Monday, January 29, 2007

Gorgon is a moron

I was reading recently about the famous Cottingley Fairies, which entranced the nation when photographs of them were published in 1917. Well, they may have entranced the nation back then, but nowadays they'd rightly be regarded as vermin, even if they were from Yorkshire, which would be God's own county, if there were a God.

Above: The Cottingley Fairies

Being magic and all that, I bet they're a bugger to get rid of too. Fairies can in fact be a highly detrimental pest to gardeners, and if you don't deal with them early on, they can start swarming, cultivating toadstools and suchlike, which is a real nuisance.

Fairies can be pretty and indeed in most cases they somwhat resemble miniature nubile teenage girls (see pic above), but if you really look at them closely, they have insect wings! So they're essentially a sort of vile half human-half insect monstrosity!

A glance round the pesticide shelves in Wilkinsons shows all manner of chemicals to rid your garden of moles, voles, slugs, snails, eelworms, cutworms, flatworms, quarryworms, wireworms, saw-worms, screwdriverworms, leatherjackets, greatcoats, greenfly, whitefly, blackfly, redfly, rainbowfly, rugmunchers, colorado beetle, california earwig, cabbage root fly, scale insects, mealy bugs, blue meany bugs, red spider mites, japs-eye, leaf-miners, welkins, knops, thrips, club root, rust, blot, stain, honey fungus, jam bracket, ergalot, damping off, cracking up, drip rot, knob-rot, spraing, arc, boing, desk scab and hollow-fall. But nothing for fairies.

Seems it's tough if you have fairies at the bottom of the garden in 2007. Perhaps they have protected status. Like bats or The Two Ronnies. It's something that you don't hear much about, almost as if there's a conspiracy of silence, emanating from government departments and agencies. A very similar situation to that surrounding wild boar in the UK (see my previous blog entry below) I guess the fairies have friends in high places. Probably some sort of connection with the Illuminati that David Icke tells us are running the world.
I don't want to dis the great man, what with him possibly being the new messiah, but I actually knew about the Illuminati long before Icke did. My mum and dad took me to see them when I was a kid.

The Illuminati

Funnily enough we don't have a fairy problem. Sigh...I almost wish we did. You see, we have Gorgons at the bottom of our garden, which is way worse than fairies. They're a right pain, turning you into bloody stone every time you go down the compost heap with the potato peelings. Can't even do a bit of weeding down there without my polished shield. If any Gorgons are reading this, can I just say that if I want to be hard as rock, I have Jude, OK?

Me on my way to the compost heap, menaced by a Gorgon
I don't suppose these are your original Gorgons, the ones that Perseus slew in Greek Mythology, when they presumably infested his garden. As far as I know, those Gorgons weren't from Sheffield, or even from Yorkshire, and anyway, Percy slew them, which was probably a bit harsh. As I remember, they were called Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. What lovely names; why don't people call their kiddies those names nowadays? The ones in our garden are probably called Leanne, Kylie and S'manfa.

The Gorgons at the bottom of our garden yesterday. Kylie at centre.

Of the original Gorgons, Medusa was sort of like the Queen Gorgon, the one the others looked up to. Sort of the Gorgon's Gorgon, if you like. All Gorgons have a Queen, it's a well known fact. Like bees. Stands to reason. However, unlike bees, Gorgons are not insects, believe it or not. They don't fly as a rule, and they don't visit flowers to sip nectar. Nor do they make honey, and they tend to hiss rather than buzz.

Gorgons are in fact a species of Monster, distantly related to Harpies, Furies and Sirens.
Just in case you've never had mythical female monsters in your vegetable plot, here's a brief Field Guide to some of the main types...

1. Harpies
"Harpies are fierce, filthy, winged monsters who have characteristics of a bird and a woman, similar to that of the Sirens. Their hideous faces of women with sharp claws mounted on the bodies of vultures inspire both horror and disgust. They can fly as fast as a bolt of lightning."

Left: Harpies. You know when you have these buggers on your bird table! Look, they've wrecked the shed!

2. Furies

"The Furies were considered hideous in appearance. They take the appearance of clawed women dressed in black and red with hair bristling of serpants. They are sometimes represented by flies which harass their victims as remorse. "

Left: Furies. "considered hideous in appearance", presumably by gay men and ugly women

3. Sirens

"The Sirens or Mermaids were odd looking creatures who had features of a bird from the waist down and a body of a woman from the waist up. Often found in garden ponds ."

Left: Sirens. Phwoar. Welcome in my pond any day.

There. That should help you identify any Monsters with tits that you find amongst your brassicas.

Another species of Monster sometimes found in gardens in the UK is The Minotaur, though this is becoming increasingly rare as a result of persecution by farmers, who blame it for spreading bipedalism amongst their cattle.

Minotaurs can become quite tame if you put food out for them on your patio

I'm told by a Greek bloke down Meersbrook allotments that the best way to get rid of Gorgons is to use biological control. He recommends Gay Austrians to drive the Gorgons out, rather than kill them. The Gay Austrians are immune to the Gorgons tendency to turn blokes into stone, and their bitchy secretions are intolerable to the Gorgons, who will move on and settle elsewhere.

Note: Gay Austrians are ineffective against Minotaurs.

I supose it could be worse. A mate of mine in Doncaster has an infestation of Hollywood Screen Sirens in his shrubbery. He's tried all sorts of things but they just keep coming back. I told him, he needs to catch them early on, when their careers are just developing, otherwise he'll never get rid of the buggers, and they'll take over his garden, pouting dramatically amidst the summer bedding, and dramatically bursting into anguished tears over his courgettes. He won't be able to move for seductive glances from big brown eyes.

To illustrate this, here are the stages in the life cycle of one of the better known species, Sophia Loren...

Above: Larval stage of Sophia Loren - just about to start eating a bush

Sophia Loren: newly emerged nymph - still vulnerable if dealt with early, but soon becomes more than a match for the weekend gardener

Sophia Loren:
First stage nymph - becoming difficult to control

Sophia Loren:Late first stage nymph - a real handful

Sophia Loren: Second stage nymph - impossible to eradicate.

Sophia Loren: Young adult - your garden's fucked

Sophia Loren: Mature adult - eating everything in her path

Sophia Loren: Mature adult, late stage. Move house now!

Above: more images of the agricultural pest Sophia Loren, taken from "Common Pests and Diseases of Soft Fruits Vol. 1" (Royal Horticultural Society).

So you see, the life cycle of the Hollywood Screen Siren is a comlex one, and they are hard to tackle once past the first nymph stage.

Other species of Hollywood Screen Siren which may be encountered in the garden are...

Rita Hayworth - Feeds on strawberries. Use warm soapy water with a touch of baby oil (worth trying for Sophia Loren too).

Above: Julie Christie - Lives in a silk coccoon beneath the bark of ornamental japanese maples

Cyd Charisse - Forms hollow cysts on potatoes. Elaborate courtship dance.

Lauren Bacall: man-eater

As well as Mythological Vermin and Hollywood Screen Sirens, the gardener of today also has to contend with several other nuisance species. I shall be taking a look at these in future editions of my blog, in particular the growing menace of Dr Who Monsters, which are becoming more widespread due to the increasing tendency for mild winters and hot, dry summers.

Happy gardening, and watch those garden monsters!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The M to P of Heavy Metal

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The M to P of Heavy Metal?!! Why not the A to Z (that's a Zed, not a Zee, readers in Amerika) ?

Well why not? Maybe I could start with a band beginning with A. AC/DC? Nah. Not really heavy metal, whatever you may think. And anyway I have a good reason for the M and the P...

I've had an at times intensely physical love affair with heavy metal since I received a lethal dose of Motorhead at Newcastle Mayfair in November 1980, whre they unveiled the songs from their then new LP 'Ace of Spades', the title track of which is now their signature tune and a bona fide Rock Classic. Here it is performed by the Incredible Singing Pish Dolls, and sounding uncannily like the original...

So you see, they were the M. They were one of the bookends of the period of my life when that genre of music dominated my musical tastes. Before seeing Motorhead for the first time, aged 18, I was vague about music. At school, I wasn't that bothered by it. There was little music on telly, apart from Top of the Pops, which I always watched, and The Old Grey Whistle Test, which somehow seemed too grown up for me, not to mention too late - I was in bed before it came on.

I liked music, don't get me wrong. As 11 year olds me and my best mate Steven Dibb and a couple of other lads formed a 'gang'. Not that we did anything, or caused any trouble, so calling us a gang, by the standards of todays adolescent armies, is risible. But a gang we were, even if it was really just me and Steven. We had to form a gang because, in the corner of Pudsey Cemetery were some huge victorian greenhouses, still fully glazed, which needed a gang to use them as a hideout, a den. We had to form a gang then, see? Just so the greenhouses didn't go to waste.

What's this got to do with heavy metal, with Motorhead, and why is it the M(otorhead) to P of heavy metal? Patience. All good things come to those with blonde hair and larger than average breasts.

