Eel spear.

I bought a little souvenir from Denmark. I was thinking of forcing Jack to buy me a Bojesen monkey, then I found this . . .PhotobucketIt's an eel spear and I adore it. It's gone on the wall. But  I'm not sure which way up I prefer it displayed - what do you think?PhotobucketEels always sit with their noses into the flow of water so you would use this spear with it's flat face toward the current and work across a river, the serrations are angled so they force the eel up between the prongs but don't let them out. Brutal really, sorry about that, but what a beautiful thing.
To finish: a small drawing of an eel and a brilliant link.

Toot again.

It's good to be back on the toot train, got a pile of bits. A beautiful cardigan for a little one, I ruddy love yellow (though maybe not as much as some people)PhotobucketA stack of military first aid boxes.PhotobucketA nice little handbag. I like to put a knot in the handle of a handbag, quite casual and sweet - reminds me of being a teen.PhotobucketSciencey-looking spaghetti jars.PhotobucketA handsome mug, bang on trend with it's dip-dye. I say 'very now' . . . probably nineteenth century.PhotobucketI loved this battered little polar bear, it's the look on his face.Photobucket PhotobucketA whole load of baskets.PhotobucketNot old really, but very nice!PhotobucketThese eggcups aren't fine Wedgewood at all, they're plastic! Fooled you! They come in real handy when you've invited oiks over for breakfast and don't want to put out your breakables.PhotobucketThis dressing gown is nice and the lady who sold it to me assured me it had 'really good vibes' which I thought was sweet. Sometimes I do wish I could just ring up a wholesaler and order in some boxes of stock (I probably could) but really I know, deep down, I wouldn't like it.PhotobucketFoof . . . after all that I need a cigarette. Have you got a light? . . . . . Photobucket . . . . oh.


I must be channeling Danish vibes because at the car boot on Sunday I found this beautiful Krenit bowl. Yum yum yum yum!PhotobucketIt's a 1950s design by Herbert Krenchel, it is heavy and smooth and cold like a beautiful pebble but has a glossy, slick inside in the perfect orange. In other words: I'm keeping it.

And now I'm back.

Hello again, I hope you folks had a nice interlude, did you get up to anything? I took a break that was almost too long - at times I was wracked by guilt, others I feared I could never return to my old life. But now I'm home I notice how clean all my filters are, there's not a squeak or a rub in the machinery and my brain feels quite calm . . . so that's nice.PhotobucketDenmark is a wonderful place to cycle: the scenery is so beautiful, the routes are well set out and the roads are impossibly quiet.PhotobucketBut, I have to say, cycling anywhere is a beautiful thing - to feel free and be under your own steam. Things react to you differently on a bike, you are quiet and quick so creatures that would normally have disappeared at the sound of your footsteps are still loitering when you pass them, birds fly close to you and, at one point, horses ran alongside us in a field - what an incredible feeling.PhotobucketSuch a good thing about Denmark is the free camping and shelters, we stayed in a few of these log-cabin/bus-stop/caves. This particular one was near an educational centre and there were some canoes lying about . . .Photobucket. . . so we had a quick go - we paddled up stream then let the current carry us back. It was so relaxing I feared I might leave a mess in the hull.Photobucket(A mushroom inspired by Lucy Rie.)PhotobucketWe swam a lot, in fjords and in the sea. And in this barmy red lake.PhotobucketAt this beach the sea was so cold it felt glacial - we had to dunk and run. A man threw a stick in for his dog and the dog just stood on the edge looking at him like 'what the hell are you doing?'. We also saw a seal lying on the sand, it flob-a-dobbed back into the sea a we approached (I was rather hoping it would roll over so I could scratch it's tummy but heck). I love seals.Photobucket(A Viking burial ground)PhotobucketWe also went walkabout in the desert, can you believe it? Jutland is in a constant state of being fertilised and made suitable for farming; apart from the Rabjerg Mile, which is an enormous mobile dune that they is just left to do it's thing. It chooses to just slowly blow around. Everywhere we went in Denmark there seemed to be joggers, Danes love to jog, in groups or by themselves and from a very young age it would seem. And as we looked down over this barmy desert scene there was a Dane jogging across it! Jeez!!
(I made a sand angel in the side of a dune that just ended up looking like an area of disturbed sand with a surprisingly large and detailed print of my bum in the middle)PhotobucketA two night stop in Skagen, a very traditional arty kind of place - where you might sit and sketch at dusk.PhotobucketAnd a trip to the fishing museum which I adored! It had set-ups of fishermen's houses from different eras. I loved the boat sheds.PhotobucketAnd this beautiful pestle and mortar, you weren't meant to touch it  . . . but I did, and I wasn't even sorry about it.PhotobucketBeautiful box beds, I've made a note for my future house.PhotobucketRight at the top of Jutland we saw the waves grapple as two seas met and trod on tiny bleached out shells. I also got my shorts wet just standing in the sea gazing at two seals, who gazed right backPhotobucketA city interlude, we stayed with my cousin and quite wore ourselves out, more so than any days cycling. We spent five hours wandering around Louisiana, then went on a boat tour of Copenhagen and a wander down Pusher Street in Christiania. PhotobucketI might do more of Copenhagen one day but we couldn't really afford much this time- so it was back to free camping, sea swimming and shopping at Netto.PhotobucketThe best camping place ever, we swam off this jetty twice in the day then had an impromptu skinny dip after the sun went down.Photobucket(A dirty great oak)PhotobucketOne night this very kind gent called Paul (on the left) let us camp in his garden, he didn't speak much English and we didn't speak any Danish but he was most kind - digging us potatoes, picking us tomatoes, catching us fish and leaving his door open for us. Blimey!PhotobucketHe had an amazing dog called Bella who did tricks to make all other dogs look rubbish. Paul picked up a piece of gravel and showed it to us, it was red and flat, then he threw it back onto the drive a way off, the dog didn't react at all, then he whistled and she sprang up and sniffed all around until she found it. PhotobucketWe didn't hold back on the eating, you don't have to - this is a good thing about cycling - another good thing is that you are in a foreign country so even the sickly, pale, economy cakes are exciting and new. Our favourite was Dancake.PhotobucketAs we went about we read a book together, which is such a nice thing to do. Jack might read to me whilst I cooked or we'd just take it in turns to read to each other in bed. We chose Middlemarch and as we cycled around the characters came with us, we'd talk about them whilst we cycled or do impressions. We haven't finished it yet though, so we'll see how that little idyll survives the rigours of everyday life. We also sing a bit, just shouting songs in the middle of forests. It's also funny because weird songs pop into your head. So I might be cycling along and hear at little sound that gets louder and louder until Jack overtakes me singing Two Become One at the top of his lungs.PhotobucketI'm sure there's much more to say but I'm not going to say it. Apart from that you should go on a bike tour if you've ever felt the slightest urge - not to keep fit or to achieve a certain amount of miles but just to be free and flexible, and not ever bored.Photobucket

