Amy has invited us to thumb through our archives for this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #250 and choose skyscapes and clouds. I’ve found it impossible to be dispassionate about this. There’s something about these images that’s so bound up with memories that I can’t distinguish good photos from the merely ordinary. I’m transported to that place, that time, that set of souvenirs.

Take my header photo, for instance, which I’ve posted before, more than once. It takes me immediately to that special day when I was part of an evening boat trip quietly floating through the lagoons of l’Albufera near Valencia, while birds made their final flights as the sun settled below the horizon. It’s a memory which will never leave me, whether the photo is a winner or not.

Longish sea trips to the continent bring memories of languidly looking at cloudscapes from early morning till nightfall as our ship smoothly purrs towards its destination. Here’s one …

… or this…

Or there are those memories of January days in Cádiz. An unmissable part of our routine was to head to the beach at dusk to watch the sun slowly disappear into the sea.

This shot, from our time in the Balkans shows that a slightly neutral skyscape can be a perfect backdrop for a questing bird of prey. And this was a holiday of birdsong, wild flowers – and memories of a still wild landscape.

A quick visit to France, to the Minervois for a moody sky. This was a trip just a few weeks ago, when on the same day as this shot was taken, we saw tiny daffodils sheltering from the brisk wind.

I can’t leave this post without a local shot, taken as we walked a habitual path alongside our River Ure.


The Lens-Artists Challenge, this week offered by Sofia, invites us to looks at mood. It’s been a very busy week for me, with time in short supply, so perhaps I need a spot of local walking to induce a mood of peace and calm.

… and just take a stroll down a woodland path …

Or perhaps a spot of merriment and street theatre is what’s required …

Or a seaside sunrise: even on a grey day.

Mind you, it’s as well to avoid nesting birds. They can get in a very bad mood, as this arctic tern can confirm …

He’s dive-bombing me. He thinks I’m possibly egg-collecting.

Best burn off a bit of energy and settle my mood …

… before returning home to be simultaneously awed and calmed by a local sunset …

Ripon Yarn Bombs for the King

It’s only 8.05 a.m., and even on a music station like Radio 3 there’s no escape from unremitting Coronation fever. Before I go and hide, I’ll share images I took the other evening in Ripon, which has chosen to celebrate by yarn bombing the city centre.

While I was in town, the cathedral bell-ringers were practising for today. Can’t beat English bell-ringing.

Ripon Cathedral bell-ringers

Ripon’s not alone. Nearby Thirsk seems to have gone whimsical, rather than respectful. I think we’ll have to pop along and see for ourselves.

For Debbie’s Six Word Saturday.

Still Life: a Gallimaufry

If I said ‘Still life‘ to you, I’d bet you’d immediately think of those ultra-realistic studies of fruits, cheeses and other good things cascading artfully from a shelf or plate in a painting by one of those 17th and 18th century Dutch painters who specialised in painting them. Like this, for instance, by Floris van Dijk in the Rijksmuseum:

Patti, who’s challenged us to produce still life images for this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #246 isn’t going to be a bit impressed by anyone who blogs only about images of Old Masters whose work happens to be in the public domain. She wants our own efforts. We can compose them; or we can find them, the unselfconscious efforts of others which we’ve spotted, and seized, and made our own.

I’ve got a rag-bag of images for her. The fish stall in Valencia which is my feature photo. The marvellous greengrocer in Cádiz, who daily displayed on the wall outside his tiny shop a tableau of some of the goods he had to offer:

Fruit and veg. from Spain; fermented and pickled vegetables from South Korea; and dried fish from there too. As well as a vase of flowers from home. All these in homage to Dutch Old Masters.

Market in Alicante
Market in Busan

Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate, England has a display in an Edwardian gardener’s shed. I was rather taken by these rusted tools.

In Barcelona, temporarily totally ignoring all the wonders on display in Gaudi’s Casa Vicens, I glanced out of the window to see a washing line still life:

And only the other week, in Canet de Mar, Catalonia, in the museum dedicated to Lluis Domenech i Montaner (Note to self: get that post about him written), I found an extraordinary still life with which to finish this post: the ephemera gathered into the studio of early 20th century photographer Eugenie Forcano.

Well, Patti, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve had a lot of fun. Thanks.


This week, Denzil, for his Nature Photo Challenge #9, invites us to hunt down long-legged birds.

So I’m going to book-end my post with herons, omnipresent herons, seen in every continent but Antarctica, almost anywhere where there is fresh water. I could have shown you one of our local birds, patiently fishing in the River Ure. Instead, I feature one seen in urban Busan, South Korea, and finish with one surveying the evening scene from his look-out post in l’Albufera, Valencia, Spain.

Let’s stay in Spain, and showcase a stork supervising the nest a-top a church in Tudela, Navarre.

Now Greece, and another member of the heron family, the egret, hunting for breakfast.

Let’s return to England. But you’ll only find flamingos in places like Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

Just as Lockdown came to an end, we ventured once more into the Yorkshire Dales, and found curlews, so newly unaccustomed to traffic that as we parked ready to go on our walk, they stayed nearby, unconcerned.

The patterned curlew blends in so well with the less-than patterned grasses. Especially the legs. Keep looking – you’ll find them.

I bet you wouldn’t expect to find a hen in this post. But our neighbour’s chickens have long legs. And they lay the smallest hens’ eggs ever.

And finally, as promised, here’s our Spanish heron.

L’Albufera, Valencia

Fascinating Fungi

It’s not really the time of year for fungi here in Europe, but we’ve just come back from Spain, and more importantly France, where at the right time of year, fungus-foraging is by way of being a national obsession. Find a secret cache in the woodlands, and no right thinking Frenchman will share its location with anyone: not brother, cousin, or best friend. An elderly man who lived up the road from us, back when we lived in the Ariège, took the knowledge of where his secret foraging-place was to his grave.

I too forage, as I was brought up doing. One of my earliest memories is of being got up by my mother at perhaps 5’clock to go to the local American airfield, disused since the war, to harvest field mushrooms and puffballs. I still forage – but very carefully. I’m sure only of field mushrooms and the unmistakeable puffball, as well as shaggy inkcaps and chanterelles.

Today though, for Denzil’s Nature Photo Challenge #8: Fascinating Fungi, I’m sharing pictures of the definitely inedible. Here are bracket fungi, and others that thrive on tree trunks and fallen timbers. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know the names of a single one: can anyone help? But there are no mushrooms-on-toast opportunities here!

Last news from Laroque revisited

As you read this post, we’re on the road, heading for France, then Spain to see the Spanish branch of the family, and even to attend a wedding. Please expect little in the way of responses to comments, whether on your own blog or this one for the duration. But nine years ago, on 20th March, we were leaving our home in Laroque for the very last time…

Last news from Laroque

23rd March 2014

You’re making your last visit to Laroque today, for the time being.  We left 3 days ago, and now we’re in Ripon.  Those last days were a furore of packing, cleaning, ‘goodbyes’ (though never, never final farewells), and two visits from the removal firm, who couldn’t fit everything in, first time round.  At this moment, perhaps, the person who bought our house is planning his own removal to Laroque.

I never told you, probably out of sheer superstition, the story of the house sale.  The housing market’s incredibly tough in the Ariège just now.  House prices have tumbled 25% since 2008.  Properties remain unsold for one, two, three years, as unhappy owners reduce the price of their homes in hopes of at last attracting a buyer.

Whereas we had nothing but luck.  A man from near Paris, house-hunting here, in the area where he’d grown up, saw our house, arranged to view, and said he liked it.  A week later he came again, showing his ‘coup de cœur’ off to his mum and dad.  He made a low-price offer, as you do.  We refused it, as you do.  But we offered him our non-attached garden, being sold separately, at a generous discount, and said we’d include some of the furniture in the house sale.  Reader, he offered full price, and the rest is history.  Vue-vendue.

We’d just locked the door for the last time. And helping us wave ‘Goodbye’ are Martine, Francis and Anaïs, almost the very first friends we made when we arrived. Nine years on, we have a granddaughter called Anaïs.

So here we are in Ripon, ready to house hunt and begin our new lives here.  Oh, and there’s the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire too, in a couple of months.  We’ll keep you posted.

Our luck continued here in England. The very first property we viewed to rent – as a temporary measure while we house-hunted for somewhere suitable – was the house we are still living in nine years on, with no intentions whatever of leaving.

Fandango’s Flashback Friday

Alone Time

I don’t have a problem being alone. As an only child who was often uprooted while growing up, I was used to my own company. Nowadays, though I value family and friends, time to myself is important too. My happiest memories of lockdown are of the Daily Exercise we were permitted, when I’d take myself off to enjoy the differences each day made on familiar daily walks, and discover new tracks and pathways.

Here’s a rather random gallery of landscapes that may meet the needs of the solitary walker. Put on your hiking boots and yes, why not? We’ll go and enjoy them together.

…. and then you could just go off by yourself if you wanted …

For Ann-Christine AKA Leya’s Lens-Artists Challenge #238 Alone Time

The header image is from l’Albufera, near Valencia, Spain, where I had a wonderfully solitary afternoon and evening one November about four years ago.