Monday, 3 December 2012

Realms of Craftsmen & Thieves

An old english town can hold many treasures for the senses hidden among the footpaths and back lanes around the old market. I regularly stop at this point while wandering the urban environment. Towering above the pavement are the second point gothic arches of the towns church. A palisade of black painted railings march along the boundary and the calls of ravens can be heard from the stone spire thrusting high above.

Centuries of weather have taken their toll upon the stonework and many of the decorative figures standing within the alcoves are worn beyond recognition. However the efforts of the old craftsmen who built this place have become somewhat tarnished from my perspective. The lead hopper above the rain pipe bears a distortion where perhaps it failed to fully hold the weight of someone climbing onto the lower roof. The railings are often a lure of false security for cyclists to the town. Bikes are often chained to them, however some are stolen. The local thieves have realised this place is a blind spot to the towns cctv and a swift lop from bolt cutters can soon release cycles from their moorings and they are spirited away down the old lanes to be cashed in for scrap or sold on as second hand.

As time has passed it seems this place has gone from the realm of the craftsman to the realm of the thief. It seems wherever there is a chance of finery, corruption is never far away.

(I thought I would show one of my ink paintings rather than my usual sketch style for this post - I hope it goes some way to capture the scene)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Turbulent Pools

Standing in a doorway I looked out into the night sky. The stars and moon were obscured by heavy cloud and a torrent rain drops shone for the shortest moment as they hurtled past a street light and smashed into the growing pool of water on the car park floor. The autumn rain strayed slightly on a gust of wind and my hands and face became dappled with its cool touch as I stood motionless in the door. While the tactile experience was pleasant for the briefest moment, the coldness it carried served as a reminder of the falling temperatures and vulnerable nature of the human form against the elements and the turning of the seasons.

My eyes were drawn to the shifting patterns of light and water at the base of the street light. In my travels that evening I had seen the same forms in many locations. Pedestrians scurried around the pools before passing vehicles sent the water erupting into the air and crashing onto the pavements. Within the woodlands and wilder areas the rain would be battering onto the fallen leaves and low grasses before seeping into the ground to sustain the flora & fauna, but in the urban realm it builds, waiting for overloaded drains and sewers to carry it to the low lands to pass on the flooding problem or filtering to a soft verge where the ground quickly becomes waterlogged and the vegetation sits stranded keeping its leaves and blades held aloft as its roots become drenched.

The turbulent pools serve me a reminder of the overcrowding we are subject to in these lands. Swathes of nature are replaced by tarmac and roof. The run off swamps the soft grounds (or a part Sustainable Urban Drainage System as developers like to call them) and fill the rivers. The power and wealth of these lands is its rainfall, but the only way to manage and harness it is to understand nature, landscape, geology and ecology. Still, we grow and we build in the hope of economic revival. It seems overcrowding is like an elephant in the room, an unwanted and unpopular word while politically minded people talk about growing the economy, building more roads and houses.

I wonder how long before we are drowning in our own wealth.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Past Grace

A creeping sense of inevitability found its way into my mind as I walked my way down a country lane within the early darkening hours. Ahead of me I could see approaching headlights flickering a white light through the roadside hedgerows. I had with me a small lantern and I brought it to life in the hope of the cars occupants recognising another traveller in the quiet lands. The car sped around the corner in front of me and did me little more courtesy than remain on their side of the road. The driver made no attempt to slow down or take their headlights from the full beam. Blinded by the light I was forced to stop before I stumbled on the verge or tripped within one of the potholes festooning the poorly maintained roads.
As the car raced by me I was left muttering a few curses. It would appear I will be needing to remember to bring with me a lantern I refer to as a light cannon. The beam is extremely powerful and is often used to serve a reminder to the cocooned motorist to at least dip their lights for those of us who are more vulnerable on the roads.
Once I had regained something of my night vision I carried on with the little lantern spilling a gentle pool of light around my feet. I brought to my thoughts a sight I enjoyed a few weeks ago to add a little reason and peace of mind. For a time I stood within the early autumn sunshine and cast my eyes on an old MG sports car. The car seemed to resonate with both the care of the craftsman who made it and the care of the owner who clearly spent time and effort looking after the machine. Even to a layman such as I, it was obvious the MG allowed a sense of connection on a number of levels. It did not cocoon the driver from the elements or the road. It also held a beauty beyond many of its modern counterparts. It would struggle to match even a modest modern car with its performance and statistics. I imagined it would not be the best vehicle to sit in the traffic or travel at night in, but for those times when its owner took it for a spin on a warm afternoon it would probably be a true pleasure.

It seems to fill in many of the blanks many modern designers miss as they strive to hit enforced targets and economies. Sitting humans within a safe little bubble is understandable, but to encourage a connection, an empathy and a sense of joy is something of a far greater achievement. Perhaps if people could begin to feel that connection again, the value of things can be measured in more than facts and figures, but with emotions.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Wonders of the Elemental World

With senses awakened to the night, the power and subtlety of the elements can reveal themselves to the perceptions. I have always enjoyed the old chinese tales and methods of understanding the elements. Each element having a yin and a yang aspect, there are also 5 elements to their understanding rather than the 4 we are used to in western culture.
Within the moonlight the woods can be a gentle sway of saplings, quiet standing of deadwood through to the towering spreading oak and the ferocious bending of branches of trees within a storm.
With regard to fire, it can be the gentle, contained warmth of the camp fire through to a raging uncontrolled menace lighting the horizon. I could continue all night to relate tales of beauty and extremes but such memories and connections are best left to everyones own experiences where they will shine through the years of conscious thought.
As humans evolve and absorb ourselves in our own cleverness and invention. Living within our cocoons I feel it is so easy to loose our empathy not only with nature but with the interconnected aspects of the elements. When we need light or warmth we reach for a switch to draw on distant electricity sources to illuminate the bulb or warm the heater. All so easy, all so remote. The flick of the switch disconnects us from our true world and ties us to the charges and finances of distant investors and stakeholders.
To reconnect with our more primal aspects and experiences can be like an absurd bolt from the darkness for us civilised westerners used to being so pampered and paying so dearly for the privilege we perceive as a right. To reclaim knowledge and understanding from the realms of earth, fire, water and air, or for others the realms of metal, wood, earth, fire and water is truly empowering and can awaken older knowledges and understandings. When we have such aspects, the world becomes more a remarkable place. Casting pleasure and warnings from the visions before us, always speaking truths beyond language.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Threat to Badgers

When people find out about my wanderings I am often asked questions or provided with advice. I am usually happy to chat with people, it is surprising what can be learned. However as I have mentioned in a few blog posts what I learn is not always what people wish to teach me.

