Silas Marner Day 40: Unspeakable Ignorance re Human Character

dark red rhodos
Dark Red Rhododendron in the Azalea walk at Calderstones

Oh, I’ve been having trouble with myself, lost my rhythms and struggling to do anything other than get my daily work at The Reader done – I’ve been busy interviewing new people for roles at The Reader, probably the most important thing I have to do there, preparing for  the AESOP Conference, and then travelling to meet with Flemish colleagues… but also simply lost. rhythms, habits, do not come easily to me and somehow I lost them and now I am struggling to get them back.  Family came to visit. Our old people  have needed time and attention. None  of which stops me writing at 6.00 am but it has stopped me.

Yesterday I said to myself, you’ve got to get it back. You’ve got to. I was angry and used my anger to  dig up and destroy a massive ivy  root I’ve been battling in the garden. I don’t really care why I am like this – my chaotic childhood, oh, I’m sick of hearing about it –  I care about why I can’t consistently be different. I want order!

Yesterday it came to a head and I took myself to task in the garden as a way of fighting it out. I dug and bashed and cursed and sweated and cut my finger and sawed and heaved and jimmied and cursed this tortured thing out of the ground. It’s about as big as a bull’s head. It’s the root of a large-leaved ivy  I planted about twenty years ago.  I planted it! I planted it! I did it myself! Oh, ignorance.


I was filthy and exhausted and had a sore finger. I felt better.  I had a long bath and, as so many times before, agreed to  ‘forgive myself the lot’ as Yeats says, and resolved to try to pick up again. ‘The urge to destroy is also the urge to create…’ as Mikhail Bakunin said.

Books I’ve been reading away from this page include Tara Westover’s Educated. (Yes, lost  the rhythm of recording ‘Just Started’ – need to do a batch lot).  This is book about the awakening of a mind: the story of an end-of-the-world Mormon girl from a mountain in Utah learning to think outside of her family. Last night I read a section where she discusses  being touched by a single line from John Stuart Mill in On the Subjugation of Women. Marvellous section. The sentence: ‘It is a subject on which nothing final can be known’ …Mill writes of ‘women’, and Tara  –  bullied, abused and subjugated as a female  in her family – responds from her deepest, most hidden self.

Blood rushed to my brain. I felt an animating surge of adrenalin, of possibility, of a frontier being pushed outward. Of the nature of women, nothing final can be known. Never had I found such comfort in a void, in the black absence of knowledge. It seemed to say: whatever you are, you are a woman.

this morning when I came to my desk I looked up On The Subjugation of Women, a book I’ve not read in  more than thirty years.  Gosh. It’s very good. I would like to read it again. Saturday Dayschool perhaps, along with some of  George Eliot’s women?

Why that connection? This was one of the sentences that struck me as I browsed:

Of all difficulties which impede the progress of thought, and the formation of well-grounded opinions on life and social arrangements, the greatest is now the unspeakable ignorance and inattention of mankind in respect to the influences which form human character.

I was looking over my last post on Silas Marner, (find a full text of the novel here) and  had been thinking about George Eliot as a mind-mapper, a literary psychologist.  She does exactly what John Stuart Mill thinks is needful to be done. She shines the light of intelligent observation on the ‘influences which form human character’.

We’d been reading about Nancy Cass (nee Lammeter), and her instinctive repugnance to the idea of adoption. The narrative switches adroitly to Godfrey, and the reader understands, with a shock, that Godfrey is thinking of adopting not just any child, but his own child, Eppie, happily adopted by Silas.

Godfrey had from the first specified Eppie, then about twelve years old, as a child suitable for them to adopt. It had never occurred to him that Silas would rather part with his life than with Eppie. Surely the weaver would wish the best to the child he had taken so much trouble with, and would be glad that such good fortune should happen to her: she would always be very grateful to him, and he would be well provided for to the end of his life–provided for as the excellent part he had done by the child deserved. Was it not an appropriate thing for people in a higher station to take a charge off the hands of a man in a lower? It seemed an eminently appropriate thing to Godfrey, for reasons that were known only to himself; and by a common fallacy, he imagined the measure would be easy because he had private motives for desiring it. This was rather a coarse mode of estimating Silas’s relation to Eppie; but we must remember that many of the impressions which Godfrey was likely to gather concerning the labouring people around him would favour the idea that deep affections can hardly go along with callous palms and scant means; and he had not had the opportunity, even if he had had the power, of entering intimately into all that was exceptional in the weaver’s experience. It was only the want of adequate knowledge that could have made it possible for Godfrey deliberately to entertain an unfeeling project: his natural kindness had outlived that blighting time of cruel wishes, and Nancy’s praise of him as a husband was not founded entirely on a wilful illusion.

This becomes an analysis of how Godfrey could make such a callous mistake when George Eliot  looks beyond any desire he might have stated himself, to a general law she observes in many humans. Godfrey thinks,

Was it not an appropriate thing for people in a higher station to take a charge off the hands of a man in a lower?

This is Godfrey’s inner voice, thinking its own thoughts.

Next comes George Eliot’s thought, as she observes her subject:

It seemed an eminently appropriate thing to Godfrey, for reasons that were known only to himself; and by a common fallacy, he imagined the measure would be easy because he had private motives for desiring it.

The ‘common fallacy’ is the law of behaviour, observable over countless subjects: you want something to happen so you think it will be easy to make it happen. (Thinking of myself and the need to develop habits. Want them! Should be easy! Not easy! Failed again!). Now George Eliot turns her attention to the relations between people of different classes and their ability to understand each other.  The tone here (‘we must remember’) is one that includes us, as the reader, with her as the scientific observer.

This was rather a coarse mode of estimating Silas’s relation to Eppie; but we must remember that many of the impressions which Godfrey was likely to gather concerning the labouring people around him would favour the idea that deep affections can hardly go along with callous palms and scant means; and he had not had the opportunity, even if he had had the power, of entering intimately into all that was exceptional in the weaver’s experience.

It’s personally damning of Godfrey as well as damning  our social structures: Godfrey ‘had not had the opportunity, even if he had had the power, of entering intimately into all that was exceptional in the weaver’s experience’.

The lack of power to enter into another’s experience is also self-damaging, I think, Godfrey can’t imagine what it is or means to be Silas, but he is also hidden, disguised from himself, like Tara, like me.

George Eliot believed that women were no different to men in that we are all subject to our experience and education. Men had more of it but, as with Cass here, that more was often also limiting.  How are we to get out of our ignorance and lack of self and experience understanding?  Education, my dears, but education of a particular sort. Education that speaks to us in the places we need it – as John Stuart Mill spoke to Tara Westover.

Joseph Gold writes in The Story Species,

Literature is a form of language that humans have evolved to help  themselves cope with the world they inhabit. Creating and sharing complex stories is an adaptation of language to help humans survive well.

Tara’s story of the voice coming out of the darkness to a place of darkness within her, its meaning as yet unknown, is a wonderful example of  the way in which literature may be the means of education (and survival). Godfrey Cass needs to read more.

As for me? Just got to come here and do it every day.

Things being Brilliant at Kew

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Agapanthus and Echinacea  in  The Broad Walk Border at Kew

Yesterday I went to Kew Gardens to attend the People’s Postcode Lottery Gathering 2017 – imagine a family and friends  party on a large-scale, with third cousins from every part of the  country and others flying in from much farther flung places, catch-up chats, meeting new people, delightful sausage rolls, very hot in the conservatory – phew –  and instead of the bouncy castle,  an inspirational speaker in the form of  Jonathan Peach to remind everyone to be the best version of themselves they could be, ‘every day is a best pants  day’.  That certainly gave me something to think about, and  this morning I surveyed my underwear drawer with new eyes.

