Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eagle stones

(Warning: the close-up photo at the end of the first section may not be for the sensitive.)

A few people have written in asking whether yesterday's post was a joke. No, I looked out of the window, saw what I thought for a moment was a huge owl then realised was an eagle grabbing for a squirrel who had been dining on the snow beneath the birdfeeders.
The bird looked like it had meant to grab the squirrel by the middle, but its talons were actually around the squirrel's head -- it lifted it up off the ground, the squirrel wriggled, fell out of the bird's clutches into the snow, and shot off, while the bird went to the nearest tree and glared balefully around -- which was the point I got a clear look at it, and it looked exactly like Golden Eagles I've seen in Scotland and in Zoos.

("Could it have been a red-tailed hawk?" asked the birdchick, when we called her and I took the phone from Bill and told her what I'd seen. I didn't want to say it was a golden eagle for fear of being thought odd.

"Only if it was the biggest one in the world," I said. They don't look alike.)

I grabbed a camera with a telephoto lens, and Cabal and Bill Stiteler and I headed out. We took a few pictures of me pointing, and the marks in the snow. Took a picture of a distant squirrel on a tree. Then went further into the woods. Crows were harrying something bigger than they were, but it was always hidden by treetops.

We discovered that, although the temperature was minus 2 F (minus 19 C), the purplish-coloured beehive had bees out sunning themselves. Some adventurous bees were even flying around, although they didn't fly for long before dropping in the snow and not moving any longer. I went back to a safe distance (so they didn't need to come and fly out and investigate me) and took a couple of telephoto shots of sunning bees.

I took lots of photos of the dog. I did not know that by the end of the day there would be a Tumblr site dedicated to pictures of my dog.

It was only later that evening that Bill and I got around to looking at the photos we'd taken, and we zoomed in on the squirrel on the tree, and I realised that he was actually the one who got away...

(Here's Bill's blog entry from yesterday: Here's Sharon's entry:
Dear Mr. Gaiman (Or Webgoblin, who I hope appreciates Who enough to appreciate things about Mr Gaiman's scarf),

Who knitted this scarf?? Is it warm? Did it take them long??

(For reference, I'm going on about the quite lovely TomBaker!Who scarf you appear to be wearing whilst looking for some sort of Eagle).

Overly, don't worry about the question's answers, I just wanted to express my love that my favourite author is wearing a replica of my second favourite Who's scarf. No response needed, I just wanted to give you a giant ':D'. Except there's no formatting, so it can't be giant. I'm sorry.

- Sara, in the process of knitting one of those, Brighton.

It was a gift from Ms Ally B in Montana, who contacted me on Twitter, and sent it through Neverwear. ( She said on Twitter, "I'm not a knitter, though. Learned enough to make the scarf, and then quit.")

Dear Neil,

How do you keep your fountain pens from leaking while you are traveling? I recently flew from San Francisco to New York and back, and both ways my fountain pen (a Namiki Pilot Knight collection pen) the first time I tried to use the pen after landing I ended up with ink all over my my fingers and had to take the pen completely apart and clean the ink out of all the places it wasn't supposed to be. Do you have a secret to keep this from happening, and if so, could you please share it with your readers? Thanks so much!


I long ago resigned myself to being an inky-fingered scribbler. But having said that, if I'm travelling with a pen with a soft reservoir of the kind that gets affected by changing cabin pressure, I try to remember to empty it before getting in a plane. I have some magnificently stained jacket-linings from times I forgot.

Hi Neil,

I'm a lit grad student studying Hope Mirrlees, and I've started a website ( about HM and her work. I'm sending this to you in case it's of interest to you or your readers -- you've been one of Mirrlees' best of most visible champions for so long, so I thought I should let you know.

So far, I have the full text of _Madeleine_ (which is in the public domain in the US) up, along with a bunch of biographical information and links to discussions of her elsewhere on the web. There's UK-based academic working on a scholarly bio of Mirrlees, too, which is awfully exciting -- I should have an interview with her up this month at the site.

I love your site and twitter account, btw. I've been a reader of yours since -- oh god, a long time ago -- and it's a delight to have these bits of your brain floating around online.

Keep warm,

Happy to mention it. Also, because I'm not sure if I ever have here, to link to Michael Swanwick's excellent short biographical study, Hope In The Mist (with a Charles Vess illustration and an introduction by yours truly). (Now completely sold out, in hard and paperback editions.)


I'm the writer and artist of a comic called "Love and Capes". (If you'd a copy, let me know and I'll be glad to send it to you.) The book's been collected by IDW, and I've donated it to a few local libraries and done talks and "chalk talks" at them.

My question is, with you being the Honorary Library Chair, are there programs to put graphic novelists who are decent (I think so, at least) at speaking with libraries who might be interested in having them come out for presentations.

Personally, I've had some success locally here in Cleveland, but I wouldn't mind the excuse to travel. In general, though, it'd be nice if there were some way to match writers and artists up with places that would be like to have them.

And, if there's not, you can decree such a thing into existence, right?


Thom Zahler

I don't know if I can decree it, but I can definitely put it out there and see if there's anyone out there who knows.


Finally, fascinated by an article by journalist and former UK deputy Prime Minister Roy Hattersley about the people of Iceland in the Times. I won't comment on the content except to say that his experiences of the Icelandic people have been very different to mine, and that his statement,
There are Viking tombstones in the Great Wall of China

left me fascinated, wondering if there was something I'd missed studying the Vikings and the Chinese.

Apart from not having read anything about this ever, and Vikings not having tombstones (they had cairns of stones, though) and the Vikings having either turned up a thousand years later than the Qin wall-building or chucked it in two hundred years before the Ming wall-building, it just seemed the sort of thing someone would have mentioned.

Yes, I know there were trade routes. But this seemed to be implying that there were... what? Vikings building the wall who died and were given tombstones built into the wall? An ancient Chinese wall-building consortium who travelled all the way to Norway to bring back some Viking Rocks as building materials?

I put out a call for information on Twitter and people sent me links to sites about the Tarim Mummies (who died in 3000BC and were probably a lot of things, but they weren't Vikings. Sometimes I suspect they eventually wandered north-west and became the Scots) but even historians seemed blank.

So if anyone out there knows Roy Hattersley, or is Roy Hattersley, I'd love more information. For that matter, if any of you find yourselves on a train or in a bar with Roy Hattersley, feel encouraged to sidle over to him and tell him to get in touch with me. I'd love it to be true. And I'd love for there to be some evidence.

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