Category Archives: Countryside

My Somerset Year: January – April 2010

JANUARY

New cottage, new job, new life. Driving. Sleeping alone. Darkness. Winter walks and weekend drives. Exploring.

 

FEBRUARY

Anniversaries. One month of country living. Eight being together. Getting used to country living. Snow. Sunshine. Friends visiting.

 

MARCH

Lambs. Spring. Daffodils. Riding on the Railway. More sunshine.

 

APRIL

More visits. Sunsets. Blossom. Spring lunches sat outside in the sunshine. Easter.

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Crabbing at Porlock Weir

One wet Tuesday evening we went crabbing at Porlock Weir. Winding our lines down into the murky water with bits of bacon attached to temp the crabs up and into a bucket for no particular purpose other than it was a fun way to pass the evening. And then suddenly, the sun came out and we were bathed in glorious sunshine….

Something to remember in the darkening days of September, where I turned round and the indian summer had gone. Where the air has such a chill to it that the cottage is damp and I need a torch to find the gate again when I come home after work.

Autumn

Our first year in Somerset marches on. It does not hang around for me to savour summer but pushes relentlessly on. September. Autumn. It is as if a page has flipped; the light is undertoned with amber in the sunshine and a strangely peaceful steely grey when it is not. Leaves are falling, the rain is no longer the laughing rain of a summer storm but more forceful. A taste of what is to come. The fronts scud off the sea, the sky seems bigger, emptier. The tourists have faded fast. The roads are full of pheasants not cars. Term has begun and those that are left are the hardy walkers and campers with their boots and rucksacks and plastic-backed maps. The season is ending and the village events have started. Carnivals, art weeks, apple days, a celebration of the bounty of summer and a collective urge to celebrate as the nights draw in.

I stood yesterday upon a gate, stretching up to pluck blackberries off the top of the bush. The rain of the morning gradually receeding over the moor and a warm sunshine broke through the clouds. A buzzard wheeled overhead, it’s cry just audible over the sound of the rushing water. When my bowl was full I climbed off the gate. Crossed the tiny lane and went back over our bridge into our garden. I did the same last week with a couple of kilos from the same bush. That day, I went into the garden, picked some early eating apples from the tree, went to the kitchen and made pie. I think the flour I used travelled the furthest. Tree to table in two hours.

In London the seasons came and went, marked not by weather but by fashion. Here, the change is daily; the flowers that grow in the lanes which mark my journey to work, the colour of the heather on the moor*, the movement of the sheep, the clouds which pass over. The size of the pheasants littering the roads. I miss London and fashion so much I dream of frantically shopping like my life depends on it. And yet, there is something compelling about being here.

*It has just turned the most amazing shade of pink and purple.

Emptiness is loneliness…

Inspiration is everywhere on Exmoor. And yet, and yet, I find I cannot put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, brain to mouth. A hundred blog posts started. None finished. It is a lonely business, living in the countryside. Beautiful but lonely. I talk less. A million less words a week. Endless evenings of drinking and talking and laughing. Now, the only people I talk to ‘in person’ from Monday evening to Thursday evening are my colleagues and my clients. I am that lonely lady who talks to the checkout attendant. Even the teenage boys who have long greasy fringes and blink through long lashes.

I drive home, west along the coast road, although the sea is hidden until I reach my village. You can see the change every single day here. Now, at the end of August, the hay has all been brought in, the sheep are back and the shadows are longer. The swallows have left, the sunsets are deeper, less orange and pink than early summer. The seasons are definitely changing. The light is more golden, more grainy, the moon clearer, the trees silhouetted against the evening sky. The nights are starting to draw in.

Car Troubles

I burst a tyre. Heading back to our village after dropping husband at the station for him to return to London, skirting round the moor and then suddenly. The strangest noise. I’m such a girl; I thought it was engine failure but knew I couldn’t stop at the top of a hill on a blind corner. I coasted to the bottom and pulled over, shaking. I turned off the engine. The noise stopped. Funny, that. My mind went blank. It’s amazing how quiet it is out in the middle of nowhere at twilight. About as quiet as my brain.

Thankfully, in all of the places to break down I at least had mobile signal. I fumbled with the phone, all thoughts of how it worked out of mind and I struggled to make a call. Husband’s phone was off as no signal; parents in a boat somewhere in the channel. Faux-Bro didn’t answer. Thankfully, my father-in-law did.

By that point I’d got out of the car, frightened it was engine failure and the car might explode. Something smelt bad too. By the time father-in-law answered I’d realised it was just a flat tyre. My panicked self told him I’d last been taught to change a tyre by my father when I was a girl guide, aged 13. I didn’t think I could manage it in the gathering dust on the side of a road. Thank goodness for mother-in-law’s who buy their sons roadside cover for Easter presents. And thank goodness for Minehead MOT who were with me within 15 minutes of my call for help.

A charming young lad changed the wheel and informed me it wasn’t just punctured it had burst. He seemed surprised I’d kept control of the car. I was more worried that I hadn’t noticed a bang. He took the old wheel away and I arranged to give him £150 in the morning for a new set of front tyres.

April weekend in sunsets.

Saturday 10 April 2010. 8pm. Road between Lee Abbey & Woody Bay.

Sunday 11 April 2010. 8.05pm. Bossington Hill.

On Saturday night the sunset was so pink and so hazy that were the shrubbery not so English at first glance that photograph could be (to my untrained eye perhaps) be mistaken for an asian sky.

On Sunday the light was back to it’s usual English self. Orange and yellow. So we sat and ate chips on a windswept bench at the top of Bossington Hill, overlooking Porlock, with Wales on the horizon, watching the sun literally squash and dip behind the horizon.

And the drove home slowly in the gathering dark, one of my favourite times of day, as the lambs and sheep call to each other and the birds settle down for the night. Back to the house, back to quinoa salad and cold trout and a peaceful evening watching the golf.

If you go to the woods today…

Last weekend we went for a walk. Front after front rolled in off the sea and we spent the vast amount of the walk in clouds and mist and rain. Periodically it would clear leaving views across the moorland to the coast. As we walked through the ancient oak woodlands Exmoor ponies appeared out of the mist, walking slowly through the trees, eating.

And then, later, in farmland, we saw these chickens atop a muck heap which was spontaneously smouldering, leaving the air tinged with a slightly sweet smell of smoke. We sheltered from the wind and rain in an old church, the most isolated on Exmoor, eating boiled eggs and pork pies and cups of tea in the porch before continuing our journey back homewards.

A splendid, soul quenching, cobweb removing sort of a walk. And best of all, we set off and returned to our house on foot.