I had set out early from my friends’ place in Highbury by overground train, intending to arrive early – the gathering was to start  about 11.00, and Kew Gardens  opens at 10.00. I’ve never been there before so was hoping I’d get an hours walk in before the day started to enjoy the Great Broad Walk Border. And so I did! Imagine you are an LFC supporter visiting Anfield for the first time, or a clothes maniac at British Fashion Week. That’s how this gardener felt at Kew,  drunk on it,  physically light-headed, overwhelmed with  delight.

Talk about inspiration. The word must be about fresh spirit –  I look it up in the Etymological Dictionary. Yes – inhaling, breathing in, being breathed into…I felt the great work of Kew inspiring me like lovely  great heady lungfuls of air.

I haven’t managed to do for my garden what this blog has helped me do for reading and writing –  developing (an almost) daily practice. My poor garden, love it as I do, suffers from lack of my loving time and attention – I’m so intermittent! But  seeing those borders –  the art of horticulture at the height of  energetic excellence – hugely encouraged me.

I don’t expect Jonathan Peach got out for a walk during the day,  but if he had, he’d have seen something being brilliant, made by the brilliance of a very dedicated team: I saw  lots of staff and volunteers working. But I also thought about the people I couldn’t see right now – the planners and plantsmen and women, the marketeers and accountants, the cleaners,  who had made ‘Kew’ happen. The Walk was big enough not to seem busy, but there were plenty of visitors at 10.10am. Gorgeous to see how many small children were enjoying the flowers.

I loved the plans/180 drawings that allowed me to  read the names of everything in each section of the border. I imagined someone working on the plans and later when Jonathan spoke about ‘right to left’ thinking, I remembered those plans.

kew plan
Plan of one section of the Great Broad Walk Borders

I remembered in my early twenties reading a short story by Virginia Woolf, ‘Kew Gardens’.  You’ll find it here. I remembered the blank puzzlement the story provoked, and when I reread it  this morning,  I felt some of that again. I read  everything Virginia Woolf ever wrote in my early twenties – she was a woman writer! I wanted a role model! But she was so posh! I don’t know if I realised that at the time, how class-bound she was… how far-off and other-world. She was writing about worlds I had  never imagined, never seen. Kew Gardens! And those people strolling. Somehow this connects to the odd sense of relief I had when I visited D.H. Lawrence’s childhood home in Bestwood – the two up two down terrace was just like the house my grandparents  had lived in, at  Eldon Terrace, Neston.  I can remember  a strong feeling of  connection –  he knows about my life. Not a feeling I usually seek in literature – at least not in that top level  way, we worethe same boots  kind of way.  This is something to think about another day.

When I reread the story this morning I  thought, she has caught some of that sense of life-connection between the flowers, the snail, the people, as if the people are part of the life of the gardens, moving in and  through them:

The figures of these men and women straggled past the flower-bed with a curiously irregular movement not unlike that of the white and blue butterflies who crossed the turf in zig-zag flights from bed to bed. The man was about six inches in front of the woman, strolling carelessly, while she bore on with greater purpose, only turning her head now and then to see that the children were not too far behind. The man kept this distance in front of the woman purposely, though perhaps unconsciously, for he wished to go on with his thoughts.

I liked very much the lens moving from close up minutiae to expanded horizon, like the almost scientific observation of the snail:

In the oval flower bed the snail, whose shell had been stained red, blue, and yellow for the space of two minutes or so, now appeared to be moving very slightly in its shell, and next began to labour over the crumbs of loose earth which broke away and rolled down as it passed over them. It appeared to have a definite goal in front of it, differing in this respect from the singular high stepping angular green insect who attempted to cross in front of it, and waited for a second with its antennæ trembling as if in deliberation, and then stepped off as rapidly and strangely in the opposite direction. Brown cliffs with deep green lakes in the hollows, flat, blade-like trees that waved from root to tip, round boulders of grey stone, vast crumpled surfaces of a thin crackling texture–all these objects lay across the snail’s progress between one stalk and another to his goal. Before he had decided whether to circumvent the arched tent of a dead leaf or to breast it there came past the bed the feet of other human beings.

And the procession of passers-by is still there –  first these Americans, then this grandfather and the three little girls, now two  nannies with  blond  babies in buggies, now an Indian family taking many pictures, here a serious photographer very close to the Coneflowers,  there an old lady reading on a  recessed bench, and now me, on my way to the Gathering…

I’d mentioned Pope yesterday and Clare  responded to remind me both of  Virginia Woolf and  the wonderful dog Diogenes in Dickens’ Dombey and Son. That  made me think I might sometime read  things about dogs here…meanwhile  I enjoyed the statue of the White Greyhound of Richmond, and here he is, outside the Palm House:

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Small Fork Day (and the Wedding, still going on)

Sneaky undergroud roots of my enemy, with something lovely in the background

Good morning, and for readers in the UK, happy Bank Holiday weekend. I need to get some gardening done! Spring is not in the air, but it is nearly here. I have much work to do to meet it. That work is the Battle Between Good and Evil in the Garden.

My Deeside patch is largely sand, despite 20 years of importing manure from the horse field up the road. And in this very easy-going sandy soil, so easy to slink through, lives my secret and then not so secret enemy: Couchgrass.

Couchgrass! The insidious underground creeper! I realised about 17 years ago that Couchgrass, secretive, entangling, hidden from sight, would never be defeated, would always be with me, whether I could see its brittle white tentacles or not.

A garden is an exercise in patience and courage and hope. There is always something nasty in the garden – ah Milton, thou should’st be living at this hour – you can’t get rid of it, you can’t  create a little clean patch where no bad stuff is, it’s not the nature of the planet! No, our job is to dream, and plant, but also to prop, prune, bind and tie, and to wield the small fork when necessary.

To make the best garden you can, even while the weeds, led by  the ringleader, Couchgrass, keep coming back at you, is the task of a lifetime. Poetry helps. And sharp forks.  Today, Couchgrass, is Small Fork Day. Beware the small fork.

But before I turn to Couchgrass, I turn to poetry. I’ve been reading Prothalamion, and I’m planning to finish it today. We were up to this bit:

Then forth they all out of their baskets drew
Great store of flowers, the honour of the field,
That to the sense did fragrant odours yield,
All which upon those goodly birds they threw,
And all the waves did strew,
That like old Peneus’ waters they did seem,
When down along by pleasant Tempe’s shore,
Scattered with flowers, through Thessaly they stream,
That they appear through lilies’ plenteous store,
Like a bride’s chamber floor.
Two of those nymphs meanwhile, two garlands bound,
Of freshest flowers which in that mead they found,
The which presenting all in trim array,
Their snowy foreheads therewithal they crowned,
Whilst one did sing this lay,
Prepared against that day,
Against their bridal day, which was not long:
      Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

I want to read this very fast now, having broken my fear, and cleared some of my own anxiety about the Greek stuff. It’s not a poem for long and repeated contemplation (like for example Derek Walcott’s Love After Love, a poem much-read in many Shared Reading groups, and which I’ve found I can come back to time after time. Not like any poem by George Herbert, whom I want to read tomorrow.) In the catalogue of poems, it’s a happy song, and the lyrics are sweet, but not deep. The verse above is all flowers (ha! no couchgrass here!). The nymphs dressing the swans in crowns of flowers. One nymph sings the following verse, which I am skipping over. It’s a  blessing and a  looking to a happy future. The bridal party approaches London, and Spenser is moved to remember, for a moment his own situation (remember how at the beginning, he was worried about some workplace matter?). Now they are near the Inns of Court (I’m guessing)

