Thursday, 17 August 2017


On Sunday afternoon I was in puppy heaven. We visited a ruined castle on the Welsh Borders and found that it was a magnet for families with young children and dogs, all of them impressively well behaved. I met so many puppies! The kids were delightful too, but PUPPIES!!!! A teeny beagle and a teenier Yorkie running around like an animated toothbrush. A St Bernard with a coat so thick and soft you could have lost a small child in there. Some sort of poodle cross looking for things to bark at. I'm very much looking forward to meeting somebody's new spaniel puppy soon.

All these, apart from the poodle thing, were pedigrees. I'm not. I'm a mongrel. I like mongrels. They tend to be tough. I have a friend who can trace her family back to ancient Norsemen via Alfred the Great. There was some serious nobility in her family, but, as she says, the nobles didn't get there by being nice.

Various people have climbed into the branches of my family tree. They either fell out or got dive bombed by puffins. We know that the Scottish branch goes back to a place near Glasgow where there were so many McAllisters it becomes impossible to find out which one was which. Grandma's lot were Londoners/South Coast and somebody reckoned that they were descended from the Bourbon kings, but to be honest the Bourbon kings weren't that particular and I suspect a lot of us are descended from them. As for Mum's family, it seems that for generations they wandered around England to wherever the work was. However, I have reddish hair, pale skin and blue eyes, so that means I have real ancient Pictish ancestors. They're just mixed up with a lot of other things, bits of Saxon, Viking, Norman, and, for all I know, refugees from anywhere in Europe that was going into meltdown.

None of us, or very few, are pedigrees. In the UK, unless all sides of your family have occupied the same few Celtic counties for hundreds of years, you're a mongrel. In the States, unless you're pure Native American, you are descended from immigrants.

Whatever you believe your race to be, we are all mongrels.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


Dear Sunshine

If we have said or done anything to upset you this August, we in the north of England are truly sorry. We didn't mean it. We love you very much. And we miss you. We've hardly seen you for weeks and weeks. Please come back. We promise you ice cream and sun cream, t-shirts and tea in the garden, beaches and peaches. We will wear shades and drink Pimms in your honour. If you want water fights, you can have them. Pour into our gardens shine through our windows, and stay as long as you like.

Last week Tony and I read the weather forecast and went to Harlow Carr anyway. All those gardens! As well as the walks, the borders, the ponds and the stream there are plenty of places to take shelter - little wooden sheds, the exhibition, the funny little alpine house and the summer house. It didn't matter that the rain starting pelting down soon after we got there because we were in Betty's, ho-ho, having lunch. By the time we'd finished the 'I really really shouldn't' and swigged the coffee, the sky was clear.

We'd wandered the woodland and had a pleasant chat with the moorhens when the rain began again and bucketed down for twenty minutes while we took shelter. Then the sun came out and we walked up between the flower borders. Raindrops shone on leaves, lay on petals, and hung on to the delicate grasses. Sunshine made them sparkle. We walked through fields of diamonds.

The next day brought another kind of diamond. I attended a Quiet Garden Retreat Day. A local lady, kind, wise and experienced in spirituality, opened her home and garden for retreatants. She gave us some thoughts and readings to be going on with and let us read, draw, pray, meditate, and enjoy the garden. I made friends with a cat. I thought about treasure. I came away with more diamonds.