The Moments As They Fly – July 2020

Five cauliflowers a day!

31st July

Never before in the history of DayCamm gardening have there been five perfectly white and unsullied by slugdom cauliflowers in one harvest, but today’s the day. And I might add that there was another earlier in the week too. Six! Phwoar! I had some nice chats today too with choir friends from the village.

My first sight of the sun pillar from the car park. It actually was much clearer and went all the way down to the horizon, but the camera refused to see that!

30th July

I woke up really early as usual, but when I looked out at the grey sky I was not optimistic for sunrise, but headed out to the car anyway. This was because there was an email awaiting me from the hen harrier people including the news of another choir having made a video of my Skydancer song. I listened to it and they’ve made a good job of it too. I cannot tell you how thrilling it is to hear your music being performed….to know that people who have no connection to you and who have not been compelled to learn something by any reason of friendship or loyalty, but because they just quite like the music, is beyond thrilling really. Anyway, buoyed by this, and with Jamie still fast asleep and unavailable to share it with, I headed out to see if there were any oystercatchers to tell.

Even after the sun started rising, the sun pillar remained.

I did notice from even this low down little valley, that the sky to the east was promising – a rich shade of indigo heading to violet, and as I rose up through the dead-rabbit chicane I could see even a blue-ish tinge on the horizon. By the time I got to Acklington, a goodly proportion of the sky was apricot and as I got out of the car we were full-on orange over at the place where the sea meets the sky. There was a very distinct sun pillar shining out from below the horizon. In all my immense experience of sunrising, I’ve never seen this phenomenon before, so an added bit of excitement as I skipped down towards the sea. The tide was out which meant that the vast expanse of orange sky was reflecting on a vast expanse of wet sand and the sight that greeted me on the other side of the dunes was astonishingly and tear-inducingly beautiful. I continued to gaze out at the sun pillar as I headed towards Birling Carrs. I tried to get a better picture of it, but the camera just wasn’t seeing it as well as my eyes!

I was at the Carrs when the sun finally came up. I cavorted about like I do, even managing a bit of a leaplet – my first since May! As I turned back towards the dunes to gather up the camera, which was perched on a bit of rock, the sight that greeted me in that direction was a rainbow!

A bit of rainbow at sunrise.

Another rare phenomenon at sunrise, I can tell you. You could tell that there was moisture in the air, and indeed before I got back to the car, I was being rained upon. Soft refreshing rain, though, and I was already in such a  blithe state of mind after the two phenomena and also a very close encounter again with a linnet chirruping heartily up in the dunes near the rainbow, that I was happy with the rain.

29th July

A slow day with no photographs, but I did gather together all the songs from my Acetape 6 into a playlist on Youtube. I made a few Acetapes when I went to New Zealand to live in 1987 – songs to cheer me up or remind me of home if things got tough out there! You can listen to it here:

Acetape 6 from 1987

Evening stonechat staring us out.

28th July

I got up early today and went for a sunrise walk up to the gate. The play of the sun on the clouds was spectacular, as was the display of goldfinches in the hedges. As I came back down to the river, I spotted a kingfisher – it’s such a rare sight. I followed it’s flight – they usually fly straight up or down river out of sight – but this one kept darting back and forth across the river, then landed on a rock and watched for a while, then flew off down river. What a treat – I watched it for ten minutes. I did manage a photo as evidence and as a reminder, but it’s no a great photo! In the evening, Jamie and I went to Warkworth for a walk along the beach. This time we were entranced by a couple of stonechats in the dunes, and a line of washed-up jellyfish along the entirety of the tideline. In between there was more cricket and more choiry stuff:

Some of today’s walking highlights and a bit of the music I’ve been working on for choir. It’s Teo Torriatte by Queen
I realise now that I didn’t take any pictures today, so here’s one from yesterday when Jamie and I went for a stroll along the river, then up to West Thirston and back down The Peth. We had a lovely chat with Cherry and Rachael as we walked past their house up there!

27th July

I made a steak and kidney pie today, and very delicious it was too….and there’s some left for tomorrow, so that’ll be delicious as well. I’m working on a plan to help the choir learn our new song and record it, and I’m also enjoying listening to the cricket, even though it’s raining and there is no cricket today. They’re so very good at talking entertainingly, those Test Match Special people. It has rained all day here too and I’ve rather enjoyed that.

