Epitaph for the Unknown Solider
To save your world you asked this man to die;
Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
Mr Uphilldowndale and I found ourselves down at the fish quay in Salcombe one morning. It was a bit of an eye opener.
There aren’t the vast numbers of fishing boats I imagine there were in years gone by. But none the less there was frenetic industry.
One boat was tied up at the quay, The Emma Jane, her crew of six were busy unloading some their catch of crab in to floating ‘fish boxes’ and getting ready to sail.
She goes out for up to six days at a time, and her catch of crab and lobsters are kept alive and in good condition in vivier tanks on board (more about that in a moment).
In addition a larger floating fish box was being unloaded of its live cargo.
Some crabs seemed not best pleased and were making a break for freedom.
We were a little stunned at the quantity of crabs ( this isn’t just one layer of crabs, there are many many more below). The box had been hauled up the slipway (or maybe the tide had fallen as they worked, who am I to know about such things, I live about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK. I just imagine it’s best to work with the tide not against it).
We were also surprised to see that the crabs, once out of the fish box and weighed were put into a articulated lorry, with vivier tanks of well oxygenated sea water (vivier means ‘fish tank’)
to keep them alive and in tip top condition for their onward journey to Portugal, yes Portugal, mind they could have also have gone to France Spain, Hong Kong and mainland China. You can see the size of the floating fish box in the shot above.
Salcombe crabs are obviously a very valuable catch, they are also very labour intensive one. We were told by harbour staff they are caught in crab pots, the muscle in their main claw is cut to stop them attacking each other in the fish box. The smaller fishing boats return each day with their catch and add them to the fish box.
The aim is to keep them in the fish box the minimum amount of time possible as they are not feeding whilst in the box.
And if you are wondering what happens to all those crab shells, in a moment of serendipity, I stumbled across the answer today, when looking for felting wool, who would have thought it; apparently you can make fibre from the chitosan in the shells. not to mention anti-fungal treatments for seeds and in medical dressings to reduce bleeding. My, blogging is so educational.
It seems hard to believe that it was only Wednesday morning that Mr Uphillldowndale and I took a turn around the field wearing Wellington boots, the meadow grass was flattened to the ground,
by the weight of rain that had fallen over night.
Jammy the kitten cat got wet feet, he was unimpressed and protested loudly, and completed the rest of the walk along the wall.
Spud, well, he was just Spud,
By late afternoon the sun had come out, our neighbouring farmer had come along and mown the grass, he obviously knew what the forecast had in store. Because since then it has been wall to wall warmth and long sunny days, by this afternoon, the grass had been rowed up and bailed, job done.
In a previous post I mentioned not really knowing what made a ‘traditional meadow’, then by chance I heard Jim Dixon, The Peak District National Park Chief Executive (his blog is here) being interviewed on BBC radio Derby, on the very subject. The roll call of species should include buttercups, yellow rattle and pink clover we have lots of those!
So the surrounding fields are now empty, Spud the dog will be able to find his ball.
Since the fields have been mown there has been a forlorn curlew banking around the fields and across the valley, calling plaintively. I suspect it might have lost it’s nest to the mower;
I’m surprised, I didn’t know it was there, I hadn’t seen any curlews around on a regular basis since spring. Most curlews around here are up on the higher, rough pastures, where there are nests and young will not be disturbed by the pressures of making hay while the sun shine and the timeline that dictates commercial farming. Sad. It wouldn’t have been done intentionally of that I’m sure. As Jim Dixon mentioned in his interview, in trying to preserve traditional meadows we are asking farmers to be ‘farmers, factories and museums’. It’s not easy.
Apologies for my absence, many things have been happening around here. Including a game akin to ‘musical chairs’ with computers, it all started with an upgrade to the photo editing software I use for my images, Lightroom: only to find my laptop had not the brain to cope with such a new fangled thing.
Fortunately Mr Uphildowndale is a bit nifty at sorting such matters. I write this post at his desk, where his computer is linked to both my old laptop and what was Tom’s laptop (soon to be mine, Tom gets a new one ready for his studies) and it is humming away shifting ‘stuff’ from one place to another. It’s all beyond me. All I know is it may take some time.
What was simpler and swifter to action was the move of my RSS feed from Google Reader to WordPress, that was a breeze and I managed it all on my own. I’d been rather tardy at bothering to seek out Google Reader of late, it was a bit of a faff, I can now see that with all my favourite blogs in one place there is a much better chance of keeping up with things and catching up with old friends. Talk soon.
We spent yesterday morning felling a tree. We’ve had chainsaw adventures before, but this was a different beast to slay. Mainly because of its proximity to the house, the oil tank, two drystone walls, the telephone line and us! Also to be factored in to the equation was the size of the tree, 44 feet.
