Razor shells

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There were more razor shells than I’ve ever seen together in one place on the beach at Rhyl in North Wales. This is a small sample of the banks and piles of them created by the tides.

If they weren’t en masse like these, they were spread out more thinly, with the firm sand showing through. The walk on the beach was at times quite a noisy one, my feet making satisfying sounds as I crunched on them.

There were plenty of other shells mixed in – mostly cockle shells and the odd mussel shell. Just think – living creatures once inhabited every single one of them. There were countless thousands.

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In the land of height barriers

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We went into North Wales in our motorvan one day last week when the sun shone and temps got up to an unseasonable-for-February 16 or 17c.  We were aiming for a walk on a beach, but as we’d never been to the town of Holywell – home of St. Winefride’s well and the pilgrimage shrine to this early martyr – we stopped there first. We were very disappointed.

Signs saying that Holywell is The Lourdes of Wales  had greeted us and  we wanted to see the holy well, but access is nigh on impossible if you’re in a motorvan. There’s a small car park (with maybe 12 max parking slots) opposite the church & well, but it has a height barrier. Height barriers are the bane of the motorhomer’s life – it’s impossible to get in and they are usually erected to keep out travellers.

There was nowhere else to park. We went back into the town, found another very small car park we could get into (no height barrier), decided not to walk along the busy major through road to the church and explored the town instead. Disappointing, dead and depressing. Shut up shops, cheapo pound shops, 2 betting shops, a couple of cafes. It was dreary, crummy, downtrodden. The people didn’t too happy either. How sad. Holywell, according to info boards in the main street, appears to originally have been a thriving market town. Not any more.

Surprised that a town calling itself the Lourdes of Wales hadn’t provided better parking for the visitors it hoped to attract, we went on to find the nearby Greenfield Valley Heritage Park which claims to be worth a visit. It boasts 5 ponds, water birds, wooded walks etc. Guess what? More height barriers.

We drove on, aiming for the Point of Ayr RSPB reserve, passing more car parks with height barriers along the way. Turning off towards Point of Ayr we were soon engulfed in a horrible pong. A farmer was muck spreading in an adjacent field and it wasn’t nice. We carried on a bit and as the pong receded,  another nastier, more evil smell emerged. It was from the chemical works at Point of Ayr. No way were we going to go anywhere near that, it was vile.

Feeling sorry for any birds who were breathing it in we turned round and headed towards Prestatyn. Looking for somewhere to park near the beach, or with a sea view, we were foiled yet again by another series of height barriers on car parks, and decided that this neck of North Wales must have had some pretty bad experiences with travellers taking over their car parks to have gone so heavily down the height barrier route.

We pressed on, still looking for somewhere to stop and have lunch, preferably with a sea view. Rhyl, not the most enticing of seaside towns, loomed close by, but we hit the jackpot without having to go into the town. On the outskirts there was a stretch of seafront prom, with a large grass verge, and unrestricted parking. So we had lunch in our van, in the sun, overlooking the beach and sea and then took our dog for a very long walk on the sands, enjoying distant views of the Snowdonia mountains.

Black and white photography

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Traditional diner, Tucumcari, New Mexico

I recently watched a TV programme about Don McCullin, veteran photojournalist, whose iconic black and white photography had me looking at some of my own humble archive shots.

Famed for his war photography and images of urban strife, McCullin took viewers on a tour of modern day Britain as he revisted and photographed places he’d been to many years before. Armed with old-fashioned but stalwart cameras which have seen much action, he was equally comfortable wandering around in towns, talking to people, asking them if he could photgraph them and taking candid shots, as he was joining a local hunt in the countryside to get some excellent shots (although I was glad to hear he didn’t think much of fox hunting).

All his photographs are in black and white – the detail is superb. Viewers were taken, at the end of the day, into his dark room. He develops in the “old fashioned” way; no digital cameras for him. At 83, he’s still working…or should that be doing what he loves doing?

Every now and then I try my hand at some candid or street photography. In this shot the customer in the diner had laid his stetson on the seat beside him, and I liked the row of chairs lined up against the counter. But I didn’t ask if I could take his photo as I didn’t want him to pose. I had my lunch, left the diner and he was none the wiser.  But I’m glad he was there for my picture.

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A lipogram

B is at our door, smiling and happy. A bullfinch was in a bush! Its front was bright pink. 

For B, it’s a first sighting of this bird and it brings a buzz of drama to a humdrum Friday walk back from junior school.

It’s put on B’s list of unfamiliar birds caught sight of last month, joining a buzzard from six days ago. B is proud and glows with joy.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Writing a lipogram, as I’ve done here, is writing something but leaving out a letter. It’s a suggested exercise in a *creative writing book I have, and its purpose is to challenge the writer by extracting them from a rut.

I can guarantee that it certainly was a challenge and it took a lot longer than expected to write those first few lines without using a specific letter. Had I written it without this restraint/challenge, I’d have been able to dash it off far faster. As it was I had to choose my words carefully and aim to make sense. Even so, it’s stilted and doesn’t flow too well – but it is a true story as everything I’ve written about happened about an hour ago.

Have you spotted which letter it was?!

*Back to Creative Writing School by Bridget Whelan

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

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These words are in my head right now as I’m learning to play the Elton John song of the same name on my piano. I’ve got a touch of earworm – it’s a very poignant song with a touching melody – and it’s got me thinking about how hard it can be to say sorry, even when we know we’re wrong.

The words are roaming around in my head……….It’s a sad sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd………..sorry seems to be the hardest word………..and they make me consider them in the context of a couple of real life situations which are in the news:

1) Towards the end of last week, Prince Philip crashes his car into another on a public road, his large car rolls over on to its side and he somehow manages to get out shaken but basically unhurt.

The two people in the other car are hurt, not seriously, the baby in the back is mercifully unscathed, and the official announcement is that Philip has been “in touch” with these drivers to “wish them well” or somesuch weird words.

How about sorry? It probably is the hardest word to say if you come from a place of “never explain, never apologise.” One of the injured passengers says she is still waiting to hear from him, and that no apology has been offered.

2) The whole Brexit mess in the UK is getting more and more absurd almost by the hour; it’s taking over the headlines to the extent that the media can barely keep up with the twists, turns, events, happenings. Prime Minister Theresa May seems to be ever more stuck between a rock and hard place, her apparent innate inflexibility making her dig deeper into the hole she’s already in.

Absurd is one way of describing the Brexit mess. It’s the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Antidotes are necessary – walking in nature, watching birds, appreciating what is good in life and being kind and generous to others, maybe giving them a smile (however they voted in that confounded referendum).

A great nation is like a great man: when he makes mistakes, he realises it. Having realised it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers.            Lao Tzu

Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word.

 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the Cloisters

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What were they discussing, these two middle-aged men in the cathedral cloisters in Najera, Spain?

It was hot and sunny, and I remember how cool and pleasant it was inside the cathedral and the cloistered area.

I liked the shadows formed by the fancy stone work of the arches, stopped to take a photo and noticed these two stocky men in shirt sleeves, deep in conversation.

This one from the archives; it’s not especially good quality, but I like the way it captured that moment. Two locals chatting, with a small group of tourists at the far end.