I've gone

Dear internet friends,
if you are reading this: I'm gone. I'm on my bike with my magical, most beautiful bungee ever holding my bed to the back. I'm on my way to Denmark with that Jack.PhotobucketThe most beautiful, rainbow bungee.

I'm wearing horrendous, but very necessary, padded shorts. (these shorts are slightly less horrendous than my last pair which were marketed as 'ladies' just because they had an awful pattern that looked a bit like a vagina on the gusset)
PhotobucketShorts, with extra bum.

I will be drawing in my book and taking lots of pictures. I will make posts if I can. I will miss you guys when I can't.

The Falkland Islands

Hello you lovely worms. you might remember that a while back I went on a special tour of Kew, then I got to grill Richard and Brian about their visits to the Falklands. Here are their words, it's both of them talking but I've smushed them together to make it easier. All the pictures are Brians.

"The total land area of the Falklands is about two thirds the size of wales. The two main islands are pretty big, about the same size each, then there must be a few hundred smaller islands around but only around eight or ten of them are populated. Maybe two or three couples at most live on each of the smaller islands, nearly all of them are sheep farmers but many are also doing more touristy things now. Some of them are now mainly places that tourists go to and pay to stay in a lodge and photograph penguins; they are not always accessible to locals because it's quite expensive. When we tell people in Stanley that we are visiting other islands, they don't realise we're taking our tents and doing it on the cheap. East Falkland has Stanley, which is the capital with about two and a half thousand people: thats around 90% of the population.You can cross stanley in 10 minutes."
Stanley from the Air

Photobucket Sea cabbage, Sea Lion Island

"West Falkland is about the same size but much less populated. There are settlements on West Falkland - the biggest is about 30 peopleUntil the conflict, much of the land was mostly owned by people in the UK and they would rent it out to farmers.
Because it's an island so you've got to be completely self sufficient, if something goes wrong you've got to fix it yourself. If your generator breaks down you just have to mend it, you don't call somebody in. A lot of people have wind-powered generators but others have an oil generator backup as well. 
The countryside around the settlements is so beautiful . . . then you come over the brow of a hill and see: the dump. Because it's an island anything that goes there stays there. At every settlement there's a place where things get dumped - like old washing machines, fridges, Land Rovers. At some beaches you find all their old crockery. You don't move something that isn't valuable off the island, they've got a lot of space so they just have a place where they dump it."
PhotobucketThe Dump, Port Howard

PhotobucketLand Rover recycling at Port Howard.

PhotobucketBeach at the settlement, Weddell Island.

"The way people view travelling is very different. Outside of Stanley there are no tarmac roads, it's rough gravel roads and they only go to the inhabited farms, a lot of places have no roads at all. There's no rights of way, no footpaths no bridleways, you have to ask permission to go to private land; which is almost all of it. 
Air flight is essential for maintaining communications: you can fit about 8 people in an Islander plane, plus the pilot and lots of cargo, including any mail. Although they are subsidised, it's still too expensive for many people."
PhotobucketPort Howard Airstrip.

