It’s years since I rode a bike. In fact I wonder if I still can, though I do remember the precise moment when I first mastered the skill and forward momentum suddenly happened. Just like that – after hours of wobbles and falling about. What a sense of freedom. And so I’m thinking if I had a handy beach I might well give it another go. Softish surface to land on for one thing. But what joy to whizz over tide-washed shores, sea wind in one’s face, gulls wheeling in their own particular way.
Looking at this photo now I’m beginning to feel envious of this unknown cyclist caught plying Newborough sands a few Christmases ago.
The gardener travels hopefully, always looking ahead. It is the only way to go. But then there are also always ‘the now’ activities, the planning, preparing, nurturing, harvesting, recycling, whichever is appropriate at any given point in the cycle of things.
Knowledge gained from past endeavours – the successes, failures and ‘could-do-betters’ – also informs the way forward. There can be neuroses too prodding you along – is now the right time to sow for the best mid-summer crop? Will this variety or that one provide the best tasting produce/be easier to grow/need staking or otherwise managing? Is it warm enough/too wet/too cold to plant the seed potatoes? What can I do this year to fend off pea moth/allium beetle/slugs/pigeons/carrot fly? What measures can be taken in case of drought/flood/heat wave? What else can be grown to extend the cropping season? What will best dry/freeze/be otherwise preserved over the winter? Shouldn’t I be making more compost/collecting more leaves/maintaining a cycle of green manure growing/weeding? What would the bees, bugs and butterflies like?
So much to think about for the coming year. And while I’m busy doing that, here are some ‘back-to-the-future’ successes from last summer that are spurring me onwards. Remembrance of things to come…
Lens-Artists: Future This week Ann-Christine gives us ‘the future’ as her very thoughtful challenge. Please call in to see her evocative double-exposure images. You’ll be glad you did.
This morning the radio weather commentary described our English temperatures as ‘polar’. It surely feels like it – and that’s inside the house. For despite the existence of central heating and the recent consumption of a good hot mug of coffee, I am wearing mittens as I type this.
And since it is far too cold to go outdoors I cunningly combined Jude’s ‘patterns challenge’ which asks us to look at the subject from different perspectives, and combined near and far subjects – snow on the bedroom window and next door’s garden ash tree – all in one shot. The abstracted result rather reflects my abstracted mindset at present.
Please visit Jude for lots of inspiring ways to look at your photo subjects.
Late afternoon yesterday, I happened to look out of the bedroom skylight, and there was the moon in next door’s ash tree. And a planet too. Venus I think. A fine sight.
Becky’s looking up at the night sky today too.
It’s not something I do often – once in a blue moon, or more especially as an antidote to four months without much sunshine. But then the Seville oranges had arrived at Entertaining Elephants, sister Jo’s scrumptious shop. So it had to be done – a spot of marmalade making.
There’s no doubting it’s a faff – all that separating of orange innards into a muslin bag. (I found a desert spoon speeded up operations). Then the fine chopping and slow simmer of peel. But oh, the scent of warm orange that filled the cottage, and then the satisfying row of glowing jars. So then I thought I’d take a photo, and as I was cropping and squaring it, it occurred to me that it had a Rothko-esque quality had that fine artist ever thought to pursue the diagonal or ponder on the joys of marmalade making.
By the way, it tastes delicious too. But in the absence of a tasting, may the marmalade light be with you.
copyright 2020 Tish Farrell
I admit this is not a great shot of one of industrial history’s key artefacts, though you can just make out the new rust-red livery of the ironwork. Obviously the thing that caught my eye here was the strange lighting effect between bridge and river.
But for those of you who like a few facts to support ‘first in the world’ claims, the bridge was built in 1779 by Quaker Ironmaster Abraham Darby III. It spans the Severn Gorge in Ironbridge, Shropshire, and was intended to replace a (sometimes treacherous) ferry crossing between Broseley and Coalbrookdale, much used by the local workforce. But most of all it was designed to impress. Not only was it the world’s first cast iron bridge, so demonstrating a pioneering structural material, it was also the first single span bridge on the River Severn (all the other bridges were built of stone and had low arches). This new design meant that the large sailing barges (trows) coming up from Bristol did not have to de-mast to pass under it.
