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Monday, 10 May 2021

acronyms are us

Here -Trude the beautiful Friesian stands up to the gale that whips around the field

Friesians are the most beautiful horses - and are the breed they use to pull the funeral coaches. The other day I sadly had to attend the funeral of a dear friend and sat practically in the road, as you have to these days, having a cup of coffee beforehand when four of them trotted past with their red plumes on their heads, pulling an ornate coffin (not my friend's)in a glass cased carriage. They were so beautiful they almost took my breath away and I was for running after them all the way down the road to the cemetery. Friesians traditionally have very long flowing wavy manes as if someone has used curling tongs on them but sadly Trude's mane is short. This is I believe because Harry chews it. In all the years we have had her it never seems to grow whereas  Harry's mane is most luxuriant.

In a complete change in the weather here is Harry and Rocket appearing through the mist. I know the English always talk about the weather but really - wind, rain. hail, coldness - heating on? heating off? Pocket has complained and asked why are the pipes that run under the floorboards in the bathroom where he likes to have his morning nap turned off? Really it is quite bitter lying there now.

 Now this BTW is not the same fox from the wildlife hospital that appeared in my last blog. This is a vixen that was involved in an R T A . I find the use of acronyms slightly annoying  but this one is AKA  Road Traffic Accident. At least it wasn't a GSW  AKA Gunshot Wound or we'd have had to call in an FI  AKA forensic investigator and put her in a VPU. I shan't go on and no I didn't watch Line of Duty on the BBC.

Although I would dearly have loved to have taken the fox home with me to recover I was given a crow without a tail and another rook without an eye. The rook bless it was found down a rabbit hole on Watership Down. Its left wing and leg and eye have all been damaged but there is hope given time it will recover. As it was found down a rabbit hole I was tempted to call her Alice but as yet have resisted naming her/him. No one knows what it was doing in the hole but probably trying to escape something that had wounded its left side. The other rook with one eye successfully flew away and I have to admit after transferring the crow with no tail to my shade tunnel it hopped out the door so fast I couldn't catch it. It can't fly without a tail but boy can it hop! I followed it to a tree and watched its spectacular ascent up the branches to the very top. I hope it survives - its obviously hopped down as its no longer up there but they are so intelligent I think until its feathers grow back it will do very well. When I first put it in the shade tunnel I was worried about it getting up to the branches that I put in there. I leant a small ladder up to the table top and within minutes it had worked out how to hop up each rung, onto the table and from there onto all the branches.

Dear Rocket - no wonder he doesn't hear me as he chases after a deer and I try to call him back. When we got him I hadn't realised his ears came in a separate box.

And on the weather front we are still looking for that pot of gold as seen from the bedroom window.
Pocket says when he finds it he's going to use the gold to launch his new book. I thought you were opening a casino I said, but he stared at me as if I didn't know what I was talking about and told me that he'd gone back to writing novels. What's it called I asked. He flicked his tail and told me it was called The cat who came in from the cold and was a very exciting spy story. Sounds a bit like The spy who came in from the cold by John le Carre  I said but he assured me he had no idea what I was talking about and perhaps I was suffering from PTSD on account of having trouble with my own novels and would I put the heating back on.
Lovely Scout on the same windy day wondering if the rainbow led to a pot of biscuits by any chance.

The tulips this year have been glorious - here is one of my favourites Estella Rijnveldt

Below is a poem I wrote about another friend who'd died - seemed appropriate as I've mentioned death already

A dying man.



Today I saw a dying man.

You look well I said.

I’m dying he said, how can that be?

I’m too young to die.

I enquired as to his age.

Eighty two he said.

My mother died in this bed too

 and she was older than me.

What a bummer

I said.

What a bugger

He said.

Would you like a sherry?

I have to drive I said.

Would you?

No thank you he said.

I thought you’d come on a horse.

Today I saw a dying man.

How long ?I asked

Between 6 and 12 weeks

And I’ve already had three of them.

We look out at the view.

A hospital garden shrouded in mist.

What will you do with it? I say.

These weeks you’ve been given.

I’ll get on with the dying  he said.

We’re all dying I thought but didn’t say.

