Monday, 31 March 2014

The Seemingly Inevitable Tragedy of Blackbirds


For the third consecutive year blackbirds are renovating the nest in the Shed of Shame. They seem to think it's a perfect spot. It is in a sturdy shelter. However, there are two problems with it.

1. We keep the freezer here, so almost daily I go in and send mister blackbird into spiraling paroxysms against the stone wall in the far corner. He gives me the jitters and for a few seconds we're both incapable of knowing what to do beyond flutter and flap either physically or mentally. I've worked out the best thing to do is crouch down just inside the doorway so he can see me and know it's safe to fly over me and out. Missus blackbird is not so agitated in her response to me. I think perhaps it's because in the past she has had to sit on the eggs while I enter potter and leave, so even when they don't yet have eggs she has developed a more sanguine approach.

2. The second downside to nesting in the shed is that the entrance and exit is the hole of an old cat flap. We don't have a cat, so that doesn't pose a danger, but once the chicks have outgrown the confines of the shed (shitting on everything in it in the process) they need to hop through the square hole to the outside. I can only imagine the awe and surprise a chick must experience when they discover this whole new enormous world of light and movement and expanse the moment they hop from the shed to the stone sets outside. At least, whatever they are experiencing, they stop still for several seconds on the sets before launching off to somewhere more sheltered. Yes, the sets are terribly exposed.

The worst occasion witnessed was a wee chick last year bouncing off the hole's ledge, into the light, pausing long enough for a sparrowhawk to swoop down and snatch it away. F's instinctive response as witness was to charge the sparrowhawk on its upward flight, chick in claw. Naturally it dropped its bounty before escaping the clod-hoofed human. The chick fell to the ground, not dead, barely alive, to writhe, misshapen, bloody, in a tangle of down and bone, on the sets.

The price of interfering with nature writ large. Again

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Rubber Band Benefit Gig

I put a call out on Facebook a while back for blue or green rubber bands and have done quite well - receiving a varied selection of colours within the spectrum. These are, I think, for the next pamphlet: In Good Weather the Sign Outside Reads Danger Quicksand. A long title for a small selection of prose poems. And it may yet change. As may my intended use of rubber bands. I had such an enthusiastic response to the call out I got greedy and wondered if, instead of using one per pamphlet, I could use two or three - indulge the rubber band thing.

I haven't even decided on the cover as yet - although think (again only think) it'll be using letterpress - and need to find the right materials. I'm feeling more and more certain that the spine needs to be using at least three rubber bands. So for a print run of 50 I'm going to need a hell of a lot more bands.

Hence my idea for a blue rubber band benefit gig.

I'm organising a reading in May for myself and a couple of writers I've not read with before - a poet friend up from London and a short story writer from Lancaster I really admire - just waiting on confirmation of the venue - and would like to use the occasion to launch this new pamphlet. It'll be a pingy springy cohort of creative thought and imaginations, so it seems entirely appropriate for the event to be a repository of unwanted blue and green rubber bands.

Anyone who donates an as yet unspecified number of bands gets a free copy of the pamphlet. The number will depend on how long it takes me to put the pamphlet together and therefore the final rrp.

If you have any spare blue/green rubber bands and would like to either simply donate them or (if you've enough - tbc) trade them in for a limited edition pamphlet - publication date mid May - then please get in touch.

If you'd like to know more about the gig I'll be posting up details as soon as the venue confirms... which hopefully will be very soon...

All rights to change my mind on the make up of the pamphlet - hence any connecting offers - completely and utterly reserved.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Shrove Tuesday

photo: Sue Gill
Pancake day tomorrow and a conga eel has washed up on a recent high tide at my bay-neighbour's shore.

I'm not sure who else she's told about the eel and since I'm not invited to her shrivening supper, and I'm sure you haven't been either, it's quite safe to reveal what I think she'll serve up, as she's one for enjoying extensive menus and ceremony.

I suspect, she like me is, relieved at the thought of some practical flotsam again, something we can do stuff with. Weeks have passed, many of them stormy, since we've had any usable firewood wash up. I don't know why. Plenty of trees must have come down in the winds and there can't have been that much of an increase of people snaffling them upriver for their own burners. Possibly councils have been more vigilant about cutting down trees with the storms, or the by-pass has required a more thorough felling programme.

Either way it's pancake day and it's no coincidence a five foot long eel washed up on her beach, which, while dead, still looked as though it had had a healthy life and, more importantly for her plates, a sturdy circumference.

She didn't ask, but clearly she'd need ideas for toppings for the gluten free pancakes. I'm no gourmet but am happy to chat, over our virtual fence, about possible flavour combinations:
For savoury - creamy mash and black peppered onions or beetroot roasted with cumin seeds provide good contrast especially one as starter and one as main, the first complementing the eel's fattiness and the second cutting through it. Obviously no extra salt is necessary. Toasted coconut meringue and whipped pineapple cream would make a cleansing, palate freshening dessert. Or of course the unbeatable lemon and sugar.

Slice thickness is quite crucial for the success of each dish: the thinner the better, for crispiness rather than flobbiness, apart from the mash/pepper which would be elevated by a good 12mm steak beneath it.

But she's a woman of her own devices. I wouldn't put it past her to make a shin high pair of wellies from it, if I didn't already know she wasn't a wellie-wearer.