Why is United Kingdom singular, whereas United States is plural?  Most countries unite in the plural – the United Nations, the United Arab Emirates, the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to name a few – for the obvious reason that it takes more than one to form a union.  Sometimes, there is no alternative: the United State or the United Nation would have meant something else, and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic wouldn’t have made any sense at all.  Likewise Union of South Africa, the British

colonial name used from 1910 until South Africa became a republic in 1961, was a less peculiar option than a union of ‘South Africas’. You don’t want a name that raises more questions than it answers, ‘Popular Front’, ‘Democratic Republic’ etc. Sometimes it seems that it might have been possible to use either the singular or plural form, and a choice was made.  In the late 1950s there was the United Arab Republic, a union between Syria and Egypt that only lasted three years and was dominated by the will of Egypt’s President Nasser.  Its Arabic form is الجمهورية العربية المتحدة‎.  Google Translate assures me that’s a singular ‘republic’ and perhaps Nasser preferred it that way (ironically, after Syria quit, the United Republic continued for another ten years with Egypt its sole member).

In the British case the kingdoms that were united were: a) Scotland, and b) England-and-Wales, Wales being a principality that hadn’t had its own king since the Norman conquest (I’m not sure where Ireland came into this).  The union was made law by the Scottish and English parliaments in their 1707 Acts of Union.  I’m no historian, and I haven’t researched it, but I expect the unification into one kingdom was a way of reconciling the fact that both countries had been using the same monarch for about a century: since James VI of Scotland, grandson of Henry VIII, became James I of England.  Now the Scots are preparing for a referendum on independence, and thinking about applying for membership of Scandinavia.  Is this nitpicking important?  Probably not compared to taxation and the profits from North Sea oil, which seem to be the nationalists’ main justifications for voting Scotland independent.  But it is quite fun, in the same way that British republicanism is fun (I think).  How you see the S may depend on your attitude to change. The Scots may want to discuss with the English whether the final S might become part of a compromise.  That unequal Scandinavian relationship that ended in 1905, almost exactly two hundred years after the Acts of British union, was at least known as the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway.

There’s no relation between the photographs and the text here.  I don’t quite see why there ought to be.  We might drink orange juice while we discuss art, without anyone complaining.  Rather than merely illustrating a verbal argument, can’t pictures be a a counterpoint or contrast – perhaps even a relief?

Update:  From the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century lots of new words came into English, and during that time England was ruled by Mary I,  Elizabeth I, Mary II and  Anne I,  for a total of roughly sixty years. Since 1952, Britain has had a queen for its monarch, adding another 60 years to the total.  Why has England never been called a Queendom?  Does such a word exist in other languages?


I have received a letter from my very good friend Siganus Sutor, in Mauritius:

A colleague of mine has recently sent me a number of photos said to have been taken in India. Among them was one showing a goat on which a very large blue underwear has been pulled — for a reason that is not evident at first glance, though I doubt it would have been done just for the fun of it.

I must say I can’t think why a goat would need such an outfit.  Here are more of the pictures.

What a wonderful country it is.  They even drive on the left.

It’s Spring.  The cherry trees have buds, and here are some:

The goats are confined to their part of the garden.  They can’t go outside the fence until the grass has had a chance to grow and the cattle grid is in place.

We have sheared them at both ends, but there is still much work to be done.  This is Holly:

And this is Misty:

They’re still quite glad of their coats at night.  Misty will do anything to find new sources of food.  She’s such a smart goat.

But I thought Holly seemed disdainful.

I didn’t take any close-up pictures of Vesla.  She just looks the same as the others, only shorter.  Here’s Topsy:

There are some lovely wild flowers out at the moment; if there are more than usual, it might be because the snow melted very early this year (that’s just my theory).




My daughter sometimes makes birthday cakes for her classmates.  I don’t know why this one demanded a hedgehog.  She did a very good electric guitar recently, a Gibson.

More watery stuff: thinking of La Grande Jatte, I thought I’d show you this picture of Richmond Hill taken from the Thames (it’s worth clicking on it to enlarge the image).  There’s a magnificent sweeping view of the river from the top, but I didn’t go up there. I took these photographs last week while I was visiting my mother at Ham, in Surrey.  If you walk down past Ham House

you can take a tiny boat called Hammerton’s Ferry

across the river.  Because it’s to the west of London the Thames is still quite narrow,

 and is sandwiched at that point – (that was a lot of work to get a title) – between Ham on the southern or Surrey side of the river and Twickenham on the north or Middlesex side.  So small and close to the city, Middlesex is a county that no longer exists.  It was absorbed into London in the 1970s, but I like to use the name as much as I can because I was born in Middlesex.

When you alight from the boat in Twickenham, first there’s a sign on the gangway floor written in weld:

and then, facing across the river towards Ham House is an eighteenth-century Palladian villa, called Marble Hill House:

Marble Hill House was built for the girlfriend of George II, Henrietta Howard.  Apparently west London stately-home lover Alexander Pope used to spend a lot of time here, Dean Swift too.  Here’s a Wikipedia photo that shows the lawn sloping down to the towpath and the river:

There’s an unsubstantiated story that the two houses are linked by a tunnel, but what would be the point of it?  I like the ferry.  It cost £1, each way.

Then we turned around, took the ferry back and went home.  But on the way we looked in at a plant nursery that is taking advantage of global warming:

This huge old olive tree below could be yours for £3,999.  I don’t think that included freight.  You could probably make your money back over time.

We passed a pair of gatehouses to Ham House that looked like Hansel & Gretel gingerbread cottages:

This is my mother’s cat, Domino.  He grew up in Brooklyn.  He’s a VERY nice cat.

These two robins live in the back garden:

Two of my current favourite pictures: the top one a photograph by Thomas Hoepker, taken in Brooklyn on 11 September 2001, the other is Seurat’s La Grande Jatte on a Sunday afternoon, painted in 1884.

They are 117 years apart, but it just struck me how similar they are in both composition and subject: urban middle class groups enjoying the sunshine, albeit a little passively in the Brooklyn picture.

My wife found these pictures, she was vague about where.  She says they are African.

Julia sent me this cartoon because of our discussion, a couple of posts back, of odd & even numbers.  According to Julia, the man says something like: “And now I have to be odd all the rest of the day”.Julia currently has some pretty great pictures at her blog.

Thanks to Tom Clark’s post on Saturday, and the clear blue skies we’ve been having recently, I was able to make something of what’s been going on outside our house for the past two nights.  Jupiter and Venus are very bright and close to the Moon.  This is known as a conjunction or appulse, and this – it looks like the piece of wire you need to blow bubbles –  is its symbol:

File:Astronomical conjunction symbol.png

The planets and the Moon were very bright; so bright that by contrast all the rest, stars and what have you, was invisible.  The only other light was coming from the other side of the lake.  I’m illiterate when it comes to reading the night sky.  From what I’ve gathered, the upper planet is Jupiter and the lower one is Venus.  For some reason in Tom’s pictures all three are aligned, with the Moon at the bottom, whereas from in Norway they form a triangle with the Moon in the middle.

My camera was fastened to a rock-solid tripod, so I’m assuming that the slight blur in the image of the planets is caused by the Earth’s rotation during the long exposure (it took, I’m guessing, about 45 seconds).

If anyone knows more about this, please feel free to add a comment.

These two men are ice fishing. Alma, Topsy & I walked passed them on the lake, on Wednesday.

Later we passed them again.

I suppose it’s their hobby; I don’t think anyone is forcing them to be there.  In the comments about the last post mab mentioned multi-tasking.  I see this as a golden opportunity: you could play the mouth organ and read an ice fishing magazine while you ice fish.  You could listen to an ice-fishing tape while you make sandwiches, and then eat them (the sandwiches).  You could drink a mug of hot chocolate,  and all the time you’re ice fishing.

I’ve never seen an ice fisherman catch anything, except perhaps a cold.

Alma was riding past on her horse and knocked on the door to show me a trick.

Betty the horse was very hot.  It was 2 degrees today, quite warm for us, and she still has her winter coat.

This is the trick.  Alma makes a V sign…

and Betty shows her front teeth:

That’s all.  Betty’s very proud of her trick, she did it over and over.  V sign…

and front teeth.

Alma said it took five minutes to learn it, with some feed for encouragement. She’s always enjoyed teaching the animals tricks, and they seem to like it too.

Then they galloped away.

Once again, here are some pictures of a walk I took with Topsy in the snow.  Is this getting boring?  I can’t help it, it’s how we live at the moment, Tops and I.  I’ll try to show some of qualities of the white-on-white snow and mist that we encountered this morning.

Someone, I’m guessing they were sent by the local kommune (council), has driven a tractor across the fields, on its back it has an attachment that scores wide tracks in the snow for skiing.

They make the most of the undulations, and you see people getting up quite a speed. The narrow lines for your skis are doubled up, you can ski in either direction without bumping into anyone so long as you’re driving on the right.  In the picture below you can see a person towing a baby in a sledge.

This man below is going uphill, which is why he looks tired.  He looks a bit like a cutout.

And here is a cutout, the witch with a broomstick.  I think I showed pictures of the witches last winter.

I’ve noticed I’m taking more pictures of people and buildings than I used to.

I used just to take trees and animals.

Here are some small dots that have fallen from a spruce tree on to the snow.  I’m not sure what they do, perhaps one of you knows:

We’re stuck with so-called civilization.  I hate it that cows and trees are being replaced by bungalows with enormous garages. But I can’t stop progress and I don’t think really I’d want to if I could. Look at the pictures of Martin Parr or Cartier-Bresson: people and their possessions, in all their oddness, are worth observing. The thing is, there aren’t that many people around here.

