Beach patterns

I could take a walk on the beach every morning of my life.

We’ve just come back from four days in Northumberland, staying in the coastal town of Alnmouth.  Each morning before breakfast, I’d walk down to the sands to be both stimulated and calmed by the dragging, pulsing action of the sea.

There was the patterning of the sands to enjoy.  Those banks of undulations extending as far as I could see.  The designs etched in different coloured sands upon the newly-flattened beach.  Shadows and reflections in shallow pools.  The changing colours of the sea and sky towards the horizon.

Other beach lovers walked in contemplative silence too.  Their dogs preferred to celebrate the long, wide space, and simply ran and ran.

Todays Ragtag Challenge is ‘Patterns’.

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The tale of the Jacob sheep and the copper beech

Mrs J with one of her lambs.

There are sheep at the bottom of the garden.  Jacob sheep, three of them.  And not so long ago, they gave birth to lambs – five between them.  We didn’t see this domestic drama.  They visit a neighbouring farm for ante-natal and delivery services.  But a fortnight ago, they all returned home, and relished the fresh grass, newly lush after the winter.

Last week, the large and spectacular copper beech at one end of their field virtually overnight burst into leaf. Naked twigs produced swelling leaf buds, and then…. almost instantly, delicate pinky-crimson leaves, practically translucent.  The Jacob sheep eyed them with interest.  Grass is all very well, but …. young beech leaves?  Oh yes!   Well worth craning your neck for!

Yesterday afternoon, one of the ewes and her two lambs popped over to inspect me as I walked down the drive.  They thought I might be John with a bucket of food (I had neither a beard nor a bucket, and it wasn’t the right time of day, but well, it was still worth a try).  I was, as ever, a big disappointment.  But it did remind the ewe that the copper beech was there beside me, its lowest branches just about reachable.  She reached up. She selected bunches of young leaves, chewed them, ate them.  Moved on a few yards and repeated the process.  Again and again.

In a few days, those leaves will toughen up.  Got to take your pleasures while you can.  I hope her gourmandising didn’t give her a tummy ache.

I wonder if the apple tree will be next?

This is my entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: gourmand.

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May is blue, white …. and yellow…..

Bluebell woods at Rpley.

May is blue and white.  May is the month when bluebells thrust their heads above the leaf mould of an English woodland and carpet it with a hazy sea of blue.  It’s when forget-me-nots flower in every vacant spot of earth, and wriggle through the cracks in paving stones. It’s when bluish-purple wisteria scrambles across old brickwork, gently waving its blooms in the light spring breeze. It’s when the  sky is often reliably and cloudlessly blue on a sunny afternoon.

May is hawthorn time.  May is lilac time.  May sees late-flowering wild garlic give place to bluebells .  Daisies take over.    White petals from pear, apple and cherry trees swirl gently to the ground.  And white woolly lambs play king-of-the-castle and run races in the fields.  Round here, sheep-identification markings are blue.

There’s plenty of space for yellow too.  Anyone spotted any dandelions?

A field near Pateley Bridge.

This is my response to today’s Ragtag Challenge: May.

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Identical?

I’ve never been much good at twiddling with the controls on my camera.  I even joined a photography course recently, in an effort to get to grips with apertures, shutter speeds and ISO controls.  But it just made my head hurt, and I reverted to ‘Automatic’ as my default modus operandi.  I decided I’m a snaphot-ist, not a photographer.

Yesterday, however, just for a bit of fun and having an hour to spare, I turned to the ‘palette’ settings, and took an identical shot using every single one.  Here’s the result.  Though I forgot to take one on ‘Automatic’,  so the tale is not quite complete.  Can’t do it now.  This little twig of blossom (cherry?), a chance discovery found lying in the road, wilted in the night.

Which do you like best?  As ever, click on any image to see it full size.  They’re in strict alphabetical order – no favouritism here.

Bleach bypass.

This is my entry in today’s Ragtag Challenge: identical

Omelette de Pâques revisited

It’s Easter weekend.  For my continuing re-blogging festival, an Easter themed post seems in order.  Let’s try this one from 2010…..

April 2010

Omelette de Pâques

Come to the Ariège on Easter Monday, and you won’t be too far from a community omelette. Communes and clubs all over the department seek out their biggest frying pan, get hold of dozens of eggs, sugar and rum, to make this sweet confection to round off, with any luck, the first barbecue of the season. Why? Nobody in our walking group could tell me, and Google wasn’t much help, but it does seem to be an ancient tradition dating back to….ooh, 1973 at least.

Anyway, the Rando del’Aubo have made this an annual event for some years now. For the last couple, it’s been rainy and cold. Not this year though. Down at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a few pictures of our walk between La Pène, an Audois hamlet on a delightful small lake, and Monthaut, which is a hill….higher up. It was a great way to work up an appetite.

Because the weather was warm, sunny and spring-like, we relaxed at the lakeside after our walk, chatting and enjoying those woodsmokey smells of a barbecue coming to life. Apéros first: Muscat, suze, pernod, whisky…all the usual French tipples, with nibbles to stem our hunger. Then grilled pork, grilled Toulouse sausage, bread (and wine of course), Coulommiers cheese, vanilla or chocolate pudding. And then we still had to find room for the all-important omelette.

