It, has happened in Stonehouse, the last vestiges of summer have slipped away and there is a chill in the air. Today was my first day in tights and a jacket, other clothes were worn. I was not just prancing around like a principal boy in a ballet. Walking around Stonehouse often involves random conversations with strangers. Today it was all about the weather.When the bobbers gathered at 6pm many layers had been added to our summer casualness of a towel, a costume and some summer clothing. It’s not the swimming that has particularly changed but getting out of the water is decidedly cooler.
And so after 10 days of Royalty, but not Royalist-tinged blogs I bring the blog gently back to randomness and repetition. This morning Tranquility Bay was exactly that, tranquil. Hugo set about clearing the bay of floating seaweed, Lola ingratiated herself with a very impressed toddler and I talked about local cockerel activity with friendly neighbours, one of whom I have never met before. It was as if the last ten days had never happened. September days with gorgeous sunshine are just so blissful. Nothing more needs to be said.
Surprises are lovely things and I have had or witnessed a few in the last few days. The first was a gift of speciality soughdough over the weekend. What a loaf, full of flavour, and full of flavour sensation and memories. Asian Street Food and Brixton market sprang to mind. Partnered with cured meats, smoked fish and cheese, all tasted wonderful paired with this bread but the real magic happened when the bread got old enough to enter the toast zone. Fusion fabulousness happened when Gochujang sourdough met Marmite with Truffle. Quite the Surprise!
Surprise 2 was a gift from a neighbour.
How unbelievably kind, pertinent because he knows how often I pass his house on my way to the sea for a bob. Pertinent also because we have both washed up on the shores of Stonehouse via a life in London where swimming at the ponds was once a part of life. And so, with this book,as so often happens, we are back to bobbing which has also been full of surprises in the last 24 hours.
There was a rather grumpy impatient swimmer who barged past the bobbers last night before throwing himself into the sea with no fuss or preparation.
Moments later another unusual event occured. A small wedding celebration on the beach.
The colours behind the happy couple lead to another surprise. After the bob I was thrilled to see Stage drapes, created from one of my seascapes, set up in my studio. Nothing could quite prepare me for seeing my watercolour, sumptuously replicated on a huge scale on draping silk.
I could have endlessly played with the flowing fabric but it has serious work to do and the next time I see this fabric it will be at a distance on a stage. With a mind full of flowing blues and greens I go off to make a cup of tea and just when my head and heart are full of lovely surprises one of my sunflowers decides to get into the surprise game. Behind her large beaming head she has grown a little sister, what a surprise!
Our early morning dog walk produced a cute breakfast treat. Fresh windfall figs, minding their own business, resting on the pavement.
Enrobed in creamy yogurt they soon fulfilled their destiny. Later in the day the camouflaged net disguised another gustatory pleasure. Soupe au Pistou. A French tradition neatly relocated to the Stonehouse Tennis Club. In late summer when there is a glut of vegetables, communities in France come together for a communal meal of Vegetable Soup served with Parmesan and Pistou, a sauce made of garlic, oil and basil. Pistou is similar to pesto but does not have the addition of pine nuts or cashews.
Beneath the camouflage was a community of people enjoying charcouterie, the eponymous soup, a cheeseboard, tarte au citron and loads of chatter.
We met many people who we would normally pass on the street with a nod or brief good morning/afternoon. Released from just a simple polite greeting by sitting together for a couple of hours in the sun we had wide ranging and fascinating conversations with people who would quite rightly have been categorised as strangers only moments before. Well fed and watered we made our way home. The evening plan was to work off all the days fabulous food with a swim from our regular evening location.
Not a bad day at all and all within a five minute walk from home. This is turning out to be a very fine weekend.
Recipe below for Soupe au Pistou
A heatwave is a funny thing in this part of England, we are used to gentle weather with most sorts of weather,apart from rain, served in moderation. The weather of the last few weeks has been the sort of weather we fly around the world for under normal circumstances.
Normal English Summer = Lets go to Greece in September.
And so, we adopt Greekish habits at the weekend, early rising to do dog walks, shopping and chores. Swimming when the tides are right. Somehow that frees up time for book reading in the cool of the house while avoiding midday heat. This luxury of ‘found’ time has enabled me to finish reading a fantastic tale of pirates set on the Kent coast. I can hugely recommend this book.
The illustration by Rafaela Romaya has been my bedtime companion for a couple of weeks.
I’ve been doing a little bit of digital fooling around to create an image of Bobbers enjoying Tranquility Bay in this great weather.
It wasn’t such a great leap to have them swimming in the shadow of Pirate Ships.
Or even enjoying a game of modified water polo. And that is the kind of madness that comes from hotter weather than normal on an English person
Desire paths that lead to a realisation.
Desire Paths have always fascinated me. Reading a recent blog from Spitalfields Life, nudged me into writing this blog today.
When I was a student at Barts Hospital my chosen Desire Path took 5 minutes off my journey to Moorgate Station. It was an ancient right of way. For nearly a thousand years medics and butchers have shared adjacent plots in the City of London.
My short cut, or desire path, took me from the hospital boundary through slaughter yards, with bloodied water running into open drains. My desire path was almost certainly created by butchers, through history, making their way to and from one of the City gates. Moor Gate, so named because it led out to marshy ground known as Moor Fields. The to and fro on my little cut way was not just medical folk and butchers trying to make a quick access or escape, but, by passing so close to active slaughter yards the route may only have been tolerable for those with minds and stomachs already hardened to the sight snd smells of blood and gore. Butchers sometimes used the path as walking wounded, a quick way in to seek medical attention when sharp knives and cleavers have cut through living human flesh. A cleaver cutting through a femoral artery is a mucky and life or limb threatening event. Butchers, before the days of Health and Safety, often had bits missing, and the butchers of Smithfield were very regular and grateful customers when Barts had a fully functioning A and E. Anyway, I digress this blog is about a coastal desire path with much less to talk about. When I returned to work at Barts in 2013 I was hugely sad, but not entirely surprised, that I could no longer follow my short cut to Moorgate.
A desire path (often referred to as a desire line in transportation planning), also known as a game trail, social trail, fishermen trail, herd path, cow path, elephant path, goat track, pig trail, use trail and bootleg trail, is an unplanned small trail created as a consequence of mechanical erosion caused by human or animal traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or the most easily navigated route between an origin and destination, and the width and severity of its surface erosion are often indicators of the traffic level it receives.Desire paths typically emerge as convenient shortcuts where more deliberately constructed paths take a longer or more circuitous route, have gaps, or are non-existent. Once someone has already treaded out a path through the natural vegetation, subsequent traffics tend to follow that visibly existing route (as it is more convenient than carving out a new path by oneself), and the repeated trampling will further erode away both the remaining groundcover and the soil quality that allows easy revegetation.*
The desire path I walk on most days has none of the history of the Barts desire path. It cuts off only seconds of an already brief walk to the beach . It is the area in sunlight in this picture, the actual, brick path runs close to the wall of Stonehouse Tennis Club. But such is pondering that I only realised today that the South West Coastal Path, that both this Desire, and official, brick path lead to, must be made up entirely of historic desire paths that have been linked together. Unexpected enlightenment on a Wednesday
One of my recent paintings combined with typewriting sums this whole blog up really. Todays in particular but pretty much in general too.
* definition of Desire Path. Wikipedia
Late evening swimming has become an add on to the very last dog walk of the day. Last night the tide and sunset concurred to facilitate some skinny dipping. I have been a life- long, intermittent skinny dipper. In my youth I used to sneak into posh hotels and swim in their closed for- the -night swimming pools. In London the icy charms of the Hampstead Ladies Pond was a post on-call treat on a few occasions. Any deserted beach is an opportunity not to be missed and abroad I am much freer to just get on and do it as I always believe that I will never see any accidental observers again.
Now I live in a close knit community, a village in a city. I will, almost certainly, meet any casual observer again and yet even that didn’t matter when the chance to swim between rocks with only bats for company presented itself last night.
I was not alone, as the dimpsy light darkens, others cast off their bathing suits for a brief sensation of complete freedom, the moment marked with squeals of joy as celebration.
As grandstand views go we got the best table this morning for breakfast with Sail GP. Four women, three dogs and a lot of water action.
We especially got to see the start and finish of the races.
One of our bobber friends, Helen, has hair to encourage team GB to do their best.
The dogs were more interested in bacon butties and chocolate brioche than super elegant sailing boats, which missed the point a bit.
This wonderful viewpoint is a long term favourite spot of ours. It is a complex landscape of rocks and WW2 defensive concrete just below The Long Room, Plymouths civilian and military maritime Port Control.
We call it the area ‘Greek Beach’ because on a good day it feels like a million miles from Plymouth. Greek beach is moments away from our usual swimming beach . You can see how close everything is in the picture below. The yellow buoy is the one that we swim to when we bob.
Today we discovered our Greek Beach has new graffiti to embellish the whole experience.
You may remember that whilst we were bobbing during the winter months there was often an additional bobber who joined our chilly dippings. Her arrival at a bobbing session was cute but not good for her and we always cut short our swim and got out to not encourage her need for human company. Spearmint the seal was not on the bobbing Whatsapp group but she has an uncanny way of finding us.
By April things had very much got to an impasse. While most people respected her space, some did not and got far too close to her. Something she enjoyed and sought out, for the most part. Humans however are not as benign as a seal and often behaved stupidly and dangerously around her. In turn she got bolder and wandered casually into coastal villages seeking human company. In April the RSPCA decided on an intervention and removed her from Plymouth Sound and took her to a wildlife sanctuary. Since then things did not always go so well for her and at times her future seemed uncertain. Today though there was great news.
The above link takes you to a news article about her release, yesterday, at an unknown location, away from humans. A story that has, thankfully, ended well for her.
Shameless use of wildlife to make my excuses and say that it is a busy week with not to much time for pondering. It is also a week of Spring tides and wrong tide times so there is also not any time for Bobbing. Weeks like this, the one certain thing is dog walking early in the morning and later in the evening. Mornings are calmer because I dont venture onto the beaches.
But evenings, coupled with unusual tides have become quite the giddy experience. Lola calmly digs for gold.
But Hugo wages his one aquatic pursuit ,with great diligence and a lifetime of practice; rescuing all the floating seaweed in the bay.
We spent a lovely hour sat in the setting sun while he busied himself on the most futile and pointless of tasks. Sometimes he persuaded Lola to join in but she lacks any interest in doing something quite so impossible and prefers to just irritate him.
Leaving the beach at a time to suit the human element of the pack was more difficult. Rescuing seaweed is such a satisfying task that Hugo never wants to stop. Once back on his lead he was distinctly skittish and skipped and jumped like a puppy all the way home. Not too shabby for a mature gentleman of nearly 10. Even the evening poo featured many spins and elaborate excited dance steps before the exact landing spot was identified.