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   June 24th 2014   Namibia Diary - Part 2 -  'satiable curtiosity' everywhere

    'IN the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn't pick up things with it.'Etosha - elephant family ©vcsinden2014

'But there was one Elephant—a new Elephant—an Elephant's Child—who was full of 'satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions.

                    And he lived in Africa, and he filled all Africa with his 'satiable curtiosities.                 

Khaudun, namibia - an ostrich smile ©vcsinden2014

He asked his tall aunt, the Ostrich, why her tail-feathers grew just so, and his tall aunt the Ostrich spanked him with her hard, hard claw.

  He asked his tall uncle, the Giraffe, what made his skin spotty, and his tall uncle, the Giraffe, spanked him with his hard, hard hoof.

Khaudun, Namibia - family of giraffe survey the afternoon ©vcsinden2014
                                 And still he was full of 'satiable curtiosity! '

   So begins the tale of "The Elephant's Child" - a favourite from long-ago in "the Just-So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling, as I am sure you will know O Best Beloved!  You can find the complete stories online here and remind yourself of the elephant child's adventures.

Etosha- oryx or gemsbok at Okaukuejo ©vcsinden2014
Etosha - springbok ©vcsinden2014
 
A  mighty Oryx (Gemsbok) takes to the cool water
  
Springbok considering a mid-afternoon pronk! (leaping)

      The photos here were all taken in the vast Namibian Nature Conservancy Parks of Etosha, where water-holes and empty, shimmering salt-pans attract animals by the thousand, and wild, secretive Khaudun. In Etosha we were also priveleged to see as many as seven Black Rhinoceros drinking together at the floodlit water-hole of Okaukuejo as well as two lionesses with their cubs.

Etosha - herds of animals at Nebrowni ©vcsinden2014 

Etosha - 'ghost elephant'  ©vcsinden2014

   Two elephants stand under the hot sun at Nebrowni water-hole in Etosha, looking with 'satiable curtiosity' at a vast heard of zebra.

   They stand beside a wallow containing pale, salty mud which they slaver over themselves as a cooling skin-pack. The resulting light colour gives them the nick-name 'Ghost Elephants'.Etosha - zebra baby ©vcsinden2014

Etosha - Burchell's zebra ©vcsinden2014 Etosha- Burchell's zebra in road ©vcsinden2014
  Above top - a baby zebra with his fine mane.         Above right - zebras with absolutely no intention of moving from the road and all the time in the world!

Khaudun, Namibia - rare Roan antelope ©vcsinden2014

     Not found in Etosha, we were lucky to see a group of rare and endangered Roan Antelope in Khaudun in late afternoon sun - again, all alive with that 'curtiosity' shown in their huge, expressive ears!!
    Back on the roads of Etosha, on a single track leading out to a salt-pan look out point, a fine bull elephant, again with all the time in the world, strolled in front, trunk swinging nonchalantly from side to side and immense ears wafting cooling air. He took me to see his family, relatives of that first, most curious baby, in a place 'all set about by fever trees' and guarded by herds of Wildebeest out on the plains  ....

Muddypond Green, led by bull elephant at Etosha ©vcsinden2014
Etosha - mother and baby elephant ©vcsinden2014

'And ever since that day, O Best Beloved, all the Elephants you will ever see, besides all those that you won't, have trunks precisely like the trunk of the 'satiable Elephant's Child. '

Etosha - wilderbeast lead over the plains ©vcsinden2014

 

 

 

      June 21st 2014    With thanks for the light ..... this morning's perfect sunrise ......

Stonehenge Solstice, a beautiful day 2014 ©vcsinden2014 

A minute or two after sunrise at Stonehenge this morning - the Summer Solstice

 

 

   June 17th 2014    Namibia diary - Part 1 - impressions of the first breath-taking days .... 

Ai-Aiba Rock painting Lodge, North West Namibia ©vcsinden2014

   Lines on a 'Return from Travels' by faery-folk who have 'long ago learned to ride the winds' - from "Fairies" by Gertrude M. Faulding, 1913

"What more glorious incident could there be in the elfin revels than the swift return of a fairy traveller--the starry courser driven from highest air to where his brother sprites are "by moonshine leading merry rounds" ?

    We can imagine the tinkling hubbub of welcome, the fantastical dizzy stories of adventure, the wonder of the stay-at-home fays, and to the wanderer the caress of the cool fragrant earth which for all his journeyings he loves the best."

Animal road sign, Namibia ©vcsinden2014
Donkey cart, Namibia ©vcsinden2014
   Riding the winds then, (but carrying two strong spare tyres!) faster even than the carts, whose speed can be seen by the flying ears of the donkeys, we travelled first to the North Western province of Damaraland. Through low hills and strange rocky outcrops with hidden rock-paintings, tens of centuries old and out into the basalt  mountains.

