Category Archives: Autumn

Is Briskness all?

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Does anyone go mad from trying to keep up with advice from the healthy living czars? A recent one was that everyone should take at least a 20 minutes brisk – it must be brisk for the magic to work – most days in the week.

The day after reading it I took a walk of about 1 km with 2¼ year old Abel. Brisk it was not! We dallied and dillied. We hid behind trees, watched the trains go by, bought some tomatoes. We took them home and ate most of them. We did that slowly too.

I’d warrant that was a healthier walk for both of us than, say, my strapping him into the buggy and jogging for 20 minutes with a monitor on my arm.

Is there a monitor for fun?

Or love?

Festina Lente! Look it up, preferably in an old fashioned dictionary, but no doubt the web will tell you.

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Beside the Thames

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Last Autumn I wrote about a walk along the Thames near Richmond, with Belted Galloway cattle near the end of it. Today I walked from Waterloo to Lambeth beside a river confined by embankments, with light shipping passing by the Palace of Westminster and cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers and tourists in both directions along the path, not all looking where they were going.

One thing I was hoping to see, but only saw when I wasn’t looking for it – a cormorant. Picture this, if you will, flying past the Houses of Parliament; I was on the opposite bank.

In my youth anyone falling in the River might have died from poisoning. They even kept my little brother in hospital for observation after he fell into the Serpentine Lake in the park (and I had to go home on the bus in wet clothes after dragging him out).

There must be enough fish in the river to satisfy those greedy cormorants.

When my mother and I visited my brother in hospital on the following Friday he was happy to say goodbye. Dinner had arrived – fish and chips and it looked really tasty! He’s still very fond of fish and there are even herons along the Serpentine these days.

RSPB image, see: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/c/cormorant/index.aspx

27 October: Dylan Thomas’s Birthday.

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Mrs Turnstone and I find ourselves at the water’s edge in Wales. We should mark Dylan’s Birthday! These are the last three stanza’s of his birthday ‘Poem in October.’

And down the other air and the blue altered sky
        Streamed again a wonder of summer
                With apples
             Pears and red currants
     And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
     Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
             Through the parables
                Of sunlight
        And the legends of the green chapels

        And the twice told fields of infancy
     That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
        These were the woods the river and the sea
                Where a boy
             In the listening
     Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
     To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
             And the mystery
                Sang alive
        Still in the water and singing birds.

        And there could I marvel my birthday
     Away but the weather turned around. And the true
        Joy of the long dead child sang burning
                In the sun.
             It was my thirtieth
        Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
        Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
             O may my heart's truth
                Still be sung
        On this high hill in a year's turning.


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May each one of us find the child’s key to heaven that opened the gate for Dylan that day when he whispered the truth of his joy.

Views of Laugharne, where Dylan walked.

I hope you can listen to Dylan reading the poem here:

Designer Snail

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Working at the Glebe, working with flowers, we have ample opportunity to appreciate the little things. Like this snail, this ‘designer snail’ as Anne called it. Those stripes would make this shell a treasure if found on a Red Sea beach, but this snail was in the wrong place, eating the wrong plants …

I remember, years ago, reading an article where a science teacher was desperately trying to account for the very different shell patterns of this species in terms of Darwinian evolution; some even have no stripes at all. She seemed to be saying that they must be of some evolutionary benefit or they would not still exist.

Well, the humans at the Glebe admired the creature. But don’t tell the Jehovah’s Witnesses that we called it a designer snail!

Be kind to your hairy little friends

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Let’s make this a small picture for you arachnophobes! This is a plea to be kind to the spiders that cannot get out of the bath. It’s that time of year. Don’t try to scoop them up in your hand or a cup, just drape a towel so that one end rests inside on the bottom of the bath. Then she can climb out when she’s ready.

Of course, a true arachnophobe can then worry in case the hairy little creature is in the folds of the towel when you come to dry yourself…

The Lady of the Woods

 

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We are always talking about looking and seeing, here at Will Turnstone. When we took Abel out to the woods yesterday we found this invitation to look at Betula, the Lady of the Woods. Isn’t she lovely? Find one of her sisters near you and enjoy the sight.

Here is something I’ve been saving till the right picture turned up. This one is good enough to accompany this passage from Nan Shepherd’sThe Living Mountain’. A writer may reveal what the reader more than half knows, awakening joyful recognition in her audience.  I was reading to learn about the Scottish Highlands, but I discovered something all-but known about the birch I see as I open the curtains or come home: the birch. Here is Shepherd on p53:

Birch … that grows on the lower mountain slopes, needs rain to release its odour. It is a scent with body to it, fruity like old brandy, and on a wet warm day, one can be as good as drunk with it. Acting through the sensory nerves, it confuses the higher centres; one is excited, with no cause that the wit can define.

It’s always good to return home even from a quick walk to the shops. There is magic in fingering the keys as I approach under the lime trees – trees that may not flourish on Cairngorm but here share their bee-sung, scented glory every summer. Birch is wind-pollinated, needing no nectar, but its fresh-air scent, which I barely register even in wet weather, is part of coming home. I never realised till Nan Shepherd told me! And the blackbirds sing louder in the rain.

We occasionally berate the birch for its scattered seedlings, which occupy any bare earth and even take root in garden walls. As Rome fell away from Britain no-one removed the young trees, and the towns crumbled.

Not far from here at the derelict mine, a birch forest has sprung up on the spoil. Silver birch, I called it as a child – but it is pure gold in Autumn.

Do seek out Nan Shepherd’s book and see, hear, smell, feel with her.