Monday, 4 September 2017

A breif reading of Robert Macfarlane's, The Wild Places (2007)

One of the writers who is quoted on the cover of JA Baker's the Peregrine (2015 edition) is Robert Macfarlane: a fellow of Emmanuel College Cambridge. In 2003 with his book "Mountains of the Mind: the History of a Fascination" he won the Guardian newspaper First Book Award, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and various other prestigious prizes.

I was drawn to reading his book "The Wild Places", because his name is becoming synonymous with nature writing in the UK, and he is even linked to the late great WG (Max) Sebald, who taught & studied English & European Literature, (just up the road from Macfarlane's Cambridge), at the University of East Anglia.

Interestingly in Macfarlane's second chapter of The Wild Places, regarding a description of a remote island to the west of the Lleyn peninsula in North Wales, he describes the fact that this particular island, named Ynys Enlli, has served as a retreat for the Celtic Christian monks between the fifth and sixth centuries BC. Indeed, according to Macfarlane, it's possible that this island may have been inhabited for a further 500 years or so, perhaps as late as 1000 A.D.
Holy men, hermits and other spiritual individuals occupied many of the islands around Britain during that time, and these travellers, some of which had come many miles from foreign shores were known as "peregrini". Whilst this word, I had already discovered, to mean the wanderer or foreign traveller, it was nice to see this triangulated again by a contemporary author.

In a reflection of my own, I think of how I have also been peregrini, the fact that I was born in South America, living there throughout my early childhood, and then travelling some 6000 miles north east across the vast Atlantic Ocean to find a home in the UK. My travellings through my job as an adult took me all over the world, but I always returned, of course, to the area that I call home in the North.

But now, as I begin to turn the page on another chapter in my life, there are more coincidences that I find fascinating to link together. Some may see these connections as tenuous, but I believe through my deep thinking, that there is a sense of balance and appropriateness in the conjunctions that seem to validate the temporal nature of them. Yet at the same time, these links could be seen as verification against some unwritten rules of fate?

 In this case, my new journey begins with the purchase and completion of a sale of a little cottage in Northumberland, a dream that has been realised after some 15 or so years of looking and yearning to find the right place in these more remote northern lands.

Our quiet little cottage lies adjacent to St Cuthbert's Way, overlooking St Cuthbert's Cave where the canonised hermit's body was hidden from the marauding invaders of the East. Our cottage is therefore named in his honour, Cuthbert Cottage. This in itself isn't much of a coincidence, but when taken to understand that St Cuthbert (634-687) was indeed a peregrini, who found shelter in the remote Farne Islands to dedicate towards contemplation for much of his final years, it seems to make my move all that much more portentous.  That I, a potential peregrini, having chosen to spend the last year researching everything I can about peregrines and then trying to see and reinterpret their world from their point of view, then what better position could I be in to do this?

Through coincidence or just sheer luck, things have unfolded in the way that they have, and I am moved to reflect on my own journey, juxtaposing some of the elements of my own existence in a strange and uncanny mirroring of this magnificent bird of prey, as a kind of pilgrimage perhaps? Well, the word pilgrim comes from the Latin peregrinus.

So, having completed over the last few days, my final submission my Master's degree, the overwhelming personal, circumstantial evidence that has come forth, over this last year, gives me renewed determination, and faith, that what I'm doing, and how I am working appears to be absolutely right for me!

Oh, and by the way, The Welsh Island Ynys Enlli means the 'Island of Currents', (referring to tidal waters and lines of turbulance in the eddy's surrounding it), and would (during the height of scholastic monks living in remote parts of Britain) have been governed by the 'Ancient Church in Wales', who recognise St Cuthbert's day as 4th September.  That is today... The day I read Macfarlane's explanation of peregrini...

These amazing movements and collisions, of time and circumstance, provide even more food of contemplation...  Wonderful!


Macfarlane, R. (2007) The Wild Things, London, Granta Books.  

Monday, 28 August 2017

What would a Peregrine see most frequently?

Still playing with ideas on what a Peregrine might see, what would it's most frequent type of image actually be?

From its own vantage point, usually in flight, it has choices to make. Which Swallow will it select? Perhaps that one over it's left flank? It is rising up, the Peregrine would need to quickly change course to take advantage of height and then return in a swoop...

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Looking from the view point of a peregrine feeding

Working through the ideas of what's important to a Peregrine, building on the notions of life and death, a regular view that the Peregrine must have is that of after a kill.

They must constantly be on alert for other predators and scavengers such as crows or other larger eagles whenever they have successfully killed. Equally much of their time would be spent potentially looking down at their feet, their talons puncturing the flesh of their prey and selecting a mouthful of feathers to pluck out from the dying sparrow, Starling or Swallow that they have just knocked out of the sky.

Playing around with ideas of representation led to a few sketches that were purely taken from the imagination.

The speculative rendering is clearly an assumption, it may be that further rendering would be useful, particularly with layers of perspective and acuity with near and far objects, together with a visual sensation of keeping the field of view open for other threats to the Peregrine as already mentioned.


  • This idea of a wider field of view with multiple levels of acuity is starting to take hold in my mind and I'm thinking about how I could render such drawings.

