Sunday, 23 July 2017

downhill from Devizes




After our early summer slow voyage to Hungerford, we've returned to the West End of the K&A ready for next weekend's Floating Market at Bradford on Avon. While in Devizes, we helped friends up Caen Hill; here are Tiff and Matt at the start of the main flight, with Chris at the lock. And we in turn were helped down by friends. It makes it so much easier and more fun.

Walking back up to Devizes with Sue, who'd come visiting, we popped over the the Jubilee Wood, adjacent to the flight, and saw that the information boards with my pictures on had been installed. Funny seeing your own work there like that.




...after a few days at Sells Green, we've moved down through the much smaller flight of locks at Seend, and are now moored in a lovely spot between Seend and Semington. Chris and Jinny went out walking last night, and saw the local barn owl at very close quarters. I'd had an early night! ...the owl was still very active this morning, along the banks of the Semington Brook. This is a different owl, the one that flew by us regularly at Great Bedwyn.


...here's some spraint I spotted on our travels. But I'm not saying where. An otter was found dead on London Road in Devizes two days ago. Probably hit by a car, of course; but the Devizes Issue Facebook group posted the story up and several commentators, anglers all, were very hostile to otters. So it's best to keep schtum about sightings. I did post up a link to my response to this sort of thing, Otter Madness, that I wrote when an otter had been poisoned in Marlborough. It pissed off a couple of anglers, so a small result!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Drawn Chorus - an alphabet of birds



The new book is done! I was up in Bristol yesterday and today, helping out at Minuteman, the friendly printers, such was my keenness to get it done as soon as possible. Here's the scene this morning, as they went through the stapling and folding machine, the penultimate stage of the transformation of blank paper into a real life book (the final stage is trimming the edge opposite the crease, as you may have surmised). This machine is great fun, and reminds me a bit of the old Bamfords baler that we used for haymaking back at Hafod Fach, with its assortment of  kerchunks and ticks and low dronings, though without that majestic WHUMP that accompanies the compressing of a bale of hay. Hey, though, can't have everything.



It is rather wonderful, that last bit where all the loose paper suddenly becomes a real book. 



...and now I'm back on the boat (in Devizes, at the mo) treading that fine line between thinking it's not bad really and not wanting to SHOUT ABOUT IT UNTIL EVERYONE'S SICK OF IT.

So. I done a book. You can get it here, on Gert Macky. But, gentle reader, I'll still like you if you don't. 




Sunday, 28 May 2017

little bobbing humbugs

Moving ever eastwards, we are now near Wootton Rivers, a fine spot with a good deep mooring - in the last couple of miles before the village we tried mooring a few times and couldn't get near the bank without running horribly aground on mud.

We're sheltered by ash and beech trees, which made the recent hot spell far more comfortable; living in a big steel box can get a bit difficult when the sun beats down on it. Along the side of the towpath is a ditch with a stream trickling along it; this is the Hampshire Avon in its early career. Down in  Pewsey you can stand on the bridge and look down into the clear water and see brown trout keeping station against the gentle current.


A pair of spotted flycatchers are nesting in an ivy-covered tree just opposite the boat. I watch then dart around the glade that is their hunting ground, then perch and wait for their next victim; they're very hard to catch on camera, but exciting to see; I've only ever seen them fleetingly in the past. They're quite distinctive with their upright posture and their big eyes.

And cuckoos! Never heard so many cuckoos. I'm trying to learn how to make that ocarina noise with my hands so that I can call them to me. No joy yet. "I'm learning a new life skill," I told Boat Teenager the other day when we Facetimed... it's never too late, after all.

Next weekend I'll be exhibiting at the house of my friend, artist and poet Hazel Hammond's house on the Easton Arts Trail in Bristol; Rebecca Swindells will be there too; there'll be my pics and Marietta's Wardrobe, a mixed media project about clothes, grief and loss, and poetry.

Jinny Peberday described ducklings as humbugs. Seemed a good description.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

sparrowhawk



I'm concentrating on finishing my bird alphabet now; each letter gets a poem and a picture. The poem always comes first, so I can plan ahead with how to fit the text onto the picture. The sparrowhawk poem was written after I saw one flashing through woods and disappearing so abruptly that I came up with the idea that, the less sure you are that you saw anything at all, let alone a sparrowhawk, the more likely it is that a sparrowhawk just went by.

Here's the untweaked painting; I first illustrated beech leaves like this for another picture of Leigh Woods at bluebell time, but I prefer the feel of the newer picture; it seems to work better as a picture and as a watercolour. Though the leaves are a bit too spiky for beech. Damn.



buzzard in the woods

Friday, 19 May 2017

when a tree falls on the towpath and you don't hear it, it's still there


It's no great inconvenience that you live out of earshot of most human activity and amenities, if you've got everything you need right there with you.

So when it poured and poured down on Wednesday, I philosophically commuted the ten paces from my bed to my desk, by way of the bathroom and the galley, and spent the day painting pictures and writing. 

It was a good day, and I was happy with the work. That night I slept the sound sleep of one who knows that they've done their best and it was fairly OK.

The morning started with a robin singing at 0415, followed rapidly by the blackbirds and song thrushes. The song thrushes here would give the heftiest coloratura opera diva in all of Milan a very serious run for her money.

It is really all very nice. 

So I got up and brewed some strong tea and finished the fiddly last bits of the painting.
And looked up to see the sun rising. As you see from the photo. 

