16 October 2018

Everything is suddenly feeling very autumnal. For the first time since early spring, I decided to wear my hiking boots for my stroll around the lanes this afternoon. Good call: the heavy rain at the end of last week has made the going muddy in places. I like wearing hiking boots: it makes even the shortest of walks seem more of an expedition.

Someone had lit a large bonfire in the field behind the Lane Ends. For an anxious moment, as I rounded the bend and looked down from the top of the steep rise on Nook Lane, it looked for all the world as if the roof of the pub was on fire.

There seem to be more berries than usual this autumn. I passed one rowan visibly sagging under their weight, and the holly at the end of the bridleway was looking most festive. Even the Manor House elder was getting in on the act, and the transplanted hawthorns in our hedge have done us proud.

Some say a profusion of autumn berries is a sign of a long, cold winter ahead. Nonsense, obviously: it’s hard enough for the Met Office, equipped with supercomputers and scores of PhD-wielding meteorologists, to make accurate three-day weather forecasts; to suggest a tree can predict the weather an entire season ahead is romantic twaddle in the extreme.

Shutting the driveway gate this evening, I caught the distant sound of what I took to be a bike with squeaky brakes bombing downhill. As I listened more carefully, the noise resolved into the distant honking of geese. I scoured the sky until two high V-formations appeared from the west. There must have been about a hundred birds. The formations merged and split, then merged again, with the front birds occasionally peeling off to let some other daft sods take the lead for a change. They were so high, I had no chance of telling what species they were. Having said that, I’m pretty hopeless with geese, and might have struggled to tell what they were had they passed just a few feet above my head. But geese in autumn formation is always a wonderful, uplifting sight—especially so far from the coast.

A lone bat flitting beneath the canopy of the sycamore at dusk. I wonder where they hibernate.


17 October 2018

More geese this morning. Lots more. Another large formation heading east, following the Calder Valley. Little more than dots, they were so high. I’m always astonished how far the calls of flying geese travel.

I reckoned there to be around 300 to 400 birds. To check, I grabbed a photo on my phone and later counted the dots: 369, give or take. My skill at estimating flock sizes is evidently superior to my skill at identifying species of geese at altitude.


18 October 2018

· Wirral ·

I’m writing this on a picnic bench overlooking the Dee Marshes at Parkgate. I had a couple of hours to kill before meeting Carolyn, and the weather is absolutely glorious: sunny, still and crisp. The best sort of autumn day. So I’ve been sitting at the bench, writing about Charles Darwin and foxgloves and related matters.

A hen harrier flew past about an hour ago. Too far away to photograph, unfortunately. (Unlike the female hen harrier that flew past only ten metres away last week, just as I arrived at the marshes, with my camera gear still in the car boot! I swear it was deliberate.)

Bees and the occasional white butterfly. Curlews piping on the marsh. Rooks craa-ing all about. Some minuscule spiderlings have decided to use my camera bag and iPad as launch pads, parachuting off towards the marsh on gossamer threads.

It’s been such a wonderful morning, it’s astonishing I’ve managed to get any work done.

…Another welcome interruption. A kestrel just landed on a log on the marsh about twenty metres away.

{Later}
Carolyn and I took a walk along the edge of the Dee Marshes to Burton Point, then on to the Welsh border. This is nowhere near as impressive as it sounds: the official border is very much on the English side of the estuary. On our way back, we had a great view of a grey heron poised in the marsh grass.

Grey heron

19 October 2018

Jen’s mum’s driveway offers a delightful panoramic view across Hebden Bridge. I like to stand there, gazing down at the town for a few minutes before trying to spot our house, concealed behind trees way off to the right, high on the other side of the valley.

Hebden Bridge

The other weekend, I was rewarded with an extra-long gazing session as I waited for Rosie, Jen’s mum’s cocker spaniel, to dry off in the sun after the bath we’d just given her. I’m always surprised how difficult it can be to get my bearings viewing the familiar town from high up. You tend to think of towns as streets and shop-fronts. From up there, it’s all rooftops, chimneys, and skylights.

As I took in the bird’s-eye view, bang on cue, a shadow swept over me. I looked up to see a buzzard passing low overhead. It glided lazily out across the valley, gaining height but not altitude as the land fell away.

Buzzards are relatively rare in these parts. This is sheep- and grouse-country: large raptors are not tolerated. But there seems to have been an increase in their numbers over the last couple of years. I even saw a red kite last year, which delighted me no end.

The buzzard pivoted about its axis on broad wings, rolling to starboard, heading off over the canal marina. I watched as it drifted across the valley towards the wood below Dodd Naze. The last I saw, it turned sharply to the left, dropped to gain speed, then swept back up and disappeared into the canopy of a large oak.

Rosie came over for a fuss. As I tickled her armpits, it occurred to me how differently the buzzard and I view the valley. In all, its effortless glide from the house to the wood on the far side had taken less than a minute. The deep valley and town in between were irrelevant to the buzzard. The same journey on foot would have taken me a good 20 minutes, and would have been anything but effortless.


22 October 2018

With a sharp drop in temperature and strong winds forecast for the end of the week, I thought I’d better bring forward my planned photo-trip to the woods at Hardcastle Crags. The idea was to photograph autumn colours, not bare trees.

It was a delightfully sunny morning, but the bottom of the valley was in shade, so I headed up through the trees on the north side of the valley, looking for sunlight. I spotted a couple of jays hunting for acorns, and was almost deafened by the alarm-calls of nuthatches, initiated no doubt by my sudden(ish) lumbering presence. My stinking cold, which I’ve had for the last week, has reached the ‘chesty’ phase, and I was even more short of breath than usual as I trudged up the steep, slippery slope, burdened with a rucksack of camera gear and a tripod. Having grabbed a few shots/breathers on the way, I finally made it to the track along the tree-line, and headed west looking for views. I eventually came to the rocky outcrops with views across the treetops, and took some more shots, then continued along the track through deciduous trees, then pines, then down through more deciduous trees to Gibson Mill. On my way down, I became aware of having twisted my ankle, though I didn’t remember actually twisting it.

The sun was in completely the wrong direction (front and centre) for the classic/clichéd shot of the mill across the millpond, so I turned through 90° and took some nice shots of autumnal trees reflected in the water. I then clambered down the steps at the side of the millpond to take some slow-shutter-speed, tripod-assisted shots of the weir and river. In the process, I nearly fell arse-over-tit on the slippery boulders at the foot of the weir. As usual with photographs of moving water, I experimented with various shutter speeds. Also as usual, I discovered ⅛ second, or there about, seemed to work best.

Hardcastle Crags, autumn

Before limping back to the car along the riverside path, I grabbed a quick mug of tea, and a chocolate and walnut brownie from the Weaving Shed café at the mill. The mill prides itself on being off-grid, relying on hydro- and solar-power for its electricity, firewood for heating, and compost-loos for other essential business. If only every building in Britain could be equally sustainable. Unfortunately, few other buildings in Britain come with their own millponds, and are set amid 400 acres of managed woodland.

It was a lovely walk, and I captured some nice shots, but I really could have done without twisting my ankle.


23 October 2018

It was pretty windy as I lay in bed with a throbbing ankle last night. We always leave a bedroom window open, no matter what the weather. I love to listen to the wind as I lie in bed: it reminds me there’s still a whole planet out there going about its business.

Went for a walk around the lanes at lunchtime to see if some exercise would work wonders on my ankle. Bad idea.


27 October 2018

I sensed a presence behind me as I bent to unlock the garage door first thing this morning. Turning, I glanced back and forth through the half-light. Nothing.

I was about to turn back, when something made me look up. A shadow hung in the air above the field at the back of the house, about 15 metres in front of me and 15 metres up. A kestrel on a pre-dawn hunting expedition. It was too dark to make out any details, but the dim hovering silhouette was unmistakable.

There have been noticeably more kestrels around in recent weeks. I’m guessing it’s down to the shorter days. Fewer daylight hours mean fewer hours in which to hunt, so a larger proportion of them need to be spent in the air. I dare say the colder weather discourages the kestrels’ prey from roaming about too much, making the takings even leaner.

It must be hard work being a kestrel in the winter months.


31 October 2018

Following an annoying relapse of my almost-better ankle, I’ve been avoiding taking walks, which is hard. In the meantime, I’ve been looking through last month’s photographs from Anglesey.

I was pleased to end up with a couple of nice shots of terns this year. It always seems a bit touch-and-go whether I’ll see any terns in early September. Most of them have gone by then, but there are usually a few still around. Sandwich terns, mostly. Adults, usually accompanied by one or two of this year’s fully fledged, wheezing young. The wheezing seems to be the young terns’ plaintive calls for food. But it’s in both the adults’ and young birds’ interests for the young to learn to catch fish for themselves. They must pick up plenty of tips by following their parents and observing them in action.

