Summer Travel: it’s worth it in the end

Balkans, France, Germany, India, Poetry, South Korea, Spain, Travelling in Europe

This is turning into a Sunday Thing. Experimenting with different types of poetry. But with added photos. Always with added photos. This week, as my contribution to Tanka Tuesday‘s task – to write a 4-11 (the clue is in the name: 11 lines of 4 syllables each – last line repeats the first) I thought I’d focus on summer travel.

Summer travel

was always fun.

But now passport

control (Brexit!);

Covid control;

train strikes and queues;

airport queuing – 

make journeys long

and so irksome.

Worth it though – for

summer travel

And to prove that travel’s always worth it, here’s my photo gallery. There’s just one problem. Most of these photos were taken in January, in February, in March … you get the idea – any month but August …

… Should have travelled by elephant …?

Temple elephant, Thanjavur

PS – the header photo was taken at l’Albufera, near Valencia, Spain.

Butterflies III: Half an Hour of My Life revisited

Ariège, France, Wildlife

It’s time for Flashback Friday again, and as butterflies have so far been in fairly short supply this year, I thought I’d return to a happy moment in France, in August 2013, when we had friends from England to stay …

Butterflies III: Half an Hour of My Life

There we were at Roquefixade, showing our favourite walking destination off to two of our Harrogate friends, when a butterfly discovered me.  Then another.  These two creatures played round my wrist for more than half an hour before finally dancing off into the sunshine.  They made our day.

I’m thinking they’re the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus).  Any dissenters?

And if you’re wondering why this post is called Butterflies III, here’s why …

In the same month, I wrote about a Butterfly Bonanza, and at the end of July, about the rare Mountain Apollo

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday

The sea, the sibilant sea

Poetry

It’s August, and what says ‘summer holidays’ more potently than the seaside? Well, nothing could drag me there when it’s all crowded beaches, kiss-me-quick hats and donkey rides. But off-season, there’s nowhere better. A walk along the sand, beachcombing, inspecting rock pools, and most of all, looking out far to the distant horizon, watching ships as they travel back and forth, imagining the seashore as a gateway to journeys extending beyond that horizon …

So when Rebecca of Fake Flamenco challenged us to write a haibun for this month’s Poetry Challenge, and asked us to take ‘door’ in its widest sense as our subject, I thought I knew what I’d explore.

But what’s a haibun? I hear you ask. This: ‘Contemporary practice of haibun composition in English is continually evolving. Generally, a haibun consists of one or more paragraphs of prose written in a concise, imagistic haikai style, and one or more haiku.’ Wikipedia

The sea, the sea

A susurration of waves: oscillating, softly slapping and surging across crushed seashells on the sandy shingle: soothing; sibilant. Sucking, settling, restoring.  Saluting the shoreline in a ceaseless cycle.  A portal to distant islands and continents beyond the horizon.

Waves advance

greet the sandy shingled shore

Quite unceasingly.

I’m going to be quite cheeky here. Sammi, over at Sammi Scribbles, has a fun weekend challenge in which she invites us to write 28 words – neither more nor fewer – prompted by the word sibilance. So let’s pinch part of what I wrote for Rebecca:

A susurration of waves: oscillating, softly slapping and surging across crushed seashells on the sandy shingle: soothing; sibilant. Sucking, settling, restoring.  Saluting the shoreline in a ceaseless cycle.‘  

Six Degrees of Separation: from Form and Emptiness to a Pink Rabbit

Books and reading

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

Six Degrees of Separation: Kate W

The starting point this month is Ruth Ozeki‘s The Book of Form and Emptiness. I’ve reserved it in the library, but unsurprisingly, my turn hasn’t come yet. I understand that it’s a tale of a boy coming to terms with loss.

My first link then in Carys Bray‘s The Museum of You. I don’t know why I didn’t connect more with this book. It’s a cleverly written account of twelve year old Clover Quinn and her dad Darren, and their attempts, their very different attempts, to come to terms with the death of Clover’s mother Becky when Clover was only about six weeks old. Clover is a sweet child, but a bit isolated from her peers. She likes her dad’s allotment, and museums. In fact she decides to make a museum to her mum, in secret. Gradually her story unfolds. Darren’s story unfolds. Becky’s story unfolds. This book is very skilfully done. It’s well written. Why didn’t I engage with it more? I don’t have an answer. I’d recommend anyone to read it. Just …. not me.

To make my next link, let’s stay with Carys Bray. When the lights go out. Though very readable, for me it suffered the same problem as her previous book. The subjects: eco-aware Emma versus eco-warrior husband Chris feel rather overdone now. Chris learnt to be a warrior during his now-rejected fundamentalist Christian childhood, and his warriorship consists in being a prophet of doom, rather than in action. We’re meant to find him tedious, and we do. We’re meant to like busy, community-minded Emma, and we do. We’re meant to feel wry sympathy with the Emma and Chris as they parent their teenage children, and deal with Chris’s interfering-in-a-humble-way mother. So it’s an engaging enough read, but one in which I didn’t fully involve myself. 

Ecological matters are a bit of a theme these days, and so is The Pandemic, which is what allows me to make the link to the next book, The Fell, by Sarah Moss. A reminder of a time – a recent time – when our home was our universe. A time when Kate and her teenage son were confined to their house on a two week quarantine because a contact has Covid. I was isolating with Covid when I read this, so I could identify well with Kate’s frustration and longing to be out – to get up there on the moors, at a moment when there won’t be a soul about, and be back in time for tea. Except she isn’t. She gets disorientated, and falls … This story is told in stream of consciousness through the voices of Kate herself, her son Matt, her neighbour Alice, and mountain rescuer Rob. And frankly it got as tedious as Lockdown itself. The ending was suitably shocking, inconclusive and cliff-hanging, which redeemed it somewhat, but I was glad to finish this story. The wrong book at the wrong time for me probably, but I doubt if this book will wear well.

And so to another lockdown book, The Rome Plague Diaries by Matthew Kneale. I loved this. Having many years ago lived in Italy, though not in Rome, this put me back in touch with many aspects of Italian daily life and culture. It also revived memories of Lockdown. Kneale, who with his family has lived in Rome for 20 years, puts us back to that odd period of genuine fear, when cities were empty of life, shops were closed, as was everything else that makes a city a city. But he dwells on so much more as he looks at Rome’s history and culture. If you’ve enjoyed Kneale’s other writing; if you love Italy, I recommend your reading this vivid account of a resilient city going through yet another test of its mettle.

Let’s stay in Rome. Early One Morning by Virginia Baily. An involving story initially set in Rome in WWII, of a woman, Carla, who finds herself, in one life-changing moment, with not one word spoken, taking charge of a Jewish boy whose family has realised how bad things have become for the Roman Jewish population. The narrative goes back and forth from war time Rome to the same city in the 1970s. It shows us that boy Daniele growing up sullen and resentful of his step-mother, an eventual addict. It introduces a Welsh teenager, Maria, who discovers in an unfortunate way that the man she thought to be her father isn’t. Instead it’s Daniele. She comes to Rome, to Carla, to recover her equilibrium and find out more. An absorbing well-told story, painting a picture of Rome, its sights and foods and characters in a way to relish. A good read indeed.

My last book of all focuses on the dislocation caused, particularly to Jews, by the Second World War. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a largely autobiographical account of the author’s journey as a nine year old child from Germany via Switzerland and Paris to London, where the family finally settles in pursuit of safety. And it’s written by Judith Kerr of The tiger who came to tea fame, and who is also the mother of Matthew Kneale. I read this book many years ago, so greater detail not forthcoming!

It appears that this last book will appear at the head of my chain next month, as we’re invited to use our last book this time as our starting point in September. I wonder if I can make a sturdier, more consistent chain from that?

Three favourite photos?

Ariège, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Laroque d'Olmes, National Trust, North Yorkshire

Choose my three favourite photos? What kind of a task is that? Hopeless, I’d say, because so many favourites rely on the memories that surround them, that only matter to those who shared the moments.

But Sarah, of Travel with Me fame, has asked us to do just that for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.

Anyway. Let’s go. This photo dates from years ago, when we lived in France, and once, just once, there was an astonishing and dramatic sunset which we’ve never forgotten, even ten years after the event.

You can perhaps guess from the cross on the right that we’re looking up at the churchyard on the hill above the town, edged with the heavily pollarded plane trees you can see silhouetted against the sky.

Living as now we do near Ripon, we have two ‘back yards’. One is Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, where I volunteer. And the other encompasses the paths, fields and woodland near our home.

Because I’m so often in both these places, I’ve been able to photograph them in every season, and at every time of day. Here’s an autumn favourite of Fountains Abbey.

I like how the beech leaves frame Huby’s Tower, while their warm russet tints contrast with the austere grey of the abbey’s stonework.

Meanwhile, during the summer months I like to photograph the drifts of poppies in the fields of crops near our house. It was hard to choose just one, but in the end I settled for this one. I like the poppies tumbling about in the foreground, set against the much more organised stems of wheat in their vertical serried ranks.

Ask me to choose three favourites tomorrow though, and you can bet they’d be entirely different shots.

That Important Conversation

Blogging challenges

The other week, I accepted a challenge. Sammi Cox of Whispers and Echoes asked her readers to write a story in 100 words – neither more nor less. And yesterday she published my offering. Thanks, Sammi!

Whispers and Echoes

‘He just can’t do it any more. Miles he’d walk. Every day. Now he can hardly get to the end of the road. And food! He’s hardly eating. His digestive system seems to be shot. Just … don’t ask.’

‘Well he’s a pretty decent age you know. He’s done well. He’s not going to get any better. You might consider whether it’s time to put him out of his misery, before he really starts to suffer’.

‘To be honest, I’d been wondering myself. Just let me get used to the idea.’ said Rover, with a business-like flick of his tail.


Margaret Lawrenson blogs at From Pyrenees to Pennines

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Last on the Card: I couldn’t possibly comment …

Heritage, Yorkshire

We all trotted off to Harewood House yesterday. This must-visit stately home between Leeds and Harrogate is a little notorious these days because the enormous wealth and privilege it represents was built as a direct result of the slave trade. Designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam, it was built, between 1759 and 1771, for Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, a wealthy West Indian plantation and slave-owner.

These days, the family does what it can to move on from these distasteful roots. I’ll probably write more later about a current exhibition there – Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters, which looks at a wide range of social justice and environmental issues. But I found my last photo of the month, taken there, irresistible. It’s perhaps not the sort of poster you’d normally find gracing a stately home?

For Brian (Bushboy)’s Last on the Card: July 2022. A chance to show our last photo of the month, however good, bad or indifferent.

The Longest Day – One Month Gone ..

Poetry, Weather

For the last month, I’ve sometimes been a bit grumpy in the evening. It’s the same every year. The longest day comes … and then goes. And inexorably, the days get shorter and I’m reminded that winter’s on its way. I enjoy the season: the gaunt skeletal outlines of trees, the chill in the air. But I really don’t like the short days and the endlessly long nights that come with winter.

So when this week’s #Tanka Tuesday issued the challenge to write a syllabic poem entitled The Longest Day, I knew exactly what to write about, and chose to use the nonet form: a nine-line poem, that goes from 9 syllables in the first line, down to one in the last line.

The Longest Day

The longest day is one month past and

each day is shorter than the last, 

as now the nights grow longer

and winter edges in.

It’s dismal knowing

summer’s going.

Sunny days

almost …

gone.

For Debbie’s Six Word Saturday, and

Colleen’s Word Craft Poetry.

‘Except ye Lord keep ye Cittie, ye Wakeman waketh in vain’ revisited

England, history, North Yorkshire, Ripon, Traditions

Ten years ago today, long before we imagined we’d one day be living here, we were having a short break from our lives in France here in Ripon. And this is what we saw…

July 2012

‘Except ye Lord keep ye Cittie, ye Wakeman waketh in vain’

That’s the  verse from the Psalms, inscribed above the town hall in Ripon, where we’re spending the next few weeks to avoid the cold and rain of the south of France (no, really, they’ve got the heating on over there).  It reminds us that every evening – EVERY evening – for well over a thousand years, the Ripon Wakeman has sounded his horn to the 4 corners of the city to announce that all is well.

We had to go and check it out yesterday evening.

Promptly at 9, a smartly dressed individual in buff coloured hunting coat, tricorn hat and white gloves took his place before the obelisk on the Market Square and sounded his horn 4 times, once at each corner of the obelisk – one long mournful note each time.

Then he grinned at us, a small crowd of 20.  ”Want to hear a bit of history?’  Well, of course we did.  He made us introduce ourselves, and we found we too came from, well, about 3 corners of the world: Catalonia, Italy, Australia, even South Shields and Merton.  And here’s some of what he told us:

In 886, Alfred the Great, 37 year-old warrior king, was travelling his kingdom to defeat the Vikings and to drum up support.  Arriving at the small settlement of Ripon, he liked what he saw and granted a Royal Charter.  He lacked the wherewithal to produce an appropriate document, and so gave a horn which is still safely locked in the town hall.

‘You need to be more vigilant, there are Vikings about’. Alfred warned.  So the people appointed a wakeman to guard the settlement through hours of darkness, and he put that horn to use by sounding it at the 4 corners of the Market Cross to announce that all was well as he began his watch.  The city’s now on its 4th horn.

If you want to know more, our current Wakeman, George Pickles,  has written the whole tale for the BBC website.  It’s a good yarn.  Read it when you have a moment.

The Market Square, where the Wakeman does his job.

2022 Update: These days there’s a team of three Wakemen, and one of them is a woman. Only Lockdown – sort of – interrupted the tradition, when the nightly task was performed from the comfort of the duty-Wakeman’s garden at home, courtesy of Facebook.

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday