Sunday, August 13, 2017

Late Summer Blooms and A Teeny Bit of Musing

A posy on my desk represents the feast by my front door.


Have you have ever seriously wondered if you are a late bloomer in life? Everyone else, after high school or college, seemed to sally forth confidently racking up accomplishments, yet for others of us, life unfolded more slowly, less surely. To some people it might have looked like we were late to our callings and careers, but in truth, our seed packets -- unbeknownst to all but One -- were labeled: "Plant early in Spring. Will bloom mid- to late-summer or early fall. Tall and widespread once mature. Plant to the rear of the garden or in a spot of its own. Blossoms are profuse; stake if necessary."




Perhaps that's one reason why I love these late-in-summer charmers. The early spring and summer plants have peaked weeks earlier and many are all but bloomed off by now, but then come the yellow black-eyed Susan (we call them rudbeckia) and the purple cone-flowers, just coming into full bloom. For the last two months, these perennials have been quietly growing tall willowy stems, thick and strong, and developing tiny buds, the promise of dozens of bright petaled cheer-mongers to come.

And, now here they are ... ready for the grand display. How often I look forward to slipping out my front door and going back far enough away so as to get a more sweeping view. Two plants flank both sides of the bay window. When I bought those two perennials a few years ago, I never dreamed they'd get that tall or bushy. And, I certainly never dreamed that I'd find myself completely smitten by their bold beauty; I love to see them peeking in through the lace curtain of our living room window, swaying on a breeze or catching raindrops after the rain.




No fussing, no rushing, no thinking because the lilacs were out so much earlier, they too should be setting blossoms already. No, the pressure to begin blooming earlier does not exist -- smart flowers -- yet inch by inch with patience and forbearance they are eventually ready to take their place in the garden's parade of blooming cheerfulness. Not late, on time ... making a garden beautiful in their own way and season.



“Bloom as if you want to make the whole world beautiful.” 
~ Debasish Mridha




Just think, if everything in the garden came into bloom at the same time and then died back, how forlorn and empty would be our gardens the rest of the growing season. There are similar timings for our own gifts to come into their full blossom ... in the fullness of time ... in due season.

I remind myself, too, some plants seem to die back after blooming early, but if you pinch back the dead blossoms, the plants put everything into sending out a beautiful second flush of blossoms.




"Every flower blooms at a different pace.” 
Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem



"Lean towards the Light"


“You don’t have to remind a flower when its time to bloom is near;
it has been preparing for it all of its life.” 
~ Matshona Dhliwayo


I completely identify with the quote above, for I have finally realized that I have indeed been preparing all of my life for this season. Sure hope I am like a wise flower and know when it's time to burst into full bloom.

Back in February, I wrote in my journal something I felt God was saying me (I had been thinking about turning 60 and how I felt it 'officially' signalled a new season for me). I went in search of those words because I wanted to share them with you today:

"This is your season. Flourish. Bloom.
Do the work you've been preparing for all your life.
An oak tree at 60 is still young, but it's no longer a sapling, green and immature.

You always felt you were a late-bloomer.
Yes, you were; your gifts needed to mature. Develop. Deepen. Emerge.

Daffodils are already spent in the autumn, so are the roses,
but the beautiful colourful leaves, the berries and rose hips are ripening,
including those Michaelmas daisies (not here but England).

This, My Child, is your season.
You've always loved Fall.
Gather the grapes.
Enjoy the dahlias.
Harvest the garden and the fields.

Take care of your body --
It will take you through this
season with ease and grace.

You don't need the strength you had at twenty.
You're not doing that work out there.
It is time to focus on your own life work.

You're an Autumn girl.
Autumn brings Colourful Beauty.
Harvest. Bounty. Food.

You've got a storehouse full.
You also have the grace, skill, stamina,
and ability to set it out to share with others.

Lean towards the Light."

  
This wasn't the post I planned when I first sat down to work on something this month, but it's what bubbled up as I started uploading the photos I wanted to use. I see more clearly than ever that I first had to live my life with all its experiences and life lessons before I could sit down and write from it.

