Monday 26 December 2022

a midwinter song for Saturnalia

Happy St Stephen's Day! Just as a change from Christmas, Yule, or indeed Solstice ('bright blessings' etc), here's a song for Saturnalia, the old feast of misrule held at this time of the year, when things were turned upside down and masters waited on slaves. It also references Mithras, who was born from a rock about now. Io Saturnalia, by the way, was the greeting or invocation they used,like we'd say Merry Christmas.

A midwinter song (to the tune of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen)

Gaudete omnes per Iovem
Nil desperandumque
Memete Mithras salvator
Natus est hodie
De profundis hiberniae
Aestati ducere
Cantate io Saturnalia,
Cantate io Saturnalia

In tempi tenebrissimi
Furibus regimur
Contentio sollicitant
Mendaci loquatur
Hi porcos nunc deicere
Debemus igitur
Cantate io Saturnalia...

Quamvis panem et circenses
Habemus hodie
Sed modo faenerantur sunt
Quiescens emere
Imperia delenda sunt
Pro orbis restite
Cantate io Saturnalia...

(Translation, singable)

Jove keep you merry, everyone,
Let nothing you dismay
Cos Mithras the unconquered sun
Came down to us today
From depths of winter to the spring
To show us all the way
Singing Io Saturnalia...

Although the times are at their darkest
And we're ruled by thieves
Who'd have us at each other's throats
If we their lies believed
Remember they're just greedy swine
And give the sods the heave!
Singing Io Saturnalia...

We like the bread and circuses
They throw us now and then
But they're just crusts they throw to us
To keep us in our pen
Destroy all empires, and create
A Golden Age again!
Singing Io Saturnalia...

(Translation, literal)

Everyone rejoice, by Jupiter,
And don’t despair
Remember that Mithras, the saviour,
Was born today
From the deepest bit of winter
To lead us to summer
Sing io Saturnalia...

In the darkest of times
We’re ruled by thieves
Who seek to create disunity
With the lies they speak
Now therefore we should
Overthrow these swine
Sing io Saturnalia...

Though bread and circuses
Are what we’ve got today
They’re only loaned to us
To keep us peaceful
Destroy the empires
And restore the world
Sing io Saturnalia...

Saturday 22 October 2022

tea towels on a rainy day

Jo Batchelor at Devizes Books called. "The tea towels have arrived!" So I got over there, and she was quite right. I'd ordered them quite some time ago, but there's been all sorts of difficulties this year for everyone, and they'd been running a bit late. Still, worth waiting for. This is the picture of Devizes that I did back in May, with the specific intention of having it printed like this.

Anyway, they're in stock at the bookshop, and in my Etsy shop too. Are tea towels a particularly british thing? -as in, getting them for the nice pictures on them? I can't say I ever noticed their local equivalents in my foreign travels, though everyone must need to dry their crockery with something.

It was raining torrentially, on and off, all day, and my setting off back to the boat with the box of tea towels coincided with a particularly heavy one. Good job I had a brolly. I got soaked all down my back and legs, but the cargo survived unscathed.

Here's Eve, my boat, moored up in the rain. And the rather fine sunset I watched the evening before, over at Otter Poo Point. I played my flute but no otters appeared, though a kingfisher darted away in disgust.

Wednesday 5 October 2022

drawing three hares and knotwork

Returning to the endlessly interesting matter of depicting three hares with three ears between 'em, this is a picture I've been thinking about doing for absolute ages. I figured it would be interesting to add celtic style knotwork to the ears of the three hares. And then spent weeks (not uninterrupted weeks, you understand, I did do other stuff as well) goofing around trying to make it work.

Anyway, having got the basic pattern sorted, I used a lightbox to juggle three cut-out hares and trace them, and...

now it's done. I'm quite pleased with it. There's the moon in the middle, and May blossom around the edges.

I've got the picture available as greetings cards and high-quality giclee prints, over on Etsy.

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Devizes; a portrait of a Wiltshire town

I've been planning to do this picture for ages! In the foreground are Ruth Pierce, whose alarming end is commemorated on the Market Cross; and a moonraker in front of the Crammer where the story of moonrakers is supposed to originate.

Then there's the canal wharf, and the locks of Caen Hill to the side.

Next there's the Wadsworths brewery dray, and the fountain with its attendant pigeons; and the Georgian buildings of the Market Square, and the Corn Exchange surmounted by Ceres, goddess of crops.

 And then the parish church of St John the Baptist, and the spectacular Wadworths brewery, representing churches both spritual and temporal, maybe.

And in the background, Roundway Hill and the Devizes White Horse. And a red kite, and an RAF A400 Atlas, of a sort often to be seen whizzing around here.

You can get a copy of the picture in my Etsy shop. And I may well get round to having tea towels printed too

Wednesday 27 April 2022

friends like this

There’s someone I got to know through the poetry world, first online then in real life. We’d shared a couple of adventures, and were friends, I thought. Then, about 18 months back, she posted up an article which praised Maya Forstater and JK Rowling for their plucky work against the transsexual menace.

