Friday, 17 February 2012

More minutiae

As I am sure you have noticed, there is a tendency in these blogs and elsewhere for the photographs to be about the west country and especially the flora and fauna found in the area.

There is very good reason for this other than that I am a bit nutty about taking pictures of the same thing over and over again in the hope of taking one that really pleases me. The very good reasons is so that we have a record of what was out, where and when covering as many species, places and times of the year as we can. Then when Marcia discovers that a book is to be set in a given place and runs from, say, August 2008 to September 2009 we have a reasonably good chance of having a record in my photo files that will help her to describe as accurately as possible what was about there at that time.

She has said when giving talks at festivals, “If I write that such-and-such a plant was in flower in that place at that time of the year it is because I have seen it for myself.”

I have written about this a number of times and it is true. Mind you, there are not just my pictures: Marcia keeps copious notes as to the weather and what she sees when she is out and about.

In the last few books there have been a few unexpected twists and turns. In the book coming out later this year is a typical example. Who would have thought that they would be cut off by snow down by the River Tamar. Unheard of – but it happened and so, because that book was set in that time the characters just have to cope with it.

Naturally neither of us knew that Marcia would be writing before she did – if you see what I mean. So, what happens when she is writing about the years before we started keeping records. Well, to a large extent we rely our memories and meteorological records also come in handy.

Remember 1976? That was the year when we experienced an extremely hot and long dry spell. It started on the first day of Wimbledon (not that we knew that at the time). Throughout the championships, the famous lawns of Wimbledon became drier and drier – despite being watered every night. By the final the centre court looked more like a cameo of Arizona than anything else. Then the heatwave went on for six or seven weeks. You can read about the effect it had on Marcia's characters in Those Who Serve.

Then there were the winters of 1976/77, 77/78 and 78/79 when the west country was hit by serious snowstorms for three years running. One of these had a huge impact in The Way We Were.

So, I always carry a camera with me wherever I go and that was the case on Wednesday when I wandered up the lane with Jossie. Here are some of the photographs I took on that walk.
Snowdrops, as I am sure you all know. We have little clumps of then around us in the garden and, as this one is, tucked into the bottoms of the hedges. The buds on the ash to the right are just beginning to swell and turn black.

The first of the honeysuckle leaves.

We expect beech to hang onto leaves through the winter but this is an oak. I have never noticed this before. Of course the beech trees shed leaves the same as all the others: it is really only beech hedges where they stay put and this is in a hedge so that probably explains it. 

A real surprise. Wild strawberries in flower in February! The world has gone mad.

Sorry this is a bit out of focus. No excuse really but my hands were freezing which may account for it. Anyway, primroses: lots of them actually - far too early but despite this cold snap it has been unusually warm

The hazel catkins are beginning to fill out and change colour.

This one needs some explanation. When we had a new telephone line installed (about ten years ago) the posts that hold these things up in the air were all tagged with red notices meaning they were dangerous and needed to be replaced. They had been like that for some time. Anyway, when the engineers installed this new line there was one particular post that was so rotten that they refused to use it - and tied (yes, with string) our line to a handy tree instead. Then last year (I think but it may be two years ago now) they replaced all of them and so we have nice new safe telephone poles. That is one of them on the right. I walk past this one most days and on Wednesday, when I took this photo, I was astonished to see that the badgers had had a very busy night digging - see the hole that I am sure was not there on Tuesday.