His sister had summoned the priest

And brought holy water for the ill from Lourdes

Though he didn’t believe 

When she’d gone away

He put it on the poinsettia by the window sill.

The nurse brings in lunch.

We couldn’t tell the icecream

 from the mashed potato.

I should go I said.

I couldn’t bear to say goodbye.

I’ll see you again I said.

You look well.




 Linda Coggin


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

the thought fox

 This lovely young male fox was in a territorial fight with another - he came off rather worse for wears. Here he is recovering at the wildlife hospital. He is a reminder of Ted Hughes's wonderful poem waiting for inspiration called the Thought Fox. I could certainly do with a fox here as I struggle with the new story I am writing.

Two weeks ago they gave me this jackdaw to look after instead. They reckoned it had bumped its head as it was very quiet. Oddly it took cheese from my hand which is strange for a wild bird but has now come to its senses and refuses all morsels unless they are in a bowl. I've moved it into the shade tunnel now so I can make sure it can fly before I open the doors and let it go. I think - but can't be certain - that the two jackdaws I hand reared last year are the ones who have made a nest on our chimney. I can hear the babies and the parents swipe all the food off the bird table which is nearby before any of the other birds can get it.

Spring is certainly here now - here is Pocket admiring the pussy willow

and again exhausted after his gambling antics. He's suggested to me that we open a casino. Not sure that would go down well up here though we did once want to show films in the barn and call it Flicks in the Sticks.

Scout has settled in well - she is so sweet and loving and feels very at home on the sofa. In spite of her age and her heart she loves to gallop in the Nature Reserve whilst Rocket goes crazy running up and down the hills after his new toy.
Unfortunately Rocket also likes to run up and down chasing the horses. This is a new excitement for him and if he's not careful one of them is going to kick him in the head. I blame the owner - they should have more control over the dog.

Scout in the Nature Reserve. We can only be in there for a few weeks in the year as normally it is filled with sheep which would be much more fun than horses to chase.
The tulips are now opening which is a joy and always a surprise.

The Thought Fox

by Ted Hughes

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:

Something else is alive

Beside the clock's loneliness

And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:

Something more near

Though deeper within darkness

Is entering the loneliness:

cold, delicately as the dark snow,

A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;

Two eyes serve a movement, that now

And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow

Between trees, and warily a lame

Shadow lags by stump and in hollow

Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,

A widening deepening greenness,

Brilliantly, concentratedly,

Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox

It enters the dark hole of the head.

The window is starless still; the clock ticks,

The page is printed.

Friday, 12 March 2021

the curiosity of the black cat


My new book which as a matter of fact I've been working on for years is finally published! Available as a paperback and kindle you can get it at Amazon.

It is a modern day nature fable about life and death, friendship and love.

"People don't usually see me until the last moments. In that time I reckon I bring comfort. They often smile and stroke me and I feel good about that."

This blog post is about nothing else - no amusing photographs of the cats and dogs, no witty anecdotes from Pocket or images of him playing cards, no poems and pictures of beautiful flowers. But ...below is the first chapter to make up for it - 

 also a glossary of  terms used in book reviews. I can spot several potential ones for my book and have put little stars by them. If you get the book yourselves you can work through the others.

Enchanting                                                there's a dog in it    *

Heart-warming                                          a dog and a child     *

Moving                                                       child dies

Heart-rending                                              dog dies

Thoughtful                                                  mind-numbingly tedious

Haunting                                                      set in the past

Exotic                                                           set abroad

Audacious                                                     set in the future    *

Award winning                                              set in India

Perceptive                                                      set in North London

Provocative                                                    infuriating

Epic                                                                editor cowed by author's reputation

From the pen of a master                                same old same old

In the tradition of                                            shamelessly derivative

Spare and taught                                              under researched

Richly detailed                                                over- researched

Disturbing                                                       author's bonkers             *

Stellar                                                               author young and photogenic

Classic                                                               author hanging in there

Vintage                                                              author past it

Chapter 1

Five days before what was later to be referred to as The Fall, the toads all abandoned their breeding ground.

The day before, a herd of cattle, which were grazing peacefully at the edge of the town, bunched together at the far end of their enclosure.

