The Old Man and the Sea

I visited Ernest Hemingway’s house on Key West last year and bought a fridge magnet as a souvenir. It didn’t make the fridge but has instead attached itself to the shelf bracket next to my writing desk. I have reblogged this post from artist and writer Luke Otley because he has done such a great job with the likeness. The quote on the fridge magnet reads “Good writing is true writing…” The same can be applied to portraiture. If you agree why not pop over and give Luke’s drawing a like. Here’s my fridge magnet and Luke’s Daily Sketch.


And by complete coincidence a friend posted a link to this beautiful paint-on-glass animated version of The Old Man and the Sea on Facebook today. It was made in 1999 by Russian animator Aleksandr Petrov. All these coincidences are making me feel like I am in some sort of weird inspiration loop.


19243672_1302997093131608_1718529070_o.jpg My attempt at Hemingway. Nice to be drawing again after moving into a new place. A3, Charcoal

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Currently Reading: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham


or more precisely, almost finishing – just a few more pages to go. Some negative reviews almost persuaded me against taking up this book after it arrived in the shops in paperback form but a visit to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Llanelli was too good an opportunity to turn down. I steered my mother towards the gift shop and to the one orange-spined copy left on the bookshelves. Well, it was my birthday and mothers like to buy gifts for their sons. For a few weeks it sat next to my bed whilst I finished whatever it was I was reading – you will have to search back to my previous Currently Reading post to find out. During that time those negative reviews kept finding their way into my inbox. And so, with some trepidation, I finally opened the very appealing bright orange cover and started on the first chapter, ‘The Collector – July 1966′ and all those harsh critics’ words immediately began to ring alarm bells.

Chris Packham is a remarkable man; a naturalist and television presenter with an encyclopaedia brain who has lived and breathed and been a strong advocate for the natural world since his early boyhood. His extraordinary creativity, work ethic and attention to detail has led to a successful career encompassing photography, film-making, writing, conservation and campaigning. Personally I am hugely grateful for the breadth of subject matter he has undoubtedly brought to the BBC ‘Watches’ – Springwatch having just finished its current three week run last night. We now have the most informative and relevant natural history programme on UK television which increasingly is unafraid to tackle some of the man-made issues that our wildlife currently faces.

But back to the book and those less than complimentary reviews. The problem is in the structure, the wordiness of paragraphs and endlessness of some of the sentences; tenses chop and change from chapter to chapter and we are hurled from first to third person from year to year and back again. It can all feel a little jarring, dizzying, confused – until you stop fighting the prose and slip into Chris’s mind and only then does the beauty of this book really shine through. There are so many moments of pure joy and innocence, like the first time he flies his kestrel, but for all of these there are as many times of heartache, rejection and loss. His whole world is turned into confusion when that same beloved kestrel dies. Perhaps the most revealing passages are the italicised therapy sessions from the summer of 2003, a brave opening up to the demons and insecurities that he has dealt with all his life.

Finding a ‘voice’ when reading a book is often integral to the enjoyment. With a novel one usually creates one’s own character voices as the author’s is generally unknown and unimportant to the story. But with a memoir the author’s voice is a bonus. Anyone who knows Chris from his TV work will be very familiar with his voice, mannerisms and humour. You might not ‘get’ his jokes or be a big fan of his presenting style or musical preferences but he has an individuality which sets him apart from many of his contemporaries and with this book he has offered a unique glimpse into his private world Find the rhythm and pace and you find the man. Find the man and you find something special.

So thanks to Mum for gifting me this gem of a book and to Chris Packham for his relentless thirst for knowledge, through scientific study and sheer dedication to his love for the natural world. If anyone can fill Sir David Attenborough’s shoes then it must surely be this man.



we lit the taper to light the fuse
igniting passion that would suffuse
the kiss we blew fanned the flames
of love’s desire that spoke our names
and when the fire was burning bright
we came together with much delight
but shooting stars that come and go
will taper out and lose their glow
so when you light the flames of love
remember what you’ve seen above




Severn Bridge

so this is where it all changes
where salt water turns to fresh
balanced between two worlds
adrift on the flooding tide
holding on to a raft of indecisions
to go back or move on?
and wondering how it must feel
jumping from a tall bridge
hitting hard water

they say it’s the fall that kills
not the drowning

like that funny feeling as a child
standing on a cliff in Cornwall
feeling pulled towards the edge
father grabbed me and shouted
how could you be so stupid girl?
the family holidays, the yellow dress
sunny summers all in the past now
a tangled overgrown mess
oblique and rewinding

it should never have ended here
we were meant to drive into the sunset

PicMonkey Collage

(bridges and cliffs are notorious suicide spots)

