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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘drizzle

Walking The Dog 9

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High summer.  A blanket of thick grey cloud and a force four or five south-easterly blasts a fine drizzle into my face.  We’re checking out the aftermath of yesterday’s invasion and the pleasant surprise is that there’s no evidence at all of the drama that was played out near the Langstone bridge.

The world, his wife and about a thousands grockles invaded our space yesterday all in search of a dying whale.  Actually there were probably about a hundred turning the sea wall in front of Langstone millpond into a grandstand.  It’s a well known fact though that one grockle causes a disturbance in the Force equivalent to 10 locals so the initial, instictive estimate is more accurate.

Sid, the harbourmaster, came into The Bluebell at lunchtime on Thursday and relayed the news.  I took a walk up there with the dogs out of interest and the fantasy of a five figure photography fee.  To be honest, I don’t understand the fuss.  I know that Captain Kirk and Mr Spock have helped to endow whales with mystic, spiritual qualities but I see more interesting, exciting and tragic things nearly every day in Chichester harbour.  When the grockles arrived the following day I don’t think one of them turned round and noticed the 30 odd little egrets roosting in the trees just a few yards behind them.  The television crews certainly didn’t.

The entire area was in gridlock.  Glorious Goodwood and the whale turned our local paradise into an extension of the M25.  Television crews and photographers with lenses as long as my arm clogged our roads and pathways.  In the harbour itself, massive RIBs, the inshore lifeboat, helicopters and even a police boat added to the mainly manmade drama and the huge cost of it all. All credit to them though because this morning when I walked past the millpond where yesterday there was even a tent erected for the press and the multiple veterinary, wildlife and eco professionals, there wasn’t a single scrap of litter to be seen.

The same morning that the sorry whale paddled up the channel between Thorney and Hayling, Capone, Carla and I were on the other side of Thorney, in our latest favourite spot, waist deep in the saltmarsh grasses.  Our friend the heron came into sight and as we sidled up towards him I was delighted to see that his mate was there.  My longest lens is a mere few inches so, as best as one can with two dogs squabbling over a stick, I tried to get closer.

The birds took off and escaped me but as we reached the limit of that direction where a vicious barbed wire fence hinders any further progress,  I saw them both on the side of the river bank.  Then I saw double, for perhaps 60 or 70 yards in front of me were four herons casually watching the water and thinking about breakfast.

This was a truly remarkable sight.  Much more interesting to me than a enormous, sad mammal lying in the mud and I managed to record it at the limit of my zoom lens.  This was my scoop, captured in glorious Kodak colour while the grandstand roared and cheered and applauded.

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Walking The Dog 4

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Walking The Dog 4

 

Oh joy! Some real weather returns to crown the long bank holiday weekend and end the tedious republic of sunshine.  Capone has to be dragged from the house because although he will plunge into an icy sea in the depths of winter, a little gentle drizzle is enough to deter him from leaving his lap of luxury inside.

 

So the riot act is read.  The beast is told that there is no room for runts in this regiment and with hanging head and screwed up eyes we venture into the rain.  Our normal cut through to the foreshore, where we usually hop over a gently dribbling stream, is transformed into a four foot deep raging torrent so we have to turn and take the long way round.  The lead has to be reapplied twice before he finally takes the hint and then the full glory of Chichester harbour opens up in front of us.

 

The rain doesn’t just come down in sheets. It is like unravelling great bales of sailmaker’s cloth.  The wind takes it and flaunts it and slaps you in the face. Already my trousers are soaking to the knees but now Capone’s tail is up.  There’s a job to be done.  The fat, snotty-nosed kids and their even fatter mothers have gone from the beach.  The inflatable kayaks are back in the garage and high water beckons for the boards with their storm sails and the bold knights of the sea who will skim the waves and charge the surf.  This is the glory of battle with the elements.  Courage and determination and persistence and rain and wind, even if, alas, no sleet and snow.

 

Summer has some advantages for only in full leaf can the trees deposit an extra six or seven gallons with each gust.  The gulls soar. The rooks rise and fall and the odd saturated pigeon flutters from the branches.

 

There is not another soul to be seen until out of the woods comes a solitary figure in wellies and a barbour but still in his summer shorts.  Behind him plods his aging, morose labrador not yet encouraged to arms, still believing in the misinformation that it is calm and sun and quiet that leads to happiness.

 

Across the fields the barley shoots that have been reaching for the sun droop and sag under the weight of water but you can almost hear their roots sucking the moisture, preparing themselves with the energy to burst upwards once again when the skies clear.  Nature has its own intelligence, far cleverer than the sophistication of man, far smarter than our short term, pleasure seeking easy lives.  The true hedonism is in contrast and struggle.  Only in the darkest hour is the brightest light.  The arid desert is drenched in life-giving rain and inspiration comes when the gloom closes in tightest and grips hardest.


 

The beast understands nothing of this but he knows it all.  At last, puddles are no longer avoided but splashed through.  The spring returns to his step and the tail is held high and proud and wags uncontrollably as the sticks are found and thrown and retrieved.

 

Our route is not cut short by the weather.  In fact, it is extended and though we meet one bedraggled runner and chance upon just one more of the regular dog walkers, this is the best walk in a month.  Returning home for a vigorous towelling and a couple of quadruple espressos puts the seal on the bank holiday.  This is how Mondays were meant to be.

 

Peter Reynolds 26-05-08