  • Clearly this would be something for me to pursue after the submission of my practical work and portfolio next Friday, and I need to start to think carefully as to how I can also incorporate this in the critical reflective summary.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

How can we try to know what we don't know?

Spending a little bit more time at our cottage in Northumberland recently, I started chatting to a local man who was a fisherman. During our conversation, he told me about his and his wife's affection for a semi-tame partridge that spent much of its time in their garden, and consequently, from time to time they fed the bird. They had called it Freddie, and he talked in warm terms as though it was almost a surrogate offspring. He and his wife felt it abhorrent that these cute birds, together with pheasants, were bred by the local hunting estate that he lived within, just to be shot for sport over the next year.

This seemed to me to be rather a conundrum which I pondered upon for quite some time. As a freshwater fisherman, he prided himself on his prowess to catch trout and salmon, and then probably kill them to eat later after frying them or oven baking them.

-What is the difference between fishing and game bird shooting I might have asked him?-But my manners and circumspection precluded me from asking such an ill judged antagonism...

I conclude, and this seems to meet with the ideas of John Berger and others such as Donna Haraway, that humans assume that it is acceptable to kill animals when they cannot personify, or relate in some way with their prey, or food that is hunted. Berger wrote of this in "Why look at animals" (1977), but in a slightly different way. He spoke of the peasant farmer who loved his pig and looks forward to salting [and probably eating] it. The operative word in the sentence is "and". Humans have lost their binding of both respect and necessity to kill and eat. The killing is done elsewhere or by somebody else. Any creature to be killed is, therefore "marginalised" as Berger puts it in his observations of zoo animals.

Likewise I think of the predicament of the Peregrine in that he/or she has to hunt in order to live. In fact, death requires life and necessarily life requires death and the cycle is a continuous one throughout nature. There are no rules to nature is Nietzsche pointed out almost a hundred years or so before John Berger's writings.

Whilst thinking about this strange conundrum that humankind put themselves into, I imagined myself looking down on a line of rocks that appear as an outcrop in the distance, and quickly sketched a detached view.

In thinking about my sketch, the detached observation in itself is a metaphor for thinking about the human condition in so many ways.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Critical Reflective Summary formulation

I've been thinking about how I can best articulate the overall critical reflective summary for a few weeks now, and while I have started to write the introductory section and create a framework, I'm still conscious of the need to distil the most important parts of my learning experiences over the last year.

It would simply be impossible to include all of the events into a succinct 4,500 to 6,000-word essay, so the key to creating this I think, might be for me to make a timeline of sorts to map out how ideas have developed.  Indeed, during the first term, I created a mind map that has been pretty much the mood board for lots of research, but this has room to be updated too.

Having already indexed the majority of my blog the easiest thing for me to do is to print out a complete copy, although I realise that this amounts to some 120,000 words over approximately 320 pages!

It seems appropriate that this document can become the backbone for my CRS, it's just now a matter of selecting the most poignant elements and explaining my reasoning and justifications for the decisions I have made.

I also recognise that I have taken a number of turns and deviations during the last year which is perfectly acceptable I believe in an artistic and creative mode. This freedom of thinking is vital in my opinion to develop new ways of interpreting not only existing art by other practitioners but also the various volumes of theories, across multiple set of disciplines including philosophy, anthropology, psychology, perception and not forgetting digital media practices.


  • Setting a timeline like a kind of decision tree will be vital.
  • Distilling the most valuable learning experience is going to be hard as there have been so many.
  • I need to be quite ruthless in my selections.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Pushing myself forward now, the Sun's coming up and Drawing at 6:30am!

The view from our cottage window down the Hetton valley is truly beautiful this morning, Dovecote field in front of us is thronging with young pheasant poults, field hares and a few adult pheasants too.
A cock pheasant in all his resplendent colours is guarding his harem. His regal pose, with upright stance, his head and neck stretched way above the other birds commands instant respect. There is a sense of piety in the way he looks, especially because of his striking reverential white dog collar surrounding his neck. Like the village parson, overseeing his flock, perhaps even giving his morning sermon? This is far too anthropocentric I know, but one does wonder!

I find it incredibly hard not to believe that certain species of animals are able to intercommunicate with one another, especially herbivores. There is a sense of sharing in mother nature's glory on the morning like today which is tangible and palpable.

The remnants of wispy mist rise slowly from the distant hills and valley basins. A quick sketch before breakfast sets me into a good mood for the rest of the day and I've started to write some further ideas down to speculatively think about representational images from the Peregrine's perspective and "the Peregrine's story".

Thinking about the clouds and the free movement of the summer swallows, I positioned myself speculatively above them or at least floating in parallel with them. I imagined how it might look from 3000 feet, as according to Baker peregrines often glide and rise on the thermal air currents to that sort of height. The classic towering cumulus clouds nearby would appear lower on the horizontal plane, whereas distant clouds would appear higher on the horizontal plane as one would be above them. This would be the reverse view that we as humans have from ground level.

A suggestion by Rowan and Richard a few weeks ago to renew some of my thoughts and remove images of the Peregrine itself has been playing on my mind. Critically thinking through what a Peregrine may see as an important object in its day-to-day activities, I feel that the inclusion of other peregrines, and particularly when in the United Kingdom, the breeding grounds of peregrines, then it necessarily follows that encounters with either the Falcon's mate, the Tercel (the male); or alternatively for the tercel to see the Falcon (the female) will occur frequently. It is perfectly appropriate therefore to include images of other peregrines and also their chicks.

