Tuesday, 12 December 2017

stories the bones told me

Tales of the Wonders

a world of cave bears and shadows

booklet £5.00 (includes UK P&P)

from creepingtoad@btinternet.com


During 2017, I was one of a team of artists working on an Arts Council England funded project at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. “Collection of the Artists” invited us to respond to the museum’s collection creatively, exploring different themes through the artefacts in the museum and the local landscapes they came from

COTA has drawn to a close now and the finished works can be seen in the museum or accessed through its digital platforms (see list below).  I joined the COTA team as a storyteller and poet and had cheerful times talking to visitors, working with schools and other groups and simply sitting with bits of the Collection or wandering across hills and hiding in holes to listen to the stories the bones were telling me….

The resulting work from me can be seen in the Museum, accessed through the digital platforms (see the Wonders of the Peak app) or you can get your own copy of the collection either direct from me or from the Museum
As a taster, here is one of the pomes from Tales, for the stories you need to get the whole booklet!

Revealing
Time gently and untidily shelves
The memory of
Barrows and tunnels,
Treasures and tollroads,
Until all that is left
Are the bones and bits,
We sift from the debris of centuries
And the ghosts of facts,
And the stories we tell .



“Tales of the Wonders” is a 24 page A5 booklet including a selection of stories and poems inspired mostly by the prehistoric sections of the collection. My theme was “home”, wondering how people made new connections to places as wandering mesolithic peoples settled into our Peak District landscape as farmers and hunters, leaving marks on the landscape that we can still find and visit today. How did the Peaks become “home”?

Here is a story of the fox cubs who first found closed-in Fox Hole Cave as a sanctuary. Here is the last day of the people of Fin Cop and a Neolithic lullaby from Liff’s Low. There are poems from the waters of the Buxton and the old woman wandering the Gardens here who has been prehistoric healer, Roman goddess and Edwardian well-woman. Here are cave bears and compasses and walking away from the wandering herds….
Doxey Pool and storyteller, photo by Adrian Lambert


The COTA team

  • Potter Caroline Chouler bound bone from Fin Cop into bowls 
  • Richard and Amanda from Kidology, played the dreams of cave lions and landscapes and captured the precision of crystals
  • Textile artist Seiko Kineshito has hung the colours and textures of the peaks in a cabinet
  • Metalworker Simon Watson shaped ideas into bronze
  • I was there as a storyteller and poet
  • and photographer Adrian Lambert had the challenge of catching us doing all of the above!





Monday, 11 December 2017

Lanterns in a Cheshire twilight


Twilight Walk,

Rudheath and Witton,

2nd December 2017

There was willow, and glue and children wrapped in wet tissue (accidentally!). Stained glass glowing blue in tall windows inspired echoing shapes in spired lanterns. There were arches for imagination and carvings, and presents and snowmen. There were reindeer and there was more glue and permanent pens and the delicate flicker of a tiny light


We were making lanterns. Looking for the shapes and structures of Rudheath in winter, for the excitements of Witton, for the sense of “what makes the middle of winter special for you”. Starting with an open day in St helen’s Church in Witton, we went on to work with nearly 300 people in local schools (family sessions brought parents, grandparents and carers in to join the making) and at the garden project at Grozone.

Our lantern walk day began with rain and a waterlogged field. We lost a musician to illness (just for the day, nothing permanent!). We nearly lost our route to a locked gate. But the rain stopped, the wind settled and a glorious full moon burned the clouds silver and the shadows of church, cemetery and river-side willow trees took us and at least 100 visitors out into the night

We recited poems, wandered, told stories, wandered a bit more, made up new stories (the ghostly Lantern Parade of Rudheath, the stout iron fences that hold the bramble creatures off the paths) and we had a beautiful evening of lanterns and laughter in the twilight. And at the end, Grozone received us with a burning brazier and welcome hot chocolate


Thank you! Thank you to the schools who hosted us and to St Helens Church who offered space to work in and a meeting point to gather at. Thank you to Grozone for taking us into their moonlit garden. Thank you to our artists and volunteers who smiled their way through willow-bend and tissue slap. Most of all, thank you to our makers and walkers, to the people of Rudheath and Witton who came and made their lanterns and to those who braved an uncertain evening with such enthusiasm.



This was the last major public event out the Creeping Toad Do It Together project for Rudheath and Witton Together. There might be other activities next year (we are still in discussions) but probably not in the same format as this year. Another Lantern Walk? O, yes please! We would nred to find some new funding for this but I would certainly be prepared to help organise a proejct and help the hunt for that funding, so any Rudheath or Witton people or community group who might like to be involved, let me know!  Contact Gordon on creepingtoad@btinternet.com
ready for a Twilight wander


Thanks to our friends in the lantern walk:
Grozone
Rudheath Primary Academy
St Helen’s Church, Witton
Victoria Rd Primary School
Witton Church Walk CE Primary School
and of course
Rudheath and Witton Together
who made it all happen!

Photos
All these photographs are c Simon Birdsey for Rudheath and Witton Together. People in individual shots are included in our photo permissions file but if you are one of those individuals and would like the images removed, please contact me directly: creepingtoad@btinternet.com






the company assembled

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Times takes all but nothing keeps


Caves, stones and ancient lives

Unfinished Poems project at

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery 




We are reaching the end of this first run of the Unfinished Poems project and here are a few choice pieces from the final sets of postcards…



Stone Age Tools
A hammer blow splits flint from stone,
A firebow wakes embers from the wood,
A bow shoots,
Ochre colours random glazes


 



Victorian Archaeologists
Shovels and spades dig piles of earth
Burrowing into the ancient mound
Mud and mess and graft and toil
All that work - but nothing found

(by BW 14/11/17)



Caves
Rain falls and water drips,
Stone dissolves and water seeps
Bones remain but not the lips,
Times takes all but nothing keeps

Caves
Rain falls and water drips,
Stone dissolves and water seeps
Swells the trees in apple pips,
And roots delve further in the deep.


Caves
Rain falls and water drips,
Stone dissolves and water seeps
This process continues while we sleep,
Years and years pass by,
Then something bright catches our eye
A fossil so old,
A crystal bright and bold
If only we knew what stories these hold.

(by SM Dowle 1/11/17)


Over the last 4 months, a set of postcards of Unfinished Poems has lurked in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery inviting people to connect poem to exhibit to imagination and and find their own words to finish the poem, or to ignore the starting points completely and write a completely original piece. As these Finished Poems have reached me, I have been posting them on this blog (while exercising a degree of editorial control). Out of an original set of 160 postcards, we’ve had 50 back - a good return. The rest are hopefully whispering their finished poems out there in the wider world beyond the walls of the Museum.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll post the best of the rest of the poems and a fulls et of Unfinshed Poems so that if you feel so inclined you could complete them for yourself


With many thanks to these poets and everyone 
who has contributed to the Unfinished Poems collections. 
More poems will follow
Pictures: the drawing came with the Stone Age Tools poem
The waterfall and cave pictures are from Linn Caves near Milngavie - not Derbyshire at all but I liked the combination of water, stone and darkness 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

and some non-Newtonian spit


The Telling Toads project* continues to bring poems hopping in. I know there are stories growing as slowly as giant salamanders out there and hopefully by the end of the month there will be a hot, dry, dusty memory of a puddle for you all

Meanwhile, here are two pieces to get you hopping about. Like many poems, these are best spoken aloud, so try it and see how they sound. The first may charm, annoy or provoke - or maybe you will agree with Hilary’s sentiments completely - why not send us a reply! Mary’s villanelle is a beautifully constructed pattern of words that, yes, works wonderfully when spoken as long you don’t let your sticky amphibian tongue get caught up in its own non-Newtonian spit….
Both these works come from Keele at Silverdale in Staffordshire (best link for more information is through Caroline Hawkridge, the group's tutor). The Keele team also gave us an earlier set of poems: Ancient as the hills

Enjoy!
 
feeling unloved?













Toad

… the toad, ugly and venomous,
Bears yet a precious jewel in his head.
As You Like It

Toad that under cold stone
….Sweltered venom sleeping got
Macbeth

I cannot like a toad –
he squats unbejewelled,
no venom sweltered, but ugly for sure:
a squashy, sludge-coloured purse,
baleful buddha,
squelchy, squalid,
blinking malevolently from under his cold stone,
tongue unfurling to flick in a fly,
his tentative akimbo tread
no match for a frolicking frog.
Try as I might, I cannot like a toad.

Hilary Adams
 
poised















Gulp

Toad’s tongue’s a crafty piece of kit
to catch the flitty or the maggoty
and works with non-Newtonian spit.

