122. Is the Grass Greener? Music, roadside coffee, a spiky caterpillar and a low-flying A400M

Thursday 18 May 2023

Yesterday afternoon, I walked straight up the garden and up the hillside, over the forestry track and up into the edge of woodland and sat on a tree stump near our water source. I felt like I was guarding the spring, but it’s just that it’s a really lovely spot. I decided to try out the self-timer on my mobile, putting the phone on the ground below me. My phone has one of those settings where it takes different photos for a period of ten-or-so seconds; I had assumed I was on the default one-photo setting. The photo I originally intended was horrid – v unflattering angle – but, oblivious to the camera still recording and taking photos, I actually kind of liked this still from a video. Then I did something I would never have done in London, I listened to music on my phone without using headphones. And I sang out loud. Badly, because that’s how I always sing, but it was liberating and I felt a surge of joy. When I left my tree stump, I walked down the hill along the forestry track and heard the distinctive sound of someone driving with a flat tyre, knowing they had a flat tyre, and I knew they would be stopping at our house.

Our neighbour has helped out with a few bicycle and motorbike accidents on a corner near our two houses and another neighbour has had a cyclist stop at their house asking for water. When we first moved here, it kind of bothered me that passers-by might call on us for help. I know that sounds unkind but it wasn’t that I don’t want to help, more that it feels like a bit of a responsibility and that we’re not equipped to do much to help people. I know, I know, we have a phone, phone signal, can easily call for help, can give someone water, could sit with someone in need, whatever. Anyway, now we’ve been here a while, I feel that I could deal with a situation better, though our neighbour is far more practical than either of us and his house is closer to the road.

As I walked down the track yesterday, I could hear voices so I knew that the driver of the DPD van with the puncture was being helped out by either the neighbour or Chris. Indeed he was. Chris and our neighbour were with him, though the neighbour was the one who had the tools and was able to help in a non-supervisory way, and it wasn’t a straightforward removal of the burst tyre. Chris and I stood there for a short time before realising we were redundant. The driver, friendly and having a laugh (and apologising for the occasional burst of profanities, which just made us all laugh), then told us about a series of events that hadn’t gone to plan with his day so far, including that he had been due back in Carlisle at 15:00. It was 17:00 at that time and Carlisle is at least an hour and ten minutes’ drive. So I did that really British thing of offering tea or coffee. He accepted my offer of coffee and I felt pleased with myself for being kind of useful in the midst of a situation I could otherwise offer no assistance in resolving.

Today, I have a lot to do, mostly desk-based, but I’m hoping to have a walk or sit-down up a hill again and I also need to finish sorting the kitchen cupboards which are currently in disarray (from my having started to rearrange things).

I have just noticed that this is my 122nd post, meaning a third of a year’s worth of posts. I feel I have learned more about myself in this time than I could ever have expected and, while it doesn’t seem like I’ve done a lot in life in general, I can also see that a lot has happened and that we are very much in a period of change, which is exactly why we wanted to make this move.

Last night, we heard a loudening, continuous noise and did our usual, “What on earth is that … OMG, quick, it’s a military plane”, as we then raced to the front of the house. It took a while to take a photo. At the moment we got out the front door, there was an enormous plane-shaped shadow on the front lawn and the plane was low and above us. Chris said it was probably an Airbus A400M Atlas, a military transport plane. In the time it took to photograph, it was as far away as in this photo. Whatever you may think of the aircraft and their purpose, it is unbelievably exciting seeing and hearing them so low.

I have been taking photographs of plants and wildlife with a view to becoming more knowledgeable about my surroundings. I spotted the caterpillar in the photograph while walking up the grassland towards the spring. I now know it is a garden tiger moth caterpillar, or ‘woolly bear’, and it is toxic (not that anything about it made me think it would be a good idea to stroke it), though only because of the plants it eats.