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Monday, 5 December 2016

tales and tails from down under


 Apologies to anyone who might be thinking "where's November's blog post?" "Has she gone into hibernation?" "We want Pixie's interesting fact!" The reason is we have been travelling in Australia and NewZealand.
Pixie's interesting fact by the way is that King Penguins can contract their pupils into a square.
We didn't see any King Penguins but we did see the tiniest penguins in the world and two sperm whales. (or the same one twice - they hold their breath for around 50 mins under the sea and I guess it was about fifty minutes before we saw the second one.

 What awe inspiring creatures they are and how gut wrenching to think that they have and can still -be illegally killed to make soap.
 "And when the last great whale died, no sigh was heard upon the land but in the beaving of the tide, with every throb, oceans cried, and cursed the ways of modern man."



When we were in NZ Nature certainly had her revenge. We were in an earthquake 7.8 on the Richter Scale. It tipped us out of our beds and the little beach hut we were in shook and shook. We were right by the sea and people were scared that there would be a tsunami. Thank goodness for technology though. We were able to have constant updates through the media about the tsunami threat and didn't have to drive off into the mountains which - where we were - would have been a bit of a trek.


Meanwhile back home, without being woken by an earthquake,  hedgehogs were already hibernating. This one was just coming in through the gate when I left incredibly early for the trip over a month ago.


Beezle was in charge whilst we were away and ran a tight ship. He reported back on the USA election results and as he and Isaac Newton would say "Men build too many walls and not enough bridges."
Modern man eh? Beezle has assured me he is not a modern dog.


 The frosts have felled all the dahlias but these pics are a gentle reminder that they'll be around again next year with any luck. A box full of bare rooted roses had also arrived in our absence and with the aid of a pickaxe to break the icy surface, are now bunched together in the soil.
On the book front - The Dog, Ray has been nominated for the Carnegie Award (along with a hundred others - but just saying) and is this month's Kid's Pick in People Magazine in the USA. (circ. 3.4million!) Hurrah. Beezle in charge of fan mail..




I have posted this poem I wrote before but it seems so appropriate given the whale.

Ambition

As I float in the Caribbean Trash Vortex
caught in the reams of carnage,
thirty carrier bags, two stretches of hosepipe
five flowerpots, a flip flop -
in all fifty nine different
pieces of plastic - lodged in my gut
I dream of breaching out to sea
whacking my vast tail on the surface tension
of the blue ocean
leaping out of the waves and crashing back
scattering spray on the way
which catches and glistens
in the early morning rays of sunlight
under the wide sky.
Being a host to a myriad of smaller
organisms who as devoted followers
nibble and clean and scurry and hurry by my side.

That would be my ambition
as my airways clog with polystyrene beads
like mermaid's tears
and I can no longer move with
my necklace of plastic detritus
tethering me to the sea bed.

a small ambition for one
so very large.

Monday, 17 October 2016

circuses and carcasses


I've always been a bit of a circus girl. I don't know which bit - heart probably.




I often weave a circus or two into some of my stories and when I was very young I had an imaginary friend who for some odd reason was a female juggler who I called Mrs King Kong Kelly. They are interesting imaginary friends. According to Psychology Today, imaginary friends can be a source of comfort when a child is experiencing difficulties. Difficulties in running away to join the circus probably. In fact if the truth be known I had two imaginary friends. The other one was a very small Scotsman called Jock Mac Hockercock who wore a tartan cap.  Don't ask me where he came from but writing it down now I can see I was interested in rhyming words at an early age. Perhaps having imaginary friends helps in the creation of characters when you become a writer. I wonder how many other writers had imaginary friends?

me and Trude dressing up for Country Living Magazine. Photo Craig Fordham.
Perhaps the circus thing is the dressing up coupled with my love of horses. Here is Harry looking very un-circus like. He's a willing horse but a bit clumsy and he can't count. Not that I know of anyway.



If I had a pound for every time someone said to me about Pixie "you could put a saddle on that.." it wouldn't be worth much in this present political climate. I think the saying probably is " I've been told you could put a saddle on that more times than you've had hot dinners." A curious notion. None of us can count how many hot dinners that would be.



 Pixie's Very Interesting Fact she tells me is that the leotard is named after the first star of the flying trapeze who was called Jules Leotard. She's asked me to put the word Very in front of her Interesting Fact column. I told her she didn't have a column just two lines.

