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Monday, October 29, 2012

Witches, Wizards - It's Halloween!

Its almost Halloween!

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

"You're what?" asked the common or garden spook
Of a stranger at midnight's hour.
 And the shade replied with a graceful glide,
 "Why, I'm the ghost of a flower."

"The ghost of a flower?" said the old-time spook;
"That's a brand-new one on me;
I never supposed a flower had a ghost,
Though I've seen the shade of a tree."


Found on  Vintage Halloween Poetry

These are the three illustrations I kept for Halloween when I posted the lovely work of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite recently.  I've already given a sneak preview of the first one as she is my latest 'about' picture.  She is such a dainty, pretty witch, poised for take-off and I love the toadstools on the ground.

But I think this next picture is my favourite.  It is so unusual.  I like the muted colours and I think she has the most beautiful face and expression. 

My son has decided he has passed the age of dressing up and and venturing out for trick or treat loot.  (He'll be handing the sweets out this time instead!)  My favourite costume from years gone by was this Harry Potter get-up that he wore on two occasions.  First time round he was 6 or 7.  He looked so cute marching around the misty village of quaint old cottages where we were living at the time.  Then when he was 10 he wore it again. Same gown but look how much he had grown!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Story - Bola the Magician

October's Sunday Story is 'Bola the Magician' magnificently illustrated by the talented artist Mike Hubbard.  More wonderful examples of his work can be found here and here.

This story appeared in 'Once Upon a Time' children's magazine.
Issue #128 published 24 July 1971.

The last time I featured a Sunday Story post I included a photo taken from my bedroom window the previous week (September).  This is what the garden looked like then (I'm repeating the photo here):

Two weeks ago I took another picture of the same view of the garden when the leaves were starting to turn gold (they are all gone now!):

Then I remembered that I had taken some photos from my bedroom window when we had some unseasonable snow in April. This is one I snapped then:

Now all I have to do is wait until Spring and I'll have all four seasons!

This time of year can be really pretty.  Here are a couple more photos I took yesterday when we had some lovely Autumn sunshine.  (Today its raining so I'm snuggled up in front of a fire!):

The birds (if you can make them out) are crows - they roost in the stone cottage at the entrance to the property.  During the day they fly around and sit in the tops of the trees.  They can be a bit rowdy but they have personality so I enjoy watching them.

My blog's new Title Picture is one I took of the swans I've included in a couple of posts, most notably Swans in the Green.  I adore swans (and it seems I'm not alone from some of the comments I've received) - they really are poetry in motion.  The young cygnets make such cute 'cheeping' sounds as well - it is really as if they are talking to each other.

I'm in two minds as to whether I should keep my new cursor 'wand'.  I like the fairy dust sprinkles so they will stay but as much as I enjoyed the idea of the wand at first now I'm not sure if it isn't just a bit irritating.  Let me know what you think.  If you find it annoying I'll take it away.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

November Sunbeam (2012)

Another month has flown past all to quickly.  (Will somebody please put on the brakes!)
Already it is time to say goodbye to Sally at Anything to Do With Me and Tammy at Tammy's in Love.  Hope you both enjoyed your month as the recipients of my little sunbeam.

This month I have chosen two blogs that are both beautiful and sometimes mystical (as we approach the time of year when the world of faerie most closely aligns with our own.)

Jan at Art Sings 1946 hosts a blog that combines her own mixed media artwork with a wonderful collection of poems, images, stories (the latest post is a fabulous rendition of 'Sleepy Hollow') and thoughts on life and our world.

Victoria's blog Finding Harmony, Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit contains some of the most beautiful photographs I've seen and I must confess that I am usually a little in awe of the philosophy behind her posts - so much so I never really know what I can leave as a suitable comment!

My little sunbeam is yours to bask in for the next month.  Hope you enjoy its little glow.

Thank you both for bringing beauty into this world.

