Operation Floral Sat Nav ~ Bee Makes Bee-Line For Foxglove

IMG_1716

Yesterday at the Farrell establishment we had bees in poppies. Today it’s bees in the foxgloves, and thank you to Lynn at Word Shamble for mentioning bees and foxgloves in the comments. This reminded  me I’d taken these snaps earlier in the month just before the foxgloves went over. I was trying out my new second-hand Canon Ixus 870 – and oh, the nippy little macro setting – I’m in love with it!

Also please drop in at Lynn’s blog to read a wicked piece of flash fiction: it definitely has a sting in the tale/tail.

Now for more shots of bees. Also just look at the foxglove’s come-hither devices  – no ‘Sat Nav Map Error’ here; but an intricate systems of dots and splodges guiding in any would-be pollinator to get pollinating.  It looks like every little ‘glove’ has its own touch-pad access code:

IMG_1715

IMG_1704

 

Cee’s Flower of the Day

Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Details

Who Has Lost This Small Pure Heart?

101_0040

It is tear-stained too. Fallen on the field path among the pignut flowers, a plant also known as Earth Chestnut, because its tubers were once grubbed up and relished by country children.  And as for the heart? Eglantine. Sweet Briar. Dog Rose. Rosa canina.

If this image inspires anyone to a bit of storytelling in whatever form, and short as you like; then leave a link here so I can read it. I won’t be back in blog world until Saturday, so no rush.

Pure

Too Long Out Of Africa

Scan-140726-0020 (2)

I had been wondering to myself whether I would post some of my Africa pix for the nature photo challenge, and thought I probably wouldn’t. Then the ‘Landscape’ challenge cropped up, and so here  I am, killing two birds with one shot. Or it might be two. Also, for whatever reason that has nothing much to do with me, post editing or anything, this view of the Maasai Mara (edge of the Ololo Escarpment to the right, desert date tree to the left) has acquired the look of a painted landscape. I think it was probably taken at dawn, out on game drive from the Mara River Camp, one of the last places we stayed before ending our eight-year life in Kenya and Zambia.

The desert date (Balanites aegyptica), much like the baobab, is one of Africa’s treasure trees, and has multiple uses. It grows in the driest places across the Sahel and savannah regions of the continent, and fruits in the driest of years. It is thus highly valued by nomadic herders since both fruit and foliage provide useful forage for camels and goats during times of drought.

Also a nourishing and restoring skin oil can be made by milling the fruit, its cosmetic and therapeutic qualities long known of by the Ancient Egyptians. (Samples have apparently been discovered amongst pyramid grave goods). And you can buy it now. Fair trade producers in Senegal, West Africa are producing the oil commercially.

Other traditional uses include making fish poison from the bark, and using the termite resistant wood to fashion farm tools. Better still, an emulsion can be produced from the fruit – harmless to humans and warm-blooded mammals (Trees of Kenya  Tim Noad & Ann Birnie: 27) and used to clean up drinking water supplies. It kills the freshwater snails that carry bilharzia, and the water fleas that carry guinea worm, both causes of distressing and debilitating diseases in many parts of Africa.

The continued existence of this tree is also related to the continued existence of elephants. In the wild they are the main conduits by which seed is processed and made ready to plant. Having passed through the elephant’s digestive tract, it is then conveniently deposited in its own dollop of manure. Another example of how all in the natural world is intimately connected, and we kill off bits of it (stupidly thinking they don’t matter) at our peril.

Scan-140726-0019

Elephants at high noon beside the Mara airstrip. You can see the green tops of desert date trees above a gully in the distant heat haze.

*

Anna at Una Vista di San Fermo invited me to join the 7-day Nature Photo Challenge. This is my Day 4. Please also go and see Laura’s magnificent dragonfly at Eljaygee, and Sue Judd’s elegant study of daffodil decay at WordsVisual, and Gilly’s absolutely mega termite mound at Lucid Gypsy.

Landscape

Travelling Hopefully ~ The Writer’s Way

P1000424

The writing life is full of snags and snares, setbacks, tanglements, diversions and dead ends.  Written words demand so much mental application – from the writers who deal in them, and the readers who receive them. After all, before the writer’s meaning can be de-coded, willing victims readers must actively choose to engage.

Even then, nothing is certain. Reader engagement is always provisional. Only when the decision is made – that sticking with the decoding process will yield rewards, do writers have the chance to have their say.

Readers want a good pay-off from the writer’s words. But for their part, writers cannot read readers’ minds to know precisely what they expect. It’s all very precarious.

Interaction-wise, the applied and performing arts definitely have the edge. They communicate directly with an audience’s senses and emotions, often bypassing the need for intellectual effort input altogether. Reactions to such works may be superficial and fleeting, and the creators’ deepest intentions not fully grasped, but engagement at some level swiftly takes place. The experience is vivid in its fullest sense. Excitement can be instantaneous. Written texts simply cannot compete with this kind of immediacy.

