Wednesday, 27 April 2011

all that time and distance

It was a difficult start to the new term - a Year 13 student we knew well had taken his own life on Good Friday.  I had taught him a few years ago but mostly knew him through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. Obviously, the first day back was awkward and difficult for everyone.  I honestly have no idea or genuine understanding about the depths of despair an 18 year old must suffer but to a certain extent, I have experienced the situation before.  A good friend of mine chose to end his life about 2002 - it was all so traumatic, I can't actually remember exact dates.

I wrote this (unfinished song) at the time of my friend's death:

So now that all the tears have dried
And there's nothing left to say
Now there's just the wondering why
And only the piper left to play

When I heard the news, the tears just came
And my body was racked with sobs
And I thought of you in so much pain
And your one final solitary job

All that time and distance
All those things we never did

And you used to make me sing
And you didn't mind my cracked voice
You didn't mind anything
As long as we made a melodic noise

And you worked so hard on your playing
But liked it when I played slide
But inside your life was decaying
And your passing so undignified

All that time and distance
All those things we never did

Well we played our guitars and you played so well
And I sang those songs, god forbid!
About truck drivers and the Commodore Hotel
And, by god, didn't time fly?
Now there's nothing left but memories
But I still have to ask why?

I lived down here on the East coast
And you only a hundred miles away
We didn't speak much recently
Now there's still so much to say

Well, I'll keep playing my guitar
And I'll write the occasional song
And just like you I'll never be a star
But these reminiscences will stay strong

All that time and distance
All those things we never did

A work in progress, one I'll return to. No matter how difficult it is to carry on after such a solitary act, it's those left behind that have to deal with it all. The friends of the student we've just lost will have to live with this and, hopefully, allow it to become a part of the growing up process. Some will cope admirably, others will find it hard and it will have repercussions for many years to come. Also, his relations and teachers will need to live with this. What an awful situation to have developed - everything you do has a consequence.

My thoughts are with them all and this has been a difficult week (thankfully, it's only three days at school this week) but life really does have to keep going on  . . . I have no particular words to say about this exact situation but the lad's passing reminded me of my friend, so I hope the words may attempt to express a feeling of all that's been lost.

Each early passing is a reminder of chances lost.

Monday, 25 April 2011

here comes the flood

The unseasonally warm Spring weather seemed to lead to a hive of activity in our tiny garden.  We've planted lots of new things to start growing - mostly herbs at this stage, tomatoes will need another week or two before they get started.  A few barbecues last week too.  The weekend started with a feeling that school was still a long way off. Unfortunately, tomorrow we go back.

Still, Easter Monday, let's not spoil it. Our son needed to gather some landscape photos for his Photography A Level exam so Mrs Dave and I took him up the coast to find some cliffs.  Okay, Suffolk only has a few small ones but we do have cliffs! Here's a still from my Flip to prove it.  This is looking down on Dunwich shore - there's even a warning sign to beware of the cliff. Dunwich sits in the shadow of Sizewell and is well known for the disappearance of most of the city - as it was a few hundred years ago - under the sea. Sometimes the church bells are heard.  All very ghostly and gothic.  We went to look at the Greyfriars Abbey I posted about last year. Two horses seemed to be rolling about on their backs which was a bit bizarre. Anyway, a lazy meal of fish and chips at The Horse and Groom at Wrentham with a couple of glasses of Adnams bitter all went down very well.

We also went to Benacre Nature Reserve for more cliffs.  They're really small ones.  But the meeting of marshland, woodland and sea shore was fantastic. This photo doesn't do it justice - that's Southwold in the distance. I was watching a pair of grebes on a feeding frenzy whilst a Marsh Harrier circled lazily high overhead.  A flock of Greylag Geese were having a party in a nearby field.  There was a general feeling of "All's right with the World" today.

All good things come to an end, I suppose.  Back to school, then. Still, three days this week, four next week.  So we're building up to a full week.  Lots of civilians have taken the next three days off as it means they get eleven days of holiday for only three days booked - what a bonus!  With the weather being so good and the lack of work for the last few weeks, it's been the best April for years! Yesterday's Independent on Sunday told us that this March has been the driest in England and Wales (obviously not Scotland!) for the last 50 years, and April has been even drier.  With only 16% of its average rainfall, the rivers are going to be quite dry.  Hosepipe bans will obviously be upon us soon.  However, we were also informed that the last warmest April ever in 2007 gave an average maximum temperature of 16.3C in England.  And then came the rains of May. And June. And then the floods of July. With three times the amount of rain as normal, some places were getting lashed with Apocalyptic downfalls.  History, of course, does not have to repeat itself. 

Keep watching the skies.

Monday, 18 April 2011

ghost riders in skye 2

loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
thunderclaps rend the air,
baffled, our foes stand by the shore;
follow they will not dare.

Well, we got there.  Harvey took us to The Isle of Skye and got us back again.  Skye's about 650 miles from here so that's a lot of driving.

We left last Monday morning about 5:15 am and drove up to Loch Lomond.  We stayed there for the night and had a real "The Trip" style meal and headed off through the Glens of the West Highlands and finally got to Skye late Tuesday afternoon.  Of course, you can still speed on a bonnie boat over the sea but we drove sedately over the bridge. I've always wanted to go there but never seemed to have the chance before.  It really is a wild place.  The sun was with us for most of the way but occasionally we drove through brief downpours of light rain. We pitched up over looking Loch Dunvegan. Being very tired, we had a fairly early night.