Sharon's Little Sunbeam is my own personal 'no strings attached' award.  It is my way of thanking the people who enrich my blogging experience.  After the recipient has been introduced a link to their blog remains on my sidebar for a month.  There are no conditions attached to the award.  The recipient does not need to answer any questions, pass the award on or even acknowledge that they have received it.  All they need to do is bask in my little sunbeam and enjoy it!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Friendship and Inspiration of Blogging

A couple of posts this week made me think about the wonderful inspiration and friendship that can result from blogging.  The Secret DMS Files Of Fairday Morrow featured something along these lines as their weekly theme.  Then came the long anticipated news that my dear friend Donna Yates from Believe in Yourself has just e-published her novel Always.

I would love to be able to include all the blog friends here that I have made over the months (you know who you are!) - people I am never likely to meet in person but whose friendship has become important to me in so many ways.  (What I always try to do is to promote your blogs whenever I feel an opportunity presents itself, including my own little sunbeam.)

Instead I'm limiting myself to only mentioning a handful of bloggers who are also published writers - besides Donna Yates these include Joleene Naylor at Amaranthine (who together with Donna graciously volunteered to read and comment on my own scribblings), Roger Lawrence at Three Hoodies Save the World and Darlene Foster at Darlene Foster's Blog.  As published authors I salute all of you - and you guys have no idea how inspirational you can be to someone like me by showing what self belief, hard work and the love of writing can achieve.

I've always enjoyed writing but I tend to get distracted far too easily.  I have a demanding full time career as an IT Systems Analyst, a family who feel increasingly neglected by my many hobbies, a love of the outdoors and a passion for children's fairytale illustrations and paper dolls.  But the people I've mentioned have made me feel more and more that I should try to join their ranks and finish at least one of the stories that I have started.

Earlier this year I put together a post called Some More Adventurous Scribbles in which I outlined the plot of a book I had started writing almost 15 years ago when I was on maternity leave.  At the time my mother was my most valued critic and I loved the way she had no qualms in letting me know if she thought anything I wrote was clumsy or anyone in the story was behaving out of character.  Then a year later (1999) my mom died unexpectedly.  One of the last things she said to me when she realised she had little time left was how sad she was that she would never get to see the end of my book.  If I do ever manage to finish it the dedication will be to her and I hope where ever she is right now that she will know I finally got there.

What follows is a complete spoiler of the first part of the book, but I thought I'd share a bit more with all my blog friends of what I have managed to achieve so far.  In the earlier post I gave the gist of the story and included a link to the first chapter in its entirety.  The end is supposed to be a surprise for the reader - we are  conditioned to expect fairy tales and folk stories following a certain path where the hero always triumphs and good prevails no matter what the odds.

My story is set in the 7th century.  All of the locations are real but the plot and characters are completely fictitious - one of the advantages of writing about the distant past and an era not particularly well documented. The first part of the novel is set in what we now call Dumbarton and the wider area of Strathclyde. Alcluith (the title) means 'Rock of the Clyde' and was an early name for both Dumbarton and the countryside surrounding it.  My characters live in Dun Breatann (the fortress of the Britons) - the origins and naming of the fort are therefore obvious.  Later events will move to Eryri (Snowdonia) in Wales,  Dun Eiden (Edinburgh) and Urbs Coludi (Coldingham) a monastic settlement on the east Scottish coast (in those days monasteries housed both men and women).  

 Real life Dumbarton:

What I have consciously avoided, however, is giving any obviously Scottish flavour to the people or events.  This era pre-dates the geographical entity of Scotland as we know it today together with that nation's culture and customs.  These people were Celts, newly converted to Christianity, kindred to the inhabitants of Wales and Cornwall who were increasingly being pushed ever further West and North by the advancing Saxons.

