28 June 2022

All Things Bright & Beautiful

In May my garden was a picture, Roses were stunning, the Valerian were growing in shades of light and dark pink, Forget Me Nots, Bluebells, something pretty and orange that reminds me of wallflowers, pretty little red Geum, the lovely Bergenias, some pink things, Pulmonaria which I don't like much but they are a nice shade of blue, and they fill gaps, and lots of what I think are wild chamomile, all were putting on a grand show of colour, and the lawn was a lush green.

Now there's a hiatus, some plants have expired, and others are getting a second wind. As for the lawn, well it now has lots of dry brown patches. I know it will pick up again though, grass is amazing, it can look dead one minute, then green up instantly after some rain.

The petunias and geraniums are doing well, the sweet peas not so well. It was exactly the same last year, I sowed loads of seeds, they grew, I planted them, they were very healthy, then something started  nibbling away at them, and bam - they stopped growing. I've put copper tape round them and sprayed them so I'm hoping some of them will grow to bloom.

I made that owl at a pottery class decades ago.
I think it's a bit freaky but I've kept it because I made it!! 

The gazebo is up and I've put bunting around it, I do like bunting, it's round the shed as well. I love sitting here when the weather is hot.

Some weather has been hot enough for Rufus to go in the stream for a drink and a cool down.

Further afield more trees have been cut down, and that is going to be a huge bonfire.

The wheat is starting to turn

And even further afield in town was this lovely family.

∼ Be safe and well∼
Polly x

25 June 2022

A Very Good Read

A gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

"A gentleman can live through anything."
Oscar Wilde 

I have read a lot of excellent books, but now and again along comes a novel that is outstanding, this is one of those. The beautiful prose, the  story, the wonderful characters, words can’t really do it justice. I immersed myself completely in the life of Count Rostov and his friends, I wanted to visit the Metropol hotel to meet them. 

Set amongst the chaotic birth of a brutal communist Russia the novel opens on the 21st June 1922, with Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov being tried by a Bolshevik tribunal in front of the Emergency Committee of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. 

The charge: for being part of the leisure class, corrupt, and a threat to the new communist ideology.

His crime: he wrote a poem supporting the pre-revolutionary movement. 

Prosecutor Vyshinsky: State your name.

Rostov: Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt.

Vyshinsky: You may have your titles; they are of no use to anyone else. But for the record, are you not Alexander Rostov, born in St. Petersburg, 24 October 1889?

Rostov: I am he.

Vyshinsky: Before we begin, I must say, I do not think that I have ever seen a jacket festooned with so many buttons.

Rostov: Thank you.

Vyshinsky: It was not meant as a compliment.

Rostov: In that case, I demand satisfaction on the field of honour.


Secretary Ignatov: Silence in the gallery.

The Count is found guilty and sentenced to indefinite house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. This opening scene whets the appetite for the treats waiting for us in the novel - the Count at odds with the ruling party, his adherence to a gentleman’s behaviour, his courage, and the humour with which he tackles life.

Prior to his arrest, the Count had lived a life of luxury in the  hotel.  After the verdict he is  moved to the attic, and a small room that requires him to make sacrifices in terms of treasured  possessions, liberty, social standing and relationships. But he accepts all these challenges with resolve, integrity,  and the dignity becoming of a gentleman.

At first the Count feels isolated, anxious and aimless but gradually he befriends staff and clients at the hotel, and when he meets adorable nine year old Nina who lives in the hotel, a whole new world opens up to him. Their friendship begins over lunch when Nina  invites herself to the Count's table by simply pulling up a chair, sitting down, and staring at his food. Nina manages to coerce him into joining her on one of her many clandestine excursions - exploring the hotel's secret passageways and locked rooms, courtesy of the master key she has somehow acquired. She shows him the hotel's network of corridors and rooms, the boiler room, the electrical room. By exploring the physical limits of the hotel, taking a job at the hotel restaurant and finding new experiences he starts to feel useful again, and feels a renewed modicum of liberty. 

