'Now should I go to the left or should I go to the right?'
Misty was run over and killed today in Wales playing like she used to.
I've just heard, I have to go now.
‘Watch out for jellyfish, don’t step on one, it’ll sting.’ My Mothers warning each and every time I ever stepped, bare footed, onto the beach. I never did step on one and I don’t know anyone who ever has – does anyone?
And then last week, washed up on the sand at the edge of the water, all silvery sheen and trailing tentacles, the gelatinous mass looking like a creature fallen to earth from outer space, a Moon - and I almost did.
I almost set foot on the Moon, well a Moon, almost walked on it, almost but not quite. The common jellyfish, a biggish one, almost a foot across, not the biggest on record, but big enough. Occasionally one will grow to four feet in length, Aurelia aurita, the common jellyfish, a Moon. Not dangerous like the Box or the Man of War, not a killer, but dangerous enough to cause a painful rash if you were to touch the tentacles.
I didn’t. I left it alone.
No bones, no brain, 95 per cent water, a little poison – the jellyfish, not me.
I found a huge Lion’s Mane jellyfish once; washed up on a Cornish beach, washed down from the arctic, an eight feet lump of fly covered yellowish jelly. And only a couple of weeks ago, mingled with the bladder wrack on Whistling Sands, thousand on thousand of tiny Saucers thrown up on the sandy shoreline, the sea full, the beach covered, their delicate pinkness turning to dull grey in the warm holiday sunshine.
This is the Ju-Ju Jesus Peanut. I don’t know where he came from - he just appeared one day, drifting out from the tip of my black fibre tipped drawing pen, flawed line, by cracked and broken line.
The Holy Peanut - performer of the Miracles, resurrector of the ducks, carrier of the portable cross, he has the hoodoo voodoo, he has the voodoo hoodoo - he wears the hoodoo voodoo heart.
He lives the life - chased across the desert and captured by the Cow Poke, imprisoned in Smudge’s Greatest Show on Earth, rescued by the Whirling Dervish, worshipped by the Pini, the fish processing people of All Souls, chased by Dali’s cats, set free by the Sonia, she who neeeeee’s, lost in King Uzal’s jungle mines, and the constant thorny thorn in the sidey side of Flavius.
One day Ju-Ju Jesus I will tell your story, one day.
All hail the Holy Peanut
Up and over the top of the hill, up into the darkening sky, and down beginning down, I saw it - the clown smile on the landscape, a hurdy-gurdy scar of colour in the fields.
The circus was in town, the circus was back in town.
Well, not quite in town, but on the outskirts, at the crossroads - the outskirts at the crossroads where all bad things, evil things, should be. Now I’m not saying that circuses are bad, and I’m not saying that they’re evil, I’d never say bad things about the circus or circus folk – but, ‘cross my fingers, don’t wave at the clown, don’t stare at the tiger, the circus is in town’.
There’s something about the circus that I love and hate, something that both excites me, and at the same time frightens me half to death. I feel no indifference for the circus. I can’t take it or leave it. I either go or stay away. Either way, I can’t really rest until the tent is furled and packed safely in the tent lorry, the wagons loaded, the clown’s ladders stowed, and the summer circus no more than a memory, a tattered circus poster flapping in a winter wind.
Why this should be I simply don’t know for sure, but I’ve always loved and dreaded the circus. It isn’t the clowns, or the ringmaster’s red coat, his black top hat held out for all to see, and it isn’t the sparkly cowgirl on her pure white horse, nor the aerialists, or the jugglers, the strong man, the band, or the smell of the sawdust, it isn’t even the candy floss balloons.
I think it’s the tigers.
When I was a boy and the circus came to town I’d wait for the tigers to escape and come to eat me.
My comics were full of tigers escaping from the circus and terrorising small English towns, and wherever you went people would say say; ‘I hope the tigers don’t escape and come to eat you.’ Everyone said it when the circus was in town. My Uncles and Aunts, my Gran, my Mum, my Dad, Mr. Smedley, Mr. Bingham, Old Mother Annie, Mr. Click-Your-Sticks. They all said; ‘I hope the tigers don’t escape and come to eat you.’
I’d spend three long days and even longer nights praying that the tigers would stay safely in their cages and not come to eat me. And, after my trip to the circus, I’d run home convinced that the tigers were just behind me, rushing to bed to hide my head beneath the imagined safety of the big, green, eiderdown.
They don’t have tigers at the circus any more. They aren’t allowed to – health and safety, the animal protection league, too many small boys eaten for tiger’s dinners. Doesn’t make any difference though - ‘cross my fingers, don’t wave at the clown, don’t stare at the tiger, the circus is in town’.
