Oxford Dreaming…

Oxford's Gleaming Bicycles - 20th June 2017

Shafts of light on one of Oxford’s many bike parks.

A visit to The Ashmolean – the oldest university museum in the World, then to Keble College, to the Chapel –

Keble College Chapel - 20th June 2017

I love the way a passing cloud has cleverly disguised the projecting arm of the huge crane behind the Chapel.

– to stand before my favourite painting in the whole wide World – ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt.

The Light of the World - Keble College Oxford. Tuesday 20th June 2017 (1)

The original version painted in 1853.

Version on my wall.

‘My’ version.  An old print of the original on my wall at home.

I was joined on the day, by old Oxonian – Professor Christopher Heywood – and my two lovely sons – Archie and Tom – or ‘The Oxford Party’ as the Professor referred to us collectively.

First portal on our agenda was The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology.    

The entrance door to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. My first dreaming portal...

The grand entrance at going home time – Tuesday 20th. June 2017 – the penultimate day before Summer Solstice.  Gosh what a scorcher of a day!  A day when my ‘expectations’ topped even Oxford’s dreaming spires – and the Mercury!  If I didn’t have this record – I’d think I’d dreamt the whole lot up!

A soaring column at the entrance to the Ashmolean.

A soaring column at the main entrance to the Ashmolean…

Blue sky over The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology 20th. June 2017

Yaffle and passing 'thought' cloud - probably Spinoza again...

Yaffle – and a passing ‘thought’ cloud – probably Spinoza again…

Together we enjoyed a long lunch in the rooftop restaurant before splitting into twos.  While the ‘boys’ went for a recce around Oxford’s shops – I accompanied Yaffle to his research meeting ‘behind closed doors’ with one of the Ashmolean’s conservators – Mr. Jevon Thistlewood – such a wonderful, evocative name – so Ashmolean!

WOW! It was such an unexpected gift – a privilege – to have gone beyond the ‘no access’ doorway.  Almost immediately – I was gobsmacked – (to use one of Yaffle’s Yorkshire expressions) because there resting on a laboratory bench I saw something undreamt;  a magical pair of ancient antlers from ‘The Ark’ of the Tradescants. 

The Tradescant Antlers in Jevon's conservation room - 20-06-2017 (4)I was riveted by them – by their form, their age and by the synchronicity of the situation; them ‘left out’ as I walked in!   I was even given permission to photograph them – ‘only’ the antlers mind – strictly not the laboratory interior. Whilst keeping my distance – I zoomed in to capture the remarkable label on the skullcap…The Tradescant Antlers in Jevon's conservation room - 20-06-2017 (2)The Tradescant Antlers in Jevon's conservation room - 20-06-2017 (3)

My collection of Red Deer Antlers

With thoughts of my other magic finds at home…

“Ashmole’s Antlers” (as Yaffle refers to them) lifted me ever higher – I was on cloud nine for the rest of day – and that was before seeing ‘The Light of the World’!

Cicero statue - Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

“Everything is alive; everything is interconnected.” Cicero.

After exiting the excitement and magic of the conservation lab – Yaffle and I made our way downstairs to the foyer area of the Museum.  Here in the cool gallery – in the presence of Cicero – I left Yaffle to his own devices.  To his Apple Mac – and his Spinoza article in progress…
Back view - Yaffle in the Ashmolean 20th June 2017 (2)Yaffle (5) - Ashmolean Tuesday 20th June 2017Yaffle - Professor Christopher Heywood (1) - Ashmolean Tuesday 20th June 2017

Horse Chestnut - Lamb and Flag Passage (2) - Oxford 20th June 2017

Horse Chestnut - Lamb and Flag passage - OxfordI met up with my sons – and together we set-off for the Chapel. On the way – we enjoyed the dappled light of a huge Horse Chestnut situated in the ‘Lamb and Flag Passage’ – before continuing our purposeful march to Liddon Quad where the Chapel is. We passed under numerous gargoyles and lanterns too…Keble gargoylesLanterns - Keble College - Oxford

Glimpse of Keble College Chapel - 20th June 2017 (window detail)The Chapel is a place that everyone should discover for themselves – there are no words – no photos that can convey the visual impact of opening the mighty oak door and stepping inside the hallowed space of the main chapel.  On a blisteringly hot day outside – the quietness, the coolness – and contrasting darkness inside were thirst quenching to my every sense.

