Monday, 30 January 2012

Cow in a Dolmen

It's Imbolg in a few days. In honour of this, and continuing from the Carahunge post about Dog in a Spirit Hole, here is Cow in a Dolmen.

Spirit Holes: L: Armenia R: Wales

When I used to live in Cardiff, I became very attached to Tinkinswood and St. Lythans. Check those links to learn more about them.

One day I rocked up to St. L's to find a cow there. It seemed to like me, and followed me around the stones - posing for pictures to the point where it was actually hard to take one without him in it. Sort of like the Genius Loci of Carahung.

St. L's is also know as Gwal-y-Filiast in Welsh - 'Kennel of the Greyhound Bitch'. He's not exactly as graceful as a greyhound, but a black bull certainly has its own connotations in folk mythology.

A long time ago, someone put the whole of Mary Trevelyan's Folk-lore and Folk-stories of Wales on the web. Can't seem to find it anymore though. In it, St. Lythans is referred to as 'the stones in Maes-Y-Felin Field' and Tinkinswood as 'the great cromlech in Duffryn woods':
Duffryn, near St. Nicholas, in the Vale of Glamorgan, has Druidical stones scattered about in various places. Some of these have stories attached to them. Old people in the beginning of the nineteenth century said that once a year, on Midsummer Eve, the stones in Maes-y-felin Field whirled round three times, and made curtsies; and if anybody went to them on Hallowe'en, and whispered a wish in good faith, it would be obtained.
The field in which these stones stand was unprofitable, and people said the land was under a curse. The stones in Tinkins Wood, some distance away, but belonging to the same Druidical series, were said to be women turned into stone for dancing on Sunday. The great cromlech in the Duffryn Woods was an unlucky place to sleep in on one of the "three spirit nights," for the person who did so would die, go raving mad, or become a poet.
These stones were haunted by the ghosts of Druids, who were in the habit of punishing wicked people by beating them, and were particularly hard in their treatment of drunkards. A man fond of drink slept there one night, and his experiences were terrible. He declared the Druids beat him first, and then whirled him up to the sky, from which he looked down and saw the moon and stars thousands of miles below him. The Druids held him suspended by his hair in the mid-heaven, until the first peep of day, and then let him drop down to the Duffryn woods, where he was found in a great oak by farm-labourers.
Tinkinswood was originally built around 4000 B.C., a megalithic chamber constructed for the communal burial of the dead. The enormous cap stone weighs some 40 tons and is thought to be the largest in Britain.

I have so many fond memories of those stones. I used to head out to Tinkinswood every full moon. On a clear night the shaft of moonlight would fall right between her legs, like a path to her inner chamber. Although, before the excavation, she would have been buried beneath the earth. In spring the stream sometimes flooded and you'd have to wade through the field to get to her.

Tinkins' Fairy Woods

Back in 2007 I was living in an attic above a gypsy jazz musician. There was a full lunar eclipse. I persuaded her to come with me. She brought her fiddle and I took my whistle. We lay on the capstone watching the moon turn blood-red, then go out completely. We took tea and Welsh cakes. It was so cold. We played until we couldn't feel our fingers anymore.

I've just resurrected an old blog post from 2007 when I organised an impromptu Beltane festival at Tinkinswood. You can read about it in: Beltane Fire Moon.

'Spirit Hole' at St. Lythans

Friday, 20 January 2012

Hope and the Tree of Heaven

I am soooooo tired. Not even three weeks into the New Year and so far I've done Cardiff, Gloucester, Northamptonshire, Forest Hill, Lewisham, Camberwell, Brighton, Northamptonshire (again), Islington and most of Central London.

Just driven the lovely lady Harri (@HarriKay - follow, that's an order) home to Northants, off to Gloucester tomorrow (err - later today), and already contemplating Edinburgh in a couple of weeks.

But what a few days it's been.

My second trip to London this month involved a truly inspiring lady (and talented photographer) who has just returned to mainland Europe after working in Armenia for a couple of years. Looking forward to linking to her blog soon, where you'll be able to see some of her snaps (yes Kirstin, they will get to see them - start working on it! :) ).

I haven't had much time to stop and think, but so far this year seems to be one for seeing people 'out of context' - if that makes any sense? People I haven't seen in a long time, in places I wouldn't expect to see them. :JR: in a casino, Phil in Brighton, Kirstin in London - it's a little strange, but it's giving me the sense that anything is possible. Borders are slipping, boundaries blurring - where might I end up myself?

As well as walking the South Bank and visiting the Globe with Kirstin, other highlights this week have included:

Co-pilot Percy Rabbit reclining in Islington comfort.
Aunty Heron's home-made bread pudding.
The Islington Angel.

The 'Spontanious City in the Tree of Heaven':

Spontaneous City has been designed for the Tree of Heaven in Duncan Terrace Gardens. Made from a collection of over 300 specially-made wooden bird boxes it will provide shelter, nesting and feeding space for birds, bees, insects and other wildlife that occupy the gardens...Part of the Secret Garden Project.

