Friday, April 27, 2012

human and landscape

A stone cockerel, chunky rather than delicate, and apparently wearing wellies, sits on a chimney pot not far from the garden wall.  We almost miss him as we wander by.

Two tree stumps, carved into mushrooms, stand in leaf litter near the water’s edge. One of the felled trees lies nearby. An art project linked to conservation? Is this a habitat for insects with added humour for humans?

The Old Hall, out on a limb at the waterside for the last forty years – we can hardly believe it’s lived in, but there is a car – plans to squat will have to be put on hold.

A stone woman stands in the back garden of a magnificent house. The track beside the lake allows us to be peeping toms – it’s a cold day to stand there in all your naked glory, even if you are made of stone.

Then the rain begins, and the red and white outsized umbrella comes into its own – a splash of colour on a drear day.

shapes the landscape
and still it rains

This is based on a recent walk .

Thursday, April 26, 2012

bluebells and birdsong

The bluebells are not yet in full blue bloom, but they’re close. Wet weather has damped down the scent, but it’s just about perceptible. In a week there’ll be a tide swell of blue on the hillside by the water. Early evening after a sun-warmed day shows them at their best.

The rain has brought a sharpness to the bird-song today. We hear a bird singing a tune, almost a recognizable tune. He sings it over and over. The only bird we see is a great tit. Later a chaffinch perches on a twig singing loud and clear. They are not the only songsters, merely the most striking.

rain enlivens
colours and sounds
but we stay dry

We're thrilled that we have avoided a soaking. One swift shower blows over in minutes. 

can be overrated
a wet banket

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kinder Mass Trespass - 1932

I lie in bed. Listening to Radio 4, unwilling to get up just yet.  Then I hear a news item: ‘‘Today is the eightieth anniversary of the Mass trespass of Kinder Scout’. 

In 1932, working class ramblers from Manchester and Sheffield walked on to previously forbidden areas of the grouse moors and took on the gamekeepers.

in hard times
from factories or dole queues
head for the hills

Although five of them were put in prison for up to six months, the trespass was the beginning of greater access to uncultivated land in England, and helped prepare the way for the first National Park in the Peak District in 1949.

Even today there is a campaign to make England’s coastline accessible to everyone, and people are concerned about the effect of new planning laws.

walk wild places
the pioneers

Monday, April 23, 2012

wet weekend

I had a pretty lazy weekend, sitting around, watching the rain, reading a bit, surfing the net awhile, and writing not a lot.

I took a couple of very short strolls around the village, snapping shots of heavy skies shot through with light, and big puddles on a track, but nothing to rave about.

I was caught in a hailstorm, and as usual had neither hat nor umbrella. 

We watched TV - one football match, but Barcelona lost to Real Madrid! We watched David Hockney talking to Andrew Marr about paintings. On Sunday we watched ‘As You Like It’ , performed brilliantly at the Globe, and it was a lot racier than the version I studied at school when I was thirteen.

a quiet weekend
no long walks, little housework
no parties – but good

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wed 18 April - school walk and allotments

I wake to the sound of rain on the skylight, but it soon stops. So I decide to walk the mile to school with six-year-old Isaac, rather than take the car. 

He shows me the way, and tells me which roads are busy.

As we reach the school playground he speeds up, and heads for his classroom.  No time for goodbyes.  A nod from the teacher – we both know he’s there now.

usual routine
with a different adult -
all grown up

I wander back through the wet streets – I don’t know this part of Leeds very well, but I relish the northern accents I hear around me.

I walk back past the allotment gardens, which slope down into the valley.  There are long waiting lists for allotments now, and they are all used – with carefully constructed compost heaps, raised beds, and plots prepared for the new crops.

Twenty years ago no one bothered to grow vegetables, apart from a few enthusiasts, eccentrics and old men. 