Sandwich tern

One thing I’ve noticed watching terns fishing alongside their young is how the adult birds tend to pull out of far more dives than their offspring. I assume it’s an experience thing: the adults must realise the chances of a successful strike have changed for some reason—the target fish changing position, say—whereas the young birds seem far less likely to reassess circumstances and abort their dives. Such considerations no doubt contribute to the adults’ far greater success rate when they do actually strike at their target. Practice and experience make perfect.

I was pleased to see the adult birds occasionally yielding to the youngsters’ plaintive calls, feeding them with freshly caught fish. Building expertise through practice and experience takes time; in the meantime, the youngsters still needed looking after.

Sandwich terns

4 November 2018

Cats notwithstanding, I’m generally well-disposed to most species. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. Call it a hunch, but it seems to me biodiversity has got to be a good thing. Life’s rich tapestry, and all that. But I think I might have to draw the line at anthropophilic fungi of the genus Trichophyton.

On top of having a dodgy ankle at the moment, I’m currently going through one of my periodic bouts of athlete’s foot. Yes, that’s right: me… athlete!

The fungi that cause athlete’s foot serve no useful purpose, as far as I can tell. Not that species need to be useful to humans (or anything else) to justify their existence. No, I get that: I’m more than happy to live and let live; to let any species be, provided that species has the common decency to return the favour. Which is why I have a big problem with whichever species of Trichophyton is (or are) currently devouring the flesh between the fourth toe and pinky of my left foot.

As if devouring small bits of me weren’t inconsiderate enough, the tricksy bastards are making me ITCH! It’s almost unbearable refraining from scratching between my toes at times—even though I know scratching is exactly what the damn Trichophyton want. What easier way for fungi to spread their evil spores than by getting their hapless victims to relocate them while trying to relieve an itch? Parasites can be damn cunning at times.

As a general rule, I wouldn’t want to wipe any species off the face of the planet. Who knows, this year’s cheesy, flesh-eating fungus might be next year’s replacement for penicillin. But, seriously, if you need cast-iron proof the natural world wasn’t designed by a benevolent creator, look no further than anthropophilic Trichophyton.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to apply a liberal dose of fungicide.


6 November 2018

· Wirral ·

A good writing session this afternoon, sitting in the back seat of the car at the Dee Marshes. I just banged words into my iPad as if they were going out of fashion. It’s strange how a change of venue can help. That, and having spent several days researching my subject-matter. Sometimes it helps to work out what you want to say before actually trying to say it. Other times, banging out any old crap can work too. The important thing is to get stuff written.

I later took a short walk on the marsh. It was muddier than I expected—which I guess makes me something of an idiot.

Dee Marshes, Gayton

8 November 2018

Waiting to give Jen a lift home yesterday, I was listening to a podcast about dragons. Tales of these mythical creatures, which crop up in many cultures from Wales to China, must surely have been inspired by finds of mysterious, but very real fossil bones of extinct, giant, prehistoric animals.

As I gazed across the car park, I tried to envisage just how big certain dinosaurs would have looked against a modern backdrop. All very Jurassic Park. Idle thoughts of that sort can give you nightmares.

That night, I dreamt thousands of plesiosaurs were fishing off Pier Head in Liverpool. It was wonderful to watch them dolphining in schools. In my dream, I wondered what they were hunting. Perhaps the ammonites had made an equally miraculous return! Then, as Jen and I sat on a bench somewhere, another, extremely large, plesiosaur flew directly overhead. I remarked how much easier it was to appreciate the length of their necks when you could see their whole bodies like this. And then I woke up.

I’m sure any palaeontologist reading this would be quick to point out plesiosaurs were not, technically speaking, dinosaurs. But what do they know? In all their years of scientific study, have they ever managed to work out plesiosaurs could fly?

Plesiosaur fossil

9 November 2018

After a good night’s sleep, I woke an hour before the alarm this morning. I was instantly wide awake. I should have got up. But the glowing green numerals on the bedside table told me it was too early.

How strange it would be not to rely on clocks. Our ancestors managed to get by just fine without them for millennia. But now our days are, quite literally, determined by them. I’m in no way suggesting clocks are a bad thing. They do, after all, enable us to synchronise our lives with other people’s, thereby saving an awful lot of hassle and, well, time. But it’s strange I find the concept of not relying on clocks strange. Perhaps that’s an indication of just how useful they are. I mean, how could you possibly get up, go about your daily business, eat your meals, and go to sleep without clocks telling you when to do so? It just wouldn’t seem right.

