Triologisms

Bringing you pithy, evocative imagery in three-legged microcosms of meaning.

I revel in having coined the term ‘triologism’ and believe this to be the only collection of these tum-tee-tum phrases in the universe.

Updated on Tuesdays … Tuesday, triologism day!  You’ll never see this day of the week in the same way again.

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Champagne-bottle shoulders

What a charming if old-fashioned sounding description of sloping beauty, in this case referring to voluptuous Europa.  And 'callipygous' describes finely shaped buttocks, the owner of which would qualify as a callipygian. 'Europa - lovely, Canova-like, with...

Dust-clogged hair

As Leigh Fermor prepares to set off through Mani in the Peloponnese, he is given several such 'there be dragons' warnings by friendly Greeks, implying that he risked having his throat slit if he ventured into such wild places. '"You had better look out if you are...

Half-convincing illusion

I liked this vista, with its mile-long sweeps and acute angles like collapsible rulers. However, if you are to have illusions, let them be fully convincing, no halves. 'Up the flank of this great barrier a road climbed, searing it in mile-long sweeps and acute angles...

Shqip-speaking Atticans

Intrigued by this curious linguistic geographic cocktail, I have learned that Shqip is Albanian and Sfax is a city in Tunisia.  So Leigh Fermor is presenting us with Albanian-speaking Greeks living in Tunisia. 'Shqip-speaking Atticans of Sfax' Source: Patrick Leigh...

Phallus-wielding Bounariots

One of a long and impossibly exotic ethno-linguistic, map-straddling shopping list that Leigh Fermor reels off like a roll-call of human diversity. Even without the learning to follow a fraction of its historical implications and allusions, there is something hypnotic...

Ouzo-swilling fisherman

Leigh Fermor at one point starts day-dreaming he has discovered the rightful Emperor of Byzantium in the form of an ouzo-swilling fisherman. He heads off into a dazzling flight of fancy, underpinned by his apparently boundless and effortless erudition. Source: Patrick...

Black-frogged livery

Of several unbelievable sojourns Leigh Fermor enjoyed in anciently aristocratic homes dotted across central Europe, this may top the lot.  He seems to have come from a sufficiently elevated stratum of English society to be able to pitch up here and there, after weeks...

Half-glimpsed chateau

I know little about architecture in the formal sense but am in love with buildings, forever looking at them and wondering what histories they harbour, and often giving them a mental makeover to bring out their full ambiance and potential.  So how enticing this idea of...

Good-tempered ears

Describing an idyllic ride on a wonderful horse.  I wish you many moments, and even days and weeks, of which the first sentence is true. 'There was not a single way in which life could be improved.  Malek's alert and good-tempered ears, his tireless and untiring gait...

Tawny-maned horses

A journey you would never want to end, the way Leigh Fermor describes it. 'Poppies scattered the green crops, the smell of hay, clover and lucerne floated in the air, and tawny-maned horses grazed.  I wished the journey would never end.'   Source: Patrick Leigh...

Chocolate-coloured ploughland

What deep, dark, friable soil this suggests! 'It was a geometrical interlock of chocolate-coloured ploughland with stripes of barley, wheat, oats, rye and maize with some tobacco and the sudden mustard flare of charlock.'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between...

Flat-bottomed clouds

Leigh-Fermor's continent-straddling meander encompasses pre-war scenes of breath-taking bucolic beauty.  A decade after his peregrination this world had been turned on its head and much of it destroyed. Yet in reading of his experiences, you sense an easy timelessness...

Forest-haunting Lombards

This is part of a paean to the magic of the forest and the hold it has on our imaginations.  But beware the forest-haunting Lombards, who sound like something from the night side of the fairy tale.   'A kind of spell haunts wooded slopes like these: it drives the...

Red-legged falcons

Assuming this to be the red-footed falcon (falco vespertinus), I found this photo.  Leigh Fermor spots them around the remains of an impressive bridge built by Trajan.   'It was the remains of Trajan's amazing bridge that we had come to see, the greatest in the...

Bat-haunted cave

In general, I would run a mile from anything bat-haunted - apparently random, erratic flight patterns bring out some primeval panic in me.  But this isn't any old cave.  This is allegedly the cave I read about a thousand times in the beautifully illustrated Pied Piper...

