Guelder Rose

I’ve talked about these before, but they looked so good in the sunshine I had to photograph them again. Plus I’ve learnt that in Russian these are called kalinka, hence the song.



  Ladybirds always catch the eye. This bush, six feet tall, growing in our garden, is home to scores of them.
The reason is in the pictures, too, the greenfly alongside the shoots, which ladybirds and their grubs eat.

And the, faster moving and harder to photograph, there are the ants that visit the greenfly to collect their sweet excreta. A green fly gets in on the act as well. I’m not sure why it’s there unless to remind me it would be better to call greenfly aphids, especially when they are wingless forms like these.

   A couple of hover flies are also after the aphids. This is fresh food for the picking, far more than any of these predators can eat. The shrub turns carbon dioxide and water into sugary sap, the aphids tap it, and a community of animals moves in. There is really quite a lot of meat on this one bush.
I think that most if not all of these ladybirds are harlequin ladybirds, marauding Asiatic immigrants arriving in swarms to threaten our own British ladybirds’ standard of living. No, hang on, that’s Tory propaganda about human beings in need.


  Dry leaves like these can be seen all over town, but it’s not Autumn quite yet. They are the bracts and fruit of lime trees that helicopter to the ground at this time of year.
Lime trees can grow to over 40 metres according to my books. I’m not sure where to find one that tall, but the cemetery has some that might be approaching 25 metres. 


Safe in the arms of Jesus

What does it mean: Safe in the arms of Jesus? 

People tell me that the resurrection can’t just mean that death is poetically ‘defeated’, but that it must also mean that Jesus was no longer dead, that the tomb was empty, that he REALLY, objectively, scientifically rose again. Hmm. So what does ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus’ mean?

It can’t be meant literally. Not written above the bit of ground with the small bones, there in the wet clay. So what? 

Does it refer to an alternate reality of some sort, a heaven, a realm, where bones don’t matter? Where Jesus has arms for not one, but a million small children? I can sort of imagine that for one, but not for a million.

Arms, poetically, emotionally, in stories and such like, are for wrapping, embracing, holding, warming, reassuring, cherishing and loving others. Nice to think the one gone, the one you want so much to hold might, nonetheless, be being held, warmly, well, strongly by someone else. Nice to think of someone generally spoken of as the person who understood, cared, acted and expressed what we all want to express to the little and the lowly, the weak and the poor holding the one who you can no longer hold. Keeping them safe.

It makes great sense poetically. But none at all to me in objective terms. What arms? Where?  How held? Safe from whom, from what? No sense.

But as an echo of the love a grieving parent feels, reaching, longing, it makes perfect sense. A good wish directed at the cold earth. A hug in letters carved in stone, but still better than no hug.

These graves have protest, too, and that feels right. Speaking ‘darling’ feels right. Tenderness in the face of stony reality.

One day? Not today, it rightly seems. The death of children is an affront.

And in this headstone there is, I think, blame. And justified. Whoever the Lord is, the Lord is responsible. Judged by the garden, the mother and father. This is uncomfortable alongside the arms of Jesus. As one person’s grief fails to match another’s.

I avoid the section of the cemetery where infant burials happen today. These from a generation ago are still potent, though. However familiar and well-tended the cemetery, we must not forget that death is a terrifying abomination. Occasionally, walking amongst the graves after dark, I feel scared. So I should. So I should.


  Walking after rain, in the cool air, seeing the trees heavily streaked, I feel sympathy as if they’ve been through an ordeal, something that shouldn’t happen.

There is, of course, a great deal of sadness in the cemetery, but what gets through to me is not so much the dying as the bravely coping with it. A tree, bearing up as the rain comes down, symbolises this.

Three of three kinds

The second one is my favourite in the whole cemetery. The stone is an interesting shape, I like the his and hers Ecclesiastes phrases, the inscription is crisp and simple, and Effie is such a wonderful name. Plus it’s well-cared for in an unshowy way. The geranium is a bit late coming into flower, though.


Walking last week in the eastern section of the cemetery, the sound of a sand martin made me look up.

As well as two or three sand martins, there were two or three dozen swifts circling silently just overhead. I stood and watched for several minutes, wondering what had brought them all there. 

I spotted, after a while, a large number of insects flying ponderously up from the grass. The swifts and martins were feeding. And looking at the grass I saw many brown beetles, garden chafers I believe, emerging, struggling in the thatch of the grass, and then taking to the air. Then the sun was covered by a cloud, and the beetles stopped emerging and the birds rapidly vanished.