Some plots still have the ramshackle look – nothing too humble to be reused.  Others are equipped with purpose-made cloches, greenhouses and water-butts.

allotment gardens

come into their own

after the lazy years.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

driving in the rain

I drive south on the motorway with lights on and rain spray everywhere.  I turn the music up loud to compete with the swish and roar.

fast windscreen wipers
metronomes for marching beat
on the radio

Suddenly, nearing Leicester, the sky lightens, and the rain eases. Now I’m happy to stop for a break.

noise, excitement
drives us onward -
can we step aside?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gledhow Woods

Another city, another walk –  Gledhow Valley  Woods. I’m told they’re infested with rats, but on a sunny afternoon after showers the rodents are not in evidence.

Thirty yards away from the path, I hear tyres and humming engines on the road, a constant background noise.

Birds call incessantly– they caw, they coo, they chirrup in the as yet unleafed trees.
I see my first bluebells of the year, not quite fully out, but lots of them on the steep hillside and their scent is beginning to emerge.  Delicate wood anemones, and bright celandines stud the woodland floor.

spring flowers
grow below leafless trees
oasis of sunlight

Sunday, April 15, 2012

ISS - just before 2200 hours

from west to east
high and bright in starlit sky
ISS glides by


Mid-April. Blue sky, bright sun, hail like mini-marbles, cold wind and warm sun again. 

In the woods we kneel on damp earth to smell primroses and violets.

From the café window we watch chaffinches in their elegant slate-blue and pink courtship plumage.  Robins, greenfinches, goldfinches and several varieties of tit flit from feeder to bird bath to table.

it's colder than March
but the cycle of life
keeps turning

Friday, April 13, 2012


Harry takes the telescope out in the garden – it’s fairly dark away from the streetlights, and the sky is clear.
Saturn is just above the roof. He adjusts the eyepiece and sets it up so that I can look. I can never quite believe that this planet, with its clear rings, is real.

through the lens
a magic cartoon planet
I laugh in delight

art meets life meets art

We have a sandwich in the canal-side pub – there are pictures on the wall. One of them catches my eye – it’s clearly a view of the nearby locks and bridge, but I can’t get it to work in my mind.

We walk outside and try to find the viewpoint. 

the vantage point
halfway up a flight of locks
but off to one side
the artist has hedged his bets
and yet he tried

imperfect picture
perspective shifts, colours wrong
gives me a foothold

Thursday, April 12, 2012

folk memories?

Walking in this part of the world – Eastern East Midlands,  almost East Anglia, takes us past some strange places. 

There are abandoned farm buildings, where the imagination recreates lives and invents stories. 

Airfield sites from World War Two with buildings still more or less intact survive behind wire fences, sometimes reclaimed as farmland, or for industrial use, and in a few cases turned into autodromes.

harsh buildings
evoke folk memories
things I never knew

swallow and summer

I watch a swallow
swooping round a muddy field
not summer yet


a single swallow
swooping round a muddy field
does not make summer


a single swallow
swoops round a muddy field
it's not yet summer

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pitsford Water circuit

Since I was most certainly not 'in the haibun vein', I offer this ginko - a series of haiku about a walk:

10 .30  am
cars unload people
bikes, boots and backpacks

human sundial
I am the pointer 
time to go

seven sunlit miles
around the water
though the wind blows cold

cowslips bloom
swans swim on the lake
kestrels windhover

JCBs cart stones
to reinforce the banks
water or fishing

the last two miles drag
i could touch the car park
but the path turns away

baguettes and coffee
deferred gratification
nearly 1 pm

Monday, April 09, 2012


Rainy Monday. 

In the kitchen they’re making scones.

Joseph is standing in a wooden box, specially designed to hold him safely at a height where he can see what’s going on. Rather better than the old kitchen chair I used to use.   
He’s not yet quite capable of measuring and mixing, but he’s pretty hot on the quality control.

taste the mixture
then cook in the oven
leave some for me

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Rolling eggs

On Easter Sunday morning we drive south, to see our daughter, son-in-law and grandson. The roads are fairly quiet. In the afternoon we take a picnic to a small hill outside Lyndhurst. An essential element is the hard-boiled eggs to decorate and roll down.

