Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Devizes; a portrait of a Wiltshire town

I've been planning to do this picture for ages! In the foreground are Ruth Pierce, whose alarming end is commemorated on the Market Cross; and a moonraker in front of the Crammer where the story of moonrakers is supposed to originate.

Then there's the canal wharf, and the locks of Caen Hill to the side.

Next there's the Wadsworths brewery dray, and the fountain with its attendant pigeons; and the Georgian buildings of the Market Square, and the Corn Exchange surmounted by Ceres, goddess of crops.

 And then the parish church of St John the Baptist, and the spectacular Wadworths brewery, representing churches both spritual and temporal, maybe.

And in the background, Roundway Hill and the Devizes White Horse. And a red kite, and an RAF A400 Atlas, of a sort often to be seen whizzing around here.

You can get a copy of the picture in my Etsy shop. And I may well get round to having tea towels printed too

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

friends like this

There’s someone I got to know through the poetry world, first online then in real life. We’d shared a couple of adventures, and were friends, I thought. Then, about 18 months back, she posted up an article which praised Maya Forstater and JK Rowling for their plucky work against the transsexual menace.

It came as a bit of a rude shock, coming from that quarter. I asked if she really believed the stuff in the article; she didn’t respond. I unfriended her shortly after that; there was enough negativity going on around then already; another poetry friend-on-Facebook had just posted up a fundraiser for a poet who had apparently lost bookings because of her anti-trans activities; but the friend-on-Facebook also said he had a friend who’s trans, so he couldn’t possibly be transphobic.

I unfriended him too. I would hate to think that someone could use a supposed friendship with a trans woman to bolster their liberal credentials while supporting a cause that evidently contradicts that.
There is quite a strand of anti-transerie in the poetry world. It would maybe be overly simple to describe the average poet as being slap bang in the middle of the demographic most susceptible for recruitment to that particular mindset; and there’s lots of poets who have got not time at all for that shit. But there you go, sometimes it happens.

Anyway, recently my ex-friend got in touch to ask about commissioning some work from me. I replied that we needed to clear the air over the matter of why I’d unfriended her; because if she still subscribed to those views I would find it impossible to work with her.

She said that she quite understood, and would write soon to describe why she isn’t bigoted.
But then she just deleted the messages, so I guess I won’t hear that explanation.

I know she isn’t bigoted, though. She told me so, after all. She’s just a nice person, with legitimate concerns. And she shares those concerns with other nice people. Just not with me.

It’s a shame that she felt happy to share that article, but not discuss it. I could, for instance, have agreed that it was bad that JK Rowling should have received some abusive tweets. And suggested that in the great scheme of things, a millionaire with 14 million Twitter followers getting nasty tweets from a few random People On The Internet is perhaps less damaging than her words having huge weight in the culture war, and being quoted by Republican legislators trying to pass laws to have trans children removed from their parents, in the USA.

But there’s really no point in my responding to articles like that. They represent one position. I could spend a lot of time and energy in picking through it, and pointing out the lies, distortions, and fabricated narratives, and suggesting that It Really Isn’t Like That. But my ex-friend had obviously decided that this is a position they want to take, rather than examine it critically. And that I, as a trans woman, with expert and informed knowledge of these issues, am an unreliable witness to my own experience.
After all, I’m not a nice person with legitimate concerns.

So I watch things like the institutional capture of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission by Baroness Falkner, who consults with the LGB Alliance, a group who, despite the name, are a single-issue anti-trans pressure group, such that the EHRC have begun issuing guidance which is in direct contravention of current equality law. There’s the surprisingly well-funded attacks on Stonewall. And the Keira Bell case which damaged the system of help for trans youth. And so on and on.

It’s notable that the anti-trans activity owes far more to the far right than to anything approximating to feminism, not least because so much of it, and so much of the funding, comes from the same place.
Maybe they’ll succeed, and prevent social transition for young children, and medical assistance for older children (moving the age of that group up to 25 because why not?); and legal recognition and protection for trans adults too. And trans folk will be forced to go into hiding for self-protection, and just to survive.

