31 July 2020


Fishermen on Wharncliffe Reservoir on Sunday
It is the very early morning of a wonderful summer's day. July waited till the very end of her spell on the stage to share her best beaming smile. From dawn till dusk. Summer sweeping up from The Mediterranean.

Lord knows why I woke up at 4am. It's annoying because, just for a change, I plan to go off walking today. I am going to drive west - beyond Buxton again - to a remote and tiny settlement called Macclesfield Forest. Before that happens I will need more sleep.
The oddly named Chemistry Lane above Wharncliffe Crags on Sunday
I have a mug of tea and two ginger biscuits - my usual companions in the early hours when sleep has capriciously lifted her blinds. Fortunately, it doesn't happen very often. Sleep and I normally get along just fine.
Lone sheep above Deepcar and Stocksbridge last Sunday
This blogpost is hopefully a vehicle for finding may way back into sleep's kind embrace.

Rather than overtaxing my brain, all I have for you this very early morning is a small bunch of my most recent images. If I don't do this now, they will slip away into history for I anticipate there will be a whole lot more pictures from my ramble out of Macclesfield Forest.
The nave of Goxhill Church -  Grade I listed
Brick ruin by The Humber (dedicated to Meike) - connected with former clay workings
Ferry Road, Goxhill -  walking to Goxhill Haven


  1. Good morning! Thank you for the brick ruin picture. The lane between those stone walls is just wonderful, so inviting to walk it and discover what's around the bend.
    I hope you managed to get a little more sleep and have a wonderful walk today.
    Here, it has been announced as the hottest day of the year so far. It is still cool right now (07:26 as I am typing this), and I hope to be able to keep the worst of the heat out, as I have managed rather well over the past few days.

  2. Since you dedicated one of the photos to Meike will you please dedicate the first one to me. Both my dear grandfather and my youngest uncle used to go angling. It's actually a rather nifty way to escape the world, sitting in the middle of a lake where no one can reach you. Though in case of my grandfather (who'd often take me with him - catch the early! worm) it was largely the pure joy he took in nature. If I carry on with this narrative I'll be moved to tears. You don't know the things you miss till you remember them.

    Sleep is a bit of nuisance to me, an interruption. However, even I have to concede that we need it to function. This was brought home to me some eleven or so years ago when, for months and months, I barely managed two/three hours in every twenty four. I nearly lost the plot. Also made me realize why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. A long winded way of saying I hope you were able to top up on shut-eye in the early hours before venturing out.

    Macclesfield Forest, here he comes. Have a great day, YP,

    1. Nabokov felt the same way: sleep was a nuisance, a foretaste of death: being awake was to be alive. Other writers used their dreams as material. Stevenson kept a dream diary then regretted it: the seeds of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Coleridge took some readily available drug *black twist* which gave him frightful nightmares. In dreams we are of an indeterminate age, even young.

    2. What would I do without you, Hamel(d)?

      Sleep is indeed a "foretaste of death". Which is why I am always so happy to wake up. My RIP father-in-law planted the thought in me that most people die in the morning. Around 0400 hrs. So, when I wake at 0357 hrs, I count the seconds. He died in the afternoon. Not that I was able to tell him.

      And then there is anaesthesia. Forget the surgeon. They just do their job. Your friend is the anaesthetist. "Make sure I'll wake up again" ("please" being thrown in for good measure), I have pleaded on a few occasions before being knocked out. Is there any sweeter slap round your face, administered by a nurse, after coming out of theatre?

      Dreams? Dreams, as you say, make great material. As long as you can hang onto them before they fade into the mist of lost memory. I swear I have lost more dream material than I ever could dream up.


    3. Brian Boyd's biography of Nabokov is a must read: In volume two Vlad comes to America, a teacher unlike any other at a ladies' college, during WWII. He was a perfect gentleman with these young women, making them laugh and think.

      My theory about dreams is speculative. In dreams we see reality as a small child does, with the advantage that one is still an adult. Amy Bastian has an essay, Children's Brains Are Different, in a new book, *Think Tank - Forty Neuroscientists Explore the Biological Roots of Human Experience*.

      You must have felt helpless, not being able to help your father-in-law.
      Colin Wilson's main interest was consciousness; he said he changed his mind on brain death being the end of our life.

      Now speculative thinkers are talking about quantum consciousness, which would have interested Nabokov.

  3. "Sleep and I normally get along just fine." I'll echo that although I've never said it so poetically. Talking of sleep what I scrolled down to your first photo my immediate thought was that the chap in the stern had nodded off. It's a good picture whatever he's doing.

  4. The top two photos are especially excellent YP. I spent many an happy hour Coarse fishing when I was young. Have a good day walking.

  5. I hope you stay awake long enough to enjoy your walk.

  6. Excellent photos as usual! I especially like the sheep above Deepcar and the shot of Chemistry Lane. (Wonder where that name comes from?)

    Sometimes I wake up ridiculously early, too. I find that I can usually get through a day just fine even if sleep doesn't return, but hopefully yours did.

  7. I like Chemistry Lane, it looks interesting.
    I am never not surprised by the way the grass grows right up to the road in your part of the world, here there is always a rough shoulder

  8. I like the photo of Ferry Road. Hope you had a lovely day.

  9. Sleep has been a different for me lately too. I wake up when the Ibuprofen wears off, get up, walk around a bit, take a little more ibuprofen, rearrange my covers and pillows, lay down again and think some, usually with the cat on my lap. Eventually, we drift off again. It's not so bad. I hope you got some more sleep before your walk, though. You can't enjoy those beautiful miles unless you are rested.

    1. There are lung exercises which can bring on sleep because they increase our oxygen intake. They make you blissfully tired. Worth checking out on YouTube.

      I am reading a new book by James Nestor who writes for Scientific America, *Breath - The New Science of a Lost Art*. The latest research on how we can improve our breathing: the science of pulmonology. The evolution of sleep.

      Dropping off with your cat on your lap is beautiful. Often when I fall asleep I dream I am standing outside in a dark place, sleeping upright against a tree. It's like the Robert Frost poem:

      The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
      But I have promises to keep,
      And miles to go before I sleep
      And miles to go before I sleep.

  10. Your fortunate to be a good sleeper with only the odd sleepless period.

  11. Our pre-industrial ancestors woke at dawn, worked in the open, then slept again later in the day. This is how it was for hundreds of thousands of years. Only with industrialisation were we forced to sleep in one *block*. Some brains can't adapt.

    I discovered this in a book by a neurologist who studied sleep disorder. So many of his patients woke in the middle of the night. *What's wrong with me?* they asked. *Nothing,* he replied. He taught them techniques to get back to sleep.

    Sleep patterns are inherited. My mother did not go off easily and woke in the night. My father went to sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow, woke up briefly in the night, then quickly nodded off again. I am like my father.

    Someone described sleep as the new sex. But what about the noise of bad neighbours? A friend who lived in Germany for a year in the 1970s said nobody played music after 11 p.m. and she loved the social order of it.

    In Dundee a woman started the Right To Peace and Quiet Society: a much needed idea in our rackety world. Sleep is sacred.

    1. The theory of "pre-industrial ancestors" was brought to my attention by the Angel (my son) only recently. One of his many interests being Neurology.

      I don't fret over sleep, If I wake up early I do something. However, and it works a treat, I will cat nap during the day. Twenty minutes. It's uncanny. I don't even need to set an alarm. As if by magic I wake twenty minutes later. As fresh as a yet not picked daisy.

      You mention Germany. Rules are strict. Not least on a Sunday. There are certain times in the day you don't phone people, certain times in the morning and afternoon you don't mow your lawn or trim your hedge. When you throw a party you give your neighbours notice and, to be on the safe side, invite them as well. Anything to keep the peace. And quiet.


    2. Your son will be way ahead of me, which is as it should be. I read recently that neurology has undergone a revolution in the last twenty years. I have just purchased a biography of Jonathan Miller who regretted not making neurology his career instead of theatre and opera.

      Cat napping is clever because cats are clever as well as wonderful company.
      There is a good interview with Beryl Bainbridge (1977) on YouTube: she said she got very little sleep being a mother and writer. Mavis Nicholson was the best interviewer on British TV by far.

      I think German rules for being a good neighbour are civilised and not at all authoritarian. We all have the right to sleep. Nobody has the right to party after midnight except at New Year.

      Britain is a chaotic society. In my own Sauchiehall Street cyclists hurtle along at 40 miles an hour. You never see a cop. Give me Germany any day !

    3. Neurology is fascinating indeed. And that's before your skull hits the tarmac on black ice. How did one of my son's friends whisper to me when I visited his mother? "She isn't the same". Begs the question, not that I asked: "Who are we?".

      Thanks for the Jonathan Miller reference. In his spirit, though a different path and if I'd have my time over, I'd choose the law of ethics as my speciality. OH MY GOD. Enough to hang yourself.


    4. Avoid any risk of head injury: No driving on black ice, no climbing ladders unless your son is there to catch you, no cycling without a helmet.

      *She isn't the same* reminds me of Mrs Thatcher's *Is he one of us?*

      Ethics. I have just finished a brilliant political memoir (not my usual reading) - *The Senecans: Four Men and Margaret Thatcher* (2016) by Peter Stothard, former editor of The Times and Times Literary Supplement.
      It did make me ask your question *Who are we? Who are we British now?*

      I think understand Willy Brandt (one of my political heroes) more than any of the men in this memoir, though Stothard writes uncommonly well. And like any good novelist he leaves questions floating in the air ... *Why did she/he?*

      Dr. Jonathan Miller said he was against Mrs Thatcher's policies as one would be against bubonic plague, but I recall the words of my late father (a moderate socialist): *Mrs Thatcher is a very clever, determined, and cunning woman; far more capable than any of her political opponents.*

      Of all prime ministers Tory and Labour only she took on the National Union of Miners and won; then broke the other unions. Capable, yes. But ethical? Hmmm.

  12. Nice photos to look at, and I do hope you fell asleep over tea and ginger biscuits. That might be uncomfortable, though.

  13. Chemistry Lane calls to me, with the misted memory of laborers lifting and arranging stones in lovely order. I always wonder who did the work and how long ago. Did rocks just dot the landscape, ripe for the gathering? Or did they have to be hauled from quarries down the road? Did they bring sack lunches and lean against their work to rest their weary backs midday? The past always hums in the background of my thoughts.


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