The daily life of a Magpie

Jake, our resident magpie has been hanging around the garden a lot lately. He spends his day driving our two terriers mad, tormenting them from various bits of house and landscape.

One of his favourite taunts is to walk along the roof gutter. He starts at one end, always announcing his presence with a call to arms that get the dogs barking and jumping up and down in a mixture of excitement and frustration.  He walks along the edge of the gutter, gaining maximum exposure until at the other end he drops down onto a neighbour’s roof. From this vantage point, he is tantalisingly close to the dogs but far enough away to be out of their reach. Perfect for strutting and shooting them cheeky looks. The dogs spin around and run up and down the garden maddened by his display of hubris.

After a few minutes of this he gets bored and hops his way up the roof and without looking back goes over the ridge and out of sight.

Such is the daily life of Jake.

Mental Health Awareness Week

DdKFyePW0AAGrXf.jpg-large

Back in 94, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, I’d had it awhile but not realised what it was. I think my brother suffered as well, his way of dealing with it was to lock himself away in his room for 7 years. I chose a different, more physically and mentally destructive path that eventually led me to a doctor who prescribed me some drugs and 3 days later I was stalking around the house like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. It wasn’t good, or healthy. I asked to see a psychiatrist or is it a psychologist, and Kathy Whittaker at Rotherham General saw me for 6 weeks and bingo I was back to what could be classed as normal. Kathy has all my thanks for that.

The depression never went away it just lessened in the degree to a point where there were days I didn’t notice it or feel its effects on me. I saw it as a black Labrador dog, probably because I’d read that’s how Churchill saw his. It IS real in my mind. Most days I don’t see it, but I do feel its presence. Other days I see its shadow walking down the corridor to my room and sometimes it stops at my open door and looks in then walks away. I’ve learned that this has connections with the levels of stress I am experiencing in my life at that time, so I try to take steps to reduce the level to keep the dog away.

But this time that hasn’t worked. This morning the dog walked into the room and came right up to me; he’s here by my side now as I type this out. The depression is back.

Looking back I can see the pattern forming a year or so ago.

There is no single thing, rather a collection of seemingly disparate events, things and people. It started with lack of trust in an individual and organisation along with a feeling of not being in control of my own life. I was subject to some trolling, both online and off, from someone I thought of as a friend but in reality, wanted to inflict harm on my well-being. Financial worries played a small part, but only when large bills presented themselves. There was nothing, taken in isolation, that would cause any great concern, except perhaps the trolling, but taken together they flipped the switch.

One of the ways I have of dealing with this is talking about it honestly, something that has helped me in another area of my life for decades. So that is what I am doing now. Keeping things bottled up leads to people harming themselves or others, sometimes both. I’ve seen it happen and I have lost far too many friends to suicide to think it cannot happen to anyone.

Another action that helps my depression is removing negative and destructive influencers on the equilibrium of my daily life. I started doing that a month or two ago, there is still some way to go, but already it is having positive outcomes.

I have just spent an hour with a friend over coffee and cheesecake. He doesn’t know it but the chat and the laugh we had together helped me in my day enormously. For a brief period, I felt positive and normal. Spending time with friends like that is something I need to do more because I have begun to isolate too much.

Taking more time with my wife is something I need to do because she is my best friend. Other than my parents Alison is the person I have spent the biggest part of my life with. She really is the one great stabilising influence on my life and a great example of how to live

Lastly is walking. I love to walk. I am fortunate to write about walking in the countryside, two things I love to do. There is always a point on a walk where I feel everything is just right with the world, it’s a physical as well as mental feeling. Walking gives me pleasure and a different view of the world. If I am lucky I get something new to see or experience too. I recently walked through woodland and felt, then saw, a Barn Owl gliding silently across the open space I was in. I have thought of that moment many times.

It took me many years to learn that good mental health was everyone’s right, and no one has permission to take that away from a person. Sometimes it has to be fought for and that is a battle for the individual. If they are lucky it’s a battle fought with the help of good friends and loved ones.

Sheffield Ghost Buildings

The ghost building at the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre St, Sheffield.
The ghost building at the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre St, Sheffield.

