Saturday, 18 November 2017

early morning photo shoots


A message from Barry; Wednesday morning it's going to be a lovely frost, perfect for your calendar shot; are you up for it ....early start though ?

I'm always up for an early start, as you may already realise. By heck it was cold though.

That was last winter. Barry, of Bread and Shutter Photography, kindly sent me the pic the other day, and said I could use it. So here it is. Good, ain't he?

Kennet and Avon - a canal year - 2018 calendar

Yesterday I was in Bristol again, picking up calendars that we'll be selling to raise funds for the K&A Floating Market. These calendars show photos that were taken by several local boaters, with the aim of giving a taste of canal life. 

Here are some sample pages from the Canal Year calendar. I volunteered to format it, and since the downloadable calendar boxes I looked at seemed a bit dull, I decided to draw them. It took a while, but there you go, job done.

The calendars will be on sale at the market on Dec 2 and 3 in Bradford on Avon. You can also buy them online, at this Etsy shop




Thursday, 16 November 2017

market poster


Here's the poster for the Kennet and Avon Canal Christmas floating market, at Bradford on Avon. Click on the poster to open it in a new window, then download it!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

the wheeling of rooks


Sailing down from Semington to Bradford on Avon last week, I saw the first fieldfares of the winter.

First to me, that is; I know that they've already been around for a little while. But they were nice to see, on a clear and sunny day, when their bright and vivid plumage is seen at its best. And it was that bracing kind of niceness like very cold fizzy wine, the sort that makes me glad I'm wearing my big overcoat and woolly hat.

The picture and poem are, of course, from Drawn Chorus...

The rooks at Crows Nest (hey, I didn't name it...) were very active too; I accidentally discovered that you can loop a video on my iPhone, and the result is rather hypnotic. I hope this works....



Saturday, 11 November 2017

a logging expedition


The woods bordering the canal provide a very handy source of firewood, when trees fall, or when contractors cut back the overhanging branches or fell entire trees. Indeed, the canal community is always ready and willing to get stuck in when a tree comes down, especially if it falls across the canal and becomes a hazard or impediment to navigation. Socially useful, and enlightened self- interest. A bit of a win-win situation.

And so I did a quick trip out with Jim yesterday, to take some cuts from a big ash that fell a few months ago. Ash is, of course, the tree of choice for the owner of a woodburning stove; it will burn green, though that isn't good for your flues; but it's always better when it's seasoned. My firewood supply, stacked up on the roof of the boat, consists of hawthorn and ash that we rescued from fallen trees that we'd encountered back in the spring, and so it's had a good summer to season. (Having your firewood up on the roof exposed to the rain isn't ideal, perhaps, but then, if not there then where?) ...but a few weeks into the stove season, it is starting to look a bit depleted. And anyway, when there's a fallen tree you just can't say no, can you?

So off we went, Jim and me. It's always best to have at least two people on a job like this - as a friend said, "if you're working with a chainsaw, keep your phone on you so you can call an ambulance when you cut your leg off..." -a handy tip there but one we didn't need yesterday, fortunately.







Monday, 6 November 2017

the hidden hare who watches the moon


Tom Blackwell saw this picture and commented that there was a hare in the trees there, looking at the moon. And I looked again, and by heck he was right.

See it?

It reminds me of the Invisible Prince, on the wall of the nursery in Cardiff Castle...


...which in turn was the inspiration for my picture of the Secret Blackbird






Sunday, 5 November 2017

finding the all-important woolly socks

some new cards

In the summer, I'd have been out with my cup of tea long ago, and then hard at work on the drawing board before the Shipping Forecast was even thought of. 




But Halloween is past, and the wind's turned northerly. I'm moored up on a long aqueduct across a corner of the Wiltshire Avon valley, and it's a great place to be sometimes, and a rather exposed place to be when the wind blows. When the stove goes out overnight, the cold invades the boat until getting up from under two warm duvets and a quilt can present a challenge. I dash to the cooker, put the kettle on, and then on to the stove; firelighter, kindling, where's the bloody lighter? -rummage rummage, aha, and away. Ten minutes later the boat is warming up nicely and I've found the thick woolly socks from the heap of clothes that spend the night on the floor and the day on my bunk. 

In half an hour, I may be able to take off the top cardie.

The otter came arund again last night; I heard it splash and bump along the boat, but stayed right where I was in bed. Seems a bit intrusive, shining bright lights into its face. I hate cyclists who do that to me, after all.

I've just picked up some new Christmas card designs from Minuteman, as you see from the picture at the top.





...and some postcards of Saint Melangell and the hare, because it seemed like a good idea.




Friday, 3 November 2017

moonpath

Switch off the torch! There’s light enough
to see by, though the path is rough;
and, though the beam it throws is bright
it hides all else, and makes the night
seem darker than it is. So douse the light. 
The Milky Way is one long flow
across the sky’s deep indigo
and timid creatures, soft and slow,
pass by, with food their only care
- and we’re not on the bill of fare.
Here, take my hand! We’re nearly there.

Walking back to my boat from the neighbours under a gibbous moon, I remembered when I wrote this after a similar walk home with Boat Teenager long ago. There's rarely not enough light to see by, and when you're away from street lights and the moon is up, it can be rather wonderful; I once drove my old Moggy van across the top of the Mendips in snow under a full moon with the lights off, which was probably naughty but then there was no-one else around.





Thursday, 2 November 2017

meeting an otter


You come to recognise the sound of an otter hunting along the side of the boat; always along the shore side, bumpity splash. Two nights back, around midnight, I heard something pattering stealthily along the after gangplank, and was instantly as alert as I'm likely to get; could it be an intruder? I reached for the torch and checked the air rifle was close at hand. Can't be too careful. But then it went into the water and I was reassured. Tiptoeing to the side hatch, I swung it open and shone the torch along the side of the boat. And there was the otter! It seemed pretty unfazed by my appearance, probably because I was behind the torch beam and therefore invisible.

Then it dived and reappeared briefly at the bow, and was gone.

In daylight, I had a look down by the brook that flows under the aqueduct before joining the Avon a little way further down the valley. The intersection of the two waterways seemed a likely spot for marking a territorial boundary. And indeed, there on a rock in the stream was a spraint.




Monday, 30 October 2017

killing the yellowhammer

Yellowhammer, from Drawn Chorus

Here's a bit of devilry for Hallowe'en. Though the devilry is, of course, on the part of the people who persecuted the yellowhammer, or yoldring, rather than the bird itself. 

This is what E & MA Radford have to say about the bird, in their Encyclopedia of Superstitions


Thursday, 26 October 2017

colder, and otter


moon in the ash tree
oh! Where did all the leaves go
since I last saw it?

Change sneaks up on and past us, and then you look at a photo taken a month ago and think how much greener everything was then, and look out, as I did, last night, and go oh!

...and I am getting on with commissions and Christmas card and calendar designs too. This one has Netty on it, as I thought it would be nicer to look at than my ugly old boat. I took liberties with the relative scales of the aqueduct and the boat, though that would be v much in keeping with the style of the aqueduct's builders. Did you ever look at nineteenth century pictures of ships or buildings and wondered at how HUGE they were? -that's because they were drawn to look impressive. Like earlier pictures of prize animals, exaggeratedly massy. In this case, the aqueduct loses out to the boat. Soz, aqueduct.



Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Apple Day


here are some english apples. Because it's Apple Day.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Saint Melangell and the hare

It was in the work of Kay Leverton that I first came upon the story of  Melangell and the hare, and wanted to do my own version. Melangell was a recluse in the hills of North Wales, and was being all spiritual in a thicket one day when a hare took refuge with her, and she protected it from the hounds and the huntsmen that had been chasing it. The local prince, on arriving on the scene, was struck by her saintliness and gave her the valley where her church, and the village of Pennant Melangell, are now situated.

I thought it would be nice to portray her as a bit of a hunt sab. So this picture is loosely based on a friend who fits that description.

I was trying out some paper that Neil Hopkins of Two Rivers Paper gave to me (thank you, Neil!) It's handmade by him, and rag-based; and very different from what I'm used to using. It's very forgiving; you can lift watercolour off the surface and try again if you goof, and you can layer it up to make quite intense colours. I worked on a very small scale here, which was a mistake; but there you go, we're always learning, hopefully...


Saturday, 14 October 2017

up the Bradford Flight


It was time to go up the Bradford Flight, that majestic series of one single lock that marks the frontier between the upper and lower West End of the K&A. Below, the cool wooded valley; above, the broad, sunlit (or windswept, depending on the season) uplands. 

map of West End of the K&A

On The Street I failed to get alongside at first, as it was so shallow; breasted up on Fairy's boat for a while and scouted out the stretch further along. The Netties had found a nice spot by the winding hole, where there is some hard standing that you can get alongside; but our friends on Pathfinder, moored close by, were stuck way out into the canal because of the lack of water under the keel.


I admired the artwork on Recalcitrant, and considered hanging around until they moved off on their way to Bristol. I met this boat some years ago in Tewkesbury, where it had been left high and dry by the winter floods of the Severn. Really very dramatic, as you see.

Tewkesbury

...but Astral Dave was moored right there, and life is never quiet when you're moored near Astral Dave and his cosmic dog. 