I could easily count all those I see in one day; that’s a feat that would be impossible in a city or even in a smallish town.  I won’t ignore them completely, but I’ll continue photographing more twigs than people.  Here are some twigs:

The other day I was looking at a book of photographs, taken about a hundred years ago by the great English gardener Gertrude Jekyll.  They were sort of like these; roots and bushes,

and bits of trees

(she liked trees).

There was an occasional shot of a neighbour’s house.  It was Surrey, not Norway, so they weren’t quite like this one – the tenant, a friend of mine, says this house has rats.  I’ve never seen any. I wonder where they go in winter, do rats sometimes hibernate?

Topsy was getting bored, my picture taking had been eating into her time.  Normally she keeps up a steady trot, only pausing to sniff the yellow patches left by her friends.

But by then we were almost home, there was just time for a shot of the clematis at the gate.

This nearly-snowless winter picture of a barn by the road near my house was taken last Wednesday.  Since then it’s been snowing very hard, and today the snow blower has broken. We’re snowed-in, trapped until Monday.  To take my mind off it I’ve been reading about Rudolph C. Slatin Pasha and the Fuzzy Wuzzies.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy,
Wuzz ‘e?

I don’t know the origin of that little rhyme or its relation to Britain’s colonial wars in Sudan.  I’m pretty sure there is one, though.

I grew up with Fire and Sword in the Sudan – well, in the same house, at least – it was written by Colonel Rudolph C. Slatin Pasha.  Here he is: short and British on the left, upright and Austrian on the right:

Slatin was appointed pasha by the Khedive, the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt (pashas ranked above Beys and Aghas, but below Khedives and Viziers).  Several years after the book’s publication he was promoted to Major-General Sir Rudolph Slatin GCVO, KCMG, CB, by Queen Victoria and made Freiherr von Slatin, in 1906, by Emperor Franz-Josef of Austria.

He had grown up near Vienna with (like Ludwig Wittgenstein a few years later) a Jewish merchant father who had converted to Roman Catholicism.  As a young man he had gone to Cairo to work in a bookshop; from there he had traveled up the Nile where he got to know General Gordon, the next governor-general of Sudan, and his career took off. By the age of twenty-four, he himself was governor of the province of Dafur, with the Ottoman rank of Bey.  Highly recommended by everyone, Fire and Sword in the Sudan is a thrilling account of the wars of 1883-98, eleven years of which Slatin spent imprisoned by the Mahdi, until on the eve of the battle of Omdurman and with the help of his friend Major Wingate of Egyptian intelligence, he escaped. My family’s copy of the book probably belonged first to my great-grandfather, a Victorian teabroker who lived for some time in Kenya. When I was a child it was one of the fatter and more prominent books in our living room; and although I never read it, I was always mildly curious at least to see the fire and sword (I remember looking for pictures).  I recently came across it again when I read about the battle of Omdurman in Winston Churchill’s My Early Life. Omdurman, you may recall, was British revenge for the killing of General Gordon at Khartoum (Gordon had been another pasha who as  governor-general of  the country had abolished the Sudanese slave trade).  In his memoir Churchill recommended Slatin’s book and now, after fifty-odd years, I’m finally considering reading it (it’s in London at my mother’s house).  One final thing about Slatin, from Wikipedia:

While administering Dara, […] Slatin gallantly defended his province and though he fought many successful battles, he gradually lost ground. At Om Waragat he lost 8,000 of his men in the first 20 minutes of the battle and was himself wounded three times but he managed to fight his way back to Dara. Believing his troops attributed their failure in battle to the fact that he was a Christian, Slatin publicly adopted Islam in 1883 and took the Islamic name Abd al Qadir.

So, much as his father’s conversion to Roman Catholicism from Judaism must have been, this was a politically-motivated expedient rather than the result of a Damascene moment.  I read elsewhere that Sir Rudolph later received absolution from the pope for having become a temporary Muslim.

Who were the Fuzzy-Wuzzies?  They were Hadendoa nomads, who were called Fuzzy-Wuzzies by British troops because of their (for the time) elaborate dos.

Partly from Wikipedia: According to E.M. Roper (Tu Beḍawie: an elementary handbook for the use of Sudan government officials, 1928), the name Haɖanɖiwa is made up of haɖa ‘lion’ and (n)ɖiwa ‘clan’. They were a pastoral people ruled by a hereditary chief, called a Ma’ahes. Osman Digna, one of the leaders of the Mahdiyyah rebellion, was a Hadendoa.  The tribe contributed some of the fiercest of the Dervish warriors in the wars of 1883–98.  So determined were they that the name Hadendoa grew to be nearly synonymous with rebel. They rebelled  because of misgovernment rather than for religious reasons; the Hadendoa were true Beja, Muslims only in name, and not unlike Sir Rudolph or his father in that respect.

Kipling celebrated the Fuzzy Wuzzies in Barrack Room Ballads, shortly after the end of the war.  For the British army, the Hadendoa were notable because they had managed to ‘break’ the square of troops.  The square consisted of two lines of soldiers: the front line kneeled, with their bayonets facing upwards, and reloaded while the back line stood and fired. The British carried Martinis – not drinks, but the latest breech-loading rifles. An Impi is an isiZulu word for an armed body of men. These Kipling poems ought to be recited in Cockney, but probably any accent that’s not British middle- or upper-class would do almost as well.


We’ve fought with many men acrost the seas,
An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not:
The Paythan an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
But the Fuzzy was the finest o’ the lot.
We never got a ha’porth’s change of ‘im:
‘E squatted in the scrub an’ ‘ocked our ‘orses,
‘E cut our sentries up at Sua~kim~,
An’ ‘e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.
So ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
We’ll come an’ ‘ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

We took our chanst among the Khyber ‘ills,
The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,
The Burman give us Irriwaddy chills,
An’ a Zulu ~impi~ dished us up in style:
But all we ever got from such as they
Was pop to what the Fuzzy made us swaller;
We ‘eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ‘oller.
Then ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
We sloshed you with Martinis, an’ it wasn’t ‘ardly fair;
But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square.

‘E ‘asn’t got no papers of ‘is own,
‘E ‘asn’t got no medals nor rewards,
So we must certify the skill ‘e’s shown
In usin’ of ‘is long two-‘anded swords:
When ‘e’s ‘oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
With ‘is coffin-‘eaded shield an’ shovel-spear,
An ‘appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
Will last an ‘ealthy Tommy for a year.
So ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
If we ‘adn’t lost some messmates we would ‘elp you to deplore;
But give an’ take’s the gospel, an’ we’ll call the bargain fair,
For if you ‘ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!

‘E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
An’, before we know, ‘e’s ‘ackin’ at our ‘ead;
‘E’s all ‘ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
An’ ‘e’s generally shammin’ when ‘e’s dead.
‘E’s a daisy, ‘e’s a ducky, ‘e’s a lamb!
‘E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree,
‘E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
So ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ‘ayrick ‘ead of ‘air —
You big black boundin’ beggar — for you broke a British square!

From Barrack Room Ballads, Rudyard Kipling, 1892.

A hayrick, Devon:

And if you can’t read my writing, that says:

Send a sample of your handwriting to dsanne at broadpark dot no and I will add it to the collection.  Send it as an ‘attachment’ in your email, in  jpeg format.  This shows that you are a real person, not just a keyboard or a piece of spam.  Then we can start analysing them in the comments.

Starting with Grumbly Stu, aus Deutschland:

A bigger bit of Stu:

And Julia, from Buenos Aires: The text was some lines of a traditional Spanish poem which she sings every night to her girls, but she thought it was too big so now it’s something else.  Actually, I liked it big, it’s easier to analyse.

And now Ø, on a legal pad:

Empty writing.

Here is a page of notes that I scribbled down last week while attending a talk about somebody’s mathematical research. Since it was intended solely for my own use, there was no question of making a special effort to make it look nice. In fact, it may be even sloppier than usual because I was more than a little sleep-deprived: I had stayed up too late preparing my own talk. Now you’ll be wondering how my own talk went, considering that I was so sleep-deprived …

Here’s Ø’s enlarged:

Here’s a fantastic two-for-one from Siganus Sutor, in Mautitius: Martian structural engineer’s writing, plus dodo

Here’s Sig’s enlarged:

And now, ’60s French handwriting analysis. (Caution. Brutal judgments).  Where do we fit on this list?

Now Trond, another structural engineer.  Compare and contrast. He says  Her er mine kråketær i bundet utfoldelse. – Here are my bound-up crowsfeet (according to my wife, crowsfeet is a colloquial name in Norway for handwriting.)

…And now Trond has added some Nordic Ws:

Something from Jesús.  He has written in English.  He says: I’m attaching a writing ( teacher’s corrections included) about one of my favorite movies that I had to do for my English classes. This is another two-for-one, in which we can discuss Apocalypse Now as well as Jesus’s handwriting – an offer you won’t find on many other blogs.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a capital A like Jesús’s before.  It’s very elaborate:

A very welcome late arrival from New Zealand Stuart:

Boy, what an interesting theory.  I’d love to see his handwriting.

Yesterday when I went out with Topsy, there was a mist.  I was inspired to take photographs, but I didn’t take animals this time only vegetables and a lot of minerals.

It was round about lunchtime,

and the mist was moving quite fast,

so I never quite knew what would be around the next corner.It was really just low cloud, I suppose.

And something to do with air temperature and pressure makes it nearly always stick to the surface of the lake.

