Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Broken dreams

To 'break a dream' is when someone says something to you that makes you recall a forgotten dream. This happened to me this morning, but only regarding part of a dream.

Let me tell you a bit about the dream first of all. There was a man with no shirt on, half his body sun-tanned, laying on a wall by the river. He fell into the river where he was already swimming. The two versions of him became one, and then he turned into a mer-man. He swam down the river, obviously confused at the transformation. He was curled by the bank.

I was looking down into the water, from a height. The wall above the river was maybe 20 feet high. But then I was also in a small rented flat with two metal beds, one atop the other. Behind the bed were sweets and other rubbish on the wooden floor that the renter had not cleaned up properly. I know, because I pulled out the bed to look, then put it back again afterwards. Outside the window, a big wide double doors window, was a path and then immediately a lake. A nice view from the bedroom, but no privacy. Children walked by and we thought that it was a shame you couldn't cordon off your piece of path to the lake.

I went into the sweetshop to buy some sweets. It was old fashioned - wooden display units at child height.

But the bed was towering high - and I was swinging on the metal edge, knees folded over, encouraged by someone - a women (a pop star even) who watched me as the edge of the bed became a towering structure from which I could swing out over the river. I swung deeply forward over the river, and back again. And the most amazing thing about the dream is not the detail or the colour - but the sensation of swinging. That heart swooping rush you get when swinging on a rope, or a trapeze (though I've never done that) or dived off a high board. That adrenalin high that is part fear, part excitement.

The sensation was very physical, and I realised after the first copule of swoops that I could actually enjoy the rush.

Now to the breaking of my dream... what I had forgotten (with all above details still fresh and visual in my mind) was that I was also learning Polish in this dream. Sat in a cafe with a young man, who was - I think - going to teach me to speak the language.

And this morning, my friend sent me a text saying I was 'not Polish enough' (I won't explain) and so I remembered that part of the dream.

All this must have taken long, interminable seconds between the alarm going off and me waking. But the sensation, the physical sensation of swinging, was very powerful indeed. I enjoyed the dream - the colour, the variety, the incongrouous nature of all the different parts. And the sudden remembering of one part of it, that had slipped my mind until an innocent text arrived.
What did you dream? Can you remember? Have you had very physical (clean answers only please!) or emotional dreams? Do please post a comment, I'd be interested to know. You can post a comment anonymously, you don't have to belong to Blogger to join in.

Photograph courtesy of

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Curious Tiger

(C) Carolyn Sheppard.

I feel the earth beneath my feet, damp and soft. It smells warm and familiar – comforting. My claws sink into the ground and I move quietly through the forest. I am not hungry; only yesterday I ate very well indeed. But today I want to walk through my domain and mark my territory.

I tread softly, for I sense a change. There is a tang in the air – a smell I do not recognise. I stand still and listen, my whiskers twitch forward, my mouth slightly open, my ears attuned to every crackle and creak. Standing still, I am invisible. Small birds and animals fly and scurry round me. They know who I am, and rightly fear me. That which is ahead of me is new, unknown, and I am cautious.

I am also a curious tiger, and instead of avoiding this uncertainty ahead, I move steadily forward. My presence is undetected, I am sure. The heavy forest air brings me scents I know and many that I do not. It is the unknown, which draws me.

I enter a small clearing and smell wood moke scented with the ripeness of burnt flesh, and of many other things I do not recognise. I am intrigued. I move closer and see a small fire in the clearing, but not fleeing through the forest as it may do on dry, dangerous days. It is controlled, restrained. I look carefully about: next to the fire is something I have never seen before. It smells of rotten plants. Next to that, is the monkey.

I call it a monkey for that is what it most closely resembles. It is decked in something that is not fur and does not seem to be a part of it. It smells of plant, and of bitter things that make me open my jaws widely so that I may detect their taint more clearly.

My ungoverned movement has given me away - the monkey has seen me! It stands with a strange stick in its hand as if in defiance. Puny creature! I lift my head – the stick exudes its own unique odour: It smells of wood, of the caves, and it the air about it tastes hard and sharp like the red rocks in the mountains.

The monkey is afraid. It waves the stick hesitantly in my direction and I can taste the odour of fear. This is reassuring; the creature is not so foreign, it fears me. Yet as well as fear there are many other smells and tastes that cling and cloy my senses – that of the creature itself, and many more that surround this strange animal. I decide that its signature is as distasteful as if it has dived into every kind of excrement it could find.

I gently pad a little nearer. The monkey sits down upon a rock, but has not stopped glaring at me, or pointing its stick - as if that might stop my progress! Its pale skin is damp, slick with sweat – in its fear. This is as it should be.

I do not wish to eat the monkey. But I am curious. I have heard of these creatures in the forest before. I have smelled their flesh-burning fires. I have tasted them upon the wind before. Like most, I have avoided them. But this is just one, on its own.

I move closer. The monkey is now shaking, trembling beneath my gaze like a found calf. Its legs have a very fine fur upon them, and each hair stands on end at my approach. Still it points the stick at me. Now I am nearer, I detect something else – further pungency from the stick: it stings my nose and I twitch in disgust. The stick smells hot, and it smells cold. It smells … of death.

I am now near enough to kill easily. But first, to try and understand this creature, I lick its nearest leg with my long rasping tongue. I can taste it completely now: Piss and sweat, strong, natural odours, combined with a myriad of other strange tastes that are sour and rancid. The creature shivers. It does not look nor sound like any monkey I know. I do not think it would be good to eat.

I look into its eyes, trying to fathom exactly what kind of creature this is? It has the tang of carnivore, yet is rank. I do not understand - as I look into its eyes I see nothing – no connection, no life behind its small, frightened white and blue eyes. It is almost like a dead thing. If I look at any other creature, or they look at me, we see that we are one. We know that whether we are predator or prey, we are all part of the same. We all know what we are and where we belong in this world. This creature – this upright, smooth skinned, foul tasting monkey – does not have a place.

With its acid taste lingering in my mouth, I yawn (for effect, I admit), and the creature waves its death stick at me again. At any moment it may fall back off its rock, its thin legs waving skyward – that would amuse me. But it does not. It just keeps watching me with those dead eyes. Bored, I turn my back on the thing – it is not worthy of my time or my interest.

I walk away, swaying my tail in contempt, letting the monkey see my strength and power. of course, it does not understand, it does not realise that I have given it the gift of its own life. that gift is a waste - I am sorry for such a thing that does not belong to the world.

My curiosity is satisfied. I move on, knowing that such creatures will not warrant any further investigation should they ever cross my path again.

Written in 2007. If you like tigers, then check out Fauna & Flora International and their work with the Sumatran Tiger

Earth Wake

Here's the first chapter of one of my short stories.

Captain Jamieson jumped down from the ship, his feet crushing the long, spiky blue grass as he landed. He scowled as he looked around and spat out a wad of well-chewed tobacco.

“Welcome, Captain.” Ricard looked at the shining, foamy brown lump the Captain had spat, which now slid slowly down the broad leaf of a low growing bush.

The Captain saw where Ricard was looking and had him sussed in an instant. An Indij-lover. He’d met a few on different planet hops – where they go ‘native’ and forget just who they are working for.

“Come this way.” Ricard led the way to a clearing. In the middle stood a sturdy hut that looked like it was made of mud, sticks and grass. This was Ricard’s home on the planet –in fact (since the first contact team had left) it was Homeworld’s planetary embassy. Ricard smiled to himself, thinking how unimpressed his visitor would be with the local facilities.

Jamieson spat again, the small blob raising a puff of dust as it landed on the dry, yellow earth. “Summary.” He barked as they entered the hut.

Ricard turned on the solalight with a wave of his hand. “Highly evolved society, good natural resources, simple balance of nature equation.” Ricard knew that the Captain would have had a full briefing already, what else did he want to know?

“Can we drill?”

A silence hung between them. Jamieson assumed Ricard’s reticence was his indigenous-loving attitude.

Ricard saw the greed and exploitative streak in Jamieson and didn’t like it. “No.” he said.

Jamieson snorted. An ‘I knew it’ type snort. A tiny dribble of brown liquid ran from his nose into his grey moustache.

Ricard’s stomach clenched in revulsion. Even though Angolican tobacco wasn’t carcinogenic, the habit of chewing or smoking the stuff still disgusted him.

“Why?” said Jamieson deliberately.

Ricard let out a huge sigh. “Geo. The ground isn’t stable.”

“Evidence?” Jamieson said.

Ricard had already sent reports to Homeworld that he knew Jamieson would have seen, but he also knew they would just consider his reasons ‘excuses’. “No solid evidence. “The locals talk of regular earth wakes…”


“No… earth wakes. No matter how often we ask or whatever the context, our translator says they definitely call them ‘earth wakes’.”


Ricard was beginning to feel irritated by Jamieson’s brusque manner, but he had expected no less from Homeworld. Despite thousands of trans-world treaties, one way or another they usually found a way to exploit new planets and tap into their natural resources. No matter how carefully phrased to protect the indigenous species, planets usually ended up in a sorrier state for their alliance with Homeworld Federation.


I need to work on the rest of the story - it's finished,just needs polishing. Any comments welcome.

The most excellent illustration is from Kellie Kougioulis - found here:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Georgia on my mind

What do you think of when someone says 'Georgia'? The songs? The American state? The ex-Soviet state? Well, it's the latter on my mind for this post.

The other day we had a 'download' at work from one of the guys who works out in Georgia. He works with the Tusheti people and the local Government organisations and NGOs to help preserve some of the most amazing wildlife.

They have bears, wolves, jungle cats, lynx and tortoise as well as an amazing array of bird and plant-life. Gareth works particularly on the carnivores (them what has sharp teeth as detailed above). The project, funded primarily by the EU and in partnership with local NGO, NACRES, is designed to protect some amazing rich habitats near the Caucasus mountains and in the south-east.

Of course Georgia was in the news most recently because of border disputes and political 'chest puffing' (I would say willy waving but that's not very PC) that has resulted in conflict. But the Tusheti shepherds still have to take their herds of sheep from the lowlands in the winter to the mountains in the summer - and still have to feed and care from them and protect them from the carnivores that live there too.

It's a challenge - especially as the deconstruction of the USSR has meant that the support infrastructure has disappeared along with the Russians. Part of the work Gareth and the team out there are doing is to help the shepherds with veterinary care - reducing disease in dogs (so it doesn't get transferred to wildlife) and increasing herd survival rates so that loss to predators is not such a great impact. One of the things Gareth is trying to raise extra funds for is salaries for vets who can work in the mountainous and arid regions of this extraordinary landscape.

So why am I writing about it when there's perfectly good information all about it on the FFI website? (here ) Simple - the one thing that is missing from the information on the web is the passion and knowledge that individuals like Gareth share when you meet them in person. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to hear first hand the stories of the conservation work these folks are doing all over the world.

He told us how hard the wolves are to trap, so you can't do accurate research on them, and how hunting, poaching and over-grazing are serious issues. He also had some amazing photographs (I've chosen one of his bird photographs, well, I would, wouldn't I!)

I have to say my geography has improved too!

Photo: Hawfinch, (C) Gareth Goldthorpe - check out more of his work on Flickr