Friday, 16 September 2016

sunbathing llamas

I watched two clouds solidify into what looked like long thin lenticulars, and took a picture of them because it was that sort of morning. They'd already lost some of their solidity by the time I took this, but it's a nice photo. 

Sometimes a photo I've taken makes me very happy because it manages to look even better than the actual moment I was in. Sometimes, you just can't capture that moment, real or imagined, with a photo, and you have to either draw a picture of it or accept that some things just have to be lived. There was a nice moment the other night when a low flying Hercules flew across the nearly-full moon. But I didn't have the camera at hand and anyway, it would have been a rubbish photo. You just had to be there. And, of course, you'd have to dig aeroplanes.

The leaves of the big willow by the swingbridge are turning yellow, and falling; not all at once, though; so that I looked up one morning and saw that the branches were becoming visible through the thinning foliage, and the bridge landing is carpeted with leaves. Warblers and long tailed tits hunt through it; in the morning the chiffchaffs sing, and the robins turn up the volume on their song. In the evening, the robins all along the canal begin singing at the same time, and you know that autumn is here.

Just up the hill is the herd of llamas that I put on my canal map. I got a message from Jo, whose herd it is; she'd seen the map and liked it. But they're not llamas, she tells me, they're alpacas. She knits their wool, and has started an Etsy shop. "If you see they're lying down, don't worry, they're just sunbathing," she said. I told her I'd noticed this habit of theirs, and sent her my poem. 

Alpacas, though. Not llamas.
Llamas have no self respect.
Horses always sleep erect
as do cows, and, I suspect
both elephants and camelopards.
Can it be so very hard?
It seems so. In that nearby field
they lie as though they're lately killed
or they were English holidayers
in Tunisia or Marbella.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

death of a deer

"Otter?" -my visitor had seen something odd swimming past the window, and was trying to make sense of it.

"Ah, muntjac," I said, and grabbed the camera. We watched intently; the deer swam to the bank opposite, which was steep and concreted, and tried to get out. He finally succeeded, but was obviously unsteady on his feet, and a hind leg was dragging. He settled under a hazel tree. Presently, he limped along the bank into the undergrowth.

Deer -and other animals, and indeed people -often get into difficulties in the canal; the bottom is muddy and treacherous, and the banks steep and surprisingly difficult to climb out onto, as I have found to my cost on the three occasions I've fallen in. A friend who fell in last January, at night, was stuck in the water for several hours before being rescued, and suffered badly in consequence. At least the deer was saved from drowning, but there was still cause for concern.

We kept an eye on him, and Chris and Jinny, my boating neighbours, called Penny, a friend who is very good and knowledgeable about rescuing wildlife in difficulties. But there wasn't much you could do; the deer was mobile enough to melt into the dense undergrowth if approached. If you didn't know he was there, you'd never guess from this photo, would you?

The next day he fell in again, perhaps while trying to drink. When he returned to the hazel tree, we saw that his back leg was evidently badly broken.

The local wildlife trust sent a marksman, who shot him with a .22 rifle. We rowed across and picked up the body. In death, he seemed tiny. He had abscesses on both back legs and had evidently been very badly injured; rutting? hit by a car? Who knows.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


Here's Capricornus, the goatfish constellation. I hummed and hah-ed about whether to have a snowy landscape (because the Zodiacal Capricorn has its time in December/January) or an autumnal one, because that is when you can actually see Capricorn in the stars.

I went for the autumn one, as you see.

I've been looking out for the constellation, but the autumn skies aren't as crystal clear as winter ones, and so far it's eluded me. But the moon is waning so maybe I'll get to see it soon.

Here's another pic I did recently, for the Canal and River Trust in Devizes. It's a panorama of the Caen Hill locks. I tried posting it up a few weeks ago, but the internet's been a bit dodgy out in the wilds. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

the floating market

Next weekend, 30-31 July 2016, will be the very first floating market to be held on the Kennet and Avon Canal. 

It will be at Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, between the lock and the tithe barn.

It will be open from 10- 4

There will be art, photographs, leatherwork, jewellery, woodturning, basket weaving, fender making, sweet shops, body art (or simple face painting if you prefer), music, and all sorts of stuff. It will be a hoot. Several hoots, in fact. 

So be there!

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.... 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'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