Walking in the World

Monthly Archives: October 2016

Great Socks of Love


Candy corn is a contentious subject- you love it or you hate it, and rarely is anyone happy to agree to disagree. I love it, a fondness I owe to my dad – or so the story goes. As I have told you on past Halloweens, after the trick-or-treaters have gone home I make an effort to celebrate the sacred nature of Samhain by setting up a small altar to honour my ancestors. They say the veil is thinnest on this night, and I want them to know they are welcome in my home and my life, to know that I recognize my lineage and the roles they have played in shaping who I have become in this lifetime. Usually, I put out a few kernels of candy corn and some roasted cashews for my father, a glass of red wine for my mother, and a small assortment of little items that connect me to others who have passed on before me.


This year I have no little stash of candy corn to draw from – and it’s one of those things I just can’t buy over here. I do, however, have a new version that is calorie and contention free: candy corn socks!


Stitched by a knitterly BFF who knows my story and traditions, they will accompany me through the rest of my Halloweens, bridging old family with new, weaving them together with love and creativity. Candy corn socks…. who knew?


31 Oct 2016



Leaving Paglesham the other day, we were happy and full, but we still didn’t feel quite done with our day. Not far away is St. Andrews church in Ashingdon, set up on a hill overlooking the fields and marshes – the best vantage point for miles around. We had to drive all the way around the hill and into the village itself to get to the road leading up to the church, which added to the anticipation.


Built in 1020, the church is one of the oldest in the area. Originally called Assandun, the village is the likely site of the Battle of Ashingdon where the English fought the Danes in October 1016, and the church was then built on the site where King Edmund’s camp was believed to have been situated. Seriously old!

The church wasn’t open that afternoon, so we spent some time walking around it to see the walls and the surrounding graveyard(s). Jeff is always particularly interested in the walls of the these old churches as their contents give a good indication of where the building materials came from. As a geologist, this is one of the ways he makes sense of both community and culture.


Can you see the little triangular flint embedded here (bottom left)?  And the dark brown cement stones? These tell him, for instance, that the materials probably came from Butts Cliff, four miles away, on the banks of the adjacent River Crouch. The red rectangle is most likely a slab of Roman brick also found in the area.


We soon spotted two Mass dials, simple sundials marked with the hours of the masses, embedded in the wall, one at the front of the church where it would probably have been easily seen and used, and one at the base of the back (north) wall where it was probably part of an earlier wall that was later re-purposed:


And just as Jeff looks to the land for his stories, I look to the people. As we walked around to the back of the church, we met a couple sitting hand in hand on the bench looking out over the landscape. They had been married in the church exactly 60 years before, and had come to reminisce before heading home to celebrate with a bottle of champagne. The husband, they told me, isn’t well, so coming back here was how they were choosing to celebrate. I found their story incredibly poignant, and was deeply moved as I later watched them help each other back down the path to their car. For me, this is the peopled meaning of these village churches, and the reason I am drawn to explore both the buildings and the graveyards.



29 Oct 2016

On the Road to Paglesham


The Essex estuaries are not just about riverways and coastal walks… it’s an interesting area dotted with villages that sometimes merge into urban sprawl. It’s an ideal landscape for us labyrinthine personalities as the roads (which are often straight due to their Roman origins) still manage to meander around the rivers and marshes. In other words, the roads you drive might be straight, but getting from one place to another is rarely straightforward.


After leaving Wallasea Island yesterday, we wound through the back roads to the villages of Paglesham and Ashingdon to visit their churches and waterways. Dedicated to St Peter, the fisherman, the church at Paglesham is tiny but rich in history, having most likely been built over an older Saxon church during Norman times. nearly a thousand years ago, thus accounting for its short square tower.


The carvings on the wall as well as on the gravestones laid into the floor are both interesting and impressive.


I always find myself inventing stories to go with the imagery, and I have always had a strange habit of mentally calculating the age of the people buried beneath the headstones – some of them hint at heartbreaking lives, others at complicated relationships. The ones in the church are in remarkable condition.  Just look at the mix of imagery here:



Next door is Church Hall farm, gifted to Westminster Abbey by Edward the Confessor in 1065.


And a little further up the road? The Plough and Sail, which smelled too good to pass by, despite the fact that we had already had a picnic lunch out at Wallasea.


So, we did the only thing we could…. we ordered dessert!


And ate it under the watchful eye of their Halloween witch:


28 Oct 2016

Autumn on Wallasea


Sometimes we don’t have to wander far to find lovely and unusual landscapes. We have been watching the the transformation of Wallasea Island for the past several years as the sea has been allowed to breach the sea defenses in a carefully orchestrated and managed conservation project. As wetlands and lagoons are created, birds and wildlife are finding it a welcome place, as are the human visitors who enjoy seeing them while breathing in the fresh sea air. With new paths opening, we have more to explore each time we visit.


