Fancy a ramble?

I know. No more blogging I said. Well, this is the exception that proves the rule. And it’s a long one. So, make a pot of tea or coffee, cut a slice of cake – whatever you fancy – and take a break.*

*(Jill Dennison, I see you, don’t think you can hide behind that coffee cup.)

Taking time out

It’s struck me, wading daily through the mire of Twitter – a self-imposed punishment for being alive in 2019 – how many people are living in mental darkness. Existing at various stages along the spectrum of gloom and doom, from a wee bit concerned about the state of the world to outright despair.

I see and feel their anger, misery, frustration. Their cynicism, disbelief, disappointment.

When it all gets too much, if it’s not bucketing down with unreasonable rain, I try to go for a walk. A ramble, mental and physical. But if you can’t – or won’t – step out and feel the breeze, listen to the birds and smell the flowers, come with me. You’re taking a little trip.

As usual – well, as used to be usual – I may digress a bit. But feel free to stop reading right here and scroll through the pictures. There may be a few…

July 4th

A big day. But not the kind of big you’re thinking. The prof is off to Zambia. For seven weeks. To a spot where we’ve spent time together in the past . A spot remote from our urban world and almost completely devoid of communication media.

Yes, a big, quiet, crevice is about to crack open in my world.

We practice the satellite phone, prof out on the road, frowning. Me in the kitchen, waiting. Finally he gets it to work. Hooray. Emergencies covered. And off he goes. Laden, optimistic, anxious – and excited.

I’ve booked a week’s self-catering in Yorkshire at one of my favourite places. I was there around this time last year. A perfect place to forest-bathe, revel in nature, write.

Bent’s MIll seen from the rear with one of the two beautiful millponds in the foreground

The weather’s not bad. The place is the same wonderful place. I’m the same optimistic me (no, really).  What could possibly go wrong?

I climb the stone spiral stairs of the old mill, open the door into the flat and … A wave of shock hits me.

I’m lonely.

What on earth am I going to do? Why am I here? Why didn’t I stay at home?

I shut the door on the stairs. Button up my woes. Unpack. Go for a stroll with my camera.

I came determined to snap dragonflies using my new-old lens and pre-loved camera. Packed the folding chair intending to sit, patient in expectation. But. I’m too early, only damselflies are out.

Well, hey, damselflies are pretty.   And the water lilies are undeniably fabulous. Pert buds peeping through leathery leaves and blooming daily. Petals sneaking back in, curling up for the night while twilight tiptoes through the trees.

No, don’t skip this, see those little flashes of blue, they’re damselflies, moving so quickly it’s hard to catch them especially when they’re all on different timing!

Here’s a pair of damselflies … oh dear, am I a voyeuse?

Water skater and shadow, check the fly top right for scale

Water lilies and a reflection of the building. The mill is a fabulous place for reflecting, in both senses

Returning to the flat with hours to go before bedtime I realise, last year I would be going to Haworth this evening. And tomorrow and the next day and the next … celebrating Emily Bronte’s birthday. I’d also be in the company of three lovely women who welcomed this stranger into their lives.

This time I’m alone, with no commitments. And I must live with it. I’m here to write. No distractions.

But muses are fickle – and mine’s gone her own way.

Well, I’ll take a few more pictures while I… Ah. The prof’s taken my camera’s battery charger.

Retail therapy?

I ponder a drive to Ilkley and a camera shop I used last year. The prof’s not fond of Ilkley, so here’s my chance to shop and walk its famous moors. With or baht me ’at.

The shop comes up trumps (sorry for that word). Universal charger in hand I hear the siren call of fashion. Succumb to temptation. An hour later I have a new, black jumpsuit, wrapped in tissue paper, in a glamorous paper bag tied with ribbons. Leave feeling fabulous and head for t’moors.

Up there, somewhere

Hmm. Every road I turn is a ‘road closed.’

The moor does its best to put me off – and succeeds.

What now?

There are people I can call, but I promised myself no people until Monday. (A silly decision, in retrospect, the muse having snubbed me.)

I won’t trail you through the doldrums of the next two days. Let’s skip to Sunday. Turnaround day.

Making tracks

Sundays have always been a glum day for me. Childhood routines – church in the morning, roast lunch, homework, school tomorrow looming.

How to cheer the day, Yorkshire?

What about the steam train?

I’ve done that before. Twice. Sorry, what’s that? Vintage carriages?

Oh, hell, why not?

I drive to Oxenhope, jump into a carriage – seconds to spare, bearing no ticket. (It’s fine, I confessed as I hurried in – the ticket inspector joins me at the next stop.)

He’s a kindly man. Works through all the options, not allowing me to spend more than I should and soon I’m a bona fide traveller.

Steamed station master

A well-earned rest on a hot afternoon

See that casually dressed chap chatting to the engine driver?

Steam trains and their stations are friendly places. Everyone seems to have a, ‘look at us, having a lovely time,’ attitude.

The train stops again. On climbs a man in orange trousers. As we chuff-chuff off, I wonder if I missed something. Was there a troupe of Morris dancers on the platform? I go ahead and ask.

‘Are you doing something special or do you just like colourful clothes?’

‘I just like colourful clothes.’ Oops. ‘I have several pairs of different coloured corduroy trousers,’ that’s fine then, ‘though I  draw the line at pink. But I suppose my shirt is kind of pink.’

It isn’t – it’s kind of peach. And his waistcoat is green. It’s as if a leprechaun ate the cake that made Alice grow bigger.

I don’t see much of the scenery (The Railway Children was filmed here), but the men are companionable and at the end of the line we all climb out smiling.

When we start back they usher me in the direction of a very special carriage. Built by a businessman to transport him, with his chums, to and from work, it’s really something.

The businessman’s private carriage

Inside – specially made carpet and leather chairs

My companion in the luxe carriage (he was more cheerful than he looks here!)

Bevelled mirrors and picture

Just the edge of a luggage rack!

By the time we return to Oxenhope I’m happy as Larry (that’s an expression, the real one may not be at this point, given the realities of digging in great heat in Zambia).

I disembark and – lo – what’s this? A brass band?

(There are silver instruments among the brass, does that make it an alloy band?)

The alloy band

Oh frabjous day, calloo callay I chortle in my glee. Well, I don’t, but there is glee.

I have a cup of tea, wend my way back to the flat. Tired, happy, with a renewed faith in my fellow human beings.

In memory of Eric, an active volunterr, here with my tea (Idon’t like glass mugs I must admit!)

People, places and ashes

Next day, a trip to Salt’s Mill with its Hockneys and bookshop, followed by lunch with a school friend is a treat.

And, feeling more human, I finally accept that the muse has taken umbrage and give up on seeking inspiration.

The weather beams in response. Tuesday morning I fill my water bottle and head for Ilkley. I will not be diverted. There will be an open road. Any road up, like. (That’s a Yorkshire in-joke.)

Tenacious and determined I succeed. Park beneath the Cow and Calf rocks.

The little one is the calf…

And, stepping out, pass through a time warp. I’m eight years old again and homesick, staying in an outward bound centre. We walk on the moors, find the cup and ring stones and the tarn. Magic – a lake in the moors.

Up among the hot,humid, buzzing-with-insects bracken

Grown-up (ha) me sets off, eschewing anything sensible like a map. Planning a short stroll. Half an hour or so. It’s hot. I’m wearing me ‘at.

Up top, I find no tarn. No cup and ring stones. But there’s a cairn, fabulous views and a happy encounter with a woman and her dog (on a lead).

This panoramic has caught the woman walking the dog of her ill friend in the background on the right

Smaller but bigger pic!

Two and a half hours later, melting, but happy, I’m back.

The man I noticed earlier, wearing a big smile and hugging a cardboard box, is atop the rocks and a fine veil of dust is floating out, onto the still air. I guessed it was ashes. A wonderful place and day to float free of life.

I order a tuna sandwich at the cafe. Snigger along with my women neighbours who saw three girls go up the rocks in ‘the wrong kind of shoes.’

‘They came down in style, on their bottoms. We didn’t laugh or anything.’

Giggling catches, doesn’t it?

A fond last gaze at the scenery and I’m off. Home. Where butterflies are all-aflutter.

Peacock in hiding on our bench



A Comma to punctuate this crowd!

Two painted ladies

See the shadow of its gauzy wings, so unreal

Speckled wood

Small white hanging around


New direction?

I’m not unhappy to be leaving, come Wednesday. The mill’s a lovely place to stay and no doubt I’ll be back. But, next time, in company – or with a plan.

Talking of which, a very brief summary of where I am, in case you’re interested.

My down-time in Yorkshire enabled the discovery, on Twitter (it’s not all grim) of a woman, called Nikki, proprietor of ‘Splendid Stories.’ Out of my creative turmoil she summoned three pieces of advice, each of which ended with ‘focus’.


I’ve set aside the novels with which I’ve done NOTHING for over a year. I’ve set aside the short stories. I’m taking a break. When Nikki’s back from holiday and ready to give me her professional critique I will focus on getting one thing done. Then another. Then – I’ll see.

