Kingfishers, halcyon days, and walks

Last time I mentioned the painted kingfishers on a branch above the river just below my house. In Greek mythology, the bird is known as halcyon. Our expression ‘halcyon days’ derives from the legend that Alkyone or Alcyone and her husband Ceyx angered Zeus by setting themselves up as his equal. Zeus wrecked Ceyx’s ship while he was at sea and he drowned. When she heard the news his wife drowned herself. The gods took pity on them and transformed the couple into kingfishers.

According to other legends, the halcyon laid her eggs on sea rocks or the beach during the winter solstice. Alcyone called upon her father Aeolus, god of the winds (hence Aeolian harp) to produce this period of calm to enable her to care for her brood safely. The expression therefore referred originally to any period of calm weather, then, by extension, to any period of calm and tranquillity.

It’s the feeling we get when we witness a scene like the river in those pictures in my previous post.

A few days ago, when our government in its wisdom relaxed lockdown constraints to allow us to drive to remote places for our walks, I went with Mrs TD to Goss Moor, some ten miles away. It’s a nature reserve on the edge of the area where china clay was once extracted, leaving the landscape scarred with quarries and spoil heaps. This moor is a huge, Fluffy seed headsswampy, pool-filled area of wilderness: lichen-draped trees, reeds and wildlife abound.

It’s a popular cycle and walking trail, being so flat. We saw plenty of these strange fluffy bundles like cotton wool balls. They seem to be the seed heads of certain kinds of reed.

My trusty plant identifier app confidently informs me that the pretty purple-violet flower here is a marsh orchid.marsh orchid

Another day we drove a shorter distance for a walk to one of the tidal creeks on the coast. Not quite the sea, but almost. Many of the neighbourhood houses were guarded by these peculiar plants that resemble miniature Thai temples. They’re called echium pininana, aka giant viper’s bugloss. This popular name apparently derives from the alleged Echiumresemblance of parts of the flowering stem (a favourite haunt of bees) to the head of this snake.

They flourish here in Cornwall, but are more striking than handsome, in my view.

Today we ventured further down the county and had our first walk by the sea since lockdown. This area of dunes is called the Towans. The lighthouse is Godrevy, across the bay from St Ives. This is the one that Virginia Woolf and her family would see from their holiday home Godrevythere. In her novel To the Lighthouse she transposed it to Scotland.

The beautiful weather of the last weeks (halcyon days during the pandemic?) has gone, and it was grey, blustery and much cooler. Still lovely to see the surf and breathe the ozone. A handsome stonechat sat on a gorse bush a few feet from us and sang us a song.

I’m still making glacial progress through Phineas Finn. Just reached one of those tedious foxhunting scenes that Trollope is so fond of. Wish he’d stick to the more interesting parliamentary shenanigans.

Which takes me seamlessly to our illustrious leader of the house of commons, the unctuous Rees-Mogg. He insists on returning to physical co-presence during parliamentary debates, risking the lives of the MPs, and disenfranchising those who have to isolate or who can’t attend for other reasons (carers, etc.). It’s his way of trying to cover up the haplessness of the PM, which has been badly exposed while the chamber is nearly empty for sessions to ensure social distancing, and when the usual braying claque of sycophantic Tory toadies can’t drown out opposition while cheering on the inane blustering of their leader.

With solipsistic narcissists in charge, who will care for the people?



13 thoughts on “Kingfishers, halcyon days, and walks

  1. I daren’t say anything about politicans – I might get too violent and it would be bad for my blood pressure. But I agree with all you say.

    And those views you share are beautiful. I saw the sea recently for the first time in months and it was glorious!

    • It’s so depressing to see and hear the bombastic rhetoric of BJ, who said in Parliament today he’s proud of his record on dealing with the crisis. Just under 40,000 dead – nothing to be proud of, I’d have thought… glad you enjoyed the views. Take care.

  2. And it’s probably even worse over here. Mitch McConnell insisting on in-person voting for his unqualified judges. Ugh.

    I don’t know much about Rees-Mogg, but I’ve seen Tracey Ullmann’s take on him, and that’s all I can see now.

  3. That giant viper’s bugloss doesn’t look as if it belongs in England, more like a plant from the tropics…
    I have nothing to say about Rees-Mogg except that the first time I saw him I thought he was a British satirist…

    • I think it was originally an exotic plant that gardeners or botanists brought over here. They’re very imposing, if a little weird – like not very scary triffids. As for JR-M: there aren’t sufficient words to convey his awfulness. He should wear a monocle and plus fours. Like the PM, he epitomises pretentiousness and insouciant privilege, without much talent or intelligence to back up the swagger.

        • Our PM isn’t as bright as many think: he has that private school veneer of confidence, but there’s no substance under that gloss of ostentatious classical references- it’s bogus cleverness. True intelligence doesn’t need to try to impress.

          • I saw through that. It was fairly obvious to me, and I told other people that, but they were snowed by him. It’s so depressing seeing otherwise intelligent people fall for conmen.

  4. Oh the Towans! I love that view and have stood just there (and indeed took a photo of the lighthouse and gave it to fellow blogger Heaven-Ali for her birthday!). Glad you’ve managed to get to the sea. Being a non-driver, I’m constrained by how far I can walk or run, but I have been seeing more friends (at a distance of course) which has been cheering.

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