Archive for January, 2013



I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Sheeley

photo source:


Snow Business … at all!


OK … Ok … So, I confess, it’s not even at the allotment – but there is a barrow (look closely and you’ll notice I have had to re-place the original handles with some re-cycled timber … which part of your barrow fails first; and what do you do about it?)

These next few pictures are of the plot
I actually went up there to have a quick security check and to try and find some woodlice for my day-job (they will not be harmed, but may be re-homed).

In November there were countless hordes of them under the covers on the two compost heaps – today I could only find two.

BUT, bright side, in moving planters, timbers, water butts and other possible things woodlice might be settled beneath – I found two – and uncovered the sleeping places of a number of slugs and snails. It reminded me of a marvellous conversation I had (no, really) In Kielce, Poland with a German allotment holder who collected these varmints up in a can, cycled two or three miles away and emptied them out on the side of the road. Me? I just left them uncovered, food for birds, return to new shelter or exposure to the frost. Sorry guys!

The ground is absolutely saturated, will be more so when the snow thaws and our compost heaps are properly soggy: I could literally squeeze liquid from handfuls of the stuff!

So, came home to a little bit more seed packet counting and watching the space I will be using to chit the potatoes.

26th January, 2012.

Places Change


Places change when snow falls. Not just the views, but something much deeper too. Sounds damped, carry further. Traffic is slowed, perspectives altered because depth cannot so easily be discerned. Cleaner. Astonishingly so. Colour, so banally usually taken for granted is stolen, replaced with white, greys, shade and lack of line as shape merges with shape
Distances alter too. There’s somehow more to notice, more care to be taken, for each and every ten paces. Balance becomes a to-be-learned –again art.
This snow, expected, predicted, fell so duvet-deep so quickly – the changes were rapid. For nigh-on three days the air has been filled with falling flakes: small and moist, large and swirling or almost invisible. Black on white silhouettes if you looked upwards to see them against the pale grey skies, white on white as they settle towards the ground. The sky itself a uniform near-white plane of cloud; no distinction between the base of the sky and roof or tree line.
Snow falling irresistibly, hypnotically during daylight; flakes blurring photographs, frustrating captures. Snow falling backlit by dandelion yellow sodium streetlights in the darkness. Inaudible percussion strangely reassuring.
And, keeping my resolution in such delightful circumstances I have walked each of these three days. With waterproof trousers, Brasher boots and two cameras. Walks that are easy enough in summer, but leg-burning challenges in the past ankle deep snow and
winds. Exhilarating, tempting to go just a little further … what will the bridge down Watery Lane look like ?
Followed by curious robin on the sunken path between double hedgerow. I believe he (or she) was looking for me to unwittingly uncover food that lay beneath the leaf litter below the snow. Flown away from by woodpigeons resting in the ivy curtains that sheath the tall hedges. Noticed by blanketed ponies sheltering in hay-bale corners, ignored by jackdaws.
In lighter snow before lunch I cleared the driveway, Tipping near eight inches of snow from the roof, windscreen and bonnet of my ever-suffering car with a soft yard brush.
This evening, though my brain refuses to accept the fact … it has stopped snowing. My eyes, having become accustomed to falling snow seem determined to see it even when it is not there.
I will miss it.

21st January, 2013

Bird Table Blizzard

We have had heavy and persistent snowfall here since Friday lunch time – big snow, sticking snow, snow-that-closed-Birmingham-International-airport snow!
Yesterday I went out and replenished the bird feeding station and went further out and bought in extra supplies.

This morning when I got up – no activity, but suddenly at around 9.45 a.m. the kaleidoscope began to turn. So quickly! Birds were appearing as if fired from a machine gun!
Species I have not seen until this morning. A blackcap, a lesser spotted woodpecker (admittedly this one just transited along the bottom of the garden), and a flock of finches. This end of the garden became a whirl, birds fluttering from cover (pieris, rhododendron and teasel) onto the swinging feeders. Greenfinch, very aggressive towards the house sparrows – and each other. Sometimes content to grub the fallen and falling sunflower seeds from the floor (knocked out by their manic flock members), sometimes vying acrobatically for a space on the hanger. A placid chaffinch couple, content to let their hyperactive “cousins” attract all the attention. Then, amazingly a brightly coloured pair of bullfinches. I have seen a number of these in the double hedge on the path to the brook, but here in the garden?
A little worrying; I remember a line from Ted Hughes “What is Truth”:
“Aren’t bullfinch lovely birds?
It depends if you prefer to see apples or birds in your trees …”
This pair balanced for a few minutes in the honeysuckle bound Conference pear tree, then skipped into next door’s garden. But they are big, powerful looking birds.
Blue tits, great tits – completely ignoring the peanuts and fat balls especially there for them.
Starlings – a gang appears like Hell’s Angels, the other birds react quickly, retreat, then start to return. The starlings are just too busy feeding to care.
Black headed gulls fill the skies, swooping ever lower, almost but not quite tempted into landing. A little higher still – herring gulls course the air, below lead grey skies.
A song thrush is suddenly on the edge of the bird house, speckled breast clear and beak quickly busy.
A pair of robins, both very scarlet chested seem to have suspended territorial hostilities during the fierce weather and share the bird house gracefully: one on and feeding, the second in the laurel – or is this an early pairing?
Mice, perhaps driven inside by the bad weather (or just un-noticed until now) have been snacking on the remaining apples harvested from the allotment and stored in boxes in the garage. I sort out the apples: some into the fruit bowl, the rest go onto the garden for the thrushes – if they can find them!
It did my heart a power of good to be here when so many different species visit, I am glad they came, but wonder how, suddenly they knew where to come – do birds keep a check out for such “pit-stops” or pass on information in joint roosts?