Sixteen years into the Count’s time in the Metropol, Nina returns as an adult, and asks if the Count can watch over her five-year-old daughter Sofia for a few months. Sofia’s stay at the Metropol becomes much longer than anticipated, and while taking care of her, he gains an even greater sense of purpose. 

The hotel is the home for many meetings and dinners of the top ranking members of the politburo. Some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold outside the hotel’s doors, and, through the Counts' eyes we experience the many changes in Russia, from Stalin to Khrushchev.

A masterpiece, captivating from beginning to end – and what an ending, the telephone calls - a touch of genius.

I was thinking about this book even when I wasn't reading it.

The Count was a grand  human being, a true gentleman. I would love to have shared a glass of wine with him. He was intelligent, witty, charming, wise and kind. He had a generous soul. I loved this man.

Highly recommended!!

∼ Happy Reading ∼ 

Polly x

21 June 2022

Highgate Cemetary

Doing another review of stored photos recently I found these from a day trip to Highgate Cemetery. I meant to do a blog about it but forgot!!
Highgate is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London. The cemetery in its original form – the northwestern wooded area – opened in 1839, as part of a plan to provide seven large, modern cemeteries, known as the Magnificent Seven, around the outside of central London. The inner-city cemeteries had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and were seen as a hazard to health and an undignified way to treat the dead.

Fifteen acres were consecrated for the use of the Church of England, and two acres set aside for dissenters. Rights of burial were sold for either limited period or in perpetuity. The first burial was Elizabeth Jackson of Little Windmill Street, Soho, on 26 May 1839, aged 36.

The Victorian cemetery comprises two sites, the East Cemetery and the West Cemetery. It was run by a private company, but in the 1970's it was no longer profitable to run commercially. It became neglected, nature took over and vandals moved in. The Cemetery is now owned and maintained by a charitable trust, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, which was set up in 1975 and acquired the freehold of both East and West Cemeteries in 1981.

The west cemetery is the oldest, its grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wildflowers, most of which have been planted and grown without human influence. The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. When the cemetary was first built this area of London was countryside, and being on a hill it overlooked the city.

The Egyptian Avenue

and the Circle of Lebanon feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. They were previously surmounted by a huge 280 year old Cedar tree which had to be cut down and replaced in 2019.

The Egyptian Avenue and the Columbarium are Grade I listed buildings.

There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves across the West and East Cemeteries. It's notable both for some of the people buried there as well as for its de facto status as a nature reserve.

Highgate, like the others of the Magnificent Seven, soon became a prestigious place for burials and was much admired and visited. The Victorian attitude to death and its presentation led to the creation of a wealth of Gothic tombs and buildings. It occupies a spectacular south-facing hillside site slightly downhill from the top of the hill of Highgate. In 1854 a further 19 acres to the south east of the original area, across Swains Lane, was bought to form the eastern part of the cemetery which opened in 1860. Both sides of the Cemetery are still used today for burials.

Highgate Cemetery was featured in the media from the 1960s to the late 1980s for its so-called occult past, particularly as being the alleged site of the "Highgate Vampire".

George Wombwell, famous menagerist

Alexander Litvinenko

Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge DBE was an English writer from Liverpool. She was primarily known for her works of psychological fiction, often macabre tales set among the English working class. She won the Whitbread Awards prize for best novel in 1977 and 1996; she was nominated five times for the Booker Prize.

The Julius Beer mausoleum is a Grade II listed building.

Julius Beer (1836–1880) was a German born English businessman, banker and newspaper baron. He amassed his fortune on the London stock exchange and owned The Observer from 1870 to 1880. He was married  with a son and a daughter. His daughter Ada Sophia Beer was only 8 when she died. 
No expense was spared on his family resting place, and when it was completed Julius moved his little girl's remains here from another part of the cemetery.
The interior is richly crafted with tiled walls, Corinthian columns and a lovely ribbed dome in blue and gold mosaic. The centrepiece is a beautiful, moving sculpture by Henry Hugh Armstead (1828-1905) which  represents Ada being protected by an angel. It seems that the mausoleum was originally commissioned in 1876 with Ada in mind.
His own elegant sarcophagus stands lengthwise right in front of it, almost like an altarAlso interred are his wife, son and brother.
Some prim Victorian conservatives thought the mausoleum was ostentatious whilst many thought it a fitting tribute to a much loved daughter.
When the cemetary was neglected and vandalised in the 70's it's thought that pigeon guano helped protect the mausoleum. Pigeons were getting in through the roof and left a huge pile of guano behind the door making it impossibe for the vandals to get in.

