THE ACADIAN EFFECT

An early September’s day, four hundred and seventeen years ago, a Frenchman’s curiosity landed him in trouble in the waters around Maine.

Having spotted smoke rising from an encampment of the Native Americans, off a cove in coastal Maine, French explorer Samuel de Champlain brought his ship closer to land but fell prey to the vagaries of the sea. Namely, a rock formation that could not be avoided in time. The hull of the vessel was quite badly off and the French had to disembark and spend time at the cove in order to repair the ship. To be succinct, this is how the French came to be the first of the explorers who landed in the area, pre-empting the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock 16 years later. Naturally in those days they referred to the land as ‘New France’, before the British arrived and the epithet of ‘New England’ stuck for good.

Champlain was an intrepid character in that he made several voyages to North America and Canada, establishing settlements in Quebec and Acadia. I am fascinated by the zeal of these original adventurers. As explorers and colonists, they “yearned beyond the sky-line where the strange roads go down”, belonging to a tribe who dreamed big, who wanted to establish new colonies, who reaped profits from the new lands they came upon and imposed their own culture wherever they went while also imbibing the new, in the spirit of give-and-take that is the very fundamental premise of venturing beyond familiar territories. And they lived life kingsize. No apologies necessary. Champlain was no different, as one of the ilk who was “always roaming with a hungry heart”. For posterity, the man left behind a map that he drafted, having been a cartographer too (how many hats did these men wear, you wonder). In it, he clearly demarcated the capes and bays, islands, rivers, and settlements of the Abenaki (the Algonquian people) along the coast of Maine.

In his journal, Champlain had noted: “The island is high and notched in places so that from the sea it gives the appearance of a range of seven or eight mountains. The summits are all bare and rocky…I named it “l’Ile des Monts-deserts.” The name ‘Mount Desert Island’ stuck, ‘desert’ being pronounced as “dessert”. Is it because it is as comely as a well-presented dish of dessert? Who knows, but we were charmed to find ourselves in the town of Bar Harbor, which we drove into for a spot of lunch, and about which experience I banged on about in the previous post. The time we had in Bar Harbor was astonishingly brief. Minus the time we spent labouring over lunch — consuming food dripping with butter is tardy business — I chose to natter with an artist who was sat painting by the waters. Much to the annoyance of Adi, who was robbed of an ice cream as a result of this impromptu (and long) diversion.

All grumbles and scowls were however promptly relegated to the back seat as we left behind the twee cottages of Bar Hrbor and made our way up the road that looped around the Acadia National Park. Being short on time, we were robbed off the chance to explore the trails that called out to us from within dappled sunlit forests of spruces and firs, the forest floors matted with ferns and a dense understory. All I wanted to do was get off the car and run through the trails, hugging those awfully tall pines and cedars. The senses were enveloped in the heavenly fragrance of the woods as we wove our way through at a relaxed pace. Do you like the way forests smell? It must be one of those intangible things that just feel precious.

The views all along the park were cinematic. From the glistening blue waters, patches of conifer-laden islands jutted out from them, introducing a contrast in green — and somewhat relieving the eyes from encountering a monotonous sheath of blue. At places we observed the land claw its way into the waters. Chunky tablets of granite sculpted shaped by the elements stretched beneath our feet. In places, they were stacked up, examples of nature’s installations. Eroded by the waters and gouged by glaciers that have over the centuries scoured the land, this tableaux was at once primitive and it made me feel so very small. The play of light and shadow as the sun progressed into its journey westward, introduced a further dramatic twist to the scenery, and we were transfixed as we stayed awhile by the waters. The roads entwining the park rewarded us with more. A close look at pines, their trunks bloated by rust; whole rows of pines that were bare and bleached; rocks that looked like vast bubbles atop which people stood, tiny as ants, and then the startling sight of trees that blazed red. It was thus on the way out of this Arcadia that we had a bit of a head start on autumn.

