Autumn Musing

There’s an Autumn storm brewing.

The wind is rising and the barometer pressure falling. Leaves are whipping from the trees and swirling like a murmuration of starlings.

Heavy rain is forecast and localised flooding predicted.

I thought it was a good idea to get out for a walk with one of my canine pals before things got really wet and wild. Not a day for heroics on a motorcycle at all.

I feel that one of the nice things that stems from living in the cuds (middle of nowhere) is that it gives me space to think, drink in the silence and concentrate on the joy of life.

Autumn is definitely my favourite season, as the poet John Keats wrote “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.”

Yes, Autumn sees the shortening of days, cooling of temperatures, the first frosts and heavy water-soaked soils. I find beauty everywhere, the colours of the season prevail. The last fruits of the year are gathered. Summer blooms begin to die, but bravely brighten grey days.

Still stubble fields, that only recently stood proud with wheat or barley, now feed wild birds with fallen seed. Cattle savour the last good grass before Spring and on leaden skies the migratory Woodcock returns to the British countryside for Winter.

Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). JJ Harrison

There’s a sweet smell of decay in the air and the tang of beechwood smoke drifts from cottage chimneys.

It all lifts my spirits and I feel like the luckiest man alive.

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.” Emily Brontë

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Summer Draws Away

Theres a chill beginning to creep into the air at Dookes H.Q..

Mornings are starting to get a bit misty, shadows are longer and heavy dew sparkles on the myriad hedgerow cobwebs.

Autumn is on its way.

Butterflies and bees are grabbing nectar from late flowering plants as the garden produces a last flush of colour before the short winter days ahead.

Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae on Sedum in Dookes H.Q.

I love the changing seasons. In my lifetime I’ve seen how the normality of the weather is changing, so I appreciate even more those precious moments that nature gifts us. I never need much encouragement to get out in the open air and enjoy it!

Early Autumn also brings the bounty of wild food and never let it be said that Dookes turns down the chance to gather free food! What could be better than an afternoon spent foraging the hedgerows and woods for tasty seasonal treats?

Blackberries

The humble blackberry is probably the most popular amongst country folk, easy to find, simple to gather and makes delicious jam, jelly and deserts.

My favourite is the Sloe, the fruit of the Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa. Now finding Sloes is not always easy, despite the blackthorn being widespread in woodlands and hedgerows throughout the British Isles the trees fruit unpredictably. One year they will be groaning with the weight of fruit, the next almost barren. This irregularity is mainly due to the blackthorn’s habit of flowering very early in the year, before that leaves appear and always vulnerable to late frosts…just like we had this year!

But if you know where to look….!

Sloes, Prunus spinosa.

The only other problem with Sloes is hinted at in the tree’s name, Blackthorn. It is covered on thick sharp spiky thorns and a harvesting foray frequently results in various wounds to your hands! The gathered fruit though has various uses, yes it makes a wonderful jelly, but by far he best thing to do with you hard won spoils is to make Sloe Gin, a warming tot on cold winter nights or a refreshing aperitif on a warm summer, or Autumnal, evening.

Sloe Gin and Clementine tonic; Cheers!

Catch you soon, I’m off for some more foraging!

Dookes

PS Whilst I encourage anyone to look out for wild food, be careful, don’t eat something if you don’t know what it is!

Bike Nights and Near Normality

The world remains strange, though there are the beginnings of green shoots of normality slowly starting to emerge.

Here in Cornwall, as one of the most popular UK tourist destination areas, we are used to visitors during the summer months, but nothing like the invasion that we are experiencing this year! The prime driver of this is the continuing restrictions that the UK government have placed on all but essential foreign travel, as a result most people who would normally holiday abroad have swarmed to popular UK hot spots….and don’t we know it!

Local journeys are on average taking twice as long as normal. Narrow roads are choked with motor-homes, caravans and bewildered drivers who seemingly are unable to reverse when faced with a large tractor hauling silage; yes there is more to Cornwall than just the beaches!

