Friday, 23 September 2011

A pocketful of conkers

Due to some of the heaviest rainstorms we've had for some time, I've not been getting out much during the day for a walk - I start off my day fully intending to, but dark clouds always seem to know when you need or want to be outside and gather accordingly. We had to cut our walk short last Sunday as the heavens opened in a spectacular deluge.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

There was clear evidence of recent heavy storms, this mature tree had fallen and done damage to the wall and pavement beneath.

It always happened doing the school run - it's a known scientific fact that weather worsens as school home time approaches - and you can get very wet walking almost a mile in a downpour. The same force seems to ensure that we have lousy weekend weather and glorious Mondays.

The last hard winter has given rise to a bumper crop of berries and fruits, these are perhaps the biggest hawthorn berries I've ever seen, they were like cherries.

I desperately had the need for some fresh air yesterday so decided, as soon as we had a spell of better weather, to just drop what I was doing, put my boots on and grab the camera and what might be a short-lived opportunity. I decided that the break and fresh air would probably do more good than me battling on working. I actually had assorted thinking to do, but didn't even manage that, I just pottered, taking photos, gawping at the scenery and with a largely empty head. Sometimes that's just what you need; a bit of mental inactivity can be deceptively productive.

There was a distinctly late-summer feel to the vegetation with everything bursting into seed and fruit.

I must admit that I do get a tad bored of doing the same walks, it's times like this that I regret not having a car (I'd have to learn to drive first too) and being able to take myself a little further afield, but I also want to walk where I feel safe and comfortable and I do at least have some open countryside within walking distance of my door, so I can't really complain.

I've always had a bit of a fixation with this old gatepost and others like it. I worry that one day it will be gone and replaced with something modern, boring looking and utilitarian.

I normally don't venture down this route alone, as it's very quiet (and I'm a pussy), but it just looked - and sounded - too tempting.

I usually stick to known routes on my own that are fairly public and near houses and roads, but the dappled sunshine through the trees and accompanying birdsong tempted me to walk the circular route through the two adjacent villages. It's much quieter than my usual route and I normally only do it with other people, but it looked that bit more attractive than returning and seeing the same things.

I'm glad that I did, it was the perfect day for it and I was treated to sunlight filtering through the trees (it wasn't always sunny, it left me a few times and was alarmingly dark to the north), undisturbed fallen conkers to stuff in my pockets and was serenaded by the woodland birds and very little else.

I live in an area that is a combination of industrial and greenbelt - often directly adjoining each other and even where it's now quiet and no longer worked, the signs of the Victorian heritage are very evident. Even though I've shown the prettiest parts of the route, I also have to walk along a main road and through industrial yards to be able to enjoy the nicer green bits.

It was however somewhat breezy, so some of my photographs suffered for it, but you really can't beat coming home with rosy cheeks, wind-tousled hair, muddy boots and pocketfuls of conkers!

I don't think I've ever actually seen a conker fall from a tree, they just appear on the ground, but one of these blighters actually got me hard on the bonce whilst I was gathering others. I did look up sharply, half expecting to see an irritated squirrel taking aim with another.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Fungi and Blackpool Illuminations - it must be autumn

I don't have a particular theme to this post, but I've accumulated a few photographs, so it will end up a bit random.

Further to an earlier post about trees starting to change, it's become evident that autumn is well and truly here now - the weather has been appalling for a week and I have the heating on as I type. My garden, which never truly flourished this 'summer', is looking distinctly end-of-the-season and the torrential rain today won't have done anything to improve that.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

We went for a walk through some of our favourite woodland recently and there were many clusters of fungi at the bases of trees, a sure sign of autumn approaching. I certainly like autumn well enough, what I don't like is when it arrives before you feel ready for it - when you don't feel done with summer yet. Once it's evident that autumn is here to stay, then I'm as happy with it as any season - it certainly preferable to winter - although that has its merits too.

I liked the abstract of this view with the assorted curves and vertical lines. The photograph makes it look a little more cheerful than it was in reality - the sky was black and threatening and it was positively breezy. It was about here that it started raining.

We also had a trip to Blackpool this last weekend - it's the area we both hail from and were over visiting family. As it had been a better day than forecast, we decided to get a walk along the Prom between dinner and coffee whilst we had the chance. The sky wasn't quite as cheerful when we got there as it had looked from the window and whilst the temperature was just nice for walking in shirt sleeves - it was soon raining and we did get a little damp.

Even from a distance, you can hear the riders of the Big One scream (and the brave ones raise their arms aloft) as it drops from the highest peak.

The scenes along the Prom further reinforced the autumnal feel as the Illuminations were switched on a couple of days earlier - an event that signals the end of summer, going back to school and nights drawing in.

I do like how they've improved the Prom (and are still working on it) - at least at the South Shore end where we usually walk - there are frequent large art and sculpture installations, wide flat, safe areas to walk with plentiful seats, even some under cover for days just like this. See my earlier blog with photographs of the sculpture by Peter Blake.

"They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" - Blackpool's record breaking glitterball with 45, 000 individual mirror tiles. Named after Sydney Pollack's 1969 film about a dance marathon.

Last time we walked this section, this particular item was missing whilst it underwent refurbishment. It's the largest glitterball in the world, tipping the nod to the ballroom dancing heritage of Blackpool. It's called "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and features 45, 000 individual mirrors. It turns gently and the scene and sky around it are reflected as a glittering mosaic from the surface - although I'm sure it works much better with a more interesting sky.

My work this week:

Over the last week or so, I've finished a number of pieces and am just working my way through a mountain of photographs of them so that I can get them listed in the next couple of days.

The earrings above and the bracelet below are made from the same basic chain link structure. I'd had a gold chain that I wore until it got so thin that a link snapped and it wasn't worth even trying to repair - every link was hanging by a mere thread of gold and it's now been scrapped in - possibly for more than I paid for it.

It had an unusual alternating link design that looked like a knot between the links and I wondered if I could mimic something similar and had a bash - but from memory! When I'd done and actually went to get the chain out to compare it, my version was less like the original than I'd expected, but I'm really happy with how it did turn out and I'm sure it will soon become a favourite to make - it's fun to do, although a bit hard on the fingers. I thought that the long earrings, with their circular joining link had rather an Arts and Crafts feel to the design, with the long elegant shapes so typical of that design movement.

Further to previously posted Sterling silver nugget single piece earrings, I wanted to try making an articulated pair that would move a little more. These are quite large molten nuggets, soldered with a little loop on the back which in turn hangs from an earwire. I also made some much larger single piece nugget earrings and a very large molten nugget pendant - which is already proving tricky to photograph well.

A pair of earrings featuring fully oxed copper ovals, wire wrapped with dangles of turquoise magnesite.


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