Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Chalk Horses and Ancient Mysteries

 My ankle's lots better so I'm now mobile again, and I'm really appreciating it.  Every gleam of sun there is, I try to go somewhere new and reasonably near home.  Surprising how many places there are. A couple of weeks ago we spent a couple of days near the prehistoric White Horse at Uffington, Oxfordshire.  You reach this curious creature by walking down a long track over the open downland.    

It is a very open, empty landscape, even though it is not far from London, and the slightly lonely walk to the White Horse (which is on the most distant hill in the picture, and no, you can't see it) got me into the mood for considering what might have been going on here in the Stone and Bronze Ages.

Nobody knows for sure what the  history of the Uffington White Horse is, but it's thought to be neolithic.  I'd have taken a photo of it except that there isn't any spot nearby that has a proper view, and you have to go a long way away to be able to glimpse it at all. That alone makes me think it must be very old, perhaps magical, otherwise why spend all that effort on something which will not be completely seen by ordinary mortals?

 But since we live now, in the days of aerial photos, I can show you what the White Horse looks like.  The website the photo is from has lots more background on this huge and mysterious symbol.  (Incidentally is it really a horse? I'm not quite sure. Are you?)

If you look at the photo above you can imagine me standing at the top right, just above the dot of the  eye, looking downwards. The picture below is what I saw. 

The more I looked over this landscape, the stranger it seemed.  That flat topped hill in the centre of my photo, for instance.  The hill was formed by nature, not by man, but its flat top has been deliberately created. Yes, people so primitive they probably didn't even use wheeled vehicles cut off the whole top of that hill and carted it away.  Archaeologists think that the hill was the site of important ceremonies. I don't see how we will ever know, but its name is Dragon Hill, and if you know anything about English place-names, you'll know that most of them have a reason for being called what they are. Dragon Hill's name relates to the legend that St. George killed his dragon there. The white patch where nothing grows is where the dragon's blood was supposedly spilt.
Just to the left of the hill is a weird valley with what looks like pleats down one side. I have never seen anything else like it in the area,  and there are no streams running down the gaps. The only geological information I have found about it suggests that it was formed by melting ice, but nobody seems quite sure.   It is known as "The Manger" and the horse is supposed to come down from the hill to eat from it at night.

You will by now have gathered that something extremely major was going on spread over a very large part of this landscape in 2-3000 BC or so.  So, after climbing the White Horse we decided to visit Wayland's Smithy, a long-barrow tomb also dating from the neolithic period, which is about three miles to the southwest and down a rather lonely path.    Mike's A Bit About Britain blog  had made me want to visit the area, and it has more information on this and other neolithic sites in the area if you want to read it.

It was a pleasant walk of half a mile or so down the track but when I arrived at the tomb I wasn't expecting to go round the back of the entrance and see this:

One of the large stones making the tomb mouth has a very strange, though not unfriendly presence that looks vaguely like an animal or fish.   I noticed that a stick had been placed in its "mouth" (you can probably just see the stick if you look hard) and a necklace of rowan berries had been carefully draped over its "head."  The rowan is one of the most magical trees in English folklore, and the berries for this necklace had been deftly threaded on what looked like slender stems of twig and dry grass.     Not surprisingly, modern day nature worshippers, witches and druids are fond of these sites, and it is interesting to glimpse their beliefs.  

There are several legends associated with this particular neolithic long barrow. Mike cites one from Saxon times (pre-1066 AD) that concerns a Saxon god derived from a Norse creature called Völundr, a supernatural weapon maker.  

But of course legends don't really explain these neolithic tombs and monuments.     Like the St. George and the Dragon story, they are later attempts to explain features which had already existed for thousands of years - for let's not forget the neolithic people were much more remote from the Saxons in time, than the Saxons are from us, and even more of a mystery. To the Saxons, these places might well have been put here by their gods.  

Anyhow, as we lay on the grass beneath huge old beech trees, it did indeed feel like a magical way to spend a late summer afternoon.  

Next day, still on the neolithic trail, we went to Avebury.  We stayed, by the way, at a very nice community pub in nearby Hungerford Newtown, which I  thought I'd mention in case you are ever passing.  

It's called the "Tally Ho!" and after at least 150 years as a pub it was all set to close down when the locals decided to club together and buy it.  So they did, and now it's a friendly, cosy pub, popular with locals (who of course have more than a passing interest in how well it does) but also with very reasonable prices for any of the three very nice bedrooms upstairs.  

So, onwards to Avebury.   You only have to drive into the village to spot the boulders. 

This picture of Avebury village from the air shows that it is in the middle of a giant earthwork (photo from the wonderful Aeroengland site). This makes it clear that this was an important part of  a gigantic  ritual landscape, which spreads many miles from the village.   

It may not surprise you to know that Stonehenge is only a few miles to the south of Avebury.  So, what with the White Horse, the long barrows and the stone circles, it beggars belief that stone age people were able to create something on this scale with their antler-picks and leather ropes.  

As I was wandering around all this stuff,  a song which my son in law wrote last year was going in my head and I was humming it.  "If you seek then you will find."    He is fascinated by ancient landscapes and folklore, and particularly the many chalk horses (none of them like Uffington, though) that are found in the area.  I thought you might like to hear it too.

(Courtesy of Cunning Folk)

While in Avebury, we also visited Avebury Manor, which really deserves a post to itself, so I'll tell you about it in a few days' time.  Let me just say for now that seven years ago this gorgeous, ancient but empty manor house was put into the hands of historians, BBC set designers and modern craftsmen, and they re-interpreted its interior to create an immersive experience of the manor's life through the ages.    I have even found a clip of the first episode, which screened in 2011. 

With autumn just beginning,  it has been so nice to be in the country. I expect the Neolithic folk picked and ate blackberries, and watched butterflies too.   

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Berlin and London, August.

I'm much better and so glad not to be focusing on the stupid ankle any more.  Since my last post I've been to Berlin with T and young S,and it was fun, even in temperatures of 37 deg (around 99F).  On the first day we went right up in to the dome of the Reichstag Building where the internal temperature was hitting 40 degrees - 104F.   The police (I was told) would have stepped in and closed the dome if it had got just a bit hotter. But, they didn't, and we survived without heatstroke.  The central core of the dome is all mirrors and windows - dizzying and wonderful. This picture is taken from the bottom, looking up to the top of the dome. 

As you walk round and round, slowly climbing higher,  you get panoramic views over Berlin.

This is the Tiergarten park from the roof on which the dome stands, but as you see, we did go higher.

Online brochures exist with detailed info on this complex, symbolic and interesting group of buildings.   But to stick to the Reichstag Building, it was built in the 1890s on the site of a palace belonging to someone called Count Raczynski (poor fellow, it seemed nobody warned him that this was the plan)  It  burned down in 1933, was patched up in the 1960s by the Communists as an exhibition hall, and finally remodelled after German reunification by Norman Foster.  

The German parliament is now called the Bundestag, but the Reichstag Building was such a landmark that the old name was kept.  Every detail of the rebuild was carefully thought out, even down to the MPs' violet-blue adjustable seating. Not only is "Reichstag Blue" a gorgeous colour, but, it was chosen to be politically neutral, and so has actually been copyrighted! (Made me wonder what colour one might associate with our own Houses of Parliament.   "HP Sauce Brown", perhaps? And what colour would symbolise the US Capitol Building?)

Care has been taken not to obliterate all evidence of the building's past - I liked this section of preserved ruined wall, complete with graffiti from  Russian Zone days.  If you read Russian, please tell me what it says. 

S. is a history nut and shares our own love of museums, so most of our time was spent in the city's many historical museums.  My favourite was the DDR Museum, which offers glimpses of the weird world of Communist East Germany,  known (misleadingly) as the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, since it was only democratic in name.

One thing the museum shows is that the ideas behind East German communism sounded pretty good.  What's not to like about a job, a home and paid holidays for everyone?   But as we know, the rhetoric didn't match the bullying reality, and the Wall was built to stop people escaping from this would-be political paradise.  And if you visit the fascinating but uber-touristy Checkpoint Charlie museum,....say this isn't touristy -'ll see the many ingenious, pathetic and startling ways people risked their lives to be free of the DDR.    

Still, I was touched by a few of the films in the DDR Museum which showed how, even under a corrupt and monolithic system, efforts really were made to create a better society.     The gigantic blocks of Plattenbauten, though hideous to our eyes, did replace vermin ridden slums, and they did have have children's playgrounds, fountains and squares. And among the oldies visiting the museum, there were a few muted cries of joy at the sight of Clown Ferdinand children's TV programme and the dear old "Trabi" car.

 I don't think many were nostalgic for the Stasi, though. 