On a few occasions I have been told I should be careful of badgers. I have been told they are aggressive and are likely to injure my dogs or possibly even myself. Those who tell me such things have often heard tales from friends of friends and relate them to me with the best of intentions. I have walked at night for over two decades now and I have encountered badgers on a few occasions. As with all wildlife I try to give them space and not disturb them but there has been a couple of occasions where I have literally bumped into them on a narrow track. The dogs are of course fascinated with the sturdy creature standing before them and do wander up to investigate, much to the badgers annoyance. In such circumstances I call the dogs back to me and create an opportunity for the badger to wander off or bypass me (on one occasion the dogs were behind the badger so I stepped from the path to allow the badger to run past me). By giving the badgers what space I can, I have never once had a dog or a badger injured.

A couple of weeks ago I got the news of the governments plans to begin culling badgers to prevent the spread of bovine TB. After doing some reading around I was surprised to find this was being proposed despite evidence showing it is highly unlikely to have any effect. It took only a few moments to check the twitter streams of others who I have found to be people well worth listening too. Ginny @ginbat and Si Jakes @Shyman33 amongst others were equally concerned about the cull, something I regard as a reckless action against uk wildlife and biodiversity.

I find myself wondering at the forces behind this cull and the politicians who support it. I can understand a farmer who has suffered from the loss of cattle because of bovine TB will be trying to do what they can to protect their business. But there are far wider implications, removing an animal from a local ecosystem is foolish, it should also be a priority to work with the natural balance of the lands. While the media pump out tale after tale of financial hardship it seems the lands and nature have become a poor second place to the economy. From my perspective the economy is similar in many ways to nature and indeed is linked to it. It cannot continually grow, it must find a balance. To try and force an economy or growth at the expense of nature and resource is a dangerous path indeed. The badger cull is certainly one of those actions I consider to be of this ilk.

If you have not done so already and are a UK resident, please consider signing the e-petition against the cull

With thanks


Friday, 28 September 2012

Strolling Part 2

Over the last couple of weekends I have been helping my good lady out by taking her to a few places she wanted to go. I took my sketchbook along to capture a few thoughts and scenes. 

Just about everywhere we went I was greeted by a similar view of curved bodywork, glass and graphics. Parked in on roadsides, fields, villages and suburbs, the car was prolific. From pride and joy to the humble family workhorse, I found them sitting in the foreground or scattered across a distant landscape.

I grabbed a coffee and sat outside a cafe for a while. Before me was a pedestrian crossing, I watched as vehicles stopped to allow people to cross, drivers muttered as they suffered a short wait and seemed displeased when they were not acknowledged by those walking the white lined tarmac.

I turned my gaze to my left and looked upon a simple street scene. Within my mind I removed the lines of cars and the graphics of the shops and businesses. I then drew down what I saw. Beyond the modern mayhem was a simple village home set against a backdrop of trees and a small church. Something quite serene.

Some look at what is in front of them, some look to future possibilities. Perhaps it is worth seeing the quietness beneath and the hard work, craft, experiences and understanding within the distant past still living before our eyes.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Summer Requiem

The blessings of the early autumn twilight fill my eyes and a gentle cooling breath sighs across my skin. It has been a while since I walked the dark depths of the Nottinghamshire woodlands in the quiet of night. In the latter days of summer many issues have sought to distract me and hold me from my wanders. Moonlight has been replaced by the glow of the computer screen and the electric light as I have made my way through planning documents, policies and statements as I have looked into the ways and reasoning of developers to lay claim to the diminishing green lands of the county. I have seen disregard for issues of wildlife and biodiversity. I have seen the District Council lend their support to ill considered proposals and statements of deception from a planning consultant intent on claiming reward from a game they play with land they do not care about. Standing beneath the clear night sky I listened to the lone hoots of a Tawny Owl calling across the still woodland clearing. I am reminded of why I make the effort to do what I can to try and get people to see sense and see what is of real value within these isles.

I place my mind away from the paperwork and into the snatched moments of my summer wanders. One country lane has provided particular inspiration amongst the warm summer breezes and clouds of insects. One evening brought a charge of hares, racing down the lane in play and rivalry they tore headlong towards me and the pack. For a few seconds we stood in amazement at the folly of their actions, my german shepherds leapt into a counter charge to meet the hares head on. It was almost to late for the hares as they realised their predicament, in an instant they scattered off the lane towards ditch, hedgerow and the uncut fields of wheat. Jaws snapped and claws scrabbled upon the worn tarmac, fortunately the hares made the narrowest of escapes. Another evening brought the whisper of wing beats from the barn owl, soaring from the hedge and passing close to me in the evening light. The owl swept up into the sturdy lower branches of an old roadside tree and settled for a moment. I stood still and looked up into the branches, a white face peered around the branch to return my gaze for a precious few seconds before taking to the air again and skimming across the wheat field to find a more remote vantage point to catch a glimpse of the small mammals hiding within the crops.

This is the sceptered isle and there are wonders to behold, but it saddens me to know that many have ceased to look and denied themselves the understanding of balance and nature. On my return to my hovel it only took a moment to gaze within the realm of modern media to flood the mind with tales of decapitated soap stars, the announcements of economy obsessed ministers willing to sacrifice everything they can to give false promises of kick starting a failing financial system and the constant flag waving and parading of sports people to try and give a feel good factor to a gullible modern world I can only think of as self obsessed and insane.

My stroll into the dark depths of the woodland brought me peace, but also a moment of sadness. A woodland area where I had once had the fortune to follow a Tawny Owl through a dense woodland trail had been cleared. All that remains are the memories and thoughts I have written down in the post Master of the May Wood. However at least the woodland will have chance to re grow and new life will breathe into the cleared area even if it takes many years.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Evading the Lampers

The events of the last couple of weeks had taken their toll upon me. Days of dealing with two faced contractors & their political games followed by nights of reading planning documentation, checking policies, finding unsaid truths and unravelling statements designed to mislead had left me physically tired and mentally stretched. In the early evening I sat on the back step of the hovel and watched the full moon over the fields and crops. Gentle hints of colour seemed to shift in the bright white light and I could find a moment to relax. I stepped inside as I felt a heaviness creep over my limbs and sat within the folds of a comfortable chair. It was not long before sleep took hold and hours slipped by with the tumbling images of dreams providing my mind with a show real of the surreal.

The mind show seemed to halt all of a sudden in the early hours of the morning. My eyes flicked open and my conscious mind seemed to be making sense of something barely perceived during my slumber. I stepped out of the back door to look over the darkened countryside, I was aware of an engine ticking over somewhere close by, after a few more moments a light mounted high on a pick up truck flicked into life and scanned the fields before switching off. I wondered if the lampers were after rabbits until I heard the artificial sound of a rabbit distress call. It would appear that they were after shooting foxes out here in the arable fields. The lamp clicked on again and began another sweep of the field, it crept around closer to the hovel and I stepped onto the back step to ensure I would be visible to them. The light passed over me and promptly switched off. I stepped back inside for a moment to inform my good lady of my observations and also to grab a flash light. By the time I stepped onto the road I could hear their truck reverse and head off in the opposite direction. I padded after them for some ten minutes or so to see if they were up to no good but they had driven off into the night.

