Wednesday 27 July 2011

Sallying, fourth

Sunday saw the latest swim along the Avon, from Dundas Aqueduct to Warleigh Weir. We called it the Sally In The Woods Wild Swim, because it's quite wooded along this valley, and there is a place called Sally in the Woods, just up the hill from here. Something to do with a Civil War skirmish, apparently. And it's a neat name.

We came along with canoe, dog, picnic and numbers. And on the pontoon, we met Tanya who had come along independently, intending to swim this stretch of the river on her own. There she is, on the right of the group picture. Very intrepid.

Mal and Brendagh embark in the canoe

Finally, I got to swim rather than canoe. It was rather a challenge; I'm a slow swimmer at the best of times, and everyone else in the water was both young and very fit. As they drew progressively further ahead, I admired the purple loosestrife that flowers abundantly on the banks. And the conkers weighing the chestnut branches down over the water. And the yellow globes of water lilies. And then I admired them all over again. I had plenty of time to.

A kingfisher broke cover, flew down the river a hundred yards, then crossed over and arced round behind me, evidently concluding as it went that I was a fish too large to catch.

Half way along, there is a rather daunting bank of reeds stretching right across the river, and trailing weed too. It tangled my arms as I tried to swim through it, and I tried not to get too panicky. It was an unpleasant sensation. I found that it was easier if I went through on my back, sculling with my arms. You may thank me for that tip, one day.

Towards the end, I was getting extremely tired and a bit crampy, and started looking for somewhere to get out; but instead, I gratefully accepted a tow from the canoe. Around the corner and in the distance, people were jumping out of trees and generally messing around in the river. We had made it!

Monday 25 July 2011

the colour of summer

I was swimming slowly down the Avon yesterday. As you do. More of that later, when Mal comes up with the photos.

There was plenty of time to admire the trees and plants as I bobbed slowly down the valley. Early spring colours are fresh, bright greens (Emerald and Sap Green, according to the labels on my watercolours, progressing through Intense Green as the months advance). By now, with summer being middle-aged, the greens have tones of browns and reds in and among them. (Viridian Hue, Olive Green, smatterings of Burnt Sienna and Madder Hue).

Which is all a bit arsy-versy. I never really related colours to the names on the charts; more to where they appear in my life. (The hour before a summer's dawn is apparently Indigo, as I gratefully discovered when doing a search for the right colour for the badger's night sky picture, there to the right of my blog, on that button...)

There's something about oak trees which make sitting under them seem like a very good idea, I thought as I looked at Deborah's photos this morning. It reminded me of this oak tree, on a rather warmer day than yesterday.

In the oak's shadow
The sheltering sheep tell the time-
Too hot to go out

shade, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Saturday 23 July 2011

the Canberra that went under the bridge

Continuing my series of true, gen-yoo-wine and authentic pictures of Aeroplanes That Flew Under The Clifton Suspension Bridge, here is a Canberra B2 jet bomber of 101 Squadron RAF, doing just that, on a summer's morning in 1951.

Come to think of it, in default of any further information on that flight, I reckon it's probably the 60th anniversary.

Shocking to think that it was so long ago... when I was very young, in Lancashire, I used to watch English Electric Lightnings flying around above where we lived, out on the flatlands of Longton Moss. They glinted silvery in the sun. They were test flying, from Samlesbury.

English Electric also built the Canberra. When we drove into Preston, we used to pass a long factory building that said English Electric on the wall, and I got excited at the thought of the jet aeroplanes they were building inside. It was not for some years that I discovered the company also built fridges....

..funny business, the companies that got involved with aircraft building. Like Boulton-Paul, who built the rather disastrous Defiant, and who are (or were) better known for building garden sheds....

some tags: flight, flying, flew, under, beneath, Bristol, Avon Gorge, aircraft, aeroplanes, RAF

Friday 22 July 2011

a clerihew for Mr Freud

Lucian Freud
Just deud
His portraits were very unflattering
But if you wanted to buy one your bank account would take a battering.

The picture is Girl with a white dog. I used to have a print of this painting on the bulkhead of my cabin. It was in part an ironic response to my cow-orkers' tendency to plaster their cabins with pornography. Though irony only butters so many parsnips. I like the picture, but it is David Inshaw's Badminton Game that endured in my affections, and on my wall.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Hunter in the gorge

hunter in the gorge, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
Continuing my soon-to-be-a-series of Aeroplanes That Flew Under The Clifton Suspension Bridge, here is a Hawker Hunter doing just that.

Next up will be a Gloster Meteor, just as soon as I've finished painting it.....

meanwhile here is the Canberra...
...and a Javelin (though I have not heard of a Javelin really doing this run)

...and, talking of painting (see what I did there?) ...I was driving along Stapleton Road yesterday and saw a chap pressure-washing the Banksy gorilla, that had been painted over last week.
This story is interesting because of the notions of reification and commodification that it brings to mind. Well, to my mind, anyway. Here is the chap who painted over it:
New owner Saeed Ahmed assumed it was a regular piece of graffiti and had it painted over. "I thought it was worthless," he said.

He added: "I didn't know it was valuable and that's why I painted over it. I really am sorry if people are upset."
It reminds me of the time, two summers back, when the Banksy exhibition was drawing in huge crowds at the City Museum, and employees of the same Bristol City Council were assiduously painting over some very good wall art in Stokes Croft, despite it having been done with the approval of the owner of the wall in question....

some tags; aircraft, aeroplane, RAF, flying, flight, flew under, the, Clifton Suspension Bridge, low flying, Hawker Hunter

Monday 18 July 2011

three more hares

three hares , originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

I went back to this picture because I wondered what it would look like with some colour inked in.