Turn around and face south, and all the trees are backlit:

even in the mist:

These two trees remind me of an upside-down lung x-ray (mixed up with quite a lot of chest hair) :

Even the parking lot looks interesting in a fog.  When she was small, we used to take my daughter down to the parking lot; looking at cars was the most exotic treat she could think of.  A few years later she discovered horses and she went off cars.

Back past the visitors’-centre-slash-kindergarten-slash-café:

And so back to the birch trees above our garden, where we started:

It’s odd when the lake freezes.  It loses its reflections and depth and looks like any old snow-covered flat surface, and all of a sudden everyone is walking across it instead of around the edge.  The other day a skier zoomed down the hill, started across the lake, and disappeared.   The one who had seen the incident called the emergency services.  A helicopter came; from my living room window I saw it going downwards, lights flashing, and then hovering a few metres over the lake surface.  But it was all a mistake; no one had fallen through the ice.  There was no skier, except in the imagination of the caller.

Below, you can see there’s more snow than there is in the picture I took last week.  This one was taken at about two pm this afternoon,

but even at midday the sun is quite low and the shadows long.

The gate to the dog run is chained shut and padlocked.  Poor old Topsy and the other dogs can’t understand why they aren’t allowed in, nor can the owners.  I know where there’s a hole in the fence.  Besides, we could get in simply by walking over the lake.  Nobody does, though.  Not so far.  We might try tomorrow.

The camera is fixed (a dirty electrical contact).  You can see there is some snow here, just not very much.

The goats are outside,

sort of.

And Misty is trying to chew her way

through the gate.

I had started sending email cards but it seems the picture isn’t going through for some reason, probably my fault, so I’ve had to abandon it.  Anyway, have a good time!

From Holly, Vesla & Misty and the Crown family.

As turkey day approaches in the United States, here is a different kind of oven bird.  At Meliora Latent Julia has posted a video of the nest it builds.  It’s called los horneros and one of them, rufous hornero, the red oven bird, is the national bird of Argentina.  Horneros, according to Wikipedia, are known for building mud nests that resemble old wood-fired ovens (the Spanish word “hornero” comes from horno, meaning “oven”).  I think the nests are extraordinary, how do they know how to build them?  Look at the tiny curved entry to the nest in Julia’s video, it’s like a door that’s half ajar: it probably stops the wind and rain from getting in, and being the same colour as the nest the birds can peek outside without being observed.   As you will also see from Julia’s post the oven bird is keen on expressionism.

While my camera’s being fixed (I pressed a few mystery buttons and now it won’t take pictures) I thought you might enjoy this series that Julia sent me.  Julia got them from her tía segunda, her mother’s cousin.  In English, that would be her first-cousin-once-removed – I have lots of them, both my mother’s cousins and my cousins’ children –  but I prefer tía segunda: it’s less unwieldy and it’s a nice name in itself.  The pictures are in Powerpoint.  To progress to the next image I press the right-hand arrow button on my keyboard or you could just click with your mouse; as I say, I’m a lousy button-presser, but both worked for me.  It’s below:

Amistades improbables

Taking Ø’s advice yesterday afternoon, I walked down through the meadow by the lake towards the tree that’s now nearly invisible in the picture below,

 because it’s lost most of its leaves.

More than its foliage I admired the colour of its mossy branches, it’s not quite prominent enough in the photograph.  The branches were cosy looking, like an old green velvet sofa my mother used to have.

I think it’s a spisslønn, Norway maple, acer platanoides.  Here’s one of the more prosaic-seeming brownish leaves that Marie-Lucie mentioned; and it has been an uncharacteristically warm autumn here so far, I suppose that’s why there’s so little red to be seen.

Misty (with the lampshade) & Holly.  But later on it may be Misty & Vesla or Vesla & Holly.

The hierarchy never changes, I don’t know what’s resolved by this ritual

or if it’s just practice, like a fire drill.

“In case something happens, we’ll know what to do”.

Practice, practice, practice.  On and on, whenever there’s a spare moment.

Nothing ever does happen, though.

I took this photograph on 15 September, and you can hardly even see the tree, or much else, because I got so caught up with the sunset.  Anyway, it’s the same tree that I photographed on 10 September last year, the one that marks for me the beginning of autumn.  I think we decided then that it’s a spisslønn, Acer platanoides. the Norway maple, not to be confused with Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore tree.

Yesterday my wife and I drove up to the mountains, and we cut up some firewood from the trees I chopped down last year.  We hadn’t been there since then, so, unusually, no one but some sheep (and judging from the droppings under the outdoor table, some geese) had been tramping down the different grasses that grow there.  They were quite wonderful to see, as were the moss and lichen.

I had brought the camera, but I’d forgotten to charge its batteries.  Luckily my wife had her iphone, so (and thank you, Steve Jobs) she was still able to make a record of it.

It was perhaps one of the last days of the year that it will be like this.  The leaves had already fallen from the trees, and last night snow was expected for the first time this season.

Not having snow tyres on our car, and fearful of skidding on the steep mountain road, we scurried home again at dusk.

It’s a four-hour drive.  While we were enjoying a caffe latte at McDonald’s in Lillehammer, I was thinking, why don’t they sell duck coated in batter? McDonald’s Duck, like Chicken McNuggets etc.  Would there be a legal conflict with Walt Disney over the name?  Why?

At the bottom of the upper picture is the covered reservoir, taken last Sunday at the top of the rise on which our house sits.  I call it a rise because in this picture there’s a proper hillside, and in Norwegian this proper hillside is called an ås, which really means “escarpment”, and that’s what it really is (there’s a  shallow slope down the far side once you’ve scaled this face like a mountaineer).  As for the reservoir’s roof, you may remember seeing Misty and Vesla butting each other on it in the summer.

What looks like a flagpole is an antenna.  It must be there to allow the water authority remote control of the water flow, but with its concrete tower and the cliff on the right I think the place looks like a WPA project from the 1930s or a still from North By Northwest; it just needs two scrawny guys in trilby hats and carrying shovels (or automatics).

Moving a couple of hundred yards (metres) to the left, here’s the ås  as it goes past our house and past my wife on her cellphone.  She was wearing the sunglasses because she’d slipped and banged her head.

That picture will stay up for about five minutes, until she sees it.

Then the ås dips downwards towards the lake, and peters out at its banks:

All the animals who have been grazing in the meadow have gone home for the winter season, and last weekend we switched off the electric fence that runs along its perimeter.

Here’s a butterfly that alighted on Saturday on the wall above the cranberry crabapple bush, malus sargentii.  This proves that taking pictures that are sharply in focus isn’t impossible for me or my camera.  But I can’t do it with birds.  I was inspired by some lovely photographs of the birds of Argentina that Julia sent me (I’d display one but I can’t extract them from Powerpoint).  So here are some fuzzy pictures of Norwegian birds in the field by our house.  I don’t know what this one is (hopeless), but there’s a pair of them and they are always hanging around this bit of fence by the road:

and here’s an even more blurry one.  Does anyone know what sort they are?

Here are some crows.  At least I can recognise crows, even if I can’t get close to them.

Crows are my favourite bird.

We’ll soon be in the part of late autumn when great flocks of them sit in the trees at dusk; hundreds, this year welcoming the bats to their new homes.

This picture is of the crab apple bush by the corner of the house, taken last Saturday.  It seems to have more berries than usual.  Last autumn I planted six more bushes, but they haven’t flowered yet.

Here is what it says about Malus Sargentii on the Royal Horticultural Society site:

Crab apples are ideal trees for small gardens. The fruit flavour improves considerably if the fruit is not harvested until it has been frosted. The fruit is quite variable in size, about 2-4cm (0.75-1.5in) in diameter, and quality. While usually harsh and acid, some cultivars are quite sweet and can be eaten raw.

The fruit is rich in pectin and can be used in helping other fruits to set when making jam. Pectin is also said to protect the body against radiation.

It is one of the parents of the cultivated apple and is often used as a rootstock.

Malus is a genus of about 35 species of deciduous trees and shrubs found in woodlands and thickets throughout northern temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, oval to ovate or elliptic, mostly toothed. In spring they produce fragrant flowers typically 2-5cm (0.75-2in) across, usually shallowly cup-shaped, singly or in umbel-like corymbs. The flowers are followed by edible fruits, although some need cooking to be edible.

The name Malus is from the Greek melon, and is applied to tree fruits with a fleshy exterior.

It is a native of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, and perfectly hardy in this country.

It was introduced from Japan in 1892 and named as a new species although it is closely related to M. toringo (syn. M. sieboldii), a similar but more tree-like species which has pale pink flowers and smaller fruits.

Two years ago, when the farmer chopped down all the evergreen trees on the slope above our garden, he inadvertently removed nearly all the suitable locations for birds to nest.  I never thought of it until this week, when I saw that at a height of about ten feet (3m.) above the ground someone’s been nailing bijou avian mud huts to the remaining birch trunks.

I started to notice them one afternoon while I was going for a walk with the dogs and goats.  At first I thought they must be someone’s art project (there’s a lot of that sort of thing around here), but bird houses make more sense.  I must have seen at least fifty of them, maybe there are lots more.

Mounted on almost every remaining tree there are four different shapes that comprise what I assume to be four different housing types to accommodate the habits of different species.  This one below is kind of interesting because, unless they are expecting the birds to unscrew the hooks on either side with their beaks, there’s no visible entry.  To scare away small children (or perhaps to attract their interest, it’s all guesswork) the front panel has a Hallowe’en-type imprint, the owl as predator, and there are some slats from a bamboo blind hanging underneath, probably to sharpen claws and beaks.  None of the owls I’ve seen around here would fit in this box; it’s not much bigger than a jumbo box of cornflakes.

