Unorthodox Nature Notebooks: Part 2

 

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24th May 2006: Woolley Colliery, West Yorks

 

 Went to Darton station by train. What an amazing station Wakefield Kirkgate has become where you change trains to go to Barnsley. Nature can invade functioning industrial dereliction but once the site stops functioning it will be ripe for development. Little trees were growing from awnings and every pain of glass in the roof has long since been smashed. All that is left is a wrought iron skeleton its purpose gone and magnificently useless. Climbed up to Woolley from Darton station, the spoil heap like frozen lava flows. Much has been dumped there only recently: even so young birch and sycamore were beginning to appear and some clumps of grass. The lunar landscape of excavated soil is magnificent but it will be leveled and prettified to resemble down land – a stereotypical, innocuous nature.

 

  The pit ponds pumping machines have been well and truly fenced off. The people who are moving into the well-off sink estate of the new Woolley Grange are the types who sue. Therefore anything beautiful and dangerous has to be destroyed to suit their pallid tastes. Even the path to Haigh Mews has been fenced off. It is also becoming overgrown and this is the centre of the Dingy Skipper colony. If the carr woodland were to proliferate it would destroy the colony.

 

  Dingies move their heads quite a lot from side to side. Sometimes while resting they uncurl their proboscis. They will flatten their wings out to absorb the sun’s heat and then begin to fold them as the heat intensifies. This is preceded by wing movement as the wings are wide spread, the top wings slightly covering the lower wings. These movements are invariably a prelude to flight.

 

   On the top of Woolley, lorry loads of earth are arriving continuously sweeping through the neo-classical entrance. The earth is then leveled by dumpers. On the great sweeping drive to the estate the verges have been mechanically seeded with grass, and like a field of corn first furrowed then sown with grass seed from a tube behind each harrow. The verges on the pavement are mulched with not a plant in sight. The groundsel etc begins where the mulch ends.

 

  The hill down to the former colony was once dreaded by lorry drivers making deliveries to the colliery. It is now a curving gently sloping incline like a grand entrance to a country estate. From the top of the spoil heap some of the best views in West Yorks are to be had looking towards  Holme Moss, past Huddersfield to the distinctive high range of hills and mountains above Marsden on the Lancashire and Derbyshire borders.

 

  The miners’ past is well and truly buried on this huge spoil heap where ironstone and coal were mined probably from roman times. It is an historic feature but this ersatz of nearby Woolley Hall is finance capital i.e. ‘landed’ wealth for the aspiring middle classes who look up and simultaneously look down, who want to buy into the gentry through the trappings of external pretence, but alas it is only an estate, not a hall or grange, despite the misleading title, although the house at the foot of the grounds is meant to suggest a Georgian grange like Beaumont Park or Arundel Park. The environment is all going to be destroyed, rendered bland and not worth a second look like a painted nature, a sub-nature, an un-noticed nature!

 

 

 

Finally a dream….

 

T he midges that danced in my dreams like fireflies against the dark rather than the black dots against the blue. As soon as I close my eyes I saw these tiny pricks of light like dancing stars.

 

   Then falling asleep after the visit to Woolley - as we had gone by train, railway lines were everywhere in my dreams cutting through spoil that hung over the railways like huge clothes. Isolated houses constructed on the edge of precipices of spoil. This was the sink estate for the rich transformed in my imagination.

 

  I was grateful for it - for I had had a drink and the worst part nowadays of drink is waking up in the early hours and immediately being assaulted by the horror made worse by the great depressant of alcohol. However, now these images of liberated landscapes took over and the unconscious ruled - half asleep half awake - enabling me to find relief from the horrors of the present.

 

   Unconscious panoply of vision. A transformation urban and geological, each succeeding the other effortlessly as if called up from the depths. This was the unconscious of nature that transforms nature in the imagination that wants to become real by taking actual possession of the landscape.

 

   And then last night falling asleep and seeing in my minds eye the unmistakable blue/green blotch of the Green Hairstreak for I had spent an hour between 1600 and 1700 hours fixedly staring on a mating pair on Hollybank.

 

 

 

27th May 2006

 

  Female scents were discovered by Fritz Muller. Scent scales are attached by their stalks to peculiar glandular cells which secrete a volatile fluid that passes into the scales and is eventually given off from its surface as an odourous vapour “androconia ” which varies considerably in shape in different species of butterflies but usually agree in being branched and tufted at their free extremities - an arrangement which apparently facilitates the rapid diffusion of the perfume upon the air scent distilling hairs in some moths under folded over flap of the hind wings inner edge. Sometimes on legs like on hind legs of Ghost Swift. The whiteness and scent combine to make it easier for the female to find the male. In the Shetland Islands the male tends to be yellowish like the female as summer nights tend to be very light. Odours are easily detected by human beings. Ghost Swifts are likened to pineapple, Green Veined White butterflies to lemon, Small White butterflies to sweet briar, Meadow Browns to sandalwood.

 

 

On Stations

 

  Island platforms, station buildings sometimes resemble houses, stone walls supporting an iron and glass roof, water towers, staggered platforms, heavily engineered lines, viaducts, tunnels and severe gradients, canopies, double-gabled station houses sitting uncomfortable among plainer buildings like Dewsbury Central Station with it’s ride and furrowed canopies, house shaped main buildings – timber and glass structure, dereliction growing into beauty. 

 

 

28th May 2006: Kiveton Park, Waleswood and the Rother Valley

 

 Why not wild flower meadows instead of this monoculture of bilious green grass? The makeover areas here could have been sown with a variety of grasses and flowers like birds foot trefoil, kidney vetch, clover, ladies smock, jack by the hedge etc. Why ever not?

  

This is politically correct landscaping. At Kiveton Park the steep slippery informal path on this pit spoil heap has been replaced by a zigzagging path against the grain of the incline making it easy to push a pram or a wheel chair up.

 

 But once at the top what is there to see? Merely a view of the surrounding countryside for there is nothing else to look out for at the top. Not the Dingy Skipper or the kidney vetch, which looked lovely in the late spring. Gone is that sense of difference of being on the top of a feature very different in appearance from the surrounding countryside. Now it looks like an extension of that intensively farmed countryside only it’s a little higher. We get to the top of this politically correct path leading nowhere only to look down upon the visual boredom of modem intensive agriculture and the generalised absence of nature.

 

 Contrast this with Waleswood, where there is the underdeveloped spoil heap and only a couple of miles away from Kiveton. Immediately on stepping out into Waleswood interest perks up at every step. It is an adventure like when looking for the Dingy Skipper I nearly put my foot on a lapwing’s scrape. Every footstep holds out a promise and looking for the Dingy Skipper I chanced on this peewit’s scrape.

 

 The make of the Kiveton spoil heap is the realisation of the estate agent aesthetic. This is the meaning of unspoilt views, the despoliation of everything that makes a place interesting. Some time ago I knew that estate agent aesthetic would be the death knell of the Kiveton spoil heap; its extension. This did not quite happen and further building on the spoil heap may have been stopped. But the end result makes no difference. As far as nature is concerned it may as well as happened as not!

 

This ersatz of an 18th century park designed by bureaucracy, of something done by say, Capability Brown, is the romanticisation of the geometric lawns of the nearby estate, the rolling back of fences, like large estates appeared to roll back encroaching enclosure though in fact is an expression of it.

 

 The Kiveton spoil heap in spring, only a couple of years ago was like a desert blooming after a downpour. It exploded into colour and life and it was a joy to walk over, but not anymore. This nature is on the level of lollipop trees; one glides over it effortlessly there is not even a rabbit hole that might cause the unwary to stumble or a furrow to twist an ankle. How did it ever happen or was allowed to take place? Surely it could have easily been stopped yet it wasn’t and like a juggernaut it was allowed to thunder on tearing up everything in its tracks. There is now scarcely a plant of bird’s foot trefoil on the entire site except at the unimproved margins.

 

 There was the semblance of widespread consultation; even very young children were asked what they would like to see there. Many more (grown ups) were enthusiastic anglers and it was possible that the future lakes are an acknowledgement of the former mining community that was Kiveton Park. However, many of these anglers were and are nature enthusiasts and would readily have responded to a more nature friendly makeover leaving large areas of the spoil heap as it once was.

 

 The interest of anglers and nature conservationists are often united in one of the same person and did not always clash like it has been made out to be the case in this makeover. The anti nature side of angling has been brought to the fore as a sport and this is what is triumphant.

 

 Rather like the land art amphitheatre nearby it is probably intended for kids on mountain bikes and as likely as not these kids won’t ride here or show any interest as they prefer the rough riding on offer elsewhere. I had first become aware of this land art amphitheatre type construction at Milton Keynes but it now seems to be everywhere.

 

 Could not the biodiversity group on Rotherham council have produced a leaflet pointing out there were rare butterflies on the site and that in the interest of conservation the spoil heap should be left unspoilt? Was a bit of education all that was required to change the perception of spoil heaps not as eyesores but as something that is beautiful? But did not the educators need educating themselves into seeing the folly of contemporary landscaping. I find it hard to believe there would not have been a positive response to such a leaflet. These new estates are packed with ordinary decent working folk. They are not the enclaves of the super rich as has happened at Woolley Grange nearby where they’ve sort to attract the rich. Many of course at Kiveton are two wage households with two cars in the drive hence the hard standing, low maintenance gardens and garden centre exotica all part of the fact to quote Mr. R Skiller’s “I Teach Finance Theory” and author of “Irrational Exuberance”: “For most people their portfolio is dominated by one asset; a house”.

 

 To have left the spoil heap much as it was would not necessarily have meant a decline in property prices though there can be little doubt that this dreadful makeover has added a considerable amount of value to the adjacent properties especially those that look out onto the former spoil heap.

 

 To use a butterfly as a selling point as part of the sales agent’s sales pitch could even have set a trend, obnoxious though it may have been from any radical perspective. Perhaps the most hurtful and hateful part of the makeover is that bit of the spoil heap where only two years ago Dingy Skipper and the rare Brown Argus used to fly together. It is almost as if the area has been deliberately chosen to rub the noses of conservationists in the dirt of this disgusting makeover! Where once the Dingy Skipper and Brown Argus flew there is a tree nursery but it is not just any tree nursery but one ringed by wire fencing accessed by a traditional type wooden stile as if it was something special and vulnerable as indeed the area should have been. It could be said, “You wanted something special … well you have got it!’ A special nursery for common trees and charlock!

 

 It comes across as an act of unconscious malevolence as if the area - a very special area - had been hyper-connected specifically targeted for destruction. To one side is a line of trees that mark the bank side of the Chesterfield canal. There, effectively screened from the view of the new estate an area of the spoil heap has been left on which an occasionally Dingy Skipper could be found. This was never the best spot as it was too exposed. Typically it is an area that has been kept just as it was and in fact it would have been better to retain the area immediately below in front of the wire fence which has been treated to the usual makeover slap.

 

 The few Dingy Skippers that could be found here would also fly onto the steep path up the spoil heap. This is now fringed by a barrage of thistles that were not there previously. Perhaps the base spoil of the incline was essential to their survival. They will never know because now most have probably not survived and as for the thistles well Small Tortoiseshells, of course, love them but where are the nettles the food plant of the butterfly which ‘in the wild’ are never far from such a profusion of thistles?

 

 The Kiveton makeover is not for only about the suppression of the past, the obliteration of the mining past and the expunging of miners’ struggles from history; it is also about the end of history on which are also nowadays increasingly means the end of natural history.

 

 This is about kicking a corpse and kicking ever harder because it is a corpse no matter whether it is a miner or a former Dingy Skipper colony. The watchword here is everything must be destroyed that is likely to start a ghost and inspire dreams of liberation.

 

   We wondered for two hours cold and forlorn on Catcliffe Hill thinking the day was a write-off and cursing the weather reporters who had predicted a fine day. Then out came the sun and I was the first to see a Dingy Skipper with Catcliffe airport in the background. This is the most unusual colony of Dingy Skippers I have ever encountered. It seems to me it is not a settled colony and different strategies are being tried out by the Dingy Skippers.

 

 

June 2006: Catcliffe, Sheffield, South Yorks

 

 For a start it was almost impossible to get near the Dingies before they would be off then most surprisingly of all, never to return. The ones on the path skirting the brow of Catcliffe overlooking the airport and Outo Kumpu steel works would vault the small hawthorn hedges and disappear into a field in which there was a peppering of trefoil but which also contained two highland cattle and their calves.

 

  Despite waiting up to forty minutes these Dingy Skippers would not reappear as if they had forgotten their territorial instincts or forgone their territorial instincts assuming, of course, that they were males. Every one we encountered was like this and that was fifty or so – and some must have been females. All were the same baring one the other side of the path near the airport, which did behave territorially. Trying to get photographs of them was near on impossible, I wanted background, industrial background but none would oblige flying off after barely three or four seconds.

