Into the Orkney Islands

Into the Orkney Islands

I am some 850km north of London, but only 470 from Haugesund in Norway. Outside the window is a view across the sea which, if it weren’t for the curvature of the earth and my poor human eyesight, would give me a view to Norway. Right now the sea is blue but its leaning towards a steel colour. It changes quickly because the haar – a sea fog caused when warm meets cold above and around the ocean – has been coming in sporadically the last few days.

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Alps and Eden: Easter Weekend, part the second

Alps and Eden: Easter Weekend, part the second

The Cornish Alps are man-made mountains that rise from an otherwise even landscape in the St Austell area. Although time has weathered them and smoothed their peaks, there are some that still hold their original pyramid shape. Some of these alps are high enough to get a little snow in the winter. They’re all made of the refuse left over from the china clay industry.

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Easter weekend, Part the First.

Easter weekend, Part the First.

My old boss – yeah, you know who I’m talking about O’Neill – would have looked at the forecast for Easter, shaken his head, and told me I was in luck – it was exactly my kind of weather. Five grey clouds icons drooping and dripping (and occasionally thundering) above a selection of low temperatures and Severe Weather Warnings (there have been a lot of storms this year; Katie was on her way).

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Betws-y-coed

Betws-y-coed

Betws-y-Coed is surrounded by the Gwydir Forest. At this time of year it’s a forest of browns and golds and purples, with the dark green of pines and conifers and the bare silver-grey branches of birches. It’s moss, in places so deep you’ll lose your foot to it should you step off the track, and dry bracken and ivy and lichen growing off the old stone walls and abandoned houses, and earth beneath your feet.

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Fun Fox Facts.

Fun Fox Facts.

On Sunday I was upstairs in my room when I heard a fox making a racket. It was day still, late afternoon, but I knew it was a fox because a few nights earlier (walking home in the cold dark) I’d seen a fox on someone’s path. I was of little concern, and the fox resumed its evening of barking – an surprisingly high sound, not quite a screech, not necessarily the call of a game bird, undoubtedly a bark. There’s something about discovering new animal sounds, in person, that makes my heart leap with delight.

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Lurking darkness and fantasy - Castle Combe and Lacock.

Lurking darkness and fantasy - Castle Combe and Lacock.

The following films have been shot in Lacock Village or at Castle Combe...

What does that say about how we imagine the English? There’s an underlying darkness and danger beneath a surface of propriety or ignorance, nostalgia mixed with threat. Just put a slightly different light on these same places, and wear some different clothes while you walk through them, and you can unearth a whole bunch of different secrets.

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Stones that stand and sometimes fall on barber-surgeons

Stones that stand and sometimes fall on barber-surgeons

I’m a sucker for standing stones and Neolithic monuments. (And dead barber-surgeons.)

My main goal for the enforced break from work between Christmas and New Year was to visit the stones at Avebury in the Wiltshire region. It’s a much lesser-known site than Stonehenge, despite being much larger in size and open for all to walk up and touch the stones, and as a consequence is somewhat harder to get to although it does have a small village in the middle of it.

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Winter Wonderland and thoughts of Xmas

Winter Wonderland and thoughts of Xmas

Winter Wonderland is the largest fair I’ve ever been to. They needed a map for it, and even the map couldn’t contain everything that was within its bounds. New rides and stalls and prize booths kept appearing where, I swear, we had already walked. At one point I believe we just missed a new ride emerging from the earth – the ground was still quivering as we came around the cover, and there was a distinct odour of upturned earth and burned ozone as we rounded a curly fries stall and a giant penguin.

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Weird fiction and recognition

Weird fiction and recognition

The other night I went to talk called “Weird Fiction for Beginners: A Dis/Orientation” at the Kings College Campus. I’ve never been to Kings College, and being there turned out to be a somewhat confusing experience. It started with the disillusionment of a thousand people far too young – surely, far too young – to be studying at University. All these young people.

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York and its shire.

York and its shire.

It is so good to get the soles of my shoes covered in mud - thick, sticky flood-mud turned up from the earth in a sudden flood of rain and deposited over the banks of the river Ouse and the thin concrete path that leads along its edge. You don't get mud like that in London, only domesticated mud if you happen to walk through a park, tamed mud without the nutrient-rich deposits of a river through farms and fields, mud that's cynical about being mud because its spent too long in the city.

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The colours of Storm Barney.

The colours of Storm Barney.

When I was baby my parents would take me out with them on the farm, or into town, securely fastened with a baby carrier to their fronts or backs. I could see the world from there, and I loved the world. I loved the colours and the movement and being with these large people-creatures that loved me, and I loved the wind. On windy days I would laugh and stick my tongue out to taste it as it blew across my little face, Mum told me (and tells her early years students, every year, along with all the other stories she dredges up from my childhood to use as examples of just how weird little kids are, or something like that).

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Halloweekend.

Halloweekend.

We went to see Macbeth at the Covent Garden Odeon theatre. S and I pretended to dress up (I was wearing my gorgeous black lace dress, over which I had worn a red cardigan all day because I was at work and worried about being seen. Just about being seen. Does anyone else get that - being afraid of being seen, whilst at work? In public? Anywhere?).

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Bonn: A Neanderthal, a river, and a turtle

Bonn: A Neanderthal, a river, and a turtle

From Koln, we did two day trips - the first to Bonn, about 30k or so up the Rhine, and to Aachen, about 70k west on the borders of Belguim and the Netherlands. We caught the rail from Koln to Bonn, accidentally purchasing the more expensive tickets because everything was in German and it wasn't clear. Don't go for the high-speed train. Take your time. Or, catch the ferry...

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We got a flat

We are now more officially residents of London than ever before. We signed a lease and moved into a 2 bedroom flat somewhere at the edge of Islington with my friend, recently arrived from the States. The flat is the second and third floor of a house arrangement they call a “mansionette” – on the first floor a living room that overlooks the neighbour’s apple trees with small bright red autumn apples.

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