It was a carefully researched mission, there was only one way it could fall.
There was much measuring of angles, a rope attached with a couple of strapping teenagers hanging on the end.
A ‘cheese’ taken out of the trunk, some strategic cuts and then, with some tugging, down she came.
It is hard to remember that when we first moved into the house, this tree was so small we used to drape the it with lights at Christmas, an exercise that needed no ladders.
It was quite a nerve wracking task. The boys were quite giddy when the mission was accomplished.
By the end of the morning, we’d worked it down to just the ‘spine’.
A selvedge of snow still remains, banked up against the drystone walls, it lies in dips and gullies (or ‘gips’ as I used to call them as a child, no point wasting words when you can blend).
There are lanes that are still full to the brim, some with cars still entombed! Our lane was cleared of snow this afternoon, by man in a JCB digger.
Tom has returned home from a geography study trip to Iceland*, it has been warmer there all the time he’s been away than it has here. How silly is that. On his return he said how ‘green’ everything looks at home, but this is only in comparison to Iceland, not ‘as it should be’, at this time of year, in this part of of the world. It is dire for livestock.
Here are Joe and Spud on our walk on Sunday
Mr Uphilldowndale wanted to show me some mine workings that have ‘opened up’ recently: as a child I used to play no more than a stones throw from here.
My Mum has said for over fifty years that she is convinced the loud crash she and a friend heard one summers evening could only have been to do with the old mine workings, of which there are many around and about, both coal and lead. It’s not really what you want at the bottom of the garden.
Making them safe is the remit of The Coal Authority.
* I’ve been envious of Tom, I went to Iceland in the early 1980’s with my friend Bob’s-mum; it seemed a bit off beat for a holiday destination back then. I loved it, however unlike Tom, I didn’t get to swim in The Blue Lagoon, or see the Aurora Borealis… sigh.
The Village starts tonight on BBC1 at 9pm.
I’m sure you will enjoy the scenery, it is going to look more than a little familiar to regular readers of this blog. Enjoy.
The drama sets out in 1914, here is the Uphilldowndale homestead in around 19006-1910
I’d planned a longer post with a few links to ‘The Village’ landscape, but that will have to wait. I’ve not been so well for the last few days, all those antibiotics came at a price, Joe tried to cheer me up, ‘At least it is better than the tooth ache Mum’. I certainly hope the reaction doesn’t last as long as the tooth ache.
Well you can guess who has enjoyed this weather, Spud the warrior dog with his icy breast plate.
The rest of us may be finding it all rather difficult, not Spud the adventure dog
I know that in many parts of the world, this amount of snow is not a big deal. But it is here, and so late in the year, I’ve not seen this much snow in the lanes since my childhood
(which wasn’t 1947 since you ask). It is the winds that have caused the drama, Tom and Mr Uphilldowndale spent hours digging out the lane yesterday, it was all back again in a few hours. As Tom wryly noted, it won’t stop filling in until every field east of here is empty of snow or the wind drops.
We went to visit Mrs Bee and her boys, they are not very happy. Mrs Bees road is worse than our lane, it is not going to plough out, it will be a snow blower, digger or a long wait for it to thaw.
We took emergency supplies of cheese and wine (essential do you not think?) and Tom helped carry a bail of hay for the farmer whose sheep are in the next field. Brownie points all round.
The space between these two drystone walls is the road, the walls are about five-six foot high at this point, full to the brim.
It’s been a strange sort of week.
The tooth drama rolls on sapping my energy as the weeks pass, today I’ve taken up the offer of a second round of antibiotics prescribed by my dentist, ‘just in case’. Getting to the root cause of the pain has turned into a tedious game of hide and seek. I can tell you it hurts most when I drive up hill (don’t laugh it isn’t funny, remember? I live at the top of a hill. Maybe there is a reason for this?) Mr Uphilldowndale and the boys can vouch for the fact my sense of humour is AWOL too.
Something else disappeared this week, Police Inspector Gadget blog. This leaves a gapping hole in the blogosphere, as long as I’ve been blogging Gadget has been popping by here, he was especially fond of Spud the dog. One of his clear crisp text messages told me he’d written his last post and was pulling the blog. No fuss no drama. 24 hours later it was gone.
Gadget is always a man of his word, I know that. The news didn’t surprise me and yet it did, after all, seven years of blogging, 12 million hits and up to five hundred comments or more per post, not to mention the book, has to be a huge part of someone’s life.
My camera has not seen the light of day this week, so I’ll leave you with a suitably occluded image from my visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park a few weeks ago.