Artist at work
Artist turns around for a chinwag
Otters Point
The hum of autumn
The hills have pines

“A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.”
Herman Hesse
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.
Herman Hesse

A DROWNING IN MELTED BUTTER

It being Labor Day weekend, the equivalent of what we know as May Day except that the American version takes place at the beginning of September, Adi and I packed our bags on Friday morning and set off for a long drive to New England from New York. Before this, my beloved sprang off to the hot dog stand opposite our apartment (much to his utter delight) and promptly inhaled two frankfurters in quick succession, putting me in mind of the worthily beloved and now deceased Labrador of his, Tuktuk. You see, Tuktuk did not believe in mastication.

With a maniacal grin pasted on his face at having started the holiday on a bright note and having strengthened the lining of his stomach with the much-vetted local ‘delicacy’, my husband was ready to tackle the long winding roads through Vermont to Maine, and come what may. A remarkably serene drive followed, punctuated by the verdant hills of Vermont and dramatic series of thick clouds that billowed along a sparkling blue sky with all intentions of smothering it. I was not complaining. The clouds are my friends when I go on a holiday.

Invariably, half my camera roll is filled with snaps of them. I merely wished for a while that I had my pots of paint at hand and could dab a piece of paper with colours to capture the transient nature of their beauty. Then also re-thought the entire wish thing given the hullaballoo that would ensue if I did happen to colour the various parts of the car alongside the paper. Anyhoo, this is how we rolled into the fine city of Portland on the finest of evenings in September, and found ourselves reaching out for our jackets to combat the bite in the air.

This was the beginning of a four-day holiday in the city that’s perched on the coastline and renowned as a hipster hotspot. More of which, I shall come to by and by. Because one cannot dump everything in one post, for the cause of trying one’s own patience — after all, I am not writing a novel here — and also for the sake of getting to the nub of the post. For, I did allude to drowning in melted butter, did I not? Now however much it did not take place literally, for you can imagine the limited joys of taking a dip in a vat of butter, it did take place in a manner of speaking.

One afternoon, we drove to the Acadia National Park, before reaching which our hearts sank at the sight of innumerable strip malls in a town at the gateway to the park. I have never understood America’s intense obsession with strip malls. They must be the worst inventions ever (along with electric chairs and gas chambers). This token symbol of ghastly capitalism having caused a setback to the general atmosphere of jollity, our spirits were greatly revived upon arriving in the small town of Bar Harbor. The lovely quaint architecture of the coastal town did the trick. But finding a parking spot was monstrous. After a solid hour of driving round and round town like whirling dervishes on speed, we managed to bag a spot with a short window.

We hurried off to grab lunch and almost immediately found a small hip joint where outdoor seating was near a tree trunk that shot up through the patio. The tree hugger in me was content. We ordered up fish tacos and lazy man’s lobster. While waiting for the food to arrive, I could not help eavesdropping on a conversation going on behind us, between the waiter and a woman with a little coterie of small dogs. It revolved around sizes of various breeds. And the waiter’s own big bonny baby, an American Akita who weighs a mean 120lb. Small dog lady seemed suitably impressed. This strain of sentiment however could not be sustained. The waiter went on to proudly narrate a story of when he went camping with dog in X place. In the camp grounds, Akita meets Black Lab. Lab growls at Akita. Akita tears off Lab’s ears. Akita and Akita’s father are evicted from the grounds. Akita’s father is nonplussed and rather proud of this little feat, as evinced by his tone. Result: A few horrified listeners.

Having done his job of sending small dog lady packing, the waiter resumed his job of fetching our food. What arrived made my eyes bulge. A gondola of bright orange butter with big chunks of lobster swimming in it. This then was your quintessential lazy man’s lobster, which as the name suggests means that it is for the lazy man or woman. You do not have to pry open the shell and forage for your meat, nor do you have to reach for the bib. An East Coast classic through and through. The butter oozed down my throat as I chewed on fresh chunks of lobster, perfectly pink and tasting of sunny summer. This heart-attack inducing meal could not have come on its own lonesome self. Piping up from the sidelines was corn on the cob doused in yet more butter and sour cream, along with a sizeable cup of clam chowder, and a hillock of chips. By the time I was done with half the chowder, the lobster and the corn, I could feel my arteries swelling up in indignation and gearing up to hold a protest march. Yes, yes, it was a wholly unholy alliance, but at least I was halfway there with Lord Byron’s edict. That one about a woman never being seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster (salad) and Champagne.