Bullfinch photo from Keith Burtonwood
20th January, 2013

Just Thinking: Short Journey Snapshot.

Driving from the rural into the town, before you reach the golf club there are pasturelands. They roll and dip in the way that pasture land habitually does and I am reminded of something a committed organic farmer once said to me:
“When you buy land, you also buy the water it brings, or the debt to supply the water it will need.”

I am not sure where the thought came from: it’s funny, but very human, the way that thoughts will fizz, like unexpected fireworks – that either startle or entertain – while we think we’re thinking about something else.

The something else, actually, was the way the early morning fog/mist lies n the dips of the land. My inner-poet is thinking it maybe last year’s dying breath and hoping to create something around that thought.
The cattle, placid Friesians, in the field, rendered legless by the phenomenon, chew contentedly enough on the cud – how very bovine!
But, driving home this evening, same journey, just in reverse, I am intrigued by the way the fog has risen. This morning it nestled in hollows as close to the ground as game-bird possible. This evening it seems to be doing it’s higher-than level best to creep up the lamp posts to cling to the sodium lights (newly installed energy efficient bulbs, I believe to cut costs and light pollution, as if scared of being stranded in the darkness. It hovers above the roofs of cars, smearing the pumpkin yellow of the bulbs in an attractive fashion, perhaps attempting to conceal the truth – or at least make it palatable – that temperatures will drop below freezing point tonight.

Keep warm spiderlings.

The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

Ted Hughes

“Take Me To Your Leader …”

Close Encounters: The Re-Make.

No plans for the trip up to the plot today. Just a look around, general tidy up maybe. Being especially careful to check the levels of the water butts so frugally placed under newly installed drought-busting guttering and down-pipes last February-ish. Thank you, government for discussing drought measures; predictably it hasn’t stopped raining since then …
Actually not completely correct. The days this year (2013) have been characterised by high temperatures (8 to 10 Celsius) and clear blue skies.
But once there… hey, let’s empty the compost bin, in readiness for starting again. The sunshine always has an energising effect somehow, doesn’t it? Drop the nicely matured contents on the dug soil for top dressing. Ah, slight hitch … dug soil?
Some furious digging later … Ok empty the bin. Drag in some of the bark chippings (mainly shredded Christmas trees by the look and smell of it – does nobody wait until sixth night any more? -)to put in as base.
Dig a few more rows ..
What’s that?
I don’t remember planting anything in this stretch of ground, but there’s something here. Fleshy branching roots … bit like mooli radish, but they are definitely in another spot.
I dig the intruders up, and seem to hear something in my head. A little like language, but deeper, more earthy and other-worldly. I catch something like movement from the pile of roots. The things are trying to communicate with me. I have to concentrate hard.
Seems they are visitors from another planet on the edges of our knowledge. They come in peace, try to disguise themselves by hiding and/or camouflaging their appearance. They are genuinely concerned that, generally we earthlings seem to react so violently to their introductions and with what they believe may be barbaric and ritualised slaughter. They hope it is down to mis-communication rather than hostility and explain to me that their early attempts to mimic our language may be to blame.
“Hello planet dweller, we come in peace …” may well have been taken as “I taste much better covered in honey and placed in a roasting dish” their linguists have postulated. Or “I am a healthy ingredient of winter stews”.
They are now developing their shape-mimicry skills so as to be able to attain the shape of a roughly-humanoid form, in order to overcome this difficulty – they do not believe that advanced species will treat something that has the same shape in such a dreadful fashion. One of their party shows me how close they are getting to reaching their goal.
"Take me To Your Leader"

In discussion with their Chief Officer, whose name is best represented as Pastinaca Salvita in our – to them – clumsy alphabet I suggest that the proportions come from warped data set; that their research team have been too transfixed by the Conan-the-Barbiturate genre of film-making, and possibly, er pornography. At first he seems to fail to understand. Their species has a three-sex reproduction cycle after all. But when he grasps the significance he promises, his whole-body blushes making him glow like a mutant beetroot, an in-depth internal enquiry and, perhaps even dismissal to a lower caste.
In the interests of science and inter-planetary relationships I take some photos.
So deep am I in this telepathic communication I fail to hear Keith, one of the other allottees approaching. I stutter unconvincingly for a moment – but he doesn’t seem to notice. He seems unable to sense the language, but spots the subject of my photos quite quickly.
“Hey up,” he says, smiling broadly, they look weird, but I bet they would taste just great in a goulash, or roasted. Any going spare?”

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