Thursday, 14 December 2017

off to the launderette


The rain's stopped, and the wind has died, so I'll move the boat this morning to a slightly better mooring. Across the water, a cow has resumed her mooing; her calf was taken away yesterday, and she lamented all the rest of the day. This morning's mooings are less frequent.

I had an unusually comfortable night, because I wasn't sharing the bed with heaps of clothes and books for a change. Yesterday I needed to get some orders posted off and some printing done, and  Chris and Jinny, my boaty neighbours and friends, took the opportunity to join me for a jaunt to Devizles. As they were doing some laundry, I thought it was about time I treated myself to a laundry experience too, and do the bedding while I was at it. It's a bit of a struggle doing it in the twin tub, and my indoor airer is simply not big enough to hang sheets on.

In the launderette we met Shed Will, who lives in various unofficial places along the canal. At the moment he seems to be bivvying in a pillbox near Sells Green; "They complained about my fire last night. ...I was burning plastic, but it WAS night time..." He gets tokens from a local Christian organisation that enable him to do his laundry, and he has a dandyish streak in him; today he was resplendent in gold spandex trousers, a black halterneck top and mahoosively oversized biker boots. Sort of canal normal though... I realised that my hands were pretty mucky, with ingrained dirt from fixing bikes and heaving things around in the mud; it's only when I go into town that I become moderately self-conscious about it. 

A squall blew into town, and sent catspaws across the market square where the heavy rain had sheeted the tarmac. It was no weather to be out, but was we were out I exchanged rueful smiles with other folk caught out in it, and counted my blessings that I have a home to go to, and that I'd streamed out my anchor on the towpath on Sunday, when the last great storm hit. It's always a worry when the weather gets a bit extreme and I'm away from the boat.



Saturday, 9 December 2017

Two Rivers watercolour paper





Here's a nice thing. It's a box of hand-made rag watercolour paper, and it came from Neil Hopkins of the Two Rivers Paper Company, up on Exmoor. Just the thing for Christmas! ...Neil gave me a couple of sheets to play with a while ago, and it was fun and interesting to see what I could do with them.

I usually use Daler-Rowney Langton or Fabriano Artistico papers, because they are very smooth and allow me to draw and paint very fine detail. The trade off is that they will only take so much depth of colour, and are relatively unforgiving of mistakes. And I've stopped using erasers or masking fluid because it almost always damages the paper surface. 

The Two Rivers paper is quite textured, but I was still able to get good detailing in, in this picture of Melangell seen in progress here. And you can lift the paint back out if you goof, without any perceptible harm done to the paper. You can get quite an intense depth of colour too. 


I've got ideas for some more pics using the new paper... when I've got a couple of little commissions out of the way...



Friday, 1 December 2017

flat batteries



The north wind is blowing, and temperatures just around zero. Out of the wind, the days have been rather pleasant, and the moon is waxing and nearly full, so it's nice looking out at night.

It may be the low temperatures that administered the coup de grace, but my domestic batteries, on which I depend for light, the water pump, and the tiny circulation pump on the woodburner's back boiler, are just about banjaxed. This morning the lights dimmed to a faint glow as soon as the water pump cut in when I was filling the kettle for my tea.

I primed the pressure lamp, but there was no paraffin left in it so it didn't light up... I love this lamp; it's an Austramax, an Australian version of a Tilley lamp that I found last week at the informal reuse/recycle centre that is the boaters' bins. And it started the first time (but I now need to refill it; fortunately, there IS a tin of paraffin somewhere in the boatman's cabin...)

Today I must move up to the wharf at Bradford on Avon, ready for the weekend's Floating Market. And then maybe hunt for some new batteries, PDQ.



Saturday, 25 November 2017

pondlife


Finished this week, an illustration to go on an information board by the top pound on the Caen Hill lock flight near Devizes. I was quite pleased with the way the newts turned out. ...I'd started painting the picture as a whole, but quickly realised I couldn't do everything in as much detail as I'd have liked, unless I used a huge piece of paper - v problematic on a small and crowded boat. 

So I did the background, like this...


...and then the creatures, like this...


...a line of white ink along the back of the newt helps define its roundness and newtiness


...and then it's much easier to arrange the animals around the text, and vice versa.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

erasing feminist history - the Bristol mayor 'horsewhip' story


When Winston Churchill arrived at Temple Meads station in Bristol on November 14th 1909, he was attacked with a whip by Theresa Garnett, a suffragette, who shouted "Take that in the name of the insulted women of England!"

 Churchill was Home Secretary at the time, and had authorised forced feeding of imprisoned Suffragettes.

