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Goodbye July

Malverns

The Malverns

A fairly quiet month hardly deserving of a post so its going to be mainly filler and not killer this time!

In between bouts of drinking and watching the cultural twin peaks of Wonder Woman, and Spiderman: The Homecoming, there was a nevertheless an excellent walk to record.

This one took in patches of the Forest of Dean, views of the Malvern Hills, and a Roast Beef Ploughman’s at the Glasshouse.

It was Stuart’s walk and here’s the gen:

Map: Explorer sheet OL14 Wye Valley & Forest of Dean

GR: SO721260.

The walk:

The walk is mainly along field paths, through woods, and along quiet country lanes.

Go west from the car park in the market town of Newent, across playing fields then SW to Briery Hill. Follow Three Choirs Way southwards to Clifford’s Mesne, continuing along quiet lanes past the now closed Yew Tree Inn to ascend a long but not difficult climb to summit of May Hill (977 ft).

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Tree

There are breath-taking views to Malvern Hills, Black Mountains, and the Severn Estuary (let’s hope for good weather). From the summit continue along Geopark/Wysis Way SE then NE to Glasshouse for lunch at The Glasshouse Inn.

Dogs are not allowed in the pub but there are pleasant gardens.

Glasshouse

After lunch we head northwards through the pleasant but occasionally muddy Newent Woods, and then past apple orchards to return to the cars.

 

1930s Poet Laureate John Masefield describes May Hill in his narrative poem “The Everlasting Mercy.”

It’s about a fist fight with a fellow poacher over territory with the main protagonist called Saul Kane with some Christian/Satan overtones and implications.

Its way too long to reproduce here so here’s some of the more memorable verses. It’s worth reading just to roll out the fantastic names of two of the peripheral characters: Doxy Jane and Dicky Twot!

Ploughing the hill with steady yoke
Of pine-trees lightning-struck and broke.
I’ve marked the May Hill ploughman stay
There on his hill, day after day
Driving his team against the sky,
While men and women live and die.
And now and then he seems to stoop
To clear the coulter with the scoop,
Or touch an ox to haw or gee
While Severn stream goes out to sea

and this bit’s quite good:

“Where is it, then? O stop the bell.”
I stopped and called: “It’s fire of hell;
And this is Sodom and Gomorrah,
And now I’ll burn you up, begorra.”

as is this:

“After him,” “Catch him,” “Out him,” ” Scrob him.”
“We’ll give him hell.” “By God, we’ll mob him.”
“We’ll duck him, scrout him, flog him, fratch him.”
“All right,” I said. “But first you’ll catch him.”

Finally…

They drove (a dodge that never fails)
A pin beneath my finger nails.
They poured what seemed a running beck
Of cold spring water down my neck;
Jim with a lancet quick as flies
Lowered the swelling round my eyes.
They sluiced my legs and fanned my face
Through all that blessed minute’s grace;
They gave my calves a thorough kneading,
They salved my cuts and stopped the bleeding.
A gulp of liquor dulled the pain,
And then the flasks clinked again.

This last bit was after the Boxing Day Sales at Selfridges…

Speaking of which: This was taken at the Green Man in Harborne on July 24th – WAY TOO EARLY!!!

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Noooooo!!!!!!

 

Sometimes, when you’re feeling a bit peckish, only a Seafood Fujiyakko will do, and fortunately one was at hand for our footy A-Team social at the Miyako Teppanyaki restaurant .

Kraaled around a Japanese teppan grill (with live cooking and loose egg throwing), an entertaining evening was in store with salmon, lobster and scallops being fired up on the Barbie. Of course, we had to have some traditional Japanese ale to help us along.