EMERGING FROM THE MISTS OF TIME

Once in a while, I disappear from the world of socials. I don’t know what prompts the urge to burrow myself in a vat of my own thoughts, but this involuntary exercise makes me feel whole again. The mind is purged of a thousand distractions, as you can well imagine if you too know that feeling of disappearing down a rabbit hole every time that you open up your social media feed and emerge from it an hour later, knackered from the effort of updating yourself on the lives of others. While I get a whole load of inspiration from seeing people’s posts, it does takes me away from things I should be doing, and want to do, in real life. From time to time therefore, I switch myself off the socials for extended periods of time. I can then write with complete abandon, or as is the case nowadays, paint with my entire being focussed on say, getting the whiskers of a lioness in place, experimenting with ink and pen, playing around with values, studying the great masters. There is a whole lot to be achieved and not enough time in a day to get anything done in. More so, if you are tempted to spend hours staring at the spread of the green woods in front of your eyes and watch people sat at a beer barn, devouring hot dogs and crisps every afternoon without fail.

When I last blogged, I had emerged from the mists with my book, Ramblers in Cornwall. It was an overwhelming time because I had privately printed my book and was rather anxious about its performance. Being an author is not an easy job by half. You inhabit a world filled with words and it is a lovely head space to be caught in, but that said, it also tends to siphon off your peace of mind. There’s that thought nagging and poking you — are you doing enough to promote the book? But then, what is Enough? I suspect I would be terrible at Enough.

As a result the fact that we have made a move could not have come at a better time.

If there is a time for everything, this must be ours to set up our very own nest. Both Adi and I have craved it for a while now. Since we got married, we have moved across continents and apartments, and the time is nigh that we should have a bit of permanence till we decide to move somewhere else. As it would happen, we had been to Saratoga Springs during the first year that we had moved to the States. We were wooed by it. Imagine my thrill then at the fact that the dream has come to fruition. As it turns out, the universe does conspire to bring your ardent wishes to life. We are to be Saratogians after all. There is a curious sense of fulfilment and along with my lovely husband I am embracing it, for if this be the affair of life, to move on and make new starts, I am all in.

Alongside, as always, is wistfulness for what we have left behind. A quote I read recently reflects this well, so I shall leave you with it. The words are by an Italian writer called Aron Hector Schmitz, better known by his nom de guerre, Italo Svevo.

“Every time my surroundings change I feel enormous sadness. It’s not greater when I leave a place tied to memories, grief, or happiness. It’s the change itself that unsettles me, just as liquid in a jar turns cloudy when you shake it.”

NOTES ON SELF-PUBLISHING

Tuesday is carrying on with the hum of the usual weekday chores. Except, for a while, the skies grows darker with clouds heavy with unspent moisture and the wind is sharp and cold, rushing through the trees in their tender green covers. As the treetops sway under the onslaught of the winds, the ambient white noise putting me in mind of sitting by the ocean somewhere and listening to the sound of the waves, I feel relief. Not travelling anywhere for such a long time now has been a drag on the senses. But it has been a conscious decision between my husband and I. We had discussed about it at length and decided that we would take all possible care and wait out the storm. Travelling will only feel that much more pleasurable when we finally catch that first flight to some place far out or even if we simply drive down in a car to a place nearer home. We have not been anywhere since March in 2020. That for us feels like a long, long time because we are so used to being on the road. Then again, everyone is fighting a battle of their own, most on the mental front, while plenty others are involved in fighting it on the physical front. Some are cash-strapped, trying to survive somehow in a strange new world in which work has completely dried up. On the other hand, there are those who are learning to love their own body, those who are fighting on a daily basis for their unborn children, some are dealing with diseases, and many others are coping with losses of their loved ones. When life seems overwhelming, you find yourself wondering how to keep your head above water.

