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Locked Down

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Only after completing my bird-music track “I’m going to sit in my garden and watch the birds” did I remind myself that I had myself spent 10 years sitting in the garden watching the birds. A blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago about the experience seems to have more relevance now.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------ You scan the horizon, your view an expanse of hill, field and sky, then you focus in on a detail, maybe a bird or a tree. Does your perceptual world contract to a shrunken fragment? No, it stays the same size or maybe even expands. As your attention homes in, so there is a mental blossoming – what was coarse-grained becomes finescale. Uniform Mondrian blocks show their true nature as a filigree of delicate tracery.

Like a baby in a pram, whose universe consists of its mother and perhaps some toys, it seems limited, but this is the canvas upon which the everything plays out – all the sights smells and sounds to feed th…

"I'm going to sit in my garden and watch the birds"

In an interview on breakfast TV an elderly couple were asked about being confined to the house during the coronavirus epidemic and how they'd cope.

“But are you worried about potentially being cooped up for months on end?”

Elsie replied “I’m going to sit in my garden and watch the birds”

I used the sample of Elsie with my garden birds track.

It struck me that sitting in the garden watching the birds is something I'm a bit of an expert at - having done it for ten years!

During my decade of illness being wheelchairbound watching the birds in the garden is practically all I did. It was a revelation! Despite having a brain and body that wouldn't function I was seldom bored, seldom miserable. During that time the birds and the garden kept me going.

With confinement - does your perceptual world contract to a shrunken fragment? No, it stays the same size or maybe even expands. As your attention homes in, so there is a mental blossoming – what was coarse-grained becomes…

Two grebes a-grebing

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A lot of the Great Crested Grebe’s courtship display is about strengthening the pair bond. And there are a number of distinct behaviours.

The head-shaking display is probably the most familiar:
the head plumage is fanned into a ruff the birds then face each other and shake their heads from side to side
This display is mainly seen  in the early stages of courtship - usually performed when the pair is reunited after a period of separation. This suggests that it is used as a greeting and for reinforcement.

The most elaborate of the great-crested grebe’s displays is the ‘weed ceremony’ (left middle in the montage)
takes place just before the pair begin to build their nest platform. as part of this ceremony the two birds make a slow and deliberate dive to collect weed - before returning to the water’s surface and swimming towards each other, their heads held low to the surfaceas they meet, the birds rise from the horizontal to adopt a rigid vertical posture, which they hold by paddling their w…

The Patch in Strips

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Music Video - Sunrise from the Ridge

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A music video combining a track of mine with some photos of dawn on the patch (the photos gradually 'assemble' themselves)


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My A-Z of the Patch - part 1

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Abor (tree) + lith (as in megalith - stone) A tree like a standing stone such as this ash tree on the patch.

In April when I stand by the lake the morning sun climbs up the side the trunk, then for a moment seems to be embraced in its lower boughs.

Perhaps this is how standing stones were first sited by our ancestors - they noticed a certain tree / solar alignment which developed meaning for them and so made this more permanent with a stone in the same position.

A couple of years ago I compiled an A-Z of the Patch using existing regional or specialised words and focussing on the patch (Word Magic). This is a follow up in which I've come up with an A-Z of my own coinages and this is part one - A to M.

I think for anyone who pays close attention to single area - a patch watcher - it's fairly normal to invent their own names for certain corners of their plot that stand out. I have 'Stonechat Fence' and 'Wheatear Ridge'.

They may, however, have even more speciali…

I've just been out sowing some music

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I've just been out on the patch sowing some music - been planting some staves on the patch.
The idea is that it generates a piece of music - environmental / accidental music. Ideally things will fall onto the staves or they'll be marked / weathered in some way that will be playable as notes - even better if i can use something from the place to make the sounds Possibly using similar techniques to the Dog Rose Dance I made previously - see below. I've no idea if will yield anything - or if it does how I'll 'play' it, or if I'll be able to find them again or if they're still where I left them. Anyway if felt good to be out in the sun planting music to see what comes up.



