Monday, 6 December 2010

St Nicholas

Old Tramp is a bit quiet at the moment, not much to say for himself, he's a bit like that at times, but I thought you might like to see what we've been up to this past week or so.
First of all there was the lantern procession around the village finishing up with switching on the Christmas Tree lights.
Then there was Mikulas's annual visit, the Czech St. Nicholas, who comes once a year to check that the youngsters are behaving themselves. He brings his imps with him, who want to cart off any naughty kids in their sacks. However, after conferring with his attendant angel, Mikulas will inevitably let the kids off for another year on the promise of behaving themselves and reciting him a rhyme. Before they leave they hand out some goodies to the kids.

Sorry about the quality of these snaps, Tramp is no photographer and you can understand that Mikulas and Co. are not that happy about being photograhed.
Take a good look at that imp, there's a strange likeness to Tramp junior.
Bye for now. Keep warm.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Fences of Freedom

Towards the end of this week we have been cocooned in drizzle-like fog. It permeates any clothing, rising damp is reaching my knees, the ground seems wetter and muddier than after heavy rain. Trees, last week dancing in strong winds, are poised without reaction, silent, bare, dark and still against the heavy grey sky.

The 17th November is a public holiday here, it marks the day in 1989 when police violence to break up a student march sparked public protests which brought the end to 40 years of Communist totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia. It tends to get overlooked that it also marks the Nazi clampdown on student activities that day in 1939, when all institutes of higher education not instructing in German were closed and student leaders executed or sent to concentration camps. In fact it was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of these events that the student march in 1989 was organised in the first place.

Conversations at this time naturally turn to comparing life here before and after 1989. I am not qualified to fully contribute to these discussions having arrived here in 1993, but a recent such conversation turned to whether there is more freedom today and whether that is a good thing. As the damp soaked into me I pondered on what freedom is to me.

No freedom is limitless, the fences that limit our freedoms may be way over on the horizon or close up to us but we should know that they are there, look after them and shift them as necessary if we can, sometimes dramatically, but we can't just destroy them. We want "freedom from" when we define where we don't want to be: freedom from fear, responsibilty, problems of any sort. Respite from these might be desirable but fencing these out of lives completely excludes other things that constitute a worthwhile life. We want "freedom to" or "freedom of" to define where we want to be: freedom to travel, freedom of speech. How many people use the freedom to travel, really want to travel, put up their own unnecessary boundaries to this freedom? The limits to my freedom of speech should be way over on the horizon, but I should accept that it is wise to consider what I say where, when and to who.

Freedoms should be limited but the fences must be well-maintained.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Operetta for Commuters

Friday morning, the journey today consists of three bus rides. In town I join the group waiting for the bus under the early morning steely blue sky. Turning my back to the penetrating cold damp wind I notice the car lights bouncing off the shimmer of the night's rain on the road.
Our bus arrives and we shuffle on; I slump into one of the vacant places halfway down and as we pull away I feel a reaction in my throat to the overwarm, overdry atmosphere in here. We leave town and the bus accelerates to a resonating rattle then slows and rolls its way over a railway crossing. We increase speed again and cut frightenly close to thin spiny trees that form the edge of the forest here.
In the next village the doors hiss open to imbibe a group of school-bound teenagers. A nervous disproportioned youth sits next to me; tall and thin his enormous feet accentuated in narrow white trainers. His pale face is punctuated with a large red nose. With a mumbled "Ahoj" he starts a converstaion with a bespectacled youth in the seat in front. Nearly full our bus labours up a hill to the last village on our route. Here a mass of small forms swarm onto the bus; each one half child, half school bag. Bright eyed, they chatter excitiedly playing dodgems as they thread their way down the aisle of the bus. We bumble the last mile or two into the town of our destination, soprano and tenor librettos of conversation around me accompanied by bass and baritone coughs from somewhere at the rear of the bus.
At the final stop the bus finally splits open and we spill out. First the highly-charged impatient juniors, followed by the senior pupils, their reluctance the result of experience, and then the adults to take the final bows to the unattentive world.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Mrs Honey

Old Tramp is off again, as soon as we get out on a walk. Doesn't he know that there are smells to smell, scents to follow, holes to dig? What's he on about now? Clouds stacked on the sky like dumplings on a dinner plate? Now the far-away look in the eyes and here comes that vacant grin, that can only be bad news.
"I'm thinking."
There what did I say? What is it you humans have with thinking?
"Well, when I say 'thinking' you have to bear in mind that there are lots of different thinkings. Today I'm remembering."
Remembering? Why the distant smile?
"Mrs Honey"
Mrs Honey?
"The old lady who lived opposite when I was young. When she came to visit my mother, she brought with her the smell of cough sweets and lavender. They would sit at the kitchen table and chat over tea and biscuits. Something took my mind back to that day I gazed over the table top and caught snatches of the adult conversation. My mother had told Mrs H how impressed she was with the plastic table cloth she had recently bought, how practical it was. On Mum's recommendation our elderly neighbour had also bought one and was now relating her experiences with it. 'Call me old-fashioned if you like but I'll stick to a traditional table cloth from now on, thank you very much. Yes it did wipe down OK, but you should have seen the mess when I ironed it; and the smell ...' I remember the contortions on Mum's face, hidden behind her tea cup, as she struggled with a mouthful of tea."
And Mrs Honey?
"She continue with a monologue on her attempts to clean pieces of plastic tablecloth from the bottom of an iron."
So there you have it, that's what humans think about when there are smells, scents and holes to deal with.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Autumn Sunset

The leg has been getting stronger so this evening I walked to pick up the bus at the edge of town.

The sun had gone down by the time I set out but on the way to the forest a powerful sunset was still being acted out. A walker on such an evening could only feel part of its strength-giving unstoppable progress. Shades of salmon pink were washing across the small cluster of spongy clouds high up in the west, sunlight was still playing gently up there as the dusk settled around me.

Who designed this, painted it, wrote the choreography?

Performances daily, almost everywhere, no ticket required, dress optional.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

I'm sure it was......

It was a gorgeous autumn morning today: quiet, calm, clear and cool.
After an epidural injection in the lower back my left leg has loosened up to the extent that it now flops around rather and is reluctant to obey instructions. Walking is no longer the painful experience it was but is now a slow and comical process with the tendancy to make me tired quckly.
At the end of our road I caught sight of an unfamiliar bird clinging low down to the trunk of a small silver birch. (The eyes are not such good team players either at the moment, who hasn't noticed the many tryping errors in the little blogging and commenting I've done recently? I'm due for a second cataract op this week which should liven up the right eye to the speed its rejuvenated left partner.) I thought by its size and behaviour that this mystery creature was a green woodpecker and I started to take great interest; in 17 years here I've only had one sighting. Creeping towards the tree as stealthily as limbs and eyes could manage, it was no surprise when the bird took flight towards a small clump of trees around a grassy children's play area. The undulating flight confirmed in my mind that I was in the prescence of that rare something so I continued in pursuit. Of course it flew off again but I had a magical view of it flying in waves away from me along the track I planned to follow. As with so many things in life , it was just a fleeting elusive experience but I felt lucky to have seen what I did.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Out at Last

What a trip! A few weeks ago I wouldn't have called it that but I finally got out with Lady this afternoon. No, it wasn't the colours, it was a greyish autumn afternoon and we didn't get as far as the forest, what's more with one cataract operation behind me and a second to come, the eyes are moving at different speeds so I missed subtle details .... but I was out there. It wasn't a brisk, warming walk with the circulation buzzing and the skin glowing, the movement was slow with frequent stops, the sciatic nerve to my left leg is still not completely free .... but I was out there.
There were others out there as well: cyclists, walkers, a group of runners. I know why they were there. There is a lot I don't know but Nature drives me (at the moment crawling along in 1st gear, but you need fuel even for that). I don't understand Nature but it gives me meaning and reason to be.
I am enjoying your blogs, but not able to write a lot at the moment.

Monday, 13 September 2010

But why "Tramp"

Old Tramp is resting at the moment so I'll sneak in and have a word.
Do you know why he uses the tag "Tramp"?
It isn't just because of me, it isn't just because it fits his nature somewhat. You see the old boy has this sort of romantic notion of the word in its Czech context. He is an admirer of the Tramping "movement" that goes back 100 years or so in this part of the world.
Something of it here.
There's also an article in Wikipedia.
Now look quick, I think he's shuffling back.
Remember, mum's the word.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Absent without leave

"I've never spent a night in hospital in my life."
I would follow up with,
"Not even born in hospital"
and go on with the anecdote of how my mother spent 2 weeks in a maternity ward waiting for me to appear before being sent home to free a bed for a first-time mother (when I finally arrived I was the 4th)
Well I can't say that again. After 3 days on my front in bed when a pulled back muscle turned into a blocked nerve in the leg, I finally gave in and alowed myself to be taken into professional care for a few days.
The pills were weird. I awoke around 2am to see a fridge by the bed. The door opened and out stepped my brother, saying he had to adjust the GPS. He fiddled with the back of the fridge for a moment, bade me farewell, climbed back into the fridge and flew off, out of the window. It all seemed so natural.
What really did the trick, I felt, were the bottles of colorless liquid that were dripped into me.
Whatever, I am out now, no longer a hospital virgin, but better than when I went in and I am optimistic.
(George, can I say I am hopeful? - well it has been rather an egoistic entry! )

Saturday, 4 September 2010

E10 Stage11 Kamenna - Zvikov

A few snaps from my last stage a few weeks ago. I am in bed with a back problem and will catch up when in a more vertical position.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Greatest Achievments

The rain clouds had finally moved away to reveal a freshly painted blue sky containing just a few archipelagos of tiny cotton wool clouds. A summer breeze had returned to dry the vegetation but the ground was still sodden with the almost relentless rain of the past week.

"What is your greatest achievement?"

I've always struggled with such questions. When they have been thrown at me in job interviews and the like I've tried to produce an expected response, but my replies have never satisfied me personally. On reflection, this is probably because there is something meaningless about these questions. They could only be answered if we knew the full effect of everything we did or said (or how we did or said them).

The modern meaning of the word "success" is generally about getting desired results, which we are conditioned to believe are fame and fortune. The older meaning of "success" is about all results, consequences, things (and people) that follow. Just because what we say or do doesn't have a measurable result it doesn't mean that it isn't a great achievement. We get brainwashed by the "success-mongers" who consider it a great personal achievement for themselves if they can condition us into planning great personal achievements for ourselves.

For me attempting to be more positive in contact with others means potentially greater achievements than any personal goals set, greater because of the knock-on effect which we will probably never fully appreciate. These achievements can’t be considered as our own purely personal achievements but they are more powerful.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

E10 Stage 2 Novy Bor - Zahradky

With the project started and the first stage under the belt I was keen to get on with it. Still holding to the original idea to complete one stage a month I set out on a Sunday morning in June 2004 on the same journey as for the first stage but leaving the bus in Novy Bor.
To recall this day I rely mainly on photos donated to the website
Novy Bor is a town of some 15 000 inhabitants, in the past a centre for the glass industry.

This is the town square, the start of today's walk.

Within a few kilometres the path passes Sloup Castle dating from the 14th century, most of it formed out of the sandstone

Close by in Prayer Valley there is a chapel carved into the sandstone.
This dates from the 1830s but pilgrims passed this way before then.

The path enters Ceska Lipa through a 1970s housing estate of prefabricated tower blocks

There are some prettier buildings in the centre.
This was my favourite, The Red House, a renaissance villa built in 1583.

At the end of another sandstone valley, these cottages featuring tradional timber and plaster "folk" architecture.

The manor house in the village Zahradky. Originally from around 1550, revamped in empire style in the 1820s. It is currently owned by Charles University in Prague and was undergoing repairs after a fire in 2003.