You may ask, how is it going? Slowly ... one page at a time. Grace flows. Thankfully.   


To My Beautiful Friends,

Here's wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

With love and hugs till next time,
Brenda
x x




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Talking About My Blog and Writing

source: pixabay.com


A person would think I'd lost my interest in blogging for all the posts I'm not writing these days. I mildly protest and do deny it ... I have not lost interest, I have not abandoned my beautiful blog, despite certain evidence indicating otherwise. So, what IS happening then, you ask; if you have not given up on blogging, then what?

It's like this ... I have been focusing my attention and pouring my heart into another writing project. And, I find when that's going on, at the end of the day, there never seems to be enough energy or words left over to create a decent post here. Believe me, I've tried -- you wouldn't want to see the accumulated false starts sitting in draft mode.

As you may recall from recent posts, I celebrated my 60th birthday this spring, and months prior, fully aware the event was drawing nigh, there came a full-blown wish yearning to gather up my childhood memories and life experiences. Since a teen, I have been chronicling my journey, but turning 60 seemed a good time to sort through the boxes of memorabilia, old scrapbooks, myriad photo albums, and dozens of old diaries and journals to tie up loose ends, put things in order, and set it down properly on paper. I understand God keeps such a book of each of our lives; I wanted to write one from my own point of view and how I saw the world growing up and what I thought about it all.



“A day will come when the story inside you will want to breathe on its own.
That’s when you’ll start writing.”
 ~ Sarah Noffke




I also wanted to clear out space in my home -- my closets and shelves -- not to mention in my mind, to make room for possible new pursuits and interests. If I glean the useful bits and pieces from these carefully stored reminders and finally write the story out, whether in a more private, personal document or in several books to share further afield, then I can finally discard them without too much trauma for The Chronicler, who is loathe to throw treasures like that out, and she certainly doesn't want me to forget any of the important stuff.

Agatha Christie's most enjoyable 500-page autobiography took her fifteen years to write. She was 60 when she started. She said, "What I plan to do is to enjoy the pleasures of memory--not hurrying myself--writing a few pages from time to time." I've decided to sort of follow suite, except I don’t plan to take 15 years to write my own stories -- I don't have any mysteries to write in between -- and I can't imagine needing 500 pages to say what I need to say. Even so, it's a much bigger task than I first anticipated. By the way, did you know that Maya Angelou wrote seven autobiographies in her lifetime? Perhaps a person can never really know how much it will take to mine the lessons learned from one's experiences.



"There was another life that I might have had,
but I am having this one.”
~ Kasuo Ishiguro



I don't think I ever told you that my life did not turn out the way I dreamed about as a girl growing up. All my life, I imagined the day when I would meet my prince charming, fall in love, get married, create a home where we would raise a family, and build a lifetime of traditions and memories together. There was no doubt in my mind that it wouldn't come to pass; yet for all the hoping, it did not happen that way at all. I didn't meet my prince charming until I was forty, we didn't have kids, and we each already had many of our own traditions and memories not mutually shared.

As for writing the memoir of this part of the journey, which has been in the back of my mind for ages and for which I have the first draft, I finally came to see I had to live a longish life before I could write about how I found my beautiful life, in spite of those disappointments, first as a single woman for twenty years, and then as a happily married wife, daughter, sister, aunt.

As you can imagine, sorting through 60 years worth of memorabilia is a huge undertaking. But I'm having lots of fun with so many memories flying upward like butterflies (see post for earlier reference They Flew Out Like Butterflies); my study is a veritable habitation for these vintage creatures.




So, my dear beautiful friends, that's what I'm up to these days ... unpacking the memories of a life lived thus far. And not blogging much.

Let me say, I will still post at least once or twice a month; I will get really homesick for you otherwise. I hope you bear with me as I work away on this new '60' project over the months to come.

