Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buzzards and ploughing

Some of the following photos are very stark in the blackness of the earth, but that is how it was when we went to the river Terling yesterday. The farmer was ploughing the field into a great sea of black ploughed ridge and furrows, the soil gleamed as it was turned, wet and heavy by the river. The powerful tractor was pulling a plough with great teeth that tore up the earth. No team of horses could have done that job without a great deal of labour, and though this disturbance of the soil is destructive, it brings forth a harvest next year. Red hips draped over a fallen tree, the sloes still gleaming amongst the copper turning leaves. A cluster of mushrooms clung to the opposite bank, but difficult to get to through the swathe of nettles.
The two buzzards (my totem bird) wheeled in the sky harassed by a crow, they turned and glided on the thermals, twisting away from the crow, the cream underside of their long wings catching the sun. I am fond of their lazy slow flight, their indifference to the mobbing that occurs from the crow family. At this particular spot, and note Essex does actually have hills and is not flat everywhere, the field had been sown, and a long line of 10 pheasants made a slow procession from the woods into the field. In other fields, the grey of grouse blended in so well with the soil, that they were almost like stones.

A furrowed sea

black soil gleaming in the sun

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ghosts - the Spirits of England

A rather good book for this time of the year, of course if one was cynical, just the right time to have a review written about it.

"England is a haunted country. Several explanations, for the ubiquity of the ghost in this land, can be offered. Alone among the countries of Europe, England is bordered by original British (or Celtic) nations. The popularity of the English ghost tradition – the English see more ghosts than anyone else – is deeply rooted in its peculiar mingling of Germanic, Nordic and British superstitions. The English are also in many respects obsessed with the past, with ruins, with ancient volumes. It is the country where archaeology is placed on national television, and where every town and village has its own local historian. Ghosts therefore may be seen as a bridge of light between the past and the present, or between the living and the dead. They represent continuity, albeit of a spectral kind."

'The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time' is published by Chatto & Windus (£12.99)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"How Dare You" - hunting

Well this is not going to be a 'class' rant, but the video below fascinated me as to how a particular man behaved in response to being videoed by an anti-hunt person. I had used this video to illustrate the mindset of the people who are probably behind our conservative government's plan to sell off 50% of our forests to private investors (yes you heard right!) for development! and of course a loosening of planning laws is also coming along in its wake. Give them power and we're back to privatisation of the worst kind, the free for all (that is if you are rich) to 'own' and develop - this in our overcrowded tiny island, with all the powers we have put in place to protect our wild places, moors, forest, woods as a sanctuary for our indigenous animals, plants, trees and birds.
I suspect that the conservatives will not get away with it, for all their weak kowtowing the Liberals should and hopefully will speak out...
So what about the video, the person who is filming (an anti-hunting moderator) confronts our 'John Bull' character on his piebald horse? who gets into a rage and seems to splutter 'how dare you' several times because he can't find anything else to say, except such foolishness as to demand why is she filming on this bright morning at 7.45. She has, sadly for him, the right to be on a public lane. Also, her car has been boxed in by the followers of the hunt, this confrontation is of course a common stance in this particular war.
It is the sight of grown men and women on large horses that is so extraordinary, a little fox crosses the road in the background, that is what they are hunting, a small chestnut coloured creature who lives out in these fields in Gloucester. What is his crime you may ask? well maybe he's been killing a few pheasants, but millions are bred, either in this country or they come from France, reared in the woods from young, and then shot at as a 'sport' - there's plenty to go around. Oh and pheasants are not difficult to kill, being rather slow and clumsy to flight. It can't be hens the little fox is after, most of our hens are well protected. So this 'vermin' that must be exterminated by a hunt and a pack of dogs is really only there for the pleasurable exercise of killing!
The good thing of course is that there are people there standing up for the 'rights' of the fox, the bad thing? well maybe its the foul mouthed abusive language that tumble from the mouths of the hunters, who must know that they are in the wrong.....

Money Could grow on trees

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The end is nigh

Well at least for my computer, which has been crashing lately; it needs replacing, so I have been copying email addresses, passwords and anything that needs saving to my external hard drive.
But the solid sound of a book hitting the floor as the postman delivered the mail through the letterbox this morning -David Abrams Becoming Animal and my Resurgence magazine means that at least I shall have plenty to read in the future!
Going out to find a new computer fills me with horror, I shall end up with a laptop of course because it will give me more space on my desk; I need at least two desks, a large table for ALL my other work, and another bookcase, space is always at a premium.......
Whether it will hit my access to my blog I am not sure, only remember Bovey Belle's trouble when she could not access her blog, we will see.
What else has ended? The marvellous radio programme A History of the World in 100 Objects, no more will we listen to the mellifluous tones of Neil Macgregor, or the rather good intro music, its finished on the note of a solar powered lamp and charger. There was a lot of discussion on the radio last week, sheer surprise at the dullness of this last choice to go out on. But Macgregor's choice was inspired for in the selfish world of this supposedly 'first' world, in which we think the technology of whizz bang internet mobile phones is the bees knees, he had chosen a small lamp and a charger for mobile phones for all the people in the rest of the world (one and a half billion) who do not have access to the unlimited energy consumption we have in the form of electricity. Solar power is of course the greatest energy source on this earth, it empowers people in the 'third' world (I do so hate that expression) to be educated and to conduct business.
And an interesting article in the Financial Times.. by Andrew Roberts, ending with the following words.....
"MacGregor could not have skewered our pretensions better; we too often think ourselves superior to earlier inhabitants of the planet simply because of the chronological – and all too swiftly altered – accident that we are alive. Look at the photographs of the majestic centaur and Lapith on the Parthenon Sculpture (440BC) or the Augsburg mechanical galleon (1585), and then fast-forward through the centuries to our own green plastic solar-powered lamp and mobile phone charger.

Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair. "

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fungi in Blakes Wood

Don't ever eat Boletus
If the tube-mouths they are red
Stay away from the amanitas
Or brother you are dead

The beautiful gills of a mushroom, I laid the camera underneath it and then just clicked. A walk in Blake's Wood this afternoon revealed puffballs, mushrooms and fungi. In actual fact it should be Sweet Chestnut Wood, for everywhere the ground was covered in the spiky pale green shells of the chestnut tree splitting open to reveal the four nutlets inside. A couple of people were picking bags full and I now know where to find the biggest nuts. Seems I will have to do a little research into what to do with them, apart from roasting on the fire, I collected a large pocketful of them.
The mushrooms were incredible it really has been a good year for fruit and nuts, and the mushrooms must love the damp weather we having having of late.

These two photos of white mushrooms were close together, so they may be one and the same species, note the bluish tinge in the above

Red agaric mushrooms, pretty but poisonous of course, no dainty fairy sat underneath

puffballs, apparently delicious to eat when young and still white inside, but as they grew older, and develope a dark green inside (the spores) no good for eating.

Sweet Chestnut tree

Strange creature the puffball, a lot of the mushrooms were nibbled, even the fly agaric, it has a stem but belongs to the puffball family...

Strange but maybe a puffball, bad photo

This has a cracked surface, could it be a russula? to answer myself no, but a decent mushroom book might help!

last words by Gary Snyder..

So here's to the mushroom family,

A far-flung friendly clan,
For food, for fun, for poison
They are a help to man.

October Sunday

Its been a quiet week, I have deserted my computer except when necessary, the soothing sound of my spinning wheel, with the slight click of the foot pedal is more to my keeping; no continuous news on the radio just the birds in the tree outside. Listened to the harsh cry of the crow, and thought of Hughes piercing poetry on the bird. Listened to the gentler sparrows as they chirrup themselves awake in the early morning, the blue tits are back, and also the grey collared doves feeding greedily as the weather turns colder.

We have'nt actually been anywhere this week except to town, and the only highlight there was sitting in the mall drinking coffee at Starbucks with the swirl of people passing by. A young lad brought out a tray of chocolate pots which he gave away to customers and passers-by, and it was lovely to see people surprised and happy to receive something free.

Checked on my sitemeter to see what people read, popular are my two blogs on romano/celtic Bath and genii cucullati and I noted how unfinished they are! Up comes photos of the snow I took last year, and I begin to see what a good idea a blog is, for we can look back, it is a visual diary that records the daily events though of course it is also public and so has to be approached with some caution.

Thinking why my thoughts turn to Celtic Britain, it must be to do with the time of year - Halloween - the rising of the dead from the grave yards, if you would believe the folklore! At Whitby the Goths taking to the streets dressed in black in celebration of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula, a fairly longwinded and boring book, but the base tale for all those later Hammer horror films. Photos from about three years ago, show an ageing goth cult, but perhaps it would be interesting to go into their history as to why they dress up in such sombre fashion.

The 199 steps up to the Abbey with the tramp of thousands of feet daily

Whitby street full of tourists

Goths everywhere

They posed for my camera

This photo needs some explanation, it was taken on a drive out over the bleak Yorkshire coast, in actual fact what you see is the footings for a great bonfire on bonfire night in this little cove, an event which is attended by many. What you don't see is the bleakness of this area when the local steel works closed down (Corus). The little village with the allotments stretched up the hill looking forlorn and poor. This calamity four years back, is being echoed today as we head for massive cuts in budgets and jobs. Yesterday in the Guardian, the sad sight of a horse tethered on an Irish housing estate hungry and with skin disease, they are talking of culling the starving horses that have been turned out by their owners because of the so called Celtic Tiger having died a miserable death. People are paying for the foolishness of their governments and greedy bankers who gambled with our pensions and savings; sadly heads will not roll, its just the ordinary people who have to pay.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Spinning and miniatures

The river on the 10/10/10, beautiful sunny day and the dragonflies were still hawking up and down, the water is so clear....

