Up The Creek In Dubai

2ed

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.

96

118

56

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

Too Hot To Mooooo-ve

IMG_1170

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.

IMG_1174

The Red Balloon ~ Ups And Downs Last Night Over Wenlock

IMG_1228ed1

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.

IMG_1194

And then it was up again:

IMG_1200ed

*

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

 IMG_1209ed

IMG_1213ed

*

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

IMG_1216ed

*

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

IMG_1219ed

*

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

IMG_1233ed

*

An exciting ride for all those aboard:

IMG_1222ed2

*

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

IMG_1117ed

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…

IMG_1080

IMG_1072

IMG_1050

*

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.

IMG_1043

IMG_1063ed

IMG_1099ed

IMG_1035

*

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

attenuation pond ed

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:

attenuation pond digger

attentuation pond 1 ed

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

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

Mzee Lali

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.

*

Robert Omondi ed

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.

*

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.

Escarpment

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.

Roadside Creations

Harare soapstone carver mono

It’s back to the old Africa album for Cee’s ‘made by humans’ theme because it was while I was thinking what to post, that I suddenly remembered here was something I really missed from our years living in Kenya and Zambia: the roadside artists and artisans who, day in and day out, made some truly wonderful creations.  In fact we did most of our best shopping on the pavement – from the decorative to the solidly functional.

The header photo is a young soapstone sculptor in downtown Harare, taken during a road trip to Zimbabwe from Zambia. Meanwhile in Lusaka, here are the furniture makers who made beds of every kind, including ours, from repurposed air freight cases:

Kamwala roadside furniture market mono

*

And while I’m here,  a more recent shot of one of my favourite baskets, made by the Tonga women of Zambia’s Southern Province. I use it for storing sewing and knitting bits and bobs.

mono

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Human-made

Stranger Than Fiction

P1080542ed

And Shropshire’s Stiperstones with its brooding Devil’s Chair outcrop has indeed provided the setting for several works of fiction: the novels of Mary Webb, Malcolm Saville’s still popular Lone Pine adventure stories for children, and also D.H. Lawrence’s novella St. Mawr. And naturally, given its dramatic looks, it also features in local myths and legends, particularly those associated with Wild Edric, the Saxon earl who refused to surrender his lands to the Norman invaders and stirred up rebellion, allying himself with the Welsh princes of Gwynedd and Powys just over the border.

In real life it is an utterly strange place. These photos were taken on a summer’s day, but somehow, when we reached the hilltop, the light leached away. Even so, the grey-white quartzite outcrops seemed to have an unsettling luminosity.  The photos I took using the monochrome setting on my camera are especially other worldly. There also appears to be an odd patch of mist on the next photo. I can’t explain it.

P1080574ed

P1080557ed

*

And in colour, too, the landscape’s disturbing presence is scarcely diminished:

P1080552ed

*

Lens-Artists: Surreal This week Tracy challenges us to post some surreal images, and believe me, she has her own very original take on the topic. Go see for yourselves.

Regaining Our Cool

IMG_0983ed

Well, it was pretty hot in Wenlock on Tuesday – 33-34C (bottom 90sF), this being the temperature given for Telford, our nearest big town. But then on Wednesday we were dropped back to 22C (72F) max and deeply gloomy skies. The breeze was back too. In fact yesterday afternoon when I took this photo, it was positively draughty walking along the Linden Walk; also very dry. You can see the wind blowing up a dust storm from the grass mower on the left.

At midday, as I write, my PC says it’s 14C (57F), and the forecast from our local weather station at RAF Shawbury indicates top temperatures of 17-24C (62-75F) for next nine days: https://www.weatherhq.co.uk/raf-shawbury/10d  The main thing though, we should have some rain tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

But, one asks, where did all that 2-day heat wave go? And how did it come in the first place? The explanations I’ve read state it was a burst of hot air out of North Africa pushed across Europe by a high pressure zone, a congruence of  events caused by a change in the jet stream, that mysterious air current whose meanderings appear to be responsible for all sorts of weather anomalies.

Of course in the Northern Hemisphere, this kind of heat wave has happened quite a few times over the past century. Such weather events not only came with extreme temperatures, but were often brutally long. The 1930s were particularly bad for overheated summers. This was the Dust Bowl era on the North American Great Plains, a time when (according to this Nature paper) there were 22 heat wave days per summer in Central US, and the maximum record temperatures reached then still stood at the time of 2019 US heat wave.