The lights are on

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The world, the universe, is full to the brim with wonders. The most amazing of all, to my mind, is one that everyone has access to every morning as soon as they wake up - consciousness. It's a puzzle that continues to baffle science. How does matter come together in such a way that suddenly the 'lights are on'. How does the collection of atoms in our brains become aware - so that it's 'like something' to be us. And just what *is* a sensation? Take the sensations of hearing a bird singing. The physics and biology of the process are well known. The bird uses energy - originally from the sun - to move the muscles in its vocal organ - this in turn moves air molecules. Some of these enter our ear, vibrating the eardrum and causing nerve impulses to be sent to the brain where they are interpreted - sensed as bird song *Sensed as bird song* - this final part is where the "miracle" happens. Just what is the birdsongness of bird song, the greeness of green, t…

Celebrating the New Year with a fine display of willow catkins

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You were only waiting for this moment to be free - entirely Blackbird samples

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"You were only waiting for this moment to be free"
All the sounds are samples of Blackbird - song and calls - treated in various ways.
The melody is 'Blackbird' by the Beatles


This is "She moved over the moor"
The Irish traditional folk song 'She moved through the fair' - performed by Curlews....joined by other moorland birds - Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Golden Plover, Snipe, Merlin & Hen Harrier.

Everything is new all the time

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I’ve walked on the small corner of our planet – the one I call ‘my patch’ – maybe a thousand times. I’ve crossed this unexceptional parcel of land nearly every day for the last few years. The same path from the cemetery on to the old abandoned golfcourse - nothing to see here. The track that becomes muddy in autumn’s rain and seems want to stay muddy long after dryness has come back into fashion. But wait... It’s never been muddy quite like this. I’ve had to skirt round it, clinging to dry parts – but never quite in this way. And look at those thistles, that arrangement of spikey seedheads, one in front, two behind. And the way they seem to slide past the willows at the back, as I walk by – I’ve never, ever seen that – it's a totally new thing.What about that beech tree trunk, with its network of byways made of darker bark as it dries out after rain...brand-new.


I find that the dullest of days, the most uninspiring of scenes can be completely and instantly transformed by the simple act…

Here there should be wood

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Here there should be wood

here there should be wood but there's me instead
standing up in a lightning struck hollow
I am Jonah, the oak tree is a whale and then I am part-whale cavity walls, skin of lizard, fire-crack black
algal green overlay on crosshatch-fractures looking is ushered upwards, sight shot out
skyward, straight though a peephole the tree, now Cyclops by dint of my eyes
human senses added to those old oaken ones
making eleven in all seeing itself for the first time branches jacknifed to injured chevrons
boughs, whole chunks of tree, strewn dead and dying
like fallen comrades on a battlefield damage surveyed, I hatch out of the tree
there's nothing it didn't already know

A year of meditation

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I’m nearing 12 moths of consistent daily mediation. I thought it would be good to take stock and see where this has brought me, and that this might be interesting to share.

I’ve been interested in meditation for, what now what amounts to, decades. Almost my default New Year’s resolution would be: “this is the year I’m definitely going to take up meditation”. An initial burst of enthusiasm would tail off after a few weeks, nearly always down to a seeming lack of ‘results’. Where were the advertised benefits – the ones that would ‘sort me out’ once and for all! A big part of what I was looking for a cure for anxiety – a constant companion, sometimes a pronounced feeling of worry, sometimes a more subtle sense of unease…an ever-present. The Mind Illuminated For nearly every day of this year I’ve managed to meditate for an hour. I have developed what would have seemed at the beginning to be a super power - the ability to stay with the meditation object (which was the breath to start with) …

The Case Against Reality

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When the male Australian Jewel Beetle searches for a female it follows a few very simple rules. "Look for something brown, shiny and dimpled".

It so happened that discarded beer bottles, of a certain type, had these characteristics. The species almost went extinct (before the design of the bottled was altered) as males ignored females and swarmed on the bottles - they were bigger after all!

Back when the beetle's perception system evolved there was nothing else in the environment that that had these characteristics, so additional rules such as 'look for something beetle shaped' were unnecessary.

Donald Hoffman in his book The Case Against Reality argues that our perceptions, are like this.

Do we see the world as it truly is? Hoffman says no. We see what we need in order to survive. Our perceptions are not a window onto reality, but instead are interfaces constructed by natural selection.

Just as an email icon, on our computer desktop, tells us next to nothing about th…