"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Making Tracks

At the Lodge, the suet feeder so popular with downy and hairy woodpeckers, blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches, and even orioles, is often raided during the night by a mystery creature. The creature eats up all the suet. It isn't the bear, who demolishes the feeder. I've taken to calling it "The Creature With Hands"--the same name my mother uses for a similar night-time visitor at her house.

Recently, The Creature With Hands left some identifying evidence in the form of prints--hand prints and footprints.

It's a raccoon. Considering that the Lodge is situated beside a stream and across from a lake, we are amazed that we've never seen a single 'coon on the property--or any evidence of one--in the 16 years of our occupation.

Now we bring the suet feeder in at night, to deter the raccoon and the bear.

No sign of raccoons here at the Big Lake, only because we no longer feed any birds but hummingbirds. But we've definitely seen them--in fact, we used to feed them. Years ago we had one we called George Bush, because he disliked broccoli. And after a lobster feast, we would chum the 'coons by tossing the shells outside. Then we'd turn out the lights and wait for them to come finish off the remains of the lobster. And I would take photographs. I have many pictures of diners startled by the camera flash.

It's such a cool morning, the mercury hasn't yet hit 70 and I'm not sure it will. Breezy and choppy. Great weather for walking...not so much for swimming.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Going Coastal

I covered a lot of ground yesterday...

We all woke up at the lake cottage. The Chap went to church. The dogs and I met him back at the Lodge. After supper we drove to Hampton Beach.

Most people associate the NH seacoast of NH with recreation. I mostly associate it with family history. My ancestor Thomas Chase settled Hampton around 1639. I'm not sure how much time he spent hanging out on the beach--he was a mariner, he kept livestock and farmed, he would've fished the river. If he came back today, he'd find the beach very different from the way it looked in his day!

As it was a Sunday afternoon in the summer, The boardwalk was very busy. We went to an ice cream emporium for dessert. The Chap had a soft serve, and I tried something called "Lobster Tracks." Those hard candy bits look like lobster shells, don't they? Clever!

We'd travelled to this part of the coast (almost an hour's drive from the Lodge) to attend this concert.

Boz was in great form for the sell-out crowd. He played some blues standards from the Great American Song Book, but mostly performed his own tunes. The Chap had seem in perform once before, I never had. It wasn an early birthday celebration.

My favourite moment came when he Boz introduced a song and his inspiration for writing it...and then--and then!--he name-checked my own home town. Yay, Boz! (My best friend used to hang out with him back in those early days of his career, so I've known about Boz since before Boz got famous.)

He saved his most popular songs for the encore.

As I was headed for the exit, Boz was doing a runner for his tour bus. He passed next to me, so I thanked him for mentioning my hometown.

We drove home through the fog...it was so late, all the weekend traffic was gone.

I was briefly in Concord this morning and have returned with the dogs to the cottage. It seems like years since we were here...but it was only yesterday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The View from on High

I was in the Capitol City most of yesterday, for a legislative leadership meeting as well as another special legislative tour of the State House. I've taken--and given--lots of tours there...and this one was truly special because the Visitor Center director (a constituent of mine) offered to take us up to the Dome...which is restricted. I've been up there once and ever since have longed to return.

I was dropping off some stuff at the House Clerk's Office when I spied pigeons roosting in this niche.

At 1.30 the group of representatives taking the tour assembled in the Hall of Flags. Here is a shot of the stained glass panel (the NH State Seal) over the front portal. It's backwards because it's meant to be viewed from the outside but I liked the way the light was striking it.

We spent a few minutes in Representatives Hall--with which we are so familiar--and then went into the Senate Chamber. This is the John Stark mural, showing him heading off to war. He's the gentleman who provided us with our famous (or infamous) state motto, "Live Free or Die!"

At one time the state Supreme Court met in this chamber, so the decorative motif incorporates the scales of justice.

We then took the secret, scary staircase from the 3rd floor to the rooftop. It was a great day for viewing the green hills surrounding Concord.

Posing with the Dome. It was very windy and my little skirt was flying up like Marilyn Monroe's in The Seven Year Itch when she stands over the subway vent. My colleagues were very amused as I tried to keep from flashing all of downtown Concord!

Looking down on State House Plaza and Main Street from the roof. (This is what the pigeons see!)

Main Street wtih the Merrimack River beyond.

Another narrow, twisty metal staircase leads up into the Dome, added to the structure in the 1860's.

The wooden roof overhead. There's a little staircase leading higher, to the cupola atop the Dome. That part is really, really restricted!

It was a hot and humid day, and the Dome was very oppresive--but oh, the views!