The great thing is, with a motorcycle and a bit of local knowledge, you can avoid most of the holiday making madness!

Not very far from Dookes H.Q. on the stunningly beautiful north coast of Cornwall, lies the small town of Bude. Originally a harbour and fishing village, like many small coastal towns it developed into a holiday resort in the 1800’s and with the arrival of the railway in 1879 became a firm favourite of affluent Victorians.

Today the railway is gone, closed in 1966. The harbour just a shadow of it’s former glory. As a holiday destination Bude is no longer on the “must do” list for visitors to Cornwall, but it still retains a certain charm and in places, elegance.

Each Wednesday evening through the summer Bude hosts “Bike Nights” when motorcyclists of all sorts gather on the quay to drink coffee, eat donuts, hang out together and talk motorbikes in a relaxed atmosphere.

It’s great fun to see the holiday-makers giving us a wide berth; if they looked closely though, they’d notice that most of us are drawing our pensions!

It’s also great fun to have an evening out with motorcycle mates, plus a nice ride there and a nice ride back, you can’t beat it!

Pop down and see us if you are in Bude on a sunny Wednesday evening in the summer.

Catch you soon,

Dookes

It’s Not All Bad!

Today is the Summer Solstice and here in the Northern Hemisphere our longest day of the year. It should be warm and sunny, but instead it’s miserable…which sort of matches my mood. Actually that’s been caused by a dose of computer grief, always guarenteed to wind me up!

Normally in the Dookes calendar, this time of year I would be riding Harls on the high mountain roads of the Alps or Pyrenees.

Er..don’t tell Mrs Dookes that I rode up here!!!


At present though, life is still anything but “Normal.”

It’s virtually impossible to travel abroad from the U.K. at the moment and like a lot of sensible people I’m also feeling very much less than enthused with the idea. Apart from the trifling matter of health and travel insurance, there’s also the balls-ache and cost of Covid tests before travel and the same in reverse….and that’s assuming that your country destination of choice will even let you in!

Oh and yes, I’ve had my two shots of vaccine!

Foreign travel is just not worth the hassle when I live in such a beautiful place and can enjoy riding around here.

Cornish roads, you can’t beat them.


Which is exactly what my mate Mark and I did last Friday.

First a gentle trundle to Port Isaac to collect an order of shellfish for Mrs Dookes.

Port Isaac is a working fishing village on the North Cornwall coast and if I take the direct route, only around 25 minutes from Dookes H.Q….we didn’t take the direct route!

The harbour, Port Isaac.


It’s a lovely little place with tight streets and alleys that has been made famous by a television drama called “Doc Martin.” Needless to say this has had the effect of attracting thousands of tourists, most of whom understand that the village is not solely a film set.

Hmm, tight!


There are however who, well let’s just say don’t understand and wander aimlessly around blissfully unaware that business and life is still happening.

In other words “Get out of the way!”

Fortunately, Harls rather meaty engine exhaust note has the effect of drawing attention to the fact that they are standing in the middle of the road…

Once the visitors were avoided and the food was stowed in one of Harls’ panniers, it was time to ride off and find some good coffee.

Can you spot Dookes???


A hundred miles later a very happy Dookes arrived home.

Yeah, it’s not the Alps, but it’s not half bad round here either!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Counting Blessings

Here in the UK we are currently experiencing what the meteorologists are calling “Unseasonable Weather.” In other words, cold, wet and fairly miserable. 

Living on our island, it’s something I am pretty well used to; we don’t really have a climate, just weather and an awful lot of it is wet and cold! Today a gale is blowing in off the Atlantic with strong winds and rain, plenty of both. It could be worse, we could live in a country subject to typhoons and hurricanes or year long droughts, so look on the bright side and count blessings!

The road to Col de la Lombard, 2350m and look, a guard rail!

It’s a good day to watch the rain beating on the window and dream of sunnier places and happier times. In a way it’s a bit like travelling in my mind!

