Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Henry VIII the forgotten King

The young Henry was active, bright, good looking, intelligent and very well educated. He was admired and fancied by the young girls and ladies who were flirtatious by necessity as they and their parents were keen to get noticed in order to secure a good marriage. At every opportunity people plotted and schemed to ensure a good marriage and life at court was a colourful but dangerous waiting game for all who entered into it. It was no place for the weak a person needed to be ambitious, strong and fearless and ready to go after their desires without a second thought for either themselves or anyone else. This was the most selfish lifestyle and endured solely for the benefit of either themselves or their off-spring.

Henry grew ever more handsome, agile and athletic. He was tall in the saddle, majestic and brave. He was a brilliant perfectionist and would practise and practise until he became the best at whatever he took on. He could accurately spear a hoop with a jousting pole but was never allowed to openly joust.

Most of all Henry was the king of intellect and had the wisdom of a sage. His downfall was a long list of ailments that struck him down over and over and over again. He had the constitution of a bear or he would have perished very early on.

In those days England was warm with large woods and forests and straddled with marshes. The climate was ideal for water loving insects and mosquitoes swirled in clouds. It was not uncommon for people to be bitten but in those days malaria was rife and Henry caught malaria which plagued him until his death. He also suffered a massive head injury in 1536, which resulted in him ending up in a coma for several days. Added to this was a painful arthritic condition and possibly gout. A more minor annoyance was the fact that he endured chronic constipation. There are also various notes that infer that he may have caught syphilis and he was plagued with deep sores and ulcers. He made up his own cures which were most likely fairly lethal as they contained such ingredients as lead. A King in pain, a tyrant, a man to be feared – this is what was born out of a multitude of ailments which changed the monarch forever but this is the side that we never see – we never look beyond Henry’s wives and see the forgotten King. He was after all … just a man for all that!

Young Henry VIII

A very young Henry VIII

B. 28.06.1491 – D. 28.01.1547

Succeeded to the throne 22.04.1509 and reined for 37 years, 281 days


I purchased some catmint or catnip the other year mainly for the cat as they are supposed to enjoy the aroma. From just a few sprigs the plant spread into a good round ball of fragrant green. It is a much stronger plant than ordinary garden mint and has a whole new variety of properties.

  • It is a natural insecticide … the only creature found scrambling over catmint leaves and stems are spiders, which of course are not insects. Flying insects will approach the plant once the flowers are open and the nectar is ready for collection but will not linger or rest on the plant. To use catmint as an insecticide, the flowers or sprigs may be picked and added to flower decorations or a few stems slightly bruised by rubbing and tied with ribbon or string and hung where insects are a particular problem. Stems may be placed where there are ant runs, etc. Catmint has long been known for its ability to ward off mosquitoes and it is a good idea to plant out in flowerpots and tubs so that they can be arranged around children’s play areas and patios or decking areas. This must be the safest, natural and free insecticide that is available and once a plant is established in a garden it will most probably last a lifetime.
  • Catmint is an anti-stress plant … it contains sedative properties and helps a person to relax. It is very strong and should only be used in small amounts about one teaspoonful of chopped mint leaves daily. When trying out plants begin with just a pinch as although I have never heard of anyone experiencing any problems with this particular herb we are all different and it is wise to be cautious. As with other herbs never mix with prescribed medicines and as always ask a doctor’s advice.
  • The leaves of the catmint are useful in the treatment of flatulence and easing tummy upsets.

Catmint or Catnip Catmint or Catnip … picture taken in late April

Prim, poised, perfect, pretty primrose

The shy primrose is often the last of the spring perennial flowers to bloom – but well worth the wait … Mine has been in this flowering position in the border for more than twenty years and is still quite a small, compact plant. I confess that each year I tell myself that I am going to ease out a couple of leaves and a root to place another little specimen elsewhere and as yet I haven’t. It is said that new plants are best started once the flowering season has ended – but as the flowering season begins quite late then it is often followed by quite a dry spell. At this point the leaves go a little ‘floppy’ and although the plant is regularly splashed with a little saved rain water and the odd bit of tap water something deep within me says ‘ leave the poor little plant alone – if you disturb it you might just lose it.’ Perhaps, I should be a little more adventurous this year and try to encourage a new primrose plant to grow.

Primrose (primula vulgaris) - English perennial

Primrose primula vulgaris


Conservationists everywhere are asking the population of the world to consider planting their own orchards to help to protect the pollinators. The specific group of insects without which we would all die off. There has been a dramatic reduction in these precious species which ordinarily are a free resource to the farmers. In Europe alone there are something like 4000 crop species that are totally reliant on bees to pollinate them.

An orchard is a group of five fruit trees grown together in a small space. At one time it was necessary to have a reasonable sized garden to consider even thinking about planting one fruit tree let alone five. Now there are all types of varieties of fruit trees and bushes that have been produced which will do well in pots on patios or balconies … this means that everyone can have their own orchard and know that they are helping not only the planet but their children and their children’s children …

“How precious is the third generation of man; it will receive the beasts of his forebears as selfishness and greed often wins over saintliness and wisdom. Few will think of their offspring once they have fled the home.” Anon

It is time to prove that we all care for our children and our children’s children.

I have an orchard …

Conference pear tree

Little Conference Pear tree sitting between two Williams’ Pear trees

Plum tree

Plum tree – this was purchased from a supermarket and it is the first year that it has flowered

I also a few other fruit trees and three Goji bushes which are still very small and haven’t yet produced any fruit … I have tried one or two of the dried versions of this fruit which is extremely expensive so I am looking forward to seeing what the fresh berries look like and most of all what they taste like …

Goji berry bush with flowering strawberries at the roots

Goji berry - vertical growth

Goji berry bushes – these throw out shoots from a main stem – the shoots are mostly vertical in habit. The longer branches loop over and fall onto the earth where they root to form new plants … almost similar to the habit of strawberries.

Ding Dong … “Cry God for Harry! England and St George”

Ring out the bells everywhere it is St George’s Day … the bell ringers of Worcestershire are ready with a peal to celebrate this special day. Worcester Cathedral is to ring out its bells several times this day in celebration and have asked all bell ringers to join in.

Ding Dong Bell

It is also the beginning of the English Asparagus Season (23rd April) – this is celebrated in Evesham, Worcestershire and the crop to be picked today will be in the shops by tomorrow. The asparagus season is very short lived but it is a worthy vegetable to grow as it is a perennial and so only has to be planted once and can be harvested forevermore!

Shakespeare wrote the famous call … “Cry God for Harry! England and St George” and today is also William Shakespeare’s birthday.

William Shakespeare

Remarkable fact: William Shakespeare was born 23rd April 1564

and died 23rd April 1616

Factoid extra ... The St George Cross which is now the official national flag of England it is said was first created in Evesham, Worcestershire during the 13th century. It is alleged that it was taken from the uniform that the English soldiers wore during the Crusades.

Knight Templar - Crusades

Image from http://www.gradale.com

Cactus juice … sweet nectar

A few years ago I read an article about how wonderful sweet cactus juice is. Advice was given on substituting either sugar or artificial sweeteners with natural cactus juice which has a low GI and only a few calories. A description of delicious sweet nectar that could be added to cakes, puddings, biscuits, cereals and drinks was tantalising. There was however no sign of this ancient wonderful elixir in any of the local shops.

Eureka! Sweet cactus syrup is now available in Worcestershire ……….

Sweet cactus juice

Agave Nectar ‘sweet cactus juice’

for those who like a stronger syrup flavour there is also a darker, richer version.

I have tried it on my cereal (I do have a sweet tooth) and it is lovely – I have yet to use it in baking. The price is similar to honey which I also use a fair amount of.

Wild posy

The air is full of beautiful smells that waft on April breezes and so I have brought a little of this free pomander back into my home. This brightly coloured nosegay has been gathered locally in the winding, rambling lanes in rural Worcestershire.

Wild Posy


Posy close-up

This fragrant posy comprises of English Bluebells, Honesty, Lady Smock, Forget-me-not, Dandelion and  Greater Stitchwort. All of these flowers last a very long time providing that the stems are cut fairly short – this seems to be the secret of keeping cut wild flowers looking fresh and smelling sweet.

Painfully prickly hairy hobby

Quite a few years ago whilst visiting a nursery or some would say garden centre, my son stopped by the cacti section. We all looked at some of the more exotic array many having huge colourful flowers and most costing far too much money … My son had never been interested in gardening or plants but his eyes keenly scouted up and down the various strange and knobbly natural creations that stood before him. In the end I asked him if he would like to take one home and allowed him to choose one. The one that he finally chose was on the far side of the cacti display and was only a couple of centimetres tall … but it was covered in prickles and hair. The cactus has been in his bedroom ever since and has slowly and surely grown over the years. This is what it looks like today ……….

