Here comes the Sun; Breaking Waves; A Whole Life

Recurring themes are the lot of this plodding blogger, who tries to make sense of the goings on in the world around him, as events crash in to disturb the daily routines of life.S1010029 (2)

And so amidst another run of high pressure, dry weather and wonderful sunrises, I shall record a second suit wearing, as we shared in remembering the life of Roger Clive-Powell, local architect and friend.SDIM4743 (2a)

I would not be writing this blog if we hadn’t met Roger, since it was he, all those years ago, who shone his torch into the space behind the dingy old gegin (kitchen) fireplace beam and went into raptures of excitement about the old wicker chimney hood. This is a rare and local design feature of some old houses in this part of the world, which we’d not even noticed on our first viewings of Gelli Uchaf – there never having been electricity in its living space before we took it on, ‘as a challenge’.s1080024-21Roger drew up and submitted the necessary plans to attempt to gain permission to turn it back into living accommodation, this being required since Gelli had been empty for nearly 30 years, and subsequently supervised the early restoration works. Reassured by Roger that we could embark on the project within our tiny budget, we made, and had accepted, an offer subject to this planning permission being approved, and the rest is as they say, history.S1000011 (2)

Over the intervening years we have come to know Roger and Jen, in much more than simply a client /professional relationship, and at Llanwenog church we gained an inkling of what a special man he was in the lives of many other people. Standing room only, and a series of eulogies that spanned the whole of his life from childhood and university, to the diversity of his work.  A considerable breadth of projects often saving the ancient buildings in this part of West Wales, including overseeing the restoration of Lampeter Town Hall to house Jen’s fabulous Welsh Quilt Centre, and his work in protecting many of the local historic churches.SDIM4781 (2)

Perhaps appropriate then that he was laid to rest beside his parents in the graveyard of this small rural church, which itself has several dramatic and distinctive features. Roger did indeed bring it back from the brink, after centuries of climatic abuse, beginning in the early ’90’s with a major series of works – the crumbling tower, stabilised in Roger’s unique, innovative way by pouring in fluid based lime mortars into the structure using watering cans; the barrel vaulted ceiling (held together when he first inspected it by “the woodworm holding hands”) was repaired from above with great care; some ancient frescoes were discovered underneath flaking lime wash; and the stunning carved oak rood screen, pew ends and Dragon design lectern, all created by a Belgian refugee during the first World War, who stayed with Roger’s grandfather at the family home of the Highmead estate.

Click here for some images of the church and carvings, which will always be remembered as having been saved by Roger.SDIM4721 (2)

But more than all this, many recollections of a genuinely warm, gentle, good humoured and wonderfully enthusiastic man, whose life touched all who came in contact with him, and looked boyish to the very end. SDIM4868 (2)Our sympathies and thoughts are with the family at this sad time, and it was entirely fitting for Roger to be carried from the church on a glorious clear sunny day to the Beatles “Here comes the Sun”, as a pair of Red kites wheeled overhead, for Roger did indeed bring warmth into so many lives, and has left such fond memories for so many.SDIM4863 (2)

We left Llanwenog, and drove to Poppit Sands, for a bracing and reflective walk.S1000016.aJPG (2)And for the first time, since the tide was right out, made it all the way North across the sands, to where the Teifi estuary curves down to the beach beneath the low cliffs at Gwbert.S1000019 (2) Walking back along the faceted sand bank which guides the river’s flow at low tide, were some extraordinary sand features, the like of which we’ve never experienced before – anywhere.S1000022 (3) Tide fossils, to quote my brother Mark’s suggestion – almost indeed like some preserved dinosaur skeleton.S1000023 (2)

I have no idea exactly how they are formed, or whether they have a specific name, but include several images to persuade others to walk the extra mile, and have a look themselves – I imagine that although changing on a daily basis, they will be a constant presence. But maybe not?S1000021 (3)

I also include them, because after processing them, I played around with rotating images, as above, to see whether they looked more appealing from different angles. And discovered another illusion, which was new to me, referred to as the ‘Crater Illusion’.S1000031 (2)

When the images flip through 180 degrees, my brain, and possibly also other readers, perceives the hollow depression in the sand as a raised mound.S1000031 (3a)

And try as I might to over ride this perception, my brain just won’t accept it.S1000028a (2)

It’s a mound, not a hollow!S1000028a (3)

Or is it?

Click here for some lunar examples, and discussion, though I have to say that my brain wasn’t as easily fooled by the images on this site.S1000030 (2)

Apparently, it’s caused by the brain/eye interpretation of the shadows, created by the low angle sunlight on the fascinating sand ridges around these craters/whirlpools. But it does make one contemplate how easily our perception of the world around us can be misled.S1000036 (2)S1000033 (3)

I’d be delighted to hear from any reader who’s seen similar sand features anywhere, but particularly beside an estuary.S1000020 (2a)S1000042 (2)S1000037 (2)

In trying to find out more about these sand forms, I discovered that Poppit Sands also has one of the largest and oldest examples of a fish trap in the UK.article-1162395-03EDA209000005DC-735_468x374 Only picked up from satellite images on Google earth a few years ago, the V shaped rock walls are now never visible above water, even at low tide, having sunk into the sand over the centuries, but with nets at their funnel entrance would date back to nearly 1,000 years ago, and were such an effective method of trapping fish, that Magna Carta banned their use from the actual mouths of estuaries – this one is to one side of the Teifi’s mouth.article-1162395-03EF6650000005DC-466_468x380

Back home, a dusk time cloud seemed to reflect the maritime theme with a breaking wave, leading edge, spilling down as it picked up the last of the evening sun, and drifted South.S1020011 (3)The extended dry spell has allowed me to top some remaining sections of our lower meadows.S1010023 (2) Initially I’d planned on burning off this excess, fibrous material. but having found our sheep tucking in, thought I might as well mound it up into higher piles, in the style of a hay cock.S1020022 (2)It can always be burned layer on, but if the winter proves to be as severe as some are forecasting, having a little extra, in-extremis, fodder might be handy.S1020028 (2)

I was also surprised by how many frogs and toads had already taken refuge beneath the drying windrows, so I guess that the hay cocks themselves will prove helpful hibernation refuges.

The main priority, as I’m gradually learning, is to clear such material from most of the field surface. On a valley bottom meadow such as this, any flopped over dead vegetation simply prevents any water evaporation. And actual drainage is a desperately slow affair on a pretty level saturated surface of seams of peat, overlying clay.S1020026 (2)

I thought that my previous post’s pictures would be the final amphibian images for the year, but then a night time walk around the croquet lawn with a torch, picked out this immobile newt. I’m not sure if it’s a Smooth or Palmate species, Lissotriton vulgaris, or L. helveticus, which apparently are quite similar, but I’m guessing that like the frogs and toads, it will be off into hibernation pretty soon.S1020018 (2)

Lately, there’s been more than the usual amount of effort in the garden. With just 36 hours to go until the great excitement of Noel Kingsbury’s workshop here, the weather is going to break tonight with heavy rain and winds, but for now, the scene looks a little better for Thursday.SDIM4755 (2)SDIM4723 (2)

SDIM4826 (2)SDIM4757 (2) SDIM4827 (2) SDIM4831 (2) SDIM4832 (2) SDIM4834 (2) SDIM4836 (2) SDIM4839 (2) SDIM4841 (2) SDIM4842 (2)SDIM4768 (2)Fingers crossed.

Finally, for those for whom the simplicity of a life in the hills has a certain appeal, I do recommend the novel ‘A Whole Life’, by Robert Seethaler, currently being serialised on BBC Radio 4, in their book at bedtime slot.

Click here for the link.

A simple novel about the life on a man living in the Austrian Alps, during the last century. 124 pages short.

About life, and living. And dying.