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Gavin failed to catch the egg in his mouth

A visit to the Falconry Experience in Swadlincote ensured a surfeit of raptors for our appreciation. For the first section there was a selection of owls including Little Owl, Barn Owl and Eagle Owl before the falcons, hawks and eagles took centre stage. The Kestrel, Harris Hawk, Buzzard and Tawny Eagle were all mightily impressive but even a guest appearance from a Kookaburra couldn’t diminish the star of the show – a Golden Eagle.

The talons on this eagle are impressive enough – then you learn they have a gripping strength of over 700 psi, which is up there with me hanging onto a Topic (the average person has a grip strength of about 20 psi.)

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Check out the talons…

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Nature Note: Raptor comes from the Latin word “rapere” which means to seize by force.

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And finally, this cartoon from the Crow Collection – I always liked this one but it never sold particularly well. I just like the silliness of it…

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“April is the Cruellest Month”

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Showing at the Birmingham Rep: One Love – The Bob Marley Musical, a celebration of the rare man’s music legacy as well as dipping into more turbulent aspects of his life.

If you like this sort of thing, then it’s impossible not to enjoy such a buoyant festival of reggae and song, nicely crafted as it was alongside a few more of Bob’s colourful life episodes. The finale was a surprising mash-up of cast and audience getting down and jammin’

Here’s Lyn Gardner’s edited review from the Guardian.

Clearly made with love by writer and director Kwame Kwei-Armah, and received in the same spirit by a Birmingham audience, this musical inspired by the life and times of Jamaican musician Bob Marley may not be great theatre, but it’s undoubtedly a great night out.

That’s as much to do with the infectious pleasure of an audience hearing Marley’s many hits impressively delivered by Mitchell Brunings and a terrific band as it is with the show itself. In the programme, Kwei-Armah says that he wanted to avoid “sing-a-long-a-Bob”, but if that’s what he finally delivers in a clever final framing which casts us as the audience at the One Love peace concert in Kingston in 1978, during which Marley brought Jamaica’s warring political factions and gang leaders together, there is nothing to apologise for. Has there been a bio-musical that has sent an audience out of the theatre on quite such a high?

But while it’s satisfying musically, it’s often less sustaining dramatically. Marley deals with disputes within his band, embraces Rastafarianism and becomes a local hero in dangerous times. He was the target of an assassination attempt just before he was due to headline a free concert for the Jamaican people in December 1976.

He holes up in London, where he behaves like a womanising whiner while letting his music do the talking as he makes the album Exodus. The show loses focus and doesn’t always find a way to use the songs theatrically: Waiting in Vain/No Woman No Cry delivered as a duet between Marley and his betrayed wife, Rita (an excellent Alexia Khadime), is a rare exception.

If Brunings can’t ever quite flesh out the man, he always gives voice to Marley’s songs in a way that reminds us of a mighty talent whose music still speaks across the world, even if its creator remains stubbornly elusive.

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Pizza

Pre-Bob Snack before hitting the Rep

 

Not far from the Rep is the Crescent Theatre, which offered some prime fare in the shape of Not About Heroes, an engaging piece about the uneasy friendship between poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as they convalesced at the Craiglockhart War Hospital.

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Some brilliant performances from Andrew Smith as a haughty but playful Sassoon, and George Bandy striking a more provincial pose with Owen.

Here’s a great review from the Little Miss Horton blog (edited a little bit): http://www.littlemisshortonblog.wordpress.com

Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori, penned Wilfred Owen, ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.’ Or is it?

The set, created by Dan O’Neil and Keith Harris, used a sombre backdrop of silhouetted barricades merging with the harsh red sky, a constant reminder of the bloody and violent fighting in France.

Not About Heroes, is a contemporary tragedy about the two greatest war poets of World War One: Wilfred Owen who died and Siegfried Sassoon who didn’t. Stephen Macdonald’s play details the friendship between them, when they meet at a military hospital in Scotland. Told through the medium of letters and poetry, the play paints a gruesome yet sincere picture of war.

