Little Fluffy Clouds

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Another day, another loaf. Or two.

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Aquilegia or columbine. It’s in our garden here – but it is a British wildflower.

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Song thrush.

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The beech circle.

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Middlebarrow Quarry – or The Lost World. ‘Every time I see it, I expect to see dinosaurs’, B tells me. I know what he means.

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Middlebarrow aerial shelduck display team.

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“Keep the formation tight as we come in to land.”

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“Quick breather, squadron, and we’re off again.”

Of course, having seen a peregrine once, I now keep going back to peer over the lip into the vast quarry at Middlebarrow expecting lightening to strike twice. It hasn’t. I do keep seeing the close formation aerial skills of the shelducks though. Lord knows why they feel compelled to circuit the quarry so obsessively.

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This small plaque is on a house near home. I’m sure I’ve posted a picture of it before. But now I’ve learned that it’s a fire insurance sign – showing which insurance company the house was registered with. It seems more like something you might expect to see in a more urban location, but maybe this is an antique which has been added since the signs were rendered obsolete by the inception of a national fire service? The house is very close to our small fire station, which is manned by retained fire fighters, so they should be okay if the worst happens.

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The Bay from The Cove.

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Ransoms flowering in the small copse above the Cove. 

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Orchids on the Lots.

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Green-winged orchid.

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Early purple orchid.

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Water avens.

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Bugle.

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Orange-tip butterfly on cuckoo-flower.

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A bedraggled peacock butterfly.

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Gooseberry flowers. I think.

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Lambert’s meadow.

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The skies above Eaves Wood.

It annoys me, more than it should, that I can never remember the names given to the various types of clouds. All sorts of stupid trivia is securely lodged in my brain, but even though I’ve read a couple of books on the subject, clouds just don’t seem to want to stick. I thought that if I tried to label the clouds in my photos, maybe I would start to remember a few at least. The fluffy white ones above Eaves Wood here are cumulus, right? Although, maybe some stratocumulus behind.

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And I assume these wispy ones are cirrus.

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And this is maybe cirrocumulus.

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But then….? Altocumulus and cirrus?

Hmmm. More effort required, I think.

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Oak tree in full summer garb.

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Full-throated robin.


Bit obvious I know. But good.

And, completely unrelated, as far as I know…

…the opening track from one of my favourite albums, which I was introduced to by THO, who often comments here, and which I shall always associate with a superb holiday which was split, quixotically, between the French Alps and the Brittany coast.

Little Fluffy Clouds

The Lazy Trumpeter

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Early light on the new leaves at the circle of beeches.

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Squirrel.

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Pano from Castlebarrow. (Click on this, or any other, picture to see a larger image on flickr)

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Orchids on the Lots.

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Early purple orchid.

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Welsh poppies.

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Bottoms Farm.

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Post sunset at The Cove.

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The entire beach has acquired a silver-grey crust. Not the best light to show it, I know.

So, back to my wish list of lockdown activities. Have I ‘practiced my trumpet playing’?. Have I heck. It sits in its case under my desk, just as it has for years. Perhaps I should explain – in my teens I was in a brass band. It was great fun, but I was a lousy musician: I didn’t practice enough. I didn’t play the trumpet. I started at second baritone horn and slowly progressed to first euphonium, not because of any progress on my part, but because it was a junior band and the other players grew up and left for pastures new. Mostly the senior band which practised in the same hall. I don’t remember anybody playing the trumpet, the closest we had was a solitary flugelhorn and a host of cornets. In good time, I moved away myself, and for many years didn’t play an instrument.

Anyway, some years ago, when all our kids were learning to play various instruments,  I decided that it was a shame that I’d ditched mine and decided to buy a trumpet – that being smaller and cheaper than what I’d played before. I did practice for a while, but my enthusiasm didn’t last all that long. I thought while we were off that I would have loads of time on my hands and would get started again, but it hasn’t really played out that way. Tomorrow though….I’m bound to pick it up again. There’s always tomorrow!


This…

…as well as providing the title for the post, is the piece which I remember most affectionately from my brass band days.