So, why do I like the idea so much?


14 November 2018

· Dee Marshes, Gayton ·

Strange, rippled cloud-patterns over North Wales in the late afternoon. Then, at dusk, two lenticular clouds above the Clwydian Hills. Lenticular, meaning lentil-shaped (a tiny pulse that, from its shape and its Latin root, also gives us the word lens).

Lenticular clouds usually form above hills. Winds passing over the hills create turbulent eddies. Less turbulent, moist air passing above these eddies forms standing waves downwind of the hills. When the conditions are just right, the tops of these waves cool sufficiently to produce flat-bottomed, saucer-shaped clouds. Or UFO-shaped clouds, for the more sci-fi inclined.

Lenticular clouds

22 November 2018

· Malham ·

To mark Jen’s birthday, we’re staying a couple of nights in the Yorkshire Dales. Our plans, such as they are, revolve mainly around beer, pub grub, and cryptic crossword puzzles. This afternoon, however, we braved the mist and drizzle to make a circular walk up and around Malham Cove, the famous, magnificent limestone cliff. This is textbook limestone country. I mean that literally: Malham Cove is in all the textbooks.

Malham Cove
View from the top of the cove.
📷 More photos »

We spotted a couple of ravens at the top of the cove. I’m always astonished at their size. Far bigger than any of our other crows. Slightly bigger than buzzards.

The limestone pavement atop the cove features as one of our heroes’ secret campsites in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. Harry and Hermione enjoyed far more clement weather than we did, but we had a wonderful walk before drying off in the Lister Arms with a couple of pints and a crossword.

I could get used to this.


26 November 2018

A walk along the lanes to the local sub-post office to post some book-shaped parcels. On the way back, as I walked down the bridleway just below the house, a sparrowhawk shot out of the undergrowth and headed off low down the track in front of me. Without pausing to look either way, it hurtled across the road, and swooped round the corner of the row of houses opposite. It was clearly following a regular hunting flight-path, no doubt heading for a neighbour’s bird-feeder—then possibly our own.

Later, near dusk, about twenty thrushes flew overhead in loose formation. Mistle thrushes, perhaps with some other thrush species thrown in for good measure. I saw a flight of about 150 last week, as I stood looking out the dining room window. Such formations are one of the delights of autumn and winter as far as I’m concerned.


30 November 2018

As we drove up the hill shortly before sunrise this morning, we spotted a barn owl hunting in the field below the Farm. It was flying low over the tall, dense vegetation of the manure mound. The white undersides of its rounded wings flashed bright against the muted backdrop. A pair of crows were mobbing the poor creature for the sheer hell of it. I’ve never seen a barn owl around here before. There are tawny and little owls aplenty, and short-eared owls on the Moor, but a barn owl was a real, unexpected treat. I wonder if it’s taken up residence in the barn or one of the mistals at the Farm. Wouldn’t that be something?

A walk around the lanes late morning to mull stuff over. The low sun was casting a strong sidelight on what is, according to meteorological convention, the last day of autumn. Good photography weather. I took a few nice shots.

Back at the house, I spotted a brambling on the bird table. Beautiful little birds. I spent most of last winter keeping my eyes peeled for them in among the chaffinches, finally to be rewarded with my first ever sighting in late March. It looks as if they’ve arrived nice and early this winter. Hopefully I’ll be seeing a lot more of them over the next few months.

Male brambling
Male brambling (photographed last winter)

3 December 2018

I’ve been dipping into a number of poetry books recently. I’ve also been watching YouTube videos analysing matches from the recent World Chess Championship. It occurs to me poetry and chess have a lot in common: I love the idea of both; I admire their precision; and much of the time I find them completely impenetrable.

Of course, there is good and bad poetry, and there is good and bad chess. Were I ever sufficiently reckless to attempt either, I’m confident my efforts would fall squarely into the bad category. But telling the difference between good and bad is where my poetry-chess analogy begins to break down.

I don’t think I could ever look at a game of chess and tell an extremely good player from a merely competent one simply by following their moves. But when good chess is explained to me, as in the YouTube videos, I begin to appreciate just how talented the top players are. They really are very good indeed. Leagues ahead of the likes of you and me. (No slight intended.)