Since the beginning of time, it’s been Marie-Therèse’s ‘job’ (good French word, that) to make the omelette, and of course it all ended in noisy recriminations because there were too many cooks all muscling in, breaking eggs, beating eggs, heating the pan, greasing the pan, measuring the rum. Half the raw egg mixture tipped out onto the grass, and Etienne and Danielle dashed off to every farm they could find to buy another….. 4 dozen.

Finally, it was done. Really, this omelette is scrambled egg with lots of sugar chucked in at the end, and flambéed with rum. Once a year is quite enough.

It wasn’t the end of the party though. Oh no. We couldn’t go before downing glasses of Blanquette de Limoux, an Alpine eau-de-vie, then cups of coffee (with madeleines, in case we were still hungry). And as a final touch, Easter eggs.

We came away suntanned and rather full, at the end of an Easter Monday that was one of the first really hot and sunny days of the year. A taste of things to come?

 

My contribution to today’s Ragtag Challenge: egg.

And a Malcolm update:  He’s out of hospital now with lots of medication and check-up appointments.  Looking good!

Les demoiselles de Caraybat, daffodils and gentians: revisited

This hasn’t been a week for writing for fun, as while I was having a good day in London on Monday, Malcolm ended up dialling 999, and is now in Harrogate Hospital after a heart attack. I wasn’t told until well on the way home, which may have been as well, as there was nothing I could have done. He’s awaiting transfer to the much bigger James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough. But there’s every reason to assume that all will be well.

So I’ve picked out this post from six years ago, from our days in the French Pyrenees to re-blog. Who doesn’t love a good yarn, spring flowers and spectacular views? It cheered me up, anyway.

April 2013

Les demoiselles de Caraybat, daffodils and gentians

Once upon a time long ago in Caraybat, when times were hard, the men of this small village had to look far afield for work.  And they went to Spain, for the hay-making season.  Hawkers came to the village, and pedlars.  They found a village with no men.  They took advantage.  So did the women.

When the hay-making season was over, the men returned, and the women spied them returning over the distant mountains.  Suddenly ashamed and frightened, they fled to the hills.  God, in vengeful and Old Testament mood, was displeased.  As the women reached the summit, he turned each one of them to stone.  And there they are to this day, les demoiselles de Caraybat, a petrified reminder of a summer of sin.

A few of those demoiselles hide themselves behind the woodland trees
A few of those demoiselles hide themselves behind the woodland trees

We remembered this legend yesterday when I took our Laroquais walking friends to Caraybat and the dolomies to discover those daffodils I’d been shown on Thursday.  I was quite chuffed that not a single one of them had previously known this special spot, and we had a pleasant hour up on the rocks, picnicking and enjoying the last days of the daffodil season.

We followed the walk I’d learnt about on Thursday, and then we finished our day by going to the plateau above Roquefixade to see the gentians there.

Gentians above Roquefixade
Gentians above Roquefixade

Sadly, it was by then rather cold and windy, and most of the gentians had sensibly folded their indigo skirts about their faces and tucked themselves away to wait for a sunny day.  We’ll wait too.  And when the sun comes out properly, we’ll be back.

Ragtag Saturday: The Cleveland Coast

Older people like coach trips.  Allegedly.  They sit in a coach, gossip, have a nice cup of tea when they reach their destination, then they go home again.

On Thursday, fifteen people from Ripon U3A (Walkers’ Division) did exactly that.  Except that in between the gossip in the coach and the nice cup of tea, they fitted in an eight and a half mile walk along a section of the Cleveland Way.

Staithes seen from the cliffs.

We started at Staithes, once a busy fishing port, now a picture-postcard-pretty holiday destination.  It nestles at the foot of imposing cliffs, and our walk began with a good hard yomp to get from sea-level to cliff top.  This was the first of several yomps up steep paths cut into the hillside at an unforgivingly steep gradient.

The first of several climbs – and not the hardest.

And what goes up must come down, as we discovered towards lunchtime at Runswick Bay, and later still at journey’s end in Sandsend.

Runswick Bay at low tide.

All this would have been arduous enough.  But there was a stiff breeze.  This developed, as the day wore on, into a searching wind: the sort that blows any attempt at conversation far out to sea, turns pockets inside out, and rips scarves from shoulders.  A few forays past farms offered slight shelter.

By the time we arrived in Sandsend, the wind was arguing with the sea too, which rose up, roaring and seething and hurling itself against the breakwaters.

Stormy seas at Sandsend.
The view across to Sandsend and Whitby.

Did we complain?  We did not.  This was scenic walking at its best.  Violets and primroses scattered our path, and striking barriers of yellow gorse imposed themselves between us and the cliff edge.

Eight and a half miles of this kind of treatment was just about enough though.  We were good and ready for tea and home-made cake at Wits End Cafe, and continued our gossip in the coach on the way home.

The sea: our constant companion for the day.

Here is my entry for today’s Ragtag prompt: Coast, and for Jo’s Monday Walk.  As ever, click on any image to see it full size.