He shoots it out for a titbit,
whipped from his buccal cavity,
toad’s tongue’s a crafty piece of kit.

Spit thins at speed, and then the hit,
sticky when still, that is the strategy
and nature of non-Newtonian spit.

The prey might struggle, then she’ll quit,
we all must eat, it’s not depravity,
toad’s tongue’s a crafty piece of kit.

Back in his throat the bug will sit
(could be the cause of toad’s fatality)
packaged in viscous non-Newtonian spit.

But toad, to swallow, blinks a bit,
eyeballs press down and cause liquidity.
Toad’s tongue’s a crafty piece of kit
and works with non-Newtonian spit.

Mary King

*In this the Froglife Year of the Toad, here at Creeping Toad, I am inviting people to add their own creative ideas to a collection of Toad (and frog and tree frog,) stories and poems.  We hope people will share these beyond the blog where they will appear, to read them aloud, to tell the stories, declaim poems by ponds and generally celebrate Toads and their cousins.(But please do not publish them without getting formal permission through me first!)

More information about the whole project here: Telling Toads



Photo credits: from the top:
small toad edit: Ian MacLellan
toad in hollow: Gordon MacLellan
Ryvoan Toad: Kenny Taylor
small toad: Ian MacLellan



Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Leaving memories


artwork by Victoria Brown

Unfinished poems, 3
more poems from 
the Buxton Museum postcard project


as part of the Collection of the Artists project at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, I have a set of postcards at different places round the exhibiton.  Each postcard has 2 lines as starting points for poems about aparticular aspects of the exhibiton and visitors are invited to complete the poem - and hand it in, or keep it for themselves - or send it to a friend.

Over the last few months, several sets of Unfinished Poems have been posted here....enjoy this latest set!

17. Limestone
artwork by Victoria Brown
Ancient waves on forgotten seas,
Left seaweed and shells on prehistoric sand,
St George’s mushrooms grow by rowan trees
And years have drawn their patterns on 

23. Limestone
Ancient waves on forgotten seas

Left seaweed and shells on prehistoric sand.

So too our lives ebb and flow

Leaving memories within our minds.

Will it be our thoughts survive

As fossils in a future heartland?
by Florian Barker







18. Stone Age tools
A hammer blow splits flint from stone,
A firebow wakes embers from the wood,
And as I walk alone
Through woods, grass and stone,
Memories keep flooding back
Of when I was lying in the sack

19. Stone Age Tools
A hammer blow splits flint from stone,
A firebow wakes embers from the wood,
A bear roars for his grub
A hunter looks desperately for a stone


and this is a vcave bear skull
20. Cave Lions
A bear in the darkness growls,
A lion watches from the cave,
A wolf in the distance howls,
A couple of owls having a rave

21. Cave Lions
A bear in the darkness growls,
A lion watches from the cave,
The wolf howls
The deer listens but is he brave
To wander in the forest alone?

22. Cave Lions
A bear in the darkness growls,
A lion watches from the cave,
And as the lion is on the prowl
He grabs a child which screams and howls



24. Coal measures

Giant dragonfly wings flutter,

Over the swamp of a tree-fern wood,

The newts and the frogs moan and mutter

In the space where the trees once stood.



25. Coal measures

Giant dragonfly wings flutter,

Over the swamp of a tree-fern wood,

The newts and the frogs moan and mutter

Where the amphibian stood.



26. The Buxton Mermaid
Travelling wonder, a sideshow delight
In fish and bone and monkey leather,
My path links the underground rivers and pools of the Peak,
I’m the mermaid of the heather

27. The Buxton Mermaid
Travelling wonder, a sideshow delight
In fish and bone and monkey leather,
This is a creature you must not miss,
Like modern mermaids, all artifice.
by Susan Crane



29 Caves.

I am a droplet

Hurtling down

The sun beams my rainbow

I hoop to the ground,

In a pocket of limestone

I shiver, freeze and thaw

And seep through the rock

Through the caves

To the core.

with many thanks to all our poets 
- more (un)finished poems will follow soon


artwork by Victoria Brown

Sunday, 5 November 2017

lights in an ancient wood


Trees, stories and ancient stones
Plas Power Woods
29th October 2017

ready for stories
The evening began and ended with trees, with the glow of light on the leaves of Plas power Woods. There were stories, and fires, melting marshmallows and stars caught under the branches where the fish were swimming. There were wandering lines of lanterns and cheerful witches, occasional skeletons and lots of people well-wrapped against the cold. But the real beauties of the evening were the ancient woodlands of Plas Power