When it comes to poetry, however, I do usually have at least some unaided appreciation of what it is I’m reading. Some poems I get, but they do little for me. Some I really enjoy. Some remain completely impenetrable.

The problem is, even if someone were sufficiently patient to explain to me why an impenetrable poem is, in fact, very good indeed, I’m far from sure I’d be able to appreciate the talent behind it. Doubtless I would in some cases, but not, I suspect, in the majority. Indeed, the philistine in me would argue that good poetry shouldn’t need explaining. Isn’t the entire point of poetry to convey thoughts and feelings? To be penetrable? Well, perhaps not the entire point, but shouldn’t comprehensibility be at least a requirement? Poems aren’t cryptic crosswords. They aren’t chess puzzles. They shouldn’t require ‘cracking’. If you have something insightful to say, why not say it in language reasonably intelligent people can understand? To do otherwise seems to me to be missing an opportunity—or, in more extreme cases, far worse, to be trying to come across as cleverer than the rest of us.

I’m not saying poetry shouldn’t be challenging, but I often suspect poets I don’t understand are going out of their way to be obscure. Or perhaps they’re just bad poets.

Same difference, as far as this monumental philistine is concerned.


10 December 2018

Another walk to the post office with some book-shaped packages. The weather was still, sunny and spring-like, but it was fooling nobody.

Half-way there, I decided to head off at a right angle along a new footpath. New to me, at least. It was slightly longer than my usual route, but meant I would spend even less time on the road. The footpath took me through a couple of stiles that were most definitely not designed with people my shape in mind. It brought me out right next to the Post Office. One to add to my local list of snookies, as Ann used to call them.


11 December 2018

· Wirral ·

Being already in the area, on a whim, I took a trip to Hoylake on the north coast of the Wirral. I hadn’t been there for years. I love the seaside in winter, particularly its run-down, Sebaldian emptiness.

A few intrepid souls were exercising their dogs on the sands. There are few things happier in life than dogs on a beach. A curse on all killjoy councils that ban them!

I was surprised at the number of seabirds close to the promenade: dunlin, knots, redshanks, oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits, and an awful lot of shelducks. There were probably some other species in there too, but I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to waders. A couple of hundred cormorants were drying their wings out on a sandbank. Cormorant: from the Latin corvus marinus, meaning ‘sea-crow’. Sounds to me as if the Romans were as hopeless with corvids as I am with waders. The local cormorants were clearly the inspiration for the mythical liver-bird: the emblem of England’s true ‘First City’, far off across the Mersey estuary on the right.

The toy boating lake next to the lifeboat station was every bit as blue and empty as I remembered. Very photogenic, in a Martin Parr sort of way. So of course I took lots of photos.

Hoylake

14 December 2018

Venus was at her most Venusian shortly before dawn this cold and frosty morning, hanging high and bright in the sky above our gate.

A trip to the garden centre for a Christmas tree and a couple of sprigs of mistletoe. You make your own luck is my motto.

Mistletoe

A redwing was tugging at an enormous worm under the sycamore as I turned into the drive. My first of the winter. Redwing, I mean, not worm. Actually, come to think of it, both. Gorgeous little winter visitors. Our smallest thrush. Winter isn’t winter until you’ve seen a redwing.


17 December 2018

A walk to the wood with a pair of secateurs hidden in my camera bag. Yesterday, Jen decided the leaves on the holly tree in our garden weren’t spikey enough for Christmas decorations, and I could only agree. Hence my clandestine mission.

There were plenty of holly trees and bushes around, but none of them had any berries. Well, that’s not quite true: one bush had a few berries, but it was in a very public place, and I had no wish to be spotted nabbing a few precious sprigs. So I opted for some berry-less cuttings from a bush in a more discreet section of the wood.

I wonder why the absence of berries. Unlike many plants, but like us, holly is dioecious: it has distinct male and female individuals. Only the female plants bear berries—and, then, only if there’s a male plant nearby to fertilise them. I found it hard to believe all the hollies in the wood were of the same sex. Perhaps it’s just been a bad year for holly berries—unlike for hawthorn and rowan berries. Or perhaps the birds had got there before me. This struck me as far more likely, although I was surprised they hadn’t left a single berry apart from on the one bush.


20 December 2018

I could hear a little owl calling from somewhere nearby as I tried to get to sleep last night. Just one more advantage of always keeping a bedroom window open.

