A cause célèbre for the conspiracy theorists...
and a military facility, clouded in a veil of secrecy, for the Establishment.
Below is an extract from an email sent from person or persons unknown to colleagues at a mysterious factory in Northamptonshire, England, on Friday 12th October 2012:
It should come as no surprise, especially in a week when there has been much Northern Lights activity in Scotland and also a large military exercise across the whole of the UK, that there is also an increased likelihood of UFO* activity.
This has a great deal of resonance for me personally, as tomorrow I journey to the shadowy world of Area 51. However, the conspiracy theorists amongst you can rest easy (…or perhaps not!) Fortunately, the alien abduction component of this situation is limited to my partner kidnapping me for a weekend in Wales, which, for some, is probably alien enough.
The lesson to be learnt from all of this is that you should always read to the end of the email.
For, shortly, there will be biscuits and stuff in the 3 kitchens to celebrate my birthday tomorrow.
* In this instance, UFO stands for Unwelcome Fifty One."
Yep, I was another year older and, though possibly not any wiser, still honing my character flaws to good effect.
Our Lass and I were booked into a B+B in the rolling Monmouthshire countryside, not far from the town of Usk. Clearvewe is run on local and organic lines by Rachel and Andy, who are obviously not afraid of a good pun. Their hilltop location is an ideal site for solar heat and photo-voltaic technology, as the mornings proved with the surrounding landscape draped in mist, whilst we enjoyed a gloriously sunny breakfast.
|This being Wales, is it possible that this is the Stairway to Evan?
|Inspiration for many a folk song. An early morning and a fair maiden.
After breakfast on Saturday morning, we set off on foot to explore the nearby Gwent Wildlife Trust reserve at Springdale Farm. We wandered through fields and meadows on the lower slopes, before making our way into a broad-leaved woodland and gently ascending a hill.
|Photo: Our Lass
Whilst I was trying to take photographs of a Hornet's nest, from a very respectful distance...
|The lunatics are taking over the asylum
Our Lass had discovered some fungi growing on a fallen log and was experimenting with settings to capture a crisp shot. Unfortunately, we weren't able to identify the particular species.
|A bit heavy on latent symbolism? Photo: Our Lass
At the top of the hill, back out into open fields, we could view the distant peaks of the Brecons and watch as a glider from a nearby club shared the skies with Buzzards and Ravens.
In a hedge, we discovered a species of fruticose lichen that could well be "new-to-science", Orange Twine-fuzz, Pharma untidinus, though the British Lichen Society is yet to rule on its classification.
|Photo: Our Lass
In the afternoon, we ventured into Usk for a look around the Castle. This is privately-owned, i.e. not in the hands of some national heritage body, and therefore had a quaintness that can only be fostered through years of tenure and eccentricity. It was fabulous, but mind the geese.
|Inside the Great Keep
As can be seen above, the Great Keep is not quite in mint condition, seven hundred years of history are bound to have given rise to a few makeovers, as evidenced by the numerous blocked doorways and windows. Actually, I wouldn't have been surprised to find Mint growing on the walls, in which case my previous sentence would have been even greater tosh.
Though the structure had not been lived in for many years, we noticed that a fireplace on one of the upper floors had a grate in which there were definite signs of ash.
Sorry, that should've read Ash.