Wednesday, 29 June 2011

counting the goats

The goats have arrived in the Avon Gorge. So we went to see them.

First, though, we did a little detour to my favourite cave, at Burwalls, just over the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Mal was impressed. She knew someone who used to live in a cave, and wondered if this was the one. "He got flooded out. He came round, all muddy."

"Maybe it was one on the other side," I said. "There are some quite shallow caves over there. This one is pretty sheltered."

She phoned him to find out, but only got an answering machine. The wonders of technology. You can phone someone from a cave, but that doesn't mean they'll answer you.

Climbing through the woods again, a fox sauntered past. It gave Mal an indifferent glance as it passed.

When we emerged onto the grass above, the fox was there again. This time, Pig saw the fox. The fox saw pig. It took a moment for their atavism to kick in. Then they were off! -crashing through the undergrowth, immediately out of sight and the noise of the chase rapidly receding.

"Pig! Pig!" we called, preparing to mount a rescue mission. Pig once had to be saved from rocky death by abseiling coastguards, down in Devon, after she took an ill-advised turn down a cliff. And the Avon Gorge is pretty cliffy.

Pig trotted out of the trees, perky as you like.

Pig, in relaxed mood

"Maybe Pig should go on the lead", we agreed, when we came to the goat enclosure in Walcombe Slade.

Scrambling around the edge of the gully, we saw three big white goat-ish things, sunbathing on an outcrop across the way. Very placid they looked.

The goats are feral, and came from Great Orme, near Llandudno. There are six males, and they've been neutered, which apparently renders them less likely to go wandering off.

A while ago, I'd suggested that the goats, being welsh, should be greeted bardically, with poetry and song. The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife folk thought that this might be a bit upsetting for the goats. So here is a small verse for the occasion. Quietly, now.

Mellifluously bleating, fleet of hoof,
Vertiginous in choice of your abode;
Be you aged billy, white-fleeced yoof,
Welcome to Bristol, anyroad.

And here's a traditional song to help you count goats.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Walking across the island,
We pass a mower in a tiny field,
Scythe swooshing, half the hay cut.

Over the dazzle of the water,
Fastnet is a finger held high
for a breeze that isn't blowing.

Back along the boreen,
The mower sleeps in the windrow,
Half the field still waiting.
Uploading a few more sketches. This is a ruined castle on a very-nearly-island on the coast of Clear Island, County Cork. We scrambled over to it, and sat up in the ruins. Fastnet Rock, with its lighthouse, is visible to the south of Clear Island.

Anji mentioned the poetry of the Shipping Forecast. This is a quick go at evoking that afternoon. We were there a week or so after the Fastnet race disaster. The storm had passed, of course.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

sheltering at Fraserburgh

sheltering at Fraserburgh, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

"Lands End to St David's Head, including the Bristol Channel: W or NW, 5 or 6, decreasing 3 or 4, showers, fair, good"

Just listening to the Inshore Waters Forecast on the radio, paying special attention to my local sea area, while finishing my first cup of tea and getting ready for a new picture. An early start. The garden blackbird is getting lazy, and didn't start singing till just after 4 o' clock today.

I was hunting out some reference pictures in my big box of paintings, and dug out this sketch. And, since it's so different to the scene from here this morning, I thought I'd scan it. Working on the Karen Bravo, a Western Geophysical seismic survey ship, in the North Sea, we'd often run for shelter in the firths of the Scottish east coast when the weather brewed up. Here we are, anchored off Fraserburgh on a wild night in January (I think), 1983 (ish). This is the view from the bridge; over there are a couple of small ships, also sheltering. We'd sit up late, partying in the cabins, and then there would be a hush as we tuned into the after-midnight shipping forecast. "Viking, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Westerly, Force 10...." and there'd be a cheer, and we'd go back to partying.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Art, gorillas

Saturday saw the street party for the Westbury Park Festival, and I was there with a stall full of pictures and cards. Which was fun, but meant I didn't get to wander around. At least I was next to the band, anyway.

There is always a collection of classic cars at the street party, so since I was going anyway, I added the Trav to the line-up. It looked a bit different to the immaculately-turned-out other cars, not least because mine was the only one with a gorilla in it. Here he is, look. His name's Barry. We adopted him a while back.

It's quite fun having a gorilla as a passenger, so he stayed on board for Sunday, when I went down to the harbour to see the Festival of Nature. If I'm in a hurry, I take the bike down on the roof, and park up in Hotwells, then cycle around the Harbour into town. It avoids the ride up a long, steep hill afterwards.

Taking the bike off the carrier, I noticed that one of the roof bars was sagging; it had rusted right through, in a place where it was damaged a few years back (the time I tried to drive into a multistorey car park with the bike on the car roof.... v dramatic it was too, let me tell you). I gave it an exploratory jiggle, and... it gave way. So I had to make a splint to get me home again, using the handle from the hydraulic jack.