Right: My rock bitch, Jude, with blonde(ish) hair and larger than average breasts, adopting a suitably heavy metal attitude

The greenhouses were beautiful. They still had their timber staging, and stacks of terracotta plant pots, and white glazed sinks sunk into the floor under the staging, full of cold water for watering the long gone plants. Part of the Council Parks Department, but closed down when Pudsey was absorbed by the amoebic creep of the city of Leeds. We left the greenhouses alone. We didn't break anything or set fire to them. I was actually slightly in awe of them, to be honest. I had respect for them and their history.

No, we just hung around in there; 'hung out' to use the American parlance that has, like, sprung up like weeds all over the garden of the English language, dude. We once got hold of some of those little tubes of car touch-up paint and wrote our names on the pavement, and I was terrified the police would be after me. Can you imagine an adolescent boy in 2007 thinking that way? No, the greenhouses would be wrecked within a weekend, the glass smashed and staging burnt. A 'gang' in 2007 would quickly destroy their own adopted home. Idiots.

Heavy Metal? Well, we had to have rules in our gang. To be a member, you had to like Slade. Slade were the first band I was really into, probably because my grandad bought me a cassette of 'Sladest' as a christmas present in 1973, which was the first piece of music I owned. OK, I know Slade aren't a heavy metal band, even if Quiet Riot did cover 'Cum on Feel the Noize' sometime in the 80s. No, not heavy metal, but definitely a rock band. Heavy metal didn't even exist then, I suppose. Not by name. It was 'Heavy Rock'. Black Sabbath had invented the genre without realising it, back in 1970, with their eponymous first LP, but they were lumped together with the heavy rock bands like Led Zep, Deep Purple and the like. I was too young to appreciate those bands. You didn't see them on Top of the Pops, so I had no exposure to them until I was older. Slade was as heavy as it got, but it set the template in my head.

For anyone who doubts that Black Sabbath invented Metal As We Know It (MAWKI), listen to this; Sabbath performing 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath', the title track from their 5th LP, released in 1973, and later to be covered by the Swedish Hardcore Porn-Metal act The Cardigans...

1973 not early enough to justify their "invention" of MAWKI? How about this, the title track from their first LP 'Black Sabbath', performed live in Paris in 1970...

The RIFFS man, the riffs!

From glam pop roots like Slade and Sweet, my musical tastes grew. The parochialism and subcultures that characterise the music scene now didn't really exist then, in the early 1970s, and I was happy to take my growing collection of singles to parties and play Slade's 'Skweeze me Pleeze me' next to the Beatles 'Paperback writer' (which I'd swapped off my mate Ray Quinn for The Sweet's 'Hellraiser'), followed by Abba's 'Money Money Money', Frankie Miller's 'Be Good to Yourself' and Heatwave's 'Boogie Nights'. A confused kid, or was I already a kid who was developing admirably broad tastes?

In 1976, I started hearing a new sort of music. Punk. The Sex Pistols. The Damned. The Clash. These bands were all over the papers and TV. They were intimidating, and parental warnings of doom rang in my ears as attempts were made to prevent me falling into the clutches of Satan's music and coming home wearing a sloganised bin liner with safety pins through my newly bloodied ears.

It worked. I was never a punk, but I did like the music. For the first time, I felt I was in at the start of something. That I was part of a generation who owned the music that was burning through the ancient forests of the established music hierarchies. It was ours. I'd liked Slade, but they were around ages before I discovered them, and anyway, they weren't a threat to anyone. I enjoyed the power that punk gave me, that I could sow mild fear in my mother's eyes simply by casually letting slip that some of my mates were 'punk rockers'. I suppose a lot of 14 year olds felt the same.

Left: Original London punk icon Soo Catwoman, one of the people at the very cutting edge of the scene in 1976. What balls! Nobody I knew looked like this in 1976. Or 1977 for that matter. Wonder what she's doing now?

When punk really exploded then went into a slow decline, as the music industry got over the surprise and shock of its arrival, and worked to trap and break this wild mustang, so it could work for them, and earn them money, it was 1977. I was 15, and I was finally waking up to the heavy rock bands I'd missed in the early 70s. I was watching the Old Grey Whistle Test now, and I saw no discrepancy in playing Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd next to The Buzzcocks or Siouxsie and The Banshees. It was all good.

To be honest, most of my generation were the same. The idea that punk swept away all the long haired prog and heavy rock bands was a myth, apart from within the inward-looking lives of the punk hardcore; those who fully embraced the punk ethic, and rejected what went before. I suspect even they had guilty pleasures tucked away at the back of their album racks, and still grooved to Trammps or shook their larded hair to Deep Purple. After all, Lydon was well known as a fan of Tim Buckley and other former representatives of the Love Generation, so McLaren's "Never trust a hippy" slogan, though endorsed by many, rang hollow when looked at closely in the context of the real attitudes of his proteges, with the obvious exception of the cartoonish Sid, who seemed to delight in rejecting everything, including life.

