A laughing owl

A laughing owl

No idea if owls laugh, but I like this phrase.  Next time someone says something too daft to credit, feel free to deploy it.It was enough to make an owl laugh. Source: Mary Webb, Precious Bane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 98Photo credit: MiRUTH_de at...
Parrot-bright shrillness

Parrot-bright shrillness

A lovely mix of visual and aural, with the shrillness of light and colour also evoking a parrot’s cry.  We landed in the usual parrot-bright shrillness of light and colour. Source: Louis Golding, Good-bye to Ithaca (London: Hutchinson, 1955), p....
And I shall teach the boy

And I shall teach the boy

Listening time: under 4 minutes.The Countess of Gormenghast ponders her personal curriculum for her newborn son Titus, soon after despatching him to a régime of nanny-care for the first five years of his life.  She clearly has higher hopes for him than for his...
Playfulness across the divide

Playfulness across the divide

Listening time: under 5 minutes.We play with dogs and cats and some other creatures.  I used to play with a fox in our garden in London: he made a show of taking my abandoned fleece delicately in his mouth and began pulling it off the table where I’d left it,...
Sitting pigeons

Sitting pigeons

You can see these pigeons plumply decorating the trees – we have wood pigeons who bill and coo in the branches, and indeed, they bring a soothing sense of fattened plenty with them. The pigeons were sitting in the trees like fattened Christmas...
Grey-mantled scavengers

Grey-mantled scavengers

A powerful image, the scavenger squad bare-picking the bones of dead lambs. I have noticed that crows, normally black as pitch, tend to have grey capes cast about their shoulders further east in Europe. I was therefore surprised to find a mention of such a grey mantle...
Silver-shouldered flight

Silver-shouldered flight

A perfect morning on the remote Scottish bay Maxwell made his refuge for the last ten or so years of his life. Elsewhere, he paints the darker side of the climate, with its capacity to fly into a fury in minutes. But here, he enjoys a moment of gentle perfection....
And I shall teach the boy

I shall teach the boy…

The Countess of Gormenghast ponders her personal curriculum for her newborn son, after despatching him to a régime of nanny-care for the first five years of his life.  She clearly has higher hopes for him than for his neglected sister.Her capacity for love is...
As the falcon flies

As the falcon flies

Even the rhythm of this simile conveys something of a great bird’s single, confident swoop to land precisely on a specific, awaiting glove.’But flying, as the falcon to the gloveSwoops home when signalled.’For another sleek and powerful bird in...
Athene’s disguise

Athene’s disguise

Here Zeus spurs Athene to intervene in the Trojan war, and she descends to earth in the guise of a glorious soaring hawk, nose-diving. See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson’s magnificent Why Homer Matters, and...
Croodle

Croodle

‘Where pigeons sat and croodled.’ A cooing cosy word for a bird, but also meaning to snuggle up, nestle in, cuddle or crouch, for love or warmth. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F....
Crisp-winged flies

Crisp-winged flies

A symbiosis of hovering birds and fly-pestered bullocks, the darting martins hoovering up bothersome crisp-winged flies. ‘Martins twittered along the river-bank, and hovered about the heads of bullocks, taking crisp-winged flies from their muzzles and between...

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