Sulphur-coloured belfries

I like triologisms that combine something with -coloured - when I have enough of them to make a mosaic of colour, I will do so, and post it on this site.  Until then, enjoy this one. 'Clumps of trees broke it up and every few miles russet and sulphur-coloured belfries...

Green-leaf song

What could be sweeter to the ear than a 'green-leaf song'?   Leigh Fermor hears it parting company with an old woman shepherdess.  Did the song survive? 'Still exchanging jokes, they set off for their high sheepfolds.  One of them was spinning as she went, and in a...

Green-leaf invocations

Surely a practice worth borrowing or reviving?  Leigh Fermor describes a woman beginning each verse of her song with such an invocation, a kind of homage to the leaves and the trees. 'She sang a doina to herself as she moved about the yard, each verse beginning "Foaie...

Mythical-sounding princes

Leigh Fermor is entranced by the names of these princes, making him want to explore Romania.  We also decided we want to explore Romania, but it wasn't the mythical sounding prince that did it, it was a chance meeting with a charming young woman with whom we crossed...

Moth-ridden masterpieces

The Shadow of the Wind assembles a posse of 'bibliophile knights' who hang out in cafés to save the moribund from extinction.  See also the dim view Barceló takes of people who haven't mastered Latin on the shallow grounds that it is a dead language. '... where...

Lop-eared rabbits

What a fine word, 'lop'.  You can see these droopy-eared pretty creatures lolloping around the melon patch. 'Lop-eared rabbits basked or hopped sluggishly about the little gardens and nibbled the leaves of ripening melons.'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between...

Tar-black skies

This struck me because it's a rare sight, skies are rarely tar-black in or near cities.  But this is Barcelona and perhaps the emptiness of the sea at night allows some of its overarching sky to seep into the city's airspace and blacken it like ink. 'It was a cold...

Technicolor-green fields

Fermín is a character who has done time as a tramp, and perhaps because of the hunger he's suffered, he has an insatiable appetite for chocolate.  Living in Switzerland, I can testify as to the reality of its 'impossibly blue lakes' and 'Technicolor green fields'. 'As...

Deer-nibbled grass

We've been wondering if there is a way to deploy a sheep, goat or deer to mow the lawn without destroying the plant beds - an eco-friendlier option including the reduction of noise pollution. Clearly, the only way would be to create a circular lawn with a central...

Iris-blue sky

When I think of such a sky, I think of Greece. 'The following morning, the weather had changed to a pale iris-blue sky.'   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 212

Yellow-flowered silverweed

Looking up this flower (potentilla anserina), I discover the identity of a mystery plant I bought from a seedling community in Geneva.  It was in the 'edible' section but didn't come with a label.  Now it's about a foot in height and diameter, and we can put the...

Rubber-suited whale

Puffins are lovable partly for their curiosity and quirkiness. Here Nicolson imagines them trying to figure out what manner of fish he is. 'They are not frightened. They gather around you, swimming up to you, looking curiously sideways at this new kind of...

Tissue-thin vulnerability

Among other things, Sea Room is a study of human strategies for survival over millennia, of the fragility and tenacity of a culture built in a climate-pounded place of meagre resources.  These islands were inhabited from the Bronze Age until the population declined...

Barnacle-encrusted boulders

The clingon power of the barnacle is astonishing, as anyone who ever tried to prise them off the rocks in childhood acts of discovery will know.  My memory of summer holidays by the English sea, or day trips to the seaside, includes endless coasts of weed-slithered...

Weed-slithered rocks

This evokes a few childhood seaside holidays in England, hopping over seaweed-slippery rocks, to play and paddle in rock pools.  One such holiday was in a caravan near Hunstanton with our grandparents.  I don't remember seeing much of the sun, but I was happy to be on...

Crossing the long-haired sea

This poem by the seventh century Irish poet-monk Beccán mac Luigdech captures the ruggedness and exhilaration of crossing rampant seas in small boats to create new settlements or monasteries.  I love the 'long-haired sea' and its portrayal as 'wild country' followed...

Wind-besieged islands

The North Sea is full of such islands and Nicolson finds in a place of 'sun-trap warmth', sheltered from the wind-siege, a possible site for the church of the seventh century Irish poet-monk Beccan. 'So is this, in its sun-trap warmth on these wind-besieged islands,...

All-power meeting

I had no idea how awful but interesting this bird is, even its name lacks euphony.  I'm in no hurry to take one on in an 'all-power meeting' I'd be sure to lose. 'Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the shag experience.  It is an all-power meeting with...