Quietly I returned to the spot where I had seen the truck and stood in silence. The breeze rustled the crops and leaves of the hedgerow, a sharp bark of a fox cut the night air. The fox was close, perhaps within 20 yards. As I stood in the darkness I broke into a smile and laughed. This fox certainly deserved its reputation of a creature of cunning and guile after evading the lampers. Suitably impressed and with the lane echoing to the sound of my amusement I returned home feeling lighter in my heart, perhaps my dreams and mood will also be lighter for a while too.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sorrow, Desire & a Cry of Understanding

When I first began blogging I sent time reading sites to pick up hints. One site mentioned a blogger should not apologise for not posting for a while and simply carry on with new posts. I am going to happily break that rule now and make that apology. I often have difficulty with internet connections here and when I am heavily taxed with work it becomes difficult to get time to combine my thoughts with the ability to get online. However, I always carry on with my observations and store them safely until I get chance to put them here for those who may take the time to read.

For those who visit and persevere with reading The Quiet of Night you have my thanks.

Since my last post I have witnessed many beautiful things and also seen the darker side of life too. I was looking forward to putting down words and a sketch to paint a scene but a simple notice has drawn my attention and my anger.

A village close to me has always been prone to the attention of developers, the prospect of changing land from rural use to the built environment has always drawn them. Yet again they are attempting to change the quiet English lands to a fattened bank balance and the chance to run away with a hefty profit. The usual games are being played where the developer appoints local "business people" to promote their cause or as I would prefer to think of it "30 pieces of silver". I have seen the games played many times before and many times the outcome shows the developer or owner heading for new homes well away from the development and ruined lands to enjoy their ill gotten gains. The investors recruited by their agents will be similarly disassociated, success will be measured by a figure within a bank balance and the prospect of pointing to a name within a brochure as an area of safe investment and standing. The natural history and importance of the rural lands can so often take second place.

Once again I find myself looking into the planning policies and guidance to put together a reasoned argument to stand in the way of such greed. As always I will do my best, there are many creatures and existences unable to stand up and make themselves heard in such an arena so I will do what I can to let them speak through me. I only wish more people would see such things and have such considerations.

No doubt I will take the time to update things here as time passes. I hope you find a quiet peace and stability where you are and are away from such matters.

Fond regards


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Enraptured in the Solstice

The long evenings around the time of the summer solstice have brought with them a curious mix of weather, one evening brings with it the drumming of constant heavy rain and another the lightest of floating clouds high above a setting sun. Dark greens of the landscape grow taller with the changing weather and I find I am often lifting my arms clear of the nettles as I find my way down sodden paths. Rivers are full with water coursing its way to the coast and the low light is reflected from the pools within the ruts of the field.

It only takes a few hours of observation to watch how the birds adapt to the patterns within the season. For a moment I stood on rickety timber bridge watching a male sparrowhawk making his way down the line of a hedge as he set up a raid on the village back gardens near by. Blackbirds calling a warning cry as he took to the air staying low and tight to the ground before hurtling over the timber fence towards his prey. A gentle stroll later and I reached the edge of the grasslands, two barn owls were patrolling the skies keeping watch over the fields and the ditches for voles as the cruised silently on soft wings. They took full advantage of the clear spell of weather to hunt, there is a good chance one of the open barns tucked away in the rural network could hold owlets awaiting a meal.

Within a half a mile I watched the kestrel hovering by the side of the country road. Sandy wings beating a furious pace in the gentle warming sunlight to hold the falcons position motionless as the keenest eyes moved their gaze among the hedgerow and verge. A further half mile along the byway and I pass beneath the tall elder & oak trees, a buzzard takes to the air to move to a quieter perch away from the byway and the risk of being disturbed. Slow wing beats make best use of the last of the heat rising from the land and the gentlest of landings barely moved the lighter branches of the tree hiding the size and power of the bird.

As light passes beyond the horizon I find myself in the early darkness of night and blessed by the cool fresh breath of the night air. On such nights I realise I am witness to wonders beyond "better men", wrapped in realms of power and money they cease to look, listen and are afraid to walk where they may find themselves vulnerable. They miss so much and I find them to be greater fools for it.

On returning back to the hovel I sit and chat with my good lady, she excitedly tells me of watching the kestrels and of seeing their young brood. I delight in the conversation and the shared experience. I hope the second half of the solar year bring more sights, good fortune and understanding. Not just for us, but for all.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Moonlight Chords

The sounds of the summer rural night can be the gentlest of things. One such melody is the rustling of the hedgerow leaves with the undertones of my own footsteps on the byway, as we move forward we often pass by a traditional gypsy caravan tucked into the undergrowth where the byway meets a little used footpath. Earlier in the week I was drifting by as the gypsy lad practiced his guitar work, normally only his dog and the night itself set against the aroma of the caravans woodsmoke would be there to listen to the moonlight chords, but for a few moments we were there too. I had no desire to alert him to our presence or disrupt his playing with an announcement so we slowed for only a few heartbeats to appreciate the harmonies before vanishing to the depth of the darkness.

Unfortunately with the world of people there are contrasts to these sounds. Last evenings wander took me the same way but the air pulsed to an irregular and distant bass line. I followed the sounds and found myself on the outskirts of the local village. A Jubilee event was accompanied by a band who seemed largely ignored by the crowds gathered there. The area was draped in red white and blue bunting as people socialised and drank toasts to their queen. I travelled into the village with my companion and looked upon the curious mix of bare homes and those bearing the colours of the UK or St George flag, a few of the flags also carried the logos of corporate sponsorship. For a while I felt like a stranger in a strange land, I resolved that feeling by traveling back into landscape and away from the noise and clutter. Once I neared my hovel I could stand and watch the last of the greens fade with the setting sun. Beneath the moonlight I was returned to a realm of grey and silver with the sublime gentle rustle of the breeze through the leaves.

Here is a realm I understand, these are the colours of the land I love and it has its own anthem, both subtle and powerful. The celebrations and thoughts of leaders or those in opposition mean little. There is the land and the harmony of empathy & understanding or there is only the intrusion of noise of one form or another.

Thursday, 31 May 2012


A grey dawn pushed away the darkness and quiet of the night, with the passing hours the sun gained force and transformed the gloomy start to a bright and sunny day. After running errands for the morning I found myself strolling in a nottinghamshire suburban park with my oldest dog. I had an hour or so to pass while I waited for my good lady and had brought along my sketchbook to scribble down aspects that may catch my attention and my thoughts. The sketches from my nocturnal wanders are drawn from impression or memory once I get back to the hovel, my daylight excursion gave me chance to sketch with the subject before me.

The park was pleasant enough with young families taking full advantage of the warm morning to spend some time together. Children on brightly coloured bikes sped by closely followed by adults doing their best to keep pace and a careful eye on the excitable and enthusiastic little souls. The cacophony seemed to exist on another level from my thoughts. My senses took in the quieter corners of the park and I soon found myself finding places to sit and draw as my old dog meandered around. Stone steps stood alone next to an uneven pathway. Their worn and aged look gave the impression they were perhaps steps for past horse riders to mount and dismount with ease. Looking about it was easy to see no horses had been in the area for a great many years, but the steps remained like a curious forgotten token.

