That December, in time of flood, the writer Sarah Hall came home to Cumbria for her mother's burial.
Rain fell all through the night. Next morning, the River Kent ran fast and high. No goosander, dipper, or grey wagtail. Yesterday's house martins were gone, until next summer. The river was brim-full but nothing like the morning of 6th December 2015, the morning after Storm Desmond, when the river had shrunk back within its bounds and we scooped up bullheads, sticklebacks and crayfish stranded in the mud beside the Parish Church and threw them back into the turbulent river.
That December, in time of flood, the writer Sarah Hall came home to Cumbria for her mother's burial.
Be alert as you watch the opening sequence of Bodyguard episode 5. Resume clips will prove important .
Death Star, for instance. Keeley Hawes is clear and eloquent as Home Secretary Julia Montague. Before she 'ambushes' the Prime Minister she turns to David Budd, her personal protection officer, and tells him to go to the Death Star if she doesn't return. It's a photograph she named in an earlier episode.
Eventually, David Budd follows -up the Death Star reference and finds the kompromat that everyone is seeking. With whom will he share these toxic revelations, now he feels even Detective Louise Rayburn has betrayed him? Kompromat: damaging allegations, compromising material. In this case revelations about the Prime Minister.
And what is Budd doing meeting secretly with an arms dealer and trying to get hold of an untraceable rifle? I reckon he's pursuing his theory that the assassination attempts on Julia Montague involve organised crime trying to suppress her RIPA 18 legislation. He knows his Helmand associate Andy Apsted had such a weapon. Finding how it was sourced might lead him to the bomb builder.
Looking back over all those terrorist/ assassination attempts are they all linked? Even that episode with Nadia on the train. Was it chance that David Budd was on that train, or part of the plan? In the same way the choice of his kids' school as bomb target was not haphazard?
We know Hunter-Dunn, Head of Security Services, is on the dark side. But what about Tom who looked shifty at St Matthews College and kept clear of the explosion. It was he, not DI Louise Rayburn, who ensured David Budd was stood down and stripped of the right to carry firearms.
Will Jed Mercurio give us all the answers? Or leave some threads tightly knotted so we have to go on unravelling. It's working. Can't think when a drama had everyone so engaged, so eager to second- guess the plot. Trailers tease us, taking care to blind-side us and keep us puzzling it out.
Rob McDonald tried to sabotage Julia Montague's speech. Hoping for a memorable gaffe. Vince Cable showed us how. Try John Crace, The Guardian Political Sketch writer on VInce's performance. It's hilarious. Might have felt sorry for Vince Cable, had his intended thought been less vicious.
The clouds parted and blue sky opened up above us, a radiant blue. And sunlight swept over the fellside where we sat beside Kentmere Reservoir, watching the play of light.
The word photography means drawing with light and whoever was on the Divine Lighting Console was having fun. A spotlight fell on a cluster of sheep, startling white fleeces with blue paint marks to tell their owner. Then light played along a ridge, tracing the architecture of the fell. Dark cloud loured and rays of light probed beneath and gleamed off the RIver Kent as it flowed south past a sheep fold. Floodlight softened the grasses, turned them gold. A magical day.
Fly agaric grew beneath a birch, its preferred host . As we searched the bracken we found more and more, from spherical dark red caps to large saucer-shapes flecked with white and nibbled by slugs.
Fly agaric is important in Lapland culture and is used by shamans to induce hallucinations. Its intoxicating properties affect reindeer too. Flying from Lapland, Father Christmas is dressed in the colours of fly agaric in its younger, fresher stage.
The Bloody Chamber is Angela Carter's best work. So says Salman Rushdie and I agree. The title story in a group of tales, it's in Gothic mode. And 'I'm political', Carter was heard protesting in a recent BBC documentary. 'It's there in my work.'
Now BBC radio 4 is to broadcast readings of Carter's stories and novels. Make a date for The Bloody Chamber on 24th September. To create an ambience, listen to Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, listen to the sound of the sea and inhale the pure scent of white lilies, while it lasts.
The auditorium is in semi-darkness. Julia Montague, Home Secretary, is on stage giving her speech on combating terrorism. Sgt Budd, her bodyguard, sees a movement outside the hall, checks it out. Thinks it's a false alarm. But there is tension in a packed auditorium: a student protest, someone running in late, a pulsing soundtrack with a sense of foreboding grows frantic. The policewoman and sgt Budd see something and race toward the Home Secretary. There's a flash, an explosion. The aftermath isn't sensationalised. Darkness in the auditorium, and silence.
The tide was far out as we headed north along the sands. Then east over the shingle, over the sand dunes, by the gravel pits and onto the salt-marsh. 'A spectacle of purple-blue flowers stretching as far as the eye can see.' Limonium, sea-lavender,' at its best three weeks ago.' Steve Benn regretted our field-trip date didn't coincide with optimum flowering. Impossible to predict in this the hottest summer in England ever. The sea-asters are splendid. Do we appreciate how remarkable they are?
So, to the salt-marsh.
Small copper is a beautiful butterfly and on North Walney this one lingered.
Where shingle merges into sand dunes we found Hare's-foot clover- a pale pink, with soft hairs almost hiding the flower itself. A delicate clover, easily overlooked.
Yellow bartsia is a speciality of Morecambe Bay. The sun was too bright to photograph a yellow flower well but there are few on Walney, so here it is. Red bartsia was more abundant.
A bright and sunny day with dragonflies and damselflies breeding.
Through the protracted summer heat-wave I longed for rain. Impossible to imagine how farmers felt, watching their crops wither and die for lack of rain. Their cattle being given winter feed because the grass did not grow. Temperatures were still high when the rain came. I opened the windows and relished the sounds of a heavy shower. And from the garden there arose a fragrance, not simply cool refreshing rain but something unusual.