No rainbows at sunrise on 24th July!

July 23rd-26th

I’ve been working on a recording of my Rainbow Song from 2010, and finally here it is! It does seem to have taken quite a long time, but these videos always do if truth be told. In the middle of it all, I did go to the beach for sunrise on Friday when the sea was very calm and there were linnets galore in the dunes.

Rainbow Song – it’s colourful.

I’ve also written a blog about the song and you can read that here: Song Stories: Rainbow Song.

Brief but glorious sunrise!

July 22nd

I went to Warkworth Beach at 4am this morning. The atmosphere here in West Thirston was unpromising, full as it was with grey and brooding dark, but when I headed out along the putrid, rabbit strewn roads, I found that there was a sliver of unclouded sky twixt sea and cloud and it glowed with dazzling orange. The sunrise moment itself was glorious but brief, and then refreshing drizzle washed through my hair , down my back, to my boots.

Sea Pie Parcel Skywardly Fly by Yvonne Steward

July 21st

Lovely Gary and Yvonne came to the village to see us today. We met them on the bridge for a chat and they gave me a framed copy of the picture that Yvonne painted for our Autumn Sea video. It’s called “Sea Pie Parcel Skywardly Fly” taken from the lyrics of the song.

Barbed wire sunrise.

July 20th

I did go out for a walk before and during sunrise today – just round here. I walked along a few roads that I never have done before, and had a splendid encounter with a deer who bounded through a field of quite high corn causing it to make a rather magical rustling sound. Then I cracked on with some composing and some video sorting. Nothing to show for that yet, alas.

July 19th

I made this video using a recording from a wedding The Bridge Singers performed at on July 20th last year. While I was looking for rainbow pictures the other day, I found these videos that Jamie’s Mum took of us at that very wedding in Brinkburn.

Thomas Tallis’ If Ye Love Me from a wedding at Brinkburn Priory in July 2019

July 18th

Good things today:

  • Up early and a quiet A1 to drive along;
  • My mother;
  • My brother;
  • Lots of rain;
  • Lots of sunshine;
  • Umbrella tomfoolery;
  • Mum’s baked bean pie for lunch (a childhood favourite);
  • Home-made cakes;
  • Laughter, chat and reminiscences;
  • An email from another choir director telling me how clever I am and what a wonderful choir I have (this after listening to and watching the learning video for Skydancer);
  • Cardiff City won again;
  • Bopping along to classic hits of the 1980s on Dearne fm and Minster fm while it was Jamie’s turn to drive home;
  • A quiet A1 to drive home along;
  • FA cup semi-final action on Radio5Live.

The only bad thing:

Mum has been sorting out more firewood for us from bits of fence that blew down in the recent storms. She also wanted us to take a couple of branches from an apple tree, two wooden seats that do not stand up and some of Dad’s garden canes. During the afternoon, Jamie piled this lot into the back of the car ready for our departure. As we drove home and I was bopping away to You Spin Me Right Round, Baby (Right round, like a record, baby, right round, round, round – you know the one!), there appeared on my lap a humungous spider, which had presumably been resting quietly in the wood until being terribly ripped from its slumbers by the enforced flit, and then by our riotous music, and had crawled up the outside of my purple skirt to see what it was all about. I have to admit that I let out an almighty shriek, which apparently alarmed Jamie greatly, and I swept it from my lap to the floor, and stamped on it. This is harsh treatment, I know, but the thought of it running around the interior of the car all the way back to Northumberland, was immediately too much to contemplate. I am not brave or nimble enough I’m afraid to scoop it up in my hands while simultaneously opening the car window, and tossing it out into the fresh air to take its chances amongst the following vehicles oncoming, which was of course the 3rd option. So I apologize to all you spider lovers out there. I cannot cope with them.

Nasturtium and anagallis in the hanging basket.

July 17th

I spent most of today making cakes for tomorrow, and listening to the cricket on the radio – England against the West Indies. I also was sorting through photos looking for colourful images to use in a new video. I came across a few things that I’d forgotten about!

Sunrise Hare

July 16th

A quiet day today after yesterday’s excitement and needing more sleep to catch up. We watched the film x+y on the BBCiplayer in the evening. I enjoyed the film except the ending seemed a bit rushed. It reminded me of comments I used to get on my English essays with Mr. Pape about setting up brilliant ideas with great care and attention to detail and then seemingly getting bored or running out of time and racing to an unsatisfactory ending!

