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Take a walk in Blue Bell Woods listen to the sounds around you, of bird song and bees. Smell the flowers and the scent of Spring in the air. Every year is a new beginning and every day a blessing

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." (Colossians 3:15a NIV)I would love to hear from you, if you don't have a blog you can still comment, join google it's free. I appreciate hearing from you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dunstable Downs............

The town near where I grew up is what used to be called a "Market Town" ....Dunstable. It was built up around a cross road around 1109 on the old Roman Rd that was built in the very first century, the Watling Street. An abbey was built there, that survived the dissolution during Henry V111 rule and became a church called "The Priory" The funeral procession of Queen Eleanor spent the night in Dunstable on her way to Westminster Abbey and an Eleanor Cross stood there for many years. Henry had his annulment from Catherine of Aragon announced from there. Dunstable being but 30 odd miles from London had frequent royal visitors from
the Conquest onwards.
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Growing up in a small village Dunstable was the nearest town to us. It was within walking distance. We walked everywhere. Maybe a couple of miles across the fields maybe less. The path we called "Dog Kennels" was the chosen route. It was called that because our local Squire kept his horses and hounds near the village green and the path ran behind there. Anyway, we would walk through "Rabbit Lane" across a few fields to a footpath that led to Dunstable. It came out conveniently by the town center. If we walk via the road we had to walk all the way through town. It was also scenic and looked out over fields, farms and the cement work pitts. At a distance they looked like lakes. As much as I hate Fox hunting, it was a part of village life and always has been. So our village had the horses and hounds
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Having walked that far it was still a long way to go to reach the Downs. Dunstable Downs. Chalk hills that run like fingers in the southern and middle part of England. The Chiltern Hills are the official name but to us they are just Dunstable Downs. Home to Whipsnade Zoo and The London Gliding club these days.
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Its a beautiful place to walk and for kids to play. All sorts of community events take place there. For me though just a place to hang out. Take picnics and when we were teens court boys.
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Very often we would take a picnic and sit on the side of the hills enjoying the views. We could be sitting there enjoying a sandwich and watch a Wallaby hop on by. They would escape periodically from the zoo and live there in total happiness. A bit disconcerting for the picnic person who wondered who else may be wandering around. They do take the elephants for a walk sometimes, all in a row holding tails. Not to worry they are inside the fences. I think?????. Some creatures can get out the gates though they have cattle grids but...........well some deer and the smaller things that wander outside their pens, like the peacocks do make that bid for freedom, but I think they also know where the food is so.
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When we were teens our favourite dance hall was at the foot of the Downs, so often enough it was a great courting spot with great views at night. Not sure we noticed though.
The flowers and butterflys and wee beasties all a part of English Downlands.............we loved to look for as kids. A whole different way of life. Country life at one with the creatures and land around us. Loving nature and simple things. Walking and climbing all kept us fit and healthy and happy.
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Laying on the grass, watching clouds, seeing shapes in them.........picking the harebell and listening to the bees drone in the clover. Yes the simple life.

Monday, November 18, 2013

My England................

I finished reading "A Fine Romance" ......I didn't want it to end. Every page was wonderful. It made me so homesick. It made me determined to go back soon. Susan Branch has an eye for what makes England so special. The details, the things she notices. The things I love. Only someone who truly loves the place would see it as she does. So..........what is it?
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One of her comments was that everything in England seems to have been made by hand. Places as old as Stonehenge and the cottages that have thrived for 500 to 800 years. The gardens that surrounds the castles and the cottages. The fact that the National Trust keeps things for posterity. People have no reserves in handing off their property to give to the country. Its so wonderful. In the days when the aristocracy dominated the lands and were the owners of vast properties, there came a time when the money runs out and rather than sell to be built on they gave it to us all. Forever. So our children and grandchildren can enjoy it forever into the distant future. Their legacy lives on and we can share it. So many of them open the homes they still live in so that their art treasures can be seen and appreciated. The amount that they get from the public may help them somewhat but it must cost a fortune (that many no longer have) to keep those places running and so when they reach the end of their pockets then the National Trust can carry on.
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We have had "The Green Belt" a vast stretch of land surrounding the city that is supposed to always stay "green" meaning no more building. Or only with a special permit. Some people have got through the restrictions somehow but its rare. So we can be assured that some country lasts for the wild things.
The hedgerows and meadows protected. As they should be. Some of those hedgerows have been there forever. They are a work of art. For someone who is not a farmer or a country person, or even British to appreciate that thrills the heck out of me. Susan Branch got it, understood and appreciated it. She was there at the right time for all the best things that England has to offer. The Spring, between May and June. You will see the lambs, the bluebells and all the wildflowers.
Primrose and Cowslip
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The oldness of it all, the history of it all...............I love the very dirt of England and all thats buried in it. Is that strange? There is so much under the surface, all our ancestors hidden in lost places along with their story. I could never never never give up my loyalty for my country. I could never be anything but English. She made me feel that in every bone of my body. I am grateful that I read that book. I treasured every page of it. Then there is our lovely Queen Elizabeth and her family. I have never been able to take that oath of citizenship, to be an American, it says that I owe no fealty to any King or Queen and only to the United States. I can't do it. It says "without reservation" ........nope just cant do it, I cant say it with my fingers crossed. I have to mean it, to want it and I don't.
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She even liked the food. Susan that is. I never understood how England got the reputation for bad food because I think its awesome. Don't get me started
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Then there are the country roads. The animals
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I could go on and on and on...............I found Susan Branch's blog, I am so happy with that and will enjoy that now. I am sad I finished the book but I won't put it away, not yet. I am going to explore some of her other books because she has shared some good recipes.
So for now I am saving my pennies and I hope she goes back and writes another book haha.................or maybe I will.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Fine Romance.............

I bought a book recently, I can't remember why now. I sent for it from Amazon and it took ages for me to get it. Well once it came I fell in love. "A Fine Romance" by Susan Branch. It is hand written and is a journal of her and her husbands trip to England. The sub title is "Falling In Love With the English Countryside". I think originally I wanted it for its drawings as well as subject matter. In any case I am more than half way and never want it to end.
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What I love about it is her joy in all the things I love about England. The simple every day life. The Hedgerows, the wild flowers, the lambs and the cottages. She has a thing about Beatrix Potter. Her delight is contagious. Having read Beatrix Potters books as a child (didnt we all?) I understand her love. Beatrix was an extraordinary human being. The money she earned from her books went into buying up land and farms and giving it to the National Trust so it will always be there for everyone
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Anyway Susan Branch is an artist and author and had gone to England on her Honeymoon, so they decided to go back for two months of wandering the English countryside.
They began in the south, in Kent and traveled to the Lake District and went to all the places they always wanted to see. She kept this journal and illustrated it with her drawings and photos she took. It's amazing. I would buy one for everyone I know who loves England but it took ages for me to get this one. I see there are some again now on Amazon. I don't want this book to end. I have sent for about 3 of her other books, not the same thing, they are cook books (and this one has some recipes in it).............if you have never seen England you will fall in love. If you have been you will want to go back. Me? Well I am saving for my next trip.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Back Home......

My Facebook page "Houghton Regis back in the day....." has been doing well. An old friend joined today, I have known her since I was 4. I remember the day we met. Her mum came over to meet my mum, we had not been moved in long ourselves, into council houses that mum and dad put in for as soon as Dad got home after the war. Well Jennifer was with her mum and both of us were hiding behind our mums and peeping around. I can still see her in my mind, we were both about 4 years old. Pretty soon we were in the same class at school. My friend Margaret, who lived on the farm was also at the same school and once our mums met, Margaret would come up on the bus in the morning and wait at my house to go to school. We would walk together. We did that all throughout our school years, holidays and weekends I was down at her house on the farm.
Anyway.......Jennifer is now in the group on Facebook and we are catching up.
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In that picture, taken at "Top School" ........Jennifer is standing on the left and Margaret on the extreme right. I dont know where I was or why I am missing.
Anyway, today we were talking about our outside toilets. Jennifer and I lived on Bidwell Hill and our toilets were outside at this point. So were the ones at school for that matter. They were built with a gap in the door at top and bottom, no idea why because they were at school as well. This is just like the one at our house except we did have a window.
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Margaret, down on the farm was not as lucky, theirs was outside but a hole in the ground. With a nice wooden seat. Jennifer said her job was to cut and string the newspaper for toilet paper and remembers it made her white knickers black. Just had to share that.
Well........its fun to talk and to share our childhood. I am getting to know other kids from the village. Learning about their lives so similar to my own. Country life at its best. Total freedom. Something we all shared and treasured. No fear, no worry, no crime. Well........only the childhood escapades of the local boys who did what boys did for generations before them.
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Talking of local boys.......here is "speedy" our local "copper".....called speedy because he rose his bike at leisure. We first met him, Trevor Davis when my Dad and I were out shopping in Dunstable. We almost got hit on a Zebra crossing and PC Davies came to our house to get the information from Dad. They became fast friends. PC Davies was always up on Bidwell Hill visiting the Moles over the road. Hehe....the Mole kids were always in trouble. A family of 4 boys. Patrick said he saw more of Speedy than his dad hehe. Joke..........well PC Davies liked his tea with a touch of whisky in it and would often stop in for a cup before finishing his rounds that took him down Bidwell Hill to be sure the Red Lion pub was closed on time and probably to nip in for a quick one before his ride back up the hill. On a cold night he might also stop in on the way back. The village boys were the bane of his existence. They did things with his bike one would think impossible. My Dad, as a lad was the same way and no doubt the village copper at that time had it far worse than Speedy did because my Dad had lots more brothers. Most of our games were harmless and fun. We all had dens
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They took time to build and especially if we did them underground. I was lucky to have friends whose dads didnt work on their gardens and did not mind at all when we dug holes in the garden and put on tin roofs. We played harmless games
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and made what we called chassis........
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I have probably written about all this before but it comes to mind after a day of chatting to these old friends. Well, not a day, you know what I mean if you go on Facebook yourself. On and off during the day is what I mean.
This is not what I originally was going to write about. I have been busy cropping and enlarging old photos of the village. I got into that while looking for a picture I was going to post and got distracted. I forgot what I was originally going to write............so thats it till I remember.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Semper Fi..........................

