from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

december ragbag

The migrant thrushes, blackbirds and redwings are feasting on berries in our field with its woodland margin. As I walk the dogs up to the top of the field it's as if any number of heavy curtains are being drawn, one by one, as small flocks take off and whush the air above my head. Lapwings semaphore black-and-whiteness across newly-ploughed fields (I learned the word 'sillion' the other day: Gerard Manley Hopkins' word for the shiny cut-side of an earth-slice turned up by the plough's tines). 

Leaf-fall patters like rain. The beeches flame brilliant orange and gold as I cross the Dart at Holne onto the moor, piling into the river like those tinfoil wrappings for copper and gold chocolate coins.

Winter is flocking season. Jackdaws play with the wind: flipping, rolling, tumbling, paragliding. A little posse of starlings – much rarer than they used to be – struts near Laughter Tor as I drive by.

Later, just before dusk, my sister and I walk my dog and my daughter's down by the creekside near where I used to live, at Bere Ferrers. The tide is flooding (close to new moon so it's a high full tide) and silk-smooth-still under the gloaming sky. No waterbirds to be heard: often there are curlews and wild duck; today only the flock of Canada geese is close by.


There's a small carnivore skeleton newly-appeared in Simon's field: young fox, or badger. I can't quite make out where it's appeared from: it's almost completely clean so is not very recent, but it definitely wasn't there, on that patch of earth where there'd been a bonfire, last week. I feel suspicious – Simon is a wildlife enthusiast, like me, and a champion of such animals, so it wasn't him.

Now that the utterly-ineffectual and barbaric badger-cull in its trial phase in Gloucestershire has finished (having failed spectacularly to meet the Government targets), many farmers have vowed to kill their own badgers (illegally, of course). Such is the effect of demonisation – rational argument and scientific fact carries no weight in such emotional reactivity. What's just as appalling is the fact that the badgers' carcases aren't even being tested to see if they were carrying bTB – you would think that this would have been a logical thing to do, no? – given that the rationale for killing at all was because the badgers were/are suspected by DEFRA, the NFU, etc of being bTB carriers in large enough numbers as to pose a real threat to dairy farms... (see also

But we can't rest: the Government insists it will continue with the cull next year, probably in Dorset and Devon. Please do keep adding your names to petitions, etc.

And meantime, the illegal foxhunts are still out in force. However, my local MP, Sarah Wollaston, assures me that there are no plans in the Government to repeal the ban; that, at least, is good news; not that it's made much difference, as the police, with plenty on their plates, turn a blind eye to the hunts; and in any case, they could only be prosecuted if a kill could be indisputably proven.


 If any of you lives close enough to come, can I mention a poetry reading taking place in Chagford next week? 'If on a winter's night' showcases the work of four local poets: myself (reading from River Suite); Chris Waters, poet and publisher; Bridget Thomasin, Dartmoor poet; and Chris Fogg, with whose work I look forward to becoming acquainted. Tickets are £5 on the door, include a glass of wine, and proceeds will be donated to Medecins sans Frontieres. 7pm, Endecott House, Chagford, Devon, Thursday 12th December.


I don't quite know what this means, yet, but I'll let you know when I find out. My publisher says: 'We have enrolled the kindle version of your book in the Kindle Countdown Deal*. This runs from 16th December until 22nd December. Your book may be purchased from 16th at 99p:  from 19th at £1.99: and back to normal price after 22nd.' Sounds like good news, doesn't it? – But please still buy the paperback copy from me or the IDP website (or heaven forbid I mention that Online Bookstore again!) - as well, for your Christmas presents! It's hard to wrap a Kindle version for a stocking, surely? ('wink').


I was going to regale you with tales of the woes of 'sustainable' salmon fishing (but OH have you seen 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' yet? Nothing to do, really, with conservation issues, I do have to say; but what a great film), of organophosphates, mercury in teeth and yet more eco-stuff; perhaps it's lucky that my well-overdue tax return is beckoning, forcibly, due to gentle but unyielding pressure by my long-suffering accountant. (Writing this is nice prevarication; and a substitute for that brief siesta I've learned the meaning and pleasure of this year.) But I'll be back...


*OK, have discovered. It's THEM, that online bookstore. At the moment it's regular price; but watch this for a 99p offer between 16th and 19th December. Gulp!


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