'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