Again you might blame my writers’ club colleague, Jo Campbell, for this story.

But not completely. The 17/18 years old students (at Liceul Tehnologic ‘Nicolae Nanu’, Broșteni, Neamț, Romania) of my former Romanian student, Paula, now herself a teacher of English, so liked my ‘dark’ 5th November story, which was prompted by Jo, I promised to write another for them. Unusually, I have written to the theme given for readings at today’s meeting of our club, Writing on the Wharfe.


Not in my diary

She had been meticulous as far as her diary was concerned. By ‘diary’ I mean journal, not a place to note appointments, meetings or other dates and times to be remembered.

The journal was completed over morning tea each day, relating the most important, to her, happenings of the previous day.

She had noted, on the page for 30th April, ‘St Walburger, witches’ sabbath!’. Born close to the Brocken in Germany, she had always observed this feast.

But, and it’s a big but, Richard, the name of the love of her life she has declared, has never appeared in the journal. ‘My love’, yes; ‘he’ or ‘him’, perhaps; but never the name – Richard.

Photo of the Cow&Calf

The Cow&Calf

It began one day when, as the sun was setting, she and Richard visited the famous Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor, in Yorkshire.

Not satisfied with standing on the larger ‘cow’ and admiring the superb view over the town of Ilkley and the Wharfe Valley, they descended with a mixture of runs and jumps to the ‘calf’ below. Giggling, they scrambled to the top of the smaller rock and lay out in the fading sun.

Let’s leave our names on the calf,” Richard suggested, “with today’s date. It’s a special day.”

I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Isn’t it better to leave the rocks as nature intended?” Heidi was a keen environmentalist.

One more won’t make much difference; there are so many on all the rocks,” Richard answered as he began to scratch the rock with a knife he always carried.

3, 0, A, P, R, 2, 0, 1, 5,  H, E, I, D, I,  A, N, D,  R, I, C, H, A, R … 

he hesitated as the knife met some resistance from an inclusion harder than the surrounding rock. Exasperated, he put his whole weight behind the blade, lost his balance and tumbled down to the ground.

Eventually the air ambulance arrived – two broken legs, a broken collar bone and a dislocated neck kept him in hospital for several weeks.

The following 30th of April, 2016, early evening, found the couple wandering through the New Forest hand-in-hand in the twilight. As trees began to assume fantastic shapes in the fading light, an impressive oak, its trunk of a girth which the two lovers could not encircle with their outstretched arms, made them stop and rest, backs against the rough but somehow comfortable majesty supporting the now leafy branches above.

I’m going to carve our names here so this tree will remember us,” Richard announced.

If you do, it will remember us with pain. Don’t do it, please.”

Oh, you’re too superstitious. Trees don’t feel and anyway it can’t do any harm to one so enormous!,” Richard retorted, the irritation clear in his voice as he took the knife from his pocket and began:

3, 0, A, P, R, 2, 0, 1, 6,  H, E, I, D, I,  A, N, D,  R, I, C, H, A, R …

a large gasp broke the concentrated silence as the knife slipped to make a deep gash in his left wrist.

Blood, so much blood, fountained from the cut, obliterating the carved letters before covering Heidi’s breast. Quick thinking, she ripped off her blood-soaked shirt and applied a tourniquet.

Nevertheless, Richard lapsed into unconsciousness and the paramedics, who arrived quickly following Heidi’s desperate phone call, told her he was lucky to be alive and would not be were it not for her prompt action.

One year later, 30th April 2017, found the couple on the Brocken, following a visit to Heidi’s parents. 

They didn’t take the steam train up to the highest peak in the Harz mountains but decided to walk, though there were vestiges of snow on the peak.

About half way up they left the road, found a clearing among the pines and sat to eat their picnic. Richard lit the tiny light-weight gas stove and poured bottled water into the small pan they had brought to make a warming tea.

Etching, St Walburger’s Night, Johann Heinrich Ramberg, 1829

Etching, St Walburger’s Night, Johann Heinrich Ramberg, 1829

This is a magical place my love; I’m so glad you brought me here.” Richard wasn’t usually so easily impressed.

You just be careful; it is a magical place but it’s witches’ magic, not fairies’ magic,” Heidi warned him.

Oh you and your superstitions. I don’t believe a word of it. Anyway, it’s beautiful. I’m going to carve our names in the dry turf here,” he finished, pulling out his knife.

Please don’t. Just leave it as nature intended,” Heidi pleaded.

But Richard had already completed her name and the first six letters of his own. Turning quickly, his elbow caught the little stove and it was on its side, setting the dry turf alight.

A forest ranger found them in a tight embrace. 

In his police report he wrote: “I don’t understand how the fire burned in a perfect circle with them at the centre, or how such a small fire could completely carbonise the two corpses. Even stranger in a way was that there was a diary lying there next to them, completely untouched by the fire. The last entry was for 30th April; it just read “This is not in my diary!”

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This post isn’t about photography, and it’s rather late for a weekly challenge, but having been out of posting for a while I couldn’t resist using this recent weekly photo challenge to show why where I live makes me happy, and to learn how to make and insert a gallery (which is what the WordPress posting was about). I live in a village called Menston, on the upper southern slopes of the lower Wharfe valley in Yorkshire, just on the edge of the enormous Leeds/Bradford connurbation.

The first picture is the view I wake up to every morning, that from my bedroom window. There isn’t always a rainbow of course but we do get more than our fair share, I guess because we are looking approximately north so the sun is traversing right to left through the day. The colours and shadow patterns change not only with the seasons but with every minute – it’s a constant delight. More about each picture under the gallery.

I wanted to respond quickly and take photos specifically for this challenge so all the pictures are taken on my little pocketable, early digital Contax SL300R T*, one of the (too) many cameras I have which make me happy too (I’ve recently created another blog specifically for my photographic interests – grumpytykepix – and hope to start posting regularly on that soon). All the pictures in this post were taken over a period of two days. I really like how clicking on one of the gallery pix brings up a slide show of them all.

The hills over the top of the houses in the first picture are the northern slopes up from the river Wharfe. The river down in the valley is about 5 minutes in the car, with the lovely little towns of Otley, to the right, and Ilkley, to the left, about 10 and 15 minutes away respectively. A few minutes into real country as you will see in later pictures, but the magnificent city of Leeds is only 15 minutes away on the regular train from Menston station, a five minute walk from home – the best of all worlds.

The second picture is the view from our living room windows, over the village park, which look south so have sun all day; another constantly changing scene usually teeming with children and many dogs with their owners. If you look carefully in the centre background you’ll see why we don’t need a clock – if I had zoomed into it you would see clearly the time on the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian High Royds psychiatric ‘hospital’ (“Menston” to most locals – we live with it!) – now luxury flats.

Underneath the clock picture, top right in the gallery, is the scene I wait for on my journey home from my two day a week job in York. Driving back along the A658 I crest the hill leading down to the A65 Harrogate/Leeds road and there it is – the Wharfe Valley – dominated here by the torr Almscliffe Crag (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almscliffe_Crag). I’m about 15 minutes from home.

Continuing home, I cross the river at Pool, climb Pool bank then turn along the high ridge – known as Otley Chevin – running along the south side of the valley, (http://www.chevinforest.co.uk/)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otley_Chevin). The magnificent view in the fourth picture, with again the Crag dominating in the distance, is a 20 minute climb on foot from home, 5 minutes in the car. A short distance behind me as I take this picture is Leeds-Bradford airport, the UK’s highest, and another great convenience as it’s about 3 hours door to door for me to visit grandchildren near to Dusseldorf (and there’s a bus direct to the airport from home, so no car-parking fees!). No, aircraft noise is not a problem – though my wife wouldn’t agree about the 7am flight on a Sunday morning (I don’t hear it!).

Fifth picture: Even closer here, the first sight of our flat, across the park, windows on the right, first floor. A minute and I’ll be home.

Half an hour walk or so in the opposite direction from the Chevin are the rocks shown in the sixth picture, the famous Cow and Calf which overlook the town of Ilkley. Like Almscliffe Crag, this is a favourite spot for would-be rock climbers to develop their skills, though most visitors just go for the great views and a pint in the nearby Cow and Calf pub (or an ice cream or coffee from the car park (free!) cafe seen on the right).

If you return to Menston by car you can take the road into the village seen in the seventh photo. In the middle distance is the Chevin and if you look carefully you might see the long hill climbing to the top which I take to go to work – 2nd gear for Lofty the camper.

At the bottom of that hill, so half the climb from home, is one of the many great pubs around the village – called appropriately enough the Chevin. Here it is, eighth picture, on our Sunday 14th October walk. The road you see twists down the side of the Chevin through woods to reach Otley and there’s a great small camp site on the right for visitors.

But, ninth picture, we don’t make the climb to look at the front but to sit in the garden at the rear with, for me, a pint of an excellent Yorkshire beer (Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, another happy, brewed in nearby Keighley where I went to school) and an excellent cider for my wife Petronela – both of us wondering at the view.

Hopefully, if I manage to crack getting back into medium format rangefinder photography, I’ll be posting some better pictures from 6 x 9 of the wondrous scenery of where I live on my ‘photography blog’ – grumpytykepix. But maybe the few ‘snaps’ here will show you why where I live is ‘happy’ for me.