Bench Mark

I met my cousin Russell today and we enjoyed a walk in the Surrey countryside not far from where we both grew up. It was fabulous. If we weren't related we probably shouldn't know each other, and that would be a loss inmy life. He is, I think, eight years younger than I am, supplanting me in my position as the youngest of the first cousins on my father's side of the family. His mother, my Aunt Madeleine, was the youngest of the four siblings, and always in my father's eyes young Madeleine.

 

We had a lot of family chat. Russell is the spit of his father Frank, and his son is spit of Russell, but there are moments when he says or does something, when he stops and looks with his head very slightly lowered, when he is my father to the life. As my Aunt Kath saw my father in gestures and expressions of mine, I am guessing that anyone watching us might have guessed our relationship.

 

The purpose, or perhaps that should be the stimulus, for the walk was my desire to see the bench Russell was commissioned to make that is installed on the Hurtwood on the Greensand Way. We walked through the morning, then just as my stomach was starting to rumble we reached the Hurtwood. And as we walked the short rise, there it was.

The weather, which up to this point had been kind, and bright enough to make me regret not bringing sunglasses, clouded over and the wind blew cold. I added an extra layer, then another. But the setting was wonderful. We looked out over a valley in the Surrey Hills. Russell produced a paintbrush to dust some if the sand away, and we sat down to eat our respective lunches.
A woman appeared in bright dress, Nordic walking and accompanied by a very lovely Labradoodle. It turned out the Labradoodle, Paddy, was not hers, but borrowed for her Friday walk.

Lost on the Surrey/Sussex Borders

So far 2017 seems to be The Year of Not Blogging, but hopefully that will change. It is also the year when language comes under fresh assaults from people who call lies alternative truths.

But let’s draw a veil over the last few days and think of something else, something that reminds me why the world is somewhere I still enjoy, and why I think it’s worth fighting to protect.

As I said in my last post over a week ago, Celia and I went on a ramble and as it was the anniversary of Aunt’s death, we thought we could call it Auntie Mary’s Walk. Just one problem: we’re not entirely sure where we went. Celia and I have yet to go on a ramble where we don’t get lost.

At this point I’m pretty sure we were on the right track.

Hedgehog Lane

Hedgehog Lane

Postbox and Black Cat

Postbox and Black Cat

This wasn’t the route we were following, but it ran alongside ours for a while.

Fancy a Pint?

Fancy a Pint?

In retrospect, perhaps we should have followed it, as we never did reach the pub. As the pubs we have planned to eat at in the past have invariably been closed or no longer serving food, lunch has been the point where we have deviated from our planned route and ended up somewhere we did not expect to be. This time, although Celia called the pub and confirmed they were indeed still open and sold hot meals, I announced that given our track record, I intended to take soup with me. It was this (deserved) lack of faith that prompted Celia to go to Stanfords and buy a map. Though she did bring sandwiches.

We got lost quite early on, but were rescued by a woman walking a rather lovely Golden Retriever called Bingo. Naturally I do not know the woman’s name. She set us on the right direction and off we went. Given that we passed most of the things she told us to look out for, I don’t understand how we found ourselves at the wrong end of the map.

However by that time we had been thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The fields and ditches were covered in a dusting of snow.

A Dusting of Snow

A Dusting of Snow

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Friday 13th

I have been out and about a good deal this year, mainly work, but some treats including last night’s trip to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, and, at the other end of theatrical experience, to see Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams in Mary Stuart at the Almeida Islington. But more about them perhaps in another post.

Now I have a free day, am at home and the evidence of my comings and goings is all around me in unfolded clothes and unread newspapers. Of course I could put those unread papers straight into the recycling, but I have missed quite a lot of the news this week. Octavia filled my astonished ears last night with the Donald Trump/Meryl Streep story as we travelled home from the panto. So actually reading some of the papers this morning seemed a good reason to gather my strength and make a plan.

So I am a bit more up to date with what goodies are on the way in the arts, though I realise I have already missed some. I am hoping SSGB which I saw being filmed in Greenwich at the end of 2015 will be on when I am in Northern Ireland next month and I get to watch it with Cousin. I have flicked through the cookery supplements and consigned them to the scrap heap. The recipes look delicious, but the long list of ingredients for each one makes me tired before I start. In last Saturday’s Guardian magazine I found several gems. Clive James very much on form, quite like the old days; a restaurant review containing the words ‘the food is to subtlety what Trump is to interior decoration, but the effect is blinding’.

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Nature Walk

Vicki was dubious about our accommodation when we booked. Now she’s converted. The staff are friendly, the position in Battery Point couldn’t be much better; it’s clean, simple with comfortable beds and good showers. I’d happily stay here again, so if you’re planning a trip to Hobart get in touch and I’ll give you the details.

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Tonight we have borrowed plates and cutlery so we can eat ‘at home’ after a day at Mount Wellington. We went up by minibus to a summit shrouded in mist. Everyone else was staying with the minibus, but we had opted to walk down. Vicki started to have second thoughts on the way up, but screwed her courage to sticking point and off we set. The first, and longest, part of the walk was decidedly rocky. I have dodgy knees, so chose to lower my centre of gravity for extended sections of the path and move down on my bottom. The mist was my friend as I tend to fear when I can see how far down it is should I fall.

There was lichen, fungi, trees, plants I have never seen before, the sound of birds who mainly stayed out of view, but we saw some with yellow flashes on their sides. It was something of a nature walk.

I was in my walking boots and Vicki in her Blundstones, advertised as boots you can wear anywhere, doing anything. She disagrees. On steep descents her toes started slamming in the end of the boots; she has at least one blister to deal with now. Our progress was steady but slow, Vicky nursing her toes, me taking photographs. A few people passed us on the way up. Brave souls. You wouldn’t catch me doing that ascent these days.

