A Rose for a Troubadour

apothecarys-rose-last-of-2016In 1972 I spent three months working on a kibbutz in northern Israel as a volunteer, something which was popular at the time. You got a cheap flight and accommodation in return for various work on the kibbutz.

We lived in volunteers’ accommodation, very basic, and also not much soundproofing. The guy next to us was profoundly depressed and played Leonard Cohen all the time – known in those days as “music to cut your throat by”.

I developed a prolonged dislike of Leonard Cohen after that time until I came across an album a couple of decades ago by Jennifer Warnes called: “Famous Blue Raincoat” which was a tribute to Leonard Cohen and his wonderful poetic songs.

And then recently I came across the wonderful song of his called “Dance Me to the End of Love” which I included in a recent blog.

Cohen may have passed over to share his poetry in the Summerlands, but I’m more than happy that I was able, before he left this world, to learn to appreciate his work and to admire the life he led which definitely followed the road less travelled.

In all the upheaval, pain and anger of the past week and the US Presidential elections, Leonard Cohen’s music and poetry is a reminder of the beauty, power and healing energies of his wonderful music and the gifts of poetry and music which so enrich our daily lives.

And the photo is of the Apothecary’s Rose in our garden – a wonderful rose native to the Turkish region which has an ancient history. So it seemed fitting to post a photo of the last rose of 2016 to commemorate the passing of that wonderful troubadour, Leonard Cohen.

Coming up Roses

Apothecary's Rose 2015 1 Rose, pink

The first flowers of our spring roses: the top one is my lovely Apothecary’s Rose, and the one below is a pink one we planted last year, slow to take off, but heaps of buds this year.  Our garden looks a picture at present as my husband has widened our flower beds (they’re fenced off to stop our four dogs noshing the plants) and given more space for the flowers to spread.

In Praise of Rain and Roses

In praise of rain and rosesIn 1994, after both living in Perth, Western Australia, for 20+ years, we suddenly uprooted and moved to Queensland.  We bought a house in S-E Queensland, on a 1-acre block halfway up Mt French, just outside of a township called Boonah.  We didn’t realise it but we had arrived during a drought.  Winters in Queensland are dry and sunny and we moved in at the beginning of October when summer storms were starting to move through and fill our rain tanks – we had no piped water, only a huge, concrete water tank and a much smaller galvanised steel tank.

Come the next summer, there was no rain – just endless days of hot sun and bright blue skies.  It sounds great but you get sick of it. And you get even sicker of it as you watch the water in your tanks get lower and lower.  You learn to be waterwise and conserve this precious commodity – never to let a precious drop of water be wasted.

Here in North Cyprus, rain is similarly a somewhat sporadic affair.  We get heavy bursts of rain, mainly in late December through to February, but the rest of the year is usually very dry, back to the endless sunshine and clear, blue skies.  Last summer rainfall was very low, by mid-summer the island was in drought and up until recently we had water rationing, the first time since we’ve been here.

However, over the past few weeks, Mother Nature has seen fit to send us rain, rain, storms and more rain. The paddock beside us is bright green, a far cry from the parched landscape of summer, and also green and rich much earlier than last year when the paddock managed a stingy green in January and February.

This afternoon I wandered into the garden to find our Apothecary’s Rose nearly fully open with raindrops glistening on its ruby petals. So off I trotted to get my sturdy camera and here’s the result – an adoration of my Apothecary’s Rose which I love because it’s got an ancient heritage and is native to this region. And more adoration of the wet stuff which keeps falling from the sky and soaking into our soil so we are greening up and starting to look somewhat lush and luscious.

I do realise that it is ironic to be banging on about how great rain is when other people around the world are experiencing floods and hardship from an excess of water. But I guess you can only deal with your own experiences – and I know that, for me, rain is something I value and never take for granted.



I felt the urge to get back to some digital art today – it’s a beautiful sunny day here in North Cyprus, bright blue skies and bright sunshine, feeds my soul. And to be more prosaic, now it’s so much cooler (only in the ’20s now) I feel a whole lot more energetic.

I created a dark red canvas, then added a burst of light rays, before moving this over to Pixlr where I found a new gizmo which added the pyramid shapes.  Now I was left with a red centre and I couldn’t decide between a photo of a red Apothecary’s Rose or of a clear quartz pyramid with inclusions which I’ve had in my collection since I found it in a crystal warehouse in the UK.  It was in a room where damaged or leftover crystals were housed and the room had such a sad energy. My pyramid has one corner missing but, when I picked it up, a burst of energy shot up my arm.  My friend felt it as her eyes widened, she took a step back and went “Wow! I really felt the power of that!”.

In the end, I couldn’t make up my mind as both pieces of digital art felt they were about heart energy, hence the title name: “Heartery”.   You can make your own mind up if you prefer one over the other or like them both equally!

Love - This is my Song
Love – This Is My Song
Love's Kaleidoscope
Love’s Kaleidoscope



Once again I’ve used a photo of my favourite Apothecary’s Rose, now blooming our garden, to create a simple image of what to me, portrays an open heart, compassion and tenderness for those needing sanctuary and shelter for whatever reason.

I quite often accidentally take photos close-up of surfaces, colours and other weird stuff because my Lumix camera is very sensitive and if you touch the screen, it’ll pop a photo for you. So when I was downloading photos recently, I found I’d also managed to take a photo of some surface which I thought would work as a good backdrop in my digital art.  I sparked it up a bit with BeFunky as I really like their editing gizmo, and then turned to Photoshop where I created a number of images in different colours.

The one I used for this digital art is the purple backdrop and over it I’ve superimposed a photo of an Apothecary’s Rose in full bloom, and showing the enormous heart of the rose which is what we used to identify the rose as it’s so unusual. Then I added rays to the heart’s centre to portray love shining out.

This piece is called “Sanctuary” in support of those in need, whether it be unemployment, sickness, homelessness, poverty, fleeing wars, repressive regimes, torture, droughts and other hardships, and seeking sanctuary as asylum seekers and refugees.  I offer this image of an open heart not only to those overseas but also in our own nations where too often those in difficult circumstances are treated with scorn and contempt, instead of understanding, respect and support.


I did this today in response to the actions of the Federal Government in Australia which intercepted two boats of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka on the high seas, who had set sail from a refugee camp in India. The Minister for Immigration refused to answer any questions about the boats, maintaining a veil of secrecy over government actions which would do justice to a totalitarian regime like North Korea. In essence, the boats were “disappeared”. It has since emerged that apparently four questions were put to the asylum seekers by video to determine whether they were asylum seekers or not (totally outside of all legal protocol) and 41 were turned over to the Sri Lankan navy. The adults returned to Sri Lanka now face two years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine. On the second boat, 11 people have been tortured by Sri Lanka’s intelligence services.

Since then the High Court has ruled that the Federal Government  must give 72 hours’ notice before it returns asylum seekers to Sri Lanka and has halted the planned immediate transfer of 153 more claimants to the island’s armed forces. The actions of the Federal Government are illegal, it’s called refoulement and it recalls the dark days of handing Jewish people seeking refuge back to the German Nazis.

Thankfully in Australia there are many, many decent people who are standing up for the asylum seekers, including the legal eagles who went to the High Court to prevent the Federal Government returning the asylum seekers to Sri Lanka without following legal principles, the Asylum Seekers’ Resource Centre, and many community organisations taking action to support asylum seekers and refugees.

So this rose of Sanctuary is not only to depict an open, loving heart for people in need where they may be. It is also to honour those who take action wherever it is needed to support those in troubling circumstances and who make sanctuary possible for those seeing comfort and the kindness of the human heart.

May Australia find its way once again to an open heart and show compassion and refuge to those coming to the shores of this island nation seeking succour and assistance, and restore its self-respect.

Black-Eyed Susan & Other Garden Goodies

Black-Eyed Susan CreeperI’ve seen a couple of posts on US blogs this week about Black-Eyed Susan flowers and they are quite different to what we call Black-Eyed Susans in Australia and here in North Cyprus.  It is a hardy creeper with bright orange to pale yellow flowers.  Ours got really whacked in January when we had a viciously cold wind blowing here from north Europe, but it has finally come good and now is a dense creeper over the fence beside our gate.

And since a friend requested some photos of our garden in mid-summer, here are some more photos. Again, I have to ‘fess up that my husband is the gardener, not me, I put the mockers on plants.  It amazes me how our flowers, bushes and trees bow and scrape to  Bryan and grow like the clappers, while with me they just sneer, shrivel and turn up their toes!

I am also going to take a bit of a break from digital art and post some photographs of North Cyprus, because it’s such a lovely place, and also fish out some photos from my holiday in 2012, including scenery in Scotland and the upgrading/preservation of one of Manchester’s rail stations.

Basil, July 2014
Basil plant – growing like the clappers, it was tiny when we planted it.


Blue bush, front garden, July 2014
Bush with blue flowers which has somehow survived the three cats playing in it and knocking it around, as well as the four dogs trying to eat it. Must be a tough cookie!
Bougainvillea Fence
Bougainvillea on our front fence, plus flower garden below (fenced in to stop dogs eating the flowers).
Corner garden, July 2014
Corner of our garden with bangalow palm – they are very graceful, grow tall and – best of all – sucker and spread giving very elegant shade.
Flower bed 1, July 2014
Flower bed on right side of our garden.
Flower bed, July 2014
White daisies – grew from one cutting.
Foxtails 1, July 2014
Rat’s tails grasses on our external flower bed (or at least, that’s why I call them!)
Front flower bed, July 2014
View of external flower bed looking east along the path.
Ornamental pots
Ornamental pots outside our wall
Outside flower bed 1, July 2014
Outside flower bed with bougainvilleas growing through fence.
Passion Flower Vine
Passion flower vine – it’s only been in a month but is spreading like the clappers.
Passion Flower, July 2014
Passion Flower
Solanum, corner garden, July 2014
Solanum bush in the corner of our garden – is covered in blue flowers.
Veldt daisies, Apothecary's Rose, July 2014
Veldt daisies and our Apothecary’s Rose
Green bush, paddock
Finally, I took a photo of this one green bush standing alone in its green-ness in the middle of the neighbouring paddock where everything else is dried out in the summer heat. It stands out like a beacon to hope and courage – dare to be different even when the odds are against you!


In our garden we have an Apothecary’s Rose bush (Rose Gallica Officinalis) which I absolutely love. When it blooms it is dark red with a huge centre. It is also very sturdy as it has survived being chewed by our four dogs – until my husband put wire netting around it to protect the flowers from doggy depredations!

I find this rose fascinating because it an ancient strain (ca. 1400) and it’s called the Apothecary’s Rose because, over the centuries, it has been grown for its medicinal qualities. It is characterised as a rose of great historical importance and is native to southern and central Europe eastwards to Turkey and the Caucasus. It’s also said to be the Red Rose of Lancaster, the emblem chosen by the House of Lancaster at the time of the War of the Roses.

Here’s a close-up of the heart of one of these rose blossoms and I’ve called this post RoseHearty because Rosehearty, where our daughter lives, is a small, beautiful village on the north coast of Scotland. It has a really lovely historic harbour and our daughter is the Harbour Mistress.

Heart of the Rose.jpg

Rosehearty Harbour
Rosehearty Harbour


Pitsligo Castle & Horse Riders
Pitullie Castle, just outside Rosehearty, with horse riders in foreground