The Severn Bore on Christmas Day, Rudolph, Santa and Brexit too!

On the morning of Christmas Eve, she wandered down to the bank of the Severn to watch the bore as it formed on the bend between Awre and Arlingham. A fire was burning in the centre of the river, nearby a row of surfers stood to attention, clasping their boards, like herons waiting for their supper.

She had seen this sight many times before, but today was special, as she had the bank to herself. Most people only turn out to see four-star waves, the timetable for Christmas Eve was a humble two-star. As she so often did, she filmed the event on her mobile phone and posted it onto YouTube.

When the wave arrived there were eight or nine surfers riding it, by the time it had passed all but one had fallen off, whooping and yelping as they did so. One man left standing, silhouetted against a soft dawn sky as this busy day began.

Maybe it was one-star after all.

Christmas Eve is family time, with visitors, friends and lovers. By bedtime she went off to sleep quite quickly, but later was woken by a strange dream. One of those dreams that plays on one’s fears, when current affairs and children’s stories become peppered with time and space, creating strange collisions and collusions. In her dream, there were drones flying in the sky, trying to attack Santa and the reindeer. The reindeer fled and a woman tried to call them back, singing kulning songs. But they didn’t respond to her yearning call and Santa fell from the sky with a bump. He tried to get a back-up team of helpers, but because of Brexit, none could get their visa’s in time. Many had passport problems too, because travelling around had been pretty easy prior to the UK splitting from the EU. It was chaos and no-one seemed to be able to help.

She woke with a start, feeling very disturbed. She looked at her clock, it was 3.a.m. Children all over the country would wake up soon and find nothing. She turned to Twitter to see if there were any reports about drones. There’d been a few sightings, of both drones and Santa, but it’s hard to believe social media. Yet only days ago Gatwick Airport had been grounded and lots of travel disrupted because they thought drones were there. Which means even if the drone part about Santa’s story was only a dream, it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t cause chaos. Fake news can gain as much attention as real news these days.

Comforted by the fact that it was unlikely to be true, she rolled over and went back to sleep.

Christmas morning! She raced down the stairs, put the kettle on, grabbed boots, scarf, coat and gloves, made tea and rushed out the door. Another two-star bore predicted but she needed to be reassured that the world had not gone badly wrong. She was early, and she stood in the wonderful silence of the dawn, a still, dull day. The ducks flew over her head, reminding her of the drone. She recalled that when she edited her video yesterday, she saw there was a drone in the footage, one she had not spotted in her viewfinder while filming. She shuddered as she recalled her dream of drones and Brexit.

With no-one to watch her, she decided to try kulning. She had often thought of doing this to call the bore in, but that seemed a bit silly. But here, now, she could try and call the reindeer in. She found a firm area of mud, one the surfers used to climb in and out of the riverbed, and waded and squelched to centre-river. There she stood, facing south. She took a deep breath and called…..ah ho kee, keee-oh-hoo-hoo, ah ho hee hoo, hee-oooooo-he-hoo….

Nothing happened. The riverbed remained dry in the centre, the waters flowed gently in both directions. Her heart sank, as did her feet, no reindeer, no bore.  She was covered in mud.

As she climbed out onto the bank she felt very sad. Maybe she got the time wrong? She checked her watch and yes, she had! It wasn’t due for another half hour! Typical! She decided to nip home and refresh her cup of tea and change her boots, as they were very sticky with river silt.

By the time she returned there were flames again on the sand spit and about five or six surfers. One was dressed as Santa, which always made her smile. As she set up her camera, she spotted lots of debris trapped around the timber frame of the old ferry crossing. Old pallets bobbed about, bumping into each other. Could they be the very same pallets from the sleigh that carried the presents? It was a brown grey day with very little colour, so the splash of red bobbing in the water caught her eye as she zoomed in. A big red plastic bucket, the kind that would hold reindeer food! She was back in her dream and anxiously looked up into the sky. No drones today. Phew.

She heard the bore approaching and wondered, with a wry smile, whether it had heard her singing. She turned her video on and tracked the wave as it passed, dropping off surfers as it did so – no good rides today. As she filmed, she captured the pallets and the buckets, hoping to seem them washed away. Large branches rushed past on the ride, not unlike antlers. She shuddered again. She decided that when she got home to edit, she would examine the footage for drones.

She attached all the cables and went to export the footage. Oh no! She had one still picture, that was all. She had not worn her glasses and had pressed the wrong button. She had no evidence to her story, no Santa, no bucket or pallets.

So she wrote this story instead, to record just how much life can get in the way of imagination, but can also add to it too. Did she really sing in the river?  Was there really a red bucket belonging to Rudolph in the river? Were those actually broken bits of Santa’s sleigh?

Who knows, but what we can be reassured of, is children everywhere today will enjoy their presents and hopefully, if the nightmare was not true, then Brexit won’t happen either. Ever.

Happy New Year!

(with homage to “T’was the night before Christmas” By Clement Clarke Moore)

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12 days of Severnside – a song for Christmas, an anti-plastic festive song

As I peeped out to make sure the Severn was flowing by as it should be today, as it does every day, I considered how much time I spend down on its banks. Counting days. Taking photos, writing, dreaming, watching the bore. And what I had seen come in on the tide as I watch it.

I was also considering how every public space is filling up with Christmas festivity and songs. The hard sell is arriving as sharply as the freezing frosts. And how I am selling my new book Severnside: An Artist’s View Of The River Severn as Christmas presents, taking me a bit out of my comfort zone.

The Severn has always provided a place for me to retreat to, to avoid the everyday hustle and bustle and looking at screens. I’m in a local choir (but having a break now while sorting out the book) and love singing songs about the River Severn. I am also acutely aware that in my book there is only ONE word that raised questions from proof readers. An angry word, a foul word, used to refer to the plastic that is constantly washed in on the tide. And, in my usual playful way, I began to write a song in my head. In all fairness, not writing a song, but changing the words of a familiar one we all know. So here it is:

The 12 Days of Severnside Song

On the 1st day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
A branch from a very small tree

On the 2nd day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 3rd day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 4th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 5th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 6th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 7th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Seven dogs a-swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 8th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 9th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 10th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Ten herons standing
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 11th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Eleven elvers swimming
Ten herons standing
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 12th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Twelve months of wonder
Eleven elvers swimming
Ten herons standing
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

 

me on radio Gloucestershire yesterday, talking about binks, banks and little twizzles!

Yesterday (19/11/18) I had a conversation with David Smith on BBC Radio Glos

Nicky Price Show
first section 0:20:50  to 0:26:10
second section 0:34:27 to 0:40:15
fave words that slipped out “bink bank” and “little twizzle”!
PS they have renamed BBC iRadio ‘sounds’ – that\s the tab you need – confusing or what?
to make it easier, I’ve put it up on Soundcloud too.
and this is the poem I struggle to describe!

Of church bells, towers & vertigo – 360-degree images from high above the River Severn

Earlier this year Andy Vivian very kindly took me up into the bell tower of St. Peter’s Church in Newnham. We were armed with my 360-degree camera which I controlled remotely. Those who know me well are aware that if I stand on a chair I get dizzy and wobbly, so going up into the tower was a feat and looking out of the window almost impossible for me. With support from Andy, I managed to position the camera precariously on a tripod to capture some stunning views.

I was fine on the level of the Carolan bells and took several photos of the view through the windows. But the real bell tower, where the enormous church bells are, is yet another storey up. My knees turned to jelly. No way could I do that. Climbing up the tight spiral staircase to the entry point was one thing, but climbing up through a hole in the floor, and balancing on beams, was unimaginable for me.

Andy kindly did that bit and positioned the camera in various locations with instructions from below, as I directed from my iPhone screen – “left a bit, turn it a bit, yes, perfect, now hide!”.

Viewing on the tiny phone screen, the image was not very clear, but when I uploaded them onto my computer –  wow – I was stunned! The views through the windows have a medieval timelessness to them. The river framed by wonderful architectural arches and the lichen and stonework revealed. The images of the big bells were something entirely unexpected.

The surprise was the playschool colour of the steel beams in the upper bell chamber. I was expecting bronze-y, dirty colours but BOOM! Bright red, yellow and green powder coated steel rang out loud and clear!

I’ve been working with the images the last few days, preparing some to put up in the Newnham Community Library. Seeing them together as a set makes me realise what a privilege it was, both to go up there and to have a 360 camera I can experiment with.

Library hours are limited, but if you are in the Armoury Hall for other reasons, do nip in and have a look at them on the wall. They are presented in 18cm square frames, black or white. I’ve a feeling they may be popular, and the exhibition will be up right through to Christmas, so I can take orders. Deadline for orders will be 1st December 2018 and dependant on availability of the frames.

There will be other works in the library, original, large, panoramic drawings and a few smaller prints.

And a show coming up in Brockweir Community Shop.

And my book Severnside: An Artist’s View Of The River Severn will be launched very soon.

Here’s a little preview of the church photographs, not great due to reflections but I never complain about sunshine!

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The George Christmas Fair is tomorrow. I shall be there!

This year has seen me return to art practice, albeit somewhat different to the complex video installations I used to be commissioned to do. After years of producing I’m really enjoying exploring the Severn with charcoal, chalks and paper. I have completed the set of works I planned for the publication I’m writing, so now it is time to say goodbye to the originals. The have to go, I don’t have the space to keep them, and they will feel neglected if I stuff them in a cupboard. Many of the orginals have sold, but there are a few left. And there are prints of  most the sold ones too.

So why not come along to The George in Newnham on Severn tomorrow, Friday 8th December. The prices are the lowest they have ever been and I’m even open to offers. I need space to go onto the next body of work which I’m very excited about.

This is the latest work, it’s of New Ground near Slimbridge, opposite the Putcher Racks at Awre. It’s not sold yet, but someone is interested……

Lower George House, High St, Newnham GL14 1BS

10am-3pm Friday 8th December

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