Nov 22 2006

Bleak November


 winter arrives


Bleak November anesthetises the landscape. Icy rain, falling from a slate grey sky, born sideways on the east wind, stings my face as I walk over the hill with dogs. The sun breaks through for an instant so low now it seems to struggle over the horizon.

Shadow Juniors_harem Beechleaves

monster shadows             Juniour and the harem     beech leaves cling on

Strange elongated shadows stretch out across the fields turning us into giants and monsters. Sheep rest, exhausted rams wander through their harems, job done. Bare jagged hedgerows, newly cut, reveal the remains of last years’ bird’s nests and old hiding places for badger and fox. Trees bend double releasing their crunchy leaves to the sideways wind. The Beech hedge clings to her twigs framed by the steely sky. Tulip tree leaves make patterns on the grass. Everything is laid bare now, in suspended animation till spring.

Winter_hedgerow    Tulip_tree_leaves

Bare hedgerows                                    patterns in the grass

Photography on my mind, I struggle out of bed before dawn to catch a rare winter sunrise on the sea. The beach is deserted, silent but for lapping water and the crunch of pebbles under foot. The cold bites into my body.  We stand and wait. Tiny pink streaks break through grey. The sky is

brushed gold and turquoise.


First_sun_1  Red_cliff_copy 

the sun begins to stir                     cliffs on fire


A great orange ball rises from the water setting the world on fire. Behind me the cliffs reflect the flames. The sun floats upwards, the colours fade to ordinariness; the magic is gone, the day begins. It’s all over in minutes, eternal sunrise, yet I cannot ever remember witnessing anything like this. I trudge back to the hotel for breakfast in a dream.



Breakfast, oh breakfast! Breakfast, always so important, is essential on this freezing cold winters’ morning. Though even after that startling sunrise, cold and hungry as I was, I was astonished to hear myself say “Yes please, full English…”  the huge plate appeared; eggs, bacon, mushroom, sausage, black pudding, tomato, even baked beans. Is that right? Baked beans, is that traditional? Free range eggs, dry cure bacon, meaty sausages, earthy mushrooms, sweet, local tomatoes in summer, hogs pudding in the West Country, good, honest black pudding up north, fried bread even, but baked beans? I ate the lot!


Breakfast variations are endless, aren’t they; eggs with bacon, eggs scrambled into smoked salmon, poached eggs on toast, poached eggs on smoked haddock. An omelette perhaps or kippers, kedgeree, kidneys on toast, though not for me! And  coffee’s a must, with toast and home made marmalade or honey maybe.  Recently, on a visit to the Scottish Highlands, I was given a lesson in the art of porridge. Now I even have my own spurtle in order to do the job properly!  Ah, breakfast!


Loch Affric

But back to photography; I spend the next two days hiking across Dartmoor learning to view the landscape through the lense of my new camera. Becky Falls and Brent Tor, familiar landmarks but a challenge to this fledgling photographer! I do my best, first slipping on the rocks and landing in the icy Falls. Then, struck with vertigo atop a Tor, I stagger back from the brink, try to keep my balance, hold on to  my camera, keep my dignity and get that clichéd shot! 


Becky_falls   Brent_tor

icy water                                             vertigo

All the while I am baffled by all this digital technology and thoroughly intimidated by the equipment and knowledge of my fellow students! Their back packs are large enough for a Sahara expedition.  They carry extra cameras, a choice of tripods, lenses like the paparazzi, water bottles, light metres, dry biscuits and goodness knows what else.

Then there’s
me with my precious, mysterious new camera and just two lenses all
snugly packed into my dear old torn camera bag, donated to me years ago
by my daughter-in-law.  It’s no good; I just don’t look the part…..


Back in the minibus; a sandwich and another Tor; the day seems endless as we strike out across heather and gorse for the best spot for sunset. By the time I’ve fiddled with a borrowed tripod on tutor’s instruction, I miss my moment! Cold again, I’m dreaming once more, this time of a hot bath and a huge glass of wine. But, alas, unlike the morning, the sun seems to set exceeding slow. A full moon appears shining seductively down on us; …must get a shot of that and that and, oh, just one more minute, that too….I feel my dedication falter.



Hound Tor

Next day thick, billowing morning mist pours along the estuary and out to sea. Not much of a view for photographs we’re told. We move on to Dartmoor and another Tor or two, followed by picnic lunch in a strangely mild November sun. Finally, back at the bus we’re told we can all “bugger off now, if we like.”  Surprised and exhausted I do just that; arrive home, download my precious pictures and, gloomy and deskilled, consign my camera to the cupboard.  Inevitably I miss some fabulous shots in the valley as I walk the next morning.


But it wasn’t long before I remembered…. nothings impossible I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again…… Just a couple of days later a chance phone call led to an invitation to join some  dear old friends who get together to take pictures for fun!!  Oh my, that’s better!


sunset on Dartmoor

One response so far

One Response to “Bleak November”

  1. Bob Johnsonon 29 Nov 2006 at 12:51 pm

    Enjoy your weblogs partly because they present a reminder of the opposite seasons and english memories.
    We, in Australia, are moving into the start of summer with temps climbing above 30 at last! Time for the beach, fishing and we won’t mention the cricket.
    Great photos – well done.

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