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Thursday, 31 October 2019

kindle and kindling

The corn is cut now, the clocks have gone back and it's time to light the fires. This requires trawling the woods for kindling and the diligent drying of twigs and logs that in my impatience to heat the house ends in billows of smoke from wet wood and the need to open windows  to be able to breathe - defeating trying to keep warm.

 Rocket is hard to see here and rare for him to be standing still. Lurchers are running dogs and usually just disappear over the horizon so you can't see them. Standing still so you can't see them is a new and interesting ploy.

The Missing of Stanley Ruff is out on Kindle! Personally I'm not a kindle reader - I look at screens enough when I'm writing it and love the feel of a book in my hand when it comes to reading, snuggled up in front of the fire - oh - wait a minute -the smoke, freezing cold with all those open windows.

Pepys the duckling has grown up. Unlike Rocket these guys would not stay still when I tried to photograph them - they are running ducks after all I suppose. But Pepys is at the back with the boys in the garden. He is so sweet - fortunately has forgotten I was his mother - and just does normal duck things now.
We've had rather a lot of expensive visits to the vet this month. Dear Pixie had a near scrape with death by developing an infected womb and Rocket stole her anti-biotics when no one was looking. He ate them all which is odd because Pixie didn't like to eat them unless you smeared them with cream cheese or pate. He had to have his stomach pumped.
Pixie had to wear a T shirt to stop her chewing her wound (she asked me not to put a photo up) so I bought up a load of size 18 T shirts from the charity shop. Her favourite was the pink one I think though she looked very fetching in her stripy French one. I think she grew tired of us saying bon jour to her when she was wearing it.

Nothing untoward happened to Pocket and I asked him for his wise words on the situation.
We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression he told me. " Confucius eh? " I said. He scowled, looked appropriately confused and went back to sleep.

 Any interesting facts this month Pixie ? I queried. Apart from the fact that the gate was closed and wasn't anyone going to let her pass she told me that Amazon originally used the codename Fiona for the Kindle and when they eventually chose the name, Kindle was chosen as it meant to light a fire. A fire without smoke I presume I quipped. There is no smoke without fire I heard Pocket mumble.

 I see that Rocket is surrounded by endangered toys - tiger, bee, whale .............

 The dahlias are putting on a late autumn show and the horses have moved onto hay.


by Henry Thoreauu

Light-winged Smoke! Icarian bird, 
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight; 
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn, 
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest; 
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts; 
By night star-veiling, and by day 
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun; 
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth, 
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

swallows and amazon

The swallows will soon be leaving but my new book  The Missing of Stanley Ruff has arrived!

 I am indebted to Pixie the Irish wolfhound, Pocket the superior cat, Rocket the lurcher puppy and the numerous crows I have helped to rescue and whose characters, adventures and misdemeanours I have stolen for this story.

When the new puppy Stanley Ruff arrives at the Dorcas residence, Bentley the cat and Mrs Melvyn Andrews the Irish wolfhound are not impressed. Stanley is noisy, disobedient and extremely naughty. Then Stanley is stolen and realising how much they miss him they go on a dangerous journey to find him with the help of their new friend Crow 3.

A tale of warmth and humour about tolerance, bravery and friendship.
You can purchase it on Amazon - where it seems you can read the first chapter if you 'look inside'.

Pixie (aka Mrs Melvyn Andrews) is very pleased with it but wanted to add a supplement  with some recipes in - which she thought would make it far more interesting. I told her to write her own book.

Below is an extract from the Missing of Stanley Ruff around chapter 3(which just escapes the Amazon's 'look inside.')

And so Stanley Ruff practiced jumping. 
He jumped up and tore the washing off the line outside. He jumped up and knocked a cup of coffee off the coffee table. He jumped up the curtain and accidently got one of his claws caught and ripped it. The rip revealed the blue lining on the other side like it was a small river rushing down the curtain towards the sea. And what was at first a thin river, he managed to turn into something much bigger.
A bit like the Amazon.
“Stop it!” shouted Dorcas “You’re so naughty!”
 Mrs Melvyn Andrews who suddenly wanted to be naughty too - ate the butter which had been left on the table.
“One of you,” said Bentley washing his paw “is going to end up on the naughty step.”

“If I jump high enough will I reach the stars?” Stanley Ruff asked. But no one answered him because they didn’t really know.
He jumped all day and even when the long shadow of night passed over him he jumped in his sleep.
And then one day he jumped over the gate, into the road and was hit by a car.


Meanwhile -back at duck HQ

 We changed the duckling’s name from Pod to Pepys as that is the noise he continuously makes 
peep peep peep peeps.

We might call him Samuel if he grows up.

His siblings wouldn’t accept him back so instead he’s imprinted on me. We had to take him to Devon for the night and he made so much noise in the back of the car he had to sit on my lap as I drove. We stopped off to show him Duck Street and wondered what the police would say if they’d pulled us over.

 Here he is on the table enjoying a swim in the washing up bowl.

Normally when I'm writing he likes to sit on my lap and he also enjoys a swim in the bath every other day.
Inside we have ducks - outside we have bats. In the twilight they flutter by the house catching unseen insects on the wing. I have no idea where they roost or what sort of bats they are. I haven’t been up into the loft in years so they may have set up a colony  there with the prams, the old motorbike gear, the saxophone, the  puppet theatre, the battered suitcases and that oil painting.

 Pixie’s interesting fact is that bats are misunderstood. 
I said is that all? Are you not going to mention they can each consume around 3000 insects in a night? She sighed and said given the chance she could probably do the same particularly if they had a light coating of breadcrumbs.

Rocket is exhausted after all the publicity for the new book.

And Pocket's view on life is "Scorn pain. Either it will go away or you will."
I said "Seneca? Have you got a book of his proverbs tucked away somewhere? And when were you in pain anyway?"
"I was in pain reading your book where you've invented a cat called Bentley - who is clearly me." He replied with a touch of scorn in his voice.

The Bat

Lightless, unholy, eldritch thing,
Whose murky and erratic wing
Swoops so sickeningly, and whose
Aspect to the female Muse
Is a demon's, made of stuff
Like tattered, sooty waterproof,
Looking dirty, clammy, cold.

Wicked, poisonous, and old;
I have maligned thee! . . . for the Cat
Lately caught a little bat,
Seized it softly, bore it in.
On the carpet, dark as sin
In the lamplight, painfully
It limped about, and could not fly.

Even fear must yield to love,
And pity make the depths to move.
Though sick with horror, I must stoop,
Grasp it gently, take it up,
And carry it, and place it where
It could resume the twilight air.

Strange revelation! warm as milk,
Clean as a flower, smooth as silk!
O what a piteous face appears,
What great fine thin translucent ears
What chestnut down and crapy wings,
Finer than any lady's things —
And O a little one that clings!

Warm, clean, and lovely, though not fair,
And burdened with a mother's care;
Go hunt the hurtful fly, and bear
My Blessing to your kind in air.

Friday, 23 August 2019

mogs,dogs and pod

we've had a few unexpected arrivals this month.

 Firstly, as I was rushing off to do the hedgehogs at the wildlife hospital I heard a small, plaintive chirruping from somewhere inside the poly tunnel. I searched inside and out and eventually uncovered four just hatched ducklings in the middle of a salvia bush. The mother was nowhere to be seen. Knowing that they would not survive with all the other ducks around I hastily popped them into a box and put them on the kitchen table under an infra red lamp. The great thing about ducklings is that they can feed themselves from the moment they are born - unlike the baby rooks and jackdaws -and I happened to have some chick crumbs which they guzzled down. When I eventually found the mother she had joined the other ducks and didn't seem the slightest bit concerned which is surprising as she had dutifully sat on the eggs for 28 days. Indian runners however are notorious for not bothering with their brood once they have hatched.

Two weeks on they have been in the bath to waterproof their feathers and have a little paddle. There is one however who has not grown. He was always the smallest and we didn't think he'd survive the day let alone the night but he did until yesterday when the other ducks, so much bigger now were trampling him to a near death. Again we didn't think he'd survive. I dried him off with a hairdryer and have put him on his own,  as I daren't risk them walking over him again. We've named him Pod. When I am sitting - like now as I write this post - he snuggles up in the crook of my arm. This morning he came for a walk with the dogs inside the sleeve of my coat. Not sure how long we can keep this up but hopefully when he gets bigger he can join the other rascals. I blame his mother.

The other arrival was this beautiful young wolfhound called Gideon. The people who 16 years ago kindly gave us our first wolfhound puppy Jai, asked if we could give a home to Gideon. Knowing how big the male wolfhound is I said no at first but of course as soon as we saw him we fell in love. Sadly though Pixie did not. After five days of her growling and snapping at him we thought it was unfair on them both. Also our home is too small for three dogs, two of them being extremely large. He was like a mountain lion prowling around as best he could without knocking over the furniture (which occasionally he did.)I've often wondered what an occasional table was and now I know. He was so big he made Pixie look like a spaniel. It was not without shedding a tear that we had to return him. He had walked into our hearts with those great big paws of his and we miss him greatly.

Rocket loved him however and they romped around in the fields together.

Here he is looking as if he's just joined a convent.

I asked Pocket if he had anything to say on the topic. He stretched out and ate a madeleine off the occasional tea table. No sooner than it touched his palette then a shiver ran though him- an exquisite pleasure had invaded his senses.
"A la recherche du temps perdu " he said.
You've been reading Proust ? I asked in surprise. He ignored my question but asked if it had been Proust who had baked the little cakes and could he have them in future instead of the little packs of jellied fish.

Pixie's interesting fact was that she has been searching for lost time ever since Gideon had arrived and was he now hiding somewhere she didn't know about?