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, next to the State House, from the Dome.

I nipped out of the leadership meeting to meet my FFTNC at the jewellers--she was picking up her engagement ring and the wedding rings, which are gorgeous and perfect. I had a brief consultation with the designer who had design drawings for my diamond earrings and I made my selection. Trotted back to the State House complex for a Chairs & Vice Chairs party at the Upham-Walker House, and received a lovely gift.

The pen-and-ink drawing of the Dome with lilacs is the work of a Majority Office staffer. It is a particularly meaningful memento because I was inside that Dome the same day I received this lovely representation of it.

The FFTNC and I had supper at House of India and returned to the Lodge for her last sleepover night. She was bunking here while attending a 3-day grant-writing workshop
about 45 minutes from here.

I survived a couple of days without eating local fresh strawberries but I acquired more yesterday. Our NH soft fruit growers are having a very, very good year.

In closing, let me extend an invitation...if you happen to be passing through Concord and want a personal tour of the State House, let me know--unfortunately, I won't be able to take you up to the Dome.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Stroll: Day of Dads

Strolling through the memories today, making new ones.

He still makes me laugh.

Whether I was on my horse or anywhere else, his guidance has been constant.

Thanks, Dad, for being an example of integrity, honour, devotion, love, and support.

The girls and I have been at the cottage since Thursday. They were overjoyed that their dad joined us for the afternoon.

We're having a cookout, and I need to go and make a salad to go with the burgers.

To keep strolling, stop by Aisling's blog.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Surprise

On Wednesday I joined the Fish & Game Commissioners, the Fish & Game Department, the NH House Fish & Game & Marine Resources Committee, former committee members, and others in recognising the contributions and achievements of our present committee chair (served 14 years in the House) and our ranking member and former chair (served 20 years in the House.) Both are retiring from politics and it's a real loss. They are truly good guys, dedicated public servants, admirably bi-partisan, and just generally fun to be around. They each made my experience as a committee member and as committee Vice Chair memorable and enjoyable.

The Vice Chair got a surprise...soon as I went up to the podium, before I had a chance to begin my remarks about the Chairman and present his gift from the committee, I was given one of my own.

It's a facsimile of state Fish & Game laws dating from the late 19th century. Am very excited.

Our two honorees received all kinds of loot, framed proclamations and clothing and more. It was a bittersweet occasion, but a really good going-away party.

When I was elected to the House, I got a pair of very nice pearl drop earrings and wore them a lot while legislating--and doing other things. On leaving the House, I have this treasured copy of the game laws as well as a (real) gold and diamond watch. A pair of diamond drop earrings has been commissioned (a re-creation using my studs and some loose diamonds and assorted old scrap gold) and is being designed at this moment. Actually that was coincidental, I'd have got them anyway. But it's a a neat closure to mark the end of my term/s in the House as I began it, with new dandly baubles!

The cool air of recent days has been replaced by the heat of a blast furnace. Walter is still down at the dock. I might have to purchase more worms!

Must run...the footie is on, Algeria v. England. If you can't work out which team I'm cheering on, you don't know me very well!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Floral Offering

Until I get photos from/of the event I participated in yesterday (for once, I was not the official photographer, I can only offer up some garden images.

I used to dream of having this many foxgloves. They self-sow with abandon and now that they've filled up the allotted space I transfer seedlings to other gardens where there's more room.

The Medieval gallica, Rosamundi, doing her thing.

And the Renaissance queen, Maiden's Blush.

A nice bouquet.

I continue to move from place to place, Lodge to Lake, from flowers to feeding a fish. Not a bad existence.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Blogger's Return

When it comes to blogging I've been a slacker--a week and a day of inactivity--because in my off-line life I've been anything but a slacker.

I spent all of Tuesday and Wednesday of last week here.

On Tuesday we had our last legislative Chairs & Vice Chairs meeting of the session--or technically, the first and only meeting of the "special session," scheduled for the following day. Afterwards I went home to the Lodge to do some prep work for a Diocesan Council retreat, then I returned to the Capitol for a caucus on the budget balancing bill to be voted on Wednesday. Followed by dinner with a friend at Margarita's in the old city jail, followed by a diocesan convocation meeting.

Bright and early Wednesday I was back in Concord for the special session. We were told to prepare for a long day, which indeed it was.

The first vote, on Rules for the special session, came a half-hour after the preliminaries, at 10.30 a.m.

There were numerous amendments--14 had been prepared by the start of the session, but I believe we debated 9 of them before passing the budget balancing bill. We then had another crack at a gambling bill.

The last vote of the day, at approximately 6.30 p.m...