 

 How long have the Dingies been here, several years? Or are they behaving like all colonisers of new territory; that is in an unsure and unpredictable fashion. We barely covered a third of Catcliffe Hill but we found them wherever we went eventually. Will this colony prove to have a character of its own? Will it finally settle down and behave in a more normal way?

 

 I feel my filming was jagged and un-noteworthy but on reflection just to present it like it is gives an idea of the uniqueness of the colony and the unevenness of the filming, the jolts and camera shake suggestive of the skippers’ slightly aberrant behaviour. Camera shake and a shaky colony yet to really put down roots.

 

 Coming off Catcliffe, in addition to seeing a further Dingy we chanced upon a Brown Argus, an ab: albunnalata, which was extraordinary. This is the closest to a city centre, certainly a northern city centre; the Brown Argus has ever been photographed. Another first!

 

 Walking back across Attercliffe Common crossing a footbridge over the canal and railway near the Hallam FM media building, David startled a Dingy Skipper. Is the Dingy about to take Sheffield penetrating its many sites of industrial dereliction or will the whole place get spruced up, hoovered of all bird’s foot trefoil and industrial dereliction and become a mere image of nature with pollution tolerant plants, variegated road side verges etc?

 

 We met a park ranger on Catcliffe. He thought the dire makeover of pit spoil heaps like at Kiveton was a result of competing interests with some losing out while some others had their way. A nice guy but I very much doubt that is the case. A faux concept of nature imposed itself and there was little contestation, probably none!

 

 There were very few people on Catcliffe. As a country park it is underdeveloped and under used. Kiveton on the contrary appears to be much used. We met a Pakistani taxi driver who was totally bemused by the highland cattle. He was chiefly worried about their exposure to the elements - were they warm in winter for example? In fact in reality is the problem was how to keep them cool – remember he had come from a warm country! Catcliffe attracts nutters. It is a place of encounters as indeed Kiveton Park once was. Now the latter is no more than an anodyne park; a place for a Sunday morning stroll where desperate mothers can wheel their babies around pretending everything is alright.

 

 At Catcliffe a couple in there forties passed hand in hand, she was lovely and said hello. Catcliffe is a place for genuine love. They sat on a seat overlooking industrial Sheffield then returned the way they came.

 

 

18th June 2006: Northcliffe Woods Gala, Bradford, West Yorks

 

 The hedgehog rescue stole the show. Even would-be fuckheads had fingers in their mouths like babies all agog looking at the young hedgehogs being fed milk from a pipette as the mother had run away. When it started to rain someone put on Gene Kelly’s ‘Singing in the Rain’ over the PA. The hedgehogs’ stall began to twirl parasols and kick out their legs like Ginger Rogers. The ladies of Northcliffe Woods however, were too repressed to join in. Again this mixture of working class and middle class; of tattoos, cigarettes and floral hats. I was approached by a man from Bilton, Harrogate who had created his own wildlife pond and had now an albino newt in it. His wildlife pond has been copied by neighbours and he claimed there was no hostility from them but how wild is wild? He also lived in Bilton, the working class area of Harrogate. Part of the goods yard there is now a nature reserve. It was once a bustling railway siding of engine sheds, as we knew as children.

 

 I was given a potted history of Norman Rae by a posh woman obviously very anti-socialist. Rae, a rich woollen manufacturer with mills in Laisterdyke in Bradford, purchased Northcliffe Woods in 1920. There had been a gala the day it had opened and the gala had been revived ten years ago. Rae had also stood for election in the khaki election of 1918 standing presumably as a Liberal – “to keep out the Tories” - I was also told by this lady with a broad-brimmed hat. Typically the women around the hedgehog stall did not wear broad-brimmed hats but wore the type of hats more typical of English football fans.

 

  Even a copper showed an interest in wildlife asking Susan Stead, the boss of the Urban Wildlife Group questions about butterflies – she wondered what the world was coming to when coppers started to take an interest in nature.

 

 If capitalists were to become more generous or public-spirited they could well sway the informal green movement and its incipient tendencies towards radicalism. The pockets of these people and groups are never lined enough today and this is a factor in our favour, when condemning capitalism. However it is not likely to ever remain like this and a more abstract theory of capitalism able to see through ruses of giving is beyond most greens or those with an interest in nature.

 

 When I got back that night I hardly dared to open the small tub in which I had the placed the Brown Argus egg I got from Tinsley. Although I left it until the next day my worst fears were confirmed, the caterpillar had emerged, eaten its eggshell and then died. I thought it would have eaten the geranium leaf, which I had placed under the leaf of shining cranesbill – I felt dreadful. My voice was distorted and for several hours I could barely concentrate on the issue at hand as though a major tragedy had happened. My reaction was totally disproportionate to what had actually happened and yet it had obviously reflected a powerful and growing current even one that was there when I killed the slugs in Newcastle in the mid 1960’s – I was a murderer! Nothing would persuade me that one day I would have to answer not to god but nature, a very vengeful nature. Though nature has once more become mythologized in order to expiate my guilt, I will have to offer succour to nature. I will at some point have to do penance and breed caterpillars in a situation of safety where they cannot be parasitised, which I will then release into the wild.

 

 

8th July 2006: On Langdale Pikes in the Lake District.

 

 The ascent and descent of Dungeon Gyhll that leads up to the top of the Langdales was murderous, enough for one year – more than enough! And yet I was the following day making the same ascent and on and on and on up to Sergeant Man at the very top of the Langdales. And there we did eventually did see the Mountain Ringlet butterfly - just. The day was cool and overcast with very occasional rays of sunshine - the type of day that makes for such dramatic scenery viewed from high up on the mountains overlooking the lakes.

 

 When we reached the summit of the Langdales’ Sergeant Mann we found a spot similar to Stickle Tarn just below us only much higher. This was one of the sources of Bright Beck a place reputed to be the centre of a Mountain Ringlet colony. I scuffed up some Small Heaths; surely it’s Britain’s most adaptable butterfly? But alas no Mountain Ringlet. I was convinced they would have flown and I would have scuffed them up like the Small Heaths but this did not happen and nothing took to the air.

 

  We had all but given up moving but we went to a part just below the summit of Sergeant Mann when suddenly I exploded “there it is” - a Mountain Ringlet - and then another a little later. However we kept our eye on the latter. It was in good condition and rather jumpy. Had there been plenty of sunshine it would have been difficult to approach. However, it became dormant quite quickly which enabled me to get some good camera shots. When it turned colder, it immediately folded its top wing covering its eyespot below its lower wings so there was not any hint of any spot - nothing at all which might attract a predator.