I finished my sketch and moved on passed neatly cut grass and planted boarders until I happened upon what appeared to be the remains of a haha. These ditches were often used on county estates to stop the livestock from finding their way onto the lawns and garden areas without the inconvenience of building a wall to spoil the view. Again it was obvious as I sat and sketched that no livestock had been here for considerable time, but as with the steps the haha remained.

With my observations and thoughts awakened to the park I began to find it a strange place. It was clearly enjoyed and appreciated by many, but for me it remained a highly diluted form of nature. The finely cut grass lacked the flora and fauna of the wilder areas I enjoy wandering. The trees were well manicured and placed, but they lacked the blossoms, residents and undergrowth of their rural kin. I was left wondering of the past and of previous civilisations attempts to show their control and dominance over nature by landscape and garden. I walked through the park gate and left the scene feeling fine but a little disjointed. I guess I will always tend towards the rural and the wild. It is there I find connection with the wider world and not the sanitised view preferred by others. I glanced across the road to a coffee shop, sitting patiently outside was a quiet and loyal dog waiting for his master to reappear. I doubt any of mine would be so restrained, they would surely voice their desire to be away and enjoying the migration of a pack. Perhaps this little dog would wish the same and I hope he and his owner would find such desires and instincts fulfilled.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Qualities of Leadership (part 2)

With the chores of a working day done I took to familiar trails to clear my mind of lingering thoughts and set my thinking patterns to the wider world. Within an hour or so I returned back to the hovel ready to relax and contemplate. The small TV was a convenient way of looking upon the comings and goings of the world, albeit through the eyes and perceptions of the journalists who are granted air time.

It seems nothing changes, more news of debt crisis, politicians arguing, votes, ballots, strikes and protests. All of these was diffused by the usual sports round ups and celebrity gossip. The off button was a relief as was the chance to stand outside and feel the cool night air. One of the main issues I see while observing people is the factors surrounding leadership and the attitudes of those who follow. The movement of people to and from politicians and leaders is like a tide. It comes and goes but never really gets anywhere in the grand scheme of things. I have had the opportunity to vote for many years but I have never once cast it. I would hasten to add that this is not through apathy, I have simply never had the opportunity to vote for someone who I feel represents my views. I look upon the usual candidates and see either creatures from privilege backgrounds or those from the working classes looking to provide more for their own kind. For the voters it simply becomes a choice of who will provide them with the most or for the disillusioned it becomes a case of voting for an alternative to the currently elected as a form of protest. Either way it is of little matter, the tide moves and it will eventually return as we go no where.

Within the natural world leadership is a more interesting and balanced affair. Working within the environment and the balance of nature. Strength has meaning and failure has far greater consequence than a vote of no confidence. The natural world has its leaders, those creatures are also masters at working within and being part of their environment. Those who exceed their resource find nature will redress the balance quickly. Perhaps the difference between humans and the natural world is that humans have learned to cheat the system for a while, but for me it is obvious that nature will surely catch up in the long run. Debts run far deeper than a credit rating or a minus figure in the books and they will be collected. Perhaps I should give an example of my thinking.

I once worked within an office of a local authority, it was there I met a grossly overweight manager in charge of ensuring energy efficiency in buildings. He was a man proud of his position, his large Audi, big home and his many holidays. When one of the other managers challenged him over his personal environmental bad attitude (especially given his role within the authority)  he simply replied "I don't care, I will live how I want to and if the environment is a problem in future it will be my kids who have to sort it out,". In many ways I see this man as a tiny example of those who are sometimes given far greater positions of power. One of sadnesses I find in the self centered nature of such people is the lack of questioning and mindless head nodding of those who help grant them such positions.

From my own perspective the main quality of leadership is to accept responsibility for my own actions and to only put my trust into those who I believe have the same principles as I do. I have little time for those who float on the tides of opinion and short term personal gain. It seems to me that we are not encouraged to question too deeply on many issues, but it is the inquisitive mind backed by the knowledge and understanding of both the human environment and the natural world that allows for a discerning and balanced view.

I can only encourage you to think deeply my friends. It is the only way to see through the masks and deceptions to the core of the matter.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Rabbits Leap

The last week had proven itself to be a difficult one. It seemed at every turn good sense and good intentions had been thwarted, resulting in me feeling somewhat punch drunk. As twilight began to set in after a long day, I decided to set myself and my wandering dog (from the post Searching in Circles) on the roads, fields, bridleway & footpaths close to the near by village. With the paths and roads riddled with puddles and heavily waterlogged we were soon weaving around and treading carefully to avoid wet feet and missed footings. I was thankful for the careful nature of the drivers who passed us by on the country lanes, most were gracious enough to dip their headlights and avoid ploughing through the standing water. Over the years I have become fairly adept at predicting the inconsiderate who spare no thought (or perhaps a malicious thought) as they leave you dazzled and drenched. As is often the case with people, when they cocoon themselves from nature, reality and the elements , their perspective and connection with the real world becomes skewed.

Once we were onto the quieter dirt track lanes I had to resist the temptation to unleash the dog as I would my others. It would appear this canine giant has a powerful hunting technique and had proven himself more than adept at catching rabbits. Unfortunately his hunting instinct can make him very single minded and difficult to recall once he has caught a scent and the onset of darkness on a damp night is not the time to test my dog handling abilities with a jet black dog capable of running for miles. As we walked I could see his attention snap onto a little figure huddled by the side of the track. The rabbit sensed eyes and perception upon him, powerful legs propelled the little creature towards the warren. I was dragged forward a few feet as my dog tried to follow until I could dig my heels in and halt the charge. I suspect the rabbit was expecting a chase as he accelerated before realising he was on the wrong side of a flooded ditch to reach the warren. In a gentle turn he kept up the furious pace and ran headlong towards the ditch, as the land turned to the black water he jumped and leapt the better part of seven feet to the undergrowth on the opposite bank. The landing was not elegant but the sight of a rabbit reflected in mid air over the flooded ditch was impressive. Later this year athletes will be long jumping for corporate sponsored medals in London, I can safely say I will not be watching. The leap this little creature took and the risks of failing make a mockery of the attention such athletes seek.

With the rabbit safely back to the burrow, we carried on enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the late evening. There was just enough light left to gaze upon the emerging bluebells in the long grass beneath the trees and the stark contrast of white blossom standing proud against the darkening canopy. What had started off as a wander to take my mind off the failings of a week had become inspiration itself, together with more fond memories and lessons learned.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dryad by the Water

As the seasons change so do the tasks of a dryad. With spring she is holding the new leaves clear of the water. In summer she will bear the weight of the canopy to shield her trunk and ground from the sun. By autumn she will sprinkle the leaves back to the flowing waters and in winter she will reach into the skies with bare branches to take what warmth she can by day and point to the stars by night.

