Monthly Archives: August 2012

Shadow escorts
With loads to do and busy days ahead Hoover and I have had several early starts. Don’t worry, it won’t become a habit. I am not a morning person, however much I like the morning shadow escorts. Now that all our guests have left we are back to normal shcedules. The bank holiday weekend has passed and the rain that has doused all the village fêtes and festivals has moved to Europe leaving us bathed in sunshine to dry the laundry.

The White Wash

White wash brilliance blowing dry on the line and bleaching in the sun.

On seeing one of my paintings of washing drying on on washing lines, someone once told me a story. David Hockney’s mother came to visit him in California and being a good son he took her to see the sights. Returning home he wanted to know what she thought of it all. ‘All that sunshine and not a washing line in sight,’ was the reported comment.
It may well not be a true story, but I do love washing on a line and it was Tom’s photograph of socks drying on the line that inspired my most successful series of paintings. I can feel a development from that theme growing.

My mind is more preoccupied with writing these days and it is storylines that bounce into my mind more often than anything else.  Even when I am drawing or painting there are stories forming and reforming as a line is drawn across the whiteness of the page,  Why is it that Frankie runs so fast?  What is it that stirs her to run on a particular occasion, the time that catches the attention of the person who matters?  Who is it that is watching?

This morning as we were out I spotted a hefty stone lying on the grass of the path.


First one…



A second flint

Then another…

A pair of flints

And then a pair!






“Watch out!  The Stone Rollers are back,”  I warned Hoover.  She snuffled about, nudging at them with her nose before going to investigate the hedge.

Hoover in the hedge

Then I spotted something nearby.

An Entrance

Who has beaten down the grass to make this entrance?

A sudden scuffle rippled the long grass and Hoover bounded over to investigate.  Some invisible person was hiding safely out of sight.  What was it that I glimpsed scurrying across the field beyond the hedge?

Suddenly my mind was in a whirl.  The Stone Rollers.  Who rolls these stones into the path?  And why?  How do they feel when I pick them up and chuck them back into the hedgerow?  What is it like when Hoover comes snuffling at their front door? What do they call me?  Or Hoover for that matter?

Images and stories came racing up behind the questions.  A new story was forming.  As we slithered down the steep path that leads down to the school – still empty in the summer holidays – personalities developed,  I could see the faces; histories were gathering.  By then I was pretty sure that it wasn’t a rabbit that I saw hurrying away from us. It was the wrong colour. And the wrong shape.

As we ambled back along the village road to the house we spotted another stone.

The final stone

Everything falls into place.

It is quite right what they say – five minutes of inspiration and a lifetime of hard work.  But too few people tell you that the hard work can be a delight too.


Early morning sky

As I suspect you are aware, I am not an early riser. Today however was different. Today I was collecting my friend who has minced her fingers – mowing machines do not play fair – and she needs tender loving care. This meant an early start.

I am not used to seeing the sun rise in summer, nor to walking as the birds exercise their territorial rights with such gusto. Hoover was flummoxed and had to be beckoned from her bed, not that she is ever reluctant to come for an extra hug. We were not the first up by any means. Far across the fields a tractor was grumbling at the ground as flints rang out against the plough. The sun was only breaking through the clouds occasionally and last night’s dew still clung to the hedgerow.

Dew on grass

Dew shimmers in the early light


Dandelion clock

Each tiny wisp is individually tipped with water

I am entranced by the effect of the dew on the plants; less so when it soaks through my trousers, but not annoyed enough to stop wandering into the long grass to examine it more closely.

In Cheshire at the weekend we saw a harrassed looking woman tying paper trails into the hedgerow for a chase on Tuesday. Has she headed south to tackle our paths, too, I wondered.

Paper trail tag

Sudden ties have appeared on the arching brambles

Suddenly the sun broke through the cloud, warming our backs and sending long shadows clambering up the hills ahead of us.
Shadow walkers
I have never seen this before. In winter, when the sun rises late, we are often witnesses to its arrival, but it rises to the side of this path, not at our backs. Hoover was oblivious, but I loved my long legs and Giacometti head.

The paper trail launched off to the left, but we had a journey ahead of us and left it to its own devices, heading instead for the summit. As we descended on the far side of the fields Hoover discovered that the tractor was not the only one working the fields. Badgers have proliferated and new sets have been dug along the sides of fields and paths. It looks as though some inexperienced newcomer is thinking of setting up home out in the open. How long before it succumbs to a second passing of the plough? Or abandons this started tunnel for a more covert patch? We shall watch and see.

A birthday party is a good excuse to jump in the car and drive for five hours. We weren’t the only ones either. As we staggered up the motorways after work on Friday evening, Hoover dozing on the back seat, Jay and I shouting answers back to the Any Questions team on Radio 4, others were preparing to make the journey from Bristol, Edinburgh, Cornwall, Norwich, London and just round the corner in Greater Manchester. It says something for the strength of friendships that so many are prepared to make such long treks.

After a restful night’s sleep Hoover was more than ready for a brisk check of the countryside. Friday’s heavy rain gave way to weak sunshine – this was The North after all, and the North West at that. Manchester is famous for the amount of rain that washes it regularly.
But without the rain, the nearby Lake District would just be hills, and Wordsworth and his friends would have settled themselves elsewhere, no doubt. Think what that would mean to the countless children who would never have had the chance to lean that line about ‘ten thousan sore eye’. Or is it ‘saw rye’? Every time we had a poetry learning homework, either that I was set as a child or that I have set as a teacher, someone came up with that poem. Whatsit Gove has decided children should benefit from learning poems again and I suspect a lot more parents will be becoming familiar with those dancing daffs.

But I digress.

Times have changed. Wordsworth was startled by Daffodils. The clouds were not lonely as Hoover and I set out for our morning constitutional and I was startled by the Joderell Bank. It’s quite something when it pops over a hedge.

Jodrell Bank

As a child it was a long time before I realised that the Jodrell Bank was something altogether more exciting than Lloyds or any other of the local High Street banks.

And that set the tone for the rest of the day. Festive cooking turned into festive eating. The sun chased the clouds away. Blue skies beamed down upon us as we lazed on the grass watching the smoke from the barbecue drift up between the leaves of the trees. Hoover hoovered, we bounced on the tiger, we somersaulted, we vaulted, we cheered, we celebrated. And finally the cheese cake shone in the darkness, lit by candles, lit by Ben, blown out by Rosie.
Cheesecake and candles

Birthdays are good; shared with wonderful friends and family, even more so.

Ominous clouds

Was this a sign of things to come?

Everywhere was wet after yesterday’s rain. Puddles fringed the roads and paths. Slugs and snails frisk happily and slimily about the garden, munching up my vegetables, blissfully unaware of the doom that is lying in store in the garden shed.

Hoover and I set out briskly, stepping over the wet straw abandoned by the harvesters as they fled the downpour. Today the hills are quiet, I cannot see another living soul. At the top of the steep path behind the church we pause and look back over the village. Everything is still. Even the clouds hang stationary over us, dark and rain laden. A sudden crack, somewhere out of sight in the grey, sends down a shaft of light, a pool of brilliance, beyond the houses that climb the far side of the valley.

But not on us.

As we turn to head on we see what is coming our way. The clouds are rolling back, thrown off like the morning bed covers when it is time to start the day.

Morning clouds

An unexpected vision of blue

I am almost laughing as I call Hoover to join me. She is bouncing and I am light of heart. There is no need to look for the silver lining, and soon its warmth is caressing our backs.
Silver linings

We have all known that rain is coming.
“Lovely day!” we greeted each other yesterday at Cream Teas on the Green, shading our eyes against the bright glare of sunshine
“Rain coming,” came the reply.
We didn’t linger long, hastening back to cut the long grass in the wild flower garden while it is still erect, before rain beats it into limp submission.

When we took Hoover out for her night walk we heard tractors roaring into the darkenss, their headlights swinging arcs of brilliance across the hills as they turned for the next long trawl.
This morning we woke to the throaty song of their engines and they were still at it as we set out for our morning walk.
Harvester waiting at the beginning of the row

Heavy skies hung low over our heads as we hurried down the track, warm air straining to hold the rain in check .
“Come on, my Hoover. No ambling today.” Fields of wheat and oats were stripped in rows, harvesters racing each other, racing the weather that loomed over us. As we climbed the next hill Hoover spotted new walls that needed investigation. Others had taken shelter in their lee over night, but no sign of the deer was to be found.

Hoover by Straw bales

Where have the deer gone?

At the top of the next field ploughing had started. We hurried on, Hoover keeping close, her confidence eroded by unaccustomed noise of activity. A new strange noise that sounds as if the field is being stretched beckons us to make a closer inspection.

Haylage being shrink wrapped

No time to make hay this year

Bales were being grabbed and twirled into waterproof coats by a vast spider that spat them back onto the cropped grass. Hoover didn’t approve and thought about barking at the tractor, but we turned to take a different route and her bark subsided into an embarrassed wuf.

As we reached the top of the path behind the church our route through the wheat field was cut off by the passing harvester which roared fiercely in the corner of the field, circling a lone oak, leaving chaff in its wake. Hoover sniffed at the path in recognition, confused by the change in appearance.

Path through wheat

Our path has been cut off by spewed chaff

“Never mind!” I cheer her as I feel the first drops that can no longer refuse to fall. No sooner are we home than rain cascades down, hammering furiously on the roof, streaking the windows as if we live behind a waterfall.
“We made it, Hooves,” She grins back at me and I take the hint and find her a biscuit.

Later, when it has eased a bit, we go to visit a neighbour. I am painting the scenery for the pantomime this year and the script has just been written. As we scrurry through drizzle my attention is caught by a jewelled hedge.

Rain caught

Suspended rain caught in the hedge

It turns out the we will have a palace, a cottage and a forest. Time to sort out my brushes.