Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Swallows, Amazons and buzzards...

So far I've spent six days learning to sail and dreaming of Swallows and Amazons & The Famous Five. I am a slow learner and not hugely brave or confident - Peggy or Anne depending on the series. Covered in scrapes and bruises but feeling good. Quite good at rigging, crewing & balancing the boat; getting a feel for the wind, hopeless steering has improved slightly. Dozens of kids swarming over the smallest craft like water rats, showing no fear whatsoever and learning about five times faster than me. Have developed a keen interest in wetsuits, rash vests and buoyancy aids and spent the w/end in Christchurch yacht watching in addition to the usual people watching. Found a v interesting link to Arthur Ransome. Was he or was he not a communist double agent? Not sure whether to reread the Swallows books next or Ransome's biography 'The Last Englishman' by Roland Chambers.
Currently reading 'March' by Geraldine Brooks। Loosely written around the father of 'Little Women', the first book I ever bought. Nostalgia.The promise is ably delivered by a writer worth reading.
Where have all the swallows gone? And the swifts and the martins? They seem to have left early this year। For two weeks now there have been only a couple in the skies where earlier in the month there were a dozen or so circling and swooping। I have heard this has happened in other localities and that it could be the erratic weather affecting the insect population, the hatching or the broods. It has been wonderful to have buzzards nesting close by for the first time I can remember, waking us each morning with their shrill calls and the babies still crying for food at dusk, but could they have seen off the swallows? We also seem to have a growing magpie population: they eat the chicken feed and set the bantams squawking with a vengeance. Nature should be more peaceful!
Soon I will need to change the header but I love this picture. At first the crop was a mystery, then an Andy Goldsworthy, changing by the hour, the weather and the day. Linseed or flax, I should ask the farmer to plant it again next year.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

End of the Path

We finally finished the Ridgeway. It took us so long we have forgotten when we started, but several years ago now. We began walking on weekends and evenings and have now walked from home to the start of the path and then the whole length of 87 miles. Lots of looking back over our shoulders at the distances we have covered and driving out to a new starting point or home again on a parallel road; the Ridge is the most recognisable feature of the Chiltern hills. We went east to west and there was no walk when we didn't stop several times to marvel at the view, often enhanced by the sunset we were walking into. Apparently many walkers prefer walking with the wind at their back but I like my hair swept off my face. The ground, being high and chalky was almost always good for walking and supports the prettiest flora. Earlier in the year we saw cowlips then orchids and now harebells scattering the slopes. All along the way Red Kites, buzzards, sparrow hawks and kestrels flew alongside, above and sometimes below us and this month we walked through clouds of butterflies: whites of all sizes, brimstones, blues, tortoiseshells, skippers and gatekeepers. Thank goodness the sun has come out at last!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

where did july go?

Hard month, stressy end of term and grey skies - trying to sort my head out. Can't believe I had another panic attack yesterday - seems as though it happened to a different person now. Trying to be a different person. Sat out reading until it got dark last night to get some rays jacking up my pineal gland and stubbed my toe while storing up blue skies last week. Can't say I'm not trying, hopeless case...

So what's good?

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. 4 Amazon stars. I read Year of Wonders a few years back and this is a testament to Brooks' growth as an author. I have ordered her Pulitzer prize winning March from the library (use it or lose it!)

Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. Won the Costa prize but has a half less star - probably because it encapsulates in its heroine the tradgedy of Ireland. But wait! she rises like a phoenix. A degree of misery is essential, I could take it, so can you.
About to start Home (faith, love, doubt, fear..) Marilynne Robinson. Loved her 1980 Housekeeping, she's won the Pulitzer since then for Gilead, maybe next on my list...
Looking for Eric (Cantona) and yes, he is in it. The nearest Ken Loach will ever get to a feelgood movie, a little gem from a national treasure.

Sunshine Cleaning. Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, all gorgeous. Believable, human, compassionate. A pinch of the essence of life here, black humour, wry smiles. Emily continues to convince and amaze - this is Young Victoria's antithesis.

Looking forward to 35 Rhums, father, daughter, read the interview, see the trailer; Frozen River, low budget Thelma & Louise on Alaskan border.
Waterhouse at the R.A. Don't read the reviews, just go. Makes me wish I'd done Classics.

Places: Walking in Edale, between Kinder Scout and Mam Tor on Lose Ridge. We did the sunny afternoon walk. Women and children did it every day of the year to start work at 5 am in the cotton mill we stayed in. And over to Castleton for funerals. Trail of tears.
But maybe weddings too, and christenings, and guys. Not all bad.
We are finishing off the Ridgeway, finally, next week and Snowdonia is lined up for the Bank Holiday, after a couple of days sailing (what has possessed me?) and a weekend in Christchurch. As you can see I really am trying.