rhondacrockett: (blood & claws)

Sketchy Sunday 59 photo Sketchy Sunday 59_zpsh4bfc2p4.jpg

Ugh, clothes! I hate clothes. If I could draw penises, I think I'd have everyone in my pictures naked. Clothes are waaaay too complicated. Ugh, the amount of erasing I did on those damn jeans :(

... Mind you, they haven't turned out half-bad. And I am obscenely pleased with my T-shirt sleeves. And my hands! My hands are awesome! :D
rhondacrockett: (jazz paws!)
This Monday, I like... "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" from the soundtrack to Disney's Hercules.

I was skeptical when I heard Disney were going to make a movie about Hercules. How were they going to get around the whole illegitimate-son-of-a-god thing? Or Hera's vendetta? The twelve labours being punishment for Hercules going insane and murdering his first wife and children? The Hydra's poison coming back to bite him on the ass? And the answer was... they were just going to ignore all that and make something up. Also, there are nine Muses - NINE, Disney, not five!

Ok, so the mythology purist in me is not amused. But I (kinda) forgive them because of Megara: a sassy, sharp-witted and conflicted "anti"-heroine with impossible hair, tiny boobs and a tragic history (yay, angst!). Tiny spoiler ) Megara's story is far more interesting than the eponymous hero's: from innocence and self-sacrifice to disappointment, bitterness and cynicism, back through a hesitant emotional and moral reawakening to find love and hope again. And it all gets summed up in this song, one of the cleverest and possibly the most truthful of Disney's love themes. Megara, defensive and prickly, is countered by the Muses, acting as chorus/conscience/gaggle of girl friends, who persistently and kindly persuade her to accept her real feelings - if only to herself. Those last four lines always make me tear up a little. Plus it's a great tune and Susan Egan is an awesome singer; I love the fierce little growl she does when she sings, "Get off my case".

This song, this character saves a movie that would otherwise turn me into a grouchy bore. That's got to be a good thing.
rhondacrockett: (Lookit me)
This Monday, I like... Anastacia by Anastacia

I Like Monday - Anastacia's Anastacia photo Anastacia-album-anastacia_zps5f921f58.jpg
Image taken from the album's Wikipedia entry; album art direction & design by Julian Peploe, photography by Isabel Snyder.

Anastacia Lyn Newkirk has... let's call it a unique voice. It's not to everybody's taste. Heck, it's not even to my taste sometimes, and I like her! I thought that her first two albums were mixed bags: some great songs ("Cowboys and Kisses", "Overdue Goodbye"), some average ("I'm Outta Love", "Don't Stop (Doin' It)"), and some absolutely awful ones ("I Ask Of You", "I Dreamed You"). The awful songs tended to be the romantic ballads. It seemed to me that she was trying to force an emotional impact by exaggerating that rich, thick wobble in her voice even more than usual, and it made me embarrassed on her behalf. So I only played the albums once or twice after buying them, then stuck them in the CD rack and forgot about them.

Anastacia, though, I played regularly for several months before putting it away. It grabbed me from the chunk-a-chunk of electric guitars on the intro of the first track, "Seasons Change", and unlike the up-and-down quality of her previous albums, it stays consistently good. It's an angrier, antsier album than the first two, typified by the tracks "Left Outside Alone" and "Sick And Tired". Anger suits Anastacia's voice: the wobble turns into a growl that seems to come from the pit of her stomach, spewing bile, frustration and fear. While Not That Kind and Freak of Nature are firmly pop records, the music on Anastacia veers into rock territory with electric guitars and thumping drum beats; I much prefer this heavier sound. And the ballads on the album are less over-egged, more genuine-feeling. I can listen to "Heavy On My Heart" and "Maybe Today" without wincing.