The peace is profound. The tide moves in and out quietly, and the wide lagoons and mud flats give plenty of space for birds, insects, critters, and human daydreams. And yet, as this sign far out on the sea wall reminds us, the reserve really is a crossroads, not actually all that far away away from civilization, at least as the crow flies.


The construction of the nature reserve was made possible by bringing in 3 million tonnes of spoil from the huge crossrail project deep underneath London. In recognition of this, a section of the cutter head from one of the tunneling machines has been installed alongside the Jubilee Marsh trail.


Its enormity bears tribute to the magnitude of the project, and stands in contrast to the tiny lifeforms that are settling into their new home, like this late season Clouded Yellow butterfly (Colias croceus).


27 Oct 2016

Collision of My Worlds


I went into in London to take a textiles class yesterday, and lingered well into the evening for dinner and an after-dark wander back to Fenchurch Street. Most impressive was peeking into the deserted Leadenhall Market which was the setting for the original Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter movie. Equally fun, though, was stopping to look at the advertising on the bus stops:


Apparently London is not only open, but it also really loves San Francisco:

london_loves_sf london_loves_sf2 london_loves_sf3

And there you have my life in a nutshell: London, San Francisco, growing up in the 60’s, and a bit of literary fantasy.

16 Oct 2016

Macmillan Night


Britain has the most wonderful cancer support charity imaginable, and every year they urge us to hold “coffee mornings” to raise money to keep the charity running. In this day and age, everyone one of us knows someone who has received a cancer diagnosis, and of course, we know that it could happen to any of us at any time. Sobering.


Macmillan Cancer Support has the lofty ambition is to reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer and to inspire millions of others to do the same. They say this about themselves:

 We are millions of supporters, professionals, volunteers, campaigners and people affected by cancer. Together we make sure there’s always someone here for you, to give you the support, energy and inspiration you need to help you feel more like yourself again. We are all Macmillan.

macmillan_cakes2 photo Annie Roberts

The Bitter Knitters left our usual pub venue and had a coffee evening last week – and wouldn’t ya know, every special diet was provided for and we all celebrated our growing knitting community in style, eating amazing cake and donating money for Macmillan. According to our hostess/chief baker, Annie Roberts, the combined total for her coffee events this year came to an impressive £350!


14 Oct 2016

A Ton of Wood


We’re getting ready for winter. We’ve converted the old WW2 brick bomb shelter in our back garden into a woodshed and stacked it to the ceiling with fire supplies to keep us warm whatever comes. Some years are mild, others more cruel, but either way, we rank staying cosy as a high priority. We’ve got kindling, coal, and logs…. all we need now is a bowl of chestnuts for roasting!


12 Oct 2016

Jeff’s Morning


As if to prove the point that where we live is a world away from London, Jeff snapped this picture on his early morning wanderings along the Canvey Island seawall where he keeps a close eye on bird migrations this time of year. It’s the same River Thames that runs through London, but much wider here at the estuary.

07 Oct 2016

Across the Causeway


Living out on the Thames estuary is a far cry from living in London. Sometimes I long for a more cosmopolitan community, but other times this seems just right for me, particularly when I’m out with Jeff and he encourages me to see the landscape through his eyes. There is so much here!


After leaving St. Michael’s and All Angels last week, we drove out through the farms and vineyards to the causeway that connects the mainland to Mersea Island, with its busy little fishing community.


We’ve been to Mersea before, but on Wednesday we carefully timed our arrival to be well before noon so that we would be able to get a table at the the famous Company Shed (any later than that and there’s invariably a queue out the door).


Yes, it’s really a shed. With seafood.


The best seafood I’ve ever tasted, in fact. And the nicest staff and customers. Jeff ordered the razor clams while I opted for the seared scallops. Accompanied by local beer for him and wine for me. And bread that the people next to us had brought and generously shared. Then Jeff offered the guy a taste of his clams, and a woman handed me a forkful of her tiger prawns. And they were so good that we ordered a plate of those, too. It’s that kind of place.


Quite honestly, I would advise every friend I’ve ever had to come visit, then beg us to take you to Mersea (because you’ll never find it on your own – and even if you could, what would be the fun of that?)


Full to the brim, relaxed and completely happy, we wandered along the beach, dawdled on the causeway, visited a Roman burial mound – and then rounded out the afternoon with scones and tea.


Definitely a perfect day!

03 Oct 2016

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