Look at footage of many early punk acts like the Buzzcocks or The Fall and you'll see flares, long hair, wing collar shirts and tank tops. Outside the London scene, it definitely wasn't all bondage trousers and spiky hair. Far more mix and match, like the slow slide from Roman Britain into the Anglo-Saxon period, the dividing lines were blurred, and all the more so in Northern towns like Leeds or Manchester. Punk music was everywhere but the tsunami of punk fashion ran out of steam long before it reached Pudsey.

It was at that point in 1976/77, when I'd been energised by the rawness and fury of punk, but was beginning to explore the 'album bands' I'd missed out on, that I went to my first gig. Not a punk gig. It was Thin Lizzy, at St George's Hall, Bradford. I'd queued for five and a half hours on a freezing cold snowy day in December of 1977, with my new mate and later climbing partner, Mark 'Sambo' Phillips, to get tickets for the concert. It was worth it. The attachment and affinity that I'd started to feel towards punk, suddenly exploded overnight, and music was instantly at the core of my existence, perhaps the most important thing in my life.

Lizzy (fans always called them 'Lizzy': calling them by their full name was not cool and marked you out as a mong or a doylum, the late 70s colloquial equivalents of the nerd or the geek. Note: see also 'Sabbath', 'Floyd', 'Purple' and 'Led Zep'), were not heavy metal, and were also not at all punk. They played tight, melodic rock music with beautiful strands of irish folk music woven through the warp and weft of their sound. Someohow they managed to avoid the derision heaped upon many of their hirsute contemporaries and retained the affection of many who had strayed to the 'dark side' and become punks to varying degrees. Here they are blistering the paintwork with 'Jailbreak'...

With hindsight, I should have joined a band. Formed a band even. I could write songs, and had performed them to schoolfriends a capella, in school cloakrooms. They had titles like 'One way mudball' and 'Pea soup reggae'. But somehow I missed out. Too shy and lazy to go for it probably, and not motivated enough to learn an instrument. But I loved to listen.

I saw Lizzy again in 1979, at the long since demolished Queens Hall, an old tram shed with a leaky roof in Leeds, and host to the now legendary 2-day 'Futurama' festivals, the first headlined by Hawkwind and PiL!. By now, I had a circle of very music-aware friends who were happily mixing and matching punk and heavy rock with disco and the newly emergent bleak post-punk of the Human League and Joy Division. Most of these friends sported the same patched jeans, duffle coats and long hair that they'd had in 1975. You could see 'real' punks in Leeds, but not up here in this local town for local people.

Fuck it. I love Lizzy so much I have to include another clip (thank you YouTube!), this time of them performing their fucking awesome version of Bob Seger's 'Rosalie'. Enjoy...

One day, I was at the school youth club. It was a Thursday night in 1979. There was a mate of my younger brother there, a lad by the name of Jonathan Stockdale. He was well into his punk; he had a huge collection of punk singles, which would probably pay off a small mortgage now if they were all auctioned on ebay. He was often to be seen at the youth club, hogging the record player, and treating us all to a fast and furious series of what are now classic punk songs. On this evening though, he put something on that seemed totally different. I'd never heard anything like it. It was ROCK, Jim, but not as we knew it.

The thunderous noise pouring from the speakers, which was making the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, was like holding onto the outside of a rocket being launched into space. It was exciting, LOUD, it was crude and powerful. It had the crushing heaviness and bass-driven riffing of Black Sabbath, somehow hybridized with the 4-minute fury and simplicity of punk. It was MY MUSIC. It was 'Overkill' by Motorhead. It was definitely, unequivocally, Heavy Metal. The meanderings of my musical explorations suddenly imploded into the all consuming black hole of Heavy Metal.

Couldn't find a good clip of the band playing 'Overkill', but click on the YouTube link below (the original recording soundtracking some Manga animation) and listen! Remember, it has to be heard loud, or it doesn't really work. Anything else is the equivalent of an 18 inch high Stonehenge.

The year after, I went to Newcastle, to study for a degree in Marine Biology. Motorhead were playing at The Mayfair, a smallish venue near where I lived. I wasn't sure what to expect. I never saw the band come onto the darkened stage. Suddenly, there was LIGHT. Blinding light, hot beams of spotlights playing across the crowd from a lighting rig shaped like a plane, a nod to their previous album 'Bomber', which looked like something from a children's playground hung from the ceiling. Sounds funny, but any comedic overtones were swept aside in this fucking incredible NOISE. The sound was suffocating, a jet engine scream, like an aural blowtorch, pinning me against the back wall of the club.