Monument to the famous Victorian bare-knuckle boxer, Thomas Sayers (1826-1865). This Grade II listed marble structure is considered to be one of the jewels of the cemetary. It has a pedimented tomb-chest with ornamental edges to the corners of the sloping "roof" and a pedimental relief depicting a ribboned wreath. Below that is a portrait medallion of Sayers. In front rests a life-size sculpture of Sayers's loyal and much-loved dog Lion, keeping guard over his master's grave. According to a disapproving account in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, thirty-nine-year-old Sayers was buried in 1865 amid extraordinary scenes of "irredeemable blackguardism, brutal levity, and barbaric ferocity the like of which surely never disgraced the hallowed precincts of that most hallowed of spots — an English graveyard before"

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor.

Lesley Angold Panayiotou, George Michael's mother

Elena Valentino Taylor. I couldn't find any information about her.

Family tomb


The East Cemetary is very tranquil
I think it was 2017 when M and I visited on a day trip with our local coach company. They didn't realise how long it took to tour the west cemetary. Then we walked up to Highgate village for the inclusive lunch, which took ages to serve, so by the time we returned there wasn't enough time to tour the east cemetary. We only just had time for a short walk. 

We were hoping the coach company would do another trip to visit the East Cemetary
but they haven't so far, so we said we would make our own way there.
I'm not sure if that's going to happen though. 

∼ Be safe and well∼
Polly x

17 June 2022

A Good Read

The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time by Mark Haddon is a murder mystery with a difference. The detective and narrator is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings, he relates well to animals. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds Wellington, a neighbour's dog murdered he sets out on a quest to find the killer, a quest that will take him way out of his comfort zone. Christopher uses his skills of analysis to matter-of-factly investigate this horrible crime.

I liked the characters, and despite a few bleak moments the story is delightfully funny.

∼ Happy Reading ∼ 

Polly x

13 June 2022

Rufus' Diary

Hello dear reader, I can't believe it's 6 months since I last got my paws on the computer. Life is pretty much the same. Walks are the same, we're doing slightly longer ones now that the weather is nicer. We had a lovely walk with Maisie and her owner this morning, Maisie and I enjoyed running around.

The bonfire is still burning

That machine in the distance is going to cut the grass.
I think it's used for winter feed. 

The rape has been glorious again. It's turning now. Not so much has been grown this year because the cabbage stem flea beetle has decimated oilseed rape crops for several years.

A local farmer is growing linseed as an alternative. It's very pretty.

The abandoned car is still there. Polly thought someone might
have cut the top off and planted flowers in it by now!

I think these are Red Horse Chestnut 

pretty Dog Roses

The garden roses are beautiful

Polly is hoping for some hot weather for breakfasts on the patio

Look what was found just under my eye. Polly's grandson was the first to spot it, he thought it was a seed or splinter, Polly thought it was a skin tag. The next day Polly's daugher Amanda had a look and thought it was a tick, despite it being slightly larger Polly still thought it was a skin tag. They got a torch for better light and then suddenly it moved, and then they saw the legs. Amanda swiftly pulled it off with a pair of tweezers. They've always checked my coat, skin and paws, but now it's like airport full on body checks!

Polly has discovered Haiku which she thought was rubbish until she properly read about it and now she's thinking about them all the time! Here's one of them

Rufus is sleeping
Perchance may he be dreaming
Of cats for chasing

Not bad for a first attempt, she might improve, or give up!

 Be safe and well   
Rufus 🐾

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