Thursday, 30 May 2013

Horsing Around

The new love of my life, Simon.

Went out riding again today at Cotswold Trail Ride. Took the opportunity for a couple of pics this time.

A little known fact: Simon does not like Top Gear. We know this because he once unceremoniously dumped Richard Hammond on his bum! 

He was very nice to me, though.

My friend Julia, with Dangerous Denis.

Lovely Lump, my mount last time. See how he got his name? Doesn't seem to cause him any trouble, and he has some get-up and go.

Home grown, organic horses! Pick your own!

There's Lump, hiding behind the tree to the left. I love him to bits but, every time I ride him, I hear that Presidents of the United States song going round in my head!

Talking of mud... it was serious. The horses were up to their knees in the stuff. Shows just how strong they are. I should have taken a paddle. At one point on the way home, Simon put his foot down this hoof-shaped hole, which acted as a water vacuum and this giant gush of mud shot up and covered both of us. Poor love. 

Had such a great time though, and good to see Julia and Di again. Joined by another Julia, on holiday from Yorkshire.

Came home for a nice, long soak in the bath with a rose bath bomb Cathryn bought me for my birthday. Feeling a lot better than last week. Amazing how your body gets back into the swing of things so quickly. Also, Simon's a little larger than Lump, and his canter is sooo smooth. Didn't even leave the saddle, which was a bit gentler on the thighs.

Here's to a summer of wonderful horses.

"Oi! Are you Jeremy Clarkson?"

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Summer's Here :)

Sunshine has finally arrived! Though it may only last a couple of days.

Quick catch-up. Went out walking with my dad last week in the Forest near Kempley. Was a beautiful day. Saw muntjac deer and a badgers' set.

The Fores in Full Flourish

Badger Set

The only dodgy point came when crossing a field full of young cows. I've never liked cows, and have been chased by them on several occasions. They sort of 'swarm'. Mostly it's just curiosity but, when you're curious and you're that size, it can lead to trouble. Little wonder we returned home to discover the top BBC website story was: Cows Trample Man to Death in Wiltshire. Beware the cows.

Went out horse riding at Cotswold Trail Ride on Thursday. Looked like a storm was brewing until we got up to the tree line, then it was bluebell woods, panoramic views of the Malverns, and sun-dappled forest paths all the way. If you enjoy horse riding, check them out. It's truly enchanting this time of year.

Today, we headed over to the Hay Literature Festival to soak up the atmosphere. We're regulars at Cheltenham, but I'd never been to Hay. It was very busy!

There are more bookshops per head than pretty much anywhere else in the country (possibly the world?) and some huge second-hand book cellars, like this one, which went on for miles...

Picked up an old Remington Rand Model 5 typewriter. Retro, and extremely heavy.

The drive there and back was magical. It's honestly like driving through Middle Earth. You couldn't imagine a more perfect example of bucolic blue-skied British countryside. On the way back, we stopped to look at Arthur's Stone. A collapsed cromlech with a stunning view.

Panoramic (click to enlarge)

These stones are the remains of a chambered tomb of the Neolithic period dating from between 3700BC and 2700BC. They formed a burial vault with entrance tunnel set under a large mound of earth, now destroyed. The tomb was probably used for burials of a family or community for several hundred years. - Site Information Board

(click to enlarge)

There are several other sites nearby, according to the information map. If you're interested in this sort of thing, check out my Standing Stones tab, The Northern Antiquarian Facebook group, and The Modern Antiquarian site database.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Curtain Falls

And so ends my trip to Scotland. After two days of helping Paul carry large boxes of books from his old house to his new house, just across the road, it was time to give my arms a rest and drive home to Gloucester.

Always doing things back to front.
B = Scotland A = England

Arrived home to an incredible stack of mail. I left after New Year with the intention of popping to Belgium, then Edinburgh for a week or two. Four months later, I'm back!

It's been quite an incredible journey. You can catch up in the Scotland 2013 tag, and Belgium.

Among the circulars and unpaid bills, I discovered a couple of lovely surprises. My mate Cassie sent me a birthday parcel, including a lovely Lush Karma perfume stick, and my new favourite mug.

Morning cup of tea brought to you by
the letter T and refills 1, 2 and 3.
Also received an unexpected parcel from the lovely Kirstin in Kenya, who's also a talented photographer. Tea masala, to go in my new mug, and an original.

Excuse grainy quality, think I have pastels on my scanner... best not spoken about.

Also arrived to find a royalty cheque for $40. Apparently I sold a couple of books. About bloody time.

The drive home wasn't bad. Put my foot down. Stopped once for petrol about an hour from home. It was glorious sunshine when I left Alva, then proceeded to pee it down with gale warnings all the way down the M6.

Managed to dodge a jerrycan in the fast lane. Wasn't so lucky with a large bundle of, what appeared to be, wires!? Saw the car in front dodge, but didn't have time to check whether anyone was in the lane next to me so had no option but to hold on tight and hit it.