This is led me to think about some speculative drawings of chicks feeding? I'm also thinking further about views from the Peregrine's scrapes too. My plan is to climb some nearby crags which are perfect Peregrine nesting points to try and find primary source material.


  • The inclusion of Peregrine images in my book is absolutely verified now after thinking about this deeply. So too are parts of Peregrine anatomy of close-ups, both of the viewing Peregrine's anatomy and equally, of their mates, chicks or siblings.
  • I need to try and find some primary source images and real live views of steep cliffs and craggy outcrops and spend some time creating rough sketches that can then be digitised back in the studio.  There are plenty of spots nearby to do this so weather permitting, this will be a little expedition and adventure over the next few weeks.
  • Breeding season for peregrines is now completely over, most of the birds having fledged and probably returned to their northern hunting grounds through June and July, so the chance of seeing young juveniles this year has gone. 
  • Nevertheless, there is substantial video available from online web cams, particularly of city peregrines and their chicks. I need to make some enquiries and research around copyright before I potentially use these images as secondary sources, nevertheless, with a bit of imagination, I should be able to develop sufficient drawings that are completely independent.
  • I'm going to increase the level of my blogs a little more over the next few weeks to help with my clarity of thought, as I find that writing is particularly important to my practice.
  • As I temporarily reduced and even suspended publication of blogs during the last four weeks or so, during the academic quiet period to allow my tutors to have some breathing space during undergraduate degree marking and also during their marking and review time for ourselves.
  • I feel that it is acceptable to restart the weekly frequency of these again. And publish the backlog that I have been saving up too. I hope this meets with their approval and doesn't overload them of course!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Re-cap on the week's work, but feeling pretty down with myself still.

Back home now for a couple of days before heading back up to a new cottage. The last week has been really difficult for me, even though I made it an intention at the beginning of the week not to worry too much, nor to be anxious about production, and just to take some time out!

Doing nothing is very difficult for me, and with being in a depressed mood to start with since the presentation, which I feel I messed up completely last week, all I've managed to do is wallow in some rather dark thoughts, which have translated into the darker side of peregrines outlook on life.

This has manifested itself through drawings of dead prey creatures, dead rats & mice and especially a desire to draw Peregrine favourites like pigeons and pheasants!

I found a dead dove/rock-pigeon on the dirt track next to our cottage, and although I think it was shot as vermin by the local game-keeper, it nevertheless got me thinking and wanting to draw it.

Turning the carcass over, I realised that the entry and exit wounds would individually look quite similar to the strike wounds of a bird of prey, so in a way, the macabre find was actually very useful.

In thinking about this though, and coupling it with some of the recommendations that Dr Bailey and Richard Mulhearn kindly offered, may be the slightly alternative view becomes a self-reflection of the peregrines daily dalliance with life-and-death?

Having also thought considerably about making some sort of installation work, whilst I believe it is achievable to some degree, I am now wondering if it is, in fact, a cohesive output? Having thought about this for the last week, I've decided to postpone any kind of installation work until after my submission date of 1 September. I believe that such an installation would actually detract from the work that I've already been building upon, and the suggestion to focus on my book and build and expand upon this, together with much more drawing makes far more sense to me.


  • Still, lots to do with regards to drawings and writing, but if I keep the focus of these next three or four weeks and make time to draw whenever I can then at least I have a chance of creating a robust and professional artefact is a much bigger book (page number -wise).
  • Thinking now about the critical reflective summary, I need to create a framework again for the production of the CRS and create some scaffolding headings to start working with.
  • Next week is going to be another busy week with various jobs that need to be completed in the cottage to make it watertight and bug proof.  I am sure my priorities will no doubt be dictated through those, but I need to ensure that each spare moment can be used for reflection and be drawing too.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Presentation day! ...Was a bit of a disaster for me! Friday 28th July.

What a disaster yesterday's presentation was for me! - At 8:30 am in the morning, I thought it would be a good idea to just do a quick tidy up of my front page to the "Prezi" home page of mine.  Then, when the presentation time of 10:35 am came, just a couple of hours later, I could walk into the conference room and simply "sign-on and go!"...

A very good idea I thought...  And, as it was "La Veintiocho de Julio", a national fiesta day in Peru, the country of my birth, I thought nothing could go wrong!

(Hubris perhaps?)

I resolved too quickly to remove all the clutter and backup copies of work in progress, plus all those presentations and backups from the last term. To file them away neatly, and hey presto, a nice clean "menu" for me to impress the lecturers and 'judges' with when I walked into the conference room a couple of hours or so later.

...[Ego-driven motives perhaps, I hate myself for being so shallow in thinking this way!]

So off I went, busily moving past 'Prezis' and backups to different folders from the front screen menu, and deleting the presentations that had been superseded and no longer valid.

Move this file...   Delete this file...  "ARE YOU SURE?" the message said... "Yes" of course I am!... more delay, tut, tut, in my mind.
[I've only got an hour and a half to get to Huddersfield in plenty of time for the presentation].

