Orchids and bluebells

I’m making slow progress through a long novel: Richard Powers, Overstory. It’s not one to rush. It’s about trees.

Here then are some pictures of yesterday’s walk on the coast of the Roseland peninsula. I’ve posted about this beautiful stretch of the Cornish coast several times before, usually with pictures of blue sky and cobalt sea. Not so yesterday: it was a blustery, grey day. House martins were swooping over the shoreline rocks, like tiny black-and-white terns.

The blossom I posted about last time had finished, and the blackthorn and hawthorn was turning pale green with new young leaves bursting out.

Bluebells view west

The view west towards Portscatho

Halfway through our walk we came upon a series of hillside fields overlooking the sea that were carpeted in bluebells – a lovely sight. My phone camera’s pictures can’t really do justice to the smoky violet-blue haze these flowers create.

Among the flowers and grass were also dozens of tiny purple orchids.

The name comes from the Greek orkhis – ‘testicle’ – because of the shape of the twin tubers in some   Orchidsvarieties. Not a very glamorous etymology for such a handsome plant.

According to my walks app, this particular type of wild orchid is the con artist of the plant world. Its brilliant purple flowers resemble those of other nectar-rich orchids. When insects arrive and push through the pollen to seek out the nectar, they find that there is none.

I’ll end this short post with an exchange I recorded in a notebook a few years ago. I’d been to St Michael’s Mount with Mrs TD and two grandchildren. We’d been looking round the museum exhibits inside the building that tops the island rock. One was a mummified Egyptian cat. I said that it was surprisingly long and thin. ‘That’s because,’ said Mrs TD, ‘cats are all fluff and nonsense.’

View east towards Pendower beach

View east towards Pendower beach

 

Hello Catalunya

Yesterday I posted my goodbye to Berlin – helping son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons (2 and 3) pack up and prepare to move to Sant Cugat del Vallès, a suburb of Barcelona.

TD jnr and I ended up having to drive the family car, with disgruntled cats, the 1800 km via

Greta

Greta

autobahn (roadworks everywhere), autoroute and autopista. So not much scenery to admire – endless, mind-numbing motorway embankments. It took two days.

Having an academic background in medieval hagiography, I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of the Catalan saint after whom the town they were moving to was named. Cugat is the Catalan for St Cucuphas.

He was a missionary of African origin, martyred in the fourth century under the persecution of Diocletian. He suffered some of the more unpleasant tortures before his dispatch, involving iron nails, scorpions, vinegar and pepper.

Monastery of Sant Cugat

Monastery of Sant Cugat

As his remains were said to have been buried at the site of his death in what became Sant Cugat, it seemed natural for the Benedictines who founded the monastery there in the ninth century to dedicate the house to this saint.  My picture shows the handsomely restored building in the town centre.

After a few days of unpacking and exploring the new neighbourhood, and discovering the local mosquitos particularly like the taste of Mrs TD, we all drove into the city and had a tapas lunch near the Ramblas – no sign of the recent awful attack – and took the boys to the Ciutadella park where there’s a fountain which famous local architect Antoni Gaudí helped design.

 

Ciutadella park

That’s me in the shadows by the hind leg of the mammoth in Ciutadella park

Arc de Triomf

The Arc de Triomf, near Ciutadella, designed for the 1888 World Fair by Vilaseca i Casanovas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day Mrs TD and I, enjoying some adult time away from toddlers, visited the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s still unfinished cathedral. When we were here last summer we didn’t go inside; this time we did, and it was breathtaking. Here are some images to finish with.

Sagrada Familia

This figure in the Sagrada Familia looks sinister for a cathedral

Sagrada Familia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Carvings outside

Sagrada Familia

Football: a piece of flash fiction

‘Football and the Reading Classes’ is a collection (now out of print) of essays by Greg ‘Stan’ Bowles composed over a number of years and originally published in various peer-reviewed journals on his subject of study: football as an index of connectedness, the term he famously coined to signify those members of the intelligentsia who were truly in tune with both popular culture, typified by media reporting on Premier League football (where, for example ‘Match of the Day’ producers have started using lurid tabloid-style punning headlines superimposed on images of players, and crude caricatures, with pop music accompaniment, when introducing the next match on the programme), but who were also at the cutting edge (a cliché he shunned in his own work) of high culture, unashamedly elitist, highbrow and academically rigorous.

You could not, in Stan’s view, be properly considered sage if you were not well-versed in critical theory as well as possessed of an encyclopaedic knowledge of the assist rates and goal averages of the Premier League strikers, or did not hold strong opinions on the (de)merits of the foreign oligarchs who now ran, to his dismay, all the top clubs.

Stan kept a database of all the written texts by mass-media football reporters, and updated every week his corpus of transcripts of all the broadcast media commentators.  These he subjected to sociolinguistic analysis, the synthesis of which he published in his blog; the cream of these became his published academic articles.

One of his most successful essays (judging by Google hits) he’d developed from an undergraduate dissertation years earlier, in which he assessed the linguistic characteristics of five successive football commentaries on the Liverpool-Man Utd game broadcast on Radio 5 Live and ‘Match of the Day’ over five seasons, with particular attention to metapragmatic markers and metaphors from the lexical field of warfare.

His tone in such pieces was academically lofty and objective; he never condescended to the football fan, player or reporter, and was therefore flattered when he was quoted by Gaby Logan on the Saturday early-evening football results programme on BBC 1.  As she introduced a full-time report on a top match, she made reference to his paper ‘Moneyball: statistics and the decline of the Premier League’s football empire’; it was a theme he’d revisited several times since, paying particular attention to the transfer policies of Liverpool FC.

He had been an indifferent player himself.  Stan’s proudest moment came during a five-a-side match when he’d received the ball directly from his goalie, his back to the opposition goal, spun as he allowed the ball to bounce off the side wall, and hit a looping, rasping shot with his wrong foot – the left – that flew into the net unseen by the custodian.

This feat was never repeated in any subsequent game.  But he liked to tell anyone who’d listen that he had invented the now fashionable practice of playing right-footed players on the left wing, and vice versa.

Stan did not have many friends; he was unmarried, and sometimes wondered if he might be missing something in life.  He was considering acquiring a cat, which he would call Rooney…