Sending you love and good wishes
for a beautiful rest of the summer,

Hugs,
Brenda
♥♥♥

PS. I still create spontaneous, tiny posts with lots of pictures
on my Facebook page. You are most welcome to join me there.





Friday, June 30, 2017

Quick ... Before June is Over

ONE



Checking in ... all is well. Enjoying summer days and long evenings, even the cool, rainy ones. Peonies blossom at last. Purple petunias send out their spicy perfume on a breeze. The mock orange seems bent on filling the backyard with a crazy sweetness. Add the indescribable aroma emanating from the evening scented stock in the cool of the day ... and one imagines she must be standing in a patch of paradise.

"The beauty of that June day was almost staggering. After the wet spring, everything that could turn green had outdone itself in greenness and everything that could even dream of blooming or blossoming was in bloom and blossom. The sunlight was a benediction." ~ Dan Simmons, Drood


 TWO



With Canada's 150th birthday almost here, I created a list of a few of my own Canadian favourites. I started the list on Facebook the other day and wanted to share it with you here.

Author/book: L.M. Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables; Stephen Leacock, humorist 
Poem: In Flanders Field, by Canadian physician John McCrae
Childhood Holiday Spot: Banff National Park and Radium Hot Springs
Music: Postcards from the Sky by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich.
Animated Film: The Log Driver's Waltz by the National Film Board
Musician: Tommy Banks (Pianist) and Angela Hewitt (Classical Pianist)
Music Group: Sultans of String
Male Singer: Ben Heppner, Canadian Tenor
Female Singer: Anne Murray (loved her singing when I was a girl, especially loved her 1970 hit Snowbird
Song: Harvest Moon by Canadian singer-song writer Neil Young
Favourite City to Visit: Victoria, BC and Montreal, QC
Children's TV Program: Mr. Dressup is another iconic Canadian favourite. I can still hear his voice in my mind even all these years later, and I loved his Tickle Trunk full of play clothes and costumes.
The Famous Five: Emily Murphy. Nellie McClung. Henrietta Muir Edwards. Louise McKinney. Irene Parlby (Champions of the rights and welfare of women and children in early 20th century in Canada). Grateful for the paths they paved for us.
Foods: Maple syrup, Canadian bacon, beaver tails (flat doughnut without the hole), Butter tarts, Nanaimo Bars, Canadian split pea soup, Tourtière (meat pie), saskatoon berries (native to Alberta)
Childhood Favourite Gum: Thrills, the purple gum in the yellow box that tasted like soap (really), made in London, Ontario
Childhood Favourite Chocolate Bar: Coffee Crisp, made by Nestle Canada
Sport: Hockey, Edmonton Oilers especially during the Wayne Gretzky era; he is my favourite all time player.
Figure Skating Figures: Elvis Stojko, Kurt Browning, Elizabeth Manley (Canada's sweetheart Silver Medallist in Figure Skating at Winter Olympics '88)
Favourite Sights: Wheat fields across the prairies, majestic Rocky Mountains, Niagara Falls, Lake Louise... Home
Our Canadian Anthem: I am always deeply stirred when I hear Oh Canada sung. Love it and am proud of it.
Canada is my country ... it's my favourite.
Alberta is my home province ... it's my favourite.


 THREE


My sister reminded me of a post I wrote a few years ago about summer, hot dogs, and a very nice fried onion relish we used to make years ago when we'd come back from swimming on a hot summer afternoon with the kids. 

If you are looking for something to jazz up your next wiener roast, here is the link to Hotdogs, Relish, and Remembering which includes the recipe for Fried Onion Relish. It really is delicious.


FOUR


Who can get through summer without reading something to match the mood of the season. Sometimes I want something I've never read before, but more likely, I tend to reach for a book that's an old friend. Even though I have my own copy, when I saw L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Avonlea sitting on the summer recommended shelf at the library, I checked it out. Haven't read it in years. A nicely bound pocketbook, it holds well in one's hand; it also easily slips in a carry all bag... or even in a pocket.