...followed by several valedictory addresses from parting House veterans, some of whom had held their seats for years, and even decades.

Unless we are required to go back--we adjourned to the call of the chair which I do not expect to receive--the photo above represents my final vote as a state representative, at least for the time being. Candidacy filing period opened and closed without my trekking to the Town Clerk's office with my traditional 8 quarters from my piggy bank. (The filing fee is $2, I always pay it in coins.) I hold my office and my vice chairmanship until after the election in November but apart from any necessary constituent service there's not much to do. The Governor promptly signed the budget bill, so that long battle is over.

The reasons for my decision not to seek re-election after two terms, and despite being unexpectedly elevated to a leadership position, are numerous. I was urged to reconsider many times and by various people, several of my constituents among them. Someday I'd like to run again...it was a great honour and a privilege to serve my district, it was challenging and interesting and often quite fun and I learned so much and met so many people whose dedication and expertise won my respect. I made a lot of friends and I shall keep in touch with them.

But at this specific time there was only one possible decision. I suppose in some ways it was a difficult one--in that I hate disappointing others. In other, more personal ways it was actually quite simple and easy. The week was so busy that I honestly had no time for second thoughts.

I made no public valedictory address. I bade my seat mate a fond farewell...she and I had a fantastic and often hilarious time these 2 years of my 2nd term, and were completely simpatico.

On Thursday morning I finished up the plans for the Council retreat, had my mandolin lesson, and convened the Council retreat from 4 to 8 p.m. We had pizza, and my FFTNC and I ordered a small one just for us, with spinach, anchovies, and tomatoes. It was lovely!

She spent the night at the Lodge and on Friday morning dropped me at the Mercedes dealership in Manchester so my car could be serviced. The rest of the day I enjoyed being her Best Woman during consultation for wedding dress alterations and trying on the almost-finished engagement ring at the jeweller's. We then had lunch at La Carreta (yes, it was a big week for Mexican cuisine!) and I picked up my car. Stopped briefly at the Lodge to get the girls and headed for the lake cottage.

The Chap arrived on Saturday, and we spend the day setting up for our parish dinner party on Sunday. (I know, I know...such a busy week!) We watched Crazy Heart and during intermission I noticed that the big white boat was gliding down the Bay on an evening cruise--either a dinner cruise or a wedding cruise.

The new engines are so quiet we don't get much warning that she's in the neighbourhood!

Sunday dawned a bit damp but we hoped for better things by the time of our party. The Chap took the dogs back to the Lodge and went to church, then back to the Lodge to give them a big lunch, then back to the lake. Our FFTNC arrived in the afternoon, but by then we'd done all the prep we could do. Another friend--the canon with whom I'd gone to Margarita's on Tues.--also arrived early to help but instead we relaxed on the porch and chatted and enjoyed beer, hard cider or wine, depending upon preference.

The weather was slightly overcast with hints of brightness by then. The first guest, who happens to live nearest, arrived at 4:30, and from that point it was a steady stream of people until all 17 were present.

We had a celebrity sighting--my pet fish Walter. He'd been away for a few days and I thought the small fry on the surface of the water belonged to him. Now I'm not so sure, because he seems to be vigilantly guarding his nest. I had a few worms left, so we put on a fish-feeding show which was very well received.

The appetisers were outstanding.

Here's one of them, the bruschetta.

The other dishes were equally awesome. One of the salads--a work of art!

The Chap handled the grilling duties with great aplomb, and the bratwurst and hamburgers were efficiently cooked and served and the plates loaded with side dishes and the diners seated at the dining room table and at other tables on the porch. Each one had a flower arrangement from the Lodge gardens.

For dessert we had an Italian Love Cake (scrumptious) and an ice cream bar with home-made toffee.

(I got to keep the leftovers...dangerous temptation!)

Everyone seemed to be well-fed and well-entertained. There was constant conversation and even occasional bursts of song and a lot of laughter. At dusk, which comes late these days, people began to depart for their homeward journeys.

The Chap and our FFTNC and I settled down on the porch to admire a long and lovely sunset. (Yes, the sun did show up, somewhat later than we'd hoped!) Then the Chap left for the Lodge, where I'm sure Ruth and Jewel were eagerly waiting.

This morning FFTNC and I had no sooner finished breakfast than we headed for the little market nearby to stock up on worms for Walter. She fed him a hearty brunch. While sitting on the dock we watched 3 male mallards messing about with a female. I'm not sure she appreciated their attentions but presumably she'll settle down with one of them. Perhaps this handsome lad.

