Thursday, 16 August 2018

the barn owl in the Heron Tree field

For about twenty minutes the barn owl hunted to and fro across the big field on the hill opposite, that's been ungrazed for ages and is a happy hunting ground for owls and foxes. Frequently it would perform an abrupt cartwheel and drop onto its prey; then it would be lost from sight for a while as it ate; then it rose and resumed its patrol. Finally, it slipped through the gap in the hedge up to the Heron Tree field, and was gone for the day. Presently, a pair of ravens flew high over across the valley. I finished my tea. It was nearly seven o'clock and time for breakfast.

The long heatwave has finally broken; the fields are still tinged brown and russet, but the woods are green and the trees roll like waves when the wind blows over them. The wild clematis is flowering; this valley is dense with it and just now it looks like a paler echo of may blossom. In the winter it'll be bright white and sparkling with frost, but for now it's more maiden's bower or traveller's joy than old man's beard. The nuthatches and woodpeckers are calling, and you can hear the nuthatches tapping away in a cautious sort of way at the hazelnuts. Sometimes a jay will screech; presently they'll be hard at work in the woods, gathering and hoarding acorns.

Friday, 10 August 2018

egret in a tree

The very first time I saw an egret, we were paddling a canoe up the estuary of the Erme, in South Devon; it was one of those deep inlets where the trees overhang the water, and when we came round a bend we saw one of these trees with several great white birds in. It reminded me of Saint Brendan meeting the fallen angels during his voyages; as their offence had been small, they were allowed to live quite cheerfully and sing praises.

Not that I've ever heard an egret singing, but it was a fine sight.

Up at Great Bedwyn I saw a couple of the local egrets perching in a big ash tree by the River Dun, and took some photos that helped with painting this picture. It was the second time I've used the Two Rivers paper I got from Neil Hopkins, who makes it in a water mill on Exmoor. It's very nice stuff. 

Saturday, 4 August 2018

adventures in cisland

The queue in the Co-Op was short, and fairly loose, so I was able to exchange looks with the young woman who was nominally behind me; she was staring intently at me and smiling, so I responded with an interrogative expression.

"I keep thinking you look like a man, but you're a woman," she said. "I keep seeing you around. We've got a man at the school I work at. He was called John and then he said he wanted to be called Helen. He makes me laugh, cos he was a man and now he's a woman."
"How do you think she feels when you laugh?"
"It's funny though, she was a man and now she's a woman"

I'd reached the checkout by then. I paid and waved a goodbye to her as I went to leave.

The woman behind her in the queue hurried across and said "I hope you don't mind, I heard what she was saying, I hope you weren't offended; she's got..." (and here she went into pretend whisper mode with exaggerated mouth movements) "...LEARNING DIFFICULTIES"

"Oh I don't mind at all; I like people who are straightforward; much better than whispering behind your back..."

"I think you're VERY BRAVE"

I finally got away.

I called into the pub where they sell my maps, to drop off some new ones. At a table outside was a friend and a few other people I know. One man is effusively friendly. "Dru! Nice to see you sir! Get yourself a drink, put it on my tab."

I wince, but say nothing. He introduces me to two women at the table, misgendering me again and again and then correcting himself. It's a game some people play, just to show that they KNOW MY BIG SECRET (which isn't one I really try to hide of course). I suspect that they also think that claiming friendship with a tranny makes them extra cool.

Hey ho.

I couldn't face having The Conversation, so walked away without a word, went back to my boat and had an early night, tucked up with Humphry Clinker.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Floating Market, Bradford on Avon, July 28 - 29 2018

What it is
For the third year running, there'll be a floating market on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. Artists, craftspeople and traders who live and work on the canal will have their stuff on display and for sale by their boats. There will also be stalls for other traders. And music and stuff.

photo: Deborah Harvey

Where it is

Bradford on Avon is in the valley of the Avon south of Bath. Lots of it is too steep and inaccessible for cars, so it's good for walking around. Check out the medieval tithe barn, the saxon church, the maze of twisty little passages (all different), the ancient packhorse bridge over the Avon. But better still,  it's also the hub of the Kennet and Avon Canal's West End, and there's a lock, a basin and boatyard, and lots of boating action. And pubs and cafes too, right by the towpath.

