Conversations with Dog Nature

Conversations with Dog

Today is the first day I’ve remembered to go out consciously with the @natureasnurture Nature Connection Challenge in mind. Some thoughts…

I take the dog – well, carry him – to the park, as he’s too old and lame to manage it on his own. Billie Holiday is playing from the flats as we cross the road to the entrance. It’s sunny but with a reduced pallet, as if over-exposed. The colours are washed out now. A cool breeze dances around near the big old trees by the road, which sway with a sound like a gentle sea. 

The old thorn tree that my kids used to play on – it was a pirate ship and the branches also doubled up as the goalposts for spontaneous football matches – is now little more than a lump of crumbling dry rotten mulch. I start to reminisce about time going by too fast but the dog stops me. He sometimes talks to me (in an irascible Prince Philip type voice) and says I have to try to live more in the present. Stop being so sentimental. I move my hand over the soft wood.

It has a dusty wine smell reminiscent of LPs bought in dark indie record shops, perhaps on visits to Glasgow or Edinburgh back in the early 80s (something like The Fire Engines’ Lubricate Your Living Room, say) – a particular piece of wood that I break off and put in my pocket looks like a flaky Lego cube of dried mushroom and smells of my dad’s old Benny Goodman EPs that he kept in the lift up compartment of the old wooden radiogram. 

“Stop going backwards,” says the dog. “We are in the fucking park. Live for NOW.”

The dirt is pale grey, the leaves have little colour. Or is it my eyes? I hear traffic and  kids shouting, kicking around a plastic bottle filled with water. There are oak leaves on the floor, some with acorns attached. The ground feels hard, dry, flaking away. On the way home, carrying the dog once more, I meet a very pissed couple coming the other way. They start talking to me… about the dog.
“See,” says the dog. “I am right here, in the moment”.

I feel that cool breeze again and notice the old woman on our road has cut back her Jasmine bush.

Lockdown Music


Turntable back in action after a few tech issues over lockdown. Trying to play along to this classic on acoustic guitar after too much Merlot.

Books Uncategorized

Murakami Diary Moment

Earlier in the summer I found an old Murakami diary and was delighted to discover that 2009 was a fit for 2020 (ie. the days of the week are the same).

It was filled in a little – on 1st Feb 2009 I wrote “The red spiders on the bricks” and on 1 May my entry read “84/2861”. Both these dates are festivals in the ancient Irish calendar. I wonder if it’s significant.

I am trying to contact Tim from the past for meanings – without success so far. #murakami

Books Lost rivers Walking

Old walks on the New River

20 years ago I started a project that involved walking the buried rivers of London while high on extra strength lager. I chose this technique because in those days I was curious but also perhaps a bit lazy and wanted an instant hit of insight into the rhythms and invisible boundaries of the city. 
At the moment on our quick morning walks I’m revisiting some of the nearby routes I used to do back then – especially the Highbury back streets, the Brownswood area to the east of Green Lanes and the New River loop around Woodberry Down – noticing the rise and fall of the ground, the light, the sounds and the smells, the age of the buildings. Most days I haven’t even had a coffee before we set out.  Maybe I’m more relaxed than I used to be.

Breakfast Food and Drink Philosophy

Signs and Meaning In a Full English Breakfast

Birthday breakfast (cooked by Cindo), with Lincolnshire sausages from Market Rasen (the Lancasters’ recipe). Always a good start to the new year – the sage in the sausages represents memory and the past, the eggs new life and the future. The hot and sweet of Dijon mustard symbolises the ups and downs of our emotions. Tomatoes represent fertility and the need for a well maintained greenhouse. Fried potatoes symbolise our nurturing of the earth and the belief that heated up leftovers are surely the greatest gift we have.

Memory Microseasons Walking

South Lane

It is late February, which in my beloved Japanese microseason calendar it’s called “mist starts to linger”. It’s not humid and warm in North Lincolnshire, so a yellerbelly version of that would be “wind and mist make love while drizzle watches”. The gargantuan fields of Lincolnshire are majestic in their brown-grey nothingness. I have always loved the bleakness of this view. When I lived here I had the front bedroom and would look over this same massive field (pre-enclosure it was called South Field) and it felt like never ending greyness and nothingness. No features. No activity. Then one night in summer the field would be full of machinery then nothing for the other 364 days.

South Lane was always the biggest ‘hill’ in a town on the edge of the great flat plain – as kids we’d ride our bikes down here and skid stop before we hit the main road. Market Rasen lived in a world of flatness, where you had a sense that everyone could see what you were doing because there were no hills to hide behind. The only feeling you would get of a deviation from this horizontal norm was in the western edge of the town. Walking along King Street, with its seen-better-days Georgian houses, you could feel a pull on your shins (or your calves – depending on which way you were walking) due to an imperceptible incline. But you had to be on your own, and slightly bored, to notice it.

