Fallen branches of riverine oak were split and packed sardine like into two tins, which were then heated over a fire for nearly eight hours. The charcoal produced is of excellent quality for drawing, but its four ounce weight required four pounds of logwood charcoal to create it.




Everyday Actions (Sleep)

By eleven the moon was sufficiently high for its cool beams to wash through my circular skylight and to transit across the bed. As the night progressed I was bathed in, and scanned by, its glow as I slept.

As the days have got shorter, I have been sleeping a lot longer. The lack of light entails cooking in the embers of the day at around 3.45, being in bed by 4.30 and then sleeping until dawn. I normally have about six hours sleep and I have been averaging thirteen hours for the last two weeks each night in the Egg. I feel finely tuned in to the circadian rhythms of moon and its tides, the shortening day and to the wider weekly, seasonal and annual rhythms of this particular place.



The dignity of the Beadle’s outward aspect was maintained on Monday when Daniel came from Lymington to cut my hair. He is now hairdresser to the Egg and I hope he will be able to return in the Winter.  Some of the saved grey clippings will provide samples needed to mix with a blackberry and Lye mixture which in the Seventeenth Century was identified as the essential element of a permanent black hair dye. I shall experiment…

Blackberry Picking 1966


Seamus Heaney’s  poem called  Blackberry Picking was sent to me just a couple of days ago in response to my ongoing fascination with this bountiful plant, but without mention of his death at the end of August (news of which just penetrated my thin cedar walls). I walked out tonight as the sun set along my abundant avenue of fruit laden bushes, whose every stem seemed home to the green, to the ripe and to the gone to seed. Nothing’s lasts forever, except perhaps its memory.

Blackberry Picking
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
‘Death of a Naturalist’  1966  Seamus Heaney

Everyday Actions (Shaving)

After a few days growth a hairy face literally becomes an irritation and action is needed. Yesterday morning I used the reverse camera on my phone as a shaving mirror to explore elements of this everyday ritual. The bristles were long, the blade less than sharp, the water cold and the sink tiny. More elegance might be possible on future mornings but yesterday this is how it was. To day I noted how the same cycle has begun to turn again…



eggswim3 copy

Another swim today in warm, clean and clear looking water is a further induction into a deeper exploration to come. I tested the water for hydrogen sulphide and the reading barely registered on the scale as the photographic record shows. There is little if any sewerage in the river today. My own waste goes into the chemical loo and thence to a mains pipe for safe disposal – this is not a requirement for yachts and other craft on the river.


Penning a line


There are around seventy Canada Geese summering on the marsh and surrounding fields, and today I found a large goose feather on the foreshore which I made into a pen by shaping the hollow end with a sharp knife. Goose feathers were the scribes weapon of choice until the advent of steel nibs in the nineteenth century. Whilst penning these brief notes on a mac book pro, this writer still likes the feel of scratching over the surface of real paper and using an ink made in the traditional way from the surrounding Oaks. Whilst enjoying the best of the new, I would hate to forget, or lose, what endures in the traditional.