Hand in hand, with fairy grace
Will we sing, and bless this place
~Shakespeare ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’~
At 4.45 am, the sun rose on midsummers day. The summer Solstice was the longest day of the year as the sun sets at 10.34 pm. The sun solstice happened when the tilt of Earth’s axis was most inclined towards the sun, directly over the Tropic of Cancer, and that was why we got the most daylight of the year. The term ‘solstice’ was derived from the Latin word ‘solstitium’ meaning ‘the sun standing still’.
The day marked the ancient middle of summer, even though we haven’t had the hottest day. It had significance for the pagans who had always believed that a midsummer day held a special power. Midsummer’s eve was believed to be a time when the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest, and when fairies were thought to be at their most powerful.
For the first time since 1967 the summer Solstice coincided with a rare ‘strawberry’ moon and the 17 hours of sunlight gave way to a bright moonlight sky in many parts of the country. Despite the name, the moon don’t appear pink or red, although it might glowed a warm amber. The romantic label was coined by the Algonquin tribes of North America who believed June’s full moon signalled the beginning of the strawberry picking season.
I started the Midsummer celebrations earlier with a cake day. My colleagues, who were fabulous bakers, organised a cake day to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care, a charitable organisation which provided care and support to people with terminable illness and their families. I bought a few slices for breaking my fast. I’d the yummy cakes with Murtabak. a Malay/Indian inspired curried potato turnover, which was very popular in Malaysia especially during Ramadan.
I used shop-bought spring-rolls wrapper.
Ingredients for filling :
- 1/2 kg. potatoes/sweet potatoes chopped into small pieces
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2½ tbsp curry powder
- 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- In a wok, heat 1 tbsp oil
- Add chopped onion and curry powder
- Stir-fry for 1-2 mins, add potatoes.
- Add a glass of water and stock cube
- Use spatula to stir & break up potatoes, cook till very soft and all water absorbed.
- Add chopped cilantro, stir to mix well, promptly remove from heat
- Let cool completely [Filling may also be made ahead and stored in the fridge]
To Prepare Murtabak :
- Spoon 2 tbsp of filling evenly on a wrapper and fold in the four sides [like an envelope] into a square
- Carefully and quickly lift the murtabak, using both hands, onto a preheated and well-greased griddle
- Cook for 2 to 3 mins till golden brown. Lift Murtabak, spread 1 tsp of oil on the griddle and brown the other side
- Cut into 2 or 4 pieces, serve warm or cold.
- Bon appetit.
A few days later, an ex-colleague, MM, who was now back in Estonia came over for a holiday. Since I was fasting, I accompanied her for lunch at the Warwick Arts Centre cafe. We’d a wonderful time exchanging laughter, news and gossips. It was lovely seeing her again. She gave me a very aromatic sheep milk soap in a lovely felt case while I gave her a box of Thornton chocolates. I also bid goodbye to another colleague, SB, who was off to join the main HR office. Aaaah… everyone’s leaving but I’m sure we’ll keep in touch.
The campus was buzzing when we found out that the Aviva women’s cycling tour and part of the UCI Women’s WorldTour was going through campus as part of the race’s second stage from Atherstone to Stratford-upon-Avon. Everyone was encouraged to take a break from work and lined the route to cheer them. There were also plenty of exciting cycling related activities to keep the invited school children occupied. Along with the race, there were food stalls, wellbeing stalls and activities. My colleagues kept on teasing me about the weather because I told them that I’d checked the forecast and it won’t rain. ….. And then the dark clouds rolled in and it rained and it rained We were soaked. They never let me forget it
We chose a very strategic position and didn’t move even when it rained. The organisers gave everyone a pair pf bright orange inflatable noisemaker called bangers where you banged them together and they made the most tremendous noise. Ooh… my poor ears. We were also given rain ponchos even though we were already soaked. About half an hour before the cyclists were due, the road was cleared of traffic. Every time someone drove past, everyone cheered and banged the bangers. It was hilarious.
From the screen behind us, we could see a convoy of police officers and escort motorcyclists leading the way and entering the gate house. We held our breath and all you could hear was this deafening noise of the bangers being bashed against each other. University staff had lined up both sides of University Road welcoming the cyclists. And then they arrived, cycling furiously. The atmosphere was deafening, and it reached maximum cacophony when it arrived in front of us. The whole Piazza sounded like it was going to fall down. After the cyclists were hundreds of transporters carrying the cyclists equipment. In about 15 minutes, the road was empty. The entourage had carried on to Kenilworth.
This second stage offered a brand new venue for the Aviva Women’s tour as the peloton visited Warwickshire for the first time. Starting in the north of the county in Atherstone, the riders headed south, passing local landmarks including Meriden, home of the National Cycling Memorial, and the world famous castles in Kenilworth and Warwick. The stage then passed through Gaydon and Shipston on Stour, skirting the Cotswold before finishing in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. This was the longest stage of the race at 140 km and with substantial amount of climbing in the south of the county, it was a good early indicator of who could win the Aviva Yellow Jersey.
After battling the best of British summertime weather, Amy Pieters from Holland took stage 2 of the Aviva Women’s Tour. The 25 year, riding for Wiggle High5 team, won a photo-finish at Stratford-upon-Avon with last year’s champion, Lisa Brennauer, from Germany who rode for Canyon-Sram in 2nd. The yellow jersey was taken by 2014 winner Marianne Vos, who finished third for Rabo Liv. The best British Rider Jersey was Lizzie Armistead, the Commonwealth and national road race champion, for the Boels Dolmans team and was in the 18th place. Good luck to Lizzie who was continuing her preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
A week later, the country woke up to the news that the UK had voted to leave the EU. It was devastating news for us, not the result we’d hoped for at all. Over 48% wanted to stay and the 52% who voted leave found out that they were fed with lies. I was furious that Cameron saw fit to gamble everything on a referendum. I was angry at the lurid headlines about floods of migrants. I know our association with the EU wasn’t always perfect as there were things that needed changing but this total severance felt like cutting your nose to spite your face. There was an old Malay saying, you burn the mosquito net to kill the mosquito!!!I really feel sorry for my adopted country. Dark days at present but I won’t be beaten by politicians who had no principles. Take a deep breath…in…out…
We went to Draycote Meadows to clear our heads. We needed to remember the good things that still existed, and there were loads of them even though our politicians were a pile of sh-t. As we drove through the country lanes, the route was bedecked with cow parsley frothing and exploding in clouds of creamy stars. I loved the drive through the countryside when the beech leaves were vibrant and clouds of blossoms, dead nettle and horse chestnut candles looked like a bride’s bouquet. The woods and countryside was preposterously green as everything had sprung to life, unlike our politics.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, we could see dark clouds forming in the horizon. It was going to be a short visit. This traditional hay meadow was stunning and we were wowed by waves of bright yellow buttercups, cowslips, meadow vetchling, Adders tongue, Green-flowered Twayblade, wild red clover, blue-flowered bugle and yellow rattle. Twenty species of grass formed a sea of tawny green with bursts of colour. This resulted in the whole meadow transforming into a kaleidoscope of colour.
We were enchanted by the thousands of flower spikes of the Common Spotted Orchids. The most common and widespread of all UK orchids, they got their name from their leaves which were green with abundant purplish oval sports. They formed a rosette at ground level before the flower spikes appeared with narrow leaves sheathed the stem.The flowers were densely packed in short, cone-shaped clusters and was blooming profusely.
Due to the time constraint, we only walked on the main path. The air was thick with sounds of insects calling and calling but very few butterflies. A deadly combination of a sunless summer, cool spring and mild winter was to blame for the lack of butterflies. The only one that stopped to pose were the Ringlets with their distinctive eyespots on their underwings. They were absolutely everywhere and it was impossible to photograph them without being photo-bombed by the grasses.
Then the sky turned dark and thunder rumbled. It sounded so close that we stopped walking and photographing and hurried back to the car. We arrived just in time before the heavens opened. Lightning and thunder accompanied the heavy summer rains and we decided to call it a day. It would be too wet and muddy to be trampling through the meadow again.
As I sit here
Where the wind blows
A meadow surrounds me
As the daisies grow
My life is an empty canvas
Waiting to be filled with the memories of us
in the meadow
I pick some daisies
I make a chain
To wrap around your wrist
and stay there forever
This is where the chance lies that
there will be tomorrow,
today is our last to be
and I'm here in my meadow
A deer roams free
walking through the entwining trees
Where it can follow it's heart
I take a deep breath
like it is my last
and reach for where my sketch book lies
filled with the stories of our time in our meadow
Sketching a picture of the young deer
with it's light brown coat
I wonder if someday there's a chance
my life will be something like it
A rose bush is growing in the corner
which runs onto an open pathway
where one day we'll leave through that gate
and leave our meadow forever
So, as the rain starts to pour
it brings a tear to my eye
as I realize
we will never leave our meadow,
After the referendum, a catalogue of racist abuse was being reported as those who held racists views appeared to feel the result backed them up. And I never in a million years expected to be on the receiving end. I was walking to Aldi about 10 minutes away from our casa when an elderly couple walked behind me and the man muttered ‘You little piece of sh-t”. I thought of turning around and asked if he was talking to me. But I changed my mind and continued walking with my heart thumping wildly. I stopped to cross the road but the couple continued on and he uttered those words again as he walked passed me!!!
