Thursday, 22 December 2016

hobo's Christmas

Here's Guy Calhoun's Christmas song. Apart from it being v good, it's also raising money for homeless people. So listen! And maybe do some buying. You can get a download here, and it's only 99p. Go on!

Here's a link to other songs that are both good and, er, good, if you see what I mean...

Thursday, 15 December 2016

gently dip, but not too deep

What with the floating market, towing an engineless boat around, fixing engines, and doing some work for my printer friends in Bristol, it's been a busy couple of weeks. Here are a few pictures.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

the fox that barks in the wood

There's a sure remedy to lying in bed at half three in the morning, worrying about everything there is to do.

So I got up and stoked the stove and got on with this painting of some boaty friends.

Presently the owls kicked up a quick shindig, and then a little while later dawn happened.

With a sunny day, you can do so much more, when you're on a boat; rainy days keep you skulking indoors, but sometimes you really need the extra space that the Big Living Room provides. Today it allowed me to take the bak wheel off my bike and pour lots of oil into the gear hub (Shimano hub gears don't like muddy towpaths)

sorry, I was so engrossed in tinkering with the hub
that I didn't take a pic in the middle of the job
 Then a quick ride to Bathampton to look at Becky's alternator, which wasn't charging the batteries. More by luck than judgement, we found a loose wire and it started behaving again.

Exciting development on the galley front. I found a recipe in the River Cafe Cookbook for pizza fritta. Now, we are always at home to pizza on this boat, and a recipe that cooks it in a frying pan is certainly worth a bash.

Make the dough for the base in the usual way; stretch out as thin as poss to cover the base of the frying pan; cook it until the bottom is nicely done, take off the heat, flip it, put the topping on, and return to the heat, with a cover over the pan (I use a tin plate). And blow me down, it works a treat.

The afternoon slowed down until it was motionless; the low sun ignited the Traveller's Joy with a cold white fire. Then a fox started barking the slow seconds in the woods, and we tiptoed into the evening.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

wasps, hornets, butterflies, maps

The sun came out and I moved the firewood off the roof of the boat down into the the cabin. Tucked up in the wood pile were several somnolent wasps, looking for all the world as though they were dead, stripey pharaohs, but groggily reviving on being disturbed. I evicted most of them, but one flew around the cabin for ages before finding its way out. 

A walker stopped to look at the canal map, and decided to buy one. I'm moored at Hornet's Nest; he asked if I've seen any here. "Yes, but not many. Unfairly maligned, aren't they?"
He agreed. And talked about the hornets he's seen out in Italy. 
"What's the italian for hornet? I know a wasp is vespa, like the scooter"
"Hang on, I know I know it but... bee is ape"
"Direct from the latin, then"
"yes.... ah, calabrone! Wonder what's the etymology? Hang on..." he pulled out his mini computer "'s hard to read in sunglasses ....ah! Uncertain Indo-European origin. Not very helpful."
"Covers a multitude of sins..."

I got onto my computer and jiggered around with my butterfly paintings, as you see. It's a tricky business, colouring the background. I had to lift the text up using a magic wand, and clone out the mess behind it. Sorry, this is graphics software talk. 

Then I uploaded the butterflies to Redbubble, where you can find them. I like the idea of making patterns out of pictures, that can endlessly repeat. Though having lines that continue through each block into the next one is more of a challenge, and more exciting when it comes right.

Deborah was amused yesterday; a colleague had told her she had a friend visiting from the USA, who showed her "a really brilliant meme about Trump and Brexit..." -and Deb knew it was going to be my map. Gosh! I'm certainly getting my fifteen minutes' worth with that. Or at least, the map is. I just threw it out into cyberspace.Go litel book, and so on.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

sundog millionaire

I've got silver in the moon
And gold in the morning sun
The woods seem strangely quiet after the days of heavy rain; and the robins and mistle thrushes are singing even more loudly than usual, having had to up their game during the deluge in order to make themselves heard. The owls are spaced out more, as it were; over the previous couple of nights they all hooted together in the breaks in the rain, but last night they were far more leisurely, and I listened for ages to a particularly melancholy one fading away into the silence long before dawn.
always start with the faces!
Then if you mess up, you  have wasted less time

I was (finally!) at work on a new picture when Chris called me from the boat next door. She'd spotted a pair of sundogs. So I rushed for the camera. See them? They're refracting light through ice crystals, and ever so slightly rainbowy. Here's something similar but even more colourful I saw on May morning.

 Then it was off on the bicycle to Bathampton, to help Becky put a fan belt on her engine. And we drank Rioja afterwards, as you do. I arrived home to a text; "Can I commission you do to  picture of 'Dru to the rescue', with coat flapping?" -I don't necessarily applaud the sentiment, but anyway.

moi, sort of

just another boat going by, pretending to be a Clyde puffer

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

a bit wet

Here's the Avon Valley at Monkton Combe, as seen from my boat on the canal; one taken two days ago before the rain began, and one this morning.

