A dreamy snapshot taken “At the going down of the sun…” 12th November 2017, a day to remember…
Here in Devon – November heralds that time of year when torchlight processions take to the streets – as local people come out in a show of togetherness and time-honoured tradition – to shake a fist at the quickening nights and long, cold Winter months ahead…
One of my simple remedies to combat the enveloping darkness – is to go in search of shafts of light through multicoloured glass…
On a cold day like yesterday – the temperature inside was almost as invigorating as it was outside – yet the atmosphere was warm still with the memory of all those that have worshipped at St James for centuries to the present day – it was like they had all just popped out!
St. James stands in an enviable position – upon a windswept corner plot that looks towards Dartmoor in the distance. Its position alone makes it a favourite place to visit – but nevermore memorable than on this blowy November afternoon; low Sun through old glass is magical.
For me – St James’ leading light is a stained glass window to the right of the altar – which is after William Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World’.
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Before first consciousness – I think I must have imbibed an affinity with places off the beaten track – and horses. More than half-a-century on – I wouldn’t describe myself as traditionally horsey – because really it was just one horse I was ever truly, deeply, mad about.
My birthplace was Pensilva near Bodmin Moor – in a house reputedly haunted by a benevolent ghost called, Squire Pollard. My mother once saw him through the gaps in the old oak floorboards upstairs – he was sitting in the parlour below – drinking ale and puffing on a clay pipe. Another strange account was a dream my mother had before she ever stepped foot in the house. She dreamt of the exact door to the room that I was born in – only in her dream she saw the words ‘Morte Bar’ inscribed on the door. No wonder I was often referred to as a changeling child – especially as I was willful by nature with a tendency to scowl a lot!
At night wild ponies came down from the moor – and whinnied and galloped about just beyond the bottom of our garden. In the sixties – Pensilva was an isolated place to bring up a young family especially in contrast to Sussex where my parents and older siblings had moved from. Needless to say – my Mother always felt unease about the house where I was born – and it wasn’t long before they upped sticks again – and moved to Devon – the place where I grew up and have lived ever since.
Even though she’s long gone to horsey heaven – I often dream that we hack out together. It’s a wonderful ‘experience’ to awake from – like having all the fun of owning a horse but without the expense or hard work that goes into looking after a horse – not that Jessie was ever – EVER hard work – she was a complete joy and I still miss her warm breath and gentle ways. I even dream that I can smell her – that sweet cocktail of sweat and leather – and hay. Not surprisingly there are lots of places roundabout that bring back memories of our jaunts together – old haunts that we revisit in my dreams like it was yesterday – all bar one that is.
Only a few days ago – whilst enjoying a night ramble – I suddenly had an urge to take a series of photographs of an entrance to a road ‘unsuitable for motors’ that we used to ride up – gallop up – at full pelt to the high ridge…I’ve passed this lane entrance many times ‘since’ but never have I had the want to photograph it – because all the pictures of that bright, springlike afternoon are in my head – not able to be shared here or anywhere – because they don’t exist in photographic form. They wouldn’t be appropriate anyway – too graphic.
The relationship that developed between us was something special. Jessie was a living, breathing Black Beauty – definitely more human than horse. Some might say that’s putting an anthropomorphic spin on things – but it is true. I trusted her with every fibre of my being – I never had cause to wear a hat when out on her – and besides I enjoyed the wind in my hair as much as she did. We understood each others thoughts – and communicated freely. I can’t really put into words how one actually talks ‘horse’ – but we were on the same frequency from day one.
On a long rein, I’d often let her take me for a ride…
On the 25th February 1998 – she took me to the road ‘unsuitable for motors’ – a forgotten ‘road’ off the beaten track. We’d been there on other occasions – to enjoy the freedom of a good gallop up its zig-zag course. Jessie, when given the choice – usually preferred to go on a more leisurely outing where she could stop and nibble at the Devon hedgerows and graze the grass verges; ours was an easy-going relationship – where her enjoyment was of equal importance. On this particular day – she was on a mission – she didn’t even try to snatch a mouthful from the hedge. Jessie when she wanted to – could go like the wind – and after an exhilarating gallop up the length of the track – we soon reached the plateau at the far end – a good place to ‘pull’ on the brakes before rejoining the metalled road.
Unusually – an ‘abandoned’ white car was facing us at the top of the lane. Slowly moving towards it – I became aware that a person was sitting inside – most likely enjoying an afternoon nap in the life-affirming sunshine. Suddenly I felt intrusive. In ‘slow-motion’ – over a distance of a hundred yards or so – I gradually perceived that the occupant – a women with her mouth and eyes wide open – was not sleeping – but dead. There was no immediacy for me to respond – she had visibly been inside her sun-drenched car too long; there was no need to dismount. Calmly and without stopping we walked-on by – relieved that life-saving intervention was not necessary – there was nothing to be done other than to raise an ‘alarm’ in the nearby sleepy hamlet. It was only as I glanced back – seeing the ‘paraphernalia’ attached to the exhaust of the car – that I realised that the person had taken their own life. What I saw that day – never touched me – due to my absolute belief in the protective power of Iron – Jessie’s four shoes had formed a barrier between us. A barrier between us and the ground – the car on the ground – and her inside it.
Her estranged husband – a farmer and part-time gravedigger – was supposed to find her when he checked his sheep that morning – but he never did check his sheep that day – because he had a funeral to attend and he’d been running late…
The ‘paraphernalia’ attached to the exhaust of the car had been ‘borrowed’ from the milking parlour to use in a final act of imploded anger – and revenge – over her disputed share of the farm and land. The cows were milked – but the sheep fended for themselves that morning – and probably for the rest of the day that unravelled.
The one image I retain – are her hands – forever stuck at ‘ten to two’ on the steering wheel – in a determined grip of self-will. Coincidentally about the time of day that we found her. I understand that she took her own life in the night – before the morning – before that fateful afternoon.
…but never – EVER – when I’m dreaming.
My eldest son has enjoyed his first half-term after starting school again…
He is 24 years old and a trainee teacher. He never did return home after University – the day I dropped him off at the halls of residence was the day he left home. The 25th of September 2011 was a scorcher – in more ways than one. Golden like the city of Bath itself – that in my mind is a place that’s forever bathed in Light – and Love. After a rushed good-bye – I ventured into the city centre with my youngest son – to look for ‘something’ I could hold onto – to remember the day. I didn’t know what I was looking for – but I didn’t find it in any of the shop windows.
Instead of a thing – I followed a ‘ting’ that I’d heard above the busy throng of Sunday shoppers. My souvenir of the day was a soundtrack played by these guys who were busking that day. Danny Cudd and Markus Johannson – together they are ‘Hang Massive’ – and my soundtrack of the day was – is – ‘Once Again’.
Play it once again – and again – and again…
And now – whenever I hear ‘ting ting’ – I’m immediately transported back to that far-off golden day – that’s still as intense in my mind as sunlight streaming through a Tulip tree.
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This half-term I have enjoyed a golden day out with my boys to Baggy Point on the North Devon Coast. An unhurried walk up to the Point from Croyde – passing some old Whale bones on the way – and back.
The whale bones were preserved at the side of the path by the Hyde family – for the benefit of ALL visitors. They gave the Bones – and Baggy Point – to the National Trust in 1939. I thought – cor wouldn’t I just love to have it in my bone collection!!!
Moving on – and to The Point – I saw something else in the grass that was acquirable – just – and not for my bone collection but my stone collection. A beautiful Witch’s Heart lying on the edge of a slope that dropped away to the sea…
My eldest son gallantly volunteered to pick it up for me – as it was placed a lot more precariously than it looks in this photo – a bit of a cliff hanger in fact!
I love the way the Witch’s Heart fits my hand – and my hand fits the Witch’s Heart.
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Walking Away – Cecil Day Lewis
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
(Written by Cecil Day Lewis for his eldest son – Sean.)
On Tuesday – October 17, 2017 – I stopped what I was doing – which was laying the fire ready for lighting – to read an eye-catching article in the Daily Mail. It wasn’t my newspaper but my brother’s – that he passes on to me for fire starting. As ever – whilst on my knees – I scanned the pages in an unhurried start to get the fire started – before screwing them up into loose bundles. One page caught my eye though – so I put it back for some late night reading… A fascinating article by Peter Fiennes – about acorns – and why for some unknown reason Oak trees and some other native trees such as Beech and Chestnut – produce more nuts or ‘masts’ – every five to ten years. Thank god – this bountiful boom known as a ‘mast year’ – is one of Nature’s eternal mysteries; it’s a nut that even the clever scientists haven’t conclusively cracked!
Conjecture tells us that the cause of this cyclic glut is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring self-preservation for trees – and therein, our preservation too. In generating a periodical surplus of nuts over and above the appetites of the many ravenous foragers and feeders that feast on them – ensures that all of us get to enjoy the renewed promise of lovely, seasonal greenness year in year out – as new saplings burst forth from each surplus golden casket.
To my mind – a tree’s outwardness is my inwardness; trees to me, are the tangible embodiment of the air I breathe – and yes I’m a tree-hugger! I can’t quite square this with needing newspaper and firewood for lighting my fire – or the effect that burning either has on the environment – but the nights are drawing in – and this draughty, non-centrally heated house ain’t gettin warmer!
Moving swiftly on and in-between but still on the same thread – are these wondrous teeny-weenies…
I found them struggling across a hard road with a long way ahead of them to get to the other side. As is my wont – I gently picked-up the waddling, tummy-scraping pair and gave them a lift in the direction that they were heading…
For one small animal – I was sadly too late to lend a helping hand…
On Sunday – October 15, 2017 – I found a beautiful grey squirrel – unbloodied and still warm laying at the side of the road – he looked for all the World like he was fast asleep. Apart that is, for one darkened, unblinking eye.
The thing that really struck me – was the poignancy of the abandoned acorn that lay close-at-paw, and the promise it held for the Squirrel before the wheel of a moving car – snuffed it all out.
I transferred the dreamless Squirrel to the hedgerow – before picking up his abandoned ‘larder’…
RIP my bushy-tailed friend. X
“Of all man’s works of art, a cathedral is greatest. A vast and majestic tree is greater than that.” Henry Ward Beecher.
It’s those invisible shifting green ribbons that connect all of us through Light – Time and Space – or as my Yaffle friend calls them – ‘Vibrations’ – we just have to learn to tune into them!
Throughout the long Summer months – that seemingly fly-by in hindsight – a pair of Yaffles have been hard at it – hammering away at the woodwork of a knotty problem – stopping only to listen – for grubs and the occasional sound of falling trees…
‘The Yaffles’ set about the task of the knotty problem from opposite sides of a shared but expansive trunk that physically separated them from each other’s sight and earshot for almost a lifespan. For many a long year – the elder, über male Yaffle – ‘Yaffle B’ – had continuously knocked on wood but few it seemed had listened to him – until one day the ever-intuitive female Yaffle – ‘Yaffle A’ – picked up his worldly vibrations. Together but separately they continued to peck-a-way at their individual holes – as two arteries in the pulsing heart of an Evergreen tree of knowledge.
Through constant ggggrrrrrrkkkkkk, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, peckpeckpeckpeck at the woodwork – the Yaffles enjoyed a breakthrough in early Spring 2017. They connected with each other via an invisible green energy that shifts and manifests itself around the Globe. ‘Yaffle A’ senses ‘Emilia Borealis’ – whilst ‘Yaffle B’ through years of steadfast diligence – knows her ‘simply’ as EB.
All Summer the pair of dedicated Yafflers enjoyed much laffin’ n cacklin’ – plus exhilarating and undulating swoops through the lofty green canopy they inhabited in a virtual sense. On several occasions they ruffled each other’s feathers too! For seven whole months – the Yaffles were sworn to secrecy – to each other and to one cause – through a continuous and intensive round of yaffle-scribblings that to’d and fro’d – and flowed between the them.
Two-hundred and fourteen days later – one single ‘Yaffle-darling’ – or ‘Yaffling’ for short – has been given a renewed lease of life. The ‘Yaffling’ is an egg of three parts – individually called ‘Yafflettë’ – and although technically the golden egg is still to be hatched – it magically fledged with virtual wings a week ago today – on the 10th October 2017 – to a faraway place in the Northern Hemisphere – where it will continue to incubate and grow Ever stronger. By Green light and Amber fire – the Yaffling egg will be kept at just the right heat throughout the long, cold Winter months ahead…
At home and miles apart – The Yaffles too have entered sleep mode – independently going about their daily lives – whilst quietly anticipating the birthday of their darling bonneted babe – who is hopefully due around the corner of the coming year.
2018 will see an emergence of a single entity – in three parts – each one determined by the tricolour plumage of the Picus viridis¹ – a bird that knows when He – or She – knows! The largest Yafflettë is already fixed in Vermillion Red, the smallest Yafflettë is shaded in tones of White and Black – whilst the middle Yafflettë is eternally Evergreen.
Apologies if the above Yafflin seems bafflin to those who are not in the Yaffle know – but hopefully one day it will all make reasonable sense!!! One hopes…
Heading into Winter – the virtual wood is much quieter – apart that is from the sound of the wind’s song moving across the forest floor. The summer-long sweet hammerings from the canopy have all but ceased – yet the silence seems all the more deafening – now that the Yaffles’ task is done.
- Picus viridis – Green Woodpecker – or Yaffle.
- Figures: The single Yaffle carved in wood – perches on my sideboard – and heart – as a constant reminder lest I should forget – the unforgettable, the indefatigable, Ever unflappable ‘Yaffle B’.
Our other chimney had leaned into the wind for too long. If our builder hadn’t dismantled it brick-by-brick – I think a gale-force gust may have toppled it in one fell swoop. Luckily for us the old chimney leaned into the prevailing Westerly – and not a northerly or easterly direction. There have been a few nights – when the wind has howled and whistled around the old stack and I have had a fancy that some other invisible force must have braced the chimney until our builder was ready to come; a good builder always has a waiting list!
Glen crowned his masterpiece on Monday – 18th September 2017 – by restoring the original Victorian pot to its rightful place atop thirty-two angled layers of new red bricks. The scaffolder’s skill is worthy of great admiration too – its design and rigidity has enabled Glen to safely access the otherwise inaccessible chimney – I think it’s a remarkable structure – an art form in itself albeit a transient one.
At my behest – Glen’s last flourish – is an inscription in his otherwise super-smooth finish – in memory of Dad who lived here for forty-four years until he passed away on the 6th January 2017 – aged ninety-two.
Thanks Dad X
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‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ – poem by Emily Dickinson – performed by Máirín O’Hagan.
Bricks and Mortar – and Ties that bind. 27-X-2017.
Or when I go out to the green recycle bin at the end of our yard to dump something whilst preparing an evening meal. I turn around to comeback in – and suddenly – there he is again – up there closer to the stars than me. It’s funny how a chimney can be such a comfort!
Today – Sunday 13th. August 2017 – started with an early morning rise. Not out of my unslept-in-bed you understand – but to the top of Sharpitor (near Leather Tor) on Dartmoor – to see the Perseid Meteor Shower – followed by the biggest, most dazzling light show EVER – the dawn of a FRESH, new day. With only my son’s mobile phone to hand – I wasn’t fast enough (or alert enough) to capture any falling stars on camera – or in my pocket – but I did manage to make a wish or two before their blazing tails fizzled out like spent fireworks.
The grande finale was seeing Sunday rise – as a huge, orange Firebird in the East…
Another waking ‘dream’ – was hearing a hen laying an egg somewhere in the distance. Her song rose with the morning mist from one of the ancient farmsteads dotted around. A desire to eat a freshly laid, soft boiled egg – with hot, buttered toast for breakfast – will never be stronger than in that magical – golden moment on top of Sharpitor – or as impossible for that matter!
Theme for today – another favourite by Amethystium…
Friday 4th August 2017 – saw a return to my favourite Somerset ‘Mump’ – Burrow Mump. The Mump rises like a mini Glastonbury Tor above the watery, green Levels.
Burrow Mump on Friday 4th August 2017 was virtually ‘NO GO’ unless on foot or a bicylce – and even then it would have been a squeeze! We literally inched our way there in every dimension – because all roads leading to the Mump were utterly gridlocked! We found the whole jam quite a giggle but for anyone with an appointment to keep – or an emergency to attend – it must have been a complete and utter nightmare…
With just a ‘couple’ miles to go to the Mump – we were going nowhere fast. The whole ‘event’ just goes to show what happens once today’s traffic is diverted – and spills into smaller roads. Like the Levels in 2014 – the roads around the Mump were almost impassable only this time with vehicles rather than flood water. I have to say – because time was our own – this modern day phenomenon was something to witness – even funny dare I say it – especially witnessing the antics of some of the other road users! Despite the frustrations – I have to say everyone caught up in it – seemed to keep their cool and for the most part were good-humoured; I think Burrow Mump’s vibes saved the day!
Finally, we arrived on the Mump – phew!
Burrow Mump was our island getaway from the Sea of Chaos. Once we reached the top of the hill – all was calm as if a million miles away…
I say ‘perfect peace’ – until my son Archie introduced me to the wonders of ‘Snapchat’! He wanted me to do a little piece to camera about our experience of driving to the Mump! What a giggle! I have come to the conclusion that I have the perfect face for distortion! I did about three or four takes – and morphed into several ‘Muggle-Mump’ characters! Here they are intermingled with my own takes of magical Burrow Mump. I hope you enjoy them all!
Oh – and not forgetting my pilgrim’s staff which had to be left behind for reasons explained…