The struggle/s of the mind is no new phenomenon for the writer. One is used to doubting everything one puts on paper. Because sometimes every word seems out of place. Ever since I have been writing, I have been bogged down by doubts, but the magnitude of it hit me like a locust storm when I undertook the job of writing a book. If you are not a writer who has written a book or is in the process of writing one, you really cannot imagine what self-loathing and self-recrimination is and how those two devils can really do a number on you. There are many more emotions thrown into the mix, but those two were the main ones I dealt with as I worked on finishing the book and then arriving at the crucial decision that I wanted to publish the book on my own. It helped that I came across an Irish writer called David Gaughran, reading whose books on self-publishing and watching whose videos on the subject gave me hope that I could do it privately.

If you had asked me previously about this indie effort of mine, about the alternative world of publishing out there, I might have turned down the thought with alacrity. After all there is a certain snobbishness about the entire affair, a kind of stink if you will. But reading Gaughran I was convinced that it was what I thought that mattered at the end of the day, especially if I was determined to have my book out there and not be dependent on the whim of some agent. Sure traditional publishing is the well-established route to fame. But I am not hung up on fame; I would rather run in the other direction. I have an Instagram account of roughly six hundred followers. That is telling. I do not court the numbers because it is a rabbit hole of desperation and despair (if life does not deal us enough of those emotions already). All I wanted was for my book to be read by those who love reading for the sake of reading.

Now to return to the whole endeavour of privately printing the book, I was enthused by the story of Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard Woolf. They set up their own publishing company in 1917 and called it Hogarth Press after the cottage they lived in, in Richmond. Though they made no money off it, they continued printing books by authors such as Katherine Mansfield, Sigmund Freud and T.S.Eliot, for the passion of the business of printing. In 1901, Beatrix Potter published The Tales of Peter Rabbit on her own because she had failed with the traditional route. Using her personal savings she printed 250 copies to begin with.

There are so many examples out there that I fear this might become a thesis if I delved into the lot of them. What I want to tell you if you are an aspiring author, is that embrace those fears you had and don’t look away from self-publishing. Sure, you might not get the kind of attention you want, but at least your book will be out there for readers to read and decide if it passes muster or not. And it is okay, if some do not like it. Remember, your book cannot and will not please all.

However that said, before you decide to trip down the indie publishing path, do make sure you have a bang-up product. Get a professional book editor to shape your book, make sure the content is not plagiarised in any form, give proper attributes to other writers where you have quoted them, read the proofread copy as many times as your need to make sure there are no errors in it, format it properly, and invest in a cover designer who will reproduce your vision for the book on the outside of it. And you shall be golden. As for marketing, I am still learning the ropes of it. Honestly, I am terrible at it, having realised I do not even know how to host a giveaway. Yeah, lots for me on the learning curve yet, but hey I persevere.

The biggest joy at the end of the tunnel has been this that Ramblers in Cornwall is finally out there and enjoying its moment in the sun and for that I am so very grateful. All those times of being sat at the desk, worrying if all of it would come to naught, has finally been soothed away by the hands of time and I can finally bring myself to quote Kerouac without faltering. “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Leaving you with a groovy song from Hurrah for the Riff Raff for your listening pleasure. Peace out.

