with a cricket team in summer, they are unchanged since my childhood, when I went, Sunday after Sunday, with my grandfather to watch matches in half the villages of Yorkshire.

It took me a few television shows and books to learn that this is what is known here as a tent. A marquee is the sign that shows what the movie or play is in the US. I love "marquee". It gives the proper respect to what goes on in there, whether a party or a wedding or some other special occasion.

Brass band

We might have town bands that play in the bandstands on a summer night, but not brass bands. I love the sound of them. They can go from jaunty to deeply sad from song to song. There is a wonderful movie from 1996, which features a brass band - Brassed Off.


I have to admit that caravan sounds much nicer than trailer or RV.

Okay, I'll stop, but all of them were mentioned in just the summer section of this book. A country rich in language.

I was very interested in Susan Hill's journal of how her vegetables did that summer. She was a serious gardener. I wonder if she still has a vegetable garden.

Even in those early years of the 1980s, she speaks of a subject much talked about now.
The loss of hedgerow and coppice and individual trees, in the corn prairies of East Anglia and the Wolds, is a dreadful one.
I can remember sitting in the waiting room at the dentist with the kids when they were really quite small and reading a National Geographic magazine about the coming of fields and the loss of hedgerows. I believe the article was by Bill Bryson. So, this has been going on a long time. There is a most encouraging 2019 article here about hedgerows.

And now I am going to read both Gladys and Susan's chapters on autumn. What wonderful reading this has been, even though I haven't been as timely as I planned to be.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Today's picture/holiday cactus

I recently read of someone calling their "Christmas" cactus plants "holiday" cactus, which I think is a great idea. Right now mine are coming into bloom, and here it is almost Hallowe'en! They often bloom in the late fall/early winter, and again at Easter time, so holiday is what I will call them from now on.

I put two very close together so they almost look like one plant. The one on the right is a cactus I gave my mother on her last Christmas, 1972. It isn't very big, but it keeps right on blooming. It is kind of a peach color, while the other is a fuchsia, with a funny story. Tom was going to buy a cactus for the house and asked what color. I said anything but fuchsia. And this is what he got! In his defense it wasn't in bloom when he bought it. Ever since then we have called it the "anything but fuchsia".

I wrote about my mother's plant way back in the second month of the blog, with no comments because hardly anyone knew I was here!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Today's video/Brittany Howard

Eight years ago, I put up a video of Alabama Shakes, whose lead singer was Brittany Howard. She has just gone out on her own, and oh man, is she ever good! Listen to what James Corden says to her at the end!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Gladys' summer

Gladys begins her summer chapter thinking about friendships, and ponders how they have changed in recent times. Her book was publshed in 1974, which was wrought with divisive politics.

You may remember when I wrote about Susan Hill's spring, I talked about how we can't even talk about the weather now without it being polarizing well, in Gladys' summer she says that weather is about the only "safe" topic people can talk about!
The Vietnam war has been blamed for many things ... for we now tend to keep conversation superficial in case that other person does not agree with our policy. We keep our cool, as we say, by talking about the weather, and sometimes I imagine all of us in some balmy climate where it never changes. What would we find to discuss? Would we sink into a tropical silence?
She proceeds to talk about how this situation isn't true with our true friends.
This has nothing to do with real friendship, of course. A close, warm friendship is as rugged as a fishing boat going out to the wild sea on a dark day when the tide is  high. My own dearest friends do not agree with me on many things, but we can talk about anything and argue and argue, and there is benefit for both sides. For at the core of this relationship is a community of feeling which is basic and has nothing to do with disagreements about politics, going to the moon, or whether we need a new development in the middle of town.
We love and trust a true friend for what he or she is, and living is more enriched by the relationship than words can express. There is in each of us, I think, a deep loneliness, and friendship eases it immeasurably. How sad to think it is growing so scarce nowadays when we need it most.
Wow! She could have written that yesterday. I've heard of friendships breaking up in our current times. I've actually heard people say they could not be friends with someone of a different political persuasion. I told someone recently that our best friends are completely opposite to us in their politics but that matters not a whit. We don't talk about politics because we don't need to. We have way more important things to discuss like our lives and our families. These are the people whom we love, and they love us for who we are, period. We are so lucky and so thankful.

She ends her writings about friendship with these words.
I hope deep friendships will become less rare in our time, especailly since this world has become so impersonal, so much a matter of computers and ratings and machinery. We are not Social Security numbers; we are all individuals, no two alike, every one a whole being needing to experience real relationships and to have the blessing of mutual trust and friendship as we make our common journey through life.
Just a few years after this was written, Bob Seger sang, "I Feel Like A Number". There was this young man singing her thoughts. Gladys is ageless and timeless.