This walk finished here at the church of St Barbora, originally built in 1550 on the site of a roadside cross, later rebuilt in baroque style. The statues at the top of these steps depict two early Bohemian saints. One is Wenceslas (of Good King Wenceslas fame, well he wasn't actually a king but that's another story). The other is Prokop, abbot of the orthodox Sazava monestry in the 11th century. There are several legends of his victories over the devil including one where he harnesses the devil to a plough and gets him to plough the monestry fields.

I think I slept on the way home.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Simplicity ?

A calm evening, a bank of cloud pushing in silently from the west hiding the setting sun but soft orange escaping across the sky. It reminds me of one of those old coal-effect electric fires. I turn and linger to take it in and Lady returns to urge me on. There is a slight chill in the damp air which holds the fragrance of ripe wheat.
I have always craved simplicity. What do I mean by that? I don’t want to confuse simplicity with naivety, I have this desire to strip away unnecessary baggage and find the simple truths behind it all, to remove the superfluous trappings that hide the real meaning. Then there is this wish to bring things down to a level where I have something that I can cope with. However I so often strip away too much and the important is ignored. Another balance which is so hard to achieve and makes meaning hard to find.

But I am me and I seek simplicity, something to grasp onto because I am so easily overwhelmed.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

E10 Stage 1 Varnsdorf to Novy Bor (Through the TolstejnRegion)

The memory of that Sunday in early May 2004 is not complete but some memorable moments stand out. The first was hearing a cuckoo, my first of the year, as I made my way down the hill from our village to get the bus to Prague with nobody else to enjoy this wonderful late-spring bright clear blue-skied morning. The next vivid recollection is getting on the bus out of Prague, I was admonishing a young man for trying to skip the queue and although I succeeded in getting him to wait, incomprehensibly to me he seemed to have the sympathy of those he was pushing in front of. My next memory is the bus leaving me in the main square of Varnsdorf after the 2 hour journey from Prague. Varnsdorf is a border town with a population of about 15 000. It was necessary to walk the kilometre to where the E10 path crosses in the Czech Republic from Germany. It was the month that this country joined the EU so the border crossing was being run down. I have no photographic or other documentary evidence of this dramatic beginning, there are no known witnesses but I was there, I am sure of it.
The path back to the town centre headed through an allotment area and around a small lake and then took me out of the town, across a meadow, through the edge a forest to the village of Jiretin entering Tolstejn country.
From here the path took me up the pilgrims path on Holy Cross Hill to the chapel at the summit. These pilgrims paths or "stations of the cross" are to allow pilgrims to meditate on Christ's walk to Calvary. On the way are a number of stations representing the 12 Apostles or 10 Commandments.

The chapel is at 560 metres but after a short descent there is another climb of another 100 metres or so that takes the path between the twin peaks of Tolstejn and Jedlova.

The ruins of
Tolstejn castle on the left peak dates back at least to the 13th century. Despite this fortification, this was very much bandit country and there are numerous legends of local rogues. Descending this ridge I came to a railway threading its way through the hills. At the isolated station, frequented mainly by walkers, there was a small cafe which provided some welcome soup to add to the lunch I had brought with me, the clear skies of early morning now having given way to clouds and a damp, cold wind.
Continuing through the forest I tagged on to a school group and kept with them to the next village, Svor, where I headed up into the lowering cloud around my last climb of the day, Klic (Key). As I got to the summit, still in the forest, the wind got up and the cloud deposited some of its load. On the descent to the day's destination, Novy Bor, the rain cleared and the wind warmed up and dried me out.

The peak of Klic looking back towards Tolstejn and Germany

I took the train back to Prague from Novy Bor. I remember nothing of the homeward journey but with the help of images from the internet and map browsing I have recalled something of that first stage.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

E10 The story so far - (1) Why ?

