Sunday, October 30, 2011

Changing the clocks

Well the clocks are back, some of ours went back yesterday, so that going from room to room disorientation took place as you slipped from one time zone to another.  In this household we also have another clock in the kitchen telling Japanese time as well - so be it, the artificial telling of time as the earth spins round.  Tomorrow it will be Halloween, time for the 'Wild Hunt' to take place, and I've written about it elsewhere but I came across it in Alan Garner's Moon of Gomrath which I read last night.  I love children's books, and of course Garner's telling of tales round Alderley Edge are classics, but slightly disappointed with the writing, Tolkien does it better (who can beat him) with his breadth and expanse of other worlds, Garner has raided several Celtic books for his character's name, mostly Irish, the Children of Danu comes to mind.  Perhaps I'm a bit of a trainspotter when it comes to reading books, or perhaps I should'nt read children's book.
So my next book is the more sombre Bill Mckibben's Eaarth, back to my  green reading which I have neglected the past few months.

Halloween has actually gone downhill as an event, the 'youf' round here tend to throw eggs at the windows of people's houses, and the girls in Whitby desperate to go 'trick and treating' are not allowed of course in case they frighten old ladies, etc. Bring back the 'Wild Hunt' ;)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Not commenting on other blogs

This is not rudeness on my part, only I find it impossible to do! It started when google demanded of me a gmail account, so I filled it in, but this blog has always been through my yahoo account. So what happens, when I go to answer on someone's blog, press the appropiate 'send', the message comes up that I must sign out and come back under my other account....I do, but get the same message on the other account. I suspect if I was cleverer would be able to overcome the problem, but then sadly I'm not.
So apologies to everyone, but I do come and read your blogs!!


Sheep of course everywhere on the moors
Back in Essex, after a comfortable drive back, the last couple of days have been taken up with washing,etc.
The cottage is in the hands of the plasterers now, chimney mended and hopefully the roof will not display any other problems, though there is mutterings about rotten wood under the guttering!
It was cold in Whitby and gale force winds for a couple of days but the cottage was warm, if somewhat unfurnished and bare of carpets, but carpets and a sofa will arrive soon, and the beds have already arrived.
My son-in-law D has beautifully painted all the old stripped paint surfaces, and done a thousand and one jobs in the process.

holcrum Hole
We came over the moors from York to Whitby, and they are bleak if the sun isn't out, a palette of browns and greys, with blackened surfaces where the heather has been deliberately burnt back.  Passing the Hole of Holcrum, a great bowl of greenery, caused not by a meteorite from outer space but the steady drip of water, drop by drop over the millenia.
Whitby is as crowded as ever, fish and chip shops abound, it's like a northern Southend but of course much prettier.  We do the usual rounds with the children, tea and chocolate cake at Sherlocks, a very Victorian teashop, with books everywhere and LS and I go to the Magpie Restaurant, not for fish and chips but they do a great range of other fish like squid, turbot and halibut.  The restaurant is so popular that people queue for hours to get in, and it has a deserved reputation.  The 'proper' way to eat fish and chips is with mushy peas, white buttered bread and a pot of tea and most people seemed to be eating this when we were there.
The sofa was, at last, found in Middlesborough, which is about 35 miles from Whitby, and you have to drive through Teesside, etc. We also took the coastal road, that took us past Skinninggrove, a small village set by the sea, now having a somewhat derelict air as the steel industry that employed so many people has gone. Each year they have a great bonfire display, a couple of years ago it was a Viking ship burnt, last year I think it was a dragon.
But to Middlesborough, an enormous shopping complex/mall, the first person we see there is 'Jesus' from Whitby standing by a hot dog stall, and D says he has probably walked all the way.  A strange thin man, who does indeed look like Jesus, thin face, long hair and beard, probably Italian he mutters unintelligibly to himself, but is well looked after in Whitby, showering at the sports centre, and collecting his daily allowance of money from the bank, where he lives I do not know.
The problem with shopping with three other people, is that everyone has an opinion on what they like, and I cannot choose too well, but Laura Ashley had a sale on, so we eventually find one at half price which seemed to suit everyone.