And now we know.

We were walking along the coast at Clevedon yesterday. Here is a wild onion, growing on the limestone grassland above Poets Walk. Andrew Sartain thinks that it's a local variant on the Bristol Onion, and I'm sure he's right.

You can see some distinctive mountains in Wales, from the Clevedon seafront. Here, for instance, is the Skirrid, or Ysgyryd Fawr, a very neat little mountain just north of Abergavenny.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Sally in the Woods - the swim that sort-of-wasn't...

What is it about weekend expeditions? You go to bed and it's a lovely evening, moon shining, promise of fair weather to come; then wake up in the morning and hear the rain thundering on the roof and think, "O no! I'm going to get horribly wet."

Thus it is this morning. And thus it was last Saturday, when we had planned the Sally In The Woods Wild Swim.

Sometimes, though, you've just got to get on with things and hope for the best. And the best often ends up happening, and is made even better by its being plucked unexpectedly from the jaws of anticipated misery.

And so it was last week.

I picked up Mal and Gina. And Pig. Mal wasn't swimming because she'd got a nasty deep dog bite in her leg. Gina was showing how keen she was by already being in her wetsuit. Pig was a dog. And still is, for that matter.

By the time we got to Claverton, the day was brightening up considerably. And people began arriving, in dribs and drabs. And finally we walked up to the Dundas Aqueduct. By this time, the only swimmers present were Gina and me; everyone else was a walker; and I needed to paddle the canoe, really. So, just Gina. Who decided, quite sensibly, that she didn't want to do the swim on her own. So she and I paddled the canoe together.Link
It was a good paddle down the river. The current seems sedate along this stretch, but really moves along at a fair old lick. Especially as the water was a little higher than usual. You'd hardly notice; but when we got to Warleigh Weir, the canoe tried to edge itself over the weir when we came alongside it, so we had to do a bit of smart manoeuvring to avoid going over it sideways.

This is a useful link to the Environment Agency's river level monitoring service, by the way. It shows you the current level of the Avon at Bradford on Avon, which is just upriver of Warleigh.

And then we got down to the serious business of the afternoon, which was picnicking.

And Gina and I finally did get to swim. Look! That splash is me, going in!

We're planning to do another swim on Sunday 24th July. Be there or, well, don't be there!

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Trans Media Watch - a signal boost

A quick shout out for TMW, whose old website address has been hijacked by a cybersquatter, who now appears at the top of a search for Trans Media Watch. If you haven't heard of TMW, follow the link! Jolly useful organisation. Please add a link to their site on your own, to boost their visibility in Google.

Odd behaviour on the part of the cybersquatters; they appear to be advertising a 'search engine optimisation' service. But would you really want to have anything to do with someone who does the equivalent of crapping on your lawn?


I've just finished this picture, for the cover of Deborah Harvey's new novel, Dart. That's Hound Tor, on Dartmoor, in the background.

I quite like this picture. It would have been nice to have done it all on one piece of paper, but that would have been impossible, applying washes over the rather intricate foliage of the border, given the limitations of masking fluid. Still, Paint Shop Pro (which is what I use for digital manipulation) is as much a part of my toolbox as the paintbrushes, dip pens and assorted paraphernalia of a more traditional kind.

Here are the two components of the picture, before I layered them up on screen...

Thursday 7 July 2011

so long and thanks for all the chips

so long, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Feeling quietly celebratory here that the News of the World is to be shut down, after all the revelations of phone hacking performed on the paper's behalf.

Not that it will mean an end to bad practice in journalism; but there's just a chance that it may herald some shift in attitude.

Snooping phone calls by the families of victims of murder and terrorism, and buying stories from policemen, is vile behaviour. Sufficiently vile to provoke national outrage. I'd like to think that some day, the vileness of reportage such as that (to take but one example from countless examples) by the Daily Mail, over the Sonia Burgess case, will also be seen as unacceptable. And it'll take more than the worthless Press Complaints Commission to effect that change.

a low pass

a low pass, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

This chap flew by, the other day, while we sat on the edge of the gorge. Very exciting it was too.

There's something about bridges that seems to attract aeroplanes. The best-known flight under the Clifton Suspension Bridge was one that ended in disaster; a Vampire jet fighter, that safely flew under the bridge but then appeared to attempt a roll and crashed into the cliff on the Leigh Woods side of the gorge.

Looking around over on PPRUNE, though, it seems that several other jets had previously flown under this bridge, too. Including a Gloster Meteor, a Canberra B2, and possibly a Hawker Hunter. One poster reckoned that it was quite a popular activity, and the pilots would fly low until well out over the Bristol Channel to remain invisible to radar, to avoid being identified and reprimanded....

the Hunter

the Canberra


Monday 4 July 2011


at the pavilion, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

I was over in deepest Oxfordshire, chez Beard, last weekend; arrived just in time to see young Arthur finish the innings for the village team. Richard was doing the scoring...

Richard sent out a quick bulletin yesterday; he's damaged a tendon in his knee, in a similar manner to what happened last year. So he's now in John Radcliffe hospital (or so a Tweet informed me, a short while ago).

Richard, last year

Friday 1 July 2011


goaty, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Another little expedition to see the goats. It was written up nicely by Deborah, here.

We scrambled down the side of the gorge, through Scots pines. Pausing on a promontory overhanging the long drop to the river, and ignoring (as much as poss) the traffic noise, I commented that it reminded me of 'For Whom The Bell Tolls'. Deborah said that a spanish friend had been similarly reminded of her homeland by the smell of pine cones hereabouts. So there.

The goats were lounging around, occasionally nibbling at the grass, and now and then having a bit of a fight. Goat bloke heaven.