High in the Pyrenees, Catalonia.

With the continuing global pandemic situation, it is not a great time to go travelling anyway.

Lunch break, Col de la Madeleine 2000m, one of my favourites.

Now don’t get me wrong, I want to get back out there on the international roads as soon as I can, but I don’t need to nor have to. So I’m resigned to being patient and letting things get back to whatever the new normal is going to be before hitting the highway.

Heavenly twisty roads, Col de la Pierre St Martin 1766m.

In the meantime I have many memories and photos to refer to before that day comes, plus we live in a lovely part of the world too. 

I suppose also there’s also a bit of “Been there, Done that” at the back of my mind and that can straighten things out!

I just wish for now that it would stop raining….!

“I am travelling with you, just as I travel in my mind.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes.

These are Better Days….. Maybe.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year here in North Cornwall. Its early May and by midday the temperature is only just nudging 8º Celsius, that’s a chilly 46º Fahrenheit. True it’s been occasionally sunny but often with a cool North wind.

I’m not complaining though; life is beginning to take on some sort of normality. The U.K.’s Covod Vaccine programme is progressing well and infection cases are falling dramatically. Lockdown measures are easing and at the moment things have an optimistic feel.

Maybe, just maybe we are moving into better days and as if proof is needed I recently took each of my two beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles out for a short ride to get some local shopping.

To be honest, it seemed a bit weird to be back on the road with a large Vee twin engine rumbling away underneath me. Weird, but in a very nice way.

On each ride I wanted to stop and take some photos of my machines, yet at the same time I didn’t want the moment to be interrupted by messing around with a camera…so I just carried on riding and soaking up the experience.

I took it steady, it had been some time since I had ridden any motorcycles, best to ease in gradually and let the road come back to me. There wasn’t any rush to get the ride over and living in such a lovely part of the world there was plenty to enjoy…trust me I was really enjoying these rides!

I did about 50 miles in total on each bike, on two separate days, and I was mentally worn out in a nice refreshed way. Motorcycles really do move the soul!

Despite thoroughly pre-ride checking each bike, on my return home I needed to make small adjustments and tighten up a few things on each of them; nothing major, just getting them back how I like them.

It felt good to be motorcycling again….and just to celebrate I smashed out a 28 miler on the man-powered bike afterwards!

Now all we need is for the weather to get warmer and say a prayer for the pandemic to recede all around the world!

“These are better days baby 
Yeah there’s better days shining through” 

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, Today Is St David’s Day

Bore da pawb. Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, y Diwrnod Cenedlaethol Cymru.
Dymuniadau gorau i chi i gyd!

Good morning everyone. Today is Saint David’s Day, the National Day of Wales.
Best wishes to you all!

The weather here at Dookes H.Q. in Cornwall is lovely, if a tad cool.

The daffodils, National flower of Wales, are in bloom and with a freshly picked bunch on the table next to me, its like the sun has come into the house as well.

After the year we have all endured, it’s nice to have some brightness for once!

OK, brief history lesson then:
Dewi Sant/St David was born towards the end of the 5th Century in the region of West Wales known as Ceredigion. Whilst alive he built a reputation for his preaching, teaching and simple living amongst the Celtic people. He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosin, which became an important early Christian centre. Dewi died on 1st March 589 and was buried in what is now known as St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire where his shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage.

For centuries 1st March has been a national festival in Wales with parades, concerts, poetry readings and of course traditional food all being enjoyed. Around the country not only will you see the flag of Wales, Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon) being flown, but also the flag of St David, a simple yellow cross on a black field.P1030045

Today is also the time when Welsh exiles around the world remember ‘The Land of My Fathers’ and try to ease the sense of “Hiraeth” that yearning homesickness tinged with grief, nostalgia, wistfulness and pride in our identity that we often feel.