So far, here are a few favourite lines from the book:

“After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
“She seemed to walk in an atmosphere of things about to happen.”

“Oh, of course there's a risk in marrying anybody, but, when it's all said and done, there's many a worse thing than a husband." (This one made me hoot with laughter!)



* * *

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend and a
Happy 150 Canada Day to my fellow Canadians,

Hugs,
Brenda
xox






Friday, June 16, 2017

Mom's Peace Rose Keeps Dazzling Us






My mom's Peace rose is in bloom. And, yes, it's the same rose above -- at different stages of development. It's like the rose has several wardrobe outfits in various hues and shades as it matures from bud to opening blossom to full bloom. Doesn't that seem amazing? No wonder we're dazzled.

The Peace rose has a very special place in history. Its actual name is 'Madame A. Meilland'. I found a very nice article about who developed the rose and how it became so famous. Although I can't imagine anyone not knowing about this lovely rose, if you have not heard about it, you will enjoy reading its lovely story here.

I just went out and took photos of the blossoms that are open today ... her gorgeousness up close. Aren't you glad for eyes to see such exquisiteness? And her fragrance is like a whisper -- one must lean in close to catch the scent. The way a woman's perfume ought to be, not overwhelming, just a hint on the breeze ... soft and sweet and intimate.   


    

But friendship is the breathing rose,
with sweets in every fold.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes




Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
~ Gertrude Stein





Wishing you a glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

Wishing you peace,
Brenda
xox


Linking today with Floral Friday Foto





d

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Visit to Blackwell's Bookshop in Oxford, Part 3

Attribution: Soham Banerjee - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link



When I think about our visit to Blackwell's Bookshop in Oxford, an old song from the 1968 musical Oliver! comes to mind. But instead of 'food, glorious food', I hum 'books, glorious books'. For, Blackwell's is not just any book store, it's a book lover's paradise. Carrie, our beautiful B&B hostess, calls it the most dangerous bookstore in the world. I think she's right. A person could easily disappear down the rabbit hole and be lost forever among the book shelves ... unless, of course, a discerning husband has a firm grip on a coat sleeve to ensure her safe return. 

The shop doesn't appear large from the outside, but step up into one of the two entrances and you'll discover what someone describes as 'an Aladdin's Cave filled to the brim with books on every subject'. The flagship shop, founded in 1879 in Oxford, was originally twelve feet square; now it includes several floors, including the massive underground Norrington Room. Take a virtual tour of the shop and you will have a good idea of what to expect. I spent most of my time on the first floor. Note: if you live on this side of the pond, you might need to upload the UK adobe flash.

A whole day week should be spent in that wonderful shop (there's a lovely cafe if you need refuelling), for there are many nooks and crannies on several floors to while away an hour here, two or three hours there. The too-short time we spent there was pure pleasure, with staff at the ready to show us around. We soaked up the ambience and drank in the smell of books. We paused to read interesting quotes scrolled across walls, and peered at strategically placed photographs of well-known personages who once shopped there -- reminding us that fellow book lovers are always in fine company.

We marvelled to think of the treasury of knowledge housed in this rambling space and gasped to learn a whole room was dedicated to the works of well-loved poets and others more obscure. Just as Westminster Cathedral has its famous Poet's Corner, so does Blackwell's:



Now that you know a little about the shop, you're probably wondering what I bought while I was there. Clutching a growing stack of books, three bagfuls later, my suitcase back at the B&B suddenly weighed a dangerous amount. This shop truly is a book lover's haven; I would have to get a job if I lived in this city.

On that somewhat bewildering first day we arrived in Oxford, Rick and I walked through the streets to orientate ourselves. That's when I first caught sight of a book perched in a shop window that I just knew I had to have. Into the shop we went and headed straight to the display of Oxford Sketchbook. Paging through a sample copy, I knew my first instinct was correct -- I was smitten. Two copies purchased then and there, one for myself and one for a birthday gift. Our first shopping experience in Oxford and it was in Blackwell's; we'd go back for a proper visit a few days later. Since coming home, I ordered two copies more through amazon.ca. 



