A Lonesome Bog…

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The mist was down again. There had been a few clear, sunny days earlier in the week, and Algy had even seen some bright blue sky at times, but such conditions rarely lasted long on the wild west coast of the Scottish Highlands, for the north Atlantic weather systems ensured an almost constant supply of clouds and rain.

Algy found himself a damp perch on a clump of soggy grasses and heather, and gazed into a spontaneous bog pool which was strewn with last year’s grasses, tossed about by the wind. Despite the cold, grey wetness of it all, Algy could detect a change in the air. The rain and the mist and the wind might not stop, but Algy knew that the winter was almost over, and any day now the skylarks would start to sing again, announcing the beginning of a new spring. So Algy peered into the water, wondering whether any frogs were sleeping down below, and murmured one of his favourite silly poems in case they might be listening:

The moon came late to a lonesome bog,
And there sat Goggleky Gluck, the frog.
“My stars!” she cried, and veiled her face,
“What very grand people they have in this place!”

Algy wishes you all a very happy weekend 🙂

[Algy is reciting the short poem The moon came late by the 19th century American writer Mary Mapes Dodge.]

There had been a sudden change in the weather, and although a bitterly cold north-east wind was howling across the sea, there were periods of bright February sunshine that almost felt a wee bit warm, if you could only find that most sought-after of Scottish locations, a sheltered spot out of the wind…

So Algy flew a little way inland, away from the biting wind, and found himself a mossy perch in the peat bog. Everything was still exceedingly wet, and he could hear the ground squelching to itself all around him, but he paid no attention to his soggy tail feathers, for his mind was on other things. As he leaned back in the welcome sunshine, Algy was thinking of a children’s rhyme he had learned:

Mix a pancake,
Stir a pancake,
Pop it in the pan;
Fry the pancake,
Toss the pancake—
Catch it if you can.

It was Shrove Tuesday! Algy thought that maybe he would hurry over to his assistants’ house, and see if there were any pancakes to spare… perhaps with some maple syrup, banana and homemade vanilla ice cream…

If you are having pancakes today too, Algy hopes they are delicious 🙂

[Algy is quoting the children’s rhyme Mix a Pancake by the 19th century English poet Christina Rossetti.]

After so much rain, Algy found that the ground was a wee bit damp for the tail feathers, so he jumped up into a bush and turned to face the sun. The burn rushed and tumbled over the trailing branches in the water beneath him, then swept round the bend to continue its sinuous path through the peat bog to the sea. Algy knew that the sun was about to disappear again, as there was a large mass of cloud sweeping in from the Atlantic, but for a few wonderful moments, the world was bathed in light and colour and the Blue Burn was truly blue 🙂

Algy hopes you will all get a wee bit of sunshine this weekend, and he sends extra special fluffy hugs to those of his friends facing blizzards in the eastern USA, to help you keep warm xoxo

It was a fine early autumn afternoon and the wind was blowing from the north, bringing cool, clean air which felt pleasantly fresh and new. Algy thought it was an excellent day to visit his friend Plog, so he flew over to the bog and perched on a grassy tussock beside the blue pool. The grasses had already taken on their autumn tints, in a subtle array of beige, reds, browns, greens and golds. Each single blade of grass now had a coat of many colours, changing from green at the base to gold or russet at the tip. Dragonflies darted here and there, and there were even a few late bees buzzing around happily in the warm sunshine, visiting the low-growing heather that flowered among the rocks and on the drier patches of ground. It was a lovely sight on a golden afternoon, and Algy hoped that the good weather would last a wee bit longer, as the landscape looked so much more beautiful in full colour…

If you don’t know who Plog is, Algy says please check out his book A Surprisingly Fluffy Bird. Plog also plays an important role in Algy’s second book, which is already under way and should be available before Christmas 🙂

Algy left the beautiful, sheltered garden and flew back home, where he found as fine an example of Flaming June as you could hope to see… He perched on a patch of prostrate juniper, which was clinging as closely as it could to a damp rock, and gazed out across the peat bog in the whistling wind, keeping his head tucked well down to avoid the worst effects of the driving Scotch mist. He had to concede that in view of the fact it was nearly midsummer, the weather was a wee bit disappointing for the time of year…

The hours of daylight were reducing noticeably as each day passed, and the nights were rapidly growing longer, darker and colder. Algy found this a very sleepy time of year, and he often had difficulty waking up – or staying awake…

He had settled himself on a soft if somewhat precarious perch on a tussock in a peat bog pool, intending to watch for frogs, but it was difficult to concentrate. The peat bog make strange, quiet gurgling noises all around him, the reflections in the water shimmered hypnotically, and the dry stems of the grasses waved lightly backwards and forwards in the breeze. The combined effect was highly soporific…

Some parts of the peat bog were considerably wetter than others, and in places it reminded Algy so much of his friend Monica’s Louisiana swamp that he kept a wary eye open for alligators… just in case! Algy had never met an alligator, and he had a feeling that perhaps he would really rather not.

As Algy perched on a low, rotten branch which had tumbled across the marsh, he was thinking especially of his friend Fern in California, thousands of miles away. He wanted to make his friend smile, so – realising that his luminous hair probably stood out like “a fiery spark” against the “vast and gloomy dark” of the peat bog in the same way as the Dong’s nose in the forest – Algy began to recite slowly, in his most ominous voice:

          When awful darkness and silence reign
          Over the great Gromboolian plain,
                Through the long, long wintry nights; —
          When the angry breakers roar
          As they beat on the rocky shore; —
                When Storm-clouds brood on the towering heights
          Of the Hills of the Chankly Bore: —

          Then, through the vast and gloomy dark,
          There moves what seems a fiery spark,
                A lonely spark with silvery rays
                      Piercing the coal-black night, —
                      A Meteor strange and bright: —
                Hither and thither the vision strays,
                      A single lurid light.

          Slowly it wanders, — pauses, — creeps, —
          Anon it sparkles, — flashes and leaps;
          And ever as onward it gleaming goes
          A light on the Bong-tree stems it throws.
          And those who watch at that midnight hour
          From Hall or Terrace, or lofty Tower,
          Cry, as the wild light passes along, —
                      “The Dong! — the Dong!
               "The wandering Dong through the forest goes!
                      "The Dong! the Dong!
               "The Dong with a luminous Nose!”

[Algy is reciting the first three verses of The Dong with a Luminous Nose by Edward Lear.]

It was a damp, dull February day, and the world felt like a massive ball of lead – or maybe it was just Algy that felt leaden… He perched in a bush at the edge of the peat bog and stared listlessly at the pools below. All the colour in the landscape seemed to have drained away into the water, which appeared to be flickering with a strange light … or was it just his imagination?

The bog was certainly an odd place, and it was prudent to treat it with a great deal of respect. From the edge it looked harmless enough, but Algy knew that it could suck you down into its unseen depths, and hold on to you so tightly that you would never emerge again. Even from his perch he could hear the unique, slurpy, gurgling noises that it made. The sound was disconcerting, but Algy understood that providing you maintained a safe distance, the bog was really a wonderful thing. It could rain and rain and rain and rain, day after day, and the peat bog mysteriously absorbed it all, and drained the water away. Algy thought sadly of his unfortunate friends in southern England, who were facing terrible flooding in this exceptionally wet winter. If only they had a peat bog like this one!

Algy found a comfortable perch in the old oak tree, and looked down into the peat bog below. He thought he could see a frog making its way through the sodden grasses of the bog, and he remembered a haiku by Issa:

          while croaking he jumps –
          frog in the rainy
          grass