This is the Secret Police eavesdropping room, from which you can listen in to some of the bugs planted about the museum - pink arrow points to the listening-in point, with electric typewriter at the ready for your reports. 

Another attention grabber was the unexpected group of nudist dioramas.  

 I don't think it was actually compulsory to have those paid holidays in the buff in the DDR, but in his fascinating blog, John Paul Kleiner suggests that taking your clothes off and "being yourself" might have been one way in which residents of Communist Germany could assert their own individuality.  

The mighty German Historical Museum was S.'s favourite, and we spent a whole day there. It's excellent but very serious, focusing heavily on politics, trade and Germany's place in the wider world.   I have to admit that while S. was considering the Hanseatic League, we spent some time in  the museum's very pleasant riverside cafe. But in its section on the Weimar Republic of the 1930s,  I spotted a picture which reminded me to visit the Käthe Kollwitz house next time I go to Berlin.  As you see, when spotted casually from a distance, the picture looks like Hitler in his SS uniform.

Close up you see what it really is - Hunger. Disturbing, but brilliant, I though. 

Käthe Kollwitz  was recommended to me by a cousin, and reading about her life and visiting these Berlin museums (and also the Hiroshima Peace Museum) has made me aware of the lessons that Germany and Japan have, in general,  learned from being the losers in war. The biggest of these seems to be that cooperation and peace serve ordinary people better than any amount of flag waving and foreigner-bashing.  

And now I'm home, I'm more than delighted to be getting out into London again. Have been joining in with picking blackberries and elderberries in overgrown corners, and would pick rosehips except that they look so pretty on the bushes....

And I have been cycling to the South Bank where everyone had such a good time in the hot weather.  Here's a "sandy beach" installed alongside the Thames.  Ideal for amusing the tots. 

The nearby fountain shown below also never fails to amuse.  It shoots up "walls" of water unpredictably, at different heights, and adults and kids alike were so loving it in the boiling weather, even when clothed.  

 In the background you see a yellow tent with live music - some of it very quirky and lots of fun. 

This was one of the acts -  "Figs in Wigs", aka the "Dancing Beings"  giving an eye catching performance of 70s dancing, and also running a pea-eating contest.  No, I don't know what the point of it was either, but everyone had a good time.  The London Eye was slowly going round in the background and the many eating places were sending up some good smells.   And they don't even mind kids climbing on the sculptures here.....

We have just been to the Royal Academy Summer Show.... wow, was that busy. And full of astonishing pictures and ideas.  But too much to write about right now, this post is long enough. 

I hope you are continuing to enjoy your summer! 

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Aches, Pains and Malta

Just in case you wanted an update on my ankle, it's still in pain, probably because I am VERY bad at doing what I'm told to do.  And I am VERY bad at being patient.  I hope I'll be able to make a trip to Berlin fairly soon, but there's a while before I go, so now I am really trying to obey the physio in every detail and simply not be my usual headstrong self.  

Meanwhile, I've been looking through old slides which T. has kindly been scanning for me. I stopped taking slides about 12 years ago and in some ways I'm sorry. The colours are slightly more muted than digital pictures, but when projected, the range of tones is far more subtle.  Since I have hardly been anywhere or done anything this month, I thought you'd like to see a few of the slides I took in Malta when I was on assignment for Islands Magazine about fifteen years ago, and hear some of my rather rambling thoughts about the place.

If  you have read this blog for a long time you'll know I moved from Belfast to Malta when I was 17, so it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, to see how things had changed.  To my surprise, they hadn't changed quite as much as I'd expected they would.  

So, these are boatman in Senglea, a district of Valletta.  

These boatmen are (or were) incredibly tough and strong and these ones had been involved in some way with the Regatta which takes place in Grand Harbour twice a year, when teams of boatmen are pitched against each other. It's a tremendous event and lots of fun.  This boat's similar to the traditional Maltese "dghajsa" water taxi (below - not my picture) though as you see it is  not the same. 

When I first saw Malta, there were usually working dghajjes in every harbour, but now they're really just a tourist attraction. A shame because they are beautiful and colourful. 

And I can't tell you how exactly how to pronounce "dghajsa" (I say "DY-SA"). Maltese is an interesting language, and looks as if it is very difficult to read. I think it was probably originally written in Arabic, as  it is a blend of Arabic and Italian.  Here is a documentary starting with a beautiful dance sequence narrated in Maltese,  so you can hear this interesting language.