Next whereunto there stands a stately place,

Where oft I gained gifts and goodly grace
Of that great lord, which therein wont to dwell,
Whose want too well now feels my friendless case.
But ah, here fits not well
Old woes but joys to tell
Against the bridal day, which is not long:
      Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

Spenser is out of favour, perhaps out of favour with a great Lord (who? haven’t looked up, don’t know my history) ‘whose want too well now feels my friendless case.’ A moment of tricky syntax, where even though we’re motoring now, a reader would want to go carefully and make sure she’d understood. The want of the great lord’s favour: I’m reading want as absence, lack. This lack ‘too well now feels’  – it is interesting that as soon as the idea of the loss, the absence of favour comes into mind, Spenser despite being in the middle of a rather glorious wedding – feels it, feels the nub of it, ‘friendless’. And yet he is at the wedding! so ‘here fits not well / Old woes but joys to tell’. And yet he can’t now get political thoughts out of his mind. Can’t help but wonder why he has let this into the poem, must have some relevance…need to look at a footnote!

Had a quick look at Wikepedia. Hmm, helps a bit. It’s a double marriage! Makes sense that the two swans are the two brides, not the bridegrooms. That’s why they are so white. I should have seen that in the poem itself.  The nymphs are bridesmaids…Wonder if  the next bit  is about the father of the women getting married? It’s a trumpet blast of praise, like raising a toast;

Yet therein now doth lodge a noble peer,
Great England’s glory, and the world’s wide wonder,
Whose dreadful name late through all Spain did thunder,
And Hercules’ two pillars standing near
Did make to quake and fear:
Fair branch of honour, flower of chivalry,
That fillest England with thy triumph’s fame,
Joy have thou of thy noble victory,
And endless happiness of thine own name
That promiseth the same:
That through thy prowess and victorious arms,
Thy country may be freed from foreign harms;
And great Elisa’s glorious name may ring
Through all the world, filled with thy wide alarms,
Which some brave Muse may sing
To ages following,
Upon the bridal day, which is not long:
      Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

Here I am near the end but the couchgrass is calling…I feel as if Prothalamion has been a kind of poetry work-out… I like the flowers, the Thames, the slow rich joy of it, and the sunny atmosphere. I’m interested in the poet mentioning but putting aside his own difficulties (but is it odd,  or a pointed  political act, to leave them in the finished poem?). I don’t regret it because spending a couple of hours on it has clarified something: I want a poem that is more than story or song. The bit I’m most interested in here is Spenser’s own state of being. I want more of that. Which is why I’m reading George Herbert tomorrow.