A view down Brunswick road, just off Flowergate

Brunswick Road with its three churches clustered together

Whitby at night

Going down the valley to Beck Hole,

Yorkshire farm house up on the moors

Skinninggrove -Teesside


The girls

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Of late, my reading has fallen by the wayside, not sure why but probably age, but I have determined to rectify this omission, giving up certain duties elsewhere, LS is also starting a new blog on conservation as well, which should be interesting when it is finished.......
Recently I read an article on a blog Musings from the Bike Shed about the new phase of  'wild or wilderness' writers, and it sent me back to my books and reading Amazon reviews about these writers.  Well this is not a critique of those books, but a general reshuffling in my mind of what is good and what I find bad.
Firstly I have always enjoyed the early 20th century writers, Susan Hartley, Edward Thomas, Massingham and Richard Jefferies come to mind and their approach to country writing, the thought of wildness had not crept into their imaginings although Jefferies novel "After London or Wild England" touches upon the word.  The English countryside was as perfectly utilised in their time as it is today, the wild places that modern day writers allude to are the bleak mountain ranges of Scotland or maybe Wales, land that is unfarmable (if such a word exists), so we have moors such as Exmoor, Dartmoor  or the Yorkshire moors, tourist havens for the walker or seeker of history or plants.  Nothing is wild, none of these places has ever escaped the tramp of feet in this small island.  And what of the mass of little islands that cling to our coasts, Scotland with its Shetland and Orkney, tiny islands like the one I came across the other day with its dozen feral cattle left behind by the last inhabitants of the island, or even St.Kilda, again an island emptied of its people, small stone houses set in line on one small street now falling into decay after the evacuation of its tiny population.
But I'm starting to move away from the subject of books, which are part of the background of my reading .  So first of all Gary Snyder, an American writer, who loved his countryside and evolved a philosophy that embraces such a wide canvas of nature writing, that the damage we do as humans is sometimes missed in his writng.  At the bottom by the way I shall print his Smokey the Bear Sutra, which always make me laugh, but in his introduction to the sutra ( A Place in Space) to the concept of a bear god he says this,,"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsating of great volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain" part of the sutra and somehow very different to the concept that people like Robert Macfarlane brings to the subject, sometimes I think of certain  people as the Munro gatherers, see nature as  in need of taming, Macfarlane does'nt do this fully but its the male streak of 'macho' man sleeping out in the cold on the highest mountain, proving his toughness that sometime underpin some modern writing.

 I'm not sure that Snyder's reference to Fudo Myoo as a bear god in Japan is a true one, but he says that the statues are found by waterfalls and deep in the wildest mountains of Japan.  Fudo has surpassing power, the power to quell all lesser violence. Snyder of course spent time in Japan in the 60s as a monk as did LS, so my late introduction to all things Japanese is kindled in this household.  Not altogether happily as demons and all kind of terrible depictions can be found in the scrolls and Japanese artwork around.!

This sutra brings to mind what I have been looking at today the protest in Wall Street, the turmoil that the rich and greedy have bought down on our world, wonder where it will all end?


A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful.
Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war;

His left paw in the mudra of Comradely Display--indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that of deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;

Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;

Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the west, symbolic of the forces that guard the wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the true path of man on Earth:

all true paths lead through mountains--

With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;
Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;

Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs, smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;

Indicating the task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.

Wrathful but calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him...

Thus his great Mantra:
Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana Sphataya hum traka ham mam


And he will protect those who love the woods and rivers, Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children:

And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television, or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:


And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.
Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.

Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.
Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.
Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.
Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.

...thus we have heard...
(may be reproduced free forever)

 To be continued; These thoughts on books will probably  meander on indefinitely ;)

After London, Wild England


Friday, October 7, 2011

The cottage

Wonders of technology, or at least phones that take photos;
The scaffolding is up after all this time!!

Blogs can be about anything, political viewpoints, personal viewpoints, mine seems a weekly record of what is happening in my life.  For instance no mention has been made of the Whitby cottage for ages, but it is part of my day to day thinking (and getting things) as it is slowly refurbished by my son-in-law.  Painting is almost finished, so we, LS and I will be going down in a few days  to take down some stuff, which I buy slowly in anticipation.  Bedlinen, plates, a rug from Middle Mill, towels and that is just the light stuff!  A painting for the wall occupies my mind, there is a modern artist's work - Nicki Corker in the Reading Room in Whitby which sort of takes my fancy, rather than the brown tinted old worlde photographs that are quite attractive for old cottages.
Today, friday, a text message brought the news that the scaffolding was actually going up to mend the chimney, my joy knows no bound, 6 months I have waited for this, water leaks from the chimney down into the top bedroom and it has worried me all this time, though it could be blocked drain pipe - there are plants growing out on the back wall drain pipe which is inches from another wall.... Carpet for the middle bedroom so we shall have somewhere to sleep (air beds) the real beds are coming at the end of the month.
My beloved hasn't even seen the cottage, so I regale him with tales about our neighbours in the small yard, not sure that he will appreciate living in such close company but at least it will more interesting than suburbia I tell him - hopefully.
I have furnished, in my mind at least, past ownership of the cottage with a captain, think its to do with the Georgian influence, an upgrade so to speak.  He might have sailed one of the whaling boats that feature in the Whitby Museum prints and models, rooms full of that delicious 'junk' from past ages.  Whaling was one of the past industries, something that is not condoned at all nowadays thank goodness.  I remember reading a lot of books when I was a child about the North which must have featured whaling in it somewhere, Captain Marryat comes to mind but I'm not sure he went up North...

Clear brown amber of Abbot's beer at the Cat's pub.

This looks like the dreaded honey fungus, (we did not take a speciman to our knowledgable fungi expert!) in the garden

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hunting mushrooms

The wood

Hanningfield Reservoir
Yesterday we went on a mushroom foray, lecture perhaps would be a better term.  The weather was beautiful, and the woods almost had a magical air to them.  The unseasonal hot weather is a boon, though tomorrow winds from the west will arrive but we have had a few classical Indian summer September days.  We wandered round the edges of fields, bullocks and sheep grazed calmly, the grass in many places was still covered in  dew and was thick and rich. Our guide was an expert, and of course did not talk about which was an edible mushroom, its just too tricky in this quick trigger world of compensation.  One man did collect the Amethyst Deceiver for the stew pot, these were my favourite coloured mushrooms, delicate hues of lavender buried deep in the coppery-brown undergrowth.  We came across one of the stink horns, a rather small example but there was also a creamy 'egg' from which they emerge, this was found by a small girl called Fern, who happily hunted and tackled the brambles to bring out the mushrooms buried deep in the woodland floor.
Bracket fungi, common earth balls (got excited about these), apparently though they are poisonous, very inconspicuously buried in the leaves.
We eventually made our way back to the centre, it was a three hour session, and he laid all our trophies out must have been about 60 or 70 different species on the table, and we wandered round looking at them.  The ones I remembered are the spindle mushroom (being a spinner of course), the milk cap, apparently as there are so many of them, if you nibble them gently and the lactose is extruded (the ones you are sure about of course) the different tastes will tell of their potency, there is a peppery one out much fancied by gormandising mushroomers!  Shaggy parasol is another I can now identify but to be honest it would take a whole lifetime to really learn about these strange creatures called fungi, I think he said they are fauna more than flora, because they eat everything, in microscopic form anyway. 

LS took a photo of our guide dressed in his green camouflage jacket, he was an expert in his subject and if he could not identify something he would say so.  Pottering around old woods looking for fungi is not a bad occupation my only worry about it all was the actual picking of them. were they rare....

Bracket fungus and the black blobs above are 'King Alfred's Cakes' fungi

Closer view

Not sure

Spindle mushroom

Shaggy parasol

half full

earth balls

Amethyst deceiver

Another one