Writing Comes Alive

Thanks to the Writing Comes Alive festival, which took place in Canterbury in the autumn, you can now see me chitter chatter about my book On the Marshes on You Tube. Here I am.

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Big Cyprus National Preserve

Big Cyprus National Preserve

big-cypress-mangrove-swamp

Big Cyprus mangrove swamp photo courtesy of http://www.goodfreephotos.com

Church like peace descending down through the canopy making our chatter falter as the hush reaches us.

We pause and listen to the distant drum, hollow skinned and far reaching. A pileated woodpecker drops through the canopy onto a silvered trunk. Anvil shaped against the bark and big. Black wings flicking against the tree. It is a primal dweller of the woods in this prehistoric world of coffee trees and poison ivy.

Big mouth fish slap their tails in dark pitted pools. Lichens and bryophytes drip from the trees, strangler figs wrap clawed hands in a death embrace around the cyprus trees. The world hisses and sings with insect noise as it did in a swampy past. Above us the air explodes as grackles come off the swamp to roost in the trees. Their calls see-saw overhead but Pete and I walk in reverence, along the boardwalk to a pond where wood storks preen and herons fish.

We have walked into the past and two mourning doves watch us depart.

The joys of Spring

fireside chatter simon houstoun

The gang stop for tea; photo Simon Houstoun

I’ve spent the last month in the sub tropics of Florida and have returned to England to find that Arctic temperatures are the order of the day. On a day of icy winds and multiple layers I was back out with my lovely volunteer gang, enjoying the watery light across the downs, the woolly tails of catkins on the hazel trees and the great tits sing songing in the hedgerows.

I have been out in all weathers with this gang of scrub cutters and hazel coppicers and a day out with friends in the countryside is a sure way of sloughing away any late winter despond.

Faversham Literary Festival

Faversham_Lit_Fest_logo1000x.pngI am hugely looking forward to taking part in Faversham Literary Festival next weekend. Where I will be interviewed by my friend Peter Saxton. I’m afraid Peter and I are a sell out gig so no tickets are available but many thanks to everyone who has bought one. There are lots of other great writers to come and see during the festival which runs from Friday 23rd-Sunday 25th February so check out the website and come along.

http://www.favershamliteraryfestival.org/index.php

Things the Americans do better – bike transport.

Action Bus Bike racksMiami, I am discovering, is not a green city.

From the air it sprawls for miles and on the ground it is little better. Every inch appears to be concreted over, the car is king, plastic bags are forced on you in every shop and few people, it seems, are doing anything to change their resource consuming lifestyle.

It is a stressful place, alien to life, both human and animal. STILL, there is one area in which they are ahead of the game. Buses in Miami have cycle racks strapped to their noses.

It is a little disconcerting at first to see a bike balanced precariously on the front of a bus, it’s owners shoes tied to the front basket dangling out and swaying in time to the city traffic but how great would it be to have this service at home? How often have I cycled to a train station, thinking I had a few stops until home, only to find that scourge of British transport, the rail replacement bus service, operating instead offering no room for cyclists?

A bus with a bike rack would be welcomed by millions of British cyclists, I am sure and make our public transport integrated. In many ways America seems shockingly behind the world when it comes to the environment but it is getting this one thing right.

Dode Church

interior dode churchTook a beautiful walk this weekend up and down the hills around Luddesdown in the Medway Valley in Kent.

In the middle of our ramble we discovered Dode Church, a tiny Norman church sitting on a mound close to a place called Holly Hill, undoubtedly once a site of pagan worship.

exterior dode churchThe church was abandoned along with the village following the Black Death in 1349 but was restored and is now in private ownership and used for weddings and occasional public events.

alter dode churchTo our delight the door opened and we walked into a magical scene of the tiny building flooded in candle light. The floor was covered in straw and herbs and the benches with sheepskins. It was truly like stepping back in time and just the pinnacle of an excellent walk.

In the valley below we found a authentic looking stone circle. Not the real McCoy I’m afraid but it proved a good venue for a bit of impromptu Morris Dancing led by my friend who is part of Liberty Morris Dancers. morris dancing 1 (2)

Perspective brides, arriving to view the venue were no doubt a little perplexed by our antics and failed to offer us a booking for their weddings.