'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Friday, 31 December 2010

The McGurk Effect

I feel vaguely apologetic for posting yet another 'quick vid' post, but I'm so busy gathering up all the edges of my life that frayed during the last two years of Diploma, that there's scarcely time to do anything more. The gutters are being investigated by the blackbirds as they are so full of compost they are providing worms (- there's a whole ecosystem up there!), and the lawns were so long that we discovered a rare breed of ancient sheep/goat grazing under the trees when we mowed them last week.
The nasty creeper down the bank has broached the fence and tendrils are snaking across the grass towards the house, the banana threatens the studio which is filled with white-tailed spiders running amok, and the garage door is peeling so much it looks like a wondrous abstract painting.

And I haven't even written my Christmas cards yet.

But here, in lieu of a decent post, I bring you (sound of distant trumpets) The McGurk Effect:

Thursday, 30 December 2010

TLVD again a winner

I have just been informed and am very thrilled to again receive the prestigious annual Laughing Horse award at a recent private ceremony at Pudding Towers, Sheffield.  
The Last Visible Dog blog was awarded the .. er, award for:

"The Advancement of Art Through Blogging."

Unfortunately I was unable to attend due to inclement weather interrupting flight plans, and so missed out on a good bash.  But I supplied a full-size cardboard replica of myself, and also one of my giant godwit escort.  

Many thanks to Lord and Lady Pudding and all the Pudettes at Yorkshire Pudding manor.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Day Dawn

May I lay claim to be the first to post a 'Happy Christmas' in the light of this new day.
Just taken about 10 minutes ago.

Good morning, world! Wishing you a fine day.

Wishing you peace.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Last Wednesday I proudly walked across the stage to receive my Diploma in Art. I was also thrilled to come top of the class. It's been a wonderful two years.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Google Recurses

I've posted before about the Droste effect, named after the Dutch chocolate tin, or recursion, as it is properly known. (I've always known it privately as the Bycroft effect). It is related to my blog title, and has always intrigued me.

Recently my son brought something to my attention. If you type 'recursion' in the Google search box, the first line will read 'Did you mean: recursion.' And of course if you click on that, you will begin an endless recursive journey. Nice to see someone at Google has a sense of humour.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Black water rafting in New Zealand. A personal account

Bonding with our Special Friends

About this time last year, we had an adventure.

Back in my student days I had been 'wild' caving in the extensive area of Waitomo (Maori: 'wai'-water, 'tomo'-enter), and also did what was then known as the 'Ruakuri float-through'. Which was a perfect description for the experience of choosing a sweltering hot summer's day, borrowing a carbide lamp and a wet-suit each, wandering vaguely around in the bush (forest) until we found some likely-looking cave entrances, wander in, turn left when we met a quiet stream, got in, floated along on our back looking at the glow-worms on the ceiling, and emerged in time to have a fizzy drink and a toasted sandwich from the local shop.

So I was very keen that my dear, unsuspecting guests from Germany should have this wonderful, uplifting and tranquil experience too. I sold it to them easily. The tickets were booked online. A., despite having very limited sight, would easily be able to cope. We could hold her hand all the time anyway. So I thought.

Why it didn't occur to me that rivers when they go underground can have just as many heights and moods as rivers above-ground, I do not know.

For after four days of torrential rain, the Ruakuri River was high and opaque brown, swirling and twisting like some live boa.

The 'Black Water Rafting Company' luckily know this river very well, in all its moods. They know all the ledges and depths and waterfalls and torrents and eddies, and what seemed like three hours of a confused pummeling torrent of black cold liquid and rocks in near-total darkness to us, was a carefully calculated series of runs and stops for breaths, debriefs, count-up-the- heads (lights) and new instructions to be given out, to them.

But of course at the beginning you don't know what you're in for. And at the end you are too euphoric to mind.

The company is very organised, and the whole trip had been carefully planned.

We met our guides at the 'Long Black Cafe', which is worth a visit even if you're not doing the rafting trip. We were allocated wetsuits and booties, boots and helmets, and our Special Friend, our inner tube. We posed with our Special Friends (above) for a photo opportunity. All was laughter and jocularity.

We jumped in the van and they drove us to the river.

We tried our Special Friends on our bottoms for size. All was still hilarious.

We walked into the forest to a platform above the Great Grey-Brown Ruakuri.

"Jump in." they instructed. "No, not that way; backwards."

Jumping in the water backwards while clutching your Special Friend to your bottom is harder than it sounds. We all did it, but I was a bit scared. The river was quite cold and we all got water up our noses, but, more seriously, my sight-impaired friend got muddy water on her glasses and couldn't see a thing until we got her out and they were cleaned. This was a hint of what was to come.

Then we did some stationary conga dancing while sitting in our tubes. This was another hint of things to come, and again didn't coincide with my previous serene rafting experience. We clasped the boots of the person behind and, on command, leaned "LEFT!" and "RIGHT!"

All lots of fun, tempered with a slight air of seriousness. They were shouting at us.

We drove to another spot and walked a little into the forest, coming upon a large hole in the ground from which issued soft coils of mist. One after the other, we descended into this hole and almost immediately were in darkness, but for our helmet lights.

They asked us to stop there, and everything quickly got much more serious. I don't remember all of the talk, but it involved 'you must' and 'never' and 'if you lose your tube' and other careful instructions that were not minced - everything was very clear and categorical. Finally they finished with a little joke. "If you are really, really cold and your hands and feet are really, really cold, then just tell one of the guides. And we'll tell you that ours are too."

I was beginning to wonder what on Earth I was doing there. And feeling embarrassed about the hard-sell to our guests. I was also very worried about my friend. She was having trouble seeing because of her limited sight in the darkness and also the misty atmosphere was fogging up her glasses. I wondered where the mist was coming from, but we soon found out. It was spray from the turbulent river. In a short time (10 minutes? twenty minutes?) in that timeless place, we had progressed through the cave to the intersection with the river, and I realised why we had been told all the instructions from then on were to be visual. The noise of the agitated water had steadily grown and now was almost deafening. Even a shout near your ear was almost indecipherable.

The river was very strong and tugged against our legs and sometimes our waists, and, added to the fact that the river bed was very uneven, it was a real struggle to keep our footing. We had to hold our tubes up out of the water, or risk them being grabbed and swept away by the current. At one point I wondered how much longer it was going to be. My arms and legs hurt, and I was very tired. Then the river grew deeper. It was too fast for us to all float along together, so we went singly or in batches of two, being grabbed out of the darkness by hands at the other end. It was more like a series of short, pounding, thrilling, whirls in a washing-machine. And my friend had to have help. A guide or someone else held onto her almost all the time. But she had to do some by herself. She was going almost entirely by feel, and the ground was just a tumble of rocks and boulders. I still have huge respect for her courage. This was no sanitised picnic in the park…

In the middle somewhere there was a waterfall we each had to jump off into the near-darkness. And then, suddenly we were all crocodiled together in total darkness, as we had practiced up there in that far-away world of the green and gold sunlight. And we were whirling along like a silent awestruck snake under the magical Christmas lights of the glow-worms, then into an enormous cathedral of a cave with a roof vaulting up invisibly into the blackness. An unforgettable peaceful and awesome half-minute or so of reflection.

Then we were swept into another area and it was quite a shock, after about 2 hours in isolation, to see coloured lights and people on metal walkways high above. It seemed to me that ours was the real cave, and this was one was just fantasyland.

We arrived, one by one, at the place where our river poured out of its underground lair. A guide stood on a huge rock, higher than me, with his hands out, and my legs would hardly work as I struggled to get up. I felt totally drained and weak as water.