That morning a black Cat and his Master were visiting an old lady in the house next to the fish and chip shop.

And fifteen minutes before - the birds stopped singing.

Only Stella Feather notices. She sits on the beach in the dusk and talks to herself.

“The birds are quiet but the land is talking to us,” she says. “And no one listens do they?”

She stares out across the ocean and wonders at its stillness.

She feels a rumble and a shifting under the land. She stands, her eyes scanning the horizon for the boat.

Far beneath her feet the earth coils like a gigantic spring.

It splits and tears apart. It tips people out of their beds.

It causes roofs to cave in. It traps people in their homes and on the roads. The lights go out. All communications go down.

Car alarms are set off which pierce through the sound of crashing, tumbling buildings and the trees shake as they bend from side to side. The wailing sirens from broken shop fronts sound like a fairground ride announcing the start of its terrifying journey around the helter skelter. All the sounds splinter and crack and crash through the air.

When she feels the first tremble Stella Feather throws herself onto the ground and grabs hold of tussocks of marram grass. She feels it course through her body and digs her hands and feet deep into the sand. She covers her head with her hands and shuts her eyes.

Amongst the chaos that results the Cat loses his Master. There were so many dead, so much work to be done. He’d been in disasters many times – The Great Plague, The Great War – The Great ...oh

something or other.... now his head hurts and he can’t think anymore. How could he have been so careless as to lose him?

When the explosions happen the Cat leaps into the air. The earthquake severs the gas pipes and causes a fire which feeds on the timber houses like a ravenous tiger, it’s orange and black stripes leaping from house to house. At Hastings Rd and the Folsom Junction fifty panic-stricken cattle, their fence destroyed, stampede down the street as they see the flames, knocking over anyone left standing in their path.

The Cat knows his Master must be there but the dust stings his eyes and when he looks back it’s too late.

The quake lasts for only two minutes but the destruction is incredible. Rising out of the rubble stands the remains of the magnificent City Hall, its picturesque dome standing loftily above the structure like a skeleton stripped of its skin. An old woman with a green parrot in a cage hurries along the street followed by a man dragging a hastily packed suitcase, its contents spilling along the pavement as he goes. Some young lads run into the liquor store and carry out bottles of beer and spirits. Then seeing the jeweller’s shop torn from its foundations, drop the bottles and pick up necklaces and bracelets that twinkle through the dust.

People flee towards the ferry only to find that there is a lack of boats to carry them across toVernditch. The big ferry building is ruined. When the quake stops a man with a loud hailer summons whoever is still alive.“Evacuate! Evacuate! Move along quick we all need to get away from here.”

People crawl from collapsed buildings and others wander in a daze and those that can, make their way towards the man with the loud hailer.

“Someone grab that girl,” the man orders, “there’ll be a tsunami – get her away from the beach.”

But when she sees people coming towards her Stella Feather runs away, crossing over the sand dunes and sliding down onto a further beach until she is a fair distance from the town.

As the tremor returns, the second shock wave splits the earth, a huge crack zigzagging through the land. The buildings still standing, collapse. The fire fanned by the falling, continues to roar along the streets. Fire fighters try to put out the fires but the water pipes have been damaged so there is no pressure and then no water. There is talk of trying to pump water up from the sea but the fire fighters’ vehicles are mostly destroyed too. Some who are left secretly hope that a tsunami will put out the fire. But now the flames light up the sky in shades of red and pink and orange and will not be put out until the whole town disappears under the waves.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

the essential scout

I admit - it has been about three months since I wrote the last blog but quite frankly not much has happened. This will be of no surprise to everyone else who has been in lockdown.


But now I have something to report! The huge space left by our lovely Noa has been partly filled by Scout. Scout is six years and has a heart problem. She is very gentle and quiet and for any of you that might be thinking why's she gone and got another wolfhound when she got knocked over by the last one she must be mad

you can stop thinking that. Scout is unlikely to knock me over - she is very calm and gentle - and we are so lucky to have her as she was given to us by the very people we had our first wolfhound - Jai - from because they felt sorry for me and they are kind. Just to boast of Scout's achievements she's had nine puppies and won top IW bitch at Crufts 2019. Jai once won Best on Sofa and top bitch at the village dog show and I thought I might get a t shirt made with Top Bitch on it but wasn't sure how that would go down on the farm.(There's competition).

