This photo was taken in September, in the field behind the house: a familiar place then, or so it seems. I like the sense of emptiness, or rather, the effect of having been emptied. Viewed in the abstract, the stubble ridges attract me too: a more active idea embodied now, something akin to tracks and of being drawn at speed over the brow of the hill to some bright, unseen future. On the other hand this might easily be a false reading; the large straw bale sitting below the false horizon has a sentinel look. A fortified outpost? The perception is disturbing. I start to ponder on who exactly is running the reality we believe we inhabit and why on earth, and for earth’s sake, do we continue to entrust them with it. Which brings me to the medieval notion wherein people believed they got the kings they deserved. Also a disturbing thought: but disturbing enough to make us now take action and change the picture? I wonder.
It was the strangest thing – to look out on the nightscape behind the house where there are no roads or houses as far as the Edge, which itself drops a thousand feet through near vertical woodland to farm fields below on the Shropshire flatlands, and see what looked like searchlights moving doggedly through the darkness. The sight induces a frisson of fear. Iron Curtain watch towers spring to mind; H.G. Wells and War of the Worlds: are these Martian invaders patrolling the hinterland? Have the Thought Police hacked into my anti-establishment cogitations and are now tracking me down?
Of course a second later, common sense regained, I knew exactly what was going on, though it was still surprising – this spot of nocturnal November farming, presumably intent on finishing the job before the next round of deluge. The two tractors had been out working on Townsend Meadow since early afternoon. One tractor was ploughing. I watched it moving up and down the field, the glint of steel blades, the rig periodically disappearing from view over the brow of the hill. The other tractor was working back and forth across the ploughed-in wheat stubble, it equipped with high-tech agri-gear fore and aft – (and I’m assuming) seed drilling and then harrowing. I’ve yet to discover what crop was being sown. Doubtless there will be shoots any time now.
But in the meantime, on my most-days slither and slide along the path to the allotment, I’m astonished how very spirit-lowering is the lustreless expanse of darkly sodden earth after months of pale and textured gold. No more taking short cuts across the field or fossicking for pot shards and clay pipe bits either. I’ve also noticed that the tenant who currently has the field in hand, has reduced the strip of uncultivated headland between our home boundaries and the crop by a good 2 or 3 metres. We always understood that the headland was there as a flash-flood reducing measure, to say nothing of providing a swath of bio-diversity. Only time and heavy rainstorms will reveal the consequences or not of this little development.
The day before ploughing and drilling – 3rd November.
copyright 2019 Tish Farrell
Please visit Patti who set this week’s challenge.
I find it hard to credit that this pretty little Victorian ink bottle was a throw-away item, of no more value than the empty juice cartons, tins and the general supermarket packaging trash that we
junk attempt to recycle. They were cheap of course, perhaps a penny or two. The base is only 1.5 inches square (4 cms). When it was bought it would have had a cork stopper, suitably sealed. But once opened it was eminently functional. The neck is angled for easier nib dipping and then there are ridges across the top for resting one’s stick pen, and the ridged sides and heavier base would also make spillage less likely.
The one in the photo was found behind our old privies when we were having a hedge of alien snowberry dug out. Graham had a fine time pretending he was on Time Team and excavated quite a little stash – mostly medicine and condiment bottles. But this is my favourite find. It reminds me of Roman glass and I love the colour. I haven’t been able to get its innards quite clean of Silurian clag, but it’s just the thing for a single small flower, a rose bud for instance, one that some careless gardener has knocked off while not paying due care and attention.
In the last post I featured the clay tobacco pipe gleanings that I’ve been picking up from Townsend Meadow, the broken stems and bowls of pipes discarded by haymakers, harvesters and ploughmen of times past. Or dropped by lime burners, tanners and quarrymen on their way to restore lost bodily fluids in one of Wenlock’s many inns. But there’s another explanation too, and this could also account for the pot shards I’ve been finding in the field. Up until the not too distant past, broken domestic items were usually thrown into farm cesspits, privies and middens. Later they would end up spread over the fields, mixed in with manure.
My trek across the field follows a broadly similar route, give or take a metre or two. These shards are all separate finds, though not found too far apart, and I think they could belong to the same dish. My trawl on the internet tells me these are examples of comb decorated slipware. Once they would have made a broadly rectangular loaf or baking dish of a type common in the late 18th century. Very handsome pots in fact.
The shards with the yellow swirly pattern on a dark ground are also from slipware loaf dishes made in the late 18th century. They come in round and rectangular versions. You can see stunning examples of these and other English pots at the John Howard Gallery.
Today by way of an intermission from Two Go Pottering About In Pembroke, I’m back on home ground here – the field behind our house just after the wheat was cut in early September. It’s nice to recall the glorious sunshine too (since we returned from Wales it has been wet, wet, wet, the country locked inside jet stream weather effects). Also I thought I’d combine Becky’s line squares with Patti’s challenge to fill the frame. So here goes: bales, stubble, light and shadow, false horizons, landscapes and cloudscapes, textures and colour blocks. And lots of stalks.
There it was lying among the chaff and wheat stalks, a small fossil brachiopod, the size of my thumbnail, both shells of the bivalve quite intact, but washed free of its sedimentary matrix, to be found by me as I wandered about in Townsend Meadow after the harvest. I was out in the field, relishing the new views, seeing the town from fresh angles as I climbed the hill, and much like Monet with his many haystack renditions, as I went, snapping multiple views of the large straw bales. With the morning sun on them they looked like some rustic art installation.
I saw the fossil from the corner of my eye and instantly switched to archaeologist mode, at first hoping it might be a Roman coin. It was a similar size and pewtery dullness to the ones I’d uncovered at nearby Wroxeter Roman City when I was digging there aeons ago. But no. It is a washed up remnant from the Silurian Sea, the 400 million-year shallow ocean, whose bed in more recent eras thrust upwards to form Wenlock Edge.
But that’s not all that is marvellous. Before the upthrusting, back in the oceanic days when this little mollusc was still busy sifting warm currents to find its lunch, the land beneath my feet was lying south of the Equator, somewhere near the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean. It takes one’s breath away: Shropshire to the Comoros. Is all too hard to grasp. Too much time, too much planetary expanse for the mind to girdle. I mean how could the world’s parts have done so much monumental shunting about? And we humans with all our technology think ourselves masters of the globe. Silly, silly us.
Anyway, I brought the little fossil home, and it sits on my desk. It feels like a touchstone, an omen, a talisman. What meaning might I take from it? This 400 million-year-old mollusc found by chance among the chaff and sawn-off stalks after the wheat harvest.
copyright 2019 Tish Farrell
Today in the UK the heatwave continues, the Met Office predicting an all time July temperature high of 37’C. So things are not looking good on the climate change front. Yesterday Greenpeace volunteers wearing ‘Climate Emergency’ vests and sashes briefly blocked the Boris Johnson motorcade en route to Buckingham Palace where he was to meet the Queen.
Greenpeace say they handed the new PM a guide on how to tackle the climate crisis. But will he take action, they ask. It now transpires, as reported by Peter Geoghegan at openDemocracy, that both he and Jeremy Hunt received campaign funding of £25,000 apiece from First Corporate Shipping Company, the trading name of Bristol Port whose influential owners, the report says, are climate change sceptics. (Hunt has declared the donation here).
But let Boris speak for himself as he pronounces on the 2015 Paris Climate Summit at the end of his account of a most exerting game of makeshift ping-pong at his office Christmas party:
It is fantastic news that the world has agreed to cut pollution and help people save money, but I am sure that those global leaders were driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation.
Boris Johnson The Telegraph 20 December 2015
For further insight into the jolly japes chappie we now have as PM, you can read the whole thing HERE
I noticed last night that the wheat in Townsend Meadow is on the turn – the silver-grey ears taking on the faintest sheen of gold. Out in the guerrilla garden there is also much gold on the go. The chamomile daisies are over a metre tall, and the giant mullein are being truly gigantic. Soon the helianthus will be blooming and it will be full-on yellow, here on the edge of Wenlock Edge.