Saturday, 24 October 2009

Postcard 55: Of Bards and Birdboxes

Female Pied Flycatcher
(Above and immediately below)

Male Pied Flycatcher

(Below - at least I assume it is a Pied Flycatcher!)

I wonder whether you have been taking part in the RSPB Feed the Birds Day this weekend. There have been over 100 events across the UK.

I took these photos earlier this year in one of our favourite areas of woodland in Carmarthenshire. I'm afraid the quality of the pictures is not very good, but the birds were so fast that it was hard to click quickly without jolting ther camera. We did not like to go too close.

We received a note from out local branch of the RSPB yesterday, telling us the good news that the two nestboxes we sponsored in Cwm Clydach RSPB Reserve had both been used successfully.

One of the boxes had been taken over by a pair of Pied Flycatchers. The nest building was underway on 20 April 2009. The first egg was laid on 6 May 2009 and a total of 4 eggs hatched on 26 May 2009. Alas, there was one casualty - but three of the four young fledged successfully.

The second box was used by a Blue Tit family. The nest was built around 16 April 2009, and the first egg was laid on 30 April. This time 8 eggs hatched on 19 May and all the chicks fledged. Great news!

You may be wondering what this has to do with literature. Well, I was reading the current RSPB magazine, Birds (November 2009), and was delighted to find a reference to a letter by Professor David Morley of the University of Warwick. Professor Morley has developed what he calls Bard Box poems. These poems - which often resemble the call or movement of the bird in the box, or the shape of its nest - are painted on to the outside of the nestbox and allowed to weather, so that the young 'nest in a poem and the fledglings then emerge from within a poem'. Humans enjoy the spectacle of these Bard Box examples of public art, so it is not only our feathered friends who benefit.

N.B. Professor Morley issues a word of warning to budding Bard Box artists, 'I have a patent pending on this idea so hands off, eco-capitalists!' ...

That said, do take a look at Professor Morley's Strid and Sessile blog entry to find out more about this fascinating project.

I wonder how you celebrated Feed the Birds Day. Let me know if you did anything interesting.

Incidentally, we were just having lunch yesterday when a large male Sparrowhawk perched on our fence. We sometimes get a TITTERING, a TIDING, a GULP, a MURDER or a CHARM of Magpies, but this was the first time I have seen a Sparrowhawk in our neck of the (town) 'woods'. Is there a collective noun for Sparrowhawks, I wonder?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Postcard 44: Dylan Thomas Festival, Swansea, 2009

The Dylan Thomas Centre,
Swansea, Wales

The 12th Dylan Thomas Festival (26 October-9 November 2009) is about to begin in the Dylan Thomas Centre, with supporting events taking place around the city.

I have only just realised that the dates coincide - give or take a day - with the anniversaries of the poet's birth (27 October 1914 at Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea) and death (9 November 1953).

A rather unseasonal photo of Cwmdonkin Park...

... with its drinking fountain where the young Dylan sailed his ship.
Sadly the chained tin cup is no longer there...

The festival takes its name from Dylan's work, 'In Country Sleep'. It is dedicated to the memory of poet and writer, Aeronwy, daughter of Dylan and Caitlin, who died on 27 July this year. Dannie Abse, Stevie Davies, Owen Sheers, Fflur Dafydd, Byron Beynon, Kathryn Gray and many others will be taking part.

The events are being organised by David Woolley, Jo Furber, Jeff Towns and others. The festival aims to celebrate the 'power of the creative word', using Dylan's work as a springboard for contemporary art that has an eye to the future.

'Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn,

what makes my toenails twinkle,
what makes me want to do this or that or nothing.'
Dylan Thomas

(Source for quotation: Encyclopedia Britannica)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Postcard 43: Dreams of Skye

Boat ride back to Elgol from the brooding waters of Loch Coruisk

The foreshore, Elgol

Cuillin Sunset

Skye Collage
Click to enlarge.
('Here's one I made earlier' - after our trip in 2008)

I seem to have had a lot of deadlines recently, and am only just catching up with myself since we returned from our week on Skye last month. However, the Misty Isle continues to live in my mind, and I felt it was about time I mentioned it on this blog.

To my great delight, I have just been given a secondhand copy of A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland: the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by those great traveller-diarists, Johnson and Boswell. The book has been edited by R.W. Chapman and is an Oxford Paperback. The Folio Society have also produced a (magnificent) edition.

Since our return I have had a Skye poem accepted for publication in a winter anthology. It refers in passing to the mournful, heart-rending Pibroch laments, played on the bagpipes. Speaking of music that tugs at the heart-strings (and in some cases, the harp-strings), we bought a most evocative CD, 'Skye the Island', from the Aros Centre in Portree (the lochside town with the coloured houses in the collage above). We have been driving around, enjoying the music of Blair Douglas and friends. We have also been entranced by the Gaelic music of Maeve Mackinnon. This is the link to her official site: here. You can even catch a snatch of her music: enjoy a breath of island air!

  • Seals: we saw lots of seals on Skye. Closer to home, there are also a few around the Pembrokeshire coast. Click here to see my post from last weekend with movie clip of a mother and pup.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Postcard 42: Reach Poetry 133 and Dozmary Pool

Dozmary Pool, Cornwall

Jamaica Inn, Cornwall


I never cease to be amazed at the influence of the Arthurian legends. Dozmary Pool plays a prominent role in the stories, so it was interesting to view this remote and evocative stretch of water on Bodmin Moor. Needless to say, there was no sign of Excalibur!

My poem resulting from this visit has just been published in Reach Poetry, issue 133, (Indigo Dreams Press, edited by Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling). In Cornish mythology the return of the Chough is said to herald the return of King Arthur.

Dozmary Pool was surprisingly hard to find; but geographically speaking, it is not far at all from another famous Cornish landmark, Jamaica Inn, where there is a small exhibition about the work of Daphne du Maurier.

  • Do you have a favourite Daphne du Maurier line? If so, why not share it here. The well known, well loved opening sentence of Rebecca does not count, apparently, for this purpose.