Bugwoman on Location – The Best Laid Plans

Clematis seedheads in Milborne St Andrew

Dear Readers, you may remember that last week I reported that Mum had been stricken down with a chest infection, but seemed to be on the mend, and was at least not in hospital. Well, on Sunday I phoned Mum and Dad, and realised that Dad had succumbed to the same bug. Add to this the fact that one of their lovely carers is currently struggling with her own health emergency, and that the washing machine has broken irreparably, and the only feasible course of action was to leap on a train and head down to Milborne St Andrew on a rescue mission.

Flint nodule from wall in Milborne St Andrew

And so, I have been on tea-making/cooking/washing machine wrangling/cleaning/medicating duty for the week, and have been trying to persuade Mum and Dad that they need some additional help while their carer is sorting out her own crisis. I have met with some resistance (understatement) because they love their current carers, and would rather not have to deal with anyone else. Plus, Dad in particular is sanguine about the future, which is lovable but occasionally infuriating. For example, on the coldest day of the week I returned from the walk that I am about to describe, only to find that the enormous wheelie bins had been put on the kerb for the dustbin men. Yes, in spite of barely being able to breathe, Dad had wrangled them outside, in -5 degrees of wind chill.

I love that Mum and Dad are so determined to be independent. I think that their sheer cussedness and determination is what’s kept them going so far. I just worry myself sick about them. But they are of sound mind, and I don’t want to be one of those children who railroads their parents into doing things that they don’t feel comfortable with. So, on Thursday, while they were having a nap, I wrapped myself up and went out for a walk.

The sun was so low on the horizon that for half the walk I could barely see where I was going.

Bugwoman’s shadow….

I stomped along Chapel Road, and stopped as a flock of blackbirds erupted from one of the gardens. What could have brought these normally solitary birds together? I inhaled a deep lungful of sweet apple scent, and realised that the kind house owner had left the windfalls for the birds.

And it wasn’t just blackbirds who were ready to feed – I also spotted my first redwing of the year.

Onwards I trudged, feeling my anxiety ease with every step. I even made the mistake of thinking it was warmer than I’d thought. Hah! I was to discover the error of my ways when I walked back, into the wind.

A mole had been very busy in the ex-cabbage field, and the soil was the colour of cocoa. These little animals are very common, and yet I’ve never caught a glimpse of one. How busy they are, turning the soil and munching on the worms and leatherjackets.

Earlier in the year, I’d passed a dry stream bed, and speculated that maybe it was a winterbourne – a river that only runs in the winter. It seems that I might have been right. Many villages in Dorset are called Winterbourne something, such as the nearby Winterbourne Whitechurch.

Over a stile, and then a decision on which of three paths to take. In the mood of Robert Frost, I decided to take the one less travelled, diagonally up hill and into a little copse of trees. The low sun burnished the dry thistles into something softly miraculous.

At the top of the hill was the path through trees, which looked strangely menacing compared with the open field. But somehow I wasn’t ready to turn back yet, and so up I went.

And when I came out on the other side, there was a view of another cabbage field, and a single wind turbine.

Back I go, and immediately realise that it’s colder than I thought.

I pause at a sign before the wood. I have not heard shots here, and so I don’t think that I’m in danger of being peppered with pellets. Plus, I am wearing a bright red (and very unsuitable) coat, so I should at least be obvious. I know that shooting things is part of country life, but I confess that I loathe it, especially when it’s done for sport and the dead creatures are not even eaten. Still, you could argue that at least a pheasant has had a decent life before it meets its end, unlike a factory-farmed chicken or pig.

I’m out into the field again, and heading home. I spot the sheep from my last walk on a field across the way.

The tractor ruts are full of water, necessitating some clever manoeuvering to keep my feet dry. At least I’m wearing suitable walking shoes.

I fall in love with this dancing bush. It looks to me like a couple in the middle of a tango, and rather reminds me of the Fred and Ginger House in Prague….

The Fred and Ginger House, Prague.

It’s becoming colder, and I notice that some of the water in the ruts here is frozen. A pied wagtail is picking over the puddles, and the hedgerow is full of goldcrests and long-tailed tits. As usual, I don’t get a photo of them, but the wagtail is very obliging, flying along just a few feet ahead of me as I pick my way through the muddy morass.

Pied Wagtail

There is a huge bonfire in the wood to the left of the path as I turn for home, and I soon realise why. You might remember that last time I reported on this walk, I mentioned a very fine dilapidated barn in some woodland. Well, most of the woodland is now gone, and the logs are stacked up. I walked through a veil of woodsmoke, which lingered in my hair (and probably my lungs) for the rest of the day.

As I got to the brow of the hill, I noticed how some of the trees have previously been heavily coppiced, but have now grown into trees.

Notice all the tree trunks growing up from one horizontal trunk

It occurs to me that this was maybe once a hedgerow, or at least a piece of ancient woodland coppiced for firewood, which has been allowed, over many years, to grow freely. On the other side of the path, a hedgerow is still maintained, and I was struck by the similarity in the pattern of growth, but on a miniature scale. It would take me a lifetime to be able to truly read this landscape, but I am determined to learn while I can.

Part of the hedgerow

And as I passed another modern barn, I noticed the moon rising.

How serene it looked above the trees.

Underneath an abandoned farm building, a piece of old machinery was burnished with late afternoon light.

I had seen a few starlings roosting earlier, but now the big oak tree was full of twittering, whistling birds bedding down for the night.

And in the field opposite, the very last rays of the sun seemed to blessing a pair of horses.

And so I walk briskly home as the light fades and the wind picks up, chilling my face and making me yearn for a centrally-heated living room and a cup of tea. The parents are both asleep in their reclining chairs. Dad’s chest is wheezing gently, while Mum’s is distinctly more crackly. I put the kettle on, knowing that regardless of how deeply asleep he is, Dad will launch into alertness for our daily watching of ‘Pointless’. I am filled with such a rush of love for the pair of them that I’m brought to the edge of tears. I have to learn to relax into the uncertainty of the situation, and not try to control every decision (hard as that is for someone who thrives on making things happen). Sometimes, it’s best to just listen and trust that, in the words of Julian of Norwich:

‘All shall be well,

and all shall be well,

and all manner of things shall be well’.

19 thoughts on “Bugwoman on Location – The Best Laid Plans

  1. Fran and Bobby Freelove

    As usual we really enjoyed your post, beautiful photos and we feel we were on the walk with you. We know so much where you’re coming from with regards to your parents health, you can never relax because there’s so many ups and downs. Having said that you are looking after them because you want to, not because you have to. You did make us laugh out loud about your dad and the bins. Our father, how ever ill, was always obsessed with his bins 🙂

  2. Sarah Ann Bronkhorst

    That St Julian statement/prayer is one of my mantras, not least because of its repetition and rhythm. Do I believe it? Well, no, yet it’s strangely comforting.

  3. tonytomeo

    That is a lot of pictures to take. I suppose I should send more in my articles, but I tend to write more than illustrate. I sometimes wonder if taking pictures helps me see what I do not notice so much in my own part of the world. It always seems more interesting in pictures than in real life.

    1. Bug Woman

      Hi Tony, when i go out for a ‘blog walk’ I find having the camera helps me ‘see’ better – I’m thinking about what’s (hopefully) interesting, and trying to capture it for my readers. Some posts are wordier than others, but i do love the combination of words and images. It’s evolved as I’ve gone along, and i suspect it will carry on evolving. I use video too sometimes, and sound. I remembef once writing that my blog is the equivalent of the nature table that i used to look after at school when i was eleven – a collection of bits and pieces that have moved, intrigued or fascinated me. In other words, i use it as anexcuse to explore ideas and have fun.

      1. tonytomeo

        Now that I am using pictures that I got in Oklahoma, I remember what good pictures they were, and how much I enjoyed Oklahoma. I use pictures from where I am now, and they are pretty too. I do not always remember that while in the real world, when I so regularly compare it to somewhere else I would rather be. I am very homesick.

      2. tonytomeo

        It would almost be easier if I was actually somewhere else; but instead, I am only about fifteen miles from home. It is a whole different planet over here, but it is so much more livable too. Being so close is almost like a tease.

      3. Bug Woman

        Reminds me of when I was at university in Southampton -it’s only an hour and a half from where I lived in London, and it would have been easy to jump on a train and go home, but I felt like I had to stick it out. I never felt so homesick in my life, not when I was living in Scotland or when I spent time in Cameroon….

  4. meloe!

    I wish “great blog” wasn’t such a cliché. After locating your blog, I must confess it was truly an entertaining read.


    PS: Where are all your namesake “bugs”? Have they been frozen solid by the weather?

    1. Bug Woman

      Thank you Meloe!, much appreciated. When I named myself Bugwoman, I didn’t think about what would happen in the winter when all the ‘bugs’ were hibernating (or dead). Plus I find myself distracted by all the plants and birds. Still, I promise more ‘bugs’ in the future 🙂

    1. Bug Woman

      Thank you so much Andrea, you always have some wonderful photos on your blog too. I’m a great believer in the ‘blog walk’ – although having a camera sometimes gets in the way of seeing things properly, I love the sense that I’m sharing what I’m seeing, so I see it first and then try to capture it. And one of these days I will get a goldcrest photo, but what tricky little critters they are to photograph. Mum and Dad are (hopefully) on the mend now, thank goodness, and are looking forward to their Christmas visit. In the meantime, I’m doing a lot of baking…..

  5. Toffeeapple

    I am so sorry that your folk are unwell still, I shall be sending positive beams to them and you.
    Your pictures are superb, again especially the dancing trees.

    1. Bug Woman

      Thanks, Toffeeapple! I think that the parents might (finally) be on the mend – they identified that Dad had a very unusual chest bug, and so they’ve changed his antibiotic. I’m personally convinced that they both have an underlying infection that they picked up in hospital. Anyhow, fingers crossed for their Christmas visit! And I’m glad that you liked the dancing trees, I loved them too. It’s nice to do the same walk every time I visit and see how things change. I’m of an age to want to go deeper rather than skim the surface of things….

  6. Veronica Cooke

    What a lovely post, thank you.

    How exciting to see a Redwing; I’ve never seen one in the flesh!

    I do hope your parents are recovering well and I love how independent they are. I hope I’m the same when I reach their age…

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