So my mind was thinking 'I need to be set off from here at 9:15 at the latest, then I've got a good hour and 20 mins. to complete a 45-minute journey and have plenty of contingency for "Sheep on the Road"; a broken down bus causing traffic jams; road works and other delays.

Fine.  Delete the next file... "ARE YOU SURE?" ... Of course, I am! "YES", [tut, tut, more delay].

[move that file to last terms work....]

Delete this file "ARE YOU SURE?" ...YES!...

[Come on, it's nearly 8:55 by my watch...]

Delete / move / delete and so on.


  "Application is Not Responding"...

Crash!...[PC jumps back to the desktop screen]

Oh no!...

[ Restart my web browser it's all disappeared! ]


Where's my presentation for today? ... I said aghast, to myself looking at the screen with last term's version on it...

Oh my god! (I'm not religious, and I apologise to anyone reading, who is of course, but it seems we always turn to Him in our immediate despair).

What's happened! ...What have I done!

It [the cloud based app, but also arguably, me], had only gone and deleted the presentation that I've been working on for the last ten days!

Help!...  I looked in all the online help spaces for the Prezi site, but they all said, once a cloud file is deleted there is no way of recovering it, and "The 'undelete' function is only available in the fully paid up 'Pro-version of Prezzi'"... Arrggh!

Oh M.G... again....#"£$££$%% and a few other expletives about my own stupidity and applications not being fail safe, came out involuntarily again.

It's 9:05 am.
I need to be set off on my journey as soon as possible... I suppose I can stretch it to 9:30 which gives me an hour to get to University, park my car, and walk/run to the conference room with about 10mins for recovery time from breathlessness, so... What can I do?

Now thankfully, for some reason at 00:30 am the night before, having just finished the last touches to my swish Peregrine-centric, peregrine-zooming-binocular, media-spectacular, all out, "I'm quite chuffed with that!" show, I took the last decision to make screen shots of each frame of the sequence. This was done so that after the actual formal display, I could rush home, use the screen shots as the basis of the Adobe "Portable Data/ display Format" (.pdf).  Then, convert them through photoshop into a static version that I could upload to the University's submission portal for my tutors to assess as a hard 'electronic copy'...

The plan was, to get home after the presentation, upload it, then jump back in my car to drive for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours up the A1 to join with my wife in plenty of time to spend the weekend together in our new cottage. (She had been up there for the last few days, and I'd been working on my own).

Thank goodness that I had done this!... Between 9:10 and 9:35-ish, I managed to make a static version of the approx. 30 slides and put them into a coherent format....


Then off to Uni!... Got there for 10:20 am, parked the car and ran over to the Contemporary Art Building... 5 minutes to get my breath back....

Thankfully, things seemed to have been going well, some previous presentations had over run a little, and the timetable was running a few minutes late...

I had time to cool down and gather my thoughts... [How had I been so stupid!]

Ah well, there was nothing I could do but to put my best foot forward and "blag" it, confidently presenting in the best way I could.

Best foot forwards, stiff upper-lip and all that.  I hadn't felt so nervous (and foolish), for a long time, my mind was churning, and I knew it would affect my delivery, even though I knew my material back to front almost!

Being too honest perhaps, I decided to mention it very quietly to my tutors, shortly after entering the room, "...Unfortunately, the the swish-animated-Prezi-version was 'trashed' at 9:20 or thereabouts, this morning, so I hope they did not mind if I used a static .pdf version instead?" [or similar words to that effect]...
"No, that is fine" was the reply.
I'm glad to say, they immediately put me at ease, and off I went...
- I was not at all very polished, nor as unflustered as I would have liked, but I did my best to get the messages across in a relaxed, yet confident way. Hopefully convincing the tutor's that my year's work to date was still very valid and progressing well; which of course, with their help, it had been. I think I did sort of OK but felt incredibly despondent with the morning's events and I've been worried ever since.  I recognise that failure can be a good learning tool, but why does it have to happen at critical moments I wonder.  Perhaps my tiredness of driving so much recently has been doing more harm than I thought?


  • Overall, I could definitely have done a much better delivery I think, but the content and messages were generally made in the right way; I believe, albeit, in a very unpolished, amateurish and rather 'clunky' way.  I'm certainly not happy with what I did.
  • I was very flustered, and the lesson "not to alter anything in a presentation at the last minute unless absolutely vital" has been cemented.  I should, (and did), have known this already.  Something similar happened to me before when I was unexpectedly asked to give someone else's presentation at a major customer meeting many years ago, and my delivery was appalling then. I replayed those embarrassing memories and emotions and cursed my bungling for many months afterwards.  Perhaps I need to listen to myself and such recollections more!
  • As it turned out, it took me the rest of the afternoon to completely re-draw and re write the animated "Prezi" version online.  
  • I probably didn't need to do this, but I felt that I had to make a new digital Prezi version for completeness, and for my own sake of perfectionism.  I finished the down load of both the static copy and the electronic version to 'Turnitin' by about 7:15 pm that night, 4 hours later than planned. 
  • When I drove up to Northumberland through some horrible weather, the A1 was shut, so had to make a long detour, and by the time I got to the cottage, it was nearly midnight.  I was shattered, and very down in my mood. It's taken most of today to come around and start thinking a little bit more positively about what my tutors said to me.
  • I know now that I need to put all that behind me.  
  • It was a real mess in my mind on Friday, and I felt utterly demoralised, but I know I need to push forward, I shall take a break for this next week or so, recharge, and perhaps re-evaluate things.  
  • I still need to spend some time with my poor suffering wife who has been so amazingly supportive, and I just need to get on with more drawing too!   
  • I have the opportunity now, I just need to get down to it!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Just about getting there! - Book submitted on time, but 'Turn-it-in' was down, creating a day of opportunity.