It came as a bit of a rude shock, coming from that quarter. I asked if she really believed the stuff in the article; she didn’t respond. I unfriended her shortly after that; there was enough negativity going on around then already; another poetry friend-on-Facebook had just posted up a fundraiser for a poet who had apparently lost bookings because of her anti-trans activities; but the friend-on-Facebook also said he had a friend who’s trans, so he couldn’t possibly be transphobic.

I unfriended him too. I would hate to think that someone could use a supposed friendship with a trans woman to bolster their liberal credentials while supporting a cause that evidently contradicts that.
There is quite a strand of anti-transerie in the poetry world. It would maybe be overly simple to describe the average poet as being slap bang in the middle of the demographic most susceptible for recruitment to that particular mindset; and there’s lots of poets who have got not time at all for that shit. But there you go, sometimes it happens.

Anyway, recently my ex-friend got in touch to ask about commissioning some work from me. I replied that we needed to clear the air over the matter of why I’d unfriended her; because if she still subscribed to those views I would find it impossible to work with her.

She said that she quite understood, and would write soon to describe why she isn’t bigoted.
But then she just deleted the messages, so I guess I won’t hear that explanation.

I know she isn’t bigoted, though. She told me so, after all. She’s just a nice person, with legitimate concerns. And she shares those concerns with other nice people. Just not with me.

It’s a shame that she felt happy to share that article, but not discuss it. I could, for instance, have agreed that it was bad that JK Rowling should have received some abusive tweets. And suggested that in the great scheme of things, a millionaire with 14 million Twitter followers getting nasty tweets from a few random People On The Internet is perhaps less damaging than her words having huge weight in the culture war, and being quoted by Republican legislators trying to pass laws to have trans children removed from their parents, in the USA.

But there’s really no point in my responding to articles like that. They represent one position. I could spend a lot of time and energy in picking through it, and pointing out the lies, distortions, and fabricated narratives, and suggesting that It Really Isn’t Like That. But my ex-friend had obviously decided that this is a position they want to take, rather than examine it critically. And that I, as a trans woman, with expert and informed knowledge of these issues, am an unreliable witness to my own experience.
After all, I’m not a nice person with legitimate concerns.

So I watch things like the institutional capture of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission by Baroness Falkner, who consults with the LGB Alliance, a group who, despite the name, are a single-issue anti-trans pressure group, such that the EHRC have begun issuing guidance which is in direct contravention of current equality law. There’s the surprisingly well-funded attacks on Stonewall. And the Keira Bell case which damaged the system of help for trans youth. And so on and on.

It’s notable that the anti-trans activity owes far more to the far right than to anything approximating to feminism, not least because so much of it, and so much of the funding, comes from the same place.
Maybe they’ll succeed, and prevent social transition for young children, and medical assistance for older children (moving the age of that group up to 25 because why not?); and legal recognition and protection for trans adults too. And trans folk will be forced to go into hiding for self-protection, and just to survive.

We’ll still exist though, because it isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s what we are. And if gender non-conforming cis people get attacked too, in this newly intolerant world, because of their appearance, that’s acceptable collateral damage and serve them right for not making more of an effort. We’re all asking for it.

At least it won’t affect nice people with legitimate concerns. As long as you dress right and keep your hair neat, you’ll be fine. At least for now.

And you only want to smilingly usher us out of the the room while you decide what’s to be done about us. It’s not as though you’re actually pushing us off the top floor, though you support those who would like to. Why can’t we be friends?

Thursday 21 April 2022

the Netty voyage, an illustrated map

Two weeks or so ago, I'd joined Kit and Lesley as delivery crew of Netty, the narrowboat home of Chris and Jinny of Skyravenwolf (if you don't know their work, then let Google be your friend. Or click on this link). Chris is in hospital in Stoke, and it seemed like the best thing to do to move the boat there from their mooring in deepest Shropshire, or possibly Montgomeryshire.

So that's what happened. And this is the map I did of how we got there and what happened along the way.

Several people have expressed an interest in the first map I did before we set off, so this is the full version. I'm selling prints of it, and 50% of the proceeds go to Jinny and Chris.

They cost £5 for an A4 print, and £10 for an A3 one, which is the same size as the original.

You can find them in my Etsy shop!

Sunday 30 January 2022

down at Warleigh

Here's a night scene at Warleigh Weir. A friend asked me to do something for a sauna event thingy they're doing down there. You can find details of that event here

Warleigh Weir's on the Avon between Bradford on Avon, and can be a fine place to be. But it's got very popular, and on a summer's day it can be crowded as heck.

But choose your time right and it's just you and the kingfishers, and maybe a cow or two.

I'm moored a mile or so away from this spot at the mo, and on this frosty morning the mist will be smoking from the river and there'll maybe be an intrepid swimmer slipping into the water