But in ten minutes, after a much-needed wee-stop (on pain of death were we to do that in our wet-suits), and sitting back in the van, the pride and euphoria began. Our daughters were covered in smiles from ear to ear, and my friend and I sat quietly, delighted we'd done it, and, if not actually ready to rush in and do it all over again, at least ready to highly recommend the trip to anyone else. Fan-bloodly-tastic!

Monday, 6 December 2010


Not usually one to do angst, cynicism or rants in my posts, I do feel the need to share this. Being a woman (yes, really), I sometimes flip through the pages of glossy magazines at the dentist or doctor (never buy 'em) and sigh over the slim, smooth, flawless models therein. Well, no more! I guess I always knew they were 'shopped, but this is such a startling pair of images, I feel much better. Now, if only the Young Things who are even more prone to feelings of inadequacy, could see this. Better still, they should print it out and stick it on their mirrors. So much harm is done by the constant presentation of this unrealistic ideal of beauty. It's insidious.

If you own these images, thank you very much for this valuable public service! Please contact me and I will acknowledge the use of it. Sorry, but I forgot where I got them from.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

'Saemangeum' Triptych.

Here is my end of year diploma piece, entitled 'Saemangeum'.
It was exhibited with a single page of information that contained more or less the same information as my recent 'Saemangeum' post.
Size of piece: 2760 mm x 610 mm.
Acrylic on canvas.

I'd enjoy getting your comments regarding what you take from this work, and any questions.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Miranda: Background Information 2

From the NZ Department of Conservation sponsored 'Meet the Locals' New Zealand television series, this is a little look at Miranda on the Firth of Thames.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Saemangeum - some background information.

Click on image to enlarge.

Saemangeum is an estuarine tidal flat on the coast of the Yellow Sea in South Korea.

It was dammed by the government of South Korea's Saemangeum Seawall Project, after a long fight between the government and environmental activists, and was originally scheduled to be converted into rice-growing agricultural land. However Korea is now a net exporter of rice and it is now planned to be a tourist destination and top-end residential housing and parklands.

Prior to 2006, this area had played an important role as a habitat for migratory birds. The completion of the seawall (that you can see in this Google Earth screenshot I just made) is likely to be a major contributor to the decline of many species. Around 400,000 shorebirds depended on the Saemangeum estuary as an important feeding ground on the 24,000 km migration between Asia and Alaska and Russia, including the two endangered waders Nordmann's Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper (each species with fewer than a thousand surviving birds).

A conservation organisation has accused authorities of having failed to monitor the project's impact on local wildlife in a transparent way, and carried out and independent monitoring programme in 2006. The project of filling in the estuary was begun in 1991, but was slowed by a series of court actions by environmentalists.

The completed seawall is some 33 km long, and replaces a coastline that was once more than 100 km long.

After the estuary has been completely filled, an area of about 400 square kilometres will have been added to the Korean peninsula, making it one of the biggest land reclamations in history.

The Saemangeum seawall was completed in April 2010, officially becoming the longest sea-barrier in the world. On August 10 this was certified by the Guinness Book of Records.

The plans for the development of Saemangeum are due to be completed in 2020.
Environmental groups such as Bird Korea, and delegations from the Miranda shorebirds Trust, New Zealand, are promoting greater awareness of the enormous impact of reclamations in the Yellow Sea.
Some are calling for the seawall gates of Saemangeum to be opened, saying that it is not too late to reinstate the tidal estuary back into the high-producing food source stopover critical to migrating wader birds.

This information has been adapted from Saemangeum, Wikipedia

More information on this topic is available. For example:

• Birds Korea about Saemangeum.

• Korean 'Intelligent Technology' Times article dated 29 March 2010 Saemageum to be Reborn as the Stronghold of Global Business.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

End of Diploma Exhibition

This was the theme upon which we all (13 0f us) based our end-of-year exhibition work. Of course mine would have to be something about bar-tailed godwits...

(Oh, and I haven't forgotten the grapes competition, folks.)

Monday, 15 November 2010

Kon-Tiki and I

This post is an experiment to find out if I can share one of my favourite books with you.
Erik Hesselberg was one of the crew aboard the Kon-Tiki, and not many people know that he wrote and illustrated a book about the voyage. It was part of my growing-up years and I loved to pour over it, and later to read the words. I consider it a delightful visual feast.

Kon-Tiki and I, by Erik Hesselberg. 1950 ed.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


How could I have forgotten how much I love irises? I've known this lovely one - a gift from my daughter last Christmas - was about to open for the first time some day soon, but I just gasped at the sight of this beauty a few minutes ago when I went out to water the garden.

Why do I love irises so much? It's party the colours. Such an astonishing range from blues through the violets into the yellows, browns and blushes, pinks, plums and whites.
It's partly the upswept, convoluted complexity, and the surprising richness and textural contrast of the 'beards'.

It's partly the mysterious hidden depths, and the soft shade within on a sunny day. It's like a miniature room in there.

And it's also the flamboyant frills and ruffles like a flamenco dancer's dress.

But, mainly I think, it's because I love to paint them, and they often get the better of me. I love the challenge of them.

Thank you N, for this one!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Brain

It has been said that our brain can never understand itself. It's a bit like trying to pull yourself up by your own boot-straps, or licking your elbow... or something.

Here, in my opinion, is a wonderful little clip showing how tricky it is. If you understand this, please explain in the comments box.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sorry - a useful form.

Found on http://cherylbernstein.blogspot.com/2010/10/causing-offence.html

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Tower of London

The diary account of a mother and daughter's trip to the World continues....
7/9/05 Part 1. Waiting.

Another lovely hot day again. We took an earlier than usual train to Liverpool Street Station (day return: £1 for N and £18 for me - rather a big difference!) then the underground to Tower Hill. We bought tickets for the Tower from one of booths at the entrance. While we were waiting I took some views of the London skyline.

Tower Bridge.

Londoners call the Swiss Bank 'The Gherkin'. It's easy to see why.

St Katherine's dock and the new City Hall.

This view shows part of the Tower moat.

Last time we were here it was bucketing down. I remember peeking out of the underground at the torrential rain and saying to the kids - N was only five then - 'Let's leave it for another day'. Poor N has had to wait nearly ten years.
And the time before that, I was eleven and feeding bits of cornet off my ice cream to the pigeons. No sound guides back then. And you could spend as long as you liked gawping at the jooles.

Our Yeoman Warder ('Beefeater' - but they don't like the term, apparently) was old, grumpy and jaded, and seemed not at all to be looking forward to showing us around, as he stood waiting by the railings with his RT in all his finery in the hot sun.
I suppose it was understandable. He'd probably shown a zillion people around before, and was very hot, to boot. But despite this, he was extremely interesting and we had a great tour.

Next: Part 2. The Tower.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Greerton in the Springtime

The cherry trees are out again in Greerton, a small shopping centre in the city of Tauranga. Like many such villages, not so long ago Greerton use to be a village in its own right. Locals still call it 'the village' and it certainly has its own character with the lovely flowering cherries and mosaics. The first one features a tern.

Above; some weird and wonderful flowers of a kind I've never seen, but below a much more ubiquitous sight - the pukeko or swamp-hen.

Monday, 11 October 2010

A Late Walk

A Late Walk

When I go through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words.

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

Robert Frost.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Snail City

At Miranda, the soft sunshine and spring warmth is encouraging the strongly scented Fennel Forest to sprout up again from the base of the dry stalks of last year's forest. But every night the old dry stems are a staircase to the sky for zillions of snails. They scrape away with their radulas at the last of the old fennel skin and encounter each other for conversation and sex. In the morning as the sun silvers the Firth of Thames to almost blinding sparkle, the snails slither down the stems, across the path (scrunch scrunch as you walk - auggh) and slide back to their secret day-time shelters.

(This post has a Starting-With-S Score of 27/108.)