Andrew Smith embodied the poet, Siegfried Sassoon; encompassing the pacifist, the lover of golf, the broken soldier and the grief-stricken friend all at once. His easy portrayal of the character grabbed me hook, line and sinker into the tragic story line.

As Wilfred Owen, George Bandy gives a thoughtful portrayal of the war poet. The progression of Owens’ character from the ‘coward’, to the man willing to go back to the front line was done masterfully.

George Bandy, whom I spoke to after the show, spoke on great length about his role, saying: ‘This was probably the most daunting project that I have undertaken. There is nothing quite like being on stage consistently for two hours, without an ensemble to back you up, but working with Andrew I could not have felt safer. Playing Wilfred Owen has been a challenge like no other, but I would not give it up for the world. I can only hope, to have done him justice.’

And I believe they have done a great justice for their stories.

Wilfred Owen’s Draft Preface:

This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.

Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War.

Above all I am not concerned with Poetry.

My subject is War, and the pity of War.

The Poetry is in the pity.

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The Flat Disc Society’s monthly offering was Wasteland, an Oscar-nominated documentary about rubbish, which was anything but. Jardim Gramacho is the world’s largest landfill, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. It follows the artist Vik Muniz as he creates portraits of the workers used from materials scavenged from the tip.

The title is a nod to TS Eliot’s poem The Wasteland so here’s the first verse seeing as we’ve a poetry thing happening this post. Spookily, it also tips a wink to this month’s blog title so I’m really going for it:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

According to Eliot, who wrote these famous opening lines to “The Waste Land,” April is a bastard because it leaves you hoping and wishing that spring would come, but it never really closes the deal. It is a time of year when everyone’s sick of winter and wants the light and warmth again. April usually delivers a few sunny days just to tease us and then it pisses down the rest of the month, and the whole thing’s a big disappointment. It’s a bit like watching Aston Villa.

As usual, there were also a little short features to get us settled into the rubbish theme – British Transport Films: I am a Litter Basket, a quirky educational offering, and Isle of Flowers, a documentary following the fate of a spoiled tomato – that is, a squelchy tomato discarded by a middle-class housewife, not a tomato that is given too much pocket money.

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The annual birding visit to Devon came at the end of this busy first week – a few long, sunny days by the sea – the hottest so far of the year.

Before checking in, it was necessary – nay, essential – to saunter around Exminster Marshes to the Turf, a handily placed pub on the estuary where any obligatory twitching can be undertaken on the water’s edge with a pint or two of Avocet Ale.

Staying at our favourite haunt, the Langstone Cliff Hotel, in Dawlish Warren meant we were handily placed for several forays out into the Devonshire countryside. The splendid weather lasted as we checked out Berry Head (nice Ring Ouzel in the quarry), Labrador Bay (Cirl Buntings looking good against the red-turned earth), Dawlish Warren (stunning Cornish Pasty with an early migrant Magnum to follow).

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Sticking to the pattern of previous years, it was onto Bowling Green Marsh the next day, with Woodbury Common for Dartford Warblers in the afternoon. These birds are chirpy little things that only ever surface above the gorse when you’re looking the other way. A Stoat bounded across the path on the way up to a stand of pine, and Stonechats and a Wheatear kept us entertained between Dartfords.

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Pete and I stayed an extra day, which meant we could indulge in a bit of Somerset on the way back to Brum.

Visiting the reed-laden expanses of Shapwick Fen and Ham Wall turned up a Bittern, as well as the now regular sightings of Great White Egrets. A Mink swam across one of the pools, causing widespread panic amongst the ducks and grebes. I’d not seen such wholesale panic since the English fled Mel Gibson in whatever movie he made last.

 

Managed to get some footy in – the mighty Halesowen were taking on plucky Sutton Coldfield Town in a relegation battle. It only took several hours after the match finished to realise that it was, in fact, Sutton who had won 1-0 and not Halesowen (they also play in blue…)

 

The month was book-ended with another birding sortie – this time to Cambridgeshire. Not the greatest in terms of spotting stuff but two great locations visited.