It began in anger back in 2004 but the roots go back before that, way before. There was this awareness of "E10" on some footpath signs somewhere north of Prague. The 1:50 000 maps listed this as a long-distance path and I began to trace its route across these maps. At some stage I found basic information from the internet ( ). The seed was sown and germinating, fertilized by the fact that it didn't seem a popular aim and watered by a feeling that I would learn more about my adopted country if I walked through it. This feeling originated partly from the discovery about 10 years ago of a copy of John Hilaby's "Journey Through Europe" which I eagerly read having previously found and read a copy of his "Journey Through Britain" in the library on the Antarctic base where I was in the 1980s. So the roots are deep, it was going to happen. Well if not this, something similar would have emerged from what was laid down over 20 years ago, probably earlier.
To walk more than the section in the Czech Republic was not considered. The aim became to look closely, to feel the country from border to border. You know something (or someone) better when you see the boundaries, the limits; even if, as with many of life's important lessons, it can be a difficult, painful experience.
So in spring 2004 the traverse of the country began. I made no record of the early stages but in following posts I will recall what I can.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

What about me?

The last post was all about Tramp and another of his lone walks - without me! (That reminds me of what Tramp said after a trip with a group of friends: "It was OK, I suppose, but next time I'd rather go on my own with somebody else").
So today it's my turn.
First of all, I've had a haircut. I must say it makes this hot weather a bit more bearable.

Also I am rather enthusiastic about my walks as I expect you know. There's so much more to experience than he writes about, he doesn't see the half of what I get up to (thank goodness). If there's some long grass I must push into it, snout down and explore the smells. I don't know why he doesn't do that, there he is looking up at clouds. By this time of the year with things starting to dry out it isn't uncommon for me to get a piece of hay or grass seed lodged in an ear. This happened last week and although they managed to get it out for me, it caused a slight infection which is a bit uncomfortable (but quite good for getting sympathy).
The vet, who knows me quite well, has pronounced me the biggest actor among all her patients. She says that if I was human I would long ago have got to Hollywood or the Czech National Theatre. Now, I take that as a compliment.

Lastly, Tramp told me about this Solitary Walker who is into backyard camping. Just to show that he's not the only one to brave the elephants...

Keep cool ... Lady

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The E10 Project

I have this project which Lady doesn't take part in. In 2004 I started walking through this country from north to south on the E10 footpath. It crosses into the Czech Republic from Germany at Varnsdorf and leaves the country for Austria in the south near Vyssi Brod. The original idea was to walk one stage a month so the trip would be over within 2 years. This project has spent long periods on the back burner with the gas on low but it has always been kept on the cooker.
And so with 9 stages under my belt, about half way through and some 50km south of Prague, it was time to press on. There had been a week of very hot weather dampened down by some welcome heavy rain. Conditions were ideal and it only required the inspiration of reading of George's walking trip across the UK to get me back on the road.
An early start got me to the village of Obory (approx 49°41'N, 14°13'E) by 7.30, where I'd left off last year.

This part of the walk is not regularly walked, a sturdy hazel stick served as weapon against the undergrowth. I am not the first to have had difficulties here, a local legend tells of Jan Luxemburg (king of Bohemia in the early 14th century) who got lost here while hunting and built a chapel as thanks that he found his way out again. To tell the truth old JL was never really at home in Bohemia, he agreed to marry Eliska, the last of the Premyslid dynasty which went back to before St. Wenceslas. Jan brought his own men to Bohemia to serve under him which didn't endear him to the local nobility. His son, Karel, or Charles, was a different matter and a story for another day. No kings about today but four-legged friends:

The path then followed small roads giving a completely different rhythm to walking, the stick now employed as a propellor rather than for path construction. High octane fodder in the form of strawberry tart preceeded the descent to the Lisnicky stream where gold has been panned in past centuries. Any there?

After following the stream for a couple of kilometres the path climbs over a small hill to the village of Smolotely where there is a rundown chateau dating from around 1730, built on the site of a late gothic manor house.

The owners of the chateau introduced many exotic species of trees and shrubs during the late 19th century. They also planted an avenue of acacia trees, still quite small despite their age.