 

  When it did fly it lifted off the moss margins of the brackish ponds but once dormant I could approach very closely and take shots of it as it being buffeted by the wind. Around three in the afternoon, it started to rain and it continued and continued getting heavier and heavier and was only to stop in the middle of the night. Everyone was soaked but surprisingly cheerful. My joy at finding the Mountain Ringlet was rounded off by the friendliness of these fellow walkers. They have caused me to change my views of the lakes, everyone says hello and are very helpful. Many don’t have cars and therefore camp and think twice before taking the buses, which are very expensive in Cumbria. These people are the new leech gatherers. Their independence and resolution runs through them and is so different to the people you meet in the Yorkshire Dales. The rich followed William Wordsworth into the Lake District but so did the poor and it is the latter that make the Lakes such a wonderful place to visit.

 

  Oh yes! Finally we poked the resting Mountain Ringlet to see if it would fly. Instead it sank deeper into the grass. To see the Mountain Ringlet one needs fine weather although I doubt if I would have got up close to the Mountain Ringlet if the sun had been shining.

 

  I had not wanted to go to the Lakes and I would willingly have cancelled it. My spirits were uplifted by the community in the Youth Hostel and by the fell walkers, their readiness to say hello and their simply human decency, like the Geordie couple we had encountered around Stickle Tarn. They had with them (it was pouring down remember) a bedraggled spaniel; its tail wagging after it had been shoved unceremoniously into the tarn for a wash. It had been in something or had been messing with a dead sheep, or both. Later we met the couple at the bottom of Dungeon Ghyll, they were on a campsite at Skelwith Bridge and were set to walk the distance to Skelwith Bridge, easily five miles in the pouring rain. We told them a bus was due and they debated whether to catch it finally opting to walk the distance. We then deduced they had no money and remember the bus fares in Cumbria are very high. They left and later we saw them seated at a table outside the Sticklebarn Pub enjoying a drink. Whatever money they had was going to be spent on enjoyment and not on bus fares.

 

 The shifting light in the Lake District. Sometimes when the light broke through the clouds the light appeared to come from the centre of the earth, like the earth had opened up and dazzling beams had been sent forward and up over from the centre of the earth within.

 

 At the end of three days I had a newfound liking for the Lakes though money had far from taken it and that the poor with an outlook opposed to money, had imposed themselves on the place. It was like the leech gatherers and the Cumberland beggar that Wordsworth mentioned had returned in a new form.

 

 

12th June 2007: Canvey Island, the Occidental Site, ‘England’s Rain Forest’, South Essex

  

This has to be the most inspiring industrial derelict site I have ever wandered through. I alternatively exclaimed and became silent like I had been lifted out of myself and lost for words. With its mosaic of habitats, some dry other wet, saline and fresh water, it is awesome. Chunks of concrete lay abandoned, meaningless stumps and lumps of concrete whose actual function we could only guess that. Others – pre-cast sections - left piled high like a miniature Mayan temple or brutalist construction that was never completed and whose function remained a mystery. Its purpose or how it ever came to be there lost in time and behind it all, the backdrop of oil refineries and the gas flame that burned perpetually, a mysterious other Olympics marking England’s rain forest.

 

 The site reminded me of my childhood on Aycliffe Trading Estate in County Durham. The grid patterns of the tracks that had been laid down for the Occidental site, the street lighting now abandoned, the concrete rise stretching into the distance, the concrete cross roads industrial rather than natural paths, three light standards rising from the thick hedgerow, useless, pointless, but beautiful. Even the fly tipping was exceptional. A leather chair with a pair of odd shoes left on the cushion as if waiting for someone to put them on. The rusty curving lamp standards, some snapped off, the cabling exposed and clipped.

 

 And then the acres of charlock or mustard or rape seed oil. And this was on the decontaminated soil required by EEC law. Now the charlock etc was pulled up or slashed after a recent article in the Southend Echo emphasised this. So probably the action was carried out by Natural England who now claimed they had intended to do this all along to put people like ourselves on the back foot, this face saving retrospective weeding such as almost certainly was carried out on the Kiveton Park spoil heap in South Yorkshire.

 

 The sea broom breaking through the old tarmac base of the oil depot that was abandoned, the caterpillar tracks on the surplus of the tar macadam like the ripples left in sandstone testimony to a sea or river estuary from millions of years ago. Or the sea broom amidst the broken concrete and rusting iron spikes, concrete grikes; an industrial imitation of limestone pavement as in Gait Barrows in Morecombe Bay and even more wildlife rich. (This was written whilst watching the film through an LCD screen on the camcorder). The occidental site in Canvey was like an artless sculpture park rich in strange forms and like dead trees, animals and plants left to rot down. A change, a rust change, a metamorphous of rust and decay, an encrypted landscape of dereliction of concrete hieroglyphs whose original purpose escapes us like after a riot. Three curved street lights spring from a hedge row, there is no road just a grassed over area in the middle of which is growing a tree size shrub of sea broom.

 

 Up the new road with the street lights seeming to illumine nature rather than a busy road, there is a modern cemetery. Incongruity is the essence of this site. The concrete bridges across the dyke like metal railings rusting away, others twisted and mangled like in a war zone, virtual shells exposed industrial installations for it is an industrially devastated landscape, the aftermath of a war 40 years later and now returned to nature and for nature. This is the landscape of a non-destructive war, a necessarily peaceful war in which destruction is left to find its own way.

 

 It adds to nature it does not detract from it like many of the buildings of old, castles on volcanic coves, moated manor houses, and windmills. But none of this on Canvey Island is functional. It is an out-of-work landscape with no use to capitalism; it has been abandoned to nature; industrially purposeless this landscape invigorates. The wind sighing through the reeds and into the centre there is a metal bittern made of rusting barbed wire which is little different from Tracey Emin’s exhibit at the Venice Biennale yet able to enhance in a way Emin’s trash cannot.

 

 By the side concrete lozenges, tetrahedron shaped punctuated by rusting metal tubes out of which clumps of grass are growing. A burst out into open space of charred trees and amongst the blackened leafless branches there is a gold finch. Across the dyke a basic concrete bridge, a mere slab where the concrete ends the short grass begins. To one side a bunch of sea broom set amongst the broken concrete and rusting metal rod like an industrialised limestone grike; an industrially derelict Gait Barrows but richer still. A grid of raised paths geometric and conscious landscape of concrete roadways like railway lines and in the far distance an old storage drum rather than a triumphfull arch. The tarmac basis of these old storage drums but never built on by Occidental. Now crinkled by caterpillar treads like the ripples left by retreating tides a million years ago.