Oxford Sketchbook
Watercolours by Graham Byfield and Text by Roger White

Excerpt from Inside Cover
"Oxford, with its golden skyline of towers, spires, domes and turrets set against lush water meadows and hills, was considered by the poet Keats the finest city in the world. Artist Graham Byfield strolls with his sketchpad through college gateways, quadrangles and gardens, along broad streets and narrow alleyways, into great ceremonial buildings and medieval pubs full of character. On the way, with a few pencil strokes and splashes of watercolour, he captures passing scenes of student and civic life enacted before one of the finest architectural backdrops in the world. ...
Accompanying the paintings and sketches are observations and notes handwritten by the artist, as well as a learned and lively introduction to Oxford, its history and buildings by the noted architectural historian Roger White."

* * * * * 


OXFORD Through the Lens
Douglas Vernimmen
Foreword by Colin Dexter

Oxford Through the Lens is a wonderful collection of Oxford's architectural, historical, and cultural impressions through photography. According to the inside cover, the book also reflects Douglas Vernimmen's feelings about the city. He worked as a scientist at Oxford in the 2000's which allowed him to view the University 'from the inside'. An award-winning photographer, Vernimmen says, "My wish would be to go back in time with my camera: people would undoubtedly look different, but the buildings would probably look much as they do today."

What makes this coffee table book extra special for me is that smack dab in the middle is a two-page spread featuring Holywell Bed and Breakfast. Which simple meant we had to ask Jack to autograph it, as you will see when you peer more closely at the photo. 🐾



* * * * *



Oxford College Gardens
by Tim Richardson and Andrew Lawson

Excerpt from Inside Cover
"The gardens of Oxford's colleges are surprisingly varied in style, age and size, ranging from the 16th-century Mount in the middle of New College to the impressive modernist design which is St Catherine's. ... Founded in 1621, the Oxford University Botanic Garden is the oldest in Britain, and holds one of the most diverse plant collections in the world. ... In this book Tim Richardson's elegant, authoritative analysis combines with Andrew Lawson's glorious photographs to reveal the diversity and discreet charm of Oxford's college gardens."

Yes, this book is laden with charm and beauty -- every page filled with stunning photos of Oxford's college gardens. We had the opportunity to enjoy some of these gardens in person, including the Botanic Garden. Because the colleges were between terms while we were there, visitors could gain entrance, and walk at leisure through the grounds and some of the college buildings. The wisteria was just coming into blossom at Magdalen College, and there were plantings of tulips and other spring perennials everywhere.

The book really is 'sightseeing in an armchair' -- I'd say almost as good as being there, well, not quite, but you know... if you can't get there in person, the book is a lovely substitute. A beautiful memento of our beautiful holiday.


 * * * * *



As for something lighter in subject matter and weight, here are other books I bought:

Ammonites & Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively. As I stood in front of the shop's biographical memoir section, one of my go-to spots these days, this title intrigued me. An ammonite fossil and a 12th century sherd of a leaping fish are two of the six treasured possessions which Ms Lively uses as prompts to write her fragments of memories. At eighty, she looks over her life and 'reports back what she finds ... what it is like to be old as well as on how memory shapes us'. 

Two Josephine Tey detective mysteries: The Man in the Queue and A Shilling for Candles. Shortly before we went to Oxford, I found a new to me mid-twentieth century British mystery writer at the library. I so enjoyed reading The Singing Sands (you can read about it here) I went in search for more. When I saw the nice selection of her books at Blackwell's, I hemmed and hawed about whether to get the complete set of six in the series, and to heck with the luggage weight fees at the airport, or just choose a couple. You can see, I opted for the couple. Perhaps I was remembering those heavy coffee table books already packed in my suitcase. 
  
The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books by John Carey. The author has been a part of Oxford University since the 1950's, now an Emeritus Professor. He shares his stories about the books that 'formed the backbone of his life'. I am always interested to see how other people write memoir, and I'm especially eager to see how Prof. Carey uses books as a central theme. I look forward to getting into it soon.  