The path then follows the road to Bohostice where a pub provided a late lunch before the final kilometres (including a deviation due to creative navigation) to Kamenna, where today's stage finishes. Just a short walk to Cetyne to get the first of four buses to get home.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Independence and Selfishness

After a week of long sunny days there was rain this afternoon. When it was over it had done little more than settle the dust. This evening the sky is still heavy with storm clouds and a trickle of breeze in the air, a promise of more to come. These are ideal conditions for a walk, as Lady is so keen to inform me, also ideal conditions for reflection.
I’ve been away for a few days, a trip on the River Berounka. I was with a group I’ve been with before, I know three of them well enough to call friends, friendships cemented by mutual help and shared experiences over the years. Each year they construct a raft, boards laid on planks sat atop old inner tubes. Everything required for the four day trip is carried on board and the craft makes its way downstream sometimes paddled, occasionally gently turning on the current. It is pushed, pulled, man-handled over the weirs loaded and unloaded. The group gets down the river through teamwork.
I’m happy to be in a team, contributing what I can to the common good, but sometimes, just sometimes, I have to express the unease that I feel. There’s that feeling that I’m being coerced, manipulated, I’m losing something, my individuality is being nibbled away. In many situations in my life I’ve felt this, from the positive side proud of a tough independent streak, from the negative side embarrassed by the selfishness of it.
This evening I’m with a dog, a less demanding relationship.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A Wise Answer

The wind today was so different in quality to yesterday. Then it had such a hard intense rubbery quality to it, it was one large lump firmly bouncing us around. Today it was so light and fluffy, it skipped around us not hassling us at all.
It allowed my mind to wander back to what my wife had said on Sunday. Our grandson has a new sister, two months old. Of course she is so often the centre of attention and he feels pushed out, particularly after a recent accident when a visit to the hospital was required and naturally everyone made such a fuss of her. At the dinner table he had asked,
“Grandma, who do you like more, my sister or me?“
My wife pointed to two of his fingers.
“Now which of those would hurt most if you cut them?“
He was silent, perhaps he knew what was coming.
“Well that’s how I feel about you and your sister. I feel exactly the same pleasure and pain from each of you.“
He continued with the meal, I paused to digest the wisdom of her answer.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Grin at life

“Hey, look outside, granddad, there’s some weather“.
Wonderfully put, the grin it invokes must not be seen as mocking. That sort of enthusiasm is necessary. With the proliferation of weather we’ve had recently many of the routes that Lady and I take on our walks have got overgrown. Lady is quite capable, head down she disappears rapidly into tall grass: I need a stick to part the vegetation. There is a handy piece of silver birch which I use for the task and I keep it with me.
Later we have to follow the road for a while. How considerate the drivers are today. Each one slows down and gives us plenty of room. Not until we get home and I add the stick to our collection by the shed door do I realise how white the stick is and what this meant for the drivers. Is that a grin on Lady’s face?

Monday, 10 May 2010

A sweet bird

There are some wonderful wild hedgerows around here along footpaths and tracks. Thick, high, rich in their variety as Nature will do if left space to on work her own. Blossom on the wild cherry, which has been radiant this year, has more or less finished and the fruit is beginning to form. This weekend the hedgerows were brightened by the humble crab apple. Bright with the large blossom the tiny leaves are hardly noticeable. Passing these trees the hum was perceptible with all senses except sight. Approaching one of these resplendent bushes I saw a small bird about the size of a great tit leaving one of the wide open flowers. Had it been feeding on the nectar? I have never seen or heard of birds doing this apart from humming birds with their long beaks for this purpose. As I said the flowers were wide open so maybe the prize was easier to obtain. Can anyone throw some light on this?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The need to walk

On Saturday I went for the long walk that I’ve needed for ages. I don’t feel about writing extensively about it today, one thing that I’ve confirmed since I started writing a blog is that I am a listener rather than a speaker. Occasionally I can make a comment which may be useful, often I choose to keep my comments inside feeling too ignorant to contribute.