To some the dryad is a living tree spirit, to others the dryad is a myth from the past. Regardless of the opinion, for me the issue of empathy and understanding with nature. The forms of trees and features within the world have provided inspiration for tales and teachings. The dangers and delights of nature can be woven within the words of a story, and a good story is a well learned and remembered experience. When the final words are uttered you can release the breath you seem to have been holding for the duration of the tale, but what then?

Perhaps the search for a new tale begins or perhaps the story can carry on beyond the words of the teller into the future. It could give life and meaning to your own tales or encourage a furthering of knowledge with the subject itself. A true craftsman might find features within the wood or stone to refine into a sculpted form, tool or structure. A writer might find new depths for a world of their making or the beholder might find a precious moment of rest while they drink deeply of the sights before them.

I find myself wondering how many people have turned their backs on such tales and teachings. The lure of brands and corporate imagery seem to hold the attention of children and the easily influenced in a way which removes them from the essence of creation and understanding. I hope fashions will change and the skills of todays writers and artists will show through. To be an individual is often a difficult thing, you become responsible for your own actions and have no mass label to hide behind or blame for your failings. For me it is that honesty and reflection I need to bestow upon myself to avoid being carried away by a crowd. Maybe next time you look into the forms of nature I hope you will consider their individuality, inspiration and adaptability.

I hope you will delighted at what they may teach you.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Wealth of the Land

Looking through the windows of a city office I watched as people trotted past beneath umbrellas and the grey of the pavements turned deep in colour as the rain bore down on the urban setting. The downpours brought about complaints from those within the office but I felt strangely comfortable sitting within the warmth looking upon the scenes outside.

Later that day all was not so well back at the hovel, the colder temperature and weather front brought about a huge hail storm, blocking the valley gutter and sending melt water through the roof. I was fortunate to be on my way home when this occurred and after a swift climb onto the roof with a shovel I was able to clear the hail and standing water before any major damage happened. Relieved by my good fortune I stood for a moment on the roof and cast my eyes over the landscape, enjoying the higher vantage point and the cool breeze drifting over the ridge.

It was a few days more before I could take to the roads in the early evening to put my thoughts and week into perspective. The sky was still laden with the tumbling grey rain clouds. I headed up a hill between two rural Nottinghamshire villages and found myself traveling alongside hawthorn hedges with their young leaves clinging to the rainwater. An old oak tree stood amongst the hedge. It too was beginning to burst into life as the branches bore the beginnings of a new canopy. It would not be long before the leaves would be able to carry the drum beat of the later spring rains and offer some protection to walkers who might seek shelter from the beginnings of a shower.

The spring rains remind me of the power within the landscape. They seem to bring a vast charge of life and vitality. The ditches and watercourses thunder with the rush of water as they carry it into the lower river valley. A wet spring may not always bring the comfort people seek after winter but it gives the later months a chance of bountiful crops and a land swathed in deep greens. I am lucky to live within a place of such power and energy. When I listen to tales from other wanders of their time spent within the drier lands of the world, I realise how much energy the land here can hold and how much life it can support. It seems that we are truly wealthy but so many people are unaware of it.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Branches, Smoke & the Little Falcon

With the spring and the growing hours of daylight I find many of my walks begin during the warm light of evening. It seems many people await the height of summer before they realise the pleasures of an evening walk, so I take advantage of the spring and enjoy the solitude with the setting sun and the onset of twilight. Sitting within the bare branches of standing deadwood I looked upon the kestrel ahead of me, I would assume he too is enjoying the quiet spring evening without the rabble and rattle of families and walkers beneath his branches. He held is perch until I was almost beneath him then with a flutter of angular wings he sprinted across the air of a large woodland clearing to take his place in a new vantage point.

I passed through the clearing and into the woodland paths beyond as light began to fail. Looking through the encroaching gloom beneath the trees I noticed new forms among the lower trunks. My interest was sparked and I left the track to investigate, I found new shelters built by budding bushcrafters. These were impressive debris shelters. The first was a ridge pole set between two trunks. The ridge was set well of the ground and the walls well laden with branches and foliage to keep the breeze out of the structure. I glanced through the south facing door to see two tree trunks on the floor. They would serve well as seating or if crossed with sturdy branches they would make a bed clear of the woodland floor. It was only a short wander to the second shelter. This was even larger, it used four tree trunks to form the corners of a square plan. Hefty branches formed an eaves to the square shelter with branches laid both over the beams to form a roof and laid from the ground to the beams to form the walls. It appeared this shelter was not as complete as the first, but it would be easy to finish or repair to give cover from the wind for a group of friends.

With not trace of rubbish or manufactured materials around the structures I was impressed and carried along my way with a smile. I rounded a corner to head back to my car parked off a woodland road. Next to it I could see another vehicle and a figure walking around it. As I approached I could see the vehicle was modified in the usual garb of a boy racer and the figure next to it was a young lady chatting to the driver through the window. They seemed unaware or perhaps unconcerned by my approach. As I passed them by I was aware of the aroma of weed in the air and startled voices as they became fully aware of the presence of my dogs and I. It was only a moment before I was back into my car and away on the country lanes heading back for the hovel. It had indeed been an evening to appreciate and grant me the gift of amusement and enlightenment.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Wooden Sword

Standing for a moment beneath a clear night sky and gently illuminated by the moonlight I waited for my dog pack to return to my side. I  closed my eyes and listened to the rattling of the undergrowth nearby as they investigated and ran among the ferns and bracken under the darkened canopy of the conifers. As I reopened my eyes I became aware of a tension and awkwardness in the skin beneath my eyebrow. Reaching up to touch the source of irritation I discovered a scab sitting within a surround of sore and healing skin. Thoughts rattled within my mind to try and identify the cause of the little wound. I live a fairly physical life and discovering a small wound shrouded within the mystery of short term memory  loss is not uncommon. The events of the past few nights tumbled through my mind until I discovered the cause and broke out into gentle laughter. Two nights previous, I was practicing sword techniques with a good friend. It had been a tiring day and I lost focus for a moment while attempting a strike. My friend flicked his waster (a wooden training sword) from the back of my own blade and caught me smartly above the eye. At the time I was unaware but the dull edge of the wooden sword had drawn blood. With my pack returning to me in the darkness I decided to step forward on the trail with literal imprints of the wooden sword on my skin as well as within my mind.