I wonder how many countries around the world have a National Vegetable? I can think of Ireland with the potato and in Wales it’s the humble, yet tasty leek, “Cennin” in Welsh, it is frequently eaten on St David’s Day; in fact I’ve just been outside to dig up a few for supper!

Leeks, just dug from the garden at Dookes H.Q.


Mrs Dookes has just made a lovely batch of Welsh Cakes, little drop scones of sweet fruity tastiness which we will shortly enjoy with a cup of tea. No, not all of them at once though!

Mrs Dookes’ Welsh Cakes.

There are reasons to be optimistic this St David’s Day and thankful too.

Plus our wonderful Welsh rugby team won the Triple Crown on Saturday by beating England in a thrilling game in Cardiff!

Photo: David Davies/PA


Have a lovely day and in the words of St David:

“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mean bywyd.” “Do ye the little things in life.”

Hwyl fawr!
Dookes

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m Gwlad.

A Little Green Cross

It occurred to me that recently I have been singularly bad at posting anything on this blog.

In a way that isn’t very surprising, after all this originally started out as a motorcycle based platform with some other thoughts and interesting stuff thrown in on the side.

With everything that has been going on in the world over the past year, you’ll excuse me if motorcycling has been quite a long way from my mind.

A quick look at my logbooks shows that since January 2020 my two lovely Harley Davidson motorcycles have done just 378 and 513 miles respectively…

Harls

The only plus side is that they both are sitting in the Dookes H.Q. workshop looking extremely clean and shiny!

Hettie

With the terrible global pandemic it just doesn’t seem right to go motorcycling. Pleasure rides are certainly a no go and even though I am a volunteer rider for medication deliveries, it’s just too risky to use the bikes…Our hospitals have enough sick people, without having to deal with some motorcyclist who has had an “off!”

Looking around for something to lift my spirits I found that today is Imbolc.

Imbolc in the traditional Celtic calendar marks the beginning of Spring and a celebration of new life with the Earth waking from the depths of winter. It’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Equinox. It’s also the time to start your Spring-cleaning!

In the ways of all good Celtic/Pagan festivals it spreads over two days and is very conveniently encompassed in the Christian Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ, which lands on February 2nd.

Imbolc traditionally honours the Pagan Goddess of fertility, Brigid, who was also intertwined in the Christian Church as St Bridget. 

February 1st is also St Bridget’s day.

Over the Centuries Imbolc has been celebrated in many different ways. Altars were set in homes and adorned with the earliest flowers and breaking buds of the season.

In Ireland, Brigid Crosses were traditionally made. These are formed from reeds, woven into a four armed equilateral cross and hung from doorways and windows too welcome Brigid and for protection from fire, evil spirits and illness. The crosses are generally left until the next Imbolc.

There are various thoughts about the origin of these crosses, but consensus seems to be that they pre-date Christianity, even though they have been widely adopted by Christians in Ireland.

With the current state of the world and in need of a little cheer I sat down today and made my own Brigid Cross for Dookes H.Q..

My Brigid Cross, not bad for a first attempt!!

I’m hoping some of the old ways and protection rub off with this little symbol.

Now all I have to do is hang it over a door and let Brigid do her stuff for the coming year! 

Happy Imbolc!

Catch you soon, stay safe!

Dookes

PS …Brigid, can I ride my motorbikes soon please?

Winter Solstice – Looking For Brighter Days Ahead

Today, is the Winter Solstice, and probably my favourite day of the year; yes that includes Birthdays, Anniversaries and Christmas!

Living in the Northern Hemisphere it marks the turn of the seasons when the days begin to grow longer and the warmth of Summer is beginning its long return journey, true it’s also the real beginning of Winter, but hey you can’t have everything and thats only for a few months!

I spare a thought for my friends South of the Equator for whom the opposite is true, your days will now start to shorten towards Autumn.

In this craziest of crazy years it does occur to me that we, the human race, have drifted away from that fundamental link and understanding of nature. One could argue that we actively turned our back on the natural world to our great peril and it is now biting back. The World’s climate is changing and now the globe is under the grip of a pandemic that appears to be mutating and growing in ferocity.