Over half of the walk was through forest, I could feel the difference in light that filtered through to me as I progressed. Just as I was starting to get a bit philosophical about how much light gets through to us as we go through life I heard a birdcall exactly like that of the old whistling kettle. Electric kettles are one of the timesavers of modern life and what do we do with that time? I made a mental note to buy a whistling kettle next payday.

That’s how my mind works, when things start getting too bookish I look for something real and practical. There was a quote somewhere about how we have no right to philosophise unless we do so to make ourselves happier. Now perhaps I read that in a book, perhaps I made it up when walking through the forest…

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Eve of May Day

The evening of April 30th in the Czech countryside is for celebrating. The evil spirit of winter in the form of an effigy of a witch is thrown on a fire and the summer months are called in. During the communist years it meant that many citizens arrived at the compulsory May Day parades rather the worse for wear. Marking the switch of the seasons goes back at least to Celtic times. It was a mirror reflection of the beginning of the winter months at the time of Halloween (adapted to Bonfire Night in the UK).
Many people see this evening as a time to eliminate bad feelings and mood that have developed into something grotesque. May should be entered in a positive frame of mind and we shouldn’t be taking with us the thoughts and feelings that we have allowed to become ugly.

Saturday, 17 April 2010


Today the two boys are with us on bicycles. The grandson pedals off, legs revolving with furious intensity after the near teenager on his larger machine. As Lady is let off the lead and given the word she bolts off in pursuit. Dad, granddad and master stands witness to the enthusiastic energy of children and dog as they rapidly leave him further behind.
There is no consistent wind this morning, nothing we could even label a breeze but large blobs of heavy cold damp air dab the face. It works like a cold shower, an alarm to the awareness that out on a walk you should look at life in another way. Thoughts today have been dominated by material concerns, which have been allowed to crush happiness. These negative thoughts now reduce to insignificance, here are the things in life that matter. The two kids (soon to be three with the imminent arrival of a granddaughter), the nature around full of wonder to marvel at. I should have gratitude for what is there, not over-inflated despair for what is not. True happiness is best built on a foundation of gratitude.
On our return there is food, after such a trip the body and soul appreciate it.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bloggers Block?

It is a glorious spring evening. There is hardly a whisper of wind, the turbines are at rest. A deep red sun is sinking through the forest, now between the trunks under the crowns of the trees, the clouds above like red-hot coals.

How can I explain such beauty, several times I've sat down to write about it and nothing has come. Is there such a condition as “bloggers block”? I know that I am not always very outgoing verbally feeling that I have little to offer, better as a listener than contributor. Perhaps I am a reader rather than writer.

As we turn for home a few of the streetlights are already alight, confused by the change in time and quick progression of the seasons, I sympathise with them.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Summer Time and The Jungle Book

Lady shot off as fast, as far and as furious as ever when I let her off the lead at the edge of the village this morning. I was feeling somewhat less vivacious, it was the morning after we shifted the clocks forward an hour which always disorientates me. The shift back in autumn has the opposite effect, it energizes me; I hardly notice the one hour shift from the UK to central Europe but it can take me a week to settle in to summer time. In an attempt to prepare for the change I like to adopt my father's method of altering the clocks early on Saturday evening so that we go to bed in summer time but the morning is still difficult.
There was a grey-blue hue to the sky, streaky to the west, to the east blotches letting enough sunlight through to form long weak shadows in front of us. A constant stream of wind flowed round us from the west.
My mind drifted to the bedtime story I had read my grandson last night, a Disney version of Kipling's Jungle Book. I'd struggled through the Czech text while he corrected my linguistic limitations and enthused at the illustrations of the characters. I recalled an English teacher, “Who do you think is the real hero of this story?” she would ask us to get us to think below the surface of what we had read. “And which character would you identify with?” I dwelt on this. Am I a Maughli, not wanting to see the dangers in life, am I an over-serious Baghera, or perhaps a Baloo bumbling through life? I'm probably a bit of each. Reflecting on our tendencies helps us to know how we react in life, what we are attracted to and why things upset us. Of course I must say I'm familiar only with Disney's adaptation of these characters, I haven't read the original.