Here is my favourite stallion, terribly muddy though you can't see from the picture, he needs a thoroughly good brush. The water meadows are living up to their name, and old water courses, presumably to the mill are flooded, the ground is very boggy. We could'nt make it over to the pub but had to walk all the way back.

At last my spinning wheel is settled, working beautifully after oiling, the wool being spun is Shetland, though I could have sworn I ordered Jacob wool! It is slightly harsh but very easy to spin from the tops. The big cardigan I decided to knit from it has a band of fair isle, this merino wool, not sure what I dyed the lighter grey with but suspect it was one of the Japanese dyes.

Dolls house also came back with a tumble of furniture inside, this from the nursery and the kitchen - think I shallphotograph the little books more closely, as they are made from blocks of wood, filed to give the illusion of the inner pages and then painted in gold. Should I get back to miniature work? but somehow have too many things to do... the little plate rack at the back has holes drilled by the tiniest of drills..

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Earlier in the week listening to Melvin Bragg talking about Ted Hughes' book of 'Birthday Letters' about his wife Slyvia Plath and the very last poem that did not get included in the book set me thinking.

The poem was written 35 years later, and describes Hughes anguish at the death of his wife, there was of course also guilt, when he picked up the phone that day and heard the terrible words 'your wife is dead'. The poem got printed in the New Statesman, and an article in the Guardian can be found here detailing its find by Bragg.

Well I'm not going to dwell on that particular poem, but another one in his Remains of Elmet book of poems which went through my mind when thinking of Hughes and marriage, a line which says "And marriage is nailed down" to be found in his Bridestones poem.

A short resume of where the book and poem is coming from needs some explanation. Elmet is one of the small British/Brythonic kingdoms of the early medieval ages. Elmet is to be found probably in West Yorkshire and by the 6th century would have been conquered by its greater Northumbrian neighbours Deira and Bernicia, as they became christianised from Kent. It is in many ways a 'lost' kingdom of pagan origin and this is why it appealed to Hughes. Bridestones of course remind us of the pagan Brigid goddess. To discuss pagan goddesses one must also go back to the mothers, often seen as the three hags up North, and his book is around this theme of the natural world coupled with an apocalyptic vision of the world, taken from William Blake and his poem Jerusalem. Such meanderings of course can best be judged by reading about the subject matter and Ann Skea, seems to have written an extraordinary amount on Hughes, her review of Remains of Elmet will fill many of the answers in....

The Great Bridestones

Scorched-looking, unhewn - a hill-top chapel

Actually a crown of outcrop rock -

Earth's heart bone laid bare.

Crowding, congregation of skies.

Tense congregation of hills.

You do nothing casual here.

The wedding stones

Are electrified with whispers.

And marriage is nailed down

By this slender necked, heavy headed

Black exclamaition mark

of rock.

And you go

With the wreath of weather

The wreath of horizons

The wreath of constellations

Over your shoulders.

And from now on

The sun

Touches you

With the shadow of this finger.

From now on

The moon stares into your skull

From this perch.

And a slightly different version for the opening line..

(Holy of holies - a hill-top chapel)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Endings and beginnings

Its early in the morning, the darkness has crept in so quickly the last few weeks that there has been no seamless change from summer to autumn and we still have days of summer interspersed with the changing weathers of autumn. No mist this morning like yesterday, but the heavy clatter of rain as it falls through the leaves of the maple, and the wind rustling through the tree hastening their death as they fall to the ground
Behind me is my spinning wheel, brought from my old home last weekend, the beautiful embroidered silk dragon and a couple of quilts will be folded neatly into a cupboard, the old house is sold, its garden lies forlorn and overgrown, the apple trees still full of fruit, but my intelligent beautiful Moss is well and I give thanks for that.
I expect the house will have a radical makeover, it did a marvellous job in its time, it housed children and students, animals of various sorts, but in the end all that work became too much.
So on Sunday we loaded my son-in-law's land rover with the bits I considered valuable and parted on amicable terms with my ex-husband, another phase of my life finished.
I would like to go out walking along the river, but the rain stops that for the moment, when we drive to Chelmsford over the water meadows I often glimpse the gypsy horses in the distance, out in all weathers their lives little changed. I need to visit a couple of churches perhaps to record their past, to see the patina of age fading gently into their stones, to wonder if there is a 'pagan' heart still lurking in those selfsame stones, to find the Saxon grave or the stream that nourished the people who settled so long ago.
It has grown light, the dark browns and reds of the maple tree fill the window with colour, funnily enough I can't stand red leaf trees, but had one in my last garden dominating the centre, soft greens are more to my liking. This tree here normally houses a couple of collared doves at night, the magpie will come and jump from branch to branch noisily sometimes, clumsy old wood pigeons rattle around, and lately I have heard the long tailed tits song as they hunt for insects on the leaves.
So winter gathers in, a time for fires, christmas to look forward to with my grandchildren, games to buy to keep them amused and another bookcase to buy for the three boxes of books I bought back with me!