 Here are the ducks! The babies are the same size now and they all run around in a column.


As Beezle and Jesus would say " "Consider the lily for it toileth not."


 There have been quite a lot of carcasses left on the door mat, outside the bedroom door, on the landing, in the bathroom and under the table. Some still unidentifiable. Because of this I am not putting up any Cat pictures.

When I gave up the theatre and settled into a domestic life, the poems I created reflected this. I used to perform them in local art centres and pubs and inspired by the rap artist EMINEM I called myself Em U Em - which stands for MUM. I wrote a series of poems called The Dust Collection. Fluff in the Ideal Home being the first. But I see now I wrote one about the circus which seems apt for this blog post.


The Circus



So it’s three thirty five and I’m at the circus
and one child keeps saying they can’t see
and the other is still crying
because the icecream was all sold out
and we’ve had the clowns and the guy
on the slack rope
and then this beautiful black horse trots in
its neck so arched its nose
touches its chest and it is so shiny
the mirror ball flares off its coat
and practically blinds the fellow
playing the violin and I think of Gordon
and the trip to Paris
where we saw the man being a robot
and how I’m not wearing the greasepaint
or the tutu or riding the beautiful horse
and I’ve practically got my bags packed
to run away and then I look down
and see these two children and remember
it’s school on Wednesday
and we still haven’t bought the new trainers
or the geometry kit with the spare eraser
and I look down and wonder
who’s going to sweep up all that sawdust?


Friday, 23 September 2016

blah blah blog



I have picked a series of random photographs to go on this month's blah blah blog.
Mostly of animals lying around because that's when they are the easiest to photograph

Pixie waiting for the postman


But this picture of Pixie- who looks as if she's waiting for the postman, reminds me of the poem I wrote when I was quite young, hoping I would win a pony. The poetry competition was in a National Newspaper (Daily Mirror I suspect) and the poem had to be entitled The Postman. I've already written about how unethical it was to have a pony as a prize but as I was desperate for one I put pen to paper. This is what a remember I wrote:

I stand and watch through the window pane
 the scurrying leaves and the pattering rain.
I'm waiting for the postman - oh where can he be?
It's not for the parcels I'm hoping to see
but because he's my Daddy coming home for his tea."

Hardly Keat's season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. I obviously didn't win the horse. But I don't know where I got the idea from. My Dad was a brain surgeon.



Nancy flopping around by a newly planted climbing rose. Completely unaware that a badger cull is going to take place.

Pocket (quarter Bengal) exhausted as thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

I wonder what Shakespeare would have written and whether or not he'd have won the pony.

double, double toil and trouble
letters come and postmen bubble
fillet of a fenny snake,
in the post bag boil and bake
eye of newt and toe of frog
postman bitten by a dog ......




It is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - this is the view from our road. I think the rounded bales  look like an art installation. Sadly none of this was thrashed by bare torsoed men a la Poldark.


The two naughty garden ducks. They have the whole run of the back garden. Meanwhile in the poly tunnel area motherduck and her two ducklings are all doing well and growing fast.


Probably Beezle's last picnic in the garden for this year. As he and Wittgenstein would say, "Wherof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."



I love dahlias! They keep flowering through to the frosts so the house can always be filled with flowers.
Pixie's interesting fact is that when hippos are upset their sweat turns red.
Sounds a bit eye of newt to me.

Meanwhile Dear Reader - Stop the Badger Cull!!

The Coombe

by Edward Thomas


The Coombe was ever dark, ancient and dark.
Its mouth is stopped with bramble, thorn and briar;
And no one scrambles over the sliding chalk
By beech and yew and perishing juniper
Down the half precipices of its sides, with roots
And rabbit holes for steps. The sun of Winter,
The moon of Summer, and all the singing birds
Except the missel-thrush that loves juniper,
Are quite shut out. But far more ancient and dark
The Combe looks since they killed the badger there,
Dug him out and gave him to the hounds.
That most ancient Briton of English beasts.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

mrs walter's babies and other bird stories

I am happy to announce that 28 days on the dot Mrs Walter's eggs hatched.



