Friday, 23 September 2011

Autumn Equinox 23 September

The Autumn Equinox is the point of balance in the waning year. It is the late harvest - of fruit and berries in the hedgerows. It is the time to thank the mother Goddess for bounty and abundance received gratefully and stored for times of want during the coming winter months. From now on the power of the Sun will recede as its shadow describes and anticlockwise spiral, returning to the womb/tomb.

Now is the time to reap your reward,
As we celebrate the last dance of the Sun lord.
Light and dark balanced on an ear of wheat
As the last grain signals the harvest complete.
Give praise to the Earth Mother
As she dons her wintry dark cloak
And her Autumn rains the earth will soak.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

My husband George

(I wrote this for the vicar to read out at my husband's funeral on 28th July 2011)

George was born Michael Straker, son of Barbara Straker, twin brother of Peter Straker, on the 23rd of December 1949 at 05.40 hrs in the morning, Liverpool.

Single mothers were not treated well in the Forties and although they had a sister, they were immediately distributed to the care of the Lancashire and Cheshire Child Adoption Council.

In January of 1950 the twins were chosen for adoption and collected by their new parents at 11.30 am on the 8th February.

The new parents were called George and Mary. Michael being the elder by 25 minutes had his name changed on the 5th January to George as you all know him today, and no, Pete's name wasn't changed to Mary!

After Miss Widowson’s pre-preparatory school, Mostyn House Preparatory School for Boys and St. Edwards Public School, Oxford, it became clear that
George was more a “hands on” kind of a guy.
To this end an engineering apprenticeship with Saunders Roe on the Isle of Wight in the Hovercraft Division was embarked upon in 1966.

After this time George was introduced to a man called Dudley Gahagan, through his then girlfriend's father, who operated a car sales and repair workshop in Aldershot called Rees Bros.

George joined Rees Brothers in Elms Road, Aldershot as a vehicle technician and in 1973 a 16 year old Martin Savill also joined the company.
Martin recalls that it was obvious from the start that George had a fascination for all things mechanical and how they worked.

It was at Rees Bros that George had the opportunity to drive many old and exciting cars, something he loved doing. Martin remembers him making a rare TV appearance on the “Magpie” programme, driving Mick Robertson up the test hill at Brooklands in a Bugatti, sadly before the days of video recorders.

Martin left Rees Bros in 1979 and George left a year later to form the Aldershot Motor Company where Martin went to work with him there.
George expanded the business to include the Aldershot Car Valeting centre, cleaning cars for the motor trade, mainly for Charters. George employed numerous young people during that time and he was always willing to give somebody a chance and offer them encouragement.

One of his favourite sayings was “If you all listened to me, you’d be a lot better off” and he was probably right.

During his time at Rees Bros., George met Jane through close friends and their romance blossomed. They got engaged in June 1977 and married 6 months later in January 1978. A year or 2 later they found they were expecting their 1st child but Jane unfortunately miscarried at 5-6 months. As recuperation, they went to Pasadena, California to visit George’s family on his mother’s side and spent a month travelling from L.A. to San Francisco and through Reno to San Diego. After visiting Las Vegas and New York they returned home.
Amy was conceived, and then born on 26 September 1981.
A happy and entertaining child, Amy enjoyed ballet, swimming, riding and ice-skating and began her education at St. Christopher’s school in Farnham.
Amy very much enjoyed outings with her father and when she moved onto St. Catherine’s School in Bramley, George enjoyed taking different cars to their open days, dressing in his straw hat, shorts, socks and sandals – knowing full well that his footwear irritated Amy.

George was a keen and enthusiastic member of Aldershot Round Table and was at various times Chairman, Treasurer and President. George also completed two parachute jumps to raise money for charity with other Round Tablers. As you can imagine George was also at the forefront when Aldershot Round Table took part in the National Banger Racing event several years in a row. The cars were prepared in the garden at home!

It was in 1982 that George bought the Dodge Superbee and that was the start of many motoring adventures from drag racing to circuit racing and was probably his favourite car of all the many cars he had owned.

In 1986 when Paul Burch of Charters wanted to buy Aldershot Motor Company’s premises to use as a bodyshop he offered George a job at Charters and so began a new episode. After a short while George settled into a new role as Export Sales Manager, selling tax-free Peugeots to the armed forces based mainly in Germany.
In the meantime, George and Jane had parted and gone their own ways.

Lorraine started working at Charters in 1987 and soon after, their relationship began…. secretly at first (or so they thought) causing much amusement amongst the other members of staff.

In the summer of 1988 George and Lorraine moved to Monks Well, Farnham next door to George’s mother and father.
Sadly, George’s mother died from Alzheimer’s disease in 1992 but his father lived on for another eight years….still brewing his own beer and baking his own bread.

In 1993 George took part in one of the greatest adventures of his life – The London to Sydney Rally. As co-driver to Freddie Preston, the dynamic duo and 105 other classic car enthusiasts (or nutters) took a month to drive from London to Sydney. They were crazy enough to do a similar event in 1995 – the London to Mexico Rally.