 

 Then the mysterious concrete hierogylphs piled up like an industrial Angkor Wat in Cambodia overgrown with sea broom, in the background the oil refinery tower capped by the flame. An abandoned roundabout its decorative brickwork still visible under the encroaching vegetation almost a blue print of a post consumer, anti capitalistic society where roads have been abandoned and returned to the wilds. Behind a huge cracked willow like from (John) Constable Country or from a Dutch landscape painting from the 16th Century.

 

 And then the EEDA notice, advertising the reserve, the notice a sign nature is to be ruined; to be confined to an artificial reserve. (EEDA is a conservation trust in South Essex). By the side of the Thames, huge concrete platforms great square jetties have been mounted on concrete pillars; little wharves of fat weeds. There is no recognisable name for this kind of construction because the construction is a one off. Frequently I was lost for words describing such a place for there are no words for it. A nature reserve will impose conformity upon the place bringing what has no name back into a recognisable language. It will also mean the death of nature!

 

 

19th June 2007: Castleford, Fairburn Ings, West Yorks

 

 Fairburn Ings owes much to this history of the Aire Valley where 150 years of mining have left their mark. Coal workings to half a kilometre underground have created subsidence and open water has gone up over stretching into great lakes which are now packed with breeding wild fowl.

 

 I have just realised what the broad path with its new base and surface of chippings from the canal pathway over the dykes to the roadways is about. It is the link to the new Castleford; the value added Castleford with the RSPB centre in Fairburn Ings. The path that has been laid down by the RSPB is just the same as the one in the Boars Well in Bradford. It is now become the standard amenity formula, a wide path of chippings on a membrane to prevent the growth of grass. An M1 for nature for it is possible to get a four wheel drive on them - even a Hummer - and that is what matters. There is nothing left of the dovesfoot cranesbill for it only grows on a particular soil. Cut leaf cranesbill will grow on spoil but dovesfoot never. Imported agricultural soil is particularly suitable that is why it is used for roadway verges and it is possibly spread the plant by the motor car.

 

 A birder I met last year from the village of Netherton was sanguine about the RSPB. What upset him the most was the RSPB insensitivity to birds. Widening the path and the dykes so each separate pond flowed into each other had disturbed the habitat of many as eight long eared owls. He just shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “What can you expect of management…… any management”? In fact the new landscaping was done with an eye to draw the new settlers of Castleford’s new urbanism - its art /nature makeover.

 

 Possibly the old railway bridge will be retained as a pedestrian bridge linking the new estate with the RSPB reserve. It will be costly to make it safe but not as costly as building a new one. I regret not getting firm footage of the kids jumping from this bridge into the Aire/ Calder canal.

 

 

31st July 2007: Rainham Marshes, South Essex

 

 Visited Rainham Marshes RSPCB Centre. The terrible walk from Rainham Station with heavy lorries passing continually. What I took to be fences contained a bird reserve which in fact did belong to the RSPB. For this is going to be the unvisited part of the reserve and is to remain roped off. Eventually reached the RSPB Centre. However butterflies preferred the area outside the fencing and as such preferred the abandonment of the levels fronting the Thames and where there were odd structures on which there was a bleached-like tree trunk plus detritus left by high tides. Many Brown Argus but what have they been feeding on? Could not find any dovesfoot cranesbill. Is it possible they have switched to mallow?

 

 The RSPB Centre at first struck us as 1950s eco-modernism, however after a closer inspection we found the window slats were wooden and not concrete and even possibly plastic. Like Bed Zed near Sutton in South London the double glazed windows were made of wood. The Centre is a Fort Knox of conservation and gangways on closing were pulled-up like a passenger ramp to a standing plane on a runway. The painted wooden shutters were slid into place along a chevron-like folding louver doors. It was noiseless but impenetrable. There was also solar panels on the roof and probably emitted zero CO2. There was however a car park.

 

 It also could have been an eco-conscious gated community, a sign of things to come and instead of 24 hours CCTV there will be armed guards carrying kalashnikovs.

 

 Spoke to several RSPB volunteers; they are a nice bunch of people. Unlike Butterfly Conservation sorts, the RSPB is driven by an ‘us and them’ response. And ‘them’ were invited to a special lunch held in a marquee nearby when Labour Minister, Ruth Kelly and Bill Oddie came to officially open the reserve. Their ‘workers’ were not allowed anywhere near the marquee and had to bring their own sandwiches we were told. This response came from an RSPB volunteer who attended the stall in the canteen. He could easily be pushed into radicalism. He wore a bit of cheap bling around his neck. Butterfly Conservation would never be that cheap or that radical.

 

 

12th September 2008: A Visit to Hull & Grimsby

 

 “The god of life is living in agreement with nature” Zeno

 

  So says The Deep at Hull put together by (Sir) Terry Farrell. This was a pastiche of my final year art exhibition in Newcastle in 1966, because Farrell as an architectural student way back then was always smarming up to me,  plus Icteric and Schwitter’s Merz Bahn. Consider the tanks of fish, the Merz-like wall of fossils and the interactivity – pure John Fox. It was not an aquarium such as exits in Orlando, Florida, but an experience, an installation, a fun fair, an arcade. Educational fun for game boys and girls; kids making a racket; harassed grandparents; the ground floor shop was a novelty shop for kids more than just knick knacks, or tourist trivia. This regional icon is built from the ground up and is specifically aimed to appeal to kids: it is the new interactive school, the game boy school. Push button, digital fish in one section of the exhibit; elsewhere visitors were invited to stamp on electronic fish – rather than a screen it was a floor. No one ever succeeded in stamping on a fish – the software rather than the fish was just too good.

   A trip to the Fishing Heritage Centre and a guided tour of the Sea Tiger by an ex-crew man. An outspoken man he had jacked ship – though probably only the once – and taken the rest of the crew with him. He referred to some skippers as ‘pigs’ and others as ‘gentlemen’ – the latter usually retained their crew while the others could not. And they were not good seafarers. They were known for driving the crew and allowing only one tot of rum per day. They also tended to lose men at sea.

  He was bitter as well though still full of humour. He had five girls and had to go to sea – not to feed them but to get away from their noise. He chiefly resented his job as a trawler man because he was described as “casual labour”. In his eyes it was skilled work and he was proud he could itemize everything aboard ship from the tackle to the knots – everything. If the industry had been nationalised he reckoned it would have been different and he would have received compensation. There was indeed a “labour pool” but nothing like the Dock Labour Scheme. For reasons I didn’t understand he thought Edward Heath and the early 1970s Tory government had destroyed the industry.

