Friday, 17 October 2014


naughty boy, Brendan

The Spectator thought it a squeal
To have their own potty-mouthed heel
But they couldn't afford
To get Burchill on board
So they settled for Brendan O'Neill

There was a time when I occasionally read the Spectator, though admittedly it was in the 70s and then only because it was in the school library. Still, it was quite readable. So it was a surprise yesterday to read a bit of clickbait that they'd commissioned from one Brendan O'Neill.... 
Why are trannies so touchy? So touchy that even that use of the word ‘tranny’ – which, yes, is designed to make a point – will have them reaching for their pots of green ink so that they can pen outraged missives about what a transphobic monster I am? doesn't really get any more intelligent than this, sadly. So rather than respond with outrage, here's a limerick for Brendan, and a lament for another publication that's gone down the toilet.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

git along little dogies

My pan of bacon, black pudding and mushrooms was just about ready to eat. Above the sizzle and spit of well-cooked breakfast came a deep rumbling. "Thunder? Surely not", I thought. The window darkened as the view became one of cattle legs and flanks heaving by.

I switched off the gas and popped out onto the foredeck, in time to see the last of a herd of cattle and calves hurry along the towpath. The two speed skater walkers who go by every morning, arms swinging wide, appeared from the trees. "We hid in the bushes!" they said, and continued westward, arms a-swinging.

I watched the receding herd, and pondered. No question of heading them off at the pass- the towpath was entirely filled with cow. But- what was this? They were getting bigger again. They had turned back! I jumped on my bike and pursued the speed walkers, tinkling my bicycle bell furiously. "Can you help get them back into the field?" I asked.

They looked a bit uncertain, but were game for giving it a go. At the swing bridge, the gate into the field from which the cattle had escaped was closed, and had been closed for years by the look of it. There was a gap by the stile where the cattle had evidently pushed through. I parked the bike across the swing bridge, and we three made a line across the path, using our most dauntless expressions, as the lowing herd wound swiftly up the path, pursued now, I saw, by Craig, my boating neighbour and one to whom dauntlessness comes naturally.

It became obvious that the cattle were not going to push their way back through the small gap, so we revised the plan. I moved the bike out of the way, and shooed them towards the swing bridge. There were a few anxious minutes as they shuffled uncertainly, and a calf and a cow jumped into the canal. But then the first adventurous cow advanced to the bridge, and crossed. And then the rest followed. The cow in the water made her way over and clambered up the bank of the winding hole. Finally the calf scrambled up onto the towpath and Craig shooed it across to join its mum.

Presently the farmer and his hands appeared, and after much running up and down, flicking of sticks and shoutings of "Hup!", got the herd back into their field.

The Wiltshire Times covered the story, but our part in the business was, naturally, unsung...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

the Tao of Morris

In the pulsing heart of Bristol, I established my very own Island of Unmoving. This was simply attained by the Traveller's clutch rod snapping as I negotiated the St James Barton roundabout. I rearranged some useful traffic cones to reduce the likelihood of a taxi getting all Zen on my rear bumper. Some passing drivers scowled at this imagined impediment to their progress, and others smiled. A familiar-looking bearded chap waved cheerfully, and shortly after I got a text from Matthew, whose beard it was, offering assistance if needed. But I'd already called the recovery service, which duly arrived in the form of a flatbed truck with a winch on it, and a cheerful Geordie driver who was the sensible type of chap who was able to accept immediately that I knew what the problem was, and that here was no place to attempt repairs anyway.

With the car safe in Cotham, I called Mal, who took some time out from her busy day to take me down to the Morris Centre where I bought a new clutch rod.  "Guess how much?" said the chap at the spares counter. 
"Um.... £8?" 
"I'll just change the database... no,  £6.13!"
Bargain. They threw in some washers and a split pin too. And ten minutes after returning to the car, it was ready to go again. It is not the breaking down that is important, Grasshopper, it is the fixing.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

peacock and wrens

Here's a picture I did for the new edition of Broadsheet, the poetry magazine broadsheet for the South West, and brainchild of Simon Williams. It contains heaps of good poetry, including, by remarkable coincidence, a poem about a peacock and a wren, and it is v cheap. Go buy!

Meanwhile, this photo I took the other evening has become the most-viewed pic I've ever taken, with it having just passed the 27,000th view on Flickr. Which just goes to show what I sometimes* say; that technical ability has got nothing to do with a good picture; you just have to point the camera at something good. The camera in this instance being my iPhone in panorama mode.

*but not always, for that would be boring.

Monday, 6 October 2014


Some evenings, it would be a positive sin to stay indoors. Against the deepening red of the sunset, the local ducks flew quick sorties in neat vics of three or four, wings swishing as they criss-crossed the sky at all altitudes. A loose stream of laconic crows barked their way from right to left in the vague direction of the rooky wood. It reminded me of the Battle of Britain, with the crows as Heinkels and the ducks as the Spitfires. Casually mixing my film references, as the indigo of the evening intensified, groups of geese came whooshing by at low level. That was obviously the Dambusters.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

roadrunner roadrunner

Bringing a boat down the Caen Hill flight of locks is a day's work. And you need understanding friends. Which in my case, on Wednesday, was Richard, who came over for the day. We coupled nb Eve with my floating neighbour Dave's boat, and I piloted the paired craft in and out of the locks while they did the hard work. There's not much clearance when you have two boats together, and it was a bit stressful, though I tried to retain an appearance of nonchalance and possibly insouciance too.

