Bealdric & the Dungsworths

Moors above Holmfirtg Allan Kirk

Bealdric’s summer dreams fade with a last bite of Greenup’s Pippins xanthic-white flesh and a swallow of sweet, apple acid.  Ice crystals gather like unwanted visitors upon his flanks.  The Black Shire horse investigates the creatures.  Avice recoils as he leans down, inhaling folk scent and ruffling her matted, ashen curls with his muzzle.

‘He’s getting to know you is all.’ assures her big sister.

‘Oh right.  Good day Sir.  We are the Dungsworths.’

Idonea grasps coarse, wet Yorkstone whose ore-less field magma and hexagonal sheets of glitter crumbs sparkle between webbed fingers.  The girl finds footing on Dry Stone wall and stands next to the equine giant, tall.

‘Where have you come from?’  She whispers into the Shire’s ear.

Bealdric does not answer.  He moves closer.  Idonea runs her hand along dewy hair from crest to croup.   She surveys the mist-hidden horizon.  With a deep breath and eyes closed, she grabs his withers and hoists herself with a spring.  Her sister simmers and shakes her head before following the elder with trepidation into mounted heights.

‘Ground looks a long way off.’ worries the small girl.

‘Aye Avi, twenty two hands or more I reckon.’

‘Won’t we get into trouble? Someone’ll miss a beast this size.  He’d be able to turn father’s field in a moment or pull a quarry of millstone.’

‘He don’t belong to no one.  Didn’t you see?’

‘See what.’

‘I know you saw Avi.’

The Black Shire feels the little one’s fear pulsing through each nerve-ending in his twitching hide.  He treads thoughtfully around peat bogs, walks between heathery hills and climbs bracken banks through fuliginous fog.  Avice is calmed by his steady gait.  As she studies her sisters back and follows the jerky, uncertain journey of a water droplet that arrives at the end of a dank, auburn tendril of Idonea’s hair, she is moved by her child’s trust in the safety of her sibling.  She tightens her forearms around Idonea’s waist and rests her cheek against her sodden woollen cloak.  

Lagopus lagopus scotica startles and a flurry of terracotta feathers takes flight at Bealdric’s side, gliding and whirring from wing to wing.  Bright orange lids lace glassy, chestnut eyes and the moorfowl’s lucid gobble echoes loudly against elemental walls that reach six thousand feet high.

‘Go-back, go-back, go-back.’ calls Red Grouse.



Image 1, Moors above Holmfirth, Allan Kirk, source: http://tarnincolour.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/moors-above-holmfirth-from-a635.html

Image 2, Grouse, Archibald Thorburn, source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/grouse-82084


Bealdric the Shire

horse in fog annette hegel

Stratus stomps and snorts and treads slowly towards them, breathing getting louder and closer.  A silhouette emerges through grey cloud canvas.  Bealdric Black Shire strides over the moor.  He wears a faint star on his angular face.  He draws Avice down into bottomless wells of blackest eyes where secrets of the other world hide.

Idonea and Avice look long and hard at their last food.  In silent agreement sisters hold numb, flattened, tentative fingers in front of their narrow chests and out into icy fog, an offering.  Yellow dominoes pierce and sink into hard fruit, making easy pieces of it.  Chewing and chomping with ravenous enjoyment of sweet crunchy pleasures, Bealdric recalls green and russet memories of long gone summer treasures.



Image by Annette Hegel, ‘Horse in Fog in Winter’ sourced here: http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Horse-in-Fog-in-Winter/225958/106168/view

Grandfather and the Giant

Drax Mike Harry

Grandfather worked down the mines.  He was an electrical engineer.   During the war he tried to sign up.  He wanted to join the Royal Air Force more than owt.  But they said no because they needed engineers at home to keep things running.  Granddad was very upset.  He felt bad about it.  Mum says he never got over it, not really.

He rallied his BSA motorcycle.  He liked going fast and getting muddy.  He met Grandma in Sheffield.  She was working as a nurse at a hospital for the war-wounded, doing her bit, you know.

In the 1970s, a power station was built in a village called Drax in Yorkshire.  Today, it has a really tall concrete chimney 850 feet high and she is mother.  Sunshine stored in black rocks from Africa and Siberia trundles into the power house.  Twelve brothers, 374 feet tall and 300 feet wide, wear concrete-grey suits and their white cotton-wool hair hangs in the wind on sunny days.  Granddad got a job at Drax power station.  He was pleased to leave the mines and turn coal into light.

They say it can make 4000 megawatts of leccy; that’s more than any power station in the whole of Western Europe.  They say it chucks out more carbon emissions than the whole of Sweden.  They say that wood pellets are de rigueur but they have to come from somewhere too.  Burning new American trees instead of old Siberian ones was not exactly what Mrs Green had in mind.  They store them in giant upside down eggs to keep them dry, adding more peculiar constructions to the horizon.

Drax Eggs

But it is a marvel of man’s engineering that makes me stop the car in a patch of muddy gravel when I see a gathering of cooling towers around a monolithic enigma through a clearing in blossoming hawthorns.   It is people like my Granddad that built and maintained this opus, this enemy of the planet.  In a way, even knowing what I know, I find it beautiful.  I am drawn to the magnificent scale of this engineered construction.  In its utilitarian grandeur I see a collaboration of men who had lived through a war and dared to dream.  They dared to dream of bringing light to every home in the country after a period of forced darkness.

And now, as a Londoner, I long for dark skies that I may admire celestial artistry and glimpse stellar worlds.  But if I were forced to sit in the dark, perhaps I would want to light up the planet too.

Granddad died a long time ago now.  He smoked like a power station chimney and he liked to sup a pint or twenty to wash down Grandma’s tripe and onions.

Perhaps, I’ll pay it a visit, take a photo.  Like granddad, I love the power station and I hate it too.

Drax 3

For the National Grid go here: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

Image 1 source: http://www.mikecurryphotography.com/portfolio/print/drax-power-station-vi

Image 2 source: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/utilities/article3829929.ece

Image 3 source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonobass/3635530311/in/set-72157619904132174