Also words can be such tricky things. Lumpy. Clumsy. Rife with ambiguity. Achieving absolute clarity on the page involves hard labour, although this is only half the battle. In fiction writing plain speaking is not enough. The construction must be affecting. Fascinating. There must be mystery –at the very least the hook of: ‘how will this turn out?’ Then there is the matter of authenticity and the creation of a convincing, fully functioning reality. (Even fantasy worlds must have believable existence.)

In its crudest form, writing a story is like devising and setting a trap. How do you lure in the reader? What does it take to hold them until the final word is read?

So this means there’s a craft to be learned, and practised and practised. Then practised some more. And when you finally release your carefully worked contrivance onto the unsuspecting and uninterested world there will be rejection. (See Lynn Love’s post on this and how to murder it HERE). It is part of the learning process. It teaches you to target your work more carefully; to read more; to develop powers of objective self-appraisal; to learn from negative comments; to become better at what you do.

You also need to bear in mind that this apprenticeship may take a life-time; that success in material terms may never happen. The act of creating is a vocation; an act of faith too. But at the heart of it, you write because you must. Perhaps that should be enough. I seem to have hopes of it. It anyway keeps me going – one word at a time.

 

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

 

Related:

Losing Kui ~ An Extract

Kui’s 5* Review on Kindle

Tish Farrell Books & Short Fiction

 

DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic

Go here for more hopeful responses.

 

A Mysterious Four-Thousand-Year-Old Circle

P1020777

This is Cornwall’s smallest stone circle, captured here on a dreary December afternoon in the village of Duloe. It dates from around 2,000 B.C.  a relic of the British Bronze Age.

P1020774

In fact the 8 large stones that comprise the monument are set out in more of an ovoid than a circle, the diameter varying between 10 and 11 metres. But they are also roughly aligned with the compass points, which instantly has everyone thinking all sorts of things about the possible purpose of the structure.

The first historical, if indirect, reference to the circle, occurred in 1329 A.D. in a record that mentions the farm of Stonetown on whose land the stones stand. Its official antiquarian discovery, however, was in 1801, at which time the stones were prone, and the circle bisected by a hedge.

During restoration work in 1861, and the removal of the hedge, workmen stumbled on a Bronze Age funerary urn in the centre of the circle. Unfortunately the urn and the cremated human contents have since been lost, but it thus seems likely, given its small size, that the monument was intended only as an elaborate grave, rather than constructed for any other ritual purposes.

All the same, the enterprise involved some considerable labour. It’s been estimated that thirty or more people would have been needed to move stones up to 12 tons in weight. They are quartzite-rich with elements of ankerite, and the nearest source of such rock is at least a mile from the site.

100_8310

And so there it stands, a domestic-scale stone circle complete with neighbouring cottages, sheep and power lines. Families out with dogs and infants wander briefly round the stones before continuing their walk. They look bemused, as if expecting more. But the stones give nothing away. They have no stories to impart. They simply are.

P1020778

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

 

Circle

 

Mara Dawn, Lewa Sundown: Monochromatic Africa

Scan-140826-0029jpeg

In winter at the Equator, Africa comes in many kinds of monochrome. At first light all is sepia. This lioness was captured at dawn in the Maasai Mara. She is watching out for hyena that are moving in on the Marsh Pride’s kill.

At sundown  in Lewa, in Northern Kenya, all is old gold as these kudu stop for a moment before melting away into the thorn scrub. Did we really see them?

004

003

Monochromatic

Connected, on and off the rails: a passion for steam

IMG_1835 - Copy

This year Shropshire’s Severn Valley Railway celebrates 50 years as a tourist attraction. That this 16-mile remnant of an 1862 main line railway is still up and running is due to the efforts of several generations of steam engine enthusiasts who lobbied, fund-raised, rescued and restored old rolling stock, and then threw the lot open to a willing public that now loves to spend its spare time watching and riding on steam trains. I mean who wouldn’t want to catch the Santa Special? If you’re up for it, I should tell you that advance booking opens on September 14th.

These photos were all taken back in the winter at Bridgnorth Station, our nearest market town, and the railway’s terminus. Graham was there on a mission – to look at rivets. I was just there to savour the steam. Aaaaah. Oh yes, and to take snaps. But perhaps I’d better explain about the rivets.

100_6762

First a little back story. Rewind 153 years…

In 1862 a branch from the original Severn Valley line was built through Much Wenlock. Mainly it served the limestone quarries, but at Whitsuntide, the Great Western Railway put on special trains to bring thousands of spectators to see William Penny Brookes Wenlock Olympian Games. Conveniently, the station was right beside the Linden Field where the games were, and are still held every year.

