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Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘water’

The colour of water

Or, the mountains and the lowlands

When I was younger, when most of the books I had were ones The Mother had bought from the local library’s “Withdrawn Stock” pile, one book she bought me was a 1960s beginners guide to going camping. I probably still have it, somewhere, although I’m not sure exactly where. It didn’t assume you would be going purely for the sort of camping we did, where you stayed on nice regular smooth green pitches, oh no. It covered the whole gamut from that sort of camping to wild camping, cycle touring, canoe camping, mountaineering, any sort of camping you might imagine. From it, I learned tips I’ve never come near to trying in real life, such as how to light a petrol stove,* or how to cook meat by strapping it to your car’s engine. I learned that in Scotland, you may have to sign the Poisons Register at your local chemists in order to buy meths, and that if you’re worried about camping near wild animals you can buy a tent to pitch on top of your car’s roof. One factoid from this book has stuck in my mind ever since, because of its gnomic inscrutability.

Do not drink Alpine river water—it contains powdered granite.

What effect does powdered granite have on the body? Why is it so dangerous? As there was no explanation at all, I have been left wondering ever since. As a child, I even wondered if maybe it would somehow turn you into stone, your skin going grey and hardening as the powdered granite flooded your arteries. I’ve still never been to the Alps—although I have camped along parts of the Rhine, which I suppose is still Alpine river water in a certain sense even when you’re a long long way downstream—but if I do, I’m sure subconsciously I’ll be treating the river water as if the slightest amount ingested could be fatal.

I’ve been thinking about that when going out for walks around the local area. When I lived in Bristol the local river was generally quite murky, full of silt and algae. The slightest rain and it would be a turbid brown colour. The river here is crystal-clear, and if you can’t see the bottom it’s a deep sea-green.

River

It always flows dangerously fast. If it rains, it rises, and going by the rubbish in the trees it can easily rise ten feet above its regular level. As soon as the rain stops, it only takes a day or two to start falling and for the water to clear again. Within a week there are gravelly banks and shallows, although with the strong currents always there a few feet away.

River

Is this water clear because it’s falling off the South Wales mountains, down from the fringes of the Brecon Beacons southwards, rather than soaking through the Gloucestershire soil? Or it it irredeemably toxic? I wouldn’t have thought so, and I’m sure the water is a lot cleaner than it was one or two hundred years ago. Moreover, is this what Alpine river water looks like? As I walk along the riverbank can I fantasise that I am walking along some Swiss mountain stream packed to the gills with powdered granite that will strike me down at the slightest sip? It’s rather unlikely (and the geology here is probably very different), but it’s a nice thought. It is, at least, another reminder that I’ve moved from the lowlands and I’m now in the mountains, if only in their foothills.

Over the weir

Update, 15th June 2021: I’ve found the guide to camping I was talking about, and written about the exact quote.

Photo post of the week

Or, the local neighbourhood

The combination of being back at work, and the ongoing pandemic situation (particular disastrous in this misgoverned country) means that photography at the moment is limited to things we can photograph whilst walking-for-exercise (if it was walking-for-fun it would be strictly forbidden, of course). Luckily, there are enough interesting views within walking distance that it doesn’t have to be a completely fallow period. Last weekend, when it was cold, I took the camera out and have already posted here the photos I took of Ridgeway Park Cemetery. However, as it was such a cold and icy day, there were plenty of others too. Being an inner city area, we naturally have dystopian motorway overpasses…

M32 viaduct over the River Frome

However, there’s also the wide open spaces of Eastville Park.

Eastville Park

Eastville Park

The park’s pond had frozen and refrozen a few times over the preceding days, and The Children enjoyed seeing how far sticks would slide across the surface of the ice.

Frozen pond

The river, though, was unusually clear. We stood a while by Stapleton Weir and watched the river water foaming over the edge.

Stapleton Weir

All in all, it’s not too bad an area to live in.

Abyss

In which we stare into a big hole

Following Monday’s post about a burst water main: I should probably point out that someone did turn up, the following day. A whole team of contractors turned up, and dug a rather large, and deep, hole across the road. They pumped out gallons and gallons of dirty water, filled the gutters with silt, and then the water stopped flowing. Presumably, they fixed it.