First up was a stroll through Fowlmere Nature Reserve. Natural chalk springs bubble up and feed the pools and reedbeds, which are surrounded with hawthorn scrub and crack willow. Not a great deal of birds around but plenty of butterflies such as Orange Tip and Brimstone.

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And finally onto Paxton Pits, an area of active and disused gravel pits, but also a haven of lakes, meadow, scrub, grassland and woodland. Usually packed with wildlife, especially birds. There were plenty of Cormorants and Tufted Ducks, no small amount of pigeons either, and finches and tits but no sign of Nightingales or Turtle Doves this time. Kestrels and Buzzards provided the raptor element, as did a lone, hunting Sparrowhawk but it was the Hobby that took all plaudits with its scything falcon flights over water to grasp luckless dragonflies.

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February Fun and Frollix

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After the quiet but very enjoyable heralding-in of 2017, there’s nothing quite like an Anthrax gig to open February.

The heavy metal/thrash band was in Brum at the Birmingham Institute and supported by equally impressive The Raven Age.

The Raven Age, an English metalcore band, provided a brilliant opening for Anthrax to follow with some scintillating guitar-shredding and bang-on drumming fronted by some dead-good vocal gymnastics (I’m awaiting a call from Classic Rock magazine anytime soon to review stuff).

Here’s some YouTube of The Raven Age:

…and here’s a musical cartoon from the Crow Collection:

ralphAnthrax were on form with a blistering set, as befitting a band whose reputation is already cemented in the big four quartet alongside Metallica, Megadeth and The Dooleys (actually, that last one may be Slayer).

Here’s an edited review from http://www.metalwani.com by Jack Toresen.

On February 9, 2017, I traveled the short distance to Birmingham to see Anthrax celebrate the 30th anniversary of their classic 1987 studio album ‘Among the Living’. The support act for the tour was The Raven Age, a melodic metal band featuring guitarist George Harris, the son of Iron Maiden founding member and primary songwriter Steve Harris.

The Raven Age audience enthusiasm and participation definitely started off relatively minimal and grew continuously as their set went on. However, for an opening band I feel that The Raven Age did an admirable job of warming the crowd up for what was to come, although in circumstances such as these it is difficult when you’re playing before a classic 1980s thrash band.

Anthrax performed a variety of tracks that included “Madhouse”, “Evil Twin” and “Fight ‘Em ‘Till You Can’t”. “Among the Living” came next – the title track followed directly by “Caught in a Mosh” which is one of the best 10 minutes of live music I think I’ve seen in a long time, played to a room of people who knew every word to every song.

Just under two hours flies by when the band’s technical prowess as musicians as well as their undeniable enthusiasm as musical performers draws you in.

To conclude, Anthrax’s performance at the Birmingham Institute was very, very good. The Raven Age was a welcome opener, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again with Iron Maiden.

It was so good to see that they got the recognition they deserved on that night. If you’re seeing Anthrax this year, and especially on this tour, you’re in for a treat.

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Anthrax proved to be a gentler emotional interlude than going to see Birmingham City beat Fulham 1-0 as part of Dave’s ongoing 50th celebrations. Dave was the half-time guest of honour and presented with a signed football shirt and stuff on the pitch. (Never mind Classic Rock – I should be writing for Four Four Two).

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For my own more modest birthday celebrations, a crawl around the Jewellery Quarter did the trick, gathering in the Rose Villa Tavern and ending up with a highly-recommended Black Shack Chicken in the Church. That was lunch in a pub, not a sacrifice at the altar…

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The February film on offer from the Flat Disc Society’s Film Club was a Swedish teenage lesbian romp, which garnered great reviews from Rotten Tomatoes website with a 90% liking on the Tomatometer and an unusually large club attendance on the night. The Critics Consensus: a naturalistic depiction of teenage life, Show Me Love has a charming, authentic feel.

