Saturday, 5 December 2009
Of pipes and men
Occasionally we would be lucky enough to spot one of the shyest of birds, the kingfisher and would spend ages searching the stream that ran parallel to the River Welland for fossils. It was amazing just how many you could find in the muddy bottom, along with many pieces of pottery including stems from old clay (kaolin) pipes – I remember hearing somewhere that these were described as early equivalents of cigarette butts; they were often broken off and discarded when clogged. I used to find loads of them regularly in our garden in Stamford and in my parent’s back garden in Oakham, Rutland. I was even lucky enough to find a perfectly preserved pipe bowl with about three inches of stem still attached in the River Welland near the Town Bridge on one occasion.
However, back to the bird that opened this blog. As I was writing, before I got sidetracked badly and wandered down the dusty paths of Memory Lane, sometimes we would see this ‘grey old man of the water’ flying slowly across the sky or if we were lucky we would see him standing motionless in the shallows, with his neck hunched into his chest waiting for his next meal. And there were, as described above, quite a few delicacies to be had. Those of you who have read ‘Tarka the Otter’” will know of whom I write, but for those who have not, below is the opening line of Henry Williamson’s book. It is one of those opening lines that stays with you forever, as do those of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Little Women’ and ‘David Copperfield’.
“Twilight over meadow and water, the eve-star shining above the hill, and Old Nog the heron crying kra-a-ark! as his slow dark wings carried him down to the estuary.”
Posted by Jon Downes at 12:02