Forks awaiting the call to arms

O Chestnut Tree

Chestnut trees coming into blossom in Highbury Fields
The chestnut trees blossoming in London as I arrived  back from Sweden reminded me of Yeats’s poem, ‘Among Schoolchildren’, which you’ll find in  its entirety here.  I’m not ever at ease with W.B. Yeats, but in the past I have read this poem on a number of occasions and felt I got somewhere with it.  I don’t count on that happening now, having just looked it over and felt – did I ever read this before?!
Anyhow, today time is short and  I just want to look at the last two stanzas. In the preceding stanzas Yeats has seen himself as ‘a sixty year old smiling public man’, and felt distressed and disoriented by that. He’s thought of a woman he loves and – as he is inspecting a school, has imagined her as a child. Is she dead? Then he thinks how odd that he – once a baby, his mother struggled so to give birth to him – should be such an old man. Finally, in the stanza I’m going to start with, he makes this connection between what is worshipped by mothers and what by nuns:
Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother’s reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts—O Presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise—
O self-born mockers of man’s enterprise;
So, those loved by mothers do not keep ‘a marble or a bronze repose’, they change, they get old. But even those images which do keep the marble or bronze stillness, ‘they too break hearts.’ These things he addresses as ‘ O Presences’ and finds them to be ‘self-born mockers of man’s enterprise’. These presences being self-born seem to have a certain power or independence – they generate themselves –  and they mock humanity. Why? because they don’t change? Don’t get old, don’t die?
The stanza ends on that semi colon and a new attempt begins:
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
I’ll read the  first four lines first. What kind of thing is Yeats writing? Is this a definition of a type of ‘labour’? Not all labour could be called ‘blossoming’ or ‘dancing’. This seems a very good type of labour. (I’m thinking in passing of the ‘labour’ mothers go through to give birth to children, which seems to connect to the stanzas above, but I’m not sure. I don’t know how this connects to the previous stanza. Is this a type of definition?
‘Labour is …’? or does it mean ‘there is a particular type of  human activity, which I call labour which arises from…’
I don’t know and I read on, leaving my reading sketchy, provisional.
There follow three conditions which define this blossoming or dancing. It happens where (i) ‘the body is not bruised to pleasure soul. What does that mean, I ask myself? is it about some sort of ascetic body-punishment  – you might  wear your knees out with kneeling and praying ‘to pleasure soul’. Ok if so, – let’s not do that.  The blossoming also does not happen where (ii) ‘beauty (is) born out of its own despair. What does that mean?
I start to get a little agitated – often happens – when reading Yeats because I like understanding things straightforwardly and he doesn’t  let that happen. How could beauty be born out of its own despair? I tell myself, Try harder, Jane! Don’t get irritated.
Is this about  the sense of loss –  time passes, I’m sixty, everything human including human beauty  must despair. But is the facing that loss a kind of beauty?  Ach! I’m clutching at straws.
He gives the third example. Blossoming or dancing does not come (iii) when we try to generate ‘blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil’. Ok, this one is easier – and I see it.  you can be trying too hard, in the wrong way. ‘Blear’ and ‘wisdom’ don’t sit happily together.
Now suddenly Yeats seems to look up and see the tree, the visual manifestation of the thing he is reaching after;
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
Thinking of the  word ‘great’ here, which is partly simply about the size of these lovely things, (but also  their magnificence) Love that he word butts right up against ‘rooted’ – deep, earthy, practical. You don’t get that ‘great’ without the ‘rooted’. But then ‘blossomer’!
I love reading this poem (despite not understanding most of it) partly because of these three words.  The blossom is strong and overwhelmingly present. But these are forest trees, not garden plants – when the chestnuts are blossoming the great size of the trees seems to make the them fulsomeness of the blossom almost overwhelming: the tree becomes its action: ‘blossomer’. The line seems to make me look up and down and up again. Yeats makes me really look: ‘Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?’ all of these named parts of make up the tree though we are seeing them separately.
Suddenly the  image shifts and we are back in human world again. ‘O body swayed to music, O brightening glance.’  This is about what comes through a person, and perhaps about love, and I am partly seeing the person, partly the tree – and very quickly comes his final thought/question: ‘how can we know the dancer from the dance.’
This a poem about how our  physical self expresses  spirit, and perhaps about what physical actually is.  The strange inside and outside-ness of  being ‘ a sixty year old smiling public man’ but also being the young man who fell in love with the  ‘brightening glance’ woman? The great tree laden with blossom, it or the woman dancing, root, bole, leaf, blossom; all of it.
Don’t feel I’ve got to the end of the thought here, but time’s up. Now go out and find a chestnut tree.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

A walk in Tyresta National Park

Tiny flora on rocky outcrop

I was concentrating on the ten mile hike, and keeping my phone battery going for satnav, so not many pictures. Walked through a sort of quiet lakeside wooden house suburbia, then farmland, then miles of  hikers trail in a green forest. We saw two other people in four hours. We made our way beside two dark lakes, clambered over fallen trees and beaver damage, walked along raised plankways put there (we thought) so walkers would not tread on and destroy the mossy ground. We scrambled up to a higher place where we walked through the dismal landscape of a forest fire, then back down to a pine wood where the path for over a mile was just hard tree roots, finally into the lush green of lichen-covered larches and finally a farm, a cake shop (yes, yes and yes:  I had something made of marizpan, chocolate and rum truffle, delicious…) and the bus stop. Great walk, great cake, great bus service and good to know the sauna was waiting. 

