Tuesday 28 June 2016

a few owls

"Shall we go on an owl walk?" asked Jinny.

How could I refuse? We're moored in a wooded area at Widewater, near Pewsey; a short distance away is the wide open farmland that barn owls like. Nipper joined us too, and off we walked; it was a lovely evening. As the evening began to be twilighty, the owl suddenly appeared flying along a dark bank of tall oaks. It wheeled and dropped twice, then flew right towards us, jinking as my camera beeped to say it was focused. Then off it went across the broad wheat field with its prey. 

"I've never seen an owl before" said Nipper. He was extremely chuffed. As were we all. The vole was probably less pleased.

Coincidentally I'm working on a picture with a barn owl in.

Saturday 25 June 2016

being nice to each other

Three boats

Because the world's so big and scary
Let's go back to the nursuery
And wave a little Union Jack
And dream we've got our marbles back

...I was up late on the day of the referendum, going over to Bristol to meet Boat Teenager, and of course to vote. I walked to the polling station with friends; it was heartening to be among like-minded people after driving past big banners in Wiltshire fields saying WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK....

...news of the disaster filtered through in the morning; we drank coffee and didn't say much about it, because we all felt a bit unreal. We got on with useful things; Simon on Spirit of Marmalade was trying to work out why his boat's horn wasn't working, so I stuck it in the Moggy and demonstrated to our satisfaction that it was OK, and he got on with bypassing the push button. A repeated honking announced his success. Meanwhile, I was drilling and tapping holes to bolt Rick's swivel chair on his back deck; he likes to drive his boat seated. Becky was hosing down her boat with the stirrup pump; we fixed the brakes on her bike, because they weren't functioning at all, and she almost went into the canal yesterday.

  1. There was much revving of engines from the car park. Some new age travellers were reversing their vans into spaces under the hazel trees; a woman in baseball cap with blinged-up Stadium motorcycle goggles (that there Tank Girl aesthetic gets around) and a chap with nothing more on his head than baldness. He said that the police had just moved them on from Sanctuary, over the hill at Avebury. They settled in, and loud Chuck Berry tunes were presently accompanied by the barking of their dogs. I tried to be laissez faire about it all, and anyway it was time to be moving on.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

scratchy songs


Far be it for me to cavil
but Africa's quite far to travel 
from, to sing so few, such curs'ry notes,
offhandedly, as the whitethroat's

....it's pouring down and my internet tethering allowance has run out for the month, so I scurried damply to the library and sit here steaming gently. Having moved the boat yesterday, I am now moored where sedge warblers spent all night bickering, and the whitethroat is at it hammer and tongs. It seems the season for scratchy songs now - the yellowhammer, complaining of its little bit of bread and no cheese is taunted by the reed warbler's sixty species of cheeses

Monday 20 June 2016

peewit and wisdom

Normally I'd be out at dawn with my tea, watching and waiting to see what might come along. This can eat a big chunk out of the morning when your most productive period is the time before most people are out of bed. 

Midsummer's dawn, though, was chilly and wet as old heck. So I lit the fire and got on with this picture, and finished it in time for lunch. It's the lapwings in the field opposite, mobbing a buzzard. Bolshy blighters, lapwings. Yesterday morning the local seagulls got bored of playing chess with the crows in the south field, and tried to create some lebensraum in the lapwings' field. It did not end happily.

The rain stopped, the sun even came out for a while, and I popped into Devizles with the toilet tank that needed emptying. It's been sitting outside for several days, oppressing me. When I changed tanks over, I had to scrape some slugs off the empty one before I inserted it into the Thetford bog. As I was doing so, I saw Labrador Woman looking appalled.

"I'm just scraping the slugs off" I said, lest she might be thinking I was emptying the damn thing in the hedge. Then I realised that my explanation was hardly helpful in building bridges between the Nice People and us ditch gypsies. 

Hands across the ocean. Ect ect. 

Sunday 19 June 2016

cheesy buntings

It was crazy bonkers mad here this morning, let me tell you. I took my bucket of tea up to the conning tower and surveyed the dawn. It was kicking off like Stokes Croft on a Friday night when a new Banksy's appeared; over the hill a herd of cattle were apparently murdering each other. The rooks were sharing dirty jokes in the trees on the skyline. The yellowhammer complained endlessly about a lack of cheese, and was meanwhile taunted by the reed bunting, who assured us that he had sixty flavours of cheeses.

