April Bloom

Got home after work, rather knackered, and spent the next few hours outside in the glorious sunshine with my dogs, watching the wondrous display of daffodils and primroses swaying in the wind…sheer bliss!

So, here’s a little ditty…

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April Bloom

The blushing brides of peach and buttery gold

Blow upon the breeze as memories forgot,

The loves and lives of times gone by

In Spring’s embrace…forget-me-not.

 

The wings of warmer air descends

Bursting with humming lives,

Our fears and thoughts of months ago

Fizzle under sweltering skies.

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Sophie E Tallis  © 2015

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April Showers…

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The last days of April for me, always herald the coming of summer…that glimpse into the near future of what you want your short-lived but longed for summer to be. All that promise, all those hazy dreams, just around the corner…

We British have such short summers, so few days of truly warm and glorious weather, that our all too brief summers take on an almost mythical significance. Even if it’s cold as ice outside, if the sun is shining, you’ll find some optimistic soul wandering around in nothing more than a thin T-shirt and shorts!

It is perhaps why we British are so obsessed with the weather over here, not just because our climate and seasons are so wildly unpredictable, but because it dominates our consciousness in a rather profound way. We invest so much time and energy into squeezing every last drop of enjoyment out of a sunny spell, no matter how fleeting, that we find ourselves almost lost in perpetual gloom when the skies cloud over!

It is for this reason, that I smile at April showers, a passing incumbrance which will inevitably lead onto to the warmer airs of May and then into summer!

Ah, our beloved showers, our glistening lawns groaning to be cut once more, our jewel like flowers bursting amongst the verdant green. The daffodils have faded now, replaced by a cobalt sea of bluebells…ah yes…goodbye to April showers and hello to the gentle bee-buzzing of May and beyond! 😀 xx

Olympic farewell! The cynic concedes…

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not exactly a sports fanatic, far from it. In fact I often joke that we have a non-sport zone in the house! But despite my cynicism and initial misgivings, especially after what I considered to be a very confusing and convoluted vision from Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, I have been utterly blown away by the Olympics!

Without meaning to, I have found myself on many an occasion watching completely spellbound by the rowing, sprinting, pentathlon, swimming and the cycling…wow…the cycling!

What has made the greatest impression, more than our incredible sporting achievements, which for such a small nation have been monumental – who would ever have guessed that our little isle would be third, beating mighty powerhouses like Russia, Korea and even our sporting rivals Australia in the medal haul! – but the greatest impression has been the sheer infectious optimism which has pored over our country, unifying all of us. The power of the human spirit, eh? A strange and wondrous thing…

So yes, I have thoroughly enjoyed these Olympics despite my jaded tendencies. The cheer of the crowds, don’t we do that well? I’ve often been to concerts in the past when the bands have declared that British audiences are the best for our sheer level of manic enthusiasm and the way we throw ourselves into the spectacle with wild abandon. No stiff upper lips here, just joy and full participation. Now, I’ve never been a flag waving nationalist, but I have felt myself brimming with national pride on many occasions over the course of these Games. Well done Team GB!!!

Somehow, despite the terrible economic situation, the wars, the strifes, the conflicts, the disappointments…we’ve all grown a little taller over these past few magical days. I guess that is what sport in the Olympic tradition really means, a bringing together of nations in peace, away from politics, religion and all the things that divide us. We are one nation, one people under the sun.

And so, after sixteen days of optimism, national pride and sporting excellence we bid a sad farewell to the London 2012 Olympics, which should really be renamed the Britain 2012 Olympics, as every city, town and community has been involved or touched in some way by these Games.

Farewell and thank you for a wonderful sixteen days of drama, achievement, laughter and tears and yes, I must say…amazing sport!

😀 xx

New Zealand Odyssey Part V – Giant Sand Hills and the Mixing of Seas.

Taking my backpack and the rental car, I left my base in the Bay of Islands and headed far north to the very tip of New Zealand. With Radiohead’s latest album (at the time), ‘OK Computer’, as my travelling soundtrack, I followed the meandering State Highway north, as it hugged the coastline. Spectacular views flowed past me as a dreamscape. Beauty round every bend of the road.

It was a perfect summer’s day. Under an azure sky I crossed Whangaroa Harbour and continued north to Doubtless Bay, stopping off to have a picnic lunch on the white sands of Coopers Beach.

Dragging myself away, I took to the road again. The afternoon waned as I cruised past yet another breathtaking sight, the Houhora estuary. An inlet of very shallow water, crystal clear, with white sandbanks breaking the surface here and there. But nothing was to prepare me for what was to come…

Journeying ever northward, the highway, the only route north, eventually petered out at Cape Reinga, the most northerly tip of New Zealand.  I parked, just one of many tourists, many of them pouring from coaches and bus tours. But despite this, the place was still remarkably unspoilt and quiet. Leaving the car, I was inextricably drawn to the famous Cape Reinga lighthouse and its signpost, a testament to just how far away New Zealand is to every other country in the world!

