Thursday, 13 November 2008

Across the Levels

I am a sociable person, blessed with friends and family, and I like living in London more than I have ever done, but when I return to the West Country things change. I need to get close again to the places I grew up in.

So it was that early on an October Sunday I borrowed a bike and headed out over the North Somerset Levels. The flat and watery land, crossed by rhynes and lonely roads, feels a million miles from the rest of the world. It was what I wanteed. On an Autumn day, the wind gusting in from the sea, it has a freshness and a cleanliness that calms and restores you.

I headed out along Claverham Drove. A few other early morning cyclists nodded cheerily as I skirted round Nailsea. When I headed across the moors, though, I was alone.

A sparrowhawk impassively observed me struggling over a railway bridge. As I went on I saw buzzards overhead, and a particularly large and impressive one sat in a tree by the road. Likewise, numerous herons stalked the ditches and streams. I don't remember seeing so large birds when I was younger. Is the countryside a better place for them now?

Crossing over the M5 I headed into Kingston Seymour, and continued through the village out towards the sea. Even though you are within yards of the shore at some points you don't get to see the Bristol Channel. The land is so flat and the sea itself is hidden behind banks stopping the salt water reclaiming what was once its own.

The lane followed the coast for a mile or so before turning inland. Following the road, I crossed over the motorway again, traversed Kenn Moor and was back in plenty of time to get the 13.00 to Paddington.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The first year

T is a year old tomorrow. I have just finished putting together his trike (present from both of us), and wrapping his mini Bristol kit (the first stage of indoctrination from me).

At exactly this time last year, I was sat, a month earlier than anticipated, in Lewisham Hospital, reading out chunks of Peter Ackroyd's biography of Chaucer to my wife as we waited. Eight hours later I became a dad.

Has this year changed me? Certainly, but I'm too close to it to know how. It's been a great year, though.

I hope he likes his trike.