If you speak North African Arabic, or Italian, you can probably understand most of the rest of the documentary too. Nothing shows better than the Maltese language just how much this tiny island has been a cultural crossroads for centuries.     

I don't know how much Malta makes of its culture to visitors, but essentially the feel of the place is very much Southern Mediterranean,  not North African.  Each village has its annual "festa"  centering around the Virgin Mary, and the fireworks are truly spectacular.  I've seen many wonderful Disney fireworks shows, but they look quite tame compared with some of the elaborate displays you see in little Maltese villages.  Here are some preparations for giant displays of Catherine wheels in Mosta - do you see the men on the left fixing all the fireworks on the frameworks? 

 When these structures burn, they make a sequence of beautiful ever-changing shapes in the dark. 

Malta has 30-odd small fireworks factories which sometimes blow up, as there was, and perhaps still is, a very laid back attitude to safety around fireworks. Below, you might be able to see that the crowds clustered right around the frames, although we did have to stand back when the fireworks were lit.   Sorry about the high contrast - that's one of the problems with scanned slides, I guess.  The atmosphere was very exciting and full of happiness. 

So the fireworks were as good as ever, but on this trip I was also eager to see the buses again.  During my teenage years, each bus route had its own distinctive colours, so you could immediately see which bus was yours.  Our route had green and white livery. The buses were of various vintages, and each belonged to one particular driver, who decorated it to suit himself.   They were really quite remarkable and I hoped they hadn't been scrapped.

On the trip for "Islands" I saw that the colours had been standardised to orange and yellow, which seemed a bit pointless to me,  but the buses were still very distinctive, and nearly always beautifully kept and clearly well loved as individuals. 

Decorated inside, too. 

I remember on our bus route when I was young one bus had the message written over the door: "GOD IS WATCHING, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WEAR!" which seemed to be directed just at teenagers. 

Now, they have modern buses in Malta.   I know things have to change, but it's kind of sad. I wonder if the drivers still sit to one side of their seat, so St. Christopher can sit next to them.

I do have many more pictures of Malta, not all of them scanned, but I think this is enough for now, and I hope you've enjoyed seeing them and hearing my thoughts on them. 

And, oh, I forgot to say that I also have developed a dental problem.  Our practice has recently been taken over, and I needed a  molar crowned, but within hours of my new dentist fitting the temporary crown, it came off again. The other dentist in the practice tried to re-fit it, but found that it came off again immediately.

He decided there was something wrong with the temporary, and made another, which was fine. But when my own dentist came to fit the permanent crown, she had difficulty as it didn't seem to fit. She tried to blame the other dentist for creating problems (!) and somehow got the permanent one in, and it didn't feel right. Somehow she managed to get it to seem OK, it wasn't hitting the one below, but after she cemented it in, I found that something about the alignment is wrong when I am actually eating. My lower tooth puts terrific pressure on one edge of the new crown. It feels like I'm constantly biting on something too hard.   I know if it continues I'll develop neuralgia, so I'll have to go back on Monday. This time I hope to get the other dentist, and I sure hope he can fix this. 

After that, I think I'll be moving to another dental practice.  

Friday, 6 July 2018

Slowing ....

So I went to a foot specialist who says I have a damaged tendon plus ligament trouble. I must completely rest the ankle, not even go out to the corner shop, and the priority is to get the swelling down so I can start strengthening exercises. The good news, though, is that I can cycle if it doesn't hurt me to do so. ( My neighbour suggests a crane to get me from the front door to the bike without walking.)  Next up, I have a dentist appointment to fit  a crown on a molar. So you see it's all loads of fun here. 

As I can't go far, I've been photographing plants right outside the door. Taking time to look closely is always worth doing. These fairly ordinary fuschias reminded me of little dancers, bobbing about in the breeze.

 And here is a look at the most wonderful petunia flower, seen against the sun.  This plant survived the winter, which pleased me, because I haven't been able to find the variety ("Night Sky") this year. I think it looks as if it was designed by a  top dress designer, with a jewel at its centre.

I also discovered this plant, which self seeded in a forgotten pot.  It has a lovely pink-white flower and a spreading habit. I have no idea what it is called - does anyone know?  And, I wonder how large it will get.

I've also been reading.  So far the book I like best, and am recommending to everyone, is "Golden Hill" by  Francis Spufford.  Oddly, it didn't appeal to me when I first saw it in the bookshop about six weeks ago. It's about a young man who turns up in pre-Revolutionary New York with a draft for a huge amount of money. Why has he come, who is he, and what does it all signify? Ho hum. I just didn't want to know, so I left it on the shelf......

