Monday, 13 August 2018

Let There Be Rain!

I have just been sitting in our front hall, with the door wide open watching it rain.
     This does sound strange, even to me. But this is the first decent rain we have had for the best part of two months.
     We have had a couple of little sprinkles over the past couple of weeks, but not enough to wet the ground properly. We had a brief shower three weeks ago, which was just enough to revive the grass, and when it got the chance, it certainly made on (as they say in these parts).
     We have been watching the weather forecast, and watching the weather radar, to try and see if any of the rain other parts of the country have had, would make it to us.
     Torrential rain has passed above us and below us, or tipped itself all over the west of the Pennines and left none to roll over to the east. But today, we have proper rain (yay!).
     And not only rain, but thunder and lightning too!
    So I decided to enjoy this novelty, and positioned my desk chair by the open door, and just enjoyed watching it tipping it down.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Of Fly Paper and Shaving Foam

As it continues hot and dry, we have had an influx of flies.
     We have dealt with this in two ways:
     First we have invested in some old-fashioned fly-papers. Now I haven't seen these for years. In fact, I didn't know anyone still made them, but Graham came home with some from the shops and we have been amazed at how effective they are (and how many flies we have caught with them). Also as they contain no chemicals, just sticky stuff, they are environmentally friendly and we don't have to worry about any fumes/chemical affecting dogs or humans.
     Secondly I have been using some of the Citronella Room Spray that we sell, as Citronella is a natural fly repellent.
     Now, my eyesight isn't as sharp as it was when I was younger, and spotting the squirty hole proved dangerous. Yes, I did squirt myself in the chest. But I take comfort from the thought that I am also now fly repellent!

     It also reminded me of the Christmas when my dad was first given a can of squirty shaving foam.
     Now, back in the 1970's this was a new thing to us in the countryside, so my mum thought this was a very special gift to give to my dad (and relatively expensive, compared to the shaving soap he usually used).
     My dad couldn't wait to try this out, and hurried off to the bathroom to give it a go.
     We only had a small bathroom, well shower room really, but there were mirrors on opposite walls, to make it feel larger.
     Anyway after some time my dad stormed out of the bathroom and emphatically dumped the can of shaving foam in the rubbish bin.
     'That was a load of rubbish!' he fumed, 'I shook the thing and squirted and squirted and NOTHING came out!'
     We were all a bit dumbfounded, and my mum was rather surprised by the outcome.
     A couple of minutes later, while my dad was still harumphing and reading the newspaper with much angry shaking of the pages in front of him, mum popped her head round the living room door and silently beckoned me to go with her. She pointed to the open bathroom door so I went in to see what the matter was, and there, high up on the bathroom walls was a frothy mass of shaving foam. In fact not just in one place, but all around the bathroom, high up on the walls, and even on the ceiling.
      Dad had obviously been holding the can the wrong way round, and it had squirted with such force that it had shot out and plastered the bathroom above his line of sight.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Rain, Rain Come Again!

Sunshine is all very well, but you really can have too much of a good thing.
     Besides which you need a bit of rain to help you look forward to, and really appreciate a beautiful sunny day.
     Unfortunately where we live on the Eastern side of the UK, it has been several weeks since we had any rain. We had a brief shower last Tuesday, but in the main our garden has been surviving on our re-cycled bath water, which we have been using to water the garden rather than just letting it go down the drain.
     In the main I tend not to go in for weather spells as often you find that once the weather changes, it sticks with its new format. That is, if it starts raining, it will carry on doing so!
     However, enough is enough when even satellite pictures of the British Isles are showing us not as a green and pleasant land, but as a brown and crispy one!
     So here are a couple of rain spells from my own spell book:

Sympathetic Rain Spell
     Sympathetic magic means doing something which encourages the environment to follow suit and act in sympathy with your actions.
     A medieval spell for rain is very simple:
     Take a bowl or bucket of water outside, dip the bristles of a brooom in the water and flick it heavenwards. The drops falling from the broom imitate or mimic raindrops and hopefully encourage the sky to follow suit.
     As you do this, you can chant:
Come, Rain, Come!
Fall, Rain, Fall!
Drop, Rain, Drop!