Here’s the blurb from the Tomatoes: This coming-of-age comedy is set in a sleepy little Swedish town called Åmål — the most boring place on Earth according to adolescent Agnes. Agnes is not able to make friends at school. She’s in love with Elin, but no one knows about it except her computer.

A short film, Talk, preceded the main feature: Birger is old and retired from work. Still, he goes back to work since he has nothing else to do. Back home he gets a rare visitor: a girl from Hare Krishna recruiting new members. But his need for human contact proves to be overwhelming for the girl.

If my Aunt Florrie had called instead with her bible, it would have been a different outcome, you can be sure…

 

Which left a final weekend for a bit of a ramble in Mamble.

Mamble is a village in Worcestershire in the Malvern Hills district, somewhere between Bewdley and Tenbury Wells. It was also in the lower division of the Doddingtree Hundred – not a football league but a huge slice of land carved up during William the Conqueror’s day and handed to his standard bearer as a reward for bearing his standard during the Norman Conquest.

Nice work, if you can get it – a nice chunk of land for waving a flag.

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All penned in

The poet John Drinkwater penned a poem about the village of Mamble, spookingly called Mamble:

I never went to Mamble
that lies above the Teme,
so I wonder who’s in Mamble,
and whether people seem
who breed and brew along there
as lazy as the name,
and whether any song there
sets alehouse wits aflame.

The finger-post say Mamble,
and that is all I know,
of the narrow road to Mamble,
and should I turn to go
to that place of lazy token,
that lies above the Teme,
there might be a Mamble broken
that was lissom in a dream.

So leave the road to Mamble
and take another road
to as good a place as Mamble
be it lazy as a toad;
who travels Worcester County
takes any place that comes,
when April tosses bounty
to the cherries and the plums.

The walk itself was brutally muddy but, in the tradition of all great rambles, it was bracing! Dragging ourselves through mud and sludge, over stiles and across fields, petting ponies and carrying little dogs. We trampled our way through the endearingly entitled little village of Neen Solars which, according to Wikipedia, boasts a phone box!

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Gary to the rescue

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Liz often needed a good defibrillating

 

A welcome lunch awaited at the 17th century Sun & Slipper Inn. No song set alehouse wits aflame but the excellent bill of fare had many cooing with delight – slabs of roast beef dinners and salmon steaks stuffed many a gill.

 

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February Frollix

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The Dearne Valley was the venue of choice this month, and the WMBC (West Midland Bird Club – keep up!) left Birmingham on a chilly and rainy morning for the Old Moor Nature Reserve.

This reserve is based around several lakes, reed beds and marshes with various trails winding between them.

Not far from Barnsley, Old Moor is impressively well maintained with good facilities for the visitor. Entered through the visitor centre (an old converted farm building) an essential first stop – not counting the café – is the small garden it leads onto.

There was an impressive selection of garden birds ebbing and floing between the feeding stations and the backdrop of bushes and shrubbery – Bullfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows, Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Siskins, plus the usual tits including a Willow Tit. In fact, just about the entire cast from the Ladybird Book of Garden Birds.

There are several hides based on the land cutting through the middle of the main lakes and, as would be expected, there was an equally impressive array of wetland birds on the waters – Goosanders, Widgeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Cormorants and plenty of other ducks, geese, swans and gulls.

Old Moor certainly has enough for a good day’s mooching, and we even copped a Barn Owl just before leaving.

I’m short on photos this month, so here’s another cartoon to lead us onto the cultural bit.

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A bit of theatre seldom goes amiss, especially when staging the Green Day musical, American Idiot. Dave, Padge and myself took our seats for an enjoyable performance at The Old Joint Stock Theatre.

The Old Joint Stock was originally designed as a library before becoming the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. Lloyds Bank then took it over in 1889 – the same year that Birmingham officially became a city.

