Friday, 16 May 2014


Just watched a buzzard circling in a the thermal from the heat rising
off the road running along Chalford Valley, just beyond Sixpence's
hawthorn. I love buzzards. I used to fly gliders, before I returned to
sailing. The two disciplines have much in common, and, in a purely
viscreal sense, offer similar gratification.

The photo above was from an early winter flight, November 2005, just
north of the airfield at Aston Down where the gliding club was
conveniently based (just over the side of the valley from here - I still
see the gliders from my office window during the summer when the wind is
in the south)

I remember once, quite vividly, sharing a thermal with a buzzard.
Sentimenal fool that I am, I found it an especially moving experience.
It's been years since I last strapped myself into a sailplane. I still
miss it, far more than I'll ever miss smoking, which I quit just before
I stopped flying. But whilst I never intended to quit gliding forever,
only pause a small while, I couldn't now give up sailing to return to it.

And even I am a realist enough to recognise there's really not room in
my life for both. At least not at the moment.

The words below were written about six months before the above picture
was taken, following that flight where I met the buzzard. The poem sits
in a dusty corner of an old, all but forgotten website I set up pretty
much at the dawn of the Internet, along with a collection of other
scribblings. A handy place to keep such things.

Part of the charm of a photograph, for me, is that I can take in hand
nearly any picture I've ever taken, and the second I look at the image,
I'm immediately returned in vivid detail to the moment of capture. My
memory can otherwise be pretty shakey in many respects, history and
sequence tends to blur if not totally fade through my obsessionwith the
present and whatever's in front of me now. But when looking at a photo
I've taken, the moment of its creation and the situation surrounding
seems to always returns in crystaline, gorgeous clarity.

Before the very recent dawn of digital photography, when film was too
prohibitively expensive for me and photographs too delicate and easy to
loose, poetry and songwriting served much the same purpose, I think, and
still have the same effect of recall.


The Buzzard

Passing two thousand.

My palm sweats, my arm aches
The perspex filtered sun sears my brow,
Then falls shaded by the cloud once again
As my thermalling turn carries me round.

Two five.

Turbulent core; breathe, remember to breathe
As I trim out the ache in my arm; my arm aches
With the strain. Then the sun breaks, again
Spilling out from the shadow of clouds.

Passing three thousand.

Keep my look out, glance up, scan around,
But the sucking sky seems alone mine. Circling still
I guide the sailplane up through the thermic rise
In an epiphany of solitude and rushing air. Ecstatic am I
Don't stir the stick, damn you! coordinate and fly;
For me the bubbling sky is alive.

Passing four thousand.

Almost there now; the heavens are kind
My wing-tip dipping the glowering clouds down reaching.
And the sun momentarily breaks through a veil of haze from behind
Framing the buzzard, outstretched and effortless, a silhouette soaring.

Four five.

My palm sweats, my arm aches
The rudder pedals clumsy beneath my feet; the stick stirring.
He glances at me across our mutual circle, an indifferent avian eye
Not judging and yet in grace am I found wanting; but I do not mind.

This heaven is his kingdom, his bubbling sky;
And I, however familiar or frequent a privileged stranger
Am and shall remain but a stranger,
A flattered guest in his airy domain.

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