Ragtag Saturday: A Red Kite.

Ah, could I see a spinney nigh,
A paddock riding in the sky, 

Above the oaks, in easy sail, 
On stilly wings and forked tail.

John Clare (c. 1820)
Paddock is an old English name for the Red Kite

Red kite (Wikimedia Commons, Arturo de Frias Marques )

Red kites, coasting lazily across the skies on gentle thermals – floating, free-wheeling, gliding – command our instant attention.  When we spot them as we’re walking, we can’t help but stand and stare, and relish their easy command of an immense sky.  It’s that forked tail that gives them away.

And yet these noble-seeming creatures exist mainly on carrion.  They’ll swoop quickly down to snatch roadkill – after the crows have helped themselves – and take it off to perch on some quiet tree to dismember and eat.  Sometimes we’ll watch numbers of them wheeling above just-ploughed fields, questing for worms and small mammals.

Young red kite perching in a tree (Wikimedia Commons)

They used to be a very rare sight indeed.  But about twenty years ago, and thirty miles from here, some red kites were released onto the Harewood Estate as part of a conservation initiative.  We lived in Harrogate at the time, and got so excited if we were near Harewood, by very occasional sighting.

Fast forward a few years, and the kites reached the outskirts of Harrogate: we’d even spot them above the town centre.  Later still, they spread onwards and outwards  – north, south, east and west.

Yorkshire red kite sightings 2018
(www.yorkshireredkites.net)

And this week, just this week, for the very first time, this is what I saw, above the house, keeping an eye on me as I hung out the washing.  I’m very excited by our new neighbour.

A bit blurred, this image. But this red kite was very high above me.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘kite’.

Ragtag Saturday: A Tracery of Twigs

It’s equinox season: that blessed time of year when day equals night, and when, for us, the days are getting longer.

The full moon. The equinox.

It’s transition time in so many ways. Those wonderful winter trees, their tracery of twigs and branches transcribed against the sky are skeletal still: but only just.

This morning, on my way out, I noticed tightly furled leaf buds, glossy and taut on shrubs in the garden. Two hours later, coming back, the tender leaves had burst out, tiny and delicate, waiting to be toughened up and to grow in the mild spring air. It was very windy too – hence no photos.

Has spring sprung?

A late afternoon sky over the River Ure, just before the equinox.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is Tracery.https://wp.me/p9YcOU-1ll

All photos apart from the first and the last one were taken walking through the parkland of Studley Royal, Fountains Abbey.

Ragtag Saturday: Rus in urbe in Andalucia

Rus in urbe.  Signs of the countryside in town.  We spent a lot of our time in Andalucia, particularly in Córdoba and Málaga, hanging over river bridges staring at bird life, or gawping into trees to see what we could see.  Here’s a bit of a rogues’ gallery….

Cormorants on the river Guadalquivir…

Egrets, ditto.

Herons – or perhaps always just the same heron?  Fishing, always fishing.

A poor swallow (Was it a swallow?  Help me, someone) trapped in the synagogue in Córdoba, endlessly flying impotently towards the light, the incontestably glazed windows.

Then it was parakeets.  We’ve moved to Málaga now.  We could hear them all the time, squawking in the palm trees.  But this pair had time to bill, coo and preen.

La Concepción Botanical Gardens were at the edge of town.  But still definitively Málaga.  I offer you turtles…..

…. toads…

and – not from the Botanical Gardens – the inevitable herring gull.

 

And if it’s red squirrels you’re after, you’ll just have to read my last post.

As usual, click on any photo to view full size.  This is my entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: rus in urbe.

Ragtag Saturday: a Temple, a Church, a Mosque, then a Church…

The Mezquita in Córdoba. It’s been a religious site since before recorded history. Ancient gods were worshipped here. Then the Visigoths came and built a church. Then, round about the 7th century, Christians and Muslims agreed to share this space, until the site was bought by Emir Abd al-Rahman in 784. This was the beginning of the vast place of worship we visited today.

When Córdoba was conquered for Christianity in 1236, the mosque became a Catholic cathedral. But it’s basically a gracious, imposing and immense Arab building with unsatisfactory Christian icing. To walk through the forest of Moorish columns, gazing upwards at Gothic ceilings is a slightly strange experience.

Spanish Muslims are petitioning for the right to worship here once more. With the Mezquita’s long-established history of shared worship and borrowed architecture, I hope they succeed.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge though, is ‘irridescence’. Let me show you a few irridescent details. https://wp.me/p9YcOU-zi

Take off in England: Land in Spain

In December 2017, I introduced you to my Spanish teacher Javi, and the parallels between his life and that of my daughter living in Spain. Fast forward a year, and Javi is still my teacher and our friend, and planning a treat. He’s taking Certain Selected Pupils (two of us anyway) and Malcolm to his home town of Granada for a week. He’ll not only be our tour guide, but will get us behind the scenes of his city in a way that only a native can.

He’ll introduce us to its Moorish history (the Alhambra, of course), and to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada. He’ll take us to his favourite haunts. We’ll eat together. We’ll meet his mum.

I can’t wait. On Saturday morning, bright and early, we’ll be at Leeds Bradford Airport, then airborne for Málaga, and Granada. Watch this space.

Todays’ Ragtag Prompt is ‘air’ https://wp.me/p9YcOU-vT

Ragtag Saturday: Asylum – from Kurdistan to Leeds

Ripon is a City of Sanctuary: one of many cities throughout the UK proud to offer a place of safety, sanctuary and support to those fleeing violence and persecution.

At a recent meeting of the group, an asylum seeker from the Kurdistan region of northern Iran told her story. I’d like to share it with you.

X is an intelligent young woman with a loving and close extended family. After school, she went to University to study, and met the man she went on to marry.

As they began their lives together, they began to question their Muslim faith. They took their doubts seriously. They looked at other world religions, like Christianity. They prayed, they read, they trawled the net in search of answers.

One day, their house was raided. They came home to find their computer taken, their books in disarray, and anything dealing with religion also taken. They knew they were in danger.

Family members rang up. ‘You need to go. Quickly. Don’t bother to get stuff together, or get your affairs in order. Just go.’

So they did. First of all, they went to Germany, then England, where they spent about a month in the prison-like surroundings of an asylum seekers’ detention centre. They were advised to find someone in England who would be prepared to act as a sponsor. Somehow, X’s father found someone in Sheffield, and that’s where they went next.

I don’t really know the next bit of the story: only that she spent a great deal of time under the care of the NHS before they ended up in Leeds. And that’s where they are now. After more than two years, their application for immigration status has still not been heard, so they live on their allowance of £37.75 a week each which covers everything apart from housing: their food, household needs, clothing, transport, fuel and heating…..

They’re intelligent and highly qualified – X’s husband is an engineer, she a business studies graduate, and both of them have learnt English from scratch whilst being here. But neither of them is allowed to work. They would like to. They’d like to be tax-paying and contributing members of British society. Instead they draw their meagre benefit and do voluntary work and eke out a precarious existence, not knowing what will happen next.

X has had a break. The University of Bradford has offered her a place, and a scholarship open only to asylum seekers to read for a Foundation year in medicine. She’s grateful to the NHS and wants to give something back .

I have no photos to illustrate this story. Instead, I’ve chosen a gallery of images from Unsplash to try to help us all imagine what she thinks of when she remembers the life she has lost in Iran: her family, the countryside and townscapes, the culture she has left behind. She must have complicated feelings: grateful on the one hand to be safe; fearful of the future; homesick for her family and former home, and the life she thought she and her husband were preparing for; excited by her new opportunity; worried about money – all the time, and about their asylum application.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is Sanctuary.https://wp.me/p9YcOU-nq

To view the gallery full size, click on any image.

Ragtag Saturday: Three months of trying…..

Maybe it’s time for a Zoë update. You remember Zoë. She was the baby granddaughter who couldn’t wait until her due date of October 25th, and frightened us all half to death by being born on August 7th instead.

She’s getting on for six months old now. Corrected though, she’s only just over three. She spent astonishingly little time in an incubator, was out of hospital before she hit 5 pounds in weight and has been doing well ever since.

All the same. In her early weeks, she did little but sleep, eat … and grow. Her milestones are those of a late October baby. She still spends a lot of time sleeping, eating and growing, but now she’s adding skills daily. She discovered how disarming her smiles could be. And now, she’s putting in energetic sessions trying desperately hard to biff at the toys hanging from her baby bouncer. Such an effort! But so rewarding when she lands the telling punch.

This is my contribution to today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt: effort.