Notes from an Archaeological Dig

I remember it well
Humid heat after summer gales
The sweat that trickled and made us smell
Sea holly scratches, orchids, mare’s tails

August 1985…

The wind had cut through
Sallied across Kenfig Dunes
Exhuming on its way, as it flew
Forgotten bones now loosely strewn

With ancient, pursued lives

Bared knuckles, broken
Sand dusted toes, shattered
Exposed, cleaved skulls of men
Tibias, fibulas, mixed and scattered

Unknown children, hard worked wives

And in and out and interwoven
Seaweed ribbons, rib caged bars
Scuttle zones for lost crustaceans
Vertebrae for lookouts, sunny vistas

Where once a village may have thrived

We measured, sieved, elucidated
Wondered what landscape they had seen
What changes wreaked since long departed
Steel works, motorway, cars and vaccines

Like them, we’re still striving, in ways, to survive

Yes, I remember it well
Two uni students obsessing over old bones
Studying bodies, sharing warm white Zinfandel
Exploring the past and new-found erogenous zones

It’s all recorded in my own archive

Image result for kenfig dunes

(Sea Holly care of

Currently Reading: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

I’ve decided to move my ‘Currently Reading’ posts here to my main blog page to make it easier to leave comments and interact with you lovely people. Life is currently busy and I find I have too little time, or am I not using my time wisely? When the sun shines it’s difficult not to be outside and this past month has been unseasonably dry in SW Wales. The earth in the vegetable beds looks dusty and the asparagus which held so much promise of abundant deliciousness has only partially fulfilled its potential. Ah well, what will be etc.

So my ‘Currently Reading’ is actually a ‘Just Read’. I have to own up and confess but it’s worth stepping back a week to bring you up to date. ‘Into the Wild’ by Jon Krakauer is the story of lone wanderer Chris MacCandless who attempted to fulfil his dream of living in the wilds of Alaska in 1992. Sadly the adventure ended in starvation and death four months later but the author has taken enormous trouble to dispel some of the myths and untruths about MacCandless’s last days.

Krakauer intersperses the narrative with his own solo Alaskan climbing expeditions which in themselves are useful comparisons to MacCandless’s experiences and also cracking good tales of bravery and endurance. Some might say these personal touches are padding in what would otherwise by a rather short book but for me they made the whole complete.

Have you seen the 2007 movie? I have not, but it’s on the ‘To Watch’ list. Or have you visited Bus 142? If ever there was a destination worth trekking to.

I was inspired to write a poem during the reading of this book but it was also based on a hike I made last year to The Channels in Virginia, USA. You can read ‘Tracks’ on my Imagined America blog:

Here’s another poem by Ellie22 directly inspired by the book:

in front of rothko

i saw a man crying in front of rothko

in a room that was very empty –


the gallery attendant turned away

fiddled with his kandinsky cufflinks

muttered obsequiously as if

diffuse ambient light filled the space

between them


“if you are only moved by color relationships

then you miss the point”


outside the crying man’s confusion

orange, red, yellow, light orange

were but cacophonous caprices –

untamed plains of discontinuity in

a burnished mirage


then why do you cry? I asked

is it because you see your soul

upon the canvas

laid bare?


“i am interested in expressing

the big emotions –

tragedy, ecstasy, doom.”


the gallery attendant clicked and scraped

impatient black leathered heals –

coughed politely and

pointed to his wristwatch

in a room that was very empty


in front of rothko



Art Credit: Mark Rothko No.5/No.22. Quote: Mark Rothko

Aime-moi ne m’aime pas

without holding his hand
she taught him how to love art
on the steps of the Sacré-Cœur
amongst the anciens échos du Louvre
and behind the shutters of her camera

she posed with backstreet hoardings
pencils poised in Le Jardins des Tuileries
shapes and colours from life abstracted
Miró, Chagall, Matisse, Jean Debuffet
Métro, tabac, café bar et brasserie

in blue duffel bags, morning boulangeries
pain aux chocolat flakes and Yoplaits
her father’s Leica in smooth leather case
her sketchpad, his notebook, M. Leconte
the weather warm, reasonable for spring

yet her coldness was her weirdness
between the sheets he failed to excite
his passions artistiques between her legs
she cried in bouts,  made him feel guilty
left no choice but to smoke on the balcony

he kept the photographs as aide mémoires
the Pompidou pictures and Tour Eiffels
and the following year he returned alone
to the same hotel in the Rue de Montholon
a room with no view, bins and brick yards

and the sound of lovers through thin walls
the bed frame banging, mattress squeaking
mon amour, mon amour, tu es mon amour
he is tearing the pictures, ripping up the past
casting them out into air and the alley trash

“I loved her un peu, beaucoup, passionnément,
à la folie, pas du tout…”