Tuesday, 22 December 2009

John Donne and the shortest day...

Excerpt from "A Nocturnal upon St Lucy's Day, being the shortest day"

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The whole world's sap is sunk;
The general balm the hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interred; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

John Donne

Hare tracks in the snow?

These tracks across the lane and fields near Owler Lee and Fanshawegate.

Snow on snow...

We crumped through the snow yesterday up to Fanshawegate and back through Gillfield and home. Geese honking in huge wavering V's scrawled across the sky.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Maybe snow.....

Colder than cold. White doves lift-drop-turn around Fanshawegate; a kestrel held high above the windmill on the Lydgate horizon. Sheeps dit-dot the fields below sugar sifted top of Totley Moss. The light is electric at my favourite ash tree. We stop, look, slow the pace despite freezing fingers and paws.

Friday, 11 December 2009


On the White Lane today saw someone's old toilet flytipped by the little stream's culvert at the Derbyshire Boundary. Reported it straight away on my mobile - 101 - and hey presto, this afternoon Parks and Countryside rang me and they have removed it. Good service eh?


Why do I seem to write this blog mostly in Winter? Perhaps I find it the most beautiful of seasons - especially when it is under such threat. Today the real symbols of midwinter burst out of the bony trees near Woodthorpe - a clatter of fieldfares. Here is what John Clare has to say in a gem of a sonnet:

Emmonsails Heath in Winter

I love to see the old heath's withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps his melancholy wing
And oddling crow in idle motions swing
On the half rotten ash tree's topmost twig
Beside whose trunk the gypsy makes his bed -
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread;
The fieldfare chatters in the whistling thorn
And for the 'awe round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.

"Crimpled," "oddling" "bouncing woodcock" - what words! What a naturalist as well as a poet! Some of Clare's poems protest the harm wrought by the enclosure of the commons that he witnessed in his lifetime. We are enclosing our world with heat not fences and hedges. Will our winters ever be the same?