Sunday, 18 November 2012

More about canals

Frog, Dog and I took another walk along the Grand Western Canal yesterday. This time we explored the almost derelict northern end which should join up with the River Tone (as in ‘Taunton’)* but doesn’t quite.

All water has a magic to it, but canals particularly so because the water is still. We saw few people yesterday and no boats and there wasn't a sound to be heard. When we got back to the car, I felt as if I'd been in another world.

(Sorry about the quality of the pics - I think the dial on top had jiggled itself round to the wrong place.)

Leaves on the surface of the water,
looking like a Japanese (?) painting:

Disused lime kilns: 

Tunnel entrance:

This is weed growing under the water from the
bed of the canal, but because the water is so clear
it looks as if it's growing above the water:

*I’ve just looked up the derivation of ‘Tone’ and apparently it’s a Celtic word meaning ‘fire’, ie ‘sparkling’, an incentive - if we needed one - to take another walk in the area and follow the dried-up canal-bed as far as the river 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Weretigers and other monsters

According to Asian folklore, man-eating tigers have supernatural origins. Either they are inhabited by gods or demons, or they are human shapeshifters. Patrick Newman, who has lived in Asia and been fascinated by such creatures all his life, has just had a book published on the subject.
    His book, Tracking the Weretiger, draws information from an array of sources and I am aghast at the work that must have gone into it. It is however written in an easy style, with vivid stories and telling details, such as the fact that tigers eat fleshy parts first such as buttocks so that often only the head, hands and feet of victims are found, and one belief that tigers stalking woodcutters synchronised their footsteps with the chops of the axe. Brrr.
    Equally vivid is the picture of colonial times – how the British slaughtered the wild animals, plundered the forests depriving tribespeople of their livelihoods, and drafted in locals as cheap labour.
    He examines some of the reasons why tigers – and other big cats – who usually shun humans should start to eat them. One leopard for instance who terrorised an area 500 miles square for eight years, entering through windows and barred doors to take people from their huts by night, was thought to have acquired the taste for human flesh during a flu epidemic when there was no time to burn the dead.
    This leopard is also the subject of the last chapter. Locals called in famous hunter Jim Corbett who after eight months got the better of the beast. Surveying the dead animal, he wrote, ‘Here was only an old leopard . . . whose only crime – not against the laws of nature, but against the laws of man – was that he had shed human blood, with no object of terrorizing man, but only in order that he might live.’ Corbett later turned conservationist.

With discussion of European werewolf traditions, full references, a glossary and full index, this is a comprehensive and authoritative work. And the fact that Pat is the partner of one of my sisters has not influenced my opinion in the least.
    The book is published in the States, but available through both and .

While on the subject of family and talented writers, I must also mention my sister Emma Fischel, who has just had a children’s novel published called The Gorgle. It’s for 8–11s who like a shivery bit of comic horror. (And for 50-somethings. I read it at the weekend and was gripped. It’s very clever.)

    She also writes children’s non-fiction, such as quiz and puzzle books, history made fun and girly books, under the name Lottie Stride. Recent titles include Meerkat Mischief, The Time Traveller's Handbook, Girls Only, Girls' Miscellany. (Frog was gripped at the weekend by the girly books.)
    The Gorgle is the one to buy as Em gets royalties on that. She doesn’t get royalties on the Lottie Stride books, so it’s better to borrow them from the library as then she gets PLR (Public Lending Right – fees for each borrowing).

Thank you!