Friday, 28 October 2011

Favourite things on a Friday

I thought I'd join in with Emma's Favourite Things on a Friday.  My Favourite thing today is the East Sussex Guild of Spinners, Dyers and Weavers Exhibition. 

I have just got back.  What can I say.  A perfect day.  Ooodles of yarns, fibre, colours and lovely things people have made.  I have of course spent far too much money but never mind, it was worth it.  There is no natural light now and I am pushed for time so I have no photos of what I bought but I will show you another day.  The exhibition is on tomorrow as well so if you live any where near Lewes, East Sussex, UK, I highly recommend you go along. 

Now do visit Emma's blog and read all about Favourite Things on a Friday.

Monday, 24 October 2011

More Sheep in Literature

I recently confessed to a passion for poetry as well as sheep.  I'm always excited when the two combine and I come across a poem about sheep.  One of my favourite sheep poems is from Ted Hughes' Season Songs.  Unsurprisingly, the poem is entitled 'Sheep' and describes in detail the shearing process.  Hughes writes from the point of view of the sheep.  It is a sensitive, insightful poem:

Why am I dragged into the light and whirled onto my back

Why am I sat up on my rear end with my legs splayed

A man grips me helpless
What is that buzzer what is it coming
Buzzing like a big fierce insect on a long tangling of snake
What is this man doing to me with his buzzing thing.

I often wonder what the sheep is thinking.  When I did my shearing course we were shearing older ewes.  The farm hosts the course each year so the chances are the ewes get shorn by beginners several years running.  I'm sure the older sheep knew what to expect because some of them just lay there quietly, as though they were thinking 'here we go again'.  

In Hughes' poem, the sheep comes off the winner:
She trots away, noble-nosed, her pride unsmirched.
Her greasy winter-weight stays coiled on the foul floor, for somebody else to bother about.
She has a beautiful wet green brand on her bobbing brand-new backside,
She baas, she has come off best.
What do you think of Hughes' poem?  Do you think sheep remember being shorn?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Cover Girl

I have never aspired to be a cover girl.  However, if I were to dare dream of such a thing, I would imagine myself being photographed only after several hours with a very large team of professional beautifiers and then being thoroughly air brushed.  This week I had a shock.  I find I am a cover girl.  Photographed not after a makeover but after having been bent over a sheep for the last twenty minutes!

The September/October issue of Yarnmaker is out any day now and the cover image has been released.  This issue contains my second article on learning to shear where I recorded my experiences of a sheep shearing course I took in the summer.  I just didn’t expect to be on the cover.  Dirty, sweaty and jubilant, hugging the fleece I had just shorn (no, I'm not the one with four horns). 

 Thanks Dot!

Yarnmaker, started by Dorothy Lumb (Dot) in August 2010, is a magazine aimed at handspinners and people who are passionate about fibre.  Single issues and subscriptions are available from the Yarnmaker website.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sheep in Literature

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately, life has got in the way.  Also I haven’t had much to report compared to the busy shearing and craft show season.  I’m still plodding away with the mohair, there’s a bit more to comb before I can start spinning but once I get on to the spinning I’ll post an update.  

In the meantime, I thought I’d share another of my passions with you.  As well as being somewhat crazy about sheep, I also like literature.  I get very excited when the two interests come together and I actually find a piece about sheep.  This doesn’t happen all that often.  Recently I’ve been reading the works of WH Davies.  Davies had an amazing life, he was a tramp for many years.  In 1893 he went to America and in the following years he worked his passage across the Atlantic many times.  

The ships he worked on carried cattle and sheep.  Davies speaks briefly about the sheep in his book The Autobiography of a Super-tramp, he describes sailing with 2000 sheep on board.  The crossings seemed to take about 13 days.  I find it incredible that they used to ship live sheep across the Atlantic from America for slaughter in England.  The losses were considerable, with Davies giving an account of one voyage where all of the sheep were washed overboard during a storm.  

Undoubtedly Davies’ most powerful accounts of sailing with sheep are found in his two poems ‘A Child’s Pet’ and ‘Sheep’.  ‘Sheep’ describes the animals’ distress at leaving land behind:

They sniffed, poor things, for their green fields,
They cried so loud I could not sleep:

‘A Child’s Pet’ is a heart wrenching account of a sheep which had probably been a bottle fed lamb:

Yet every night and every day one sheep
That had no fear of man or sea,
Stuck through the bars its pleading face,
And it was stroked by me.

Davies describes the men on the ship as a bunch of ruffians and thieves yet all of them make a fuss of the tame sheep: 

Eight ragged sheep-men – tramps and thieves –
Would stroke that sheep’s black nose.

Sheep are often overlooked, I love the way Davies empathises with the sheep and really makes the tame sheep live in my imagination.

What do you think?  Have you come across any sheep in literature?