Thursday, 12 April 2018

daisies on Caen Hill

The lipstick round the daisy’s mush
‘s enough to make a bullfinch blush
and long before the sun’s first ray
they pucker up and kiss the day

We came up the Caen Hill locks yesterday. We were short handed; one of our crew of volunteers had to go and do a photoshoot at short notice; and Michelle tried to get here from Hilperton to help but was thwarted by a puncture on her bike - there's a lot of hawthorn lying around on the towpath. Liz came over from Semington, though, which helped a lot. We breasted up the two boats and I drove them together; this saved time going in and out of the locks, and freed up Chris to do the lock working. An unfair division of labour, because it meant all I had to do was drive the boats and admire the daisies, as you see. 
Anyway, we were all mightily glad to get to the top, and are now eating our way through all the pork pies and Tunnocks we got in for the flight crew's tab nabs.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

waiting for the swallows

I’m by the bridge at Sells Green, to see the swallows come.
A boat called Foxhunter chugs past. It’s an hour after dawn.
Score so far: boats one, swallows none. 
A cow clears its throat. The alpacas on the hill
graze in the lee of the hedge to ward off the chill.
The cockerel’s crowing from the farm, as cockerels will.
Alpacas: seven. Swallows: nil. 
The chiffchaff in the hedge behind me packs it in.
Oh, then it starts again. The woodpecker begins
to drum, then laughs. It’s cold in this wind.
Bloody canada geese. Swallows? Not a thing. 
A rush of song from an unseen wren.
The woodpecker does its impression of Sid James,
somewhere over there towards Rusty Lane.
Oh! The first blackcap! In the hedge there, then
answered from the llama field.Ten out of ten 
For the blackcaps! Swallows? Nowt again.

Stiff fingers. Going in. It’s too bloody cold.
The sun looks like a dissolving aspirin. Two gold
-finches bob high over. Vapour trails have ruled
thin lines of shadow on the sheet of stratus cloud.
Blooming swallows. Shouldn’t be allowed.

Friday, 30 March 2018

a new pictorial map of the West of England

...just back from the printers and ready for sale! It comes in A3 and A4 sizes and I've got it in my Etsy shop (link on the right hand bar of the blog here, or click here).

This was a commission for Harvest wholefoods in Bath, and was great fun to do but took aaages. And then I had to find a way to scan it; the painting is about A2 size, which is as big as I can reasonably manage in the limited space on my cramped and crowded boat. After a couple of failed attempts to get it done elsewhere, I bit the bullet and used my A4 flatbed scanner, and then stitched the 10 scans together. Which took even more aaages. 

The dernier cri in desktop publishing, hem hem.
Observe the pile of books squashing the drawing flat in the scanner

You may need to click on the picture to get a clearer view of it. There are several boaty types in there; and my Morris Traveller, doubling as a Glastonbury chicken shack. And a Vincent motorbike rorting past Silbury Hill. Slightly wishful thinking; last time I rode along that road on a motorbike, it was on my old MZ 250 with my flatmate Corrine on the back, and we were going back to Bristol after the Poll Tax riot. (We'd missed the riot, as it happens; we were at the very back of the march and it was going so slowly that we sloped off to the Tate. Bloody arty types eh?)

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Attack of the Trans Cabal

...inspired, obviously, by Stephen Collins' rather wonderful cartoon. You may need to click on it to get it big enough to read.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

poets afloat at Seend

normally, a poetry audience looks really miserable in photos. This must have been a funny poem

On Saturday, the Poets Afloat group had its first public airing, as part of the Seend Lock open day organised by the Canal and River Trust. The poetry event in the Barge Inn, next to the lock, was organised by Helen Wuscher, who, when she isn't working in the CRT Devizes office is busy putting on her one-woman show about Emily Dickinson, or writing and doing other stuff. She kindly suggested we might like to join in, and sifted through poems to make an appropriately canal-themed set list, comprising old and good work from Shakespeare, Kenneth Grahame, Patrick Kavanagh and the like, to modern and good stuff from folk such as Jo Bell,  former Canal Laureate and continual Good Egg; and us lot too. 

And Nancy Campbell, the new Canal Laureate, showed up as well; not in the canoe that she's touring the network in, as it was probably a bit far to paddle from Oxford on a Saturday morning. But it was nice to meet her.

here's Nancy! She doesn't really have a blue quiff, that's the overhead projector
Gail Foster took some rather good photos in so unobtrusive a manner that we never knew about it, and here they are. Gail is another Poet Afloat, as she lives next to the canal in Devizes and has a special affinity with Bridge 140. Here's her blog. Go to her for photos, occasional verse and reviews in the Devizes area.

Helen Wuscher got to read her own poem too
Jinny Peberday with a found poem
Emma Whitcombe's poem was about the stankie. The what? aha...
Simon Kirby, a CRT customer services manager who turns out to be a poet too!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

towpath conversations


As TH White observed in The Goshawk, if you sit up in a tree, birds don't consider you to be a human, and cheerfully go about their business around you.

You get a similar effect living on a boat...

I've been collecting those towpath conversations that have come along, those thirty seconds of story that you get as the walker pass by. And here is a found poem from them. 

You're being a snob
I'll tell you that

you're being ungodly

and you're being like Lauren

she takes a lot of recreational drugs

like a lot

there’s kids in her class

an island on the Loire


wasn’t it Limonge?

we were going down the Danube

it was in France. Let’s see, there’s the Loire

there’s kids in her class make £300

fifteen hours

I worked like a Trojan horse

Mum, how did you fall out with dad?

we were going down the Danube

what do you need a map for

it’s a canal

before they go to school in the morning


it was in France and

we were going down the Danube

do people live on these boats

there ought to be

that’s all that I can say

there ought to be rules and regs

there are but

not one of these go to work

not one of them

I worked like a Trojan horse

they’re marginalised

because they haven’t adapted to

the modern world

Thursday, 8 March 2018

a Clerihew for Frida Kahlo for International Women's Day, which is today.