I should actually be working today, but I find myself locked out of our online database with nobody currently available to let me back in. I’m at my desk now, anyhow, so I thought I might as well have a bash at blogging rather than face the hell that is the most untidy kitchen in Scotland or risk hurting my back again trying to carry the Vax Behemoth down the stairs (that I have already fallen down once today) in order to vacuum up crumbs that will magically rematerialise within five milliseconds of the boys being home from school.
I saw the idea of posting up favourite playlists on someone else’s blog – apologies, I thought I had bookmarked it for a linky, but I hadn’t and I can’t remember for the life of me where it was. In the absence of anything important or clever to say (the headlines are all far too miserable at the moment, I’ll either depress everyone completely or just start ranting again), I thought I would introduce you to the songs that currently accompany me when I’m pottering and pootling about the place. Those of you who know me in real, actual life will know that I’m usually stomping about the place with my headphones in whenever you see me sans enfants.
Yes, I know that some of these songs are knocking on a bit, but quality never fades, does it?
Welcome to my brain! Well, my sort of Autumn Stompity-Pootling Around Soundtrack.
Note: Edited to add – I’ve had to change a couple of the links because they weren’t working on mobiles; but I must admit I prefer the Fairport Convention swap-out over the original studio version; and ‘Day Is Done’ is even more gorgeous than the version on ‘Five Leaves Left’ even if it’s not a particularly good recording. It sounds as though it’s been recorded from a warped vinyl which, of course, is more than entirely possible.
...fluttering from the autumn tree.
This morning, I made the fatal error of looking on social media before getting out of bed. It was pretty much wall-to-wall misery and fear; with posts and retweets about Brexit and the economy, about no mandate for another referendum on Scottish Independence, about last night’s horrific ‘Question Time’, in which the malodorous Conrad Black was given a platform and an audience booed a Polish audience member who admitted she no longer feels comfortable or wanted in the UK; the continued outrage about a handful of young Syrians coming to the UK from the horrors of the Calais ‘Jungle’ and, of course, Donald Trump.
By eleven o’clock I had burst into hormonal tears four times and wanted to give the shed door some seriously good kickings; and I realised I had to do something to improve my state of mind, else I would ruin the final day of my Birthday Week Off.
It being Friday, the not-husband was working from home and able to mind the x-box obsessed beastlets (I did ask them several times if they wanted to come out, but to be fair they have indulged me with daily route-marches around the locale this week, so they deserved a day off).
I headed, as I usually do when I need to calm my jets, down to the woods.
I have written about these woods before, on many occasions. I find, however, that there just aren’t adequate words to explain exactly what they mean to me, what they symbolise. I come here when I am happy, I come here when I am stressed. I come here when I am grieving and distraught. I enter the woods and I feel its embrace, as though it knows me as well as I know it; and I immediately start to feel myself relax, my shoulders unknot, my walk becomes gentler and more fluid rather than my usual ‘get from A to B’ stomp.
I must confess, I do usually have my headphones in when I walk and usually listen to Radio 4 – I am one of these people who likes to be learning things as much as possible, and walking and listening to obscure science or philosophy or a drama or Book of the Week or ‘From Our Foreign Correspondent’ works for me, things seem to sink in better when I’m walking. Today, though, I decided against it and decided to listen to the woods instead.
I listened, and watched, drinking everything in. Snapping twigs, a robin’s song, the sound of the angler casting his line, the happy bubbling of the Clyde eddying quickly around a bend. A sudden white flash of a deer disappearing into the trees, scampering squirrels everywhere, the nuthatches in their usual spot. Out of the corner of my eye I was able to catch a movement – an almost invisible treecreeper just edging around the trunk of an oak.
Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower – Albert Camus
The sky was a beautiful October blue, bright and bird-filled and full of the promise of a cold night to come; but the sun was deliciously warm on my face and I suddenly felt as though I was being bathed in gold.
I stopped still for a while, just listening as I heard individual leaves, their job done, break away from their parents and gently floating and fluttering to the ground, leaves of all colours and shapes carpeting the path so deep in places you had to be careful of where it could have been muddy underneath – but at times like this, you are so wrapped up in the immense beauty of everything you can see, and hear, and smell and feel that your trainers don’t really matter that much. A bit of mud never hurt anyone.
Every few months or so, I like to pop by and check on wee Tiny. I was shown this little grave about three years ago whilst out geocaching, and I was instantly captivated by it, by the love that her owner clearly had for this ‘prettiest of spaniel kind’. I have no idea if this is where Tiny was laid to rest in 1804 (not visible in this picture, it’s obscured by a leaf) or whether it is just a memorial stone left at a certain spot – one of their favourites to walk, perhaps – and, strangely for Bothwell and Blantyre, which both have a good number of very keen local historians who know so much about the local area ; nothing more is known about Tiny or her owners; but she was obviously an adored pet and I always think of her and her master, or indeed, mistress, walking through these same ancient woods 200 years ago whenever I see someone walking a spaniel there.
Down past where the Clyde rose a good ten metres, I’d say, from its usual level; as marked on this wall on March 12th 1782; it suddenly dawned on me that I had spoken to everyone I had seen. Dog walkers, couples with children, joggers and cyclists, lone ramblers. Sometimes, dependent on my mood, I almost resent people being in ‘my’ woods, particularly if they are being loud, and I simply smile briefly at them and then stomp on past to be by myself again, to put as much distance as I can between myself and them until the next person comes along the path. Today was different. I pointed out the above marker to an English couple walking the Clyde Walkway for the first time, I made a fuss of some very happy looking (and soaking wet) dogs, I chatted with a mum of two young boys about children’s unending fascination with branches. Everyone said good morning, commented on the beautiful day. The woods were full of friends, full of warmth, and not even I could remain introverted and silent.
I have walked this path hundreds of times now, and yet I am still surprised when I round the corner and see the grand old lady that is Bothwell Castle in front of me. She’s looking rather worse for wear these days – being made of sandstone and being battered by a series of harsh, freezing winters and some pretty bad storms have taken their toll and she is almost entirely covered in scaffold now. Though I cannot find any photos to prove my point, I am sure she is half gone, I swear that five or ten years ago you could see much more than this from this particularly bank. I must investigate this further. I am, however, very worried that this gorgeous old girl is going to be hit by economic downturn and will end up being deemed too far gone to continue to fund; and that would be a tragedy.
Down past the castle, down the path where the fairy doors are, you start to notice the scenery across the Clyde, on the Blantyre side, past the site of the old priory, and the concretions in the rock. I don’t know much about the other side, other than where the priory was, and the aforementioned concretions; and we have only walked this far down on the other side once where Fin disturbed a wasp nest and we almost got run down by inquisitive cows; but the trees on the other side seem deliberately planted, as though they are the remains of an exquisite garden, taken over by farmland. Again, I will have to investigate.
The smell of Himalayan Balsam is still overwhelmingly strong here, despite there being barely any flowers left in bloom. I must admit, I cannot stand its sickly sweet aroma; but I can’t help but feel a little torn about a plant considered an invasive species that is so adored by bees – there’s nothing quite like coming down here in August and hearing the drone of hundreds of bees (no pun intended) as they busy themselves around the Himalayan Balsam and, were I a conservationist by employ, I would have something of a moral dilemma if asked to remove it.
I got the distinct impression I was being watched from across the bank. I stopped, and after ten minutes of fighting with my phone, managed to zoom in (badly) to get this shot. I have no idea what bird this is, I’m not very good at water birds, but I am going to assume it’s some kind of heron.*
*It’s not a heron – to be honest, I didn’t think it was but I certainly didn’t expect it to be a cormorant, but a cormorant it is, according to the lovely Alex. Thank you Alex. Go read his blog, it’s far better than this one.
This is pretty much as far I was going today, I walked up the side of Uddingston Grammar and along the Main Street and was soon back in the land of hustle and bustle and traffic and noise, but, my god, my head was in better place.
Sometimes, I find, going out walking in the woods seems like the last thing you need when you are feeling utterly exhausted with life and just want to hide under the duvet, not go yomping through mud. It is, however, probably the most wonderful thing you can do for yourself, and introducing your children to the woodland and showing them how to treat it as a friend, with respect and love, is one of the most wonderful things you can do for them.
Thank you for reading, dear reader x
Please Miss, I haven’t blogged today because:
I wasted time walking down to Lidl, getting a basket of stuff, getting it onto the conveyormaboab and then realising I had left my wallet at home.
I was a gracious and community-spirited citizen and spent twenty minutes being grilled by a nice chap on behalf of Sustrans about why I like walking down the back of an industrial estate. Answer: I don’t, but it gets me to Lidl. And home again, without groceries.
I absolutely had to learn to crochet a mini poinsettia.
I spent ten minutes looking for my 3.5mm crochet hook before remembering I’d used it to pin my hair up to do the dishes.
I then spent ten minutes looking for where I’d put it down, thirty seconds after having put it down.
The children have discovered something sweary involving Peppa Pig on YouTube and it was necessary to fully investigate and supervise.
Period pain and the desire to kill, maim or at least glare at people.
Brexiters being stupid on the internet.
Racists being racist on the internet.Some of their best friends are black, you know?
Fourteen Syrian children who are probably 56 and have seventeen family members stuffed down the front of their donated Primark trackie bottoms who have no doubt already got twelve bedroom country piles in Berkshire and a fleet of Land Rovers.
A wet sloth, not Jeremy Hunt.
Researching Viking longhouses for model for P3 history project.
A complicated internal dialogue about whether or not my blood pressure will cope with watching Question Time. (For the record, it is not coping terribly well).
“Let me talk over you, woman, until you go back to your kitchen”
Five calls from robot ladies offering me Green Deal, a new boiler, a new kitchen, money back on PPI I never had, and compensation for a traffic accident I have never had.
The mouse in the kitchen cupboard. Yes, you read that right.
Fighting with the broadband, and losing.