Thursday, 8 April 2021

bimbling around the Vale of Pewsey

I hopped into my neat little Nissan Micra, and popped over to All Cannings. (The old Morris Traveller has finally gone, closing the door on over fifteen years of adventures in it, and many roadside emergency repairs. "Don't you miss it?" people ask. "It was fun," I say, "But now I've got a heater that warms more than just my left knee on a good day...")

Gill, at the village community shop, had asked me to do a picture for them, and we wandered around the village admiring the varied building styles, and meeting the cows at Manor Farm where they produce the milk for the Moo2You vending machines they have in these parts. 

The rooks were busy repairing their nests, and it was too early to tell from their labours whether it is going to be a good summer (nests high in the tree, foretelling balmy days) or a rotten one (nests skulking in lower boughs).

Here's the finished picture, which will presently be available as a tea towel from that village shop, yet another reason to go there. 

It's fine country for a bimble. At the moment there's a good chance you'll see golden plovers flocking; and peewits will probably be nesting presently around Allington. And there's a great egret taken up residence on the canal. There it is, loo, in the picture.

Talking of bimbling, I got a rather excited email from Richard Beard a few days ago: 

Be still my beating heart. Look at us, officially approved by the OED. As flagged by one of my former graduate teachers in Cambridge. What are the chances of anyone ever finding it?


and lo, we are indeed in the OED, and so is my little Traveller. I wonder if the new owner knows of her illustrious literary career?

Saturday, 6 March 2021

a Mystery Owl

A few days ago, Pip, who's moored in Widbrook Woods three miles away upriver, messaged me to ask if I could identify this bird that was calling outside her boat. I couldn't; it sounds sort-of tawny owl-ish, but different to the usual to-whoo..... tut-tuddly-hoo that they do.

Two nights later I heard the very same sound here, around midnight. And posting this recording on Facebook, Liz Brownlee, over in Chew Magna, said she'd heard a similar sound.

So for want of a better ID, it seems to be a call peculiar to tawny owls at this time of year; maybe a courtship thing. 

Saturday, 23 January 2021

the Lundy rabbit's complaint

Who’s this odd bloke puffed up there outside my hole?
I only nipped out for some dandelion, and when I got back
There he was, bold as you like in his black dinner jacket,
Saying “Come in here dressed like that? That won’t do at all!”

The cheek of it! We came over with the Normans, I’ll have you know.
In fact, my people have often dined with royalty.
And now here’s this blow-in, shirt still wet from the sea.
Maybe he’s drunk? He’s got a nose on him like a rainbow.

Nasty nip to it too.
Says they’re only here for the summer season
And then they’ll be off cruising down to Spain, when the puffling’s
Gone away to college. Empty nesters eh, he said, feathers ruffling
Not empty enough if you ask me thought I, with reason,
Thinking of the kit’s old nest down there, my belly fur and hay,
The pong of fishbones and old guano that’ll never go away

...I started off writing an entirely different puffin poem, but there you go, you never know what'll happen when you start writing. Here's more

You often read nice things and stuff in
Books for kids regarding puffins
But sadly there is not a jot
On gannets, or the guillemot

Thursday, 14 January 2021

new map of Genderia

Three years ago Yvonne Aburrow mentioned their survey of the continent of Genderia, demonstrating that it is rather more of a complex landscape than often represented by a binary, a line or spectrum. And I did a hasty map to accompany that work. But we thought it was time to update and improve it, so here's the new version. Yvonne's blog is here.

You won't find the Secret Volcano Base of the Trans Cabal, of course, because it's secret. But there is Transgender-am-Berg, in the Transalpine region across the hills from the happy village of Little Cisgender on the Wold. Upriver are the mountains where the Fierce Femmes hang out, while down in the Queer Archipelago there's all sorts of nonbinary stuff going on. 

You can get a copy of the map in my Etsy shop; it comes in A4 or A3 sizes. Here's the A4. And here's the A3.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

stop me and buy one

I had a large order of greetings cards to drop off at Harvest Wholefoods in Bath, and while I was at it I thought I'd do a stop-me-and-buy-one with the calendars as I went along.

Canal towpath trips always take ages, because you're always meeting friends. I also bumped some nice folk from Devon who'd moored up on the Widcombe flight in Bath, who'd recently bought few of my things online, and it was nice to meet them in real life too.

And here's Sebastien and Louise above the top lock at Widcombe, with their new book of canal life in photographs, 'An Uneasy Paradise'. I was uneasy in town all right; it was thronging with people, shopping like there's no tomorrow. So I did my essential drop, and scarpered home

some weird tribal shit in Conkwell woods, where you're always being WATCHED

Billy rocks the contre-jour look at Diggers

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

winter flocks in Pewsey Vale

Over to Devizles to drop off more calendars at the bookshop. Then along the Vale of Pewsey to the Barge inn at Honeystreet, to deliver canal maps and see Peter on Grey Hare, and Weasel, his newly adopted dog. 

There was a chill mist hanging on the Downs, and where it thinned the quality of the light was really quite something. But, like a starling flock, it's best just experienced. So I failed to capture it on camera.

We did trudge around a big muddy field where some extremely photogenic sunflowers were growing back in the summer, trying to get dramatic views of the starlings who were fossicking in the stubble. But they refused to perform, the dark rogues.

There were also redwings and fieldfares, stripping the hawthorns on the track to the All Cannings long barrow, built not by druids but by Mrs Beynon's Billy.
this is a redwing. Coming over here, taking our berries...

all along the hedge are redwings and fieldfares

the starlings reluctantly move along as I approach

the melancholy remnants of the sunflower crop

Friday, 27 November 2020

keeping warm

The mist stuck around in the valley all day, though the sun breaking through made everything very picturesque, even us unsavoury boaters. 

And at three o'clock the air took a serious chill to it; I watched the space station fly over at 5:10, then went secured the boat for the night. The cratch cover was already iced up. Bank up that stove!

The painting is 'Winter's Night Near Alton Barnes'. I just realised I hadn't got it listed in my shop, and have now remedied that.