I don’t expect any sympathy for this post. I’m sitting around in a t-shirt in a Spanish square, with a clara and a snack. It’s 20 degrees, sunny, bright.
So why should you care that when I get up in the morning it’s a mere 4 degrees, and hardly better as I set off for school? Why should you be bothered that I never thought to pack any gloves? Why should you mind about the biting winds that whistle round street corners when the sun isn’t around?
This is a café at 9.00 in the morning. Everyone is inside, nursing a hot drink. It makes the mid-day sun seem even brighter.
For once, this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge – ‘glow’ – demanded no lateral thinking on my part. The image that came to me was one that many Brits shared on Tuesday.
Hurricane Ophelia was doing its worst over in Ireland and on England’s west coast. In London, William and I weren’t feeling even a gentle breeze. But as morning became afternoon; as afternoon changed into evening then night long before the appointed time, the sky turned sepia, and the sun glowed.
Ophelia was sucking sand from the Sahara and throwing it to the English heavens. This was the result, at round about half past one in the afternoon:
I’m a reluctant and easily sea-sick sailor. Yet a backdrop to my life has been the hypnotic daily rhythms of the shipping forecast on Radio 4. I love to listen to those poetic names of the areas round the British coast where seamen find themselves as they tune in to hear what the weather will bring.
Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Biscay, Trafalgar, FitzRoy, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea, Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes and Southeast Iceland.
Yesterday, the Shipping Forecast was 150 years old.
A public service since 1867, it’s been broadcast since the 1920s, with a break during World War II. Never more than 380 words long, it always follows the same strict format. The late night broadcast, preceded by ‘Sailing by’ is a bedtime story, a soporific sleeping pill to many land-based listeners. We couldn’t do without it.
Look! We even have a cushion, and a breakfast mug dedicated to our beloved shipping forecast.
This is the scenery near Leyburn in Wensleydale. This is Bolton Castle.
Imagine sitting in the grounds of this 14th century castle as evening draws in, a picnic beside you, to watch The Handlebards’ version of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’. You know this will be no ordinary performance. The Handlebards are four female actors who cycle the length and breadth of the kingdom, with all they need for the tour crammed into two bicycle carriers. At each performance, they take every part in Shakespeare’s comedy of bizarre mistaken identity, family breakdown, love and lust.
So far so good. But this is England in July. We’d had two days of almost incessant rain. In a downpour, the Handlebards cycled the 26 (mainly uphill) miles from Ripon, where they’d performed at the Workhouse Museum.
The Castle has a Great Hall. Performing here rather than on a soggy greensward seemed a better idea in the circumstances. And it was. During the evening it rained. And then rained again. The audience never noticed a thing. We were too busy admiring the way four women became twenty or more people.
To become a man, all they had to do was don a codpiece adorned with a tennis or cricket ball. A selection of hats served to distinguish one character from another. Bicycle handlebars identified the wearers as sheep. Your character needs to disappear stage right to enter stage left as someone else? Easy. Leave the person whom you were addressing in charge of your hat, and s/he will continue to talk to it. With the flourish of a stick, a youth became faithful, ancient Adam. Orlando and his family were all twoubled by an inability to pwonounce the letter ‘r’. And so it went on, as one inventive twist or piece of slapstick followed another. Shakespeare would have loved it.
I’m now a Handlebards groupie. And the fun doesn’t end here. In other venues, having travelled there on other bicycles, a troupe of male actors is giving similarly irreverent treatment to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. We’re on the mailing list.
It was the summer solstice this week. It was also, for three days only in the north of England, summer.
So let me whisk you back eighteen months, to a crisp and clear January day when I took myself off to walk for a couple of hours or so, looking upwards rather than at my surroundings. Skyscape succeeded skyscape. These changing skies perfectly illustrate this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: transient.
We had quite an arresting sunset the other night. As with all sunsets, it was evanescent: here at one moment and gone the next. I’ll show it to you at the end of the post, together with the rainbow that briefly accompanied it in a rainless sky.
That sunset though reminded me of another sunset, even more dramatic, which we experienced in France in February 2014. Evanescent it might have been. But it’s etched in my memory forever.
Now then. Here’s our English sunset, from just a couple of weeks ago. Which do you prefer?
It wasn’t our best walk. Chris and I set off to ‘do’ part of the Nidderdale Way on Thursday. Thursday was fine. Wednesday hadn’t been. Nor had Tuesday. There’s been an awful lot of rain lately.
Even as we started out, we realised that mud was to be our constant companion. And water, trickling along slippery, sticky oozy paths. We forded streams which according to the map simply didn’t exist. If we wanted to go onwards, we had to wade through running water, or totter across from unsteady stepping stone to unsteadier fallen branch.
It was tiring. Finding not-too-soggy resting places was challenging too. We had our sandwiches in a wood alongside what should have been a babbling brook, but was in fact a raging torrent.
And that’s when I noticed these stones – and trees. I’d expect boulders and branches like these to have a few tendrils of dry ash-grey lichen clinging to their surface. Instead they were thickly carpeted in vivid green. These specimens (and I don’t know what they are, despite a spot of Googling) were healthy, fecund and spreading very nicely thank you. It’s easy being green in such a damp, shaded and sheltered environment.