Meanwhile in lockdown Pocket has taken up gambling - he likes the cards best - he says he's invented a game called Baccaratcat. I wondered if he might take up bridge with Rocket.

I have kept going to the wildlife hospital where this beautiful owl was (I am a key worker and haven't yet been stopped by the police)

And of course we had all that SNOW which was exciting

Rocket is jealous of all the pills Scout has to take so I pretend his little biscuits are special pills. What are they for do you think Rocket ? I ask and he tells me he might have a touch of gout. I told him he certainly suffered from wind but he denies that. I said it was very effective with his social distancing.

                                          Inessential things

What do cats remember of days?
They remember the ways in from the cold.
The warmest spot, the place of food.
They remember the places of pain, their enemies
the irritation of birds, the warm fumes of the soil
the usefulness of dust.
They remember the creak of a bed, the sound
of their owner's footsteps
the taste of fish, the loveliness of cream.
Cats remember what is essential of days.
Letting all other memories go as of no worth
they sleep sounder than we
whose hearts break remembering so many
inessential things.

Brian Patten

Monday, 30 November 2020

and so farewell noa


there's been an accident on the homestead.
I don't usually write about personal things but Noa has been so much part of my blog posts that I have to report that last week in her excitement she managed to uproot me and fell me to the ground causing my leg and hip to break. The accident has also broken my heart as we have decided that she should be homed with a new family as it will be a time before I can walk her properly again and give her the care and attention she needs. We have lived with wolfhounds for nearly twenty years and I've never been able to imagine life without one. Now I will have to. As fortune will have it she has gone to live with one of her sisters in a loving family. I am grateful that Deb has opened her arms to her and reported that Noa and her sister adore each other.

Friends and family have been amazing - after all I left behind two horses, two dogs, two cats, a one eye rook and thirteen ducks all to be cared for.

Just before the accident I was working at the wildlife hospital where this adorable badger was. Of course I'd have been far happier at the wildlife hospital than the real hospital though the care they gave me was incredible. The kindness and patience of the nurses and physios was amazing. If it hadn't have been for their encouragement I wouldn't have been out so quickly and will probably think of them now for the rest of life everytime I walk up and down stairs.

Imagine having these lovely patients as fellow ward companions

We've been trying to think of positive things about saying goodbye to Noa. Rocket tells me he's relieved not to have his face inside her mouth for a good part of the day and hadn't  been that joyfull with her chewing his legs.

I suppose I can fill up the holes in the lawn and can now leave all my paperwork without the knowledge I'd find it shredded under the table. Just for fun I'm going to leave the delicious meal we'd prepared on the table, turn my back on it and find it still there.

Pocket had nothing positive to say because he was working on his latest novel Cat-22. Joseph Heller wrote that I told him but I could tell he wasn't interested

Rocket is now insisting he has to have a story read to him at bedtime as he 's finding it difficult sleeping on his own now.

But let's face it - none of these advantages can fill the enormous hole she has left.


Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself to this world
so worthy of rescue.

Martha Postlewaite

Monday, 26 October 2020

hedgepigs and hedgefunds

 Back at the wildlife hospital the hedgies are preparing for winter

Noa however is preparing to make a large investment. Having destroyed most of my paperwork she has taken to the newspapers. I notice it is the financial section she is most interested in. I wonder if she's considering a ponzi scheme or just checking out the hedgefunds.

Also preparing for winter Harry and Trude are tucking into the hay. Noa on the other hand has heard so many people say "you could put a saddle on that" that I think she thinks she might be a horse too, in which case jumping hedges rather than investing in them might be the answer.

After the hedgehog session I came home with a one eyed rook. Not sure what her survival rate will be out in the wild so am keeping an eye on her (so to speak).

I wonder how many of the rooks I've cared for and released are up here in the sky. I love watching them in their winter quarters before they move back to nest building in their nursery trees next year.