Another Rain Spell
     Take a bowl or tub of water outside and stir it deosil (clockwise) with your broom, creating a vortex in your bowl.
     As you do this, know that you are stirring the sky, which is reflected in the water, encouraging the clouds to condense and accumulate, growing in the sky above. Imagine them like candyfloss, growing bigger and bigger, accumulating over your location.
     You can also chant:
I stir the sky, I stir the clouds
They grow and fill with rain!
I stir the sky, I call the clouds
To rain, and rain again!

Monday, 16 July 2018

The Walking Dead

This is the modern age where people are all connected via their computers or phone.
     So how do I find out what my son is up to? Well, of course, I read about it on his blog.
     Of course sometimes even that doesn't work.
     We have known that he was going to be doing the Three Peaks walk for a couple of months now. And his blog told us that it would be 'next week' (two weeks ago) and that he had been having a practise walk (from Beverley to Driffield ), which sounded pretty gruelling to me, and had ended up with a blistered foot - not a good start.
     So last Friday I forgot that he was going up to the Peak District, camping overnight so they could set off in the cool of the dawn the next day. And messaged him that I was having a foot long sausage for my tea (see how modern I am, sending a message about food!).
     There was no response - you would think a foot long sausage (30cm for youngsters) would get some sort of response. Then I remembered about the walk, camping, overnight etc and realised he must be driving, and obviously would have his phone turned off (yes folks there really is an 'off' button).
     So, as he had blogged about going for his walk, and we all knew he was going. I thought that I would keep an eye on his blog to find out how things went.
     (....Interlude while tumbleweed blows across the screen)
     Not a word.
     Some time during the week we spotted his wife was playing WoW, there is a facility which lets you know when friends are online, and Graham wisped (whisper is a way of sending a private message to a single player rather than broadcasting to all and sundry) her to say hello, only to find out it was our son playing his wife's account.
   I immediately wisped him: 'So you aren't dead then?'
     'There was I picturing you lying dead all exposed on a barren hillside!'
    'Lol' came the considered response.
    We found out that he had done very well. He is not an athlete, unless couch potatoe was an olympic sport, but he had managed to walk two of the three peaks, when he had only hoped to complete one. And was determined to go back later and do the third.
   So a win win situation.
    Grats (as we gamers say) to Mike for completing two of the three peaks.
     Grats also for not being dead.
     Even more grats would be available for a son who remembered to ring his mother occasionally just to let her know he is still breathing.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Birds!

It must be one of those times of year when lots of young birds are leaving the nest for the first time.
They don't have the fine flying control of the adults, which is a polite way of saying they don't always seem to know which way they are going.
     So we have the sight of a young starling flapping wildly and hanging upside down from the washing line, while a parent sits upright on top of the washing line, with a sort of 'sigh' expression in its shoulders.
     Then there are the sparrows which nest each year high up in the eaves, in a hole which was originally where the overflow from the loft water tank stuck out. Each year the little ones are 'encouraged' out by appearing to be shoved off the edge by a parent, while the other parent watches from the nearby hawthorn as the chick does a zooming nosedive, then learns to fly about six feet from the ground.
    We assume it was one of these novice flyers which managed to fall in through the tiny light we leave open in the bedroom and was put out again after flapping and squawking around the bedroom yesterday.
    This morning we had a young swallow swooped into the bathroom and out again (thank goodness) while I was in the bath.
    Then later there was the crash of crockery from the kitchen.
     'I hear the spin cycle has kicked in.' I remarked to Graham. The sink drying basket is positioned above the washer and the drying crockery 'settles' when the washer goes into its spin cycle.
     'The washer isn't on.....' said Graham.
     We both remained silent and hoped that the other would volunteer to go and find out what was going on downstairs (we were up in the spare bedroom, playing WoW). I cracked first: 'Well, are you going to look?' I said to Graham.
     It was a young blackbird this time, in the favourite place, the window above the sink. There was much squawking again as it was captured and released back into the garden.
     So far though the toads have stayed outside.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Midsummer Magic

