Crooked House

A country life in France


Roz’s Journal prompt for today is a toughie but only because I have been out, returned home and only just seen it. I shall address part of it now and return and update it after following the instructions to go out and hunt.

Journal prompt – did you ‘collect’ wildlife when you were young? Minnows in jamjars? Conkers and pebbles for the school ‘Nature Table’? Tell me about it…then go out and capture Five Wild Things (with your camera or your eyes only!) – come back, identify them via books or websites – tell us about what you have ‘caught’ – and be delighted that you have beauty right under your nose if you just make an intention to look.

I shall probably not be capturing butterflies, as Roz has done. I have tried, oh how I have tried, because this area has an abundance of butterflies and I should dearly like to identify them all but they just will not keep still! I guess that it is so warm here that they have no need to bask and can simply spend all of their time flitting about. Damn difficult to photograph though.

When I Was Very Young

I was born an inner-city child in the 1950s and there was not an abundance of wildlife about me. There were House Sparrows that bathed in the dusty gutters of the street, and they were about the only birds that I can remember seeing when I was very young. Plantlife seemed to be largely restricted to the ubiquitous Privet Hedges that screened prying eyes from front windows in those houses privileged enough to sport a small forecourt and boundary wall (the railings that once topped the walls, removed during the war to be recycled into less peaceful objects.) Our house fronted straight onto the pavement but we did have a yard at the rear, with a small raised area – filled with “earth” and designated “garden”. There were worms in there and my twin was apt to collect those in the pockets of her pretty little dresses and thus make Mother rather cross. Sheila (my twin) also collected stones from the garden to keep in her pockets. I was more likely to be found indoors with a book and not in the garden, grubbing around. I was a book collector rather than a collector of Nature. Picking daisies in the local park and making chains of them was the limit, I think, of my collecting habit.

Also in the park, there was a pond – or at least, an ex-pond. There was no water, just a pit, with the concrete lining cracked and damaged. We spent a lot of time there, hunting for frogs – which we believed lived in the cracked sides of the old pond. There was certainly something there but I rather think that, there being no actual water, they were more likely to have been toads.

When I Was a Little Older

There was a point at which I would go Newting, a practice which is now illegal but which we in those days innocently enjoyed with great gusto. I was 11, it was the Summer between the 11 Plus and the actual trauma of beginning at Grammar School in Tunbridge Wells. We had moved to Sussex and were living in a rural area. Close by was a beautiful pond and it was complete with water! Not just water but rushes and reeds and irises and it was simply a perfect place to play and to dabble.

The Newts fascinated me and I particularly favoured the very large ones with the flame-red bellies. We did net them and we did take them home, I am sorry to say. I can remember not wanting to keep mine in a jar and filling with water a hole in a tree stump in the garden. I popped my newt in to swim. I had some idea that it would simply live there and was so sad to find it gone the very next morning.

Now I am Grown

I collect more consciously now that I am old. I have a beautiful, hand-turned wooden bowl, its edge inlaid with copper, and I collect Pebbles and Shells on our travels and bring home reminders of places that I have visited. They live in my beautiful bowl, on the chest in my sitting room.

Five Wild Things

I will venture forth as soon as I am able but it may not happen today.

I hoisted my camera and I ventured forth. The plan was to capture some lizards in my lens. After all, there are always dozens of the things hanging around. Yet, I found none. In fact, I found a lot of nothing very much. Yes, there were hosts of butterflies but very little settling. I did see one go into the hedge and I got as close as I could but this image had to be heavily cropped in order to see anything and, of course, like all the others, it closed its wings. Some kind of Argus, perhaps, I pondered but on arriving home and attempting an identification from such scant information… I think perhaps a Meadow brown.

Aha, I see you…

Overall. I think it is just too hot and that everything has gone to ground in an attempt to keep cool. I shall keep the camera with me for the next few days and see if I can come up with five interesting things.

Detail from the pig shed across the road from the Crooked House

In the meantime, I shot this little piece of rustic appeal, which looks to me like the home for many a little example of wildlife. I do not intend to poke it and see.

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