|Entrance to Stafford Castle|
And now to explain my substituting of "AND" for "Or". Basically, I have been exploring long neglected green areas in my town this week - by me I mean - and discovering some new ones, and was struck in a couple of places by their resemblance to a Tolkien-like wood. And I do know about that at least, if not the characters in the books, for a number of scenes from Tolkien-influenced Game of Thrones were filmed in that forest I mentioned in my recent hermit and hand cream post. As well as elsewhere in Ulster in familiar beauty spots from my childhood. Plus Tolkien lived in Staffordshire for a while, and was inspired by some of the gnarled old oaks on Cannock Chase, as referenced in my review of Liz Moores' Dryad. So that is all by way of explaining my Tolkien-esque foliage-spotting credentials. ;)
These bursts of extreme exercise - each walk was about three hours long - were prompted in part by ongoing pain issues from my sprained pelvis. I thought I would try flooding the area with the dopamine known to be released by (a compatible form of) physical activity, of which Val the Cookie Queen is of course the poster girl. At the same time, I figured it might improve my mood during lockdown. The lack of control and uncertain future are two aspects I continue to struggle with, and Ian McEwan hit the nail on the head in his recent essay on time:
He quotes Kierkegaard to start with:
"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
McEwan adds: "When that forward motion is denied, then you are liable to go tumbling backwards through time."
I presume he is talking of not being able to look forward to anything, and the mental freefalling that may ensue. At least we can now meet one person from another household in an outdoor setting, which feels like a big win after the constraints of lockdown so far!
The first discovery I made on Day One was of a treelined path that led all the way to my local Aldi from just beyond the road at the bottom of my street. That could make the dreaded shopping trips more agreeable, assuming I wasn't driving, obviously.
The second discovery was of a lake behind the rugby club, complete with anglers, hidden knots of youths at the water's edge sharing a spliff, and ducks with attitude.
"I'm tyred of this...!"
Next up, I chanced upon a venerable shoe company, called Jen. This sign dates from 1963, but the company's roots stretch back to the 19th century. Footwear used to be a thriving industry in Stafford, which was also home to the better known brand Lotus.
My friend David, the artist, was commissioned to make a stained glass panel for St Mary's Church in town to commemorate this 'last-ing' legacy. ;)
A few minutes later, I was in the atmospheric shade of a path up to the castle, which snakes between the manicured green sward of the golf course. I saw a fox, though barely captured him on camera before he ran to ground.
|(Fox not pictured!)|
The castle dates from 1100 AD, albeit there is not much of it left. You can see for miles around, and once again, the grassy slopes below were dotted with groups of young people sitting chatting - in a vaguely socially distanced way, aided by their recumbent bicycles. No, not that kind of recumbent bicycle...!
I have stopped tutting at such scenes, ever since I learnt that if you are young you are more likely to be die by being struck by lightning than of Covid-19.
The following day, I did a circuit of Doxey Marshes, a nature reserve beloved of twitchers and dog walkers alike, which backs onto the estate where I used to live. As a born again bird watcher, I was pleased to see several varieties, two with babies in tow:
Some surprisingly docile goslings:
In this long shot, you could fancy yourself on safari (almost!)
One of several laid back swans:
Not forgetting their synchronised cygnets. "A cygnet ring!" as the aforementioned David waggishly remarked.
There were cows galore as well, both reflective and reflected. Here is one, ruminating and watching the world go by.
And now the startling sight of "La Vache Qui Pee".
Why, that will be due to all the drinking of course! Note the mirror images in the stream.
I also managed to pap this squirrel, doing a good imiation of Cerberus perched on a gravestone in the adjacent cemetery.
It has been too blowy over the past couple of days to walk very far since, but more explorations of Stafford's green interstices are definitely on the cards. Along with that Undina-inspired post I mentioned earlier...