I expect at least a few of you just must hear the song now that I've put it into your heads, so here it is:

Then without skipping a beat, Gladys begins talking about preserving the flowers of summer with potpourri.
It was used in the very early sixteenth century by queens and princesses - partly, we have to admit, because with the lack of sanitation and plumbing the ancient castles were anything but sweet-smelling.
She describes how to make it, and how her eleven year old granddaughter "invents her own combinations". And then Gladys reminded me of something I've done only once, but am encouraged to try again this year!
Simply take a good orange (or lemon) and stick cloves in it all over, as many as you can possibly poke in. Then tie a ribbon around the whole fruit and hang it from a hanger in the closet. The spicy odor is a treat. As the fruit dries, it becomes more fragrant, and it lasts a long time.
She writes of the wonder of fresh corn.
Once you have picked your own corn and rushed to the house with it and shucked it and dropped it in already boiling water, something new has come into your life. 
So very true! This summer has been glorious with fresh corn for many suppers.

New Englanders are used to tourists, then and now, and it was interesting reading what Gladys had to say. I have written about the kind of love/hate relationship all of us have with tourists. We love them, they support the local economy, and in some cases keep it going. We love seeing and meeting new people. But we hate the traffic, the crowds, and the occasional not-so-kind encounters. Not much of which has anything to do with me. I don't work. I'm mostly home. But I do have some young friends who work in the service industries that have had some difficult times with tourists. And I've occasionally heard about some of the trash left behind in our pristine areas. But I've heard nothing as bad as what Gladys writes! She begins by saying that most are "thoughtful, gentle people we are proud to meet".
... they appreciate everything about New England that is different. (I remember one man who said to me with awe, "I never saw an old house before.")
My own horizon is widened as I hear about their home places and just what the weather is like in January.
It is a sad commentary that the vast numbers of these visitors we enjoy so much are not counted, whereas the small number who are obnoxious are made the main topic of conversation. Unfortunately, it is bad news that makes headlines because it is more dramatic.
Same as it ever was! But then she gives examples which horrified me.
What we notice in midsummer tourist season is that all the roads are suddenly strewn with garbage tossed from departing cars and that kittens and puppies wander crying along the highways, dropped off en route. [I am sure this was as hard for her to notice and write about as it was for me to read] Raw holes appear where someone has dug up a treasure to take home. Roadside signs are torn up; lawn furniture left near the roadside vanishes. Mailboxes are knocked over.
Our first sad experience was when the wrought-iron Stillmeadow sign by the picket fence disappeared. It had come from a special place in Maine and had a really beautiful wrought-iron cocker in the middle of it. I've often wondered just where the thief could put it or whether it was finally thrown away.
I have done a lot of wondering about many things, but I have decided as far as summer tourists go that the explanation is simple. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. You pack your suitcases, close the house, arrange with the neighbors to pick up the papers and the mail, cancel the milk delivery, and so on. Then you drive off down the road. ... There is no solution to this problem for those of us who live with a summer season. After Labor Day we can get the community to clean up the roadsides, take the trash to the dump, put up new road signs, fill in the holes, and so on.  
Here is a picture of the sign.

Gladys goes on to write of August's heat, and dreaming of snow and icicles. And then she writes of a subject dear to my heart.
There are two theories in my valley about defeating the heat. One is to keep all the windows shut all day, open them at night, and shut them at sunrise. The other is to leave every window in the house open and let whatever breeze there may be drift lazily in. I prefer this, for I love open windows.
Well, I have always, always been the latter. I'm an open window girl. But I am the living example that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks! As I wrote here, we got some window air-conditioners, and they have really changed my life. Even if they are not used every day, those hot, hot days are now bearable to me. I can continue with my life instead of feeling limp and half dead. And really, I must thank my daughter and her husband for the example. Matt is a keep-all-the-windows closed kind of fellow, and I had to admit that their house was a lot cooler than ours on the stifling days. And then they put in a couple window ACs, and man, the difference was even more marked, so I gave in, and am so happy I did!

And because of this new way of living, for the first time in ages I could feel the words of Shakespeare which Gladys quotes. "Summer's lease hath all too short a date." I loved this summer.

I was pleased when she wrote
I am happy to say a good many experts now feel even dieters should eat some potatoes, because they have something no other vegetable has. And they also do something to raise the spirits in a special way.
An interesting side note is I was watching an episode of the 1990s British television show, Pie in the Sky, when a man who had been two years sober tells a friend that he is having a bit of a hard time, and so he eats pototoes! They somehow give him a bit of the feeling he got from alcohol.

You may know that Gladys' house was built in 1690! It has a "coffin door" in the cellar. It was so coffins could be carried downstairs and out to the waiting wagons.
I believe a very old house holds its memories of all the lives that have been spent there. Some of them must have been sorrowful and some happy, some difficult, some easy. But there is an overtone of happiness in this house which most people feel as they come in. ... Houses all have personalities, at least to me, quite apart from the furnishings and décor and style, but this sturdy, ancient farmhouse has a special gentleness built into it. It is one reason we never felt restless. I said traveling is all very well if you can get home at night. I would be willing to go around the world if I came back in time to light the candles and set the table for supper.
That could be me talking. This woman who lived from 1899 to 1980 is as alive to me as can be.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Quote du jour/My oldest grandson

"Nana, your hair is the color of potato chips."
Campbell Walker, age 5