Sunday Post: Beginning of February

A gloved hand holding a grey stone in which there are the remains of two ammonite fossils although they are almost worn away
Ghostly ammonites

Life

My last week of being forty-two. I took a day off work and went for a very long walk on a local beach which is covered in fossils. My favourite find was this stone with two ghostly ammonites that have been worn away by the sea.

Yesterday, we went for another long walk, this time beside the river that runs through the city where we live. It was a beautiful day and we saw a lot of birds, including grey wagtails, wrens, tree creepers, coal tits, goosanders and a very elegant heron.

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, mostly from Anna Jones’s book, The Modern Cook’s Year. I made the chard, lentil and bay gratin, the golden miso potato salad and pomelo and peanut winter noodles with carrot and coconut dressing. All were very good.

Unfortunately, I did have a cooking-related mishap and dropped boiling water on my foot, so now I have a large blister. My partner says I should be in a health and safety video about what not to do.

TV

We’re on a bit of a costume drama kick at the moment. We watched the Andrew Davies Sense and Sensibility from 2008. I don’t think it’s very good. It rips off the Emma Thompson movie something shocking and both Colonel Brandon and Willoughby are horribly miscast, but Charity Wakefield and Hattie Morahan are excellent as Marianne and Elinor and that makes it watchable.

Then we watched the 1996 adaptation of Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with Tara Fitzgerald and very young Rupert Graves and Toby Stephens. Overall, I think this is excellent, but it’s so relentlessly serious and grim, it’s not an easy watch. I do think the adaptation lacks a warmth that Bronte brings to the novel.

Reading

I finished Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. I had issues with a couple of things, but it was a very enjoyable read. Proper post to follow.

The poem of the week is ‘Cellular’ by Lizzie Harris

Life, in even the simplest form, has always
been a matter of finding the energy.

Music

I love ‘Melyn’ (2018) by the Welsh feminist band, Adwaith. It’s gorgeous, atmospheric indie rock and I’m really excited to see what they’re going to do next.

I’ve also been listening to Cassandra Wilson’s album of Billie Holiday covers Coming Forth by Day (2015). It’s a fantastic album and my song of the week is her version of ‘Good Morning Heartache’.

Feeling better with butterflies

It’s been a stressful week and I was already feeling fragile when I woke up this morning. Then I went and logged into twitter, saw stuff that made me feel even worse and, by 8.00am, I was in tears #selfcarefail.

Determined not to spend my day off crying, I decided to go out and buy a new kettle because the old one no longer makes good tea. I walked to the supermarket and got the kettle, but I was still crying.

Luckily, we live close to an old cemetery which is also a lovely nature reserve. If there’s one thing that can usually improve my mood, it’s looking for wildlife. This is probably because it puts me back in touch with the happiest times in my childhood. It worked and I came home feeling much better.

Here are a few (not very good) photos from my nature walk.

Common Blue butterfly

So beautiful and even bluer in real life.

Image shows a British common blue butterfly sunning its wings while sitting on some dry grass. The butterfly's wings are bright blue with white edging.

Speckled Wood

Image shows a speckled wood butterfly sunning itself on a green leaf in a leafy hedgerow. It is a brown butterfly with pale yellow spots on its wings.

Gatekeeper

There were lots of these guys fluttering around, but they were very difficult to photograph. This was as close as I could get.

Image shows a gatekeeper butterfly sunning itself on a plant with yellow flowers. The butterfly is a bit distant from the camera but you can see it's orange and brown wings and brown spots on the tips.

I also saw plenty of meadow browns, large and small whites and one small skipper.

Cinnabar moth caterpillars 

There were plenty of cinnabar moth caterpillars enjoying the rag wort plants in the cemetery.

Image is a close-up of several cinnabar moth caterpillars feeding on ragwort. The caterpillars have yellow and black stripes around their bodies.

 

Home

In spring we watch for the first snowdrops. Then daffodils appear and, miraculously, the bluebell woods.  Trees bud and blossom (elderflower for the wine).  Frogspawn glistens in ponds. Magpies nest in the pine trees.  The rich smell of muckspreading carries in from the fields.  Baby lambs, chicks and calves. The swallows and swifts return.

Summer brings a floral riot: ragged robin, red campion, blue scabious, buttercups, foxgloves and queen anne’s lace. Thick, luminous green moss covers the trees that fall over the streams.  Wild strawberries and blackberries appear in the hedges; blueberries on the hills.  Mushrooms in the early morning, but do be careful.  The scent of new mown hay

Purple heather signals autumn. The scent of bonfire drifts over the first hint of frost.  Acorns, pine cones, and conkers.  People bring in sacks of apples, potatoes, swedes and turnips.  Buzzards and kites soar, watching for the young rabbits that seem to get everywhere.  The swallows and swifts take their leave of us and rain sets in.

In winter the thick mud that tourists never see.  Holly, ivy, mistletoe in the trees (it’s illegal to pick mistletoe, but somebody always does).  The frozen ponds (don’t skate on them if you value your life).  And the dark: those who grow up in the city don’t know what dark really means.  Snow in January, always.  

We wait for the first snowdrops.

A very hungry caterpillar

One thing we’re trying to do for the environment is encourage butterflies, moths and caterpillers to use the garden. 

I count this as evidence of success:

The biggest and most beautiful garden tiger moth caterpiller I have ever seen.  I’m allergic to these things so I’ll probaly regret doing this later.

Shame about the fox glove, but it’s worth the sacrifice if he grows up to become one of these: