Tuesday 29 May 2012

Snog, Marry, Avoid

Here's something jolly from the BBC. The programme is about correcting people's fashion mistakes, apparently. In this excerpt, this dialogue takes place

P: Who are you?
R; I'm Rachel
P: Are you sure it's not Richard?
R: (laughs in surprise) Why?
P: Pod computes that with those eyebrows, eyelashes and ridiculously big hair you look like a transsexual.
R: (looks mortified)

Thanks, BBC, for adding to the constant drip, drip, drip of casual prejudice.

I was looking at some photos yesterday, on Facebook. There in the pictures were the people I once called my family, celebrating my brother's wedding. I hadn't been invited, of course. You wouldn't want someone like me at a wedding, would you?

Over on Twitter, Paris Lees started a hashtag directed to @SnogMarryAvoid, called #WhatTranssexualsLookLike. I contributed this photo. Loads of other people joined in too. Mostly to say "Here we are, just getting on with things. Get over it."

Saturday 26 May 2012


 The drowsy hum of sewing machines wafts on the breeze, as industrious mums make yards and furlongs of bunting, and Aldi sells 'Keep Calm And Carry On'* Union Jack tat to brighten up the neighbourhood.

We got quite excited the other morning when the Olympic torch was carried past, just at the end of the road here. It was a bit late getting here, as they got lost near Nailsea. I watched from the front room window as family groups hurried past towards the Downs, yummy mummies chattering animatedly as they adjusted the Union Jack deelyboppers on the heads of their diminutive daughters, and seriously suited paterfamiliases barked into mobile phones as they dragged their reluctant golden retrievers behind them.

That's the good thing about living at the top of the building; I gaze down with Olympean detachment and some bemusement at the scurryings of the uncomfortably comfortable middle classes.

Then the flood tide had swept past, and only a few latecomers swung their cars into too-small spaces, glanced at the damage their bumpers had done, and dashed off; or parked across gateways and scampered lightly away without a backward glance. An unsuitably dressed man of generous girth huffed and puffed down the middle of the road. And all was hushed in the road.

Presently there was a distant hubbub of cheering, amplified music, and Tannoyed announcements, as the convoy of Coca Cola, Samsung and other sponsors' vehicles rumbled through Henleaze.

A blackbird sang in the garden. A jackdaw gazed down on the quiet road from the top of a pollarded plane tree.

 My sympathies lie somewhere between the jolly flag-wavingness of it all and the 'stuff the jubilee' lot. In case you hadn't guessed.

*I imagine it being spoken in a German accent, what with Aldi being a German company, and all. Keep calm und carry auf!

Friday 25 May 2012

still to adventure and battle I ride

look out, there's a monster coming!
 I've come to expect an adventure whenever I go to see Prof Levy at the BRI. Last time it was the Yootility Vehicle, the time before it was the Drongo Bike Thieves, and the time before that it was the Cat Litter Kids.

So I was decidedly on the QV when I rode out yesterday morning. 

On the way to the Post Office with some parcels of sold artwork (yay!) a car pulled out of a side road, straight across my bows. I rang my bell frantically in hopes that she might stop. She did, blocking my progress. 

"Couldn't you see me pulling out?" she shouted angrily.

"Couldn't you see me cycling along the main road?" I retorted. Not the snappiest comeback, but what can you say? Some people have an invincible belief that Bike Gives Way To Car. Whatever.

On I went. Was that my adventure? -surely not. Not dramatic enough.

Down the hill, I was passing the Vintage Point and lo, there was Mal, talking with Ursula. After we'd looked through a big tin box of ancient photos (RAF chaps in the desert, with Hawker Harts sitting with their tails in the air, upended by a haboob perhaps. Was it Egypt, as Ursula thought, or possibly Iraq?)

Pondering, we proceeded to the People's Republic of Stokes Croft, where I handed over a pile of Put The Bunting Out cards and Chris Chalkley asked if I wouldn't mind painting over some swastikas that someone had scrawled on a wall painting in the Bear Pit, as I was going that way anyway.

I didn't mind.

But that wasn't really an adventure.

 It was now very hot, and I stopped off at Marks and Spencers to get some fizzy pop before arriving at the hospital. Plonked gratefully into a seat in the waiting area of the clinic, I took the lovely, cold, fizzy orange out of my bag, and..... 

...dropped it to the floor, where it exploded.

Goodness, you wouldn't believe how much mess that can make. 

Or maybe you can.

Some people saw the funny side, and some looked rather humphy. I got a big pile of tissue from the nurse, and mopped it up. "Can't take you anywhere," she said. But at least she was smiling.

It was nice to see Prof Levy again. He went through the results of last week's blood tests, and pronounced all well. Even the cholesterol levels. Bacon butties for breakfast, then.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

the Beast of Hallen Marsh

"I'm off to Avonmouth to pick up a switch," I told John. "Can I drop in and collect some books?"

I could.

That sorted, it was off to Screwfix for a 45A pull-cord switch for the neighbour's shower.

"Fancy a trip to Avonmouth?" I asked John.

He did.

45A pull-cord switch duly bought, we bimbled off into the industrial hinterland in search of adventure. It was hard to find anywhere to pull over, as most parking places were adjacent to security gates where large men in blue shirts were eating big sandwiches and reading the Sun. And it was a bit scary looking for somewhere, with big lorries and vans hurtling impetuously along, determined to get to wherever they were going just as soon as possible.

Over a railway bridge and round a corner, there was a gate and a grassy track leading past the big red fence which corralled a herd of big red diggers. And there was just enough room for a Morris Traveller.

We pushed through brambles, disturbing orange-tip butterflies. A bird was churring from the scrub. "A reed warbler!" I said. "First of the year for me!"

I like reed warblers. I remember hearing the urgent call of one in Pembrokeshire, in April 2001, and wondering what it might be; and in the course of finding out, decided it was time to learn which songs belonged to which birds. A process that's still ongoing.

 We passed some hairy pellets, hiccuped up by a buzzard. And then a headless skeleton. We wondered what creature it might have belonged to; but the skull was missing. Maybe a dog? A fox? I didn't take a photo of it, because I am reticent at photographing the mortal remains of a creature. So now I'm wishing I did. So that skeleton is The One Thing I Wish I'd Taken A Picture Of, without which no trip is complete.

A little further on, a small plaque on a railway sleeper marked the boundary of territorial responsibility for Railtrack. Further progress along this disused track was discouraged by the Beast Of Hallen Marsh, its red eyes glowing from the bushes, as they have done for years and as they will do until the final trump, or the end of days, or at least until the time they switch it off.

We looked across towards the shore of the Severn, beyond the oil tanks and gantries, and saw no way through. There was a rackata rackata rackata sound, and along came the Severn Beach train. "That reminds me, I should renew my Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways subscription," said John. "It's only a few pounds, and it'll cheer up Julie Boston."

The day had been getting warmer and warmer. It was now hot. We headed back to the car.

Saturday 19 May 2012

three hares quilt

 Bimbling along the Gloucester Road the other day, I bumped into Judi Brill at the Bishopston Trading Company, and we told our news. Judi's been over in Kenya recently; she took this quilt to present to the Quaker conference being held there. I was particularly interested in the presence of the three hares on the quilt; and as I (and hopefully you) am interested in the three hares motif, and the quilters have kindly given their permission to post the picture, here it is!

A Quilted Hanging of Greetings 

Fabric has often been used to carry messages and meaning – flags, banners, samplers, handkerchiefs, tapestries and quilts.

We are following a well trodden path. This quilted hanging has been made to send loving greetings to all the Quakers who will be gathering at the University of Kabarak, Kenya in April this year from all over the world.

Many Quakers in Britain, have worked on it.The central blocks were made using Quaker men's recycled shirts. The diagonal 'strippy' blocks represent bursts of Light. The central medallion of three hares chasing each other is an ancient symbol adopted by early Christians to represent the Trinity. The same symbol is used in other faiths too. There are only three ears but each hare has two!

Three of the inner borders are embroidered with the words 'Be Salt; Be Light; Live the Kingdom in a Broken World' which is the essence of the title of the Conference and the fourth border has ' Loving Greetings from Britain Yearly Meeting'. The corners have appliqued trailing vines, another biblical reference.

The outer borders are strip-pieced, (a method called 'piano keys') using fabrics supplied by the Bishopston Trading Co.which is a Women's Fair Trade Co-operative linking India with the UK. For these borders the children at Yearly Meeting Gathering in Canterbury in 2011 drew British animals, birds, insects and flowers which were then bondawebbed onto fabric and applied to the hanging. The outer corners have the same tree in each of the Four Seasons.
We hope the quilted hanging will speak of Light and living sustainably, the Natural World and the Divine Presence in our lives.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

I see you

I see you, says the shivering cat
to the wind that ruffles her fur.
Your fingers are blue, your face is fat
and you rush around without a hat.
I see you, says the shivering cat,
and turns her back and will not purr.
I see you, says the shivering cat,
to the wind that ruffles her fur.

Picking Katie up from a party the other day, her friend's mother said "Do you know a poet called  John Terry ?" 

I admitted that I do indeed know him.

They'd been Googling him, and found my pictures on Flickr. 

They told me the story about why they'd been Googling for John.

Ten years ago, young L had asked "Can cats see the wind?" 

This question was passed on to John, and he wrote this poem.

It is a nice story, and a nice poem, so I did this picture for it. The weather vane with a gudgeon on it is in Bradford on Avon, on the roof of the lock-up in the middle of the bridge over the Avon; I got the idea for that from Bella, who painted another weather vane in B-on-A the other day.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

a hunting of the hares

 small patch of sunlight
hares over the Devon hills
hounded by rainclouds

I was down in Devon the other week, staying in the Thrushell valley near Lifton as a guest of Richard and Ute at Barbaryball; a lovely spot, and highly recommended. The rain was at times positively elemental, so that the smaller roads became rather more like rivers. It was good fun, and made the occasional sunny interlude all the more welcome.

dawn over the Thrushell

I sat in the car park at Brent Tor for a while, listening to the rain hammering on the car roof, then gave up my intention to scramble up. There were sunny intervals in Devon on that particular day, but they and I were never in the same place at the same time.

Still, it was good weather for wandering around churches, and I was particularly pleased that Kelly was very close to where I was staying, as it is one of the seventeen places around Dartmoor where you can find three hares.

Nice as it is to find the three hares where they should be, it is perhaps even nicer to find something new and unexpected, both in the fabric of the place and in the encounters, like the brindled lurcher in the church at Throwleigh who came to say hello while the owners attended to something; though that encounter was a part of the fabric of the place too, of course. Some of those things I'll keep to myself; some of them are in the picture below. I especially liked the owl, because I didn't know it was there. And the green man at Drewsteignton was a treat, too; peering up through the gloom, I saw what I was sure was a face peering back at me, and so I took the picture, and hoped. And there he was, when I uploaded the pics to the computer; looking like a friendly hippy, or the sort of chap who has his own pewter tankard behind the bar at the pub. But without the folk songs. Result.

1. South Tawton hares
2. Cheriton Bishop hares
3. Throwleigh hares
4. Kelly hares
5. Tavistock hares
6. South Tawton owl
7. South Tawton green man
8. South Tawton green man
9. Drewsteignton green man