Friday, 21 February 2014


Here's a new map I've just done, for a walk guide. It's of Clifton, the suburb of Bristol that's poised on the side of the Downs overlooking Hotwells and the Avon Gorge. It was a challenge to try to represent the characteristic buildings in a way that worked within the limited space, and didn't interfere with the clarity. Not sure just how successful it has been.

I drew the map in black ink, then scanned it and coloured it in Paint Shop Pro. The same technique as I used for this picture, which is intended for the cover of this year's Wales Antiques Guide

Thursday, 13 February 2014

On A Northerner Who Went South And Kept On Going

I've been mistraled and sciroccoed
And sometimes by a typhoon sockoed;
Drenched drookit in a haar
When low were isobars;
Felt all wet and weary
In a dreary chirimiri;
And I got so very gritty
When once a haboob hit me
That I felt completely smothered. 
But I've never once been wuthered.

 another one from the 52 prompts....

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Roman Wolf's Song

Seventy years with me arse in the breeze
That blows up from the Levels nine days out of ten,
Endlessly suckling these lads at my knees,
And dreaming of Rome, where it’s warmer; but then
I’ve grown fond of these hills where the grass is so green
(when it isn’t obscured by the mist and the snow)
And the sheep are so plump, that I’m really quite keen
To jump down from me plinth here and give them a go.

And all that I ask is a night that is moonlit,
The farmers all snug in the Hunters Lodge Inn,
Some kind random person who’s willing to cub-sit
-and the Mendips’ Last Wolf will go wild once agin.

 Up on the Mendips is this statue of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, in a similar style to that one in the Museo Capitolino in Rome. This version was created by Gaetano Celestra, an Italian prisoner of war who was engaged in repairing bomb damage in the district during the Second World War. This was his gift to an area he'd come to appreciate.

This poem was inspired by a prompt from David Morley, who guested on Jo Bell's 52 this week;  "Choose an animal. Observe it as closely as possible in the wild or a zoo or aviary. Then become it. See it and live it. Look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself to it."

By the way, the title is a nod to Kipling's Roman Centurion's Song....


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Chopping and Changing

No, it didn’t hurt me when they chopped it off,
It’s funny you should ask, but there you go;
They gave me anaesthetic, cos I’m soft;
It hurt like hell beforehand, though,
That time my gall bladder went on the blink. 
Like when they whipped out my appendix- 
Me doubled up with pain, not knowing what to think, 
Rushed off to hospital, when I was six.

There’s been some other stuff not fit for task;
I’ve swapped a greater for a lesser imperfection.
Some folk think I live behind a mask,
Assume my whole life’s up for their inspection;
Like me inhabiting the body of a bloke for years,
Now, let me tell you, that feels seriously weird.

 This poem was written in response to Jo Bell's prompt on 52 ('Write a poem a week. Start now. Keep going') -which, this week, is your own body. And was at least partly inspired by that trog bloke shouting at me yesterday. So up yours, bloke, and thanks again, Jo!

("Did it hurt when they chopped it off?" is one of those odious questions that unpleasant people sometimes direct at trans people. Because they seem fixated on genitals and surgery... the odious folk, that is)

Friday, 17 January 2014

de la fenĂȘtre d'en haut

As I've mentioned before, my flat gives me a grandstand view of Bristol and the surroundings; I get to see ravens circling overhead, the local foxes and magpies, psychotic seagulls, loads of aircraft, the occasional car thief (he got away, that one)

I was leaning out of the front window yesterday, as you do, and saw a young man walking a pug. The dog stopped at a tree and stood on tiptoe, arse in air, up against the tree. I watched more closely; someone has been leaving dog poo on the pavement around our way, and it is of a size to make the pug a likely source.

Dog finished its business, while bloke stood there patting his pockets as though hoping to find a plastic bag in one, and looking around to see if he was observed. He bent down, pretending to pick it up, then rose and began walking away.

"Cooeee! Don't forget the dog poo!" I called down to him.

"I was going to get a bag," he shouted; "I live just there." He pointed to a house two doors down. "Haven't you got anything better to do?....transvestite" he added, the intended insult tacked on in a slightly quieter voice as though he didn't want to be challenged on it.

He did reappear, with a Sainsburys carrier bag, and threw the dog poo into a wheelie bin. 

And he walked off muttering what were no doubt further rudenesses, for his own benefit, as I couldn't make out the words.

Have I got anything better to do? -I do have lots of things to do. But time spent watching the world from an upper storey window is seldom time wasted.

Monday, 13 January 2014

travelling in books

 It's time to go out visiting bookshops again, now that Christmas and New Year are safely past, and the miniature copies of A Child's Christmas in Wales have disappeared from the front of the shelves, and we look forward to spring.

Immediately after Inking Bitterns came off the press at the beginning of December, I did a quick rush around our local shops. Responses were variable. Some people absolutely loved the book, and gladly took copies. Chief among them was Kathryn Atkins at the Durdham Down Bookshop, who is an enthusiastic promoter of literature and poetry, both in the shop and in Henleaze Library, where she helps to run events. She managed to sell thirty copies of Inking Bitterns in December. Thirty! Gentle reader, that is pretty good going, I can tell you....

We also enjoyed our trips to Devizes and Calne, whose independent bookshops are such nice places to go to, which is presumably why they are still in business. And last week I went over to Thornbury, another nice shop with a good local section, which I like to see.

 You can see the map of stockists here.

Less welcoming was the fairly large independent bookshop in a South Wales county town whose manager looked rather wearily at the book and dismissed it as a 'local book', doomed to vanish without trace. Or the Bath indie shop where, I was told, they only get their books from a central distributor. The folk at Bath's other bookshop, Toppings, were charm itself, and plied me with tea; but they explained that their poetry section is already humungous (they collaborate with Bath Spa Uni's poetry department, apparently) , and my slim volume would vanish without trace into it; so, unless people came in demanding it...

Prize for most unusual stockist goes to NB Electra, afloat on the Grand Union Canal and somewhere near Tring just at the moment (her position is tagged on the map). Suzanne, Electra's skipper, kindly took a bunch of books with her, as we figured that they would appeal to canal folk. So, if you should be on the towpath (or indeed chugging along the cut) and see her, do say hello!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

the barking of the fox

Here's Garden Fox, barking at twilight. It's one of a range of calls the local foxes make; yickering when they play or fight, screaming in the mating season. There's not been any screaming this winter; at least, not yet. I wonder if some of the local foxes have died? -in the past few years, there has been a group of three; but this winter I've only seen two at most, and only the solitary one recently.