Elizabeth  from Quite Contrary ( ) kindly nominated me for an A to Z Liebster Award on  the  7th of April  and then for the Team Member Readership Award on the 16th.  I tried to find 11 A to Z blogs with definitely less than 200 followers and who had not already been nominated but the task defeated me so I am combining the awards. I’m about to set up a new page for answering the 11 questions set by Elizabeth for the Liebster and defining a “good reader”  for the  TMRA.  Some of the 11 random facts about me will come from the blogs I have written for the challenge.  I’ll nominate for the TMR Award those Challenge participants who commented on my brand new blog at least twice   (won’t add up to the obligatory 14) and if they fit the criteria for the A to Z Liebster I would like them to accept that from me at the same time. However,  apparently the original rules for the Liebster only mentioned nominating 3 blogs in return for accepting your award and I cannot find a satisfactory explanation for why this grew to 11 so  it will be up to the recipients to choose a number they feel comfortable with or, of course,  reject the award entirely if nominating people and providing 11 answers and 11 random facts is not how they want to spend their time.

A to Z Challenge Survivor – my first blogging goals reached

I hope that any established bloggers reading this can remember how it felt to attain their first blogging goals. I also hope any other newbies like me who are reading it and who finished the A to Z 2013 Challenge are feeling equally chuffed with their achievement.

I have read  some blogs over the last few days that discussed the decrease in likes and comments as the weeks passed and the difficulty of remaining motivated when this happened. I too almost gave up at one point when two of my posts were not viewed by anybody, let alone commented on, but a couple of days later  three more people who had left nice comments on earlier posts signed up to follow my blog so I ignored my own self-doubt,  analyzed why I suddenly felt the need for validation of everything I wrote, got over it and carried on.

I had no idea what to expect when I wrote my “A” post on The Enchanted April but I set myself some fairly low targets for views, likes and comments (there’s no point building-in disappointments for a new venture, these arrive quite quickly enough by themselves) and reached them by letter “L.”   I then set myself new targets which I did not reach but I came close enough to be happy with the end result. Much more importantly, I have found several blogs that really interest me and I expect to keep following them for a long time.



A to Z Challenge – Thank you for the Comments and the fascinating blogs.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my blog during the A to Z challenge.  I have tried to respond to every comment posted; if I did not reply to yours this was an oversight and I apologise for it.  A special thank you to all the people who became followers during the past month.

I have read a great many  blogs about  writing and gardening, two of my favourite topics.  I have laughed and cried in almost equal measures at some quite intimate portrayals of other family’s lives and found several new (to me) authors whose books I have downloaded and either read, am reading now, or saving for a summer’s evening.  I feel almost as if I have visited some of the far-off places I have read about because the pictures and descriptions were  so outstandingly good.

Searching for topics to match the letters I have thought about past events that I had not thought about for many years and the whole challenge has been a brilliant introduction to the world of blogging.

A to Z Challenge – Z is for Zorba the Greek

I first saw Alan Bates on the Big Screen when I watched Whistle Down The Wind aged eleven;  at the end of the film I wanted to live with Hayley Mills.

I watched Zorba the Greek aged fifteen; at the end of the film I wanted to live with Alan Bates.

In the mid-sixties people were just beginning to  travel en masse for foreign holidays but I had never left the UK;  watching Zorba with my friends was an almost overwhelming experience,  the slaughter of the Widow unsettling my young mind for a considerable time. It was a true culture shock to a female teenager  in the burgeoning permissive society where women were openly battling for equality; even though the book had been published about  twenty years earlier I did not question that life on Crete was still similar.

Yes, we danced Zorba’s Dance round Oxford, annoying people in general but particularly policemen who had not been trained to deal with young women who were drunk on life rather than on alcohol. Yes, the locations filled my head with dreams of foreign travel.  But much more significantly my understanding of adult emotions had lurched forwards in one shocking leap.

The first Quote from the book I have never been able to answer:  the second Quote I am trying to prove wrong.

“Look, one day I had gone to a little village. An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, grandfather!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’                             Which of us was right, boss?”

“All those who actually live the mysteries of life haven’t the time to write, and all those who have the time don’t live them! D’you see?”

A to Z Challenge – Y is for Yew Trees & The Circle of Life

Yew Trees are amongst the oldest living plants and have many folklore associations some of which might be quite offensive to twenty-first century humans so, if you are squeamish, brace yourself for the last paragraph.

The word Yew comes from the Anglo Saxon word Giuli, the same stem word as for Yule. The Yule Log was originally an oversized hard lump of yew wood that was left burning on the fire for 12 days; I do not know at what point in time it transformed into  an oversweet chocolate cake that  I baked on Christmas Eve when my children were still young and lasted in my larder for 12 minutes. The Gaelic word  for yew tree, however, is Ioho or Ioha and  the Scottish island of Iona  probably  derives its name from the groves of sacred yew trees planted there; Iona was once a powerful Druid Centre. There is a famous tree in Perthshire, Scotland, called the Fortingall Yew which is thought to be between two and five thousand years old. Beltane Fires used to be lit every year in a cleft of its trunk and a popular legend claims that Pontius Pilot played in its branches as a child. In Irish mythology the Yew is one of five sacred, and/or magical, trees brought from the Otherworld. In the Celtic Calendar the Yew Tree sat where the Old Year became The New.

The Yew is often described as the tree of birth, death and rebirth. When the tip of a branch touches the ground it frequently puts down roots and another trunk is formed.  New vertical growths either inside  a decayed hollow trunk or outside of the original trunk may also occur  and this ability to renew its vigour is why the Yew is regarded by many as Immortal. Rings of Yew will often grow if the original tree is left to its own devices.

The tree is associated with death in several ways; one example is that English bows were made of Yew and used to kill thousands of men in war.

Many churchyard Yews were growing in that place long before the church was built and not planted to make sure the farmers kept their cattle well fenced in for fear of poisoning, as is commonly suggested.  It is thought that Pagans associated Yews with preventing the dead from walking and Christians adopted this belief to bring Pagans into the Church.  The shallow net of roots is regarded as impenetrable by the spirits and, more gruesomely, that the roots grow into the eyes of the dead so they cannot see their way back.  However, others believe that the berries and bark are red because the roots grow into tongues, thereby giving a voice to the dead.  Either view gives the story writer plenty of ideas for a macabre tale.


The Llangerny Yew - photo Emgaol (2010) used under Creative Commons License

The Llangerny Yew – photo Emgaol (2010) used under Creative Commons License


A to Z Challenge – X is for Iris Xyphium, Xylopia and Xyris

Simple post today, suffering from extreme exhaustion.

I was going to write botanical notes about xylem so you’ve all had a lucky escape!

Xylopia brasiliensis – photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Colchicum; used under Creative Commons Licence

Xylopia brasiliensis – photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Colchicum; used under Creative Commons Licence

Xyris complanata - photo by Eric Guinther (June 2005); used under Creative Commons Licence

Xyris complanata – photo by Eric Guinther (June 2005); used under Creative Commons Licence

Iris Xyphium  -    Photo by H Zell (June 2009)  used under Creative Commons Licence

Iris Xyphium –
Photo by H Zell (June 2009) used under Creative Commons Licence

A to Z Challenge – W is for whimsy and Wimsey.

 “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”   Lewis Carroll

whimsical  has two definitions:

playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing and amusing way:   acting or behaving in a capricious manner

whimsy  has three:

playfully old-fashioned or fanciful behaviour or humour:   a fanciful or odd thing: a whim

One fictional character  associated with this word is Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey  whose family motto is “As my Whimsy takes me.”

My parents loved reading detective novels and Lord Peter  was one of  my father’s favourite sleuths.  I  have read most of  the Wimsey stories and watched the two BBC series starring Ian Carmichael, screened in the mid ’70’s,  which feel a little dated now.  I had never imagined myself in the role of Harriet Vane until the BBC filmed a new series in 1987 starring Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walters. This pairing was so perfect that, as she was saved from the gallows in Strong Poison, I felt completely drawn into the action. I regularly re-watch this ten episode series and it is such a shame the BBC were unable to obtain the rights to Busman’s Holiday  in which Peter and Harriet marry and spend their honeymoon solving a murder case.

“Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?”

“So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober.”
D L Sayers  –    Gaudy Night

“Do you know how to pick a lock?”
“Not in the least, I’m afraid.”
“I often wonder what we go to school for,” said Wimsey.”
D L  Sayers   –   Strong Poison