This is obviously very different. I saw Kid Koala live down in London many years ago with my brother. I think he was the support act, but I can’t remember who it was he was supporting. I do remember being spellbound when he performed this.

And from ‘Drunk Trumpet to ‘The Piano Has Been Drinking’:

The Lazy Trumpeter

A Man Of No Convictions

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We imagine that as soon as we are thrown out of our customary ruts all is over, but it is only then that the new and the good begins. While there is life there is happiness. There is a great deal, a great deal before us.

This is Pierre, in ‘War and Piece’ talking about his incarceration following the sack of Moscow. Seemed apposite somehow.

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Arnside Knott from near Know Point. I’d walked across the sands from Park Point – something I’d been thinking of doing for a few days beforehand.

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Female chaffinch.

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Roe Deer Buck in Eaves Wood – one of a pair I encountered.

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Late sun on Silverdale and the Bowland hills.

A man of no convictions, no habits, no traditions, no name…emerges – by what seems the strangest freak of chance – from among all the seething parties…is borne forward to a prominent position. The incompetence of his colleagues, the weakness and inanity of his rivals, the frankness of his falsehoods and his brilliant and self-confident mediocrity raise him…his childish insolence and conceit secure him …glory. He more than once finds himself on the brink of disaster and each time is saved in some unexpected manner.

He has no plan of any kind; he is afraid of everything; but the parties hold out their hands to him and insist on his participation.

He alone, his insane self-adulation, his insolence in crime and frankness in lying – he alone can justify what has to be done.

He is needed for the place that awaits him and so, almost apart from his own volition and in spite of his indecision, his lack of plan and all the blunders he makes, he is drawn into a conspiracy that aims at seizing power, and the conspiracy is crowned with success.

Do you have a clear picture? Can you guess who the passage describes? Yes – you have it – it’s Napoleon. In Tolstoy’s words. I’ve edited out all of the specific references to times and places which would give the game away. I can’t help thinking that this might fit quite a few leaders past and present. There’s a great deal more of this in ‘War and Peace’; I think it’s fair to say that Tolstoy did not hold Napoleon in high regard.


A Man Of No Convictions

The Other Kingdoms

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Cheery cherry blossom on Cove Road.

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Grange-Over-Sands from the Cove.

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The Bay and Humphrey Head from the Cove.

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Eaves Wood – the path to the beech circle.

The Other Kingdoms

Consider the other kingdoms.  The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals.  Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze.  Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be.  Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

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Squirrel.

Another item from my list was ‘read more poetry’ a goal which I have singularly failed to meet.

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New beech leaves.

It’s usually at this time of year that I become most enthusiastic about poetry, habitually scanning through my e.e.cummings collection, looking for something new about spring to furnish a post full of photographs of the usual collection of my favourite springtime images. Newly emerged beech leaves, for example.

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This year cummings should have had a run for his money because I’ve acquired large collections by Frost, MacCaig and Oliver all of which I was very keen to dip in to.

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Caledonian pines.

However, I have been reading ‘War and Peace’, another item from my list, which has turned out to be pretty all-consuming. Fortunately, I’d already read quite a chunk of the Mary Oliver collection before I completely submerged in Tolstoy.

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My first speckled wood butterfly of the year.

I’ve finished now. Well, I say I’ve finished; in fact I have a handful of pages of the epilogue left still to read. Which probably seems a bit odd, but in the last 50 or so pages Tolstoy abandons his characters (again) and turns back to tub-thumping. Historians have all got it wrong and he is just the man to set them straight.

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Speckled wood butterfly – my first of the year, looking newly minted.

Don’t get me wrong: although it took a while, I was completely hooked by the book and really enjoyed the various intertwined stories of the characters. But there are many lengthy historical sections about the stupidity, vanity and in-fighting of generals which are not so interesting. In particular, Tolstoy is at pains to dismiss any notion that Napoleon was is any way a military genius and spends many pages making his point. There are also several philosophical digressions about history and what drives the actions of nations and peoples. Whenever I was reading these sections I was reminded of the Gang of Four song ‘It’s Not Made by Great Men’, which makes the same point but way more succinctly.

