Quite a few things have happened this week, most of them, rain. When we were looking through the pictures to see if we could find one that was worth showing you, the thing I noticed most was the number of mushroom photos he has taken. I suppose that mushrooms do look interesting but I found out long ago they really don’t smell that interesting at all. So I wanted to find you something you’d appreciate. Well, perhaps appreciate is the wrong word, shall we just say – something you won’t turn your nose up at?
You are probably going to get tired of hearing this but – he just doesn’t know how to go for a walk. We set off in the morning and we stop at the gate. This is a very important place, it’s a bit like Facebook or maybe we should call it Nosebook. We always need to stop here to see if anyone has ‘Liked’ my last post yet. Before I’ve had a decent chance to see what has been ‘scent’, he drags me off down the road. I ask you, how am I supposed to have any social life at all?
Anyway, eventually, we stopped to have a look up in some tree or other, he was peering around up there for hours, it was so boring!
In the end, I had to take a hand. I think this is what he was looking for.
First, I better explain that he is busy over at the new place. In spite of the fact that we are only going to write to you once a week, we still go out for our walk every day. And we still spend most of our walk standing around in completely uninteresting places while he clambers around amongst the brambles of the verge. If I try to do a little investigating of something truly important, he just gets impatient and drags me off quite unceremoniously.
I had a look at the photos he has taken while we’ve been incommunicado this week, and to be honest, I couldn’t really see anything that would make your sitting reading this in any way entertaining. In the end I settled for a picture of me. I don’t particularly like having my picture taken and I certainly do not like having my picture taken wearing that idiotic blue raincoat, but other than my photo it was down to some leaves, a helicopter or a train, oh, and there were a few photos of horses and sheep. Really, who would be interested in horses or sheep.
I ask you?
As you can see from the picture there will be a new tone to our weekly message while I’m in charge – things will be much more down to earth.
The Dog, Jackie and I have been living in our new place for just over a year, now. A year ago I set myself the task of posting every day. The main farming activities in the fields that surround us are winding down. The trees are shedding leaves and the flowers are dying back, in preparation for whatever the winter weather has in store for us. So many things seem to have come full circle. I was standing in the back garden this morning, listening to the rattle of acorns as they fell through the branches, with the occasional thump, as an acorn landed on the roof of the house. A train came past along our embankment, going at a good lick, downhill, on its way to Carlisle. I watched until it had disappeared round the bend. In the silence that followed, I heard the tap, tap, tap, of the woodpecker, doing a little carpentry, in the trees behind me. All reminders of how delighted we have been with our new home, over this last year.
But time and tide wait for no man – Google notes that they have known this truth since at least 1225 and probably earlier. So it looks as though Time and Tide haven’t changed much since then. We, however, are making big changes. From today we will only post once a week – on Friday to start with, but there is no logical reasoning behind our decision, so things may change. This, then, is not the end. It is the start of something new, we’ll be telling you more as it happens.
Hi there over in America – this one’s for you. We found him working as a hedge along a couple of fields, and he asked us if we would mention him to the people back home. He’s settled in quite nicely, thank you, and he’s finding that the locals are just plain folks and easy to get along with. Snowberry or Waxberry are the names he goes by around here.
We live on the border between England and Scotland and this part of Britain has seen its share of strife. The Romans tried to stop it by building a wall, when the Romans left, the local chieftains banded together to fight off the Saxons for a couple of hundred years. Just to the north of where we live is a road, known locally as The Military Road, it was constructed to enable English troops to be moved rapidly to quench the fires of the Jacobite rebellion. For centuries the families of the borders have raided and robbed, attacked and ambushed each other with brutal efficiency. Several of the clans were wiped out to the last man, woman and child.
Our plant’s other name is Ghostberries. The berries provide sustenance to poor wandering wraiths. With all the unpleasantness we’ve seen around here over the centuries there must be plenty of those around.
They’ll have to share though, Grouse are very fond of them too.
The wind has decided that enough is enough, and it is time these leaves stopped hanging on to their mother’s apron strings. It has the nasty cold edge we have been expecting for the last few days. Interestingly the grey murky skies have cleared and we have a nice clean blue sky with fluffy white clouds scurrying around in it. There has been a bit of a mix up in the ordering system again, by the look of things.
Leaves and seeds are flying around, huddling in little piles in sheltered corners, trying to get out of the chilly draught. We had thought that most of our acorns had fallen and had been round raking them up off the lawn, but this morning the lawn has a fresh coat. The wind is shaking the oak trees so hard in fact, that quite a few larger chunks have come loose and they are now sitting there, waiting for me to collect them up and put them, with their relatives from last year, in the wood store.
The other thing the rough edge on the wind has done, is to make us value the sheltered spots on out route. There is still a welcome warmth in the sun and those parts of our walk shielded from the icy blast are jogging our memory. There are places that last winter were milestones in our travels as they provided a little relief from the weather, it’s all coming back to us now.
Today, we found this guy in one of those comfort stops, I’m just not sure if using a feather to help you fly is cheating – or maybe a sign of entrepreneurial spirit.
Well, we’re here again today and we will do a-blog-a-day until Friday, then we will change to posting just once a week. This will be a relief as there is precious little to photograph at this time of the year. We are going to start a children’s story blog and trying to do them both at the same time seems to verge on the perverse. This one will be the Friday blog and we’ll let you all know more about the new place when we know what we’re doing. Until then I thought you might like a train. It’s a Class 142 Pacer and it’s been pottering up and down our railways since it was introduced in 1985. It was built to be a bus. So it has loads of ‘features’ in common with buses. If you look at it you can almost imagine it as a double decker, can’t you.
One of the things it inherited from its off-rail ancestors is its simple wheel arrangement. Just straight forward wheels – no complicated bogie here. This means, for instance, that on the fairly tight S bend that has our level crossing in the middle, the wheels do a fair amount of complaining.
It’s no wonder it’s been nicknamed The Nodding Donkey, is it?
Well here it is. This is our last/first post of the year. In the spirit of modern marketing, not to just satisfy customers but to try our best to delight them, we think we will probably carry on our daily posts until Friday. We wouldn’t want you thinking you didn’t get your money’s worth.
When we started the year we set off by train so, to show we’ve gone up in the world, we thought you might like a helicopter at this end of the bookcase.
It’s a Sea King, and that nice friendly colour is the sort of thing we associate with our Mountain Rescue team. Writing that, made me wonder under what circumstances a mountain might need rescuing. If it gets a bad case of vulcanitis and blows its top, I’m really sorry, but I think it’s too late for any attempted rescue mission.
The only other case that comes to mind, without having to think about it, is if it slipped down a land slide and fell into the sea. Of course, it’s over the other side that the North Sea is trying to fill itself in. It remembers the good old days, before the sea got above itself, when it used to lie round all day as a swamp.
It still romanticises about the wind in the reeds and the soft footfall of the mammoth.
The skies are grey and the horizon seems to be little more than a hundred yards away. Yet the wind. which is quite gusty, is not cold. It looks like Autumn, but it is really not that bad. A quick glance out of the window before The Dog, Jackie and I set out this morning, was all it took to send us out wrapped up nice and warm – and completely overdressed. In spite of all indications to the contrary, it was pleasantly mild.
Sycamore leaves are quite large and they seem to be in a hurry to leave home. At the moment, we have a considerable number of them gathering in sheltered corners to discuss their next move. A good percentage of them have large black spots all over them. I pointed this out to Google and he obligingly passed on some interesting information. This is Tar Spot. It isn’t anything to write home about, the Sycamore and Maple trees just seem to shrug it off. It is caused by a fungus that hung around in the leaf mould and then infected the new leaves in the spring. There is nothing it enjoys more than a damp misty climate so, no doubt, it feels right at home around here.
When we were busy trying to choke ourselves into an early grave, by filling the atmosphere around us with coal fumes, the fungus kept a very low profile. The high sulphur content of smoke and smog killed it off. Now, however, since we’ve cleaned up our act, it has gained a new lease of life.
It may not look all that pretty – but it’s a sign of our good, fresh country air.
A couple of weeks ago, when we were talking to the guy who planted the Horse Chestnut trees, he mentioned that he had also planted a Sweet Chestnut tree – just over there. Naturally we started to look ‘just over there’ to see if we could pinpoint a tree that looked as though it had been planted – rather than it had just volunteered. It didn’t take us long to spot a sprightly young specimen who still had the tatters of one of those plastic tubes young trees are planted in, hanging round his knees. As he is now fifteen to twenty feet high, it is fairly safe to say that he has outgrown the need for its protection.
We blame this one on the Romans. The nuts are ground into flour and cooked into a porridge – the cooking kills the bitter taste – then the porridge is fed to legionaries just before they go into battle, so they brought them with them when they moved in here – just in case.
Sweet Chestnut wood is very strong and has excellent water resistant qualities so is made into barrels for Balsamic Vinegar which (well, the real stuff, anyway) has to be stored for twelve, eighteen or twenty five years so needs a decent cask.
Dr Edward Bach said that an essence prepared from Sweet Chestnut flowers was needed by people who could see no way out and were at the end of their resources.
Through the village and past the village green and past the post box, we could hear the racket. A large number of rooks were swirling around above the trees that hosted last years rookery, making more noise, and with a greater decibel output, than a kinder-garden classroom full of excited youngsters waiting for the bus to take them on a school trip. We were going in that direction so we hurried along, to The Dog’s annoyance, to see what was going on. It is in the autumn that the young rooks congregate to dance with the winds and general show off before pairing up for the spring. It certainly isn’t nest building time.
Well, we reached the part of the road that goes through the tunnel created by the trees that support the nests and the sky was full of swirling birds. Even as we watched more groups of birds came diving in to give their support to whatever was happening. It could have been a football match, or a closing down sale. It could have been that a well known fruitier had announced a new handset. We watched in amazement.
Then we noticed that mixed up in the swirling mass, were the buzzards. There didn’t seem to be any attempt to attack them, it really just seemed like deliberate harassment. This went on for nearly ten minutes and then the rooks flew off and settled in trees a few hundred yards away.
We stopped to chat to the corner cows today and found their predictive skills presenting a challenge to interpretation. Before we cast the deciding vote in this debate, we thought it might be a good plan to see if Google knew anything about cows. He wasn’t over enthusiastic. One day we really must ask him a proper question. He did turn up a few of the ‘Scientists have found out’ type of articles so beloved of urban myth-makers.
You know the sort of thing, “Scientists have found out that many people have difficulty standing on one leg. This proves that the world is tilting over to one side. The Government Secret Service is trying to hush this up as it is of huge military significance.” – Hang on – don’t panic. I shouldn’t have mentioned it. It isn’t that serious, the Government is aware of the situation and both parties are working towards a peaceful solution. It’ll be all right, honest
Anyway, as that was all we had, I thought I would pass it on to you: When cows are hot they stand up, as that makes more of the surface area of their bodies available for cooling; when they are cold they lie down, if they feel like it. On the other hand you might feel more comfortable with the idea that if the cows think it’s going to rain, they lie down to keep a dry space to lie in – an interesting concept.
So where does that leave us? Is it going to rain or not?
Do you remember, much earlier in the year, we took a picture of some Horse Chestnut flowers – just before they opened? I had forgotten all about it myself. The Dog mentioned it as we passed the tree the other day, I wondered what had become of the flower whose picture we took.
We had been walking past looking up into the tree, at the nascent blooms, when, taking a quick glance around just to be sure that the coast was still clear, I noticed this particular flower, at waist height, on a shoot protruding from the base of the trunk. I really hadn’t meant to photograph the Horse Chestnut blossoms at all, I meant to come back in a few days and get some good pictures of the tree in full bloom. However, it seemed that a kind Fate had presented me with a golden opportunity, and never one to look a gift horse chestnut in the mouth, I climbed up the verge and took a few pictures. A lucky decision as it turned out. Life intervened, as it is wont to do, and the chance to come back and photograph the tree in its full glory slipped away.
So we stopped and climbed up the verge again today and rooted around in the undergrowth to see if there was any sign of an actual nut.
Well, we found him, but he turned out to be a little camera shy and he refused to come out and talk to us.
“People think it’s the wheels, you know. But we needed to make sure everyone was fully occupied. It kept them out of trouble. The devil makes work for idle hands, and all that? There weren’t that many of us Incas – and there were people all over South America that relied on us keeping things under control. Once you have wheels you get more done with less people, and that was the last thing we wanted. Full employment was very important, it was the thing that held the empire together.
“And look at the roads, I mean, you people built roads all over the place and then went and let all the common people wander up and down them. That’s asking for trouble, you wouldn’t find the commons on our roads, no way. If you weren’t on official or military business, you better not get caught on the road. We didn’t want people moving around. How could the tax inspectors keep an eye on things if the people in their area wandered off?
“Then there’s writing, some people make such a big thing about the writing. We had the quipu, but we had the sense to make the whole business secret, only the specially trained could use it to record things or read what what it said. Knots and strings, that’s what it was to the rest of us. Well, I mean, look what happened when you people let Gutenberg get away with printing stuff the commoners could read. Look at all the trouble that stirred up.