Winter Coughs To Announce Her Presence

Officially it is not winter for five weeks or so, but the seasons sometimes blur the calendrical boundaries and fixed points that we like to attribute to them.

Yesterday was the first real cold morning of the year. Crisp and clear, a light frost covered everything, a promise maybe of what is to come. And, perhaps with a sense of the shift in things, it seemed that my Facebook feed was filled with photographs by people drawn to mark this liminal time.

An old school friend by the name of Dave Wright lives up in Inverness, in Scotland. He has two things up there that I don’t have: a decent camera and the northern lights.

He took this photograph as a cold dusk fell upon the land, he himself hunkered down for the night. The tree serves as a point of focus in an otherwise horizontal sweep.

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And then, as he quite aptly described it: the moment the sky danced. 

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Further south, across the English border (how we like to divide and designate, whether with land or time or people) another old school friend, Derek Bates, paused to take in the view from his works window. This was in Duckingfield, a town in Greater Manchester, with light struggling slowly over the bare hills, the low-lying land shrouded in mist.

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To the east of Duckingfield, in my hometown of Middleton, the temperature stubbornly refused to rise. The mist appeared hesitant beyond the trees.

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And then the school run beckoned, drawing us out of our heated home. Ignore that sun, it may as well have been a snowflake.

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“It’s cold,” my daughter exclaimed as we hurried along the main road. “I can’t feel my legs.”

“They’re still there,” I replied. “Keep going!” 

Orkney Odyssey 3: Time Tells

Feeling the need to return.

City Jackdaw

There is a romanticism and a melancholy to the islands.

An echo of times past. A hint of meaning that lies just beyond the wind. Meaning whose origin is adorned by labels: Norse, Pictish, Neolithic. A procession of markers that will outlive us all.

I wonder if living here day after day, year after year, causes you to be blasé about it all? Do the markers become invisible, blending in with the rest of the storm-shaped landscape?

I remember seeing a documentary a few years back about people living in the Scottish Highlands. Among all that natural beauty and dramatic vistas, the young ones were bored to death. They said that visitors would tell them how lucky they were to be living there. They would reply that there was never anything to do. They would amuse themselves by sending travelling tourists in the opposite direction of the landmarks that they…

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On This Day: The One-Armed Man

In a list of saints native to the British Isles, today is the day of Nathalan, (?-678), who legend says was a wealthy man who became a hermit near Aberdeen, in Scotland, supporting himself by cultivating his smallholding:

‘which work approaches nearest to divine contemplation.’

Couldnt have had cows, then.

Born into a noble Pictish family, he produced surplus food to help pilgrims and the needy of the area. So far so good. Saintly material.

But, when the crops failed one summer, Nathalan cursed God for the wet weather. (Seems like nothing has changed climate wise in those parts.) Full of remorse, he repented by having one arm chained to his side. The only key to the padlock he dispensed into the depths of the River Dee. He then set off on foot to do penance in Rome. At least he still had one arm free to thumb a lift in case he grew too weary.

Arriving in Rome months later, he bought a fish in the market. When he cut it open, guess what he found inside? Only the key to the padlock on his chained arm. How’s that for a divine sign of forgiveness?

On hearing of this miracle, the Pope had Nathalan made into a bishop (some say the Bishop of Aberdeen). The poor fish is never mentioned again though. Such is the fate of fish throughout history.

He returned to Scotland, (Nathalan, not the fish), establishing a second church at Coull, in the Howe of Cromar, and another at Cowie near Stonehaven.

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Cowie Kirk, originally dedicated to St. Nathalan.

 

An old Cowie rhyme states:

‘Atween the Kirk and the Kirk ford,

there lies St. Nathalan’s hoard’

His hoard or treasure is believed wrapped in a bull’s hide, tied with a rope which, according to folklore, will hang anyone uncovering it.

Think I’ll leave the spade in the shed then.

Who am I?

This is a relative of mine who is living at the very top of Scotland with his wife in a house they have built, looking to live self-sufficiently. He is new to WordPress and still finding his feet, so will you fine people give him a nice welcome. And maybe throw him a follow 🙂

Ivycroft

Sounds like a game. Maybe I’ve got a post-it note stuck to my head. 

It’s an excercise set by “blogging 101”, the WordPress course I’ve signed up for to help me get some blogging skills.

Most of the excercise has already been addressed on my “About” page. I’m a bloke in his late fifties who, for about the last ten years, has been building a house in the Far North of Scotland. With Hazel, long suffering wife of this parish, I’ve been experimenting with a more self- sufficient, greener lifestyle. Ten years into the project, we’re a lot closer to having a house, not much closer to self sufficiency.

Along the way, I’ve made many mistakes. The blog is going to be an attempt to share some of those mistakes so that other greenies can avoid them. I’m also going to try to share some of the successes, tips for…

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A Great Scottish Disturbance In The Force

Congratulations to the Scottish people from me and my wee bairns. Not being Scottish, I hadn’t looked too closely at all the different issues involved, but from a purely emotional and romantic perspective I wanted you to stay with us.

The result of the vote, the full, ahem, force, was felt throughout the galaxy, even Darth MacVader and his Imperial Dancers were celebrating this morning.

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What do Stormtroopers wear beneath their kilt?

“That’s no moon….”

Our United Kingdom remains a kingdom united.

 

On Top Of Ben Nevis

On Top Of Ben Nevis

Vacuous specks in cataract eyes.

Faceless wraiths haunt
low, lunar rocks,
blurring lines, still boundaries,

hungry edges
suddenly thwarted by fractious light
perforating the still sleeve.

These weary phantoms risk all
in a deadly swoon,
cold gnawing
at callused fingers,
laboured breath squeezing out,
in amorphous clouds,
the vaporous cry of the victor.


©AJM