… the weather. On Monday night we had the first serious snow of winter – unannounced, it took us sufficiently by surprise that the Good Wife had to abandon her car and walk home, about a mile up the hill to Beaufront Woodhead. The car was retrieved the following day, but the snow and and ice hung around for another couple of days. Later in the week, the BBC/Met Office website was finally issuing Yellow Weather Warnings for severe snow in the northeast. In the event, nothing arrived. The same website contains hourly forecasts for the following fourteen days – generally speaking, they turn out to be nonsense. Why the pretence – rant over – have a happy week, everyone, regardless of the weather.
The weather has been bleak. Our James, Louise and Little Evie arrived Monday and within 12 hours we had all gone down with a stomach bug – on the plus side, they got to stay another day. James is the our youngest boy of three and the the first produce a grandchild. For various reasons, it seems unlikely that the others will follow suit. So, on this branch of the family tree, it seems likely the Down name will die out. My dad would have been disappointed – no longer a name to go down in history.
It is a surname people struggle with – when speaking it, particularly on the phone, I have a habit of saying “Down, D, O, W, N” – it’s short enough and helps reduce the number of misheard interpretations – they are many. Even people we have known for years will add an ‘e’ or an ‘s’ or both – Downe, Downs, Downes are the common variations. Oddly, the Good Wife, who inherited the name, gets more irritated by this than me.
Enough rambling – I trust everyone is having and will continue to have a great Christmas. Like I said, the weather has been bleak and this is reflected in the external images from the past seven days:
… week gone by. After a dull and dreary weekend, the sun finally appeared late Sunday and from then on, the week mostly took a turn for the better. Monday was cold, particularly across the moors, but fine enough to get the Scrambler out. Tuesday felt a little like Christmas as I drove to Allendale Brewery to collect a hamper and crates of beer. Bright skies and frost appeared on most mornings such that the camera has spent a lot of time pointing at the sky. Thursday was even good enough to take the GS north, across filthy roads to Otterburn and then on single tracks to Sundaysight, Greenhaugh and Bellingham. Nothing is quite as good as being alone on two wheels in wild, empty places.
I don’t know how long I will keep this up, but there is an improved chance now that I once again have access to the classic editor. For this I must thank https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/ who pointed me in the direction of Katherine Wikoff’s post on this subject. Many thanks to both.
In the manner of Garrison Keillor, it has been a quiet week at Beaufront Woodhead. Snow fell heavily last Saturday night such that Sunday dawned bright and very white. Most had melted by Sunday night. Monday remained bright but cold and then the dismal weather set in for three days. Astonishingly on Friday, my first round of golf since November 11th was played up the coast, at Warkworth, under clear blue skies. Normal service was resumed on Saturday. Yes, the English are obsessed by weather.
This is the collection of images posted daily on Blipfoto:
In other news, I finished another proof read of Golf in the Wild – Going Home – the third in as many weeks. It’s a slow process but worth the effort – I am still hopeful for publication before the end of January.
I don’t post on WordPress like I used to. One of the main reasons is the distraction of daily posts on Blipfoto combined with a constant desire to be out on two wheels or playing golf. The latter two become much less time consuming over the winter months, but still I don’t post as often as I might. The sequel to Golf in the Wild also occupies much time as does being honorary treasurer of Allendale Golf Club and continuing to maintain about a half dozen WordPress based websites. And therein lies the rub.
All of the other sites are hosted on an ISP with locally supported and maintained versions of WordPress with access to the classic editor whereas, on wordpress.com, I am obliged to use the thoroughly awful block editor. The irony is that I am now paying for this service since I exceeded the free storage quota. I really should use it more and to that end, I will try repeating what appears on Blipfoto plus maybe a few extra images. Possibly, I will grow to like this editor, but I doubt it.
New Year’s Day was dull and grey. The next we awoke to a world changed. Overnight snow is the joy of winter. By some standards, it was a modest covering but sufficient to raise me from my lockdown position in front of several PC screens. If we must have winter, if I am unable to ride a motorcycle, if I cannot swing a golf club, then let’s at least have it pretty.
It is around this time of year I get itchy feet and plot escapes north, always by rail – Inverness, Wick, Kyle of Lochalsh and Bodø/Lofoten have been my destinations over successive years, although only the latter yielded the white stuff. This year, inevitably, I am going nowhere – locked up, locked down, call it what you will, I am told we are in Tier 4. News channels can speculate, offer opinions, call in experts, exhort, criticise and alarm – just don’t assume I am listening. I am out of reach and much the happier:
Today I walked down the street I use to wander
Yeah, shook my head and made myself a bet
There was all these things that I don’t think I remember
Hey, how lucky can one man get.
The field next to our home is filled with sheep. The red dye on their backsides confirms they have been seen to by the tup (ram) – he has been a busy boy. It is disappointing that, around the time the fruits of his endeavours begin to show, the flock is moved to the lower nursery slopes.
After a while you begin to notice how your neighbours behave. On really cold, still nights, they gather beneath the trees to avoid the ground frost. Generally timid, they will disperse as we leave the front door but, rattle a plastic bag that might contain ewe nuts and they will come running. Lie down for any length of time and a significant number will limp away, appearing to suffer from dead legs.
I share their pain – a golf induced knee injury, rotten weather, salty slippery roads and various tiers of lockdown have all served to constrain the usual activities – travel, golf and motorcycles. Nevertheless, there is always much to see, just look to the skies:
And then modest snow arrived on Christmas Eve and hung around for the next day – a White Christmas for Hexham:
So, to sign off for 2020, I wish my modest band of followers, all the best for a much-improved 2021. Before I go, some 2020 milestones:
a. In late 2020 I approached maximum disc space on wordpress.com after eight years – I am now subscribed with an annual fee which at least demonstrates commitment and should ensure my readers are not subjected to peculiar adverts;
b. Despite lockdowns, I still managed to clock 7165 miles on the motorbikes – several hundred more than in lockdown free 2019;
c. We still managed to get away – to Saughtree in the Borders, twice to Mallaig and once to north Northumberland. A return to the latter was abandoned due to the second lockdown;
d. The text for the Golf in the Wild sequel is now complete and due for publication in September. Possibly the only golf success in a year when playing was much curtailed.
Finally, as parting shots, a couple of images of the ‘Bad Company‘ I kept on some of the most memorable days in 2020:
This set of images were all taken within a 1.5 mile radius of our home – I know this for certain because I haven’t ventured outside this geofence since 24th March. Hexham is a mystery to me now – the Good Wife has taken over responsibility for all socially distant shopping, mostly because I cannot be trusted to buy organic. Any consequential savings I would spend on chocolate or similar. Nevertheless, I am not complaining, I seem to have slipped into this secluded life all too easily. The only thing I miss desperately is getting out on the motorcycles which, as any rider knows, is just self-isolation at speed.
The impression created by these images is of a country life continuing as usual, uninterrupted by world events. Isolating has also meant not listening to ‘news’, keeping socially distant from statistics and mortality rates but, just occasionally the bubble is burst. Peter Turnley’s images portray an entirely different, distant, monochromatic reality:
In our fifth week of lock-down, I realise that this week we should have been staying in a coast-side apartment at the western end of Swanage. I was looking forward to revisiting Studland, the Poole Harbour ferry, Sandbanks and Canford Cliffs, familiar places I have known from my earliest years. Instead, we remain in deepest Northumberland – we should be grateful – many would consider this a holiday destination and the weather has been glorious.
Had we been away, we would have missed this – drawn outside by a golden light falling on the trees to the east of our home, we were treated to this spectacular light show across the Tyne Valley. There are many compensations for staying at home, out of choice or otherwise
… but, fortunately, so far, not locked in. We are very lucky, living in the wilds of Northumberland. For the most part it just feels like an extended winter without the temptation to take a motorcycle out on salty roads nor play golf on water-logged courses In some ways, life is almost simpler. Lacking other inspiration, here are some images of the neighbours who don’t seem to have got the hang of social distancing: