Wednesday, 23 May 2018

World Turtle Day 23 May

To celebrate World Turtle Day, make sure you know the difference between a Turtle and a Tortoise - they are not the same creature.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Fleetwood Mac, 'Oh Well' - My Desert Island Discs - 2

I loved Fleetwood Mac as a blues band, long before they became a pop group. I saw them live more often than any other band apart from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, where three of the band originated anyway. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were Mayall's rhythm section when Eric Clapton left and Peter Green stepped in. It was an improvement! Clapton is technically brilliant but his guitar playing has no soul. Peter Green has a true bluesman's soul, his voice and songs are from that soul and his guitar is sublime.

All three musicians - Greeny, McVie and Fleetwood - subsequently left The Bluesbreakers and became Fleetwood Mac.  Mayall didn't miss them, that band has always been about him anyway, I don't think he ever really liked others in the limelight. He frequently changed his line-up and he's still touring today.

The last time I saw Fleetwood Mac live, at the Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone in 1969, they played 'Oh Well', written by Peter Green, which was on its way to becoming a hit record - it reached no.2 in the UK charts. For the live version they were loud, though not as loud as Led Zepplin who I'd go to see a month or two later. However by this stage Fleetwood Mac had three lead guitarists - Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. As a live band they were unsurpassed and though the opening riff and the major part was played by Greeny, the others joined in - the intensity of the sound was incredible. As far as I remember, they didn't play the eight minute full length version.

As the rules don't allow me to take my copy of Fleetwood Mac's first album (known as the dog & dustbin album) to the desert island, I chose  'Oh Well', because of that live performance and for the defiant lyrics -

"...don't ask me what I think of you,
I might not give the answer that you want me to!"

I didn't love Fleetwood Mac after the three guitarists had left and the Mac became just another pop group.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Shape of the Beast

grass is bad now
smells not sweet
grass is dry now
taste of dust
sticks to tongue 
Not filling hunger

smell of Acacia tree 
tree here good 
makes shade from hottest sun
between nights.
Tree makes food shade 
Smells of gerenuk
so no leaves to reach up
in the sand 
fallen leaves fallen fruit
good good fruit sweet chewy 
plenty fruit fill hunger…

itch on shoulder
no tick birds here
Acacia tree here
good for scratching…
gooood for scratching...

Small roar not of lions
lions are beyond the hill
small rumble
not of elephants…
rumble bigger…
not stampede of wildebeest 
no wildebeest when ground is driest…

turn from tree
face ears to sound…
listen more...
smell more...
taste the air...
Rumble not of rhino
no smell of rhino…
rumble and chatter clatter…
not monkeys…
not porcupine…
not wind, no wind, much heat
chatter of hyena...

smell of…
smell of… 
smell of the long black track beyond the lion hill
The beasts of the black track are here 
beasts that roar and sting
beasts that kill lions
kill elephants


face them 
Face Them 
Rumble not of thunder,
smell of the long black track
shape of the rumbling beast  chatter clatter

flashes not of lightening
Face the beast 
Horn down…

Friday, 20 April 2018

New Header Picture - Every Picture Tells a Story

Another picture to tell another story.

A forest, looks almost familiar, we've all walked through a bit of woodland, haven't we?

I did in past times write a short story about dinosaurs... it needs re-writing.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Fair Weather Gardener - Springtime in an Inherited Garden

Magnolia flowers
Springtime is exciting! There are at least 16 varieties of flower in my garden at the moment and I've done nothing to encourage any of them since last year.   As I've lived here less than three years I'm still discovering things as I get more on top of the place, which was hugely overgrown when we arrived.

These are all native - I mean as opposed to being introduced to the garden by me :-

Heather, a largish (for heather) bush of dark pink flowers has been in flower since early December. It's nearly over now and going brown, I may need to prune it.

Camellia, covered in vivid rich pink flowers has been flowering since the end of the cold spell in March, the flowers are browning now and starting to fall, but still lovely. I thought I didn't like pink ...

Forsythia is a glorious blaze of rich yellow spires up to eight feet high, after having not a single

flower last year - I had pruned it heavily so probably my fault, never had Forsythia before so I didn't know.

Kerria Japonica Pleniflora - is covered in pretty yellow multi-petalled flowers and I didn't even know I had this shrub! Last year I cut down a load of winter Jasmine in the corner where this has appeared.

Snowflake - white flowers like tall snowdrops on very long stems, these have been in bloom since January, almost over now.  The problem is they produce huge amounts of tall, densely packed leaves which swamp smaller plants, so I'm cutting them back as they finish flowering.  I will dig quite a lot of them out as they're spreading, unbidden.  There was a small clump of proper snowdrops too, much prettier but they didn't flower for so long - I still prefer them and will transplant some more.

Hyacinths in white and pink have been planted (not by me) in random parts of the garden - they keep falling over but do smell nice. I'd guess they were originally gifts, in pots, planted out after flowering.

Bluebells, the gorgeous little cousin of the hyacinths, are just coming out - a few of them are white and some are even pink - don't as me why! Pink is just wrong.

Tall Daffodils are just finishing and being eaten by snails.

Primroses, the pure yellow variety, very pretty rosettes of leaves too, but I need to control where these appear they can cause allergies.

Tulips in yellow and red - some even striped - are dotted around, I may try to move them into clumps for better effect - or just plant lots more.

Grape Hyacinths - or muscari to you!  Delightful little purple/blue flowers beside the path and also
  popping up in unexpected places. And the bees like them too.

And the following I have planted in containers and pots:-

Rosemary - there are two small bushes in separate pots just starting to flower, I've also planted one in the ground as I want a decent size shrub by the lawn - this one not flowering yet.

