Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Queen of the May

You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

There’s many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine;
There’s Margaret and Mary, there’s Kate and Caroline;
But none so fair as little Alice in all the land they say,
So I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake,
If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break;
But I must gather knots of flowers, and buds and garlands gay,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

The honeysuckle round the porch has woven its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;

And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the livelong day,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

All the valley, mother, ’ill be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale ’ill merrily glance and play,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

So you must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear,
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
To-morrow ’ill be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

The painting at the top of this post is called 'Queen Guinevere's Maying' by an artist called John Collier.
I shall be away visiting my son and daughter-in-law in their new home in Norfolk for a few days and hopefully going to a Tudor Living History Day at Kentwell Hall on May Day. This is one of the lovliest times of the year now filled with all the wonderful fresh new leaves and flowers of early summer.

The wonder of the world,
the beauty and the power,
the shapes of things,
their colours,lights, and shades;
these I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.

I wish all of you a very Happy Beltane.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I'm finally back again with another post about my trip to South Africa. There is so much to do in the garden at this time of year and in the UK you can never be sure how long the good weather will last so I tend to make the most of it while it's here! The forecast for the rest of this week is good though so I'm going to get this done before going out for another gardening session.
We had two visits to Kruger National Park but neither was especially great as it's the wrong time of year, the grass is very long after the summer rains and it's hard to spot the animals even when they are fairly close by. We didn't see any of the big cats at all sadly but the animals we did see we got pretty close to, the photos are a selection from both days. Above is a huge bull elephant who was right by the side of the road. He made it clear that he intended crossing and that we were in his way so Steve reversed a short distance to let him pass.

This isn't a great photo but I put it in to show just how much it was raining and just how close we were to the elephant.

There is a lot to see besides the big animals, there are many beautiful birds for instance. This is a European Roller and you can see from the sky in the background that we weren't having the greatest of weather!

This photo was taken by my daughter as most of the good sightings we had were on the side of the car where she and Steve were sitting so I found it hard to get good shots a lot of the time. This is Juliette's favourite animal - a warthog. I must admit that I rather like them too.

Steve is very good at spotting small things at the side of the road, while we are all shouting 'elephant, elephant' he's busy shouting 'chameleon' or 'dung beetle'!
This smartly dressed chap strutting along the side of the road is a chameleon of course. It's worth enlarging the phot so that you can see his face and the beautiful markings more clearly.

We didn't actually see any dung beetles this trip so I am cheating and putting in this photo taken when I was there in 2004. They are amazing little creatures and I can still remember watching as he staggered across the road pushing something that was 3 or 4 times his size.

One thing we did see a lot of was baboons invariably in big family groups. This one was sitting by the roadside peacefully enjoying what looks remarkably like an apple.

Baby baboons are very cute indeed.

This is the nearest you are going to get to seeing a leopard in this post! A leopard tortoise pottering along the road. It's actually very interesting to see this kind of thing. I suspect that a great many people are so busy looking for lions and elephants that they miss the smaller and often equally interesting creatures.

If you enlarge this you will see impala in the background. There were actually four giraffes but they were never close enough together to get them all in one shot. We saw quite a lot of giraffe but they were surprisingly hard to spot among all the trees and undergrowth.

The Southern Ground Hornbill is the largest of the hornbills and is increasingly rare. They are mostly only seen within game reserves now and they are not all that common even in a protected environment so we were lucky to see them and especially as close as this. They were within a few feet of the car and I was the one who spotted them:):)

The hippo and two buffalo were on the other side of a fairly wide river but fortunately we had binoculars with us so were able to get a good view of them.

I've cropped one of my photos of the hippo so that you can see him better.

Same hippo but he's trundled along into the river now.

This handsome bird is a saddle-billed stork. They are huge birds and the males can be up to 5 feet tall with a 9ft wing span.

We were fortunate to get a really good view of this herd of zebra, you don't see zebra anything like as often as you'd think.

Another of Juliette's photos, the baby elephant was on her side and my view was also blocked by an excited Kaitlyn leaning across in front of me:)

It was the end of the second day and we were heading towards Phabeni gate when we saw what was the best sighting of all as far as I'm concerned. This female spotted hyena was laid by the side of the road suckling her cub. I never expected to get as close as this to a hyena.

She raised her head to look at us as we sat watching but gave no sign of being afraid or moving.Hyenas have a poor public image but after seeing this they have taken their place among my favourite animals.In fact they are not primarily scavengers but are very efficient hunters who will successfully tackle prey as large as buffalo. They are highly intelligent animals too.

We did actually see a rhino and various types of antelope - waterbuck and kudu among them but they were too far away or too invisible among the grasses for good photos. Here, for instance, we have my rhino photograph! Not a candidate for wildlife photograph of nthe year I think you'll agree:) It does show how hard it was to see things though.
So there you have it, not all that exciting really but one or two moments worth waiting for. Other people's Africa blogs will show you lions, leopards and cheetah, with me you get chameleons and dung beetles! At least it's a bit different though:)

Friday, April 08, 2011

Green Rain

Into the scented woods we'll go
And see the blackthorn swim in snow.
High above, in the budding leaves,
A brooding dove awakes and grieves;
The glades with mingled music stir,
And wildly laughs the woodpecker.
When blackthorn petals pearl the breeze,

There are the twisted hawthorn trees
Thick-set with buds, as clear and pale
As golden water or green hail--
As if a storm of rain had stood
Enchanted in the thorny wood,
And, hearing fairy voices call,
Hung poised, forgetting how to fall.

By Mary Webb

Just a very quick interim post, I'm really busy trying to catch up in the garden while we have this lovely weather but there will be more on Africa soon.