I stood there, blasted by the roar and thunder, my skin flayed by the sheer power, and my ears hammered mercilessly for the hour and ten minutes the three men were on stage. It was the greatest thing I'd ever experienced, right up there with my recent loss of virginity.

It's sort of a given, these days, that Heavy Metal is music for adolescent boys to masturbate to, music which makes a spotty, confused boy, who can't relate to his parents or to girls or even to himself, feel like an Ubermensch. But look beyond the sticky trousered adolescent with bad skin and you'll find that metal provides at least a partial soundtrack to his parent's, grandparent's or even great-grandparent's generation. It really has been around that long. However, just like drugs, each generation thinks they invented it, and that their parents and teachers don't, can't understand either it or them. Feeling like an outsider, not only set apart from older generations, but from the mainstream of one's own generation, is an important part of being a metal fan. Alienation is cool. Metalheads are outlaws.

Three years ago, I went to the Ozzfest, a one-day festival of nothing but metal, at Donington. There were, reassuringly many men of my age, and older, at that event, some wearing faded t-shirts bearing band names like Budgie and The Pink Fairies, moshing sweatily and violently with 14 year olds in Korn t-shirts. It was an epiphany for me. A revisiting of a spiritual shrine, like a Muslim making the Hajj.

My musical tastes have expanded over the years, into jazz and electronica, reggae and 'world music' ( I do hate that term). But Ozzfest reminded me, that like an underground river, the spirit of metal flows through my veins and I will never lose the capacity to be excited by crushing riffs and growled vocals, borne on drums like thunder. The lyrics may sometimes be comedic (though don't assume that), but metal is all about effect. Don't look for depth in meaning. Rather, look for depth in the sheer noise. That's what it's all about. When I heard 'Overkill' in 1979, I didn't even register the words, apart from the repeated "OVERKILL!" chorus, barked by Lemmy. I just felt the torrent pick me up and carry me away. Cum on Feel the Noize indeed.

So what's the P stand for? Well, the golden era of my love affair with this music was definitely in the 1980s, very much against the musical and sartorial trends of the time. To give you an idea of what I mean, here's some pictures of me in 1982...

It came to an end, in a way, in 1987, when I and a couple of hundred like-minded souls crammed into The Duchess, in Leeds, to spend the best part of an hour colliding violently with each other in sweaty delirium, to a band called Prong. Prong were definitely a metal band, I mean just listen to them. But their lyrics were about real life, real feelings. It was emotional music. Emo. You can get a potted history for the band on their Wikipedia entry.

Drummer Ted Parsons was a former member of the crushingly loud (though not a metal band) avant-garde New Yorkers, Swans. That fact demonstrated that metal was now coming out of its ghetto, and hybridizing with other genres, just as motorhead had hybridized heavy rock with the spitting runt that was punk.

Prong were superb, cathartic. One of the best live shows I've ever seen, out of hundreds. Shortly afterwards, we had Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Jane's Addiction, The Beastie Boys and a host of other bands, none of them metal bands as such, but all taking the sound and feeling of that music into new genres and new directions. Metal was in from the cold and, judging by the sheer number of crossovers and metal hybrids which have appeared in everything from hip-hop to jazz, it was shagging everything in sight.

Anyway, here are Prong, with 'Unconditional'...

I spent the late 80s and early 90s kidding myself that I'd 'grown out of' heavy metal, whilst still listening to bands like Husker Du, Rollins Band and Dinosaur Junior. Somehow, I and the music press classified these as 'US Hardcore', and the M word was not mentioned. Have a listen to Husker Du playing 'New Day Rising'. Is this metal?

No? Try The Rollins Band, here on Later, with the intense 'On my way to the cage'...

The singer here, teetotal exercise nut, poet, spoken word raconteur and nice bloke Henry Rollins, is the former leader of legendary late 70s/early 80s US punk outfit Black Flag. Punk? Metal? Who cares?

See? My metal blood is diluted. I am no longer pure.

To conclude, let's avail ourselves of the wonders of YouTube once more, and see where metal is now. This is Slipknot, who should be funny, but somehow aren't, with 'Duality'...
Put it on the full screen setting and turn it up loud!

NOTE: Soo Catwoman is alive and well and still called Soo Catwoman. My spelling of her name as Sue stemmed from a book called 'England's Dreaming' where here name is spelled thus, perhaps as a provocation, by author Jon Savage. I apologise to Soo for my shoddy research. I only included her on a whim; an aside to my mention of punk's influence on my musical tastes at 15, and didn't feel the need to look her up, other than to find her picture on Google. She does in fact have a Website and MySpace, and I'd urge anyone who is interested to visit. her MySpace is ace. Ace MySpace. Like it. Note to selves: I must get a MySpace soon. There's clearly much ado about Soo, and her connection with the scene, as defined by the likes of 'England's Dreaming', is merely a sprouting seed somewhere in the past. There is now a tree. With fruit, I shouldn't wonder, and perhaps a community of arthropods.
She has a website

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Diver

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I have a degree in Marine Biology. I wanted to be Pudsey's answer to Jacques Cousteau. It never happened. I don't even dive. My brother Ray does. He lives in Galway, Ireland. Ironic.

I still love the sea though. The sea and all it contains. I wrote a sea-themed poem a couple of years back; The Diver. It's a love story of sorts.
The poem was originally posted on the Fex Wazner Art Forum, on a thread dedicated to a friend of Lulu, one of the posters on there. The friend was called Alasdair and he died at sea. See the original thread here.

It's worth exploring the many categories on the forum too, while you're there. Some nice people use it, and there are some interesting subjects being discussed. At the time, the poem was only seen by a handful of posters.

There may be a different handful of people reading this, so for your benefit, here it is again. Feel free to comment, even if it's just to say "What a pile of shit."

The Diver

I slide beneath the slapping waves
to gloomed embrace of sea.
My futile fight for life is lost
and drowned, my tearful plea.

Cold penetration’s soon forgot
as bursting lungs are filled
with airless, cold and briny flow.
My hopeless struggle’s stilled.

The gentle rape is soon complete,
my fading vision clouds,
as death’s eternal blackness
my mind forever shrouds.

The ocean’s bed for me is made
and in it I must lie,
in cushioned mud and sighing sand
beneath a foam splashed sky.

The groans of the abyss do touch
my sea-invaded ears
but senseless, lifeless, dead are they
and nevermore will hear.

The taste of tears may reach grey lips,
if from the shore they drift.
From where my lover cries and weeps
her love and life bereft.

She helpless watched her true love drown,
sucked into fearful deep,
and what the sea decides to take,
the sea is wont to keep.

I drifted down on shafts of sun,
my body at rest lies,
its soft arrival keenly watched
by swivelled, stalked eyes.

The marching crabs in haste do come,
all crust and clicking claws,
to feast upon my sodden flesh
with sliding, slicing jaws.

A deadpan goat-eyed octopus
sits watching from a crack,
the seething, jointed, feeding hordes
amidst the olive wrack.

My death so pointless seemed to be
an awful, tragic waste
but brings a feast to crawling things
which gorge in greedy haste.

They pick and pull and probe and chew
this fleshy human bait,
like automata skittering
as eight-armed death awaits.

It oozes forth to make its kill
a mass of living rope,
a slime and gristle nightmare
its prey without a hope.

My bloated, ragged, rotting corpse,
all breath and beauty gone,
is feeding ocean scavengers
with meat and blood and bone.

Decaying in this gurgling grave,
this burial at sea,
the drifting sands in cold green murk
will hide me by degree.

Fish with mirrored curves gleam past
through strands of writhing weed,
while a myriad twinkling starfish
glide by on silent feet.

Cold shadow, slime and loneliness
now haunt my empty eyes.
Pelagic winds round bony limbs
in quiet swirlings sigh.

I drift upon the current’s flow,
or lie beneath the sand,
an echo of a memory
of air and love and land.

Brightest comet in 30 years. But WHERE IS IT?!!!

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Consideration of things celestial has given me a taste for space again. We are all made of stardust - heavy atoms forged in the heart of stars, and ultimately all the subatomic particles that make up those atoms were themselves created in the Big Bang, 18.5 billion years ago.

Anyway, with each blog entry I'll publish a photo from the Hubble Space Telescope. This one is of the spiral galaxy NGC 1512. It's taken in visible light wavelengths, meaning this is what we'd see if we could look at it with our eyes. It's GREEN!

It's also 30 million light years from us, and it measures 70,000 light years across. Think of it; light coming from a star on the edge of the galaxy takes 70,000 years just to reach the other edge!

If you click on the picture, you can see the same galaxy viewed in near-ultraviolet wavelengths. Wow.

I don't know if any of you know this, but Comet Mcnaught, named after Australian astronomer Robert McNaught, its discoverer, has been visible in our skies for weeks now, and has been, since new Year, the brightest comet in 30 years, surpassing even the spectacular Hale-Bopp(1997) and the ghostly Hyakutake (1996), both of which entranced me when they appeared.

Comet Hale-Bopp over Leeds

Comet Hyakutake

Bizarrely, this new comet has had almost zero news coverage, and I only stumbled across it when the BBC posted a few pics of it on their news site, tucked away so you'd never notice them unless you were searching for them.
On Friday, Jude's 11 year-old son, Jasper, arrived to stay with us over the weekend. Thinking it may be a rare opportunity, I took him up to the superb Graves Park, which has a clear view to the South West, the direction of the comet, just after sunset. Unfortunately it was too cloudy, though Jasper was entertained by trying to achieve flight in the strong wind blasting off the Dark Peak (sounds very Tolkienesque, dunnit?).
Saturday being a day of solid cloud and incessant rain, it was left to Sunday to provide clear skies, and provide them it did, so off we went to the park again, to watch the sun set and look for Mcnaught. Could we see it? Could we buggery! We even tried again an hour later before giving up.
It's so disappointing, given that this is supposedly so bright, that it isn't visible as were the aforementioned comets. Maybe it's because it's so low in the sky, or because it's only visible at dusk, rather than in the dark of night. The pics on the BBC site suggest otherwise though. Whatever, I'll try once more if it's clear tonight.
I can well understand how comets were regarded as ill omens, looking as ghostly and cold as they do. Even the pictures of comet nuclei (see below) taken by various spacecraft and Hubble Telescope show spectral, cold objects, fully in keeping with their manifestations in the sky.

If you've not seen Hubble's gallery, then visit the site and feel humbled!

The nucleus of Halley's Comet, seen on March 13, 1986 from 25,660 kilometers (15,950 miles) away, by the European Space Agency craft Giotto


I found this site, which seems to indicate several reasons why we didn't see the comet. It also gives a decent guide if you want to see it, but it seems that the Southern Hemisphere is now the place to get the best view.

Quote from the site:

"It’s already as bright as the brightest stars, but it is also sticking close to the glare of the Sun. For this reason the general public won’t be gathering on street corners to gaze at it, as they did Comet Hyakutake (in 1996) or Comet Hale-Bopp (1997). But amateur astronomers in north-temperate latitudes, with their observing know-how, have an excellent chance of spotting Comet McNaught in the next week or so, very low in the bright glow of evening twilight"

(Courtesy of Sky and Telescope)

Monday, January 08, 2007

it's a frightful boar

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So, I saw a wild deer in the patchy woods near Pudsey in 2000. Who hasn't, right? Loads of people I bet. I've seen red deer in Scotland of course, and I saw a deer of some sort (roe I think) on Kettle Ness (Ness; another Viking word), out on the North Yorkshire coast, three years ago, right on the clifftops in a deserted quarry. Pretty rural place that though, so not entirely unexpected. This is Kettle Ness. It's a haunted place, believe me...

This is a roe deer. Cute huh?

A roe deer

Sorry, wrong species! That was a roe slug, and looking very pleased with itself. THIS (below) is a roe deer...

Not only is it a roe deer buck (ie a male), but it is majestically leaping. Deer like to majestically leap. It's one of their distinguishing characteristics. Slugs don't usually leap, unless startled. You should never startle a slug.

Et I said last week, our house in Sheffield backs onto the woods. Pretty empty of wildlife you'd think, being so urban and populated by dirty voyeuristic tramps, according to my mum ("make sure you close your curtains at night!"). But are they really wildlife deserts?? Read on, and enlightenment will follow......

We have two cats, both a bit advanced in years, and when we moved them here from some West Sheffield shit hole, the light and the space of Carr Woods really put the zap on their heads. The eldest, a sedate ginger tom called Barney, that's Mister Barney to you! never goes beyond the back garden. His eyesight ain't so good n' his hearin's not worth two penn'orth o' copper. When he was younger, he used to catch feckin' badgers! Once brought home a whole baby. Left it behind the sofa and we never noticed 'til the stink got bad. Still, it fetched a few carrion birds to the bird table.

One day I'm sittin' on the sofa stroking Barney, he's on my knee, right? And I feel this thing, I dunno, it chilled me to the fuckin' bone, shouldn'ta bin there, ya get me? I peer into his fur and fuck me, he's got a Deer Tick, the size of a Muscat Grape, on his neck! There must've been more blood in the fuckin' tick than there was in Barney!

So anyhow, I try to twist it out and it breaks in half, like they always do, but I dig out the head with my fingernail and Barney's ok; probably never knew it was even there. See this here, on the right? That's what the little bastards look like, sucking human blood. Actual size.

But it got me ta thinkin', where'd he get the dirty little arachnid bastard from? Like I say, never goes outside the back garden, so he must've picked it up there. A Deer tick. Ever see a deer tick up real close? No?

Smile for the camera...


Looks like one of the mine robots from Descent II don't it? This one was the size of a hamster. Jude's worst fuckin' nightmare.

