open the curtains

and take a look out the window if you want to know what the weather's like


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Proper Cornish Bird Ar’ee?

chough3

(c) Nigel Blake

Up and out of the shelter of the dunes at Holywell the wind was sweeping Kelsey Head under a pearly sky. But when is it ever not windy in Cornwall?
Windswept, rugged, remote… words of such over-applied cliché that almost cease to have any significance either inland or on the coast in this neck of the woods. Cee and I were talking about ravens as we walked. They like that sort of thing – windswept, rugged, remote – last time we’d seen one had been at the top of a Cumbrian mountain. We wondered if we’d see any here, tumbling and cronking over the cliff-tops.
“What I’d really like to see is a chough”.
I pointed out that we’d come to the wrong side of the coast: since their self-initiated reintroduction to Cornwall in 2001 the iconic birds had taken up residence on the Lizard peninsula, which is as far south as you’ll get either in Cornwall or mainland Britain. Next time, we decided, we’d head over that way and see if we could spot any.

We walked into the wind and around the headland, the sea churning below us. Ahead was a smattering of jackdaws picking about in the grass. Two of them were larger than the rest of the group.
“What are those bigger ones there – could they be ravens?”
“No they’re not” I replied, “but look what they are…”
It was like we’d conjured them up, these two magical birds trying to disguise themselves amongst their smaller corvid cousins, unmistakable in their red stockings like they’d just stepped out of our imaginations or a book of heraldic beasts. We watched in near-disbelief until, aware of our scrutiny, or bored with their pickings, they flew off, flicking their fingered wings, a strange cazooing call that neither Cee nor I were expecting them to utter. Continue reading

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A Dragon for George


It is a truth universally acknowledged that very few of the English can tell you when the feast day of their patron saint falls. St George’s Day is of course, for anyone who doesn’t know, 23rd April: the day the saint was martyred in 303 AD. (A handy way to remember the date is 23-4.)

George was not English. He was a Greek soldier of Palestinian descent in the Roman army, and although he has become one of the most venerated military saints in Europe there is much fantasy and little solid evidence about what it is he actually did. He is most famous for the legendary slaying of the dragon, a part of his mythology that became entangled in his hagiography around the 8th Century and was brought back to England from the Middle East by Crusaders.

As a child I loved dragons. I vividly believed in their existence and was as disappointed to find out that they were actually mythical beasts as I was to discover that my country’s patron saint was most famous for dispatching one. Continue reading


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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Wordsworth

The Valley Garden, Virginia Water, Surrey (c) Craig & Jane Friesema

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.

Continue reading