But then the following week I returned and it was still on the shelf, so I took a closer look, as I was intrigued by the cover showing a man leaping over rooftops. This time, I decided to buy, and ten minutes after starting it, I realised it was well worth my time.  I loved the way that ever more information about the man was revealed, putting what had gone before in perspective. I loved the detailed descriptions of life in pre-revolutionary New York, a period I'd never previously given a thought to. The use of language is wonderful;  not quite eighteenth century, but full of the characteristic quirkiness and liveliness of the period. Best of all I like how some mysteries remained till the very end. (And even then, I ended up wanting more..)

Spufford is a very distinguished writer of non-fiction, but this is his first novel. I've ordered one of his non-fiction books, even though I suspect I won't like it as much as the novel. (On the other hand, I thought I wouldn't like the novel. So who knows?)  

 Since I am being so inactive compared with usual, I'm restricting my food intake. I like fruit and veg best, so I'm mostly living on those plus low fat proteins like egg, chicken, etc, with no-oil  citrus dressing.  Before my ankle went wrong, I had such an amazing salad in The Watts Gallery cafe that it inspired me to develop my own versions. The secret seems to lie in combining many different raw foods, cut small.    

The leaves for the salad above were from the farmers market; noticeably better than the supermarket leaves and almost the same price.  I always soak and cook my own chick peas/garbanzos with salt, sugar and vinegar so they don't end up tasting like little balls of plaster, and toss in items with a bit of flavour, like tiny pickled capers, pomegranate seeds or even shreds of ginger root. 

And other bloggers continue to inspire and interest me.   I got a lovely surprise a few days ago. Joanne, over at one of my favourite blogs, Cup on the Bus, said she was going to send me two hand woven towels!   Joanne and her sister wove professionally for years, and if you click the link you'll read about a very unexpected note which her sister received from someone who'd bought one of their sweaters in a thrift store.

The towels arrived in a most enticing package, covered in US National Park stamps. Made me realise how much I'd like to visit some more American National Parks - what a good idea to publicise them in this way. 

And here are the towels themselves! I was very pleased with the colour. Our kitchen is white and orange, with touches of dull yellow and cerulean blue, so this pumpkin shade goes well.

I've also been looking at YouTube for workouts for folks with ankle injuries. I've been using this, from Caroline Jordan Fitness.  Her enthusiasm is so relentless that it makes me feel exhausted just listening to her, but it is a useful workout.  However, with any luck I'll be able to 
go out on my bike.  Sure, I won't be able to get off it and walk around, but I am looking forward to it all the same.  

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Royal Lodgings, an Old Cat and a Bad Ankle

My last couple of weeks has been a mix of emotions.   We attended a funeral, which as well as being sad, was also uplifting.  The person who had passed away, too young, was very much into ecology and nature, and very fond of his native county, Rutland.  Rutland's the smallest county in England, and one of its sights is the church where the funeral service was held - Normanton Old Church (below). 

If the church looks as if it's half submerged; well, it is. It used to be the private chapel of the Earls of Ancaster, but in the 1970s, the Rutland Water reservoir was constructed, and the church was de-consecrated and slated for demolition.  After a public outcry it was adapted to stand in the water and is now a popular special occasion venue in the most beautiful and peaceful surroundings. 

Funerals are always a bit emotional so we decided not to rush back to London but spend the night halfway between Normanton and London.  Before the trip, I looked at the map, and, just off the A1, about halfway there, I discovered this place, which I had never heard of in my life. 

If it reminds you a bit of photos of Hampton Court Palace, that is hardly surprising. The site's now called Buckden Towers, but it was for centuries the palace of the Bishops of Lincoln (even though it is in Huntingdonshire.)  Above is the gatehouse, dating in part to 1480 - about 35 years before Hampton Court was built. 

There are all kinds of buildings on the site, which has a chequered history, but it is now owned and well looked after by a Roman Catholic organisation called The Claretians, which maintains four self catering apartments for those who wish to come on a retreat or have a peaceful and simple break from the world.  It is not a hotel - you have to make your own bed and look after yourself - but it was ideal for us. 

 We stayed in St. David's apartment. Look at the thickness of those walls.  

And this was the view along the battlements as you turned around from the door of the apartment.   