So maybe a fox carried it and it dropped off the fox there, in the long grass. God knows there's enough foxes out there, puttin' the fear into the women with their murderous screaming. Vixens. Lotsa ultravixens down there in the valley, YA LISTENIN' RUSS?! You educated this poor boy I tell ya. Must blog on Tura Satana (right) sometime soon.
But even foxes don't roam all that far. Even a fox had to have got that tick somewhere nearby. So there must be deer around, see? Even though these woods are constantly patrolled by Southern Comfort style inbred vigilante groups of dog walkers and frowning teens and masturbating tramps, so worn down there's more path than woods, there are deer, out there. If only the tick coulda talked before it croaked. What tales it coulda told!

So. We have deer. They're out there. Watching us. I can feel their eyes. I'll never be able to have sex in the woods again now.

But you know what? It's not the deer I'm excited about. It's something else. The deer have always been there, only we didn't realise. Deer are nice, and deer are kind of exciting, but deer are cropdusters. What I'm talkin' 'bout is a fuckin' English Electric Lightning, (you gotta know your planes here)! C'mere...[whispers] Wild Boar!

By 1700, Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) were officially extinct in Britain, having been mercilessly hunted for sport and food, and treated as a pest of agricultural land. They lingered on and even thrived on the continent however, and are far more common there than we realise. There's even a huge population, hundreds strong, living in the parks and urban woods of Berlin! Uberpigs!

So what does a Wild Boar look like? The 1984 Australian "horror" film Razorback, based on the novel by Stephen King (he must cringe at the very mention) depicts them as slavering, intelligent monsters, bent on death and destruction. It's like Jaws on trotters. Actually the film's not that bad, and pigs can be nasty; allegedly lots of people have been eaten by domestic varieties. They're omnivores, see, just like us. They'll eat anything, so long as it won't kill 'em. Even doner kebabs.

Just. Like. Us.

Well guess what? They're back. Having been for a 300 year vacation in their overseas villas, they came back, posing initially as farmed animals for the meat market. But they're smart, these boar. Oh they're smart alright. I knew kids at school who weren't that smart. Yeah, and pretty soon, they were escaping, back into the countryside they'd vacated back in medieval times, settin' up home like they owned the fuckin' place. Occasionally you'd see it on the news, when a particularly newsworthy escape took place, like the one in Devon a couple of years back, where a load of them got out. Big animals, wild boar, but most of those escapees are still out there. Like I said. Smart.

Officially, they don't exist. Their presence is hushed up, kept quiet, despite the fact that they have established breeding populations in several areas, mainly down South, and are now, like it or not, a part of the ecology of our woodlands once again. And why not? They belong there. OK, there are no wolves now, their main natural predator, to keep them in check, but that's another story. Don't get me started on wolves! So no predators. Just us. Just man. I think that's enough, if the populations get out of hand. Which is unlikely. These aren't like deer herds. Boar aren't herd animals.

Here is a wild boar, and I mean wild boar, family in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

And here's one seen in Somerset.

Personally, I welcome them. People have complained that they've dug up gardens and farmland. Well, given the vast surplus of crops that our nation's farmers produce, I think it's a bit ripe to whinge that wildlife is helping itself to a tiny percentage of it. Similarly, i love my garden, but if a piece of spectacular wildlife wants to come in and dig it up and eat my vegetables, I'll thrill to see the wildlife, then replant, and if I'm that bothered, put up a boar-proof fence, just as I'd have a fox-proof one if I kept chickens. Science du rockette it is not.

Wanna know more? Check out the site run by Dr Martin Goulding, devoted entirely to the return of Wild Boar to Britain. It's an amazing site, and is full of all the information, and lots of free opinion, both pro and anti. It'll tell you all you need to know. Check out the sightings list. They are everywhere!

From the site comes this sighting report, from SHEFFIELD. They're heeeere!

Sheffield, Ecclesall.

"Just like to report a sighting.

There were four of us in the car Sunday night 8th Oct [2006]. I saw something crossing the road in front of us and was a bit dumb-struck. A minute later, I said " did anybody see what I just saw"? My husband and friends husband looked at me gone out, my friend Melanie turned to me and said "what the hell was that" Our respective partners thought we were pulling their legs when we described what we saw. However we didn't even know what we'd seen. I couldn't even think of an animal that fit it's profile. However, after talking to people and viewing the photos on your site, we're both pretty convinced that it was a boar that we saw. The location of the sighting was close to Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield.

There's no other sightings in Sheffield on your site, hope to see more soon."

Courtesy of Dr Martin Goulding's site. Thanks Martin.