Thursday 25 February 2010

Beautiful Birds (20): On a Wing and a Prayer...

(This is a Long-Eared Owl - I have yet to capture a Barn Owl on film...)

You may well have read A Gull on the Roof by Derek Tangye or Beasts in my Belfry by Gerald Durrell, but I wonder whether you have seen these statuesque juvenile Barn Owls in the stone quatrefoil. Do take a look here at the amazing shot by photographer, Richard Brooks. The church is Christ Church, Fulmodeston in Norfolk, the beautiful county where I lived during my teenage years.

P.S. I was browsing through the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust site for this post, when I came across a curious feature on the Mountain Chicken. How much do you know about this threatened creature? You can read about it here.

P.P.S. On the subject of wildlife conservation and literature, do read about Wildlife Poetry and the Born Free Foundation Poet-in-Residence, Richard Bonfield. Many of us have followed Richard's work over the years in magazines like Reach Poetry (Indigo Dreams Press).

Monday 22 February 2010

Seasonal Spotlight on Aberglasney (2): February 2010

I thought it might be interesting to compare the following photos with ones taken on 9 June 2009 at Aberglasney, the garden lost in time and home of the poet, John Dyer, Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK. So this is a second batch of occasional seasonal photographs.

'Hear the thrush, while all is still,
Within the groves of Grongar Hill'

John Dyer (d.1757)

  • The House at Aberglasney (partly open to the public, often with exhibitions)

  • The view from Aberglasney to Grongar Hill (the view from my favourite seat)

  • The Upper Walled Garden (with Celtic design flowerbeds)

  • The stream in Pigeon House Wood - my apologies: my eyes alighted on the robin, and I forgot to photograph the stream!

  • The Cloister Garden: an early crocus

Invertebrate Life
  • I did not take any photographs of invertebrates this time. I noticed a number of snails in the stone-work. I looked for insect life on the edge of the pond in The Pool Garden, but did not see anything. (We have seen newts and an eel here: my photo of an eel at Aberglasney is here)
Bird life
  • This magnificent Red Kite was circling overhead.

  • I think this was a Green Finch. It was hard to see, right in the tree top - but its yellow feathers glinted in the sunlight.

  • I guess it was not surprising that there was no sign of the Pied Flycatcher we saw last June.

  • Snowdrops (and at top of post)

  • Early signs of a Bluebell

  • Primroses
... And finally, for Aberglasney's literary links (Wordsworth, Gillian Clarke...), you may like to click here. I hope you have enjoyed this virtual visit to the garden.

We drove home via the castle at Dryslwyn, where we saw a Nuthatch...

and a Tree Creeper...

Thursday 18 February 2010

Wonderful Words (10): Withywindles and other Watery Words

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree:
where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Above: The Peat Moors Centre near Shapwick Heath, Somerset Levels
The Centre has now been closed down.

Below: The Somerset Levels

The Weaver of Grass is hosting a meme today on dialect words for a small river. Like others from different corners of the globe, I have left a few 'stream' words in her comments box. You may be wondering about the 'withywindles' in my title. 'Withywindle' is a word used by Tolkien for an old winding river.* The verb 'to windle' means to meander. 'Withywind' was a name for bindweed: you can begin to see the connection.

I have been thinking around the subject of dialect, and the origin of the many Welsh and Cornish place names I tend to take for granted. I have lived in Wales now for nearly two decades. I grew up in rural Norfolk, where we had some marvellous local expressions. I have spent a lot of time in Cornwall, home of my great grandmother and great aunts, where wonderful words abound. All these are watery places. I also have ancestors who hailed from Somerset, with its marshy Levels.

WALES: I will begin close to home!

South Wales has, in effect, three broad dialect-specific areas in terms of vocabulary and phonology.
The dialects in question can be referred to as Demetian (Dyfed/Pembrokeshire), Central Southern (Ceredigion and Ystrad Twyi), and Gwentian (Gwent and Morgannwg). There are many local specialities within these broad groupings. In Mumbles, for instance, (with its Upalong, Outalong and Inalong residents), we find the words 'PILL' (as in Blackpill, on the way to Mumbles from Swansea) and 'LAKE' for 'stream'. Incidentally, I have often walked to Frenchman's Pill on the Helford River in Cornwall, thinking that 'Pill' meant 'Pool', but those who read Daphne Du Maurier's novels will not be surprised to find that it can also mean 'CREEK'. I have mentioned a number of other Welsh 'stream' words in Weaver's Comments Box.