On the banks of the Clwyedog, these beech woods are wonderful places for events and it always a delight to come back and chill slowly to the bone over an evening. A lovely place to tell stories and an equally lovely place to receive stories from the trees and stones and the river itself


The regular team gathered again:
The Woodland Trust crew who hold it all together (thank you!)
Wilder Things: lanterns, a fire, hot apple juice and dripping marshmallows
And Creeping Toad for stories


This year
Mark was taking the photos, Esther was lighting trees and stories, Dan piped the groups through the woods with a beautiful husky wooden flute - and a team of Trust volunteers managed the 200 visitors, keeping them safe and moving on the dark trail through the woods

And we had a wonderful company of cheerful adventurers, slipping between the trees, enjoying the shadows and the lights and the rippling of the stream in a cold, clear night. What more could a Storytelling Toad ask of an evening?

Thank you all! 


Sunday, 15 October 2017

New toadtales: Ancient as the hills



 Ancient as the hills...

Telling Toads, the next poems


Telling Toads continues to hop slowly forwards (this is a Toad project so doesn’t often do “hasty”).

In this the Froglife Year of the Toad, here at Creeping Toad, I am inviting people to add their own creative ideas to a collection of Toad (and frog and tree frog,) stories and poems.  We hope people will share these beyond the blog where they will appear, to read them aloud, to tell the stories, declaim poems by ponds and generally celebrate Toads and their cousins.*

This is now our third set of poems, coming from the Keele Poets at Silverdale in Staffordshire (best link for more information is through Caroline Hawkridge, the group's tutor). If you are part of such a group, take a look at the opening blog (toad-creep over to it here) and challenge yourselves!

The Difference Between Frogs and Toads
by Mary Williams

Frogs are NOW
Toads are then.

Frogs hop, jump, leap,
Toads clamber.

Frogs are edible. Ask the French.
Nobody eats toads.

Frogs can be beautiful, and poisonous.
Toads are just poisonous.

A cat will never catch a toad..
A cat and a frog, on the other hand, have hours of fun together

Frogs exude their offspring in any old ditch and dyke.
Toads are more choosy.

Frogs are common as muck.
Toads are refined.

Frogs are always active; climb trees, swim lakes,
Toads are more stationary. Contemplative, buddha like.

Toads have a secret weapon.
Australians will tell you. Cane toads,
Enemies of the people.
Frogs will only harm you if you use blowdarts.

Frogs make a racket at night, like motorbikes revving up,
Toads are quiet as the grave.

Frogs get thrown on the floor by angry princesses, just for one kiss.
Nothing like that ever happened to a toad.

I rest my case.


Hackney Squatters
by Mary Williams

When rain storms filled the drains
in the Hackney yard of our old house,
two toads appeared, huddled together
on the back-door mat.
I nearly trod on them.

London toads, golden eyed; ancient as the hills,
their mouths turned down in disapproval
at having to be here.

In my head,
I heard one tell the other to budge up.
Were they a pair, male and female?
It seemed impertinant to consider it,
like Queen Victoria’s undergarments.

In such a tiny garden, how had I not seen them?
What were they waiting for?
For the rain to stop, for me to let them in?

Perhaps they were searching for green ponds,
swarms of tasty flies, safe shelter from the rain.
They carried magic on their warty backs
all the way from Kingsland Road to Christendom.

When the rain stopped, they were gone.
Their mystery stayed with me.



Pucker Up
by John Statham

Princess, please be regal! Don’t kiss that frog
when charming, handsome, eager toads like me
have all the females in these fields agog.

Frogs have their place, and don’t the French just know it,
with mint, a hint of nutmeg, tartare sauce,
but snog a frog – yuck! Every time he’ll blow it.

Your Highness, go upmarket, kiss a toad;
forget Grimm’s fairy stories – so last year.
Pucker up to me, true love’s overload.

Kiss my magic warts: frogs are passé, stale.
Whisper to me that you’ll always love me
and we will write a brand new fairy tale.


* but please do not publish them without getting formal permission first!