SPRING RUNNING

When I run, everything feels better. It truly does. I write thoughts in my head when I am running, if that makes sense. I make lists. I think of a thousand things I want to paint. I watch the angler stand for hours by the bay, patient in his endeavour of a good catch. I stare at the ducks and wading birds that glide by in the bay and I wipe away dark thoughts if and when they prey upon the mind. When I feel troubled, for the mind is such a cauldron of thoughts bubbling away, I run longer and harder. Let’s put it this way: I literally pound away all my frustrations. Running has been a great tool to keep my mind engaged all of last year, except for that awful period right about this time in 2020 when I took a tumble and skinned my knees. But the sorer my body feels, strangely enough the more alive it feels. This does not however mean that I recommend running one’s knees out. As in everything, I believe in listening to the body. I do not believe in weighing myself on the scales and feeling awful. Instead, I simply let my clothes speak. And these days my clothes are being mouthy, so I am trying to curb my insatiable appetite for all things baked.

Anyhoo, as I was out today morning, trotting in the cool loveliness of this hump day, I saw that the boughs were thick with blooms. The magnolias have blossomed though some buds are yet to unfurl, and this promise of tightly curled-up beauty makes my heart thrill even more. The heart’s eyes (because I believe that the heart can be persuaded to see) are filled with the sight of pear tree blossoms thickening away in clusters of white, daffodils winking prettily in patches of gardens alongside carpets of sweet droopy bluebells, and I am filled with wonder all over again. How the seasons march on relentlessly and how the beauty of each goes down a treat in the face of life’s challenges! And because every feeling of joy is almost always balanced out, it seems, with a tinge of pensiveness/ wistfulness/solemnity, I am irked by the thought that my running locale shall change by this time next Spring. What will I do without the bay, the vast sparkling swathe of water by which I run and watch the migration of the birds from the sidelines? The heart stumbles. It feels as it did a few years ago when I had to leave behind the mighty Racecourse. But then I had this beautiful park in Bayonne to soothe away the heartache of leaving those beloved trails behind. Who knows where I shall be running next Spring. But maybe it will not be all too bad. Maybe I will be quite alright. After all, it is the one constant in life. Change.

P.S.: The books have arrived and I am excited to announce a few giveaways soon for my readers.

If you would like to participate, do pop by later this weekend, and it should be up.

Happy Hump Day! ❤️

Spooked

Towards the beginning of the year, Adi and I were house hunting. While it is a most enticing prospect to find a house that you will want to live in and call yours, the search is exhausting. But this post not being about the house hunt, I will take you right away to Lambertville, a small town filled with antique stores by the Delaware river. It was one of those chilly February days when the wind pierced your bones and thoughts. It made you ache for home, to be wrapped up in a cosy throw with a book. But we were out. Following an early morning of property viewings, we took leave of the estate agent and I suggested to Adi that we step into Lambertville for a spot of browsing. We could do with some distraction.

Reaching town we grabbed cups of coffee, and cowering in the face of the cold, scurried into one of our favourite antique places in town. It is a big store with three levels filled with old junk, mostly European antiques sourced by the owner from his travels through Europe. Every time we enter the store, I feel like I am in a curiosity shop. I am filled with wonder at the kind of objects that existed once, and have now in this age been delegated to the status of mere curiosities. We were browsing, me rifling through pages of old books that begged to be taken home, when I overheard a woman comment to her companion as they were on their way out. “Where did the time go? I never realised it was so late,” she said. I smiled. Whoever enters the store falls through a rabbit hole.

Climbing the store’s creaky wooden stairs, we found that the store had curated a small museum-style experience. However, the difference was that one could buy items from the collection. My eyes were immediately drawn to a Victorian hallstand, dark mahogany and heavy of make, as most furniture from the yesteryears are. The hallstand had the patina of age. I spent time examining it, then proceeded to check the paraphernalia around. “Come on over,” I said, whispering and beckoning Adi to join me in checking out a small table that belonged to Arthur Conan Doyle. No ordinary piece this. We beheld a ouija table. Adi took a peek and grew pale. Having been exposed to a barrage of horror films over the years, he has been conditioned to my (bizarre, according to the man) fascination with eerie stories. For the sake of honesty, let’s say almost conditioned.