CORNWALL: since I seem to be moving in that direction!

Perhaps my favourite word here is 'ZIGHYR' or 'SIGGER' or sometimes 'SIGIJR'. The word means 'lazy', and can be used 'when a very small slow stream of water issues through a cranny underground'. (See here, and scroll down to 'Z').

NORFOLK: and the Broads (see here)

It is worth remembering that Charles Dickens had some knowledge of the Norfolk accent, since he put it to good use in the speech of the Yarmouth fishermen, Ham and Daniel Peggoty in 'David Copperfield'. I love the word, 'GRIP' (or occasionally 'GRIPPLE' or 'GRUP') for a small drain, stream, or 'BECK' (such as Suffield Beck). A 'LODE' or a 'LOOD' tends to be a constructed watercourse. To draw a 'DYKE' (like Catfield Dyke) or a 'DIKE' (like Tunstall Dike) means to clear out a ditch. Norfolk 'DYKES' are normally watercourses, though occasionally they are the high banks on either side - more in keeping with e.g. Offa's Dyke. A 'FLEET' (as in Rockland Fleet) is a channel - or occasionally more of a drain - leading from the river to a Norfolk Broad. Those majestic Norfolk Wherries would have sailed up Rockland Fleet in days gone by, bound for the staithe where I used to paddle about with oars. I have happy memories of watching the 'Albion', one of the last of these fine sailing craft. In Broadland, you also get 'SOUNDS' (e.g. Heigham Sound, sandwiched between Candle Dyke and Meadow Dyke). These are channels or stretches of water - I wouldn't class them as streams - that link the different sections of the waterways. Then there are the water 'RUNS' (e.g. Blocka Run at St Olaves) and the 'CREEKS' (e.g. Boathouse Creek near Dersingham).

SOMERSET: the Levels

I have not spent very much time on the Somerset Levels; but when the opportunity arises, I always find myself greatly enjoying this strange landscape with its peat and sedge. The word that immediately comes to mind, 'RHYNE' (e.g. Eighteen Feet Rhyne) or 'RHINE', is a drainage ditch or canal. Its purpose was to turn areas of low-lying wetland into pasture. I particularly like the area around Shapwick Heath.

* * *

So that just about completes my mini-tour of stream words. On another occasion I might have re-visited other parts of Britain that I know well. If you feel that Cornwall has not been paid much attention, well, perhaps it is because I have saved one of my favourite items until the end of this post. I wonder if you know the wonderful dialect poem, 'The Quest for the Gwidgy-gwee' by Joseph Thomas (1840-1894). You can read it here on the Old Cornwall site; and encounter perhaps for the first time, the lizamamoo and the padgypaow. You may find this Cornish dialect glossary of help. Enjoy...

... and be sure to visit Weaver's blog for a 'wordle'* of watery words. There is now a particularly good list of Welsh one on her blog here.

* My thanks to Peter Gulliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner for this information in their splendid book, 'The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary' (OUP 2006).

* Wordle

Weather Watch (1): Mumbles, Swansea, Wales, UK

'Now we were snow-blind travellers...'

Dylan Thomas

The air filled with flakes of sleet.

The sky darkened.

The snowstorm abated, leaving a blanket of fog.

The storm cloud began to recede.

Soon there were silhouettes on the seashore.

P.S. You can read about the current Swansea literary scene here, in my Land&Lit Postcard about the latest edition of The Seventh Quarry (ed. Peter Thabit Jones).

Thursday 11 February 2010

Magazine Moment (6): Wendy Webb's TIPS for Writers 75

Cold Snap: Leaf

I was delighted to receive the current issue (75) of Wendy's TIPS for Writers magazine, linked to Norfolk Poets and Writers. I tend to start reading volumes from the back - or at least to flick through from the end to the beginning - so my eye was immediately drawn to the amusing 'Podge' cartoon of a wannabe poet mistaking her Haka for her Haiku! I am not a great rugby fan, though perhaps I will take more interest now that I have discovered that a distant ancestor, Charles Monro, was at least partly responsible for introducing the game to New Zealand in 1870.