A typical Falklands house has gloss painted hardboard walls, some would've been just the wooden boarding or wiggly tin (corrugated iron) boarding before. I remember people telling me that in the past, if you could afford hardboard paneling that was considered posh.
PhotobucketSunset reflection, Fox Bay East.

"The houses can seem old-fashioned, because it's so expensive to get things: if it's not broken  you won't get something new. If you've got a pot of paint in the shed you'll use it, whatever the colour, rather than bringing one in because it has to come 8000 miles to get there. They are sometimes quite garish bright colours, we went in one bedroom that was just dazzlingly bright. When you go into some of the houses that aren't still lived in, it's like stepping back in time, I like that. Places that have been done up recently you see that they've been to Ikea- lots of Ikea stuff, shipped from the UK."
PhotobucketWeathered door, Weddell Island.

PhotobucketAbandoned Shepherds House, Northwest Arm.

PhotobucketMantel piece, Purvis House

PhotobucketPhone, Purvis House

"Any hardware would come from the UK because the nearest land mass is Argentina and they won't let anything go to the Falklands, they claim the Falklands for their own. Chile is the country in South America where there's most communication, container ships come from there once a month and there's a weekly flight which brings people and also fresh fruit and veg. It' s quite a long journey so when it gets there it's quite expensive. In Stanley there are a few supermarkets. Outside of Stanley the biggest settlements have shops that open twice a week for a couple of hours, or when you ask. The shops work differently, one is run as a coop, it's owned by members of the community and they employ someone to run it and they open it three times a week. There's only one market gardener on all the islands, they grow fruit and veg, much of it in polytunnels, but not enough to meet all the demand. A lot of people grow their own. Fresh vegetable and fruit is very difficult to buy outside of Stanley but you get very good meat because there are so many farmers. Animal husbandry is what they do, mostly sheep but also cattle. Meat is very cheap there and vegetables expensive, the opposite of here."
Shanty kitchen, River Island

"We went to River Island and spent a week with the sheep-shearers. 
The shanty on River Island is amazing, there's an aga  in the kitchen/living room, then there are bunk rooms, real shepherds accommodation. The shepherds are based in the settlement but they'll go out to shanties for a few days rounding up sheep for shearing in the settlement: the gang of shepherds will stay in most shanties for a few days, two or three times a year. On River Island they usually only visit once a year, they shear the sheep on the Island.

That's the fleece they gave me, a black fleece which is worth nothing to them, it's fantastic quality wool compared to the fleeces I get in the UK - very fine. The white wool would be worth a lot of money. All the black sheep are usually killed in the Falklands but for some reason a shepherd had a soft spot for that one, the other shepherds teased him because he didn't kill it. Now Brian's spun it and made a hat which he'll send to him, I think it will be the first thing he's ever had made from his own wool."
PhotobucketBlack fleece from River Island

"The man who runs this farm makes his own horse leather bits - every farmer and shepherd used to make their own gear from their own rawhide - in the time when everyone had horses - but there's very few people who do it now. The range of different parts in saddles and gear is incredible, and it's very different from British horse gear, it's much closer to Spanish gear. I've heard that the first British shepherds down there were from Scotland where it was all done on foot not horseback: so they had no history of working with horses whereas the gauchos coming over from the mainland did, so that's where the horse-riding culture was taken up from. It's hard to overestimate the importance of horses in Falklands life historically: before Land Rovers became available."
Saddlery workshop, Shallow Bay.

"They've split up the big farms nowbut it can still be over an hour to your next neighbour. You can spend a lot of time just in your family unit, rarely seeing anyone else, that must feel very isolating sometimes, especially in winterTake Saunders Island: a couple run it and their two daughters live there with their partners."
View from “Swiss Cottage” at the Neck, Saunders Island.

"They run Saunders mainly for sheep farming but have been expanding into tourism because they've got penguin and albatross colonies, throughout the summer it's full of tourists coming and going, but in the winter, there is sometimes only the family."
Rockhopper Colony, Saunders Island.

"Some Islanders have a license to collect penguin eggs to eat. On Weddell Island, there are several colonies. Any island community has some level of eating seabirds, Easter Island, St Kilda etc. On the Falklands there doesn't seem to be any record of people eating the penguins themselves so I presume they must be really unpleasant to eat. They gave us a couple of penguin eggs to try, they have really very hard shells, almost too thick to get through and they're about the size of tennis balls. They taste horrible, really fishy, really oily, just disgusting."
PhotobucketPenguin eggs

PhotobucketPenguin eggs ready for omelette making

Thank you clever sausages. As someone who lives in London I love hearing about far off, sparsely populated places. I think the word toot would have a different meaning over there; much weightier, more expensive, it might even be a redundant term . . . no! I retract that last statement *shudder*. 
PhotobucketBotanist at work, pressing a (cultivated) Sitka Spruce specimen.