The canal is fairly safe from flooding, at least where we are; there are overflows that spirit excess water away. It's a worry for folk with boats down on the river below Bath, though; that must be jolly scary. Well, I'd certainly find it a bit alarming anyway!

Friday, 18 November 2016

giraffe safari in Bristol

Into Bristol to pick up this year's new Christmas card design from Minuteman Press in Bedminster, my fave printers. Continuing my animals and constellations theme, this is Vulpecula, or the Little Fox. That's the Alton Barnes White Horse in the background, from which you will deduce, astute reader, that this is Honeystreet on the K&A. 

The card's added to the stock in my Etsy shop...

Driving into Bristol through Bridlington, the traffic was shocking bad and I realised that the Christmas retail thing is already happening. In the lane next to me, stopped in the queue, was a woman in a Citroen Picasso car, with a picture on the side of giraffes and baobabs, and the motto ONE LIFE LIVE IT.

Living the one life
she looks up from her phone, sees
the zebra crossing
Then as we passed TK Maxx she turned off into the retail park.

Minuteman have a nice display of my pictures in the window; some new ones for them, like the English and Welsh Grounds Lightship, and Ann Wood-Kelly flying a Spitfire under the Clifton Suspension Bridge;  chose because they're local to Bristol, and because I like them!

Thursday, 17 November 2016


Out in the wet Wiltshire wilds, the first muddy cyclist and highly-equipped walker have yet to appear on the towpath. As the owls wind down for the day, I drink my tea and catch up with the internet.

The boat's cabin's even more snug than usual at the mo; it was a long overdue dhobi day yesterday, and even as I filled the twin tub it started to rain. So the rotary dryer, which I lash, as needed, to the tiller, was not an option. I finally got round to installing the pull-out clothes line thing I found in a charity shop. Its about 50 years old, and has a smiling Katie Boyle (I'm pretty sure) on the box, along with a kite mark. 

I rigged it so that if it falls down, the clothes on it won't fall on the stove and set fire to the boat. Well, hopefully not. It's not a good way to go, a boat fire.

And, while the generator was running (sitting out on the afterdeck with an umbrella tied over it), I did a bit of graphic crunching on the big computer. I've been digging around for suitable pictures for the new Redbubble shop.

This is something I did ages ago when I was trying out ides for textiles, inspired by my old shipmate Yolanda, who now runs Shire Slings (go there for all your baby carrying requisites!).

In theory it's quite easy to do a repeating pattern; draw a picture in the middle of the paper, then cut it into four equal rectangles and stick them back together with what had been the four corners meeting in the middle; then finish the picture.

In practice, it did need a fair bit of tweaking in the graphics programme. Still, it's fun even if it does make my head spin a bit.

Entirely unrelated, but thinking about dragonflies on a wet winter morning, I remembered Dragonsfly, a band I saw in Somerset a few years ago, and jolly good too. Here's Maya Preece

Maya Preece

...and the band. Happy days.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

'quick the struggling withy branches let the leaves of autumn fly'

After so many days of still air and sunshine, the wind got up and the air was alive with all the leaves that had been waiting for the hint. They blizzard across the towpath and rafted up on the water so thick that passing boats had to keep going hard astern to clear their choked props.

Then there was the first proper frost, and the next day, though the wind had died completely away, the leaves just kept on dropping; making enough noise in the still valley to sound as though a large beast was rustling through the woods.

At dusk the vixen crosses the field opposite, and presently we hear her screaming on the hill. Well, I'm guessing it's the same fox. 

Owls are calling at twilight, then around dawn, and sometimes they wake up around one o'clock in the morning and have a natter, too.

And after a week or so you suddenly realise that the trees are almost bare.

Here's the Dangerous Brothers, dropping some firewood off. I've just done a flyer for them. I was helping with some Leylandii in Bristol last week, horrid job, and as we drove back we were brainstorming names for the business. "....local branch?" I suggested. "Special Branch!" said Jim, and it stuck.

Friday, 11 November 2016

a special relationship

The morning after Trump's electoral victory in the USA, my social media feeds were full of shock and grief. My response was to cobble together this map. After Brexit, it seems that the two nations are vying with each other to see who can be more daft and racist.

The picture took off rather, and bounced around the internet and started returning from all sorts of odd corners of the world. Obviously it hit a spot. Though you could argue about which way round 'I'm with stupid' should be pointing... Great Britain is a bit small to have its own arrow pointing back...

Remarkable, the power of communications these days. All this started (and indeed continues, as I write this) from a mooring under a hill in a deep wooded valley in Wiltshire. My office looks remarkably like this, or at least it does today:

Because several people said "That map should be on a t-shirt!" I decided to make that option available. So here it is, on Redbubble

Thursday, 3 November 2016


The tsunami of the industrial revolution swept up the South Wales valleys, and, slowly receding, left long ribbons of towns, and the flotsam of housing estates perched improbably above the valley floor, jostling into the steep hills and tributary valleys where the modest welsh hill farms still huddle behind the humped hawthorn, and the beech woods go on for ever.

...such were the thoughts that went through my head after Deb and I had done a Useful Errand in Risca, and decided to take the picturesque route back to Bristol.

There's a rare cross valley connecting those of the Ebbw and Afon Lwyd, running between Crumlin and Pontypool. It was once a beauty spot, with lakes and woodland walks. Then Hafodyrynys colliery  punched into its side and spilled the slag all along it. But the woods are still beautiful. So that's the way we were headed.

In Crumlin I said "Turn left down here! Let's have a look at the Navigation!"

And so we did. Down the track, one of the few collieries still standing was ringed by very modern linked fencing, like you get at festivals. But the gate was open so in we went. The Navigation was saved because it is listed. It is quite a harmonious group of buildings as you can see. But having been saved, there's always the problem of What To Do With It. Last time I came here a few years ago, a builder had taken occupation of it and put up a helpful sign saying PRIVATE PROPERTY FUCK OFF.

welcome in the valleys

...though that particular cuckoo has apparently flown the nest.

By the far left building were a couple of cars, and a sign advertising a market. We were intrigued, and parked up. A harassed looking woman emerged and told us that the market had been yesterday, and we shouldn't be there. But she relented enough to let us peek into the derelict building, under whose open-to-the-sky walls were ranked some improbable market stalls, and four people wrestling with a gazebo. We waved a farewell, and wandered around the foot of the colliery.

"When I first came here in about 1969, it was as though they'd just downed tools and walked away," I said. "Paperwork all over, and the big winding engines; you could just wander around wherever you liked."

The sad little market stalls amid this dereliction reminded me of a painting in Bristol City Museum's collection; oriental markets in the ruins of past civilisations. Though my memory played me slightly false; here are the pics I was thinking of. But you get the idea.

Our musings were interrupted at last by an outraged shouting. It was the woman from the market. "Don' you go taking photographs! You should come on the open days for that. It'll cost you £10! Sneakin' in yur sneakily..." 

"Baksheesh!" I said as we drove up the hill and away. 

"Sneakin' in yur sneakily!" said Deb.

You gorra laugh.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Christmas Floating Market

The Kennet and Avon canal traders are getting festive. Join us in Bradford on Avon on Saturday 3rd or Sunday 4th December. We'll be along the towpath below the lock, towards the tithe barn; there will also be indoor stalls at the tithe barn buildings. Enjoy mulled wine and roast chestnuts, browse handmade gifts and visit Santa in his floating grotto. Carol singing and Christmas light turn on Saturday at sunset. More details to follow....

Monday, 10 October 2016

watching the sky

After a cold clear night with a very-nearly ground frost, the mist rose with the dawn, and then a sundog appeared; look carefully at the central part of this photo and you can see a rainbow in the cloud there. It was the second time I've seen this; the first was on May Day, and quite something.

On a smaller scale but still rather nice, there was a rainbow spectrum of colours in this spider's web too.

And then presently, a distrail appeared; that's when an aircraft flying through high cloud overloads the water particles, which then precipitate out leaving a clear wake behind the aircraft. The plane has just crossed the sun, in this picture, heading left to right. I understand that the conspiracy theorists believe this phenomenon to be a BLACK CHEMTRAIL, and heaven save us and protect us from the nut jobs.

By the way, I've got a poem on the fine online poetry magazine Spilling Cocoa On Martin Amis. It's about poo. Regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

goats in their season

bloody funny goat
I've been looking for the constellations in the lower sky, which are harder to spot because you're rarely far away from the light pollution of even a distant town. I've now learned to find Lepus, the hare, and some of the stars of Capricornus, the goatfish, though I'm still waiting for the combination of clear sky and no moon to see it properly.

Was unsure whether to do this picture with an autumn landscape, or a winter one. Capricorn is of course the star sign for late December and January; but owing to the precession of the equinoxes (indeed!) now is the time that you can see it, if it can be seen at all. High in the sky around midnight, diving below the horizon some time before dawn.

Anyway, I went for the autumn landscape. As you see.

There are cards with this picture, over on my Etsy shop. 

Friday, 7 October 2016

chariots of mire

Ben Hur, 'e 'ad a chariot
and so did Boadicea
a wheelbarrow is what Ted's got
and this is what you see 'ere.

The wheelbarrow is a popular way of getting bulky stuff and small children to and from your boat, especially when the way is muddy, as it so often is on the Kennet and Avon. Ted was passing with young Alba on board the other day, and I said "Hold it right there for a minute!" as I wanted to capture just such a scene for the canal people project. So here they are. And so is Pan the dog, who came round the next day and pissed on my Workmate, while I was sitting on it. Everyone's an art critic, eh?

Thursday, 6 October 2016


clear island
You who want your country back
waving little Union Jacks,
tenant now this plot of earth
by the accident of birth. 
Greatness never yet was gained
spurning those whose need is great
spurred on by a creed of hate
spread by those with evil aims. 
Nature will not take your side
when you shout ‘get off my land!”
-lines you draw upon the sand
washed out by the rising tide.

a poem for National Poetry Day. The theme this year is 'messages'. I think the poem may need a last verse, but it was breakfast time... 

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.