Yours, Jack: The Inspirational Letters of C.S. Lewis. Who can come to Oxford and not buy something by one of its great writers. It was because of C.S. Lewis and his influence on my life through his writings that I longed for years to visit. Although I have read and already own many of his books, I just knew there had to be something of his that would make a lovely memento of my Oxford visit.

Brought the book home to our room and began reading it that evening. I soon realized I'd made the right choice for more than one reason: the snoopy person in me enjoys reading over the shoulders of others to see how they live their lives. I enjoy his candour, humour, and wisdom from the two other letter collections I have of his; I was sure I'd love this one too.

Another reason, which I'm finding completely satisfying, is that in his letters Lewis often references various spots while he lived in Oxford, and for the first time ever, I am reading something that feels familiar, I recognize it. I can say, Oh, I was there, I saw that. Now I have a clearer picture in my mind to what he is referring. It makes this reader feel closer to the author.

*The other two collections I have are: Letters to an American Lady, 1971, and Prayer: Letters to Malcolm, 1964.




Well, there it is... a glimpse into my visit to Blackwell's. Hope it was worth the long wait. One last thing to share is a quote, not from anything I bought that day, but from one of my all-time favourite English books, Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh:

"Oxford—now submerged and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonnesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in—Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days—such as that day—when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening clamour." Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, describing Oxford of 1923


Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places
on this beautiful weekend,

Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Here In Oxford, Part 2


JACK: Why are you two just standing there, talking? Can't you see I want to play tag?


I look around with a happy sigh as I stand in the middle of my host's pretty garden. Hidden behind tall brick walls, Carrie and I step into a lovely bit of 'heaven' where spring blooms in every corner. A sanctuary in the middle of town, it seems a place where quiet, peaceful activity can unfold: I imagine a bit of gardening, feeding the hens who would lay next day's breakfast eggs, perhaps reading a good book with tea, or just having a sit down in a ray of sunshine. For the time being, Jack quietly sniffs out his favourite spots, waiting for a timely moment to interrupt his chatting companions so he could get on with what he considered the real reason why we all came out here -- to play 'catch me if you can' tag.




A huge leafless tree looms overhead. Carrie calls it the 'Lewis' tree, as it's the one C.S. Lewis would have seen from that upstairs window in the white house when he arrived in Oxford for the first time in 1916.

You might be surprised - or not - to learn I felt a certain thrill in actually seeing this spot with my own eyes, and to gaze up at the same tree, not to mention the window of the room where he once looked out. The man, known to his friends as Jack, became a favourite author of mine ever since I discovered his writings in my late teens/early twenties, at which time I devoured everything I could find of his, including the Narnia stories.




Aside: Do you ever think we humans are a funny lot, going on 'tours' to catch glimpses of where our favourite well-known persons once studied, lived, wrote their famous books or songs... or whatever else? Have you ever wondered why we want to do that? Is it our way of connecting with history and the people who left footprints in the sands of time for us to notice? What do you feel about it? And, another thing, have you ever wondered what they might think of it all, if they knew, since many of them were probably just minding their own business living out their lives, just as we are doing today?

Whatever it is, somehow our veneration of them adds something meaningful to our own lives.




In the midst of it all, happy was I to find an excerpt from his book Surprised by Joy, wherein Lewis actually tells of the time he first arrived in Oxford, dropped off at the corner just off Holywell Street (see centre pic two photos up), a few feet from where I am now standing, just over 100 years later. For you other romantics, here it is:
"My first taste of Oxford was comical enough. I had made no arrangements about quarters and, having no more luggage than I could carry in my hand, I sallied out of the railway station on foot to find either a lodging-house or a cheap hotel; all agog for “dreaming spires” and “last enchantments.” My first disappointment at what I saw could be dealt with. Towns always show their worst face to the railway. But as I walked on and on I became more bewildered. Could this succession of mean shops really be Oxford? But I still went on, always expecting the next turn to reveal the beauties, and reflecting that it was a much larger town than I had been led to suppose.
Only when it became obvious that there was very little town left ahead of me, that I was in fact getting to open country, did I turn round and look. There behind me, far away, never more beautiful since, was the fabled cluster of spires and towers. I had come out of the station on the wrong side and been all this time walking into what was even then the mean and sprawling suburb of Botley. I did not see to what extent this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life. I merely walked back to the station, somewhat footsore, took a hansom, and asked to be driven to “some place where I can get rooms for a week, please.”
The method, which I should now think hazardous, was a complete success, and I was soon at tea in comfortable surroundings. The house is still there, the first on the right as you turn into Mansfield Road out of Holywell. I shared the sitting room with another candidate, a man from Cardiff College, which he pronounced to be architecturally superior to anything in Oxford. His learning terrified me, but he was an agreeable man. I have never seen him since.”




And, now for breakfast. I promised to show you the fine, fine breakfasts we enjoyed. Let me tell you, they were a delicious affair each morning, and they made us feel happy and energized for a new day of exploring. Carrie's sign on the wall said it all:

Money can't buy happiness
but it can buy chickens,
and chickens make eggs and
breakfast makes you happy."




Soft jingle bells on the door announce our arrival into the cozy breakfast room -- bells on the right, two photos up -- where we found the buffet set with inviting bowls of fresh berries, organic yogurt (so creamy), and granola mixed with dried fruit and nuts. We tucked into the berries and yogurt while our hot breakfast selection for that morning was being prepared for us.








All the while, through the window, we could watch people walking or riding by on their bicycles. We did not worry when they stopped to take pictures in front of the B&B... or even peer into the window, adjusting their hair or clothes in the reflection. Although a common occurrence, Carrie and Stuart assured us they tested it out -- guests inside could peer out into the street, but nothing inside was visible from the outside. So we calmly ate on...


Boiled Eggs and Toast
with homemade strawberry jam

Rick ordered boiled eggs and toast our first morning... and they arrived nestled under those darling hen 'tea cozies'. For sure, we needed a photo of them. As for me, I had the yummy bacon sandwich. If anyone recalls me reading Lucy Dillon novels, as noted in a distant post, one story involved a rescue dog shelter. When volunteers came to walk the dogs, they were later rewarded with homemade bacon sandwiches which the owner of the shelter made herself. I thought, yum, so when I saw it listed on the menu, I knew what I wanted.



Other mornings, I had the sumptuous Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup, and Carrie's delicious version of the Egg McMuffin. It was all wonderful with cups of tea or coffee and fresh orange juice.


L - Bacon Sandwich
C- American-style Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Syrup
R - Egg McMuffin


Appetites satisfied, we gathered guide maps, cameras, and headed out in comfy shoes and warmish jackets. Still early morning, the streets were quiet, and there was a sense of wonder as we strolled. To think we were walking on paved or cobbled streets, seeing in person the colleges and buildings that have been standing here in these very spots for hundreds of years.



A BIRD'S EYE VIEW


The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford (centre above). We could only view this impressive circular building from the outside. It is a working library, and so only students and scholars are admitted. I took this photo from the tower (left) when we climbed up. Designed by James Gibbs and built in 1737 to 1749, the Radcliffe Camera forms part of the Bodleian Library complex and houses mainly English, History, and Theology books. Oh, to be a fly on those walls for a reverent peek inside.

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin (left above) sits just opposite the Radcliffe Camera building. That soaring 13th century tower caught our attention; for a small fee, we could climb to the top of the spire and enjoy a bird's eye view of Oxford’s famous ‘dreaming spires’.




So, climb we did -- 127 steps. Those nice wooden stairs you see in the photo were just near the bottom; as we got inside the tower--the very narrow tower--we found ourselves treading carefully on extremely narrow stone steps. Round and round the stairwell went. Up, up, up. Thinking to myself, good thing we aren't experiencing any claustrophobic feelings in this moment.

I longed to stop for a photo but people were pressing in behind, so I kept climbing ... until we reached the top, where after I caught my breath, we stepped out onto a very skinny walkway (they certainly didn't build with tourists in mind all those centuries earlier--wink). It was not wide enough for adults to pass each other, not even a tiny toddler, although one tried to wiggle past my legs, to his mother's deep chagrin.

The view, the view. A spectacular sea of stone and brick, all put together with such architectural beauty and design. I understand Headington stone, a limestone from the Headington Quarry area near Oxford, was traditionally used for a number of the older Oxford University college buildings.

Oh, look, there they are -- the famous spires and towers standing like sentinels against the Oxford skies. And, here we are in person, looking at it all. What is it about this place that captures the imaginations of people everywhere? Poets, writers, artists, historians, architects, scholars, readers, teachers, nobodies, somebodies, young, old -- we've all been bitten. I am smitten.



"And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening."
from Matthew Arnold's Poem, Thyrsis



Although I tried, my photos could never do this spectacular view due justice. I can see why professional photographers and artists would want to see the skyline with all those spires and towers at various times of day -- in early morning light or evening sunset, maybe even in a hazy fog. Like in this painting we found in a gallery one morning, which we purchased:


"Oxford through mist from the Thames at Port Meadow"
Acrylic on board by David E.S. Langford


We had the privilege to meet another local artist, Joshua Hughes, an Oxford fellow and a man of many talents. He had a display of some of his work in The Radcliffe Camera square one morning, and it didn't take us long to know which water colours we wanted to bring home as keepsakes of our time in Oxford. You can find Josh's website here.

Joshua Hughes

 
Joshua Hughes





What fun to go on one of Stuart's walking tours. "Oxford Walking Tours has been operating from the blue gates of Trinity College on Broad St for more than 30 years." And, Stuart has been a part of that tradition for as many years, being an Oxford man himself. He pointed out to our group the well-known buildings and shared so many interesting bits of history about the City and University of Oxford.

If you wonder why the colleges are all cloistered behind walls that don't permit the public, that tradition goes back a long way. It started in the early days of the university. The local townsfolk were not happy campers when privileged students came to study in their neck of the woods. Altercations between them happened often; students were even murdered. So walls and gates that were locked at night were built to help protect the students. Nowadays it's not about murder, but the tradition of walls and gates remain -- let the students and scholars get on with their work in the sheltered environment of their own colleges.

When the colleges are on term break, visitors are permitted to visit the various college grounds and buildings. Snoopy people like us rejoice. Stuart took us through New College's cloisters, gardens, the impressive dining hall with those long wooden tables (made famous by films such as Harry Potter, Brideshead Revisted, and others), the beautiful chapel (no pics allowed there).












While we were walking through the beautiful gardens of New College (above), the birds were serenading us so sweetly, I tried to capture the sound on video. It was windy so it rattles too.


video





“All gardening is landscape painting.”
~ Alexander Pope


“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”
~ Hanna Rion


“Gardens are the result of a collaboration between art and nature.”
~ Penelope Hobhouse






Last, but certainly not least, above is the 'Bridge of Sighs'. Completed in 1914, this bridge connects two parts of Hertford College (once the college of Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh). It is similar to the Venice Bridge of Sighs, but not actually modelled on it. We walked under it on New College Lane during our walking tour. Lots of people milling around, posing for photos. If you peer closely, we're not in the crowd; somehow in the excitement we forgot to be tourists and take a photo of us in that favoured spot. Haha







I shall stop here ... for surely you need a break and your teacup is now sipped dry. I'll begin the next post right away, and, for all you book lovers, I'll be absolutely sure to include Blackwells book store and the lovely books I found there, as well as notes about the very stirring Easter performance of Mozart's Requiem we heard in the Sheldonian Theatre and how it stood out as one of those 'complete' spiritual moments.

I hope you've enjoyed my joy ride in a dreamy Oxford bubble!
I'd love to hear from you.

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,
Brenda
xox