Sea-battered island

A perfect spot for a hermit, even more so in the seventh century. '... a hermit living on a sea-battered island in the Hebrides in the seventh century.'   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....

Dredger-bucket mouth

You can see this gaping maw hoovering up all in its path. 'Its dredger-bucket mouth agape for the food-rich water streaming through it...'   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 278

Spring-time welcome

My heart also expands at the spring-time welcome of where I live and where I visit.  Here, the detail of Nicolson's account roots the welcome in the Shiants, and I particularly revel in the 'big, luscious chamomile' and the 'flowering cushions of newness'. May you...

Black-letter hortations

Leigh Fermor's descriptions of pre-war beer halls encompass the quaint, the sinister, the laughable and the grotesque, with first hints of Nazi cheerfulness invading medieval slovenliness, and with near biblical accounts of the sin of gluttony. '… pace-forcing...

Bruise-coloured clouds

A striking colour name, and particularly as I am now looking out onto ... '... bruise-coloured and quicksilver clouds...'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 243

Demon-king entrance

This sounded like something out of a classical Chinese opera until I realized it was describing my forebears. Don't worry, a dozen centuries of settled living, and I've been entirely pacified and partially civilized. 'The Magyars, at the end of their journey from...

Shrivel-cheeked hermits

May you be spared all shrivelling. Why do words of similar sound have something mean-spirited in them: shrivelling, snivelling, grovelling, scrivening, slovenly? 'On the walls inside the Palace, meanwhile, Duccio's sombre Jeremiah and the shrivel-cheeked hermits and...

Russet-scaled labyrinth

Thinking about roof tiles described like russet scales, I look up, out of the window and see them not three yards away, overlooking the 'russet-scaled labyrinth' of roofs in the old town of Geneva. 'A russet-scaled labyrinth of late medieval roofs embeds the baroque...

Strip-cartoon dreams

Yes, you can picture a cartoon tramp dreaming of a spit-roasted chicken.  And those six-on-a-spit rotating rotisseries of plump, golden roasted chickens?  The Brazilians call them "dogs' TV". 'A delicious roast chicken, of the classical sort that sizzles enclouded in...

Rain-glazed grass

This makes me think of the freshness after a downpour, the drops glistening on the pointed leaves of the lawn. Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 287

Rock-hole glory

A memorable image of a glorious, dreadful creature hanging out in weather-gouged holes in rocks. 'Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the shag experience.  It is an all-power meeting with an extraordinary, ancient, corrupt, imperial, angry, dirty,...

Sun-trap warmth

A haven of calm and enveloping warmth in places blasted by wind and cold.  A place where a monk arriving over rough seas from Ireland in the seventh century might choose to build a church. 'So is this, in its sun-trap warmth on these wind-besieged islands, where the...

Food-rich water

Here's to hoping the future will see the ocean still full of food-rich water. 'Its dredger-bucket mouth agape for the food-rich water streaming through it...'   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....

Battle-haunted fens

Having spent many teenage summer holidays in the fens of England, this struck me, though I never heard or saw the battle hauntings there.  Perhaps too engrossed in high kaleidoscopic skies. '... the battle-haunted fens came to an end on the other side of the river.'...

Tree reflecting banks

A river lined on both sides with tree-covered banks, reflected in the water and in each other.   As you follow Leigh Ferro's pre-war crossing of Europe, knowing what came after in destruction and mayhem, you keep asking how much of what he describes survived and how...

Weather-fretted Abbots

Assuming these are carved in stone, though my first reading had me picturing a human 'weather-fretted' abbot. Wishing you more blessings than admonishments. 'Meditating, admonishing and blessing, a team of sainted and weather-fretted Abbots postured with operatic...

Many-legended island

Are those legends still alive or did they die with the war, or with the people who told them?  And what if we made our own mental 'many-legended island' to retire to? 'I slept in the village of Grein that night, just upstream from a wooded and many-legended island.'...

Dun-coloured flax

I eat flaxseed and have seen blonde hair described as 'flaxen', but in reading this I realize I have never seen flax grow.  And what a refreshing image of a river plaiting a long green strand of clear water through the flax fields. 'The river Enns ... came winding out...

Hard-favoured rage

The rage of feeling hard done by, is how I read this.  I like 'disguise fair nature with...', meaning you have to overcome your happy nature to drum up some fake fury.   That final 'etc' gives it away as a feint. 'But when the blast of war blew in their ears, they...

