Be like a train; go in the rain,

go in the sun, go in the storm,

go in the dark tunnels!

Be like a train;

concentrate on your road

and go with no hesitation!
~Mehmet Murat ildan

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

***Unfold your own myth.***

I hope you will go out and let stories,

that is life, happen to you, and that

you will work with these stories . . .

water them with your blood &

tears & your laughter till they bloom,

till you yourself burst into bloom.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Roses in February

"Pleasure is the flower that passes;
remembrance, the lasting perfume."
~Jean de Boufflers

"God gave us memory so that we 
might have roses in December."
~J.M. Barrie

.............and that goes for rainy and cold days in February too.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Last of February

Stuart, Max, and I have a morning routine that I think is probably one of the secrets to our success of being able to run two small businesses together--and still be happily married. Every morning, rain, sun, sleet, snow, or wind, we take a walk together after breakfast. That way the stresses of cooking and serving breakfast together can melt away with each step.  Any little disagreement or tension we might have had is forgotten and we're just a couple on a walk with our dog.

By the time we hit Holywell Cottage
on Longwall Street, breakfast is
forgotten and we're hand in hand.
This morning's walk was especially relaxing because there was the real feel of spring in the air.  Snowdrops were carpeting Holywell Cemetery, the birds were a symphony of song, the daffodils about to pop, there wasn't any harsh winter wind to struggle against, and there was a feeling of winter drawing to a close.  At last!

Snowdrops are carpeting Holywell Cemetery
especially beautifully this year.

Daffodils will soon be replacing
the snowdrops and crocus.
Oxford has it's best spots for enjoying 
spring flowers and here's just a few:

SNOWDROPS ~ Holywell Cemetery

CROCUS  ~ Balliol College Gardens
and The Oxford University Parks

DAFFODILS ~ Christ Church Meadow


TULIPS ~ Oxford Botanic Garden or any College Garden

Brasenose College

Oxford Botanic Garden
BLUEBELLS ~ Harcourt Arboretum

"And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of it's wintry rest."
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'The Sensitive Plant'

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Cemetery Full of Life

This watercolour by Edith Holden perfectly captures an English February.  Snowdrops blooming, busy birds, and the first tentative, and very delicate, signs of spring.

Max and I see these early harbingers of spring every day on our walks through Holywell Cemetery.  The snowdrops start appearing in late January, and by February they carpet the ground.

Walking through a cemetery every day may seem a little odd, but Holywell Cemetery is a little different.  It's the burial place of Kenneth Grahame, the author of the children's book, The Wind in the Willows.  To honour him, the cemetery has been left wild and as a sanctuary for the animals Grahame filled his book with. Badgers, deer, fox, and hedgehogs all make their homes here, and it feels so full of life that I forget it's even a cemetery.  It's alive with the natural movement of the seasons, the activities of wild creatures, and the cycles of life, so a resting place for people blends in naturally and there's nothing spooky about it.  As I follow the pathways around the cemetery, I feel the fullness of life always, mingled with the memories of those laid to rest.

So in February, it only seems natural that this is where Max and I watch most for signs of spring.  With the snowdrops come the birds, so busy and flighty, singing at the tops of their little lungs.

This little robin followed Max and I around the cemetery this week.  He let me stand just a about two feet away from him and take some photos, and then he flew right over my shoulder, brushing past my ear and settled on the cross.

It was a very busy place, that afternoon in the cemetery.  Max and I both could smell the very recent trail of a fox and we spotted deer off in the corner, grazing quietly.  I didn't have my good camera with me that afternoon, so my photos could only pick up their little, white bums in the distance, but they were happy and relaxed, glad to share their wild space with us.

You can just about see the white of the deer in the
top photo and more snowdrops, as the sun set, below.

Now, as February passes into March, the ground will begin to warm, the snowdrops will make way for daffodils, eggs will hatch in the trees overhead, and a warmer light will spill across the gravestones.  Another winter will pass into spring and to be sure, Max and I will be there, along with the foxes, deer, badgers, and hedgehogs, to mark it's progress in a cemetery full of life.

The real badger set at Holywell Cemetery

There's a large badger set just off one of the paths, and every time I pass it this is what I imagine it looks like down there................

