Saturday 28 February 2009

pop pics

It's interesting (well, interesting to me) to see which of my Flickr photos are being looked at. So here are my Top Ten.

No. 10 (338 views) The Bristol Balloon Fiesta, two years ago; mist came down as the balloons floated over my part of Bristol, and I scrambled up onto the roof and took this. The photo was on the BBC Bristol website, woot!

No. 9 (353 views) A Klondiker (Russian factory ship) in the River Fal, back in the 80s. This gets looked at a lot by Russians, possibly remembering the boom days when there were loads of these ships along the South Coast. It was pretty wild around Weymouth around then, let me tell you...
No. 8 (373 views) Per Ardua, a David Mach figure in a stairwell at Charing Cross Hospital.
No. 7 (409 views) Richard and me at the start of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path during our little walk around Wales. Ah, happy days, and it wasn't even raining.

No. 6 (411 views) Dorothy Hawksley's Nativity; a detail of the triptych at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I love this picture; there are women busily doing Useful Things around the crib, while Joseph stands there looking a bit spare. Must go back and get a higher-definition picture sometime, as it seems that mine is the only image of this picture available on the net (though I'd be happy to be corrected)

No. 5 (462 views) I call this picture Fleurs de Mal. It's loudspeakers on the Bristol Downs during a fitness event. This picture gets several hits every day, by people who Google "noise pollution". There is a risk that it may become my most popular photo. I wonder if, if I put the URL here, it will increase the hits? Let's see:

...shame it's such a dull picture, though.

No. 4 (522 views) Worcester Lodge, Badminton. For the architecture buffs.

No. 3 (522 views) me at the Boat Inn, Redbrook, with a nice pint of Beck's Vier, after a hot day's walking. Part of the Becoming Drusilla set. I do look fit there; all that gym work paying off, and a good thing too or I'd never have kept up with Richard. Shame about the bug flying past my chin.

No. 2 (546 views) La Pocha Nostra, at the Arnolfini Arts Centre, Bristol. I was one of the "Paparazzi Scum". I wonder if it is the nakedness that gets this picture into the number 2 slot? -no, surely not...
...and at No. 1 (608 views) the statue of Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf, at Green Ore in the Mendips. There's a nice story behind this statue, involving Gaetano Celestra, an Italian prisoner of war. And if I (or indeed you, if you've persevered this far) feel a slight sense of anticlimax, I guess that at least the picture is providing a useful service for people who want to know what it looks like.

Friday 27 February 2009


I've been doing a bit of building work round at Marta's. Mixing cement and sticking it in holes, that sort of thing. So I've been in my work clothes, tatty old combat trousers and clumpy boots, spattered with concrete. Which was a good opportunity to check how confident I feel about my presentation. And the answer is... still twitchy, still hankering after signifiers.

Earlier in the week I was repairing something in the toilet in my neighbours' flat; I've been doing odd fixing jobs for them for years now, because it's nice to be useful. Anyway, I got he'd while doing it.... she realised what she was doing, and quietly modified her pronouns in mid-flow. Neither of us said anything.

In part I think it's as much about what I'm doing as how I look. Some folk, like my neighbours, I think identify that sort of work as Man Stuff. Which is a shame, but not the end of the world.

O well, just keep on doing.

Anyway, there I was in Marta's garden, mixing up some mortar, when I heard a funny sound. The sort of sound I hadn't heard before. I paused and listened.

It was the croaking of frogs in the pond. There were loads of them in there, doing frog sex.

I'd been thinking of listing the signs of spring that I've encountered so far this year. But they've started to come thick and fast. Let's see....

Loads of crocuses, like these in a square in Bridgewater

A redstart, which I saw on the side of the Parrett estuary. Very colourful. Unfortunately, it features as a Very Small Bird on the photo I took of it, so it doesn't feature here.

The mistle thrush that was singing a solitary song one chilly morning last week, reminding me yet again of those Houseman lines,

So braver notes the storm-cock sings
To start the rusted wheel of things,
And brutes in field and brutes in pen
Leap that the world goes round again.
...and the other birds that are starting to kick in this week; the song thrushes and blackbirds, and very noisy great tits. And the spring plumages are on display; birds seem much more vivid at this time of the year. Perhaps they grow bright new feathers for the occasion, like putting on your best clothes before going on a date.

Monday 23 February 2009

asking for it

Towards the end of last year, there was a spate of sex attacks in Bristol. No-one was caught. The local police issued advice on being safe. My daughter came home from school with a leaflet entitled R U Asking 4 It? She was really quite worried about this business. It was not good; fear is not a good thing to feel. And we were both really quite annoyed by the title of that leaflet.

It's a phrase we've all heard before, of course; it is probably used unthinkingly. I remember talking with one of the ABs on board Pride of Bilbao. We were standing in the crew mess at the time. One of the Spanish female crew walked by; she was off-duty, and dressed in her civvies, quite stylishly, as lots of my Spanish colleagues tended to do, and looking good. The AB looked disgustedly at her; his face was quite transformed. "She's asking for it, dressed like that," he said.

And some time later, when I reported an assault upon me, I was told that I'd been asking for it, so that my own (imagined) behaviour became the focus of criticism rather than the (very real) assault, which was ignored.

Perhaps this attitude comes from a world view in which women are predatory creatures, using their wiles to get the better of men and then to ...well, presumably use them or something. I've worked with men who think like that. None considered for a moment that their personal vileness or insanitary habits might make them anything less than irresistible to women. I was reminded of Seth, in Cold Comfort Farm:

You women are all alike! Fussin' over your fal-de-lals to bedaze a man's eyes, aye?
And what you really want is 'is blood, 'is pride, and the 'eart out of 'is body.
And then when you've got 'im, bound up in yer fal-de-lals, and yer softness and he
can't move - 'cause of the longin' that cries in 'is blood, what do ya do then, aye?
Ya eats 'im, same as a hen spider eats a cock spider. But I don't let no women eat me -
I eats them instead. You don't understand what I'm sayin' do ya? - littl' innocent.
I see that Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, has been declared 'fit to be considered for release from Broadmoor'. It is proposed that he should go on little outings to re-familiarise him with the routines of everyday life, like buying bus tickets and shopping. He is, according to 'a source close to Sutcliffe', a model patient, and is liked by the staff. This figures, I suppose. At the time that he was committing his series of murders, the police charged with hunting him seemed to feel some kinship with him too; as a West Yorkshire detective, Jim Hobson, said at a press conference in 1979,

He has made it clear that he hates prostitutes. Many people do. We, as a police force, will continue to arrest prostitutes. But the Ripper is now killing innocent girls. That indicates your mental state and that you are in urgent need gof medical attention. You have made your point. Give yourself up before another innocent woman dies.
...which appears to indicate that somehow it's OK to hate prostitutes, and to attack them. And which further indicates that the police characterised the women whom Sutcliffe had attacked as being mainly prostitutes. Which they weren't. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were therefore, evidently, asking for it.

I was distantly aware of the Sutcliffe case at the time; what I know of it, I learned from Joan Smith's excellent Misogynies. Two of my friends, living in that part of Yorkshire at the time, were more immediately affected; one remembers the fear and the never going anywhere at night without her mother; the other remembers the murder which took place next to her bus stop. It is safe to say that they do not share the Broadmoor staff's liking for Mr Sutcliffe, and view the prospect of his release with dismay.

Anyway, the Bristol Feminist Network organised a Reclaim The Night demonstration last Friday. It was timed to coincide with the opening of a new Rape Crisis Centre in the city. Here's one of the intentions behind the event, which the BFN puts rather more eloquently than I can:

Educate on safety and respect to prevent sexual violence We need to bust myths and misunderstandings about sexual assault which create a tendency to blame victims, exclude male victims and excuse behaviour such as verbal abuse and domestic violence. This is a human rights issue and needs to be understood in the wider context of abuses of the right to safety, freedom and equality. We need proper rape prevention education made available in schools and communities in our city to encourage more respectful behaviour and attitudes. we all came together on College Green...

...and lit candles...

...and then the samba band struck up and led the several hundred demonstators through the city.

It was very cheerful making. Heck, for one night at least, we reclaimed that night!, by the way, is my friend Annie's take on the night, which gives a more detailed account of the march

Thursday 19 February 2009


Following on from talk about what-comics-we-read-as-children, and since no-one appeared to have heard of Ranger, I did a bit of hunting and found some stuff here. And this is the very issue that contained the plans enabling you to Make Your Own Flying Concorde, which was the first model aeroplane I ever made out of paper.

Which led on to greater ('greater'?) things, such as a fiendishly complicated model of a Victor bomber which I built based on pictures in my Big Book Of Aeroplanes.

...which in turn resulted in my first altered state of consciousness, owing to an intense session with the Stanley knife, an acre or so of cartridge paper and a tube of UHU glue.

Very odd sensation. Not sure that I'd recommend it.


Crikey, it's getting a bit BOP around here. Here's a picture as a bit of light relief.

Damn, it's got an aeroplane in it.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

this tun of treasure

Sport, sport, masculine sport
Equips a young man for society
Yes, sport turns out a jolly good sort
It's an odd boy who doesn't like sport

The Bonzos there, spoofing that 'redemptive power of sport' thing. I'm very much with the Bonzos on that one, in case there was any doubt on the matter. Though Richard has persuaded me that it is possible to like and play sport without being a boorish thug (although of course those qualities would not necessarily disqualify one...).

Speaking of Richard, he has posted up the thing he wrote about hiking through the Holy Land, so here is a link to it in case you missed it.

The French do not play cricket, which is probably why they lose wars (except for the ones they've won, which don't count). So I have to buy cricket balls from a Very Nice Cricket Shop in Bristol, and send them to him. And cricket balls are very photogenic, aren't they?

Here's a timely piece from the Rover and Wizard, about the exploits of Bill Samson, the Wolf of Kabul, and his trusty sidekick Chung, whose weapon of choice is a cricket bat, or clicky-ba, as he calls it. Enjoy.

