Glory Be!

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Thank goodness. Our second day of COOL, with a good 10 degrees C completely vanished in thin air. It’s back to grey skies too. They often feature in British summers, and for once we’re thankful. The Morning Glories seem to feel the same way. There were eight blooms out this morning: four Flying Saucers with the sweet peas on the downstairs terrace, and some white ones with purple flashes among the Sun Gold tomatoes in the upstairs garden. They don’t last long though, even without the blazing sun curling their petals.

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We even had some gentle showers yesterday, this after weeks of drought. Hopefully there will be more purposeful rain tomorrow so I can sow spinach and carrot seeds, and plant out the lettuce that survived the baking.

I’m anyway feeling seasonally confused after the heat wave. Everywhere around the town, the trees and fields have a parched, end-of-season look that has me thinking already of autumn, and of the things I might sow in the polytunnel for winter salads. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re only just half way through August, and there’s still the tomato and cucumber crop to nurture. And in the home garden, even as today’s blooms fade and crumple,  there are plenty more glories to come.

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Up The Creek In Dubai

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We had a brief stay in Dubai while we were living in Kenya. We needed a break from a long spate of El Nino rains. The stop-overs in UEA bookended a sunny week on a small island in the Maldives, but when we flew into Dubai, it was lowering skies and big puddles on the runway. Not at all what we expected. The nights were chilly too and very windy, the beachside palm trees swaddled in sacking. We did have a couple of fine days, though, as this very fine sunset on the Creek shows.

You can just make out the dhows moored along the further shore. (And in the bottom right corner, the woman who had come specially to feed the gulls).  I bet the Dubai skyline looks nothing like this now. There was a frenzy of construction going on when we were there in the late ‘90s. It is a city state endlessly in motion, constantly reinventing itself.  I’m wondering, though, if the dhow trade is still as vibrant as it was when we were there. We saw cars, trucks, refrigerators, car parts, sink units and all sorts being loaded  for onward Indian Ocean destinations – a far cry from the days when the Creek was nothing but a fishing village, and the local lads made a living pearl diving. The way things change.

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Lens-Artists: motion  This week Patti wants us to feature movement.

Too Hot To Mooooo-ve

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Our present wave of Mediterranean weather is not being kind to our shaggy coated Highland Cattle. Today my PC tells me it is 30 ‘ C / 86 ‘ F.  Phew for us as well as for them. They probably wish they were in Reykjavik where, according to the Norwegian YR Weather site, it is a cool 12 ‘C / 54 ‘ F. Greenland, on the other hand, is probably too cold for comfort, even by MacMoo standards of insulation. It seems to be sunny there today, but the temperature is between MINUS 18 and –20 ’C / –4 ’F.

Apparently  July and August are the warmest months in Greenland with temperatures between 0‘ C and 10’C. So: not much summer in the Arctic at present. It’s much like life really. For every high, somewhere there’s a corresponding low. Meanwhile the MacMoos slumber on in Cutlins meadow in whatever shade they can find.

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The Red Balloon ~ Ups And Downs Last Night Over Wenlock

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I was watering wilting vegetables at the allotment, when I glanced up and caught sight of this hot air balloon coming my way. It was floating over Windmill Hill. But as it drew closer I could hear it huffing, and it was soon obvious that staying airborne was not so easy. Not enough air currents perhaps; too much external hot air?

Anyway, the next I looked it was coming down somewhere behind Down’s Mill.

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And then it was up again:

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But not quite high enough: the Priory ruins were looming:

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And then the church tower, this view taken through fellow allotmenteer, Ron’s raspberry canes:

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Finally as it traversed the town, the balloon gained more height, and floated majestically over Walton Hills:

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The last I saw it was off towards Callaughton, flying over the cemetery chapel:

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An exciting ride for all those aboard:

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And watching this had me thinking. How many of you know/remember the short French film Le Ballon Rouge/The Red Balloon 1956.

I was entranced when I first saw it donkey’s years ago. It’s on YouTube of course. If it plays in your region, welcome to 1950s Paris. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VexKSRKoWQY

Earth Marvels

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If ever I were to begin to pin down my beliefs, then I might say they relate to earth, the planet, the universe, the creative forces that we humans scarcely understand, although that doesn’t stop us from telling ourselves plenty of stories about them. Indeed, throughout our short existence on the planet, it seems we have always told such tales, and it’s probably worth considering how many of them have proved false and fanciful.

And so when it comes to taking photographs, these are the kinds of thoughts that may be drifting through my mind. I mean, really – existentially – how do you explain this peacock butterfly – its form, colours and intricacies of behaviour? Of course for taxonomic purposes, entomologists may have a great deal to say on all these aspects, but in the natural scheme of things this organism simply IS, albeit occupying its own very particular evolutionary time and space.