In Britain in August 1930 temperatures reached 34C, building over four days but, as seems to have happened this year, the high suddenly retreated allowing cool weather to move in.

Earlier, in 1911, people in Europe and America were not let off so lightly. The New England Historical Society HERE documents graphic accounts and photographs of the 11 days of sweltering heat that hit 44C/112F in the shade, said to have driven some people mad. Meanwhile in Britain the Wikipedia entry says the heat wave built from July through to September with a top temperature of 36.7C/98F. And in France, the 70-day broiling resulted in a horrendous death toll (scroll down for the English text.)

So all in all, uncomfortable as it was for many, it seems we got off lightly with a two-day baking. But many thanks to all fellow bloggers who expressed good wishes and concern. Much appreciated.

Cool Cool Convolvulus But Hot On The Plot

IMG_0957ed

We’re having a two-day heatwave here in the UK, temperatures in the 30s. That our summers for the last few years have been fairly heat-free seems to have erased memories that in times past we also had heatwaves. I remember baking to a crisp day after day on a Welsh beach back in the mid-1950s, and that was in May. And then there was the prolonged drought of 1975-76 when, due to severe water shortages, bathing with a friend was the catch phrase du jour. Wikipedia says this about that year:

Heathrow had 16 consecutive days over 30 °C (86 °F) from 23 June to 8 July[ and for 15 consecutive days from 23 June to 7 July temperatures reached 32.2 °C (90 °F) somewhere in England. Furthermore, five days saw temperatures exceed 35 °C (95 °F). On 28 June, temperatures reached 35.6 °C (96.1 °F) in Southampton, the highest June temperature recorded in the UK. The hottest day of all was 3 July, with temperatures reaching 35.9 °C (96.6 °F) in Cheltenham.

Whatever the weather, this gardener usually tries to avoid going away during the main growing season. At the best of times, watering the allotment vegetable plots and polytunnel seems too big an ask of fellow allotmenteers, and especially so during a dry spell. Summer for me, then, means garden watch. And so with the promise of a hot day ahead, this morning I was off to the allotment at 6 a.m. to see what rescue remedies might be needed after yesterday’s heat.

I needn’t have worried. The polytunnel (a sweat-inducing structure even in coolish weather) was fine. I’d left both doors open and the tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines, lettuce and herbs looked happy enough. Meanwhile out on the plot, and since I was there, I damped down the mulch around the climbing peas and beans, courgettes and sweet corn, then picked raspberries that were looking a bit cooked, and gave vulnerable beetroot and leek seedlings a good soak.

IMG_0892

IMG_0919

IMG_0942ed

IMG_0929

IMG_0913ed

IMG_0910

*

And then I wandered around and took these photos, and was home by 8 a.m., by which time it was definitely warming up.  The BBC forecast says 35 C now at midday, though the Norwegian Met Office site YR (which I usually follow as it’s pretty good) says 34. In any event, it will be a much cooler 22C max tomorrow, and in the 20s for the rest of the week. I just hope we get some meaningful rain showers along with the returning coolness.

*

IMG_0956ed

*

Back in the home garden, the borders are definitely struggling  through lack of rain. I can’t begin to water everything. The driest area is over the back fence in the guerrilla garden. Plants there simply have to take their chances, but even so, the tansy and golden rod are running rampant, towering over my head, and the late flowering Michaelmas daisies and helianthus are catching up. Meanwhile Ann Thomson geranium is holding her own against the lot of them. She may get cooked each day, but she’s still comes back flowering each morning. Oh, for such repeat resilience.

IMG_0970ed

IMG_0969

IMG_0966ed

And this summer in the garden I’m really pleased to find that one of my favourite  wild flowers, yellow toadflax, has decided to colonise the upstairs path. I grew it from seed a couple of years ago, and now it’s taken off. I first fell in love with it as a child, on trips into the Shropshire hills where it grows along the lane verges in high summer…

IMG_0961ed

*

And talking of the Shropshire hills, I’ll leave you with summer views of the Shropshire-Wales borderland, taken a week or so ago on a visit to Mitchell’s Fold prehistoric stone circle.

IMG_0865ed

IMG_0862ed

Lens-Artists: Summer Vibes

This week Solaner has set the challenge.