Whilst these digression are often interesting in themselves, I did find they were often a frustrating distraction from the story. Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ has sections of polemic laced through the story which, it seemed to me, are entirely redundant. And I’ve heard it said of Moby Dick that it’s best to skip the chapters which are solely Melville’s detailed descriptions of Atlantic whaling. Having said that, Tolstoy’s character assassination of Napoleon is hilarious, and I’ve just found a guide to the book which says, ‘Anyone who tells you that you can skip the “War” parts and only read the “Peace” parts is an idiot.’ It also says that the book will take 10 days at most to read and I’ve been reading it for more than a month. So, doubly an idiot, obviously.

The journey of the central characters is totally absorbing though, so I would definitely recommend it.

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Untidy nest.

Anyway, back to the walk: when I first spotted this nest, it had two crows in it and I got inordinately excited, as I always do when I find an occupied nest. However, they soon left the nest and on subsequent visits the nest has always looked empty. Now the leaves on the surrounding trees are so dense that I can’t even see the nest.

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Crow.

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On our walks together TBH and I have frequently found ourselves passing comment on the fact that livestock seem to be being regularly moved about. I don’t know whether that’s standard husbandry or perhaps because of the prolonged dry spell we’ve had.

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There’s a herd of young calves, for instance, on the fields between Holgates and Far Arnside which seem to have been moved into just about every available field at some point.

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I was examining these trees, trying to work out which was coming into leaf first, and only then noticed all the splendid dandelions.

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Dandelions.

Of course, once you stop to look at the flowers, then you notice other things of interest too…

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Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius))

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Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum).

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Daisies (of the Galaxy)

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Ash flowers.

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Silver birches line a path on the Knott.

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And have come into leave.

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Beech buds.

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Partially opened.

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Opened.

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Hazy views from the Knott.

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Herb Paris…

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…flowering this time.

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Bramble leaf.

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Linnets. (?)

I got very excited about this pair, purely because I didn’t know what they were. I’ve subsequently decided that they are linnets, but I have a poor record when it comes to identifying this species, having previously incorrectly identified red poll as linnets on more than one occasion. If they are linnets, then they’re missing the striking red breast and throat of a male linnet in its breeding plumage.

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There were several small groups of birds flitting overhead, including, I think, more linnets and, without any doubt, a small charm of goldfinches.

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Goldfinches.

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I also caught a fleeting glimpse of what I think was a redstart – I’ve only seen them in the hills before and was doubting my own eyes to a certain extent, but they do arrive in the UK in April and the RSPB distribution map does show them as present in this area, and mentions that they favour coastal scrub when in passage, so maybe I was right after all.


One of my favourite Clash songs…

“You see, he feels like Ivan
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called survivin’
At the end of The Harder They Come”

Ivan is the character played by Jimmy Cliff in the film ‘Harder They Come’, so it’s entirely appropriate that Jimmy Cliff eventually covered the song…

I always enjoy Nouvelle Vague’s unique take on punk and post-punk songs, it’s well worth a trawl through their repertoire..

And of course, the Paul Simenon’s, bass line was sampled by Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, for Beats International’s ‘Dub Be Good to Me’…

It’s been covered by German band Die Toten Hosen and live by the Red Hit Chilli Peppers, and Arcade Fire, and probably lots of others. There’s a nice dub version out there and Cypress Hill didn’t so much sample it as rewrite the lyrics for their ‘What’s Your Number?’.

The Other Kingdoms

Bad Pint

Flowers seen on a circuit of Middlebarrow and Eaves Wood and a cautionary tale.

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A great display of wood anemone in Holgates Caravan Park.

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The path around Holgates.

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Pellitory-of-the-wall on Arnside Tower.

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Green Hellebore….

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…with more flowers than the last time I’d visited.

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Herb paris in Middlebarrow Wood. The first I’d seen which were flowering.

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Ground ivy in Eaves Wood.

