It was a tad chilly this morning. The ice in the puddles wasn’t quite thick enough to support the weight of a size 11 boot, and the mud had the consistency of slightly stale sugar-icing. The frost on the wooden construction of the bridges and stiles, however, was more than sufficient to ensure slipperyitus-headsplatticus if taken without care. I took care. I fell over once many years ago, and it was registered then as an “eighteen shillings and thruppence” on the Ramifications Scale. Teacups rattled as far south as Basingstoke. I have no wish to repeat the embarrassment or the cussing.
But I digress.
Yonder canal was lightly frozen over, but Mr Stove had managed to keep us in a small pond of still-liquid water, reaching perhaps twenty inches out from the hull. The Sad Person in me saw this and converted it into coal burnt that might, had the Cardinal not been eighteen thousand kilograms of steel sitting in very cold water, have been saved. Ho et le hum.
Why is there no fossil fuel – perhaps called UnCoal – that might be unburned during the summer months, to suck up the heat and keep Mr Cardinal cool? Answer me that if you will. I suppose that I’d be scraping icicles out of the bottom of Mr Stove every two or three hours, instead of coal or wood ash. Still, it’s puzzling. Well, it puzzles me, anyway.
Who could resist a decent trot on a morning such as this? Not I.
It was on with the boots, on with six sweatshirts, jumpers and coats, on with the flat cap and away. I came back after a few minutes for my trousers. The pathways hereabouts, jealously guarded by the land-occupiers, are quite comprehensively ill-marked. Remaining on the ancient public right-of-way is a matter of spotting an exit in a corner of a field (not easy), and/or spotting the spoor of a lightly-trampled path – and trusting that it was made by human and canine feet, and not by rabbits.
The visible track in this field is, in facto factus biggus factoriana, not the correct and public right of way – the trampled path skirts around the edge of the field (even though there’s no livestock or crop – other than grass – to protect) while the real right-of-way cuts diagonally from one corner to t’other.
Incidentally, for those of you in England, are you aware that our (“our”) loving caring sharing government, with the best interests of land-owners (old robber barons) at heart, has declared that any and all public rights of way not formally (re-)registered by 2026 will lapse, cease to exist, sink back into that vast majority of the land which may not be accessed by we smelly plebs? I am sure that this has nothing to do with the easy-to-mistake-as-being-deliberate obfuscation of the paths, the neglect of the stiles and bridges.
The process of keeping a path open – especially those that are about to be automatically lapsed in 2026 – is a simple one. You just need to understand and deal with
As that Rather Official Gentleman – the sort of which we’ve seen more and more arising over the past couple of years – said to Richard Attenborough and Gordon Jackson as they attempted to board the bus for Switzerland; good luck with that.
But I digress again, and it’s not as though anyone actually cares about this constant erosion of our peasant rights is it?
No cows today. A couple of years ago on occasion I had walked to Bunbury and was hoofing it on my return with a couple of heavy bags of shopping. The local “gentleman” farmer was on the verge of releasing his cows into the field – but had not actually done so yet. I politely asked if I might leap over the stile and be given perhaps a hundred yard head-start, to see me and shopping safely to the next field and on my (public right of) way. The “gentleman” declined to delay his bovine activities by two minutes, and indicated with a cheery gesture that I ought to divert an extra couple of miles around via the paved roadway.
What a star, eh?
HIs body’s in that water-trough to right of frame and that reminds me, I need to troll along one late evening and check that the lime has done its work completely. One doesn’t want to leave a set of teeth or a pace-maker behind, does one?
The stile & bridge affair in the image above is parting ways with itself, all posts and planks settling at divergent angles. I can’t remember when it was that England was invaded by Divergent Angles. Was it before or after the Saxons? There are few dignified ways across the beast.
Sometimes there’s a very decent clue in re the path; the spoor of hound and over-developed ape. Whoever does the fencing around here is mightily fond of their barbed wire, and not just the top strand either, it’s barbed all the way down to dog height and below. Painful to see on a freezing day. Can’t remember who it was that invented barbed wire. Was it Klaus Barbie or Barbie Doll?
I hold a visceral loathing for the stuff – in civilian situations.
Mr Sunshine didn’t really come out to play during my walk. We got the odd peep over the horizon, but generally he ducked and dived amid the – interesting – clouds.
I saw neither red-faced fox nor black-clad parson while on my walk. This may be because either or both of them saw me first. Even the birds were few and far between, presumably taking their time to warm up and get out of their nests. I can understand their reluctance, it was blooming chilly.
Cardinal Wolsey – with stoked stove abounding – was waiting for me on the slightly-raised canal.
Just one last ricketty-racketty stile and ditch-bridge to clamber over, and one more iced-up “kissing gate” to fumble through before home.
I had a(nother) litre of Southern Indian java to warm myself through, as you do. Splendid stuff.
The sunshine made further appearances later in the day, although the ice on the canal has not completely cleared, and won’t do so now since we are careening headlong towards dusk once more. Messrs Solar Panels had a mild feed. At least – and I say this as an enthusiastic supporter of the Winter season – the days are beginning to stretch. For a while there it was dark again before it was light enough to bother getting up or going out. We’ve gained something like half an hour since before Christmas.
Toast for tiffin – with Marmite, and lashings of it. Those peculiar appendages on the end of the Hutson legs will also be set on a footstool afore the stove for the evening.
I know how to live.
Notable Bene – these images are not yet available on the Hutson print/mug/jigsaw-puzzle/wotnot website – here – but they soon will be (once my mouse-furtling fingers have defrosted).
Ian H., and Cardinal W., lately returned from The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.