Spring: red, yellow, white or green?

I’m now on Day Nine of The Great British Coughing Virus, and as you may be unlucky enough to know, it ain’t fun. I’ve done nothing worth writing about, and my creativity quotient is at an all-time-low.  Instead, I thought I’d share with you the piece I wrote for my U3A Writing Group the other week, following the prompt ‘red’.

Spring: Red, yellow, white or green?

Spring is not red.  Spring is white, as the late snowdrops poke their heads above the frosty soil.  It’s yellow with primroses, daffodils and aconites: and later, laburnum and dandelions.  It’s fresh citrus green, with young tender grass and unfurling leaves.

 

 

Summer is red.  Summer is scarlet strawberries, velvet raspberries and glossy cherries.  It’s poppies among fields of wheat. It’s glowing noses and peeling shoulders on a crowded beach.  It’s roses and nasturtiums and salvia and geranium vying for space in the summer flower bed.

Autumn is red.  In autumn, leaves drop from the trees, turning from green to yellow and then to russet red as they reach the ground.  Crab apples glow on trees, and foragers like me gather them, and tumble them into a pan to simmer with sugar and spices to make a translucent ruby jelly for spreading on toast through the bleak winter months.  

Winter is red.  Bright berries poke out from beneath the sleek green leaves of the holly. Vermilion rose hips stand starkly on black branches, cheerfully  transforming barren twigs and colouring the winter landscape. There’s little Robin Redbreast, perching on a scarlet pillar box, and all those gaudy Christmas decorations.

Spring is not red.  Or at least I didn’t think so, not until last week.  Here’s what I found on a walk across a Daleside farmland: a ewe, with two only-just-born lambs. Her babies were stained bright red with her blood, as she licked them clean.  Spring that day was a Red Letter Day, celebrating new life.

A ewe and her new lambs near West Witton, Wensleydale.

Forces of Nature

Nature has had the upper hand lately. Snow, and plenty of it, disrupted our daily rhythms a few times in recent weeks. Rain, and plenty of it, has swamped fields and tracks, making a walk in the country an utterly unreasonable pastime.

The other day though, cabin fever got the better of us, and we made a break for the countryside near West Witton, reasoning that some of the tracks there would be more or less passable. They were. More or less.

But Nature made its presence felt in full force. Here was almost our very first sight on our walk – a mother ewe with twin lambs so very newly born that she was still calmly licking them clean as they tottered beside her, looking for their very first feed of milk.

The weather was mild. Surely the snow would be long gone? Not up here. Bitter howling winds a week ago had snatched the snow into deep drifts at the edges of fields, or pounded it into hillside crevices.

Redmire Force lived up to its name. Look at the waters swirling, frothing and plunging over the boulders in the River Ure. Look at the tree torn from its cliff side, now hanging precariously over the river.

And as we came to the end of our walk – look! Is this a river, or is this a field, unusable by the sheep who normally graze here, but forming a stopping off point for the occasional passing water bird?

We’re not quite as in charge as we like to think.

Click on any image to view it full size.

Snapshot Saturday: from Pyrenees to Pennines via books, a cup of coffee,a skein of geese …. and an elephant

The WordPress photo challenge this week is ‘Beloved’.

I don’t think the humans in my life whom I love would be happy for me to plaster their images all over the blogosphere.  I have no pets, beloved or otherwise.  So I’ll have to look a little further.

Here’s a little miscellany of images, beloved images:

  • The Yorkshire Dales, whose rolling hills, bisected by ancient drystone  walls I missed so much during our years in France.
  • The Pyrenees, from their richly flowered springtime meadows through to winter, when their rocky slopes are covered in deep snow, and which I now miss every single day.  I’ll miss the shared picnics on our walks together, when our French friends pooled resources, and we ate everybody’s offerings of home-cured sausage, local cheeses, bread, home-baked cakes together with wine and somebody’s grandfather’s very special eau de vie.
  • Springtime daffodils.  Every year I go into deep mourning when they wither, die and finally become untidy heaps of dying leaves.  I’m happier now as they thrust their sheathed stems through the hard soil, promising to flower soon- but not quite yet.
  • There are books: I need a pile beside my bed to get me through the night.
  • A single, perfect cup of coffee from Bean and Bud in Harrogate.
  • Skeins of geese flying overhead mark the seasons here, and I love their haunting, raucous cries.
  • And so on….

I’ll end though with this.  I wasn’t beloved of this elephant in Kumbakonam,  Tamil Nadu, who was only doing his job when I visited him ten years ago on my Indian Adventure.  But I felt beloved and very special when he raised his trunk and brought it down upon my shoulder – his very distinctive way of blessing me.

Elephant in the temple of Adi Kumbeswarar, Kumbakonam, ready to give me his blessing.

Click on any image to see a slideshow of the photos, full-size.

Snapshot Saturday: a wintry walk

For the last WordPress Photo Challenge of the year, we’ve been bidden to come up with our favourite shot of 2017.  How to choose?

I was thinking of maybe reviewing the year, one month at a time: family moments, walks in the Dales, trips to Poland, Germany, France and Spain.  Nope, it wasn’t working .

The shot that I found kept presenting itself was this one, taken on a chilly walk not so far from here almost a year ago.  It chimes in with my somewhat gloomy feelings about the future: political uncertainty here, in Catalonia, in America, to name just three.

Not all was gloom though.  Look!  We were walking with friends.  And in the end, the sun came out, and we were able to turn our backs on the damp unfriendly fog.

If only politics were so simple.  Happy Christmas everyone.

Snapshot Saturday: up – and down – in the Yorkshire Dales

If you go walking in the Yorkshire Dales, you won’t avoid a few ups and downs.  And not just the hills either.  There’s a small matter of stiles to be climbed to get over all those drystone walls.

Near Kettlewell, Yorkshire.

This post is in response to this weeks WordPress Photo Challenge: Ascend

The multi-tasking Handlebards

This is the scenery near Leyburn in Wensleydale. This is Bolton Castle.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale.

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.

A simple, but infinitely adaptable stage set.

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.

This is the only photo I have of the Handlebards, and it’s out of focus at that. They take a bow as we give them a more than enthusiastic standing ovation.

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.

The rain let up a bit in the interval. Here’s the view.