Friday, 12 January 2018

An Excursion to Discworld ...

... well, Salisbury Museum, actually. And not a moment too soon, as the exhibition we wanted to see -  Terry Pratchett: His World - has only a few days left to run. (So much for all-devouring funding applications.)

We had Ted with us, which meant we had to take it in turns to go in, while the other placated a dog who is used to long car jouneys ending in words beginning with b. That is, beach and ball, not bugger, they're doing something boring and cultural. 
Being the longer-standing Pratchett fan, the Northerner went in first while Ted and I wandered around the outside of the Cathedral. 

The stained glass seen through stained glass looked like scrunched up Quality Street wrappers.

As for Elisabeth Frink's purposeful Walking Madonna, whom I'd encountered before - well, exchange her wimple for a pointy hat and hatpins and she'd be Granny Weatherwax. 

Echoing Granny - I mean, the Walking Madonna - is a more recent arrival, Lynn Chadwick's Walking Woman. In the Discworld Multiverse, I think she must be Nightshade, Queen of the Elves.

Ted wasn't too impressed with all of this. He just wanted his flock back together. 

Alack, it was not to be. Not just yet. 

Much of the exhibition consisted of artwork by Paul Kidby, which was very fine. I liked it a lot more than I'd expected, especially his use of light. 

A shambles

Make Haste Slowly

Tiffany Aching

By and large, though, it was the telling detail that proved most touching.   

Cognitive tests taken in 2010

Motto: Don't fear the reaper

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Coming of the King Part II: the Crumlin Arm

My children are half-Welsh, half-English. When they were young, we explored their West Country heritage extensively. Having a caravan in Devon helped. But apart from excursions to Big Pit and St Fagans, and a late-in-the-day weekend in Rhossili for a friend's 50th birthday, trips to Wales were limited to visiting my now late then in-laws.

To rectify this, Son the Younger and I have decided to combine walking our dogs with occasional explorations of his other, less familiar origins. This last weekend we decided to investigate some industrial history in Gwent by walking the northernmost end of the Crumlin Arm of the Monmouthshire canal, which was completed in 1799 ... about a seven mile round trip.
We parked a little above Fourteen Locks, also known as the Cefn Flight, and followed the canal as it curved around the foot of Twmbarlwm and Medart, overlooking the towns of Risca, Crosskeys and Pontywaun. 

The Crumlin Arm isn't navigable on this section, at least not by narrowboats or large craft. You could probably travel along it in a canoe or coracle, though.
Looking up the Ebbw valley towards Cwmcarn

I've got used to the bustle of the Kennet and Avon, so it felt strange to walk by such a deserted stretch of canal. It was beautiful, but considerably less interesting. 

What do you mean, deserted? There's us ...

... oh and a fairly consistent stream of cyclists, hawking like great dragonflies, their eyes a-dazzle, up and down the towpath. Not to mention other walkers. 

Oh and that pesky pupper tagging along with my boy, grumbled Ted. 

But I missed the narrowboats with their drifting smoke, the gangplanks, stacked logs and bikes on their roofs, the art being created and sold, the smiles and hugs, the camp coffee made with condensed milk ... OK, I'm getting a bit specific now. 



Then we were in Pontywaun. Here the present canal ends, four miles short of Crumlin, its original terminus and the village that gave it its name.

The walk back seemed a lot quicker than the outbound leg, and the views were less spectacular, partly because the sun was getting very low on the horizon. 

Here, at last, there was a boat to be seen. 

Jackdaws scuttered overhead.


Almost back where we started there was a whirr of flame up the far side of the canal. A kingfisher! We watched as it perched for a while on a branch against a massive tree trunk, its feathers lit by the last of the sun. 

I remembered the last - and first - time I saw one, three years ago - again in early January, on the Kennet and Avon canal. I took it as a good omen for the coming year ... and broke my leg three weeks later. 

I didn't ascribe portent to this one. I just watched it and marvelled at how its folded wings made it look - fittingly - as if it were carrying its own small coracle on its back.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Colder than the Scales on a Mermaid's Tail

The forecast was brilliant sun, with a temperature of 5°C, so we promised Ted we'd take him to the beach for a nice long run the next morning. 

It was tipping with rain when we went to bed. So we didn't expect to wake up to snow all the way over to the Cotswolds.

But the forecast still said sunny all day, and 6°C at Berrow. So we decided we Might Just Risk It. 

Once in Somerset there was a smudge of snow on the Mendips too, though not on nearby Brent Knoll.

It was sheltered winding our way along the sunken footpath between the thickets of thorn and sea buckthorn. 

Ted, who had sulked when we got into the car because he hadn't really understood the beach bit, brightened dramatically and led the way to the shore. There, however, a northerly wind was biting ... and it had put its teeth in. 

We'd arrived bang on high tide. Not only could you could see the sea, it had waves in it. 

There was snow on distant Exmoor ... 

... and on the probably-not-quite-as-distant-as-the-crow-flies Welsh hills ...

... but the freezing cold didn't put Ted off. 

In fact, it didn't put any of us off. We were having a lovely time. 

There was no sign of the wreck of the SS Nornen sticking up through the waves, even though the beach is very flat and the yellow buoys which mark the site looked as if they were close to the shore.

And the sanderlings which had been scurrying along the high tide line departed sharpish when Ted materialised. 

The oystercatchers hung around a little longer, though. 

We could only bear to walk into the wind as far as the first set of groynes.  

Up in the dunes, however, it was much balmier, and the views were gorgeous. 

Over to Steep Holm and the coast of Wales

Up to Brean Down

Over to Brent Knoll ... with a raven overhead

In fact, there were lots of ravens.

Looking down to the Quantocks

It was a mercy to turn our backs to the wind and walk back down the beach.  

Already the dark was seeping up from the ground as we made our way back through the dunes to the churchyard. 

But we were full of light.