Through my human eyes, then,  I see it as a marvel, because I also judge it to be beautiful and so worthy of my full attention. It is also very pleasing, exhilarating even, to see it, take its photo and then to share it. So in this sense it is also a celebration. At the same time I note that I am, as most people would be, uneager to similarly celebrate housefly larvae, dust mites, garden slugs or sooty mould; yet they all have their place in the biosphere. All of which is to say we humans are very selective when it comes to the things we ‘see’ and don’t ‘see’. I also think it’s worth thinking about this proclivity when it comes to our earth stories.

For now though, more celebratory earth snaps from today’s August garden. It’s bee and bug heaven out there…

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And yesterday I discovered a newcomer to the garden. This is one of a host of tiny bees presently foraging on the tansy flowers over the fence in the guerrilla garden. They are less than a half inch/centimetre long with banded abdomens of yellow or bluey-grey tones. I think they are a Colletes species/plasterer bees and therefore fairly recent arrivals in the UK.

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Lens-Artists: What’s your photographic groove?  Anne at Slow Shutter Speed  wants to know. Please pop over to her blog.

In Case The Flood Comes

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Our small and ancient town of Much Wenlock sits in a hollow beneath Wenlock Edge. The Edge itself is an uptilted Silurian seabed, formed some 400 million years ago, and the farm fields around the town rise steeply to the Edge top. In consequence, flash flooding has long been a problem and in recent years (after the 2007 storms when the town centre was badly inundated) our locality has been designated a rapid response flood risk zone, the danger coming mostly from field run-off feeding onto roads and lanes that run into the town.

And so finally in 2017, after much humming and ha-ing, the Local Authority commissioned engineers to excavate two flood attenuation ponds at either end of the town. They are basically reverse reservoirs in that they remain empty with the aim of catching up the worst of any flood should a particularly bad rainstorm hit the Edge.

One of the ponds is at the top of Townsend Meadow, behind our house, and given the upward slope of the field, I found myself much taken with the sight of the big digger and dumper on my horizon  as the work was underway. I think I’m also happy to have the pond above our house, although the Farrell domain did not flood in 2007, and some experts have equivocal views about the utility of attenuation ponds in rapid-run-off situations. Anyway, so far so good. Besides which, the guerrilla garden behind the garden fence is on a small rise and forms something of bund to protect us.

Now for more digger views, far and near:

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Busy with purpose

Trio Of Photo-Favourites From ‘The Old Africa Album’

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This first photo of Mzee Lali having a nap, with three full-sail Lamu dhows  in our wake  has to be my absolute favourite photograph. It was sheer chance that a) the scene composed itself so beautifully, b) I was alert enough to snap it and c) my Olympus-trip was not on the wrong setting.

It was Boxing Day and we had been out cruising the Manda Strait for several hours. In the morning some of our small party went in for a spot of snorkelling out on the reef. Next, using baited lines, we caught a few little fish which Lali and his nephew Athman scaled and cleaned. At noon when we were moored off Manda Island, Lali waded ashore and knelt down on the beach to pray. Then lunch was prepared, the fish grilled on a portable charcoal (jiko) stove and served up with freshly chopped coleslaw. Delicious.

In the afternoon we meandered back along the strait between the mangrove forests, waiting for the wind to pick up. We passed a large dhow taxi, utterly becalmed, engine stalled. It was brimful with laughing, chattering passengers, all hopeful  that some time or other they would finally reach Lamu mainland to visit their relations.

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This photo was taken a few years later. It’s a favourite because it was a chance meeting that pretty much sums up all that is so powerfully positive about young Kenyans. We were staying at Safariland Lodge on  the shores of Lake Naivasha. Graham was hosting a conference of international crop pest scientists, and I was spending the days wandering around the place, bird watching. One afternoon I met Robert Omondi on the hotel mooring. He sold me one of the hand written booklets he had made, its topic the ecology of Lake Naivasha and the water sources that fed into it. He was visiting all the hotels and lodges along the lake, selling copies where he could, and so raising funds for his next term’s school fees.

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And finally a photo to prove to myself I was actually there, although even at the time I took it, it was hard to believe. Besides which, the Great Rift Valley is almost impossible to photograph and give any true sense of scale or depth. If there isn’t a heat haze, there is often a fog. I was standing somewhere north of Nairobi, on the east escarpment highway which runs up to 9,000 feet above sea level. Below, in the foreground, is Escarpment location, a community of smallholder farmers. The bright green of the plots suggests it must be the main growing season after good rains. In the Rift bottom are the wheat and barley fields of larger-scale farmers, the crater of defunct volcano, Longonot on the left. The low road to Lake Naivasha runs north beneath it along the valley floor.

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Lens-Artists: picking favourites This week Sarah at Travel With Me  invites us to choose three favourite photos (not necessarily absolute favourites). Please go and see her three stunning choices.