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China Girl blog 28th September 2016


Much of the world is covered in green, it is the silver lining of life, the colour of nature in all its wonderful shades. From brilliant emerald to the delicate magic and misty shadows that make up the diversity of blends of green on earth.

As autumn sets in, it is this ever-present colour that keeps our gardens alive and interesting, no more so than here at Cothay.  Dearest says that often people say “pity there is so little colour”. ”What about green?”, she mutters! The browns and greens of England are part of our island. Green because of the gentle rain which washes across our island gardens.  Being Chinese, I know of the vast mountain ranges which march across the land, green as far as you can see.

Lovely in the autumn garden are the many late-flowering salvias, which is the ancient latin name used by Pliny from Salveo, meaning to save or to heal. There are over nine hundred species of these beautiful tubular-shaped flowers.  The leaves of many of the Salvias were used in different ways. Sage tea was said to help with many ailments. Not so long ago, the leaves were incorporated in tooth powder, and dried leaves smoked in a pipe were said to be good for asthma.   In medieval times, the juice of sage was mixed with vinegar and used as a cure for the plague. So this lovely plant has many uses, as well as a garden flower.

I reminded Dearest Mother that we should mention the wall paintings of Cothay, which have just been restored by Stephen Rickerby and Lisa Shekede, who are one of the world’s foremost conservators.  The paintings at Cothay are exceptional survivals of national importance.  Of these, none rival Cothay for their diversity or their unusual and unique subject matter.  The wall paintings provide a unique insight into the way of life of the rural gentry in medieval England. I loved Stephen and Lisa, who spent many hours with us, whilst I watched them stabilise the faded memories. When they left Cothay, they worked on the Dome of St Paul’s cathedral and have last week returned from my original home of China, where they were based at the Buddhist cave site of Mezao, which they say is like a wall painting heaven, dating from the 5th century.

Michaelmas Day approaches. On September 29th it is the feast of one of the archangels St Michael, who is represented slaying a dragon. Dearest has a huge stuffed dragon which lives in her bedroom (and frightens me, and all the small people who visit!)

I am as usual indispensable, for I am by tradition descended from a lioness who fell in love with a butterfly; the result of their union was a Pekingese; ever since then we have been known as Butterfly Lions and we are as brave as lions and as dainty as butterflies.

To capture the essence of autumn is a source of endearing pleasure.  The eternal movement of light and shade adds to the glory and eternal pleasure of my beloved home.

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