It’s easy to write about a place you dislike. It’s easy to like writing badly about a place to which you attribute little value. My college tutor once suggested that a good way to write about somewhere you don’t like is to write it a love letter. So here’s a challenge for Valentine’s Day: find the place you care about least, and write about that.
Who could fail to appreciate your roads and your railings; your bedding plants and billboards; and best of all the fountains and the sculptures so mismatched and out-of-place as the buildings they were stuck between that they become fitting and perfect. The Granite Ball – hailed as the highlight of the town, with its own website described by its founder as ‘probably the dullest thing on the internet’. Continue reading
Last Monday it snowed. I thought that might happen if I specifically posted an article about it snowing everywhere else in the UK apart from where I was. I’d like to claim that’s why I did it, but in truth I was so delighted with the sunshine I couldn’t have wished for any other weather there and then. It didn’t snow much, just an inch or two stuck on the roofs, fences and our garden table. A quick walk proved the landscape to be underwhelmingly under-snowed-under, with no frost to rime the trees and little more than a sugar sprinkling left on the fields and farms of the surrounding hills. I came back home and scraped up all the snow in the garden to make the biggest snowman that I possibly could. Ten minutes later he developed a lean and his hat fell off. Before half an hour had gone by he’d broken in the middle. Continue reading
A vignette from the archives on theme of churches.
As it was set in early January I could only connect church with Christmas.
So I wrote about cake, as you do.
Two days until Christmas and the snow is just the icing on the cake. Literally. Outside the snow has mostly melted away or compacted to a slippery brown fudge, much less festive than the sugar and egg-white idyll of the traditional family Christmas cake. The scene is set with a plaster polar bear peeping out from frosty model trees at the foot of a marzipan hill. The hill is crowned with a two-inch plaster effigy of a church with a red brick square tower and bright stained glass windows in a creamy rendered nave.
A couple of miles away stands the real thing, postcard perfect on its hill-on-a-hill, though thankfully without any bears in the woods. Continue reading
Continuing with National Tree Week here’s something from the archives about a memorable tree from the garden of the house where I grew up.
Thanks to Blacktop Rain for reminding me of it (the article that is, I couldn’t forget the tree).
A long garden, defined by trees. The forked apple tree at the centre is the focal point that pulls the eye, the point to which all garden-doings seem to gravitate. Birds make it their stopover on route from hedge to hedge, like children touching base in a game of tag.
It marks the time, this tree, standing like a sundial in the centre of the lawn, its shadow marking out the hours, its changing appearance marking out the seasons. In winter it’s a bare framework, mushroom coloured and silvery, smooth on the newer branches, patched on the older trunk with flakes like burnt bark pastry. An ancient scar is filled with cement. Continue reading
Aston Ferry – Hambleden Lock – Remenham – Henley-on-Thames (where?)
25th June 2012 (the Regatta took place between 27th June and 1st July)
Aston Ferry is ferry-less. There is a puddle through the whole middle of the wishing gate. A heron lifts off from the near bank of the Thames. Greylag geese have two goslings, grey and lagging behind. Canada geese, four: strangely green-looking things like they’ve been rolled in lichen. Ducks are free-riding the fast flowing stream, or paddling sideways to the quieter eddies at the sides. Something garden bird-shaped makes a straight flight across from the water meadow to the tree-line on my left. Unremarkable in size and flight I catch a glimpse of its blue and orange. I haven’t seen a kingfisher for years.
Here the river is wide. Boats are forced to navigate through Hambleden Lock, which controls the flow through the gap between the west bank and one of three small islands in the curve of the river. Reaching out from the other side of this island and stretching diagonally downstream and across the river to Hambleden Mill on the opposing bank is the weir. The metal access bridge feels fragile and temporary – though I know it is both strong and relatively permanent – a utilitarian scaffold frame with narrow walkway, steel railings and gaps underfoot between the metal treads through which the river can be seen. It is a strange feeling to stand over the middle of the river, watching it, hearing it, smelling it, feeling it, all round you: through those railings and below that framework. I feel slightly detached, standing still above the full force of one of the wettest June’s on record gushing through beneath. Continue reading
15th April 1802, Ullswater, Cumbria
Dorothy and William Wordsworth set out for a lakeside walk after lunch. It was very windy, and they sheltered behind various props manmade and natural, spotting, among other things, a field being ploughed, some primroses and anemones, some cows. Oh and some daffodils. Dorothy writes it in her diary. Her brother uses this as a resource for a poem. The rest is history.
15th April 2012, Virginia Water, Surrey
I set out for a lakeside walk with my mum. It was very windy. Coming upon a division in the prescribed pathways we were undecided as to which to follow. We plumped for the middle way and found that the temporary sign To The Daffodils does not deceive: we soon espied them
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
fluttering and dancing in the breeze.