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

Monday, 2 June 2014

O Brook; & 'pests'

That's its name, 'O Brook' – I'm not being fanciful or archaic. But isn't it a great name? The other evening, a gentle dusk, we followed it down to where it meets the West Dart on the moor, in search of those spreads of bluebells that the moor can do so well. And we found them aplenty (they're a week or three later than down here in the softer lowlands).

Can't get much more beautiful than that, can you?

TM has two speeds: 'up-and-at-'em-in-full-pelt', and 'stop'. I discovered on Friday here by the O Brook that the bluebells call forth a 3rd speed: SLOW. What bliss to stroll through the bluebells!

And now the lanes are full of fledged young birds: bullfinches, greenfinches, sparrows, yellowhammers, robins. The air seems to carry more hirundines – swallows, martins, swifts – than last year; that would be good news. 

Meantime in the courtyard the magpies, whose chattering flirtatious ways with each other are quite endearing, are beginning to drive me nuts – each one of the pair sits on a different roof, but they do a finely-tuned double-act policing the area, swooping in to see off all the other birds from the feeder, and are especially officious to the spotted woodpecker. Yesterday they saw off a shyer green woodpecker from the wall, too. I fear for the little family of bluetits in the nesting box in the oak tree where the magpies routinely hang out – tasty snack for magpies, a hatchling.

A little less welcome again is the young rat who's been appearing, quite boldly, shinnying up the birdtable post - even when we both plus cat plus dog are sitting in the courtyard metres away. (Cat not interested, despite being a hunter; dog too dozy to notice.) I have to say it's a cute glossy young thing with its bright curious eyes. 

I try hard not to demonise any other animate being. I remember being surprised at the ripple of mass hysteria that ran through the room at a workshop I was giving in a spiritual centre a few years ago when someone mentioned seeing a rat by the compost bins several hundred yards away. AND? – I asked them to write a piece on their Inner Rat, to try and locate the fear.

It's said there's a rat within yards of every single one of us in the UK - I call it our Shadow. Yes, I know rats can carry disease. Some rats, some disease. The appearance of a rat, especially way out in the sticks as we are, doesn't automatically mean you're going to succumb to bubonic plague.  

We learned how to co-habit with hornets – very successfully (see and another post, 11 June 2012), and I learned a lot I didn't know about them by watching and reading.

I haven't quite come to terms with living with slugs, given that they destroy such a quantity of our food here, into which we, and especially TM, have invested so much time and energy; but I remind myself that they too have a place in the ecosystem. 

Yesterday, on Gardener's Question Time,  someone asked whether she shouldn't be quite so gleeful in treading on snails, in case they had a role on the planet. Well er yes (like everything): they're a part of the ecosystem. In this case, dealing with waste (the panel mentioned that bit) and providing food for frogs, toads, blackbirds, thrushes and hedgehogs, plus buzzards, badgers and some other mammals (they didn't mention that). Slugs, too, of course; but it's heartbreaking sometimes to see the huge hole they make in our annual harvest. 

We've spent a fortune on slug collars (a bit effective), copper ties (not much), slug deterrents made from sheepswool (worked a little but not much) and a lot of energy cutting and scattering thistles (fine till they wilt), and surrounding the plants with silver sand, (works for a week or two; not sure if long term it affects the Ph).

Haven't resolved that for myself; having resisted killing them over several years, and having lost maybe half our crop over and over, I've decided to duck out and be a coward, and let TM apply ferrous sulphate, which will kill them but is not toxic to anything else.

Rats? Still working on that one. I don't mind their being in the field, but the courtyard and the birdtable are too close to home. I've just bought some solar-powered sonar deterrents; they make a terrible buzz which luckily doesn't seem to affect our animals or the birds (and hopefully not the plants!). I'll report back.

On a more positive note, I'm eating the first globe artichokes. Joy! AND they have many fine healthful properties. And we've dug the first new potatoes... 


And news: after 5 enquiries in one week alone, I'm bringing my 350-page creative writing handbook, Writing the Bright Moment, back into print. Any day now. You'll be able to buy it, should you wish to, from the Paypal button over there to the right, as before. Seems it does what it says on the tin: gives writers some inspiration and guidance (and quite a lot of exercises).


  1. Just a few thoughts after your lovely, funny, nod-in-recognition-inducing blog.

    Oh Brook? Does it go anywhere near Jordan, just below Widdecombe-in-the-Moor? We walked beside a similar one on the 2 Moors Walk, but there are so many, I know. And incredible to think that bluebells are still flowering so far south of here. Height, I expect, and coolth and more damp?

    I so agree about magpies (I'll never forget the terrible image of one pacing up and down a cage, used as decoy for others, then shot, by our late neighbour). J bellows at them to scare them off; it relieves him but they're back, of course. It bothers me terribly that the fledglings are such easy prey, but . . . .? No answer, is there.

    Rats? Well, I agree and always think of Pied Piper of Hamlyn and of the Nazi portrayal of Jews as rats, vermin generally. Yes, a great idea to address them as our shadow-self.

    Yes, yes, yes, about slugs. Torn between loathing for their destruction of our efforts and wonder for their rather fascinating sluggishness. 'There but for the Grace of God ….' etc. And snails I treat with reverence for the dreadful reason of finding them beautiful!
    But my aim is to respect all living creatures, try not to condemn them for being what they are.

    With love from one Miriam-ish Miriam, whatever that means! Keep them coming, Roselle – the blogs, I mean.

  2. Miriam, couldn't agree more. My ongoing issue is our anthropcentric, rather than ecocentric, attitude as a species. Thank you - and glad you recgonised it all.

    Someone lent me a lovely book about a snail - an invalid (it was autobiographical) who spent her days watching a small snail that lived in a potted plant by her bed. V beautiful book. Changes the way we look at gastropods.

    Will check if O Brook heads near Jordan (isn't Jordan beautiful??). - But yes there are so many.

    Have taken to bellowing at the magpies myself ;-).

    Thank you, Miriam. And love - Rx

  3. I mean the writer was an invalid - not the snail! Nor the lender...! x

  4. Have to say, I did wonder for a nanosecond who exactly was the invalid!! Would be interested to read the book, though.

    Also meant to say how delighted I am about Writing the Bright Moment which deserves its popularity. I think it's brilliant though must say tend to go to it more when I feel completely blocked. I'm hoping that son Jeremy might one day take it on.

    And 'up-and-at-'em-at-in-full-pelt'. Made me scream with laughter, and J guffaw. But hard going. We have a friend like that (his wife calls him a walking automatum – spelling?) and we refuse to walk with him, though J increasingly finds my slower pace tedious, I'm sure. It helps that he's 6 years older than me, though. They all slow down eventually, though some don't, I fear!
    Time for work, M xx

  5. Thanks again Miriam! Any chance Jeremy might write? Or does he already?

    Glad it made you laugh. I have a sense/fear that TM will NEVER slow down! But me, gotta have some 'hello clouds hello sky' time! x


Blog Archive