Blog : Posts tagged with 'seasons' : Page 1

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Summer railway

In which we have a trip out by train


Never mind “Spring Bank Holiday”: it’s June, and it feels like it’s summer already: last weekend, we had a day at the beach, and both ended up horribly sunburned. As shorts aren’t an option for work, I winced every time I moved my legs. Yesterday: a bank holiday weekend, and beautiful sunshine again, so we went off for a cream tea and a steam train ride.

The footplate of a steam locomotive on a summer’s day is a horribly hot and airless place to be. Nevertheless, riding behind a steam engine seems like such a naturally summery thing to do. So we travelled down to the South Devon Railway,* for a day’s relaxation sitting in railway carriages and watching trains go past.

The South Devon Railway is, as steam railways go, an unusually scenic one. Being in Devon it’s surrounded by lush, verdant countryside; it follows the River Dart down from Buckfastleigh, past rough, rocky rapids; weirs and once-busy mill-races; finally alongside the more placid deeper, lower stretches of the river, down to its tidal weir just by Totnes station. It doesn’t take much effort for a train to trundle downriver; as we sat in the front carriage with the windows open, we could hear the locomotive clanking its way down the valley with barely any steam on, the vacuum pump making a light chiff noise for each revolution of the wheels. Every so often, a gentle touch of speed was needed, and we heard the deeper huffhuffhuffhuff of the cylinders, four huffs to each vacuum pump chiff. We passed sleepy red cattle, wading fishermen, and groups of wading photographers standing on mid-river rocks to take photos of the passing train.

Country trains often ramble a little, and pause unexpectedly. Midway along the line, we halted in a loop, and waited quietly for another train to pass. Other passengers, not used to this sort of thing, looked around and wondered what the problem was. We were too far away from the signalbox to hear the block bells chiming; but we could hear the rattle of the signal wires as the signals for the down train were pulled off, then we watched it slowly chuff past us before we started on our way again.

This is not Photo Post Of The Week, incidentally. That’s because the photos below aren’t ones I took yesterday; as usual, my photo uploads are far too backlogged for that. These, though, are from the last time I visited the South Devon Railway, about three years ago. The fixed stop signal has been repainted since, but not much else has changed.

Buckfastleigh station, South Devon Railway, down end Watering an engine whilst rounding the train, Buckfastleigh, South Devon Railway GWR tablet catcher, Buckfastleigh, South Devon Railway

* Things it is important not to confuse pt. 373: the South Devon Railway, the line from Exeter to Plymouth designed by Brunel, opened in the 1840s, and bought out by the Great Western Railway in the 1870s; with the South Devon Railway, the heritage railway formed in the early 1990s to take over the Dart Valley Railway’s tourist line from Totnes to Buckfastleigh and turn it from a business-oriented tourist attraction into a more charitably-run steam railway. You may spot a problem of similarity with the names there.

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Equinox (and a week)

In which spring is arriving


The weather does not know what it wants to do at the moment. As spring comes in, we sat by the harbour, eating ice cream, and felt uncomfortably cold and hot at the same time. The sun shone brightly down, as a sharp wind nipped up from the water. We shivered, but were too hot to wear our coats.

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The changing of the seasons

In which we pass a milestone


It’s nearly six months, now, since we moved house, and we seem to have made it through the winter. By next week the days will be longer than the nights; and this morning, when we left the house, the sky was blue and the sun shone down on us. Astronomically we might be at the start of spring; outside, it feels as if spring is already verging on summer.

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The turn of the year

In which I consider the seasonal cycle


The night is drawing in, as I draft this post.* The sky is darkening, and the lamps are lit, to brighten the house and drive back the winter darkness. It’s a time to light candles, and fires, and stare into their hearts. We still have a visceral response to fire, glowing embers and flickering, crackling flames.

As we stare at it, though, the world turns. The world turns, and after today, ice gives way to fire again. It might take time for the darkness to lift and long days to return; but the world will turn, and everything will come around in its cycle. As it does every year. That doesn’t mean, though, that today isn’t time to light a candle and huddle round it, fighting back the dark.

* which was a few days ago, now; and when this post appeared online it was morning. But it’s a better way to open than: “The night is drawing in … well, it was at 4pm on Friday”

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Holiday Weather

In which we remember how cold it was in Wales


All of a sudden, this week, summer seems to be on the way. It can’t just be that we’re doing everything an hour later than we were a week ago. There’s something particular about a cool summer morning, or a drowsy summer evening, that this week has in spades.

