Same Places, Different Seasons

When I visit Cousin in Co Derry I take a camera, walk the dog and take pictures of the same roads at different times of the year.

Here’s a favourite tree In August and in December.

A tree in summer

A tree in winter

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The North Wind Doth Blow

The current bout of cold weather is being called the Beast from the East. I think I prefer the poem:

The north wind doth blow, And we shall have snow, And what will poor Robin do then? Poor thing. He’ll sit in a barn, And keep himself warm, And hide his head under his wing, Poor thing.

Not a lot of snow in London, snow is a rarity here. I got my washing mainly dry on the line this morning, though until the sun reached it, some of it was stiff and frozen. It was bitterly cold, and my cuddle with Hartley was shorter than he wanted. He was curling up on my lap preparing for a snooze when I stood up and headed back indoors to the warmth of the flat. I didn’t think it was going to snow, the forecast showed a twenty per cent chance but the skies were blue. But as I knuckled down to some of the endless paperwork the room became very dark, and I looked up to see real snow, serious snow, swirling about. It started to settle. For about half an hour it continued, then stopped. Tonight there is some left, a smattering, and it will freeze, so tomorrow pavements will be icy and treacherous.

But it is pretty.

I had to photograph the honey fungus on the cherry tree to send pictures to a tree surgeon so I took a few more photos of the garden while I was at it. I don’t know where the robin was, but this male blackbird seemed happy enough.


I checked the bird feeders to make sure the resident avian community won’t starve.

Bird feeders

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Other Places, Other Mores

Above the clouds somewhere between Thessaloniki and London Gatwick. I have eaten; drunk; looked through my photos; gazed down at mountains, houses, seas and pasture; read the magazine from last Saturday’s Guardian; read some more of my book; and am now listening to Abba whilecontrarily resisting an inclination to doze.

By chance I am in the same seat as I was on the way out with the same family around me. I have been reacquainted with Panda, leaned back to allow Beth-Anne a better view out of the window, exchanged smiles with the parents.

Obviously this will not be posted until later.

It has been a good holiday with a good bunch of people. We haven’t circulated a list of emails, but a couple of us have swapped contact details. This seems realistic. To expect acquaintanceships forged while sweating up hills to turn into life long friendships is somewhat optimistic. But one of the joys of a group holiday such as this is that you can have as much or as little company as you want. It’s nice to wander into the bar and see familiar faces. The boredom of check in is relieved by chatter and there is always a group ready to look after bags while an individual or two wander off to investigate shops and facilities.

Whether I ever return to this part of Greece is debatable. But I shall be back in Greece, that’s for sure. I hope by then the situation is more stable, and the waiter I spoke to last night who is looking forward to his first holiday in four years at the end of this month, will feel financially more secure.

Welcome though visitors are, I have an uncomfortable feeling that the Greeks are becoming servants in their own country, catering to the wishes of ever more demanding tourists, and working increasingly long hours. I hope I am wrong about this.

I have been visiting Greece for years. It is one of my favourite countries where as a foreigner I have almost always felt welcomed. Maybe because this is the first time I have stayed in a resort that has grown out of tourism, it is also the first time I have felt uncomfortable about some of the ways I have seen Greek culture marketed, and to my mind, debased.

It seems wrong to see Greek Nights advertised in local tavernas. Surely every night should be a Greek Night in Greece? And if it isn’t, what does that say about the corrosive power of mass tourism?

I don’t regret the old toilets; I only came across one hole in the ground, and mercifully I was in walking boots at the time. Most meals were hot, rather than the tepid ones I remember from previous visits. Stray cats and dogs seem better treated than before, which is wonderful in itself given the economic climate, but two very young cats at the hotel were evidently pregnant and there was a tiny orphaned kitten at yesterday’s taverna. Her siblings have gone to new homes in the Netherlands and Monaco, and the staff were suggesting one of us might like to take her. With the end of the tourist season approaching at the speed of a runaway train, pray to all the gods at once that she and others like her are scooped up by visitors and local families ready to give them a chance.

But now as Greece recedes and England beckons, I am looking forward to being reunited with MasterB who was in his own perilous situation not so far away from my destination airport when the students I got him from rescued him.

In some ways, scavenging strays in Greece’s tourist hotspots are better off than abandoned pets in the UK who do not find armies of visitors willing to slip them tidbits from the groaning tables in high season. Colonies of semi-feral cats in London are quietly caught are destroyed. I do not think I have ever seen them featured on postcards or cuddled by waves of cooing foreigners.

In the meantime, Mark, the younger of the two children of the little family beside me, has decided to paint his face a rainbow of reds, blues and greens. It doesn’t seem to have harmed him; on the contrary, he has caught the eye of a young girl in a pink dress and matching plaster cast.

Perhaps the romance of travel is not quite dead.

Inside the Shard

I’m not a great fan of heights, and this job would be so far down my list of things I would like to do you would probably have to tunnel through the earth to Australia to find it.



That chimney you can see to the right of them is Bankside Power Station, aka Tate Modern, and they’re way above that. I was just a few feet away from these smiling men, but the big difference was that I was inside, with strong glass between me and the cold air outside.
Today I visited the Shard. It opens to the public next month, but I was lucky, thanks to my job, to get a preview. Actually, doubly lucky, as I am going again on Sunday as I am a Southwark resident. It would be too much to hope for a free ticket (or two) and a clear day, and if I could change one other thing, it would be to rebuild the Shard with non-reflective glass. If only they’d asked me first.
Anyway, as you can see, visibility wasn’t great and the sky was a greyish white.
Still, St Paul’s always looks impressive.
St Paul's

St Paul’s

I saw St Paul’s from the top of Guy’s Tower once after a carol service. It was dark and the view was spectacular. I don’t know if the Shard is going to be open at night, but if it is, I should like to make yet another visit. Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

I’ve been posting and running all this week, and tonight is no exception. At some point I shall catch up, and I am looking forward to seeing the interpretations for this theme.
Here in London it is definitely winter. Cold, mostly blue skies, but some white ones as in this picture which was mid afternoon today, the light starting to seep out of the sky. Snow promises from not too far away. It is easy to imagine this as a shard of ice.

Cold Shard

Cold Shard

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Soup Season

Yesterday I was mostly eating soup. Now that the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is handing the baton onto the season of fogs and frozen toes, hearty soups from those forgotten vegetables at the bottom of the fridge seem somehow right and comforting. Standing in front of a warm stove, stirring the pot, watching it simmer, the steam rising and bringing the flavours straight to you nose, is a wonderfully comforting cold day task. I am being a bit purple here, as today has been gorgeous; bright and sunny and I have had the windows open, but you get the drift.

Stirring Stuff

I took the cauliflower to the boat and brought it home again. It had some cream on it that wasn’t there when it began its journey eastwards and was looking a bit tired, a bit like a nightclub performer in the grey light of dawn. The leaves that had curled so tenderly and protectively about it seemed to have lost their sense of purpose, so they were consigned to the compost where they can do good works. The head of the cauliflower joined a couple of carrots who had done the same journey and looked as though they were about to revolt, some garlic and an onion in the saucepan. I munched on the crunchy stalk while they cooked. We used to fight over it as children. Ah happy days. Continue reading

A Slice of Life

We’ve tipped into winter. And just to underline that fact, the clocks went back last night. Lovely to have an extra hour in bed, but it is almost dark and barely five o’clock. There are times when I think those animals that hibernate have the right idea. But if I were a hedgehog I should eat worms have fleas and risk being squashed every time I crossed the road. There are good reasons why I have never seen a hedgehog in my patch of London. Continue reading