A whole life. SDIM4776 (2)

15 thoughts on “Here comes the Sun; Breaking Waves; A Whole Life

  1. So much in your post. Roger Clive-Powell must be a great loss not only to his friends and family but to his community. The wooden carvings do look as if they are more medieval than last century. The fish trap is very interesting and reminds me of some I have seen built out from the coast on the Ile d’Oleron near us. Those were apparently used until relatively recently but I suppose it must have been a common method of trapping fish from the beginning of civilisation. Your garden is looking remarkably colourful for the season. Your Hydrangeas are glorious. Are the lovely red leaves from Cornus? Amelia

    • Thanks for the comment Amelia. Roger’s loss to everyone is indeed immense and sad – and I suspect many who didn’t know him personally will in the end be affected by his passing, so significant was his influence. A really special man. The carvings are stunning – deserving of another visit to inspect them more closely. As you say the fish trap concept was a wonderfully simple but clever idea, and interesting that there are variations like this near you. But have you ever seen any sand features like the pools/fossils on the estuaries near you. I’d like to discover exactly how or why they are formed – does it reflect a weakness in the substrata at the points of the depressions, or is it some interaction between fresh and salt water at the edge of the river’s flow; or turbulence in this region??? Who knows?
      The red leaves are indeed those from Cornus sibirica, which always reliably colours up early. The leaves are all off now, just deep claret stems left through the winter,
      Best wishes

  2. Julian it’s all interesting but particularly the sand mounds. Brought up ad I was near the Essex marshes mud and sand are evocative to me. Not I live near the Kent marshes but it’s V muddy & the tide rise & fall isn’t that great. So Romney Marsh will be the place to look….shallow drp & much sand. I have certainly noticed the quality of the light there.

    Must get off my London bus now!
    Love )lou

    • Thanks Lou,
      How great with modern technology that the Welsh hills, sunrises and beaches can accompany you on your morning bus ride! Look forward to hearing if you can track anything similar down…or indeed find anyone else who’s ever seen anything similar. In my mothing days, I always got excited by new finds thinking they were something very rare …they rarely were! But these were such wonderful designs I’d love to know how they were formed.
      Love Julian

  3. Your posts are always overflowing with interesting snippets of facts tied up with ribbons of considered musing that I tend to unwrap them slowly otherwise I’m overwhelmed and don’t know quite which piece to think about first. However, this time I am struck by your theme of change, the tide ebbing and flowing, and changes in the landscape as we move into autumn and start to think about the winter. Sadly as the earth turns and time moves on, it also marks the departure of old friends.

    • Hello Christine,
      Very many thanks for this thoughtful comment. It is always reassuring to hear that others occasionally glean something thought provoking from what I write and photograph – since indeed much of the graft of churning this stuff out is offset by the (personally perceived) benefit of the thought processes that I have to go through to put it together. In this case your analysis is spot on as to the alignment of discussions of change here, with the seasonal shifts, and losses,
      Best wishes

  4. Somewhere in the attic, there is a textbook from my chemical engineering undergraduate days called “Transport Phenomena” by Bird, Stewart and Lightfoot. Having regard for your questions about the origin of the shapes in the sand, I had half a mind to go and dig it out, but I resisted that temptation for two reasons. Firstly, the formidable array of differential equations and inscrutable technological theory will doubtless bring back to me that awful undergrad experience of always being just on the outside of a body of knowledge; looking in at the cognoscenti who parade their understanding as a badge of distinction beyond the capacity of a mere, feckless student. The other reason is that I suspect the dry mathematical explanations of the phenomena you observe are not really what you or your readership really wants.

    You may of course anyway be confused by the title of the book, so a word of explanation is in order. It refers not at all to the familiar modes of transport such as planes and trains that we observe on a daily basis, but to the much more esoteric world of mass, momentum and energy transport that operates in the field of fluid dynamics. This is a critical area for chemical engineers, because the design of reactors requires, amongst other things, an in-depth understanding of how fluids interact with solid particles if the rates of reaction and the resulting thermodynamic effects are to be understood and incorporated in design. At the basic level of laminar flow, things are all relatively easy, but when the flow becomes turbulent, as it almost always is in the real world, things quickly become much more complicated. In laminar systems, results can be calculated from first principles using the resulting equations, but in turbulent systems, as in so many areas of engineering, one has to rely more on empirical observation and draw up predictive models that operate under defined conditions.