Lorraine left Charters in 1993 and 1994 saw the birth of young George and from then on there was never a dull moment in the Hampson household. Always up to mischief (and still is) he managed to break both his arms in separate incidents in his early years.

George and Lorraine married in 1996 and then Lucy was born in 1997 completing the Hampson family.

Young George and Lucy both attended the local and excellent Barfield school and enjoyed many happy years there.

In the meantime, Amy had qualified as a beauty therapist and with George’s help opened a beauty salon, firstly in Guildford and later in Fleet. George was always proud of what Amy had achieved and enjoyed being involved in all aspects – they had a healthy father and daughter relationship.

A drop in the market of selling tax-free cars meant that George was made redundant from Charters in 2005. Try as he might George never found suitable employment again although he did purchase and renovate a house to keep himself occupied and out from under Lorraine’s feet!

George was very active in the school PSA and later became a parent governor at the school. He played an important part in discovering the “misdemeanors” of the previous “rogue” headmaster.

Always keen to put something back into the community, George became a Magistrate at Guildford Court at the beginning of 2006, a role he enjoyed immensely.

Young George and Lucy finished their junior school education at Barfield school and moved onto Salesian College and Farnborough Hill respectively which pleased their father as these are excellent schools.

As a family, everyone has got on very well together over the years and Christmas became quite an event at the family’s houses - George enjoyed these gatherings and he always made it his job to cook the Christmas dinner.

Quite recently, Amy had decided she would like a change of direction and a less stressful lifestyle so gave up running her beauty salon business, of which George was secretary, and became the manager of Estee Lauder in Guildford Debenhams which she is currently enjoying.

George’s health had never been particularly good having suffered two collapsed lungs in the 1980s then problems with his back and several operations to put this right. In 2009 George was diagnosed with lung cancer and also a form of latent TB which had been lurking undiscovered for a long time.

An operation was followed by some months of grueling chemotherapy but George battled through and was given the “all-clear” after subsequent follow-up appointments and scans. During one of these scans it was found that George had blocked arteries to his legs which prompted another major operation and again, George came through with flying colours.

Throughout most of his health problems George still enjoyed a pint at the Running Stream in Weybourne with some of his oldest friends including Tom, Joe and Gus.

However, several months ago, George mentioned that he was getting headaches which was unusual for him and he had unexplained feelings of nausea. In June he casually mentioned this to a doctor during a routine follow-up appointment and the doctor arranged a CT scan but before this was done he suddenly became quite poorly on the afternoon of 20th June whilst out in the car and Lorraine took George to Frimley Park Hospital.
George never returned home as, after tests, he was eventually diagnosed as having malignant meningitis which was caused by his lung cancer returning in a more aggressive form. This is sadly untreatable and incurable.

After 2 and a half weeks in Frimley Park and having received many many visitors, George was transferred to Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice who made every effort to make sure he was comfortable. The visitors didn’t stop and a quick glance at the visitor’s signing in and out book at reception proved that he was the most popular patient at the hospice.

After a week at the hospice and after quite a rapid decline, George lost his fight for life....a devastatingly upsetting and very very sad day for all.

This was taken on our last family holiday, a year ago.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


The Summer Solstice is the time of the longest daylight when the Sun reaches the apex of its yearly cycle. This triumph of its power is also the start of its decline, as the year changes from waxing to waning. Summer flowers assume a deeper hue in the heat, and the migrating birds of Spring who have now had their young will sport and play until they depart before the Autumn Equinox.
The Sun God reaches the height of his power,
As all the plants are now in flower,
The longest day brings strength and vigour,
As we pursue our aims and goals with rigour.
Now is the time of abundance and light,
We rejoice in days so happy and bright
Knowing that we grow in wisdom and might.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Understanding Equinoxes and Solstices

Equinoxes occur twice a year when the is sun crossing directly over the Earth’s equator (into the other hemisphere) and a solstice, also twice a year, is when the Sun reaches its most northern and southern extremes which are marked by the Tropic of Cancer (in the north) and the Tropic of Capricorn (in the south). These tropics are imaginary lines of latitude around the earth and are about 23 degrees north and south of the equator.

On the dates of the equinoxes, day and night are equal in length.

* The Spring (or vernal) equinox falls on or around 21st March which is when the Sun moves into Aries and marks the beginning of Spring. The Sun crosses the equator into the northern hemisphere and brings the summer months.
* The Summer solstice falls around the 21st June when the Sun moves into Cancer and marks the beginning of Summer.
* The Autumn equinox is around the 23rd September when the Sun moves into Libra and marks the beginning of Autumn. The sun crosses the equator and moves into the southern hemisphere giving the summer months and leaving the northern hemisphere to the Winter.
* The Winter solstice is on or around the 21st December when the sun enters Capricorn and marks the beginning of Winter.