This tradition is growing popular again - as we walk up the hill we see scattered egg-shells, and scavenging birds.
A family group runs laughing down the slope, following the brightly coloured eggs.

It takes our young grandson a while to cotton on - he prefers chasing to rolling.

toddler in pursuit
coloured eggs roll downhill
he clutches one tight

Saturday, April 07, 2012


A narrow road leads from the stately home, uphill to the five barred gate and cattle gridded entrance.  The fields alongside are sown with oil-seed rape. The flowers are beginning to show.  In a couple of weeks the plants will be chest high, brash and boastful and highly scented, the scourge of hay-fever sufferers.

At the base of a telegraph pole, I spot a different yellow – three tulips.

margarine yellow flowers
and butter tulips

Cleaning of boots

I decide to clean my walking boots, rather than let them fester muddily in the car boot.  This involves scraping sticky clay with a trowel, then scrubbing each boot in warm water that I’ve already used to clean my ‘gaiters’ – an item I used to consider something of an affectation. I’ve recently discovered how practical they are. There’s no need to wash my walking trousers after each excursion, just brush off any mud splashes above the gaiter-line. 

In case you think that just goes to show how much of an idle scruff I really am, I should explain that the trousers are shower-proofed and need a special hand wash, and drip-dry.  I do change them and air them when I get back from one of my trudges, as my other half calls them.

I don’t use soap for my boots, just scrub them, and then pour the water on to the soil, and hope it helps stave off the drought we’re suffering in this area. Ironically, of course, the very day the hosepipe ban comes into force is the day we have twenty-four hours of rain.

Hosepipe ban in force
It rains for a whole day
Use with care

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hot cross buns and Easter eggs

Friday 6 April

I read about hot cross buns – I've thought about making some.

I even look at a recipe for the ‘perfect’ hot cross bun.  Huh, she’s used fresh yeast! Where do they even sell that?  Huh, she left the dough to prove overnight! Talk about organized.
Not gonna happen, not with me.   Next year, some time when I get my act together, or regroup my multiple strands.

road out of hell
imagine superwoman
making do

So – plan B.  I get in the car, drive to the supermarket.  The panic’s started – the shop will be closed on Sunday. Two or three days a year and we can’t cope with the anxiety.

Yeah, while I’m here I’ll buy a few Easter eggs too.  Not that I’ve arranged to meet any of the family this weekend, but best have a couple in reserve for next time I see them.  The Easter egg aisle is hoaching, as they say in Scotland.

As I walk back out, I hear a security guard say, ‘It’ll be packed in here tomorrow, just you wait and see!’

holiday time
panic buying
or we may starve

Lambs - haibun

(Thursday 5 April)
Three of us walk through the fields of young crops, along muddy footpaths.  Four miles in, and I’m hungry.  We look for a suitable spot to park ourselves – there’s a mound with trees, and a couple of stumps. That’ll do.

Our backs are to the wind, and I change my ‘buff’ to balaclava.  A biscuit or two. Coffee fresh from the flask.

This field is full of sheep and tiny lambs.  Lots of them are lying down. The chill must have come as a shock after the warmth of the week gone by.

Perhaps this mound is an ancient burial mound, we joke – more likely a folly to entertain the family at the Hall close by.   We wander over to look for an entrance.  A hollow tree draws us – a magnet for children and the curious.  Inside there’s a tiny corpse – a lamb.  We feel sad for a life so short.

a few months
to gambol in green fields
before the table

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Rain after dry weather - haibun

The rain which has been threatening arrives just after lunch. I dash outside to help my friend bring her washing in from the garden. It’s already dried, but now the clothes are dotted with damp splodges - still worth the effort since a couple of hours on the airer will leave it ready to put away or iron if need be, instead of sodden and dripping on the line.