The table came with a note along (with a price tag of $7,500). It was bound to have a story given that it belonged to Dr. Doyle. He was a founding member of a research society in Hampshire and known for his fascination with spiritualism. Doyle collaborated with a fellow mystic in a research on poltergeists in Devon. When his son died of pneumonia in the mid 1900s, the bereaved author was even keener to believe in another realm of existence. He embarked on a collection of talking boards in an attempt to reconnect with his son. His daughter Jean, a British military officer, sold the talking boards to an English antique dealer, who in turn donated it to the Lambertville store for its museum.

“This is too creepy for words,” said Adi.

“But I am getting the hatstand, just so you know,” I told him seriously. One’s gotta rise to the occasion when one needs to needle the husband. And it almost always elicits a reaction most precious from my beloved.

Around the corner, Gothic memorabilia awaited us. For the most part, it was vampire-themed stuff. A plethora of long wooden trunks, beautifully made and kitted up with hinged lids, which opened to reveal wooden stakes and mallets, pistols and crucifixes, vials of garlic powder. Vampire hunting trunks. I wondered about it. Whoever might invest in them? Maybe ones off their rocker? But the truth is that travellers did purchase these trunks that were made in the 1800s for wealthy people on a voyage to Eastern Europe, specifically Transylvania, enthused by the myth of blood-sucking creatures after Bram Stoker published Dracula. One of the travelling vampire kits from the 1870s that we saw, belonged to the Spanish actor Carlos Villaria who played the role of vampire in Dracula, the 1931 version.

If that was not enough, we found more ouija boards, hand-carved, religious wooden sculptures of angels, stakes, holy water bottles, French vampire-hunting oak cabinets circa 1837, an alcove full of puppets with chains barring the way, even a chair that was used to perform exorcisms in Germany in the 1800s. Now all this was way too much for the husband to handle. At one point, he just gave up. He sat himself on a bench and refused to indulge me by looking at anything else in this small museum of strange objets d’art. For my part though I found it highly engaging, and am thinking I shall convince him to give it another go, another day. Wish me luck!

The Victorian hall stand that Did Not have my husband’s attention.
Vampire hunting cabinets
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ouija table
A French vampire hunting trunk, circa 1880s.
More ouija tables
The vampire hunter’s preferred weaponry
Alcoves stuffed with puppets and dire warnings. Stay away.

Merry Christmas!

Enthused by the need to cheer up my husband who has been moping around the apartment of late, looking sinfully bored, I thought we should swing into a little town nearby for some Christmas cheer. It is a town of antique shops and art galleries and artists. Lambertville (https://thetravellingdiaryofadippydottygirl.com/2019/06/11/the-lambertville-photo-roster/), which I have introduced you to a while ago. The way was paved with swathes of snow, then patches, where the snow has melted but with degrees of reluctance. Charming, quiet hamlets, acres and acres of farmland, silos and barns – the mainstay of the American farming story. I have a yen for those silos and barns. Have had it since my first trip Stateside in 2016. I could not take my eyes off them then, when we were visiting my sister-in-law in Seattle. Thereafter, I have fantasised of living in a barn. Adi is suspicious of the concept, but I tell him, “You would never look back with regret.” He still needs convincing.

So we roll on and listen to country music and carols and reach Lambertville within the span of an hour. The streets are remarkably empty. A couple of people roam the pavements, armed with coffee cups. The shops are open, the restaurants look shut, and generally the whole town looks like it has gone to sleep. It is cold, but not terribly so. We have not been keeping up with news. I am tired of keeping track of the numbers. But this makes us think, maybe it would have been better to just stay home. Covid’s token. Certainty is a thing of the past.

This must be the year of the grinch.

I enquire at some galleries for my art pieces. They mostly display oils. I make a mental note that I should continue with my objective of experimenting with oil painting starting next year. I am looking forward to it. After all, it is going to be a fresh challenge. A promise of growth.

At the antique shops, I pick up old bound editions of William Faulkner and Stendhal, when Adi beckons to me. I follow him. Massive installations of Tyrannosaurus and Komodo Dragons, a massive head of the Tyrannosaurus, its cruel eyes glinting at me, so life-like and uncanny. I shudder and run away, back to the comfort of books, porcelain figurines, faded cigar boxes. Within the matter of an hour, we take off from Lambertville for home. With dusk, the temperatures have dipped remarkably. Home seems the only place to be.

