'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.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

The Making of an 'Earthbag' Bedroom.

My post about the passage grave in Skåne made me think about how it might be possible to build a dwelling in a similar way - by using the materials to be had around.  There are no stones in this area, but plenty of dirt... add plastic (which I don't really like, but let's forget that bit for the moment) and you have: A new little house! 
This construction journey video is just wonderful on many levels, not least that of the relationships strengthened.

Monday, 24 September 2018


It's only three km (about 2 miles) from Gillhög (the ancient passage grave) to Barsebäckshamn, a little fishing village on the south(ish) Swedish coast that looks straight out towards Denmark and Copenhagen.  A village has been here since the 1400's, and it was once a very busy fishing port.  Now it is mostly recreational fishing. There's a long pier made of granite and if you are lucky, you'll be there when the hollyhocks are showing themselves off to mutual advantage against the little fishermen's houses.  I love the way the windows are at just the right height to look straight in.  In another life I bought one and set my long trestle table just inside and painted all day with the windows wide open in summer, so people passing could look at my progress and talk to me as I worked.  

'Caught Anything?'  'Not yet!'

If you look hard you can see in the distance the marvellous new bridge that goes between Sweden and Denmark.

Denmark is over that way. I think the wonderful radiance in the sky is caused by the sun 
bouncing off the relatively calm Öresund (the Strait between Sweden and Denmark).

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Gillhög Passage Grave, Skåne, Sweden.

In an area of the flat wheat-growing Skäne region, there is a small gravel road, and at the end of it, a smallish mound.  You notice this as you approach, the rest of the land being so flat, but it could almost disappear if the area were forested. Also calleHofterupsdösen (for the Hofterup locality), Gillhöp is a small man-made tomb/ cave which is accessed by a narrow low six metre (6 yard) passage. It was constructed of stones, large ones being laid for the walls and even on the top for the roof.  I have seen these kinds of graves in England too. This one is likely to be about four thousand years old. 
They are usually communal graves, and are used over and over again, sometimes over considerable time spans, even hundreds of years.  Sometimes when they are opened, it is discovered that the bones have been sorted into types, so the individuals they belonged to are 'lost' and muddled up. 
This one had few flint tools, some beads made of amber, and some pieces of broken pottery along with the bones.

So, how do you like my hat?

Hand showing scale.  Some of the stones are new, part of the recent restoration.

From inside the main chamber, looking back to the entrance tunnel.

One end of the main chamber.  

Back into the sunshine and on the road to the coast.
 Tomorrow: Next stop - the little coastal village of Barsebäckshamn.

Friday, 21 September 2018

South Sweden.

When I was in Costa Rica two years ago I met an interesting man who was, like me, also photographing insects. 
However, unlike me, his was a life-long passion which has taken him to many places, and especially and repeatedly, the Amazon basin.  He happened to be a Swede, and as we had been communicating occasionally, I took him up on his offer to stay a few days.  We had a busy two days exploring some of the south of Sweden.
But first, let me show you the amazing 'sandwich' that was waiting for me when I first arrived off the train, tired and hungry, at his place.

Isn't that the most beautiful sandwich in the world?  It was cold and so fresh! 

The skies in the south of Sweden were rather wonderful too... They had an amazing and remarkable luminosity I have only seen once in my life before (in Taranaki, New Zealand).  

This was the next day on our way to a stone-age burial chamber. I will post about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Have you Met the Procrastination Monkey?

A funny look at the way and the why we keep putting things off... well, something I certainly do!

So, who is at your wheel right now?

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Rest of the Days in Central Sweden

2018 midsummer in Sweden: Hot, clear, vivid, bright days with endless lake-reflecting sunsets that seamlessly drifted like orange bush fires into dawns to begin day all over again.
I closed my eyes with pink and orange trying to creep beneath the lids, and woke to the same colour.
The family swam in the lake, we made bread and cakes and salads, bbq'ed and ate together during the long evenings, watched the deer silently step out of the cover to graze, ate early blueberries in the forest, heard the falcons scream, and saw the eagles soar.

And, blissfully, if prosaically, I took lots more photos of insects:

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Mouse and His Child

The title of my blog, 'The Last Visible Dog' comes from an idea posed in a book by Russell Hoban entitled The Mouse and His Child.
I have written the merest summary of it in the link under my blog heading, but * here is a better one that may give you a clearer idea of how profound, unsettling and interesting it is.

My battered early copy of The Mouse and His Child with its illustrations by Lillian Hoban, would be one of the first things I would try and grab if I ever actually succeed in setting my house on fire by walking away when I had put the tea on.

Incidentally I'm very impressed that Jenny Brown and her friend Teresa at Shelf Love have posted a list of books they have read in the last twenty years. Their blog of reviews began about ten years ago, and that's a long-running blog too.

*If the first link doesn't work, here it is again: https://shelflove.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/the-mouse-and-his-child-review.

If you want another personal reaction to the book, there's one by Stuart Kelly of the Guardian, here.

If you want a review with more of the plot explained (spoilers alert), you can also find one here at Tygertale.

Just to complete this little round-up, there is now a wiki page for the book here, and the animated film version here.

Finally, if you are thinking to purchase this for a child, I would mention that both the book and the animated movie have parts that are rather scary, even 'nightmarish' for some children, although this book certainly sits somewhere in the children's book genre.  Perhaps a perfect one to read to them, and then discuss the meaning and metaphysics afterwards.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Insects of Central Sweden - the first day

Here are some images of the little critters and other things I found in just the first full day (!) that I spent in the beautiful midsummer countryside and forest near Säffle in Sweden.  I have captioned some of them. Most were only known to me from books.  Some I recognised as having relations in New Zealand.  During the following week I felt as if I was in a magic European fairy-story and really would have stayed out all day every day, but for the fact that it was very hot and I needed to remind myself to drink and take breaks. My son took the few of me in typical crouching or searching pose.

Many insects were damaged.  There was a lot of activity and competition.
It reminded me of the tropics, but I attribute it to the long, warm, sunlit days. 

Hard to know which is the working end ... 

Ah!  There it is!

The lupins were almost over by midsummer this year,
which was unusually hot.

Chanterelle mushrooms

The lake in front of the wee house at 11.30pm