After breakfast we will read another chapter, it will good for both of us.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Never stop looking

Lady was waiting when I returned from today’s early lesson. She was eager, she had something to show me. White pillows of cloud puffed across the sky and cuddled the sun which was gently warming us. There was just a bubbling breeze which caused the wind turbines to turn reluctantly.
For the first time this year the skylarks trilled to us but although I stretched my neck in all directions I gave up, unable to locate them.
Lady was in a foraging mood. Time and again she ran up to me and forced her muzzle deep into last year’s long dry grass, using her front paws to open a gap to push further. Then she withdrew her head and looked up at me. “Keep searching enthusiastically”.

(I am no photographer and I took these snaps on a phone)

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Accepting individual differences

A warm blue sky criss-crossed with vapour trails greeted us as we set off in the late morning and on leaving the village a dancing breeze made its presence felt.
Lady wants to go faster than me and she dislikes waiting so she has to cover more ground. She achieves this in different ways. Earlier in the year I took to cross-country skis to traverse the snow covered field to reach the forest a kilometre or so distant. On these excursions she crossed my path in front of me in a sinusoidal pattern. Today her method was to charge ahead then turn and run back towards me with deviations to left and right, particularly to my right to forage under the line of walnut trees which the track follows.
We both know that we have our own pace, we have our own needs to meet, things that we want to experience on our walks. There is respect for the differences of the other but we enjoy each other's company. These walks wouldn't be the same for either of us without the other. She teaches me a lot about acceptance and tolerance.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Waking Trees

After a cold start to the day, several times at school I'd seen the still bare trees outside waking from their long winter sleep and stretching their branches towards the sun. However by the time Lady led me off for our walk in the late afternoon the sky was engulfed in light grey, merging into a navy blue towards the horizon. Despite the feel of cold rain on the wind ,my least favourite weather, when the showers came they were just short flurries of snow.
As we returned from the forest, the trees lining the small road we have to cross had sunk back to their winter forms, now just small stark silhouettes in the fading early evening dusk, just a final snooze before spring's alarm calls.

Monday, 15 March 2010


The sky was a rough patchwork cloud, greys with shades of blue, and near the horizon a gold yellow was trying to break through from behind. The mood of the wind was immediately apparent, it was more intense than yesterday when it had been as playful as Lady. Today it meant business, it came straight for us from the west as we followed the track that skirted the village next to the expanse of field that leads to the forest. In the other direction the two giant wind turbines were fully concentrated on their work, no time to gaze around this morning.
While in the village I had been aware of bird song coming from the shelter of gardens. The most visible sign of bird life was the small flock of starlings, a small-walnut-tree-full-sized small flock, very small compared to what I used to see sweeping through the winter skies at dusk in the UK. Skylarks will soon be a feature of walking the track across the field, their calling heard long before I am able to locate them by eye.
I know so little about birdsong, on our return journey I asked Lady if she listens to bird song, does she understand it? She looked at me, how was she to explain to me, a simpleton who communicates by mere words...............

Saturday, 13 March 2010

March Winds

The first thing I notice as Lady and I head away from the village is the lumpy grey sky. A few snowflakes are dancing on the lively wind. Although the thermometer is showing a temperature just above freezing, the wind has given the ground a freeze dried quality. Yesterday afternoon the temperature was similar but the light mud was sufficient for Lady to require her “slippers” on return home. These items of paw wear are my wife’s ingenious solution to chasing muddy trails through the house with a mop.
The winter here lasts so much longer than where I grew up on the east coast of England. There is a bare brownness to early March which lingers until spring takes over and then everything happens too quickly in April. From snowdrops to tulips in a week, trees showing and shedding their blossom, after the long wait there is so little time to take it all in.
March is also a season of wind. Such an important aspect of our lives, it brings so much into our lives, not just the weather and the seasons. Today I feel it will bring rain but it stirs me to think what other aspects of our life are brought as if carried on the wind.
Lady has a more active method of philosophising and is rolling in a patch of lingering snow.
Home for breakfast, no slippers today, girl!