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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Extraordinary Literacy Rates of English Mammals



 
We were out hiking along the Northumbrian coast, not far from Alnwick when we came across this testament to the ingenuity of northern rabbits (and hares). I couldn’t resist posting it.
 
Well, August is here and suddenly we see signs that summer will soon be coming to its close. It’s been a late season, and it was only yesterday that we saw the first combine harvester at work, near Crook. We were out on our bikes on a 55-mile training run in preparation for the week’s cycling in Spain, which is barely four weeks away now. An hour after spotting the harvester, we came across a field which had already been shorn of its crop and was being worked over with a plough – with the harrow following in its wake. Smelling damp, freshly turned earth for the first time always sends a bit of a shiver up my spine. It’s the scent of autumn.
 
There seems to be an abundance of berries this year. The brambles are festooned with berries, likewise the mountain ash:

 
 
What this means is that any time now somebody will be quoted in the newspapers, saying that we’re in for a harsh winter. They do this year after year and there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between the quantity of wild fruits and the severity of the winter. Nevertheless, this does look like an extraordinarily abundant year. This afternoon we came across a giant beech tree, and that too was carrying a heavy crop of ‘mast’:
 
 

I’ve always been fond of beech-nuts, despite their being so difficult to extract from their casing. When I was a kid in primary school there was a large beech outside the playground. Every morning in the season and we used to fill our pockets with nuts and nibble them in class. Several times when my children were young I took them out collecting. We shelled the nuts, roasted them lightly and added them to the home-made muesli.
 
Talking of children, I must report that I am grandfather again. My latest was born earlier this week. A healthy, handsome eight-and-a-half pound boy. We went down to Yorkshire to look after his big brother, aged a shade under 21 months, while Mum was in hospital. She went in about nine at night, and was home with the new addition by two next afternoon, so we were able to admire him before turning around and coming back home.
 
Well, the sun has set on another weekend. Tomorrow I pick up my sci-fi project again and start working on the plot. 21,000 words in, I have several characters established, and the first crisis sorted out: my hang glider has been found, out in the desert, and brought into the hospital. I spent much of Friday reading up on the latest advances in mind-reading technology – which is pretty frightening, and far more advanced than I had allowed for. That meant going back over what I’d written and weaving in a few more current buzzwords, a few references to what’s happening right now and what’s around the corner. Now I have to decide where the major conflicts will arise in my story, what’s at stake, and how it will be resolved.