Photo credits (with many thanks!)
Frog-strip: Maria van Daalen
Toad 1, Toad 2 and Frog: Shaun Walters


Castles, palaces and horribly spooky houses


Castles, palaces and horribly spooky houses
Sandiway Library


This week, I did a workshop in a Northwich Library as part of National Libraries Week.....lovely people and exciting buildings, now we wait for the stories of the adventures that happened inside them, outside them, around them, under them.....

The creations were so lovely they don't need any commentary....many thanks to all our young artists, supportive grown-ups and welcoming library team!

inspired by ancient piled stone buildings















edible?



Sunday, 24 September 2017

Reflections drawing deeper



 
Reflections drawing deeper
"Unfinished Poems" at Buxton Museum
Part 2
trilobites are rare in Derbyshire fossils - even rarer in rockpools like this!
Our Unfinished Poems postcards at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery continue to provoke the poetry in visitors to the museum….

The latest set of poems follows. If you would like to add your own, simply use the Unfinished Poem lines here (or in the earlier blog here) and send your poem to Gordon at: toadwords@btinternet.com. We don’t promise to publish everything but if we can, we will

The Derbyshire landscape the Museum collection draws upon (it does have a wider catchment but a lot of our material is local) is a largely Carboniferous one giving us a world of limestone, gritstone, shale sandwiched like cake filling and the weight of ancient coal in the east. Our limestone yields to water, dissolving into spectacular caverns and then slowly crystallising out again into stalactites, stalagmites and wonderful accumulating patterns that grow like strange colonies over their boulder grandparents

LIMESTONE
Ancient waves on forgotten seas
Left seaweed and shells on prehistoric sand
Like an imprinted shadow that never leaves
Their traces of existence stamped firm onto land
As rock built foliage shapely scored
Speaks of life and of treasures expansively forged
(Laura Huxford)
 
crinoid fossils are common
This was the postcard starting point:
Limestone
Ancient waves on forgotten seas,
Left seaweed and shells on prehistoric sand,

(Possibly useful words: trees, free, years, hand, band, land)

CAVES
Rain falls and water drips
Stone dissolves and water seeps,
Chemicals blend and crystals shape,
Colour and light glinting,
Gleaming.
In darkest blackness,                               
The candlelight flaming
(Anon)
 
Foxhole Cave
Rain falls and water drips
Stone dissolves and water seeps
Lime and crystal streams no longer creep
Into earth's sunken saltiness vast and deep
Darkness merges with icy cold blasts
Daylight turning into night that ever lasts
Closeted secrets hidden as shadows sleep
Whispered of time-lost treasures forever keep
(Laura Huxford)



the starting point for the cave poems was:
Caves
Rain falls and water drips
Stone dissolves and water seeps,

(possibly useful words: fossil, crystal, slips, sleeps, keeps, steeps)


COAL MEASURES
Giant dragonfly wings flutter,
Over the swamp of a tree-fern wood
Irridescent flashes awaken muted shade
As silence stands still amongst the forest glade
Flitting across water and onto dry land
Reflections drawing deeper by an unseen hand
(Laura Huxford)

Unfinished starting point:
Coal Measures
Giant dragonfly wings flutter,
Over the swamp of a tree-fern wood,

Useful words: mutter, amphibian, newt, salamander, coal, good, stood, stutter, clutter
 
there is even a Derbyshire fossil dragonfly

As the centuries turned, dissolving limestone layers into caves, new life moved into those caves and the Museum’s Cave Lion skeletal paw, bear skulls, hyena memories and growling stuffed bear, all remind us of the long living history of the land here…
Cave Bear skull in Museum collection

CAVE LIONS
 A bear in the darkness growls,
A lion watches from the cave,
Through the woods, a wolf howls,
Through the night, fire feeds the brave
(Anon)

Bones lie on cave floors,
Gathering dust and dirt through long slow years,
We clean the bones, assemble the paws,
Not knowing the fur, the blood, the tears
(Gordon)

Unfinished poem:
Cave lions
A bear in the darkness growls,
A lion watches from the cave,
(Possibly useful words: brave, save, prowls, howls)


Most of these poems remain anonymous and we recognise the rights of the named poets of the other poems. We must ask you to respect this and not to reprint them without acknowledging that poet and first publication here in this blog. If you want to reprint poems in physical or other form for sale, please contact Gordon MacLellan at the toadwords email above for written permission.