Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More Beer...

The beach at Beer was an animated scene. Guys were rigging up heavy, wooden sailing boats, known as luggers; they race every Monday evening, I was told. With the shingle beach shelving precipitously into the water, launching the boats was no easy matter. The method was to lay lengths of blackened wood on the shingle, to cut down on the friction, and manhandle the boats into the water. Though it looked laborious and labour-intensive, people have launched boats in this way for thousands of years.

Half a dozen boats were rigged, with masts raised and sails unfurled… and then the call came. “It’s off”, said the guy who took the call; there wasn’t enough wind. Down came the sails and masts, and the boats were dragged back up the beach. The guys laid down the wooden staves again, as for launching, but now they had help from motorised winches at the top of the beach, with chains attached to the boats.

It all looked like a lot of work for nothing, but the guys didn’t look too fussed (apart from one character who, having driven a long way to get here, threw down his life-jacket in disgust). As another guy sad to me, “It’s either too little wind or two much. We’ve only raced twice this summer”.

The preparations were more interesting to photograph than the races; within five minutes of launching, the boats would have been out of range of my camera…

I’m in a campsite today, to edit and upload the backlog of pix. If all campsites were so reasonable - just £15 - I’d use them more…



Monday, 26 June 2017

Beer...

Making my way along the south coast, east to west, I crossed into Devon and arrived at Seaton. I’ve taken some pix, written a thousand words, eaten an ice cream and had a three-way conversation with a couple of small motorhome owners (or maybe owners of small motorhomes). The sea is calm, with waves shush-shushing against the pebble shore, and the temperature is on the rise.

I’m parked up in Beer for the night. What a great spot!


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Stonehill Down...

I just renewed the insurance on my Romahome, which means I’ve now been ‘on the road’ for three years. In the summer of 2014 I imagined living the nomadic life for maybe five years, but that was never a firm commitment or an immovable date in my diary. I can see me and the Romahome growing old together. There may come a time when my general health - or eyesight - may decline to the point where I won’t be able to drive… though I hope that’s still a few years down the line.

The weather is overcast and cool today: not very photogenic, but a welcome relief from the recent heatwave. I’m parked up on Stonehill Down, a local nature reserve, where walkers, cyclists and horse-riders are tackling a broad track along a ridge of the Purbeck Hills. It looks like the sort of path that people have walked for millennia. I’ve written 1,500 words of my book, which might be enough for today. It seems to be going well. I’ll be happy to get to the point where I have the first, full-length draft… when the book is a ‘thing’, not just a collection of unrelated ideas. That’s the beginning of phase two: checking my facts, knocking the chapters into shape, substituting finely-honed prose for the ‘placeholder’ material, etc…

The Old Customs House in Poole, Dorset...


Friday, 23 June 2017

Glastonbury...

Glastonbury starts today. I’m not far away, but I have neither a ticket… nor the inclination. I really enjoyed my three Glastonbury weekends, but they were a long time ago; I’m not sure I’d want to pay good money to be strip-searched by unsmiling security men. And I doubt if I could cope with the crowds.

My Glasto memories are all small-scale. I never much cared who was performing on the pyramid stage. I’d seek out, instead, more esoteric delights. I’d go into some little tent, where a shy poet would be reading his doggerel from a school exercise book to an audience of three people and a dog. I saw unpopular musical acts and baffling street theatre. I saw Jerry Sadowitz deal with a heckler in the comedy tent by going into the audience and punching him in the face. I remember being smitten by John Prine, then Jonathan Richman, in the acoustic tent; I’ve been a fan of both ever since. 

The ‘act’ I enjoyed the most was Jonathan Kay - the Fool - who was marshalling a large audience in yet another tent. He got people to do things they didn’t know they wanted to do… until he gave them permission. I was mesmerised. I wanted to know some of what this man knew… and I’ve done workshops with him since (all fun… even though I show no aptitude for ‘fooling’).

One guy, hoping to make his fortune, had brought about a thousand Pot Noodles and a kettle. By Sunday afternoon about 975 of them remained unsold; no one wanted to buy a plastic container full of brick-dust and e-numbers, topped up with boiling water, when there was so much good food on offer. I recall the street-cries of Old Glastonbury: “Dope acid, speed”, “Get your psychedelic acid”. But most of my memories of the festival have gone to a fine white ash…

Faith...

I’ve been reading - consuming - books by religious apologists. The literature is broad… but not very deep (writing more and more about less and less). At some point in every book there comes a moment where the author throws up his hands and says “You just have to believe!” Mark Twain was blessed with the ability to get to the heart of the matter, and express it with insight, brevity and wit. “Faith”, he wrote, “is believing what you know ain’t so”.

So I’ve picked up a book (Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, by Michael McCarthy) about the birds that arrive in spring and leave at the end of summer. I’m enjoying his writing style… “It is not simply the fact of their arrival… that so affects us; it is the recurring nature of it. In coming back year after year after year, against all the odds that they face, the spring migrants are testaments to the earth’s great cycle. They remind us that, although death is certain, renewal is eternal, that although all life ends, new life comes as well”…

17th century almshouses in the village of East Coker...


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Dorset...

Back in Dorset, as the weather relaxes into something more typically English. A temperature in the mid-twenties is fine by me, while I have stuff to write and pix to take…

Manor house, dated 1625, in the village of Norton, near Malmesbury...


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

East Coker...