Pocket could barely open an eye when I asked him how the writing was going but he managed to inform me he was working on a novel called Purrrrrsuasion. I think you'll find Jane Austin wrote that and it was called Persuasion I informed him. Well that's not my story he told me cattily, my story features a handsome Captain Wentworth and his long lost love Anne. It's about a second chance and we all need one of those! Precisely I said and they've made a film of it.
I've asked Rocket to be Captain Wentworth in my version he announced and flounced off to his computer.

Rocket said he didn't think he'd be able to learn the lines but wouldn't mind wearing the hat.
Beautiful rosa mundi

and the last of an unknown rose in the garden.

Pity The Nation — by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

fetch, dogs and rock n roll


The other week we took the dogs to a Dog Festival.

I thought it might have been a dog's version of Glastonbury with headlining bands like David Bowwowie and The Rolling Bones but it was what it said on the tin - a dogstival - no sex and rock and roll just the dogs.

Here is Noa on her first proper outing which was to the dog's festival - beautifully behaved and not pulling me along as if I were a kite or a balloon flying in the air behind her. I was impressed because normally when she sees any human or other dog she is so excited she rushes up to them, rolls over, whacks with the big heavy paw and generally causes cross faces from passers by. And Rocket who normally just barks at passers by and shows his teeth didn't do any barking what so ever. I normally blame the parents. In fact it was very well organised, no barking, no one had to wear a mask and not much else happened.

Here is Pocket agonizing over his new novel.  He's obviously given up the play writing. What's it called I asked. He yawned and gave me a look of feline disappointment. Bleak Mouse he replied. There was no point in commentating and mentioning Dickens as he takes no notice. It'll be poetry next I'll be bound - he told me he thinks Charlotte Mew is a cat.

I spent a great deal of my childhood as a horse. I'm happy to announce that I managed the transition.

Back at the wildlife hospital with the dear hedgehogs. I was given another juvenile crow last week but fortunately he'd only been caught up in a football net and was very muddy. I gave him a nice lavender bath, cleaned him up, fed him and the next day he happily flew off somewhere. 

Here is Noa with her sister Maeve. They look so alike if it wasn't for the collars I might easily have taken the wrong dog home. It was so good for Noa to meet someone else her size. Other than the horses and even at the dog festival she towers above everyone. It was also good for her not to be top dog all the time. I usually blame the parents.

Rocket has been studying the art of origami. Tomorrow I may well find a swan on the sofa.

I've put this poem up before - nearly a year ago but I wanted to show Pocket that it was unlikely that Charlotte Mew was a cat. However I dread to see what he'll come up with in next month's bog. I just hope he doesn't go into politics like the social democats. I love this poem and very pertinent for today.

The Trees are Down

—and he cried with a loud voice:
Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees—

They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the gardens.
For days there has been the grate of the saw, the swish of the branches as they fall,
The crash of the trunks, the rustle of trodden leaves,
With the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas,’ the loud common talk, the loud common laughs of the men, above it all.

I remember one evening of a long past Spring
Turning in at a gate, getting out of a cart, and finding a large dead rat in the mud of the drive.
I remember thinking: alive or dead, a rat was a god-forsaken thing,
But at least, in May, that even a rat should be alive.

The week’s work here is as good as done. There is just one bough
   On the roped bole, in the fine grey rain,
             Green and high
             And lonely against the sky.
                   (Down now!—)
             And but for that,   
             If an old dead rat
Did once, for a moment, unmake the Spring, I might never have thought of him again.

It is not for a moment the Spring is unmade to-day;
These were great trees, it was in them from root to stem:
When the men with the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas’ have carted the whole of the whispering loveliness away
Half the Spring, for me, will have gone with them.

It is going now, and my heart has been struck with the hearts of the planes;
Half my life it has beat with these, in the sun, in the rains,   
             In the March wind, the May breeze,
In the great gales that came over to them across the roofs from the great seas.
             There was only a quiet rain when they were dying;
             They must have heard the sparrows flying,   
And the small creeping creatures in the earth where they were lying—
             But I, all day, I heard an angel crying:
             ‘Hurt not the trees.’