Making a feature of the original fixtures and fittings, the high windowed dome and massive front windows, the Old Joint Stock has now evolved into a welcoming old pub (it is also a very enthusiastic throwing-out pub when last orders are called).

American Idiot is a stage adaption of Green Day’s Rock Opera, American idiot, and includes all the songs from their landmark album (also spookily called American Idiot).

It was an bustling and energetic show performed by the very creative Old Joint Stock Musical Theatre Company, who probably only need to work on a snappier company title to go with their vibrant mix of dance and music numbers.

Better throw in another ‘toon before the walking photos kick in.

This is one of the early ones from the Crow Collection.

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The Film Club – Flat Disc Society’s – offering was a little hairy this month: The Hairdresser’s Husband.

Here’s a brief rundown from entertainment website http://www.avclub.com

As a young boy, the hero in Patrice Leconte’s The Hairdresser’s Husband dashes out to the barbershop at every opportunity, no matter whether his hair is already cropped to a trim quarter-inch. For him, the place carries sensual associations that are endlessly intoxicating, from the subtle aura of shampoo and perfume to the lusty power of the generously endowed women wielding the scissors. One day, he makes an announcement: When he grows up, he aspires to marry a hairdresser. And in spite of his family’s horrified response, he goes on to do exactly that. What better dream than to find the thing that makes you happiest in the world and commit yourself wholly to it?

We don’t know what happened in the decades since childhood, but by the time that barbershop-loving boy has grown up to be played by the charming Jean Rochefort, he’s so certain of what he wants that he proposes to gorgeous barbershop proprietor Anna Galiena the moment he sits in her chair. Remarkably, it only takes a couple more visits for her to accept.

The remainder of The Hairdresser’s Husband is a tribute to the simplicity of their relationship: They enjoy each other’s company. They dance. They make love at every opportunity. The only time they ever fight is over a trivial item in the tabloids, but the sting is enough to keep Rochefort from ensuring it never happens again. If for nothing other than Rochefort’s mesmerizing interpretive-dance sequences, the film succeeds swimmingly.

It was a short and enjoyable little film, much like one of those slim novels where nothing much happens but you carry on reading nevertheless as it’s just a pleasant little diversion. As diversions go, it went well.

There was also another short feature of a hairy persuasion – Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience: Hairdresser.

The stand-up comedian goes straight from the stage to the hair and beauty salon, trying out spray tans and bob cuts along the way. Quite funny but Rhod should concentrate on his roots.

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ER Hughes, Night with her train of Stars, 1912 (Birmingham Museums).

 

I just managed to catch the latest exhibition at the Gas Hall before it finished on Sunday.

Enchanted Dreams was the first ever exhibition dedicated to ER Hughes, a lesser-known light of the famous Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The art of Edward Robert Hughes has been largely overlooked compared to his rakish familiars, and the exhibition brought together various strands of his oeuvre (basically: his work – one is allowed certain pretensions when discussing culture) with the red chalk drawings equally as compelling as the more familiar watercolour pieces.

Birmingham is world famous for its collection of Pre-Raphaelite works, and one of its most popular paintings is by ER: Night with her Train of Stars. I also liked the slightly less mystical rotting corpse in a ditch – ‘Oh, What’s That in the Hollow…?’), The Valkyrie’s Vigil, and a sort of hippy minstrel with piercing blue eyes – Blondel’s Quest.

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ER Hughes, ‘Oh, What’s That in the Hollow…?,’ 1893 (Royal Watercolour Society).

Hippy

Valk

 

Night with her Train of Stars was inspired by this poem by William Ernest Henley who was musing on death (as you do) and likening it to a damn good sleep.

Margaritae Sorori

A LATE lark twitters from the quiet skies:
And from the west,
Where the sun, his day’s work ended,
Lingers as in content,
There falls on the old, gray city
An influence luminous and serene,
A shining peace.