Here's the canal on Google Maps Streetview. Get here and you'll have no problem locating the market; it's on the wharf below the bridge towards the tithe barn. Follow the noise!

How to get there

The railway station is close to the canal; if you're driving, there are car parks down by station and the river Avon; and another car park right by the canal, off Moulton Drive.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

smouldering resentments

Yesterday a man walked by talking in a Complaining Voice into his telephone. “...they’ve got a fire on the towpath; it’s making a LOT of smoke and it’s hard to get past”

Ten minutes later we hear a NEENAH NEENAH and a fire engine appears on the little road that runs below the canal alongside the Avon.
I cycle along to Smelly Bridge where a solitary fireman dressed in all the gear is looking all about. And looking a bit harassed, to be honest. Those firefighters' suits are not the best wear for a heatwave.

“You’re looking for a fire aren’t you”
“It’s just along there”

A couple of boaters had been doing some home improvements and burning off the old wood in a furnace that was previously a washing machine drum.
The fireman and boaters seemed in perfect agreement that the call-out had been a bit of an overreaction, and he went on his way.
There are some spectacularly untidy boats along thus bit of the canal (heck, you’ve seen my boat?) -and Bongo George’s encampment at Smelly Bridge is very much disapproved of by folk who would like to keep Wiltshire a game reserve for the polite middle classes...

Friday, 15 June 2018

several hares

A busy few days drawing things. One was a leaping hare, a request from a friend. It was supposed to be in tones suggestive of ink; that deep bluey-black. First attempt looked like this
.. which I then scanned and toned, but was really not happy with it; it does look a bit odd, don't it? I did this hare 

...and then tweaked the colour

...and then tweaked it a bit more...

...which I was fairly happy with; but one of the folk it's for preferred things about the first hare, so I went back to it and worked on it a bit more, and to be honest I now prefer that one too 
...which is very cheery, because if they'd settled for the previous picture then I'd not have got round to it.

All this while, we're moored next to a big field where up to five hares can be seen dashing around having hare fun, which is good, and a reminder that you should never stop trying to capture that hare-ness in pictures, because it is so very wild.

And then the next floating market is coming up, and I thought it would be nice to try to come up with a simple design to promote it; the picture for my first poster two years ago was fun to do, but very busy; see? I drew this (it's called a Buckby can, and is the sort of thing that traditional boats tend to have on their roofs, adorned with flowers and castles). This is the ink drawing

...which I then scanned and coloured

...and again I quite like it, so hurrah. 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Kennet & Avon Canal Map (Summit and East End)

Here's my new map of the K&A Canal. It covers the length between Devizes and Reading. If you click on it, it gets larger so you can see it properly. It's intended to be useful for navigation, showing all the locks, bridges and facilities (sani points, rubbish disposal, water supplies and so on) and pubs; also interesting local features, history, and the wildlife that you are likely to encounter along the way.

You can get a copy from me on my boat (if you can find me!) or from my Etsy shop here

It follows on at last from the West End map I did, so now that's all the K&A done!

Shall send it off to the printers tomorrow, and then get on with the next project. It's a good time of the year for productivity, with lots of daylight hours and rising temperatures; we're almost at the point where you don't need to light the fire in the morning, as long as you're wearing a thick pully and duffel coat. The hour is always coldest just before the dawn...

Phew. It took ages to do, and boat life kept getting inconveniently in the way, with water pipes bursting and pumps failing... still, I'm still afloat, and just need to fill the water tank soon so I can finally have a shower.

Meanwhile, the weather has been wonderful, and sunny days succeed one another, and all the hatches and windows are open, so that I'm constantly disturbed at my desk by questing wasps and disorientated bees.