Feeling cold in the house this afternoon, I decided to cut some Christmas firewood in the garage. I used a combination of electric mitre-saw, axe, steel wedges, and lump hammer. As the old saying goes, when you chop firewood, you warm yourself twice.

Next to the mitre-saw bench is an old galvanised dustbin full of kindling twigs. As I was cutting through the huge, ugly chunk of wood from our former mantelpiece, out the corner of my eye I thought I saw something move in the bin. But, when I looked, there was nothing there. A few minutes later, I turned to see a house-mouse sitting on top of the kindling, staring straight at me. I guessed it was trying to work out what the hell all the bloody racket was about. I took out my phone to take a photo, but the mouse immediately scampered to the edge of the bin and disappeared into the kindling. I resumed my sawing. A few minutes later, it happened again. This time, as the camera-shy mouse disappeared into the kindling, I heard multiple excited high-pitched squeakings. Evidently, my friend wasn’t the sole occupant of the kindling bin.

I guess this confirms our belief that the evening scratching we’ve been hearing in the living room for the last few weeks was originating from the garage. There are gaps in the pointing in the garage wall, which are no doubt letting the mice through into the living room ceiling.

Perhaps the little owls have heard there are mice in the area.


24 December 2018

· Clwyd ·

After an evening on the whisky with Dad last night, and several text messages reminding her not to forget her hat or gloves this year, I turned up at Carolyn’s for my 31st consecutive Christmas Eve ascent of Moel Famau in North Wales, only to discover I’d left my fleece at Dad’s. Despite the thick fog, I decided to risk going without. Forgotten winter clothing is all part of the hopelessly disorganised tradition. As is taking a wrong turn at one of the roundabouts on our way there. We drove in a convoy of three cars. I was in front with Carolyn’s son, Aran (whom I tried to blame for the wrong turn); Carolyn followed with Hazel, Chloë, Chloë’s boyfriend, Max, and Minnie the Great Dane. Carolyn’s niece, Nikky, brought up the rear.

We were lucky: the dense fog lifted a couple of miles before we reached the hill. The weather was absolutely glorious. I was so glad not to be wearing a fleece!

The annual walk up Moel Famau is the closest thing I have to regular exercise. This year, I’m proud to report I didn’t get at all out of breath. Not that I think I’ve got any fitter, you understand; it’s just Carolyn and I gabbed so much, we hardly noticed how slowly we were walking. I’m sure everyone else did.

Moel Famau, Christmas Eve 2018

Up at the incomplete, ruined tower at the summit, we had our customary mugs of tea, mince pies, flapjacks, and biscuits, followed by the obligatory group-selfie using the trig-point as a tripod. Then we climbed up on to the tower to take in the panoramic view from Snowdonia in the west to the Pennines in the east. As we took more group photos, we were approached by a rather glamorous woman who spoke immaculate English with an accent I guessed to be either German or Dutch. She wanted permission to fuss Minnie. It turned out she was a Great Dane fanatic, whose own two dogs recently died. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but perhaps her mysterious accent was Danish! She was close to tears as she fussed Minnie. A couple of minutes later, she returned to take a selfie with her new best friend. I reckoned it would be a matter of months before she had a new great dane of her own.

Following the customary reminiscences about that time, all those years ago, when Carolyn and I took the wrong stile from the summit and spent hours lost in the woods, trying to get back to the car, we took the correct stile and headed down via our traditional, longer return route through the trees. When we got to the part where, until last year, we’ve always taken the wrong turn, I had to overrule everyone else by insisting I distinctly remembered turning left last year—even though my memories were far from distinct. Fortunately, to everyone else’s astonishment (and mine, if I’m honest), I turned out to be correct.

Roll on ascent 32!

📷 More photos »


30 December 2018

Ever since we moved here in the summer of 2000, I’ve been meaning to put some oil on the runners of our up-and-over garage door. This morning, the door finally refused to go all the way up, so out came the little red oil can. The job I’d been putting off for over 18 years took less than a minute to complete.

Putting the car to bed this evening, I came close to decapitating myself with our almost frictionless garage door.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m far from sure what it is.


31 December 2018

As I went to close the driveway gate in the pitch-dark this evening, I heard geese honking overhead. Lots and lots of geese. Lots and lots of honking. But I couldn’t see any of them. The natural world goes on, even when we aren’t watching.

To the Farm to see the new year in. Champagne and wine, nibbles, homemade crispy duck pancakes, and crêpes suzette. The most pancakey meal of my life, and typically excellent.

Rudi


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