Meet Spindel the donkey - well almost donkey, he has the udder of a cow courtesy of an orange rubber glove. Spindel is the creation of Hannah, Number 2's (
We met up with Rick, Liz, their son Jake, and of course Hannah, whilst they were on holiday on the Llyn. Everybody collected the bits and pieces we needed to make Spindel, with Hannah providing the most important pieces and of course overseeing his construction. Spindel started out as a sheep, then a cow (hence the udder)), but you have to go with what you can find when you make a beach sculpture and what we found turned out to be a bit donkey-ish.
We left him standing quite happily expecting to be fed on the sand and pebbles waiting for the moonlight magic. That’s what happens to beach sculptures, they wait for the moonlight magic and when it shines on them they come to life and wander away.
I wonder where he wandered to.
This is the view that explodes on me as I drive down from the mountain from Llithfaen as I turn the corner beyond Pistyll and drive towards our tiny Welsh cottage in Edern, ready for another weekend.
Such magical names and not pronounced at all as read. Llithfaen is Cliffvine, Pistyll is Pisterth and Edern, well drop the ‘r’ and we may have
Looking across the double bays of Nefyn and Morfa Nefyn, on towards Porth Dinllaen with the Ty Coch (the pub on the beach) an invisible (but minds-eyed) red speck in the distance, I'm almost home, almost there, and I feel my body relax and some, often most, of my worries drift away.
Another place, another world, almost another me - and here's the small thought - anything is possible here, anything may happen, anything.
Anything? Maybe it’s not such a small thought after all.
So this is what it’s like to be in prison. ‘Set me free, set me free.’ No chance of escape with that row of guards behind me either. Talk about ‘The Three Stooges’, they look a bit stern don’t they, and there are more of them hiding behind the cupboard. Hisfault puts them in front of the door sometimes, at the bottom, where the cold gap is. I don’t know why, maybe they’re guarding it.
Anyway, I feel like a caged animal in this thing, I can’t think what possessed me to climb inside. Mind you it does have its compensations, for one thing you can see all around so nobody is going to creep up on you without you knowing, it’s quite cosy in an airy way, and, it has inbuilt air conditioning.
Ah! That’s why I climbed inside; it seemed like a good place to take a little cat-nap. Oh well, I might as well find out if I was right or not. At least I’ll be safe whilst I sleep – perhaps being guarded isn’t so bad after all.
Who was it who wrote that he must go down to the seas again?
Whoever it was I know how he feels. I can’t go long without needing the sight, smell, and sound of the sea – the tang of the wind on my lips and the feeling of spray against my skin. I wasn’t born by the sea, but you are never far from the sea in this island nation of ours, we are all seafarers at heart. Even Church Flatts farm in Derbyshire, the spot that’s furthest from the sea in the
I doubt that there are too many people in the
For me that couldn’t be an option - the sea is always with me no matter where I am. I need its physicality to feel complete.
Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps I need a wild call and a clear call, the call of the running tide, a windy day, and the flung spray, and the sound of the sea -gulls crying. Maybe I need the white clouds flying to keep my feet firmly on the ground, and the experience of the sea to stop me from becoming being all at sea.
Maybe I need its constant consistency and pattern, the knowing that it’s always there, to keep me sane.
It’s been a spell since I nonsensed up a verse and doodled down a character.
Flicking through my doodle book one day last week I came across this poor creature, her name’s Katie Cake. She was once the centre of a love triangle which led to a terrible and bloody vendetta between Mr Smudge and Flavius, but that was years ago, and anyway, her marriage to the baker didn’t last.
Katie loves cake, ‘oh yes she does’, but baking cakes has inherent dangers, particularly when love turns that slightly skewed corner onto Compulsion Street…
(or the dangers of cake making)
Katie Cake, oh Katie Cake,
All she ever did was bake.
Up with dawn all wide awake,
Setting to with no mistake,
As though her very life at stake,
Nor any rest did she ever take,
Although her hands would pain and ache,
Of food, she never would partake,
And water too, she did forsake,
She mixed until her legs would shake,
And tiny eyes turned red opaque,
Till mouth would bleed and knees did quake,
And the tips of her fingers began to flake,
She mixed so hard her arm did break!
Oh Katie Cake, oh Katie Cake
Stop baking cake for heaven’s sake,
Instead take that bloodied lump of steak
And warm it in your skillet.
She spent her birthday delayed in a French airport waiting to get a flight back from her language study trip to Nice, with a quick tour of
She was due to be home late evening giving us a little time to celebrate, but by the time she landed it was three in the morning the following day, and her birthday had passed.