Almighty thud. Waited for the wheel to deflate... thankfully it didn't. Seems to have cracked the front wheel guard, and there's a piece of metal and a piece of rubber hanging off. Doesn't look much more than superficial, though. Will take Kitty to the doctor's tomorrow and see what they say. Fingers crossed it's not going to be too expensive to fix.

Basically dumped everything from the boot onto the floor and now need to pack it away.

Four months on the road generates a
lot of junk.
Most of it is stuff Martine was getting rid of. She's a 'minamalist', which basically means she buys lots of stuff then gives it away to anyone who visits. To be fair, she was moving abroad.

Very pleased to have a full-blown Rwandan Peace Basket. Really wanted one of these but couldn't fit it in my luggage. Now I have one, and I didn't have to work out how to get it home.

Also found a big bag of Coltsfoot Candy in Callandar. Eaten one pack already.

And spent a night at Paul's daughter's place, where they cooked up an incredible breakfast including grilled tomatoes on the vine, which I feel is worthy of note, not least because it also came with a cup of tea served in a Penguin of Death mug! Awesome.

All of which brings me to the final stages of this blog for a while. The reason I decided to head South again was to catch my incredibly talented and hard working cousin, who was dancing with Birmingham Royal Ballet in Cheltenham yesterday. I hadn't seen him dance since he was a student at the Royal Ballet School, so it was incredible to get the opportunity to watch him dance as an adult now. Truly excellent performance, and nice to catch up after the show with cake and tea at a nearby cafĂ©. 

Well, that's probably the end of my updates on this blog for a while. I'm going to take a couple of weeks to recuperate, then I need to head slowly towards London, via Northamptonshire, where I plan to try and write another novel. A fairly dull process to outside observers, as the only adventures are the ones in my head. Ta ta for now.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Curious Incident of Dundurn, Part III

After delivering the rock to the top of Dundurn, I then went on a bit of a trek to the top of the opposite hill. I knew Paul was interested to know what was over there, so I documented part of it on my camera, and transcribed my inane babbling because it was quite windy.

A very interesting adventure. I think I can safely say that my sense of balance has returned. Take that, hill! You have been well and truly climbed.

Here are a few additional pics I took...

Standing in the tree I feared I might have to
spend the night in.
Panoramic of fairy mounds.
(click to enlarge)
Beautiful round lump of quartz by wall structure.
Wall structure.
First mound, illustrating why
I thought it was fay.
Primrose :)
Love this rock with the pool underneath.
Old Man Moon rock near quiet pool.
Looks like an old man smiling from the front
and a crescent moon from the side.
Dried-up Polypore
Pointy Rock
Perhaps a beacon point?
I absolutely fell in love with this wavy pattern on the rocks. You find it all over the place. Like I said in the video, it's as though the whole valley has been carved out of water. Perhaps not rock art, but I feel it must have been used decoratively. Stunning wallpaper. 

Whilst scrambling up the side of the second mound from the pool, I stopped to take a study of thick moss growing on a tree branch. 

The Branch

Also found this strange natural altar. A ledge with a shard of rock beneath and a slab of rock towering up, with a tree on top of it. If I lived around there, that's definitely where I'd leave my offerings.

Dundurn from the opposite hill.

I climbed up Dundurn (left) then down its right-hand
side and two-thirds of the way up the one on the right.

The field beneath Dundurn has a number of strange features, including a couple of very large rocks, like the one above. There are also a number of mounds, including a strange little one by the gate as you enter the foot of Dundurn, which looks a lot like the plague pit at Fortingall. There is rumoured to be a plague pit, but I'm not sure whether it's referring to St. Fillan's Chapel, which is the ruin at Dundurn, or the Church in the village, which we didn't visit. There's also supposed to be a coin table, but I couldn't find it within the chapel, so perhaps that also refers to a nearby church.

There are a number of barrow-shaped mounds around the field, though more likely to be either settlement earthworks or something more modern, perhaps from dredging the marsh in the centre of the field. Someone with a sense of humour appears to have turned one of them into a fish face, with two eyes and a rocky mouth.

Sorry to keep distressing people with pictures of dead sheep, but the marsh between the field and the chapel was a slaughter ground of lambs. Either an unlucky winter or some mighty big foxes around those parts.

Finally, I made it back to the chapel and laid my last rock on Saint Fillan's Grave. It felt pretty good. I'm glad I went back. I still don't have much of an explanation for what happened the first time, but I don't feel upset about it any more. I feel as though I've conducted a fairly thorough geographical and emotional study of the place, and it doesn't bother me now. If anything, I'm slightly fascinated.

As an addendum, I was hoping to have dreams about the place, but nothing came. Although, after both visits, the next morning Paul woke to find me asleep on the couch, the first time on my back with my legs straight and my arms folded above my head, the second time in the same position with them full-stretch above my head. I assure you, on a couch, that is not an easy or comfortable position to maintain, yet I woke feeling wonderfully refreshed. This has never happened before or since, as I tend to sleep on my side.

[UPDATE JULY 2013: See also Dundurn - The final Chapter.] 

Natural (?) stone rose on one of the graves.