Monday, 17 August 2009

Blowing in the wind

Somewhere in South West England there is a road, and that road leads down a hill into a lane, which goes down another hill and into another lane, where eventually one finds oneself at Maiden Newton. Maiden Newton is actually 2 villages, one of which is Frome Vauchurch, the former about 1000 residents, the latter 150. A sprawling conurbation it isn't, but it was known as Chalk Newton in Thomas Hardy's novels.

However last night although this village has many attractions, a chip shop which stays open until at least 9pm being one of them, I pressed on through the valley and out onto the ridge, higher and higher until eventually I met some cows.

These are very tall cows indeed as they're standing on a hill some 820 feet above sea level, which surely must be very tall for bovine members of their family. I've mentioned this hill before in this blog, but it is a hill I'll not mention by name. And if you know where it is, SHHHH! Because this is a special place for me and I don't want people tramping all over it. It vies with my affections for my favourite view and place in the whole World. The other being this view below, near Hepple in Northumberland, which I love but that also reminds me of childhood and playing here, a bit spoilt in this photo by some bald bloke trying to be moody and interesting... in those trousers?

Yes, here in little old over crowded, but green and pleasant land there is a piece of England which has had my footprints all over it since the early 1980's when I discovered it by accident and fell in love with the place. And every time I need a mental boost, or to think, or to just be alone, I come here and sit.

Last night I came and sat with another. She liked what she saw; sadly I think she meant the view, not the author of this blog, because he had these trousers on again, tailored for comfort, not style I'd say - or is that really the shape of my legs!

I hope they've had a wash. Anyway I rarely bring anyone up here with me, because this is a solitude place for me, but last night relented and well she offered to take the photos as in nearly 30 years of coming here I'd never ever been photographed up here myself. But for my lounge wall I wanted to replicate the Hepple image.

But wandering about in baggy trousers on a windswept hill was not the real reason for this visit. This year started dreadfully but then improved and improved and has just been great, but just recently a little local difficulty cropped up and well I teetered on the black side of life for a while, clinging precariously on the lip of the cliff. By nature I'm very optimistic, but black moods when they arrive are real coal shaft of despair. It's the Norwegian in me, far too many dark winter nights and sucking salted cod over a weekend. It's taken about 6 weeks, but I've climbed out the lip now and striding through the sunshine. Ive not completely moved on, but nearly....... I had to do one last thing. I needed to let the past blow in the wind.

I'm not a religious person, but very spiritual, though friends often don't realise this, as my spiritually is hidden and private. My natural leanings these days could be described as Christian-Pagan-Spiritual, if there is such a thing. I believe there's a higher spirit out there, and nature will eventually re-balance the mess human beings are making of this planet, but what it is all about I have no idea. And don't worry, I'm not about to launch into a post modernist crusade, but as part of the cleansing process last night I thought I'd share a bit of my intimate thoughts for a change. And it's August, I never do much wildlife watching in August.

Last year I read about releasing negative thoughts and letting one of the elements of the planet, namely Air in the form of wind, take those thoughts up to the spirits, thereby releasing the dark side of one's inner being to the elements, where it can float away, rejuvenating the soul and creating an inner balance based on the positive calm rather than the negative.

Or to put it a bit more simply, write a load of horrible things down on paper and set fire to them and you feel a lot better.

The process is very simple. One needs to find a place, preferably high up, which is spiritually special to you. Ideally meditate in complete silence for a few minutes and let one's mind form the negative thoughts, influences or deeds which are bothering you, write them down, place them in a dish, set fire to them, meditate while the flames are burning, and once the ash has cooled, let the wind blow the ashes away across the landscape. Ideally you'd leave the ashes there to blow away in their own time over days, the reason being they're "picked up" by the spirits when they pass and only when they're ready to leave you; but in reality though, a little help is needed.

An interesting thing happened just before the burning. The most important negative thing I had to burn, and the cause of so much anguish and pain in the last month, was the first to be written down. I wrote 17 other things, some related, many not, twizzled the paper balls around in the bowl with a stick, and a gust of wind flicked that first paper up, unwrapped it and it ended up on top of all the others and readable from where I was sitting. It was the first paper I lit and therefore to burn and it ignited all the others.... Significant? Maybe, but I'm very much into these odd things which happen out of our control are there for a reason.

Sorry about this - it refuses to turn around in the blog - but you get the idea, ash!

And away they go............ !

