The Thirty-Nine Steps: A raptor, Sydlings Copse and a shark
MLK went for a hike.
February 20, 2021
"Pardon,' he said, 'I'm a bit rattled tonight. You see, I happen at this moment to be dead."― John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps Except for the fierce wind, spring was in the air as we walked north on a day of meaningful coincidences - or what Carl Jung called "synchronicities". As always our conversation was flowing like a river: from the poetry of Cesare Pavese and the guitar composition of Agustín Barrios to the turbulent brain basis of improvisation and eudaimonia.The backdrop to this endlessly fascinating stream included the rooftop sculpture "Untitled 1986" by John Buckley. Commonly known as the Headington Shark, this sculpture was erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombing on Nagasaki and currently serves as an AirBnB: airbnb.co.uk/rooms/31345904We crossed over the A40 and walked up hill in the company of a magnificent red kite, criss-crossing the turbulent skies in search of prey. We came out of the wind and entered the delightful Sydlings Copse Nature Reserve; home to rare Oxfordshire heathland, ancient broadleaved woodland, limestone grasslands, reedbed, fen and a stream. The reserve supports over 400 plant species and is home to butterflies including the purple hairstreak, brown hairstreak, marbled white and common blue. Approaching Elsfield Village from the east, we spotted a beautiful, yet mysterious cubic building north of the local Church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Upon return, careful research revealed it to be a dovecote, a grade-II listed building. Two peacocks crossed the road and we followed them to Elsfield Manor with its extraordinary views of Oxford. It was home of Francis Wise, the Radcliffe librarian in Oxford whom Dr Johnson visited in 1754. He built not only ponds and cascades, but also scale-models of a triumphal arch, a pyramid, a Druid temple, and the tower of Babel.Just after the Great War, John Buchan, author and sometime Governor General of Canada took up residence in Elsfield Manor with his family. He wrote over 100 books of which "The Thirty-Nine Steps" is probably the most well-known and formed the inspiration for Hitchcock's 1935 film.As we descended into Oxford, following the Cherwell via Old Marston, our conversation continued to sprawl like the iridescent blue and green plumage of a peacock. Yet, we were still astounded by the sudden, unexpected appearance in Mesopotamia of a long lost friend who only minutes earlier had made an important appearance in our discussion. As Sherlock Holmes tells Dr Watson in Conan Doyle's "The adventure of the second stain": "A coincidence! ... The odds are enormous against its being coincidence. No figures could express them."
February 21, 2021
The shark...🤣🤣🤣, The red kite...🔝🔝🔝
Aaaah! Spring has sprung... at least in the South 🌷🌞
Wow some awesome pics really interesting and nice well done 👏
🙏 for the kind comments. When spring arrives, it will be even more magic 😀
I'm surprised and impressed by your mention of Cesare Pavese, surely that's not a poet many Britons would know?As a non-native of these lands some of your references are lost on me, but I always enjoy reading your never banal descriptions and most often than not I learn a thing or two from them.It transpires from your words that you like to share your experience as much as you've enjoyed living it and the care you put in painting pictures with your writing adds many layers of depth for the external observer to peel off slowly and delicately.Thank you for the effort you put into your brief reports, I hope one day I'll have the pleasure to make your acquaintance in person, given our shared love for the outdoors and our relative geographical proximity.
February 22, 2021
Thank you! Unless someone else has taken your moniker, we did meet virtually on Zwift a while back... The joys of lockdown... Perhaps it will lift at some point and we can share an espresso in the sun?
Ah! You're teasing me now!I do indeed use the same moniker on Zwift, a very recent addiction after years of hardmanship and rejection (riding indoor is for wussies, right?) and now I'm hooked...Do you too use the same three-lettered name on Zwift? How did I miss you?But above all, I'm absolutely looking forward to a time when the cycling gods will again allow us to enjoy the bliss of sharing the caffeinated brown beverage while (responsibly) filling our bellies with baked goods.Until then, I'll be content to keep reading your stories and, work and weather allowing, reciprocate with some of mine...
February 23, 2021