An odd grunting, almost lost in the aural clutter, in the reeds opposite. I waited. And then waited some more. Presently, the reeds shook and with a great PLOP the otter dropped into the water. A gentle wave advancing along the bank, and a bowing of the reeds, marked its passage, a hundred yards along and then up into the cave of an overhanging hawthorn. The briefest of shadows, and then silence. 

Presently, a tubby torpedo hurtled towards me. I kept very still; kingfishers are fond of perching on boat tillers. At the very last moment, it noticed me and peeled off; the sun that shines straight down the cut at dawn caught it in an explosion of red and blue.

It settled in the fallen tree. We waited. Presently it plummeted down, then reappeared, perched, smacked its bill, and went on its way.

Cycling down the towpath yesterday, I passed a boater who was carting her baggage onto the boat. She had a large and expensive looking camera. "Got any good shots?" I asked. "Oh, no, I'm a professional photographer," she said. 

Saturday 18 June 2016

lapwing central

Something new at every mooring. Out here in the Vale of Pewsey, we're moored near a new long barrow, built for people who want to spend eternity in the style that was fashionable several thousand years ago. The people who built the original barrows were swept away by history. Following the news of murders by far right terrorists over the last couple of days, I wonder how much longer our brief flowing of culture will last.

In the great open fields, lapwings call and rise up to chase away any potential predators, and sometimes tumble around the sky for the joy of it. 

The other day they divebombed a buzzard that was in the field; it was a dramatic scene, and I've been trying to capture it. Experimenting with scraper board, inspired by the work of Kay Leverton. And realised that I've got a long way to go with learning how to use the medium.

...so reverted to my canal pictures while thinking about it.

Thursday 16 June 2016

a verse to Brexit

Where is this country you want back?
It wasn't yours to start with.
It's still the land of all-right-Jacks,
And you're the arse they fart with.

Saturday 11 June 2016

canal cuisine

I woke up the other morning, hopped out of bed and the boat started rocking as though we were side seas in a storm. Unusual behaviour on a canal on a bright and calm June morning. 

It wasn't the boat, it was something in my head. Off to the medics I went; it's either labyrinthitis (an infection of the inner ear) or possibly something else... so I'm off to see the ENT folk soon. My kind GP referred me for an emergency appointment. 

"How will you contact me?" I asked the receptionist.
"By post" she said.

In present NHS terms, I guess that emergency means sooner-than-two-years. I'm grateful we've still got the NHS. 

So I'm not very good at moving around much, as vertigo and nausea cut in. On the plus side, if I sit still and draw pictures, that's mostly fine.

I saw the drowned fox floating near the Avoncliff aqueduct, and wanted to paint it. Finally did, then. It was of course Sherry Jim wot ate the badger.

Monday 6 June 2016

cuckoos and fieldguns

At its usual time, the otter bumped and splashed its way along the underside of the boat. I checked; 0120. I thought of scrambling to the after hatch to see if I could see it, but remembered all the piles of stuff in the way and I couldn't find my torch. The bumping receded; then there was a whistly sort of noise in the distance. Then silence.

When I reawoke, it was twilight and the birds were singing. I made strong tea and went outside. In the still air, high jetliners traced slow white lines into the sunlight that was yet to reach down to the vale.

The strange bird's peeping noise that had flummoxed me yesterday was there again, close at hand. I finally saw linnets; a first for me.  

me old cock linnet

...and me old hen linnet too, guv, gorblimey
 It was a morning it was hard to tear myself away from; the heron warned of its passing with a polite cronk, and I grabbed the camera just in time.

The kestrel flew into its nest hole in the solitary oak.

As the day warmed up, we heard a cuckoo from far across the fields.

Thursday 2 June 2016

in the summerlands

Tiff, Matt and Gabbs the dog

A new picture- Tiff filling up the water tank on her boat. 

We're up in the summer lands now- the Vale of Pewsey, very peaceful. And very poor internet signal!

Here's a passing red kite....

...and one of a family group of young long tailed tits, who were all around me; I had to stand still for ages and keep watching before I started to see them.

...and finally, an idea for a poster competition that is being organised to mark the opening of the new improved towpath at Bathampton.... hands across the ocean...

dip don't dazzle