Finally – in the sanctuary side-chapel – I stood before ‘The Light of the World’.  Not intensified by internal and external light sources – the area of the painting that emanated the greatest luminosity appeared to me to be Christ’s chest.   Allegory aside – ‘The Light of the World’ is a clever painting because it works – it glows from within.  I’m so pleased that I had an opportunity to witness this manifestation for real. The Light of the World - Keble College Oxford - Tuesday 20th June 2017 (3)

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Elias Ashmole - Ashmolean Museum souvenir postcard and fridge magnet


The last six words of this post go to the Tradescants (Elder and Younger) and to Elias Ashmole himself.  I wish to acknowledge them in my own small way here – as an appreciation for their collecting mania – and therein – their vision that is the Ashmolean today; it is a treasure trove beyond compare. 

I want to go back to the Ashmolean again and again and again – a day just isn’t enough.  If I lived closer – I’d be through that grand portal every single day – except for Mondays (unless it’s a bank holiday)! 

Thank you Thank you Thank you.

Ashmolean welcome sign

Sheep’s Tor Light Walk.

Elephant Hawk Moth -17th June 2017

(‘Elsa’ – from previous post – ‘Flashes of Schiaparelli Pink.’)

Rather like ‘Elsa’ is to light – I’m drawn every year to an area of Dartmoor where I know I’ll see Lampyris noctiluca – or Glow-worms. Yesterday – 17th June 2017 Saturday into Sunday – I was lucky enough to witness this magical phenomenon once again. Tom - Sheepstor 17th June 2017Following an after-dark picnic with my son on top of Sheepstor – we followed a trail of bioluminescence – back to our car that was parked near the reservoir.  On the way up – we had passed a soft toy sitting at the gateway to the Tor; on the way back he was unsurprisingly still alone in the darkness…White Rabbit at Sheepstor gate 17th June 2017Lost - White Rabbit - Sheepstor 17th June 2017 The White Rabbit got me thinking that on such a balmy night – I quite envied his position – to be lost on Dartmoor.Night Sky (1) - Sheepstor - 17th June 2017Night Sky (3) - Sheepstor - 17th June 2017Here are some lights that guided us ‘home’ in the small hours…
Glowworm (5) - Sheepstor 17th June 2017Glowworm (2) - Sheepstor 17th June 2017Glowworm (4) - Sheepstor 17th June 2017Glowworm (3) - Sheepstor 17th June 2017

For me – ‘Enchantment’ by Amethystium – always conjours up thoughts of elemental Sheepstor – although I spell it ‘Sheep’s Tor’…Sheep (1) - Sheepstor 17th June 2017

In my ears, my eyes – my head – I’m that lone sheep…

Flashes of Schiaparelli Pink.

For the third time in the space of about a week – I have experienced another flash of Schiaparelli Pink.

My first flash occurred while at work – when a book came into the shop for ‘recycling’ called ‘Bluff Your Way In Literature’; as quick as a flash I bought it!Bluff your way in literature - 8th June 2017

It’s a complete god-send if I’m to make any impression on my learned Yaffle friend – a Professor of Literature no less!

Not impressed!

Not impressed!

 Although who’s bluffing who?  It wouldn’t surprise me if clever Yaffle himself hasn’t got a copy close at hand – sandwiched between Spinoza and his other 5099 odd books – and that our friendship is really all one double bluff!Professor Yaffle's Spinoza shelf

The second flash was a Schiaparelli sunset – Friday 16th June 2017. Schiaparelli Sunset 16th June 2017 - Something about Dartmoor

The third flash came after dark…

Elephant Hawk Moth (1) 17th June 2017

 Upon the velvet wings and striped back of a very beautiful Moth…Elephant Hawk Moth (5) 17th June 2017

I found her on the surface of the road basking in the soft orange glow of a street lamp – clearly unaware of the danger posed by passing cars – or my impending clodhopper! Elephant Hawk Moth (4) 17th June 2017

No harm done – I picked her up and let her go into the warm night…Elephant Hawk-Moth (2) 17th June 2017

A confession.  Because I’ve never followed fashion – or once flicked through the pages of a British Vogue magazine, I’d never have known about the famous couturier, Elsa Schiaparelli – had it not been for my learned friend mentioning her signature colour in one of his illuminating emails.  This post would have just been called ‘something’ or ‘other’…

…nor would this ephemeral beauty – an Elephant Hawk-Moth, be ‘forever’ remembered by me – as ‘Elsa’… Elephant Hawk Moth -17th June 2017


Dizzying Heights: Sheepstor perspectives.