"Spring was moving in the air above and in 
the earth below and around him, penetrating 
even his dark and lowly house with it's spirit 
of divine discontent and longing."
~Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

You can read more about Holywell Cemetery 
in the post below, republished from 2011.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Vintage Oxford

All Souls College with the Radcliffe Camera
Every year tourists flock to Oxford, some to follow the footsteps of the Inklings (C.S.Lewis, Tolkien and their gang), some to walk where Inspector Morse walked, and many to see the likenesses of Harry Potter's magical dining hall.  But even long before movies and TV series', Oxford captured the imagination of people, and tourists mingled with students even in the 18th and 19th centuries.  And with tourists came post cards--except these are 19th century style, painted, romantic, inviting; and perfect for collecting and using around the B&B.

St. John's College Garden
There were even tourist souvenir shops in
the 19th and early 20th centuries, like the 
"Broad Street Fancy Store" advertisement below.  

I started collecting Oxford memorabilia, postcards, and guide books in earnest once we had our B&B, and Stuart especially uses the books, gleaning tidbits from them for his walking tours.

Why Oxford has captured people's imagination for so many years is something I couldn't begin to explain fully.  I have an entire book full of poems written just about Oxford, and writers and storytellers have been capturing the magic of Oxford for years.
All I know is that everything they've written is true........."I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful.  One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking.  It is all like an opera."  ~W.B. Yeats

Magdalen College and bridge.

Magdalen College Garden

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Hidcote Gardens NT, near Chipping Campden, is open on 
weekends now ~ which means spring is coming very close!

Hidcote Gardens last April, a dizzying,
glorious mass of tulips and daffodils.
Our first visit to Hidcote last year was in March,
when the magnificent magnolia was in bloom.

Hidcote opens 7 days a week on March 7th.
More on Hidcote Gardens here.

Monday, 16 February 2015

A Day of Rain, Rainbows, Puddles, and Daffodils

After weeks of dry and cold weather, we had a day of relentless rain, and then the sun came out and a rainbow encircled Holywell Street.  It was very welcome rain though, and will kick-start our spring, so you'll find no complaints here.

Perhaps an alternate universe or a portal into
Narnia, the Shire, or Lyra's world, captured
today by an Oxford graduate student.

Tete-a-Tete narcissus and a happy pansy 
face greet our guests at the front door.

Daffodils line a wall on Jowett Walk.
"Spring is natures way of saying 'Let's party!' "
~Robin Williams

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping
greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of a sky and for
everything which is natural, which is infinite, and which is yes.
~e.e. cummings

President's Day

"I often say of George Washington that he was
one of the few in the whole history of the world
who was not carried away by power."
~Robert Frost

Hailing from Washington State as I do, I couldn't let George Washington's birthday go unmentioned, since today is President's Day back home in the U.S. It's a day to honor the births of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, both born in February.  It's also a national holiday--or a Bank Holiday, as they're known in Britain.  Most Americans know the stories about 'the father of our country', like his chopping down the cherry tree and crossing the Delaware, and visitors flock to his home in Virginia, Mt. Vernon. But less well-known are his family roots back in England.  The Washington ancestral home is only 30 minutes from Oxford, between Oxford and Stratford, the beautiful and elegant home, Sulgrave Manor.

The opening of Sulgrave to the public in 1921.
Sulgrave was built by George Washington's great(x5)-grandfather Lawrence, a wealthy wool merchant, in the early to mid 1500's.  The Washingtons owned Sulgrave until 1659, when they emigrated to the colonies.  As family fortunes dwindled for the subsequent owners of Sulgrave, it fell into disrepair until it was restored between 1920-30.  It was reopened to the public in 1921 as a celebration of 100 years of peace between Great Britain and the United States.  Today, as a recipient of the World Monuments Fund, it continues to promote Anglo-American relations, as well as being used for educational programs for agriculture and sustainability.

Sulgrave in the late 19th century, before it's west wing was restored.

The Washington family arms, the 'mullets and bars', still decorates the doorway on the southwest porch, and it's this crest that is thought to have influenced the design of the U.S. 'stars and stripes.'

Sulgrave Manor can be visited on weekends between March and the end of October, bank holidays between April and the end of October, and Tuesdays in August.  Private group tours can also be booked, and Sulgrave  hosts many special events throughout the year.

The Tudor building has been restored to it's former glory which
reflected the wealth of the wool trade in the 16th century.

"The Constitution is the guide which
I will never abandon." ~George Washington