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

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Becoming an English Gentleman--Part II

One of the nicest things about living in Britain is how much dogs (and cats too) are loved--which makes it a very dog-friendly place to live. But it also means that puppies need to learn their manners if they're going to be going out and about in public. Wee Jack has been working very hard on his manners and becoming an English gentleman during this past year. He's been learning how to ride in the car without a fuss, how to walk quietly in a field of grazing sheep or cows, and how to be a respectful guest in a country pub.

Last week Jack had the perfect opportunity to show us what a young gentleman he is (Becoming an English Gentleman Part I), when we had an afternoon in the Cotswolds. He was a very good lad walking through a field of sheep and was a respectful visitor to two churches, before we went on to visit the town of Burford, have a pub lunch, and do some window shopping on a busy High Street. It calls for a whole different puppy 'skill set', and he needed to be on his best behaviour, but we had every confidence he was up to the challenge.

Once we left the fields and the sheep behind, we were all hungry and luckily we found just the right pub immediately. The Angel and Child was open and still serving food that afternoon and more importantly, they welcomed dogs, even muddy ones. We walked in and saw we had the pub to ourselves, there was a warm fire roaring in the fireplace and Stuart's favourite ale (Hook Norton) on tap--so it was perfect. We settled right into the window seat piled high with cushions and the afternoon sun pouring in.

Hook Norton for Stuart and cider for me.

The pub landlord came in and
Jack made friends with the pub
dog Georgie, a little Jack Russell.

We had two little visitors under the
table as we ate. Such innocence
in those big brown eyes, but don't
let that fool you, they were after
one thing alone--our food.

After we had our fill of fish and chips and
an orange and cinnamon crème brulee',
we said goodbye to Georgie and The Angel,
and walked up and down Burford's High Street.

Burford is west of Oxford, just off
the A40. It's High Street, which slopes
down the hill to the Windrush valley, 
 is lined with beautiful Cotswold
stone cottages and small shops. It's
 a 'town' rather than a 'village', since
it has a mayor and a town hall.

Jack immediately found
several cottages he thought
would be just right for us.

Just a few of the beautiful cottages
that line Burford's High Street,
each one so different and unique.

Jack met new friends as we
walked along the street -- the
first one in the window of a shop
selling doggie accoutrements.
How much is that doggie in the
window, the one with the waggly tail?
We met another sweet pup waiting
patiently for mum and dad to return
home. Jack barked a little hello
and "chin up! they'll be home soon!".

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
~17th century English nursery rhyme
Jack did beautifully walking up and
down the street, proving what a gentleman
he could be, but soon we were all tired
and ready to get back home to Oxford.

Jack was a muddy, happy, and very
tired boy in the back of the car, driving
home past newborn lambs and
the countryside coming back to life.

As we drove home, we were already
planning our next trips out to the
countryside with Jack..........
April and tulips, May and wildflowers,
and best of all, June and roses.

There is no season such delight can bring, 
As summer, autumn, winter, and the spring.
~William Browne (b.1591)

April tulips at Hidcote Gardens NT.
May Queen Anne's lace in
the village of Swinbrook.
Roses bloom in a cottage
Taynton, Oxfordshire.
June roses, Burford, Oxfordshire.
This is my favourite climbing rose,
a Cécile Brunner.

Jack's come a long way since his
first Cotswold Adventureand we
have many more to come, so be sure
to check back often to see how
the little English gentleman is doing.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Becoming an English Gentleman--Part I

Our wee Jack was born in Carlisle, so he was only one exit on the motorway away from being a wee Scots lad, had he not been whisked away to Oxford at six weeks. One year on he's an Oxford boy now, used to peeling bells and bicycles, but what we're still working on are his English countryside manners. As a proper English gentleman, he needs to be able to walk quietly through fields of grazing sheep, ride in the back of the car, and be a polite guest in country pubs--and he's coming along nicely.

We had an afternoon out of Oxford this week, a getaway for mum and dad and a perfect training ground for Jack. He still doesn't like the car very much, but luckily it's only a half hour drive and then he's out of the car and a happy, tail-wagging guy. It was still chilly so he wore his little wax jacket--which doubles as protection against whatever horrible things he rolls in--dogs!

