Sunday, 22 September 2013

West Grinstead ploughing match and country show

Yesterday (Saturday 21st September 2013) I visited my first country show of the autumn. As traditional as they come, West Grinstead Ploughing match was an absolute pleasure. Beneath the overcast autumn sky, tractors of all shapes and sized drew straight furrows across the stubble field, joined by two pairs of working horses straining against their harness to plough through the heavy soil. Belts whirred and engines coughed as an old threshing machine chugged and the air was filled with smoke and the nostalgic smell of coal from bellowing steam engines. In the ring, beasts paraded for the judges critical eye, strong of leg and spirit. around the fields, at the edge of the ring or dotted amongst trade stands gathering of friends formed, catching up on the summer's gossip, whilst children played and dogs yawned, their view filled with Wellington boots.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Ahead of the storm

The wind rips through the reeds, no gentle whispering rippling this, but a whipping, flattening wind, that numbs the cheekbones and whistles through tripod legs, racing ahead of the oncoming storm and ominous clouds that gather and collide, piling into each other on the horizon. It buffets and tears at the sea kale that crouches, clings, prostrate on the shingle shore. Any vegetation that has had its grip on the breath of soil loosened by the Summer's drying sun, is lifted and flung, like a child’s abandoned plaything, high in the air to tumble and toss across the salted pebbles towards the waiting mercurial sea that lashes and claws at the beach in its impatience. Gulls, startling white against the darkened sky, wheel and turn. The bird in telescope view has hunkered down, gone to ground. Lost. We turn away to walk head down along the shingle ridge, the ever hungry wind still clawing at our backs, we have not learnt yet the sea kale’s lesson of growing low, this is not our world, we are intruders here. When storms brew, the shingle spit is better left to tumble weed and wheeling gulls. 

Autumn skies, rippling tide and wind that sighs

Pagham Harbour. Tidal channel, early morning. A sparrowhawk zigzags along the quiet bank bushes. From neighboring mud launch two redshank, sentinel of the marshes, their high whistles piercing the air. The soft breeze is heavy with the scent of salt and sea-mud, mingling with the pollen-rich perfume of the sea aster's purple blooms.The elder is heavy, bent, a mass of finger-staining berries. Beneath its drooping branches the purple-bruised bramble ripens and bryony lounges, stretches, trails all art nouveau, adorned with scarlet. The hedgerow is blushed with spindle. A comma basks in afternoon warmth and from the drying grass the hoppers chirp. Mallow and yarrow and fleabane vie, with teasel heads and thistle down. Grasshoppers chirp a constant electric buzz from yellowing grass. Before the lichen-patterned bench flows the reaching, stretching marsh. A carpet of yellowing grey-green grass and in the distance a widening strip of shimmering blue. White birds glint in dancing heat haze.Two moorhens are sparing, heads down, red eye glaring, white tail fanned. Their oversized feet trace a dot-to-dot picture across the mud. A slender little egret, plumes snowy white, stalks the shallows. Slowly, as the water ripples with the flowing tide, time ebbs.