The River Severn trade was a busy one too – all manner of luxury goods coming upstream, locally produced pig iron, castings, ceramics and porcelain going downstream. Inevitably then, word of this daring new structure would quickly spread. People would start thinking of cast iron as a material with prospects. The Coalbrookdale iron masters certainly had plenty of ideas – from the industrial (iron framed factories, wagon wheels, rails, boiler castings) to the decorative and all points in between. The Great Exhibition of 1851 and the world trade fairs that it engendered provided the shop window for their ever more ingenious fabrications.
The Company’s catalogues were the ‘style books’ of the late 19th century. Cast iron was used to make just about everything – glasshouse frames, intricate park gates, garden rollers, seats, horse troughs, statues, fountains, stoves, boot scrapers, fire surrounds, nut crackers, bandstands, lamp posts, fruit bowls, cooking pots, grave memorials and all manner of finials and fancy pieces. Its beauty lay in the fact that once designs had been committed to moulds, pieces could be mass produced, and whether for grand architectural statements for the stately pile or a cauldron for the workman’s home the material was supremely functional (if a little cold to the touch).
So how about one of these to hang your hat on:
These pieces might seem ‘overdone’ to our eyes, but they involved consummate skill (and physical risk) in their moulding and casting. As to design, the Coalbrookdale Company founded a technical institute for its workforce with the specific aim of nurturing local expertise and innovation in the fields of decorative ironwork.
But these days it is perhaps the enduring and durable ornamental garden seat that is more appealing to us. Here’s one I spotted at Dudmaston Hall back in the summer:
And now back to where it and I started, but with a better view of the Iron Bridge: Abraham Darby III’s magnificent cast iron PR stunt. And it’s still going strong after 241 years (thanks to some recent rigorous conservation work by English Heritage). And still the tourist attraction it was back then too – even to us locals who like to pay homage to this piece of engineering chutzpah every once in a while.
A bit of an odd phenomenon I thought on Monday as we were walking across Wenlock’s Church Green. And not only because we had sunshine – a rare event over the past few months – but also because the willow tree appeared to emitting its own light. The sunshine was also catching the edge of William Penny Brookes’ grave (1809-1896), he who was the town’s enlightened physician and who in 1850 recreated the Olympian Games as an annual town event. These games attracted national and later international interest. Brookes was in correspondence with Baron Coubertin (often given the credit for masterminding the modern Olympics) who visited Wenlock to see the games for himself. The model that William Brookes had perfected, down to the designing of the medals, was the actual inspiration for the creation of the modern Olympic Movement.
Brookes was a man who operated on many fronts when it came to improving community wellbeing. He was responsible for the arrival of the railway and the gas works, founded a library and the Agricultural Reading Society for working people, conducted trials on children’s bodily fitness and lobbied for the introduction of physical education to British schools. The link above gives a brief summary of his life and legacy to the town, and indeed to the world at large. The house where he lived stands opposite the church, marked with the requisite blue plaque. He is well remembered.
I know – another made-up word, and it’s all Becky’s fault down to Becky’s inspiring January Light squares challenge. Anyway, I am justifying this particular piece of word smithery on the grounds that these hydrangea flowers were indeed a product of summer sunlight, and so what we see here on a frosty January morning is a manifestation of residual light as it gently decays. This is my ‘story’ anyway.
It was about 5 a.m. and I had not slept all night. Desert sand is very hard on the hip bone, with or without a custom-made scoop-out beneath it. And our pop-up tent offered no defence against the loud snores of Geoff, our Tanzanian guide, who was sleeping in the open back of his Land Cruiser. But to walk out of the camp alone and up into the high dunes and watch the sun rise over Al Hajar – instant rejuvenation remedy.
More desert views in the previous post.