Bufonite

Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. William Shakespeare – “As You Like It” Toads have made their mark on culture by nestling in a curious space between medicine and magic. In the middle-ages the toad was thought to be as common a witches’ familiar as the cat. The French lawyer and demonologist Jean Bodin noted in his 1580 work De la démonomanie des sorciers (Of the Demon-mania of the Sorcerers) that while certainly incriminating, the presence of toads should not, in itself, be sufficient evidence …

Post truths

The pets that were lost have either been found or mourned by now; the bake-sales and yard-sales have cashed up long ago; the evening classes and gigs have faded into the night leaving minds and ears abuzz. The flyers are gone but the staples remain, punctuating the telephone poles like empty quote marks – jumbles of silenced declarations, each a little monument to something wanted or something offered. The poles in this Montreal neighbourhood have been armoured by years of wanting and offering. The newer ones glint like chain-mail, the ancient ones are stained with rust and tar, they reward …

Four haiku at the end of winter

Why don’t I switch off The television set and Go outside and breathe     Red dressmakers pins Hold hawthorn branches in place ‘Til spring stitches leaves     Shroud and bramble thorns Fight to be free from each other Edged on by cold winds     Some old winter storm Has cleft a trunk like kindling Bright streak of ash-blonde

Coverlines

I’ve already posted a washed-out phone pic of the book cover but it really doesn’t do justice to the image or the design and since we now have a fully finished version, with cover quotes and everything I wanted to show it off. Eleanor Crow at Faber has done a great job on the design. As well as making books beautiful Eleanor is an extraordinarily skilled illustrator, I knew when I saw her work that Uncommon Ground would look good, you can see why if you go here (www.eleanorcrow.com). If you click on the full-spread version below you can see …

Field Trip: Scotland, part 2

After four days in the mountains I set off for the Western Isles, in search of peat and sand and sea. The road from Fort William to the Kyle of Lochalsh cuts inland towards Spean Bridge before turning North across the valley and offering a view back towards the Nevis Range, which looked gentle and slight beneath a huge, heavy, roiling sky. For some pictures I stopped, but for many I didn’t and wished I had. Passing a football field in Invergarry, I saw a man riding a mobility scooter, armed with a shovel and tilting at molehills. He would …

Field Trip: Cornwall, part 2

After the rising tide halted my zawn hunting at Land’s End I drove along the south coast to the little village of Treen to photograph the Logan Rock. Logans are boulders that wobble (but they don’t fall down) they are formed when horizontal faults in stone outcrops are eroded to leave just one or two points of contact between separate masses. Sometimes huge rocks are balanced so finely that the slightest nudge can set them moving. This was once the case with the Treen Logan, an 80 ton block of granite perched on a cliff just south of the village, …

Thar she blows

Let me just say that I do not advise putting your head into a spouting gloup. Gloup is a Scottish word for a blowhole, I like it better than plain blowhole but I think there might be better words for the same thing. In Ireland they are called puffer-holes apparently, which is OK, but take it from me that thing is not puffing. They are sometimes called sea-jets which captures the force but is still a bit to prosaic for me. Gloup has more onomatopoeic poetry but I think it works better with the swirling, gurgling kind of blowhole than …

Stara Woods

This is one of my favourite places and has been since I was a small child. I’m really pleased that it’s being so well looked after and managed as a community woodland so that many more small children will get to play and learn here. I made this short clip to try to say something about why I’m doing this project and how that connects to my rural childhood and the places I knew when I was little. I’m not sure this articulates it very well but it’s a start.

Misty Mistor

I’ve been scanning the films from my field-trip to Devon and Cornwall and finding a few that don’t relate to any particular landscape feature but which I shot anyway. This was from the morning I walked up Mistor on Dartmoor to find the rock basin called the Mistor Pan. Dawn was breaking as I reached the tor but the hilltop was veiled in misty cloud and as the sun cleared the horizon the light diffused into the haze in a dream-sequence palette of pink and orange. Periodically, as I ran about trying to find the basin, the wind would strip …