The rapacious stillness of the heron*

Herons seem to be a part of our lives.  It’s a rare week when we don’t spot one flying languidly along the river, or waiting on an exposed rock for the next snack.

Wherever we travel, we can go heron spotting.   We’ve seen them in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, Córdoba in southern Spain, l’Albufera near Valencia, and Busan in South Korea.  Town and country: herons are there.

We see them as we walk along the path towards West Tanfield, and spot them on the garden pond.

The other day after a stressful week, I needed a bit of space.  Nosterfield Nature Reserve just up the road was the answer.  I walked along the wetland paths watching water birds courting, feeding, simply being there, standing motionless or swimming peacefully.  Quiet fields formed the backdrop.

Nosterfield Nature Reserve, spotted through a hide.

I went to the farthest hide.  I became transfixed by the under-stated drama being played out between a heron and two or three egrets.  They were fishing.  All plodded gracefully in and out of what humans might see as each other’s personal space.  They didn’t care or even seem to notice one another. They simply co-existed, fishing.

This is what first caught my eye….and then I zoomed in closer…..

This series of pictures might not seem that different one from another.  They’re a record of a simple afternoon in the lives of a heron, three egrets ….. and me.

Click on any image to view full size.

* The Crow Road: Iain Banks


A window of opportunity

I’ve always loved looking at the contributions to Thursday doors, where bloggers from around the world share images of their favourite doors. Somehow, I’ve never got round to joining in.  But looking through my photos for something or other yesterday, I realised that I had the makings of a post about windows. Here it is.

Here’s an image from the last March for Europe in London in June.  I’ll be there again, probably as you read this, marching for a People’s Vote on the Final Deal.  I’m not sure how much I believe in another referendum, but what other hope have we got to turn the tide against the national disaster that is Brexit?

Happier times, happier pictures.  I started off by including images from Europe too.  But I’ll do England today, and maybe travel further afield another time.

Hull Minster, as seen from the office buildings opposite.

And Ripon Cathedral glimpsed through a camera obscura in early 2017.

There’s an osteopath in Ripon who always has a delightfully quirky window display.  Here’s winter.

Through the car window, a snowy winter landscape near Kex Gill in Yorkshire.

Train windows:  a view of Canary Wharf through the windows of the DLR line.

And the more rural landscape from the Wensleydale Railway.

I’ll finish with the photo I found that started me off.  This was the view I took outside our house on Christmas Eve morning last year.

The road north……

We left Barcelona.

Past Monserrat….

We drove north through the Pyrenees, both in Spain and in France…..

Used the mirrors to glance back and back till we could no longer see the mountains……

Through the edge of the Lauragais, south of Toulouse…..

….reaching Cahors by the evening.

Much of the next day was spent in the flatlands of central France, in the Touraine…..

And now we’re with friends in Normandy, on the border of both Mayenne and Manche.

Which landscape would you choose?

Ragtag Tuesday – and Wednesday! A feast with orange accompaniments

I let myself off posting yesterday, Tuesday, because we were concluding a drive all the way from Yorkshire England, to the Limousin, France – all but 800 miles in two days.  You’ll hear why in my next post.  Just now, I’ll tell you about our Monday stop-over.

Les Hayons is a transport caff in Normandy, pure and simple.  We love it.  Truckers from all over this part of northern France aim to end their working day here.  They’ll have a quick wash, a drink, then head for the restaurant – refectory style tables where they can sit down among old friends and new and talk over the events of their solitary day pounding along the motorway.

I’m justifying an out-of-focus shot by hiding behind data protection. No trucker can be identified I think.

They’ll help themselves from a buffet-style first course, then there’s a choice of about a dozen home-cooked main courses – copious, traditional tasty food washed down with as much wine or cider as you want.  After that, a cheese board – local unpasteurised cheeses from the farms down the road, and finally ice cream or some such for pud.  The cheery noisy atmosphere, the decently cooked if simple feast puts us in holiday mood every time we eat there.

With so much food on offer, it seemed wisest to begin the meal with a simple bright orange carrot salad.

We stayed the night there too.  Maybe that wasn’t quite such a good plan.  The truckers stay in their well-appointed cabins built into their lorries.  The days of their needing a trad. bed in a trad. simple hotel room are over.  So, lacking a bed in a truck, we chose their former hotel instead.  Which was fine.  But though the truckers were all tucked up for 9.00 p.m.  or 10.00 p.m. that was because they were ready for the off at 4.30 a.m.  or 5.00 a.m.

Our alarm call was the sound of revving engines and heavy tyres crunching across gravel. We too were ready to roll at 6.30 a.m.  And barely a truck was still there.  Look at the scene the evening before.  Scores of trucks, neatly lined up in auditorium sized parking lots, protected by the orange glow of sodium lighting.

And we shared breafast in the bar with men in orange: workmen ready to go on shift and face the rigours of the day in their hi-viz clothing.  Life at our next destination is very different.

The RDP challenges for Tuesday and Wednesday this week were ‘orange’ and ‘feast’ respectivly.  Two birds with one stone.

From Pennines to Pyrenees

We’ve crossed the Pyrenees again.  To visit our daughter in Barcelona.

A view of Barcelona from Port Vell.
A view of Barcelona from Port Vell.

And then we shall cross them back again.  To visit our friends in Laroque d’Olmes.

A view of the Pyrenees from between Laroque and Foix
A view of the Pyrenees from between Laroque and Foix

We’ll be in touch when we get back to England again.

Nation swap…. house swap.

Until the early years of the twentieth century, there had been thousands of Greeks living in Turkey, and Turks living in Greece, preserving their own culture and ways of life over many centuries.  But by the 1920s, both Turks and Greeks had been through a period of real upheaval, with a series of wars including the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922.  Senior politicians in both countries could see problems ahead if largely Muslim Turks remained in Greece, and largely Orthodox Greeks remained in Turkey.

Their solution though, was a  shocking one.  Following the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923,  thousands and thousands of Turks and Greeks were in effect deported from the lands where they and their ancestors had been living for centuries, back to their country of ethnic origin.  They were given almost no time to prepare or to pack belongings: they were displaced refugees. Large Greek communities such as Smyrna were quite simply emptied of their citizens, to be stocked with Muslim Turks and re-named Izmir .  The regional ethic mix which had prevailed for centuries ceased.

Greek refugees from Smyrna arriving at Thessaloniki 1923 (unknown source)
Greek refugees from Smyrna arriving at Thessaloniki 1923 (unknown source)

Though it’s hard to regard what happened then as anything better than ethnic cleansing, many Turks nowadays will say that now the dust has settled, and with the passage of time, both Greece and Turkey are the better for it.  Greco-Turkish relations have often been poor, and with the two populations now separated, there’s one less thing to fight over.

It’s a hugely complex issue about which I know next to nothing.  What I do know is that we spent the last morning of our Turkish holiday in Şirince, one of those villages that was forcibly de-populated, then re-populated, in this case by Turks moved out of Thessaloniki in Greece.  It’s a charming place, set on a hillside amongst olive groves and orchards; a tourist trap for Turks and foreign tourists alike.  But on a quiet warm morning in February, it was no hardship.  We used the time to sample the fruit wines for which the village is noted: mulberry, peach, morello, quince (no, we didn’t try them ALL).  We bought last-minute souvenirs: local olive oil, honey, pomegranate vinegar.  It was easy to feel, strolling through the narrow streets, that we might be in Greece rather than Turkey, even though we didn’t hear, as promised,  any of the older inhabitants speaking Greek.


It was a peaceful way to end our holiday.  We’ll be back, as independent travellers next time.  And from now, it’ll be posts from misty moisty England.  For a while at least.


Of kangals, and other dogs and cats

This is Efe.

Efe at Miletus
Efe at Miletus

Efe took time out from his job as guardian of a group of nomads and their sheep wintering in the area, to accompany us on our visit to Miletus.  He’s a kangal, and we all immediately took to this handsome, gentle and affectionate dog, one of a breed popular in Turkey for its qualities as a fine guardian of stock.

Like many Turkish dogs and cats, Efe has a home.  But many others do not.  There are hundreds and thousands of animals whose home is the street, and who are on the whole tolerated and even regarded as part of the community.  Don’t imagine that these animals are mangy and sickly, with protruding ribs and rotting yellow teeth.  They’re well fed and healthy.

Turks apparently, when planning a move to a new neighbourhood, will look and see how street dogs are treated.  If they’re friendly and companionable, then that means the neighbourhood too is friendly.  If the dogs are aggressive or fearful than it’s not a good area.  Best not to buy.

Street dogs by the sea at Ayvelik.
Street dogs by the sea at Ayvelik.

These days though, street dogs are a problem, simply by virtue of their huge numbers.  So they are tagged, vaccinated and spayed or neutered to prevent the spread of rabies and other diseases, and to limit their population.

An Ephesus resident attempts to steal the show from our guide.
An Ephesus resident attempts to steal the show from our guide.

We saw cats too wherever we went.  But never so many as at Ephesus, which is rather famous as an unofficial cat sanctuary.  Looking round the site, we once saw 14 at a single glance, and they were quite at home as they lolled on marble pillars and lounged round the library.

Ephesus cats.
Ephesus cats.

These photos of street dogs and cats are among the less expected souvenirs of our trip.