 Indian runner ducks are notoriously bad mothers but I think she did really well. Sadly the first two that hatched wandered away from her protective wings in the night and I found them dead in the morning only a few inches from the nest. They had died of the cold. One or two didn't manage to get out of the egg but hurrah! She has two and one of them sports the funny little Ascot hat that she has.

The Indian runner duck people advised me to take the two ducklings away from her and raise them myself but I said "I'm a mother! I couldn't possibly take her babies away." So I moved her and them and the nest (and at the time the two other eggs that didn't hatch) and put them in a big rabbit run. I don't know why I have a rabbit run - we haven't kept rabbits - but there- things turn up if you look for them. She is proving the people wrong and is an excellent mother and they are very funny to watch.

 The lovely Jack has finished his holiday. I do miss him but glad I don't have to keep changing my top. (Read his diary.) Below is an extract from it.
 Jack's diary

It’s rather scary because apart from a lot of books there are other animals here too. Two cats are peering in through the bars and giving me the eye. I am giving them the eye back and hop onto a higher perch. There is also a small horse here and another dog. The small horse has a long tail which wags so it’s clearly a dog too.

When She is writing at the desk they’re ALL in here with us.  One of the two cats on her lap, the other in a chair and the dogs under the table on which I’m perched. Sometimes the stripy cat hangs around my cage hoping I’m not going to eat all the food She gives me. If I don’t want it I store it in the bowl. I demand to be fed by hand which She does but actually I’m quite capable of feeding myself which I do when She’s not looking.

I’m trying out new foods.
Apart from the dog food my favourites are
blueberries.
cheese.
sprouting beans.
seeded bread
and banana! I love bananas! I think I could live on bananas.


She’s given me a little ball which I like to kick around my cage. Sometimes I move it with my beak, sometimes with my feet. It’s fun. I think this might be called football.

I think I’ve settled in quite well. I get a bath everyday in the small horses water bowl. I like this – I can strut around and shake my feathers and I can get my whole head under the water. The great thing is I can see myself in the mirror if I stand on the top perch. I know it’s me and not another jackdaw because I am a very intelligent bird.

BUT sometimes She’ll come in wearing a RED TOP!!!!! aaaargh! This makes me go crazy. I don’t think She should be wearing it- it doesn’t suit her. She came in wearing a coat yesterday which was just as bad. It took me ages to calm down. Now I notice if She’s got that red top on She’ll take it off and put her normal top on before She comes in to my room - which makes me happy.

I’ve found the way to her heart.
When I see her I make a little chirrping noise, lift one wing up and waggle my tail.
I’m just flirting with her but She always smiles when I do it and coos back at me.
I think we are friends.

Peas!!! I love peas! I think I could live on peas. And what’s more I can eat them myself out of the bowl and don’t need to be fed them by hand. Actually I’ll admit it – I am eating by myself though I do still like to have someone put it straight into my mouth.

I’ve found a new trick. I am silent, watching her write and every time She turns to look my way I’ll make some sort of greeting. Now – if I rattle one of the food trays She turns to look at me – so just for fun I keep rattling the tray! It’s very funny.




Here is Pocket contemplating if to come back as a horse in his next life. Certainly not a pheasant.
I have no feelings for pheasants, there are hundreds of them round here for the wretched shooting season and I've always thought them rather stupid birds. But today I was driving back along the track and I saw that the gamekeeper had dropped twelve of them off along the drove. The shooting season is about to start and these are young pheasant that he has been raising and he's obviously leaving them all over the place. I felt such sadness for them. They didn't know where they were or what they were doing. They all huddled together and just ran along in front of the car. None of them attempted to fly and it was a sad sight. They call this sport. It won't be too long before the gamekeeper will be given permission to shoot the buzzards down like they are over the grouse shooting moors.
I have put this Thomas Hardy poem up before but it sums it up. Here it is again Dear Reader - to save you the trouble of trying to find it.

The Puzzled Game Birds.

They are not those who used to feed us
when we were young - they cannot be -
These shapes that now bereave and bleed us?
They are not those who used to feed us,
For did we then cry, they would heed us.
- If hearts can house such treachery,
They are not those who used to feed us
When we were young - they cannot be!


But as Beezle and  Einstein would say, "Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity."
 Pixie's interesting fact (see above for ref pic.) is that

A house fly hums in the key of F.

When people ask me what dogs I have and I say Beezle -  I always feel like that annoying bumper sticker people used to put on their beaten up cars - My Other Car is a Porsche.
and my other dog is a wolfhound.