On the anniversary of this incident, Mal Sainsbury, a Bristol Labour Party member and a woman very active in her local community, posted the story on Facebook, commenting
And now there are loads more of us angry women in Labour-controlled Bristol who would quite like to take a horse whip to anyone who votes to strip our city of vital services, close most of our libraries and withdraw funding from all our public parks in the name of 'austerity'. 'Deeds not words' so come and gather on College Green tomorrow from 5.pm for the full public Council meeting at 6.pm to discuss and vote on these disgraceful and completely unacceptable cuts in the City Hall.
Bristol played a major role in bringing down Thatcher's government over the Poll Tax. In those days 5000 of us gathered on College Green and were charged by mounted police.
There are legal and viable alternatives to accepting and implementing Tory brutality and incompetence, and we Women of Bristol will be standing up for all our citizen's rights tomorrow.
Please join us and bring your metaphorical horsewhip to lick our Mayor and Councillors into shape!
Her comment was selectively quoted and used to characterise it as a racist attack on Marvin Rees, the mayor. Here, on Operation Black Vote, it is apparent that the writer calling for her expulsion from the Labour Party was not in possession of the full facts, or that they chose not to reveal them.

Labour party member Mal Sainsbury informed a Bristol local party Facebook group that she’d like to take a ‘horse whip’ to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees for the cuts he is being forced to make to some local services. She goes on to encourage others to join her: "Please join us and bring your metaphorical whip to lick our Mayor ". 
As a matter of urgency Labour party head office must suspend its racist members in Bristol until a investigation is undertaken, and sanction those who have supported such appalling rhetoric.
It's possible that a case might be made for insensitivity in Mal's post; I'm not the one making that case, though, because I think the response misses the point. Referencing an important moment of Bristol's radical and feminist history in the context of current affairs seems perfectly legitimate; and attempting to silence and mischaracterise that reference is misguided and mischievous, and reflects poorly upon those making that claim.

(postscript 24th Nov) it seems that Bristol mayor Marvin Rees is a member of OBV, the organisation which published the inflammatory article calling for Mal's expulsion from the Labour Party. And as of today, that inflammatory article is still present on OBV's website, despite them being in full possession of the facts, and despite discussions between Mal and OBV as a result of which they expressed themselves satisfied that 'her intentions were not racial'. Anecdotally, I understand that a lot of hostility has been generated against Mal Sainsbury online as a result.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

early morning photo shoots


A message from Barry; Wednesday morning it's going to be a lovely frost, perfect for your calendar shot; are you up for it ....early start though ?

I'm always up for an early start, as you may already realise. By heck it was cold though.

That was last winter. Barry, of Bread and Shutter Photography, kindly sent me the pic the other day, and said I could use it. So here it is. Good, ain't he?

Kennet and Avon - a canal year - 2018 calendar

Yesterday I was in Bristol again, picking up calendars that we'll be selling to raise funds for the K&A Floating Market. These calendars show photos that were taken by several local boaters, with the aim of giving a taste of canal life. 

Here are some sample pages from the Canal Year calendar. I volunteered to format it, and since the downloadable calendar boxes I looked at seemed a bit dull, I decided to draw them. It took a while, but there you go, job done.

The calendars will be on sale at the market on Dec 2 and 3 in Bradford on Avon. You can also buy them online, at this Etsy shop




Thursday, 16 November 2017

market poster


Here's the poster for the Kennet and Avon Canal Christmas floating market, at Bradford on Avon. Click on the poster to open it in a new window, then download it!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

the wheeling of rooks


Sailing down from Semington to Bradford on Avon last week, I saw the first fieldfares of the winter.

First to me, that is; I know that they've already been around for a little while. But they were nice to see, on a clear and sunny day, when their bright and vivid plumage is seen at its best. And it was that bracing kind of niceness like very cold fizzy wine, the sort that makes me glad I'm wearing my big overcoat and woolly hat.

The picture and poem are, of course, from Drawn Chorus...

The rooks at Crows Nest (hey, I didn't name it...) were very active too; I accidentally discovered that you can loop a video on my iPhone, and the result is rather hypnotic. I hope this works....



Saturday, 11 November 2017

a logging expedition


The woods bordering the canal provide a very handy source of firewood, when trees fall, or when contractors cut back the overhanging branches or fell entire trees. Indeed, the canal community is always ready and willing to get stuck in when a tree comes down, especially if it falls across the canal and becomes a hazard or impediment to navigation. Socially useful, and enlightened self- interest. A bit of a win-win situation.

And so I did a quick trip out with Jim yesterday, to take some cuts from a big ash that fell a few months ago. Ash is, of course, the tree of choice for the owner of a woodburning stove; it will burn green, though that isn't good for your flues; but it's always better when it's seasoned. My firewood supply, stacked up on the roof of the boat, consists of hawthorn and ash that we rescued from fallen trees that we'd encountered back in the spring, and so it's had a good summer to season. (Having your firewood up on the roof exposed to the rain isn't ideal, perhaps, but then, if not there then where?) ...but a few weeks into the stove season, it is starting to look a bit depleted. And anyway, when there's a fallen tree you just can't say no, can you?