Not for nothing was Bill Samson known as the Wolf of Kabul, and his gleaming knives as his fangs. Finally the Afghans turned and fled, terror-stricken, clicky-ba chopping down any who were a little late in turning. Even then the hillman was not satisfied, and made to go after them, roaring like a mad beast. Bill Samson caught him by the arm and heaved him back, knocking some of the fight out of him. “My lord,” said Chung, looking at the heaps of dead and dying, “this is a very terrible thing. I am all sadness. Truly clicky-ba turned in my hand, and I knew not what it did. I swear I did not intend to kill. My lord, I killed at least fifteen, and I am humbly sorry!”

Sunday 15 February 2009

Valentine's Day is over

seen on a wall in Bishopston

So I went to the cinema last night with Marta. It was at a humungous great multiplex at Cribbs Causeway, an out-of-town mega-mall thingy. We trundled for ages around a humungous great car park where there were ten thousand cars already parked, then walked past the TGI Fridays and the Burger King and several other swinging hot spots to the cinema.

"I'll get these," I said to M, as she'd made dinner for me.

"No, I've got my pensioner card," she said, and got her own ticket.

My turn.

"Revolutionary Road," I said.

"Is that an adult?" he asked.

I was a little surprised; it's been a long time since I've been asked my age - the last time, as I recall, I was about 24, although I was being very giggly in a pub with an equally giggly friend. Must have been something we'd taken....

"Yes, please" I said.

We went off to find the pic-n-mix.

"You should have said you were a pensioner" said M; "saved you some money..."

...and I realised what the (young) chap at the counter had meant...

...we went to see Revolutionary Road, by the way, which, owing to some out-of-touchness on my part, I'd initially thought was about Che Guevara and then had a vague notion it had something to do with socialists in Australia. Wrong. Suburban dystopia. Quite an appropriate venue for watching the film, then.


Bimbling up the motorway yesterday, young K and I had a go at thinking up Valentine's Day haiku. Here's mine

First robin singing;
That warm feeling inside me?
-maybe just the tea.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

einstürzende neubauten, or possibly not

The Colston Hall is a big entertainment venue in Bristol. I last went there about fifteen years.... hang on..... blimey, make that twenty years ago, to see Hawkwind ("It's a back brain stimulator
It's a cerebral vibrator Got an orgone accumulator" Whoa, get down). The place was named after Edward Colston, who made his money from the slave trade. Bristol band Massive Attack refuse to play there because of the connection.

It's funny how you can walk, drive or cycle past somewhere for ages without noticing something about it. I stopped outside the Colston Hall last summer, when I was road testing a new guide book, Discover Bristol On Foot, by Robin Haward and John Dennis, for a review I was writing for the Bristol Review of Books.

The book guides you through the city and asks questions which you can answer by looking around as you go. Thus, for this location,

14:11. I’m outside the Colston Hall, whose façade I am invited to admire. “What are the three activities shown in stone on the wall?” Er…. Gay sex, striptease and ice skating? Good grief. Eclectic taste in entertainment, our grandparents had. (Answer: Wrestling, music and dance. If you say so, guide book)
And so I passed on, and thought little more about it.

So this morning I'm idly Googling my own name (as one does....) and I find that I've made a comment on the new building next to the Colston Hall, on a feature about it on the BBC Bristol website. This is what my contribution says:

What an amazing improvement to the auditorium and backstage facilities this has made.....NOT!
Dru Marland, Bristol
....except that I didn't actually say anything. Someone has been pretending to be me. How odd.

It's an interesting take on identity theft; it could be a lot worse, but I really wouldn't use the word 'amazing'; and the capitalised NOT and exclamation mark? -I don't think so.

It got me thinking, though. If you were so inclined, you could write something purporting to be from somebody else, in which you casually split an infinitive, or expressed a keenness for the songs of Daniel O'Donnell, or salad cream, or large motor cars. The possibilities are almost certainly endless. Rather than ruin someone's reputation (if indeed they have one in the first place) you could make them seem ever so slightly off.

Anyway, having not given it much thought until today, I decided that I really ought to have an opinion about this alleged carbuncle. So I popped down there with my camera. Here it is, look.

...yup. It's OK. I can live with that. As John Fortune says, "I'm sorry, I just can't see what's wrong with this relationship."

time out

Goodness, what fun and games we've been having in Brissle. We had a bit of snow last week, the first time in ages that it's happened here. So we made the most of it; some people gamely walked for miles through the snow to get to work, while the rest skived off and had fun. The hillier parts of Bristol became extremely slippery and were closed to traffic, which meant that we could walk in the road, and very nice it was too, ...

...although plenty of drivers ignored the notices. They were almost certainly Very Important People Going Somewhere Vital, because they looked so serious and stern in a "get out of my way, foolish pedestrian" sort of way.'s one, being overtaken by some cyclists...

...and, since the schools were closed, this is what we got up to...

Oh well, all good things come to an end. The snow turned to slush, then melted away; I dug out the Trav, and started it up... the electrics misbehaved something chronic, until I'd given it a good spraying with WD40 and a good long run.

..and look! Snowdrops! With snow! there we are. What I Did On My Holidays.