Friday, September 29, 2006

Walt does birds

"the wildpigeon and highhold and orchard-oriole and coot and surf-duck and redshouldered-hawk and fish-hawk and white-ibis and indian-hen and cat-owl and water-pheasant and qua-bird and pied-sheldrake and blackbird and mockingbird and buzzard and condor and night-heron and eagle"

- from Walt Whitman's 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass (read the whole thing here

Recourse to the OED reveals that the "qua-bird" and the "night-heron" are one and the same, which is very slightly disappointing. The very pretty "orchard-oriole" in this photo is clearly taking the mickey out of the bird that stars in the Twin Peaks titles. Googling "highhold" yields a dense crop of what seem to be links to a role-playing game that features Highhold Castle as a location; buried amongst them is a link sending us to back to Whitman. The OED knows of no "highhold", but it seems pretty safe to assume that it's the same as a "highholder", which is an American woodpecker also called a flicker and that looks a bit like a pigeon. The "surf-duck" probably doesn't look like this. Its name is so funky that googling it doesn't get you very close to an actual duck. However, running "surf [space] duck" makes instantly plain that what we're dealing with is no less a waterbird than the mighty scoter. I was once in a rockband called Scoter with this man.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thoor Ballylee

Until today, I'd always imagined Yeats's tower as a round one. I suppose I pictured it as a taller, narrower version of Joyce's Martello tower.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Saturday, September 16, 2006


1 took me a long time to spot the bottom

2 unhemmed has gone hi-res - or higher-res - click on these snaps for an eyeful

3 having said that, this one's not so sharp when blown up - do you know what you're looking at?

4 in the New York City style

5 we wanted to buy half a punnet, but the woman at the market wouldn't let us - it had to be the whole darn lot

6 i've heard it said that the photo-essay is the future - but the future of what, exactly?

7 Pedigree Chum? yum yum yum

between two thorns

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


"Coleridge, to many people, and often I have heard the complaint, seemed to wander; and he seemed then to wander the most when in fact, his resistance to the wandering instinct was greatest - viz., when the compass and huge circuit by which his illustrations moved travelled farthest into remote regions before they began to revolve. Long before this coming round commenced most people had lost him, and naturally enough supposed he had lost himself. They continued to admire the separate beauty of his thoughts, but did not see their relations to the dominant theme."
The Collected Writings of Thomas De Quincey, ed. David Masson, vol. II, pp. 152-3.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

joggers and dogwalkers notwithstanding

5 things I saw on my constitutional around the duck ponds.

1 Virulent weeds with ugly stalks - overlong and alien - but beautifully vivid flowers atop them. Two distinct kinds: some unusual deep purple trumpetty flowers wound round railings up at the top of the scarp; some much more common ones down by the ponds, with open-faced lilacky flowers towering above the municipal shrubs.

2 A tracksuited middle-aged man on a bench with his head droopy, his back to the play park. I thought at first he was on his own, but as I passed I noticed next to him a woman with her head in his lap, motionless, tracksuited.

3 A dozen or so young lads in unmatching sports kit, listening to their football coach, or PE teacher. Further along, older kids doing an exercise I'd never seen before, that involves trotting towards someone whilst they trot towards you, jumping in synchronised manner and gently bomping your chests together mid-air, then trotting off to bomp someone else.

4 Sound asleep, a baby in a pram. On the adjacent bench a slightly decrepit-looking chap, possibly the grandfather, sound asleep.

5 An old man, orange of face, with a shock of milk-coloured hair, thick, like a paintbrush dipped in white paint, perched on a wall and drinking, with the help of a teaspoon, something grey and lumpy from a sawn-off squash bottle. A few yards away from him, his scrap-gatherer's trolley, empty.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


'My head was alwaies working; never idle, and even travelling (which from 1649 till 1670 was never off my horsback) did gleane som observations, of which I have a collection in folio of 2 quiers of paper + a dust basket, some wherof are to be valued'
John Aubrey, Brief Lives (1693)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Moose | Jenny Colon

Lunchtime. Again, blogger denies me as I endeavour to share a photograph with my dear readers. It was to be a moose. Another time, another time. Until then, maybe this will keep us going.

This deserves a separate entry, really, but what the hay. I discovered this morning that Gerard de Nerval's Adrienne - you remember, the one of whom his hopes proved false, or something like that - is a composite figure. One of the people she's composed of was called Jenny Colon, an actrice from the Varietes. I'm not sure what kind of relationship they had. She died in 1848. I really like her name.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fay Wray and friends

Just idly browsing a list of 'Well Known People Who Happen To Be Canadian', compiled by a particle physicist unknown to me. There are 52 entries, not all referring to a single well-known person (WKP hereafter) - some point to a consortium of some kind, e.g., The Tragically Hip or McGarrigle, Kate and Anna. I note, with slight disappointment, that after a quick count, it seems that I've only heard of 17 Canadian WKPs. It's taken me a moment or two to cotton onto the fact that, in spite of the page's main title, the 52-strong list is exclusivlely the province of musicians. But, no, hold on a tick, a few deft clicks and I'm at the main menu, which gives me 14 different categories of WKP to choose from. Overwhelming! I recognise none of the artists, though I like the sound of Tom Thomson. A wonderful resource for helping you to choose your favourite Canadian, which is never a straightforward business.

Friday, September 01, 2006


OK, so the textual revolution didn't last too long. Not to worry. Text is like, so, totally for losers. The clip below should work - if, like me, you're not a super-super-fast connection, then I advise clicking on play and then immediately on pause & then waiting patiently while the whole clip cues up. Otherwise you can only watch it piecemeal. Non sequitur alert: it has been a stupid morning, waiting for electricians; not entirely understanding them (and vice versa) when they finally show up; standing about like a lemon whilst they unscrew everything and prod their little yellow current-meter - if that's the right word - in sundry sockets. They failed to sort out the problem: more electricians on their way this afternoon. Hurrah. This cheered me up, as did the comparative form of 'awesome', as put to excellent use by my favourite exponent of joke folk.

Some vocabulary I learnt from Jacques:

rossignol = nightingale (apparently it also means 'unsaleable piece of junk', which is weird)

mome (with a wee hat on the 'o') = nice-looking young lassie

sangloter = to sob (does it have anything to do with sang = blood?)