The site adjoins a most fascinating parish church,  and,  just out of the picture to the right is a knot garden created in honour of Katherine of Aragon, one of King Henry VIII's unfortunate wives. She was apparently imprisoned in Buckden Palace for a while.  (Other past visitors, by the way, include Henry III, Edward I, Richard III, King James and the Prince Regent, not to mention the diarist Samuel Pepys who must have been there on the King's business, I suppose.  I don't think I've stayed anywhere that has had so many royal folk staying before.)   

We took a stroll round the grounds. One of the most interesting buildings we saw is the chapel of St. Clare. It looks as if it could be very old, as the floor level was obviously much lower than it is now.  

The interior is simple and dark, lit only by jewel like colours from the modern glass. We spent a long time sitting there and the chunky art glass was fascinating to look at closely. 

The grounds are also full of surprises, but since we had not been invited to look around them, we just admired them from a distance, particularly noticing two huge old trees, an oak and a London plane, which date from the 17th century.  I believe there is more to see there and if we stay again we will ask if we can explore.

Then we meandered back to London via the National Trust's Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, which dates back to the Domesday Book and was left to the National Trust by Rudyard Kipling's daughter, who spent the royalties she had inherited on repairing and maintaining it. 

Sadly, we arrived too late to do anything but have a cup of tea and a browse in the bookstore, full of donated second hand books.    The tearoom, shop, plant sales and bookstore are inside the stables, which are shown below. Personally, I think you'd be forgiven for thinking that's the house, it is so grand. 

  When the hall shut at 5.30 we remained, lying on the grass outside in the sun.  Shortly after that, we were visited by what at first struck me as a very spooky cat.  It drifted up like a wraith, and sat near us, and proved to be very friendly. But I have never seen such a skinny animal, and there was something distinctly odd about its fur, as I think you'll agree.  I was concerned about it, to be honest - but then a member of staff came out of the gateway and called it in for supper, and off it hurried! 

So I asked her to tell me about the cat. She said he was a male cat who had adopted Wimpole Hall stables twenty years ago, when already full grown, so now they estimated his age at about 22.  They'd known the house he originally come from, and took him back three times, but he obviously preferred the stables,  so in the end he was allowed to stay. 

Turned out this venerable old gent had been taken to the vet just the previous week, because his fur had become very matted (which is why he didn't have much.)  After a shave, though, the vet checked him over and said he was in good shape, despite his appearance.    

I suppose some do become skinny as they get older, and certainly he is entitled to wander around rather than running. And perhaps keeping a whole lot of long fur neat and clean is a chore when you reach his age.... 

Then, last Monday, we had some time when passing Osterley, another National Trust estate, very near Heathrow Airport,but not bothered much by planes. There, we visited another stables teashop.  Those National Trust teashops are pretty good!  In Osterley they serve vegetables and fruits from their home farm, including some unusual old varieties. I wish I'd photographed my salad but it contained, among other things, beautiful and delicious red pea pods. 

This  (below) was a part of the stables not used for a cafe, but instead was where they kept the 18th century fire appliances. You might be able to make out one of the wheels.  I hope they have some more up to date firefighting equipment too!

If you want to see what it looks like and how it works, I believe this one in Colonial WIlliamsburg isn't that much different... 

I also hobbled around some of the interesting garden which has a variety of different and equally lovely areas.   Not sure what this building below was originally for, but presently it contains large specimen plants. 

They include these striking and very large fuschia blooms, which I loved!  They're called  Fuschia fulgens "Rubra Grandiflora" 

And I always love cedars, which are often to be found in the grounds of big old houses.  Osterley had some fine specimens. You can get an idea of their size by looking at the person in the picture below.  A little hard to spot, but... she is. 

Maybe you notice I said I "hobbled."  On Monday I had to face it that my ankle had swollen up and was painful and tender when I walked.  

 Last year, when the same thing happened  I went to a physio who said I had small tears in the ligament, or was it the muscle? Anyhow, I did some exercises she gave me and it got better.  But over the last two months I've been increasing my exercise routine, and perhaps has triggered it off again.  So as of yesterday, I've decided to stay inside for a few days, and follow my doctor's advice to keep it elevated, ice it, and use ibuprofen gel.  I can't say it's had much effect yet.  

So that's it, that's been what I've been up to. And anyone with advice on how to fix an ankle like mine, please advise, because even though I am taking it very easy,  it doesn't seem to be improving much, and I'm feeling a little anxious about it. 

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