Giraffe - always curious, Ai-Aiba, Namibia ©vcsinden2014

Kudu bull Namibia ©vcsinden2014 Kudu youngster Namibia ©vcsinden2014
  Top,  Alway curious, with those immense ebony eyes, a father giraffe watches placidly as we stare entranced, keeping his wife and daughter behind him.
  Above, a big stripey kudu bull shows off his fine horns, with a youngster further on in the sunlit evening scrub.

Namibian roads, deserted and straight as arrows Namibia ©vcsinden2014

       Roll over image.  The roads, some tarred, many gravel and sand can be seen from the air as endless, straight ribbons cutting through bush, scrub, mopane and acacia forest, rock and desert.. Well sign-posted no matter how remote, and mostly almost deserted, they are well cut in wide swaithes at the sides to ensure good visibility should animals be crossing - and they do - particulary tail-in-the-air warthogs!

Himba mother and son, Namibia ©vcsinden2014 Himba, matriarch Namibia ©vcsinden2014
Himba mother, Namibia ©vcsinden2014
Himba women rebuild their village Namibia ©vcsinden2014

   Evil eye protective fetish, Himba, Namibia ©vcsinden2014

     
A small village of the Himba people
was being rebuilt at Rustig Toko in the North West. The men, who had already made the wooden frames for the huts, were gathering last belongings from the old land. Now it was the turn of the young women, skins and hair plastered in a red-ochre clay, to wind and waterproof them. They use thick layers of a traditional recipe of soil mixed with cow-dung. The earth from termite mounds in also used in some places. Men don't touch the dung mixture.

  Grandmother looks on and imparts her wisdom while the children play around her. In the picture above you can see her wearing her protective talsiman neckwear, a square of leather with an 'eye'. It reminded me of the 'evil eye' beads from Turkey, and I am lucky to have brought one that she made home with me.

 

Ai-Aiba Rock Painting Lodge, Namibia - sundowner drive   ©vcsinden2014


    It's early Winter in Namibia, and the nights fall fast - by six in the evening all is dark after the fiery sunset and the stars appear in vast skies. There's so much more to tell....  but my woods are calling, cool and green, and so is Summer Solstice and the charmed, short night of summer. But I'll write more soon .... and YES, elephants WILL follow! .....

 

 

     May 21st 2014    Waiting for the off ..... 
Muddypond Green, Wood Guardian, waiting to travel to Africa ©vcsinden2014

 

    Have ancient luggage - must travel!  There's a whole world to explore, an earth to discover - and wood faeries should see desert, bush, dunes and mountains while they can. Martin the God Dog and Guardian will stay home (but not alone) to carry out his responsibilities as Home Guard.

   You might like to share my pictures when I return, hopefully an elephant or two amongst them!  Meanwhile - be sure to walk with the stars.

                       Tenna’ omentlye au’.  x

 

 

 

    May 20th 2014    A haze of purple in the magnificent Marden meadows .....
                           ( The ruling  Ogham wood for all your magical needs is now Hawthorne - Huath   from May 13th - June 9th.)

  Marden  Meadows, Kent  – wild Green-winged orchids ©vcsinden2014

    It was from the train window that the colour caught my eye, coming home from a faery-outing.  Kentish fields flying past, washed in a haze of deep purple, liberally contrasted with sunshine yellow. Our leader "Jean-of-the-Handbells", eight decades of wisdom and more behind her, smiled at my amazement.  'Many's-the-time I've walked in those hay meadows, especially in Spring when the orchids are out' -   and she went on to tell me how to find them .....

Marden  Meadows, Kent  – wild Green-winged orchids ©vcsinden2014
Marden  Meadows, Kent  – wild Green-winged orchids ©vcsinden2014
Wild Green-winged orchids in Marden Meadows, Kent ©vcsinden2014
 
The abundance of Green Winged Orchids, showing lots of variation in colour - the commonest one is shown in close-up below.

    Orchids ! - is it possible to see so many? Almost like a cloud of bluebells - orchids painting a whole field in shades of purple. The Marden Meadows are owned, protected and managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust, and are kept as wild hay meadows, organic and a-buzz with honey bees.

   For just a couple of weeks in late Spring and Maytime, before the Ox-eye daisies burst on the scene, there they are - Green-winged Orchids by the thousand among the grasses, buttercups and other wild flowers
   Read lots more about the meadows and orchids as well as how, when and where to find them here on the Kent Wildlife Trust's web pages.

    Meadows like this, full of wild flowers, were once a common sight. Remember the cowslips? So many have been lost because of modern agricultural practices, vast unhedged fields, chemicals et al - we must thank the wildlife Gods and support the Trusts who save just a few for us (and the bees!)

 

Wild Green-winged orchids in Marden Meadows, Kent ©vcsinden2014

   A while back, I wrote about the Folk and Faery Lore of British wild orchids on the other-blog - 'Wolf Moons and Muddypond Green'. If you would like to read some folklore you can visit the page 'Of Summer Wild Orchids and the Satyrs of the Woods' here.