Ghost buildings are a sign of a past use gradually diminishing backward as time moves forward. This is the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre Street. It is within my lifetime that this site lived and died as a manufacturing works, in the heart of Sheffield. The company decamped long ago to one of the industrial estates on the outskirts.

I walked around the works in my early days selling them engineering products, but I cannot remember what happened in this ghost building. Women making air inflators and such populated the floor, the men mended machines and managed everything. It was a common setup in those days. Almost everyone was on the clock and those on the floor had a piece rate bonus. People worked in groups and they looked after their own, managing the workflow so no one got left behind. On Saturday nights everyone went to the Working Men Club, had a game of bingo, watched an act and had pork pie and pickled onions with ham sandwiches. It was a micro community that had common social values and standards of conduct. They sorted their own problems out and kept the cohesion in society.

Red Algae on Ash trees

Alison and I had a really nice walk in Wharncliffe Woods today. This is a forestry commission woodland with excellent rails for MTB, horses and walking. The surrounding area also has an ancient Chase, impressive crags and lots of wildlife including deer, owls, and a wide variety of bird life.

There was a hint of spring on the way today, the sun warming the air. I noticed the Red Algae on these Ash trees. It forms on the north side because this is where the bark is most moist and that makes it a good breeding ground for the Algae. It’s a natural way of telling which way is north. The Algae only appears on the north side in the northern hemisphere, in the southern hemisphere its is the southern side of the tree.

Another thing that is interesting about Red Algae is that it used to only really appear in the more temperate south of England, the north being too cold. So this may just be a harbinger of warmer times in the north.

How to write a Peak District guidebook

The Vale of Edale from Ringing Roger. Peak District National Park. Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Published by Cicerone Press.
The Vale of Edale from Ringing Roger. Peak District National Park

Someone asked me the other day how I write a Peak District guide book. The question took me aback somewhat, I had to think about an answer. Put simply; I go out on a walk and when I get home I write where I have been.

Then I thought of all the things that lay behind that. The books that are hunted down in the research. Talking to people about an area. Historical and geological websites to spend hours getting lost in. Old maps to peruse and old newspaper cuttings to view. Public archives to spend days in.

Then there are the days spent wandering around an area, looking at rock graffiti. Churches, church yards and old abandoned buildings to crawl over and imagine what it was like for the people who built these places.

Some of the best days are when I trace the old ways across the land, walk in the footsteps of the Jaggers and quarrymen, peat cutters and farmers. The old saltways and the millstone trails. Sit by the quarries and listen to the ghosts hewing out the stone. Stand in a churchyard looking out onto where navvies were buried without, and wondering how someone could do that to a human being.

The best days include all of this plus a good old chat with walkers. Some of my most memorable walks have been when I have met up with groups of people and just chatted.

All of this goes into a book, and what doesn’t goes into a blog or on social media.

That’s how I write a Peak District guide book.

 

Trees in the Peak District

This Oak tree stands at the top of an ancient track that leads to Navio from Hope. White Peak Walks East, Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press.
Oak Tree. On the track that leads to Navio from Hope. Peak District National Park

There is something solid about a tree. Something that is timeless. Trees do not work by our clocks and it is for this reason that they hold a special place in my view of the natural world.

There is a tree that sits at the side of an ancient track leading from Hope, up through the fields to Eccles House farm. A map from 1880 shows trees lining both sides of the track that led to Batham Gate, the old Roman road.  Now the hedge is gone but the tree remains.

This is the allure of the singular tree, standing like a sentinel over the landscape. It has quietly stood and watched the passage of centuries. People passing by underneath, working on the land nearby. The seasons and ages of weather, warm and cold, wind, rain and drought. Generations of animals and birds will have made it their home, a symbiotic relationship that seems beyond the intelligence of humans. In all that time is has destroyed nothing; spent its energies growing at the expense of no one.

The tree has no view on human activity excepting in one matter and that is its access to food and water and air. We are the only creatures that can affect this, save for a plague of oak eating insects. All things being equal the tree will outlast us and many of descendants to come.

The trees measure of time is aeons.

Shortlisted for the TGO Book Awards 2017

Dark Peak Walks has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine book of the year award 2017
TGO Annual Awards 2017

Well this is great news. Dark Peak Walks, published by Cicerone Press has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine 2017 award in the book category.

You can vote in the awards here