Is our planet telling us something?

Perhaps it is saying “There’s too many of you, this cannot go on!”

In response to the pandemic the UK Government has just introduced restrictions on the number of people who can meet and socialise over the Christmas period.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a great outpouring of angst. I do wonder though exactly what these people will be celebrating, current surveys show that only a tad over 50% of UK citizens identify as ‘Christian” and staggeringly only around 10% attend church! I suspect the principle “God” figures are a turkey, alcohol and something called “Me, me, me”!

As I age, for me the relevance of the Solstice turning point has grown stronger. I understand the thoughts of ancient people who venerated the turning seasons, the Celestial calendar and more importantly the natural world which gave them everything they needed. Come to think of it the natural world still does, it’s just that we as a human race seem to have ignored it for too long.

In Pagan tradition it was customary to place holly leaves and branches in and around dwellings during winter. It was believed that the good spirits who inhabited forests could come into their homes and use the holly as shelter against the cold; whilst at the same time malevolent forces and spells would be repelled.

Scan 20

It’s interesting to reflect that the origins of many common Christmas decorations such as the Yule Log and Wreath trace back to pre-Christian times.

Wreaths are traditionally made from evergreen symbolising strength and endurance as the evergreen lasts throughout even the hardest winter. The ring is also immortal, never-ending or beginning. I am pleased to report that, as is tradition, Dookes H.Q. is currently displaying a splendid Wreath made by Mrs Dookes.

image

Familiar decorations of green, red and white cast back to the Wiccan traditions and the Druids. The old Pagan Mid-Winter Festival of Yule also included feasting and gift giving, doesn’t it all sound very familiar?

When I was younger we always did the usual Christmas decoration stuff, including a highly non-authentic plastic and metal artificial tree! My late father did little to dress the tree, but had his own take on the whole decoration thing that he insisted on doing himself; every year he would garland the house with boughs of green holly and evergreen, it was only then that I truly used to feel that things were being done properly. I suspect that my Celtic blood has a lot to do with this and I still carry on that tradition today in Dookes H.Q., I adore the house smelling of pine and other evergreens!

It won’t be long before I have to pop outside into the rain to grab Holly and Evergreen to decorate Dookes H.Q.!

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, The Solstice, Dongzhi, Yalda, Saturnalia, Malkh, any other festival that I may have missed, or just looking forward to having a restful holiday, have a truly wonderful time and maybe spare a thought, or penny, for those less fortunate.

Lets hope that there are brighter days ahead and that we will all get to ride together again in 2021 with Harls, Hetty and I for more two-wheeled adventure and opinion!

“Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Long Nights, Short Days

It strikes me that just about the one thing that is “normal” about this crazy world just at the moment is the seasons.

I’m very glad about that.

To me one of life’s simple and indeed greatest pleasures is watching the seasons change. Not that I sit wishing my life to run away like grains of sand in an egg timer, no it’s just the way each season ticks over bringing fresh, yet reassuringly constant, vistas, smells and colours.

I’ve said before that the Autumn and Winter are probably my favourite times of year, which is probably linked to me being born in deepest Autumn. OK I could do without so much rain and wind, but a starkly freezing day with gin clear skies and iron hard ground takes some beating!

Then there’s that low lazy sun that can hardly be bothered to climb much above the horizon, the long shadows that it casts and the gaunt starkly bare leafless trees. I love to watch the last light of day disappear on the Western sky and the stars appear through those naked branches.
It’s all magical stuff to me.

Living in Cornwall, and sticking out into the North East Atlantic, we are never far from the influence of the sea. Dookes H.Q. is now only five miles from the coast and when there is a big storm blowing you can taste the salt in the air.

The sea, it is often said, defines Cornwall and standing near the shore facing a force nine gale, it’s hard to argue with that!.

Catch you soon,
Dookes