Light-hearted colours

What a delightful way to describe a palette of colours: light-hearted.  What hues would it include?  Sky blue, dancing fuchsia, apple green? And something charming in those untutored and marveling eyes.  They may be untutored but at least they are marveling and that...

Cloud-born apotheoses

The triologism caught my eye, but I like even more the play of light bouncing from a Venetian canal up through a partly shuttered window to flicker across ceiling scenes. 'The reflected flicker that canals, during Venetian siestas, send up across the cloud-born...

Holly-patterned ribbon

This quotation, and its festive triologism, haunts me for the closing sentence which yields the book's loving title: The time of gifts.  I liked the simple gifts these girls gave Leigh Fermor, and his regret at not having anything suitable with which to reciprocate....

Good-humoured Syrinx

These two fine young girls manage to protect themselves from the depredations of a sleazy, tasteless monster.  I remember Leigh Fermor's descriptions of the booziest blur of a party held in a place bursting with the latest and ugliest 1930s nouveau-Nazi tat. '......

Traffic-straddling gateway

Having just spent Easter in Aosta where there is an Augustan traffic-straddling gateway in the central roundabout, this image brought a happy moment to mind. 'A monument where a Bavarian king was riding on a metal horse in front of another colossal and...

Basket-hilted sabres

Seems an odd juxtaposition, woven hilts for metal sabres, but I have a vague notion of having seen them in some museum or castle or other. 'Their gauntlets grasped basket-hilted sabres.^   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books,...

Saint-encrusted towers

How many masons chipped away for how many centuries to create 'saint-encrusted towers', which would have to withstand the vibrating rivalries of the bells above them. 'As each quarter struck, the saint-encrusted towers challenged each other through the snow and the...

Siegfried-haunted Drachenfels

An image from a Caspar David Friedrich painting. 'The country sped downstream at a great pace and the Siebengebirge and the Siegfried-haunted Drachenfels began to climb into the sparkling morning.'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin...

Reed-fringed spinney

Many years since I heard the word 'spinney'.  I remember it as a secret, hidden spot in the local park when we were growing up, known simply as The Spinney.  It had a man-made waterfall, channelled through a wall built of cement sacks, stacked and allowed to settle in...

Tree-tufted islands

Trees as tufts - trying to imagine how they would look.  I imagine wind-blown short trees, dwarfed and compacted by a harsh climate. 'We sailed between tree-tufted islands.'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p....

Lemon-coloured light

A warming, bright but not dazzling light, and streaming through gaps in snow-clouds too. 'The sky was loosening and lemon-coloured light was dropping through the gaps in the snow-clouds ... '   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books,...

Lily-bearing angels

We could do with a few of those now and then.  May a lily-bearing angel flutter to earth whenever you need one. 'But this scenery is a backcloth, merely, for lily-bearing angels who flutter to earth or play violins and lutes at Nativities.'   Source: Patrick...

Sonnet-begetting beauty

One of Leigh Fermor's teenage crushes, a girl who ran the local grocery shop, whom he spotted on an escapade from school. 'She was twenty-four, a ravishing and sonnet-begetting beauty and I can see her now and still hear that melting and deep Kent accent.'  ...

Wolf-harbouring Carpathians

It seems Leigh Fermor's first great journey, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople on foot, was conjured from a mix of schoolboy geography and a florid fiction-induced impression of Europe, including 'wolf-harbouring Carpathian watersheds'. 'Even before I looked...

Dragon-green Byzantium

This magnificent walk across Europe in the early 1930s, a Europe which would be ripped apart by war in under a decade, ended in Constantinople, which Leigh Fermor knew from fictino to be 'dragon-green', 'serpent-haunted' and 'gong-tormented'. 'These certainties sprang...

Wide-skied and many-belfried

A lovely description of Suffolk, which I have seen echoed in the wide-skied landscapes of Norfolk.  This was one of the many schools to which Patrick Leigh Fermor was sent, after a train of expulsions from the more respectable boarding schools.  The 'engaging manor...

Handsomely-bound journal

The first entry of a journal which provided the material for some of the best travel writing of the 20th century.  While I am enjoying other Leigh Fermor books on his later travels, I don't think they match the sweep or freshness of those recounting his walk across...

