Most of us have watched birds overhead and longed to experience flight. Of course there are airplanes, but if you really watch a bird drifting on an updraft or heading in for the kill you know that a seat on an overcrowded jumbo jet is a poor substitute. To get a sense of flight I’ve been following a murmuration of starlings which gathers near Rough Tor every night at this time of year. The birds roost in a plantation of pines at the foot of the mountain. Mornings they burst out like a shot from a cannon, but in the evening they return in small flocks flying back and fort, gathering members until the proper number are present. They they roost.
Some nights evoke spectacular geometric formations. This is usually in response to the presence of predators such as common buzzards or peregrine falcons. On these occasions the birds make formations to confound their enemies and force them to look elsewhere for supper. Once it is deemed safe to do so, they descend into the trees to settle in, gossip and rest. Ornothologists believe they exchange information about food sources and possible dangers, but we will never know for sure. I suspect they may be discussing the poor earthbound creatures who line up each night to watch them land. Unhappy, featherless creatures.
Rough Tor and the birds
We spend huge chunks of our lives waiting without ever considering the state of waiting. On a Saturday morning in February, accompanied by my camera, I waited for a train to London where I spent the day riding the underground shooting photos. It was this set of early morning photos that caught my eye – that and one shot on the London Tube. We wait and wait, but seldom see.
Rough Tor is one of the two actual mountains in Cornwall. It has been a place of interest since prehistoric times when it was a ceremonial site for the Celtic settlers. It overlooks the foundations of Iron Age settlements and Medieval villages.
In this evening shot you can see ponies, and if you look closely, sheep grazing on the pastures beneath the granite outcrop.
The ponies of Bodmin Moor road wild, although they are the property of the commoners. Some are said to have descended from ponies using in mining operations and gypsy ponies passing though.
The Gloucester Cheese Roll is an annual May Bank Holiday event held on Cooper’s Hill, near the city of Gloucester. It may have started in the Middle Ages, or perhaps in the Celtic Period or even as late as 1867. But we do know that until the 2020 plague year, on the Sunday of May Bank Holiday crows of people gather on a very steep hill to watch several hundred people chase a 4kg roll of hardly-remarkable-cheese down a hill at the risk of life and limb. The winner gets the cheese and the losers get the admiration and sympathy of the spectators. The Plague of 2020 put pay to this years spectacle, but in 2015 my partner and I traveled north to Gloucestershire to see this thing for ourselves.
Arriving early at the site, we left our car and hiked about a mile and a half to Cooper’s hill, walking past police blockades meant to discourage participation in the event, local authorities having declared it a risk to health and safety. Imagine, it took them until 2012 to decide this was the case. The hill itself is exceedingly steep and we found ourselves not so much climbing it, but crawling up to a spot where we could carve a little seat out of the mud and settle ourselves in to wait. Then the race began.
The first to race are the men. The children follow and the women run last. But it is a grand day out and I wouldn’t have missed it.
The winner made it look easy
The children run uphill to prevent injuries
But they have to get back down.
Some need a little help
Others make it on their own.
The womens’ race is last.
There are injuries – an ambulance was standing by.
Avondale market is one of the largest outdoor markets I have ever seen. It opens at 10:00 on a Sunday morning and shortly thereater it is teeming with people Pakhia (Europeans) come with their children in tow. People from all over the South Pacific – Tahiti, Samoa, Niue, Christsmas Island, Vanautu and, o fcourse, local Maori come for vegetables and fruits that speak to them of home. But its not all about fresh veg. Men selling tools, pots and pans, car parts and trainers share space with fortune tellers, musicians and stands selling hot food from all over the Asian Pacific. The best part is they are mostly too busy to p[ay any attention to an elderly Pakahia poking around with her camera.
Lady in a Hat
Auckland’s Avondale Market is an exciting, multicultural experience available every Sunday morning at the Avondale Racetrack. Stalls of vegetables, fish, and meats dvie for shoppers attention with t-shits, shoes, household goods new and used and food stands serving food from all over the South Pacific. It is a photographer’s paradise. Shoppers from all over the Asian Pacific are loading up so candid shooting is simple.
In June I was in Greece on a small archaeological tour of ancient sites and medieval monasteries. We climbed a lot, walked through a gorge where Zeus was supposed to have been hidden by his mother so his father wouldn’t eat him and visited monasteries where signs warned women they were not allowed wearing trousers, shorts or tank tops. I wore trousers and got no grief from anyone. We met fascinating people, had wonderful food and walked where Greeks from Plato and Socrates to the Homeric heroes had been.
I spent two weeks in Iceland in April. Although I was expecting a bleak and deserted countryside, it has become a major tourist destination and the area around Rekjavik, the capital, was heaving with people. Still, we went further north and found mountains, waterfalls and snowy villages.
We were up on the Isle of Mull in the Hebrides right off the West coast of Scotland. You take a ferry over from Oban and drive to the main town, Tobermory which is the trading center for the island. But if you want to see puffins, and we did, you have to take another boat to the Isle of Lunga where they gather in the hundreds to claim their burrows and hatch their chicks.
On the way to the boat to Lunga you can see Ben Nevis, one of the highest points in Scotland.And for a little shopping, great coffee or oatcakes you can go to Tobermory.