This one below has a tiny slit, like a letterbox, that my wife says is the entry.  She says they make it that small so that squirrels can’t get in – I don’t know how she knows this kind of thing – so maybe someone ought to be making houses for the squirrels too.  Empty says that red squirrels can’t remember where they’ve left their hoards of nuts, so maybe they also forget where they live, lose their keys etc., “forget” to pay the rent.

I think the houses are made out of potters’ clay that has been rolled out flat like pastry and then shaped and fired.  That means they won’t rot, but they might get a bit cold without some straw inside; I suppose it’s up to the birds to provide that sort of thing.  The houses all have a yellow number on the side as if someone’s expecting the post office to deliver the mail.

Good luck with that, the postman won’t come up to our house.

Update:  These are homes for bats not birds.  See rr’s comment & link, below.

Frolicking kid and hobbled goat, Inis Mór. Photograph Juliet Clark, ⓒ 2011

Poet and blogger Tom Clark sent me these two photographs of Irish scenes.  They are part of a marvelous collection all taken by Juliet Clark, Tom’s & Angelica’s daughter, who spent three weeks driving round the country last April.

Beara Peninsula between Ardgroom and Eyeries. Photograph Juliet Clark, ⓒ 2011

I love the goats’ hole in the hedge.

All these goats have much longer tails than ours.

Inis Mór (aka Inishmore) is one of the Aran Islands, off the coast of Galway, in the west of Ireland.  If you think of the map of Ireland as a face Inis Mór is hovering like a grain of pollen under the nostril, and the Beara Peninsula is part of the straggly beard in the far south west.  I think Beara has more to do with bears than beards – at least, there’s a Bear Island to its south.  These locations are all coloured magenta, below:

Update:  Juliet’s pictures of Ireland are well worth looking at.  You can see them all here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjutjDPw

Yesterday lunchtime, I was taking some pictures of the old-witch tree at the top of our drive.   I like the two figures on her right-hand arm, one of them looks like a high-heeled shoe, and I’m wondering whether I ought to do something with it or if it wouldn’t be best to just leave it alone…Anyway, I turned around because there was a young couple oohing and aahing about the goats, who were just behind me

This kind of thing happens all day long at the weekend.  They enjoy the attention

and Vesla in particular has no qualms about asking people for spare change.

Sometimes she follows them as far as the next bend, and you see them start to worry she’s not going to turn back.

You can see that Misty’s got a thing round her neck.  It’s an inverted dog collar that we got from the vet and it prevents her turning her head to lick a wound – a bite she got on the bottom, probably from a dog.

She seems to rather like her collar.

She was very appreciative of the medical help she got as well as enjoying the extra feed she was offered as an inducement to put it on.

Now I think she kind of associates it with the food.

When it’s not raining, I rush out and pick Victoria plums and apples so that

when it starts again I can be in the kitchen making jam Norwegian-style (really just pots of stewed fruit with a little sugar that we take one-by-one out of the freezer during the year).  The plums go lovely colours:

Askur and Betty, the horses, have spent the summer with a different herd of cows from the usual lot.  Actually the usual lot was auctioned off last autumn, and it’s been redistributed all over southern Norway.  They were a herd of one hundred and twenty; we won’t be able to visit them in their fjøs during the winter as we always did, but Alma thought the fjøs was way too overcrowded so it’s probably good that they’ve gone elsewhere.

This year, the field next to our house has been rented to another, more capable farmer, who’s let us keep the horses with his cows.  There’s a funny beige-coloured breed that we haven’t had here before, you’ll see one of them below.  Alma (the girl) was out with Betty (the horse) when I took these pictures, so Betty doesn’t appear, and Askur looks a bit lonely, but most of the time they’re together.  They and the cows remind me of neighbours who have a nodding acquaintance in a rental apartment building: they peacefully coexist, sharing the facilities and minding their own business.

Although it looks as if the first picture has been taken during a balloon flight, in fact it’s merely from the hillside below our garden:

This happened yesterday evening.  Here’s Holly standing on the empty road above our house, baahing:

And here’s Misty, her voice too deep to do much baahing:

I’d been taking pictures in the garden, but the goats wanted my attention.  Vesla was there too of course, but she was preoccupied.  She was staring at something and I think the others could see it too:

Whatever it was was up on the hillside among the old tree stumps.  Thistles and small hazel bushes have grown up in the past two years since the spruce trees were cut down, and there is a pine tree on the ground that blew over in the wind last winter.  It would be easy for a lion-sized predator to hide in plain sight here:

She stood there for ages, maybe fifteen minutes, moving around but not taking her eyes off whatever it was.  This is Vesla’s job, watching out for lions; the others never do it.   I’m pretty sure she was looking at something:

I’d get her a pair of binoculars if I thought she’d accept them.  Actually there’s nothing wrong with her eyesight or her sense of smell.  Not being too worried for my own safety I walked up the hill to take a closer look, but all I could see was thistles.  It’s too bad the goats don’t eat them.

I happened to open the front door this morning at about 7:30 and I saw shafts of sunlight coming through the trees.  Everything is slightly damp with dew and old raindrops.

In my non-expert opinion these are pictures of a frog.  We often see toads, but they’re much smaller; this one was about four inches (10 cm) from nose to bottom.

Something about the way it was resting its weight on its left arm, it looked as if it might make an earnest speech

or tell me the logic behind Norwegian tariffs on imported plastics .

What you really want is goat pictures.  I’ll  try to take some today while the sun’s out.

Yesterday evening, I went to the dog run with Topsy.  As we walked down the hill towards the lake, I was knocked to the ground by one of a pair of Irish wolfhounds that must have been doing about 30 mph (50 kph). I’ve injured my knee so painfully that I can barely walk, and I spent today in bed. The wolfhounds were bigger than a Shetland pony, probably four or five feet (1200-1500mm) tall at the withers.  It had no trouble in flattening me.  In fact, it was so intent on pursuing another, smaller dog that it probably didn’t even notice as I went down. Even after I’d hit the ground with a cry it went charging along like a freight train. No thought of an apology or a dusting down of the frail old codger. Enormous bodies and appetites, Irish wolfhounds, teeny-weeny brains.  In typical Norwegian fashion one of the ten-or-so onlookers asked me which of the Irish wolfhounds was to blame, the small one or the big one?  “The big one”, I said.  They both looked about the same size, actually. “Oh no,” he said, “it was most probably the smaller one.”  “So why did you ask?” I said, like I wanted to stop for a dog-spotting lesson.  As I limped back up the hill and homeward the woman who appeared to be the owner of the dogs asked me if my knee still hurt.  “Yes, it does,” I said, thinking that on Monday, if this were the USA, I’d probably be suing her for several million dollars.  Next time we go to the dog run I’m wearing cricket pads and a motorbike helmet.

What has eight legs and lives in the garden?  Our new badebur, or bathing cage:

It’s a complicated story; suffice it to say that due to a water leak upstairs in our house we’ve had to remove our old enameled bathtub and replace it with a shower.  The plumber can’t install the shower until next week and in the meantime we decided we’d take baths outside.

The new location has a good view, and bathing outdoors is a delightful luxury.

Next to the tub is our outdoor birdcage.  It hasn’t been occupied since Tango the parrot flew away last summer.  We thought of selling it, but never got round to it.

Suddenly we thought of the badebur, or bathing cage: a permanent outdoor summer bathroom.  No planning permission is required, and when you get bored with the view it can be moved down to the berry bushes.  It’s rather like a Victorian bathing machine.

I’m not wearing clothes because of excessive modesty, I was merely trying the new location out for size.  The bell (top left, below) is to ring for more wine.

This is the current view from inside the badebur:

 One day Topsy the terrier woke up and found she’d turned into an afghan –  or if not an afghan at least a spaniel.  While it’s not as dramatic as the Mexican lion, by coincidence, a couple of weeks before Julia sent me the lion pictures my daughter had given Topsy a new do.

She deliberately left all the long curly fur on the ears, effectively turning Tops into a spaniel or a miniature golden retriever.

 I’m pretty sure Topsy doesn’t mind.

I was sent these pictures by Julia. who received them from her tía segunda, or first cousin once removed, her mother’s first cousin.  They were taken in the United States, in New Mexico, at a garage that had been subject to several recent break-ins.

The proprietor let it be known that he had acquired a Mexican lion.  Once they had seen it, the thieves fled, never to be seen again.

I’m not sure what sort of dog it is – or was – perhaps a leonberger?  Its face reminds me of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz – maybe it’s the drooping ears.  It’s going to require a lot of maintenance.  I love its tail.

Of all the goats Vesla has the finest wool.  Usually the younger the goat the finer and softer the wool – the best mohair comes from one-year-olds –  but Vesla is an exception: she’s the oldest by a year, the smallest by a good 20 cm, and the finest (where wool is concerned).

Of Holly and Misty, Holly (right) has finer wool.

Misty’s is more greasy which is why it’s darker, and it’s rough to the touch in places – lately it has become matted, almost like dreadlocks.

It’s still lovely wool, much finer than sheep wool.

Of course it varies over the body.  This is Holly’s ear where, even when it’s just been sheared, you can still see it’s fineness.

The rest isn’t bad either.

I don’t think Misty cares one way or the other about wool quality.

I’ve always thought Misty was the prettiest.   My daughter says Holly’s prettier. Holly has blue eyes, which is quite unusual for a goat.

But Misty has has very kind eyes.

When Vesla had finished eating the clematis on either side of the gate,

she went and hung around with Holly.

For a fastidious eater like Vesla there’s not a whole lot of opportunity at the moment.  Most of the food is  buried in the snow.

Misty – who will eat almost anything – worked on the beech hedge.  Its leaves from last year hold tight until the new ones are fully out, some time in early May.

The hedge is twenty-something metres long.  It’s a big job really for one goat to demolish the whole thing, but she’s goat enough to give it a shot.

Misty likes to lick my hand and arm.  She also licks paintwork occasionally, but mostly it’s my hand and arm.  Quite often it seems to be an expression of gratitude for having done her some sort of favour – fetching clean water for example – but at other times (like here) I don’t really know why she does it.

Holly would never do that.  Sometimes I think they look a bit like rabbits.

There are angora rabbits as well as angora goats, but their name comes from what’s now Ankara, in Anatolia,

rather than from the two wools.

Since he makes such great use of photo archives I thought that Tom, especially, might find these pictures interesting.  I came across them by googling “British Library Catalogue of Photographs”.  Apparently they’ve got 350,000 and they waited until 2009 to have their first exhibition, in which these five appeared.  They led me to Curated, which as far as I can tell is a photography magazine, I’m going to look at it again later when I’ve got more time.

I won’t repeat what the two articles say about the photos.

All right, I will a bit.  The hippo’s called Obaysch – not very African-sounding, perhaps he or she was captured by Germans – and the photograph was taken in 1852 by Don Juan Carlos, Duke of Montizón.

This one reminds me of The Walrus & The Carpenter:

Here’s a giant parrot perched on a chimney.  Is the blurry part a backdrop?  They can’t have had photo backdrops in them days.  The men are very sharp, though.

What are these women checking, boxes of chocolates? Whatever it is required natural light and (I think) open air.  Anyway, I like the room.

This one below is my favourite picture. They look like tiny men inside a motor car engine, or perhaps the one at the bottom with a pickaxe strikes the bell of a clock on the hour.  Could they be digging a tunnel?

Update: Thanks to MMcM, we now know they’re digging the tunnel for the Central Line.  I’ve made the print a bit clearer and one thing I notice is that, of the 23 men in the picture, every single one has a moustache.

If Misty is the most well-adjusted, said Julia yesterday, why there’s only one picture of her in this post?

It’s a fair point.

And yet the race is not to the swift.  Is Kate Moss, the fashion model, well-adjusted?  Not according to the newspapers, and yet her picture is everywhere.

The FBI never claimed its Most Wanted posters were mugshots of the well-adjusted, and yet they’re in every post office in the United States.

Holly’s temperamental but she’d never rob a bank, she just wants a fair crack of the whip.

Vesla was more friendly today.  She rubbed her horns against my trouser leg and butted my head.  She’s still baaing very loudly, though; I don’t know what that’s about.  In the picture below she’s chewing a clematis stem.  She had quite a go at the clematis on Sunday.

I think Misty will appear tomorrow.  It’s not very imaginative, but I’m presenting these pictures in the order I took them.

Here are all three goats with their heads neatened up.


Vesla.  Since I took these pictures on Sunday, Vesla hasn’t been at all pleased to see me.  She won’t gently butt heads with me, and if I stroke her she starts, and then bolts as far away as she can get.  Yesterday evening, she hid her head behind a sack so that there was no possibility of eye contact with me.


Vesla.  On Monday, I took a big pile of manure away from her perch by the window.  Since she’s quite short it’s made it harder for her to see out over the window-sill.  I’m wondering if she’s cross with me because of that.

Holly.  Holly’s been in a very good mood recently.  I suppose Misty is really the most well-adjusted goat; she hardly ever gets cross without it being pretty obviously my fault.  She’s not as temperamental as the other two.


…All new except this one, this is a “before” photograph:

I can’t even tell which goat that is, I think it’s Holly.

It’s not warm enough to give them a proper shear, but they had so much hay lodged in their coats that last weekend we decided to give them a trim around the face so you could at least tell which end is the front.  They also needed their hooves trimmed, so we did that.  Although a professional goat wrangler could do the whole job in five minutes we’re amateurs, and it required all three of us to work for two days (ok, only one hour on each day).

As you can see, while we’re preoccupied with giving Holly the full treatment, Misty seizes the opportunity to nibble someone’s trouser pockets:

Holly seemed to love the whole thing.

Afterwards, she looked less like a sheep and more like a goat.

I think this is what they’re supposed to look like.

I took lots more pictures, so I’m going to put some more up – but I’ll do it over the next few days, so it doesn’t take hours & hours to load on your computers…

The moon, yesterday evening in the snow.  It’s the closest it’s been for twenty years but frankly it always looks about this size to me.

Paul (Canehan) has sent me a story from a Wired article about Larry Page, the co-founder of Google:

Larry always has far-fetched ideas that may be very difficult to do,” Google software engineer Eric Veach says. “And he wants them done now.” In the early 2000s, Veach worked on what would become the company’s advertising system. Page was adamant that the program be simple and scalable—advertisers shouldn’t have to deal with salespeople, pick keywords, or do anything more than give their credit card number. That approach helped create the most successful Internet commerce product in history. But some other suggestions were baffling. During one session, Veach pointed out that not all countries commonly used credit cards. Page proposed taking payments appropriate to the home country—in Uzbekistan, he suggested, Google could take its payment in goats. “Maybe we can get to that,” Veach responded, “but first let’s make sure we can take Visa and MasterCard”.

I can’t see them putting up with a lot of inter-continental travel.

The goats have been spending the past few days in the sun in front of the house.  It’s comparatively warm, about 5C.  (The rope in the foreground is Topsy’s, nothing to do with the goats.)

They look very bedraggled. They have long wool with bits of hay fastened to it:

Misty has a new hobby.  She likes to stand in the wood shed.

And chew the bark off the birch logs.

She loves it in there.

Her teeth seem to be getting longer.  With horses they have to be filed down, but I’m not sure about goats.

On Monday and Tuesday immediately following the ice-cutting festival, a film crew set up in the same spot on the lake.  I counted about forty people, from which I inferred that it’s either a major motion picture starring – I don’t know – Colin Firth, say… or it’s a commercial for something cold and “fresh”.  I suspect it’s the latter.

I had thought I heard a chain saw, and this does look kind of look like one.  In fact it’s some kind of snow-mobile.  They’re actually illegal here, the lake is a “nature area”.  I quite like it, though.

You can see the saws for cutting the ice are still here:

I saw some people coming from the lake this afternoon, and then I remembered it was ice-cutting day.

So we went down there.  There was quite a crowd.  Every so often there was a huge cheer and some applause.

The fact is I don’t really know what was going on.  By the time Topsy & I arrived, all the action was over.

I’m not sure what the horses & sleighs were doing.

These men may look like total wallys, but you can tell they’ve been looking forward to this for months.  When I asked about the horse, the one on the left was quite nice.  These are cold-blooded Gudbrandsdal horses, and they’re used to hauling loads.  I don’t think anyone rides them.  I like the brass bells on the horse’s back, the sound reminds me of Father Christmas.

The main event today was the cutting of these blocks of ice.  It’s some sort of old tradition, I think I remember hearing that they used to send some from our lake to Queen Victoria before she got her own refrigerator.  The blocks are about the same size as she was, about two-feet square (60cm).  In the foreground are the saws they used.

They’ve sawn out the blocks in four or five neat rectangles, and they’ve roped-off the area so no one falls in.  You can see the depth of the ice.

I think one or two people may have gone in the water, perhaps to push the blocks up onto the ice, but I can’t be sure.

On a voyage across the Atlantic Le Corbusier had an affair with Josephine Baker. Adolf Loos was in love with Josephine Baker, in fact he designed a famous house for her that was going to have Lego-like black & white marble stripes:

Except Lego hadn’t been invented.  Loos’s father had been a stonemason and Loos liked marble.  Sadly for Adolf, I don’t think Josephine cared for him at all. Actually I don’t think anyone did, poor old Adsche.

So, in March the sun is my friend.  Here it peeks through – I don’t know, is it clouds or fog?  I suppose it depends where you’re standing.

Behind my back when I turn round the sky is blue and there’s no cloud at all:

Further down on the lake it can’t decide. The sun flickers on and off like a malfunctioning fluorescent light fixture.

Here, by the way, is that little island I showed last week.  There’s another person skiing past it. Or perhaps it’s the same person.

The sun can’t quite reach our house, below. That’s probably good; sunshine will turn our driveway into a bobsled run.

The diving-board raft is still icebound, like the ship in the Casper David Friedrich painting:

This will be a dog rose in a couple of months.  It’s hard to see how that’s going to happen, but it always does.

On the whole, it’s still winter.








No, forget it, it isn’t blossom after all.  They’re snowy crystals growing on the trees; they’ve been accumulating all week, it’s from all the fog.

It won’t be spring for at least another month, but at least the fog is clearing.  We’ve been living in the clouds for a week, and I’ve been reading a biography of Le Corbusier. He grew up in the Swiss watchmaking town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, in a valley in the Jura mountains.

He was obsessed with sunlight – not a bad quality for an architect – and that’s perhaps because for half the year La Chaux-de-Fonds gets an average of three hours of sunshine a month day (scroll down in here if you don’t believe me). During the summer, the figure soars to five or six hours of sun per month day. So he had every reason to worry about sunshine, poor old Corb; he loathed La Chaux-de-Fonds and fled Switzerland at his earliest opportunity.  He reinvented himself: he changed his name to Le Corbusier from Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, and spent the rest of his life designing in warm places like Rio, Marseilles and Algiers, and building Chandigarh, in the Punjab.  By that time, 1950-ish, he’d learnt that the sun is not always our friend.