My favourite track is "Welcome To My Truth": soaring, anthemic, triumphant. The joyful blast of the chorus's first line ("So somebody bring up the lights, I want you to see") always lifts my mood, and yes, I know it's a pretty standard musical effect of matching tune to lyrics, but I love the way the drums crash in rhythm as she sings, "I've been through it all / I've hit about a million walls". This song makes me want to dance, laugh, grab people by both hands and drag them up on stage with me. It's a glorious antidote to the sadness and suppressed rage of my other favourite track, "Sick And Tired". This latter has probably the best lyrics on the album. I particularly like the line, "So I'm floating / I'm floating on air"; it's a great image of emotional disconnection and sense of abandonment.

I see from the Wikipedia entry that this album was not released in the US. That's a pity. I think Anastacia found her stride with this album, although she herself found it a struggle (she had been diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time). It has an emotional truthfulness that is sometimes missing from her previous work, and it remains one of my favourites.
rhondacrockett: (Weird is rad)
This Monday, I like... ironing.

I Like Monday - ironing photo ironing_zps1e7f2bdb.jpg
Image taken from the Lakeland website.

Confession: I am very lazy when it comes to housework. I only clean up the kitchen and make my bed because this is stuff that has to be done every day or it will be the end of civilisation as we know it. Anything that can be left for a while - laundry, hoovering, dusting, cleaning windows etc. - I am completely blind to. The number of times my mum has grumbled, "Did you not see that X was to do?" - no, Mum, I didn't, I was far too busy reading a book/watching TV/on the internet/indulging the fantasies in my head. I heartily dislike most household tasks too. Dusting? You have to move so many things in order to do it properly, and then you have to put them back again. Cleaning the bathroom? When you rinse out the brush, the cleaner gets washed away before it's done its job. My particular bugbear is hoovering, UGH, I cannot STAND hoovering!!!!

There is one chore, however, that I do enjoy: ironing. Maybe it's the precision of getting the seams lined up and the fabric laid out taut, which appeals to the perfectionist in me. Maybe it's the instantaneous satisfaction of seeing the creases disappear under a cloud of steam. Maybe it's the comforting heat, the soft sound of the steam or the soothing rhythm of pushing the iron back and forth. Maybe it's the knowledge that this is the very last task to be done with these clothes, the end of the laundry sequence. Maybe it's the fact that I can sit down to do it! Whatever the reason, I could spend whole evenings happily ironing away.

And my particular favourite garment of all to iron? Shirts. Yes, shirts. I flatter myself that I'm something of an expert at them and I always save them for the end of any ironing session. To iron a shirt you have to treat it as five different bits: collar, arms, front right panel, front left panel, and back panel. A lot of people find this frustrating but I enjoy the routine of it, and the satisfaction of working around those awkward seams and folds to produce a flawlessly pressed shirt. If anything, I am over-fussy about shirts and will spend a lot of time making sure that I'm happy with the final result.

And lastly, doing the ironing gets me out of doing the hated hoovering. My mum hates ironing but loves hoovering, so she's more than happy to swap chores. The work gets done, neither of us has to do a chore we hate: everybody wins! :DDD
rhondacrockett: (Lookit me)
This Monday, I like... sketching to the MTV Music channels.

I Like Monday - MTV logos 2 photo 8cf0bbf5-50d5-47d3-b82b-478deea0338a_zpsd1a73b7b.png
Edited from an image taken from Logopedia.

When I was an undergrad university student, music channels were often a default choice. As a first year experiencing insomnia, I would sneak down to the Art and Soul Room to watch VH1 until the sun rose, and in third year I spent whole evenings with my friend, Lesley, watching The Box and MTV - that's "MTV" with no other subtitle, back in the days when they still played music videos instead of "staged reality" shows about randy, drunken twentysomethings from Newcastle. But as a postgrad, I drifted away from the music channels; later on, I drifted away from contemporary rock and pop altogether, preferring to listen to Classic FM.

Recently, however, I've been finding my way back into modern music, and that has been partly due to my Sketchy Sundays. I can't watch a traditional TV show and draw at the same time, despite being female and thus an allegedly natural multi-tasker. I could turn the TV off, of course, but I like the chatter and colour of it in the background. The great thing about music videos is that you don't have to watch them, you can just listen. And if I can't think of anything to draw, I might see an image on the screen or pick up the mood of a song, which will inspire that day's picture. My usual ports of call are MTV Rocks and MTV Classic, although I also go to Magic or Kerrang! from time to time, and they have got me out of sketcher's block several times.

So there you go, music channels: recommended viewing for Sunday Sketchers.
rhondacrockett: (Weird is rad)
This Monday, I like... Jeremy Clay's Victorian Strangeness series.

I Like Monday - Victorian strangeness photo _76057311_victorian-mother-and-son_al_zps4944f185.jpg
Image taken from this particular column in the series

They say that the past is a foreign country. Thanks to Jeremy Clay's Victorian Strangeness series at the BBC News Magazine Monitor blog, we can find out exactly how foreign the nineteenth century was. Each Saturday, Mr Clay, the author of The Burgler Caught by a Skeleton, posts a new tale of the outlandish, ghoulish, bizarre and sensational, gleaned from the glut of newspapers and periodicals of the Victorian age. So far, we have met with a lion in the spa town of Llandrindod, monks running a black market trade in clothes stolen from corpses, a wife-beater getting a taste of his own medicine from an all-female mob, and a monkey whose interest in public hangings does not end well.

The nineteenth century is a time period that's close to my heart: old enough to be properly 'historical', modern enough that you can see how it connects with today. These tall-but-true tales are a fascinating and wry glimpse into a time when technology seemed to run amok, eccentrics were ten a penny, and everybody was obsessed with death, particularly violent death. Suddenly, all those ludicrous Victorian potboilers don't seem quite so ludicrous anymore...
rhondacrockett: (The fourth wall... it broked)
In addendum to the previous I Like Monday, this Monday, I like... Yzma's flea speech from Disney's The Emperor's New Groove.

Seriously, the number of times my sisters and I quote this speech at each other - especially "I'LL SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!!!!!!" XDDDDD One of the silliest parts in a very silly movie. Genius, I say!
rhondacrockett: (The fourth wall... it broked)
This Monday, I like... Kronk.

I Like Monday - Kronk photo Kronk_zps89cac0a3.jpg
Image taken from Fanpop - character of Kronk copyright the Walt Disney Company

Oh, Kronk. What would The Emperor's New Groove do without you? You were only meant to be the secondary comic relief but you turned out to be the best damn thing in that movie. You have a shoulder-angel and devil! You do your own theme music! You talk to squirrels! You are AWESOME!

You're also cheekily self-referential. The movie-makers use Kronk at various points to poke fun at their own film. The Emperor's New Groove is something of a mess; my sisters and I always joke that it has no plot whatsoever. Cut for spoilers ) That the character voicing the sly digs at the movie's faults and quirks is also supposed to be the stupidest one in the room, gives those audience members who are more than five years old something to laugh about - and somebody to root for, in a film where the "protagonists" are a self-centred egotist and a rather bland family-man type.

There are inconsistencies in Kronk's characterisation which irritate me Another spoiler ); then again, the whole film is one big inconsistency. But his cheerful silliness, love of cookery and nature, and quotable dialogue make him one of my favourite Disney characters. Long live Kronk!
rhondacrockett: (Weird is rad)
This Monday, I like ... Disney's Lilo & Stitch.

I Like Monday - Disney's Lilo and Stitch photo LiloandStitchmovieposter_zpse5367d8a.jpg
Image taken from Wikipedia - original artist John Alvin, copyright the Walt Disney Company, Wikipedia licencing terms found here

I saw Lilo & Stitch in the cinema by default; basically, there was nothing else on that interested me, and hey, a Disney movie is usually good for a hour-and-a-half's entertainment. I had seen a couple of the teaser trailers that had been running, specifically the ones with Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid, and I thought they were funny, clever and intriguing. The idea of Disney's characters crossing in and out of each other's worlds, messing with each other's stories, appealed to the mega-crossover-fanfic-lover in me. Plus, Beast gets to be all heroic and save Belle from a falling chandelier! :DDDD The character of Stitch as presented in the teasers - curious, clumsy, mischievous and a shameless flirt - was certainly different from your stereotypical Disney protagonist. AND he was an alien! Sci-fi Disney! AWESOME!