The smoke ascends
In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires
Shine and are changed. In the valley
Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night–
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.

So be my passing!
My task accomplish’d and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gather’d to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene,
Death.

Poem alert: Henley also penned the oft-quoted Invictus – you know, captain of my soul and all that.

Graveyard

I thought an appropriate photo from Haselour Church would link the Henley poem to our latest walk.

 

Stuart led the line with this jaunty little romp across the Warwick shire from the charmingly clichéd market town of Alcester

 

Location gumpf: GR: SP088572. Postcode for SatNav: B49 5BA.

Head south through Oversley Green to cross A46. Pass Oversley Wood and head north passing through Exhall to recross A46 to Haselour (walking past the village stocks) and climbing up towards Haselour church for some good views (altitude a dizzy 70 metres).

Descend northwards to cross River Alne for lunch in Great Alne at the Mother Huff Cap pub. Good food and beer (the Purity Brewery is a short distance northwards).

After lunch a short road walk northwards before following Arden/Heart of England/Monarchs Way westwards to return to Alcester.

When Stuart pre-walked the route about a fortnight ago some of the fields and minor roads north of Haselour were under water. The recent dry spell flood levels had receded but parts of the walk were very muddy. It was!

TrevBook

Trev just couldn’t put it down

telelibrary

Yes, it actually was the library

Gatewalk

Haselourchurch

Haselour Church

WindingRd

The long and winding path

ToughWalking

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Mellow October’s Fruitfulness

View

Not a humongous amount of stuff going on this month – just a little walk and a little bird-watching so I may need to fill out this post with a bit of Keats. It’s all in keeping with the season.

At the beginning of the month, there was an interesting circular walk around Cromford, courtesy of 02 – the College’s intrepid walking group.

A large part of the Cromford village was built by ‘Cotton King’ Richard Arkwright, one of the founders of the Industrial revolution and considered by many as the father of the factory. This was to house the mill workers for the nearby Cromford Mill where provision was also made for shops, pubs, a school and chapel.

We followed the walk suggested by ifootpath.com and, in another boundless display of sheer torpidity, I include it here to save me from writing it up:

The walk starts on the canal wharf. Within the wharf area there was a warehouse, a weighing machine, sawpit, counting houses, stables and a smithy. Many of the old canal buildings can still be seen. The walk takes in a lovely stretch of the canal, which was completed in 1794. The walk also takes in a canal aqueduct over the River Derwent and the Leawood Pumphouse, a steam-powered beam. At High Peak Junction you join the High Peak Trail, which follows the former Cromford and High Peak Railway.

On this walk you will go through two gates, over one stile and negotiate a few wooden steps. The paths are of good quality but the incline can be muddy after wet weather. The incline is pretty steep but is the only uphill section of the walk.

The Fishpond at Matlock Bath was the perfect venue for lunch after a grueling four-miler.

There now follows a little photo gallery:

Cromford_group1

Cromford_group2

HIghPeak

Peeling

Peeps

Peeps2

Peeps3

Trio

Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire, up near Skegness, was not quite the final destination of a surprisingly balmy October.

Yes, its bird-watching time, and the day was jump-started before we even reached Gibraltar Point with a Crane putting in a quite unexpected appearance as it flew past the coach.

After that, although there were several other top species flitting around the reserve, I seemed to miss out on all of them apart from a tiny speck of a Black Redstart pootling around the building site next to the reserve entrance.

I loitered around the cycle path for a while, hoping to catch a glimpse of a reported Rustic Bunting but there was nothing doing.

As ever, in this neck of the woods, the skies are huge, and an impressive flock of Pink-Footed Geese wheeled in from above, landing on one of the meres and chuntering away amidst the usual array of plovers, shanks and godwits.

The reserve is effectively split into two ridges of sand dunes, separated by a good splodge of saltmarsh with sand, shingle and muddy beaches so even if there is nothing spectacular going on, its always well worth the walk around.