A pity, but her friends and teachers celebrated with her at Nice airport with the free meal vouchers that the airline gave them, and we opened presents and cards when she arrived home, going to bed around five-thirty, just as the birds were beginning to twitter.
So the day after her birthday became Holly’s birthday celebration day. Here she is blowing out the candles on the little cake we got for her. We could only fit eight candles on its chocolate strewn surface, so she had to blow them out twice.
Happy birthday Holly – and no you don’t look a dork in the pictures, you look great. Now, make a wish!
I went to the dentist last week. Nothing major, but major enough to have both top and bottom gums frozen with half a dozen injections and then twenty minutes of deep, deep, cleaning.
Walking to the dentist, all fresh breeze, scudding clouds, bursts of sunshine, and the ever present threat of rain, reminded me of my long walks to school as boy and teenager. It was that sort of day, one of those past days so full of potential, odd really as I was only going to the dentist, but at the same time I there was a strangeness to the walk, and I hadn’t even had the drugs yet. I could see an early autumn on the way –chestnuts forming, conkers already brown inside the spiky green, some leaves beginning to attract their autumn hue – must be the hot weather
Walking back from the dentist was even stranger. I needed more injections than expected and I was floating. The world had a rosy glow, colours were even more vivid, everything had a slightly slanted perspective and I seemed to float a little above the pavement. Amazing.
I get the second half of the treatment next week, can’t wait.
So this is a horse.
Doesn't look much. I don’t know why the Whirling Dervish Girl Thing makes such a fuss about them, all they this one seems do is stand in the corner and stare. It doesn’t even sleep, and I’ve never seen it eating. But the WDGT rides one all the time I’ve heard, so there must be something in it.
Well, what’s so hard about riding? It doesn't look very hard and I had no problem mounting this Dobbin, one leap and I was in the saddle, totally in control, fully in charge of my steed - no hissing problem.
Right, time for a canter, time to take the reins and get this thing moving. Come on Dobbin, giddy-up, giddy-up, let's get movin' - WAGONSSSSS ROOOOLLLLLLL!!!
Move will you, goddarnit, you lazy critter! Why am I doing all the hissing work!
According to my grandmother it will now proceed to rain for the next forty days and forty nights.
Driving home through Oxfordshire yesterday I could see that St. Swithin was getting into the swim of things, trying to make his mind up whether to deliver forty days rain or forty days shine and it looked like he came down on the side of the rain. The clouds were huge, the sky was black, and at times the rain so torrential it was like driving underwater. I stopped to take a picture of a rapeseed field and got drenched running back to my car.
Swithin was a Saxon Bishop of
As he lay on his deathbed (no doubt brought low by all the ‘good working’) he asked to be buried out of doors where he would be trodden and rained on. An odd request, but then imminent death probably gives you a new perspective on things like ‘final resting places’, and for nine atmospherically fine years his wishes were followed.
But then, one sunny 15th July in 971, the monks of
Of course the flip-side of the rain coin is that if it is sunny on St Swith’s Day then we will have glorious weather for the next forty days and forty nights - although, according to the Met Office, it is all (surprise, surprise) a myth, nothing more than an old wives tale (or in my case an old grandmother’s tale). On the last 55 occasions when it has been wet on St Swithin's Day 40 days of rain did not follow and weather was pretty much as one expects from a British Summer – mixed.
Oh well, we’ll have to wait and see won’t we.
Sometimes even I don’t know why I blog a thing. It can be anything that sets me off, a cloud, a tree, a stone. This time a plant, a beach plant, a plant that I so wanted that I considered digging it up and taking it home for an instant. But I didn’t.
After all, how could I disturb her quiet existence?
Just another beach and wandering through the dunes I came upon a Sea Holly. I tried to grow one once, bought from Woolworths in a paper packet and placed in a sandy soil. ‘Guaranteed to grow or your money back’. It didn’t flower, it didn’t even leaf, instead it died and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for my money, so deep was my sense of failure. But here she was, so full of life and prime, locked in sand and shingle, all thriving to make me smile with my almost happiness.
Such beauty within the waxy stem and leaves, the yellow green of the young florets, the deep lilac of the adult, a slowly changing movement from one to t’other for every floret aged between.
The leaf of a Holly bush and the flower of a thistle, but neither – a member of the carrot family - dig up the pale, thick, fleshy root and boil with sugar to make candied eryngoes. I never have, but 'they' say it tastes good. They know so much those them, almost everything - almost but not quite all.