We’ll still exist though, because it isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s what we are. And if gender non-conforming cis people get attacked too, in this newly intolerant world, because of their appearance, that’s acceptable collateral damage and serve them right for not making more of an effort. We’re all asking for it.

At least it won’t affect nice people with legitimate concerns. As long as you dress right and keep your hair neat, you’ll be fine. At least for now.

And you only want to smilingly usher us out of the the room while you decide what’s to be done about us. It’s not as though you’re actually pushing us off the top floor, though you support those who would like to. Why can’t we be friends?


Thursday, 21 April 2022

the Netty voyage, an illustrated map

Two weeks or so ago, I'd joined Kit and Lesley as delivery crew of Netty, the narrowboat home of Chris and Jinny of Skyravenwolf (if you don't know their work, then let Google be your friend. Or click on this link). Chris is in hospital in Stoke, and it seemed like the best thing to do to move the boat there from their mooring in deepest Shropshire, or possibly Montgomeryshire.

So that's what happened. And this is the map I did of how we got there and what happened along the way.

Several people have expressed an interest in the first map I did before we set off, so this is the full version. I'm selling prints of it, and 50% of the proceeds go to Jinny and Chris.

They cost £5 for an A4 print, and £10 for an A3 one, which is the same size as the original.

You can find them in my Etsy shop!

Sunday, 30 January 2022

down at Warleigh


Here's a night scene at Warleigh Weir. A friend asked me to do something for a sauna event thingy they're doing down there. You can find details of that event here

Warleigh Weir's on the Avon between Bradford on Avon, and can be a fine place to be. But it's got very popular, and on a summer's day it can be crowded as heck.

But choose your time right and it's just you and the kingfishers, and maybe a cow or two.

I'm moored a mile or so away from this spot at the mo, and on this frosty morning the mist will be smoking from the river and there'll maybe be an intrepid swimmer slipping into the water

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

a ship in the air


There's always something new to see in the sky if you're lucky. This appeared over Devizes the other day as I was cruising along the canal. You don't get the full 3D effect in the photo, but it was like the hull of a ship seen from underneath, cruising in turn along the sea of cirrocumulus stratiformis, or mackerel sky.

In vaguely technical terms (thank you, Richard Hamblyn's Cloud Book) the cloud layer is composed of ice crystals and supercooled droplets. Locally, the droplets are triggered to form precipitation, which falls as streaks - 'fallstreaks' or 'virga'. Hence, the description of what you see here as fallstreak or punch hole clouds.

But it does remind me of a boat. And particularly the one in Seamus Heaney's poem  from his collection 'Seeing Things', where he talks of crediting marvels, a mission statement I could entirely go along with when I first read it, and indeed still do

Lightenings viii

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’

The abbot said, ‘unless we help him.’ So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

the Kennet and Avon Wildlife Calendar 2022


My 2022 Calendar is now on sale for £10; if you're too far away from the K&A, or simply can't find my boat, then you can get one from Devizes Books, or online in my Etsy shop, free postage in the UK.

I'll also be at the Floating Fair at Bradford on Avon this coming weekend, December 4-5.

fox on  Pickle Hill, Vale of Pewsey

a wren at Smelly Bridge

starlings at Sells Green, near Devizes

a badger and otter at Bishops Cannings

jays in Conkwell Woods

more otter fun

Monday, 29 November 2021

Waving to Kelvin and Helmholtz

At dawn, I went out to say good morning to the starlings in the reed bed. The canal was icing over; as the morning went on, the ice advanced from either side to meet in the middle, before the sun warmed things up enough to melt it away again.

But over to the east I saw row of curlicues in the clouds, like two intertwined sine waves.

It was a Kelvin-Helmholtz wave.You get these when a warm air mass is sitting on top of a colder one, and they're moving at different speeds. Very exciting, if you get excited by that sort of thing.

I do.