Oh to be in England

Now that spring is there.

Appledore, Devon, Spring, Flowers, Rivers

Whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware

Robert Brownings inspiring ode, could apply to anywhere in England. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, unfortunately many of us do not have the time, inclination or quietness of mind to behold our surroundings & draw pleasure from the exquitiste unfurling of new life & a new dawn.

Appledore, mindfullness, north devon, bluebells, new life
Peace & tranquillity

Throughout my life there have been many times when I have not been able to appreciate the true beauty of the world. The “black dog” had been firmly resting on my shoulder. In some lighter moments I could briefly see an image, which would momentarily stir my interest. The neon lights of a London Street being reflected on a black tarmac road during a torrental downpour. The sun rising over Clapham Junction, while catching the 6.45 to Waterloo. These thumb nail shots were very short lived, but for a moment in time, gave me a warm feeling of pleasure & peace, before the full claustrophobic reality of my life, once more emcompassed me.

Trafalgar square fountain, red buss, people, grey day.
Trafalgar Square

My mother, who’s birthay it would have been today, had just died & my son had left the nest & fled to Medical School. The black dog didn’t just rest on my shoulder it was firmly ensconsed inside my head. I wouldn’t say I’d reached a cross roards, but hit a major pile up on the motorway.

Gin, tonic, orange slices, ice. lose up in a clear glass

Spending to much time in pubs – yes, the glass was always half empty – I awoke one morning in my manic phase. I was going to Greece! Having been left a small legacy, I packed a suitcase, stuck a pin in a map & booked a flight to Corfu.

Greece. What can I say. My senses were on fire with new aromas, sights & sounds. I had been here on holidays, but this time, I was staying. I had also not yet reached the place on this beautiful island where the pin had landed. Gazing out of the hyrofoil window, 40 minutes into my crossing the small olive tree clad Island of Paxos drifted into sight. This was to be my home & my salvation for the next three years.

Paxi, made me happy – most of the time , – I cooked meals for the tourists, using local produce & wine. Went for exilerating walks & swam at sunrise, every morning and once again I began to paint. There were days, when I would just shut myself away, relishing the solitude & peace which allowed my creative side to come to the fore, once more. Whilst making friends with the Greeks, I also met a lovely English girl who was engaged to a Greek man, she hailed from Appledore, Devon, a place I had not heard of. I made a mental note to seek it out on my return to England.

Mixed Media Painting by Jan Steele Yellow greek fishing boats against a blue sea, white buildings
Fishing Boats


Returning to the UK, I visited Appledore on many occassions, escaping the realities of the dark places in my mind. I was determined that one day, I would live there. Appledore, with its quaint, pastel coloured cottages & cobbled streets reminds me a lot of Paxos, although the weather is possibly not as clement. But, at Christmas last year, my dream became a reality & I finally made Appledore my home on 1st February this year. Beauty, truly was inthe eye of the beholder.

BlackLabrador, sitting on pebble beach, with sea in the back ground.

Now, I’m not going to say, that every day is going to be filled with the sweet smell of roses, or that my life will be perfect all the time. What I do know is that with the help from a lot of people & organistations, I have learnt to manage the variations in my moods. And the black dog? well it still sits on my shoulder from time to time, but the therapy one, walks proudly beside me, each & every day. For which I am thankful.

Wandering in Wiltshire

Off goes the alarm. Yuk, I pull the covers over my head & bury myself in the downy softness of my duvet.

A soft thud is accompanied by a short series of delicate twitches, followed by a frenzied scrabbling. My toes feel a waft of cold air & a wet sloppy tongue licks them. Yep. you’ve guessed it. My faithful friend desperately wants to partake of her early morning ablutions & I need to get up.

Labrador, gun dog, retriever, Wiltshire, walking
My faithful hound

Kettle on – need tea before I go-, while I attend to my own rituals. Gypsy, my faithful hounds name, patiently waits outside the bathroom door. When I emerge she follows me to the kitchen in the hopes of a morsel of food. She is unlucky. Always hopeful, she is well aware that breakfast is served on our return & it has a proviso. She needs to be obedient & not turn a deaf ear to my recalls.

Down the stairs, woolly hat, coat and boots on – me that is not the dog- I paws for thought I have put her harness on, but what about her lead? is there anyone about? are the dogs from the Manor out? Hmm, better be on the safe side, I click on here lead & we are off.

Gypsy, dog, Great Chalfield Manor, gardens,
“A little sun bathing” me thinks!

I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful grounds of Great Chalfield Manor, however like all good things in life, it has its draw backs where Gypsy is concerned. While I love her to bits, she does have her moments. Gypsy is a 21 month old, bouncy black Labrador full of spirit & mischief, with a penchant for deafness when the mood takes her. She can hear the rattle of a biscuit packet at a 100 paces, but the cry “Gypsy come”, -unless food related-, has her bounding about like a kangaroo & very vociferous she is too.

Now. my landlord, a cheerful chap & his good lady wife are very tolerant pair, where Gypsy is concerned. Should my hound spot their dogs, Orla & Ming, she’s off. Ming, being the distinguished old lady she is, responds with a sharp snap, of which Gypsy totally ignores & Orla being a young lady, tends to be a bit more physical. “this is my patch” Orla barks, Gypsy’s response being “I want to play, chase me pleaseeee”. So. off I go trying to capture my errant mutt who is completely oblivious to my calls. Around the gardens we go, through the lake, into the Manor – yes, expletives are used by me – finally to be caught by my landlord who lured her into the boot room with a dog treat, allowing me to firmly attach her to the lead. It gives people watching a giggle, but leaves me feeling worn out & determined to do more training. Dog training that is, not marathon training for me.

In the short video clip above, you can follow us over the fields at Great Chalfield & have a preview of the delights we came home to recipes for which can be found at the Recipes page of this site.

We will be back with more rambles in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime:

Gypsy COME.