And because it was Wenlock’s William Penny Brookes who inspired the notion of the modern Olympic Games, and because we are proud Wenlock residents, some time in 2011 Graham had the idea, as a de-stressing pursuit, and as his own celebration of our town’s connection to the 2012 Olympics, to make a gauge 1 model of the  ‘Olympic Special’.

This resulted in the creation of very pleasing passenger carriage, and a goods waggon that was the original practice piece for the enterprise. The superstructures of both were  made from scratch, following some 1860s plans that Graham had unearthed. I don’t remember where he found them. But then came the stumbling block – the locomotive itself.

For this, he would need equipment he did not own, and skills he did not think he possessed. Ever since he has been pondering on how to set about it, egged on by our good neighbour, Roger, who does have handy engineering skills. Part of the on-going pondering included first-hand experience of GWR engine rivets so that Graham could judge the scale of them. And who am I to throw cold water on a chap’s enthusiasm.

Besides, as a child, I spent a lot of time on steam trains, and more specifically waiting to catch one on Crewe Station. And anyone who knows their railway history will know that Crewe Station, built in 1837, is one of the world’s oldest stations, and that its junction was once a thing of railway wonder. So, all in all, I was glad to tag along on the boiler rivet hunt, and thereby have the chance sniff hot coal and engine oil, and look at rust on old locomotive hulks. Graham always claims I was born on the foot plate. And no. My father was not an engine driver.100_6822

100_6813

*

Also it was good to watch the happy voyagers waiting to embark on The Royal Scot…

100_6779

IMG_1846

100_6791

*

And finally that brings me to the work in progress. It’s sitting over the DVD/CD shelves in the kitchen, waiting for an 1860s vintage locomotive to take it away.  Passengers please take note. This train may not be leaving until the advent of the next Olympic Games. Graham says it’s good to have a deadline…

100_6961

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Severn Valley Railway Go here to find out more about the SVR

#SVR #SevernValleyRailway #steamrailways

 

Connected

One thing leading to another on Windmill Hill: everything is connected

P1010943

We’re barely into September and already autumn is here in Shropshire. It must be so, because the little horses are back on Windmill Hill. They will spend the next few months grazing off the dying summer grasses and wild flowers. They look very windswept, but the punk-mane-effect is mainly down to thickets of cleavers (goose grass) seeds in their top knots.

P1010945

P1010942

Looking across the hill there’s hardly a sign of the June-July flowering – all those buttery clouds of Lady’s Bedstraw quite gone. Not a trace of the orchids either. Only the dark and brittle seed heads of knapweed that always strike a note of dreariness. The weather doesn’t help either. For weeks it has been rain between showers.

Nor was I encouraged by the BBC radio science programme I heard yesterday. I caught it in the midst of recompiling a glut of runner beans into chutney (beans at least like rain). The guest climate experts were soon informing us that the El Nino effect they promised us all in 2014 did not come to much. In fact, they opined, (and they sounded quite definite about it too) we still have it very much to look forward to – the worst El Nino effect hitherto experienced, they said. For some reason the Pacific Ocean keeps heating up. And this means disrupted weather patterns worldwide, and for Europe, an even wetter winter than usual.

MORE RAIN? I wish we in Shropshire could email some of it to those lands whose dramatically changing climates mean that they now receive little or none. Mongolia is one place suffering massive desertification. Likewise, the countries of Africa’s Sahel that border the Sahara. In both regions, and many others besides, human actions, poverty and climate shift combine in a vicious downward spiral that results in increasing degradation of land and water sources. This, apart from war, is one of the main drivers of human migration. It’s all connected, despite what the climate change naysayers may wish to believe.

All of which is to tell myself to count my blessings.  I am free to wander where I like without fear of being terrorized by extremists. I have all the food I need and more. I enjoy every comfort. I have the luxury to meander along Shropshire byways, talking to little horses, musing on the meaning life, the universe and everything, while across the globe desperate others risk all to find somewhere they can live a decent life with their families. Some people, we hear, do not want to share their land with refugees. It is assumed that they will be nothing but a drain on resources. Yet who knows what gifts in talent and skills these homeless souls might be bringing us? Also, not sharing may cost us more than we could ever imagine. In some societies the truest measure of civilisation is the gift of hospitality. Perhaps we need to think about this with a little more application. At least, I know I do.

P1010956

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Connected

Inspiration: striving to succeed

Scan-140809-0022

It was in Africa that I became a professional writer. And it was writing for children like Zaina that spurred me to begin. It seemed to me, that unlike many British young people, Kenyan kids were desperate to go to school and, once there, strove to do their utmost to make something of their lives. I was cross, too, at the then lack of contemporary local fiction that showed young Kenyans as heroes, and in the kinds of situations they could identify with. Then I found that many of the stories I wrote for African children also worked for a European readership, or at least for those who were keen to find out what life was really like in the parts of African that I visited and lived in. And now, all these years later, and living back in England, these are still the things that drive me to write.

 

 

 

Inspiration