Following from the art style of director, creator and voice of Stitch himself, Chris Sanders, the movie has a distinctive look: all soft curving edges and rounded corners. Characters and objects look (for want of a better word) chunky, solidly built, and there is a pleasing range of body types on display here. Nani, Lilo's elder sister, has the best-looking thighs I've ever seen on an animated character; just watch the sequence near the beginning where she runs home after missing Lilo at the dance school. The movie is also full of colour: brilliant greens and blues, oranges and reds. Hawai'i looks beautiful here, a gorgeous tropical paradise.

And next to all that colour and comforting curves, there's the angst. Have I mentioned before how much I love angst? Yes, I'm pretty sure I have. Well, there's a lot of angst here. Spoilers! ) Yes, there's lots of humour, and some eminently quotable silly dialogue ("If I gave Pudge tuna, I'd be an ABOMINATION!!"; "I prefer to be called EVIL GENIUS!!!"). And the final rescue sequence gets a bit soppy. But there is a core of sadness here, of people struggling with loneliness, identity and how to fit in with a society which doesn't understand them.

And oh how I love Lilo! She reminds me a lot of what I was like as a kid. The whole thing with Scrump, the hand-made doll and the bug-eggs in her ears? I would totally have made up that same story! Hey, I used to play a game where the evil Jack-in-the-ball* routinely took all the other toys into slavery! It was awesome! :D

Quirky and damaged characters, lovely animation and a soundtrack full of great Elvis songs - I am glad there was nothing else on at the cinema that evening, or I might have missed out on one of my favourite movies of all time.

* We didn't have a Jack-in-the-box when I was young, we had one in a ball (see the first picture in the second row here)... no wonder I turned out like I did!
rhondacrockett: (Lookit me)
This Monday, I like... the Finvoy Road - specifically this part:

I Like Monday - Finvoy Road photo FinvoyRoad_zpsea452f35.png
Image taken from Google Maps Street View feature - image capture May 2012, Google Maps and Street View copyright Google 2014.

It's just so pretty: the avenue of ash-trees, fields gently spreading out on either side, the long straight road, the gentle dip and rise. I drive this way from time to time due to my work and I always look forward to this particular stretch because it makes me feel good about the world.

...Not a lot more to say, really. :)
rhondacrockett: (Lookit me)
This Monday, I like... Disney's Beauty and the Beast:

I Like Monday - Beauty and the Beast photo beauty-and-the-beast_zps727651bf.jpg
Image taken from College Fashion. Copyright of the Walt Disney Company.

Beauty and the Beast was not a fairy tale I knew in my childhood. I remember vaguely hearing of it - I knew it involved roses somehow - but I don't think I actually read a version until my mid-to-late twenties. So the 1991 Disney classic was my first real exposure to this tale.

I first became aware of it during the televised opening ceremony of what was then Euro Disney, and is now Disneyland Paris. Angela Lansbury stood in front of the Sleeping Beauty castle and sang "Tale As Old As Time", intercut with the ballroom scene from the movie. I was amazed: the Disney princess was a brunette, not the standard-issue blonde! She wore glorious, sunflower yellow, not the expected girly pink! I was sold.

I didn't actually see the movie until my mid-teens. It didn't disappoint. It is funny, exciting, beautiful-looking. The pretty-boy Gaston as the villain chimed with my scorn for the manufactured boyband hunks and big-chinned American heartthrobs with which my peers seemed to be obsessed. The songs are wonderful. And maybe I'm biased by the fact that this movie was the first version of the story that I knew, but I also find the plot a lot stronger than in the original fairy tale. Making Beast a harsh, hot-tempered monster who has to learn how to be "human" makes more sense to me than the perfectly-genteel Beast of the version by Jeanne-Marie Beaumont (the most commonly retold one), or even the sex-obsessed-and-slow-but-otherwise-well-mannered Beast of the even earlier version by Madame Villeneuve.

Then there's the heroine. I identified so hard with Belle as a teen. A brown-haired bookworm, an outsider among her peers, whose interests don't chime with those of the 'normal' girls, a loner growing up on the outskirts of a small country town, a daydreamer who longs for real life to be like the stories she buries herself in - apart from being French and, you know, a fictitious animated character, Belle and I could have been twins. To see her get her "adventure in the great wide somewhere" was very satisfying.

People criticise Disney for their happy endings as inspiring unrealistic expectations or enforcing traditional gender roles blah blah blah. But the relationship between these two oddballs - the grouchy and socially awkward Beast, the lonely dreamer Belle - is wish-fulfillment at its best. I don't expect that the Beast-Prince has entirely lost that temper of his, or that Belle will be a conventional sit-on-the-throne-and-look-pretty queen. And honestly, what's wrong with a happy ending? People do get happy in real life too, you know, it's not always unending misery and unsatisfactory compromises!
rhondacrockett: (The fourth wall... it broked)
Back again! And this Monday, I like... the cartoon art of LetsSaveTheUniverse (otherwise known as Caterina).

No image this week, folks - you can follow the link to the art. And I do recommend it, even if you don't get the references because, frankly, I don't get a lot of them either! This is an insane mixture of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, the BBC's Sherlock AND the Robert Downey Jnr. movies Sherlock Holmes, a little bit of Supernatural, and something called Cabin Pressure, which I have never heard of before...

Parts of it are original cartoons, parts of it are cartoons made by taking a piece of dialogue from one show and putting it in the mouths of characters from another. The latter can be confusing if you don't know where the dialogue or the characters came from, but the confusion is part of the charm. And they are incredibly charming, with their simple bold outlines, tiny black-button eyes and U-shaped smiles. The style reminds me of Dick Bruna and Miffy the Rabbit; there is a child-like sweetness here even when mentioning frisky women and spying on high-functioning sociopaths who refuse to wear trousers.

And oh, they make me laugh! Ok, many of the jokes sail over my head - particularly the Cabin Pressure ones - but it's all so silly, I grin like a fool. My two favourites are the High-functioning Patronus (you'll have to click on it to read it) and the Bubble Pipe (particularly when you add in the bit of dialogue she's written below). (Interesting that both feature Benedict Cumberbatch's version of Sherlock Holmes, when I've never watched that show...)

So when I need a little sweet-and-silly cuteness involving multi-crossover fandoms, I take a look to see what new stuff LSTU might have put up, because even when I don't get it, it gives me a smile. :)
rhondacrockett: (Nature is beautiful)
This Monday, I like... Edouard Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, the 5th movement:

Audio recording uploaded to YouTube here by UltimateViolin - this performance by Leonid Kogan (violinist), Kirill Kondrashin (conductor) and the London Philharmonia Orchestra, February 1959.

Otherwise known (to me, at least) as "The Happy Secretary Song", because the little 'ting!' at the end of each phrase reminds me of the bell of an old-fashioned typewriter when it reaches the end of a line. This typing pool sounds like the most upbeat in the world: slamming filing cabinets (pretty much every loud bang), scribbling signatures (at 2:19-2:32 and 5:51-6:03), spinning rollodexes (the plucking bit at 6:46-6:49), and speed-chugging coffee with glee. Even when the boss shows up at 3:00, he doesn't spoil things. He reminds me of Young Mr Grace from Are You Being Served? - not because he's old and decrepit (although he does move around very sedately), but he has that same cluelessly benevolent attitude - I can hear him saying, "You've all done very well," while benignly waving one hand in the same way the Queen does. And when he leaves, the gossip about him and the most senior personal secretary is enthusiastic but good-hearted (4:45 to 5:00).

I'd like to work there. People don't walk around the office; they skip, pirouette. Toes tap under the desks. The mailboy literally makes a song-and-dance out of distributing the post (6:56 to 7:05 - those bangs are files landing in in-trays). And always we come back to the Happy Secretary herself (first heard at 0:32), merrily typing away and smacking the return bar across with a satisfying clunk-ding!


I have heard this movement a number of times on Classic FM but always missed the title and name of the composer. So I sent a query at their playlist FAQ page, telling them about the typewriter bell thing blah blah and that I thought it had 'Espagnol' in the title. And they got it!! I couldn't believe it, they actually successfully ID'ed the piece from my crappy little written description!!! :DDDD I flatter myself that the Classic FM people now all know the Symphonie Espagnole as "The Happy Secretary" too. XD

The first, second, third and fourth movements of this performance can be found at the clicky-links if you want to hear the whole piece. None of them feature any more secretaries, though. :6
rhondacrockett: (Nature is beautiful)
Ok, this will be the last nature-based one for a while. This Monday, I like... ash trees.

I Like Monday - ash tree 1 photo ash_tree_500x350-500x312_zpse037f9f4.jpgI Like Monday - ash tree 2 photo B7200193-Ash_tree_branches_Fraxinus_excelsior_-SPL_zpsab1423a6.jpg
Left hand image taken from Challice Consulting - copyright unknown; right hand image taken from Science Photo Library - copyright Bob Gibbons/Science Photo Library.

Again, like hawthorn, this is a case of familiarity breeding appreciation; there are a lot of ash trees around my family's farm, growing in the hedgerows. They're tall and slim, with trunks as grey as stones. I still find that bizarre - shouldn't tree trunks be brown, not grey? While I was growing up, part of our boundary ditch was lined by about eight or nine ash trees, interspersed amongst the hawthorn. I could hear the water in the ditch chattering away as it flowed over stones, an irresistable sound to a child. As I tried to find a hole through the hedge where I could glimpse the miniature rapids below, the ashes were a safe and non-thorny support to lean against. I will always associate them with the sound of running water, with things hidden and half-seen. (Dad recently cut that hedge back completely, partly to get rid of dead wood, partly so he could clean the ditch out. The water is now fully visible from the bank - and somehow, it doesn't sound half so pretty or intriguing or noisy as it did when it was behind those ash trees *sadface*.)

They have beautiful leaves, simple, elegant. Ask a child to draw a leaf, they'll draw something similar to an ash leaf: a long, smooth-edged oval, pointed at both ends with a line up the middle and veins branching off in chevrons. It's like having defied convention with their stone-grey trunks, they decided to produce the most archetypal leaf ever! Arranged in neat rows of pairs, one on the left, one on the right, they look like outstretched arms, with a single one at the top for the head. I also like their colour; I prefer light, fresh greens that glow a little yellow in the sun. And then there are those sooty-black buds. I had understood that the reason for the name "ash" was because the buds made it look like someone had tried to singe the tree, but Wikipedia says no, the name actually derives from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "spear"... I prefer my explanation. There's something cheering about a tree which looks burnt and damaged but is actually thriving.

Ashes are my favourite trees. I only hope that the ones Dad cut back will grow up again and make that ditch something secret and magical again...
rhondacrockett: (batmint - dava)
In other news, my Karen Hallion T-shirts landed yesterday and they are awesome and look so good and I am very happy and I really must get a digital camera that works and doesn't eat batteries like they're Jelly Tots so I can show how cool they look :DDD
rhondacrockett: (blood & claws)

Sketchy Sunday - flattened 50% photo SketchySunday18-50percent_zps045a8c34.jpg

Sketchy Sunday - folded 50% photo SketchySunday18folded-50percent_zps4fcb5fab.jpg

In the top image, the pages are folded out flat, which is great for getting the whole picture without weird, out-of-line-with-each-other shadows but it puts a blank space through the middle of Mr Pinstripes's head. Then in the bottom one, the pages are slightly squashed together, which gets rid of the blank space but adds those aforementioned shadows. These images were re-sized to 50% of the original but I've also kept the 100% ones, which can be seen here for the flat version and here for the folded version.

(I will assume that everybody knows how to blow up images in Photobucket to their original size.)