Wind-borne portent

May you be spared all but the most benign of wind-borne portents.  Here a northern image of skaters scattered as a gust of icy wind sweeps through the canals, diverting their blade-carved trajectories. 'For soon the skaters on the canals, veiled hitherto by the...

Gem-like brightness

A sudden burst of light after dullness, startling and enlivening the spirit. 'It was a sullen coldish Evening, no sunshine, but after we had parted from Leslie a light came out suddenly that repaid us for all. It fell only upon one hill, & the island, but it...

Fresh-ploughed field

Another line of poetry-in-prose in Dorothy's journal.  I was struck by the sea described as a basin full to the margin, and turnips being laid alongside the fields and the sea, of equal importance. 'The sea, like a basin full to the margin; the fresh-ploughed field...

Slow-travelling Clouds

Dorothy Wordsworth is masterful and joyful in her description of detailed beauty, and it seems many of her journal entries informed her brother's poems. Her journals are a delight to read, compellingly fresh and immediate, and full of love of life. 'There were high...

New-dropped lamb

You can see the wobbly gait of these fragile newborns. 'Young lambs in a green pasture in the Coombe, thick legs, large heads, black staring eyes, gaunt as a new-dropped lamb.'  2 February 1798. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and...

Many-coloured sea

This simple line from a journal, a near haiku of beauty. 'The moon, a many-coloured sea and sky.'   27 April 1798. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and introduction by Pamela Woof (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2008 (2002)), p....

Sea-like sound

I like the description of a sound in the trees resembling the sea; land and water confounded. 'There was a sweet sea-like sound in the trees above our heads.'  Tuesday 23rd February 1802. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and...

Hollowed-out pineapples

Having had refreshing cool drinks out of hollowed-out coconuts, I like hearing of the equivalent in pineapples, and of course, the glorious idea of swimming in water so clear you can see your own shadow on the sea bed. 'I remember rum and coconut drinks from...

Snow-blind sands

Eye dazzling whiteness of sand - I remember such a place in Brazil, where you could hardly gaze at the beach it was so bright. 'A few steps from the beach and its almost snow-blind sands, and one entered another world and season...' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay...

Straw-bonneted mothers

A warm, lively image of a Sunday morning family stroll to church. 'Dandy fathers and brothers, and straw-bonneted mothers, shepherd the dazzling children to church, which in a while breaks forth with such beats of song you might think the occasion a wedding.' Source:...

Deep-wooded creeks

An evocative image of deep-wooded creeks, especially when you imagine people bound for America, often forced to leave, looking upon them as their last sight of home. 'The deep-wooded creeks round Cobh and Kinsale are whitened by yachts and herons, and the green hills...

Grape-blue skins

The second time Laurie Lee uses this original idea of 'grape-blue' to describe a colour. '... the slow talk of the Jamaicans and their grape-blue skins, the supreme grace of their walking...' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977...

Sheet-smooth beaches

Yes, brown hours spent in a place of rippling reefs and sheet-smooth beaches, the sea washing the shore and cleaning your soul of stress. 'Barbados is rich in ... the sheet-smooth beaches and their rippling reefs and the brown hours spent beside them.' Source: Laurie...

Storm-driven sea

Odysseus grappled with Poseidon's fury and his storm-driven seas.  Its unrelenting onslaught is one of the most terrifying aspects Homer conveyed graphically. 'A storm-driven sea appears to acquire a vitality and viciousness, a desire to do damage, which has nothing...

Monstrous-beautiful Sirens

The prelude to the monstrous-destructive obstacles Odysseus has to overcome, or bypass, to reach home. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the body-gulping Charybdis.  Scylla is a six-headed, rock-bound,...

Limb-consuming Scylla

I appreciated Nicolson's summing up the twin terrors as two aspects of the female threat. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the body-gulping Charybdis.  Scylla is a six-headed, rock-bound, man-eating...

Flat-footed view

Nicolson's writing helped cure me of any 'flat-footed view' I may have had of the Bronze Age, spinning its warriors from text-book two-dimensionality to full-blooded 3-D. 'It is what comes next that re-orientates any flat-footed view of Bronze Age warrior heroism....

City-ravaging Odysseus

The dark side of Odysseus, the luminous hero. Capable of such delicacy, sincerity, loyalty, he is also often merciless and brutal. 'They don't like him much, nor he them.  Even here, as he is accepting their hospitality, Homer gives him the traditional epithet he...