Sheepstor when viewed from base level – rises to a formidable bank of granite blocks – in contrast to the green, easier slopes around its sides…

B for Burrator (2) Sheepstor - Sunday 11th June 2017

On Sunday 11th. June 2017 – surmounting the top of Sheepstor’s wall was less demanding than usual because it had been dwarfed by a mass of towering cumulus… B for Burrator (1) Raven - Sunday 11th June 2017View from the top of the ‘wall’….B for Burrator (4) panaramic view - Sunday 11th June 2017Similarly dwarfed – as if by a mercurial shadow of its own making – expansive Burrator Reservoir appeared like a small sheet of mirrored glass…B for Burrator - Sunday 11th June 2017

As I stood into the wind – the effort of clambering up the steepest ‘path’ to the top of the wall seemed suddenly effortless – the 360° view was breathtaking. B for Burrator (3) panaramic view - Sunday 11th June 2017In contrast to the fixedness of my feet – my perspectives shifted around me – like the wind and the light across the surface of the water… B for Burrator Reservoir - Sunday 11th June 2017After drinking it all in whilst enjoying a snack – I was delighted to find some old bones that I had once made into a ‘magic pile’…  my-magic-pile-sheepstor-something-about-dartmoor-5I found them locked in a crevice – down the side of the rock where I had piled them last year…B for Burrator (2) Bone - Sunday 11th June 2017

When eventually I came back down – I felt dizzy on oxygen – so I sat under an inspirational Hawthorn where I noticed the year turning too…B for Burrator (3) Hawthorn - Sunday 11th June 2017

I stayed here for another indeterminable – indefinable measure of time…B for Burrator (1) Sunday 11th June 2017

B for Burrator (7) Hawthorn - Sunday 11th June 2017B for Burrator (6) Hawthorn - Sunday 11th June 2017

I love this pulsing track by Amethystium – and their awesome artwork too! I feel like I’m connected to Dartmoor by a silken thread…enjoy.

As snow in June.

Pilgrims - Glastonbury Tor 3rd June 2017

What an unpredictable start to June – and not just the weather! It was awesome to stand on the top of Glastonbury Tor on Saturday 3rd. June 2017 – and watch the gathering storm over England.  Back home – a thousand or more white rose petals from the Albéric Barbier that rambles the railings outside my home – are now lying in drifts everywhere – as snow in June…
Glastonbury Tor (9) 3rd June 2017Glastonbury Tor (8) 3rd June 2017Glastonbury Tor (3) 3rd June 2017Couple sheltering under an umbrella - Glastonbury Tor 3rd June 2017Glastonbury Tor (6) 3rd June 2017Alberic Barbier. Something about DartmoorRose petals (2) 6th June 2017

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date –

Darling Buds of May - 6th June 2017 Something about Dartmoor

 – from ‘Sonnet 18’ by William Shakespeare

Heading for Haworth…

Let there be light. Stained glass window in 'Holy Trinity Church' Skipton. Archangel Michael owerthrowing darkness...I love his red wings.

Let there be Light.  Breathtaking stained glass window in ‘Holy Trinity Church’ Skipton. Archangel Michael slaying Darkness.  I especially admired his blood-red wings.

A visit to the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth – followed by a journey through the landscape of Wuthering Heights as identified by my eminent host and genial guide for the weekend – Professor Christopher Heywood.  

On Saturday the 20th May 2017 – I stepped over the threshold of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth for the first time ever – it was a long-held wish come true for me… 

A wish come true.

A wish come true.