But in March, in Norway, I tend to think it is.



Tomorrow, Part II:  Adolf Loos & Josephine Baker.




Yes, once again it’s the Oscars!  In honour of Banksy, whose film Exit Through The Gift Shop is up for some award like best film in the world, take a look at his website




It’s still pretty cold here.  Yesterday my daughter pointed out this cat to me. She’d found a sheltered spot away from the snow to sit on the straw and enjoy the sunshine.

Occasionally a horse galloped through.

The cat didn’t leave, though she retreated.  You can just see (below) that she’s living in a hole in the wall, to the right of the horse (our right).

And then the cat came back.





It’s been months since we heard anything of Muntz.  Here’s a picture I just received.  Apparently he’s working as a nose rest for Champ.  It’s a tough job that looks much easier than it is, sort of like artist’s model where you have to stand still for hours and hope you don’t get cold.



I may have mentioned before that here on wordpess you get a lot more for your money with tall thin pictures than with short fat ones.  With that in mind I’ve turned the picture above sideways, below, so we can see it in a reasonable amount of detail.  It actually consists of five frames that I stuck together using Photoshop; I bet you can’t see the joins. It’s of the island at the North end of our triangular-shaped lake.  I’ve taken so many pictures of it over the past few years, and it’s hard to know why I find it so appealing; though it may be the animal-like ridge of its “back” with its bunny ears to the left.  And I like the dense green object on a white background.

I apologise if it’s taking half-an-hour to load on your machines.

I forgot to say that the bare branches in the centre remind me a lot of some of David Hockney’s recent paintings of trees in Yorkshire.  To me, one of the values of painting over, say, conceptual art is that, when it’s good enough, it can directly influence how I perceive the world.  His work has always done that for me.

In Manhattan there were always helicopters whizzing down the Hudson River and from my apartment window you could see the aircraft landing at Newark.  In central London when I was growing up a commercial aeroplane went over our house every four minutes.  For reasons I still don’t understand, we were on the flightpath to Heathrow even though it was many miles away – such marvelous precision.  I remember seeing the first jumbo jet on its final descent to London Airport on my way to school in about 1969.  Now I can’t recall if it was Pan Am or BOAC, what I do remember is how huge it seemed and almost still, just floating there above Hammersmith Broadway.  We hardly ever see an aircraft here; maybe twice a week, sometimes it’s the seaplane that lives on the fjord, sometimes a traffic helicopter. Occasionally, three Norwegian air force fighters come flying  low over the lake; they make a thrilling noise that echoes between the mountains, but  I miss all the planes I grew up with.

Queen on accession day
Queen Elizabeth II greets accession day crowds outside St Peter and St Paul Church in West Newton, Norfolk. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

Royal gun salutes are usually fired around the country on accession day. This year, they will be fired at noon tomorrow because accession day has fallen on a Sunday.

I read this in the Observer.  “Accession day”?  Apparently it’s 59 years today since the queen seized power.  My latest plan is leave the royal family in place. Everyone loves all the tradition, after all.

When the queen dies, what’s going to happen?  It’s going to be a terrible anticlimax.  I haven’t heard anyone say they can’t wait for the reign of King Charles III.  I suggest that on the death of the current monarch we phase out the Windsors and replace them with a royal family of pandas.  Everyone loves pandas, I know I do.

A link with China is what Britain needs.


You hardly ever see mongrels in Norway.  Including our dogs, Alex (a Yorkshire terrier),

and Topsy (an Irish wheaten terrier),

there were nine.  A whippet:

a bulldog:

a   setter:

– most of these dogs are looking down at Alex, on my left – a German pointer or Vorstehhund:

a Jack Russell terrier puppy:

some kind of basset hound (a petit basset griffon vendée, according to my daughter):

and a standard poodle:

And in the garden under some melting snow was a stone lion:

Gertrude. Photo by Damon Winter/NY Times

Language Hat told me about a story in the New York Times, by Elizabeth Giddens.  It is about a Rhode Island Red hen in Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Take a look.  One thing she says, about passers by who always ask the same questions of her, is:

We’ve considered posting an F.A.Q. sheet — yes, they’re hens; no, they don’t need a rooster to make eggs — but that would spoil the fun. People like working it out among themselves.

It’s true of our goats’ audience too, I’ve thought of painting a big sign: THEY’RE GOATS.  I’d never before reflected that people might actually enjoy asking the questions, but they probably do.

I read in Jonathan Jones’s column in today’s Guardian about  Google Art Project.  It works like the 3-D street-view part of Google Maps, except that you’re walking around some great art museums.  In addition, you can zoom in on the paintings; you can get a 15 cm-wide image of Captain Koch’s eyeball in The Nightwatch.  If you find that gratuitous, then zoom in on Lt. van Ruytenburch’s eyeballs, as I did, and see by comparing them how Rembrandt thought about drawing anatomy (or, at least, eyeballs).  That’s something you wouldn’t be able to do at the Rijksmuseum; the Nightwatch is so huge you’d need a stepladder to get anywhere near the figures.  Google has only catalogued a handful of museums so far.  I miss being able to take a butchers at the Velázquezs in the Prado, though Google will presumably be expanding their collection at a comparable rate to the maps’.  The Uffizi is already available; Jonathan Jones nudges us towards Piero di Cosimo’s painting of Perseus & Andromeda (above), which really is worth a detailed examination.

Update: I realise that if you blow up a detail of a painting, you can then take a screenshot to download it.  The resolution seems good; this is the tiny facet-headed sundial in Holbein’s The Ambassadors, at the National Gallery in London:


More ice crystals on the window.  It only seems to happen when the humidity is just right.

They’re outside too (this one’s worth clicking on to enlarge):

These are birch trees.  Did you know that Bjørk, the singer, shares her name with the Icelandic word for birch?  At least, I’m assuming she does; it’s certainly the Norwegian word for birch, but maybe in Icelandic bjørk means cheese or volcanic lava. I don’t really know any Icelandic, I’m just guessing.

Shane McInnes (the photographer, not the bird).

There are seven wonderful bird photographs in The Independent today, including this one of a Kakapo, a flightless parrot from New Zealand .



Just over a week after I showed you tulips past their best, here they are again even paster:

…and today, totally past it, these are ex-tulips:

But still fascinating, in a squiggly way.

As you see, there are many rose hips on one rose bush. And there are many dormant rose bushes near my house, so I will probably take more close ups of rose hips until about April.  The next one I see that looks like a Volkswagen or a ham sandwich I promise not to inflict on you.  Not unless it’s very, very inspiring.

An example of the Norwegian welfare state, this  roadsign informs visitors that children wearing nineteen-fifties frocks are here to help any men who’ve got one leg screwed on backwards.  Bicycles are free.

I may have mentioned the machine that comes around after it has snowed.  Not the snow plough, this is a tiny thing; like a small military vehicle, with a popping motor and very squat, it chugs across the open terrain laying two sets of ski tracks for cross-country skiers.  The tracks shown here take a winding course down to the lake, swerving to the right above the line of Christmas trees to avoid our garden.

Having learnt to drive in London some forty years ago, when I ski I like to take the left hand track – not out of perversity, it’s just habit and forgetfulness.  I’m not very good at skiing. I can pick up quite a bit of speed, but I can’t slow down very effectively.  All the Norwegians, of course, drive on the right; but when they see me coming towards them they are adept at leaping diagonally into the parallel tracks.  It’s not as hard as you would expect, but I have to close my eyes, grit my teeth and stay on my side; if we both swapped over there would be broken limbs.

Poor Alex is only about as high as one of the ski tracks, but he’s very game and would be happy to try his luck.  I have to keep him away, he gets bogged in deep snow.

Fortunately, he’s easy to distract.

Later we caught sight of this couple.  They were round the back side of the neighbouring farm, where the tractors are kept.  As you can see, they’d started a small fire using lighter fluid.  They appeared to be burning the contents of a high-class shopping bag: papers or clothing, possibly.  As I walked past with the dogs, they stared.  I pretended I was sizing up potential tree pictures with my camera.  Then I snapped this as soon as their backs turned.  They must have heard the shutter click because they whirled around and looked concerned, but by then it was too late.

Now I have the picture, what do I do with it?  I think I show it: from Mauritius to Nova Scotia, from Moscow to Buenos Aires (via Taipei).

It’s really just a tractor.

Only one of these trees has a proper full-time job.  Can you tell which one?





Is it A,B,C or D?

Today was a bit warmer than it has been lately, and we went for a proper walk.

I took the goats out for fresh air and exercise.  They’re looking disheveled,

with stalks of hay stuck in their coats.  It probably itches.

I was taking a picture of this horse on the lake, when a skier whizzed by.  This slope down to the lake is the fun bit.  I thought it looked like a poster: Come to sunny-but-cold Norway and drink hot chocolate!

Now that it’s frozen to forty centimetres depth, they practise trotting on the lake.  If you own a trotter and you take it to the races in Oslo or Jarlsberg, and if your horse comes in first place, you might win enough money to break even on the evening’s outing (the cost of entering, transportation, hiring a jockey and so on) – most won’t win, of course, but farmers still do it.

When we came home, Misty was eating the beech hedge.

They stayed out all afternoon until it got dark.

