Captain Beaky In Jobes Wood

“The bravest animals in the land are Captain Beaky and his band:                                      That’s Timid Toad, Reckless Rat, Artful Owl and Batty Bat. 
                                                       They march through the woodlands singing songs,
                                                                      That tell how they have righted wrongs.”                                                                                     [Jeremy Lloyd]

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Captain Beaky

After two very long days of involuntary idleness, today we celebrated with a trip to Presqu’ile for a much-needed change of scenery, some exercise and some fresh air. Admittedly it was not the best venue today; the winds were strong (always making for a breathing challenge), it was bitterly cold and very icy underfoot but as I’ve previously written, for me – always – the park is irresistible!

The lake was as turbulent today as I’ve ever seen it with a rolling high surf and whitecaps galore. It was all grey, bleak and entirely uninviting, juxtaposing hostilely with my memories of sunny, summery swims. Yet, despite the rawness of the scene and the bone-chilling wind, there was a glittery, icy splendour where the sun reflected on the ice formed by spray from the crashing waves.

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Ice formation and spray.

After a quick reconnoiter (we were chased away by the gusty wind), we decided to leave the lakeshore and drive ahead to the trail in Jobe’s Woods hoping that, shielded by the enormous sugar maples, we’d find a more tranquil, warmer hiking locale. This is a loop trail through an area that was once the farm of the Jobe brothers (Thomas and Ezekial) who settled there in the early 1800s.  As hiking trails go, this one is easy; the terrain is pretty flat and the trail covers alternating segments of rough woods-paths and boardwalks. Today’s challenge came from all the ice underfoot; the puddles and pools formed by the melt-off during the warm days earlier this week are now veritable skating rinks.

We parked the car, scrambled into our gear and set off, happy as clams. For some reason, Captain Beaky’s song popped into my head and I found myself humming. Those first few bars are instantly recognizable and beguiling. We burst into song; neither of us able to resist it’s campy melody. Luckily there was no one around to overhear our serenade. But at that moment it seemed the perfect song for “marching through the woodlands, singing songs and righting wrongs”.

Back in the 1980s, Jeremy Lloyd – a very talented English humorist – became well-known on our side of the pond for his outstanding work as the creator and head writer of the wildly popular show “Are You Being Served”. The quirky and hilarious cast of characters conceived and brought to life by the imagination and pen of Mr. Lloyd kept us amused for more than ten years and many of my friends still consider AYBS to be the best British comedy of all time. It did have it’s moments…

In our home, we remember Mr. Lloyd not for AYBS but for “Captain Beaky And His Band”, a collection of poems (admittedly written for children), set to music and performed by a slew of British artists including Petula Clark and Harry Secombe. In our home, we have the two volumes of poetry (both well-thumbed), and both records which have enjoyed hours of play. Odd, the things that amuse, non?

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My Captain Beaky

Today, my Captain Beaky led us into the woodlands for a thoroughly enjoyable hike. The forest was beatifically silent. The sun’s rays reached down through the towering trees creating sparkle and shadow on the snow and ice below. We enjoyed our walk, feeling simpatico with Beaky, Timid Toad, Reckless Rat, Artful Owl and Batty Bat. Many a time during the summer months I’ve come across a relative of Hissing Sid, warming herself in a patch of sunlight on the boardwalk in these woods and wondered if I had the courage to walk past. Today we paused at the boardwalk look-out for a couple of minutes, thinking about the many tracks we’d seen along an obvious deer run, but no deer – who were undoubtedly scared off by our earlier musical stylings. Thinking about the swamp, the birds, the turtles, the frogs, the salamanders, the ferns, the wildflowers and yes, the snakes that will soon replace today’s icy vista. Thinking about the magnificence of nature that, in a single location, allows for the incredible harshness of a frigid winter and, a few weeks later, the emergence of countless species of beautiful flora and active fauna. Thinking how grateful we are for it all. Thankful to bear witness to nature’s extremities. Thankful for life. For our life. We completed our hike, hand-in-hand, in tacit silence, embracing the spirituality of the moment and of the place. An exquisite interlude!

Now, refreshed, rejuvenated and euphoric, we’re home enjoying coffee with shortbread and warming our toes by the fire. Life is good.

Note: If, for some unfathomable and appalling reason your life to date has been devoid of Beaky’s band, please click, have a listen and enjoy!