Pertichor: a phenomenon rare in Britain.
Home Secretary Julia Montague is assigned a bodyguard, Sgt David Budd. The calibre of ‘Bodyguard’ is breath-taking. Jed Mercurio’s drama drives fast and clean through terrorist plots and at high velocity through rivalries, power-seeking and machinations within government. There are threats all around. There’s subterfuge and ambiguity, but a powerful narrative arc cuts through it all. Whom do we trust? Not Anne Sampson, the Head of Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, played by Gina McKee. Did she deliberately withhold back-up when Julia Montague’s vehicle came under fire in an assassination attempt? Montagu believes so.
Heavy rain overnight and grasses drenched, but there are Scotch Argus on Kendal Fell and if the sun can break through cloud we should see them.
Here, a golf course is managed in harmony with conservation. Steep and rough ground is managed for flora, and so for butterflies. It's late in the season and buddleia flowers are past their best, but we see their butterfly potential. There's knapweed and thistles that offer nectar. And we head for an area of blue moor grass on the limestone, favoured by Scotch Argus.
The sway of Roudsea Wood gradually took hold. After rain, there was a freshness of almost autumn on the air. And a hint of the sea as the River Leven debouches into Greenodd Sands and out into Morecambe Bay.
Glossy scarlet berries of glowed from the woodland floor. Arumn maculatum, Cuckoo pint, Lords and Ladies- some plants have a profusion of names. Others, like tiny fungi rising on slender deep-red stipes from the leaf litter, are more elusive. Their abundance hints at their mycelium, a spreading network of threads hidden in the earth. A connectivity of trees and fungi.
A fresh approach to Smardale. From Ravenstonedale, we walked north beside Scandal Beck sounding loud after rain. Walking its muddy banks was a novelty this summer. Smardale Gill opened up before us: limestone quarry on its western flank and the viaduct soaring high above the beck. A fresh perspective on Smardale packhorse bridge and the dismantled railway track. The skies were louring and cloudy, so butterflies seemed unlikely.
Heavy rain at breakfast, thunder at tea-time. The morning was humid and still, with rain drops lingering on vegetation. There was time to appreciate different aspects of Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve as we walked the dismantled railway track. Vistas opened up toward Scandal Beck and Smardale packhorse bridge and the sun grew brighter. There are diverse flowers and with the sun came butterflies. We had a range of species, with good sightings of Scotch Argus and painted ladies.
Nature has regenerated along a dismantled railway track, now Smardale National Nature Reserve. Embankments topped with flowers, rank in August, bedraggled after a searing heat-wave and early morning rain. Greater burnet with petals a rich atro-purpurea, so dark and dense they might be mistaken for seed-heads. Mingling by turns with tall scabious, with purple knapweed, with rosebay willowherb and greater willowherb.
Fair-weather cumulus, promised Tomasz Shaferfnaker. And here it was. Patterns of cumulus and sunlit mist over the River Kent, and toward the horizon. Lured by the beauty of cloudscape, I set out for Scout Scar. The air was still and humid and mist soon engulfed me. Trees revenant, nothing for sure. Impossible to tell if I were alone up there. A cough sounded and a couple of collies leapt out of the mist, and away. The Mushroom Shelter toposcope was useless- no fells to name. A pale sun peeped from beyond the mist, and slipped away again. It was late morning before the grand reveal.
The last week-end of July saw a break in the heat-wave, with days of steady rain. Cloud filtered sunlight, with a breeze to invigorate us on the first day of August. Seed-heads of bluebells in the woods above Barbon Beck, its waters low but flowing. A joy to hear the sounds of water in a landscape. Rowan berries ripen and heather comes into bloom. Sphagnum moss has soaked up rain and rehydrated, no longer looking distressed. A pleasant temperature for walking. And that’s news! Talking of weather is not banal, not inconsequential. This coming week-end, Spain and Portugal may reach almost 50 degrees.
Bird watching at Leighton Moss is the perfect way to spend a hot day. The coolness of bird-hides looking out onto Morecambe Bay, the susurration of the reed beds and the leafy shade of trees is delightful.
Long seed-capsules of greater willow-herb split to release parachute seeds drifting away on the lightest breeze. Codlings and cream the flower is called- codlings, rosy-pink apples.
Butterflies all about us as we walked. Maybe speckled wood, maybe not.
The bliss of a gentle breeze as temperatures soar, again. Wisps of alto-stratus against the blue. We'll swelter this afternoon, but we know our good fortune to be in Cumbria.
Weather maps show Atlantic fronts massing off- shore, but they melt away and come to nothing. A brief shower of the finest rain.
In town, the River Kent has vile-looking clots of algae and looks sick, its current sluggish. It smells stale.
Meanwhile, United Utilities, will at last introduce a hose-pipe ban at the beginning of August. When will they have robust procedures in place, toward the conservation of water, toward protecting our environment ?
A glimpse of small skipper was enticing. Two days later this golden butterfly appeared once more on the sunny slope where scabious grew thick. A brood had hatched and was on the wing. As sunlight broke through alto-cumulus cloud butterflies spun a web around me, in courtship dance, in a feeding frenzy. This patch of scabious must be a rich source of nectar, a butterfly hot-spot. I am all involved in the butterfly experience so I settle into stillness and the magic all about me. No need to seek further, here and now is everything. I am silent, my shadow scarcely stirs, I am so still it's as if I am become invisible.
Jan Wiltshire is a writer and naturalist living in Cumbria. She take photographs.