It had been a very busy day with no chance to enjoy the warm weather. Then as the meetings came to a close I took a walk outside the foyer of the hotel in Jiashan that we were staying in. Bright red banners flew proudly against the setting sun. For those of you wondering, Jiashan is about 100km from Shanghai – only 30 minutes by high speed train!
Air balloon rides, brightly coloured merry-go-rounds and yes, that was Santa Claus on a tightrope, high above the Christmas shoppers in Bournemouth town centre today. Nothing unusual there you might say. Except this is November 19th, barely five weeks away from Christmas Day. Just a short stroll from town and beach huts were opening their doors to the balmy weather.
Everywhere you turned, people were brandishing ice-creams and surfboards, happy to defy the approach of winter somewhere on the distant horizon.
You could be forgiven for thinking this was Malibu or Maui not the Dorset coast.
A sunset is a sunset, right? Maybe, but this was just too good an opportunity to miss with my camera.
I had planned on putting together a winter wonderland post of photographs pretty soon. Santa will have to wait a little while longer.
Evening of the first day of September seemed a good time to see Glastonbury Tor and take a few snaps. Hadn’t bargained on this being quite the rich and spiritual visit it turned out to be. The approach of a glorious sunset should have been a clue. A visiting Tasmanian in the suburban foothills of the Tor wasn’t prepared to let me pass the opportunity by, and urged me to start the climb. Pretty soon, I was looking back at the town of Glastonbury bathed in a golden light.
Setting out on the steep rise of the public footpath I was soon wondering whether this had been such a good idea. My sense of direction was already starting to desert me. No problem, I thought, I’ll just ask the young woman sat on the ground up ahead. Things weren’t quite as simple as that though; the young woman in question was gently stoned and a wispy smoke hovered in the air around her head. She smiled a distant, dreamy smile and merely looked in the direction of the path above her; that was all the help I was going to get here.
The pathway soon darkened and the noise of animals skittering in the undergrowth kept me company until I reached a clearing and the first field of cows to negotiate.
By now my legs were starting to ache, too.
But time was passing quickly and I was conscious of the slowly setting sun. My next attempt at seeking directions was more fruitful in the form of local hippy, Steve, and his dog, Rosie. This was clearly a daily ritual for Steve, although he claimed it was only part of his daily dog-walking routine. Rosie certainly knew her way and Steve was generous in sharing his local knowledge and pride in the area. Before I knew it, I was struggling to keep up with Steve’s commando pace as he strode up the base of the Tor. I took a moment to watch as a group of sheep were racing down.
First things first, I urged Steve to power ahead and I’d climb at my own pace. A kindly smile back at me and he was off. The climb was actually much quicker than I’d imagined, although the breathlessness and aching calves said otherwise.
I stopped to look to the rear of the Tor in the direction of the festival site; the fields were still brown from the trampling they’d taken back in June. We’d certainly been shortchanged of a summer since then. But tonight was already starting to make up for that.
Then suddenly I’m at the top of Glastonbury Tor with the Vale of Avalon stretched out in the distance.
People all around were similarly mesmerised by this startling scene. Some lay prostate in line with the setting sun. Another quietly lit joss sticks in the shadow of the monument. And Rosie suffered a timely rebuke for chasing the sheep. A gentle hippy, Spencer, offered to take my photograph and pondered whether anywhere else in the world could really match this place. He could have a point.