Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year

A New Year's Day walk and photograph is a custom I have kept to for many years now. Yesterday afternoon we went to St. Catherine's Hill near Winchester, but decided to cross over the motorway (which was laid through an open chalk wound slashed into the ancient and historic downlands in the 1990s) to Twyford Down.

It was an exhilarating, frosty day for a walk, with a clear even light, even though the sun was already beginning to set. As it got lower in the sky, however, the sun took on a particularly red radiance, and cast a weird glow onto the flinty, frozen fields. A fox made its way across the ploughed ruts shortly before this photograph was taken.

New Year's Day 2010, Twyford Down


Bronislaus Janulis said...


Good tidings for the New Year, and thanks for the quick tour of SE England. I start googling, then I have to look up where Father was stationed, before he became guest of Germany ( farther north, Debach airfield, Suffolk), then I' m wandering along The White Cliffs of Dover, and their stunt doubles, The Seven Sisters. Then I have to figure out why "downs" are actually hills, and of course chalk is primary ingredient in traditional gesso ... I wander ... Thanks!

Gavin McL said...


Mike probably knows this

Downs - as in hills comes, according to the OED from various old northern European languages Old English, Frisian, Saxon etc for Dune. Though it may also derive from a Celtic word for fort.

Hope that helps

I once met a big wild country fox out walking in the daylight such a contrast to the grey skinny town foxes, looked quite magnificent.

Happy New Year


Mike C. said...

Actually, Mike (having grown up in the downland of North Herts) has pretty much taken the word for granted, other than to regard it as perhaps an early instance of English irony. I expect the ancient Britons coined the term to torment the minds of those hyper-logical Roman occupiers.

Thanks to you both for your wishes and speculations -- glad to see this blog is stimulating such impresive bouts of post-Christmas self-improvement!

I do like the idea of the Seven Sisters as a stunt double... Was your father a WW2 flier, Bron? East Anglia is still haunted by those old RAF and USAF airfields. Have you ever read Len Deighton's "Bomber"? It gives a hellishly accurate picture of what it must have been like to fly raids over Germany.


Bronislaus Janulis said...


Yes, my father was a B17 pilot. He saw the combat, then after crashing in Holland, he saw what the heavy bombers had wrought; something I' m not sure he ever got over. Airfields haunting East Anglia seems apt.

I've read a few of the books, though I was always more partial to the movies, probably for reasons of proximity to family that had some "baggage" due to WWII. Books have always been more real than the obvious illusion of cinema. A field to plow another day.

12 O'Clock High, deals with some of the stress, The War Lover has some White Cliffs, not sure which, as the denoument, The Memphis Belle documentary is a solid piece of salesmanship, and the Hollywood version, recent, has it's moments. (One of the actors in the latter was an employee of mine when I worked in a museum) And of course, "The Great Escape" taking place at the camp my father ended the war at, later.

I digress.

Love your theory on the origin of "downs".


Mike C. said...

Your father was in Stalag Luft III? He must have cringed at the Great Escape... It's always puzzled me how quickly and how frequently WW2 was recycled as entertainment, with the focus on a few headcases who had probably endangered everyone else with their "adventures".

Bronislaus Janulis said...


The "Great Escape" took place early enough in the war that the prisoners were in still pretty good shape, and so had the energy and strength to do their "duty". By the latter part of the war, the prisoners were essentially starving, less than 1/2 rations of "garbage".

Sorry to hijack your post about the new Year.

From a previous post, "Witches Knickers" is a very good one.