I recalled the history of the tool and it varying degrees of importance throughout time to people. From a training aid and preparation for the longsword in medieval history, to the modern and pristine shapes of the wooden straight sword used in slow definition by tai chi practitioners. Interestingly I thought back to teachings on the roman era. The wooden gladius was a symbol of a gladiators apparent freedom, earned after many encounters in the name of entertainment. It seems our modern day equivalent is the traditional gold watch or time piece handed over on the last working day before retirement, a trinket for years spent in service. The wooden swords my friend and I use are different in every respect. They are battered and scarred and in need of maintenance to remove the splinters forming around the damaged grain, but like any tool they have a life of their own. The spirals and arcs they carry have an energy and a link to the wielder, as with all swords the shape of the blade portrays the use, era and  likely armour of its age. In skilled hands and with an understanding mind it begins to demonstrate its essence. I seem to encounter many instances where the aim of life is to retire and relax, to put the golden watch carefully in its box and hold it hidden in a dark corner of the house. In many ways I can sympathise when I look upon the paths some souls take. One thing I realised is I a very unlikely to be one of those people who will have the retirement gift given to be by a well meaning boss or employee. As I hopefully find I am able to drift away from the commercial working world I would hope there is a wooden sword with its scars and dents waiting to be turned, or perhaps the time to make my own. life is living, moving energy, skill in both making and form. Life of course changes as we grow older but its essence is the same, life is to be lived. The golden shackle ticking on your wrist (or in the drawer) to me serves as only a reminder time served & time ticking by. A well worn tool (curiously the wooden sword in my my case) is potential energy in movement and understanding.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

An Owl by the Sunset Pool

The Nottinghamshire landscape rolled by as I stared through the train window on a homeward journey. The grasslands were lit by the golden light of the early evening and the sky above the darkening horizon slowly turned to scarlet and orange. The few clouds high above captured the pink hues beneath them, but they remained almost motionless in the air at the faintest sigh of the evenings breeze barely ruffled the grasses and leaves of the fields and hedgerows. I glanced to my fellow travelers, kindles and Iphones held their attention and earphones prevented distraction from their neighbours. A host of eyes stared downward to screens, strange how such devices which claim to connect people manage to isolate them from what is so very real and stunningly beautiful. For a moment I felt despair until a lone passenger looked up to the sunset, smiled took to studying the wonders beyond the glass. Perhaps there is hope for some.

As the train slowed for my station we passed by a small pool at a fields edge. A barn owl patrolled the waters edge on slow wing beats as sharp eyes studied the bank for signs of voles or other small creatures. I could feel the cold of the glazing close to my forehead as I leaned to keep the owl in view for as long as I could before we inevitably passed by and creaked to a stop at the station. While other passengers left the train for their cars I stepped onto the verge of the road, with the lengthening shadows of the hedgerows beginning to cast the fields into darkness I watched the brown hares racing along. For all our technology and design, no vehicle can match the size, speed or mobility of spring hares a they kick up dust from long, powerful legs in the twilight, changing direction in a heartbeat and accelerating across the ruts of a fallow field.

Darkness had enveloped the land as lights within the hovel and the barking of my dogs welcomed me home. It was then I received the sad news that another of my line had died. It was not entirely unexpected, but still upsetting. My grandfather was always a modest man, but incredibly skilled, loving and devoted to all the family. He was a superb teacher and a steady light of reason when life seamed chaotic. I will miss him, but I will gladly carry his teachings forward.

Life seems to have a way of showing us glimpses of magnificence like scenes through a window, but once in a while you will get to travel with someone who can be good company, an understanding ear and who can provide wisdom and wit to the experiences you share. Such company can turn an enjoyable moment to a glorious memory to lighten your heart for the rest of your days.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Giants Cudgel

Over my years of wandering the woodlands and the open countryside I have become very aware of the passing of people and the traces they leave. From discarded food wrappers lost to the wind to piles of broken down domestic appliances dumped illegally in the ditches between the road and the trees. On one such trail I have noticed a different kind of obstruction blocking the way. The trail is one often used by day trippers to the wood as it is the driest and widest of the routes through the trees. Every now and again I find branches dragged from the undergrowth and placed across the track. To those wandering in the daylight hours they would be easily noticeable and stepped around. To a nocturnal wanderer such as I they are more of a hazard due to the low light and the tall trees flanking the path. So far I have avoided stumbling over them and have frequently dragged them away from the track and back into the undergrowth. I am never sure exactly why they have been dragged across the trail in the first place. Perhaps a prop for a child's game or a deliberate attempt to hinder the passing of forestry commission vehicles, horse riders or cyclists who are of course entitled to pass by.

Two nights ago I was wandering the track as the evening light began to fail, in the distance I could notice timber lying partially across the pathway. It looked like someone had again been attempting to form barriers. It was as I got closer I noticed the scale of the barrier and realised it was beyond the powers of child or hooligan to form. A silver birch tree beside the path had literally split in two. One half still managed to stand but the other had crashed across the path like a giants cudgel. Given the size of the timber and the fact that one end was propped against the remains of the standing trunk I approached carefully to see what had caused the damage. Since I had last passed this spot there had been neither lightening or high winds to my knowledge. The split timber seemed in good condition until I reached the point where the top of the tree must have started to split. There were signs rot and water soaking, the tree must have started to split and perhaps a combination of gravity and a modest wind had torn the tree in two.

I have seen the results of oaks split by lightening or limbs splintered and fallen as the weight of the branch had grown too much to bear. I have also seen trees shoved over or snap by the force of a strong wind, but this is the first time I have chance to see the quiet presence of rot within the top branches of a slender tree cause such a fail. Given the size of the trunk it was fortunate no one was underneath when the tree split, it will only be a matter of time before the standing half also topples or is felled. For me this is an interesting lesson from the wood, but I wonder how many others would step around it with only a tut of annoyance to mark the passing of an obstacle along the way.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Tree Huggers Shelter

With the sun beginning to set and the warmth of early spring in the air I stepped into the woodlands with three of my pack. The annoyances of everyday life have been hanging on to me with a tenacious persistence recently and the clear air and space to think was a welcome tonic from their tiresome presence. As is always the case my pack raced up and down the first woodland path delighted to be out and about. The last of the sunlight showed me the first shoots and hints of green within the browns of the old bracken to add a visual delight to the tactile warmth within the air and the calls of the birds. I enjoy winter but the hovel is a place where the previous owners were ill prepared for her coldness in changing times. A chance to bask in the warmth of a strengthening sun and make improvements to our scruffy home well ahead of the next cold season is something I am very grateful for.

A head of me on the path I could see another walker approaching, I turned to a smaller path and away from the figure to ensure my solitude was uninterrupted. The beauty of the forestry commission owned woods is the right to wander and to stray from the recognised footpaths, the smaller tracks are often more rewarding with their sights of nature and moments of peace. It was only a short stretch before I spotted new bushcraft shelters among the trees. I stopped and made my way through to look at them. I would assume they were built by some of the local kids, branches were arranged around the tree base ready for fallen leaves to be piled up against the structure. The space within the shelter would have been very tight. I certainly could not get in there and the base of the tree held the central space preventing all but a contortionist from lying down, even the most enthusiastic tree hugger could find it cosy. The branches were also very steep against the tree trunks, this would have left the builders a considerable amount of gathering to collect the leaves & branches required to cover them. I found myself smiling as I looked over the shelters, I wonder if their builders had learned from them. It certainly appeared that they had fun and in my opinion that is often the best way to learn.

I left the shelters behind and stepped out onto the trail again. The next hour or so treated me to peace and moments of reconnection with nature and spirit. Pheasants took flight as my dogs flushed them from their hiding places, clattering and clamouring their way into the air voicing their disapproval. The slow beats of the heron's wings carried the creature high above the tops of the conifers with the last rays of daylight warming the gray underbelly of the bird. Within the last half mile of the walk we encountered a deer. Hiding in the undergrowth on the opposing side of a ditch, the deer held her ground until my collie was standing almost opposite her. In a burst of power and speed she leapt to her feet and smashed through the small branches as she made her way towards the perimeter of the wood and the open fields. My collie made no attempt to chase her, he stood and watched her vanish before turning to me with an expression I could only read as "did you see that!".

I take it as a sign of an enjoyable wander when I reach the car or the front door with the ringing thought that I don't actually want to go back. But needs must. Someday I will put the key back in my pocket turn around and just keep going until I feel truly fulfilled.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Little Bridge

With the country lane outside our hovel cast in the grays and silvers of the half moon we set off into the night. Claws scrabbled on the tarmac as my lead dog was anxious to be away and running in the fields. Patience never has been her strong point but speed and stamina are, I take it as a sign of a healthy dog even if it does mean an uncomfortable start to our wanders as I resisted being dragged down the lane. We had barely gone a hundred yards before I realised she was not going to cease her pulling. I decided to stop for a moment to settle her down.

Besides us was a sight I see every day, a little brick built bridge crossing a ditch to a gated field. In the lowlands of the river valley we do not have babbling streams and their joyous waters. Here we have a gentle trickle of field and road run off water silently making its way along the dug channels of agricultural infrastructure. Nature has of course made its own uses for the bridge and ditch. The top of the bridge wears a cloak of greenery virtually unworn by the infrequent use of traffic to the field, to the sides the grass is longer giving hiding places for the field voles and occasional hedgehog or toad. The ditch itself is so often patrolled by the barn owl or the heron, tonight it would be the quiet rest of the mallard ducks keeping out of sight by the topography. The field passed the ditch lined its boundary with a hedgerow, trees projected through with their limbs adorned with ivy and the onset of spring would soon bring the nests of songbirds and the flitting passes of the bats as they would take to the wing to assault the clouds of insects rising from the undergrowth.

Last summer some of the children from the near by village took entertainment here, clambering down beneath the bridge to explore beneath it as their bikes lay on top awaiting their return. To many the darkened waters of the ditch would not be a healthy place to be, but as long as the waters are moving and remain untainted by chemicals from the fields or oils from the lanes higher up the hill nature will thrive and the cycles of life will turn. Standing in the moments between past and present in the moonlight I found the little bridge gave me time to think and a most pleasing place to be surrounded by. So often we breeze past the familiar sights of home without bringing them to our thoughts and perceptions, tonight I changed that pattern here.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

It had been a long and tiring day. For a moment I sat in the drivers seat of my parked car, with the window down I could feel the cool night air against the side of my face and off in the distance I could hear the calls of a male tawny owl as if summoning me to the quiet of night.

I cast my mind over the day. A series of "can you just" tasks had been given to me by a client. Strange how those three words are so quick to utter but can end up taking hours to complete. Todays "can you just" had left me working flat out for the best part of nine hours in front of a computer. On finishing the task and sending the files off for scrutiny I clambered out of my chair and into the kitchen to find something to eat. I found the cupboards bare and was left with no option but to drive off to a supermarket to stock up on what I could before they closed for the night. To be brutally honest I am not a fan of the supermarkets but the need for food and the unfortunate fact that the septic tank for the hovel was blocked up and left me in need of the facilities pushed me that way.

It was not long before I found myself beneath the blue lights of the supermarket gents wash room. The supermarket has a problem with drug users shooting up in the toilets so they had the lighting installed to ensure veins were hard to find. Unfortunately it also left the wet areas on the tiled floor hard to see and footing was just as treacherous as an iced up winter road. I ventured out into the sales floor in the hope of picking up a bargain loaf of bread or a end of date item, a young couple crowded over the bargain bucket area of the bakery isle. They took almost everything! I can only deduce that they have vast freezer at home or a huge amount of mouths to feed. There was no chance all the bread they had crammed into their trolley could be eaten before it could go bad. As luck would have it I found a loaf someone had misplaced on another rack and decided it would be just fine.

The check outs held their usual charm. There were far too few tills on and it was only when the store staff realised we were queuing four deep that they decided to open another. I walked towards the new till just in time to see a man race past me and bang down a box of beer on the conveyor. "Wow that guy must be desperate to have a pint," I thought. It was only when I noticed his girlfriend trot by me with a full trolley of produce I understood he was just trying to ensure he was not held up by me and my few items. He smirked at his beer, clearly pleased with his little trick, his girlfriend was a little more open about it and just laughed. An all too familiar feeling of annoyance began to build up in me. It seems to be the relentless ignorance and constant niggles & digs from all sides that push a normal sane person to breaking point. I made up my mind to try and learn from it not to worry about it, I could allow a couple of minutes in my day to learn from people who are clearly masters at their art. One day they may learn something from me.

Mercifully the traffic around the town was quiet at that time of night and I was soon back on the country lanes heading back to the hovel and a few minutes to sit within the darkness. My mind ticked from thought to thought, from building a composting loo to the works on the garden to allow me to grow herbs and some food. It seems a far more enjoyable way of getting to food than the commercial twenty first century foraging I had just been through. The call of the tawny brought me back to my place and time from the realm of thought, it carried a clarity and simplicity of existence sadly missing in the commercial heart of town.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Fathers Choice

A few moments within a shop revealed a great deal to me. I stood trying to mind my own business at the back while other customers were waiting for orders. To the side of me was a young couple with their daughter. The little girl seemed a bight soul and was questioning her father about his work and was clearly concerned about the fact that might well be spending some time away.

She asked him "Why do you have to work away?". He bent down to he and replied "Daddy WANTS to work at sites up and down the country so daddy can make lots of money". For a moment she was quiet as she thought over his words "Why do you want earn more money?" she said drawing out her words as if carefully considering her question.

"Thats because mummy & daddy WANT a better life when you are older," he replied quickly.

"I don't want you to be away, can I come with you?" she asked looking a little upset. "No you can't come with me," was his quick response.

Glancing over to the family I decided to draw on the unsaid and finish a fuller picture. They were all wearing good quality or even designer clothes and adornments. In many ways I would expect the mother & daughter to take time & pride in their appearance, but the father was also well groomed with neatly trimmed and gelled hair and a silver stud earring to match the shining frames of his modern spectacles. To complete the image of the family I was aware of the aroma of perfume & deodorant, nothing overpowering but clearly the prospect of body odour was not considered acceptable with them. Perhaps the family were as affluent as they appeared to be or perhaps like so many they desired to be seen as affluent and created the look by spending more than they should.

The fathers words sat uncomfortably with me and I wondered what meanings his daughter would take from them, from the conversation I caught it gave the impression they were not fully satisfied with what they had and that the need of money was more important than a father spending time with his daughter. Doubtless there is a bigger picture to this brief snap shot of early twenty first century family life, but I have seen such scenes before and I am inclined to think that it is normal within society to be like this.

Yet again I am left as the barbarian wandering off into the darkness feeling enlightened but also a bystander to aspects I find awkward.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Look Out

As I wander the lanes and tracks of the east midlands I am sometimes blessed with a sighting of a barn owl. There are often images to conjure the very essence of a place. Usually they are reduced to the level of sports teams or a flag of some kind, but for me the presence of this bird captures the spirit of the lands I walk. From the Fens to the east to the rolling fields and hedgerows between woodlands I have seen the distinctive whites of the barn owl and every time I have been close to one in flight I have not caught the sound of the wing beats.

My latest sighting was during the week. I decided to take a short drive to a nearby woodland to wander for a couple of hours. It seemed fortune was smiling on me as I had the darkness of the country lanes to myself, unlike most motorists I take the opportunity to drive more slowly when there is no need to keep with the flow of the traffic. I find I am able to relax and take in more of my surroundings. The headlights picked out an occasional aging rural home among the hedgerows and fields as I rolled down the country lanes. In the distance was the dark bank of woodland trees sitting below a clear night sky where the call of the tawny owl would be there to greet me on my arrival. Rounding a gentle corner I noticed a familiar white shape within the naked branches of a winter tree. The barn owl barely cast a glance at me, but remained still aside from a turning of the head to survey the land around us, no doubt keeping a look out for the next mouse of vole to break cover. I slowed as much as I could by dipping the clutch and coasting to reduce the engine noise as well as prolonging the sighting but I had no wish to stop and disturb the bird.

Once I had passed beneath the owl I lifted the clutch and regained a little speed. My thoughts passed to other bloggers who seem to enjoy the sights and sounds of an owl within the night. From Casey at the Snapping Twigs blog , to Earthen Magic down in the southern hemisphere and Lloyd Kahn over in California. It seems the humble owl holds a special place and a certain company for those who are willing to wander and perceive in the darkness. I have added the links for their blogs below should you wish to visit. I should also pass on a thank you to my friend Dan's daughters Ella & Rosa who accidentally gave me the nickname I write this blog under.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Cage of Gargoyles

In the early evening of the city I found myself walking downhill towards the victorian splendour of the railway station. To the side of me lay queues of traffic, headlights, horns and a sea of miserable looking faces staring at the tail lights of the car infront. Some vehicles were pristine examples of german engineering snobbery, others were more modest affairs but all stood still only shaking occasionally when a bus sped by in the adjacent lane. I have no desire to sit within the atmosphere of urban impatience and instead opted for the train service hoping for a less stressful journey home.

I left the streets and made my way onto the platforms to see a majestic long train waiting, gazing through the windows I could see seats a plenty and looked forward to a most comfortable journey. When I reached the door I noticed the train was destined for London and was not my service. I trotted along past the train to the end of the platform. There stood the chariot to take me home. A single travel worn carriage, filled to bursting with evening commuters.
"You must be kidding me," I muttered under my breath as I chose the less crowded of the 2 doors to try and gain access.

The man in front of me had no intentions of letting me on. He stood stubbornly in the doorway and after a moment I realised I would have to either play chicken with the closing carriage doors or push past him. I excused myself and stepped around him being treated to a tut and a look of utter contempt as I went by. The other passengers in front of him carried the same expression and refusal to move down into the seating area. I managed to get by and was just beginning to make my way down to a standing space further along when the train guard shouted at me "WOULD YOU MIND MOVING DOWN THE TRAIN...PLEASE!" he barked as he glared at me. I could feel my temper getting a little frayed around the edges but decided it was not worth pointing out the obvious to him. No doubt he would take it as aggressive behaviour and call on the intellectual genius of the security guards to solve all his problems and get me ejected from the train.

After a few minutes of standing within the center of the train the engine roared into life and the heaters were promptly tuned up to full, it was only another few minutes before I stood sweating and shifting awkwardly as the train moved off. I looked about me to the other passengers, most were plugged into iphones and submerged themselves in whatever digital world took their attention away from their environment. The others bore a look of discomfort and general misery. Only one man carried a smile and that was chemically induced from the half finished can of strong larger he clutched in his hand, it was without doubt the ugliest train I had ever been upon. As we stopped at a station or two, some spaces started to appear among the standing passengers. Finally a man left his seat and cautiously made his way towards the doors, the business man sitting in the seat next to him promptly spread out to take over both seats and stared angrily at the floor to avoid making eye contact with anyone left standing.

When we finally reached my station I was out of the doors like a greyhound from a trap, the cool night air was a blessing and helped wash away the stress of the confinement. I found my lantern, sidestepped a vehicle being driven erratically by another passenger and stepped away into the darkness of the country lanes to head back to the hovel.

Within the space of an hour I had been witness to many of the attitudes and trappings typical of modern western life. If this is civilisation I am glad to say I am a barbarian and will go my own way.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Travellers Rest

The hard packed ice of the country lane made for treacherous steps as I made my way towards the quieter green lane for my evening wanders. The clear night and cold air pulled the heat from my face and I was left fumbling for my scarf to shield my bare skin from the chill. Well away from the towns and villages the landscape was frozen solid and the silent force of the winter temperatures could fully take hold. It was a relief to reach the green lane. The deeper snow and rough surface made for better grip underfoot and the dogs could be released from their leashes. After a moment or two of an excited cacophony of barking they began to run, leaping the deep ditch exploring the fallow field alongside for signs of rabbit.

With my arms free from restraining the dogs I could adjust my coats, hood and scarf to better effect and move more freely, enjoying the sights and sounds of the frozen landscape and allowing my thoughts to tumble around as my perceptions increased. My destination lay a little over a mile away and I was looking forward to being a little warmer from the walk once I reached it.

After a few slips and slides I finally arrived, to most people this was a place to give no reason to stop, but for a few of us it is indeed special. Halfway up a gentle hill on a little used country lane I stood beneath two bare trees looking up through the stark branches to the moon and stars far beyond. It was here not so long ago I stood in good company with the family of a friend to scatter his ashes. I had only got to know Fred a couple of years before he died, we shared an enthusiasm for dogs and walking. I enjoyed listening to his tales and experiences as he freely passed on his wisdom. It is a pity he never had the time to write them down, but the knowledge and love for life he had is now something I and others carry forward and evolve into our own experiences. I find I am able to take comfort from this and in some ways it feels as if he is still with us.

I reached down to give Robbie our boarder collie a pat. He was Fred's dog and came into our care a couple of weeks before Fred died, now well settled with us, he seems to enjoy wandering with me and I have a feeling Fred would have been happy with that. The few moments standing still had brought the cold back to my hands & face, it was time to return back to the hovel. In my mind I said a farewell to my friend and headed off back down the hill, homeward bound.