Author Archives: John Clark

Urban Badgers

I first realised we had badgers roaming our city estate when returning home one autumnal night at about 10:00pm. What I thought was a ludicrously fat cat strolling across the road patently wasn’t when I wiped the rain from my glasses. We found ourselves feeding it or them by accident. That autumn a rather cheeky fox nonchalantly strolled passed us across the patio as we enjoyed an after-dinner cuppa. It looked like it could use a good meal, so we later obliged and were delighted the next morning to find the take-away tub cleaned out. A few days later I happened to be doing a spot of late night reading in the back room when I heard the tub being shuffled around… by a badger.

We believe we have two regular visitors, male and female adults, but admit to being a bit rusty at sexing badgers. In July 2020 a third appeared, a cub, probably about five months old since I’m reliably informed they tend to be born in February. Following advice, we feed them a variety of vegetable and fruit offcuts, leftover rice, potatoes and wet pasta sometimes mixed with dog food or muesli. We don’t leave out water because we have a pond they can easily access. We have hunted around the area to find their sett but without success. Since our estate is surrounded by main roads, 0ur fear is that one day they will become roadkill.

I thought it might be time to mount a campaign for a ‘Beware; Badgers Crossing’ warning sign, but the local city badger group are reluctant to make the world and her predatory husband openly aware of their existence, which I get.

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Reality Checks 4 & 5


Reality Check cartoons will now be appearing on their own page. Same as before, if you want to spread them around, just drag onto your desktop and send off wherever you think they’ll be appreciated.

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Walking the Lockdown

FrontDoorThese days, walking out the front door to go for a stroll is a scary business. The solitary flowering daffodil immediately in my line of vision is no longer a glorious wonder of spring, rather an ominous siren luring me onto Infection Street. I find myself checking left and right before placing a single foot onto the garden path. You never know, there could be a plague carrier incoming, a milkman or postie. I step out and recce my proposed line of travel equidistance between toxic surfaces shuttering my short driveway – the wall, the car, the tree trunk. For a brief moment they appear to be a gauntlet bubbling with millions of agitated Covids, hairy microscopic golf balls, bouncing against each other and chattering in excited anticipation. “Here he comes!”

ThankYouSignIt doesn’t last long; doorway to pavement is but a dozen paces yet the fear is tangible and horribly unnerving. I check that the road and pavements are clear then stride towards the white line, turning left to follow it, proceeding down the centre of the road to the snicket that leads to my R&R destination. Barely a handful of people are out promenading, undoubtedly feeling equally freaked out, eyes scanning the tarmac as if to look up and acknowledge me might risk impregnation, by or from. I’m feeling bold by now and cheerfully hail them. They immediately respond and positively beam, waving as if we’ve all just received a swift immunisation shot. Strange days…

ThisWillPassMy designated R&R has been to engage in a spot of guerrilla gardening in the wetlands located at the bottom of our estate. These were created maybe eight years ago to mitigate the Daybrook flooding, a small stream that used to rush straight down a culvert running along the side of what was then scrub land. Issuing from a park less than a mile away, the brook still managed to aggressively overflow, so the corporation sent in contractors to dig a meandering course and redirect the flow. Then they just walked away, leaving a pretty unsightly mess, which I presume they believed would soon grow into some kind of attractive wilderness. It didn’t.

Six years ago I started pushing willow whips into the sodden earth to add a little height to the reed beds that had indeed germinated, but the snaking brook quickly became a pond then a lake that now hosts a range of waterfowl including herons and egrets. Little or no attention has been paid to the area by the city gardeners responsible for it, and you simply can’t leave willow to grow and grow, not when they are next to a public footpath. Sooner than later heavy branches are going to come crashing down. They don’t call it crack willow for nothing!

So I’ve set myself the task of pollarding and coppicing, and building a solid winrow, an activity I can safely perform for a couple of hours each day by isolating off my section of the path. Despite blocking either end with felled branches and despite an alternative route that is anything but inconvenient, wouldn’t you know that some idiots still insist on forging their way into my exclusion zone.

But from a distance my work is clearly appreciated by those taking their legal constitutional in the wetlands. If I get away with it, I might just continue as I’ve started and sort out the whole darn place. One week on from the lockdown, seems I’ll have plenty of time for it.

A small gallery showing the growth before and after, and the winrow. It is very rewarding to see the young shoots sprouting. By this time next year (in time for the next Covid lockdown?) there will be willow whips ideal for bean poles and a conical sweet pea climbing frame.

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Reality Check 3


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Reality Check…

These thoughts on the muppet show that is the current UK Government during this horrific pandemic will now all be seen under the title ‘Reality Check’. You are welcome to drag them and future ones onto your desktop and share them because, reluctant as I am to return to the drawing board during the lockdown, it seems inevitable that there will be more coming…


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Just had to say something…


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Walkin’ the Dawg

(2013-02-20 16-43-40)Canon Canon PowerShot A640 (2272x1704)For some months now I have been without a dog. Our lovely Border Collie, Suzi, had to be ‘put down’ (where does that dreadful expression come from?) when the pain of her arthritis and our pain at watching her suffer became too great. It was a merciful and gentle act that took place at home with her cradled in our arms. In dog years, she was ninety-eight and she was with us for seventy-seven of those, in and out of canoes, up and down mountains, proud of her buoyancy aid and panniers. Naturally she has left a gaping hole in our lives, but what I most miss is the early morning ‘walkies’, generally around an hour and mostly through local woodlands.