On the way back, we drive back again through hamlets and farms lit up with fairy lights and candles glinting at the windows. The pièce de résistance is a magnificent old spruce tree that we sight, on the grounds of a church. It is so tall. And threaded with warm twinkly lights, a yellow star crowning it, almost casting a mellow pool of light (or it maybe a figment of my imagination). I wish I could have stopped for a photo. But could I have done it justice? It is one of those things where words will have to suffice and you will have to take my word for it that it was a thing of rare beauty. A tree not uprooted, a tree left to grow unchecked, a tree done up in the simplest of manners, but one that was possibly the best Christmas tree that I have clapped eyes on. It belonged where it stood.

This year, we are not doing the traditional bird roast. It turns out, both of us were thinking of it, and were amazed when we said it aloud and realised that we were both on the same page. We will however bring it in with loads of veg, cheese and pies and cakes. I would love to hear how you are celebrating.

Here’s to a fuzzy Christmas, wherever you are, dear reader. Big love from us and Jack Phat from my art journal.

Oh Fish

A bird came by yesterday. I was in the kitchen cooking, when I heard a splat. Fairly distinct sound as it was, simultaneously I heard the husband’s voice, and then, I saw his face and mouth gaping with surprise. Next I looked at the glass door on our balcony and what do I see but a strange sight. A skeletal bird clinging to the net screen, its long beak open, its eyes focused on Adi, who in the meanwhile had started having visions of Tippi Hedren swamped with attention from a thousand relentless homicidal birds (The Birds). Having asked him to stop the caterwauling, I had a good look at the bird, wondering if it was unwell. Did it need water? I have very little experience of taking care of birds, you see.

The last time I had rescued a baby pigeon was as a English Lit. student in college. I had taken a cab from college with an injured pigeon perched on my shoulder and the poor mite was shivering. By the time I reached home and put it in the library room with a bowl of water and another of grains, it must have been in a state of shock. It being a fledgling thing, had not fed itself as I had expected. When I visited the room in a half hour, expecting it to feel revived, it lay dead. It left me shivering. Haunted by the death of that baby pigeon, I could not go up to my beloved library for days on end.

Naturally, I am averse to repeating such an experience. I might know a little more than my teenage self, but I do not mess with wildlife because I have limited knowhow. So we mulled about what to do, Adi more concerned with getting rid of the “creepy thing” and me mulling on who to call — for, was its claws stuck on the net door? Then I hit up the Net to identify the bird and it turned out to be a Northern Flicker. A woodpecker. Its brown colouration with the bright crescent of vermilion red on the nape made my job easy.

My food, in the meantime, had turned to cinders on the hob, so I had to give it more attention. It took a good half hour before the Flicker unhooked its claws and took flight. If you have more knowledge of bird behaviour, pray shed light on this. I am curious, for it is not everyday you see a bird paste itself to your door and stay put there.

But to come to the title of the post, quite so literally, I have been introduced by Adi to the world of river monsters. Now, I find shows on chasing gigantic tunas monstrously boring, okay? Imagine then my consternation at finding that I am hooked by a white-haired, leathery cheeked British zoologist exploring killer fishes in the far-flung rivers of the world. And he pursues it with the seriousness I accord to the hunt for serial killers in Scandi noir.

A detective of all murky dealings that transpire in the underwater world? I was open-mouthed as I watched him go about his business with single-minded passion. And, I was in splits too. Then to my horror, I realised I was enamoured of this zoologist-underwater detective’s journey as he fishes for killer underwater monsters with teeth like shards that impale intruders and traces changing behaviours of red-bellied and black piranhas in the Amazonian river waters. Maybe now I have seen everything, now that I find myself furiously drawing fish (below is an illustration of the Golden Dorado, a large predatory fish with jaws as powerful as a pitbull’s found in the fresh waters in South America), a person off the rails wondering at the wild transformation in her telly-watching choices. Could it be the singular power of passion paired with the art of good storytelling?

