The sun still rises in the east

Trump’s been sworn in and the reverberations are being felt all over the world. It’s as if Alderaan has just been obliterated. God help us. Although if the speech is anything to go by, He might be exclusively on America’s side. So we might as well invoke the Force for all the good it will do us.

Here in Dorset, the sun rises and then sets, as it does everywhere else in the world. For now at least.

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There is a real beauty in these crisp, winter mornings. Glorious skies, aeroplane vapour trails like firework rockets trailing through blue and grey skies and my shadow walking through the trees.

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There is drama in nature and drama in the village. Thieves target parked cars in the dead of night, stealing loose change along with more valuable items from garages. They return a few days later for another go.

A yellow helicopter circles overhead. It’s not the Air Ambulance or the coastguard or the police. It’s the electricity board. No wonder bills are so high.

A pair of jackdaws chase a third, which has a chunk of bread in its mouth from our bird table. They fly one behind the other, swooping and spinning, until they are joined by a seagull, far from its shoreline home. The orderly line falls into chaos, the first bird drops the bread and the jackdaws retire to the branches next door’s ash tree to regroup. The seagull yells its melancholy call and heads for the ocean.

The chip van chugs by to the next village and then returns an hour or so later as the people come out of their homes, pied piper-like, into the cold, pulled by the invisible string that is the smell of salt and vinegar, freshly-cooked batter and sausages.

Tonight it’s Spice and Rice night at the local pub. Time to drown our Inauguration Day sorrows with a pint of cider and a plate of curry.

And so the year begins

On the first day of the New Year, brave souls in fancy dress head for the sea at Lyme Regis in the now traditional ‘Lyme Lunge’, organised by the local Rotary Club, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

‘Dip into the balmy waters of Lyme Bay,’ the promotional material states. You can almost hear the Cadbury’s Caramel bunny doing the voiceover. But it’s cold in that there ocean. My brother swims about six strokes and then he’s out, like a flying fish.

Rather him than me.

The crowds watching are wetter than the swimmers. On the first day of 2017, it rains and it rains and it rains. Tonight, the Mummers will be soaked at Symondsbury as they perform their ancient play to welcome the New Year.

On the second day of January, shots ring around the Dorset countryside as the wealthy and bloodthirsty get their post-Christmas fix in fields several miles away. A grey wagtail, which is more colourful than its drab name suggests, is oblivious to the noise. It’s poised on a pile of cow dung, doing what it does best: wagging that distinctive lemon-yellow undertail and generally being cheerful.

On the third day, the ground is firm underfoot and footsteps crackle in the thick hoar frost, which makes everything sparkle like the diamonds in the seven dwarfs’ mine. Blades of glass glisten like star-encrusted scabbards.

I’m up before the sunrise, heading for Dorset’s highest point. The planets, Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury, do a little show to light up the sky and then take a bow. The sun begins to rise slowly above a graceful beech tree and the triangular roof of a farm building, which become arty silhouettes in the sun’s path. Actually, I think the building is a pyramid. Why else would it be built on this spot, where the rising sun starts its journey each day above our village?

The next night, I’m in the field with the dog and see what I think is a horse, rather like the sinister one used by the Symondsbury Mummers as part of their act. It’s got spindly, ungainly front legs and it’s moving in a very strange way.

As I get closer and my eyes become accustomed to the gloom, I realise it’s a person. I don’t have my glasses on and it looks like they’re doing tai chi in the dark. Before you dismiss me as being fanciful, stranger things have happened in these parts. I once saw a man fly fishing in a field and another sitting in the lotus position on a rock in the middle of a stream, meditating.

Closer still to the tai chi man and I see it’s my neighbour, with camera and tripod, all set to capture in a photograph the slivery crescent moon and Venus and Mars, which are along for the ride.

And then it’s time to take the Christmas decorations down, before Twelfth Night when the Beaminster Gallery Quire sings in the pub. They bring us the kind of music performed by Thomas Hardy’s family and his fictional characters. Strong tunes and powerful harmonies.

We leave the pub to It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. The church tower is illuminated, the air is crisp and clean.

The village is full of coughs and colds. And soon it will be full of horses and hounds as the local hunt gathers in the square for the annual meet.

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Romance, beauty and friendship in the Dorset hills

Up in the frosty field, my shadow takes a stroll along the hedge in the early morning sun.

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There’s been some wondrous skies over the past few days, the light changing the landscape in front of my eyes.

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Across the way, I can see a pair of swans on the grass in front of the old people’s bungalows. How romantic, I think, it being Valentine’s Day. The devotion of swans to their partners is the stuff of mythology.

But I don’t have my glasses on and they could be seagulls. And, in any case, according to the BBC Earth website, ‘Swans often do stay with their partners for life. But whatever feelings they may have for each other, this loyalty is a strategy for maximising the number of cygnets they can raise.’

Further along, I see the village nymph looking rather lonely on the roadside, probably wishing she was a famous statue by Rodin rather than being purchased from a garden centre in the twenty first century.

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A pair of daffodils restores my faith in the courtship of nature.

Lov_TeteAteteIMG_4365There is romance and beauty all around this part of Dorset.

As my shadow walks in the trees again, and I prepare myself to photograph this phenomenon while the sun peeps over the ridge, I reach the brow and see an elderly man with a little white dog on a long lead, walking towards me.

‘Good morning,’ he says, as my dog runs rings around him and his terrier.

‘And what a beautiful morning it is, too.’

‘Do you live here?’ he asks me.

‘Indeed I do,’ I say.

‘Well then you are blessed,’ he says.

‘And you?’ I ask him.

‘I’ve just moved in,’ the old man says.

It transpires that, for nearly the last decade-and-a-half, he’s lived just a few miles away, deep in Hardy country, right in the middle of nowhere. But the time was right to move over a few hills and to civilisation.

‘It was lovely,’ he says. ‘But it was a little bit isolated. Here, you’ve got agriculture, which is what I had before, but with this incredible sense of history.’

I look up towards Lewesdon, the highest point in Dorset and where there’s a dip in the treeline where an aeroplane crashed, and I know exactly what he means.

DSC04213We exchange first names (‘this village is so friendly’), share stories about our dogs and say goodbye until we meet in the fields again one morning or at Friday night’s film show in the village hall.