I'm here for another couple of days--taking it as easy as possible with pleasure reading, knitting, sleeping late, playing my mandolin. I think I've earned a break. It feels as if last night's party was the premiere event of summer...no more legislating, hardly any diocesan stuff, plenty of girl time with my FFTNC (and any other girlfriend who might choose to stop in, HINT HINT you know who you are!), 3-day weekends with the Chap, who's now on his summer work schedule.

Oh, and some writing. That's right--I should be writing that new, next novel.

Because of this epic posting you now know far more than you ever cared to about what's kept me away. I can't imagine there'll be another long hiatus. I'll have loads of time for blogging...not at all sure I'll have anything interesting to blog about, except for Walter reports and duck and boat traffic, and descriptions of How My Garden Grows.

PS: A later addendum. I dare not reveal for which team I cheered during Saturday's England v. US football match. Either way, I would displease near and far-flung friends, relatives, spouse (well, actually he knew, he heard me...I must swear him to silence!) I'll only say I'd have preferred a more definitive score. I think it's hilarious, though perhaps rather useful, that my favourite online purveyor of mandolin strings is offering a "FIFA World Cup" discount on purchases. The championship runs for a month...the sale is only "a few days." What's up with that??

Monday, June 07, 2010

Tiny Dancers & Watchful Dogs

A very active weather weekend, lots of thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, tornado watches that (in our area) expired without incident.

Yesterday two young friends of mine were performing in their dance academy's annual show/recital. It was, I think, my 3rd year attending, so I've been able to track their improvement in skill and artistry. The pupils cover a vast age range, from toddlers to teenagers, and my girls are somewhere between.

A tap class.


Turning to my friends' dad, I whispered that I desperately wanted my own pair of green butterfly wings.

The baby ballerina class. The concentration level--and the entertainment value--was very high. This group garnered the most applause of the day!

An intermediate class.

From the recital I returned to the Lodge, through some of the fiercest rainfall of the day (like driving in a car wash!) It subsided long enough for the dogs and me to have a safe and non-rainy drive up to the lake cottage for an overnight. The rains gave way to high winds, which raged in our Bay all night long but by morning they were gone.

Also gone is my fish Walter. The eggs have hatched, and tiny little baby fishies can been seen--very small fry indeed. Their proud papa has headed into deeper waters, I suppose. I tossed a couple of worms, just in case he's in the neighbourhood, but didn't get a rise.

I'm enjoying a pleasant, cool day--it's only in the 60's--while I tick a few project deadlines off my list. Later I'll head back to the Lodge, refreshed for what what is supposed to be the last week of legislating on the budget.

Jewel and Ruth are watching, in case the pirates--or sea monsters--attack.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sunday Stroll: Garden in Bloom

Let's begin with roses, shall we?

Shailer's Provence dates from the 1790's. My fabled specimens are among the most towering of my rose bushes, in contradiction to their origins--a slip of a cutting from my mother's garden a dozen or so years ago. From small things come great ones.

I made a terrible error the other day in my identification of Antique 89. Noticing the intensely rugose foliage, to my embarassment I realised that in fact it was Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, a rugosa hybrid I've tried growing for more than a decade in various locations without ever once getting a blossom. This is the 2nd blossom from so far.

I can't now recall if I've got Antique 89 in the garden at the moment...my attempts with it have been similarly unsuccessful but I live with eternal hope.

Here's yet another rugosa hybrid previously featured, the effervescent Therese Bugnet.

And a single-petaled white rugosa.

Followed by a many-petalled rugosa hybrid, Snowdon. (Looking a bit the worse for rain, we had thunderstorms all weekend.)

Eglantyne, a David Austin creation. This is a new plant, I already grow her but decided I wanted another.

Honeysuckle (lonicera) rambling over the top of the garden arch.

Cranesbill geranium (geranium.)

My white foxglove (digitalis)is beating the pink ones to the post this year.

Spotting the pink lupine (lupinus) lurking behind the foxglove, I decided to photograph other spiky, pinky things...

Finged bleeding heart (dicentra.)

Perennial sweetpea (lathyrus latifolius.)

Coral bells (heuchera.)

Yes, sadly I'm the sort of garden nerd who knows her Latin names without even looking them up.

I was accompanied by some four-footed strollers.

The chipmink thinks that partially hiding behind a rock makes him invisible.

The painted turtle had just finished nest-making and egg-laying somewhere near the front rose garden. She was headed back to the little lake when I noticed her in the drive and moved her across the road closer to her destination...so she wouldn't have to go out into the weekend "traffic".

Whether you're swift as the chipmunk or slow as the turtle, I hope your strolls take you pleasant places today. To continue garden viewing, stop by Aisling's blog.