After a shower and putting on city togs I was ready to go to Bristol to pick up some prints. But Chris from the boat next door called me out.

"Dru! Have you seen this?"

At abut nine o' clock last night, a very large tree had fallen over the towpath and into to canal. I'd heard something, but just assumed it was the Pongoes playing wargames over on Salisbury Plain. Chris and Jinny my neighbours had heard it and investigated. It had narrowly missed a hireboat, whose occupants had phoned the Canal and River Trust to inform them. 

Here it is look.


So I changed into my CHAINSAW TROUSERS, the wearing of which is like one of those dreams where you absolutely must escape from something but can hardly move. But it's probably better than accidentally cutting your own leg off. And we all got to work, cutting and splitting and carrying away. Because the towpath needed to be unblocked, and if you get a pile of firewood as a byproduct, then why ever not? This is enlightened self interest at work here.

This is a very quiet section of canal, but we were interrupted twice by local folk demanding to get by; one was a dog emptier (you can easily distinguish them from the similar dog walker by the way they are so anxious to precede their dogs on their walkies. In this manner, they can be unaware that their dog has a bowel that it is quite happy to void on the towpath, and preferably right outside your boat, on your mooring pins for maximum points. It's a neat trick if you're into that sort of thing, allowing you to be at once oblivious, supercilious and Always In The Right).

They squeezed by in the slowly widening gap.

The middle of the trunk was a rotted hollow, with a huge ants' nest and signs of several types of beetle, including what looked very much like lesser stag beetle burrowings, though we found no living ones. Out of season, probably.

Here's Chris, looking as cheerful as we all were. What better way to work up an appetite for breakfast?



Monday, 15 May 2017

rescuing a flooded boat


Little things like LED lights, mobile phones and internet are a hugely useful part of boaters' lives; plenty of folk are enabled to run international businesses while being in a lot of other ways off grid (the last book I published was put together on board and sent off as a print-ready file from a bale of straw in the Vale of Pewsey...) - and our very long, very thin village is its own information superhighway.

On Saturday, I was idly drawing cormorants, as you do, when I noticed a post from Penny on the canal Facebook group. Her boat was filling with water; she'd got out of bed to find herself standing in water. Not a good feeling, when it's your home. She had done what any sensible person would do, and made a slice of toast while considering the next move.

People swung into action; I have a handy little submersible water pump (rescued from the bins at Dundas, and repaired) which I bunged into the back of the car along with a big bag of tools, and set off.

By the time I got there, things were looking less alarming; Penny and Sherry Jim, who was moored just down the way, had got a fair bit of water out using a bilge pump and aquavac, and she'd identified a leak from the gurgling of incoming water. There was a small hole in the bottom of the hull. Because the boat had been lifted onto the ledge (fairly gravelly here) by the passage of a speeding boat, the water was not actually rushing in, though lifting it off the ledge would increase the flow substantially.

As we pondered, more helpers were appearing along the towpath; at one point there was a small procession of folk carrying pumps and assorted Useful Things, trailing down from the swingbridge. There was no shortage of ideas for How To Fix It. We started by sealing the hole temporarily on the outside; as you see in the picture, Kev went in with a piece of rubber matting, which he slipped under the hull as other folk put their weight on the outboard side to lift it off.

Then we dried out the flooded section, and plonked a patch slathered in mastic onto the hole, wedged down with a bit of timber. It was kind of like this

...though obviously more pikey boater.

Meanwhile, a catsitter and cat basket appeared to take away the Boat Cat, and a welder and emergency dry dock arranged in Bradford on Avon. And there was cider and pizza too.

And away went Penny. Sorry, should have taken more photos.

Back to the cormorants for me. They're for my bird alphabet.


Saturday, 6 May 2017

K&A Floating Market, Bradford on Avon, June 29-30 2017


What it is
For the second year running, there'll be a floating market on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. Artists, craftspeople and traders who live and work on the canal will have their stuff on display and for sale by their boats. There will also be stalls for other traders. And music and stuff.

Where it is

Bradford on Avon is in the valley of the Avon south of Bath. Lots of it is too steep and inaccessible for cars, so it's good for walking around. Check out the medieval tithe barn, the saxon church, the maze of twisty little passages (all different), the ancient packhorse bridge over the Avon. But better still,  it's also the hub of the Kennet and Avon Canal's West End, and there's a lock, a basin and boatyard, and lots of boating action. And pubs and cafes too, right by the towpath.

Here's the canal on Google Maps Streetview. Get here and you'll have no problem locating the market; it's on the wharf below the bridge towards the tithe barn. Follow the noise!




How to get there

The railway station is close to the canal; if you're driving, there are car parks down by station and the river Avon; and another car park right by the canal, off Moulton Drive.

Some of the attractions

It's on the weekend of the 29th-30th July. As last year, there will be art from me, fine leather work and art from Skyravenwolf, silverwork from Anna Berthon, body art from Hannah Southfield, Laura on the fender boat doing ropework, Olivia Hicks art, Kytecrafts, and much more stuff too. Also music and (quite possibly) poetry. 

I'll add further details as I get them, so this page will be useful as a source of info.


my new version of the canal map, which will be on sale
some work by Chris and Jinny of Skyravenwolf
Hannah Southfield's work!

Nicola Penney's Floating Salon (Facebook page here)

Venryr's Floating Arts Workshop
stoves by Kev Kyte!
Shine On The Water -brasswork and jewellery