About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Having a little Cwtch

A home that's lost its dog - well, it's still a home but there's an emptiness two people can't fill on their own. 

After our Ted died at the beginning of September, it became clear that although we'd be grieving for a long time, we'd feel better if we found another dog sooner rather than later. Not to replace him - a dead dog is like a family member or friend in that respect - but to provide a new focus.

We decided a long time ago that we'd like a rescue collie next time round, and we applied for a few, but dogs are much in demand during this time of Covid-19 and we didn't get anywhere. (We're also too old and too urban for some collie-specific rescues, who like their charges to be rehomed with childless 30-year-olds in possession of several hundred acres at least 25 miles from the nearest A road, and who are happiest belting around fields of a weekend in a competitive sort of way.) (I'm afraid we just do walks in the landscapes of poetry. 😊)  

We also noticed that lots of dogs acquired during the first clockdown are being offered for sale by owners whose jobs have changed or who didn't realise how much work they'd be when they bought them, but they are also being snapped up really quickly. 

Then the Northerner decided he'd rather like A Puppy as although he'd had dogs, he'd never Had A Puppy before. And since neither of us had had a bitch, we started to look for a female border collie puppy, and bloody hell, they're expensive. I paid £140 for Ted twelve years ago,  and now they're between £1,000 and £3,000, frequently with a surcharge for a girl. Even what we used to call mutts but are now Labracockadoodlepoos cost a small fortune.

I'm not sure about those tennis balls ...

We started to resign ourselves to Winter Darkness, Covid-19, Brexit, and No Dog. Then, one Saturday evening, I was scrolling down one of those pets for sale websites, and saw a litter of black and white guinea pigs for sale in Wales. Except on closer inspection they weren't guinea pigs, they were border collie puppies - five bitches and two dogs - and they were only £400 each. Never did I move so quickly. 

A Zoom meeting later, and we had ourselves a little bitch; we just had to wait for her to be old enough to leave her mum. We filled the time by poring over our weekly pupdates and choosing a name for her. Ideally we wanted something to do with poetry, and as she was born in Dylan Thomas country, I thought Polly the Collie Garter would be a good name. But the Northerner then countered with Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, which wouldn't do at all, and in the end we compromised and settled for Cwtch, that beautiful Welsh word that is both noun and verb, a request and a command; and means a cuddle and a snuggle, a little cupboard or nook, and best of all, a safe place in your arms. We also like that there's no exact equivalent in English.

2 weeks old

There was some anxiety during this time. A puppy we could afford, and not too far away (even though the lockdown meant she had to be delivered to us, rather than us going to pick her up).  It did feel too good to be true. Could it be a scam? But no, it turns out the breeder, Scott, is just a decent bloke who loves his dogs. We're so lucky we found him and Cwtch.

Six weeks old

So here she is, galloping around on the longest legs you ever did see, half border collie, half hare. I still feel a bit ashamed we didn't have the fortitude to hold out for a rescue dog - in another, non-Covid year with unlimited travel we might have done - but when she's older, we'll look again for one that's in need of a home, this time with a steady female in the mix. For now, though, that seems some way off ... 

Sunday, 15 November 2020

A local autumn in lockdown

We haven't been out much lately. It's been damp and dreary and dark, and there's no dog chewing our metaphorical ears off about going for a walk. Which is a shame because with the extra lockdown restrictions, there are no golfers hitting small balls at dangerous speed on the golf course, and it's easier to get across on the footpath to the meadow, not to mention wandering around the edges of the course itself - or Fairyland, as we took to calling it during the first lockdown.

Anyway, here's a few recent photos taken during the last six weeks, on the days when we have felt like getting out locally. 

Sunset moving further north all the time, and about to disappear from view in the meadow

Sun reflected in the glass of the Mall at Cribbs Causeway

Charlton Common in October sun

Through the 'tumnal woods

On sunlit uplands. Well, maybe literally, if not metaphorically.

More vapour trails than I've seen in a long time

Autumnal oak

November colour - spindle, wild carrot, clover, hogweed, selfheal, yarrow, blackberries, vetch


The winterbourne living up to its name

The now empty rookery

Looking up the meadow

Another sunset

Re-encountering some of the magnificent ashes and oaks in Fairyland that we first made friends with during the spring lockdown

The smaller pond, much loved by Ted

Sunset now only fully visible from Fairyland ...

... but glimpsed, just, from the meadow ... 

... where suddenly the rooks and jackdaws are back.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

An honest heart

I've been sorting through photos lately and picking out some good ones of Ted. God, how we miss our dog: the beating heart of our home. Anyway, here are some of my favourites from over his lifetime, in some of the many wonderful places we visited together.