So I sailed on and found a nice spot between reeds, where I was able to get close enough alongside to use my gangplank, and yet far enough away from it to be able to pull the gangplank in at night and feel secure behind my moat defensive... because this is the badlands here, and there has been a lot of thievery and wanton destruction over the summer; two bridges have been damaged by having great blocks of stone pushed out of their parapets down into the canal.

the old Bowyers factory, as I cycle into Trowbo
But that aside, it's a nice enough spot and there are good neighbours; and the kingfishers perch just opposite, and if I look out of the galley window while washing up, I see the water vole nibbling industriously away by its hole.

  

Friday, 13 October 2017

getting out and doing poetry

Bristol poets on the loose; Deborah, Colin and Pameli

It's been a busy week or so. Last Friday I was guest poet at Can Openers, Poetry Can's monthly open mic lunchtime event at the old fire station in Bristol's Broadmead. 

I looked up the very first time I'd read a poem in public; that was also at a Can Openers, in Bristol Central Library that time, eleven years ago. I walked in and the first people I met ("are you here for the poetry?") were Annie McGann and Alan Summers, the very first to welcome me into Bristol's poetry scene.

This time, I was reading from Drawn Chorus; and suffered the sort of pre-event nerves that had me retching that morning. 

It went pretty well, though, I think, and it was nice to catch up with some friendly faces I'd not seen for ages. Sadly, no photos.

Monday's launch party was at Monty's, a rather nice cafe run by May Colquhoun in the Montpelier area of Bristol. She also kindly invited me to display the illustrations from the book, so I had a frenzy of ordering up prints and buying frames from IKEA ( as you do). 



And the evening also went very well; there was a nice crowd of people, some of whom had travelled a fair old way to be there, like Adrian, Carol and Lorraine here, friends from the canal.


...alas, no other pictures. 

Colin Brown, Deborah Harvey and Pameli Benham also read some of their poems from the Gert Macky back catalogue and elsewhere. Thank you!

Poetry Can is a great organisation, doing good things in the Bristol community. And they've lost their Arts Council funding. Which is a right bugger.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Drawn Chorus - an alphabet of birds - launch party



As part of Bristol Poetry Festival, there's a launch party for the new book, at Monty's Cafe, 62 Bath Buildings, just off Picton St in Montpelier. Monday 9th October. Starts at 7:30. Wine and nibbles and stuff, and guest readers. 

There'll be an exhibition of the illustrations too. 

It's a really nice cafe run by May Colquhoun, fresh back  in her hometown after a couple of years of adventurous cooking in Australia. 

I'm also guesting at Can Openers this Friday. More details on this and the rest of the festival, over at Poetry Can


Thursday, 28 September 2017

unherd

DSC_1058
So many sheep, if asked, would tell
you how they’re wild and free
and independent minded. Hell,
they’d say, you won’t catch me
consorting with the common herd.
I’ve even grown a fine goatee
and listen to Coltrane and Bird,
and read the works of well-known potes.
I think conformity's absurd.

But when they round up all the goats
they'll hide inside their woolly coats.

for National Poetry Day, which is today, and this year takes 'Freedom' as its theme.

Friday, 15 September 2017

home to roost


I picked up great piles of pictures yesterday! Minuteman Press had finished the new greetings cards, the magpies and the starlings, which you can find on the Etsy shop. And then over to Niche in Stokes Croft, where I collected a gert huge pile of prints for the upcoming exhibition. Unfortunately, IKEAL were out of the frames I'd been hoping to get, so framing is slightly delayed.

What exhibition? I hope you're asking. Why, the one to accompany the launch of Drawn Chorus as part of the Bristol Poetry Festival, down at Monty's, the fine cafe down in Montpelier. Full details to follow, obvs. Lord, exciting times.


Sunday, 10 September 2017

cauliflower in the sky


The rain started as I drove through Bath. By the time I had reached the north of the city it was raining as hard as I've ever known it in Britain.

Then it really started to pour.

Driving over the Mendips was a bit like cruising along the canal, but with more splashes coming up through the floor.

So I took it nice and easy, because you're a long time dead.

Dropping into Pensford I remembered the flood there that washed away the road bridge in the ...1950s? 

The van in front of me indicated right, and slowed down; it was about to turn into one of those lanes that come down at a sharp angle to the main road. I slowed to an almost-stop, and waited; then realised he needed to do a three pointer to get round the corner, I stopped.

There was an almighty THUMP. The van behind me had clouted the back end of the Moggy.

I won't go into details because TBH it's a bit upsetting. I'll be taking the car into the Morris Centre next week to have the damage assessed.

