Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Autumn leaves, The Thing, and Bodyline bowling

And now for something completely different.

As yesterday was supposed to be the last really fine day before wetter and colder weather set in for a while, I made a point of visiting one of the nearby National Trust properties close to me. Being a Life Member, I can go to any of them on a whim, just for tea and cake perhaps, but I like Sheffield Park because it has lakes and plenty of nice colourful plants and trees. However, as you can see from the shot above, the real autumn colours had not yet started to show in any great quantity. My goodness, what then does a keen photographer do?

Well, the trick in these circumstances is to concentrate on individual leaves that have a bit of colour. You get in close:

Another trick is to use water to enhance what colour there is:

However, next to water you will always find some strange plants, and one that gives me the creeps is the big variety of gunera. This is the one used as an umbrella-like ornamental plant. But really it's a maneating prehistoric monster, that looks alien from the moment it starts to sprout:

It rapidly grows into a clump of sinister stems topped with huge, deeply veined leaves. It beckons you in. You are unwilling, but the fatal fascination is hard to resist. And once trapped under that canopy, once you have brushed against any of those thick, fleshy, prickly stems, or the deadly little brown seed clusters, you are doomed. You'll be absorbed and become one of them. Or at least that's the feeling these intimidating plants inspire in me! Very much on the lines of The Quatermass Experiment, in particular the 1955 film version which must lie at the root of my nightmarish aversion to these plants (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quatermass_Xperiment). And not dissimilar to the 1982 film The Thing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thing_%281982_film%29). They do have one redeeming point: they are photographically impressive, and can be given a number of treatments:

In a woodland clearing on higher ground above the lakes was a cricket pitch. This had been created in the nineteenth century - and presumably used when W G Grace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._G._Grace) was at the height of his fame - but had fallen into disuse during the Second World War. However, in recent years, the Trust had restored it, providing a new pavilion. I was the only visitor. I stood behind the railings on the front of the pavilion and pondered over the tranquil scene, imagining a game in progress:

I have in my time watched some village cricket. I can perfectly see the attraction of that. Local players; wives and girlfriends watching in the sun on deckchairs; a general mellowness, spiced with a little drama now and then as a ball goes to the boundary uncaught, or it seems that someone is starting to pile up runs, and the concentration and cunning gets intense so as to get him out by one of the various means available: bowled, LBW, caught, or run out. They say cricket is a game of psychological pressure as much as physical skill. Certainly it seems that a demoralised side always loses. But that's true in any sphere of activity.

I'm not a 'cricket fan' and I don't really understand the game, but it is so very English, and seems best to me when played in the English countryside on sunny afternoons, with tea and lemonade and sandwiches to enjoy during intervals, and after the last click of bat on ball has sounded in the setting sun. I very much enjoyed the 1984 TV series Bodyline (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodyline_%28miniseries%29), even though it was of course full of dramatic licence. Wikipedia has however an equally enthralling description of the notorious 1932/33 Australian Tour in which the Bodyline style of bowling featured, and of the dark passions it aroused (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodyline). I'm assuming that Wikipedia's account is more accurate!

For a while after the TV series was screened I took more notice of cricket, but it has long slid way down on the list of things I can give time to. And I still don't understand the scoring system. But it gets my vote as a Good Thing.


  1. Lucy,
    Gunera : fascinating subject. I love your comments re "Quatermass". It always reminds me of "Rhubarb with attitude". It's always associated with Country House lakes along with "Giant Hogweed" and the curse of North Devon "Himalyan Balsam. Next time in North Devon visit Tapley Park near Instow and go down to the Lake. Yours worst fears in the world will be realised in the "Room 101" experience!!!! The horror, the horror.

    Der fuchs Reynard

  2. Beautiful colours! We went to explore a local lake last Friday and we had the whole place to ourselves.

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share your visit. Sleeveless in October - who would believe it?


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