Then, about three in the  morning, the heavens opened.  It was like being a child on caravan holidays on the East Coast all over again! The constant pattering of rain on the roof.  The wind howled and rocked us about because the site we were on was so exposed.  A constant knocking from the hook up cover helped make sure we didn't sleep much.

The following morning was as grey as we thought it was going to be, so we thought that the best place to be was the Talisker Distillery - it was always going to be a part of the trip! It was an excellent visit but driving over the millions of potholes probably messed up the balance of Harvey's wheels.The trip round the distillery took an hour or so and, of course, I had to get a bottle from the shop. As the weather was so awful that day, it was quite busy. They've missed a trick, though - a restaurant would have been useful. Because the weather was so poor we decided not to walk down to Talisker Bay. As it's so barren up that area there was little else to do so we drove around the area - hardly sightseeing though, we couldn't even see the Cuillins whilst parked next to them! Later that evening we had a fantastic meal in the village next to our site.  It was probably the best meal I've had for years.  Mrs Dave had a piece of lamb that literally melted in your mouth while I had langoustines from the Loch.  Six of them, in most places you'd only get three.  This was for a measly sixteen quid - excellent.  Some Scottish cheeses to finish off and we wandered off back to our bed.

The following day was totally different.  The weather was pleasant and dry.  We took the opportunity to go to the "coral" beach up at Claighan.  Although it's called coral, it is actually made up of maerl, the calcified remains of a type of seaweed that grows in beds off the coast.  Breath-taking views - a golden eagle flew just over the van as we got there.  It was well worth driving out there. We went back to the site as we weren't sure about the weather, had lunch and then did the Two Churches Walk around Dunvegan.  One of the churches is now in ruins but is the traditional burial grounds of the MacCrimmons - the pipers to the Macleod Clan.  Five Macleod chiefs are buried there too.  At the top of a hill overlooking the loch is the Duirinish standing stone.  This was put up to commemorate the Millennium and it has a time capsule underneath for future generations.  Unfortunately the plaque has already gone, so most people don't know what it's there for.

The following day we had to start the two day drive back.  There was a panic as Harvey's water temperature started climbing up.  We stopped and added water and engine coolant and it was fine for the rest of the journey.  The only other injury was a cracked casing around a wing mirror, but the mirror was still intact.  There are a few problems with a leaking pipe around the waste pipes but hopefully that can be rectified soon at vast expense, no doubt.

The weather since we got back has been beautiful - we probably chose the wrong week to go but never mind.  We'll be returning soon for a longer trip.

On the way home I read this upsetting story in The Independent (here).  I love my Flip!  I use it all the time now - why is it that in this world where everything has to multitask* can't simple, basic one-trick ponies be left alone?  So-called Smart phones are anything but - mine's rubbish and as soon as my contracts up I'll be looking for a much more basic model. Anyway, get one while you can, I bet Amazon will sell out almost straight away.  Most schools use them now.  They're brilliant.  Even technophobes like me can use them.

* Still taking two bottles in the shower with you?  Why not take just one that's a shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, shower and toilet toilet cleaner and limescale remover all in one?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

world of wonders

moments of peace like brief arctic bloom
red gold ripple of the sun going down
line of black hills makes my bed
sky full of love pulled over my head
world of wonders . . . *

a Jay walking
This wonderful world we live in never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps I'm not as jaded as you - despite what people seem to think, I remain optimistic and pleasantly full of surprise.

This morning I checked out my emails and the first thing I saw was an advert claiming to teach you how to become "Bankrupt in 3 easy lessons".  It used to be a coat of shame, now it's a badge of honour.  Switched on modern students know how to get rid of the shackles of debt . . .

Just before that I woke as usual on a Saturday to Farming Today on Radio 4.  As usual, I was intermittently mentally tuning in and out - after all, I don't properly wake up for another 2 hours.  Today they went on at length about the "carbon footprint" of growing potatoes.  Although I wasn't really listening, I did wonder how many 25%s were involved (you had to be there - try iPlayer).  Anyway, a few hours later Mrs Dave brought the subject up.  Evidently a friend of hers has a grandchild and he is interested in tractors (as very young children seem to be) so they went for a chat with the farmer who owns a field behind their house.


As we drove back from Cornwall last year, we passed Stonehenge and were surprised that despite the dark, tractors were working - seemingly bringing the Harvest home. . .

Back to today:

Mrs Dave's friend became a little concerned during the conversation with Farmer Giles that "nobody seems to be driving the tractor."

"Arr . . . that be because I control it from my laptop here."

Essentially, loads of tractors nowadays are controlled by satellite so the buggers don't have to pay NH contributions or anything - they run remote controlled tractors that don't have lunch breaks or holidays.  What's going on?  We're back in that Science Fiction World I mentioned before - am I the last to know this?  Are you all going to raise your eyebrows to the sky saying, "Oh for god's sake - didn't you know that?"

Not only this, but Mrs Dave also informed me that she no longer gets affected (in a hay fever way) by the fields of rape because they now use a "sterile" type of rape (no jokes,please).  So, isn't that genetically modified then? I thought that was banned.  I'm so innocent (naive?)

For the first time ever (well, in the 30 odd years I've lived here) as I drove back from Sainsbury's I saw a Jay fly down onto the road and strut about.  Wonderful, a genuine example of Jay-walking if ever there was one. This was definitely the highlight of the day for me.

Oh well, just thought I'd touch base before I finally go to Skye - the trip I've planned for ages.  Back next weekend - unless there's some form of wiffy (wifi) to allow me to connect with the world, but as even compasses don't work there, I somehow doubt it.

Hmm, this post seems to have been sponsored by the makers of brackets . . .

* thank you Bruce Cockburn - mad Canadian political christian et al