For anyone who doesn’t read Language Hat, the Moscow Times had a very funny and interesting article, on New Year’s Eve, by Michele A. Berdy, alias our very own, badlyguided mab.

I figured I’d better not use the Moscow Times‘s picture here to mention her article, and so I came across this one that mab herself took for this post, last March.  It’s a brilliant, disturbing photo. Vorsprung durch Technik, man, and fuck you very much.


Here is another brilliant constitutional idea:  Britain should change its name to Ireland.  Who could stop it?  Think of the advantages.  The two countries could once more be united across the Irish Sea under one flag, and with one head of state: the President of Ireland.  Dispensing with the royal family, we would kill two birds with one stone.  Britain — or “the Irish Isles” as they would henceforth be known — could start again with a clean slate: there would be no former colonies, everyone likes the Irish.

File:Uragh Stone Circle.jpg

Some spellings might be revised, but David Cameron could remain in London as the Deputy Tea-sock or T-shirt.

Gubbeen cheese.

If everyone in so-called “Britain” were to apply for an Irish passport, the deed could be done by 1 February 2011.

The rest is up to you.

I tried out my new lens today, the last day of the year.

A rose hip that looks like a squid,

a rose hip that looks like a spider,

and a picture of my daughter on her way to take in the horses:

A happy New Year!

For Christmas I got a macro lens.  I’ve wanted one for about three years to take pictures of snails.  The other day I read something by a translator who thought it was important to translate technical language literally.  Here is an example of why that’s wrong:

Boxing Day, and every branch and twig is outlined in white.  The goathouse has goaty decorations processing along the top of its fence.

(You can see Vesla looking out of her window.)

(For some reason, this ghost in the snow on the driveway reminded me of Julia’s non-functioning stepladder.)

The living-room heating is switched off because of the Christmas tree.  Until I light the stove in the morning, it’s chilly in there.

There are crystals on the dichroic glass samples:

But last night it was warm,

with candles all round the room.

I remember the name Candlemas from my childhood; it must have been in my school calendar, which was full of mysterious dates that were routinely ignored by everyone.  I don’t know where the candles come in; it’s a celebration also known as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  There are only two candles in this depiction, made by Hans Holbein’s father:

Hans Holbein’s father was also called Hans Holbein; they had very few names in those days.

Candlemas isn’t at Christmas, but in early spring.  It’s somehow  linked to Groundhog Day — though the shadow of the groundhog is projected by the Sun, not by candles, otherwise the result would be the same every year.

Queen Elizabeth II poses for a photo during the recording of her Christmas day speech

According to today’s Guardian, our sports-mad monarch’s Christmas broadcast “will focus on how games and exercise can positively give people distance from their dreary little lives”.  Early in the new year Buckingham Palace will issue the queen’s personal exercise video, which includes tips on how to glow with a greyish-white aura.

The obvious choice for a new monarch or head of state — assuming nobody except me wants a goat — is John Cleese.  He’ll have to get rid of the moustache, but he’s very tall and he knows how to deal with foreigners.

Nowadays, the landscape is mostly in black and white.  This is the view from the kitchen:

Snow on the trees is the only difference between bleakness and winner wonnerland.  It doesn’t happen often enough that I get used to it.  There was a beautiful white scene early the other day caused by freezing fog.  It was all gone by lunchtime.

I love the squiggles, life imitating abstract expressionism:

The lake is frozen now.  It took a few weeks.

There’s a little bit of colour indoors.

Here is what our living room looks like from the outside:


Slapping the paper on inflated balloons, they learn these techniques at school nowadays.  This papier maché rendering of our dog Topsy was made by my daughter a couple of years ago.

The goats haven’t been outside since it got so cold.

Today, I thought they might want to stretch their legs, and I let them out, Vesla first.  Holly looked a little bit unsure of what to do…

Then she remembered that she could always butt Vesla.

Vesla had plans,

and led them out into the garden.

Where there wasn’t anything to do except nibble tiny rosebuds in the wind.

They very soon wanted to come back inside, which is exactly what I was hoping.

They’ve got it quite cosy now.  You can’t see, but there’s lots of straw on the ground which gives off heat as it composts.  For the first time, this year they’ve got a heat lamp.  I’m so glad we didn’t shear them in October.


It’s been hovering around -13 C  (8.6 F) for some days now.  We have electric radiators, but below you see the main source of our heating during the day; it’s a cast-iron wood stove located in the centre of the house. Jolly effective it is too.  That’s a brass parrot on top.  (The candleholders on either side are pewter copies of an 18th century original, that I bought at the Met in New York; the plates give a flickering reflection of the candle flame.)

All the south-facing windows in the living room currently have frozen condensation on them.  We should probably put in insulated glass, but we like it the way it is: warped old panes of glass that very slightly distort the image of the outside.  You can’t buy them any longer; nobody wants distorted images of the outside world except us, apparently.

I’m  going to cut back the roses in the spring.  In the meantime, they’re one of the few green things left outside.

This is how it is outside;  quite pleasant to look at, but bitterly cold when there’s a wind.

Do watch this very interesting 30-minute video documentary called Sargy Mann. To do so, you have to click on the underlined name “Sargy Mann” below the picture:

Sargy Mann from Peter Mann Pictures on Vimeo.

I came across it in an article in last Sunday’s Observer, but I first came across Sargy himself in about 1972, when I started at Camberwell Art School, in London. I never knew him well.  He was one of several of my painting teachers; a quite intense 35 year-old with black-rimmed pebble glasses who invariably wore a blue French artisan’s jacket and carried a portable easel.  For some reason, he lived with Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard on the other side of London.  He’s mentioned in passing in Martin Amis’s dental autobiography Experience.

At the time I was there, Camberwell was a school that taught its first-year students not much more than learning to draw from life.  The school thought it was the best way into the visual arts; to Camberwell, it didn’t matter whether you ended up as a conceptual artist or a glass blower or a stage designer drawing was the tool you needed.  I still believe that’s the best way.  Sargy was only interested in painting.  He thought art was about looking and seeing, but in colour: learning to see colour relationships (from life).  He was especially keen on the Impressionists, Bonnard and Matisse: peering over the portable easel he painted violet-coloured oils on small pieces of board while his students learned to see.  I remember one afternoon he got very excited on the Thames embankment when he saw a double reflection of the sun; first off the windows of a building and then bounced back to us off the river.  He hardly had time to comment on it and get it down before it was gone again.

Sargy had terrible, blurry eyesight — rather like Monet, if I’m not mistaken — but after I’d been at Camberwell for a year, he had a cataract operation.  He was very worried, he didn’t quite know the effect it would have on his work; but he coped and the paintings became clearer and bluer.  Later, his eyesight deteriorated again, and by 2005, during the making of the film, he ceased to be able to see at all.  But he didn’t stop painting; and that’s what the video is about, because he isn’t just sploshing on random patches of random colour.  It shows that if you paint from life every day for fifty-odd years you will have enough painting information stored in your brain to be able to continue working after you go blind and, what’s more, you’ll  continue deriving satisfaction from working.  Who knows: like Sargy Mann, your work may even improve…




*(John Ruskin’s joke.)

I found this ivory image of St. Paul, with its extraordinary elongated nose and crudely-rendered classical columns and mouldings in the background (the scallop shell is nicely made, but why the hole?).  It’s supposed to be 6th or 7th Century Byzantine — hence the crummy rendition of the streets of Rome, presumably —  and it’s kept at Cluny in the Musée national du Moyen Âge.


Except for the beard the face reminds me of Pete Townshend, but really the nose is so long he doesn’t look human at all.

More like a lion,  perhaps the cowardly lion of the Wizard of Oz .  But that lion has a very short nose:


The lion in Cluny… sorry, I mean the image of St. Paul in Cluny, looks more like a real lion:

Perhaps this is the answer: the face just needs foreshortening, as I can do here using Photoshop…

That looks more human, though the Spock ears are still taking off.  I bet that’s it.  Who knows if it was elongated by accident or deliberately?  It seems like material for a Ph.D. thesis:  Spatial Manipulation In VIth-Century Byzantine Ivory Artifacts, anyone?

If anyone nose of another explanation, I’d love to hear it.

I came down this morning, and, in a daze from Dearieme‘s and Bruessel‘s exposure of the shocking seasonal chocolate scam,  I  found that during the night the previous post (on the autumn leaves) had elicited some delightful seasonal poems.

Thanks to Jamessal we have Richard Wilbur‘s wonderfully (for me) evocative “In the Elegy Season”:

Haze, char, and the weather of All Souls’:
A giant absence mopes upon the trees:
Leaves cast in casual potpourris
Whisper their scents from pits and cellar-holes.

Or brewed in gulleys, steeped in wells, they spend
In chilly steam their last aromas, yield
From shallow hells a revenance of field
And orchard air.  And now the envious mind

Which could not hold the summer in my head
While bounded by that blazing circumstance
Parades these barrens in a golden trance,
Remembering the wealthy season dead,

And by an autumn inspiration makes
A summer all its own.  Green boughs arise
Through all the boundless backward of the eyes,
And the soul bathes in warm conceptual lakes.

Less proud than this, my body leans an ear
Past cold and colder weather after wings’
Soft commotion, the sudden race of springs,
The goddess’ tread heard on the dayward stair,

Longs for the brush of the freighted air, for smells
Of grass and cordial lilac, for the sight
Of green leaves building into the light
And azure water hoisting out of wells.

Principal gave us this, Rilke’s “Herbsttag”:

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Some translations are here, but since Stu didn’t like them and I’m pressed for time, I won’t include any.