By comparison: here’s some photos from Wales, not even a fortnight ago now, but another season entirely.

Menai Strait, Caernarfon Rain on the window Why was it called Snowdonia again? Ruined building with waterwheel, Llechwedd Slate Caverns

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Yuletide

In which FP feels like cancelling Christmas, but bringing back Yule


There’s five days to go, and I already feel like I want to cancel Christmas. I haven’t written a single card. I haven’t bought many presents, and I have no idea what The Parents actually want. To be fair, neither do they. I try to go look for something on my lunch break, and everyone else has had the same idea. The roads into town are gridlocked; as soon as I’ve found a parking space, it’s time to head out back to the office again.

But then, I look out at the night sky, and I remember what the Yuletide season is really about. I feel the crisp air, watch the frost, and think about the turning seasons. On Saturday,* the daytime stops shrinking and slowly starts to get longer again; and there is winter itself to enjoy. As this year starts to turn over into the next, I know I’m older, wiser, learning more about who I am and what I enjoy in life; and becoming happier with it, too. And I’m looking forward to life with excitement, and wondering just what we’re going to do next.

* Pedants might point out that the solstice is on the 21st, and Saturday is the 22nd. However, the solstice isn’t always on the same date. This December it’s on the 22nd, unless you’re in the Far East.

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Equinoctial

In which winter is on the way


This week, it’s started to turn to autumn. I’ve closed my bedroom window, the mornings are getting cold, and the morning air is damp and ashy-smelling.

Today, summer ends and autumn begins; but the weather was already turning. Now we’re moving towards Yuletide, the skies darkening day by day. In a few weeks, the clocks will change, and I’ll hardly see the sun.

Tonight I drove past the steelworks, and they were doing a burn. Great gouts of flame poured out of their chimneys, high into the night sky, lighting up the town and countryside. Our own little industrial bonfire night. We light fires, and we know the sun will come back again.

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This title will make sense with tomorrow’s post

In which summer breaks through the fog


When I write posts on here, I normally write the title first, then ramble on about it.

Yesterday, I managed to write a title, then ramble on about something entirely unrelated to the post I was meaning to write when I started. Which was, you might be able to guess, going to have been about the weather.

We’ve only just changed the clocks, shifted an hour, and already the character of the day seems to have entirely changed. Already, whatever the temperature is outside, it seems like balmy summer days are here again. Already that lazy, depressing summer evening feeling is back. It doesn’t last very long, because it’s getting dark again by half-seven still, but it’s there already.

The morning hasn’t sorted itself out yet. Every morning so far this week I’ve driven to work through thick fog, as if the weather is still trying to work out what to do, and is trying to hide its ignorance. Thick fog all the way, except when crossing the Big Expensive Bridge. Each end of the Big Bridge is befogged, but the middle, as the deck peaks, breaks out through the fog into bright yellow morning daylight.

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The fog

In which it’s the season of the new year


The fog is thick all over the country at the moment, but it’s only now it is affecting The South that it makes it into the news. Up here in The Forest we’ve had thick fog all week, but it hasn’t troubled the press at all. I’ve been driving the Town route home rather than the normal Country route,* because a fog-bump at 30mph is a lot safer, to my mind, than one at 70.

I’ve recently been rereading The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper, for the nth time. And with the weather gripping the country, I couldn’t help thinking about that book. It’s set at this time of year, between Yuletide and Epiphany, and as the great force of evil, the Dark, rises and attacks the land, it brings on a great freeze and blizzards, stopping anyone from leaving their home. A great freeze is rather more dramatic than all-consuming freezing fog, but the fog has the same effect, muffling us all and slowing us to a standstill.

But now it’s the 21st of December, the time the festive season really starts. The solstice is tomorrow, I believe, and the year will have turned over. The solstice is the proper new year – it’s not an arbitrary date, it’s a measurable point in the turning sky. From tonight, everything will get lighter and brighter and on its way into spring. This is the time of year for flame and warmth and remembering that sunlight will come back into our lives.

* which is longer but a lot quicker.

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Deglutation

In which it gets colder


No, that has nothing to do with the content of this post. It’s just a nice word that I’ve just discovered, flipping through the dictionary whilst chatting on the phone. Let me know what you think it means.*

Through the week, it’s been getting harder and harder to clear the ice off the car each morning. A light frosty sprinkling on Monday has become a thick carapace. At this rate, by Christmas we’ll have a small glacier on the front drive. My hands each morning are covered in a chilling icy powder from the scraping.

* without cheating, of course. That would be naughty and wrong.

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