Monday, 4 September 2017

Ivy



She lived on Porlock Hill, Somerset; a tiny village at the very edge of Exmoor (Lorna Doone country) in a cottage half way up on the bend (which is known for its incredibly steep 1:4 gradient) a very hard climb on old legs to the land of heather and deer.  She knew the deer well, they would, when very hungry, stray down the hill when the cottage was snowed in during a bitter Winter, looking for food in gardens, foraging in the apple orchard that overlooked the back of the cottage and even venture into the village on the odd early morning when all was quiet, mist hung in the air and the ground was hard.   


source: Rightmove, granny's cottage, left of the hedge

In those days there was a blacksmith, grocery store that always had fresh clotted cream in stock, a post office that sold local honey and a sheepskin clothing store where only tourists shopped.  Everyone knew everyone - they all knew Ivy but she wasn't very approachable, so they made up their own ideas about her.

 source
She was eccentric;  only ever  wore purple, believed in fairies and talked to them out in her garden, came to the church sometimes but refused to participate, sitting at the back, walking out in the middle of the sermon.  She made some folk uneasy as she had her own beliefs.  She painted crows on silk with chinese black ink and local landscapes in oils, sometimes they were sold at the art gallery in a nearby town.

The cottage was dark at the back because the land behind sloped upwards into the orchard, there was no television or telephone, no fridge, no modern appliances at all in fact other than a radio and a rayburn oven that heated the water and kept the cottage warm and had an oven and a hob for cooking.  There were coal fires downstairs but no heating at all upstairs.  She welcomed unlikely residents; mice nesting in cupboards and very large spiders in every room, and a small girl who stayed a fortnight of every Season and then all Summer long.  They drank tea with tinned milk and made shadow figures on walls, read books to each other (The Water Babies, Lorna Doone, Heidi) and painted what they saw in the woods.



They had days out together on the little green country bus to the beach or walking through the woods and across fields to Porlock Weir where they would sit on the stone wall all day watching the birds feeding off the dried muscle shells littering the pebble beach until the same bus jerked into life and ambled back through the winding, country roads to the foot of the hill.  It was the closest stop to home unless they could wave down the occasional tourist bus that just might take them halfway up the hill (that would depend on goodwill and whether anyone felt it worth running a bus out to Exmoor.  Beyond was the pretty seaside town of Lynmouth with a cable lift up the cliff face to tiny Lynton village at the top for those who fancied a bit of excitement).



Dunster

Once a fortnight she spent the day at Dunster by the castle tending her husband's grave, ate a packed lunch there and talked to him.

She often walked in the woods with the small girl that visited. They  observed nature a great deal;  her favorite flower was the wild violet.  She shared her knowledge of how plants could be used for ailments and which ones were poisonous. Foxgloves were not to be touched without gloves in case they entered our skin and slowed our heartbeat, cotton gloves were always kept in pockets just in case .  Toadstools were not to be disturbed either as their poisonous spores could be inhaled, although giant puffballs were considered safe and they would both jump on them and watch them explode in a big cloud of white powder.  Every walk was different, there could be a carpet of red, yellow and brown leaves, the sighting of a red squirrel, a carpet of bluebells,  a ball of buzzing bees nesting high up in a tree,  the chance to hold a bright blue birds egg, throbbing with life, warm and alive, but always returning it to the nest.  She was always on the look out for adder snakes that basked in the late morning sun in the woods, finding one could mean a long detour as they were not to be disturbed.

source

This is the view from the apple orchards behind the cottage, she would help herself  and add blackberries from the woods to make fruit crumble with custard.

Shadows were very real to her - they had presence and could mean someone departed was passing by; best not to acknowledge them or they may linger.  Superstitions were  complicated and plentiful, crossed knives were a huge worry for her (a fight with someone), looking over her shoulder into a mirror very bad luck, if she put clothing on inside out she would have to wear it that way all day as it was lucky, but put it on back to front and she wasn't going anywhere that day as it was bad luck.  Tea leaves were read with great interest for signs of what the future held.




