Monday 24 August 2015

hailing foxes

It's nearly two years since the publication of Inking Bitterns, an anthology that combined poetry and pictures on the subject of wildness. Now, Gert Macky Books (population: 1) is getting ready for a new anthology. It will be produced in what is already recognisably the Gert Macky style, which is to say AT THE VERY LAST MOMENT. It's intended to be launched at the Bristol Poetry Festival, on 29th September. We could do with a few more poems.

The brief: poems about wildery/the natural world/nature; and site-specific, as in Bristol. This is decidedly about Bristol. Length: comfortably fitting on a side of A5. Follow the link above, see what the previous pages looked like.

Time scale: within the next fortnight, I reckon. I'm making this up as I go along, be gentle. Thank you.

My email address is

Saturday 8 August 2015

making a film about the lightship

Peter Brownlee sets up the opening shots

Liz Brownlee is collecting poems on the subject of 'light', in readiness for National Poetry Day, on 8th October. There's an event at Waterstones in Bristol. And Peter Brownlee has been making films of the poems, which I understand will be on show in Millennium Square.... Liz mentioned in passing that it was a pity there were no lighthouses on hand in Bristol. "But what about the lightship?" I replied. 

What indeed? The former Light Vessel 55, built for Trinity House by Charles Hill in Bristol, is now moored up in Bathurst Basin, where the Cabot Cruising Club have their headquarters on board. I was determined to write something about it because it seemed such a good thing to write about. 

And so I did. Here it is, in my previous post.

And having done so, Peter and Liz liaised with the folk at the cruising club, and we all met up down there a few days ago and made a film. Well, they did. I just stood in the background.

Sarah Allen, Stuart Lees and Jacqueline Corcoran, of the Cabot Cruising Club, prepare for an ensemble reading of the final verse.

Peter Brownlee in action

...and then we had a guided tour of the boat. Everything from the gunwales up is modern, after the fire that was intended to destroy her. (The dense timbers thwarted that plan, in the hull). Down below feels very old indeed. And rather nice. Good place for a poetry reading, I reckon...

a model of the lightship 

downstairs, or below decks as we sailors say

a stage, even!

Friday 7 August 2015

keeping the light

The English and Welsh Grounds lightship

Some ships are bound for Newport Docks, and they pass to the west of us;
And the Sharpness and the Bristol boats sail safely to the east
And the flood tide that sometimes roars enough to fright the best of us
Uplifts us, but it will not shift our anchorage the least.

There as always is the chimney of the Uskmouth power station,
Lined up with the transporter bridge and distant Ysgyryd Fawr;
And the goods trains wind away with all the produce of the nations
While our newspapers are out of date and week-old milk’s gone sour.

Still, there’s tab nabs at smokoe, after sujieing and holystone;
And a splash of conny onny that goes nicely in the tea.
And each day in the log takes me closer still to going home-
Though when I’m home I wonder if my real home’s the sea.

Cos when dusk comes and we light the lamp, and settle down to tend for it,
I look up and down the channel, and see all the lights like ours
From Flat Holm down to Countisbury; St Brides Wentlooge; the Breaksea ship;
The beacons of the South Wales shore, of Devon and of Somerset;
The flashing lights, the steady ones, that sparkle near and far;
One great coastal constellation, and it’s we who tend the stars.

glossary and pronunciation:
tab nabs - snacks
smokoe - break 
sujieing - mopping (pronounced SOO-jee-ing)
holystone - a stone block used to scour decks
conny onny - condensed milk
Ysgyryd Fawr, otherwise the Skirrid, is a prominent mountain near Abergavenny, and pronounced UZ-grud VOW-r

Monday 3 August 2015

wings over Wiltshire

Last Thursday (bear with me, please, I've been out in the wilds and need to visit the library to use the internet properly) ...last Thursday, I say, my keen ear (that's the one on the left. The one on the right is nonchalant and whistles constantly) detected an unusual aero engine approaching. with a low and clattery sound. Stubby wings, and invasion stripes... It was a Grumman Martlet! Never seen one before in real life.

Shortly after came a Chance Vought Corsair, in Fleet Air Arm colours adopted for the Far East- the red circle has been removed from the roundel to avoid it being mistaken for the Japanese red circle marking. Another first time sighting for me. This bit of Witlshire is very good for seeing odd aeroplanes.

...and then a Tiger Moth, but hey, Tiger Moths, ho hum*

*Not really...!