Sadly this particular Manhattan Diner in Upper West Side is no longer there, though there is another of the same name not far away on Broadway. We were staying across the road in the Beaux Arts style Hotel Belleclaire (much revamped in the last few years) and since they did not have a restaurant, we were advised to come here for breakfast along with their other guests. The place had a pleasing ease-yourself-into-the-day atmosphere, but what I liked most was that Upper West Side residents also came here every day for breakfast. I rather felt that this easy cross-the-aisle conversation had been continuing for years, morning after morning, familiar, but not too familiar.
This photo was taken last December when we spent a few days in the England-Wales border town of Hay-on-Wye. I was standing in the main car park as the landscape lit up. It was very very cold, a prelude to the big snow that happened soon afterwards. Thankfully it waited till we had made it home before it descended. Travelling on rural Hereford and Shropshire byways under two feet of snow would not have been a good experience.
Hay is a tiny town on the banks of the majestic River Wye, but though small it has a world-wide reputation, both for the number of its second hand book shops and now as the home of a famous annual literary festival to which I have yet to take myself. Anyway, here’s a glimpse of the book shop that started it all, a place where one may spend many many hours. It also has a very excellent cafe and a cinema. So much bliss under one roof.
Clearly not, though she is a bit ragged round the edges. Anyway, here’s how I caught her on Tuesday when I was passing through the garden en route for the allotment with my bag of compost makings. (The heap building must go on.) This ‘cheap and cheerful’ cottage garden annual (once also known as Clarkia) is an easily grown plant that can usually be relied on to produce clouds of colour throughout the summer and do much self-seeding. This year however, it did not like the prolonged heat one bit. The limp and skinny stems that were produced soon curled up and fainted, and watering the plants didn’t seem to help matters either. I abandoned the cause. But now, heading for Christmas, I find a single plant prevails, driven by the seed-setting imperative. There’s optimism for you.
The old apple tree at the allotment has a litter of lost and decomposing apples all around it. As I took this photo yesterday I tried not to think of all the stuffed baked apples they added up to; the crumbles and tartes tatin missed out on. Just as well, says the waistline. I’ve recently been struggling to make a pair of corduroy trousers, the struggle being in the fitting department. Having adjusted the waistband to a state of snugness that allows only slight room for expansion, I do not need to grow out of them before I’ve worn them. Anyway, I’m sure there’s plenty of wildlife that will be glad of these windfalls, blackbirds and slugs especially.
Here we are, walking between high, high hedges, the castle terraces in the gloaming above, and overhead, stars pricking the black. It’s quite a climb to the castle from the formal garden: several flights of stone steps, and paths wending between the ancient yew trees that have been sculpted into strange shapes over three centuries. On this December evening many are lit from within, so that as you approach they barely glimmer, but when you draw level they open up like grottoes, revealing contorted arboreal workings beneath the close-clipped exteriors.
And now for some treescapes and garden views that did not feature in yesterday’s post:
As darkness closed in and yet another squall blew up, we slipped over the Welsh border and headed for Welshpool. We had hemmed and hawed up to the very last minute of departure: should we or shouldn’t we go; it could be muddy; the parking a nightmare; too many people; the prospect of getting soaked; nearly an hour’s drive on unlit winding country lanes. So many reasons not to go. And then we simply gave up the argument and set off.
It was not promising. The constant swish of wipers; rain that felt set-in; roads awash and headlights picking up flooded fields and burst river banks. But as we reached the outskirts of Welshpool the rain suddenly stopped, and ahead and high on its rocky promontory Powys Castle glowed like some fairy-tale bastion. And as it turned out, parking was easy; we were not mired in mud despite days of rain; and though there were plenty of visitors, we all soon lost ourselves in the castle grounds and it quickly became a big, magical adventure.
And not a little bonkers, I must admit – going round the steeply terraced castle gardens in the dark – the whole thing laid on by the National Trust as part of their season of festive celebrations at the castle. Anyway, here are a few other-worldly scenes from the night garden of this ancient Welsh borderland fortress.
This magnificent sun dial was erected on the wall of Eyam parish church in 1775. I’ve posted a photo of it before, but this one was taken in October during our stay in Derbyshire. The village of Eyam is famous for its extraordinary response to an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1665 wherein the villagers agreed to quarantine the entire village so as not to spread the infection. You can read more of this story at an earlier post: In Search of Lost Time in Eyam and an Outbreak of Plague. As to the accuracy of this sun clock, well according to my camera it was exactly one hour slow when I took the photo, but then that may have more to do with the way we keep shunting the hour about at different seasons.
Time Square #8 Pop over to Becky’s for this week’s squares round up.
Much like Cee’s current ‘black and white’ challenge, this blog is blowing all hot and cold this week – from Kenya’s tropics in the past two posts to a Shropshire winter in this one. These photos are from LAST winter I hasten to add. And much as I had the most enormous fun out in the snow with my camera, I do not need a repeat performance yet. (Please and thank you in advance, Weather Gods). Anyway, here are some sunshiney snow-scenes from my favourite places around Much Wenlock: Windmill Hill, the old railway line, and the Linden Walk.
Much of the wildlife news from Africa – as per mainstream media – is almost invariably negative. Of course I don’t argue at all with the need to focus public attention on the poaching of rhino horn and elephant ivory – not if it will put pressure on the nations (China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam especially) that fund and fuel this wretched trade. But perhaps the overall effect of such reporting is to give people the idea that African nations do not care for their wildlife. This is not true. Such reporting also often overlooks the absolute heroism of African wildlife rangers (both men and women) who night and day risk their lives to defend their national parks and reserves against poacher predation, often within conflict zones such as DR Congo.
A nation like Kenya has vested interest (public and private) in maintaining and protecting its vast and varied wildlife areas. Tourism is a major income earner, although tourists themselves may at times pose a significant threat to the nation’s environment, both natural and cultural, as their every want is catered to. Also the majority of Kenya’s population are smallholder farmers and most game parks have few boundaries. The wildlife goes where it will, and one elephant can destroy a farming family’s livelihood in a few minutes of chomping and stomping about the place. Elephants kill people too.
In other words conservation has an awful lot of human angles beyond the protecting of particular animal species and their habitats. And while some species may be under threat, it seems that others such as the Cape Buffalo are causing problems by their rising numbers in small reserves. So: just to cast a brief light on the work of the Kenya Wildlife Service (and you can follow this link for more details) here is a current progress report.
Perhaps of greatest importance to the world at large is that in October Kenya’s effort in combatting wildlife trafficking, in particular ivory poaching, was acknowledged at the 70th meeting of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Also in October the Kenya Wildlife Service hosted its Annual Carnivore Conference which explored the impact of the increasing spread of human populations into carnivore habitat. A quick scan of the topics covered give vivid insight into the multifarious issues involved at the big cat – herder-farmer interface.
And then a week ago Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala launched the National Recovery Plan For Giraffes. He pointed out that while attention has been focussed on rhino and elephant losses, many species of plains game have been increasingly under threat. Giraffes, in particular, are targeted for the bush meat trade. Climate change and loss of habitat are also issues. (I did a post about giraffe loss and their conservation a couple years ago). It’s good to see some concerted action between government and nongovernmental wildlife organisations.
Some cause for optimism then, though we can’t be as laid back on the matter as these cheetahs seem to be about my intrusion into their afternoon nap time.
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
From the old Africa album: sundown in the Maasai Mara quite a few moons ago.