It's been an uphill struggle this week, and in reflection, the best-laid plans of mice and men fell apart a little bit at the weekend as I had to attend a 75th birthday party for a dear friend of many years, and ended up spending much longer there than anticipated.
This put out Sunday for much writing and reading, but I spent Monday concentrating on finishing my Peregrine essay.

There is a bit of uncertainty in my mind as to whether I am hitting the mark with regards to trying to thread all of the various voices of my research into this, now "short book".
While I have tried to incorporate the main players of research into the document, I am conscious that I have had to leave many of them out. This is because (while they are relevant on my influence), I feel that it is inappropriate to simply list the various contexts of power and juxtapose them with the references that I have chosen to include, (such as Prof Tim Ingold, Donna Haraway, John Berger, Thom van Dooren and others).  The inclusion of other sources in any detail will make the work far too big, beyond the 14,000-word limitation set by the module criteria.  I'm therefore taking a bit of a risk, but I need to leave them out!

The intention was to print my book completely at the University on Tuesday, but having lost a couple of days at the weekend, I ended up going right to the wire and finally finished formatting, proofreading and correcting minor errors until midday on Wednesday. I was then able to print out a draft copy on Wednesday afternoon for myself, and a hardcopy was lodged with the ADA office precisely at the deadline time of 4:30 PM!


I'm generally quite pleased with the final outcome of the book, although having now submitted a hard copy, I was unable on Wednesday night to upload the digital version to Turnitin (the University's online essay submission repository)! This was because some unforeseen maintenance on their system had overrun from Tuesday the 18th which meant that we were unable to submit work electronically at all. Thank goodness I had been able to leave a hard copy with the secretarial staff!

However, having now had a chance to review and read my draft version, to be expected, I have found some typos and minor errors. Thankfully, I have used the extra time that Dr Bailey has kindly given us (until next Monday 24th July) as a result of the system maintenance outage to make corrections in the electronic version. I have therefore been able to submit the document a little earlier than the new deadline, this morning (21st), a corrected digital version through Turnitin.
Feeling quite pleased and relieved, I thought I'd write this quick blog this morning before taking a couple of breaths.


  • Life has been very hectic over this past couple of weeks with our new cottage, and the travelling time of 3 1/2 hours each way is somewhat exhausting. Nevertheless, I'm also conscious that my wife Julie has seen very little of me for the past nine months or so whilst I've been focused on my master's degree. So I am trying hard to make sure that she is happy, while at the same time driving up and down the A1 from West Yorkshire to Northumberland on a regular basis. 
  • To cap it all, this weekend, were off to a wedding in a remote part of Wales for three days, which again is going to eat into my production time for the presentation I need to create for a week on Friday! Nevertheless, I'm reasonably confident that as I had started the presentation a couple of weeks ago, the format is reasonably fixed. The content is very much based on a replay of the development of my book, and so I should be able to finish this off on Monday and Tuesday next week, before driving Julie back up to the cottage late on Tuesday evening so new furniture can be delivered! 
  • I can then stay there for Wednesday, keep polishing the "Prezi" before returning back south on Thursday morning. 
  • Any small adjustments I need to make to the presentation can be made on Thursday evening before the actual formal assessment that I have on Friday the 28th July.  A lucky day maybe? It's the Peruvian Independence Day (La Veinti-ocho de Julio) and national festive day there, and being a Peruvian born subject, I hope it goes well there, and for me here in the UK! 

Phew, it's gonna be a busy week!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Moving forward with the book, but still rather behind!

Having spent the last week up in Northumberland at our new cottage, the good intentions of trying to use this week as a focussed production time have all but evaporated!  I've got a fair bit done, but the intention of using yesterday to print off a finished copy of the book at the University came and escaped me as I'm still writing and adding to the content, rather than condensing it and cutting it down to more concentrated, distilled outcome.

Nevertheless, the format is pretty much fixed now, using InDesign has been a great help, and together with the great help from Dr MacDonald earlier in the week, following our one to one last Friday, I've taken her advice and notes and tried to conform to her recommendations, especially in the style of voice for writing 'in the voice of the Peregrine'.  I need to put some thought into how I can rearticulate the ideas of kinship of the Peregrine, - I agree with Juliet that 'Brothers & Sisters, Mothers and Fathers' type language is far too anthropomorphic and human centric.  It almost sounds like a Marxist or Unionist angle of the committee of Peregrines! - So these sections can be re-worded much better I think using a kin-ship approach.

I also like the idea of reading the essay "What is it like to be a bat" by Thomas Nagel.  Thankfully, that is an essay that appears in the recent acquisition I made of "Animals: Documents of Contemporary Art", by Whitechapel Gallery and MIT press.  IT also has an extract of John Berger's "Why Look at Animals" there too, together with Donna Haraway's "Companion Species Manifesto"... So this was a great buy and brilliant source of texts.

And finally, the recommendation Juliet made to seek out the essay, by Jakob von Uexküll: A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds, where he explores a concept of Umwelt, (or in-around-world... I remember 'um und um' means 'around and about' or some-such like, because I thinks it's one of those words that has multiple meanings depending on contexts (like, 'for' and 'too'), if I recall the German translation correctly), - anyway, this essay seems very promising.


  • Still lots to do! - I'm a bit behind with the intention of printing the book out on Friday this week, and so this will now likely be done on Tuesday ready for submission on Wednesday 19th July. 
  • I'm eating into my contingency a bit here, but arguably that's what it is built in for! - However, the distractions of last week and also having to take care of social engagements this weekend continues to put pressure on me that I could have avoided. 
  • Whenever I plan workloads in advance, I often make the mistake of making my plans fit in with actual 'work-load' only, and I don't build in enough contingency for personal and family commitments right into my plan.  I wish I had done this here too, as this last week has been frantic in many ways, and we're out for the rest of this weekend too now, so more work will back up. - Ah well!
  • I need to find a copy of Jakob von Uexkooll's essay that Juliet recommended.  It may be a little too late to influence my submission next Wednesday, only three days away effectively, but it will be worthwhile reading it before the presentation on 28th or certainly during the wrapping up in August, so there's still plenty of time to look at it I think. 


Ramos, Filipa. (2016), Animals: Documents of Contemporary Art, by  Whitechapel Gallery & MIT Press, London & Massachusetts.
Jakob von Uexküll: A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Format of the book, Thoughts on style and colour

The essay is coming along well.  My production is fitting appropriately with the time I have available, and a little light sketching ha been really useful through the creative process.  I've decided to keep my drawings and sketches sparse through the book as this artefact is really concentrations of the written word.  However, the act and performance of drawing help me to situate the writing as I move through the various stages.

With regards to the format of the dissertation, I felt that rather than create the standard and rather lifeless academic form of an A4 document, I have the artistic licence to make an interesting and engaging bound book.

The whole format of the design needs to be considered carefully to gain maximum appeal...

There is an element of a historical feel in my explanation of the relationship between humans and Falcons/falconry, so rather than adopt the conventional fonts usually associated with academic writings, such as Times Roman, or Times New Roman, or perhaps the non-serif styles of Helvetica or Arial, I thought it would be appropriate to find a similar older font. 
However, for readability, it would be too fanciful to create the document in a Chancery, Gothic or 'fancy' script style of typeface; this could distract the reader too much, and while I am bending the academic rules a little, it is valid to think that I should constrain myself a little and not bend them too much.

So, after this careful deliberation, I  have decided to use the older Caslon type font.  William Caslon was a master engraver of London, who between 1692 -1766 (his lifetime), developed much of the foundation for many of the serif style fonts still in use today. (Wikipedia, 2017).

What also makes a beautiful connection to my story, although I've decided to avoid putting this link into the essay text, is that William Caslon's company had a long history with Chiswell Street in London's St Luke's parish, Islington.  This street is just off Moorgate / Finsbury Pavement and near to Finsbury square.  This was the traditional heartland of the 'new' finance district in the 'City of London', and I spent many years working with the Financial Services Authority (what was), and later, my company head office, between 2010 and 2013 was based at No. 1 South Place, just on the other side of Moorgate from Chiswick Street.  My peers, management, and I regularly dined at the Chiswick Street Dining Rooms, and the area was quite well known to me during my last few years with the company.  So Chiswick Street, and hence Caslon, is another mysterious connection to my journey overall.

With regards to the book cover, this has prooved to be a more difficult assimilation.   The Peregrine must form a striking and yet appealing image to the first view of the book.  It's likely that a cropped version of a drawing that I made some time ago will form the frontispiece. I have yet to decide on which one though...

The background might be rather dull if I left it as plain white.  A bright colour is likely to be more noticeable, but there must be some connection to the book or my story.  This has been a problem to ponder for a while over the last week. - Yellow or Orange are obvious choices initially, but there is little connection still.

Lots of thinking about this have resulted in the conclusion that a bright light blue might be suitable, especially as Huddersfield has an identity with this light cyan colour through it's older football team colours? - Perhaps this is the way froward.  A few experiments are called for no doubt.


  • More connections/coincidences are looming and being overturned. 
  • I'm thoroughly enjoying the rollercoaster ride and looking forwards to what happens next!
  • I must be careful to keep the focus on the actual story and journey relevant to the narrative.  While I can make references to past events of my career here in my blog, I think it is important not to confuse this with my core narrative of "The Peregrine" and keep the theme of AJ Baker's writings in mind. 


Wikipedia, 2017,

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Reflections on a tutorial with Dr Juliet MacDonald, Friday, 7 July 2017.