Our first stop was the village of Swinbrook,
where we met our first new friend and
marvelled at the masses of roadside daffodils.

Horses make a
landscape more beautiful.

~Alice Walker

O the green things growing, 
the green things growing,
The faint sweet smell of the
green things growing!
I should like to live,
whether I smile or grieve,
Just to watch the happy life
of my green things growing.
~Dinah Maria Mulock Craik,
'Green Things Growing'

Jack was eager to get started on our walk,
but he's learned to patiently wait with
Stuart while I click away on the camera.
This beautiful Cotswold house has been
 standing empty for a while now and seems
mysterious and quiet in itself -- like a
secret house and garden, waiting for the
right person to come along.
If only it were me.

I am sure there is Magic in everything,
only we have not sense enough to get
 hold of it and make it do things for us.
~Frances Hodgson Burnett, 
'The Secret Garden'

Jack was very well behaved walking through
St. Mary's churchyard, the flag of St. George
flapping overhead in an impossibly blue, blue sky.

We walked past the church to the little gate
that leads to the public footpath in
the fields beyond the churchyard.

Then through another gate.........

..... and it's sheep!! Jack's first sheep encounter.

He was very, very good and even pretended 
to be a wee lamb with Little Bo Peep.

We crossed the field, everyone minding their own
business (both sheep and dogs), and made our way
to the tiny Norman Church on the hill, St. Oswald's.

Inside St. Oswald's, it seems as old as time.

The private box pews (19th century), for the wealthier
church-goers, the wood worn rich and golden.
The well worn flagstones, from a thousand years of
worshippers. Parts of St. Oswald's date to the Saxon
period (410-1066), but most of it is 12th century Norman.
It's believed to have been built on a Roman house or
temple. The walls now ochre, once held paintings of
the apostles and bible stories, and some of the 14th
century wall paintings have been partially restored.

Sermons are still preached from
this pulpit at least once a month.

We were very good and left no trace of
mud inside, thanks to this very polite
and ultra-English sign on the door.
We DO try.

Then we walked back past the sheep again,
everyone behaving themselves.......

...... we marvelled at more daffodils......

...... and of course Stuart had to drive
through the ford, just because.

And then we were on our way again, to Burford,
to the next lesson of the day--window shopping 
and a pub lunch. Was Jack up to the challenge?
You'll have to stay tuned and check back for
Part II of Becoming an English Gentleman.

This suspense is terrible.
I hope it will last.
~Oscar Wilde


To find the village of Swinbrook head west on the A40 from the Wolvercote Roundabout, Oxford. Drive approximately 14 miles and look for the small signpost for Swinbrook on your right. Turn right and head down the hill, going straight until you see a cricket pitch on your left and The Swan Pub just ahead-then you've found Swinbrook.

The Swan Inn was featured in Downton Abbey.
When Lady Sybil eloped with Tom Branson, this is

where they stole away to and spent their first night
together. (Sniff....losing Sybie still makes me cry.)

A beautiful, clear stream runs through the middle of the
village, hence the name 'Swinbrook', or pig crossing.
St. Mary's Church in Swinbrook
is known for the Fettiplace Memorial inside
the church, immortalizing the 16th and 17th century
Fettiplace family. The church itself is 12th century
(Norman), and the tower was added in the 19th century.
The notorious Mitford sisters are buried in the 
churchyard, to the left of the door.

To find St. Oswald's Church, follow the path through
St. Mary's churchyard to the back until you come
to a small, white, wooden gate on your left. Go
through the gate and follow the path that leads to
the right until you come to another gate which opens
into the field. The walk is very easy, with mostly
flat and even surfaces, but there are two stiles to cross.
You'll see the church ahead of you almost immediately,
up on the slope to your right. The church is open for
visitors daily. Below is an example of the recovered and
restored medieval artwork on the walls.

History is not a burden on the
memory but an illumination of the soul.
~Lord Acton