No mocking Valentine's Day post this year - it sort of slipped by me, and I failed to plan. If you want to read some writings from years past, go here and here.
Instead, I'm going to answer elizabethnmafia 's request to hear more about my childhood. With pictures.
You can tell it's summer, because I'm only wearing a light jumper. These pictures were taken by my father. We used to spend at least part of every summer holiday up in Bamburgh, where my father owns a house. One of our regular day excursions was to the Cheviot Hills (God, I live Wikipedia; all sorts of random stuff shows up), just over the border into Scotland. The Cheviots are the remnants of an ancient volcanic range.
The Cheviots are a national park, but the farmers that live around there graze their sheep all over the hills; it's a rather good spot for finding sheep skulls (my fascination with skulls is very old). It also is a good place to find adders , moles, fish, and the European cousin of the blueberry, bilberries.
The Cheviot hills are very beautiful, if you like bracken-covered hillsides with no trees, and a two-hour climb, which I do. I was seven the first time I climbed the second-highest hill, Hedgehope (pronounced "hehj-up") unaided (i.e., not carried or holding on to anyone else), and it was our standard hill to climb (the highest hill, Cheviot, is very marshy at the top, since the caldera is entirely filled with peat, which holds the moisture like nothing else) and once we reached the top, we'd have a picnic lunch and put a stone on the cairn.
The Cheviots are a treasure trove of hidden beauties; white heather (a genetic albino mutation of the standard purple kind, and considered very lucky) could turn up anywhere, the large stream (the Harthope) that ran down the center of the hills held gorgeous wildflowers, and wild dog roses grew in the sheltered areas between the peaks. We climbed Hedgehope at least once a year, and I still regret the year I mutinied and refused to climb to the top because I was tired (I was 17, and an extremely difficult teenager. I was also wearing completely impractical dress flats). Even in the summer, it could be quite cold (hence the cardigan in the second picture), but we often swam in either the Harthope, or one of the many smaller streams that connected with it.
I still love the Cheviots; the last time my father and I were there (and Bob was with us), we didn't climb the hills, but walked along the Harthope and had a rather fun time catching moles. We happened to see one above ground (unusual in the daytime, but not unheard-of), and then another. I caught the second one and handed it to my father. They're very soft, and very tiny; not much bigger than a large mouse, and velvety black.
Back in Bamburgh, when the weather was nice, we would swim in the North Sea - a sea that is so cold, if you fall in, you need to be rescued within an hour, or hypothermia sets in, even in the summer. But we swam and paddled, and posed for photographs:
Even back then, I was making faces at the camera (I thought I was very fat); I'm nine or ten in this picture.
The beach at Bamburgh is a delightful combination of smooth black igneous rock (that whole part of north-east Britain was once volcanic) and white sand beach. It is excellent for beach-combing - especially in the winter, when swimming is out of the question. Aside from the usual shells and interesting tidal-pool life (such as the squishy little sea anemones that liked to grab our toes), the winter Nor'easters used to bring us all the flotsam and jetsam from the shipping lanes. We got all sorts of odd things, but I think the oddest was probably the year we got thousands upon thousands of pink tampon applicators - the beach was very festive in an environmentally-damaging way.
I love Bamburgh; I want to go back there next time I'm in England - while the night life is limited to the local pub, the ever-changing beach and the beauty of the area (it's also very castle-intensive, including Dunstanburgh, Warkworth Castle, and Lindisfarne) feed my soul and bring me peace.
Completely random extra - I found a picture of me all done up to go clubbing. I thought you all would be amused (consider it my Valentine's Day gift to you):
My hair is no longer cut quite like that, but otherwise, this is often what I look like. I totally dig those boots.