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Mon cahier botanique

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In the summer of 2019, my sister-in-law (@mydreamcanvas) came visiting us, and at the end of a few glorious days of swanning around the city, she left me with this beautiful journal that I lost my heart to at The Strand bookshop. It might have been merely a year ago, but at the present moment it seems so very far removed from the summer this year, around which hangs a haze of unreality. Yet it is an idyllic summer, which I cannot deny, of pottering in our small garden filled with cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, aubergines, lemon, chillies, radishes, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, mint, and basil. The fern is growing lavishly like a child borne of love and I admit I am terribly fond of it.

It is entrancing to have a ringside view of the lives of plants. Watching them sprout from seeds, transform into seedlings, shoot forth fresh green and tender saplings, and keep growing without a care in the world – it feels therapeutic. I do not mind even the tiny caterpillars and aphids that start showing up as perverse guests.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that I have started to pick fallen leaves, berries, and blossoms. I carry them home with care and proceed to press them dry within the pages of the heaviest cookbooks. When they are suitably papery in texture, I insert them into mon cahier botanique and fill in the rest with botanical notes, watercolours, and poems that refuse to fade from the mind.

P.S.: This is for Cathy with her love of journalling.

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Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Author’s Recognition Award

Church Cove

I am not yet a published author of books. I hope to be. When this award nomination cropped up, courtesy of Sheree of the blog View From the Back, I thought, why not. It would push me to write about this project I have been working on for the last five years. What masterpiece has she been writing for that many years, you might cackle. And really, I could not take offence — this routine of writing and re-writing is a scourge. I have not known when to stop, somewhat like a dervish who abandons himself to his rhythm of whirling and looks for all the world as if he might never stop, then drop like a consumed fly at some point . More about the project in a few ticks, but to begin with, do hop over to Sheree’s blog for a peek into the world of an avid cyclist with a cracking sense of humour.

About the Creator of the Award

Beverley at Becoming the Oil and the Wine Blog. I popped over to her blog and found that she has a compelling story to tell. Her idea behind creating this award was to support fellow bloggers who have written and published books or who are in the process of writing a book. You are free to write as much as you’d like about your book and/or the reasons why you decided to write one.

About my Book

As I mentioned already, I am in the throes of seeking an agent — and simultaneously in the process of writing the proposal for the book. Nobody told me that writing the book would be the easier bit.

The book is about my dippy-dotty travels through Cornwall (in the UK), complete with hand-drawn sketches that are as imperfect as I am as a person. Featured as a logo for this post, is one of the sketches from the book featuring the village of Church Cove in the Lizard Peninsula. I wish I could tell you that this is the one book you need to own when it comes out, but that would be an utter untruth. I would however appreciate it immensely if you did. And that is as much as I can bring myself to talk about my labour of love.

Nominees for the Award

If you have recently published a book or are thinking of writing one, please consider yourself nominated and tell us all about your work. Meanwhile I’d like to nominate the following bloggers:

Virginia Duran

Sarah Angleton

Annie Earnshaw

Stefania Hartley

Award Rules

1. Create a new post on your blog using the above logo or create one of your own.

2. Copy and paste the Purpose of the Award and The Rules of the Award on your post.

3. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

4. Include the links to the creator of the Award and the inspirational post: Celebrating and Supporting our fellow writers.

5. Write a brief description of the books you have written or the book you are currently writing.

6. Include a link to your published books or the potential date of publishing.

7. Nominate at least five bloggers who have published a book or who are thinking about writing a book.

8. Support at least one of the bloggers you have nominated by either purchasing one of their books or sharing the links to their books.

9. If a nominee has not written a book share one of their blog posts.

And that’s that folks! Have a great weekend. Ours has started with a steady rain and the promise of a tropical storm.