Tuesday, 22nd September, Autumn Equinox at Alcomden Stones

12:25pm. Today started off well. I was up at 4am and at Bully Tree Farm before 6am. This was a new experience for me, walking the  moors in the dark with no headtorch, but it was one I found very enjoyable and not as bad as I thought it would be. I was surprised at how much light there was, enough for me to see where I was going and the landmarks around me. The plantation and the houses were easy to see and I could see the light at Harbour Lodge across the valley. After I crested the hill I could see the tree at Top Withins above me and the light chasing the dark away behind me revealing the late summer colours of the moors. How different they look in the early morning light.

Despite my Achilles aching I made good progress up to Top Withens and soon I was on top of Stanbury Moor heading for the trig point.

It was getting lighter now but the sun still hadn’t come up, I was going to get to the stones before the sun did! It’s been a dream of mine to be at the stones and see the sun rise. I know for many people it’ll seem nothing but for me the stones are special for many reasons and being at them early in the morning has a certain significance to me and today even more so with it being the autumnal equinox.

I did it! I made it to the stones before the sun came up! It was getting light now but there was a mist on the moors adding to the atmosphere making it ethereal, mysterious a place of magic. And there was the stone, my stone, well Claire’s too as I know she likes it as well. It may seem a small dream but it had a huge meaning for me.

As always I tried to replicate Claire’s painting just to see how it looks in a different light at a different time. Every time I go to the stones or anywhere on the moors and fells they change, they never stay the same, always moving and evolving, being reborn time and time again. Claire caught the stones at a particular time and my photos do too but you can’t compare them only look and see how someone has captured the stones at that moment in time.

By now the mist was coming in, ghosts of the night having one last dance on the moors before the sun rose and drove them away for another day. The sun had still to appear and I was soaking up the mood of the moment watching bright skies on one side chase away dark skies at the other.

And then there it was, the sun peeking behind a cloud as if it was opening one bleary eye itself before it rose high in the sky and woke up the world. I can only remember seeing one sunrise before in Australia, 2003, on the Gold Coast. I watched the sun rise over a clear blue sea into a clear blue sky for hours. A very memorable experience and this would prove to be no less memorable.

The mist was coming in thick now from the reservoirs, something else I had never experienced. It brought a certain coldness with it but I wasn’t bothered. I was living in the moment.

I found a spot where I could watch the sun rise over my stone, this is why I had got up at 4am and walked up here in the dark to witness this amazing scene that no photo or film could ever do justice to.

The mist was getting stronger having one last battle with the sun before it inevitably lost and went away for another day.

I spent an age at the stones, too long really but I wanted to make the most of the experience, I don’t know when I’ll get another chance, and I had this unique opportunity so I stayed as long as I could. If I had died there I would have died the happiest man alive.

I took more photos discovering that if I used the night setting on my phone it created a different picture, more detail, more colours, more atmosphere.

The contrast can be seen here. The top photo is on the pro setting the bottom one on the night setting. Each photo has its merits and its an individual choice as to which one someone prefers.

I took a few more photos and sent one to Claire, hoping it would put a smile on her face, even if only for a while before the drudgery of work took over.

And then it was time to go. I didn’t want to but I had to, so I turned and left the place I love so much and went back to my car…

I couldn’t face going home. The thought of being back in the four walls that are like a prison to me was too much to bear so I went down into Halifax and went to see Jon who owns the Friendly Dragon shop which sells all sorts of items associated with the spiritual and magical.

Jon was just opening the shop as I got there so I waited outside while he opened up. Another lad turned up and I got talking to him. I was a bit wary of him, I sensed something wasn’t quite right and I was right as Jon told me he was on a lot of medication for a heart condition. He seemed quite dismissive of Covid and people who believed in it until we reminded him that people are dying from it, it is real and people are reacting differently to it. I was worried about it after hearing about the new measures on the radio to combat the spread of it and I told him so. I bought a few things from Jon and went back to my car.

In my car I had a chat with one of my disability advisors about getting back into uni. I explained to her that I was going insane being at home all the time and having little or no human contact and it was proving impossible for me to work at home. She empathised with me and said she would she what she could do to help me.

I got home and Jill my friend of over 30 years text me to see if I wanted to go and see her dad who has sadly been diagnosed with dementia. I said yes as I know Dennis well and have fond memories of him. Jill picked me up and we drove over to Eccleshill. On the way over I was talking to my other disability advisor about getting into university and seeing my supervisors so I can run my ideas past them and get on with my research when a woman pulled out on Jill when she shouldn’t have. I swore at the woman making Jill laugh and luckily Sue didn’t hear me. I sometimes forget where I am and act in a way that others would deem inappropriately but it a part of me and isn’t done deliberately or with malice.

We got to Dennis’s and went and had a few drinks with him. He seemed fine to me and knew who I was but that’s one of the difficulties with dementia, one day a person can seem fine and the next they don’t know who you are. We walked Dennis back to his house and decided to go to Wagamama’s at the White Rose Centre in Leeds for a birthday meal for me.

The drive over was eventful as neither of us knew the way and we relied on Jill’s dodgy satnav to get us there before I pi**ed my pants. Luckily we got there just in time although Jill couldn’t believe it when 5 minutes later I had another wee in Wagamama’s!

Wagamama’s was nice. Japanese food and a vegan option too. Jill is vegan and there’s a lot more choice for her and other vegans now. It was nice to have a chat with Jill about people and life. I told her what I’d been up to which isn’t a lot and showed her the painting of Alcomden Stones Claire gave me. She was very impressed. Jill is a bit of an artist herself, she can draw anything straight off and I still think she could have made it as an artist if she had wanted to.

The drive home was even more eventful than the drive over as Jill took a wrong turning and we got lost, very lost. We went everywhere but where we were supposed to go but eventually we saw some signs for Bradford and headed home. We talked some more about things and it was nice to be able to get some things off my chest that had been weighing heavy on my mind. I felt a lot better for it.

At home I was absolutely knackered. I had done far too much walking today and my legs were killing me. I had a gin at the end of a very good day and went to bed happy.

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