The little plant growing on rock outcrop in a place lightly wooden with birch – a form of lichen? – suddenly made me understand why someone would want to study botany. A form of worship in the guise of science.

‘Possibility of seeing beavers’ the guide book said of this southern tip of the lake. No critters were seen but lots of evidence of their work.  This poor devil above was an oak tree about two foot diameter. 

The wood chips are huge, those guys must have a great chomp.

Sad uplands with fire damage

Lovely larches at the end of our hike.

A walk with spring flowers, a monster, a Swedish cream tea and a bus ride home to the sauna

 We set off along the road to the lake and as we turned off the road onto a track, at the roadside under the trees I saw these violet-blue flowers …much smaller than anemones, than windflowers… I have some at home, bought from Ness Gardens, but don’t remember the name. Garden escapees or at home here? I wondered. 

 It looked the right sort of place for them to be at home.  

Along the track on either side were mostly cabin-like and grander than cabin-like wooden houses. The terrain very like my usual Sunday morning walk place, Caldy Hill. Saw a house where someone was making and selling very pretty wooden chairs (I think – can’t read the sign!).


On the left appeared this enormous ancient tree, so we shouted out, ‘a monster calls!’ And I wondered if it could be a Sweet Chestnut, as that’s what it’s bark made it look like. But could a Sweet Chestnut be as old, as big? It looked as if  it had died once then come back to life at the very top, an arboreal resurrection.

There was some information but we couldn’t make it out.

Next I started to notice these little buttercup-coloured flowers, very starry in shape. I don’t think I’ve seen these in England. 

The castle came into view…

We didn’t know what it was or what kind of thing we were entering but we made our way through the gate…I noticed something like an anemone, definitely wild. Lots of them – but not anemones…?


And this, which I thought was some sort of very tiny Sedum…


Then we saw the water and then the Cafe. We were in something like a Country Park. 

We had red pepper soup and a goats cheese toastie with salad between us. It was good, but cost the equivalent of £23… food is very much more expensive here! Picnic next time…

Then we walked a little further and found a nice spot under the pines for a Nordic siesta 

A lovely hour in the sun, with only a few dog-walkers, the occasion whirr and flap of a bird, later the noisy arrival of two swans to break the lapping peace of the lake. 

On the way back we read a sign which told us we were walking through ‘ the English Park’ which I guess was called so because of large old trees scattered in rough grassland.  I wasn’t sure what these lovely beauties were – they had very tiny cones which were more like berries. 

We went on the up to the castle. I noticed really thick fur-like lichen on the non-lake side of the trees. Looks almost like seaweed!

At the top of the hill as we approached the castle, lots of ? Scilla ? And the yellow star flowers under still bare-of-leaf bushes. In the castle yard we had cocunut flan and a piece of a cream tart with lingon and other berries. I didn’t ask how much it cost. Price of a night in a cheap hotel, I should imagine. 

Was it the cream cake, the Siesta, the sunshine or the six kilometres? We were tired now and as we walked down the hill I saw two delightful things. 

First, some branches, the first I’ve seen, that had put forth green leaves. Spring !

And secondly the dear old 875 bus that had brought us to Rotvik from Stockholm. It must be at its terminus. It might be going back along our way! It was. Of course the bus driver spoke excellent English and told us she’d be setting off in two minutes. Hurray!

Then we were home and it was sunny on the back porch so…


And finally, nothing like a sauna to relax those tired muscles. Lovely walk, lovely place, lovely day. ‘We thank thee, Universe,’ as a secular, socialist, vegetarian old lady of my acquaintance used to say instead of Grace before meals.