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Archive for October, 2012

Is it a train? Is it autumn leaves? No its . . .

Chinook

Chinook

A helicopter, a Chinook, say – (that’s either a warm wet wind on the Pacific coast of North America, a hot dry wind on the plains the other side of the mountains, an Indian Tribe {First Nations People} or a breed of dog – most people go for the wind).

Well a helicopter does make a change doesn’t it? Autumn and winter are tough times for nature bloggers, maybe we should go into hibernation. I’ve often thought it might be quite nice to lie around and doze until Spring. You would need to set your alarm clock for Christmas of course – you wouldn’t want to get dunked in the teapot would you. You could stay awake until after the New Year celebrations and then go back to bed for a few months.

We have RAF Spadeadam and Carlisle Airport – well, Carlisle airfield would perhaps be a better name – just a bit over Newcastle way from us, so we expect to see the odd aircraft, especially as we are right in their route to the Solway Estuary or the Lake District National Park.

Which leads me very nicely into the next thing I was going to mention. Apparently they are a unit of the Dutch Air Force and they’ve come here to practice. A very sensible thing to do, when you consider that when things were being shared out, Holland was first in line for flat bits and we were first in the bumpy bits queue.

We do have our own flat bits though – Norfolk etc. – maybe we send helicopter crews to Holland so they can learn to ride a bicycle.

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Poised

Buzzard Perched

Buzzard Perched

Here we have one of our local buzzards “busy doin’ nothin'”. This is their favourite pastime. They just love that scenery.

Over on this side we have open farmland mostly grazed by cattle. Of course as the year is now drawing to a close all the cattle are being taken indoors for the winter, so there isn’t even that continual rolling scrunch of cows’ tongues ripping mouthfuls of grass off at ground level and slowly grinding it to pulp. Cows are such noisy eaters, you know, if you’re perched on a branch above a field full of cows it is almost impossible to get any sleep at all.

Over this side we have the valley with its stream and the railway line. We only have two or three trains an hour and they all have diesel engines so they are pretty quiet on the whole, especially if you can get a perch back up the hill here – anyway it isn’t difficult to doze through that comfortable rumble as they go past.

Probably the main disadvantage of a perch up on the hillside is that you are visible from the road. Every so often you get someone come along with a camera and they stand there going click, click, click for ages. How is anyone supposed to get any rest when you have to perch there, pretending to be alert, with your shoulders back and pulling your stomach in?

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As The Sun Sinks Slowly In the West

Sunset over Carlisle

Sunset over Carlisle

“Quick! Quick!” said Anthony “Where’s the camera. Quick!”

Anthony was up from ‘down south’, staying with us for a few days. I was busy, so I waved a disinterested hand in the direction of the camera. That seemed to resolve the issue so I forgot about it. Time passed – have you noticed that it does this from time to time? Stuff happens and then something else happens and possibly even something else as well. Then suddenly you notice that it’s quite some time since that stuff happened and you wonder if you should have paid more attention while that dog was having its day.

You may have missed something important, something of earthshaking gravity may have just slipped away. Rome may have burned to the ground while you were fiddling with some minor matter which could have easily have waited two seconds, two minutes, or two hours. Who knows maybe you should have put it aside forever? Possibly if you’d only known, it might have been better left undone.

Then again, what would have happened if you had turned aside? Say you hadn’t been focused on that whatever-it-was you were so intent on? Would you forever regret the missed opportunity? Would that butterfly never have got round to flapping its wings in the Amazon forests?

Would the sun still set in the west?

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Firelight

Fire

Fire

Our new home has central heating. So you might wonder why there was a fireplace. Except, perhaps as some relic from bygone days when people somehow, in some unimaginable way, managed to survive without thermostatically controlled radiators, possibly just by wearing more clothes, or thicker underwear, or even by being much more active. Or perhaps by just putting up with the cold because there was no alternative?

My first thought was that perhaps our fireplace was ornamental rather than functional and perhaps we would arrange half a dozen tea lights in there to sit and watch the television by. A quick peek inside, however confirmed that our fireplace was, in fact, connected to the outside via a chimney. A check from the outside showed that we actually have two chimneys, one seemed to be aimed at the bathroom, so we didn’t expect that one to be functional – and it’s not, but the one at the other end of the house was in exactly the right place to line up with the fireplace down below.

Urged on by some long forgotten childhood memory, Jackie suggested that I should lay the fire in the grate, so that it would be ready to light in the morning.

Why light the fire in the morning when we are both busy and with no time to sit around in front of it? Some inner voice suggested that this is not a question that it is safe to ask (my childhood was spent in warmer climes – with no need for fires or fireplaces). So I laid the fire and she lit it next morning.

I’m expecting the Ghost Of Christmas Past to knock at the door any time now with a goose in each hand.

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Snow

A Dusting Of Snow

A Dusting Of Snow

Last night the weather forecast was for a dusting of snow – the first snows of winter, they said, although it is still autumn and we are still operating on British Summer Time (until tonight). Of course, a statement like that from a weather forecaster is enough to make you dig out your swimming togs, then try to find the garden sprinkler and get it set up on the lawn, ready to lie under, in preparation for the hottest October day for twenty years.

Imagine our surprise when this morning broke bright and clear – with the roofs and the field covered in, “A Light Dusting Of Snow”. Off we went for our morning constitutional with the air bright and clear and crisp. And also very cold on the nose and the ears, this is the first time I’ve worn my gloves since last winter.

Standing at the gate waiting, while The Dog checked to make sure that this was our road and that only the postman had been this way today, we noticed a gentle trickling sound a little like water but quite clearly not water. It seemed to come from the trees in the wood behind the house. Looking up we could see tiny showers of leaves detach themselves in a companionable sort of way from the branches high in the tree tops and trickle down through the lower leaves rustling and whispering as they fell.

It made leaf-fall seem less forlorn and more like a group hug.

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Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves was written in 1945 – in French. The original poem was written by Jacques Prévert and the music by Joseph Kosma (thank you Wikipedia). Even though it was sung by Yves Montand – yes, you remember him – it wasn’t until Johnny Mercer wrote the English words that it really took off. It’s still being recorded by the upcoming artists today and has become a popular jazz standard, not bad for a song that is pushing 68 this year. I wonder how many of today’s ‘wun rap wunders’ will be remembered in seventy years? To be fair, of course, there was a lot of terrible music around in the ’40s too – thankfully it’s mostly gone and luckily completely forgotten.

Bananas, like leaves are only green because their skins are laced with chlorophyll and like leaves as the chlorophyll breaks down the yellow shows up better and better and they start to look ripe and appetising (if you like bananas).

The leaves of other trees don’t seem to have as appetising an appearance – but they do look pretty.

Play The Game

The Beck

The Beck

Down at the bottom of the hill, on the road that takes us on a short walk to the next village, is the beck. Or the burn if we were in Scotland, or the stream, or the brook, or insert-your-local-name-here. Like so many things in life, what it’s called is actually not important. What matters is how it behaves and what it does. In our case it runs  from east-ish to west-ish and in doing so, it runs through a bridge and under the road.

The all important bridge is just before the corner as you go and just after the corner if you’re coming back. This proximity to the corner is important because it means that from a position close enough to the bridge to be able to join in the game there is a clear view for three or four hundred yards in both directions along the road. This all adds up to – the opportunity for a game of pooh sticks – good solid iron railings on both sides, a good view for some considerable distance along the road in both directions and very little traffic on the road in any case – who could ask for anything more.

When Fin and Jen were here a couple of weeks ago we played several times. In the last game, my stick got stuck on a rock and failed to finish the game (within a five-year-old’s attention span anyway). This was most unsatisfactory. Seeking closure, I suggested to The Dog that we should play a game or two – just to get in some practice, so to speak.

She participated eagerly in the hunt for, and selection of, suitable sticks, but at the last minute she refused to drop her stick in the water and brought it home with her instead.

She doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of the rules – I must remember to read her the story.

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