Had a very constructive discussion with Juliet last Friday after my meeting with Richard, and have allowed a few days in between to let my thoughts settle on so much content.
Juliet agreed with the idea to totally immerse myself in the writing that I intend to do over the next week or so, and suggested our cottage could be a "writer's retreat". I like that idea!
I explained that I have indexed all of my blogs which are useful for helping me to reference. I did mention that there were some blogs which are still in draft form, where I am trying to find further information for references within them and other areas where I can distil. In the learning that I obtained at the time and the need to paraphrase it, if it's relevant, for it to be published, much of it should be re-written.

The indexing process is useful in itself because it's made me review the year as a whole exercise.
With regards to the document and the title "A Speculative Re-visioning of the Peregrine", I bounced off the idea (in response to Dr Bailey's ideas and suggestions of making it into a book), as an artefact, and I was thinking about the format of a proposed book. In the ideal world, I felt that formats of something like an 'A5' size to get away from the usual straightforward academic A4 format.
- I need to think about the scale of the booklet, and it may be a combination of these measurements?
In artistic practice, it's possible to create any size of a format of course.

Moving on to the first review of the essay by Juliet, she liked the style of titles, and that there were 'not too many layers'.  
I'm intending to remove some of the more academic style headings, keeping the paragraphs of course, but at this stage, many of the headings are just there in place as an "aide memoir".
What I have also done, (bearing in mind there are approximately 10,000 words currently in the document), if I am aiming to produce something of A5 size, is to think about the readability of the text. I have some concerns as to whether it needs to be double-spaced as a standard academic paper, while I want it to be easily readable, do I have to conform to a classic format that I need to adhere to?

- Juliet confirmed that this was not necessary, as it is recognised that what I'm trying to produce is a book which is representative of a practice of research; that is, a creative research project, therefore it is taking an innovative format, and that includes the size and text spacing et cetera.

This means it can be any size or format that I choose. Whatever works best for me. I was delighted to hear this confirmation as it gives me a licence (as long as the text is readable and clear it is possible to go a little smaller with text size, and one and a half spacing is very acceptable).

Now that I have decided that it is not going to be of a standard academic format, I can be much more creative with the design of this book and am really pleased that I can go forward with a style of whatever I choose. I'm mindful though that so long as it is correctly referenced using APA6 referencing style, then I should not have any issues.

The drawings can also be included as marginalia, they relate to the original storyboard, and I have an intention of putting the document into InDesign. The Adobe InDesign application will allow me to set up a standard grid anyway.

Juliet provided some further examples and advice on using the drawings within the grid. Some of the books that Juliet referred to in the previous workshop were extremely useful, and indeed just after that session some months ago, I actually went out and bought the book "Grid Systems: in Graphic Design" by Josef Muller Brockmann, published by Niggli (1981). 12th edition published 2017.

I can then use the drawings and have a grid which allows columns for marginalia, text, spaces between text, layout help and so on built into the document as I am creating it.  This will be much easier to develop.

We also talked about the suggested book by Richard Grusin, "The Nonhuman Turn", which I managed to acquire from the University library just before our one-to-one on Friday.
This is a very useful book to read as it is a collection of essays, one of which Juliet recommended, and that jumped out at me, was an essay by Brian Massumi.  While at times it was a little bit difficult to read, did hold some of the essences of my enquiries and was certainly helpful for research. The Brian Massumi essay actually has a project at the end of the chapter, which can be followed by the reader, on the "Supernormal Animal" (Page 1).  This 'plan' allows one to 'index' an animal, and make it recognisable, finding the human in the animal, the passion, and introduce the human being into its animal becoming.
This is interesting because I recognise that it is impossible not to be a human being, when trying to see the world through another creatures perception. It is therefore impossible not to anthropomorphise in some way. Nevertheless, in a kind of confluence to Massumi's thoughts, in this essay I am trying to produce I have already speculatively written a couple of sections by using my own humanly orientated imaginings of peregrines perception of the world, and written in a style as if it was the peregrines own voice.
In addition to The Peregrine's Story, and as a kind of nod to Donna Haraway, I have also chosen to write a section entitled The Dogs Story. The intention with this is to put an alternative spin on the writing by Haraway of her Companion Species Manifesto. Whilst I accept that this is slightly mischievous, there is in fact a serious point that I'm trying to make in supporting Haraway's assertions, by thinking about the dog's point of view, rather than the human observations that could be perceived in isolation. Clearly it is speculative, and totally made up, but nevertheless, hopefully it engages the reader to see things from a different point of view. This is the crux of what I'm trying to do.
Regarding "the Chora" part of Grusin's book, (Section 8, Form / Matter / Chora: Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism by Rebekah Sheldon p. 193, the author is talking about two different modes of academic scholarship, which is Speculative Realism (and especially Object-Oriented Ontology of Graham Harman and the likes), and the contrasting, yet symbiotic ideas of New Materialism; particularly the Feminist New Materialism approaches which include Karen Barad and Donna Haraway. So juxtaposing those theorists, with Graham Harman and OOO, it highlights the two different approaches. How these two theories intersect in my own project could be talked about in my essay perhaps?   Or I could put this discussion into my CRS after the research has had time to assimilate in my mind.  I need to think towards which approaches I lean towards myself... Is it the Graham Harman OOO approach or the Karen Barad FNM version?

This is particularly useful in helping me to situate the two areas of theory.

