The Shipping Forecast

Ship in a bottle at Maritime Museum, Greenwich London

The shipping forecast: great bastion of the BBC, firm rock in the ever-changing storm of radio content. I love Radio 4 for its variety, but I love the shipping forecast for its consistency. No matter if the seas are peaceful or raging, you can always rely on the stoic voice of the forecast reader. With steady rhythm, this poem of the everyday gives hints of distant unknown waters. Most of the places sound exotic and unknown (Cromarty, Lundy, Shannon). But I get a ridiculous pleasure from the thought that our island is a moniker worthy of a region in the forecast: Wight.

British Isles Sea Regions map framed next to a mug and book

I couldn’t resist this print from the V&A and, after a year of sitting in its wrapper, finally had it framed by the lovely Shorelines in town. Tom brought this mug back for me from a summer trip to Wales. It is my firm favourite; perfectly proportioned and beautifully glazed. And of all 31 forecast regions to choose from, I was especially pleased to see that Wight made it on to the mug.

The shipping forecast has an audience of hundreds of thousands, well beyond the seafarers who rely on its information, its reaches to bedside radios across the land as people drift off on distant waves. (And for those of you who prefer to drift off to music, this is the perfect shipping tune from the talented King Creosote).

Playing Shepherd

The heatwave has arrived – days designed to be filled with such arduous tasks as lounging, snoozing, and finding a cool spot of water to tip in a toe or two. We arrived hot and flustered after a busy Friday to this quiet field below a castle, all to ourselves. House martins dipped and zoomed through the wheat stubble, and horses could be heard, but not seen, in the sunken lane below us. It would have been rude to not raise a glass of bubbly to this summer eve.

Wooden hut and brunch photo collage

Fence, hay bale and tractor

Sleeping in a hut, windows wide, makes for an early rise. But the pace of everything is so much slower that the early morning start feels refreshing. We were soon out on the country lanes sheltering from the heat beneath old trees arching their branches. The two fords downhill were too inviting to ignore, and the coolness of the water was worth the surprisingly deep dip. We spotted butterflies, nosed through hedgerows, and climbed dusty earth steps; a hectic schedule indeed.

Bryony walking down a lane

Sunset through the tall grass

We were back home on Sunday, and doing homework for the week ahead. Rarely does twenty four hours feel like such a luscious and languorous escape from it all.

The County Show

Bryony drinking coffee outside a marquee
Drinking coffee outside the marquee

Horses lined up at the county show

On a busy Saturday, sandwiched between errands, we took ourselves off to the county show, just to wander around the grounds, visit some animals and soak up a bit of rural life. I have memories of visiting grand county fairs in Northwest America, complete with fairground and candy floss, tents of exquisite quilts, acres of livestock pens, and a man being shot of a canon.

Bull in pen at county show

Jam jars, spanners, and tractors at the county show

The Isle of Wight version is a little less explosive, but equally charming. We watched the small collection of sheep on show, saw a laughably enthusiastic dog run through hoops, and visited the most enormous bovine I’ve ever seen. We walked through the woodland, under kids climbing trees, and people turning wood. The fresh timber hewn from the steam-powered saw mill made me long for a hand built house, which would also justify the purchase of a tidy old tractor, and a sensible selection of old tools.

Ducklings with one stepping forward

We had to head off rather quickly, to get supplies in town and sing at a wedding. But we’ll be back next year, to have a go at the archery and maybe enter the contest for best Victoria sponge.

Tourist for the Day

Miniature countryside

One of the many delights of having a friend to visit is the excuse to be a tourist in your own home town. Yesterday I picked a girlfriend up from the ferry and we headed to Osborne House, to wander the grounds, drink coffee on the private beach, and soak up a little Victorian history. Fun to have a grand venue for a good old natter.

Greenhouse photo collage

But my goodness- I sure I am terrible at remembering to take photos. We were so busy chatting and catching up, that I barely took a single shot. It’s all well and good to be in the moment, but it’s a little sad to not have a memory of it later. I wonder if Instagram makes me focus my lense on the details and forget the people. If it weren’t for Tom our only photos would be of flowers, books and coffee cups! A year ago I reminded myself that I should take more photos; looks like I still need to work on that.

Beach view

Quiet Woods

Tree roots and stumps

Small tree framing white flowers and bluebells

Tom’s been laid low the last week, and he’s had some quiet days with plenty of honey and lemon and aspirin.  A good time for a trip to the woods: a place where talking is positively discouraged.  With late afternoon sun calling we took an easy amble around Firestone Copse and said very little.

Tom walking through trees

Layers of sound build the farther you walk without talking:   A few birds, then your step scuffing sandy ground, or snapping twigs on untrod paths.   Farther on, more birds with different rhythms, persistent or tuneful.  Then the almost-groan of trunks or low beams as a gust blows through.  Climb one of the gnarled trees by the estuary and listen to how the wind changes in its boughs.  Or walk below the pines and listen to the silver-tip icy sound of the wind through their needles.

Squirrel in a tree

If you are quiet for long enough, and remember to look up, you might hear leaves in top branches brushing against each other, or a skittering sound against bark.  The red squirrels leap so confidently across the canopy, reckless and graceful. happy to stop and stare from a safe height.

Bluebells and trees photo collage

Walking through tree roots

Take stock on a sturdy root, and stop for a snack.  (I recommend coffee and popcorn cookies) and sit in companionable quiet while the sounds wrap around you.  And then go home and read this quote.  Heck, read the whole book.

Sunlight through the trees