Taking the coastal path, I walked along the edge of what had become my beloved Aotearoa (New Zealand) and watched in awe at the mixing of the seas –  a strange and beautiful phenomenon where the Tasman Sea suddenly meets the Pacific, just beyond Cape Reinga’s point.

I stood mesmerised by the sheer power and purity of nature. As the sun sank in the most gorgeous of sunsets, I found a sheltered cove just above a tiny beach and camped out beneath the stars. Just magic. Nothing but the sweet beautiful blue disturbed my sleep…

If heaven existed…this was it.

I rose early, just as the first throng of tourists arrived. To my satisfaction, I was not the only single-minded solitary traveller who had had an impromptu stay. Weary but intensely happy, these campers gave knowing smiles to each other as they filed out of the lighthouse ‘restrooms’.

I was reluctant to leave, but I knew there was one sight I could not leave without seeing for myself…the famous giant sand hills!

Studying my maps, I travelled back south a little way until I reached Te Paki, a small settlement of houses, then turning right I followed the Te Paki stream road, really no more than a rural track until I reached them.

I still cannot explain the startling sight of driving through green countryside and emerging from lush woodland to be faced with a desert landscape!

Towering sand dunes or hills surrounded by green…beautiful desolation!

I went exploring. Watching a small party of thrill seekers ‘sandsurf’ and body board was great fun, but it was solitude I sought. Suddenly I was alone walking along the ridges and shifting sands of the Sahara, the Gobi, the Kalahari…

The starkness and simplicity of nature was humbling and again, I found myself letting go of demons and dreaming of distant forgotten lands and cities of sand…

New Zealand Odyssey Part IV – Desert Island Discs.

I left the magical Waipoua Forest with its towering kauri trees and took a breathtaking drive eastward across North Island to the Bay of Islands. The sun was shining and the old rental car I’d hired was humming along with the rhythm of the road. I arrived in Paihia, a quiet little coastal town and gateway to the Bay of Islands, surrounded by scenic forested hills and sail boats drifting lazily in the inlets and marinas.

I rented a self-contained unit by the beach, my base for the next few weeks. The apartment had a small balcony overlooking a little garden with an enormous flowering pohutukawa tree, the ‘New Zealand Christmas Tree’, its blooms a suitably vivid red for December. The air was warm and sweet somehow. A tui bird (found only in NZ) was perched outside my window singing furiously, while it proudly puffed its white chest plumage out.

Dumping my enormous backpack for a lighter day one, I headed out into the sunshine and the startling blue skies, apparently the second ‘bluest’ in the world after Rio de Janeiro (but obviously not in my photos!). Leaving the car for the first few days, I explored Paihia, looking every bit the awe-struck tourist. It didn’t matter though, the vibe of the whole place was friendly and ultra relaxed. I followed suit. Going under my own steam, I did the tourist thing, taking a ferry out to see the pods of dolphins that were famous to the area. If it’s possible to see pure joy in a wild animal, this was it. I watched enthralled as the twenty or so dolphins launched themselves out of the water beside the boat, doing back flips and somersaults, little did I know that in a couple of months I would have an even closer encounter at Kaikoura in the South Island!

I spent glorious day after glorious day soaking up the atmosphere and watching the incredible sunsets ignite the sky. Taking another boat, I sailed to Cape Brett and the hole in the wall rock, before returning to visit the historic town of Russell, a picturesque place with a rowdy sea-faring ‘wild west’ past!

But once again, it was my solitary travels away from the tourist trail that proved the most inspiring.

Waking early and packing a small provision along with my sketch pads, I took a ferry trip around some of the 150 islands scattered around, that make up the Bay of Islands. To describe them as miniature havens, islands of paradise, would not do them justice. But, most thrilling, after charting a small boat, and with a bit of persuasion, I was dropped off on a small deserted island just off the coast of Urupukapuka Island.

I was so excited I could hardly speak, as I saw the boat disappear from view. All I kept playing in my head was the theme tune to ‘Desert Island Discs’! Here I was, totally alone on my very own desert island…well, at least until 5:30pm!

Peeling off layers and clunky boots, I wandered barefoot over the island, not much more than a strip of rock with some trees and vegetation and a couple of beaches…but it was perfect! Boats sailed or powered by, but the place was quiet and incredibly serene. I sunk my feet into the sand and watched the light dance off the surface of the water. Life just didn’t get better than this.

I whiled away the day sketching and writing and dreaming, words and images tumbling out of me faster than I could grasp them. If there was a heaven, this was it. Blissful solitude with nothing but the clear sky above and nature around me. Again, snatches of the story that would become ‘White Mountain’ came to me. So as I dozed under the shade of another pohutukawa tree, I dreamed of dragons and ancient hidden civilisations, still surviving in our modern world…