I was horrified, mortified and very upset. I rushed in to do my shopping and ran home. By the time, I got in the casa I was in tears. Babe immediately called the police which promptly arrived. According to him, the police had received dozens of calls regarding these abuses which meant I wasn’t alone. After giving my statement, the policeman went to check whether there were CCTV in the area. He texted me an hour later saying that there were 2 and will contact me with more information.
I’d had been in this country for nearly 20 years and had never came across any form of abuse. So it came as a shock that someone thought that they’d the right to hurl some abuse just because of a referendum. It was sickening and I am still upset thinking and writing about it. Because of that, Babe won’t let me out on my own and bought me a personal panic alarm in case I had any more encounters.
“…racist thought and action says far more about the person they come from than the person they are directed at.”
At work, the University organised an impromptu gathering to celebrate the diversity of the campus as a result of Brexit. WarwickOneWorld Day was a celebration of international vibe to say to its cosmopolitan community that they were welcome. With random act of kindness pledges, circus activities, a photo-booth, live music, giant Jenga and a good dose of sunny weather, the day was a great chance to meet with fellow colleagues committed to fostering friendship across borders and cultures. RC and I checked the activities out and sampled some amazing food. It was wonderful to feel the love.
We also received some sad news from Slimbridge WWT. The baby Common Crane that we’d dutifully followed and photographed was found dead. Initial post mortem results showed underlying lung and kidney disease were the cause of death. Like all young animals, crane chicks faced many risks and it was very sad that none of Monty’s chicks survived the first few perilous weeks of life. Fingers-crossed, they will do better next year. Below was the predated chick when it was less than a week old.
Back at home, the hedgehogs had been coming into our garden regularly now. We felt so privileged to have them snuffling through the bushes to feed on the snails, slugs and insects …a gardener’s best friend. It made me warm inside to know that our garden was attracting Tiggy-winkles as loss of habitats was one of their biggest problem. Soon, we will set up the video camera near the patio door and put dog food sprinkled with meal worms on the steps. We’d been doing these for many years and it was something that we were never tired of doing.
It was often said that there was no more beautiful thing on earth than a sunny day in England, and a sunny June day in England had to be the best thing of all. One just cannot beat a glorious day in June for beauty. These are the beauties from our garden. They brought so much joy, beauty and colour. It was a wonderful season to be alive.
IT is full summer now, the heart of June,
Not yet the sun-burnt reapers are a-stir
Upon the upland meadow where too soon
Rich autumn time, the season's usurer,
Will lend his hoarded gold to all the trees,
And see his treasure scattered by the wild and spendthrift breeze.
Too soon indeed! yet here the daffodil,
That love-child of the Spring, has lingered on
To vex the rose with jealousy, and still
The harebell spreads her azure pavilion,
And like a strayed and wandering reveller
Abandoned of its brothers, whom long since June's messenger
The missel-thrush has frighted from the glade,
One pale narcissus loiters fearfully
Close to a shadowy nook, where half afraid
Of their own loveliness some violets lie
That will not look the gold sun in the face
For fear of too much splendour,--ah! methinks it is a place
Which should be trodden by Persephone
When wearied of the flowerless fields of Dis!
Or danced on by the lads of Arcady!
The hidden secret of eternal bliss
Known to the Grecian here a man might find,
Ah! you and I may find it now if Love and Sleep be kind.
There are the flowers which mourning Herakles
Strewed on the tomb of Hylas, columbine,
Its white doves all a-flutter where the breeze
Kissed them too harshly, the small celandine,
That yellow-kirtled chorister of eve,
And lilac lady's-smock,--but let them bloom alone, and leave
Yon spired holly-hock red-crocketed
To sway its silent chimes, else must the bee,
Its little bellringer, go seek instead
Some other pleasaunce; the anemone
That weeps at daybreak, like a silly girl
Before her love, and hardly lets the butterflies unfurl
Their painted wings beside it,--bid it pine
In pale virginity; the winter snow
Will suit it better than those lips of thine
Whose fires would but scorch it, rather go
And pluck that amorous flower which blooms alone,
Fed by the pander wind with dust of kisses not its own.