THIS WAS SO INCREDIBLY COMPLICATED AND INVOLVED SO MUCH RUBBING OUT AND REMOVING SMUDGES AND CRAP ARRRGGGH!!! Mr Pinstripes's hands are very clumsy, particularly the one draped over his lap. Could not get that thumb right to save my life... And his nose is huge and awkward... and somehow suits him. Gah! I am very pleased with the way his hair and clothing turned out, though. Apart from the shoes; I hate shoes.

Sketchy Sunday 18 - Mr Pinstripes 70% photo SketchySunday18man-70percent_zps1e49f8fb.jpg

(This image is re-sized to 70% of the original - the 100% version is here.)

And I have to give you a close-up of the rubble pile, because it took me forever and damnitall, people had better appreciate it!!!!

Sketchy Sunday 18 - Rubble 70% photo SketchySunday18rubble-70percent_zpsb52512e8.jpg

(Again, this is a re-size; the 100% version is here.)
rhondacrockett: (Lookit me)
More nature! This Monday, I like... hawthorn.

I Like Monday - hawthorn blossom photo 5685338130_ec007df2b9_z_zpsb5b757fd.jpg
Image taken from Stephen Buchan's Flickr feed. Photograph is copyright Stephen Buchan.

And a good job too, because there is a lot of it in Northern Ireland! Practically every hedge around every field is made up of hawthorn. I'm told that the trees live for ten years but I'm sceptical; I'm over 30 and don't remember dad having to replant any of our hedges in that time - and they were well-established before I was born. Of course, it is possible that the hawthorn replaced itself with offshoots or germinated seeds, and in the muddle of brambles and ivy, I couldn't tell the difference between the old and the new.

This particular spring I am loving watching the hedgerows turn bright yellow-green with new leaves or white with blossom. Winter is over, the world is gearing up for summer, the birds are chittering all around. It's a good time to be alive and be out in the country, and the hawthorn is an important part of that. Why else is it that we have a veritable plague of house-sparrows around home when the TV tells us they're in decline in the UK? Could it be *gasp* because of all those hawthorn hedges, with their long, untidy shoots, close-packed mesh of thorns and branches, and that super-abundance of red fruit in autumn?

Yes, spring and autumn - those two threshold seasons, with one foot in the hot, one foot in the cold and both feet in the wet - that's when the hawthorn is at its best. Spring, because of that gorgeous shining green I mentioned earlier, and the bright white flowers with a splay of pink-tipped stamens inside (see the second image here), which from a little distance makes them look like they've got freckles. And autumn because of those berries. In fact, you say the word "autumn", I immediately think of haws (as they're most often known locally). As a child, asked to bring in autumn leaves etc. for a school nature project, haws made the majority of my haul. I remember being disappointed at the time; I would have liked to get more rosehips lol. They say that familiarity breeds contempt but in the case of hawthorn, it's bred appreciation.
rhondacrockett: (Lookit me)

I am FINALLY getting Karen Hallion's Belle and the TARDIS on a T-shirt which is NOT that hideous green which is the only colour it was available in up until now!!!! (I went with the charcoal.) IT IS SO STUPID THE LEVEL OF EXCITED I AM ABOUT A FRICKING T-SHIRT EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

I also got the Cinderella one in navy because it just looked so good! But Belle's the one I've really been after. She and Mary Poppins are my two favourites of Ms Hallion's Disney/Doctor mash-ups, and I got the Mary Poppins one about a month ago through another site. My collection is now complete *happy sigh*
rhondacrockett: (scribble scribble)
Ok, I may be slightly obsessed with flowers at the moment. I blame all the wonderful spring sunshine we've been having lately. Anyway, this Monday, I like... gorse.

I Like Monday - whin blossom photo 640px-Gorse-Ulex_europaeus_zpsbea60b6f.jpg
Image taken from Wikipedia. Photograph is copyright Andy Rogers

Although I know it better by the local name of "whin", so that's the term I'll use for the rest of this post. I prefer "whin" anyway; it sounds... well, windy and airy and fairy-like, where "gorse" sounds drab and harsh and earthbound.

Actually, both names suit it rather well. Whin grows on land that is otherwise pretty bleak: bog and rock and moor and peat moss, the kind of place where the predominant colours are shades of brown muddied with grey-green, and the soil is poor. Its leaves are replaced almost entirely by wicked green thorns, long and straight like needles. Exposed to the worst the weather can throw at it, it has remarkable resilience. For instance, there was a great hedge of whin growing along the upper end of our road. Then about five years ago, we had an extremely bad winter: snow, ice, the works. It looked like the whin had been killed completely. A few scattered skeletons of bushes remained but there wasn't a hint of green. And yet... those skeletons didn't break or rot away. They stayed. Two years later, some of them started to look green again. Two years after that, new bushes had grown. This year, all the bushes are out in bloom and it looks like we're getting our hedge back.

So yeah, it's tough and it's windswept and it looks awesome covered in cobwebs. But let's talk about the flowers because they're my favourite part. It's not just their colour - that gorgeous rich yellow - or their shape - those pert little capsules like ladies' bonnets. It's their smell. Whin smells liks coconut. Really, really like coconut. Before that bad winter I talked about earlier, I loved being along the upper end of our road when the whin was in bloom because the perfume was so strong. It was like walking into a tropical paradise - apart from the fact that I was surrounded by rush-encrusted fields and scrubby brambles, not white sand beaches and palm trees.

I would later come across an interesting twist on this in The Mermaid's Child by Jo Baker, where the protagonist encounters the scent of whin first and only years later smells a coconut, stating, "Coconuts, to me, will always smell of gorse." It startled me to realise that I really ought to think that way too, but don't... So now when I breathe in that dry, soft, sweet scent, it kinda twists my thinking upside-down, makes me consider all the knowledge and experiences I have just because I happen to live at the right time in the right place.

Whin is a golden blaze of defiant sweetness in places where sweetness is the last thing you expect to find. Maybe in two more years' time, I can walk up the road and plunge into the full coconut experience again. I live in hope :)
rhondacrockett: (Nature is beautiful)
Because I'm seeing it everywhere I go at the minute, this Monday, I like... cherry blossom.

I Like Monday - cherry blossom photo 640px-Cherry_blossoms_in_Vancouver_3_crop_zpse8d48687.jpg
Image taken from Wikipedia. Photograph is copyright Eviatar Bach.

Which is odd because I'm not a fan of pink flowers generally. I find them too obviously "pretty", too simperingly girly, and as a not-really-very-girly female, I have a kneejerk reaction against them. But cherry blossom is such a sweet, delicate, barely-there pink - the merest blush of colour - and it comes out in such a mass that it overwhelms my usual crusty suspiciousness. When I see a cherry tree in bloom, it always makes me smile.

Of course, cherry blossom may also appeal to me because in amongst the pink are streaks of maroon and carmine on the blossom stalks and sepals, and as I have mentioned previously, red is one of my favourite colours. Now when I picture it in my head, the brownish reds of the stems and candy-like tones of the flowers ought to clash horribly. But somehow in real life, it works, creating lovely, soft red shadows which glow underneath the blossoms.

A world with cherry blossom in it is fresh, charming, kind and a little daydreamy, with spring breezes which scatter petals like rain and turn lawns into pools of baby pink. Below are some links, mostly to Pinterest pages, with more pictures of cherry blossom. Go take a wander around and just enjoy the pretty :)

Link one
Link two
Link three
Link four
Link five
Link six (I particularly like the one with the squirrel)
Link seven

And to finish, a cherry blossom-based quiz yoinked from [livejournal.com profile] jellostar. (I don't think this sounds a bit like me, though, except for the last two sentences):

You Are Logical

You are a very rational and cool-headed person. People are often surprised by your reaction to the world.

You are a big fan of order, and no one organizes chaos better than you do. You know how to make sense of madness.

Although you are quite unemotional, you are a very happy and content person. You know how to neutralize strong feelings.

You are both creative and a perfectionist. You get great satisfaction out of a job done right.

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