So off we went, Jim and me. It's always best to have at least two people on a job like this - as a friend said, "if you're working with a chainsaw, keep your phone on you so you can call an ambulance when you cut your leg off..." -a handy tip there but one we didn't need yesterday, fortunately.







Monday, 6 November 2017

the hidden hare who watches the moon


Tom Blackwell saw this picture and commented that there was a hare in the trees there, looking at the moon. And I looked again, and by heck he was right.

See it?

It reminds me of the Invisible Prince, on the wall of the nursery in Cardiff Castle...


...which in turn was the inspiration for my picture of the Secret Blackbird






Sunday, 5 November 2017

finding the all-important woolly socks

some new cards

In the summer, I'd have been out with my cup of tea long ago, and then hard at work on the drawing board before the Shipping Forecast was even thought of. 




But Halloween is past, and the wind's turned northerly. I'm moored up on a long aqueduct across a corner of the Wiltshire Avon valley, and it's a great place to be sometimes, and a rather exposed place to be when the wind blows. When the stove goes out overnight, the cold invades the boat until getting up from under two warm duvets and a quilt can present a challenge. I dash to the cooker, put the kettle on, and then on to the stove; firelighter, kindling, where's the bloody lighter? -rummage rummage, aha, and away. Ten minutes later the boat is warming up nicely and I've found the thick woolly socks from the heap of clothes that spend the night on the floor and the day on my bunk. 

In half an hour, I may be able to take off the top cardie.

The otter came arund again last night; I heard it splash and bump along the boat, but stayed right where I was in bed. Seems a bit intrusive, shining bright lights into its face. I hate cyclists who do that to me, after all.

I've just picked up some new Christmas card designs from Minuteman, as you see from the picture at the top.





...and some postcards of Saint Melangell and the hare, because it seemed like a good idea.




Friday, 3 November 2017

moonpath

Switch off the torch! There’s light enough
to see by, though the path is rough;
and, though the beam it throws is bright
it hides all else, and makes the night
seem darker than it is. So douse the light. 
The Milky Way is one long flow
across the sky’s deep indigo
and timid creatures, soft and slow,
pass by, with food their only care
- and we’re not on the bill of fare.
Here, take my hand! We’re nearly there.

Walking back to my boat from the neighbours under a gibbous moon, I remembered when I wrote this after a similar walk home with Boat Teenager long ago. There's rarely not enough light to see by, and when you're away from street lights and the moon is up, it can be rather wonderful; I once drove my old Moggy van across the top of the Mendips in snow under a full moon with the lights off, which was probably naughty but then there was no-one else around.





Thursday, 2 November 2017

meeting an otter


You come to recognise the sound of an otter hunting along the side of the boat; always along the shore side, bumpity splash. Two nights back, around midnight, I heard something pattering stealthily along the after gangplank, and was instantly as alert as I'm likely to get; could it be an intruder? I reached for the torch and checked the air rifle was close at hand. Can't be too careful. But then it went into the water and I was reassured. Tiptoeing to the side hatch, I swung it open and shone the torch along the side of the boat. And there was the otter! It seemed pretty unfazed by my appearance, probably because I was behind the torch beam and therefore invisible.

Then it dived and reappeared briefly at the bow, and was gone.

In daylight, I had a look down by the brook that flows under the aqueduct before joining the Avon a little way further down the valley. The intersection of the two waterways seemed a likely spot for marking a territorial boundary. And indeed, there on a rock in the stream was a spraint.




Monday, 30 October 2017

killing the yellowhammer

Yellowhammer, from Drawn Chorus

Here's a bit of devilry for Hallowe'en. Though the devilry is, of course, on the part of the people who persecuted the yellowhammer, or yoldring, rather than the bird itself. 

This is what E & MA Radford have to say about the bird, in their Encyclopedia of Superstitions


Thursday, 26 October 2017

colder, and otter


moon in the ash tree
oh! Where did all the leaves go
since I last saw it?

Change sneaks up on and past us, and then you look at a photo taken a month ago and think how much greener everything was then, and look out, as I did, last night, and go oh!

...and I am getting on with commissions and Christmas card and calendar designs too. This one has Netty on it, as I thought it would be nicer to look at than my ugly old boat. I took liberties with the relative scales of the aqueduct and the boat, though that would be v much in keeping with the style of the aqueduct's builders. Did you ever look at nineteenth century pictures of ships or buildings and wondered at how HUGE they were? -that's because they were drawn to look impressive. Like earlier pictures of prize animals, exaggeratedly massy. In this case, the aqueduct loses out to the boat. Soz, aqueduct.



Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Apple Day


here are some english apples. Because it's Apple Day.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Saint Melangell and the hare

It was in the work of Kay Leverton that I first came upon the story of  Melangell and the hare, and wanted to do my own version. Melangell was a recluse in the hills of North Wales, and was being all spiritual in a thicket one day when a hare took refuge with her, and she protected it from the hounds and the huntsmen that had been chasing it. The local prince, on arriving on the scene, was struck by her saintliness and gave her the valley where her church, and the village of Pennant Melangell, are now situated.

I thought it would be nice to portray her as a bit of a hunt sab. So this picture is loosely based on a friend who fits that description.

I was trying out some paper that Neil Hopkins of Two Rivers Paper gave to me (thank you, Neil!) It's handmade by him, and rag-based; and very different from what I'm used to using. It's very forgiving; you can lift watercolour off the surface and try again if you goof, and you can layer it up to make quite intense colours. I worked on a very small scale here, which was a mistake; but there you go, we're always learning, hopefully...


Saturday, 14 October 2017

up the Bradford Flight


It was time to go up the Bradford Flight, that majestic series of one single lock that marks the frontier between the upper and lower West End of the K&A. Below, the cool wooded valley; above, the broad, sunlit (or windswept, depending on the season) uplands. 

map of West End of the K&A

On The Street I failed to get alongside at first, as it was so shallow; breasted up on Fairy's boat for a while and scouted out the stretch further along. The Netties had found a nice spot by the winding hole, where there is some hard standing that you can get alongside; but our friends on Pathfinder, moored close by, were stuck way out into the canal because of the lack of water under the keel.


I admired the artwork on Recalcitrant, and considered hanging around until they moved off on their way to Bristol. I met this boat some years ago in Tewkesbury, where it had been left high and dry by the winter floods of the Severn. Really very dramatic, as you see.

Tewkesbury

...but Astral Dave was moored right there, and life is never quiet when you're moored near Astral Dave and his cosmic dog. 

So I sailed on and found a nice spot between reeds, where I was able to get close enough alongside to use my gangplank, and yet far enough away from it to be able to pull the gangplank in at night and feel secure behind my moat defensive... because this is the badlands here, and there has been a lot of thievery and wanton destruction over the summer; two bridges have been damaged by having great blocks of stone pushed out of their parapets down into the canal.

the old Bowyers factory, as I cycle into Trowbo
But that aside, it's a nice enough spot and there are good neighbours; and the kingfishers perch just opposite, and if I look out of the galley window while washing up, I see the water vole nibbling industriously away by its hole.

  

Friday, 13 October 2017

getting out and doing poetry

Bristol poets on the loose; Deborah, Colin and Pameli

It's been a busy week or so. Last Friday I was guest poet at Can Openers, Poetry Can's monthly open mic lunchtime event at the old fire station in Bristol's Broadmead. 

I looked up the very first time I'd read a poem in public; that was also at a Can Openers, in Bristol Central Library that time, eleven years ago. I walked in and the first people I met ("are you here for the poetry?") were Annie McGann and Alan Summers, the very first to welcome me into Bristol's poetry scene.

This time, I was reading from Drawn Chorus; and suffered the sort of pre-event nerves that had me retching that morning. 

It went pretty well, though, I think, and it was nice to catch up with some friendly faces I'd not seen for ages. Sadly, no photos.

Monday's launch party was at Monty's, a rather nice cafe run by May Colquhoun in the Montpelier area of Bristol. She also kindly invited me to display the illustrations from the book, so I had a frenzy of ordering up prints and buying frames from IKEA ( as you do). 



And the evening also went very well; there was a nice crowd of people, some of whom had travelled a fair old way to be there, like Adrian, Carol and Lorraine here, friends from the canal.


...alas, no other pictures. 

Colin Brown, Deborah Harvey and Pameli Benham also read some of their poems from the Gert Macky back catalogue and elsewhere. Thank you!

Poetry Can is a great organisation, doing good things in the Bristol community. And they've lost their Arts Council funding. Which is a right bugger.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Drawn Chorus - an alphabet of birds - launch party



As part of Bristol Poetry Festival, there's a launch party for the new book, at Monty's Cafe, 62 Bath Buildings, just off Picton St in Montpelier. Monday 9th October. Starts at 7:30. Wine and nibbles and stuff, and guest readers. 

There'll be an exhibition of the illustrations too. 

It's a really nice cafe run by May Colquhoun, fresh back  in her hometown after a couple of years of adventurous cooking in Australia. 

I'm also guesting at Can Openers this Friday. More details on this and the rest of the festival, over at Poetry Can