It was just outside the town boundary, in a 200 yard zone before the start of the next village that we called No Man’s Land. South Lane is the old parish boundary between Market and Middle Rasen. The right angle bend would be following the enclosure of the huge South Field from 1772.

The hill had its own name – Mount Pleasant. To get there you turned off the B631. On the ubiquitous Google Maps its descried as ‘Green Lane’, ie. it’s a byway that’s in the countryside and too small to bother about. Or maybe when Google employees went to the area nobody would tell them what it was called. I hope it was this one. If you keep going along South Lane, after about half a mile it veers at 90 degrees to the west and continues for another half a mile to Mill Lane. (I lived in this neighbourhood for 12 years, but I never knew this until about ten years after I moved away. I think that was because Mount Pleasant somehow seemed so forbidding that we didn’t go too far.)

Strolling in this old rural scene I recall that back in the early 80s my friends and I found a black plastic bag full of old porn mags in the ditch at the bottom of South Lane. We took them back to Stavesy’s house just nearby and flicked through them, “reading the very interesting articles” as I said to my parents the next day after word had got out about our haul.

Nature Pub reviews Walking

A post-pub nature ramble

I’ve been to the pub. There are leaves everywhere. Autumn on three pints of beer is amazing.

The legendary wall on the other side of the road from the Sylvanian Family shop. We have a Sylvanian narrow boat with the rabbit family on it… plus some Airfix soldiers and some Happy Meal toys.

Hard to believe I used to work for Amateur Photographer…

It’s one in the morning and I’ve had some supper (left overs fry up) and have just written a song in my head about Trump and climate change – A, Am thingy, D7, D the other one… our out of tune piano is calling me but I’m a bit worried I might wake up the whole street once I get going on the ‘Hey Jude’ style “wanker” chorus. Maybe bed and a dream think is a better approach…

Bands Mandolin Music

The South Benfleet Folk Orchestra

Lovely playing with The South Benfleet Folk Orchestra last night at Chalkwell Hall, accompanying the beautiful melancholy Estuary folk pop songs of @dougcheese (Imagine if Nick Drake was in The Fire Engines and they were all involved in the Astral Weeks sessions.) – with @janfrancheeseman on bass and Ian Preece/Third Light Home on ambient soundscape improvisation… and me on one/two string noodling mandola. (Ta to Doug for the pic.) Supporting the great voices and music of @abiwade and @alexandercarsonmusic.

For soundscapist Ian Preece’s recollections of the night, go to… his review on Caught By The River.

1 Mile from Home

My Famous Street Standup Moment

There was a bright chill in the day. I was walking slowly up the hill when I saw one of my neighbours talking to two men in red t-shirts. She said hello to me and so I stopped for a quick chat. The men were from a building firm, working on one of the nearby houses, and were asking about parking permits. I made a tangential comment about my neighbour’s shoes and the men laughed uproariously. Slightly taken aback, I carried on my usual 5 minute conversation with the neighbour, covering a range of topics. Every time I said something even vaguely witty the red-shirted strangers would start giggling and choking. After a while it began to go to my head and I decided to up the ante a bit, trying out a few impressions and mentioning Brexit. You’d think the whole Monty Python team had reformed and were doing their greatest hits outside on a small bit of pavement in the southern slopes of Finsbury Park/Highbury border country. As they spluttered and wiped tears from their eyes, I realised I was starting to get addicted to this and already envisioning my forthcoming stand-up comedy tour.

Then a van the pulled up. The driver wound down the window and said “Alright lads?” and made some very bland comment about Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The two men nearly wet themselves laughing and I realised that, far from them being highly tuned to my subtle brand of middle-aged beardy dad sub-Marxist Zen banter, these poor souls must have been stoned out of their minds on some kind of knock-off brain melting Skunk. I said goodbye, to my neighbour, the laughing twins and my dreams of comedy stardom, and shuffled off up the street.



Time is Passing

It’s that time of year when the colours of the trees have passed into a dead brown and piles of leaves are no longer fun to walk through because they are too soggy. The weather is alternating between over-warm soft mugginess and bitter crispness. The general greyness is eased by the fact that at least one of our kids is still really excited about thoughts of Christmas and so invisible magic dust is breathed out into the air and stopping me becoming too morose at the passing of time. Our 11 year old’s general positivity and joy of life means that even though he had to have an operation a week ago and spent all week at home, he is busy creating art daily (usually Dalek based scenarios) and enjoying this quiet, introverted time of year.

At the weekend we went to Dublin to visit our daughter, who’s gone to university. Leaving London for a couple of days meant that my head somehow emptied of many of my small and large worries. When I saw her waiting for us at her halls of residence a kaleidoscope of images of her as a young child, playing in the park, and just generally hanging out with me as she grew up, came rushing through my head and then out into the clear morning sky. I could now enjoy seeing her steps into adulthood and independence. We walked all over the city, I bought two new books, saw the Book of Kells and, later in the day, my daughter bought me a pint for the first time.