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Cuckoo Pint.

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Jack-by-the-hedge….

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…or hedge garlic or garlic mustard.

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Quince.

The cautionary tale regards Cuckoo Pint a very common plant in this area and elsewhere too I suspect. We may not have the venomous snakes and spiders of somewhere like Australia, but we have plenty of poisonous plants and fungi, Arum maculatum being a case in point. I recently came across a letter to the British Dental Journal regarding two cases from this region.

Cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum) is highly irritating to oral/oesophageal mucosa and, if ingested, can cause swelling of the tongue and throat, leading to difficulty swallowing and breathing.

The first case involved a 54-year-old male who, whilst out walking in the countryside in early January, sampled what he thought was ‘wild garlic’. Intense burning pain forced him to spit out the stalk immediately and blisters formed on his lips which lasted for some two weeks.

The second patient presented for emergency treatment at Furness General Hospital having eaten a curry made from ‘wild garlic’. In this case, severe burning pain in the oesophagus was experienced.

As the letter goes on to point out, by April the leaves do not really look alike, but in January and February they are two of the earliest new leaves to appear on the woodland floor, the tips are pointy, the leaves a similar green and both glossy – it is quite easy to see how a mistake could be made.

(In case you were wondering, I wasn’t the 54 year old male in question – entirely coincidence. And also – the British Dental Journal is not my regular bedtime reading.)

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

I occasionally still tease my brother about the time he asked me if I’d heard the Buzzcocks cover of Fine Young Cannibals ‘Ever Fallen In Love’.

But, to be fair, it’s often not obvious that any particular song is a cover. I first heard the song ‘Domino’ when I bought the Cramps LP ‘Off The Bone’, which, at the time, I didn’t even realise was a compilation album. It’s great stuff. Musical weekly Sounds described it as “…a hell-fire cocktail of gutter riffing and chattering Rockabilly voodoo strum into which is dropped an electric sugar cube of psychedelic power”. Not that I would have read that at the time – I was always an NME man myself.

My mum likes Roy Orbison, but maybe more the ballads of the sixties rather than the rockabilly which he recorded when he was at Sun.

Depending on who you believe the song was either cowritten by Orbison and Norman Petty, better known for working with Buddy Holly and the Crickets, or was the work of Sun Records supremo Sam Philips.

Personally, much as I love The Cramps, I think the original is the best in this case.

It’s only now that I’ve finished the post, that I’ve realised that I’ve written about a poisonous plant and included a song from a band whose bassist was called Poison Ivy  (wife of lead singer Lux Interior). Maybe my subconscious at work?

Bad Pint

Lost In Music

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Coal tit.

More garden bird pictures. I would say that I’ve realised that coal tits are more frequently present in our garden than I had previously thought, but it’s becoming abundantly evident that it’s actually me that is more frequently present in our garden and not any increase in visits or numbers of the creatures who call it home.

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Rhapsodising blackbird.

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Eaves Wood.

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The remaining photos are from a walk in Eaves Wood, to the Cove and across the Lots with almost all of the family. Little S didn’t join us. He suffers from an unusual strain of plantar fasciitis which doesn’t interfere with trampolining, but which flares up terribly whenever anyone in earshot mentions going for a walk.

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Slightly hazy view from by the Pepper Pot.

Now, back to my list: ‘listen to more music’.

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High tide at the Cove.

That one gets a big tick. I’ve signed up to a free streaming service, principally to listen whilst I’m working – that is sat at the computer setting work and responding to students’ queries. I’ve been impressed at the ability of the service’s algorithm to throw tunes at me which I either haven’t listened to for an age, or haven’t heard before, but which suit my eclectic tastes to a T.

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Early Purple Orchid on the Lots.

What tunes would you choose to celebrate a love of music? ‘Sweet Soul Music’ by Arthur Conley was the first that sprang into my mind. ‘Lost in Music’ by Sister Sledge? ‘Give Life Back to Music’ by the O’Jays? ‘Put Your Records On’ by Corrine Bailey Rae? ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ by Stardust?