Miniature daffodils (Tete a tete) are still doing quite well in their pots, away from the snails. I'll put them in the ground later.

Magnolia 'Susan' - a shrubby variety with long slender purple flowers - it has survived in a pot for 8 years in the cold north, is now burgeoning in the south, though still in its pot. Should I liberate it? I'm tempted but not sure where to plant it.

Fritilleries - I planted these as bulbs early last year in pots and tubs, they've come up for the second year running and were looking wonderful until the sun came out. Then I saw a few holes in the blooms and thought damned snails. Today I saw the beautiful scarlet of several lily beetles... two of them were mating. Oh well, the fritillaries were fun while they lasted. I refuse to use insecticides.
Fritillaries and viola

Viola - super little variegated purple and white ones which I planted in springtime last year, in the same tub as some of the fritillaries, and they haven't stopped flowering ever since!

Hydrangea - a deep pink one which starts as variegated buds, very pretty, bought in Morrison's. Deserves to be planted somewhere...

Oxalis - pink flowers just beginning to come out. But it's very invasive, I keep trying to pull it out... oxalis you have been warned!

French Lavender which I was given and will plant somewhere, at the moment it resides in a small ornamental watering can.

White Heather is lucky. It's in a pot and I will plant it once I've decided where...

... and then around the lawn there are glorious golden dandelions which the bees are very keen on, and lovely little white daisies with yellow centres and deep pink rims to their petals. You might call them weeds, I just weed around them.


Sunday, 25 March 2018

...if nobody speaks of remarkable things...

... is a 2002 novel by Jon Mcgregor.

I picked it up because I'd heard his name and heard of his 2017 prizewinner, 'Reservoir 17'.  I'll read that next, just ordered a copy,

but back to ...remarkable things... 
“This is ecstatic writing..” said the TLS reviewer of this book and they are exactly right.

This is a Breughel painting of a story, set in a street in a Northern English university town. The writing seems straight from the mind in free flow, freefall even, it reads as uncensored, unedited, unaltered and I hope this is so. When the ideas, the words just pour from the mind and onto the page and keep coming and keep coming it is a kind of ecstasy. Most writers will then take it apart, edit, adjust, re-arrange into something more conventional, more deliberately structured. More ordinary. This book is extraordinary. It’s not perfect, it is remarkable. I will read it again once I’ve got my breath back.

That's how I feel about the quality of the writing, as a writer myself. I'd like to think non-writers can enjoy the book just as much, it isn't a difficult book. I'm sure I would have loved it 30 years ago before I considered myself a writer. It's a rolling wave of a book, carrying you along for almost it's whole length with the anticipation, then breaking suddenly and shockingly, even though you were expecting a shock, before dumping you on the beach, feeling forlorn that the ride is over.

The storyline holds so many characters, few with names, but their lives on a street during one summer day are so empathetically detailed that you feel you know them all: 

The little boy with a red scooter who travels joyfully and up and down the pavement of the short street. The graduate student slowly and methodically packing his somewhat bizarre collection of possessions before moving to another student house. The married woman whose resident in-laws have gone out for the day and who goes to bed with her husband for a short joyful interlude  while their children play cricket in the street. The mischievous twins who spy on a neighbour doing his exercises in the nude... There are students, young couples, families, old couples... all play a role in the narrative. 

If I mentioned all the characters I would write another book. One girl student's narrative weaves through the others in first person and leaves the short, one day timeline, although all the observations are not hers. This was the one part of the book which I found slightly less satisfactory, her story was perfectly good, I just found it distracted from the ride. However it tied in with the ending. 

I won't say more, no spoilers. I love this book! Do read it if you haven't.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan - review

This story begins at a woman's funeral and I soon wished it had begun 20 or so years earlier when that entertaining sounding lady was very much alive and bounding around between all her lovers. She was probably engaging which is more than you can say for the lovers, and the husband, who congregate at the funeral.

Coincidentally another novel, also by an Ian, although with an extra i (Iain) also begins at a funeral. Here is the first sentence of both novels:-
"It was the day my grandmother exploded."
"Two former lovers of Molly Lane stood waiting outside the crematorium chapel ..."

The first is the opening of Iain Banks' delightful mystery "the Crow Road," Banks remains one of my favourite Authors. The second is, obviously, from Amsterdam by Ian McEwan and the entire book is not up to the author's best standards. The writing is probably clever, his writing usually is, but the characters are so unlikeable that one doesn't give a damn, I had to make myself go on reading.
The portrayal of composer Clive Linley shows a convincingly vain and self-centered man convincing himself of his own genius (even while acknowledging that
the term is over-used) and blithely disregarding his responsibilities to his friends and to a stranger who he witnesses being attacked. He is only obsessed with completing his masterpiece, his millennium symphony which will premiere in a few day's time. There are some good descriptive passages on his surroundings in his chaotic home and when he goes hiking up towards Scafell Pike.

Meanwhile Vernon Halliday, insecure editor of upmarket newspaper 'The Judge', is less rounded as a character. His surroundings are hard to visualise, although an office is an office is an office - maybe that's the author's point - and his motivation is muddled. One thing he is clear about is his desire to bring down Julian Garonwy, the Foreign Secretary. Garonwy is equally unlikeable though even less detailed.

The end is surprising unless you're paying attention early on, which I admit I wasn't really, but it's not a shocking finale unless you cared. I didn't. Oh yes, Amsterdam is the location of the story's denouement, otherwise it's totally unimportant.
Ian McEwan's position as one of my favourite authors is in danger of slipping. This is actually my second attempt at getting through this story of arrogant men, being arrogant. There's meant to be some humour here, but it's hard to spot, there is room for so much more. 


That's my review published on GoodReads - for some reason I can't get this blog to link directly to the review, so I've copied.

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