Anyway, I carried on with things, feeling a bit unreal. Later, I walked with Brendagh up the hill behind her house, and in the early evening sun we saw Brean Down, Steepholm and Flatholm, Lavernock Point at the tip of Glamorgan, and the far smudge of Exmoor and what was probably Countisbury Head in the far distance. You may need to click on the photo to enlarge it if you want to try spotting them too.


On Saturday I cycled down to the Benjamin Perry Boathouse on Redcliffe Quay in Bristol, for the bookstall that I was joining in with for the Bristol Doors Open weekend.

It was so busy that I didn't get time to tale a photo to show how busy it was. Here's a quiet moment with Mark Steeds of the Long John Silver Trust and Bristol Radical History Group, though. 

Every now and then there would be another great deluge of rain and the place would fill up with refugees. Outside, the Guides, who run the boathouse these days, were rowing and canoeing gamely to and fro, and hordes of visitors shuffled into the Redcliffe Caves.

It was nice to catch up with the Bristol book people; it's been a few years now since we last did one of these stalls.


Later, up on the side of the Cotswolds, I stopped to take the panoramic photo at the top, because the sky was so spectacular. I think that's a big cumulonimbus cloud in the middle. You cant see the one that looks a bit like a cauliflower, next to it, because the tree's in the way.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Bristol Doors Open Day, and books

I got a call from Roy Gallop of Fiducia Press. "Why not come to the boathouse for Bristol Doors Open?" he said.

I could think of no good reason why not.

So on Saturday (but NOT Sunday!), you'll find me, and several other Bristol publishers, offering bargain books for sale in this fine old building where you can also get the cheapest bacon butties, cakes and cups of tea and coffee on the whole harbourside.

Obviously, I'll be touting Drawn Chorus, my new anthology of bird poems and pictures, as well as a few other things.

We'll be at the Benjamin Perry Boathouse on Phoenix Wharf, in Redcliffe.


View Larger Map

It's a good place to seek out; there it is, that big black wooden building there. You can either walk down the long ramp from Redcliffe Parade, or follow the cobbled road round from the Ostrich pub; or come through the gate on Redcliffe Way.






Tuesday, 5 September 2017

a slow voyage into autumn



I've slowly moved down the Avon valley from Bradford on Avon to Bath, as late summer turned to autumn. The jays are all busy in the woods, gloating over their acorns and bobbing to and fro with them; if the valley isn't reafforested with oak trees, it won't be for want of their trying.


Where around midsummer at 4:30 in the morning the sun would be streaming into the forward window, casting a beam the length of the cabin, it is now decidedly dark with no hint of the dawn. Yesterday I lit the fire for the first time since spring, to banish the feeling of chill and damp that came as much from inside me as outside the boat.

Dashing to and from Bristol to sort out various admin things, like an overdue eye test and then picking up the new specs; the latest ones are reactive. You know, the ones that go darker in bright light. This will be a challenge; I rarely use sunglasses because I prefer my light unmodified as much as possible. 


Driving back from Bristol, I stopped at the Waitrose on the Keynsham bypass. Returning to the Moggy and setting off along the A4, I suddenly had misgivings that I'd left my phone on the roof of the car. But I could hardly scrabble round in my bag, and the traffic was norrible so I kept on going. Up round the top of Bath and down Brasssknocker Hill. I'd been avoiding this route since the first time I went down it in the Moggy; it was a really hot day and by the time I was approaching the static queue of traffic at the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill, the brakes had faded so that they scarcely worked at all. Managed to avoid pranging the van in front of me by putting it into low gear and switching the engine off.... anyway, I've improved my survivability by going VERY SLOWLY down the hill and be damned to anyone fretting and fuming behind me.

And on arriving at Dundas I searched high and low and ...the phone was nowhere to be found. I took my laptop round to Craig's boat and piggybacked his internet, and logged into the 'find my iphone' thing. And lo, my phone was showing itself to be on the side of the A4 between Saltford and Newton St Loe.

So I drove back there. It is really a Very Unfriendly Road for anyone but motorists who are doing a hurtle. But I managed to pull over, and to find the phone.

Poor little thing; all mashed and smashed, but still presumably sending out its last faint SOS...


...so it's been an expensive old week. And, since (I tell myself) it's never too late to unlearn learned behaviours, I am determined to:
  • always put my specs back in their case as soon as I take them off, to avoid scratching the lenses
  • never EVER Put The Phone On The Car Roof For Just A Moment While I Sort Out The Keys


Look! This is me arrived at Bathampton and about to set off for Bath proper, having filled up with water.

And now I'm on Darlington Wharf, and Chris and Jinny are moored up next door too, and there's proper internet for the first time in weeks and I can catch up with admin of all sorts. And get on with some ART.