What they didn’t do was: fill the hole in again. So now, outside the house, there’s a big spoil heap and a rather deep hole. Dark red sand overlying browner silts, with plenty of non-imbricated gravel in it, based on the quick glance I took down the hole this morning. Fortunately, not so close to the house or the front door that we risk teetering on the brink of the abyss every time we step outside, but close enough. Presumably they’re waiting to borrow a road-roller, or something along those lines, before they can try filling it back up again.

Trickle

In which there’s a leak

The weather has turned warmer, but it hasn’t done the water pipes any good.

The roads round here are mostly tarmac, but tarmac on top of cobbles. The tar doesn’t extend right to the edge of the road – the gutters are still cobbled. It’s a common arrangement around here, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

Anyway, we got up yesterday and went out of the house, only to notice the gutter full of water. Walking uphill a little, we found that it was pouring into the gutter rapidly – from underneath the tarmac road surface. At the edge of the gutter, a stream was gushing out from a small crack between the tarmac and the cobbles underneath.

I’ve reported it to the water board. A chap drove up a few hours later, and painted a big blue arrow on the road, pointing at it. Hopefully, it will get fixed, before our foundations start to get washed away.

Photo post of the week

In which we photograph the deep blue sea

I grew up not far from the sea. I didn’t go down to the beach or the seafront very often, but I was close enough that you could see out to sea from the top deck of my school bus. I’ve always felt good by the sea.*

On the other hand, I grew up in an area where the sea is the colour of weak milky tea. So it’s always nice to go somewhere and find that the sea can, actually, sometimes be storybook blue.**

The Carrick Roads

Gyllyngvase Beach

Porthminster Beach

Boat, St Ives

St Ives

Boats, St Ives

In other sea-related (or, at least, tidal) news: the mystery words on the shore of the Avon, which we spotted last weekend and posted about, have been identified: an artwork to highlight litter in the sea, by an artist called Pete Dolby. Thanks to Liz for writing and letting me know.

* You could argue some sort of genetic memory, because my mum’s family’s descended from a bunch of 19th-century Cornish fishermen (and smugglers, no doubt), from Looe and Polperro. On the other hand, my dad’s family’s from Derby, which is as unmaritime as you can get.

** Pure water is, as a matter of fact, very very slightly a pale blue colour. You can see it, just about, if you run a bathful of water in a white bath. That’s not the main reason the sea can look blue, though. And different cultures have seen it different ways; the Homeric adjective for it is “wine-dark”, and you know how dark Greek wine can be. I’ve heard that the ancient Greeks didn’t quite distinguish between blue and green in the same way as we do; but I don’t know enough Greek to tell you how true that is.

Notes from Riga

In which we enjoy ourselves on the Baltic

Don’t drink the water.

I only poured one glass of water from the tap in the hotel. It was a murky shade of brown. After I let it run for a while. One of the notes in the hotel room said, I think, “don’t drink the water,” in Latvian. I’m not entirely sure, but the bathroom and the water were definitely mentioned. As a bottle of water cost about 30p from a shop,* we weren’t overly bothered.

The hotel, though, was sumptuous. A big room, an enormous bed, and lots of dark wood, carved with lions and cherubs. The combination reminded me of Western European Iron Age art; some Iron Age cults apparently worshipped fierce tigers and severed heads, as far as we can tell. Every morning we woke up to lions baring their teeth at us from the wardrobe.

* or over £1 from the hotel minibar

Water in pictures

In which we stand by the riverside

“Water” was the title of a photography series I did back at school, back when I was 17 and in the darkroom, wearing torn, fixer-stained jeans,* and getting my Art GCSE. I spent the February bank holiday travelling round the Pennines with the parents, taking photos of waterfalls; then augmented it with studio shots of dripping water against a dark background.

So, the other weekend, when the rain had been heavy and the rivers were expected to flood, I went into town with my camera to see just how high it was, and how it poured over the falls below the castle. I was slightly disappointed, in that there was no flooding at all; but we stood by the river as young boys threw stones and things in the water and watched the floating things race down over the falls.

Winter sunlight

River Swale

Waterfall

Boys throwing stones

* and with bleached-white patches from A-level chemistry spills, too. The Art GCSE was a sideline whilst doing my A-levels.