I’m pleased to see her and I don’t know why, anymore than I know why I’m telling you that I found her, anymore than I know that the Sea Holly is a she, anymore than I know why I’m blogging her.
Even 'they' don't know. Perhaps it was the almost happiness that for an instant she brought to me.
This is the hill at the end of our lane, or it might be at the end of our world, who knows?
It’s one of those places - you find them everywhere, they’re not particularly breathtaking, there’s nothing special going on, but when you see them you know that you just have to keep on looking, you can't help yourself.
Maybe it’s the light, or the space, or the way the wind moves over the surface. Maybe it’s the emptiness, the noise of the breeze as it moves through the grass, the fear of the climb, the shame of the tumble. Perhaps it's all of these, or maybe it’s something locked within ourselves that connects with the place and holds us there, captivated and imprisoned.
I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t pass the hill at the end of our lane, or the end of our world, without looking long and hard, as if I’m expecting to see something new, something wonderful, something that will make me understand whatever it is I need to understand.
Just an empty hill – some grass, some sky, some gravity. One of those places; you find them everywhere, one of those places where some day something will happen.
Once in Criccieth I came across a line of shiny silver fish, whitebait I think, a foot deep and almost half a mile long. Thousands on tens of thousands of tiny lives washed in by the waves and dumped on the sand to die a wriggly death.
Another time it was birds, Guillemots, dozens of the poor things. Brought down by the wind and washed up to be left to dry to matted feather lumps on the shingle. I reported it to DEFRA, it was at the time of avian flu scare, but they never came back to me.
Starfish carpets, jellyfish mattresses, a seal or two, once a small dolphin – there’s always some echo of drama on the tide-line.
This time it was spider crabs, legs, claws, bodies - a long line of spider crab pieces stretching the length of Hell’s Mouth like some kind of crazed model kit. I found over twenty large shells in a couple of minutes, orange, yellow, brown, green, and hundreds of legs and claws – a complete colony of spider crabs, washed up and wrecked on the pebbles.
As I carefully arranged them on the driftwood backdrop I’d positioned to maximise the photo-opportunity of their tragedy, I wondered what had happened to them. How did so many creatures come to their end simultaneously to be thrown up onto the shore at Hell’s Mouth creating a two mile line of crustacean debris? A fierce storm, a strong current, a giant wave – what maelstrom of nature did they get caught up in I wonder?
Perhaps that’s the way - one moment swimming happily along, the next caught by something completely unexpected and…
There they are again, the three dots of uncertainty – how I hate them.
Well I would go out, but it’s raining and windy, so I think I’ll stay indoors. It looks horrible out there. What should I do I wonder? I could have a little sleep I suppose, or I could play a game of charging around, I like playing charging around - up the stairs, around the bedrooms, up the curtains, across the hall, onto the sideboard, on top of the Teleboxthing, into the kitchen, under the table, and then some nice nin-nins as a charging around reward.
There that’s my day sorted – a game of charging around, some nin-nins, and a nice long sleep. Who needs the outside anyway? Just look at that rain.
white sun stings the eye
black swallow soars hunter high
flat to ground I fly
I don’t know whether a Haiku should rhyme or not, I’m told that it shouldn’t but then I’ve also always been told that a Haiku should be composed of three lines, the first having five syllables, the second seven, and the third and final line five…
on my back beneath
black swallow soars hunter high
surrounded in light
above me a bird catches light on the wing as my eye follows
You’ll have to imagine the above in vertical. To make it even more complicated English is a stressed language (no wonder with all these Haiku complications), and ideas can simply be expressed with just a short line, followed by a long line, and then another short line – so no need for syllable, mora, verticals, or unit counts at all…
laid down beneath
black swallow soars his hunting high
and in his eye I fly
Better, but all in all, complicated. But I may just keep working on it, even if it is really easy to make a cheesy Haiku (no, I’m not going to try, although you may think I already have).
After all, how can you go wrong when the masters of the genre had names that sound like the Japanes equivalent of the seven dwarves – Shiki, Buson and Basho, to name but three. So there you have it; Haiku in two minutes – Haiku! (bless me).
Note to myself: Perhaps I’ll call myself Bluto, or was that a different cartoon?
I came across a boat, blue, white, and set on sand. Not washed away, but waiting, tethered by a rusted chain. Bit by bitter bit, not little by little, bit by broken bit, wanting washed away. Aground and chained, and waiting to mend, to rust, to bend, to snap, set free, and sail away .
So standing, thinking out to blue, better stormy sea than stood set sand, the longest chains will bend to snap, and broken boats will fix to float - I knew.