Body-gulping Charybdis

If ever there was an argument for steering a middle course, it is the horrific pair of sailor slayers, Scylla and Charybdis. Nicolson contrasts them perfectly. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the...

Silver-antlered deer

A striking metaphor for bicycle handlebars ranged alongside each other against a wall, like the interlocking of deers' antlers. '... piling their bicycles against the university buildings like herds of silver-antlered deer.' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long...

Rich-painted caves

One sentence and tens of thousands of years of habitation and decoration. 'This is an old stretch of land whose signs of occupation go back to the beginnings of man, with rich-painted caves scattered throughout the area - and some of them still inhabited.' Source:...

Wing-pointed leaves

Laurie Lee depicts a magical, medieval aspect, with creeper leaves reminding him of pointy eared devils. ''s-Hertogenbosch is no tourist town, but has mysterious beauties of its own, where motionless canals, full of silver light, lap the houses like baths of mercury,...

Quick-growing harvests

A picture of fecundity and plenitude. 'The earth is rich with quick-growing harvests, with sugar and wheat and olives.' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977 ((1975)), p. 116

Over-wrought fretwork

A damning description of Victorian writing, contrasted with the delicious sizzle and flavour of 'fat-bacon language'. 'After the fat-bacon language of my earlier reading I hated (Sir Walter) Scott's dry, latinized prose, finding its false medievalism and over-wrought...

Heavy-headed chrysanthemums

I love heavy-headed flowers, hand-span broad and beautiful.  And yes, I also love daises, small, compact and resilient. 'Beneath the long rows of crosses, the mounds of red Welsh earth are deeply quilted in flowers, heavy-headed chrysanthemums, roses, daisies that are...

Milk-blue sky

I hope you find time, now and then, to lie in the long grass while birds fly above you, and may you, in such moments, enjoy the delerium that deletes the gap between you and the place. '... and I have lain down in the long grass while the ravens honked and flicked...

Tide-rippled sea

Nicolson's book is as much about the sea as the land, and the tidal pull it exerted for centuries on the explorers who risked its dangers. '... only to see the flock which had been grazing happily there for an hour since I had last disturbed them, lift with that...

Spring-time clothes

A thrilling image of glittering northern waters in a moment of calm and gentleness. 'Crossing from Scalpay in May, the Minch was sparkling in her spring-time clothes.' Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....

Million-fingered responsiveness

Nicolson captures the single signal transmitted through a vast flock of geese, yielding a 'million-fingered responsiveness'. 'They are as innocent and flightly as deer. The flock moves in its grazing like a shoal, a turn of a few degrees communicated somehow at the...

Tweed-coloured coast

An aptly named colour for a Scottish coast, and why wouldn't the tweed-weavers take their palettes from the landscapes around them? '... perhaps because from here there are such wonderful views across the Stream of the Blue Men to the long, tweed-coloured coast of...

Wind-coiffed heads

I liked this description of the sea in front of the boat looking like a crowd viewed from behind with their hair 'arranged' by the wind.  You can imagine scurf and foam looking like grey-haired bobbing heads. 'Some of the swells were just breaking under their own...

Ice-scraped gneiss

Adam Nicolson's 'love letter' to some small, remote, uninhabited Scottish islands inherited from his father, illuminates the depth and richness of natural and human history that can accrete in even such a barren place.  'Ice-scraped gneiss' conveys millennia of...

Easy-limbed stirring

I liked this description of a boat responding like a limber-limbed youth to the movement of the sea. 'Easy-limbed stirring' also makes me think of those first moments of stretching on a bright morning when you have slept well and a lovely day awaits you. 'The Minch is...

Brick-coloured sunsets

Something warming in this, until you see the context. I recall 'brick-coloured sunsets' tinted by a haze of pollution in Shanghai. And note the additional surprising triologism: water-melon emptiness. 'Nowhere, never, have I felt with such force Russia's...

Toast-warm brick

A reference to Dublin, and another angle on the colour of bricks. 'Largely built by the English as a place of privilege and grace, it is a city of elegant squares and terraces, houses of toast-warm brick, set with exquisite doors and balconies, recalling the Georgian...

Well-heeled pain

Three words and somehow you have a sense of a quietly marred and even agonizing life. 'My last memory of St George was that of the single table nearby, its occupant clearly identifiable by her voice and style - one of the modern world's wanderers, desolate in her...

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