The names I've used have all been purposely chosen and bar one are authentic to the period. Each was given because of its meaning:

Women’s Names:
Saraid  (sor+id)    Related to sár and implies ‘best, surpassing all.’  According to tradition Saraid is the ancestor of the Gaelic-speaking people who settled in Scotland.
Aleine (a+lane)      A form of Helen meaning ‘sunbeam.’
Morag        (more+ag)    Scottish form of mór meaning ‘great’ plus the ending ag meaning ‘young’.
Bridget       Related to the noun brígh meaning ‘power, strength, vigour, virtue.’
Isla    (I’ll+a)         The name of a Scottish river adopted as a girl’s name. Meaning uncertain but it may be related to aileach, ‘rocky place’.
Ynyra  (in+eer+a) Welsh meaning ‘honour’.

Men’s Names:
Aidan  (aid+in)      Associated with strength of mind and courage of heart.  Thought by some to herald stubbornness. 
Ranulf        Possible meaning is ‘wolf’s shield’.  In its Viking form Ragnvald it means ‘ruler’s advice’. 
Cadoc  (cad+dock)        From the Welsh cathach meaning ‘brave in battle’.
The only exception is Rowallan - central to the story and chosen only because it is my husband's name (and as I mentioned last time is is still unsure whether to take that as a compliment!)   

Print by Sulamith Wulfing

The extract I've chosen comes right at the end of part 1 (containing 5 chapters) - the point I've reached so far.
Chapter 1 ended with Rowallan's defeat and his death in battle against the Saxons.  The life of his pregnant wife Saraid is spared by Raedwald, the new ruler of Alcluith.  The survival of their unborn child, however,  is subject to a terrible decision - only a girl will be allowed to live.  Thanks to the ingenuity of Bridget (Sairaid's maid), the baby boy (when he is born) is smuggled out of Dun Breatann.  He is taken in by Garrit and Isla, a young couple (recently bereaved by a stillbirth) who live at the edge of a forest in the foothills of the surrounding mountains.  Bridget also convinces Morgag, a young noblewoman whose husband Ranulf has been summoned to Dun Breatann in order to swear fealty to its new ruler, to give up her newborn daughter completing the deception that Saraid's child is female.  Morag agrees, seeing this as a noble gesture - it is only when reality sets in and she has to hand over her baby that she faces the enormity of what she has done.  The last few paragraphs tie up all of these threads as follows: 

In the days that followed Isla carefully cleaned the garments and wrappings the baby had arrived in, folded them neatly and then placed them at the bottom of the chest.  From time to time she would take them out and look at them, fingering the soft material with a sense of wonder, admiring the fine needlework and intricate craftsmanship.  Then she would gently put them back and cover them with her own work.  The baby would never wear them again.
            For his part Garrit never asked Isla whether she thought about the child’s origins.
            During the first weeks after his arrival Garrit pondered the question of the baby’s identity and the circumstances that compelled a total stranger to bring him to their door.  Garrit knew the world was full of indiscretion and that there were any number of feasible alternatives.  The infant could have been born to the unmarried daughter of a noble family, a girl who was betrothed to an influential and wealthy suitor.  Such a union would be cast in jeopardy should an unwanted child of dubious origin throw doubt upon the suitability of the bride. 
            More likely though, the babe was the result of a careless dalliance carried out while a lady’s husband was away for a prolonged period, making it impossible that the child could be his own.  Garrit knew the lifestyle and values of the high born differed greatly from his own.  A helpless infant could be disposed of easily without remorse, his life snuffed out for no other reason than the irresponsibility of those who brought him into the world. 
            As time passed the reason why the child was brought to them became irrelevant.  The overwhelming emotion that filled Garrit’s heart and mind was  gratitude.  Gratitude that this strange, unexpected turn of events had brought the wife he adored back from the brink and his small family unit could resume a pattern of normality again.
            Tentatively at first, Garrit made cautious forays into the forest, lengthening the duration of his working day over a period of time until he had re-established his original routine.  Eventually the relief he experienced when he returned to a household of tranquil domesticity was replaced by the expectation that it would always be so. 

            Ranulf was perplexed.  Since their return from Alcluith he had found Morag distant and uncharacteristically distracted.  He too mourned the loss of their newborn daughter.  The child’s sudden death was a complete surprise as the infant showed every sign of thriving after birth.  But these things happened and Ranulf expected the healing properties of time would dull the pain and give them the opportunity to move on. 
            Ranulf understood Morag needed a period to grieve but he was losing patience.  Children died in infancy all the time.  It was an accepted albeit unfortunate fact of life.  Morag would have known there was every possibility her baby might not win the struggle for survival during those first anxious weeks.  The child had also been a girl, not the heir he was hoping for.  Her loss was to be regretted, but it was not as though his firstborn had been a son. 
            What Ranulf could not understand was why Morag was showing no sign at all of recovery.   There was a nagging doubt that did not sit easy with him.  Try as he might Ranulf could not shake the feeling that something untoward had happened while Morag was kept apart from him in the women’s quarters at Alcluith.  It wasn’t just the oath he had been forced to swear, safeguarding his family and their holding.  Something about their time at Alcluith had left Ranulf feeling tainted and increasingly unsettled.  Morag’s strange behaviour was adding to his sense of unease.  There was a persistent sensation of  discord hovering at the edge of his reason. An anomaly he knew should be able to detect and understand. 
            Ranulf shook his head to clear these troubling thoughts and contemplated his sleeping wife as she lay silently in bed beside him.  The answer to her problems, he decided, was easy.  What she needed was another child to take her mind off the one she had lost.  Hopefully the son he longed for who would inherit the lands Ranulf had gone to such pains to protect.
             Well, he smiled to himself gleefully - that was one area in which he could make a concerted effort to be part of the solution.
            As Ranulf drew Morag into his embrace he wondered how long it would be before she reacted with the same willingness and enthusiasm she had shown before the onset of her pregnancy.  Morag did not turn away or spurn him.  But neither did she welcome his lovemaking.  She lay silent and compliant and it was painfully obvious the essence of her spirit was somewhere else.  Something fundamental in their relationship had been quenched and Ranulf found himself hoping that in time the spark of her being would come back to fill the void left in their lives.

            Saraid sat before the open window contemplating the stars scattered like diamond fragments across the night sky.  Soon she would have to close the shutters against the early winter chill, but for the moment she craved contact with the heavens even if the Almighty no longer felt inclined to acknowledge her existence. 
            Saraid sat perfectly still.  She held Morag’s daughter as she watched the glittering expanse of the heavens.  An unwanted tear slid between her lashes and she turned her head to stop it falling on the infant’s upturned face.  Brushing away more tears with quiet determination she moved to gently stroke the soft skin of the sleeping infant’s exposed cheek.  Warm and content the baby’s peaceful slumber did not falter.  Saraid resumed her contemplation of the sky.
‘Rowallan’, she whispered softly to herself. ‘ Sleep well my love, wherever you may be.’  Already Saraid was unsure whether her thoughts went out to father or to son.

            Far away, at the edge of the great forest the child who was born to be king lay safe and secure in a humble woodsman’s cottage nestled in the foothills of blue ridged mountains.  As he slept the innocent and dreamless sleep of infancy, the baby was completely unaware as yet what fate still had in store for him.

--- oOo ---
 In the normal course of events it would be expected that the paths of these children (named Aidan and Aleine by their respective foster parents) would not cross and that they would never meet, living out their lives (so different to what they should have been born into) in obscurity.  

But destiny can sometimes have other ideas!



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

I've noticed a few searches recently on my blog stats for the Australian illustrator Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888 - 1960).  In a previous post I included two of her illustrations (I've repeated them again here) and as her work is so beautiful I decided to devote today's entry entirely to her.

Ida's Irish born father was a Presbyterian minister and academic.  By the time Ida was born (she was the youngest of four children) he was a professor at Ormond College (University of Melbourne). Ida was educated at the Presbyterian Ladies College in Melbourne. Her maiden name was Rentoul but when she married Arthur Outhwaite in 1909 she became known as Ida Renoul Outhwaite and began signing her work as such.