As we walked on there were more trees, more bird calls. Then water. Lots of streams crossing our paths. Bubbling rivulets tumbling poetically. More walkers headed uphill. One or two coming downhill at a faster pace than us. Some trees seemed to have had their bark shredded by sharp claws.

Animal droppings at the beginning and end of the walk Vicki identified as wallaby. m. We hit a clearing; cars, toilets, picnic tables and a coffee van. We ate our sandwiches and enjoyed hot drinks. We had now reached the final ‘easy’ section. But if you have dodgy knees steps are often painful, not easy. It was beautiful though. Fern something, and it was very ferny.

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While we waited for the bus a kookaburra laughed loudly and invisibly nearby. There was quite a long wait and we checked our phones, replied to messages and sent new ones. We were deposited in the centre of Hobart, not far from our starting point. I have been wearing my boots for the last few days, but as we walked down to Salamanca Place I realised I was walking like a Walker; someone who has spent a large part of the day in the hills and been happy. Someone who has enjoyed reconnecting with nature and feeling her feet upon the ground in places that, if no longer wild, are not part of the tamed existence of the city.

A Walk in Kent, Part Three

Celia and I were remarkably calm about being lost. I don’t think she was putting on a brave face for me, and I certainly wasn’t for her. In some strange way, it was rather enjoyable, and heightened the feeling of having time out. Also we were in Kent, not the wilds of Siberia.

I came late to Kent. I grew up in the neighbouring county of Surrey. Say that to many English people and they will wrinkle their noses and assume you lived in a house with at least five bedrooms, you had a pony, went to private school and your father was Something in the City, while you mother did Good Works or played golf.

For better or worse, that was not my experience, but something of Surrey’s high opinion of itself certainly rubbed off on me, because despite some familiarity with Kent through regular visits to see Aunt, I always saw it as a much less attractive county.

Kent is beautiful. It’s different from Surrey and discovering it by walking its paths has been a pleasure. When you ramble, you usually bypass villages, only going into them for lunch stops at pubs, so getting lost and being guided along roads by my ‘phone meant we went to places I had never seen.

Oast houses featured. None being used for their original purpose, they had all been converted into homes way out of my price range. Still, it’s nice to look.

Converted Oast House

Converted Oast House

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A Walk in Kent, Part Two

Nettles. Great for a hair rinse, at least according to Aunt; good as soup apparently; and nice tea; but up close and personal in the raw state, no. Nowhere near as bad as the poison ivy across the pond, which is Nature in a Very Bad Mood, but nonetheless, not to be messed with. So we walked back and forth through holes in the fence, bypassing the things, and finally emerging illegally into the next field.

Sidestepping the end of the path was a necessity rather than an option. Nature had achieved a fine and very effective barrier across the legal way.

Impossible and Impassable

Impossible and Impassable


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A Walk in Kent, Part One

It all went very well until the lunch stop. The sun shone; the blackberries we intended to gather in the afternoon were abundant; the path was clear. Fab.

Two year ago, Celia and I did this same walk. In my mind at least, it is the Dead Mothers Walk, as for both of us it had been the summer when our mothers died, and this walk was our day away from normal life and its demands.

Roydon Hall, where once the Maharishi held sway, is still for sale, and had very tasty blackberries we could reach through the fence.

 Roydon Hall with Blackberries


Roydon Hall with Blackberries

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Drenched

Thank goodness the heating was on in the train. I was sodden from the thigh down. After days and days of warm weather, sunshine and gentle breezes, today it rained. I was out on a walk in Sussex. Last night, I looked at the forecast and groaned inwardly. Maybe outwardly too. Under normal circumstances, I’d have changed my plans and opted for a day at home. But this was a special walk in memory of a man who died of pancreatic cancer two years ago, less than four weeks after his diagnosis. Many cancers are now curable. Not pancreatic cancer it seems. It can also be genetic. This man’s father also died of it. He left daughters who have had children. Time bombs. So the walk was to remember him and to raise awareness and money for research. Actually the morning, though grey and windy, was mainly dry. A couple I had never met before collected me from Hayward’s Heath railway station and we drove to the start point. There, a group gathered, pulling on waterproofs and gazing hopefully at the sky. The man’s widow, and the one person I knew before joining this walk, gave me a hello hug. We met on holiday in Greece just three weeks ago. Soon I was introduced to the daughters and the grandchildren, to friends and neighbours. Then we began walking. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If anyone talks about walking in rolling countryside it means you will be doing as much up as down. This was rolling countryside. There seemed a fair bit of up to begin with, but fortunately that was it. We walked. We talked. The wind blew. It stayed dry. A very nice bunch of people. The pub was expecting us and had arranged tables so we could sit together. More talk, lots of food and some very good cider. Boots back on, we collected in front of the pub. The village still had signs of hallowe’en festivities. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Continue reading

Scavenging Ducks and Blue Skies

I think this will be a draft. The Internet is failing again; presumably too many people are trying to use their rationed time just now. Last night I woke up coughing at two and scheduled my photos. Tonight I hope to sleep through.

Another walk today. Not over demanding, and to be frank, not over interesting either. It started well at a harbour and a short boat trip to a very plush marina with some seriously expensive boats. Some had kitsch written all over them.

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But as a walk, it never really took off. We went up, we came down, we went up again. There were some good views. Not a walk I should choose to do again. But the weather is perfect. I have been in Greece at this time of year before and got soaked; shivered in fleeces in the evenings. But the sun is shining in the day and skies are gloriously blue once the sun has burned the cloud away. Pretty damn perfect. Continue reading