    The interaction of solid particles (such as sand or the catalyst in a reactor) with fluids (such as wind, water or the constituents of a chemical reaction) is reasonably predictable and can be explained at various levels of complexity. In the case of wind blowing over a sand sea, slight variations in the sand bed lead to variations in the velocity of the wind at the interface and therefore in the capacity of the wind to hold the sand in suspension. This leads to deposition of the sand and a self-reinforcing rise in the sand bed at this location. The result is the familiar pattern of a sand dune. Exactly the same mechanisms work in a system of sand and water, though the results are very different because of the properties of moving liquids relative to gases. For anyone interested, much more detailed explanations are available all over the internet.

    In the case of your circular depressions in the sand, these will have been formed by much the same processes. For instance, a small object on the surface such as a stone or a piece of seaweed will affect the flow of water over and around it, changing its velocity and therefore its ability to carry sand in suspension, and this process will be self-reinforcing. Small whirlpools might be set up with similar effect. Just as on the land, as the “dunes” grow, they will become unstable and collapse on the “slip” side leading to the sharp ridges that you observe.

    While these observations can be understood and equations drawn up to predict outcomes, it is nevertheless almost impossible to predict the precise outcome. This leads to a consideration of the system as chaotic and Chaos Theory comes into play. Consider the similarity with the often noted observation that the wind from a butterfly’s wings could well be the origin of a tropical hurricane. So the patterns that you so expertly record, remain unique to the specific conditions in which they were formed and in all probability, those precise conditions might never be the same again….

  5. Hello Kevin,

    I was indeed hoping that I might elicit a comment from you on the sand ‘fossils’, and as always it is hugely informative in considering the possible mechanics or dynamics behind the creation of these sand forms. I had though never thought that these subjects would come within the remit of a chemical engineer, though your description explains very clearly why it must and does.

    It occurs to me after reading your comments that just as there is huge fun to be had from time lapse photography of cloud movements and formation/dissipation, what would be really useful is persuading some bright spark to design a system for recording how these structures actually develop in real time. Of course this is probably technically fraught for many reasons …not least of which might be that the presence of any structure capable of submerged photography in sand laden water close enough to the action to record anything discernible would, of itself, disturb the very subtle and specific interaction of whirlpool and suspended sand, to the extent that nothing similar to the above images formed anyway!

    So perhaps they shall forever retain their precise mysterious origins.

    Indeed I think you are right to eschew the path of equations. In many topics I’m driven to investigate for this blog as a lay person, it never fails to amaze me that organic events, structures or processes can be deconstructed to a line or 2 of complex algebra, which really denies access to all but the very few in the know.

    And thereby somehow also often detracts from the considerable aesthetics or design of the ‘thing’ the mathematical formulae seeks to describe.

    And as for chaos theory, having dabbled with it once or twice, I fear it is completely beyond this hobbit’s ability to ever really understand…

    Best wishes

  6. While I’m at it, just another little snippet on your observations about the banning of fish traps in Magna Carta. It never ceases to surprise me that at the time this issue was of equal importance in the eyes of the barons and the King to matters such as the right to a fair trial and equality before the law, now considered quite possibly the greatest contribution of English culture to the history of the world, even including Mr Shakespeare’s efforts.

    And while I’m on about surprises, the other day I went on a little pilgrimage to Runnymede, where Magna Carta was sealed, as part of a delightful walk that took me through Windsor Great Park and along the magnificent Long Walk. I was intrigued to find at Runnymede the only recognition of the great event which unfolded here 800 years ago was an unassuming little memorial contributed by the American Bar Association. Is it not infinitely amusing that American litigators are prouder of the English achievement than the English themselves??!! To be fair, this is something that as a foreigner, I have often noted and much admired about the English. In their general zeal to minimise their own achievements as a matter of politeness, they have fashioned self-deprecation into an art form. This is nowhere more evident than at Runnymede, where the only other memorial is a tribute to John F Kennedy…..

  7. Christina’s comments were spot on and put into words exactly how I feel. Unless I’m out photographing (my Zen moments!) I always seem to be in too much of a hurry for any meaningful input … if only time would slow down!
    I’m thoroughly enjoying catching up with your blog but it’s probably going to be in fits and starts as usual 😦

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