I drive home to the swish of the windscreen wipers – earlier I’ve cleaned dust from the glass, thinking it would cause glare in the sunlight. 

dry weather dust
raindrops on the windscreen
wipers work hard

Another cup of tea – the hasty tea-bag variety – and I wander upstairs to the computer. I hear an odd sound and look out of the window. 

There’s a girl, aged about eight, sitting on the sill of her bedroom window, legs dangling. The window is just above the garage roof, a very short drop. She’s singing, not the greatest tune, but I decide it must be rain-madness after a couple of weeks of dry weather. I think of myself at her age, and reckon I’d have been dancing on the garage roof. In New York kids’ upstairs rooms have to have safety bars. Just as well.

change excites
children enjoy
a sense of danger

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Newton Rebellion

In June 1607, a thousand peasants gathered here.  They were protesting against the landowners' enclosure of common land.  Forty of them were killed, and the leaders later hanged and quartered.  The body parts were displayed throughout Northamptonshire as a deterrent to others.

I drive round to my friend’s house – it’s the first time I’ve seen her since I returned from the States.  Today we’re going to take a short walk – the magical weather of March is threatening to break into serious April showers. I know we need the water, but it can wait a couple of hours.

We pass tiny Shetland ponies who nuzzle their gate in hope, but we have nothing to offer but photographs. 

An ancient dovecot, which must have provided many a good meal over the years, stands alone in a field.  

The old church is outside the village, and was the scene of a bloody episode in 1607.  Peasants rose up in protest as local landowners took the common land and enclosed it.  A thousand gathered and the landowners’ army killed forty

More were taken prisoner and held in the church.  The leaders were hanged and quartered, and the quarters displayed in towns across the county to warn others.

an old church
by a field with a dovecot
once not so peaceful

Monday, April 02, 2012

Monday morning walk

After a month of haiku-a-day, some of us on WD are moving on to a haibun-a-day.  I'm no expert, but it seems that it's basically a piece of prose, with haiku to illuminate, provide focus etc.  This is actually posted on my walks blog as well:

A walk arranged with the usual crew, a stroll not a march in April. We amble along the dusty track, through the gate, down the hill, over the four-stile obstacle and up the field, through the new gate that has replaced the decrepit stile and down to Kirby Hall where the gift shop is open early for Easter holiday visitors, convenient for a very early coffee stop. A peacock greets us, but refuses to display his many-eyed tail, even in the presence of a pale peahen.

We go up the hill to the road, and cross. Our path leads us to a building site. Yet more commercial development – for all the jobs that are coming this way some time in the future. Further on is the race-track, another ugly scar, which promised the earth – you can’t fight progress and money.

After a brief stop to eat bananas, we walk along past the new composting plant – the smell is not bad just now, but can be ferocious in the summer. The path is clear, apart from one field where the farmer hasn’t made it good – we know where it should be and head straight across, though, in a few weeks, we’ll be forced to walk round.

Two and a quarter hours, about five miles and we’re home and dry in time for another coffee.

a familiar walk
but everything changes
a constant complaint

too busy chatting

wrapped up in ourselves
up there were skylarks

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Tom's 21st

Saturday night

tonight we partied
for Tom's twenty-first
I forgot earth hour

Tom’s parents hold a party for his twenty-first birthday. 7lb 1 oz, April 1st 1991, 2.38 am. We’re pleased we’re not expected to stay up until the minute, and the cake is cut before midnight. They pass round a scrapbook from when he was a scrap, through early artistic and literary efforts, school reports, dressings-up, travels.
He’s happy to play the fool, but his future promises more than a fool’s paradise.
Good luck, lad, and many happy returns.

twenty-one candles
shaped like champagne bottles
with edible photo

Harry's limerick (aided and abetted by me, Anne and Dave):

There was a young fellow named Tom
who embarked on a filmic sit-com
although quite aghast
at the size of the task
he carried it off with aplomb