In Celtic myth, water was the way to the Otherworld . . .

Bridge over Wensum at Norwich

A ‘reflection’ of the Otherworld? Or the bridge that takes us there? Photo taken 20 June 2017, bridge over Wensum on outskirts of Norwich

We need only think of the Lady of the Lake, or the many offerings found in the Thames . . . swords, skulls and shields, for the way to the Otherworld was also said to be a slender bridge made by a sword.

I wasn’t thinking of any of that when I took this photo, only  how perfectly that bridge was reflected in the water.

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The Stinging Nettle

In answer to why is the Dead Nettle called ‘Dead’: because unlike the Stinging Nettle, it doesn’t sting . . . and here’s a photo of the stinging variety. Entirely different flowers.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle . . . . definitely not Dead! Photo taken, Tasburgh 31st May 2017


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Painterly Poppies

I spied these poppies, a red island in a sea of ripening grain. Must snap, I thought; must have. But they were beyond the range of my kit lens. And so . . . a ‘painterly picture’

Painterly Poppies

Poppies, alone in a sea of ripening grain. Photo: 20 June 2017 borders of Costessey and Drayton

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Moody Old Cow

I always thought ‘Moody Old Cow’ was something a chap might say to his missus after long years of marriage. Until I met with these ladies, recently, while out walking . . . .

Cows on Shotesham Common

Cows grazing Shotesham Common (and, no, that cow in the middle has not got 6 legs. Look closer; there’s another cow, same colour, standing behind her!)

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Bigod’s House

Ep12_Bigods_HouseContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

When next my friendly psychiatrist Madeleine called she found me plumped into the day-room. I hadn’t much choice, craving, as I did, a different room with a different view. That view was a wide expanse of neatly mown lawn, more frightening than inviting. Though not everyone thought so. Many of the patients were out there in the sun, sitting on brightly striped collapsible deckchairs else ambling around, all incongruously dressed in pyjamas or dressing-gowns. Where were their clothes? Where were mine?

“What’s happened to my parents?” I asked before Madeleine had so much as sat down on the vinyl upholstered [un]easy chair. “Why don’t they visit?”

I had asked the nurses if I’d been I asleep when they’d called—like, every time? Not a sign of them. Had they abandoned me; washed their hands of me? Was I that much of a disappointment to them?

“I would say your father is somewhat burying his head under his arm,” Madeleine ventured, wafting whiffs of dislike. “But at least he’s paying for this facility—you’re not in a NHS-bed. Neither, I must tell you, am I officially your doctor. Just a friend as far as any might know.”

All that was too much for me to take in, to process and to apply. I said nothing. Let it mull for a while.

“You asked me to find you some information,” she said.

“Ah! I’d forgotten. Arvina’s father. What did you find?”

She pulled from her briefcase an A4 envelope common old manilla: no expense spared (lol). She cleared space between my (faded orange plastic) beaker of water and another left there probably by a previous patient, and set the envelop down.

“Downloaded,” she said. “Full print-out. As much as I could find without venturing into more academic sites. And this.” She topped the envelop with two books.

I scarcely could control the grin that spread my face. By the looks of it, at least with one of them, she had struck gold. True, the top book, the smaller of the two, was only a basic handbook on reading the runes, and that using the Younger Futhark. But that other . . .

Awesome! A veritable tome and a half. Runes, Their History and Uses: An essential guide for the serious runester travelling towards self-actualization. My hands itched to open it. But . . . the envelop first. Only Madeleine wouldn’t allow it. She laid her hand over mine.

“We need to talk,” she said. “Arwen-Arvina, but she’s not an alter, you say? Care to explain?”

I closed my eyes, the better to think. It wasn’t that I’d given it no thought before. Of course I had—almost my every waking thought.

“She’s a ghost.” I couldn’t see how she could be anything other. “An ancestress—or more likely kin to an ancestor. I think she was killed while young—my age.”

I half-expected Madeleine to pooh-pooh my theory. Or at least to ask questions. But she didn’t. She sat in silence and listened, not even moving enough to squeak the plastic-coated institutional-style chair.

