April is the Cruellest Month…

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Most days were grey – either cold, damp and dreary, or drenched in heavy rain and dense Scotch mist. But from time to time the sun shone, and then Algy found a perch where he could feel a wee bit warmer and drier, and watch the play of light on the sea or the wee burn which had found itself a new path across the beach, twisting in and out of the masses of rock in a mysteriously elaborate pattern.

It was undoubtedly spring; the light was much stronger, the days were much longer, and the skylarks were singing merrily above the sand dunes… and yet the air was cold and the wind was sharp. Algy was inevitably reminded of T. S. Eliot’s famous opening lines from The Waste Land:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

[Algy is quoting the opening lines of that most famous of early 20th century poems, The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot.]

Sunny Days

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The West Highlands of Scotland had been enjoying a few days of unusually fine March weather, and although it was cold at night, it was comfortably warm during the day… by Scottish standards, at least 🙂 The sky was blue, the larks were singing, and the pied wagtails had returned after their winter away. Algy knew, of course, that the good weather would not last long, but it certainly made a welcome change, and he was determined to enjoy it while he could. So he lingered late on the beach as the shadows lengthened and the temperatures dropped, until it got too chilly to linger any longer…

Sunbathing…

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Algy hopped over to a denser patch of Marram grass, and made himself comfortable on a bed of the long, curving stems. It felt almost warm, tucked in there among the dry grasses of the sand dunes, and Algy began to doze happily in the sunshine, while the waves played merrily on the beach in front of him.

Blue!

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Algy put down his book of poetry for a moment and gazed at the scene in front of him, then looked up at the sky. It was BLUE! A beautiful, clear, deep, wonderful blue…

The west coast of the Scottish Highlands experiences more dismal, grey, totally overcast and cloudy skies than most places in the world, but when the clouds do blow away Algy feels an amazing sense of relief, and a delightfully happy experience of blueness. He cannot understand why the colour blue has come to be associated with misery and depression when a clear blue sky and a deep blue sea are among the most beautiful aspects of the world 🙂

Algy hopes you will all have a happily blue weekend xo

World Book Day… in the UK…

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World Book Day is celebrated on 23rd April in most countries of the world, but not in the idiosyncratic “UK”, because there the 23rd April is reserved for St. George, the patron saint of England…

However, as Scotland (whose own patron saint is St. Andrew not St. George) is still officially part of the UK at the present time, Algy thought that it provided as good an excuse as any to spend a happy afternoon reading in the sunshine 🙂 So he tucked himself in among the spiky grasses on the warm sand dunes, and opened his book of “Poems of the Sea”. Just a hop and a flutter away in front of him, Algy could see the waves dancing and sparkling on the beach, with the whole expanse of the wide, blue ocean with its mysterious world beneath, and as he turned back to his book he read:

The world below the brine,
Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick tangle, openings, and pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold, the play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes, and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or disporting with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard, and the sting-ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths, breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere,
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.

[Algy is reading the poem The World Below the Brine by the 19th century American poet Walt Whitman.]

Sea Fever

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The weather had changed and the day was bright, albeit with masses of grey clouds hurrying across the sky, but the wind was icy and much too strong for comfort, so Algy decided to spend some time looking back through his past adventures… and happened upon this GIF from early February two years ago, when conditions were evidently very similar…

And as the keen wind whistled through his feathers and froze the tip of his beak, Algy thought to himself:

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

[Algy is quoting the second verse of the famous poem Sea Fever by the early 20th century English poet John Masefield.]

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Overnight, most of the remaining snow quietly vanished from the area around Algy’s home, and on the following morning the air felt much less icy. Algy had stayed away from the beach during the recent run of bitterly cold north winds, as it was much too exposed for comfort. But when the wind dropped to a more reasonable level and the temperature rose slightly, he wasted no time in returning to the ocean. He had to admit that it wasn’t exactly warm, but it was cosy enough tucked down among the Marram grass. It was so good to be beside the sea again…

The weather had changed and the day was bright, albeit with masses of grey clouds hurrying across the sky, but the wind was icy and much too strong for comfort, so Algy decided to spend some time looking back through his past adventures… and happened upon this GIF from early February two years ago, when conditions were evidently very similar…

And as the keen wind whistled through his feathers and froze the tip of his beak, Algy thought to himself:

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

[Algy is quoting the second verse of the famous poem Sea Fever by the early 20th century English poet John Masefield.]

Algy tucked himself in between the sharp, spiky clumps of Marram grass and leaned back on the sand, which was still damp in patches from all the rain which had fallen during the gales. He was fascinated by the semicircles that single blades of the pointed grass had drawn in the sand – guided, no doubt, by the wind – and he wondered whether he could use one to make a sand drawing himself, but decided that he was too clumsy.

As he gazed at the beautiful colours of the sky and the sea, Algy reflected that he had almost forgotten what such colours looked like – it had been such an exceptionally grey summer. Although there were no pine trees here, the scene reminded him of a long forgotten poem:

There I know blue, blue water,
 And a waving line of land,
With pines that grow in a wind-swept row
 As set by a dreamer’s hand;
And where the winds will, in hollow or hill,
 Sand and sand and sand.

Sand as soft as a snowfall —
 Drifting, eddying, whirled —
Sweeping into the valleys,
 Over the grasses swirled,
And billowing up to the tree-tops
 That look out on the world.

Sand of romantic patterns
 New for each passer fleet.
Here a flower has lain, there the leaf-like chain
 That was marked by a sea-gull’s feet;
And the pebbled trace as of scalloped lace
 Where the waves and the shore-line meet.

Gleaming sands in the morning
 When the little waves run white,
While gay wings fan the shining span
 And float a song in flight;
And the lupine blue spreads a heaven new
 Where the stars might rest till night.

[Algy is quoting from the poem The Sand Dunes by the 20th century American poet Janet Norris Bangs.]

The gales blew themselves out, the mist slowly lifted, and the air began to clear. By the next day a beautiful wave of dazzling blue had washed all across the sky, and the world was full of colour again. So Algy hurried down to the beach in the sunshine, and found a warm spot at the edge of the sand dunes where he could rest and watch the sea and the shore birds.

It was a fine spring day, but a strong, bitter wind from the Arctic was howling across the dunes, and the air temperature felt like the middle of winter. Fresh white snow had covered the peaks of the islands to the north during the night, but Algy turned his back on the wintry scene and snuggled down into the warm, sandy grasses in the sunshine, making sure to stay on the side on the dunes that was sheltered from the wind. Overhead the skylarks were singing, but they couldn’t maintain their positions for long in the wind, and they kept dropping back down to the ground, only to try ascending again…