There were standing stones near the village, a small circle of them dating back to a time when people lived by the sun, moon and stsrs for guidance, made by a God they had yet to know.  Nobody ever went there except her...  and the small girl, a quiet place where you could wish for things to happen, and they would, if they were good things and you wished hard enough.   The girl wished for gossamer wings glinting gold and green like a dragonfly .  Ivy gave the girl her own secret name there, a magical name that nobody else knew, and she was given a circle of power that would stay around her and protect her forever.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porlock_Stone_Circle
Late neolithic 2350 to 701 bc

Ivy was my Granny and I expect you can guess the small girl was me.  The happiest times of my childhood were spent with her (although I missed my brothers a lot as they were never invited).  I was put on a coach that took half a day, Granny would meet me 'The Other End' (which I thought was a place for many years).  She taught me to paint, to see magic in everything in nature and assured me I was a fairy, I never stopped believing.


Source:
This beautiful fairy is a woolly aphid, (I hope I am notbreaching any copyright)

26 comments:

  1. Wow! Tales of a completely different time but not too long ago. So interesting! Thank you for sharing more about Ivy.

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    1. Not so long ago but things have changed, children, expectations, surroundings, it is probsbly harder to be childlike these days.

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    2. Not so long ago but things have changed, children, expectations, surroundings, it is probsbly harder to be childlike these days.

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  2. What a sweet storey. That tiny wooly aphid looks somewhat like a fairy...
    We have those wooly aphids here and I didn't know what thy were called.
    Hugs, Julia

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  3. She sounds like a unique, magical, creative woman! Lucky for that influence in your life! That wooly aphid does look rather like a fairy!

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  4. That is a wonderful story about you and your granny and her world of fairies near her cottage.

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  5. Oh my, you had a lovely, lovely Granny that taught and guided you well.

    Scotia

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  6. What a beautifully written post, Betty. You gave us a real picture of your amazing Granny and of her place in your life.

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    1. Thank you, it was a very enjoyable piece of writing.

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  7. Dear Betty

    What a magical lady and some wonderful memories. My granny taught me a lot about nature too and my gardening obsession is down to her. You really brought that happy time alive in this post. To me, this sounds like the start of some memoirs and a rather lovely book...just a thought...
    Best wishes
    Ellie

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  8. What a wonderful granny and what a wonderful childhood.

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  9. I really hope that my Grandaughters will remember me with such adoration and love. What a fitting tribute to a wonderful woman. Well written, Betty. xxx

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  10. What a wonderful piece of writing, Betty! I loved every word.
    Your grandma sounded like a magical woman and I can see you in her. xxx

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  11. What a beautiful story and how lucky you were as a child, to spend so much time with such a wonderful granny.

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  12. Sounds like a wonderful childhood with such lovely lady.

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  13. What a wonderful story Betty ... and as I was reading it my first thought was "I'll bet that Betty was that small girl". How special are your memories of Ivy. Now I know why you grew up & became a wood fairy !!!!

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  14. This is a most beautiful story, your Granny sounds a wonderful person. I loved reading your words and also seeing the images, thank you.

    All the best Jan

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  15. Magical piece of writing and precious treasure of beautiful memories!!!

    She sounds wonderful lady with grace and taste .
    Loved all her walks and imaginations so much .
    and loved the images that go beautifully with story my friend!

    If you don't mind i just want to make a request that as i find your blog and sharing very appealing though but found little hard to read it due to design of writing which is lovely yet little difficult to get it with first sight ,i hope you did not mind my opinion if you did then i say sorry for this dear!

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    1. I changed the print which I hope is easier for you to read, other people have mentioned this too.

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  16. What a unique childhood you had! You have a gift for writing.

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  17. What a magical childhood! I would have loved your granny! :)

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  18. that was really wonderful <3 you were lucky to have her.

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