You would imagine it isn’t difficult to maintain that routine dog-less, particularly in view of the benefits of starting every day with a therapeutic plunge into what the Japanese call ‘forest bathing’. But it has become all too noticeable that Suzi spurred us to put in miles that have now vanished from our weekly walking tally, and mind, body and soul are suffering as a consequence.

Of course the simple solution is to get another dog, but the one thing owning a mutt in the UK inhibits is international travel, particularly now that the dumb-arsed Brits have been suckered into leaving the EU. We are certainly ready to adopt a successor to Suzi, but have agreed to knock off a few foreign adventures first, making do with borrowing Elsa (another Border Collie) from a pal as often as doesn’t seem pushy.


Returning to the fold of early morning dog walkers, I have noticed a sudden proliferation in ‘professional’ dog walkers, with their compartmentalised white vans (liveried with crass Disney cartoons and dreadful business tags like ‘Woofer-Walker’), their belts laden with more pouches than a Community Copper, and their wilting leaflets stapled to the first tree out of the car park. I have also noticed that the dogs they walk do not look happy dogs, but then I wouldn’t be too chuffed if I had to share my morning (and possibly evening) constitutional in close proximity to some loud-mouthed klutz who was up his own arse!

But what is it with people who own a dog but don’t stoop to walking their presumably beloved pet? Why get the beast in the first place? What do they do with them – pat them on the head when they come in from work, bung ‘em a bowl of Winalot and send them to their bed while Mummy and Daddy slob out to ‘Strictly…’ and a G&T?

Foxcovet.RaysF’crying out loud, get up an hour earlier and walk the bloody animal yourself! Get the exercise, smell the dew. I don’t care if it’s cold and dark, some of my most memorable ‘walkies’ have been in the ludicrously early hours, catching the sunrise, watching the mist burn off, glimpsing the badgers turning in for their ‘night’. Certainly Suzi never minded. The important thing for her was that she was with us, retriever of sticks, chaser of tree rats, and one of an exclusive pack.

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Ceramic Caricature – Ludwig van…

Beethoven, the caffeine addict (a 60 beans per cup man)

Beethoven, the caffeine addict (a 60 beans per cup man) by Brick

To add my bit to the 250th of Ludo, a life-size paper clay bust of the man himself as coffee junkie and (possibly) a Moor. Seems his mum might have had a touch of North African in her. Between the coffee and the genes, sorta explains the demented nature of his Seventh Symphony…

And while I’m about it, how about the above for that brilliant cartoonist John Tenniel’s 150th? This is a not very good photo of a Giles jigsaw (50p from charity shop) hanging on my wall in which Grandma deserts the family picnic to down a pint at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Note the two different style…

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Sizewell C (and D) Agitprop Comic

Just to prove the art of agitprop comic making isn’t dead, below is a A4 folded jobbie for TASC and Extinction Rebellion. Rather amazingly, they pretty much left it to me to decide what I would do, and then fell about laughing when I did it!

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Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol

Arnos.7.One of the most enjoyable promenades a city walker can make has to be around the urban cemeteries that largely came into existence during the Victorian period, particularly if a respectable chunk of the graveyard has fallen into disrepair and been overrun by nature. Aside from the joy and tranquility of escaping the noise and eye-clutter of the urban environment, a wander around last resting places is a stroll through a people’s history of the locale, as expressed not only by the dedications engraved into the memorials but the very nature of the architecture of headstones, catacombs and obelisques, and the bric-a-brac some authorities still allow relatives to leave for the departed. By the mid-20th century, many of our town cemeteries were full to capacity and legislation to permit cremation was passed to provide an alternative, so the history is a snapshot of little more than the 150 year transition from Victorian to Modern via two world wars and various colonial conflicts. It is a period that marked the rise of the middle class, the entrepeneur and professional, and they weren’t going to leave their mortal coil without making sure people remembered them through the grand monuments they left behind. That the plot next door was to be occupied by a mere commoner or worse, a paupers’ grave where cadavers were stacked one one top of another was beyond their control.

Possibly the most evocative urban cemetery outside of London is the 45 acres of Arnos Vale in the heart of Bristol, particularly if visitied on a crisp and foggy winters day. Tumbling down a hillside, it is a beautifully ramshackle and  neglected place, laced with muddy desire lines and winding paths, teeming with wonderful woodland plants and wildlife, and studded with fascinating memorials. Grim though it is and looking a lot like a steam-punk version of The Iron Giant, there is even an early furnace in the bowls of the café that I recommend starting with, just to get you in the mood!

Find out more here.

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