The trumpet-mouths of red convolvulus
So dear to maidens, creamy meadow-sweet
Whiter than Juno's throat and odorous
As all Arabia, hyacinths the feet
Of Huntress Dian would be loth to mar
For any dappled fawn,--pluck these, and those fond flowers which are
Fairer than what Queen Venus trod upon
Beneath the pines of Ida, eucharis,
That morning star which does not dread the sun,
And budding marjoram which but to kiss
Would sweeten Cytheræa's lips and make
Adonis jealous,--these for thy head,--and for thy girdle take
Yon curving spray of purple clematis
Whose gorgeous dye outflames the Tyrian King,
And fox-gloves with their nodding chalices,
But that one narciss which the startled Spring
Let from her kirtle fall when first she heard
In her own woods the wild tempestuous song of summer's bird,
Ah! leave it for a subtle memory
Of those sweet tremulous days of rain and sun,
When April laughed between her tears to see
The early primrose with shy footsteps run
From the gnarled oak-tree roots till all the wold,
Spite of its brown and trampled leaves, grew bright with shimmering
Nay, pluck it too, it is not half so sweet
As thou thyself, my soul's idolatry!
And when thou art a-wearied at thy feet
Shall oxlips weave their brightest tapestry,
For thee the woodbine shall forget its pride
And vail its tangled whorls, and thou shalt walk on daisies pied.
And I will cut a reed by yonder spring
And make the wood-gods jealous, and old Pan
Wonder what young intruder dares to sing
In these still haunts, where never foot of man
Should tread at evening, lest he chance to spy
The marble limbs of Artemis and all her company.
And I will tell thee why the jacinth wears
Such dread embroidery of dolorous moan,
And why the hapless nightingale forbears
To sing her song at noon, but weeps alone
When the fleet swallow sleeps, and rich men feast,
And why the laurel trembles when she sees the lightening east.
And I will sing how sad Proserpina
Unto a grave and gloomy Lord was wed,
And lure the silver-breasted Helena
Back from the lotus meadows of the dead,
So shalt thou see that awful loveliness
For which two mighty Hosts met fearfuly in war's abyss!
And then I 'll pipe to thee that Grecian tale
How Cynthia loves the lad Endymion,
And hidden in a grey and misty veil
Hies to the cliffs of Latmos once the Sun
Leaps from his ocean bed in fruitless chase
Of those pale flying feet which fade away in his embrace.
And if my flute can breathe sweet melody,
We may behold Her face who long ago
Dwelt among men by the Ægean sea,
And whose sad house with pillaged portico
And friezeless wall and columns toppled down
Looms o'er the ruins of that fair and violet-cinctured town.
Spirit of Beauty! tarry still a-while,
They are not dead, thine ancient votaries,
Some few there are to whom thy radiant smile
Is better than a thousand victories,
Though all the nobly slain of Waterloo
Rise up in wrath against them! tarry still, there are a few.
Who for thy sake would give their manlihood
And consecrate their being, I at least
Have done so, made thy lips my daily food,
And in thy temples found a goodlier feast
Than this starved age can give me, spite of all
Its new-found creeds so sceptical and so dogmatical.
Here not Cephissos, not Ilissos flows,
The woods of white Colonos are not here,
On our bleak hills the olive never blows,
No simple priest conducts his lowing steer
Up the steep marble way, nor through the town
Do laughing maidens bear to thee the crocus-flowered gown.
Yet tarry! for the boy who loved thee best,
Whose very name should be a memory
To make thee linger, sleeps in silent rest
Beneath the Roman walls, and melody
Still mourns her sweetest lyre, none can play
The lute of Adonais, with his lips Song passed away.
Nay, when Keats died the Muses still had left
One silver voice to sing his threnody,
But ah! too soon of it we were bereft
When on that riven night and stormy sea
Panthea claimed her singer as her own,
And slew the mouth that praised her; since which time we walk alone,
Save for that fiery heart, that morning star
Of re-arisen England, whose clear eye
Saw from our tottering throne and waste of war
The grand Greek limbs of young Democracy
Rise mightily like Hesperus and bring
The great Republic! him at least thy love hath taught to sing,
And he hath been with thee at Thessaly,
And seen white Atalanta fleet of foot
In passionless and fierce virginity
Hunting the tuskéd boar, his honied lute
Hath pierced the cavern of the hollow hill,
And Venus laughs to know one knee will bow before her still.
And he hath kissed the lips of Proserpine,
And sung the Galilæan's requiem,
That wounded forehead dashed with blood and wine
He hath discrowned, the Ancient Gods in him
Have found their last, most ardent worshipper,
And the new Sign grows grey and dim before its conqueror.
Already the shrill lark is out of sight,
Flooding with waves of song this silent dell,--
Ah! there is something more in that bird's flight
Than could be tested in a crucible!--
But the air freshens, let us go,--why soon
The woodmen will be here; how we have lived this night of June!
~Oscar Wilde, The Garden of Eros~