Dog Day Afternoon

from Dog Days

On dog day afternoons I grow a tail
and become a cur of undetermined heritage
tugging at codger's trouser cuffs
roughing it with tattered papers
from wretch to top bitch
an uber pooch heralding death
with a bark, who know how

to park a car, wash a floor
iron a shirt
flirt with the man next door
mix a cocktail or two - but obviously
wouldn't let on
to the other dogs.

A morphological transformation, a sensation
part mutt part alsation doing the dog dance
and sitting for no one in particular
burying a bone, chasing a cat up
a tree - peeing against a lamp post
fetching a stick at considerable speed
disappearing into a landscape of flowers
and not hearing their cries when they call me home.

Linda Coggin

Sunday, 21 July 2019

oh the raggle taggle gypsy

Harry, our gypsy cob, proved to be a wonder at pulling a cart. He'd never done it before, he was only five when we got him, though his mother and father had probably pulled them, uphill and down dale and along the A354.

 I found an elderly couple who taught both horse and dreamer to drive and like being packed off to boarding school, Harry went to this new place with shiny new shoes to learn the lessons. The only difference being he didn't have a tuck box. Whilst he was taught in the field I was taught in the barn, sitting on a stool with the reins in one hand learning to twist my wrist to right and left depending  on which direction we wanted to go. This is the correct way to drive a horse, reins in the left hand, whip in the right, resting lightly on the reins above - so when I see people in tv dramas driving with their reins in both hands I know they are not for real. Mind you if you were driving a wagon in a western you probably would have your reins in both hands. The old couple never taught me this though or  to say "Yee ha!"  Once I was put in the cart it was nothing like sitting on a stool. It was terrifying - a bit like white water rafting. The horse seems a long way in front- not a bit like actually riding one. The old couple sold me the wooden milk cart which had some off road wheels on and Harry and I were away.

"What care I for my house and my land?
What care I for my money-o?
I'd rather have a kiss from the yellow gypsy's lips
I'm away wi' the raggle taggle gypsy-o!"

(curtesy of the Waterboys.)

All the birds have gone now not to appear again. Mr and Mrs Jim finally went the other week. I left the door open and Mr Jim flew out first, leaving poor Mrs Jim behind. She kept flying to the open door then turning back, looking bewildered. I left her to it. I hope they met up outside. It's a kind of bitter sweet moment - you are thrilled that they have flown away but you miss them and worry about them. I'm not expecting any of them to write home though.
Still - they are on the pages of my new story - The Missing of Stanley Ruff - an amalgamation of them into one bird - Crow 3. Towards the end of the story Crow3 is attacked by some seagulls and plummets to the ground where everyone thinks he is dead. But corvids can play dead and I was amused to read recently of a raven at Knaresborough Castle that feigns injury by lying down in the grass. As people go to check if she's OK she squawks "What the fuck you looking at?" before flying off with their camera and leaving it on the roof.
 Rocket is 1 year old!  Here he is as an adorable little puppy with both eyes.

And here he is now - the magnificent one seeing eyed beast he's grown into. He's always been tricky to feed - he likes something, so you buy a sack of it, then he refuses to eat it. We've tried raw food, dried food, tinned food, our food, meat, fish, raw tripe, cheese and eggs. He likes to eat my shoes, the cushions, the sofa and my computer cable. He likes to eat off a silver spoon best (though obviously he's not eating my shoes off a silver spoon) and dear reader - don't laugh - but he likes to steal the cats' empty food pouches. So what he refuses to eat off a plate on the floor  I stuff  into the pouch and he'll run off with it, wagging his tail and devouring it outside. I can feel the words back, rod, made, being thought. But there - he is a lurcher - a traditional gypsy dog and as he runs alongside Harry in the cart I'm seriously considering making some pegs to sell.

 Pixie's interesting fact is that lurcher is a Romany word for thief.  Mmmmm. I'm hoping he'll grow out of it. If he grew wings as well he'd probably steal people's cameras too.

When asked, Pocket's fascinating insight into life for this post is "Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate." I asked him if he were ever hopeful, adding that I believed Chesterton had said that. He said he was hopeful that I'd stop asking him for bon mots to put on my blog.

 Both the sweet peas and roses are flourishing this year

Below is a poem I wrote inspired by an obituary in the village news sheet. It's a very small village and the obit summed up the lives of some the people who stay where they were born.

Alice Dunn - an obituary

from Dog Days

Alice Dunn was one of eleven
born at number four.
Three times a day she walked
to the school and as a rule
three times on the Sabbath
to the Parish church where
she was christened then married
later buried her
children and which she would clean
for forty two years.
She went into service at the age
of fifteen, for sixty years
at the house on the green of
the village where she was born
and for a peppercorn rent
still lived next door
in the cottage at number four.
Alice Dunn enjoyed playing whist.
A few years back she moved
to number six, next to the school.
It must have been the gypsy in her soul.