 

 


    May 10th 2014
   A perfect village tradition at Ickwell Green ... with due reverence and simple charm ...

Ickwell May Queen Celebration   ©vcsinden2014
The older Primary School children begin the skillful dancing

              Last weekend - on the May Bank Holiday Monday, the village folk of Ickwell Green and Northill in Bedfordshire massed together to perform their annual May Queen festivities with all the reverence, innocence and simple charm that has marked their ritual in different forms for over four centuries. The huge Maypole is a permanent fixture on the Ickwell village green. You can see the impressive archives of the Ickwell May festivities over the past hundred years here.

Morris Bird of the Bedford Morris Men  ©vcsinden2014 Ickwell May Queen Celebration - Bedford Morris Men   ©vcsinden2014

     May celebrations were first recorded in the Church Warden's records in 1565. No doubt a 'jester' was part of the proceeedings all that time ago - not so sure about the fine, surly crow (apparently named Morris Bird) who is attached to the local Morris dance team 'The Bedford Morris Men'. With their friends 'The Lechworth Morris Men' the group began the day's cavorting outside the local pub in Northill before leading the May Queen's procession to the village green.

Ickwell May Queen Celebration   ©vcsinden2014 Ickwell May Queen Celebration   ©vcsinden2014

Ickwell Green May Queen and her procession ©vcsinden2014
Here she is - the May Queen herself, lovely - no ugly make-up and pretentious hair dos for these youngsters
simply happy children on their special day, behaving and looking like children - and all the more beautiful for that!

Ickwell May Queen Celebration   ©vcsinden2014     Traditional maypole dancing can be a complicated art, and the people of Ickwell have been brought up to treasure all its intricacies.  On the left the 'Old Scholars' dance and  plait 'The Spider's Web',   
Maypole braiding - Ickwell ©vcsinden2014
    As the ribbons wind round, they make an elaborate plaited pattern down the pole.

 

     The Queen is solemly crowned and her little handmaidens present her with colourful wild flowers to match their cotton dresses. Watchers and revellers sing old world songs for her and the words are carried on the May breeze as she settles down to watch the dances ......" For her we'll dance and sing,   And our Maypole we'll braid,  For our lovely maid,   For she rules o'er the Maypole ring ...."

Ickwell May Queen Celebration   ©vcsinden2014 

  As you know, faeries are curious creatures, or perhaps you would say plain nosey? Anyway, this one couldn't resist having a go.    Nothing her kind loves better than a true British tradition 'dun proper'!

 

 

 

     May 1st 2014    Ring out the bells today at dawn - for this fair time of Maying ......

"O ring the bells! O ring the bells!
We bid you, sirs, good morning;
Give thanks, we pray—our flowers are gay,
And fair for your adorning.
...  "

May Morning – Bluebell Hill, Rochester ©vcsinden2014

    The nursery rhyme for Maying, and the fanciful Kate Greenaway illustration at the top of these notes (from Greenaway's book "Under the Window" pub. 1879)  seem to hark back to days when sunrise on the first of May was always bright, warm and dry. As you can see from this morning's pictures, that no longer appears to be the case!

    The maids still dance though, through the mist and drizzle, the lads cavort and show off with swords and sticks, and Jack in the Green slowly awakes as he has over three centuries, shakes his dripping foliage and ushers in the Greening.

May Morning – Bluebell Hill, Rochester - Bishop Gundulf Morris ©vcsinden2014
Jack watches in the grey dawn light while the girls of Bishop Gundulf Morris dance with the flower hoops.

"O ring the bells! O ring the bells!
Good sirs, accept our greeting;
Where we have been, the woods are green.
So, hey! for our next meeting."

"Then ring the bells! then ring the bells!
For this fair time of Maying;
Our blooms we bring, and while we sing,
O! hark to what we're saying."

May Morning – Bluebell Hill, Rochester ©vcsinden2014 Jack in the Gree - May Morning – Bluebell Hill, Rochester ©vcsinden2014
         Typical 21st century Maying scene - British umbrellas and a sodden Jack in the Green.  Still captivating no matter what!

"O ring the bells! O ring the bells!
We'll sing a song with any;
And may each year bring you good cheer,
And each of us a penny."

May Morning – Bluebell Hill, Rochester- Bishop Gundulf Morris ©vcsinden2014
The lads of Bishop Gundulf Morris welcome May with swords and theur Molly

  This Jack in the Green is perfectly based on one of the oldest patterns - as you can see here in an engraving from 'Parley's Tales about England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales' published in 1856.   George Mogridge, under the alias of Peter Parley describes a detailed May Day celebration of the past and talks of .....'the oddest figure of all' which 'is called Jack in the Green; this is a boy or a man in the very middle of large boughs of laurel who whirls round and round like a top.'

Jack in the Green, engraving from Parleys Tales of England'

     Photographs taken today (May 1st 2014) on Bluebell Hill as dawn broke and the sun hid behind the drizzle! Jack in the Green performs here as part of the Rochester Sweeps' Festival.