Thursday, 11 December 2014

Collected Wood

This evening, as usual now, we are burning mostly well-seasoned ash from Yealand Storrs, a little holly too, some dried-enough beech from that big tree blown down last winter in Greaves Park, and the occasional oddments of driftwood from the tideline on the east side of the Lune between Aldcliffe and Conder Green. With Johnny Howlingale striding past, the draught on the stove is turned to almost nothing, but we're warm.

And a friend has just phoned - it's his wife's aunt who owns the woodland where we get our wonderful ash - and he's given me persistent giggles by describing how last week he went to that same woodland on his own with his bow saw (because he's scared reluctant to use his chainsaw when he's on his own), and he carefully chosen an "oak" with no branches and therefore dead, he said, only to find that it wasn't dead at all. Except it is now, because he cut right through it. So we'll get it next winter. No less daft is the fact that I know which tree he's talking about - and it's a wych elm.

Wych means pliant, referring to branches, from the Old English wic(e) from a Germanic root meaning bend, related to weak. (And then you remember your German O level and that weich means soft). Those old folks knew their wood allright, didn't they.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Shouldering the Responsibility

On Monday I did a couple of hours chainsawing. I'm right-handed. Chainsaws are designed for right-handed people and most of the weight of the saw is taken by the left arm. The saw isn't a big one, but I thought it felt unusually heavy.

Tuesday I woke with a thickly nasty pain high up in my left shoulder, but I cycled twistedly to the hospital for pre-arranged physio on one ankle and two Achilles tendons. The physiotherapist, he's a good lad, isn't allowed to do anything for my shoulder because it hasn't been referred by a GP, but he put a heat bag on it and worked away on my good blessed feet. He said, If the shoulder's no better, go and see your GP.

I cycled twistedly home, took the maximum Ibuprofen and for most of the day I walked around with a hot water bottle parroting on my shoulder.

On Wednesday morning my shoulder was still bad, but a 2 week waiting list is quite a disincentive when it comes to making appointments with doctors, isn't it, so I didn't phone the surgery. Instead, about to prepare Joanne's breakfast, I thundered down the cellar steps to the freezer. At full gallop I stepped onto the cellar floor to find that between it and my foot was a door hinge grubbed out of the ashes in the woodstove on the previous day and carelessly chucked there by me. Three rusty screws were pointing upwards. It would be true to say I whimpered as I pulled out the screws, dug out the stupid frozen sausages and hauled myself back up the stairs, grabbed two plasters, hauled myself up the next stairs splishing not insignificant dots of blood all over the place, grabbed two wet wipes and asked my nurse to make it all better.

Mid morning my mate called in. He was on his way back from the hospital. He has been through some awful hard times recently and was in much worse shape than I am, so I agreed to go wooding with him today. But this morning he has phoned and postponed. Phew.

Today I have phoned my healer friend - he makes house calls, and the call taker at the doctor's, and my friend Nick, the osteopath. He's the only one who has returned my call so this afternoon I'll drive 10 miles to Garstang (of all places), and he'll fix the shoulder. Things are starting to look up. Perhaps the GP will even call me back......

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Burrow Heights, Lancaster, UK

For quite a few years I've been able to see Burrow Heights from our house, but only recently allowed myself to consider that it has a flat top and "shoulders". I walked there today for the first time hoping it would look like an Iron Age hillfort, or a Roman marching camp, but it's surely too close to the Roman city of Lancaster to be a marching camp, unless, and like any other army they did this, it's a practice camp, i.e. the result of a training exercise.

The Roman road once ran close by and in 1981 a Roman coin was found on the northern slope of Burrow Heights. Lancashire County Council's website has a good shot of crop marks indicating the line of the Roman road just along by the junction with Burrow Heights Lane to the south of Burrow Heights.

It's tempting to consider that Burrow Road, instead of swinging down to the railway bridge (such bridges being very rare in Roman times), might have continued north from the sharp corner through a now blocked gateway and connected to Uggle Lane. (Uggle? Norse?).

BUT (1) it's Burrow Heights Lane that swings NW as if to connect through towards Aldcliffe Road (where in 2005 the Roman cavalryman's memorial stone was found).

BUT (2) a map dated 1675 shows, in its top lh corner, the main road following a line not very different to today's from "Gaugut" to "Scotford" (Galgate to Scotforth), via Highland Brow and Burrow Road.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Sunday, 3 August 2014

August in England

What an August day. It was as gloomy as November from morning 'til mid afternoon when sun returned hot and stinging through dustless air to be replaced within two hours by a rolling thunder review, middling heavy rain and forks of enlightenment. But that was five minutes ago and now the rain has stopped though it still rushes along gullies and whooshes over grids blocked years ago by neglectful privatised so-called maintenance.

And next day put me in mind of Blaenau Ffestiniog in the rain. Blaenau Ffestiniog where clouds are low and no less black than its broken-backed slate heaps, and in the corner of your eye whole mountains wait to slide and swerve down to sea level propelled by vast fountains of gloom, the frightful might of Snowdonia, and a general god awful grimness. Blaenau Ffestioniog where there are no spaces between raindrops and the only light available glints across the slab-staggering ground dimly reflecting from one sharp angle to the next.

Excepting the mid Atlantic, there is nowhere wetter in the world.

And so I reminded myself this morning when looking out on a sodding wet Lancashire.

Mood music: