Thank you so much, Ailsa, for inviting me to the world-renowned Bingergread Cottage. Such an honour! And thank you for making me so welcome. I feel like part of the furniture already, which is probably why your lovely dogs are using me as a sofa. No, no – leave them be. They’re only being friendly, aren’t they? And I can just about breathe.
Hang on, I’ll shove Titch over. It’s a bit of a problem having a dog his size think he’s a lap-dog. Now there’s fresh coffee on the stove and Cameron has made this to nibble on.
A nice cup of coffee would go down well, thank you, and if there’s any chocolate, any at all, in that cake… Yes, please. I brought you a nice bunch of flowers, but the dogs seem to have eaten them.
Erm, no, I’m afraid Titch sat on them. Never mind, they’ll pick up if I put them in water.
I was intending to pick your brain on the subject of plants, too. There’s a great deal of folklore attached to them, isn’t there? They have been revered, feared and used as cures for all kinds of ailments over the centuries, with varying results. I am always a little amused when people say a plant cure must be good, safe and healthy because it’s ‘natural’. I tend to observe that if you went to Africa and were eaten by a lion, that would be perfectly ‘natural’, too. But I doubt if it would do you much good!
Yes, Belladonna is natural too!
I often wonder, too, how people actually discovered which plants are poisonous and which are edible. There must have been an awful lot of nasty accidents before they worked out which was which.
Anyway, you tell us so many inspiring stories, Ailsa, that I thought it would be good to tell one in return, on the subject of the healing properties of plants.
Oh that would be great. I love stories. Do tell!
As a young teenager, I suffered a nervous breakdown, followed by deep depression. I know you will understand perfectly how devastating and bewildering that can be. My poor parents, anxious to help, found that I responded well to visits to the countryside, and took me out as often as possible. We had a small boat on a river not far from where we lived, and I seemed to achieve a degree of peace on the riverbank. One May morning, I was sitting in the boat staring at nothing in particular, when a plant caught my eye. I wondered what its name might be. This was the first time I had been curious about anything in months. A simple thought, indeed, but also the turning point on the road to recovery. At home, I found a dog-eared copy of the Observer’s Book of Wild Flowers, and looked up my plant. It was cow parsley. On my next visit to the riverbank, I took the book along, and made the acquaintance of garlic mustard, red campion, stitchwort, and many, many more. I wrote down everything I found, week by week, from then on. A simple wild flower had not only revived my interest in life, it had made me start writing, too. And all I had to do was look at it and wonder about it. A pretty spectacular case of the healing properties of plants, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Oh yes! Being out in Nature is a wonderful way of easing depression. I still go and chat to plants and trees a lot of the time.
Well, I got over the depression, in due course – but I never got over the plants. They became a lifelong delight, and there is always more to see, more to learn, more to understand. And at this time of year, especially, when the hedges and roadsides are full of cow parsley, commonplace and unremarkable though it might be, I remember that very first healing plant of mine on the riverbank so long ago, and give thanks.
I LOVE cow parsley. I grew up in Cornwall and it reminds me of my childhood. Thanks so much for that story and for coming to visit, Kathy. It’s been a real treat to have you here.
And many thanks to you, too, Ailsa, for your kind hospitality. Sorry I ate all the cake.
Growing up by the sea in Kent, back in the 1960s, it was Kathy’s ambition to become a writer. Time passed. She married, moved to west London, and had a daughter. She continued to write, and had a small book or two on countryside and nature subjects published. She worked for many years as a desktop publisher for Surrey County Council, and as a tutor in adult education.
And then, one day, she visited a friend who had just moved to the Isle of Portland, Dorset, and fell in love with the place. She has now lived in the Weymouth and Portland area for ten years, and still loves it. The wonderful Jurassic Coast, and Portland in particular, were the inspiration for her first novel, Isle of Larus.
Kathy also sings with, and writes lyrics for, the Island Voices Choir on Portland, and is a keen member of local writing groups, as well as enjoying studying the local flora.
I’m reading Isle of Larus myself and it is delightful. Kathy’s blog often contains fascinating or funny short stories.
Isle of Larus, available from Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/olfyskv
Cheer up your Mondays with a visit Kathy’s blog: http://tinyurl.com/pq8jenp