As there is no picture of Beezle on this post here is a poem I wrote - inspired by him.





   Giving


 Dog – what shall I give you?

A new heart?
You’ve used your old one till it must burst
so full of love and missings
Dog – what will I give you?
At least one new leg?
Shattered and splintered and stitched
it’s carried you over the stubble
the flint and the chalk as if
you stepped only on gold.
Dog – what can I give you?
New eyes? Now clouded they’ve
seen things too swift for people like me
to even give a name to
Dog – what could I give you?
A new tail?
Yours has wagged and pointed and spun
for all those dog years.
I’ll give you a new tail to steer

you into the next time.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

animal hotel


When I was a child I took over the old chicken house in the pit and turned it into an Animal Hotel.
I kept the mice and the hamster and other odd animals like tadpoles in it - dreaming of it to be a hotel where any animal could stay.



Sadly I never got any guests - but NOW I have my very first. A jackdaw called - Jack.

Someone rang me up and said they were going on holiday and could I look after their jackdaw that they had rescued from the centre of the A34 when it was a fledgling. I was delighted. After all, now Quigley has gone I had a spare room with en suite bathroom. He arrived with his own room as it turned out - a magnificent parrot cage and I've supplied the en suite by means of a dog bowl full of water which he delights himself in by stamping up and down and getting his wings all wet then spending ages preening and cleaning his feathers. Like Quigley he demands to be fed by hand but unlike Quigley, when he's had enough, he'll take the last morsel of food and store it in a bowl clamped to the side of the cage. I've looked in and it does appear empty now which tells me one of two things.
1. He CAN feed himself and is pretending he can't.
2. There's someone else in the cage with him.

Anyway he's very chatty and if I talk to him and tell him how beautiful he is he answers with a series of chirrups, squawks and grunts.


Last month a fox took one of the ducks - I had had five and when I put them to be  I only counted four. Last week I went to put them away early and there were only three. I looked everywhere and assumed the fox had had another - even at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I feared it was going to be like Agatha Chistie's  book - Ten little Indian boys and that day by day the numbers would be reduced.
Anyway the next day after I'd let them out and came back I saw there were four ducks after all. The answer was that one of them had made a little nest lined with my plant labels and some feathers, laid seven eggs and was sitting firmly on the nest. The nest was hard to find as it was extremely well hidden. The mother to be  is very sweet and is there the whole time, seldom moving. She must be so bored. I've left some food and a pile of magazines nearby. I don't put her away at night or her eggs would get cold so I'm praying the fox doesn't find her. Indian runners don't normally sit on their eggs as the light levels aren't right so I've no idea if these will hatch. We have to wait twenty eight days to find out. At least she's not a small elephant or we'd have to wait two years.
 Nancy seeing if she can hatch one
 and Beezle. As Beezle and Wittgenstein would say "If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done."
 and Pixie.


Rosa Chandos Beauty 
 I'm having a bit of trouble furthering the new story I am working on and asked Beezle, whilst he was sitting on his egg, if he could help. But he says he's busy ghost writing the autobiography of Red Rum. I told him Red Rum was dead and it would have to be a biography as who will they think had written it if the horse was dead. He told me that obviously a ghost would have written it. Then he told me to write my own story and stop bothering him.

Pixie's interesting fact is:

A race horse's name can have no more than eighteen characters including spaces and punctuation.
I told her that was a bit like Twitter and she said how could she possibly know that - her paws are much too big to work the keys on a smart phone even if I had one.



The Jackdaw.


There is a bird who, by his coat
And by the hoarseness of his note,
Might be supposed a crow;
A great frequenter of the church,
Where, bishop-like, he finds a perch,
And dormitory too.

Above the steeple shines a plate,
That turns and turns, to indicate
From what point blows the weather.
Look up -- your brains begin to swim,
'Tis in the clouds -- that pleases him,
He chooses it the rather.

Fond of the speculative height,
Thither he wings his airy flight,
And thence securely sees
The bustle and the rareeshow,
That occupy mankind below,
Secure and at his ease.

You think, no doubt, he sits and muses
On future broken bones and bruises,
If he should chance to fall.
No; not a single thought like that
Employs his philosophic pate,
Or troubles it at all.