And then there would be a whole host you could choose which celebrate particular types of music: ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ by….The Arrows? (Joan Jett’s was a cover version, pop pickers).

Eventually, I plumped for…

‘Dance to the Music’ by Sly and the Family Stone…

…which leads into ‘Rocks’ by Primal Scream

…and, perhaps more obviously, to ‘Dance For Me’ by Queen Latifah.

Lost In Music

I Heard The News

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Since we have been tidying the garden (Lockdown Aspiration number 1), and yes, like many gardens I suspect, ours probably doesn’t know what has hit it: the lawn has been scarified; the path has been cleared; the patio has been pressure-washed; old tree roots, nettles, bracken, and saplings have been dug out; pot-holes in the drive have been (sort-of) repaired, the shed has been painted – I shan’t claim that it’s now tidy, but it is tidier. Anyway, since we’ve been in the garden a lot, I’ve noticed that we have sparrows in our beech hedge much more often than I have previously imagined.

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Sparrows are gregarious birds and seem to like hedgerows and be very faithful to particular spots – I can think of a couple of places in the village where I can pretty much guarantee I will see sparrows when I walk past. TBH and I walked along the Townsfield path back in early April (when these photos were taken) and saw at least half a dozen sparrows having a dust bath on the path – I didn’t have my camera with me sadly.

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We only seem to have a couple of pairs at most, but the thought that they might have moved in and even that the colony might grow is exceedingly cheery. For the garden to be filled, in future years, with the constant chatter and activity of a crew of sparrows would be fantastic.

Crew is, according to some lazy internet research, one of the collective nouns for sparrows, the others being flutter, host, meinie, quarrel, tribe, and ubiquity, all of which seem to fit rather well apart from meinie, what’s a meinie?

We have other birds in the garden, but they aren’t so bold and therefore are a bit harder to photograph. I think that this…

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…is a coal tit, it doesn’t seem yellow enough to be a female great tit which was my other thought. Coal tits seem to like the silver birch in our garden.

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Blue tit.

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White Bloomer.

Ah – another item from the list – to whit, ‘bake bread more often’. I don’t normally manage to fit bread-making around commuting, so, whilst working from home, I have been able to bake more often, although at times, especially early on when bread flour and yeast were akin to gold dust, not as often as I would like. I’ve been branching out and trying various types of flour, by necessity really, since I’ve had to take what I could get, and also different types of loaf, as you’ll see in forthcoming posts!

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Limestone Pavement in Eaves Wood.

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There was a fortnight in April when I decided that a walk which criss-crossed Eaves Wood and Middlebarrow, zig-zagging furiously was an ideal lockdown workout.

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A Middlebarrow path.

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Blackthorn blossoms.

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I can’t say if really made much progress with ‘getting to grips with birdsong’, but I have been able to listen to more of it! I think I’ve mentioned it before, but getting out every day this spring has really alerted me to the ubiquity of nuthatches locally. A collective noun for nuthatches is a bit superfluous, since they seem to be mostly solitary birds, but it’s a jar of nuthatches apparently.

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They are everywhere, but I hear them much more often than I see them, so photographs have been a bit of a rarity. Less than a jarful.

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Arnside Tower.

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Looking towards Silverdale Moss from beside Arnside Tower.

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Peacock butterfly.

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More willow catkins.

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Coltsfoot.

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Peacock butterfly.

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Pepper Pot.

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Cuckoo pint leaves in the shade of mature beech tree, where not much else will grow.

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The ruined cottage in Eaves Wood

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A late finish.

I love Elvis’ early recordings from his days at Sun Records.

When I heard this…

…song by Sister Wynona Carr, I thought that maybe Elvis had borrowed from an old gospel tune. I’ve been smugly self-congratulating myself for years for spotting the connection. Sadly, for my puffed up self-esteem, it turns out that they are both covers of this original…

… by Roy Brown. All sorts of people have covered this song, but I really like this version…

…which is unmistakably by Elvis’ Sun Records stablemate Jerry Lee Lewis.

 

I Heard The News