Monday, 10 October 2016

watching the sky

After a cold clear night with a very-nearly ground frost, the mist rose with the dawn, and then a sundog appeared; look carefully at the central part of this photo and you can see a rainbow in the cloud there. It was the second time I've seen this; the first was on May Day, and quite something.

On a smaller scale but still rather nice, there was a rainbow spectrum of colours in this spider's web too.

And then presently, a distrail appeared; that's when an aircraft flying through high cloud overloads the water particles, which then precipitate out leaving a clear wake behind the aircraft. The plane has just crossed the sun, in this picture, heading left to right. I understand that the conspiracy theorists believe this phenomenon to be a BLACK CHEMTRAIL, and heaven save us and protect us from the nut jobs.

By the way, I've got a poem on the fine online poetry magazine Spilling Cocoa On Martin Amis. It's about poo. Regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

goats in their season

bloody funny goat
I've been looking for the constellations in the lower sky, which are harder to spot because you're rarely far away from the light pollution of even a distant town. I've now learned to find Lepus, the hare, and some of the stars of Capricornus, the goatfish, though I'm still waiting for the combination of clear sky and no moon to see it properly.

Was unsure whether to do this picture with an autumn landscape, or a winter one. Capricorn is of course the star sign for late December and January; but owing to the precession of the equinoxes (indeed!) now is the time that you can see it, if it can be seen at all. High in the sky around midnight, diving below the horizon some time before dawn.

Anyway, I went for the autumn landscape. As you see.

There are cards with this picture, over on my Etsy shop. 

Friday, 7 October 2016

chariots of mire

Ben Hur, 'e 'ad a chariot
and so did Boadicea
a wheelbarrow is what Ted's got
and this is what you see 'ere.

The wheelbarrow is a popular way of getting bulky stuff and small children to and from your boat, especially when the way is muddy, as it so often is on the Kennet and Avon. Ted was passing with young Alba on board the other day, and I said "Hold it right there for a minute!" as I wanted to capture just such a scene for the canal people project. So here they are. And so is Pan the dog, who came round the next day and pissed on my Workmate, while I was sitting on it. Everyone's an art critic, eh?

Thursday, 6 October 2016


clear island
You who want your country back
waving little Union Jacks,
tenant now this plot of earth
by the accident of birth. 
Greatness never yet was gained
spurning those whose need is great
spurred on by a creed of hate
spread by those with evil aims. 
Nature will not take your side
when you shout ‘get off my land!”
-lines you draw upon the sand
washed out by the rising tide.

a poem for National Poetry Day. The theme this year is 'messages'. I think the poem may need a last verse, but it was breakfast time... 

Friday, 16 September 2016

sunbathing llamas

I watched two clouds solidify into what looked like long thin lenticulars, and took a picture of them because it was that sort of morning. They'd already lost some of their solidity by the time I took this, but it's a nice photo. 

Sometimes a photo I've taken makes me very happy because it manages to look even better than the actual moment I was in. Sometimes, you just can't capture that moment, real or imagined, with a photo, and you have to either draw a picture of it or accept that some things just have to be lived. There was a nice moment the other night when a low flying Hercules flew across the nearly-full moon. But I didn't have the camera at hand and anyway, it would have been a rubbish photo. You just had to be there. And, of course, you'd have to dig aeroplanes.

The leaves of the big willow by the swingbridge are turning yellow, and falling; not all at once, though; so that I looked up one morning and saw that the branches were becoming visible through the thinning foliage, and the bridge landing is carpeted with leaves. Warblers and long tailed tits hunt through it; in the morning the chiffchaffs sing, and the robins turn up the volume on their song. In the evening, the robins all along the canal begin singing at the same time, and you know that autumn is here.

Just up the hill is the herd of llamas that I put on my canal map. I got a message from Jo, whose herd it is; she'd seen the map and liked it. But they're not llamas, she tells me, they're alpacas. She knits their wool, and has started an Etsy shop. "If you see they're lying down, don't worry, they're just sunbathing," she said. I told her I'd noticed this habit of theirs, and sent her my poem. 

Alpacas, though. Not llamas.
Llamas have no self respect.
Horses always sleep erect
as do cows, and, I suspect
both elephants and camelopards.
Can it be so very hard?
It seems so. In that nearby field
they lie as though they're lately killed
or they were English holidayers
in Tunisia or Marbella.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

death of a deer

"Otter?" -my visitor had seen something odd swimming past the window, and was trying to make sense of it.

"Ah, muntjac," I said, and grabbed the camera. We watched intently; the deer swam to the bank opposite, which was steep and concreted, and tried to get out. He finally succeeded, but was obviously unsteady on his feet, and a hind leg was dragging. He settled under a hazel tree. Presently, he limped along the bank into the undergrowth.

Deer -and other animals, and indeed people -often get into difficulties in the canal; the bottom is muddy and treacherous, and the banks steep and surprisingly difficult to climb out onto, as I have found to my cost on the three occasions I've fallen in. A friend who fell in last January, at night, was stuck in the water for several hours before being rescued, and suffered badly in consequence. At least the deer was saved from drowning, but there was still cause for concern.

We kept an eye on him, and Chris and Jinny, my boating neighbours, called Penny, a friend who is very good and knowledgeable about rescuing wildlife in difficulties. But there wasn't much you could do; the deer was mobile enough to melt into the dense undergrowth if approached. If you didn't know he was there, you'd never guess from this photo, would you?

The next day he fell in again, perhaps while trying to drink. When he returned to the hazel tree, we saw that his back leg was evidently badly broken.

The local wildlife trust sent a marksman, who shot him with a .22 rifle. We rowed across and picked up the body. In death, he seemed tiny. He had abscesses on both back legs and had evidently been very badly injured; rutting? hit by a car? Who knows.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


Here's Capricornus, the goatfish constellation. I hummed and hah-ed about whether to have a snowy landscape (because the Zodiacal Capricorn has its time in December/January) or an autumnal one, because that is when you can actually see Capricorn in the stars.

I went for the autumn one, as you see.

I've been looking out for the constellation, but the autumn skies aren't as crystal clear as winter ones, and so far it's eluded me. But the moon is waning so maybe I'll get to see it soon.

Here's another pic I did recently, for the Canal and River Trust in Devizes. It's a panorama of the Caen Hill locks. I tried posting it up a few weeks ago, but the internet's been a bit dodgy out in the wilds.