 

 

30th October 2008: A Dream 

 

 I dreamt I was queuing at a station talking to people. One pondered why there was no peoples’ uprising in the United States and that the bankers had factored in the lack of resistance enabling them to push the banking system to the point of collapse. I said I never would have ever thought I would see this sort of thing happening in my lifetime. The person I was talking to was joined by his mate – they obsessively discussed the financial crises – like good buddies returning home to their wives they were unable to communicate with. And so it was not just an economic crises but an emotional one also.

To top it all I noticed a moth; a small one, but I noticed people on the bus watched it rather than kill it. I then noticed a moth trap by the roadside and David dismounted to chase a moth.

 And there we had it: an unprecedented financial crisis; an interspersed one and finally an ecological crisis each compounding the other. I also dreamt of Marbled Whites in places where I had never seen them and at a time of year when they are never on the wing. Their wings were mildewed like the fungal disease affecting oaks in wet years.

 

 Labour as the ‘abstract’ of value. Universal abstract labour. The artist as demiurge substituting for class struggle as the motor of history. Value as the value of art installations/concept as the valorisation of nothingness, its increasing democratisation leading to devalorisation. Frank Dumphy told Damien Hirst, “An art work is only worth what the next guy pays for it”.

 

 

 

22nd May 2009: Piece Hall, Halifax, West Yorks

 

 The industrial museum in the piece hall had closed twelve years ago. There is now a permanent stage set up in the piece hall originally erected for a scene in the film “Brassed Off”. It is now a permanent feature. The Piece Hall is now more art conscious and boutique-y than ever before. There is a Visitor’s Centre selling knick knacks and postcards, Pennine books and the bible in broad Yorkshire. The industrial museum must have been judged too shocking, its diorama and reconstructions old, cramped mining galleries and working class hovels off-putting and open sewers just too impolite for the tourists. Calderdale was hoping to attract professional tea rooms and art exhibitors.

 

 The guy behind the jump in the tourist office claimed that he would be asked about the old museum at least once a week; its demise due to the fact the image it was marketing of the area was an unfavourable one. Yes I said it is all about marketing. The other shop assistant agreed saying Calderdale Council was looking at new ways of marketing the industrial museum. Though the industrial museum was not – and never could be – an accurate reflection of what happened in history what was on display could not be bought and sold. Virtually everything in the tourist information centre had a price tag on it. The museum had been replaced by a shop. The only past which now matters is that which can be marketed. 

 

 

 7th July 2009: Keswick, Honister Pass. The Lake District, Cumbria 

 

 At first I thought the slate quarry was a working quarry. The idea of industry in these mountains; I liked the feel of industry that hung around the place; of machines, dumpers, hard hats. And yes, this was there but from being an industrial establishment producing slate for housing, it was now for decorative features, for gardens, fork handles, and worktops. From an essential building material, the slate had become a material for design obsessives. Slate shingle for gardens, lumps for fountains, designer megaliths, Stonehenges for suburbia. How seductive it is. Huge, unwanted slabs of the stuff standing against a shed door plied by a forklift truck; a huge iron-cutting wheel and leaning against this rusting circular saw blade were slabs of slate. Was this merely accidental or was it a work of art?

 

  The old and new machinery: The miniature trucks that once would have been wound up the incline, rusting wheels broken. And a former steam engine now become a toy, the shed under which it is kept supported by slate cross beams. And all around the thud of genuine industry. Instead of going up to Drum House (in fact a bothy) we went where we were forbidden to go: Dale Head. From this vantage point I could see that the mountainside we were viewing across the path leading up to Fleetwith Pike had been a worked mountain. The signs of industry only added to its majesty; it was like an industrial Chicken Itza. Dale Head viewed from the opposite side of the Honister even more so. The stepped-down dry walling was like an industrial Mayan Temple; the angularities introduced into the mountainside by the winched railway was like living geometry. One side of this geometrical feature plunges down over, two acute angles tracking off; one following a slightly undulating course, the other declining – a straight acute angle.

 

  And the mine at Dale Head. A triangular opening following the slate fissure – the bedding of the slate – a pit prop – white, ancient, three rusting nails at the top and beginning to rot. Inside the remains of a railway line, white lichen that shone with a phosphorescent light which on closer inspection turned out to be drops of water. Yet there was something very eerie and ghost-like about this lichen which needed light to photosynthesize. A few ferns likewise struggling within the gloom. What is this white lichen and the intense green lichen that spatters rocks? Protruding iron pipes and bars surrounded by cross-leaved heath. All, all, an uplifting experience; the rusting cable with wild thyme on either side; the great screes of mined slate. All this has been left alone.

 

   Across the Honister mounted on a concrete base of a gun battery, a slate bed stone had engraved on it Kipling’s most famous poem “IF”. It should have ended “you’ll be a man my son” but both the opening and ending had been removed - they clashed with political correctness!

 

  A Damien Hirst lump of slate in formaldehyde / A De Stijl/Mondrian box in slate. A huge lorry arrived used normally for transporting cars loaded with massive pieces of slate bound for the Isle of Wight. It must have cost around £1000 to cart it.

 

 

  July 9th 2009: Honister Pass. Fleetwith Pike & Brandreth plus part of the Grey Knott Ridge.

 

 Surprisingly sprightly after two days of hard fell walking. Nearly nine hours sleep but that was all I needed. Passed the drum House up to Brandreth top; the sky overcast and cooler than the last two days. But it did not look likely Mountain Ringlet country. It seemed to us too windswept, cold, not enough cover. Nor was the ground boggy enough. We did find these conditions on top of Brandreth but the sky remained overcast and conditions generally very cool. The view over Haystacks and below Buttermere and Crummock Water -and to the side of Great Gable, Ennerdale Water. This view and the fact the Honister Rambler bus stops at the slate mine probably is the main reason, Butterfly Conservation has chosen this walk over that of the crest of the Wrynose Pass which is strictly for those with a car.  

 

  Dropping below Grey Notts seemed more promising. The sun came out and after eight or ten minutes I saw my first Mountain Ringlet. Probably a male, it patrolled a wide area rarely rising much above the grass. It settled continuously crash-landing on tormentil flowers. It would then feed frantically as if its life depended on it. Then it would take off investigating anything brown – just in case it was a female. When the sun went in I managed to get some close up shots with the small HD 163 camcorder. The darker the sky the deeper they bury into the grass. I did manage to get close-up shots of eye and feelers. During the filming the sun came up so I managed to get an entire sequence of the butterfly’s head moving, then passing back getting a wing, then a little more – and then finally, the whole butterfly which then took off once the sun shone on it after a period of some thirty seconds. We moved further down the slope but did not find another Mountain Ringlet. Filming near the Drum House a bloke came up to ask if we were filming the Mountain Ringlet. Yes – but he had seen them on the slope just above Drum House around 11 30 am! I believe he mentioned seeing four. He took us to see where he had photographed one accidentally scuffing up a butterfly. I chased after it and marked it. He took some footage on a mini camcorder. I was able to take a shot I had hoped to take – that of a grounded Mountain Ringlet with a working quarry in the background – Hopper slate quarry. Over on the other side of the pass – The Levels – right up to the top of Dale Head.

 

 I forgot I needed scissors so purchased a pair on returning to Keswick. The problem with automatic focusing is that I cannot over-ride it. But hopefully shall be able to do so tomorrow. There is a dismantled tramway from Dobs Quarry to Drum House and then on down to the ridge on the Honister Pass.

 

 The Lake District is an extraordinarily friendly place; perhaps the friendliest place in England. It is proleier than in Wordsworth’s time, split between rich and poor. Fell walkers have humanised the place, people who have long taken the decision not to consume.

 

 Drum House: 500 feet higher than Stickle Tarn (1,100 feet?). Dale Head and Yew Crags quarries, Bell Crags on Fleetwith Pike, Honister Grag. Garthdale Beck on the Honister. Much spoil on the Honister; centuries old spoil. Met Manchester man on a powerful motorbike - he had an eye for spoil. Southerners never would; only those who have made an effort to study landscape. A Japanese girl in flip flops with wheely luggage asking where the car park is on the top of Helvellyn!!!

 

 

 

July 10th 2009: The Honister Pass, Cumbria

 

 It promised to be a fine day. Turned out fucking awful. Met two butterfly enthusiasts on Fleetwick near Drum House. Neither was part of a group like Butterfly Conservation. They were just enthusiasts. One, from Wolverhampton was the most persistent. He stayed whilst the other, from Somerset legged it back to the slate mine to see if his mother was all right stuck in a car. In fact they were both odd balls, neither married. Wolverhampton man was in the Caravan Club but never went to their rallies. He was very adamant about this. Both were very friendly, shaking hands etc. Wolverhampton man shook hands with David after he managed to get a photo of a Mountain Ringlet. Other very curious people came up to us. A couple knew what we were looking for. Definitely awareness of butterflies has increased.

 

 Finally the crowds parted and we did see three Mountain Ringlets. Two were very dished. The first headed for the dense matt of nardus strictus grass next to Drum House. Was it looking for a female as that is where they are to be found? The males are very wide ranging – hardly territorial at all. But beyond this these minor observations I have nothing much to add. Better luck next year!

 

 The man from Glastonbury in Somerset said he had recently taken a photo of a Large Blue female egg-laying in early June. It had been dismissed by Butterfly Conservation even though the date was on the digital photo. But as the guy said, seeing he had no profile his accurate observation had been dismissed! Sounds about right!

 

 Colonised by TVs and computers, The Lakes reinstated direct human contact. It all adds to its other-worldliness. And one feels a pang on leaving The Lakes like leaving a loved one. People go to The Lakes to view not to consume. The mountain landscape cannot be bought. We must rethink Wordsworth and pantheism. The brief relationships so characteristic of the Lakes; the brief love affairs that will always be remembered even if it amounted to no more than a touch. internet chat room cant is unable to do that. If these relationships were to develop they would founder instantly. They only contain possibilities and for that reason more remembered – more real.

 

 

A dream   

 The boss (headmaster) at Ripon Grammar School became a sink worktop. I hacked at him (it) with an axe. Wondered how he could be so composed at being cut down. Yet he would be watching all the time..……. What prompted this dream / the nature metaphors of beech combing and dead stumps of oaks and the symbolists’ revival of anima? Does this idea of a living earth ever really go? And my still continuing animus to the boss at Ripon is that not also a social relationship? “Economic categories are nothing but the expression, the abstractions of the social relations of production” (Marx).

 

   On coming back from Healey Mills I noticed the decay in the centre of Dewsbury, (the old Co-op etc). I thought of making a film: “Ruin not Architecture”- a residue from the botanising of the day before in my dream as I was seeing gutters close to full of weeds and other plants? To do this I had used my 200mm lens. So several levels were at work and yet it also had a critical level. I needed the classifiers to identify the ‘weeds’, which would in turn compel broader questions. This dream was a form of insight. I was aware the guttering was framed like a picture. However, it was more like Malevich’s “White on White” than a painting. – I was aware of that even when asleep. The lens was more like an LED screen, and yet it was more than that also – what I was seeing was not just mere representation but revolutionary possibility.

 

 The Grayling were dished and few in number and was unable to find an egg. The nipped stalks of fescue whose pearl coloured ends resemble a Grayling egg, have had the tops of the stalks eaten by rabbits. How many go down a rabbit’s gullet? On the other hand if the eggs are laid on rocks and dried straw they are not eaten. Moreover the heat incubates the eggs.

 

 

 

 

11th May 2010: Baildon Moor, West Yorks

 

 The more I got into observing – entering into the spirit of the thing – the more my mood lightened sitting on the perimeter of the bell pits waiting for the sun to come up. I thought of the difference between myself and Engel’s in his later years – how he felt the cause of socialism was advancing by leaps and bounds, even ecstatic when he heard of the number of SPD candidates elected to the Reichstag in 1892. And then the leaden weight I carry around – that these are, short of a world wide social revolutionary miracle, the last days of human kind. We spoke of the absence of pleasure and any fulfillment, the hopelessness of personal relationships in between observing Green Hairstreaks.

 

 Sitting in the bell pit sheltering from the biting winds and reflecting on the future lived out in bio domes to protect against the Jovian storm of a cooking planet. Image then has to be reality but can never quite be that. But illusion is all there is and consequential revolt a thing of the past. Hollow dreams are materialised but only as electronic media having even less substance than Rimbaud’s drawing room at the bottom of a lake because the latter did lead to action not least the destruction of the role of poet as a first step.

 

 No revolutionary action will then be possible because nature, having taken maximum revenge, prohibits it.

 

 Last night it was announced artificial life had been created. “Letters became life” as the announcement put it. Is this the new face of lettrisme – bio-lettrisme – the beginning of our post human future?

 I note that the first synthetic life form has a biological watermark; a quote from James Joyce: “to live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life”. Sometimes I think my ideas are mad. The fact that such a quotation has been used as a watermark junk DNA – suggests otherwise. This is a new malevolent bio-lettrisme.

 

 

27th May 2010: Ripponden, Ryburn Valley, West Yorks

 

 Met a Calderdale ranger with two dogs who worked on a voluntary basis but wore a dirty shirt on which Calderdale Rover had been printed. Obviously retired he had a baseball cap on his hair tied in a small pony tail. He was angry at the way owners were blocking access and took pleasure in knocking down illegal walls and breaking locks on illegal gates. He said he could get arrested for doing it but nothing was going to stop him, he felt so angry about the blocking of access and the seizure of land that should be everyone’s patrimony. It was uplifting to talk to him. He was particularly approving of a couple of “former coppers” in Calderdale Council who knew the law inside out and would instantly nail anyone who dared to block rights of way. The fetish of ownership means more land is being illegally enclosed than ever.

 

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 Nature Dreams……..

 

Diary from Goethe’s “Elective Affinities”

 

Do what one will, one cannot think of oneself except as a seeing creature. I think men dream only in order not to cease from seeing. It may well happen one day that the inner light in us will move outside of us so that we no longer have need of any other”.  

 

 Sometime in 2004: Dream and Nature

 I should make an effort to record butterfly dreams and the chain of association they suggest to me. Thus I may get closer to earlier lepidopterists i.e. those that actually noticed butterflies and to the pre-history of lepidoptera. The background to this dream was the attempt to unravel the ab: arete/caeca gradient in the Ringlet, which required I spent hours looking at thousands of Ringlets and thinking about what the variation in spotting might mean. I had also begun to wonder what it must be like to be tied to the military and unable to talk about one’s job.

 

 The dream was about butterflies, rare butterflies, which then became mushrooms and then about nuclear matters with overtones of the Manhattan Project. We spoke in whispers looking over our shoulders -mushrooms, a sponge absorbing contaminants (Chernobyl the radiation turning from alpha to beta radiation, the more dangerous sort). 

 

 

The logic of the dreams, “Human all too Human”: Nietzsche  

 

 “Dreams take us back to distant conditions of human culture and put a means at our disposal for understanding them better.”

 

 

 “Dawn of Day”: Nietzsche

 

“Waking life does not have this same freedom of interpretation as in dreams that our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on something else”.

 

 

“Beyond Good and Evil”: Nietzsche

 

  quid luce fuit,tenebris agit (whatever is started in the light continues in the dark) but the opposite is also true. What we experience in dreams, assuming that we experience it frequently, belongs in the end as much to the total economy of our psyche as any ‘real’ experience. We—are finally guided somewhat by the habits of our dreams in bright broad daylight and during the gayest and serenest moments of our waking thoughts. If for example someone has often flown in his dreams how should such a person—who knows the feeling of a divine levity – how should a person of such dream experience and dream habits not find the word ‘happiness’ to be of another colour and definition during his waking periods as well. How should he not demand a different type of happiness! ‘Uplift’ as described by the poets must seem too earth bound, too muscular and violent, too ‘grave’ to him, as compared with the ‘flying’ of his dreams”.

 

 “All psychology hitherto has become struck in moral prejudices and fears; none as ventured into the depths ---time to demand that psychology is acknowledged once more as the mistress of the sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist. For psychology is now again the road to the basic problems.

 

 

 2nd March 2007:

  I dreamt I was in Healey Mills Marshalling Yards. I was there to photograph rolling stock this time. There were track maintenance workers present. I blended in with them pretending to be one of them. One asked me for a time sheet. I was taken to see an old steam locomotive. Even the track maintenance workers were struck by the transformation rust had wrought on its form. It now appeared to be growing and I wondered was it possible to move it on railway lines? The maintenance workers thought it criminal to send it to a scrapyard.

 

 

 

27th August 2009:

 

 I guess I was thinking in a somewhat obsessive way about Lesley and animal rightists, but anyhow I was in Heckmondwike and there I suddenly espied a small pond, a mere impression in concrete clear and kidney shaped. In it there were unusual animals or plants or both some like miniature coelacanths. I instantly realised they had been put there and this was no natural pond. I feared to touch them. And then I was at a zoo, a red brick zoo that was more like a collection of stepped stables on a hillside. I began to listen to a couple that were complaining things were getting worse, much worse, that life itself was deteriorating. This is what I wanted to hear from animal rightists and for them to get over their pathological antipathy to humanity, their human vivsectionism. This is obviously what I desired from Lesley.

 

 

5th October 2009:

 

 Dorothy was a butterfly - a Comma or Peacock - with her wings closed on the floor as if hibernating but she was also a voluptuous sensual woman and I experienced once more the intense pain of loss of all those years ago. And then the yearning for Joan, to hold her and to say I love you for evermore.

 

 

22nd October 2009:

 

 I needed to constantly escape from people into the bright sunshine. I was in the habit of visiting (just to get away) a sloping patch of ground, half park, half wild downland, with just a hint of the brownfield. Over a short space of time more people had started to visit the place and in parts it was becoming denuded of grass from use. On a bank side there was also a couple I had to pass before the wildness swallowed me up. This time I apologized to them for there was a woman sitting in front of them. A butterfly had landed on her, its wings closed. The olive green suggested it was a fritillary though initially I thought it was a Grayling, which utterly delighted me. As I got closer the butterfly became one with her breast and disappeared into it. Thinking about nature saves me from agony.

 

 

12th December 2009:

 

 I had contacted someone called Eva-right-up-my-street, or so I thought, the merest hint of passionate involvement in a subject, a life and death involvement has frightened the life out of her, for passion is forbidden, a sure sign of instability and we must remain cool unto death. In my dreams she lived in North Carolina and I wondered how I never realised this; it was obviously hopeless from the start but just as all relationships near and far, accessible and inaccessible are.

 

 Then I was in some kind of unhedged allotment at a corner of field, a location possibly influenced by the painting of Ford Tansley etc I had been looking at in Peter Marren’s The New Naturalists and which formed the frontispiece. It was a painting and had been affixed with the comment, “the new religion”. The allotment was attended by a number of people not gardeners but experts so I felt somehow excluded not entirely up to scratch. I noticed a row of plants quite possibly strawberries and beside them cultivars whose leaves had been devoured by caterpillars. Someone was carrying a box around which contained butterfly eggs in compartments. One contained a Thorn Moth, another a moth whose name I have now forgotten but is still there in my memory, and the eggs of a micro whose Latin name I did not know and felt I should and a pill compartment containing Black Hairstreak eggs. I sang out “Black Hairstreaks” and realised I only had my small format digital camera with me for I wanted to photograph them but now unable to achieve the microscopic closeness I wanted to put me in a different league from the average photographer of butterfly eggs.

 

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 Stuart Wise: Summer 2010