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The Butterfly Song

The Big Window


Clouds of cabbage white butterflies danced outside the big window as I played the piano this morning.  Exploded from hidden chrysalis who knows where.  I like to think they were drawn by my music, but I suspect not.  All the same, I composed an impromptu piece especially for them….light and dainty as a butterfly's wing.  It's gone now, flit from my mind as quickly as a ray of English sunshine from a Pennine hillside.  It existed as briefly as the butterflies.  But I hope they enjoyed it.


Foxglove Fantasy

Foxglove Fantasy


Been playing with the foxgloves...


(Images bottom left, top centre and bottom right created with Kaleido Lens app.  Images bottom centre and top right created with Tiny Planets.)


Our Morning Walk

Morning Walk


6 a.m.  We're on the moor before the heat of the day.  Soft cotton grass shines fluorescent.  White foxgloves spire tall.  Rabbits breakfast.  

The Big Pond has shrunk small.  Joss wades in.  Begins to fish.  And retrieves, after only a few minutes, a bright green frisbee.  Still whole.  He carries it proudly, wet face at an angle, and drops it by me.  Heads back for more loot.

A plane cuts through the empty blue above.  How odd!  It leaves no jet stream.

Joss is pawing the water.  He's patient.  Searches slowly for the toys other dogs can't be bothered to retrieve.

A bee zig-zags by.  Off to work.  Distant traffic.  People off to work, too.

Joss emerges with a second treasure.  A black, nylon-covered wire circle with windmill spokes.  Another kind of frisbee?  He leaves it close to the first one and resumes his watery investigation.

The morning light is hazy pink.  Or perhaps my sunglasses make it so.  Small chunks of glass glint on the parched ground.  Like fragments of ice, abandoned by the winter pond as it receded to summer size.

My pirate dog is back again.  With a squashed plastic bottle this time.  Dripping mud.  Today's has been a good haul.  

But it's time to go.  Before the grass begins to release its daily pollen.  Ah!  Too late.  Joss is sneezing as he snuffles through the long growth.  I keep to the sandy path where there are scraps of red felt (a former tennis ball, perhaps?).  A horse has passed this way this morning.  The mementoes he left steam still.

As we saunter by the daisy patch, a man comes up behind us.  He's wearing a sunhat and wielding a stick.  He has no dog.  I'm wary.  He gestures with his long beard in Joss' direction: 'He looks as knackered as I feel!'  His voice is a growl.  And I'm puzzled.  What makes this youngish man so knackered at 7 o'clock in the morning?  He strides into the distance.

The moor is warming like an oven.  Back by the car, the yellow iris are in fleeting bloom.  My sneezing is now as constant and rhythmic as Joss' panting.  And I'm hungry for breakfast.  Like the rabbits.


Hayfever Help

Pollen Time


Glorious weather is forecast for the next few days….the fields are spread with buttercups and clover….the hedgerows a mass of hawthorn and foxgloves…..the gardens flower-filled and bountiful.  Tanned and soon-to-be-tanned limbs are finally on show and friends are looking fresh in summer frocks.  The long-awaited summer is here.

I've been longing for summer, too.  Just can't help it.  Think it's an innate human longing - particularly when the winter has been long and hard.  But me?  Far from looking fresh and animated, I'm a blotchy spectacle to behold.  Puffy eyes that are wrinkled from continual rubbing, a red nose that's so inflamed inside, a throat and mouth that are raw, tender pollen-coated skin (it actually HURTS to wear my glasses)….AND I'm covered in insect bites to boot.  Oh the joys!

I've never found anything that significantly combats hay fever.  And I've tried all sorts.  All kinds of antihistamines (make very little difference and turn me into a zombie)….NAET therapy (expensive and made no difference whatsoever)….eating local honey every day for months prior to the start of the season (nope, no effect at all).  Every year I try something new.  Each time I move house, I hope this will be where I leave the hay fever behind (different pollens and all that).  But, 36 years after it started oh-so-suddenly in the middle of my third form Latin exam, the hay fever is still as horrendous as ever.

For fellow sufferers, however, here are a few things I've found that DO make a difference.  To be honest, the difference is minimal - I still feel totally crap.  But feeling this wretched, even the most minute relief is welcome.
TIE YOUR HAIR BACK.  I'm willing to bet that bald men don't suffer from pollen as badly as those of us with tresses!  Scraping my hair back off my face (not my best look!) is probably the thing that helps most. 
WASH YOUR HAIR EVERY DAY.  Hair harbours pollen.  Wash it out at least once a day.
WEAR CLEAN CLOTHES AND WASH/CHANGE YOUR BEDDING FREQUENTLY.  Pollen loves fabric.  I don't have carpets in my house and very few curtains.  Since I've yet to find a satisfactory alternative to fabric garments and fabric bedclothes, I just wash them all lots.
KEEP DOORS AND WINDOWS SHUT.  Okay, this is obvious - but it helps.  And yes, it's galling, when the British sun makes a rare appearance, to have to hide inside with all the doors and windows shut.  But it's worth it.  The pollen still finds its way indoors, of course.  But there's definitely less of it in than out.
WEAR SUNGLASSES OUTSIDE.  An old trick but still one of the best.
DRIVE A CAR WITH AIR CONDITIONING.  There are certain luxuries in life that become almost necessities when you're battling a certain condition.  When you have hay fever, a car with air conditioning falls into that category.  I cannot tell you how immeasurably this has improved my experience of travel during the hay fever season.  No matter how hot it gets, I can keep the windows shut.
HIT THE SWIMMING POOL.  If you can't stop sneezing, get to your local pool and get your head under the water.
HIT THE SAUNA.  Not much pollen inside a sauna and then you sweat off what's on your skin.  Take a shower when you come out to get the pollen out of your hair and this is probably the best you're going to feel all day.
MSM.  It's anti-inflammatory and it's the way I start every day during the hay fever season.  I mix a heaped teaspoon into a glass of water along with the juice of half a lemon (MSM works best when combined with citrus).  I add a torn leaf or two of mint and basil for added flavour and swoosh them about.  I really enjoy this, though MSM is very bitter and not to everyone's taste - in which case, it's available in capsule form, too.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR.  A lot of people swear by this for help with allergies.  Personally, I've found it improves things by about 2%.  But I'll take every percentage point going.  Just mix a little into a glass of water and sip. 
SUCK MINTS.  Whilst sugar makes a hay fever sore throat exponentially worse for me, sucking sugar-free mints can ease things.  My favourite are Peppersmith Lemon Mints which are xylitol based.
If you've found anything else that helps, PLEASE tell me in the comments!

Half Way



Final day of June.  Half way through the year.  Thought you might like an update on how ye great composing challenge is going.  Remember?  I set myself the task of composing a new piece of music every week this year.

Well…..I am super proud to say that I've stuck to it.  (I reckon that's worth a fanfare or two!)  There are now more than twenty pieces in the repertoire…..which is pretty amazing to me given that, prior to beginning the challenge, I'd only ever composed one tune!

Only sorry to say that I can't share them with you, 'cause I still don't have a means of recording.  So they're swimming about my brain and lingering in my fingers and I'm doing my damnest not to forget them.  If you ever visit Dixon Hill, however, I shall be more than happy to b̶o̶r̶e̶ regale you with a medley of said tunes.

Now….on to the next twenty odd….

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