Five Owls for Five Monday Portraits

farming, Festivals

It was the first Agricultural Show of the season yesterday. A great day out for the farming community, and for all the rest of us, who can admire cattle, calves, sheep, horses, shire horses, donkeys all being judged on who knows what esoteric criteria. Tractors, machinery, country crafts and produce … and in among all that, a Birds of Prey display. I picked some owls to showcase for you today, particularly this Northern Pygmy Owl. He’s barely the size of a blackbird.

The Indian Skops Owl is hardly any bigger:

But the other three are much the size you might expect, being pretty much Barn Owl size:

I’ll probably bring you all the fun of the Agricultural Fair another week. As crops are gathered in, and young animals grow less dependent on their mothers, the season starts in earnest.

St. Pancras Station: where England and Europe meet

England, London, Poetry

My favourite station in the UK is Saint Pancras International. It’s a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture and must be England’s most elegant place from which to start a journey. It was opened in 1862, and one of its glories is its immense single span iron roof , designed by William Barlow. That wonderful facade, which includes the Midland Hotel, was designed by Gilbert Scott, and this is what you’ll see as you approach, and then wander among all the fairly up-market shops which line the concourse these days. It’s such a treat just to wander round admiring the structure, listening to travellers chatting in French as they accustom themselves to their English surroundings. Here’s a little gallery to give you as taste of the handsome brickwork, the charming attention to detail.

What a shock, then, to find yourself suddenly facing this statue, The Meeting Place. some 9 metres high. Designed by Paul Day and unveiled in 2007, it’s intended to encapsulate the romance of travel.

This weekend’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge invites us to use a photo of this work as a prompt for a piece of Ekphrastic Poetry (if this is a new one on you, as it was to me, you’ll find out what it is if if you follow the link). For the challenge, it has to be in syllabic form, so I chose Prime Verse. And I think my feelings about this work may be clear…

Saint Pancras and the lovers.

A magnificent

Victorian masterpiece.

Elegant springboard of a thousand journeys –

Saint Pancras Station.

What greets you here?

A schmaltzy piece of kitsch:

a statue of two lovers who embrace

as they meet once more.

A crude mawkish piece, whose presence I abhor.

The featured image is by Daniela Paola Alchapar via Unsplash.

The Abstract Geometry of Valencia

Spain

Team Spain is with us at the moment, so blogging and bloggers are taking a back seat. All the same, I’m going to take a virtual trip to Valencia, which we’ve often visited after being with the family near Barcelona. This time though, as requested by Amanda for a Friendly Friday challenge (collaborating with Frank at Beach Walk Reflections). I’m focussing on just a few of the shapes I’ve seen there.

And where better to start than the futuristic Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències?

And quite nearby, in the Turia Gardens, you’ll find this bridge. which I highlighted recently. But this is a closer view.

Roof spaces: How about the Mercat de Colom? Or the so-very-different La Lonja – the old Silk Exchange?

And let’s finish off with something that may no longer be visible. Valencia’s big on street art, but I liked the bold geometry of this piece under construction.

This is scarcely a Tourist Info Guide to Valencia: but it’s a glimpse of some of the places worth hunting for in any visit there.

A Group of Goats posing for Monday Portraits

Balkans

I know it’s not a Group of Goats. It’s a Flock; it’s a Herd; it’s a Drove (as in the header photo); it’s a Tribe. But Group is more alliterative.

On our Balkan journey, we got used in Albania to seeing shepherds wandering along the mountainsides with their mixed herds of sheep and goats.

In Greece though, we stayed on a small island, Agios Achillios, on Lake Prespa. Semi-nomadic practices weren’t an option. Instead the goats had to put up with lush and varied pasture on hillsides overlooking the lake, which they shared with their neighbours the pigs and the dwarf cattle of the area, and who may have their moment of fame another week.

Galloping Years

Blogging challenges, Poetry

Blame Peter. He’s the one who drew my attention to Sammi Cox and her writing prompts. And when his own post, prompted by Sammi, dropped into my in box, I thought I should have a go too. This is the prompt:

Why 46 words? Just to make life difficult I suppose. But here we go …

The Galloping Years

You’d think each year was just a year

Each one lasting twelve whole months.

And yet as I get old and grey, those weeks and months

Revolve, gain speed and pass before me faster than before.

Slow down! Don’t hurry me through my last remaining years.

‘People tell you all the time, poems do not have to rhyme’*

Blogging challenges

About three years ago, I joined a writing group for strict amateurs: people who have no particular aspirations to publish.  I’m still part of it.  Our facilitator, Sheila, is inspirational and fun.  I remember our very first session.  She produced a bag full of dice, faced not with numbers, but letters.  We threw the dice, and looked at the letters that landed face up. The task was to make a word that used as many of those letters as we could.  The only rule was: this word must not actually exist.  We fell to with enthusiasm.  And made a word I’ve now forgotten. Next task?  Define it.

Sheila’s full of strategies to get our creative juices flowing, and has transformed a small band of people with only pencils and notebooks in common into a creative, constructively critical and mutually supportive group.

But that’s not all.  Sheila’s the person who encouraged me to write my first poem.  Then another, and another. Here are a couple of my more recent – and seasonal – efforts.  I’m no poet, but I’ve come to enjoy practising.

In my blogging life, I’d started to follow Fake Flamenco.  It turns out that each month, Rebecca chooses a poetic form and invites us to craft a short poem on the theme she suggests.  And do you know what makes this so special?  Before she publishes our work on her blog, Rebecca translates every single one into Spanish. I really look forward to this extra dimension, as well as the chance to share poem-making with bloggers on every continent  Thank you Rebecca.  I haven’t been tagging along all that long, but this singular poetry challenge has just celebrated two creative years. All bloggers welcome!

And what serendipity! Only this week, another Rebecca, a certain Lady Budd, introduced us to the work of Colleen Chesebro, who is not only a poet, but someone who loves to share the skills of poetry making here, and runs a poetry challenge, #Tanka Tuesday.

This poetry malarkey could catch on. If we start ’em young, as the header photo suggests we do, perhaps …

The post title quotes the first two lines of An Attempt at Unrhymed Verse by Wendy Cope*

Seeing double

Balkans, Barcelona, Catalonia, England, London, North Yorkshire, Valencia

Getting two images for the price of one. That’s this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge, hosted this week by Jez. I’m keen on seeing double like this.

Do I prefer a simple canalscape?

Regent’s Canal, London.

Or a cloudscape?

Lake Prespa, North Macedonia

A few birds could add some interest …

I often like urban reflections …

… or surprising reflections …

… or just a peaceful scene by a river …

Near Saint Naum, North Macedonia

… which is where we started. The featured photo is from a boat on the River Guadalquivir in Seville.

You can -sometimes – judge a book by its cover

Books and reading

One of the things I most enjoy about being a volunteer at my local library is the chance it gives to poke about on shelves I’d never normally look at. Without having had to shelve books after someone else had read and returned them, I’d never have found this:

I was entirely and unexpectedly engaged by this book, an exploration of our nation’s iconic fish: cod, carp, eels, salmon and herring. This is a story of the fish themselves; of fishermen; of the consequences of greed and the way back from it; of geology; meteorology; our nation’s social history as it relates to food and farming; of corruption and political will. Combining research and personal experiences, this book both absorbed and enthralled me. And I’d never have found it, because 799.1094 is not one of my Dewey numbers of choice. And it was the cover that did it for me.

And it’s the cover that often makes me pause and look. Just to show how random- yet satisfying – these choices can be, I’m picking some of the orange-covered books I’ve found – and read – from the library in response to the challenge ‘Hazy and Hot’ Friday Face Off, brought to my attention by Words and Peace. Yes, I know it’s no longer Friday. But I’m fewer than 9 hours late.

All reasons to Love your Library, a monthly celebration hosted by Bookish Beck.

Monday Portrait meets Post from the Past

Ariège, Balkans, France, Laroque d'Olmes, Wildlife

With what joy we greeted the lizards we encountered on our recent Balkan Journey! How we miss the companions who shared our daily life in France, during the summer months, at least.

Here‘s what I wrote about them, ten whole years ago:

Summer’s arrived: well, this week anyway.  So from before breakfast until long after the evening meal we’re spending as much time as we can out in the garden.  And we have plenty of company.  Lizards.  Common wall lizards, podarcis muralis.  They are indeed spectacularly common here.  We have no idea exactly where they live, but there are plenty who call our garden ‘home’.  We’re beginning to get to know a few.

Easily the most identifiable is Ms. Forktail, she of the two tails.  She’s the only one we’ve been able to sex conclusively as well, because we caught her ‘in flagrante’ with Mr. Big behind the gas bottles recently.  And then the next day she was making eyes at a younger, lither specimen, and the day after that it was someone else.  She’s lowering the moral tone of our back yard.

Then there’s Longstump, who’s lost a tiny portion of tail, and Mr. Stumpy, who hasn’t got one at all, though it seems not to bother him.  Redthroat has a patch of crimson under her chin.  There are several youngsters who zip around with enthusiasm and incredible speed.

Longstump

In fact they all divide their time between sitting motionless for many minutes on end, and suddenly accelerating, at top speed and usually for no apparent reason, from one end of the garden to the other, or vertically up the wall that supports our young wisteria. On hot days like this  (36 degrees and counting) they’ll seem to be waving at us.  Really they’re just cooling a foot, sizzled on the hot wood or concrete.  Sometimes you’ll see them chomping their way through some insect they’ve hunted, but often they’ll step carelessly and without interest over an ant or other miniature creepy-crawly in their path.

‘Our’ lizards on their personal sun-loungers

Mainly they ignore one another, but sometimes there are tussles.  These may end with an uneasy standoff, or with the two concerned knotted briefly together in what could scarcely be described as an act of love.

Happy hour for Longstump

We could spend hours watching them, and sometimes we do.  But there is still a bathroom to build, a workroom to fit out, and a pergola to design.  The kings and queens of the yard have no such worries.  They can do anything: they choose not to.

First Theatre Festival: Last on the card

Festivals, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, Ripon

Have I really not taken a photograph since last Sunday? Apparently not. But my last snapshot is a good souvenir. It’s the final event in Ripon’s first Theatre Festival, and here we all are, all 500 of us, at Fountains Abbey, waiting for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream played by the spirited and energetic Illyria to begin.

For Brian’s Last on the Card challenge, I’m only supposed you show my last photo, and without commentary at that, but why shouldn’t I give you a flavour of Saturday in the Market Square, with its bands, its jugglers, its stilt walkers, its slapstick entertainers?

My choir was part of the Fringe too, and sang a cappella at the bandstand in the Spa Gardens bright and early on the Saturday. But I couldn’t take a photo and sing too. You can take multi-tasking too far.