November 11.......The Marine Corps Birthday and Armistice day 11.11.11 Semper Fi.
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My son in law was/is a Marine (once a Marine always a Marine), he married my daughter Laura and became a recruiter. Both my boys were encouraged to join. They did so prior to leaving school and after boot camp were trained and became electrical engineers. The first picture shows Justin, Laura and Dan with Jason in front. They had all been to the Marine Corp ball when the photo was taken. They look a little worse for wear but they did have a great night out by all accounts. I heard some of the stories. My two boys served 6 years each. Dan retired from the corps. He is actually living with us at the moment.
The 2nd picture is Justin who is still in school at that point and Jason is just home from Boot camp. The next picture is my nephew Greg Schaub who was also in the Marine Corps and serving at the same time, thanks to Dan. We had some good times when they were all in the Carolina's
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My father served as did most British men because of the war. My grandfathers served in the Great War.
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My mothers Dad was in the Royal Navy(WW1), his ship was torpedoed and was sunk. He spent a lot of time in the water before he was rescued. My Grandfather on Dad's side was serving in North Africa (WW1).
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My father was a prisoner of war in Japan, captured at the fall of Singapore he was in POW camps for the remainder of the war.(WW2), captured at the same time were his brother in law (soon to be), and his cousin. All spent the war in Japan as POW. My Uncle, my dad's brother in law died at Dunkirk. He is buried in France. So..................Lest We Forget...........Thank you all for your service. All are gone now.
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Would the young man who wrote this poignant poem have ever known how it would effect so many, so deeply when he wrote it?
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War to me is never an answer, but sometimes there is no other choice.........for those who served we all thank you.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November.........

November......I will always think of the Edmund Fitzgerald, of Guy Fawkes night and cold crisp Autumn days with guilded leaves touched with frost.
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Spiders webs frozen in the hazy morning sun, shining like a thousand diamonds and my breath puffing white in the air. The hedges have hairnets of gossamer silk spun in the night by who? A thousand fairies who come each evening to complete that task?
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I love it when you inhale and your nose closes shut with the coldness of the air. Not healthy for animals who have to run, cold air in the lungs. Some used to cover the noses with a scarf and it would get wet and freeze in the air. We had to keep our horses in the barn on some days when it was that cold.
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When I was a child growing up in England our windows would freeze. Jack Frost would paint incredible designs on each pane of glass and a small pile would accumulate along the seals on the window ledges. Why that is a treasured memory I don't really know but most of us who grew up that way remember it. Wearing your hat and gloves in bed, socks on and a hot water bottle still did not keep us warm.
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The robin redbreast would show up among the frosty branches like a little red berry
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The fruit left on the trees would glow like Christmas ornaments.............frosty mornings, I just love them.

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A frosty morning is also best spent in front of a big blazing fire toasting crumpets for breakfast before venturing out into the cold.
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