Silent Noon

I started singing when I was walking up to a tarn for a swim the other day, and then again when I was out on my bike. The summer weather – albeit a little on the chilly side – and the countryside around me perfectly matched Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s words, set to music by that archetypal British composer Vaughan Williams:

The pasture gleams and glooms

‘Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.

All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,

Are golden kingcup fields with silver edge

Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn hedge“.

In fact the colour of which I was most aware wasn’t yellow – though there were plenty of yellow buttercups, as opposed to kingcups, and white cow parsley – but purple. Thistles with their vibrant pinky-violet; the more delicate mauves of campanula; stately foxgloves; and then others which I wasn’t sure about but one of which looked a bit like a very large version of wild garlic or overgrown chives. It was beautiful and I kept meaning to stop to take a photo, but when I’m on my bike I always have this urge to keep bowling along. I did however stop to take a photo of the billowing clouds which were amassing more than they were scattering.

This week the weather has been a bit iffy and the forecast for Saturday was not brilliant. After some deliberation and quite a few WhatsApp messages the swimming group decided to try out Harrop Tarn. Initially we were going to go early to avoid People; in the end as sunshine was forecast for the afternoon and early evening we opted to meet at the car park below the tarn at about 4.30pm, hoping that most People would have gone home. It turned out to be the right option as it was indeed sunny and dry: however the car park was still busy and there were people on the path and we could then spot them scattered in the woods around the tarn – some camping and some with campfires, both of which are dis-allowed (banning campfires is of course a precaution against someone setting the entire wood alight: I did comment that at least if the wood did catch fire then at least being in the lake might be the best place to be).

I hadn’t heard of Harrop Tarn before I went there and researching it came across a description which said the scenery there was like Canada. I’ve never been to Canada and imagine that everything would be on a far bigger scale, but from photos I’ve seen I can see what the writer meant.

Out of all the tarns I’ve swum in it was perhaps the most beautiful location; it didn’t have the threatening grandeur of Wastwater but was in a glorious tree lined corrie. There was a pleasant walk up between the trees to get there, passing a waterfall towards the top of the path. Not longer after the waterfall – Dob Gill – you come out into the open and there, partly hidden, is the most beautiful, water-lily dressed, tarn. It only has one tiny stony beach and fortunately the people who had just swum were leaving (well, perhaps they didn’t want to leave and we spoilt their peace). We got changed into wetsuits and started swimming: while we were on the other side of the tarn a family came along and perched on another bit of the beach, the other side of a stream. We initially resented them spoiling ‘our’ spot but then acknowledged that we’d done exactly the same to the people before us – and in fact the family left before we did. And why shouldn’t everyone enjoy these places? It’s such a pity that we’re all having to be so careful about not being too near others at the moment!

We thought it was too cold to take off our wetsuits but in fact three of us did take them off after an initial swim, and swam in just swimsuits. The coldness of the water makes you feel slightly tingly and as if your muscles are shrinking closer to your bones!

Meanwhile I’m still reading 1599, which I mentioned in my previous post, and catching up on watching Shakespeare plays on the television. The BBC Culture in Quarantine ‘channel’ now has Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing available; I’ve watched 3 of the others but decided not to watch Midsummer Night’s Dream after seeing the first 10 minutes or so as I preferred the version I’d already seen from The Globe.

I also watched La Boheme from the Royal Opera House. I’m not a huge Puccini fan in general, although I love one or two of his better known arias (particularly O Mio Babbino Caro), but I found this compelling viewing. I particularly liked the Rodolfo (Michael Fabiano): not only because of his singing but also because of his hair, I think! It’s such a gloriously romantic and passionate opera and had me in tears: but there are also light-hearted, if not funny, moments. I’ll end with a clip from YouTube of that famous moment when he sings to Mimi ‘your tiny hand is frozen’, but if you look on YouTube there are several clips from the same production of this lovely opera. I’m a convert! https://youtu.be/–L3uqoQUV4

At the moment I feel so full of health, strength and happiness, and am glad to be alive.