Jay’s feather

23 June 2019

Took our houseguest, Rosie the cocker spaniel, for two walks around the lanes today. Approaching home along the bridleway during the morning walk, I spotted something shining electric-blue from a shaded patch of nettles: a topaz treasure in the form of a jay’s feather.

Jay’s feather

We had the patio door open all day so Rosie could go into the garden whenever she liked. This enabled us to hear curlews burbling from the nearby fields throughout the afternoon. There seem to be more of them about this year, unlike the lapwings, swifts, and swallows. And I still haven’t seen a wheatear.

Finished reading Robert Macfarlane’s very entertaining Underland. People who venture underground are an odd bunch. I well remember the cavers’ drunken antics at The Old Hill Inn near Ingleton, back in the day. I’ve visited a few show-caves and -mines over the years, but it takes a special form of insanity to enjoy crawling through cramped, wet passageways in the pitch dark. It’s bad enough going down into our cellar for some firewood.

Reading Macfarlane’s book brought back two suppressed claustrophobic memories. The first was in Shetland in 1985, when I foolishly decided to crawl through a low, narrow passageway between the twin walls of a prehistoric circular stone tower, known as a broch. I became trapped for a couple of minutes, and had visions of rescuers having to dismantle a protected ancient monument to retrieve a stout archaeology student who really should have known better.

Clickimin Broch
Sightseeing at Clickimin Broch, 1985.

The second was of the time I was given a tour of a nuclear-powered submarine visiting the Liverpool docks. I was shown the small cabin in which, in the event of an emergency, the entire crew was supposed to gather and await rescue through an escape hatch. It felt pretty cramped with just a handful of us in there. The idea of fitting the entire ship’s complement in there seemed preposterous in the extreme. I got the distinct impression the officer showing us around thought so too.


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