A to Z Challenge – V is for Venice, Vivaldi and Valmont

ven3ven4I’m A Total Tourist In Venice.      

It might seem odd for a woman who likes to visit gardens on her travels to be so much in love with Venice;  I can’t explain it. I’ve been sung to in a gondola,  shopped, paid too much to sit at one of the tables right in front of Florian and got bellini’d at Harry’s. I have queued patiently and gazed wide-eyed upon magnificence. I would do it all again and again. (Did I mention I shopped.)  The place that held me enraptured, however, was quite small in comparison to many of the historic masterpieces; the Museo della Musica .  The early instruments in the Museum had an extraordinary effect on me;  I longed to be able to hold them. There  is a section called Antonio Vivaldi e il suo tempo which gives an insight into the life of Vivaldi.


a view from my room

ven2 ven5

Wondering how Valmont fits in with Venice and Vivaldi? They all feature in my manuscript of course. Oh the joy of writing your own plot (but, for the downside, please also see yesterday’s post “Unfinished” ) and  having fun with who does what, with whom and where.

All photos copyright Lynne Revette Butler.

A to Z Challenge – U is for Unfinished

 I fall asleep at night thinking about my unfinished projects.

There is a very simple reason why I have so many unfinished projects;  I start too many.  I love planning projects.  Sometimes I start by measuring and drawing up plans, maybe for work in my home involving choosing paint colours and fabrics, maybe for alterations to the garden needing earth-moving  and extensive plant lists.  I like having several projects running at once,  there is always something to suit my mood or the weather.

There is however, one unfinished piece of work that is now waking me up in a state of anxiety.  I need to finish the  first re-draft of my manuscript and send it off to an editor but I cannot be satisfied with it.  It is like an iced cake;  I had no trouble deciding on the ingredients and the cake looked nicely done when I lifted it out of the oven. I let it cool off for a while then put on a thin layer of  marzipan to  smooth over the tiny cracks.  All fine thus far, but then came the icing, the perfect glossy finish to present to the outside world. It has lumps in it,  it slides to one side and loses its gloss, it will not set firm and let me write “The End”  on it in a confident, flowing hand.  It sits there, unfinished, mocking me but I will not become unnerved or unhinged,  my  resolve is unswerving,  unsurmountable.  I must regain the upper-hand, it cannot remain unpublished.

“This recently discovered unfinished work had all the makings of being her greatest novel”  sounds fine for an obit.  “This unfinished work  finished her”  less appealing.

A to Z Challenge – T is for Tepee in my garden

A few years ago I bought a tepee. It is, of course,  not made of animal hides but of a sturdy canvas although, from a couple of hundred yards away, it looks just like the real thing.

I am small and have to enlist the help of taller friends to put up the poles and wrap round the canvas;  the more extrovert among us then have a dance but  the more self-conscious just look embarrassed. There is something very different about sitting in a tepee, it is not like being in a normal tent;  I find that it both relaxes and inspires me at the same time. I have a wild area in my garden with a large pond and from spring until late  autumn the tepee stands close by it. There is a smoke vent at the top and sometimes I lie face up and watch the clouds float past overhead.  Occasionally I use my macbook or iPad out there but this is a place better suited to pen and paper or needle and thread than to electronic gadgets.  I am sure that to some eyes my tepee looks completely incongruous in my English Garden with a Victorian Greenhouse , herbaceous borders and formal hedges all within sight but it is another perfect place for solitude and I love it.


A to Z Challenge – S is for Smiling and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This is my third word for the letter S;  on Saturday I did an early S with R  because our UK Government is messing with our School Curriculum and I wanted people to read, and hopefully sign, a petition about the importance of  training young people to work in Agriculture and Horticulture.  Early this morning my scheduled blog about Solitude was posted.  I have just decided to add a third about Smiling.

On Friday afternoon I broke the side off one of my canine teeth, leaving a sharp point which catches on the inside of my mouth;  I decided against using one of the emergency dentists on duty over the weekend and left a message at my usual dental practice.  It hurts when I eat, it hurts when I talk but worst of all it hurts when I smile. I had not realized how many times something makes me smile during the day until smiling hurt so much. No big deal I hear you thinking, everybody smiles.

