There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Summer Memories

Everywhere is here
and every when is now.

The frost is on the pumpkin, migrating birds fly overhead, and the nights grow long. Compared to just a month ago, England is cool and golden. Every year it happens much the same way. We wait and wait for summer and then we get to early autumn and say, where did the summer go? We wait, sometimes not very patiently, through the dark days of winter, the chilly winds of spring, and in Britain at least, the rainy days of June--we wait. And then summer arrives......

......and brings with it roses,
lots and lots of roses
everywhere you look.

David Austin 'Brother Cadfael Rose'

......followed by lavender
and with it bees.
'Hidcote' lavender grows
around our birdbath.
In Oxford, summer arrives with a colourful bang, as the students leave and the tourists arrive in full force. College balls, gaudies, encaenias, 'leavers dos', and exams fill the Oxford calendar.

Oxford's Encaenia Ceremony
Students celebrating
the end of exams......
......and colourful hanging baskets,
 add cheer to the city streets.
Our summer begins with both of our birthdays in early July. This year we decided to take the day off on my birthday to explore the southern Cotswolds. As we left Oxford that morning, Holywell Street was lit up with summer ice cream colours.

Once we were out of the city and hit the open
road, we came across the delightful sight of
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and two intrepid
travellers, looking as though they were
 off on a most excellent adventure.

English charm in every direction.

We are a landscape
of all we have seen.
~Isamu Noguchi, 
sculptor and designer of gardens

Our first stop was the village of
Castle Combe, Wiltshire.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire
We ate a pub lunch in front of the market
stall and toasted both of our birthdays--

--and then a little ramble through the village,
trying to be polite and not peer through every
cottage window (but most of them anyway).

We wait, starving for moments
of high magic to inspire us,
but life is full of common
enchantment waiting for
our alchemists eyes to notice.
~Jacob Nordby

We drove on to Stourhead National Trust.....

.....which after 4pm is open for lucky
dogs to walk with their owners.

Stourhead, now owned by the National Trust,
has been described as a "living work of art."

The garden's focal point is the lake, created by
the damming of the river. The pathways wind
around the lake, through woods and opening
to vistas across the lake.


Everywhere you turn, the
views take your breath away.
It's as though you've stepped
into another world.

The groves were 
God's first temples.
~William Cullen Bryant, 
A Forest Hymn

Stourhead as afternoon
fades to evening.
No visit to a National Trust property
(or anywhere for that matter), is
complete without tea & scones.

We even stopped along the way to Facetime with grandchildren so we could all sing Happy Birthday, surrounded by Wiltshire's pastoral beauty--perfect birthday decorations.

Our birthday presents to each other
were new bikes--meet Bluebell!

When I see an adult on a
bicycle,  I do not despair for
the future of the human race.
~H.G. Wells

We had many trips to garden
centres all summer long......

The Burford Garden Company. day-trips to the Cotswolds........

The Oxfordshire
town of Burford.

........and always afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea at Lords of the Manor,
in the village of Lower Slaughter.

Summer is for Pimm's and punting.

Believe me,
my young friend,
there is nothing,
absolutely nothing,
half so much worth
doing as simply
messing about in boats.
~Kenneth Grahame, 
The Wind in the Willows

Punting on the river is an
Oxford & Cambridge tradition.
A punt is a long, low, narrow
boat, steered and powered with
a long pole. Stuart is our master
 puntsman while Jack and I enjoy the
 scenery along the River Cherwell.

The Cherwell Boathouse is the
perfect spot to rent a punt. We
usually punt down to the
Victoria Arms pub for a pint &
some chips before punting back.

Soon the nights were drawing 
in and summer coming to a close.

By September the colours are
beginning to glow richer & warmer.

Merton College &
Christ Church meadow.
When the goldenrod is yellow, 
And leaves are turning brown,
Reluctantly the summer goes-
In a cloud of thistledown.
When squirrels are harvesting
And birds in flight appear-
By these autumn signs we
Know September days are here.
~Beverly Ashour, 

Holywell Street in the
September evening light.
And then summer ends as it began....
with roses.

Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone.
~Thomas Moore,
The Last Rose of Summer, 1830

Friday, 15 July 2016

A Walk in the Parks--The University Parks

The cricket pavillion and pitch at the 
University Parks,
perfect for a game of frisbee with Jack.

"Now shall I walk or shall I ride?" 
"Ride," Pleasure said: 
"Walk," Joy replied. 
~W.H. Davies

Am I glad I live in Oxford because I have wonderful places to walk my dog? Or am I glad to have a dog because he gets me out into the wonderful places to walk in Oxford? The answer must be both, because I can't imagine not spending my day walking Oxford--or living without a dog. 

Jack normally gets three walks a day, in every
season and in any weather, and one of his and our
favourite places to walk is the University Parks.

Make your feet your friend.
~J.M. Barrie

'The Parks' as it's known in Oxford, is a 74 acre park that is part arboretum, part cricket pitch, part botanical genetic lab, and part playground, with the River Cherwell marking it's eastern edge. The first trees were planted 1865 and perfect specimen trees dot the landscape and line the pathways.

In the warmer months, punts flow up
and down the River Cherwell, sometimes
with a traffic jam, Oxford style. 

The parks has a perfect cricket pitch and pavilion
where world-class cricket is played, open fields
for soccer and rugby, and grass tennis courts.
People are outdoors enjoying sports and being
together just about any time of the year-even in winter.

Dogs are more than welcome......

....and there are lots of wide-open spaces
for tossing sticks, toys, and frisbees.

Jack meets new friends
with every walk. 

These two beautiful corgis have come
all the way from New York to spend a year
living in Oxford. Aren't they lucky dogs?!

The invitation to play.

Summer is for punting on the river.
Punts are the classic Oxford & Cambridge
boat, steered from the back, just right for
a leisurely trip down the river.

The Parks are also a great venue for outdoor
Shakespeare.  'Hamlet' is being performed there
from now until August 13th. Jack wasn't too
sure about the ghost of Hamlet's father as they
rehearsed, so he didn't want to stick around for
long, but Stuart and I will be going back on 
Tuesday night. That's one of the best things  
about Oxford in the summer months--
outdoor Shakespeare.

After a day's walk everything
has twice its usual value.
 ~George Macauley Trevelyan

And then there's the best part--ice cream!
What's a summer walk without an ice
cream cone? Jack has a tiny vanilla
one and Stuart & I each have a mix 
of blackcurrent & clotted cream plus
lemon. Pure heaven. I have three scoops
because two simply isn't enough.

Someone is pretty happy at the
prospect of their ice cream cone.

Here comes mum's 
towering cone. Can
she eat it all?

Just the ticket after playing and 
chasing after the frisbee. 

One of the things the British do best is preserve their open spaces and countryside. To still have open spaces, on what is essentially a very small island loaded with people, is a bit of a miracle. It shows the supreme foresight of people like Beatrix Potter, who bought up huge swathes of land in the Lake District to preserve it, and Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter, and Hardwicke Rawnsley (a close friend of Beatrix Potter's), who founded the National Trust in 1895.

Because of that same spirit of conservation, which runs likes a deep well through the people and the country of Britain, Oxford too has acres and acres set aside for parks and open spaces, right within minutes of the city centre. The largest is the University Parks, which was first formed between 1855 & 1860, after the land was purchased from Merton College.

 Many of the trees date back to the
original plantings in 1865,
just after the purchase of the land.

Enter the parks via gates along South Parks Rd, Norham Gardens, or a main gate on Parks Rd. It's a walking park, so no bicycles are allowed, whether ridden or walked. For ice cream, in our opinion a necessity for summertime walks, find JimBobs at the Pavilion right next to the cricket pavilion in the centre of the parks. And be sure to look for Jack!

Springtime in the Parks.

Watching the cricket--just a little bit like
American baseball where I'm from, only
they stop for tea breaks.

Oxford v Cambridge Cricket

What's better than a walk
in the park with your Nana.

Autumn in the Parks

If you are seeking creative ideas,
go out walking. Angels whisper to
a man when he goes for a walk. 
~Raymond Inmon

Narnian lamplight at 
near 'Parson's Pleasure',
in the University Parks.

To book tickets for 'Hamlet' in the Parks go to: