I Spy …

The 5 year-old Rhinos class invited me to join their school trip. On the way back I was invited to play ‘I Spy’ by Jake.

‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with B.’

— Hmm, Let me think.

— ‘It’s bus, it’s bus! I got that one, so now it’s my turn! I spy with my little eye …’

From our Hotel Windows

Mrs Turnstone and I spent a few days in Scotland on the occasion of our son’s graduation. All our hotels were booked in advance from home. I’m sure you’ll be able to work out which ones were part of a nationwide chain and which were independent, if you join me in looking out of the bedroom windows.

You’ll also get an idea of the weather: we did enjoy sunshine each day. But then it did rain every day.  ‘What did you expect?’ said the first Scot I met once we were back home. ‘What did you expect?’ said the second Scot I met when we got back home.’ ‘Terrible bad summer’, said the people of the Highlands and Islands.

Edinburgh Park

Edinburgh Park

West Highland Hotel, Mallaig

West Highland Hotel, Mallaig

King's Arms, Kyleakin

King’s Arms, Kyleakin

Inverness City

Inverness City

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Airport

When Woodpeckers Don’t Peck Wood

My brother’s home is an old timber-framed hall house, rescued by him and his wife from impending ruin but now comfortable for humans, cats and bats. This year a new species moved in.

The space between the timbers is filled with painted fibrous panels, a number of which have had neat round holes drilled into the top right-hand corner – always the top right-hand corner – by woodpeckers. Just one hole is occupied.

Adaptable woodpeckers! I foresee starlings and sparrows occupying the spare holes if their requirements are less stringent than Mrs Woodpecker’s. Will my brother and sister-in-law get any morning lie-in if that happens?

More Guerilla Gardening

When T attacks his overgrown garden – neglected for years before he and K moved in this month – he’s a human bulldozer, while his father-in-law looks, identifies, wonders what to do with this or that. Hence I came home with two Kentish cob or hazel seedlings. The parent bush is many-stemmed and stands on the North side of the garden, a good six metres high. It also stands on the South side of next-door neighbour Ivy’s garden, blocking her share of sunshine.

A Winter’s job, coppicing the tree; today’s task was to rescue a couple of squirrel or woodmouse-planted seedlings and bring them back to be nurtured. And then rehomed. Nowhere around here is free of squirrels though, so the prospect of ever tasting a nut is infinitesimal. I’m sure I’ll think of somewhere. Perhaps one of them will serve as a singing post for blackbird generations yet to come, as the parent tree was doing this afternoon.

A moment observed

I can forgive myself for not recalling Edward Thomas in the small hours last night, but here he is, a century ago in Adlestrop, with blackbirds in the foreground and way away into the background. The birds’ greeting to the sun when the new dawn breaks here in Kent will be echoed, some 8 minutes later, by all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, as the sun’s rays reach out to them.

Edward Thomas’s Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.