And then it was down to Easton, for the Arts Trail; or at least, to Hazel Hammond's house, where Alison Wills' paintings were on display, and Hazel read her poetry. Alison has a striking way of portraiture, using tones and sparse lines to capture much more of the subject than you'd think possible . I wish I could do that. My drawings are nothing if not solid....

Hazel and Alison, with one of Alison's portraits

Fallen Women, by Andi Langford-Woods

Thursday, 16 June 2011

watching the eclipse

Watching the Eclipse
We sat and watched the bit of sky
We thought was where the moon would rise,
And talked of things, and listened to
The sheep bleat, and the cows go moo,
And blackbirds throwing songs from bushes
That echoed round the woods, their pauses
Taken by the songs of thrushes
-Wild, episodic notes. Dog roses,
Ragged in the after-rain,
Overhung the sunken lane.

And clouds slid by, so low that we,
From where we sat, could scarcely see
The radio mast there on Dundry,
Behind which was the moon, by now
Well risen, so my watch said, though
No hint of its eclipse we saw.
Only the horseshoe bats that flew
Around the ash tree where we sat.
And it was good.

And that was that.

(written for the eclipse in the middle of June, then removed because I entered it into a competition. Ha! Safe to come out at last.....)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

the No Tesco Tea Party

Down in Stokes Croft last night, there was a bit of a party to celebrate the holding of a judicial review into the planning process for the Tesco Express that has controversially opened there.

It was a very happy event, as you can perhaps see. And hopefully will help further distance the anti-Tesco movement from the associations with the recent riots, that were foisted upon it by the press at the time, and which still happen- I see that the BBC website still characterises the riots as 'violent anti-Tesco clashes..."

I've added a useful flowchart down below, which lists and demonstrates the interaction between the dramatis personae of the unfolding events in Stokes Croft.... click on the picture, then on the magnifying glass symbol, to see it full sized.

LinkPicture of sleeping piglets on flowchart used under terms of Creative Commons from an original by Dragfire

Monday, 6 June 2011

Cardiff SlutWalk

To Cardiff on Saturday, for the SlutWalk. SlutWalks began in response to a Canadian police officer's remark, addressed to students, that they should "avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised". There has been some discussion about whether Slutwalks are a good idea; whether 'slut' is a term that should or could be reclaimed. I know people who stayed away because of those misgivings.

For me, it wasn't so much that I wanted to reclaim the word as appropriate it; so that the event presented as wide and diverse a range of women as possible, making the point that any woman can be labelled a slut by a man who wants to transfer the blame for his wrong thoughts or deeds to the object or victim of them. Because I've been on the receiving end of that sort of nonsense. And it is annoying. And corrosive. And dangerous. And it gets in the way of people treating people like people, which is how things should be.

Friday, 3 June 2011

making a bike skirt guard

The other day, I caught my skirt in the back brake of my bicycle, and spent a while stuck there while I dismantled the rear brake using the multitool that I providentially had in my bag. As you do.

It's not the first time it's happened, either.

So I thought it was about time to do something about it.

I started with one of those plastic 25 litre drums, the sort you can (well, I can) easily get from a skip.

Then I made a cardboard template, checking the fit on the frame.

Then I cut out two pieces, cleverly using the curve of the drum to make an inwardly-curving forward edge on the guards.

And then I installed them, using tie-wraps.

If they work well, I'll prettify them a bit. Maybe.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


tawny owlet, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Tanya from down the road came round the other day. "Come and see; we've got a baby owl," she said. So I did.

Someone had seen the young tawny owl being mobbed by crows on Durdham Down, and rescued it. And then knocked on the first door they came to, which happened to be Tanya's. And she is a good person to go to when you've got an owl in need of help. The RSPCA were called, and decided that the Downs here are too busy and dangerous for a young, adventurous owl, so off it went to a rescue centre near Taunton.

It was a very lively owl, as you can perhaps tell from the picture. Young owls do like to wander.

There is a lot about owls that is interesting. Here, for a taster, are

Five Furious Facts About Owls.

  1. The Welsh name for an owl is gwdihw, which is a nice name and a pretty onomatopaeic one too

  2. Blodeuwedd was a woman made of flowers, who was turned into an owl as punishment for, well, unright deeds. Her name means 'flower face', which is a nice description of the owl. Another part of the punishmnt was that birds would always chase her if they saw her. Which they still do, of course.

  3. As I walked in the wooded valley of the Cabalfa Brook, on the Offa's Dyke path, there was a great commotion and squawking, and a tawny owl swooped past, chased by a mob of birds. This was in 1984. Then, passing the same way in 2007, exactly the same thing happened. Coincidence? I think not. (Cue sinister music with a bit of owl hooting in it)

  4. Traditionally, the owl was thought to be stupid, and nobody knows where we have picked up the idea that they are wise. But, whether we think they are wise or stupid, the owls dont care. Which is really quite sensible, of them, in my opinion.

  5. The Greeks reckoned that witches would turn themselves into owls so that they could go around doing witch stuff. You know. Stuff.