I do believe I squealed with delight. They've built an equally impressive 'Spontanious City' for the local children, too:

Islington's uber-impressive adventure playground.
(There's even a fire pit!)
Islington Canal.
Captain Jack Tarot!
Book Barge!
(click to enlarge)
The above absolutely made my day. I'd like to be reincarnated as a Book Barge cat, curled up in front of the wood-burning stove, perusing the books and the people coming to buy them. I had enough change in my pocket for one book, and not much time to choose it, so I now have a copy of Kent Haruf's Plainsong. Sounds like it might be a little bit of a heartbreaker - look forward to reporting back.

Headed up to Netley Learning Centre in Camden, to check out the work they do and the work Heron does there. Really great stuff in the community and in the field of adult learning. Plus a gorgeous mosaic outside:

Netley Learning Centre Mosaic

Popped by their affiliated site, Richard Cobden Primary School en route to Camden Market.

Camden Shop Fronts

Actually shed a tear, surrounded by incense and patchwork tops. Reminded me of my yoof. Came within a hair's breadth of running into the piercing studios shouting 'perforate me!' Managed to come to terms with myself in InSpiral with a hazelnut cream latte and a chocolate chip cookie. Gorgeous little cafĂ© overlooking the canal. 

Plus, did lunch with Harri in an awesome place on Old Street called Look Mum No Hands! If you're into cycling and amazing salads, this is the place for you. Very good food. Lots of bikes.

Swung past Leather Lane Market.

Hats and ties? Ties and hats?
Died and gone to heaven?
Lamb and halloumi?
Apparently so.
It was all rounded off perfectly with Zuba snoggles. For those not in the know, that's the compound noun for a 'snog' (kiss) plus a snuggle (cuddle) = snoggling. And Zuba ('Sun'/'Sunshine') is the beautiful bouncy new baby of my wonderful friends Jo & Pierre. Bath time with Jo & Marion's rather rusty rendition of Hush-a-by-baby and Jambo Bwana.

Harri and I made it home by around 10:30. Just in time for last orders up the Ward Arms

Absolutely knackered, but very happy, and in possession of some beautiful friends.

Snoggle on!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Babes & Rock Monsters

Random road trip catch-up post.

Crazy and eventful few days, which saw me swing between the extremes of a goth club in Brighton and an under-fives sing along at a local library in London. 

To be fair, it really began with Cardiff Casino. But that's another story.

Let me kick off with eggs.

Duck eggs fascinate me.

There were some in the fridge the other day, donated by a neighbour, and I still can't get over the size of them. I mean, ducks aren't really bigger than chickens most of the time, yet look at the comparison:

Takes up half the pan. Anyway, eggs are a good illustration of my week. Started off sensibly with a fried egg for breakfast, ended up eating a pickled egg out of a packet of salt 'n' vinegar crisps in Brighton. As you do.

Didn't stop to photograph it, but found Matthew Hipkin had tried the same with Hoola Hoops on his blog Random ramblings of a geek:

I'm so about to give this a go when I get the chance:

Had a couple of good nights in Forest Hill with my mate Cathryn, and the  delectable Ma & Ra.

Ma practising psychometry on a particularly powerful pendant. Predicting CATastrophy, PURfection and deep-running FELINEs. 

Early morning cat-in-the-face wake-up call from Ra.

Now, Cathryn and I can drink, there's no denying it. Many a night in Rwanda where Bar Stella became our second home. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for Brighton.

Check out my post Dreadtastic for the lowdown on how I became a locktician. You'll find a picture of the first time I ever dreaded someone (this is Phil, the guy I went around Australia with). Anyway, hadn't seen him in four years, check this out - six year old dreads:

It's a totally incredible feeling to know that there are people walking around out there sporting artwork that I created. To be fair, he does take really good care of them. 

Anyway, a crazy catch-up night starting with food and drinks in Kemptown and culminating at 2am in The Caroline - a real metal/goth joint with Cerberus guarding the bar like the gates of Hell. My face had never felt more naked. For ten years I had a labret and eyebrow piercing. Eventually decided to be a 'professional' and take them out. I really missed them that night. 

Eventually crawled to bed at 5am, something I haven't done in years. Nice to know that I'm still capable of it, though. Not sure how much longer my liver will be. Anybody tape that Blue Peter episode where they taught you how to make a new one from a washing up bottle and a sheet of sticky-back plastic? I'd appreciate a copy.

But the best part of the adventure has been catching up with the rug rats. Wee cheeky Ryanman and the latest edition, baby Zuba. Walks in the park, colouring-in, sing alongs and nappy changes. And that was just me - the kids need far less attention!

Bit knackered now. Just finished proofing the final proof of my next novel. Few other projects in the pipeline, but first I think I need to catch up on some sleep!