Was that summer?

June 3, 2012

Last weekend we went on a short visit to Shropshire and  were practically crisped to toast by the heat. By English standards it was HOT and the sun was merciless in Lawrence of Arabia fashion.  Touring houses and gardens we felt sticky, our makeup ran …well, not my husband’s, if he wears any it is very discreet …and our feet swelled. But we saw good things.

Stokesay Castle

This is a darling little castle, not far from Ludlow, built in the 1280s, never capable of withstanding anything like a siege, though the moat (dry now, and a pretty walk through knee-high wild flowers) might have discouraged burglars.  It is empty of furnishings and only swallows, swifts and housemartins make their  homes here now, shooting in and out through the large glass-less windows in a blur. You can sit in the little courtyard …with an anachronistic espresso and a piece of homemade cake from a tearoom not much bigger than a cupboard …and drift into a dream of mediaeval times …only the nice bits, no nose-slitting or plagues.

The gatehouse, built in the 1640s so comparatively late, is so pretty

If I found myself alone in the world I should like to live in this little  house as custodian of the castle.

Powys Castle is a vastly different cup of tea with a very different atmosphere, though also built as a declaration of status rather than belligerence.

It is enormous and quite hideous, built in  the 18th century in the gloomy  purplish-greyish stone of the area and pointed with a sickly pink mortar, reminding one of those clownishly over-painted old ladies one occasionally sees, who fill me with the most painful protective feelings. But the garden is marvellous, huge terraces planted with a generous hand and wonderful clipped box and yew

Now I’m back home and the rain, it raineth every day …all over the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant …and more rain is forecast for the rest of the week.  Charles II  described the English summer as ‘three hot days and a thunderstorm’,  which is exactly what we’ve had.  Back to vests and woollies.

5 Responses to “Was that summer?”

  1. Annegret said


    A gentle boy, with soft and silken locks
    A dreamy boy, with brown and tender eyes,
    A castle-builder, with his wooden blocks,
    And towers that touch imaginary skies.

    A fearless rider on his father’s knee,
    An eager listener unto stories told
    At the Round Table of the nursery,
    Of heroes and adventures manifold.

    There will be other towers for thee to build;
    There will be other steeds for thee to ride;
    There will be other legends, and all filled
    With greater marvels and more glorified.

    Build on, and make thy castles high and fair,
    Rising and reaching upward to the skies;
    Listen to voices in the upper air,
    Nor lose thy simple faith in mysteries.

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882)

  2. Annegret said

    Be not Defeated by the Rain

    Be not defeated by the rain, Nor let the wind prove your better.
    Succumb not to the snows of winter. Nor be bested by the heat of summer.

    Be strong in body. Unfettered by desire. Not enticed to anger. Cultivate a quiet joy.
    Count yourself last in everything. Put others before you.
    Watch well and listen closely. Hold the learned lessons dear.

    A thatch-roof house, in a meadow, nestled in a pine grove’s shade.

    A handful of rice, some miso, and a few vegetables to suffice for the day.

    If, to the East, a child lies sick: Go forth and nurse him to health.
    If, to the West, an old lady stands exhausted: Go forth, and relieve her of burden.
    If, to the South, a man lies dying: Go forth with words of courage to dispel his fear.
    If, to the North, an argument or fight ensues:
    Go forth and beg them stop such a waste of effort and of spirit.

    In times of drought, shed tears of sympathy.
    In summers cold, walk in concern and empathy.

    Stand aloof of the unknowing masses:
    Better dismissed as useless than flattered as a “Great Man”.

    This is my goal, the person I strive to become.

    Kenji Miyazawa (1896 – 1933)
    Trans. David Sulz

  3. Annegret said

    Although there are no roses in your lovely photos of Stokesay Castle and Powis Castle (well, there must be some in the wide border) nor is it Summer yet, this Rilke poem somehow came to mind. As always, thank you very much indeed for entertaining us all so well with your blog!

    Das Rosen-Innere

    Wo ist zu diesem Innen
    ein Außen? Auf welches Weh
    legt man solches Linnen?
    Welche Himmel spieglen sich drinnen
    im dem Binnensee
    dieser offenen Rosen, dieser sorglosen, sieh:
    wie sie lose im Losen
    liegen, als könnte nie
    eine zitternde Hand sie verschütten.
    Sie können sich selber kaum
    halten; vielen ließen
    sich überfüllen und fließen
    über von innenraum
    in die Tage, die immer
    voller und voller sich schließen,
    bis der ganze Sommer ein Zimmer
    wird, ein Zimmer in einem Traum.

    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926), from Neue Gedichte (New Poems)

    The Inner Rose

    Where is there for this inner
    an outer? Upon which hurt
    does one lay such fine linen?
    And which heavens are reflected within them,
    upon the interior seas
    of these open roses, these carefree ones, see:
    how loose in looseness
    they lie, as if a trembling hand
    could never tip them over.
    They can hardly hold themselves
    erect; many allow themselves
    be filled all too full and flow
    over from inner space
    into the days, which, ever
    more and more full, close in upon themselves,
    until the entire summer becomes
    a chamber, a chamber in a dream.

    trans. Cliff Crego

  4. Annegret said

    Dear Victoria,

    I’d love to see a picture of your honeysuckle topiaries … I can’t figure out how you attached the metal globe (flower basket) to the post without it sliding down …

    Re-reading your novels and waiting for your next publication. Unfortunately no Kindle-ability in our household, so we had to miss out …

  5. Radhel said

    I really enjoy your blog, please keep going x

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