I was knocked sideways by chronic fatigue syndrome about twenty years ago and it took me four years to recover sufficiently to feel that I was living a full life again.  It always lurks in the background and takes an occasional swipe at me;  at least now most members of the medical profession accept that it exists.  At the time I succumbed to cfs, after working on while having flu, not only some professionals but even people I had thought were good friends accused me of being lazy, making a fuss, getting out of doing things I didn’t like doing etc.  How could anyone think that sleeping for sixteen hours out of every twenty-four was fun?  When I started getting better I was told that I had hardly smiled during those years.

I am off to see my lovely dentist this afternoon and he will make me better very quickly; life is horrid when it hurts to smile.

A to Z Challenge – S is for Solitude

                       “In solitude where we are least alone ”     Byron

The OED definition of solitude is the state of being alone.   Alone is defined as  1. on your own   2.  isolated and lonely.

The plural, solitudes, was formerly used when describing wilderness, backwoods, deserts or indeed any large area containing very few people.

The synonyms  for solitude include loneliness, solitariness, isolation, seclusion, privacy and peace.

I spend quite a lot of time at home in solitude but I am just on my own, not isolated or lonely. I have privacy,  insofar as I am not seen by other people, but  I am frequently disturbed by the telephone ringing so I rarely have peace. I enjoy this solitude at home because I choose to have it; once the vital jobs are done it gives me the opportunity to think through problems, often whilst working in the garden, and to write creatively.

Most of the time I spend in a car is spent in solitude;  hurtling along confined in this small space is a very different experience because there is constant interaction with the rest of the traffic but it is still a solitary experience.  Conversely I can sit in a crowded train carriage or café and have solitude; human isolation in crowded places is common in 21st Century society.  Occasionally someone will smile or speak to you but generally you can settle into your seat and be assured that you will be completely ignored.

I find  these periods of solitude an enjoyable and therapeutic part of my life;  what I  struggle to comprehend is how anyone endures the solitude of  long-term enforced “solitary confinement”  whether caused by kidnap, lawful imprisonment or disability.

A to Z Challenge – R + S is for Ridiculous Politicians and the Schools Curriculum Proposals

I am probably tweaking the A to Z rules by posting a  partly  S topic on the R day but, for the first time since I started blogging, I am going to Rant Seriously.

I have  just learnt that our British Government is planning to take the land based courses off the list of subjects that count towards a school’s position in the  annual performance tables.  Apparently they no longer believe that Agriculture and Horticulture meet the criteria for aspirational vocational courses.  I cannot possibly write about this as competently  and eloquently as the headmaster of Brymore School, (where they have their own farm and gardens) does when appealing to people to sign the school’s petition asking the Government to rethink this proposal.  The link to the petition is below, please look at it and let me know if you think “Hair and Beauty”  is more important to a nation than growing food and caring for our environment.

Please note:  the choice of the word “Ridiculous” to describe my government’s members and proposals is entirely my own and not in any way connected to Brymore School.  The rest of the words that came to mind were inappropriate for this blog.


I will post my scheduled “S” topic on Monday but I needed to write about this now before I go out and plant food crops in my garden.

A to Z Challenge – R is for Red

I have several dictionaries of phrase origins and meanings, the oldest of which is by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer;  the edition I own was published in about 1896.

Here are a few  “Red”  definitions

Red Tincture was a preparation that alchemists thought would convert any baser metal into gold. It is sometimes called the Philosopher’s Stone, the Great Elixir or the Great Magisterium.

Red-shanks was used to describe a Highlander and came from the boots made of undressed deer hide that Highlanders once wore  with the red hair still on the outside.

Red-lattice  at the doors and windows of an English alehouse used to signify that it was properly licensed to sell alcohol;  it is probably the reason why many old public houses are called “The Chequers.”

Red-tape originates from the custom of lawyers and government officials of tying their bundles of papers together with red tape; it has been in use since the 18th Century and now generally refers to bureaucratic delay.  In David Cameron’s first speech as PM he said that he would help small firms by cutting red tape;  well,  he hasn’t helped ours and we are being strangled by it. I do not think I shall live to see any Government reducing Red Tape!

Red-breasts (or Robin redbreasts) was the slang name for The Bow Street Runners who were the first professional policemen in London and wore bright scarlet waistcoats.

Can you add any more?