Ida's first illustration (accompanying a story written by her sister Anne) was published when she was just 15 years old.  Her children (Robert, Anne, Wendy and William) were the models for many of her illustrations which mostly depict fairies.      

The Autumn fairy turns the leaves to gold and scatters them around . . . .

My garden in its Autumn Glory

I've often thought that these fairies would make lovely paper dolls.  I'm sure it will just be a matter of time before I can resist the temptation no longer and make a doll based on her painings.  

The illustrations included in this post come from five different books illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite:

Elves and Fairies
The Enchanted Forest
Lady of the Blue Beards
The Other Side of Nowhere


I have held back three illustrations that I thought would be perfect for Halloween.  I thought I only had one witchy picture - but it turns out I have two and one with a fairy riding on a bat that I think is wonderful (and delightfully unusual).  If you come back and visit me at Halloween I'll be including them then.    

As a child I always thought of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite as being an English artist.  When I looked at these illustrations now I realised that many of them feature koala bears.  That should have given me a clue as to where she really came from!

Some of her black and while illustrations are just as beautiful as those in colour and in my opinion can often be more striking.  The one below is my favourite.

The miniature Japanese Maple on our patio has turned the most gorgeous shade of cerise.  It won't last long and soon the leaves will fall but I'm going to make the most of enjoying it while it looks so glorious.

The swan family in St Stephen's Green I featured a couple of weeks ago (Swans in the Green) are still together and just as devoted and close-knit as before.  The mornings are becoming so dark now I doubt whether I'll be able to walk through the park on my way to work for much longer (I think the gates are opened later in winter).  I don't remember the swans remaining as a family unit for such a long time in past years and have really enjoyed my visits to their lovely world each working day.

I added the Tinkerbell effect to my Blog after seeing it on Diane's at Crave Cute.  She told me how to do it after I left a comment on this post.   I had so much fun playing with the fairy dust that I decided to do something with the cursor as well.  I found a very easy site to work with is Cursors 4U.  I stayed away from the animated sets because they apparently only work on Explorer and I use Google Chrome.  What I really wanted was a proper fairy wand with a star on the end - I must say I was quite surprised not to find one!  So in the end I chose a butterfly, rose and Harry Potter wand and I'm alternating between those three!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Farewell to Summer and An Enquiry from Argentina

My Garden in the Wicklow Mountains

Although it has been a wonderfully sunny day today, Summer is most definitely over.  The garden has turned to gold and the days are becoming markedly shorter.

We moved to Wicklow in March so during the course of the last few months I have been able to watch the garden come to life for the first time in all its glory.  Even now the wonderful display is not completely over - but the garden is visibly starting to prepare for the long cold months of winter.

There have been surprises aplenty as flowers I was not expecting appeared in a profusion of colour. These photographs were taken between May and September so everything you see here did not bloom at once or at the same time - but taken together it is a glorious testament to the beauty of nature.

An Enquiry from Argentina

Earlier this week I received an email from Silvina who lives in Argentina.  She collects vintage children's crockery and china. Her blog Tazas & Cuentos is absolutely delightful.  Besides showing us her collection there are tantalising glimpses of Silvina's beautiful home which gives a wonderful impression of space and light.

Silvina contacted me because she is trying to identify these illustrations from a set of dishes she owns:

They were made in Argentina and many have "Hartford" printed on them.  Silvina was hoping that I might know the story these pictures are from or the artist who illustrated them.  They do look very familiar and I keep thinking I should recognise them, but I just can't place the artist or the story.  I asked Barbara at March House Books if she had seen them before and like me Barbara also finds the illustrations familiar but can't place them.

Once before I was able to identify an artist by putting their work on my blog (Can You Help Me Identify This Artist / Success - An Answer to My Inquiry).  I'm hoping someone will be able to provide the answer to these tantalising images as well.  If you can please leave me or Silvina a comment (or you can email me - tab on my sidebar).


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