Friday, December 30, 2011

to sail beyond the sunset

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Here are some photos of the sunset on Christmas Eve. I stand on this temporary shoreline and observe the passing of another day and am reminded of the people no longer here. Mind you, there's a fair chance I would have been on my own here anyway, but now these people are no longer at home when I get back and I am unable to reach them by telephone. I have my memories of them and they also make an occasional appearance in dreams, which seems an appropriate place to catch up with those who have gone. I also have to consider that whatever I have lost, it has been a worse year for many other people. There are all these plans for the future and all the time in the world but the time runs out unexpectedly one day.

The sea uncovers the remains of a ship, another hope foundered and was abandoned to the incoming tide. What have we learnt from this loss? The wise king Canute has somehow been misrepresented as foolish by history when he seemed to be demonstrating against the sea to "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." and if there isn't then no matter, for whatever net you may try to throw over the universe to contain it makes no difference in the end when you should already know the reason and the answer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

up the snod

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We leave the dark month of December briefly to look back at this record of a hot and dry morning in late September. The River Sid can be followed inland and upstream to where it connects to The Snodbrook, a small tributary of the Sid, having its source in the hill to the north. A small tarmac lane runs beside the quiet and unseen Snod. In the Sweetcombe Valley we pass by the beautiful Boswell Farm, which originally dates back to pre-Norman times and has a threshing barn built in 1710 which still stands on its original stone monastic pillars.

A couple of cars pass by and then all is quiet again. I don't meet anyone here for the next hour or two and then not until I get back to the bright lights of Sidford. I decide to get off the lane and have a look at the Snod. After working through the abundant plantage the Snod is found to be a dark but clear river about six feet wide. The lane becomes a green lane, unmade and used by ancient packhorses and drovers. These can date back to Bronze Age times, others may be just a few hundred years old. Some are known as Hollow Ways, those that have sunk below the level of the adjacent ground. Hollow Lanes sometimes give the impression of being circular in shape, so you get the sensation of walking down a long tube of flickering light, foliage and track. The lanes in the middle section of the photos are about seven to ten feet wide and are used by the occasional land rover or tractor and for the movement of cows. Gates and other exits or passing places are few and I am glad that I don't meet a herd of cows coming down the lane towards me. The lanes amble around the hills, going nowhere in particular but always connecting the fields and the isolated houses and farms to nearby civilisation.

The word Snod might have its origins in Scotland and the North of England, where it is an adjective used for smooth and sleek or neat and tidy. In old Norse there is snothin - bald and snauthr - bare. It has been suggested by some that it means sweet in Old English. It's a bit like snood, the distinctive headband formally worn by young unmarried women. In Italian Snoda seems to mean winds, in Arabic it might be الرياح . I found it in an extensive Anglo Saxon dictionary produced in 1921, appearing as snoda redimicula, Latin for a band, a necklace, or a girdle. It's even in the Urban Dictionary where Snod is an acronym for Slutty New Outfit Day, described as being when attractive girls wear outfits that are very slutty on the first good day of spring. Snod is also there as drunk and on mushrooms."Dude, I was so snod last night, I don't remember anything...it was awesome!"

These lanes are close to the towns but are quiet and empty and as such they are very much recommended for travel and exploration. The hedgerows contain lots of food, so it is possible to eat as you walk.

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