Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Ghost Soldiers and Bird Song

I went to our  local park today, to the war memorial where there was a service to commemorate the  anniversary of the first day of the battle of the Somme.

I have to say the blowing of a whistle at the start of the service, chilled my blood. What a thought, that 19,420  lives were lost that day.

On 1st July 1916 at 07.30am, whistles blew all along the British front line driving thousands of troops out of the trenches into No Man’s Land as the Battle of the Somme began.

The park was built as a memorial to those who lost  their lives during World War I, and during the two minutes silence I was struck by the sweet scent of roses drifting up from the flower beds and the bird song from the surrounding, and now mighty trees. I could pick out the cheeky chatter of long tailed tits

Long-tailed tit, windy day

Birdsong must have been the last thing the soldiers heard before the guns

From Bivouacs by Gilbert Waterhouse

In Somecourt Wood, in Somecourt Wood,
We bivouacked and slept the night,
The nightingales sang the same
As they had sung before we came.
‘Mid leaf and branch and song and light
And falling dew and watching star.
And all the million things which are
About us and above us took
No more regard of us than
We take in some small midge’s span
Of life, albeit our gunfire shook
The very air in Somecourt Wood.

It was very moving, and I don’t think had I seen these  ‘ghost soldiers’ today, moving speechlessly through our cities, each one  simply carrying a card with the name and age of a soldier they represented. I could have helped but shed a tear. What a powerful piece of art.

'Ghost Tommies' at Waterloo Station in London


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Blight and Blossom

Here we are May 14th and the blossom struggling to break out.

Some features of spring are as they should be, across the valley I can see small flockettes of lambs zipping around the fields, they may be in playful mode, they may just be trying to keep warm, its difficult to tell; from this distance it’s like watching an early video game.

So what blossom have I found? A snow flake of wild plum

A dash of blossom -1

A claw set cluster of crab apple, so near yet so far, as the weather is cold and wet, it may even snow tonight.

A dash of blossom 3-1

I’d a plan to post about blossom in April, I’d have posted beautiful blossom and then delivered seamless segue into beautiful music,  however nature has been slow off the mark, but the music can wait no longer.

Recently we were fortunate enough to have a real gem of an evening of live music, it was a tiny village hall sized affair where we saw Ashley Hutchins and his son Blair Dunlop perform. I’m sure sure Blair’s  musical future is much bigger than village halls (Ashley’s is already in the bag).  Blair’s album is called  Blight and Blossom.

Blair has a  linage of music and poetry,  it is in his  very DNA and, as my mum would say, ‘what’s in tree comes out in the branches’. Enjoy.

It was touching to see (no, make that feel, it was an emotion that was palpable in the hall) Ashley’s pride in his sons performance and craft (and if its not pushing the tree metaphor a tad too far, it was a moment, a memory, to be laid down in the heart wood of the tree.)


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The Lightning Tree

I’ve been intending to post photos of the lightning tree since Spring, you may have thought it dead. But it was not.

lightning tree-1

Life forced its way back out into the world

lightning tree 3-1

Clever eh?

I’ve been searching for this poem since Spring,  following a bit of a banter with Gerry,  it was something about trees and seasons, I can’t now remember what. It would have helped if I could have remembered who wrote the poem, it was Roger McGough.

It is National poetry Day, so it seems fitting to have finally got my act together.

Trees Cannot Name the Seasons
Trees cannot name the seasons
Nor flowers tell the time.
But when the sun shines
And they are charged with light,
They take a day-long breath.
What we call "night"
Is their soft exhalation.

And when joints creak yet again
And the dead skin of leaves falls,
Trees don’t complain
Nor mourn the passing of hours.
What we call "winter"
Is simply hibernation.

And as continuation
comes to them as no surprise
They feel no need
To divide and itemize.
Nature has never needed reasons
For flowers to tell the time
Or trees put a name to the seasons.

~by Roger McGough
[This poem can be found in McGough’s
book Melting into the Foreground, 1986]


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Hope is a Thing with Feathers

two birds and a gate-1

Coast path nr Prawle Point, South Devon

 

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickenson 1830-1886 

I’d not heard of Emily Dickenson, until I saw the work of artist Sarah Sharpe  at the Derbyshire Open Arts event, many of Sarah’s pieces are inspired by Dickenson. 

Perhaps a photo of a swallow, swift or wren may have been a daintier bird to balance the poem, but we have a bird equality policy on this blog, all birds are equal.

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