So this post is dedicated to finding more great poems of autumn/fall and –because half our readers are located in either the southern hemisphere or the tropics — poems about spring, torrential rainfall or whatever season you consider to be seasonal.

Poems in Hungarian, Creole or Spanish, or indeed anything other than English, get extra points…

As always, there will be no retribution if nothing shows up.

All the time it’s been snowing, I’ve been thinking that I never posted the pictures of the leaves turning colour.

The orange tree (above, left and in the middle below) is a maple, and, after they had fallen, the leaves that covered the ground smelled just like maple syrup without the sweetness.  I looked forward to walking past it.

This pile of wooden paneling has been there for a year now.  The man who left it is going to use it on his house, whenever he gets around to it.  The house is fifty yards up the road.  So why did he leave it by the field?  This is the kind of thing we think about in the country.

I took all these pictures one day when I went for a walk with Topsy.

It was Saturday the ninth of October, according to my computer: John Lennon’s 70th birthday and Uganda’s Independence Day.

But I think of it as one of the last days the goats grazed in the pasture above the house, one of the last days before they realised that the cattle grid had been covered over for the winter

and they could now trot down the hill and munch their way through the neighbour’s garden if they felt like it*,

one of the last days, in short, before we confined them to our garden.

Well, nobody likes winter.


*So far the goats haven’t figured out the Yorkshire sheep trick that dearieme told us about.

You can see through the fog that the lower part of our garden is on a slope:

and at the bottom of the garden is a crumbling cliff, made of shale and held in place by tree roots.

And at the bottom of the cliff is the deep, deep lake.

That’s what it looked like today.  In July, there would be a queue of children on the steps waiting their turn to jump off the diving board; but there are no splashes and often no ripples at this time of year, the water is flat and I love the reflections.  Sometimes I look at them upside down to see if they’re better:

and sometimes I look at their bilateral symmetry.  They’re like Rorschach ink blots, but with varied tones:

I’ve found that the higher you’re standing above the waterline greater the asymmetry  between the image and its reflection.  It must be because you aren’t perpendicular to the image and its foreshortened reflection.  I don’t mind it.  It’s actually  the asymmetries in the inkblot that I really enjoy, for some reason; the older I get the more interesting I find imperfections, when I was younger I just thought they were a mistake.

It’s about -5〫C. today, or 23F.  You can see here that the lake is starting to freeze over:

It takes a couple of weeks, usually.  That will be the end of the reflections.

Actually, I don’t think they mind fog or snow.  They aren’t crazy about wind or rain, though; but who is?

Here is a 4-minute unedited video of the goats and my daughter* that my mother took in the summer of 2008.   Theoretically I ought to be able to make videos myself now, and edit them so that there’s a plot and narration and the other things we expect from a film.  In the meantime, please remember this was not shot with the general public in mind.  But even if the goats aren’t very animated,  it does at least show that they are more than stuffed toys.   I’m surprised they’re wearing collars, I thought we’d given that up years ago.  We must have been taking them up to the reservoir at the top of the hill to erode the council’s undergrowth.  And now…

* (and that’s me & Topsy walking past, like Alfred Hitchcock)

I opened the front door this morning and blow me, if it hadn’t started snowing!

After half an hour, it was like this:

Vesla had noticed.

When I went inside, she was shivering.  We’re getting them the heat-lamp from the hen house.

Misty was still keen to go outside.

Holly was unsure.

Now it’s half-past-twelve and it’s stopped, but it’s still quite cold.

Poemas Del Rio Wang currently has a post up about an early archive of a half-million photographs of life in Mexico.  It was begun by Agustín Víctor Casasola, assisted by his brother.  Studiolum says of Agustín,

Since the moment when for the first time a camera fell into his hands (it seems this was in 1902) he did not cease to hunt for images and to reveal the flow of history. In his own words, he became “a slave of the moment”.

A perfect description, he does portray the events as extraordinary moments.

The last pictures he shows are from 1935; they cover a violent period that is well explained by Studiolum.  It’s well worth a visit — and don’t miss Tina Modotti’s poem, presented by Francesca in the Comments, nor the music.

Yesterday evening down by the parking lot a mist was coming in on little cat feet. Baguettes were flying overhead as well as a couple of geese and an enormous pain de campagne.  I don’t know if it was an omen.

Fast forward fifteen hours: two people get out of their car in the same parking lot and head for the little café.  The car begins to roll slowly forward and bumps down the embankment, chased by the two former occupants.  It comes to a stop in the field below. Someone hadn’t used the handbrake; perhaps for a moment they’d forgotten they were driving a stick-shift.

Poor things.  Later, a man and a woman come from a garage and drive it away. It’s pretty obvious the springs and some of the front bodywork will need replacing.

I’m wondering if it will be on the national news tonight.  They often have car accidents.  Always set your handbrake.  You know it makes sense.

Early this morning, my wife drew our attention to a dead body lying in the meadow.  We needed binoculars to see it well, goodness knows how she spotted it.  It’s the black dot behind the ash tree twig, slap in the centre of this picture:

Here is an enlargement:

As I approached, there was no sign of a struggle:

I think it might have been…

a discarded hallowe’en costume.  It was made of felt and there was a piece of satin ribbon sewn around its perimeter that I thought gave it a witchy look.

I hung it on a nearby sapling, where it was immediately inspected by an elderly man who was passing by.  He walked on, but I doubt it will still be hanging there by lunchtime.

Tom Clark had a post yesterday that shows this 1922 work by the great Georgia O’Keeffe, called My Shanty, Lake George:

I like it very much and it reminded me of somewhere I was going today, so I took a picture as Topsy and I walked past:

This October no one could be bothered to clip the goats; and then it got too cold to do it, so we’re leaving them with long wooly coats until the spring.  My daughter has trimmed the wool around their faces because it was beginning to be hard to tell which end was the front.  They look quite elegant like this, I think.  This one is Misty:

In contrast to their faces they’re very wooly around what the Guardian would probably call their paws, but I call their hooves.  This is Holly:

She was chewing:

The birds are still living with the goats.  They fly in and out during the day:

Vesla and the other bird, Cloudy, are spending a lot of time together:

Today’s Guardian has a story that, thanks to Dearieme, we revealed nearly three weeks ago.  A Bad Guide: All the news*, All the time, As it happens!

*(about goats)

At this time of year, we begin to notice that the sun is quite low…

By this time the camera’s memory card was full.

I’m not sure whether people still talk about how very “real” a photograph is compared to a painting.  Anyway, it’s not.  I have a problem with my camera: I like to take pictures while it’s getting dark, but the lens is so “good” that what comes out looks as if it were taken in broad daylight, all bright and cheery.  Though it narrows my photographing opportunity to about five or ten minutes (after that everything comes out all blurry), it’s no big deal; I can adjust it afterwards using Photoshop, but I find the brightness that wasn’t there to be disconcerting.

On the right, in this first one, you can just see the waterfall that flows into the lake:

Cows roosting in the trees:

More cows, overhead:

This could be Jamaica:

But unfortunately it isn’t.

Coming up next: The Weather.

These are some pictures of the rain on its way to eastwards yesterday, taken from the other side of the hill we live on, looking down on Oslo and the Oslofjord, the water that leads out to Skagerrak and the North Sea.

And some rosehips I passed:

Below, that’s the outskirts of Oslo in the distance, the rich western suburbs that are well-known throughout Norway for petty snobbery, selfishness and competitiveness (all carried out in a very moderate and reasonable Norwegian way).

This is looking lower down the fjord as the clouds are sucked across to Sweden:

The fjøs below is where most of the dairy cows next to our house used to spend the winter.  The farm owner sold all his 120 cows over the summer; they went for about 15-20,000 kroner each (kr15,000 is $US 2,500 or 10 093.7025 Argentine pesos).  He inherited this place, he isn’t interested in farming, and the real farmer, the farm manager who loved the cows, is retiring.  The cows have gone to other farms in the neighbourhood.  My daughter says it’s a good thing, the cows will have a better life, she thought they were living in far too cramped conditions.  I thought they seemed happy.  Anyway, I’ll really miss them.

As Trond predicted, the rain cleared before it got dark.  Betty the horse and her old friend Askur have moved down the hill to a winter stable.  It’s at a big old  farm that nowadays is on the edge of Oslo’s fairly hideous suburban sprawl.  It’s close to the motorway; I only hope that it doesn’t get eaten.  Here’s the driveway yesterday evening, as the rain cleared; one of many avenues of polled ash trees around here that are the symbol of the local county:

Horses don’t like being ridden when it’s foggy, they spook when they see monsters looming.

When I came home, I went to turn out the lights in the goat house.

Last week, Champagne — the only hen to have actually been hatched here — died.  She was quite old: eight, I think.  Now we have only one hen left and that’s Cloudy.  My daughter and I tried to find some more Faverolles to buy; they lay small eggs, but they’re very friendly and I like their feathery feet.  There aren’t any Faverolles available in southern Norway at the moment; so for now she’s on her own, species-wise.

For the first couple of nights, while my wife was away in Stavanger working, we let Cloudy sleep in a cage in the living room.  It got awfully dusty.  When my wife returned, she suggested that Cloudy might enjoy living with the goats.  Cloudy’s always spent the odd day in the goathouse; sometimes she lays eggs there.

We put her in with Vesla.  She’s got her own cage on the ground, on the right, below.  There’s also a family of tits living with the goats, you can see one sitting on the railing in the middle of the picture:

Every night Cloudy climbs up to sleep on Vesla’s bed.  Maybe it’s warmer up there or possibly they just like the company.