… the bikes have taken me in the last few days in search of images. The old rolling stock being put to an agricultural use sits in a field above Allendale. Thorneyburn is way over yonder in the minor key – between Bellingham and Kielder. Linnels Bridge and the Mill are on the road between Hexham and Slaley. The transport for most of this can be seen in the last. What an unpredictable summer it has been.
… The White Album; Where I Was From; Slouching Towards Bethlehem – all stories of distant places in a distant time – scattered with searing observation that make place, time and distance irrelevant. Joan Didion has the capacity to invade your thoughts, for days on end:
Notes from a Native Daughter (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
Perhaps in retrospect this has been a story not about Sacramento at all, but about the things we lose and the promises we break as we grow older; perhaps I have been playing out unawares the Margaret in the poem (Spring and Fall – Gerard Manley Hopkins):
Margaret are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving? …
It is the blight man was born for
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Where I was From – Part Four
Flying to Monterey I had a sharp apprehension of the many times before when I had, like Lincoln Steffens, “come back”, flown west, followed the sun, each time experiencing a lightening of spirit as the land below opened up, the checkerboards of the midwestern plains giving way to the vast empty reach between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada; then home, there, where I was from, me, California. It would be a while before I realized that “me” is what we think when our parents die, even at my age, who will look out for me now, who will remember me as I was, who will know what happens to me now, where will I be from.
… We kissed, we had a drink together, we promised to keep in touch. A few months later Nancy was dead, of cancer, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. I sent the recital program to Nancy’s brother, to send on to her daughter. I had my grandmother’s watercolor framed and sent it to the next oldest of her three daughters, my cousin Brenda in Sacramento.
I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.
It has been an obsessive and busy summer. When thoughts jostle for space, I escape – two wheels at speed empties the head, concentrates the mind and lifts the spirit. I seek out empty and abandoned places – I want no distractions.
Before departing I had worked out a circular route going north along the A68, into Scotland towards Selkirk and then south to Kielder. Not for the first time, I was thwarted by road closures, this time the B6357. When did this become the norm rather than the exception – much to my annoyance, I was briefly distracted 😉
… and the places they take me. As I type, the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia is juggling the tree tops and spreading leaves across empty Northumbrian fields. The summer is long gone. A daily photographic diary is a striking reminder of how the landscape changes from the lush greens of summer to an autumnal palette in the blink of an eye. It is also a reminder of the places I have been when the sun was at its highest:
As the year turns, the bikes will spend longer in the garage, as will the golf clubs. It is time to make some serious progress on the sequel to Golf in the Wild – a bit like a 2nd LP, I am finding the follow-up much harder going 🙂
I have been neglecting this blog. The weather has been unusually good, flaming June has given Northumberland a taste of Tuscany or, should that be North-umbria. These images, which have all appeared on Blip, explain the neglect – there will be plenty of time to sit at the keyboard over the winter months 😦 – frost and snow are not conducive to bikes or golf:
It has taken time but, with the persistence of an unreformed trainspotter, I have concluded that this motorcycle is a Triumph 494cc Model P. Standing proudly in front of the sidecar is my mother aged about four while Mrs Kipper sits, queen-like, on her mobile throne. The motorcycle was introduced at the 1924 Motor Cycle Show and fits perfectly with family chronology – this photograph was probably taken by my grandfather around 1926-27 and I would guess the machine is nearly new, just possibly on its maiden voyage.
The tell-tale signs are the shape and markings on the fuel tank, the forks and the size and shape of the guards which distinguish it from the Triumph Ricardo. All of the minor details match images of other Model Ps. The number plate indicates it was registered in Portsmouth, an invigorating fifty mile ride from Andover.
According to Bonhams, the Model P was a landmark machine in the development of the motorcycle in Britain. A no-frills, sidevalve-engined model, the newcomer was priced at £42 17s 6d, at which level it undercut every other 500cc machine then on sale in the UK. The first batch manufactured was not without its faults, but once these had been sorted the Model P was a runaway success. Output from Triumph’s Priory Street works was soon running at an astonishing 1,000 machines per week, and the Model P’s arrival undoubtedly hastened the demise of many a minor manufacturer. At auction, a restored Model P will now sell for around £9000.
As the owner of a Triumph Scrambler, I now know there is a distant connection with my maternal grandfather’s choice of machinery, at a time when there were many more manufacturers to choose from. My Scrambler is an 865 cc, air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin. You can trace the origin of this machine back through the 1959 T120 Bonneville, the 1953 Tiger T110, the 1950 Thunderbird and the 1938 Triumph Speed Twin. My bike and that of my grandfather’s are not so distantly related as might be imagined.
The roads are still salty, on most days they are uncomfortably wet and the air is still piercingly cold but, there is no resisting the call of the wild and the open road. Against better judgement I ventured out on two wheels on several occasions in March and was never disappointed. The still image is from a ride out to Carrshield and the video from a late afternoon ride to Allendale Golf Club – Home of Golf in the Wild. This is now accessible from the club’s website just in case visitors have difficulty finding the course – follow satnavs to NE47 9DH and you will be taken to High Studdon Farm.
“The course is tucked away in the hills of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and must therefore be discreet. The road south out of Allendale winds down the Allen Valley along the B6295 towards Allenheads, following the course of the East Allen River. A mile or so south of the town, as the road breaks free from overhanging trees, a sharp left turn is signposted to the club. The track is rutted, rabbits run for cover and depending on the time of year, will wear a layer of rich agricultural muck. The track climbs 167 feet in a third of a mile which is more or less the difference between the high and low ground on the course; it helps to be fit. The clubhouse sits at 1077 feet above sea level on the west facing side of Green Hill which peaks at 1374 feet – it is not entirely inaccurate to say the course is situated on the side of a mountain. A wind turbine installed in 2010 marks your arrival. On a plain 9-metre tower with dark coloured blades, it blends into the agricultural landscape in a manner reminiscent of the iconic multi-bladed windpumps of America’s central plains.”
An accidental selfie, captured by the GoPro – I am wearing a backpack, just in case you were wondering 🙂
This is a selection of images from Blip over the last seven days. It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone – two rounds of golf, one on the coast and one in Yorkshire (Spring must be around the corner); no rides out on the bikes, too darn cold but the chains have been cleaned and oiled; various walks around Hexham, including one to the station – hence the picture of Les Dawson. It is a look I have enthusiastically courted all my life – disapproval – reassuring that I can still do it 🙂
I finished reading Adlestrop Revisited by Anne Harvey, an anthology inspired by Edward Thomas’s poem. It includes this by Martin Newell, an extract from Adlestrop Retrieved:
Bombastic brash and over-prone
To shouting on his mobile ‘phone
He’s cancelling his three o’clock
Or booking tickets for Bangkok
So fellow travellers have no choice
But hear his self-important voice.
“I’ve godda window, Tuesday. Noon.
“Yup. Abso-lootly. Speaktcha soon.”
No sooner has he closed the thing,
His brief-case then begins to ring.
And down it comes from off the rack.
“I’m breaking up, I’ll call you back.”
As fellow travellers wish he’d stow
His mobile phone where phones don’t go.
And so the pompous prat proceeds
From Paddington to Temple Meads.
Have a good week all and may you find life’s silent coach 😜 🚊