“My earliest dreams are of her death,” I said. “Beheaded, decapitated. And I’m pretty sure it was Guillan who did it. Guillan,” I repeated his name. “Not Gillan as my mother heard it. I can even tell you who this Guillan was. Son and heir of the sheriff of Norfolk. But I don’t yet know why he did it. Only something about a rune-master. Arvina has been telling me her story. That’s why I’ve been sleeping so much: it’s the only time she can get into my head.”

“William,” Madeleine said having shivered when I mentioned his involvement. “Son of Sheriff Roger Bigod. He died in 1120 in the White Ship Disaster, along with William Adelin, heir to the first King Henry. It was that which sparked the battles between Stephan and his cousin Matilda, for the throne.”

I looked at her through narrowed eyes. “But you’re Spanish; how do you know so much of our history?” Could I, I wondered, like Arvina and her mother, take the answer straight from her head? Or did I only hear what was leaked? Apparently, only the latter.

“My mother was Spanish,” she said, supplementing what little I’d managed to pick up from her thoughts. “And I grew up in Spain, but only until I was ten. Then my father brought us to England. So most of my schooling was here. But that’s not why I know of your Guillan. I went to a boarding school where the dorm-houses were named for local historical characters. We were set a project, the first year, to learn what we could of our house-cognomen. I was in Bigod House.”

“Cool,” I said.

“So, what, you think this ghost, Arvina, is trying to contact you, for you to set right her death? Or do you think it more a case of possession? Like her unquiet spirit is trying, again, to live through you?”

I laughed. “No, if I thought that you’d slap me in the loony—ah, yea, well. But, no, it’s not what I’m saying and it’s not what I think.”

“And I didn’t ‘slap you’ in here,” she said. “That was your father.”

“You don’t much like him, do you.”

“It’s not for me to like or dislike.”

So she might say, yet I could feel her dislike clear as the sun on a hot August day. He had taken me to that hypnotist, who had set off who knows what fireworks inside my head, and then had ‘slapped me’ in here, and didn’t even come visit me. I ought to hate him, too. Except, whatever else might have happened while in Longman’s reclining chair, it had removed a barrier, allowing Arvina to communicate more directly with me. And as I saw it, that was more likely to resolve my problems than any amount of therapy and medication.

I said, “I’ll tell you how it seems to me. First, there’s the resonance of our names. Arwen, Arvina. Then, she lived at Failans Farm, same as me. She was kin to the family there. And I have her gand-stangir. That’s really what’s plugging us together—except I haven’t access to it while I’m in here. Unless, of course, one of my parents finally gets off their arse and visits me here. I don’t suppose you could . . . could you?”

Gand-stangir,” she queried. “What’s that?”

“I thought it a wand,” I said, “when first I found it.”

“And when was that?”

“When I seven—haven’t I said? I found it while clearing scrub for the henhouse. My father thought an old house used to stand there. I think it was likely Aldebur Hall—the Failan’s place.” I sighed, heavily. “And now you’ve disrupted my thoughts. Where was I? Ah, the gand-stangir. That’s what Arvina’s Dane-kin called it—the Failans. But to her, it was a rod that her Uncle Nihel had carved with runes while he sat with his brother—Arvina’s father—while he was dying.”

“And that’s why you asked for a book on runes?”

“No, not totally. I know what the runes say: that Nihel carved it.”

“Then . . .?”

I grimaced. This was awkward. I shook my head. “No, I’m not yet ready to tell you of that. I don’t know enough. Arvina hasn’t told me yet. It’s just that . . . there are hints that a rune-master caused Guillan to kill her.” But as far as I could remember that hadn’t come from the dreams. So where had I found it?

I didn’t know how much Madeleine believed of this. It didn’t exactly fit with her diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder—unless she wanted to label me delusional, and see it as a rich case of denial. As happens, she didn’t leak any such thoughts. Only a piqued interest.

“Arvina’s Uncle Nihel?” She reached for the envelop but then left it lying there. “His name was Alan, same as his brother. Alan Rufus and Alan Niger. They were part of the Breton ducal family, though their line was no longer in ascendancy. Alan Rufus—the Red—died fourth of August 1093. Alan Niger—the Black—died in 1098, or so it is thought. If your dream character is real, perhaps you’ll know who her mother.”

The shivers shot through me. It was one thing to speculate, another to have it confirmed as real. I hardly dared say her name.

“Gunnhild,” I said, suddenly sitting in what seemed a fridge. ”She had been a nun for a good many years, till Le Roussel—Alan—‘took’ her.” I wasn’t sure how to take that word.

My words didn’t only shiver me. Madeleine had to moisten her lips before she could speak.

“Alan Rufus ‘abducted a certain Gunnhild’ from Wilton Abbey. It can be dated almost certainly to 1093, not long before he died. It’s believed she was—but no, you tell me. Who was Gunnhild’s father? Has your Arvina told you that?”

“All I know is his name was Harold.”

“Will it help if I say he died with an arrow in his eye?” She looked at me like I should know the answer. Well, I did. But only cos she leaked it.

King Harold? 1066 and all that? Wow, that’s beyond awesome! But . . . yikes! And Gunnhild’s mother was Edgiva—that’s Edith Swanneshals, yea? But . . .” I took a deep breath. And I had wanted to delve into the history of Failans Farm? It had once belonged to Edith Swanneshals’ family!

Oh, and by Thor’s Sweaty Bollocks, it now was all fitting together. But why feel so clammy-cold on this hot August day?

“I have to seek sleep,” I said. “I have to know more.”

I was already on my feet, heading  to the door, Madeleine and her very kindly-brought books and the downloaded copy all forgotten.

“Hey!” she called me back.

I waited.

“I don’t know what’s going on with you and this Arvina, but I withdraw my previous diagnosis. This is not a case of Dissociative Identity Disorder.”

“Nor delusions?” I asked and began to smile—till I caught sight through the window of a man in a long black shift strolling across the sun-baked lawn. He looked the spit of the Woden I’d seen him in that rune-world vision.

Next episode, Rune Caster, Wednesday 28th June

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Pretty In Pink

 (and in purple, and in the wind, too.)

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom, taken way back in April

Possibly Quince

Possibly Quince; taken another two weeks after the apple. I liked that slight blush

Pink Campion

My favourite Spring medley: Pink Campion, Bluebells and Sycamore, taken end of April. Though, really, there’s no such flower as a ‘Pink’ Campion: it’s a Red, hybridised with a White.

Pink Hawthorn

May blossom (Hawthorn) is white, yea? Yea, but it fades to pink, here seen as a blush though often it reaches a deep-down red. Photo taken early May.

Indian Horse Chestnut

The pink-tinged flowers of an Indian Horse Chestnut. Definitely not native! Photo taken mid-May

Red Clover

Not ‘pink’ but Red Clover, here in a hay meadow, entangling with the pinky stalks of dying Dandelions. Mid May.

Wild Rose

Of the 12 species of rose growing wild in Britain, for me the Dog Rose still wears the crown. Caught here in the early morning sun. Late May

Marsh Woundwort

I have a liking for all the ‘dead nettle’ family. Here, Marsh Woundwort displays decidedly orchid-looking flowers.

Common Spotted Orchid

And talking of orchids . . . not quite in its glory yet, a Common Spotted Orchid; Late May

Pyramidal Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid; photo taken 12th June

Narrow Leaf Marsh Orchid

Narrow Leaf Marsh Orchid, photo taken later the same day as above

Common Mallow

Determined to take a photo of the Common Mallow. But as you can see, the day was wind-wrecked. 12th June


Despite some bold photos of the pink strain of Hogweed, I chose this one for its contrasts of colours; 12th June

Field Bindweed

Field Bindweed, its blush-pink stripes lost to the sun. But at least this close to the ground, it was out of the wind. 12th June

Vipers Burgloss

Not so this Vipers Burgloss. But it’s such an impressive form I had to include it. 12th June

Ragged Robin

Like the orchids, Ragged Robin is now a rare marsh-and-fen plant, one to be treasured. 12th June. And that, in itself, was worth the day’s journey.


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A Sense of Place?

A sense of place? No, rather I’d say this photo shows a typical British weathery-sense.

SS Martin and Mary, Shotesham

The churches of SS Martin and Mary at Shotesham, barely visible behind the trees. But that’s okay: it’s the sky is the feature here. (Photo taken midday Monday 12th June 2017)

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