He sees that this great roundabout,
The world, with all its motley rout,
Church, army, physic, law,
Its customs and its businesses,
Is no concern at all of his,
And says -- what says he? -- Caw.

Thrice happy bird! I too have seen
Much of the vanities of men;
And, sick of having seen 'em,
Would cheerfully these limbs resign
For such a pair of wings as thine
And such a head between 'em. 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

pixie selfie



Not content with just having an 'interesting fact' section in this blog - Pixie has decided to take over the photos as well and has started with a Pixie selfie.



She has persuaded (don't ask me how) some of the others to do the same - so this is a Beezle selfie (see his philosophical quote later in the piece)

 a Harry selfie ...............

 a Trude selfie ..................


she couldn't persuade Pocket (quarter Bengal) because he said he'd just laid an egg and was tired.


 and come on Pixie - you don't think I'd honestly believe this rose took a selfie?(This rose by the way is called For your eyes only and is completely beautiful - it opens up like a gorgeous peony.)



Pixie is claiming copyright on the photos though.

Her interesting fact is:

King Penguins can contract their pupils into a square.


So Quigley the quizzical rook has left my head for the skies. As you can see he was getting a bit attached - not good if you are hoping they'll go back to the wild. He had taken to flying onto my arm where he was still demanding to be fed - then hopping with graceful agility onto my head. One day he just sat on my shoulder and wrapped his wings around my neck. The day after this picture was taken and a few minutes after I'd popped into the poly intending to feed him (then remembering I'd left a pie in the oven) - he found a hole and flew away. I wish I'd seen him do it -  his flying was getting really good. I'd loved to have seen him air borne. But perhaps like it's said, that some people wait for you to leave the room before they die, he waited for me not to be there before he went.




I miss him of course - but rooks are sociable animals and I'm pleased his rookery was only a stone's throw from the poly. Later I heard a plaintive Aarkk! Aaarkk! and the maternal instinct kicked in. I looked up to where the sound was coming from - expecting to see Quigley sitting on top of the grain feeder - only to find about fifteen young rooks all with their mouths open. Word must have got round. 

 I'm always thinking the rook flying overhead is Quigley and may well do an emergency landing back on my head - but of course I have no means of knowing which one he could be. Thankfully though, he has transitioned and reached for the skies.

As Beezle and Socrates would say " Man must rise above the Earth - to the top of the atmosphere and beyond - for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives."

 The corvids are such intelligent birds and I can't bear it when I hear that people shoot them or catch them in their odious Larsen traps to attract more corvids that can be put to death.
 Henry Ward Beecher - the nineteenth century American clergyman and wit said:
"If men had wings and black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows."

This is so true - I think Quigley was more intelligent than a lot of people I've met from the nearby town.


So as this appears to be a mainly photo blog post we are putting up two pictures by Mark Ormerod, a recent guest at the Pink Tower who has taken a series of truly beautiful pictures of the wild life around us. He's obviously done some deal with Pixie and I'm pleased she hasn't claimed copyright.
Thank you Mark.







And, Pixie says that the Atchaeopteryx is the first bird - incase you didn't know.

I think that's two interesting facts, Pixie.

The Archaeopteryx's Song by Edwin Morgan

I am only half out of this rock of scales. 
What good is armour when you want to fly? 
My tail is like a stony pedestal 
and not a rudder. If I sit back on it 
I sniff winds, clouds, rains, fogs where 
I'd be, where I'd be flying, be flying high. 
Dinosaurs are spicks and 
all I see when I look back 
is tardy turdy bonehead swamps 
whose scruples are dumb tons. 
Damnable plates and plaques 
can't even keep out ticks. 
They think when they make the ground thunder 
as they lumber for a horn-lock or a rut 
that someone is afraid, that everyone is afraid, 
but no one is afraid. The lords of creation 
are in my mate's next egg's next egg's next egg, 
stegosaur. It's feathers I need, more feathers 
for the life to come. And these iron teeth 
I want away, and a smooth beak
to cut the air. And these claws 
on my wings, what use are they 
except to drag me down, do you imagine 
I am ever going to crawl again? 
When I first left that crag 
and flapped low and heavy over the ravine 
I saw past present and future 
like a dying tyrannosaur 
and skimmed it with a hiss. 
I will teach my sons and daughters to live 
on mist and fire and fly to the stars.