Odd, before we met she asked me to send her my poems. I’d said nothing about poetry. Yet it feels as if I’m heading that way. And a friend from college days, who’s a poet, may be running a course in November at … the mill in Yorkshire.

It’s an odd world.

So, summer passes and I walk the beach, find a wreck, meet old friends, visit a poet … a few more images:

My local beach, Ainsdale. In the distance sun glints off a ship leaving Liverpool, hills of north Wales dimly visible in the far background

In the other direction Southport and Blackpool

The tide was the farthest out I have yet seen it and it uncovered this – our coast has several old wrecks that emerge now and then

Log, left by the tide, looking like a canoe to carry me away!

The weather’s not always fine… Rain at sea soon spread to me

And that rain wanted in – in to my house! Our upside down house was having its roof replaced (there is no ceiling, the inside of the roof is wood lined) and a monsoon strength downpour happened before it was finished

Persist with this little video, it’s poor quality is down to rain, traffic and me – but it’s so sweet, so olde English.

And so to that poet – Deb Alma, the author of ‘The Emergency Poet’ who is setting up a Poetry Pharmacy in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire, in an old ironmonger’s shop.

The old shop being refurbished

Deborah Alma, a prescribing poet to alleviate the discomfort of our woes!


Well, sorry to keep you so long, hope your tea or coffee lasted the course.

One final thing – I’ve talked my way into being writer-in-residence for a local nature reserve. As I write, there’s nowhere online to post, but we’re working on it. I’ll pop links on here. And here are a few pictures I took there last week intending to write about August and the fairies flying…

Swan, reflecting

Fairy, resting. Catch one carefully, make a wish then let it go

Natural grace and beauty in decay

Enjoy what’s left of the summer – or winter, depending on your hemisphere.

Meanwhile, wishing you happy blogging and reading – and rambling.

And, live for the day.

One last image, read the caption:

At one of my favourite places I got chatting to a man who had cared for his father, who had dementia, for 10 years. After his death he met a woman, they became friends, but she soon began to suffer early onset Alzheimers. He brought her here. He pointed out to me this clump of trees – she saw not trees but a caterpillar. We need each other, don’t we?

This entry was posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Nature notes, Thinking, or ranting, or both, Uncategorized, Yorkshire and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Fancy a ramble?

  1. jilldennison says:

    I really was not trying to hide … it’s just a rather large coffee mug and I happened to be taking a rather long sip! 😉

    You cannot possibly know how chuffed I was at seeing this post! I’ve missed you so much, my friend! I sensed the melancholy in your words, could feel your loneliness, missing the Prof! But, the pictures are absolutely beautiful!!! I did not know there was such a critter as the Damselfly! They are lovely, so delicate. The picture you sent me a while back of the peacock butterflies is now the ‘desktop background’ on my laptop! I adore them!

    Take care, my friend … be happy! Love you bunches!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s lovely to be taking a break with you again! And yes, I was missing the Prof but also missing the ability to do anything, write anything. Observe. Sigh. But I hope I am heading back on a track of some kind now!
      As you know, I am full of admiration for your persistence and rigorous holding-of-power-to-account. Let’s hope that one day sense will prevail and a new order arise that is fair and … Well, fair would be a good start. Lots of love and big hugs to you Jill! xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • jilldennison says:

        I enjoyed it very much! I think that sometimes our minds are just overloaded and need a chance to dump some detritus before we can create again. Relax … the muse will be back.

        I appreciate your admiration for what I do, for some days it gets discouraging, y’know? I’ve come to believe that the day sense prevails will not happen in my lifetime, but it won’t stop me from trying to hasten that day. Love and hugs, my dear friend! I still hope for the day that we can share a bottle or two of wine, great conversation, hugs, and laughter. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yes, me too, French wine accumulating in the garage in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit – and you are always welcome to share and despair and laugh and renew hope! Big hugs xx

          Liked by 1 person

          • jilldennison says:

            Oh no!!! I hadn’t considered a wine shortage!!! 😱 After reading the latest from Boris this morning, I am convinced more than ever that he and Donnie are twins. Grrrrrrrrrrr. But yes, we will drink the wine and solve all the world’s problems! Hugs!!! ❤

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Ardys says:

