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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Friday was a quiet day. I took a short walk, did some washing, and wrote – mostly in the morning, but adding a little in the afternoon and evening. It was hot, around 85 degrees, there was little or no breeze, and the bugs were out in force. More troubling than the biting things right now are the grasshoppers, which are assembling in numbers that will soon give them plague status, and waxing fat, largely on a diet of sunflower foliage as far as I can see. As I walked they were scurrying in droves from my path. How long before they acquire a taste for domestic produce, I wonder?

My walk took me past the aforementioned forest of sunflowers, up the track towards the spot where I make phone calls. I realised that I’ve never shown a picture of it, so here we are.  Sometimes I manage reasonably well from where I stood to take this shot, but more often I walk up to the ridge and shelter behind one of the cedar trees you see there. So far they have kept the wind, the rain, snow and the sun off me, and I’ve been very glad of them. I get the best signal up there, most days.

My elder daughter, who is almost six months pregnant, was too tired to talk for long, but my son was visiting, and I managed to have a long talk with him. Fresh from graduating as a film-maker, he’s just started three weeks’ training for his new job in a call centre. In a tough jobs market, he feels he’s landed on his feet. He can live on what they’re paying him, he can walk to work in fifteen minutes from his city-centre apartment, and his 37.5 hours are spread over four longish days, Monday to Thursday, giving him a three-day weekend.

Once we’d got that out of the way we were free to talk – and talk – about the new football season (sorry, soccer season) which kicks off in three weeks. Like all football fans in the pre-season, we are optimistic about our two teams. Two?  Yes, two. We have one in the big league – one of the half dozen richest clubs in the world, owned by a Russian oligarch with bottomless supplies of cash to splash around on fancy players. I can’t say I’m happy about it. I am of the opinion that to have acquired as much money as this man has you are bound to have stomped all over a lot of other people, generally the poor and powerless. However, I have followed Chelsea since 1967 – and Jack has since birth – so we’re not about to give up now; but I do find the massive new wealth that has infested our national game distasteful. Partly it means we can rarely find, or afford, a ticket to see our team play. So we take great pleasure in watching our local side, York City, who play in the fifth tier of English football and give us entertainment, purpose, heartbreak and talking-points in equal measure. It’s what a guy needs on a Saturday afternoon. If you're interested, here are links to the two teams' websites:

As I walked back down towards the house I noticed that the final remnants of last year’s grasses are finally being overshadowed by the new season’s growth. Some pretty vigorous looking grasses are finally taking off and I shall try harder than I did with the spring grasses to identify them. New flowers are still appearing, however, like this purple prairieclover – he says, with confidence. I’m fairly sure I’ve got this one right.

Some weeks ago when A. was here, we became intrigued by the cedars. We couldn’t understand how there came to be both purple and green fruits on the branches – and a lot of purple ones on the ground. When we read up on them we discovered that the fruits are formed one year and ripen properly the next. It’s a two-year cycle. They really are astonishingly prolific, as these pictures show.

Finally, an artistic effort from yesterday. Part of my plan for these pictures is to assemble an album of memories for when I get home. I am getting accustomed to a lot of extraordinary and beautiful sights which will seem far more exotic when I’m 5,000 miles away. But there are an equal number of mundane images which it is easy to overlook – like this view in the car’s wing mirror, glimpsed just after I reached the top of the sandy track.

Tomorrow I make a very early start. I want to be in Valentine for 0900h, and of course they are on Central Time. I hate to be hurried in the morning, so it looks  as though I need to be up at 0530h.

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