It all looks a bit different now (29/11/2014)

I tend not to write that often about walks around our local patch: no specific reason for that, beyond the fact that we do them so frequently that to us they’re just part of life’s routine; it would be a bit like keeping a diary of the washing up or mowing the lawn. Not that I’m disparaging local walks; they’re the staple that helps keep us fit enough to do the other, more adventurous stuff when the opportunity arises. And they’re the thing that most often gets me out of doing the washing up or mowing the lawn.

We were out earlier today and my mind went back to walking much the same route earlier in the year; it felt like no more than a few weeks back and I was amazed to discover that four months had passed – amazed and a bit mortified at how quickly the months and years seem to be rolling by. But the four months explained why things looked so different…


 A field of gold from early August

Back in August it looked like the grain harvest was likely to be a good one locally; apparently it was and – just as importantly – the local farmers managed to get it collected and into storage before the winds and rain came along and battered it down. I’ve seen how hard they work – they were out there again today, past dusk.

Now there’s just stubble still showing through in a few fields, but most of them have been turned over in readiness for whatever gets planted next. Different varieties of birds have moved in and the last few stragglers left over from the dragonflies, bees and butterflies have finally made whatever arrangements they make for the winter. The berries and hedgerow fruits have gone, as have the wild flowers – even the nettles are in full retreat!

It’s all very quiet, virtually monochrome (aside from the skies) and could easily get a bit cheerless. That’s when you have to remember how many folks there are out there who would give anything for the health and opportunity to take even a short stroll in the country – at any time of year, in any weather. So we remind ourselves that the rain and mud are part of the deal, and the reason why we have rivers, lochs, peatland and forests. And that we live at a pretty northerly latitude so short hours of daylight for a few months also come as part the package.

In one of his recent blog posts, Alan Rayner (A blog on the landscape) wrote that “Where we live, we say that we only have two seasons, the dusty one and the muddy one”. Alan’s a bit further north than we are but the same applies; we generally get the weather of the west, if in slightly diluted form, and we’re now into that period in the year when the ground seems to get wet and just stay wet. It’s one of the reasons why I miss the deep, bone-hard frosts of years gone by, which we rarely seem to see now. Tough on the ankles though – a rutted track, frozen solid; so maybe I’m letting nostalgia cloud judgement with that one.

Right now I’d love a couple of weeks in the highlands, but I’d settle for a day in mid Wales. The former is out of the question until next spring/summer; the latter might just be possible with a bit of planning and improvisation.


Lazy stereotyping (23/11/2014)

There’s a lot of it about: certain politicians (and by certain, I mean most); smartarse television and radio presenters masquerading as investigative journalists; tabloid hacks masquerading as human beings; lobbyists, publicists, advertisers and PR flannel merchants; football people.

It would be easy to level some of the blame at Twitter, with its 140 character limit, but this all started long before the age of the tweet. Reductio ad absurdum – that’s nearly what I’m talking about; not quite, but I don’t know much latin. It’s more this modern day partiality for reducing even the most complex and nuanced of issues to a single, over-simplified, one line conclusion.

A few days ago – in the middle of a relatively low-key conversation about turbines – someone suggested to me that it was a “well known fact” that all environmentalists are in favour of wind farms. There was genuine surprise when I responded that I consider myself to be very much an environmentalist and that there are more definitions of caring for the environment than those promoted by the high-profile NGOs and their political allies. I pointed the chap in question in the direction of some of the outdoor blogs, with the assurance that he wouldn’t find a bunch of people anywhere who cared more about the environment. I know that he took me at my word, read a good few of them, had his eyes opened and will continue to read more.

But it’s apparently easy to sell a lie; and the more glib the deception the easier the sale seems to be. Terms like ‘The environmental lobby’ are bandied around, go unchallenged, and become part of the currency; it’s convenient, precludes the need for analytical thought, and suits a particular agenda.

The alternative – acknowledging that there’s no such thing as a single, homogenised, collective representing the complete spectrum of environmental opinion and thinking – well, that’s a lot like hard work and very difficult to condense into a soundbite. It’s disturbingly easy for those with access to the right channels to marginalise others who refuse to be compliant; disturbingly easy to bypass or subvert proper democratic and consultation processes. No need to win a debate if you can arrange for it never to take place.

Quite where I’ve gone with this I’m not sure; even less sure about where to take it next. Introducing new people to the outdoor blogging community is a small start, and an enjoyable one. It will have to do until I can think of something better.