    The muse has not abandoned you, only wanted you to write a blog post! Lovely and familiar musings. Being alone is a tricky thing to do. We are mostly distracted from our alone state, and so when truly facing it we feel daunted that we have to face our innermost selves. I think being alone is a bit like a muscle that needs to be flexed and kept in shape so that when we are in that state we know how to be. So nice to hear from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an insightful observation. Yes, a muscle that needs keeping in order. I am actually normally very happy to be alone but I suppose I’m more usually in a position where I have other options! I must say it feels good to be back in the company of blogging friends. But I do perk up when I see the occasional comment from you on Twitter. So nice to hear from you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad to see you posting again and lovely to catch up with your meanderings! Hopefully you won’t be alone for much longer. I gather from the Prof’s posts that he is on the way back. Hope to catch up with you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann says:

    Great to read your blog again. Loved the wild like pictures and the Worth Valley railway ones. Just about recognised the characters having moved from Oxenhope many years ago but they look much older, me too. Looking forward to reading about your new role.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Ann it was so nice to see your comment on FB. The people at Oxenhope were lovely. I so enjoy time spent there.
      As you know, I have felt I was writing to an empty room at times and now, well, doing it when it feels right is fine! I hope the nature reserve site gets up soon so I can divert my nature walks there! x


  5. I thoroughly enjoyed that – unplanned loneliness notwitstanding, your prose made me smile and your photos are stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely to see a nice loooooong post from you and a lot of fabulous photos in your consummate style. I see your Tweets so I know you are engaged and active… but it’s not my favourite social media forum, and as always only so much time. So wonderful to enjoy vicarious outings and observations but particularly the last part. Yes, we do need each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dale, I haven’t read your latest I must admit, being ruthless about getting some of my words and thoughts sorted, but I can see you are ploughing a very sustainable furrow! I wish I could get into Instagram in some ways (to see more of what you are up to for example) but I ca’;t face another demand on my time online. Twitter, love it and hate ti but am trying to make it more poetic and less politic. So good to keep in touch. It’s been a long time now, hasn’t it? x


  7. John Kemp says:

    Thank you very much for this long interesting post with its photos I would like to have taken. It was good to hear from you again.
    On reading it quite a few days ago, before there were any comments, I found there were several observations I would have liked to make. I’ve begun a response more than once, but in the face of all the intelligent comments you have already received and to which you have replied I withdraw, pleading perhaps inadequacy..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Never plead inadequacy. Your thoughts are no such thing and indeed last year helped me make a major decision! I’m glad you enjoyed this post anyway and know you have been following Larry’s exploits on his site. I may pop by here again and update on my progress (or so far, lack of it) with my local nature reserve and please feel free to say what you want – I would always rather hear something than nothing!


  8. seer1969 says:

    Back on form as ever Mary, you make me feel old, idle and stuck in a swamp, which in reality I am. But a window opened and light shone in reading this. I too have been struck by those brilliant blue damsels, who hover like military helicopters observing the dissidents below, then change places in mid air in an instant. Such a little thing amongst the gloom. You would have a following on Pinterest if you ever join, somewhere images are everything and politics is entirely absent, and a good thing too.
    Having survived the heat, but only just, I’m dreaming of moving north along with plant and other animal species as our beautiful planet burns. A series on Netflix – Green Frontier – has captured me despite my lack of Portuguese, the subtitles becoming effortless by the 2nd episode, set in the Amazon with indiginous people fighting loggers and other white devils, I always knew I was one of them as a child, but society determined I was a whiteman … barefoot days soon to end alas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a lovely thing to say, Peter, thank YOU! I have resisted becoming embroiled in the photography social media sites as it is not what I regard myself as ‘doing’. I’ll seek out Green Frontier, thank you. Will email soon, Tex is off to t’other side for a few days… Following not in the hurricane I hope!


  9. Thel says:

    Mary. I feel renewed after reading your blog…. and your beautiful pictures! Thanks so much. There’s poetry in your soul.
    We look forward to seeing the boy. I’m sure he’s not ready for another long flight, but such is life.
    Love to you🌻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, such lovely things you say! The boy is getting ready and the wind has stirred in preparation for his uplift. I hope Dorian does not have to much of an impact, fingers crossed. Enjoy the visit, sending hugs, x


  10. Alison Parry says:

    Wonderful musings and fabulous photos, Mary! I read a great deal about mindfulness these days and your descriptions embody the spirit of being in the moment. You don’t need to read those books! You’re a natural meditator. Love Alison xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bizarre, this morning lying awke in the early hors I thought – shall I email Alison – and here you are! Lovely to hear form you and glad you liked it. I have put another short one up on maidinbritain about August – which was supposed to be for Mere Sands Wood nature reserve’s site but it still doesn’t have a home for my writing. Nature really helps in these terrible times politically, doesn’t it? xx


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