Towards the end of each year, Norfolk is checked out for a long weekend of walking, birding and drinking. This year’s jaunt straddles November so I’ll post this account next month.

In the meantime, here’s that bit of Keat’s I promised you – plus a little poignant poem at the end, which may even be considered its equal in terms of evoking this season of mists and mellow fru…oops! Got carried away – here’s the Keats’ ode. Enjoy.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinéd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barréd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

To Autumn was composed after a walk near Winchester one autumnal evening, and marks the end of Keats’ poetic career as he needed to get real and earn some dosh. Not long after publishing this poem, Keats died.

And now for something completely different…

Autumn Ode

Everything is fuzzy and red,

The tree’s still alive

But the leaves are dead.

JC 2015

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JC’s July – All beer ‘n’ footy…

Although July was a busy month, it is so easy to sum it all up: drinking and World Cup Football!

Just like a Big Country song, each occasion was enjoyable in itself but pretty much the same thing over again – either going to the pub to watch a game, or getting a few tinnies in to watch a match without some drunken dullard spiraling in front of the screen (sorry about that, everyone!)

Dire England performances aside, it was a great time – and we even had Wimbledon too! Watched the epic Germany versus Brazil 7-1 mauling with a German and a Brazilian – which, as euphemisms go, wasn’t one!

20140708_213314

When not in front of a big screen or necking a few beers, I managed a little trudge over in the Cotswolds with the Fell-walkers.

 

I’ll let Paul Hands give you the lowdown (this is going to be a super-short blog – I promise to do better next time!)

I’ll include the all of the directions so as to fluff it out a bit…

 

Parking:

Lane side verges on minor road (988276)

Maps:

 

Outdoor Leisure 45, Explorer 179 & 190

 

The walk: 

This is a picturesque walk on the edge of the Cotswolds with several good viewpoints along the way. We will see steam engines on the GWSR and plenty of wild flowers on the slopes of Langley Hill. It does involve some hill climbing, unfortunately, the longest being during the final section after the pub (Jeez – it was knackering!). The pub is the Shutters at Gotherington, approximately two thirds of the way round. They do a full range of nosh and a couple of beers. I found them very friendly and they are dog friendly with water bowls and free dog biscuits!

The route:

From the lane we head east via Rushbury House and Cockbury Butts then north-east onto Stanley Mount & Langley Hill before descending north to Gretton. West via Stanley Pontlarge and Dixton to Woolstone Hill Farm and on to Gotherington and pub. From here it is a relatively short section back to the cars but involves a steepish climb up Nottingham Hill.

Rest

 

Walk

 

This month I’ve been mostly reading:

Books by Birmingham author Charlie Hill – a tidy little read with an interesting and original plot (I’m great at these book reviews).

I usually have several books on the go and have just finished reading Heart of Darkness – a book I’ve struggled with in the past despite it being so short a novel. There’s no denying it has some nice phrasing but I don’t get the overall gist and, for me, it is not such an easy read.

I tried Mrs. Dalloway once and found that similarly vexing (the book was quite trying as well) so I have some serious literary training to do to get into this stuff.

Anyway, this poem by John Clare featured in one of the early chapters of Books. So, in the blogger’s spirit of sharing – I thought I’d share it!

First Love

I ne’er was struck before that hour

With love so sudden and so sweet,

Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower

   And stole my heart away complete.

My face turned pale as deadly pale,

   My legs refused to walk away,

And when she looked, what could I ail?

   My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face

   And took my eyesight quite away,

The trees and bushes round the place

   Seemed midnight at noonday.

I could not see a single thing,

   Words from my eyes did start—

They spoke as chords do from the string,

   And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice?

   Is love’s bed always snow?

She seemed to hear my silent voice,

   Not love’s appeals to know.

I never saw so sweet a face

   As that I stood before.

My heart has left its dwelling-place

   And can return no more.