Note that these zodiac signs are all cardinal signs and indicate the beginning of the seasons, the fixed signs are in the middle of each season and the mutable signs are at the end and getting ready for the change into the next season.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Spring Equinox 2011

The Spring Equinox is the point of balance of the waxing year when night and day are of equal length and there is tension between the relectiveness of the dark winter period and the activity of new growth rushing headlong toward Midsummer. It is also the festival of Oestre, the Goddess of Light who brings fertility and whose name is the origin of Easter and words like oestrogen, the hormone stimulating ovulation and fertility. It is appropriate that this season is celebrated with eggs.

The dancing hare foretells the spring,
With the fertility and new life this time does bring,
Gay Eoestre dances on the earth,
As seeds and flowers come to birth.

Tulips and daffodils come into bloom,
And life sprouts from the Earth Mother's womb,
Chickens lay their eggs now the light is growing,
Catkins and blossoms on the trees are showing.

The Sun reaches forth with his hand,
To the Maiden of Flowers returned to the land,
Their dance brings new balance into our life,
Planting the seeds to overcome strife.

We grow with the flowers and the trees,
Winter's gloom banished on a spring breeze.
The joy of new birth enters our hearts,
As we look forward to Beltane's love.

Perigee Full Moon 20th March 2011

We’ve all heard so much about the biggest and closest moon this weekend but what does this really mean?

The 2011 full moon in March is on the same day as perigee which is the moon’s closest point to Earth for this month. The Moon’s orbit is elliptical and not circular so perigee and apogee (furthest away) happens every month but this perigee happens to be one of the closest encounters and the Moon won’t come this close again until 14th November 2016.

Most people know that the Moon is responsible for the tides in the seas and oceans and full moons bring higher (and lower) than usual tides. This is because the Moon and the Sun are lined up on opposite sides of the Earth so the gravitational pull on the large bodies of water is the greatest. Perigee full moons can bring even slightly higher and lower tides.

So this “Super Moon” isn’t really bigger although it may appear slightly larger in the sky (14% bigger) particularly when rising and setting on the horizon and it certainly isn’t responsible for any earthquakes.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney, PA. 2nd February 2011

Groundhog Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada on which folklore tells if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny and the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.

The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic year, which is celebrated on February 1.
Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where crowds as high as 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886.
Groundhog Day received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name, Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney and featured Punxsutawney Phil – the most famous of all the weather forecasting Groundhogs!

The Prognosticator of Prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil, once again appeared at sunrise at Gobbler's Knob in the Pennsylvania Wilds to make his annual prediction.
Phil surveyed his surroundings and found no shadow, so an early spring it will be!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


I never really meant to collect orchids - it just sort of happened. I have been bought several as presents over the years and have bought a few myself, but only if they have been severely reduced in price of course. So now I have more than a dozen and most of the time half or more of them are in flower so I must be doing something right. They are all Phalaenopsis (or Moth orchids) in various colours.

This morning, I went to a talk on keeping and growing orchids and very interesting it was too and I picked up a few useful hints and tips. I didn't buy any as they were far too expensive for my frugal tastes (they dont call me Mrs. Tightwad for nothing) but I did buy some compost and fertiliser. Anyway, I think I will be trawling the reduced plant departments more frequently and perhaps even find a neglected Cymbidium or Dendrobium that needs a caring home.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Weight Watchers

Today was another of our regular trips to the vet with one of our cats. She's not ill, this is a weight watchers visit. Not being a very energetic cat and slightly prone to greediness, ToTo has put on a bit too much weight in the last year or so and for the past couple of months she has been on a diet on the advice of our vet.

Apparently, overweight cats are prone to diabetes and this is to be avoided at all costs if possible. No tit-bits or extras allowed - just 50 gms a day of dried, low-calorie diet food for cats.....looks barely enough to feed a sparrow let alone a cat.

She copes reasonably well with the cat carrier and the car journey which is only ten minutes although usually manages to poo on the way home. We arrived at the vet and was seen almost immediately. We let ToTo out of the carrier and the vet weighed her and since her last visit about a month ago she has lost the grand total of.......80 gms which in old money is 2.82 oz. Not as much as we would have liked but at least her weight is going in the right direction albeit slowly. I think when the weather warms up we'll be encouraging her out into the garden regularly to get more exercise.
At the moment she is stretched out in front of a hot radiator - her favourite place at this time of the year.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

This Time of Year

When I was young, this time of the year was one of the lowest in the calendar for me. My most favourite time, Christmas, was over and finished. All the excitement and build-up was all gone. I can remember crying at the end of Christmas Day - it was such a big "down".

Not only that but school was looming, back to the grindstone and exams, tests and all sorts of nasty things to come in the next few months. Add to this the dark, damp, cold winter days and the long walk to and from school each and every day - not a very happy time of the year.

Any New Year resolutions made were quickly forgotten. The only light on the horizon was......Easter! All those lovely chocolate eggs to look forward to and of course the days starting to lengthen and the temperature starting to rise a little.

The wheel of the year turns slowly as a youngster. Nowadays it turns so fast I can hardly keep up with it!