It was the oddest experience, because I had gone with an expectation of imbibing something of its former occupants – as if the three Sisters were going to be in for my visit!  On the day – it was my experience that the Parsonage was devoid of their presence – hardly surprising as they vacated the premises more than a-century-and-a-half ago. It had that same kind of emptiness – that feeling I get – when I step into my late father’s ‘Golden Room’ in the early hours when the rest of the house is sleeping – and I expect to see him in some shape, form or other.  It always feels like the optimum time to feel or see something of him – yet when I fling back his door as if to take him by surprise there’s nothingness staring back at me. Hardly surprising as I know he went out through the window soon after he died – and he has no need to comeback in – so I really shouldn’t expect half to see him – but I do! What is especially silly is that my head knows that those that have passed on transmute into Nature – and that’s where to find them…

In fact, I believe it is more likely to be the other way round - they come to you - in forms that sometimes you won't even recognise as being them...

In fact, I believe it is more likely to be the other way round – they come to you – in shapes that sometimes you won’t even recognise as being them…

Swans on the Skipton to Gargrave stretch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. We enloyed a beautiful walk of about four and a half miles along the towpath.

Emily, Charlotte and Anne in that order.  Three graceful swans on the Skipton to Gargrave stretch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. We enjoyed a beautiful evening walk of about four and a half miles along the towpath.

Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed my wander through the suitably gloomy and shuttered rooms of the Parsonage – and peering at the priceless collection of Brontë artifacts behind glass and rope. Like the treasures though – the Brontë Sisters too were not able to be reached in the now draughtless but necessary atmosphere of the Museum.

Haworth Graveyard.

A timeless moment in Haworth Graveyard.

Not surprisingly – the elemental quarter of Haworth was to be found in the graveyard – with its slippery stones, dripping trees, dandelion clocks – and blessed Rooks; blessed in the true sense of the word that is. I picked up three ink-black feathers that had fluttered down from up above…

Rook's nest above Haworth Graveyard.

Rook’s nest above Haworth Graveyard.

I finished my visit with a pleasurable mooch around the museum gift shop where I bought two fridge magnets and some postcards – but I have to say my greatest souvenir is my entry ticket itself – because of what it represents to me. Finally, I have walked inside the Brontë Parsonage Museum – it was a pilgrimage that I had wanted to make since watching ‘The Brilliant Brontë Sisters’ with Sheila Hancock in 2013 – but time, responsibilities – plus the usual everyday lack of funds had meant that it was always put simmering on the back-burner until now. 

Coming away from the relative peace of the Parsonage…

Due to it hosting a 1940’s event centered in the main thoroughfare – 21st century Haworth was teeming with a merry throng of jubilant people – apart that is from me! It was something I had no desire to join in with; all much too exuberant and out-of-step because it didn’t fit in with my idea of time – nor place. 

Sea of umbrellas...

Haworth – as a sea of umbrellas on Saturday 20th May 2017.

1940's event in Haworth

There was singing in the rain…

Dancing in the street outside 'The Cabinet of Curiosities' - Haworth.

and dancing in the street outside ‘The Cabinet of Curiosities’ – Haworth.

Even the church of Saint Michael and All Angels was spilling through the ‘open’ door; there were stalls set-up in the main aisle – while teas were served in the pews! Needless to say – I retreated fast into the rain drenched sanctuary of Haworth graveyard again…

Almost enough noise to awaken the quiet sleepers in the vault. Detail in Haworth Church.

Almost enough noise to awaken the quiet sleepers in the vault.  Detail in Haworth Church.

Seemingly it had been an ‘ill-timed’ visit…

In this day and age – I don’t think it is possible to catch Haworth on a quiet day – as the Parsonage is one of the most visited heritage sites in the country attracting in excess of a million visitors a year. Mine had been an impromptu visit – if I’d known that Haworth was hosting an event I would have chosen another time. Originally I had penned-in Sunday as the day for a visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum but as fate would have it – my Saturday visit freed up Sunday for a journey of a lifetime into Emily’s true landscape of Wuthering Heights as identified by my friend and host for the trip – Professor Christopher Heywood – or ‘Yaffle’ as I have fondly nicknamed him!   He has taken to calling me ‘Yaffle’ too – and insists that I’m ‘Yaffle A’ to his ‘Yaffle B’ – he even gave me a double first too for something I forget now…

Having shamelessly never bothered to read Wuthering Heights or the Professor’s edition of it – I’m not really worthy of his esteem but one thing I have learned from him is never argue with an academic!

Metaphorically we are at two ends of a spectrum, connected by a huge, invisible arc that we identify as Emily. To me – that is how Emily comes; I mostly see her as Light.  As well as in the form of an occasional Swan, Raven, Hawk, Owl, Deer – stone, feather, leaf – the list goes on… 

Alternatively – I put our unlikely and unique friendship down to ‘The Red String of Fate’ – a philosophy I was able to enlighten him about – plus the delights of the baggy cloth cat – hence his other Bagpuss inspired nickname ‘The Wise Man’…

On Sunday – we set off over the border into Cumbria – to a remote village called – Dent.  En-route we stopped at Thorton in Longsdale to admire the windswept church of St Oswald’s. Beyond the churchyard wall – we looked towards the great whale-back of Ingleborough – the very hill that Christopher Heywood has identified as the setting for Emily’s one and only novel – Wuthering Heights.  In his edition – Ingleborough and ‘Wuthering Heights’ are the same. The sensitive and poetic manner in which the Professor effortlessly imparts his vast knowledge of the subject – flows out of him as if he’s painting another of his beautiful watercolours – or picked up his violin to play again.  Just as I found Yorkshire’s dramatic landscape impossible to take in all in one visit – so too was this steep learning curve in grasping the greater complexities of the Brontës.  It’s like doing the other ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks’ challenge without an ordnance map – particularly as I haven’t arrived at the Brontës through reading their novels – or the Professor’s book.  Instead – I discovered them through their pencil drawings.  Rather than reading words – I’ve always been a person who perhaps – childishly prefers to ‘read’ by illustrations. Needless to say – there is little hope of me getting through the Professor’s book because there aren’t any pictures!

Some eyes that caught my eye in the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

A collection of  all-seeing eyes that caught my eye in the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

The Professor has a gift for infusing ‘his’ subject with a dynamism that the confines of the Parsonage Museum just couldn’t compete with. It was no wonder then – that my spine tingled and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up – right here in the shadow of one so lofty; Ingleborough and Christopher Heywood are the same.  

One Man and his Mountain.  Professor Christopher Heywood looking towards Ingleborough.

Bronte Parsonage Museum.

The writing on the wall.  Bronte Parsonage Museum.

One day I’d definitely like to head to Haworth again – to experience it on a quieter day…

I love the way the Professor wears Ingleborough as if Nature has placed her own Oxford cap upon his head. It's a crown befitting someone who has spent thirty years of his academic life researching the Brontes. Deepest respect + love dearest 'Yaffle B' for showing us an unforgettable time - a weekend of yafflin 'n' laffin and of discovering new heights; Emily's Heights. 'Yaffle A' X

I love the way the Professor wears Ingleborough as if Nature has placed her own Oxford cap upon his head. It’s a crown befitting someone who has spent thirty years of his academic life researching the Brontes. Deepest respect + love dearest ‘Yaffle B’ for showing us an unforgettable time – a weekend of yafflin ‘n’ laffin and of discovering new heights; Emily’s Heights. ‘Yaffle A’ X

 Dentdale Yorkshire.

A big thank you too to my other companion – my son Tom.  Gatekeeper on the rolling road to Dent.

St Andrew's Church - Dent.

St Andrew’s Church – Dent.

My Yorkshire keepsake. A criss-crossed stone that I found by a nameless'

Just one Dales keepsake. A criss-crossed stone from the banks of the River Lune.  The lines reminded me of the patchwork of stonewalled fields while its overall shape reminded me of the greater landscape – of the Barbon Hills, of Ingleborough and that other great whale-back that often came into view – Pendle Hill.

Skipton Yorkshire

Along with Haworth – Pendle is ‘just’ over the horizon for my next visit up North to the unforgettable Dales…

Back Home.

Back Home.

Posted on the 28th May 2017 – and dedicated to my very special Aunt Sonia – whose birthday it is today.  X

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Where my interest in the brilliant Bronte Sisters began in 2013 – all thanks to Sheila Hancock; her enthusiasm is infectious!  Enjoy.

Tickled pink by a Cockchafer!

Monday – 15th. May 2017. Cockchafer or May Bug. Latin name – Melolontha melolontha.

Almost home after a late night walk in the drizzle with my son – I found a beautiful, bronze-coloured Cockchafer crawling on the surface of the glistening, wet road.  Because of its perilous position – I gently persuaded it aboard my hand for a quick ride to the sanctuary of my nearby garden.  What a giggle! 

As it slowly tickled its way up my hand towards the cave of my sleeve – I found myself laughing-out-loud much to the disapproval of my son – who told me to keep the noise down – “People will think you have been drinking!” – “Put it down!” He snapped.  What he didn’t understand was – I couldn’t easily flick the Cockchafer off into the garden because they have barbed legs – so I just stood outside my house on a dismal May night and laughed – while my son grew evermore impatient for me to get the front-door key out my pocket with my freer hand. Too distracted by the Cockchafer – I couldn’t find the key – so he had a rummage in my pocket which just made me laugh louder! He did reluctantly agree to take one photo with his phone – before he disappeared inside his own sanctuary – away from his embarrassing ‘drunken’ mother. 

His fuzzy photo will serve as a reminder of quite one of the most delightful – as well as side-splitting encounters with Nature – I have experienced. Because of insecticides – Cockchafers are sadly much rarer these days – but I can remember throughout the 60’s and 70’s – the golden era I grew up in – when ‘May Bugs’ were a familiar sight and sound in the countryside – and bedroom!  This however, was the first lifetime opportunity that had presented itself for me to hold one…Cockchafer or May bug. Held in the hand they are fascinating as well as super ticklish on bare skin! Its impressive pair of feathery, orange feelers instantly reminded me of Dennis Healey – a memorable Labour politician from the same bygone era.

Eventually ‘Dennis’ grew tired of tickling me half-to-death and decided to buzz-off into the sticky night air. What a lovely sight to see the Cockchafer slowly open its back – before spreading a fine set of golden wings.  I just stood and watched in awe as it rotated upwards above me – like a small helicopter – and I fancied I could even feel a small downdraught blow over me as its whirring wings carried it away into the enveloping black; really quite magical.  

Writing this the day after – as the rain pours down outside my window again – I’m reminded that it is the merry month of May! 

Black Bryony

A May photograph of my own. I just love this black heart reaching for the light. Black Bryony aloft a Devon hedge – Sunday 14th. May 2017.

Faith, Hope and Charity.

When one person’s junk is another’s treasure – and the other way round.  A post about the cyclic magic of working in a charity reuse shop. 

Some ornaments left on the shelf.

Left on the shelf!  There are some items that no one wants – not even for the bargain price of 50p!

Downton Abbey.

‘Lady Downtown’ – as Val – one of my favourite customers called me.  A frilled cushion re-purposed into a rather splendid bonnet!

I love my job working in a recycling centre; for a magpie like me – it is such an interesting and fulfilling place to work. Occasionally one has to handle unsavoury things that one would rather not – but that’s a small price to pay for its rewards. Rarely a working day goes by when I’m not reduced to eye-watering fits of laughter at something that’s been brought in for recycling. It’s rarely the item in itself that’s funny but the combination of ideas that it sparks between us…

Wednesdays are always a guaranteed giggle when first mate - Sallykins volunteers for the day.

Wednesdays are always a guaranteed giggle when first mate – Sallykins volunteers for the day…


Makeover magic. A pair of slightly more flattering hats!

A tired old pram gets a new life...

A tired old pram gets a new life…

With wheel re-affixed – Lady Downtown’s love child ‘Trevor’ gets an afternoon out in the fresh air.

In an effort to dress the pram – we dressed the ‘baby’ in a romper and paired them together.  They certainly afforded plenty of admiring glances throughout the afternoon but alas no buyers.  On more than one occasion I found myself bouncing the handle of the pram – like he was real! I have no idea why I named him Trevor – it just popped into my head and stuck – perhaps he once belonged to a boy called Trevor?  Unfortunately, Lady Downtown wasn’t a good mother – and she left him outside in the yard at home time and by morning he’d been kidnapped – ‘just’ Trevor not the wonderful, vintage pram!  

He was too adorable!

The other side to all this hilarity – are the things that can reduce one to real tears.  Not literally you understand – because I’m not given to that sort of thing – but often I come across something – that makes me stop and think; a quieter moment in an otherwise busy day. This week it was a falling apart bible with an inscription in the front – it belonged to Ethel – whom ever she was? What I loved about it were all the little treasures that were pressed between its pages – a petal, a fern frond, a strawberry leaf – and a number of pretty foil sweet papers – even a cellophane wrapper that had been re-purposed into a holy cross.

Ethel's Bible of treasures.

Ethel’s Bible of treasures.

Page turning itself – caught by that other unseen energy – the Wind.

As I flicked through the pages – I wondered at the significance of all these priceless yet worthless things and what they all once meant to someone called Ethel – that she should have preserved them so carefully in the holy book. Perhaps they served as simple markers to the text – or maybe they were reminders of special occasions – of Christmases and birthdays – and of days roaming the countryside and picking wild flowers…

So many of the things that pass through our recycle shop – are things that once belonged to people who have passed on themselves. I myself have not long cleared out some of my father’s things – all perfectly good and reusable but no one in the family wanted to keep them – so I donated them to our shop. While going through his books I found another bible of a kind – an old volume called ‘Wayside and Woodland Trees’. Drawn by its title – I stopped sorting his things, to look inside…

Four leaf clover

Found again – Dad’s lucky four-leaf clover.

There like Ethel – he had put-by a treasure for safekeeping. Inside, folded in a scruffy piece of paper – I found his lucky four-leaf clover now faded and tatty with age.  I remembered how much these four, small, conjoined heart-shaped leaves meant to him – the childlike belief he invested in them, especially when he was diagnosed with terminal illness in his late eighties.  My father loved walking over open green fields – he could climb over stiles and gates and walk up steep hills without ever stopping – inevitably though – his circles got smaller and smaller as his illness got the better of him. In the end I don’t think it was cancer that killed him but confinement – in that sense hope predeceased him.  I kept his book and its precious contents and wondered whether luck can be bequeathed – I hope so. To be able to roam freely and to pick up things that can only be found is luck enough for me…

Like this bejeweled buzzard’s feather – found in April, in the snow, in the dark – in Shedland.

One of my all time favourite television shows – has to be Bagpuss! I love the ethos of Emily’s shop – and now I’m lucky again – to be living and working the dream!  There’s a kind of magic – an unseen energy – that’s attached to all the things that pass in and out our magic door. It’s easy to believe that even the unwanted ornaments on the shelf come to life once we lock up and go home at the end of the day…

How else could one ever explain how they came to be so artistically arranged?

An episode from Bagpuss and Co – not about small white elephants like some of those on our shelves but a pink one made of straw! 

To Skylark and Raven.

 Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! 
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
From ‘To a Skylark’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Listening to a Skylark at sunset. Leeden Tor - Dartmoor

Listening for Skylark while turned towards the setting Sun.  Leeden Tor – Dartmoor Tuesday – 2nd May 2017.

The second day of May – was one of those crystal clear Dartmoor days when my eyes and ears led the way – while my earthbound feet just dragged along somewhere behind… 

The living and the dead.  Trees reaching for the Sun in Ravens’ Haven – Dartmoor

My visit started with a wander through my favourite Dartmoor wood to see if the Ravens were in – and whether they had produced any young this year.  It always seems to be that the beginning of May marks the time that this pair’s offspring – if any – usually fledge their swaying tree-top nest…

Oh for a bird's eye view! How I'd love to be able to see inside their swaying tree top nest.

Oh for a bird’s eye view! How I’d love to be able to look down into their swaying tree top nest.

From another angle.

From another earthbound angle.

" Cronk Cronk" One of the adult Ravens on parental duty.

” Cronk Cronk”  One of the adult Ravens on parental duty. (If you enlarge the image by clicking on it – you’ll see it’s in full cry – a beautiful din!)

I arrived in the afternoon amid a flurry of raucous noise – the two parents were frantically flying back and forth the length of the wood – keeping close tabs on a fine pair of youngsters that had clearly not long discovered they had wings. I was in my element. I could have sat inside the wood – and listened to their cacophony of deep throaty ‘cronks’ until sunset – it was sweet music to my ears!  I stayed in their company for a couple of hours and managed to snap my best Raven shot ever! 

What with the trees – combined with a Raven’s speed – it’s almost impossible to capture a Raven in its haven…

Raven in flight - Dartmoor

I’m thrilled I got this shot though!

Walking back to my car from the wood – I was delighted to get that wished for aerial view of a bird’s nest – not a Raven’s but a beautiful nest nonetheless…

Abandoned nest in the Gorse – all bar one brown oak leaf from Winter past…

Then it was onward by car and upward by foot to Leedon Tor for sunset – where I laid down on the moorland grass and lost my earthly self.  Slowly – one by one – all my senses shutdown until I could only listen…I think it was the nearest to Heaven I’ve ever been. 

Pure bliss.

Pure bliss.

Finders Keepers.

Love Shed Hunting. It's not just about looking down - it's about looking up and all around - it's the whole magical experience.

Love Shed Hunting.  It’s not just about looking down – it’s about looking up and all around and listening…the birdsong at eventide is sublime.

It is my experience, late April heralds the time of year when Red Deer cast their magnificent antlers; they cast not only their antlers but a magic spell – that holds me in thrall until I find one – it is a Quest.

There is no way of knowing exactly where or when an antler will fall because they fall at will – but it is the expectation and excitement of finding one that’s addictive; I say expectation because you have to believe that you will find one.

Every evening this week – I have disappeared for a couple of hours or more into the forest I call ‘Shedland’ – in the hope that I’ll find a cast antler.  There is nothing more exciting in my eyes – than that first moment of recognition when suddenly I realise what I’ve been searching for – a huge, branched beast of an antler! Tuesday – 18th April 2017 was my lucky day – and it came right at the end of a two hour shed hunting session when day had almost descended into night.  Suddenly five beautiful, glowing white tips lying on a muddy bank in the darkness stopped me in my tracks – their tracks. I waited until my eyes fully opened and acclimatised to what lay in front of me – it ‘s a magical moment that I often play over and over again in my mind – it is so powerful.  Before picking it up – I took a photograph of it in situ… 

White in the darkness - moment of recognition.

White in the darkness – moment of recognition.

I say ‘always’ – I have only ever found three – two whoppers in 2016 and this beauty. It’s what makes all three so prized.  The odds are I won’t find a shed antler because they are more likely to be cast over a huge area of thicket that’s impenetrable to mere humans – thank God ‘my’ four boys have sanctuary away from people with guns.  These are truly wild stags. 

‘Four Stags of Yggdrasil’

My boys! I call them the ‘Four Stags of Yggdrasil’.

A freshly cast antler provides a great calcium source for many nocturnal animals too – foxes, badgers, mice – and the deer themselves enjoy a wholesome gnaw and nibble – so I’m deeply grateful when Nature leaves one for me.  I know the date that this antler was cast because I covered exactly the same ground the night before.   

They enjoyed a nibble and left the rest for me.

They enjoyed a bit of a gnaw!

It's like finding magic!  It measures thirty-one inches from its pedical to it's tip.

It’s like finding magic!  It measures thirty-one inches from its pedical to it’s tip.



Casting a shadow. Bringing my prize home under the orange glow of the street lamps.

Casting a magical shadow.  Bringing my prize home under the orange glow of the street lamps.

When finally I emerged out of the forest – I carried my prize all the way round another three miles on the road – it was a perfect excuse not to get home too early and put it down – even though it’s got a good weight to it!  I stopped off in the church yard – to show it to my Dad…  

Forget-me not.

Old habits die hard.  I still like to show him my finds!

Showing Dad my first find.  'Yod' an eight-point cast antler in April 2016.

Showing Dad my first find.  ‘Yod’ an eight-point cast antler in April 2016.

I placed the antler on his plot and sat awhile next to him.  I listened to the owls – and thanked the stars above. They were shining over the church more brilliantly than I can ever remember…

I didn’t really want to come back in – I was so happy!

Earth to earth.

From earth – to earth.

Yod and Son of Yod - cast Red Deer antlers.

Yod and Son of Yod – my other ‘pair’ of cast Red Deer antlers.

My three cast antlers have all been given names – my first is ‘Yod’ – my second is ‘Son of Yod’ – and this year’s find – is ‘Yaffle’! 

‘Yaffle’ because it’s got a ‘Y’ at one end – a huge ‘E’ at the other – and in between there is a small white mark on its trunk-like structure where the wild animals got to it before me – it looks like a Woodpecker’s hole!  ‘Yaffle’ is a country name for a Green Woodpecker.  It all makes perfect sense to me! 

Deer Yaffle!  From muddy bank 18th. April 2017 – to crowning a cushion of Daisies in my garden – 21st. April 2017.