Waiting at the railway crossing.

July 15th

Bamburgh Castle from the beach

I’ve had a splendid day today. I got up at 3.30, leapt in the shower, then just about dry, I gathered up a box of cakes, my Sudoku equipment and my manuscript book and headed out of the door to the car at 4am. I saw that it was not in its usual spot and after a moment of confusion, I remembered that Jamie had moved it up The Peth yesterday morning to facilitate the efforts of the cement-and-trowel craftsmen, and then we’d forgotten about it. So up The Peth I went, and headed north to what I could see would be a sparkling sunrise at Bamburgh. The A1 was reasonably clear as you might imagine, but as the thin sliver of unclouded sky to my right glowed increasingly brightly with the coming of the sun, the road suddenly busied itself as I caught up with a gently slogging tractor on the one-lane section just north of Alnwick. I started to wonder if I would make it to my allotted carpark in time. After a short while of waiting and then bendiness in the road, I managed to get past the tractor and proceeded north with glee. I turned off at Belford heading towards Waren Mill and Budle Bay.

Mystery flowers.

The sky was turning from apricot to crimson – the almost-rising sun was doing its thing with the underneath of the clouds and my heart was singing with the gloriousness of it. The lights at the level crossing just beyond the flour mill were flashing and the barriers were down. I waited for several minutes then along trundled a freight train heading north. It had no freight, just lots of empty rolling stock. While I waited I took a picture of the red sky just in case. Freed from this latest obstacle I sallied forth towards the sea. I noticed at Budle Bay that the tide was well out, and as I negotiated the last stretch of road (Don’t you just tremble with delight when you turn that last corner into Bamburgh from the North and there’s the mighty castle laid out before you?) I sneaked a furtive and worried glance at my watch – 2 minutes to go! I turned up The Wynding, past the first car park and into the second. Two overnight vans were parked up with their slumbering residents within. I parked directly facing the beach, took up my camera and a mint I brought to fortify me, and raced through the dunes. I spotted a very interesting reddish flower nestling, but there was no time to linger – I stored it in my mind for later.

I seem to have made it in time!

I hit the beach with joy as the sun was not yet up. Within a minute it started to rise. I cannot tell you how happy I was. After my usual sunrise cavorting, I headed south along the vast and deserted beach. I was reveling in the unusual surroundings – castle to my back, castle to my right, islands galore with such an assortment of buildings, clouds wearing the sunshine rather fetchingly, flat calm sea, birds diving, strutting, flapping. I strolled along for an hour, seeing no-one, taking pictures.

Good morning Mr. Curlew. How bubblingly cheerful is your call and, how improbably and elegantly lengthy is your beak.

A curlew posed rather generously for me in front of a golden pool of stranded sea. Me and an oystercatcher walked along companionably together for a stretch before he took to the sky and left me behind. I had decided to walk to some rocks ahead then turn back. A person with dog was approaching from Seahouses. They too turned on their heels at the rocks, so still no need for cheery halloos. As I walked back the time for mass dog walking arrived and I was friendly in my morning greetings, but still rejoicing in the relative peace. The sun had gone for the duration of the morning by now but its after effects still glowed out around the Farnes. More birds, different light, a few minutes of light drizzle, and after two hours of walking I got back to the car.

I settled myself in with a further mint and occupied the next hour alternately with my sudoku book and my composing work. After an hour I began to become sleepy, so I got out of the car again and headed along the road to Bamburgh. Things I saw that made me happy were a heron less than ten feet away from me (it didn’t see me until then, then lollopped off into the dunes) and a whirlpool of swifts circling round the castle (they could have been martins, but they definitely weren’t swallows, which I also saw plenty of.) There was a song thrush in full voice near the castle too and all manner of smaller birds flitting twixt bush and undergrowth. I walked back to the car and settled in again. It was by now about 9 o’clock and all manner of people were taking to the beach including at least two surf school classes, canoeists and many, many walkers.

Shirley, Julie and Cheryl

As I sat there watching all this, a pod of dolphins jounced their way southwards, leaping in and out of the water with great athleticism. Never before have I seen such a show. Once they were out of sight, Shirley and Julie turned up with Morar and as I was regaling them with the  stories of my morning thus far, the same pod or another came back heading north and were even more leapy than before. We all three were very thrilled indeed, and we could see that everyone on the beach had stopped their activities to watch this glorious spectacle. I gathered up my box of cakes and we headed down to the rocks where we sat and munched and watched the incoming tide and nattered happily for over an hour. I then came home and they continued their day’s holiday activities.

Morning stripes.

July 14th

Lots of pfaffing about today. A bit disappointing. I was reading the government guidelines for what’s allowed in the performing arts as of last Friday and now it seems no singing is allowed at all by amateurs, although professionals are allowed to go back to their work while maintaining all the social distancing rules and hygiene precautions etc. So not even our small groups of six are now permitted. It’s all rather disheartening.

July 13th

We recorded the parts for my arrangement of Queen’s song Teo Torriatte yesterday as well, and so today I’ve been editing them all together to make a singalong track for the choir. Here’s a bit of it with a friendly great tit who likes to sit amongst the tree fern before leaping onto the seed feeders.

Teo Torriatte and the Great Tit

Sunday evening whitethroat.

July 12th

A spot of gardening first thing – weeding and blackcurrant picking. Then some music and telly watching. We watched the film Rush, which is about the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula 1 season. Good film, I thought. I did a bit of researching later and found an interview with Niki Lauda who said that it was 80% accurate. They were good friends throughout apparently, just completely different characters. I do remember at the time I liked James Hunt and did not like Niki Lauda, but having watched the film, I don’t really like either of them! Both are to be admired, though, especially Lauda. In the evening Jamie and I went for a walk at Warkworth and I spotted this whitethroat singing its heart out. Too many people there for my taste – I do like an empty beach!

July 11th

My camera had no power in it, I discovered when I got to the beach, so I did a panorama with my phone instead.

I didn’t do much for the rest of the day, although I was thinking a lot about my flight songs – getting my mind back on them after being immersed in the fox. Jamie and I watched “Rush” in the evening about James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Good film. Since then I’ve read a bit about how true it was – 80% according to Niki Lauda.

I seem to spend a lot of time under the bridge these days!

July 10th

Today I finished the Reynold The Fox video, which features in the visuals Yvonne’s splendid picture and also anecdotes, photos and other news from members of the choir. I also had a chat in the middle of the day with Julie and Shirley under the bridge – it was raining so we decided not to stand in the rain on top. We watched a duckling squeak-hootling on the river. I never realised that was the noise that ducklings made.

I find, at the end of the day, that I did not take a single photo all day, so here’s another from Monday night’s mini recording sessions that didn’t make it onto the video. It was taken by Barbara.

The Bridge Singers’ newest video.
Leaves, stone, duckling.

July 9th

All I’ve done today is edit together teensy bits of Reynold The Fox from all the various recordings that we made on Monday night or that members of The Bridge Singers have individually recorded and sent to me. As ever, it is a lengthy process, and I have not finished the job in the time I thought it would take me. I always underestimate the time needed, but it’s not really a problem. I just need more patience, and a goodly part of tomorrow. In the evening, Jamie and I went into the river bed to record some river noise for the in between bits of the video. There was a very cute family of ducklings who did not stay put for a photo. This is the most in-focus one, I could manage!

Sunrise silliness

July 8th

I woke up early today so headed out to Warkworth Beach. There was a car in my usual spot! No people, mind you. I didn’t see a single other person the whole time I was out there. The tide was in and the moon was big. There was a teensy strip of sky between the sea and the clouds, so when the sun came up it was very spectacular for about ten minutes. I walked so far along and then headed into the dunes and walked back along the edge of the golf course. I was hoping for a stonechat. I’d been working some more on my flight song yesterday, and there is a stonechat in there. I was hoping for some more inspiration.  I think I’ve settled on the lyrics now for my song, and much of the music is in place.

Stonechat in the sunrise and in the distance.
Like the shingle on the shore
Sleeping above the tideline,
My gaze falls on
A mosaic of gravelly memories
From the ocean floor.
Like the pebble in the river bed,
Empty from the rain-drought
My eyes sink to
A causeway of stony memories
From the mountain tops.
But remember my love
The awe of our flight to night,
Day behind us,
Both viewed over cottony clouds.
And the rainbow valleys below,
Magical halo
Encircling our shadows.
And the tears of the ribbony river
And island,
As our hearts burst with home.
And remember my love,
The thrill of the window-sill runway
Too short,
In those highest of mountains.
The knuckle-whitening refuel.
Such close quarters
Prompting sweat-wiping relief.
And the snaking descent
Free fall, pre-flare
Landing on cushions of grass.
Stonechat somewhat closer!
I eavesdrop on the stonechats
Yattering of the old days.
I mark their hops
From twig to gorse to grass
Then flight away.

I ponder these memories of flight,
Of times above the clouds
My eyes rise to
The silvery harrying skydancer
And wish one day to join him there.

Anyway, you can imagine my delight this morning when I heard the familiar “wheeh cha chat” coming from the depths of the bracken. I couldn’t see anything, but stood still and listened for a while. It was a decoy, I think, because as I gazed around me I spotted a baby and then Daddy stonechat trying to distract me from the baby. So intent was he on steering me away from the baby that he came very close. I was almost in tears with the delight of it. Later, I was swooped by an oystercatcher, also warning me off. All so very thrilling. Just before I got back to the car park, I was treated to another display, this time by a whitethroat cavorting in the reeds. All in all a fab morning…and it wasn’t even 5.30am at this stage!

Small tortoiseshell butterfly, I think, on the way along Mouldshaugh Lane.

July 7th

Quiet day – rather like an old Tuesday, after the rigours of choir on Monday night. I walked to Tim’s house and back, observing the summery hedgerows as I went

July 6th

Today we had our second Monday evening in recent weeks of teensy choir groups recording under the bridge. I went out there at lunchtime to check the water levels because yesterday there was standing water in our recording studio area. All the water had gone after a dry day and dry night. I had a chat with a fisherman and saw at closer quarters one of the dippers.

Lunchtime dipper at closer quarters!

When we went back out there at 7.20pm, there was water again in the recording studio, but fortunately we could still get to where we needed to get to and the water again fell while we were there. It was another very lovely evening seeing everyone again and listening to some singing. I heard that during the evening we had 28 members singing. We recorded Reynold The Fox, so I shall start editing all that soon! It’s a daunting thought!

The sun was a little late on account of the bank of cloud!

July 5th

I went to the beach for sunrise this morning as you can see. It was exceedingly windy, the tide was high and I was expecting splashy waves, but no. All looked very calm, even though it didn’t feel so. I found today a bit of a struggle. I think it was because of getting up so early for some reason not being very good at napping in the day like I usually am, so too sleepy. Also, the images of loads of people at the pubs not really caring about anything but having a laugh made me a little bit cross, as we’re agonising about not being able to sing, and not being able to visit my Mum, brother and sister.

A dipper on a rock

July 4th

I went for a stroll along the river at sunrise today and was delighted that I saw four dippers cavorting near the bridge. I haven’t seen them for a few weeks and thought that they had gone up or down stream to escape the screeching black-headed gulls that are roosting here. Before there were only two and now there are four. Two youngsters, I think, judging by the way they were gaping. Jamie and I watched The Jungle Book on the telly this afternoon – the newer one. It was excellent – quite tense for a cartoon, and very clever.

Drippy roses – the next stage of the chocolatey rose in the back yard!

July 3rd

More composingand a bit more progress. I’ve been practising my whistling and have written and unwritten the beginning of my song several times during the day. There’s obviously something not quite right about it, but I’m not sure what yet!

Also my Three Billy Goats Gruff Is A Noisy Story song went passed 2000 views today. Quite remarkable for such a simple little ditty. I guess that’s the point…and Early Years schooling has continued throughout the lockdown and this story seems to be a popular one in the curriculum!

Rapidly heading towards being my most listened to song!

July 2nd

Similar working today to yesterday, pondering on the flying music, but then in the evening we drove to Warkworth and had a joint stroll along the huge beach. The tide was out so there was plenty of sand for the seabirds to gather in a very tight huddle. There were also quite a few people there compared to the other day when I was there at 4.30am!!!

July 1st

Composing. Nothing finished. In the evening we went for a stroll in the river bed and there were baby grey wagtails being fed by one of their parents. The title of this blog comes from a poem by Robert Burns, by the way and as I have started the month still thinking about my flying songs to seems appropriate!

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