Saturday, 12 December 2015

A murder of crows

Hilary and Meriel came to North London today and we had a very splendid time.

We went to a spoon in Muswell Hill for lunch and all three of us opted for the all day veggie breakfast with extra halloumi!

It was meant to rain, but we threw caution to the wind and went for a walk on Hampstead Heath. It turned out to be a good decision. It was muddy under foot, but it remained dry. I wanted to show them my new discovery: a beautiful area of shallow ponds between Spaniards Road and North End Lane, which I discovered today is called Sandy Heath, and was ruthlessly quarried for its natural top layer of sand in the 19th Century. The story goes that the owner of the land was told that he couldn't build on it, so instead pulled up all the trees and sold the sand to the people building the train line out of St Pancras. There are two oak trees, both of which are 300 years old, which were the only two trees to survive the quarrying and are now fenced off and protected by law. The other trees in the area have grown in the last 100 years.

The place looks very bleak in the dead of winter. The bare, gnarly trees were creating all kinds of intricate silhouettes against the white sky and the ponds looked black as tar. Meriel thought they looked like the black ponds in the Narnia books. I have never read a Narnia book...

It was fairly windy today and there was a noticeable roar coming off the trees. Trees sussurate and rustle in summer. In the winter they make a far more hollow, empty, rather sad sound. They also creak and squeak like birds.

The sun was setting within minutes of us arriving on the Heath and a great deal of our walk took place at dusk, which was rather magical. The sky was a bruised shade of amber and I kept losing my bearings because I couldn't tell the difference between the setting sun and the dirty halogen lights of central London. We ended up walking in a giant circle in the middle of the Kenwood Estate, which in fairness is the bit of the Heath I know least well, but really... Epic fail!

As the light disappeared we started to hear the owls, and then, for some reason scores of crows started cawing in the sky above us. We could see their black forms, like Scooby Doo bats, circling. As we stood up at Kenwood, looking across the London skyline, we could see search lights filling the sky, catching the clouds in a most eerie war-like way. I've no idea what they were for.

We eventually found our way out of the Heath and made our way to Highgate village, which looks absolutely beautiful at this time of year with glorious strings of white fairy lights hanging across the road and all the shops lit up with Victorian-style Christmas decorations in the windows. We went to all the shops, buying books in Oxfam and cakes for tea at the pantry.

Here's a joke:

Q -What's the difference between Delia Smith and a cross country run?

A - One's a pant in the country...

We came home to eat cakes and drink tea... Except Hilary doesn't drink tea, which I find really odd. I never know what to offer her to drink. In my house, the kettle is on before anyone's come through the door.

The girls left and Nathan returned from doing gigs around the county and we sat down in front of the X Factor final.

Here are some observations about that show.

1) Leona Lewis seems to have lost the ability to sing
2) Cheryl thingie is now so thin you can see the outline of her skull through the skin of her face
3) Caroline Flack needs to learn how to stand (odd for a bird who's a brilliant dancer.)
4) I don't know how Rod Stewart's ragged nodule-filled voice is still capable of making sound
5) Rita Ora has a surprisingly good voice
6) Nick Grimshaw is a terrible waste of space.

Night night.

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