Richard wonders when we'll be getting breakfast

Having negotiated the first few locks from Devizes Wharf, we paused at the locks cafe for bacon and stilton butties, as you do, and a couple of boats passed us on their way down. Dave got antsy and anxious to get on. So we did. And I was so busy that I didn't get time to take photos of our descent, on what Dave claimed to be the steepest flight of locks in the world (though I suspect that while it may possibly be the flight with the greatest height difference, it may not be the steepest. Wikipedia, be my friend here. Aha. Yes. Caen Hill has an overall gradient of 1:44 with the main staircase being 1:30 - the Bingley Five Rise has a gradient of 1:5)

Nor indeed did we get time to eat the humungous pan of gammon and pea soup that I'd prepared for the trip, so Richard and I had some for dinner instead, before walking back up to Devizes to fetch our cars, and to admire the sunset.

By Thursday evening I had eaten a lot of gammon and pea soup, and woke up in the night feeling rather ill. Then I got to sleep, to be woken again at 4:00 by the carbon monoxide alarm, which was chirping in a desultory manner. I tried to look on the internet to find out what the message on the display meant, because I couldn't find the alarm manual in the dark. But my phone battery was flat, so  the phone died just as the page was loading.

This, dear reader, is how things ALWAYS happen on boats.

This boat, anyway.

"If I go back to bed and die of carbon monoxide poisoning," I thought, "I shall feel VERY SILLY INDEED."

So I drove over to Somerset instead, because I had a busy day planned that involved all sorts of errands in the Bristol area.

I occupied my brain by composing haiku as I drove. It started in Melksham when I saw

The nonchalant fox
its shadow loping slowly
under the street light
There were several dead badgers on the road too, either knocked down or dumped by unscrupulous badger killers. They had yet to be flattened by the passage of the coming day's traffic, and were quite alarming when they were

picked out by headlights
the temporary speed bumps
of dead badgers

Some creepers in the hedgerows were so vividly red that they were red even in my headlights. As I arrived in Long Ashton, I saw that the first great shedding of leaves had begun on the ash trees, and there was a great carpet of beech mast in the lane

Diverging tyre tracks
through a carpet of beech mast
still too warm for frost
ahem, poetic punning. Right, that's enough haiku and time to watch the sunrise over Somerset 

at the launch of Tangent Books' Bristol Boys Make More Noise

bloody funny bluebird of happiness

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

on small publishers who sell online

When I published Inking Bitterns, I set up my own website to promote, inform about and sell it. You can find it here. I also registered the book with with Nielsens, the people who supply ISBN numbers; and I think it is from them that the big online sellers get their info on what is newly published, and, in the case of Amazon, automatically list the book. It was odd seeing all these Big Sellers advertising my book, especially because I had decided not to sell through Amazon, because they take such a big cut that I would have made a loss on each sale, quite apart from any other consideration, like, you know, TAXES.

So yesterday I got yet another email from someone who wanted the book, but had been discouraged by going to Amazon and finding that it was listed as CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE - we don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.

I tried putting a review on the Amazon page, explaining this and suggesting where prospective buyers could go to find the book. But the review wasn't accepted- it jut dropped into a hole in cyberspace.

So then I wrote to Amazon, thus:

I am the publisher of Inking Bitterns - it is a book of illustrated poetry, and I sell it at a low price because I think that's important. So I haven't used Amazon to sell it, because it would mean my making a loss on each sale. But you have listed it anyway, presumably as an automatic response to its listing by Nielsen.... and you have marked it as out of print. Feedback from other sources tells me that people wanting the book have been put off by this information; it is in fact sold through my own website, and has been ever since I published the book.
Could you please remove the listing for Inking Bitterns, or amend the information you have on your listing?
Dru Marland
Gert Macky Books
...and got this reply

 Amazon Your Account
Message From Customer Service
I understand your concern about published book "Inking Bitterns" which is listed on our website; I'm very sorry for the information you found on the book.
Given the case, I would like to introduce you to our Author Central; in order to make changes into the listing of the book, "Inking Bitterns" on your end, please join our Author Central. Author Central is a resource designed to help authors become more active participants in the promotion of their books.
Amazon's Author Pages also offer customers a new way to browse favorite authors, discover new books, and more. The pages also include bibliographies, biographies, and discussion boards.
You can find out more at:
For further assistance, kindly click the link below so you can contact our Author central customer service through phone or email:
I hope this helps! We look forward to seeing you again soon.
Hmm, it didn't help. A further mail, after a complicated trawl through the Author Pages:

I would like the information on Amazon about Inking Bitterns, a book that I published, to be amended so that it does not claim that the book is out of print. The book is in print, but has never been available on Amazon because it is not economic for me to sell on Amazon.
...and another reply, which may be more helpful (time will tell)

I understand your concern about the book you published.
I forwarded this information to the appropriate team so they can check and correct the issues found on the details page of the book.
Rest assured, as soon as I hear from them, I'll get back to you via e-mail.
Thanks for giving me time to find the resolution to your inquiry and we hope to see you again soon.
Best regards,

...Meanwhile, the book is, and always has been, available from GERT MACKY!