Earlier this week I awoke to see a field of lost clouds, a huge bank of them, gently swirling in the valley beyond our front window, separated from their brethren who were floating in their rightful places in the sky above the Welsh hills.
Just above the Peak District village of Castleton there lurks a very large cave. So large, in fact, that it would take several days of crawling in the dark if one were foolhardy enough to try and traverse its entire thirteen mile extent. Those, like markontour, who regard such exploits as very much for other people to enjoy, can nevertheless experience some of the beauty of the caves from the relative safety of an entrance known as The Devil’s Arse.
The Leyton Marshes, part of the Lea Valley which flows down from the Chiltern Hills all the way through London to disgorge into the Thames near Poplar, is a rare haven for wildlife and tranquility in the great metropolis in which markontour lives. Indeed, the beauty of the Lea Valley’s parks, canal and marshes is the main reason we moved to Walthamstow fifteen years ago. Yet now it is threatened by a badly conceived development put forward by the very authority that was created to protect it. It has to be stopped.
I love New York and visit regularly, but there are many things I still don’t understand about the Big Apple/Big Oyster, and size is one of them. Yesterday I was wedged in so tight between two ample sized pairs of buttocks on either side of me on the subway that I almost missed my stop, so difficult was it to extract myself. In the end one of my fellow passengers had to give me a push.
I was in Ottawa for just under 24 hours, but it made a great impression, particularly the Canadian Museum of History. The quality of First Nation artwork on display is extraordinary, utilising vibrant colour and strongly tied to nature infused with human imagination. Thus, adorning totem poles are variously Thunderbirds, Lightning Snakes, and even Supernatural Codfish. And while the totems were statements of power and, thus, perhaps it is not surprising that they were made ornate, echoing the philosophy of British nineteenth century designer, William Morris, practical function appears not to have been an obstacle to imbuing even the most commonplace objects with beauty. The head-baskets used daily to carry crops are designed with grace, and clubs used to stun seals and fish are shaped and decorated in homage to the fellow animals they are designed to kill. A jet-black, jewel encrusted bowl on display is one of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen.
Markontour is privileged by occupation to have visited most of the great cities of the world over the last decade, but this week I found tranquility, astronomical heaven, and a generous guitar owner in a small town on the California coast.
Over 300 million years have passed since coal seams were laid down in the valleys from where I write this blog, when Wales sat astride the Earth’s equator and plants ruled the planet. The Big Pit National Coal Museum’s focuses on the last two hundred of those years and the ferocious drive of homo sapiens to dig out and burn this bounty of the Carboniferous. It is a tale of exploitation and degradation, but also of pride and ingenuity.