Cactus in centimetres Cactus in inches

The first picture shows the cactus in centimetres and the second shows it in inches … it has been transplanted just three times so far in its long, tall, life!

Fruit and vegetable allergy

More and more people are finding themselves developing allergic reactions to common food items the latest in this long line is allergy to fruit and/or vegetables. In the last twenty years this allergy has been silently growing and has now over taken nut allergies. It is an allergy that is manifesting itself in a variety of symptoms the more mild of which include itchy ears, itchy lips, mild digestive disorders and rashes. The more severe symptoms can be life threatening with swollen mouths, throats and severe stomach cramping sometimes sufferers are even going into anaphylactic shock.

Currently there are no definite answers as to why so many people are becoming affected but there are various possibilities being suggested. One alleged reason is that certain pollens contain the same proteins as various pieces of fruit or vegetables … such as birch pollen it is claimed has the same protein as apples … so if a person is affected by birch pollen then they may have a propensity to become allergic to apples.

People of all ages are becoming affected … from the very young to middle-aged and elderly. We therefore need countries to come together and focus on possible cures or action that can be taken to both prevent and cure this increasing problem.


Easter eggs

I have to be truthful and admit that although as a child I was taught ‘the meaning of Easter,’ I really looked forward to it for a whole array of different reasons. Firstly, it was the first real holiday break after Christmas … all that trudging to school in the frost, snow, ice and rain … dark mornings and evenings … coughing, spluttering and sneezing through the damp of it all – and the light at the end of the tunnel was two glorious weeks away from school! Two weeks of beautiful freedom … walking through fields, picking flowers and an endless playtime from dawn to dusk. Secondly, at least one week before the end of term we all made Easter bonnets from paper and card along with various yellow chicks, nests and painting eggs … this was different from our usual routines. Thirdly, but not necessarily in that order … I used to receive chocolate eggs. When I was quite small …… there were many chocolate eggs. One from each of my Grandmas, ones from some of my Aunties and of course one from my Mother and Father. It was a time of sharing and surprise … all those different eggs covered in brightly coloured foils … each egg made a noise when it was rattled – what did it contain? Of course, more chocolates …. Yes, I looked forward to Easter and that magical time that holds such magnificent memories … and yes, I still love chocolate from the creamy sweet, sumptuous flavour of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk to the dark, rich, earthy luscious experience of South American flavours … my current favourite being Arriba Superieur at 81% premium cocoa from the Esmeraldas Province Plantations in Ecuador!

English bluebells

English bluebells

English bluebells

Bluebells found in a lane in Worcestershire on Monday 13th April 2009

The opening of April

April is one of my most favourite months of the year. The word April originates long ago and is derived from the Greek word for ‘opening.’ April is the month that for generations has always been put aside to cleanse the home, to Spring clean, to purge, to begin again. The month for opening cupboards and drawers and dispatching anything that we no longer use – whether it be stale tubes of creams, frayed, worn and washed-out clothing, chipped crockery or that odd bit of plastic (whatever did I keep that for) it is the time for re-birth and refreshing the home. What can be more satisfying than to start a Spring clean with recycling and binning the things that we know we shall never use again?

April is also the month when more and more plants open their buds … what a wonderful month this is that presents us with so many things to look at – from new flowers to the birth of new creatures … it is wonderful to be alive and appreciate the opening of April.

Anemones in April

April anemones

April 1st - “April foo-ool” – All Fools’ Day

Today is ‘April Fools’ Day’ the joy of all children and those who can successfully find a scapegoat to send on a fool’s errand. We all may have been teased as children with various adults asking us to go to the iron mongers for a tube of ‘elbow grease’ some ‘half-wit nails’ or some ‘sky hooks.’ Many apprentice will have been asked to fetch a ‘left-handed screwdriver’ and so on … only to come back with bright red cheeks.

At school there were teachers who were brilliant at an early morning tease and some children applied their jokes with uncompromising ease at unsuspecting class mates.

Remember though if tempted the fun only lasts until 12.00 noon … after that time it is said that those who participate are the biggest fool of all and a prank or jest may be looked upon a little more harshly.

‘April weather is rain and sun together’

‘The hay and corn fair better with April’s windy morn’


Dog Violet found on April 1

Dog violet … found in the garden border on 1st April

Cowslip - 1st April 2009

Cowslip … 1st April

Wild Garlic or Ramsons 1.04.2009

Wild Garlic or Ramsons … growing by the edge of the pond on 1st April