I don’t know if it is because we were struck by lightening today (we were not on our way to Damascus) but after the cataclysmic rain storm that followed, as the sun came out and stippled the hillside opposite, it struck me how extraordinary Life is — the whole shebang — all living things — our biosphere, from the bacteria in the soil, the worms in the grass that the crows, hopping about, are pulling out, the naked oak trees on the hill and me, worrying about the food warming up in the burnt out freezer while the man up the pole, mending the supply, is buffeted by the wind — it is all absolutely extraordinary.
Thanks To Kevin W Burkett for this photograph of Lightening over Philadelphia.
Source=[http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinwburkett/3978781404/ Lightning] reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Pedro, our dog, ought to have his own blog (not a weblog but a doglog — a glog), but then maybe no-one would ever visit mine. His posts already get all the likes and comments. When we first moved to Wales, when he was still young and intact and the world was full of willing bitches, Pedro was irrepressible, unrestrainable, clever (he still is) and devious (that too). He earned us the reputation of the feckless English who could not even control their own dog. In this farming area he should have been shot; you can’t have big, powerful dogs just wandering about: dogs will always be dogs. The thing was he didn’t just wander; he had purpose and inherent cunning. He was never seen anywhere near a sheep, although he regularly crossed their fields, he always kept out of sight, a commando — along the stream or in the ditch. There were no give-away signs of the sheep gathering or running, they didn’t even smell him. While bitches wailed in disappointment angry farmers locked him in barns only to be bedazzled by his escapology; he is always very biddable when caught, it’s a fair cop, chwarae teg in Welsh; he can speak Welsh and do door handles, knobs and latches. One farmer is still scratching his head, like Sherlock Holmes: you see both doors were locked from the outside and the only window was a good twelve feet from the ground; I’m told he’s taking holy orders, the farmer, not Pedro. It was pure charisma that kept him alive; he would boldly approach the man with the shot-gun, wagging his tail, as if he’d known him for years. Perhaps he had licked his face one night recently when he lay drunk in the hedge while trying to get a bit of shut-eye on his way back from a lock-in at the pub. Perhaps the farmer recognised in Pedro his own younger self; they do say that the Welsh (careful) are a passionate race and have their own traditional ways of courting, not dissimilar to Pedro’s. Anyway he survived and I have written about his adventures elsewhere. I’ve never known anyone, human or otherwise, who knows so many people. He’s a dog who comes home, after a night out, in the post van (You know how postmen feel about dogs). The postman lets him out at the gate and he trots home. We benefitted indirectly from Pedro’s fame; farmers know a good dog when they see one, even if he is with that damn silly English couple. When introduced to us at chapel they would say, ‘Oh yes, Pedro’s people.’ But all that changed when something happened down the valley, news of it drifted up on the wind, came through the key hole and under the door, Pedro sniffed, he trembled, he whimpered… To be continued.
It’s been raining quite a lot. Between storms I’ve been having a new look at the world.
The stream is swollen and down the valley they complain that the drumming of the river keeps them awake at night.
We’ve moved our flock to higher ground to keep their feet dry and when the low winter sun comes out, which it has been doing quite often, every sheep has a silver lining:
We’ve been making the most of the sunny periods by cutting back the hedge rows so that the grass can grow with more light although we still need shelter for the beasts and privacy for lambing; behind the hedges we’re cutting back the low branches and brambles that will whip us in the eye and snag us as we give assistance in the spring.
Winter working reveals aspects of the wildlife with which we share this land that are overshadowed or covered at other times of the year. Hover over these pictures for details:
Today I have been looking in a bit more detail at the moulds and fungi that surround us, if any of you recognise the species I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment.
Here are some mosses and lichen. After the fall, some of the hawthorn and damson trees reveal so much lichen that they seem to be in blossom!
A whole world can exist on the top of a gatepost!
We chose to live on the edge; wrestling with physical adversity seems to be something we need to do. It makes us pivotal in our own existence. We built our home here and there is little that needs to be done that we haven’t learned to do ourselves; we cut down trees that threaten our electricity wires, we mend our bridge and tend the well, we poke sticks through the crust on our cesspit and nod our heads wisely. Our barn and woodsheds are full and we have enough lamp oil to last a whole winter without power.
I get perverse pleasure from asserting myself over an animal that weighs more than I do but doesn’t understand the need for immunisation. We can gather and marshal our herd with ease now, albeit more with cunning than physical fitness — still very satisfying.
It’s only when our grown-up children arrive, bringing their own worlds with them that we start to feel marginalised on our edge. It’s not that they sit in silence texting, they don’t anymore, or have a hybrid stealth car (we used to enjoy bump-starting their old wrecks) or that they don’t want the benefit from our experience about routes home — it’s okay we’ll probably just follow the sat-nav.
They bring their films and music, grab the remote and find channels on our TV that we didn’t even know existed, channels which have their own familiars, strange creatures that leer from the box making jokes that aren’t funny (to us) but they laugh; their cultural allusions are lost on us and ours on them.
Thanks to Laura Mountford for the Flickr.com photograph of Noel Fielding (CC BY-ND 2.o) Laura Mountford
They ask for mysterious bathroom products that are not soap or toothpaste, they want to know if the cheese is pasteurised. They are outraged that the baked beans went out of date in 2006 and the cloves in 1994 and fill the fridge with essential dietary items that are unknown to us. They ask their father not to smoke in the kitchen and are shocked by the lack of a toaster and hair conditioner and the suggestion to use washing-up liquid when they finish every drop of shampoo in the house. They definitely look slightly put-out when one of us absent-mindedly breaks wind.
They can’t understand a plumbing system that refuses to act as a garbage disposal unit and which exercises its own water-rationing. They put all the lights on all the time and use unbelievable amounts of toilet tissue. They download all sorts of strange programs onto our computer, change the browser (so we don’t know where we are) and complain about the broadband speed and the poor wi-fi signal. They put everything in a different place and worry about our poor memory and declining powers when we run round in circles looking for things.
They go for a 10k run or climb one of our little mountains, we provide back-up or bring up the rear, panting, feeling our age, feeling bad because we’ve held everyone up, made everything more complicated; we are no longer central to the exercise.
Then something occurs that bridges the gap, that slots us all back into a familiar place: they produce another generation.
Suddenly we’re all on familiar ground, all singing from the same song-sheet — the Oxford Nursery Songbook to be precise. We ‘re all saying the same daft things that we did 30 years ago — blowing raspberries, funny voices — Tweetie-Pie is going south for the winter again.
Now generation Y is learning why. Another little girl is learning to be gentle with the pussycat, not to pull the doggies tail. Another boy is learning not to put the fish-hook through his finger
This Christmas there was someone new to show to the sheep and to introduce to the joy of muddy puddles and carried away by it all the Mummies and Daddies were soon entering into the spirit with a planned Boxing Day dip in the pond — it’s not chlorinated you know!