Monday, 4 January 2016


The New Year has brought more dismal, drizzly weather to Stanhope, in the foothills of the North Pennines. The fells are clarty in places, though the peat bog ismuch drained, along with the grazing land. The river here rises very fast, even though it is close to the source(s) … the capacity of the high land to absorb water considered less important than the creation of habitat for rearing pheasants and grouse as sport for wealthy psychopaths … and employment for local folks as gamekeepers to protect the birds until their dying time and beaters to persuade the reluctant targets to fly high enough to give the killers a clear shot ….

In the future, these fells revert to forest and Nature re-establishes balance (with or without humans).

The weather is not unusual, being part of the grey climate of Britain, though locals recall long cold winters, with snow lying deep for months … the damp climate is, of course, linked to the “green and pleasant landscape” and probably to the phlegmatic character of the sterotypical Brit.

This Brit, having studied stereotypes, is thinking again about Spain and Portugal and recalling this time last year, walking along the Algarve from Ayamonte to Cape St Vincent … mostly in T-shirt and sun hat … increasingly aware at the ecological horror wrought by fellow Brits, cheerfully watering golf courses and filling swimming pools in a near desert …. mostly avoiding integration with local folks …

On social media, a random post arrives this morning, from a Portuguese led eco-village project near Braga, in the North …. interesting … let's see ….

This winter break is also interesting … two weeks rest and relaxation, with a Christian Festival superimposed on the pagan solstice celebration … though mammon has also jumped on the bandwagon and spending, eating, drinking frenzy takes hold … after a childhood of traditional Yuletide, an early sense that this charade was not resonating, experiments with the Therevadans and the solitude an opportunity for a novel Community Christmas Lunch, the suggestion of a local teenager, concerned about the sad and lonely …. and whilst not identifying entirely with that story, happy to help with transport and the day was heartwarming … possibly the first of many such events in Stanhope …

As for family, elder daughter, recently accepted with partner as the youngest foster carers in Northumberland, was asked to take in two brothers the day before Christmas Eve as well as announcing their engagement; younger daughter on working holiday in Sydney, wangled 10 days holiday and spent the season at the beach … which leads to the question: Is this a good time of year, in the Northern Hemisphere, for three whole Public Holidays (and four in Scotland, where they take New Year rather more seriously)?

Not that this is a major issue for retired folks who may do as they please and still receive sufficient money to live simply … assisted by this being paid into an account automatically and which can be drawn anywhere in the world where there is a cashpoint. Freedom calls again!

To revisit role play for awhile … having flirted with “writer”, flattered by some “readers”, declined to dramatise the rest from writing as “writer's block” …. just not inspired and no need to stick in any particular role … although the social activist role has been happily played since returning in April and very rewarding it has been, albeit with challenging moments from project funders demanding increasingly detailed feedback for their small investment … and some lingering social responsibility, not so much to the project as to the dear co-co-ordinator, left with it last winter and wanting some support so that her voluntary effort does not drift into a full-time unpaid job.
One of the features of the winter, as “writer” developed “reader” disappeared … a deficit more than remedied since April, with novels as well as philosophy and lay versions of new science devoured enthusiastically … Rupert Sheldrake and his morphic fields resonationg strongly, along with Fritjof Capra and David Bohm … and J. Krishnamurti a constant companion …

Not sure if “walker” is a role – perhaps the “pilgrim” or “saunterer” element is the role and walking is walking …. anyway the Stanhope based settled life includes a daily dawn walk for 50 minutes, usually on the same route …. keeping the body fit for another longer outing … and enjoyable in its own right, of course.