Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun
Than Oak and Ash and Thorn.
(Puck of Pook’s Hill, by Rudyard Kipling, 1906)

Munchkin our Main Coon avoiding getting the snow in his furry paws

Trees in the wood just beginning to have leaf

Trees are late to come to bud and some parts of England remain snow dusted. It has been a hard fight here to shake off the icy arms of Winter from round the neck of Spring. Cold winds pull us back into our woollens. The bramble and the thorn have thrived while we all slept. 
Arthur Rackham

I really adore the work of Lionel Percy Smythe. His gentle use of colour and light is exquisite. Here  'Spring' is cloaked in pale clothes with her green mantle lined in violet. The Blackbird held close. They are one of the first to nest, as early as January.

Caught in the arms of icy Spring
Lionel Percy Smythe, 1918
The woods are silent but for a few bird songs, but the hedges are strewn with Blackthorn blossom, those tiny flowers dropped during Faerie revelries. 

People are sometimes confused or even frightened by the idea of Beltaine. You may worry that it goes against the church, or that it is a witches celebration. But neither is true. These seasonal celebrations are very old stretching back to the beginnings of man, but they are not un-Christian at all they just existed before Christianity, and carried on well after. I like to keep things simple. For me Beltaine is just literally the celebration and acknowledgement that Spring is here. I am grateful for the changing seasons, the new life after winter. Even as the old season dies the new one brings us Hope. I often think that eternal life must be like Spring.

Blackthorn is one of my favourite harbingers of Spring. The thorn, with it's black stems,  is associated with darker nature, being the branch which made the crown of thorns for Christ. Yet it also reminds us that after darkness comes the light. I love the William Morris fabric with the thorn blossoms bright against the dark green background, the sweet violets and the fritillaries, and the thorns long and sharp, clearly visible. When we bought our cottage a small built in wardrobe was completely papered in this wallpaper. It is beautiful dense paper with a raised design. I found curtains in the same fabric at a flea market. I enjoy having a seasonal home. We call this small bedroom 'The Winter Room', decorated in dark and icy blues, smokey green, grey and silver with a nod to Narnia. The  Blackthorn reminds us that the White Witch will be gone soon.  
I have long been obsessed with tangled woods, briar roses and the thorn. But even I grow weary of Winter after awhile. I feel like a long sleep is passing, the Prince has come with May.

Thorn Rose, 1975 by Errol Le Cain
There is a feeling of magic in the air as Nature comes to life again and the flora and fauna which slept or hid through Winter come out into our view. It is not the full blown heady feeling of Midsummer, which is dreamy and sleepy - this is a joyous awakening and a celebration of life following another Winter.

The perfect May Queen
Rapturously beautiful Evelyn Nesbit
Age 16, by Gertrude Käsebier

It is easy to understand why it was that our ancestors danced and crowned a May Queen. As the Blackthorn blossom begins to fade the Haythorn leaves open and the blooms, sweetly scented, follow. It was thought bad luck to bring May Blossom into the house before May. And in truth you rarely see it before mid May anyway. Do you know the difference? Blackthorn blooms before it's leaves, hence the startling beauty of the white delicate blossoms against the dark stem and thorns - whilst Hawthorn has leaves before it blooms.

Queen Guinevere's Maying by John Collier

The chill remains upon us but sun shines brightly, and birds are nesting. House Martins have returned to tend their little homes on our cottage, always a welcome sight each year. The Snow Drops and Daffodils are now faded and the Bluebells are just coming into blossom with our Apple Trees, soon the Blackthorn flowers will turn to Berry.

Blackthorn Sloes
A lovely vintage Blackberry brooch by Exquisite

There is definitely a bustle in the hedgerow, as Robert Plant once sang. Things are afoot all over the place.  Hopefully if the predicted cold spell does not materialise this weekend we will celebrate May Day with a bluebell walk. We should acknowledge the turning of the seasons, as our ancestors did. But if you stray into the woods remember the Rules of Faerie, do not stray from the path and do not eat or drink anything!

Some of my favourite images of this time of year.

By Arthur Rackham, from
Hans Christian Anderson's The Elf Mound

Marc Bolan of T Rex
Ride a white swan like the people of the Beltaine .....
The remarkable looking Palmate Newt larvae, from
the magical Heligan Gardens.

Abigail Edwards The Bramblewood plate

Read more about Beltaine and Spring Here:

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Beautiful Easter shoot by Green Wedding Shoes.
See their work Here:

I like papier-mâché and used to have a collection of Easter egg boxes. I've no idea how or why I began to collect them, like so many things I have, they just happened. And then they just disappeared, probably during one of many moves in either a pre clear out, or a mislaid box. I used to give and receive them filled with chocolates, and tied with a ribbon. I don't miss them, but I wish I would have owned a camera and photographed them, and I hope that wherever that they are, they found a good home.

A charming Easter egg box

Papier-mâché boxes and eggs always remind me of both Easter and Alice in Wonderland.  Our cottage is adorned with several Alice vignettes. One of my Grandmothers was named Alice and I was given the name as one of mine too, after her.

Mad March Hare from Graham & Green Here: 
Alice cloth ornament from Alice's Shop in Oxford. Here:
Although the Easter egg boxes are gone, I have a small collection of hand painted papier-mâché boxes from Kashmir in which I keep pieces of jewellery on my dressing table.

This box is quite large and the lid is painted in
an exquisite pattern of  mille fleurs.
I keep another collection in it - Miracle jewellery.

This little papier-mâché rabbit came from a shop in one of the
fairy tale cottages in Carmel by the Sea, 20 years ago.
I love the cat shaped box, adorned with bright flowers.

As March ends you would expect Spring to be in full bloom, but it is not so here. I have seen no Deer in the woods, and few Hares, being mad or not. We have had very high winds (we do live on a hill) and rain with hail. It is a bitter biting wind as if the Snow Queen has grabbed hold of you with icy fingers and a sharp nail has pierced your skin.
Kelly McMorris, Snow Queen book cover,
for Stephen Player's Fantasy Illustration class
Published: February 02, 2013
Her website: Here:
This weekend is a Bank Holiday in England. The church school behind our cottage is very quiet without the children, and the cats have been playing in the wild woods of the church amongst the daffodils and primroses.  This time of year I like to wander in the gardens of English Country houses and ruined abbeys where you feel as if you may at any moment come upon a Mad Tea Party or you could have your own. Alas, I think that the Easter Bunny may even need to don a long tweed coat and a rain hat prior to bringing children their treats.
The Mad Tea Party Alice illustration by John Tenniel.
The March Hare is wearing straw in his ears, a sign of madness!
Even in this weather, and whatever that we believe,  this is a time for rejoicing in the life that is beginning all around us, and giving thanks for each day we are here to see it.
I think I will wrap up warm and venture out to see if I can find some March Hares and then curl up by the fire with a book and the cats. Oh, and chocolate. That diet will just have to wait for a few more weeks until the sun comes back.

I love this painting, but do not know who created it.
Please leave me a comment if you do!
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