Issue 75 is packed with poems, reviews, competition details, publications to buy, and a round-up of news. A sample of work from 'Top Tips Poet', Michael Newman, takes pride of place. The first page of his poetry contains two fine sonnets, 'Cold Snap' and 'Landmark'. I have just spent a birthday book token on 'The Cinder Path' by Andrew Motion, and was very interested to see how Newman's 'Cold Snap' and Motion's 'Raven' both tackle the subject (I can't say persona, can I?) of the raven in distinct ways. I sense a resonance with John Dyer of Aberglasney, too; but this may not be the intention of either of these poets. Newman's 'statue-breaths' and 'willow-pattern dells' are two images that will stay in my mind.

Other treats include two Davidian poems by Claire Knight, ever the queen of the kernel in her ability to pack so much into a nutshell. Other poems that stopped me in my tracks were 'Quiet Lanes of Norfolk' (well, those who know my Norfolk roots will not be surprised here!) by Frank Topley - and 'Transience', a fine Davidian by Peter Davies. On the theme of tugging at the heart-strings, I have much enjoyed 'Ex Libris' by Kay Weeks from Maryland, USA. It never ceases to astound me how some poets can pack so much possibility into so few words.

Bernard Jackson has reviewed 'A Waste Land', Wendy's new anthology (which contains a few poems by guest poets, including one about a Cornish standing stone from yours truly). Speaking of Wendy's work, Jackson feels that the poet 'applies the implied rhetoric surrounding major past and present events, to seek out new hope for our world of the future.'

TIPS for Writers costs £3 per issue and is a print magazine. eTIPS is a free pdf which can be delivered to your inbox on request. You can find Wendy's email here if you would like to receive the monthly ezine or would like to take out a subscription to the full print magazine.

Monday 8 February 2010

Carnival Time (5): Simple Pleasures of Life - for Haiti

I am very grateful to Crafty Green Poet for informing us that Chris at Enchanted Oak has been holding a kind of blog carnival in praise of the simple pleasures of life. Update: this event has now come to an end, but Chris and her family have vouched to donate $2.00 to Heartline Ministries, a charity dedicated to assisting with medical and other needs in Haiti, for every blogger who posted a list, a poem, or a prose piece about the joy of simple things during the course of the 'carnival'. Do read the comment left by Chris below.

I tried to limit my choice to 5 items (as the poet in me says 'less' can sometimes mean 'more' - as in Haiku (俳句). It was very difficult to limit the list to five items: on another day, I might have posted a completely different selection of these simple pleasures! I hope you enjoy my choices...

A Butterfly on a Bush
(in this case a Comma)

A Church by the Sea
(this one is at Mwnt, Cardiganshire, Wales, UK)

(reminding me in this instance of Monet's Waterlily Paintings)

A Sunset
(this one is in Cornwall)

Vibrant Colour
(a Tulip)


Thursday 4 February 2010

Carnival Time (4): 'I and the Bird' from Australia to the World

Y Barcud, the Red Kite
seen above Aberglasney, Wales, UK
ten days ago

The carnival, 'I and the Bird', is now up and running over in Duncan's colourful back and beyond Australian backyard bush, 'Ben Cruachan'. You can read my entry or via the carnival site.

Do fly over to 'Ben Cruachan' to join in the fun and to sample a piece of bush damper*, before the birds demolish it all! You might also enjoy a visit to Seabrooke Leckie's carnival pond for January 2010 here.

* This reminds me of 'the drifting bread' in the poem, 'A Winter's Tale' by Dylan Thomas, who was born here in Swansea, Wales, UK.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Creature Feature (13): Homer the Turtle flies into the UK

Cadgwith, Cornwall
where I once saw a large Leatherback Turtle on the beach.

You can read about Homer, the blind Loggerhead Turtle here, and about plans for rehabilitation his new home in Newquay, Cornwall.

Do look at the similar turtle features on Professor P. Brain's ecology blog, here, here and here.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Carnival Time (3): The Festival of the Trees (FOTT)

Caught on Camera!
(through the car window)

The Festival of the Trees is up and running. Do follow the link here for an amazing rollercoaster of an arboreal adventure! My contribution to the festival concerns the New Forest in Hampshire.

Festival of the Trees

Festival of the Trees