Sunday, 12 December 2010

Its an age thing?

England are doing well in The Ashes, so all is well in my sporting world.  Not so good if you follow football but since when has it been?

There is something a little miserable about shivering away at 3am watching people in T-shirts likely to suffer heat stroke if they clap too energetically but that is the wonder of modern media.

To compliment my Ashes watching I am reading Crickets Burning Passion. The story of how it all came about. (no it is a proper review not an effort to funnel you to my Amazon affiliate page)

As it is winter here in Blighty my reading matter usually tries to mirror the seasons, so it is polar adventure for me.  Walking Home Lynn Schooler.  A book I read in one long sitting, always a good sign.  Not sure if I stumbled on this book myself or some other outdoor blog had mentioned it.  Anyway its worth the read.  Middle aged man in crumbling personal relationship discovers time is passing.  Thankfully this is no ordinary middle aged desk jockey with a midlife crisis, this fellow lives and breathes the wild and going for a stroll along the Alaskan coast is just what he does.

Perhaps like a lot of people, I spend a lot of time wanting to be somewhere else.  Planning for the “next thing” which is usually down a long road and preferably ending with a muddy track.  This sort of changed when I read a book listing Britain’s wild places.  I happen to live in what is considered one of Britain’s top 50 wild places.  Not down the road, not nearby, about 5 minutes gentle stroll.

I have done for years, it is actually inhospitably wild protected by access problems.  Low lying saltmarsh that is pretty much useless for anything humans want to do today, unless they want to get stuck in mudholes which do kill you or get caught by rising tides which will drown you.  Fortunately you need some sort of boat to really get into trouble, but every year some fools have to be pulled from the mud on the periphery as they have sunk up to their middles.  Years ago of course you died, now you get busy on your mobile phone and pray you don’t die.

Its flat, bleak monotonous stuff to my eyes, but the birds love it.  So faced with this fact I have decided to expand my knowledge of birds beyond the seagull / duck / goose / wader / sparrow categorisation which has served me well for many a decade.

I am alarmingly ignorant of this stuff.  I know more about goretex and stoves made out of cans than I do about the natural world going on around me.  I have been putting the cart before the horse for rather too long when it comes to hiking.  Sure I have responded to the impressive landscape stuff, the sort of thing you see when overflying an area but I seem to have missed just about everything else of consequence.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Well October my computer failed me.  Specifically a hard drive failed me, the one that boots the machine.  I could have bought repaired it but it was time for a new computer.

When I say 70 quid on ebay bought me a better computer, you can well understand it was time to upgrade the old one.  I don’t play Call of Duty Special Ops, all I need is enough computing power to get man to the moon.

Anyway, it set my priorities a little differently as a connected up a string of dubious legacy hard drives with the images of years gone by and worded memories.  Backups exist and had to be redone to keep them current.

The weather turned from cold to miserable, to cold and miserable and then November arrived and added wet and windy into the combination.

The last thing meaningful I did was go into the woods and collect chestnuts.  This was just before Nov 5th of course, a spare afternoon where the sun was peeking out from behind a cloud.  Later it rained, but by then I was outside.

Being out in rain is different to going out in rain and I was under the canopy by then, foraging about in the leaf litter.

The strong winds had brought down a happy crop of chestnuts and they had obliging leapt from their prickly cases as well.  Collecting was very easy indeed, a seasonal pleasure.

This all lead to collecting more than totally necessary, or lets say, more than I ended up capable of eating, preserving, cooking, generally making use of.  The remains still await useful introduction to the local wildlife.

Anyway I am back to my fitful best and hoping the North wind at least dries or freezes the mud which passes for countryside all around me so I can get out there without the need to scrape boots and wash dogs.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Swift, I am not.

Just before I left for my ill-fated Dartmoor trip I had a last bit of business to do.

Transport yourself back to the middle of August, it is where you find me now.  My backlog of potential blog/diary entries is rather considerable.

An unusual sunny day broke clear of the dross August has been. It was a reminder that this was late summer, 19th August not 19th Feb and the weather should at least be civilised. Shirt sleeve order, the sky was a clouded blue, strong deep like bulletproof glass.

I am crammed on the last vestige of land before England gives way to sea. At the base of south facing slope linking sea to sky, dotted with scrub but dominated by a large wild rose bush. The red rose hips stand out clear, a scene of strong colour. Bursting with health, nothing wrong with them.

It is the dozens of swifts which are skimming the slope which have attracted my attention. I am not alone on this patch of England but I am alone in watching the swifts. They seem invisible to others even as they come down the slope through them.

The swifts squeak as they wheel and cart through the sky, feeding on insects caught in warm updraft. The swifts themselves take on the appearance of a swarm, flying crazy lines, in out and around, they come close to everything but hit nothing.

So rare to land they are the perfection of flying. As I watch the display more things come into focus. There is a blackbird chucking leaf litter about under the rose bush. Industriously busy he seems oddly earthbound, not prepared to take flight among the swifts.

Not so a number of white butterflies, they flutter seemingly without concern going about the business they have and always will have. A group of wasps take the usual unhealthy interest in me. Wasps seem to take a naughty delight in the reactions they instil. I let them hover and idle about me, arm waving seems to increase their interest rather than deter them.

All this is and so much more I do not see is going on in a bit of land maybe 20 foot by 60 foot. It was wonderfully life affirming. Yes, a newspaper article has just told me the swift population has collapsed and the future will contain less of them, but right there, right then, there were enough to put on a marvellous show for me.

Was it because it is a common enough site that I alone took time to stop and stare or were people too busy relaxing to care. I was the only one there who had business to conduct, everyone else was there to relax and enjoy themselves.

It is just one of those simple scenes which weave themselves into memories fabric for reasons .unknowable