There can be a bit of confusion or even arguments about when Pagans should hold their Midsummer or Litha celebration. I prefer to think that this means we have some flexibility, allowing us to choose a date which is more suitable or significant to our own beliefs.
     The Summer Solstice is as astronomical event which happens around the 20-22nd of June in the Northern hemisphere. It varies a little from year to year because of the way the Earth wobbles on its axis. Some groups stick to the astronomical date and their celebration will also vary to follow this.
    The Druids always use the astronomical date to time their celebrations at Stonehenge.
     This will mean that midsummer's eve will be the night before the Solstice.
     However in the UK Midsummer's Day has been celebrated on the 24th of June for centuries, and this is also the case in other countries too. This means that the evening of the 23rd of June is Midsummer's Eve, and the night that traditional folklore relates to.
     Although if you take the UK calendar reform into account*, when William Shakespeare wrote his play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', then Midsummer's eve would fall on the equivalent of the 5th of July, and there are traditional groups who adhere to the Old Calendar.
     This year the next Full Moon is on the 28th of June, and there are yet other groups who use the Full Moon nearest to celebrate their festivals.
     I know some people do find this confusing. I call it 'being given a choice'. It also means that you can pick one date for your private Witchy celebration, and another one for a more inclusive ask-the-neighbours-round party.
     It is said the on midsummer's eve the doors to the Fairy Mounds open, and the Fairy Queen and her court ride the land. In Witchdom we say that around the times of the festivals the doors between the world grow thin. In other words it is easier at these times for spirits to cross from their worlds into ours and vice versa. This is not a single day happening, it is a time of around a fortnight or so during which it is easier to access these alternate worlds.
     Around the Solstice the magical fern flower is said to appear and glow in the darkened woodlands. If you can find it and catch the fern seed in a pewter dish, it can grant you the power of invisibility.
     Litha is a fire festival, and is celebrated by having an outdoor bonfire. Barbecues can be the modern equivalent of this, so why not have a midsummer barbecue party!

* In 1752 the English parliament decreed that we should move from the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar, simply by missing out eleven days in the year, which did cause rioting in the streets by people thinking they had somehow been robbed of eleven days..

Wednesday, 13 June 2018


We were sitting in the front garden at the weekend. It was lovely and warm underfoot, and I was seated on a Graham-made bench, under the overhanging cotoneaster.
     This is a shrub we got from a cutting, years ago, from Graham's mum. It doesn't really look a lot, it is mainly green and branchy, but it is covered with tiny pink, spherical flowers. So tiny they really aren't worth mentioning, except that the bees love them!
     It was lovely seeing the bees, and there were a lot of them, flitting from flower to flower, and it is nice to think that we have a garden which is good for all sorts of wild life.
     Mind you the wild life does seem to like the house too. The other night there was a thud from the kitchen, it was the sound of a young starling trying to nut its way out of the front window. Graham managed to get it to flutter upwards to the open small light, and out it flew.
     Today Graham was cutting the lawn, and round the back, under the shade of the Belladonna, he noticed a hole in the dry earth. It looked like the entrance to a vole's hole, but as he watched, a bumblebee emerged and flew off. He called me out to look just as another bumblebee flew in, and while I watched, yet another little bee flew into the hole. So they definitely have a nest under there, and they do look like some of the bees which were on the cotoneaster.
     We do get a lot of different kinds of bees in the garden, lots of different sizes and colours. It isn't until you start looking closely that you realise that bees come in quite a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are like a hairy honey colour, others are stripy and can have a red, white or a black bum. Some are tiny things the size of a baby's fingernail, others are great flying fluffy zepelins, with the directional control of a balloon. Those seem to be mainly the ones that blunder into the house and make rumbly farting noises in the window, until we get them in a glass and take them outside again.
     We had a lovely teasel grew in the garden one year and early one morning we got up to find a large bumblebee asleep on the teasel. It looked so fluffy that I very gently stroked it, and in its sleepy state the bee lifted a back leg and waved it around as if to say, 'Gerroff!'
     In ancient Greece the souls of the dead were sometimes believed to take the form of bees, and bees are believed to be very magical creatures, probably because they produced the first sweet stuff humans ever came across, honey.
    It is said that bees should be told of any death on the house, or they will leave their hive and fly away. It used to be believed that you should never sell or buy bees for money, but should offer goods of the equivalent amount. In the 18th century the price of a hive of bees was a small pig.
    Bees are also only supposed to stay in a place where there is peace and harmony - and one should especially avoid having a row anywhere near a bee hive, or the bees will go and find a home elsewhere.