In Sherborne this evening, as the temperature begins to drop from what it was in the heat of the day… a blistering 34 degrees. Another ‘first’ today, having learned how to make scrambled egg last week. I was in the village of East Coker, where the main road through the village is closed for repairs. A woman  in a car stopped me to ask how she could deliver a Chinese meal to an address at the other end of the village. I said I was walking there and could deliver it for her. I could have scoffed it myself, though a Chinese meal was not what I wanted on such a hot day.

Meal delivered - and with grateful thanks ringing in my ears - I had a look round the church. T S Eliot is buried here - he is commemorated with a plaque - and East Coker is one of his Four Quartets.

Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
And the deep lane insists on the direction
Into the village, in the electric heat
Hypnotised.


The lanes around the village really are ‘deep’ - steep-sided hollow ways - and ‘dark’ (shadowed on the sunniest of days). They ‘insist on the direction’ because once you start to walk to walk through one of these lanes, you have to keep following it until you reach the village. The heat today was certainly ‘electric’, though there’s no mention in any of of the Four Quartets about Sweet and Sour Pork Cantonese Style with Egg Fried Rice…

Hollow way to East Coker...

Heatwave...

Here we are: the longest day of the year… and maybe the hottest. Left sister Kari yesterday, looking more robust by the the day, less than two weeks after her operation. Back taking pix, and trying to keep cool, hoping to see a game or two in Taunton, as it’s the women’s turn to hold their cricket world cup. Cheap tickets, sit where you want, no queues at the bar: what’s not to like?…

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Authority...

I get a quote from Jiddhu Krishnamurti in my email inbox every day. This is today's offering, from a talk in 1955.

"Self-knowledge, then, is the beginning of the freedom of the mind. There cannot be understanding of oneself, fundamentally, deeply, if there is any form of assumption, any authority, either of the past or of the present. But the mind is frightened to let go of all authority and investigate because it is afraid of not arriving at a particular result. So the mind is concerned with achieving a result, but not with the investigation to find out, to understand. That is why we cling to authority - religious, psychological, or philosophical. Being afraid, we demand guides, authorities, scriptures, saviors, inspiration in various forms, and so the mind is made incapable of standing alone and trying to find out. But one must stand alone, completely, totally alone, to find out what is true"...

Lower Slaughter...




Friday, 16 June 2017

Hartley Wintney...

Stayed in Woodstock a couple of nights ago, another prosperous little Cotswolds town. Took an early morning stroll around the place before the gates to Blenheim Palace were opened to the riff-raff. Like the advertising slogan which used to promote Stella Artois beer, Woodstock is “reassuringly expensive” (though a sign outside the King’s Head suggests that even the good people of Woodstock are not immune to a bargain: “50% off champagne and Prosecco every Wednesday”).

Back in Hartley Wintney now with sister Kari, who is recuperating after surgery. I learned two new things yesterday: how to scramble an egg, and the fact that jetlag only happens if you fly east/west or west/east (rather than north/south or south/north)…

The village of Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Woodstock...

I’m parked up in Woodstock. It’s a balmy evening, and Woodstock is the kind of place for a leisurely stroll around town: the swifts are screaming, the sun lights up the honey-coloured buildings and a girl is practising her ballet moves in front of the town hall…

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Bourton-on-the-Water.

Stayed in ‘picture postcard’ Bourton-on-the-Water last night. I looked in vain for a cash machine, then learned that some guys had ripped the ATM out of the facade of Lloyds Bank with a stolen JCB…

A tranquil corner of Stow-on-the-Wold...


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Coventry...

Had a fun weekend in Coventry with (L-R) Chas, Gurkem and Nancy…




Saturday, 10 June 2017

Barbecue...

The clouds are clearing in Coventry today, with some late-afternoon sunshine. Having marinaded the chicken in his own-recipe sticky orange sauce, son Chas is getting the barbecue started…

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Election night...

Drove from Hampshire to north Norfolk, to socialise with old friends. And now I’m putting some more miles on the clock by heading to Coventry, to spend the weekend with son Chas. I’m parked up in Oundle, where I went to school. Not for any nostalgic reason… just that it’s on the route and I know where the car park is. I’m charging up my little digital radio, in the expectation of a night of election updates…

Brancaster Staithe...


Monday, 5 June 2017

The New Forest...


Horses...

The horse on the right is laughing at its own joke. The horse on the left has heard it before... and didn't find it funny the first time...

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Ariana Grande

I’m gobsmacked by the refusal, by the political elite and others, to criticise Islam in the wake of recent attacks. Teresa May condemns the “evil ideology of Islamist extremism”, and even that - to judge by an article in today’s Guardian - is too much. In a statement (July 2016) Islamic State was unequivocal: “The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam”…

I don’t know Ariana Grande, or her songs, but kudos to her for coming back to Manchester for a benefit concert… when it would have been so much easier to stay away…

Bucklers Hard...




Saturday, 3 June 2017

Biscuits...

Felt rough yesterday - prickly eyes, cough, etc - so I parked up and had a lazy day: reading, writing and listening to the cricket on the radio. Felt a bit more sprightly today, got a fair few pix of the New Forest and, while editing them, listened to a bit more cricket.

‘Sledging’ is what bowlers do in an attempt to unsettle batsmen. It’s generally just a volley of abuse - until the umpires step in - and not worth repeating. But one story makes me laugh every time I think about it. Australian bowler, Glen McGrath, was being frustrated by a tubby Zimbabwean batsman called Eddo Brandes. McGrath: “Why are you so fat?” Brandes: “Because every time I shag your wife, she gives me a biscuit”...

Horse and foal in the New Forest...