My companion thought I was slightly mad when I suggested this, especially after three explanations didn't convince her I wasn't insane. But even she said when she agreed to meditate with me on the hill, and then walking back she felt different. Couldn't explain it. Just different. As I meditated, I had a weird warm feeling surge up my body. I can't explain that either, but I did have it once before on this hill years ago, and turned round to see a shape behind me slowly dissolving, like mist, but it was a fine spring day. To this day I have no idea what that was, but I know I saw it, and I wasn't at all frightened.

But lets end with some views...... I feel absolutely fabulous today and so here are some views of the finest view in the British Isles on a summers night. Click to enlarge

Thank you for taking these, you know who you are, and thank you for being there for me these last few weeks. It can't have been easy.

Normal blogging service will resume soon (ie wildlife) but I'll end with another little clue to where I was. The village which is on the Swine River, Toller being the river, Porcorum the pigs. I feel a sniffle coming on.... achooo.. Tamiflu anyone?

Monday, 10 August 2009

I didn't plan to go here......


This weekend was weird. Okay let me re-phrase this as all my weekends are weird at the moment as I'm not home much. Picture the scene, Friday afternoon in the office. Sun splitting the paving stones and the boy blogger was wondering what to do at the weekend. A few options were in the bag, but as he mulled these over he began talking to a colleague who'd just returned from Northumberland, and was loving it. Ohhohh that's an option, I haven't been there since Easter. So I rang parents, and well in a little over 5 hours I was in my parents gaff, quaffing tea and discussing what to do for a relaxing weekend up't north. A bit mad really as I'll be back there in 2 weeks with a pair of Canadians, but what the heck - we only live once - so what if the grass hasn't been cut in 6 weeks - it's a wildlife garden after all ?!!?!

Saturday morning rose fair of face. What shall we do? was the discussion as I sucked on a spot of toast and marmalade while my parents hoovered into the egg and b with I have to say the speed of a starving army. Reading the Journal, an advert for the 150th Slaley Show, this very morn. Now Slaley just south of Hexam is an area I know for only one thing, blackberries. When I were nowt bigger than a gnats knee in short pants, my father and I would be dispatched by my mother to Slaley to plunder the blackers in the hedgerows. We used to come home with tons of the stuff (it was probably drift from all the chemicals farmers used in the 1970's which made them so big and juicy). To this day though an apple and blackberry pie makes me shiver with fear, remembering the terminal lacerations we both endured to get that "perfect" specimen of a blackberry just out of reach before crashing bustle over apex into the thorns. Who needs Facebook or the Internet when there's quality entertainment like that outdoors.

Anyhow it was a bit too early for blackberry picking so by lunchtime we were there. Advertised as a traditional Northumberland show, it contained Llamas, Irish Dancing, a Roman Centurion doing a re-enactment by himself and the dog-able-to-do-the-best-tricks competition. If that's Traditional Northumberland events I'll eat my grannies clippy mat. But having said that it was a fabulous day, not least as I met up with my ex-lollipop lady (Mrs S) from my junior school, who's daughter was in the craft tent with very nice jewellery. Have a look here.

Though I have to say it was a bit worrying, when Mrs S said after we'd had a hug and a greeting "you haven't changed since you were that high, waving her hand somewhere around my nether regions, I recognised you immediately, you haven't changed a bit" Do many of you know any 17 stone, bald, pot bellied children under 10? Some of the girls maybe... :-)

Well enough of this rubbish, lets see some photos, stop the chatter.... not much wildlife I'm afraid, but Judy in Canada, this is what the UK is like. These photos are for you and Miss B. Click to enlarge if you can cope with the thrill of it all.

10 month old llama's with wellies on!

An incomer from Leicester

Always controversial, but hunting still exists, the Haydon Foxhounds

Muckle gurt tractor - I want one for the Bristol traffic - no messing !!

Eye Eye what's this then, a Highland Cooooo

What I love about shows, the produce tent. Here's a tiny selection of an hour mooching about looking at a wonderful side of eccentric English life.

Highly Commended Dahlias

Quicksilver's Father with a large cabbage - he's the one on the left

Veg in a basket

Always a crowd stopper, "silage in a Tesco's carrier bag" Gets my vote!

Children's classes are great fun - this one was just hilarious, and very very inventive !

What on earth?? Gordon Brown maybe?

thought this bat was excellent - it didn't win a prize sadly

Scrummy cakes and scones and well just mouth watering

Stick Dressing (making sticks using horn, wood or other objects on a stick) is alive and well in Northumberland, a fantastic craft. I tried it once. The stick was okay, but the carving was well shall we say, good firewood.

Somehow we missed John Grundy.... who I never knew until Saturday was the person responsible for listing my parents house as a Grade 2. It's his fault then??

Music to my ears..... will they though be bleating something by "Baaaach"

Even the carpark had a canny view owwa the hedge.

Friday, 7 August 2009

A shameless plug

Just a quick note today, and for a shameless plug of David Attenborough's Life Stories. Last week we completed the final 5 (out of 20) episodes of these lovely 10 minute pieces on Radio 4. Something has happened in that these little programmes are being seen by both the industry and Sir David himself as a fabulous piece of Radio broadcasting.

So if you can, please tune in to BBC Radio 4 either 8.45 pm on a Friday evening or 8.45am on a Sunday morning, or on line by clicking this link - Life Stories. I'll guarantee you'll not be disappointed if you love the natural world - and by all means, spread the word.

And I'm sure you'll forgive this photo taken last week!!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A life in the day of............

A day in the life of Mr Andrew.

First thing saw him down at Sand Bay before 7am; the first visit here since the middle of June. And it was glorious. After days and days of rain, it was nice to be up and at the birds of the Bristol Channel before work. Not a bad sunrise either.

I knew it was going to be a good day as I walked down the path, as with little wind I could hear the waves sloshing and crashing onto the marsh.

And as if to lighten the mood even further, the beach is covered by evening primrose, in various sizes and shapes. If you've never watched the flowers of these unfurl in the evening, then please do so, it is remarkable how much energy each flower unleashes as it corkscrews itself open.

Bird wise there was quite a bit going on, 56 (at least) curlew (enlarge the picture if you wish to see some of them by the shoreline), 10 dunlin, a handful of oystercatcher and shelduck, 50+ black headed gull, a smattering of other gulls, 2 kestrel and a very obliging female sparrowhawk which flew towards and past me. Other highlights were a little egret, usual linnet and skylark, pair of stonechats and about 40 swallows, some on the beach. A great start to the day.

And after a day at work, the evening saw me down on the Somerset Levels, and this sunset confirmed the adage, be in the right place at the right time, everything else is simple.


Say hello to Yoshi. We're not related, but he came to see me for lunch yesterday. We had a pannini and Fentemans lemonade. I'm in love with this black lab x collie.... 10 months old and cuter than a kipper on a moped. I need to find someone to look after a doggy while I'm at work... any takers !!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Rain, Sausages and it's blog-tastic

I can't believe I've only written 2 blogsters in 2 months. Either my life has been so full and exciting I've not had time to do any blogging, or so dull and boring, there was little of note to write (I'll leave you all to come to your own conclusions with that one)

However as can be seen by this fine figure of a gentleman in recumbent position, I'm clinging on to life - only just - whilst waiting for a kettle to boil. Sums up a day at Abbotsbury yesterday then. Slow paced and involving quite a bit of moisture.

Absolute badgers brolly of a day as the boy woke from his slumber. Stair rods of rain lashed the homestead. Discussing with my new and latest squeeze, shall we stay in, get fed up with the rain, and have a row, or shall we go out in the rain down to the coast and I'll do a fry up while you sit in the car and watch this performance from the safety of being behind glass. We did the latter. Well I'm keen to impress a lady with a good day out.

Getting through Dorchester was interesting, does anyone know why there is ALWAYS so much traffic in that town? eventually Abbotsbury in the rain was reached. Nothing for it but a walk along Chisel beach. Who needs the gym eh, just walk a mile there and back along pebbles and it's enough cardie-vascular exercise for life.

Of course being next to the sea, there are waves.

And baby stonechats

And a pair of linnets - a prize if anyone can spot them. Another classic wildlife photo from me then

and ducks....... okay I know they're Canada geese but my warden chum Dave calls all birds "budgies" and somehow in my dim and distant past I used to call all birds "ducks". And if anyone is interested (or made it to this point in this posting still awake) that's St Catherine's Chapel on top of the hill.

Anyhow it was a grand walk in the rain, made much better by the fact that by the time we'd got back to the car, the rain had stopped and lo in the sky was an orb of watery sunshine. Just in time for me to unleash the chef in me!!

But finally. Can anyone explain sea fishermen? We watched in awe as every fisherman arrived, unloaded his car (yes they were all him's) and then walk away with enough kit to equip a small army on manoeuvres. When I fished many moons ago, I had a rod, a bag and a round of sarnies. Today they have tons of equipment..... must mean each fish caught costs about £200. Anyway we watched these fishermen struggling up the beach. Grand end to the day... much better than the telly!