(Erin Manning also writes in this book "The Nonhuman Turn" a section called "Artfulness", p45, which would be helpful for me to read too).

I also mentioned that I had found work by John Berger (1977), "Why Look at Animals" which is a different view, but this time from the 1970s. His writings still have poignancy even 40 years later. This is very appropriate because it is about seeing and looking in the visual process too, so this is been a precious find.
Juliet very kindly offered to read my essay so far, but I know that I need to rewrite large amounts of it, and areas where I have potentially yet to introduce some new parts.
Juliet pointed out that whilst this is a reflective essay, there may be ways in which I can cut down my own decision-making discussion as much, and I could make a number of sentences more succinct. That is, for example, instead of me saying "it is important to state ... blah blah, something" I should just only "state" it!
So the essay can be far more statement orientated.
The greatest difficulty for me is to manage all of the various voices which covers anthropology, philosophy, sociology. Juliet pointed out that as soon as I claim to be the voice of a dog then it makes sense that it is speculative writing. A dog is a whole species, whereas an anthropologist is not, they have their own particular practice and sets of training and so generalising an academic discipline, and not specifically repeating a voice of an individual may become problematic.
An idea that Juliet suggested might be to change the typeset, such as to italicize the voice of the dog or the Peregrine, but this is something I need to think through. Whether this is appropriate or not might need some sort of introduction? Perhaps what I ought to do is explain somewhere in the document why I have chosen to adopt the voice of these animals?
Another area that I discussed with Juliet which I'm unsure about, was that now that we recognise I can write the book as a creative product, I still do want to be able to lend itself towards an academic document as research for my masters degree. I was a little concerned because I am still expecting to put research methods et cetera into the essay. Should this go into my book? Whilst there is a fair bit of this discussion on my blog, I'm also assuming that I will need to reflect, that is to create a critical reflective summary of the truly creative piece, the 30% submission up to September. So not sure where this should fit with regards to research strategies and how I discussed them? I need to think about this clearly, and keep some ideas open-ended.
When I submit the 30% practice it would be acceptable to provide a CRS with research strategies at that stage, but my thoughts on grounded theory as a research strategy (which comes from social sciences, and interviewing): they start with a problem and end with a quantitative outcome. A typical question might be 'how would people respond when somebody is going into a care home' for instance? At that stage they don't actually know the question, and so the research argument comes out of the outcomes of interviews.
It may be possible to adapt grounded theory, and Juliet explained how a PhD student has used a series of paintings as experiments, and then produced a coding wall as she calls it, and then from unable to find key terms and pick things out from it. This provides an opportunity through a quantitative analysis.
Art applied through the theory by actually doing the practice in itself and this is a kind of appropriation of the grounded theory method from social sciences. Therefore it does not operate exactly like Glazier and Strauss's had originally stated but nevertheless uses some of its methods.
The strategy often emerges from the research practice itself, and I could argue that this has been established to grounded theory even though there is a similarity. If in future I do want to use some kind of coding, and coding wall, it may be something in distinguishing where the boundaries are to make sense through a qualitative and quantitative reflection.

A nice model of writing academic narratively to consider our various essays and books by Rebecca Cellnet, wanderlust is one and a Field guide to getting lost is the other book that I have managed to get copies of.
An alternative idea that Juliet suggested was to create some sort of map, is a visual guide,
as a kind of step-by-step? Perhaps at something for me to consider for my CRS.

Also, I provided an update to Juliet of all of my research over the last two weeks as a summary document. I'm feeling quite confident that it is beginning to come together, there is a lot to do still but my themes and goals and objectives are still on target.


  • The book/artefact can be any size or format that I choose. Whatever works best for me.
  • Use the drawings and have a grid which allows columns for marginalia, text, spaces between text
  •  CRS after the research has had time to assimilate in my mind.  I need to think towards which approaches I lean towards myself... Is it the Graham Harman OOO approach or the Karen Barad FNM version?
  • Make much more of the essay sentences more succinct! 
  • Grounded theory method is a method of generating data, it is not a theory as such. Research through practice and practice through research is incredibly variable, and my dilemma is to whether or not to put this completely into my blog or into a creative artefact as an essay?


Berger, John (1977), "Why Look at Animals", in About Looking, Pub. 1980, Random House, London.
Brockmann, Josef Muller   (1981), "Grid Systems: in Graphic Design", published by Niggli. 12th edition published 2017.
Grusin, R. A. (2015). The nonhuman turn.  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
... and, Rebekah Sheldon p. 193,  Section 8, Form / Matter / Chora: Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism
... and, Erin Manning in "The Nonhuman Turn" - "Artfulness", p45

Friday, 7 July 2017

Reflections on a one-to-one tutorial with Richard Mulhearn, 7th July 2017

The conversation started with a general question as to what my current thoughts were; In essence, I was reconfirming my intention to produce 70% of my submission in written form and 30% as practical outputs.

I felt that I was on track with the 70% written piece for a week next Wednesday, that is, for the submission date of 19 July. I am in a good position with the document, having already written a substantial part of it even though, as agreed with Dr Bailey and Dr MacDonald, I would be producing the output in a book form rather than the standard academic paper format.

Approximately 10,000 words have already been written out of the 14,000, and my intention is to lock myself away for the next week in our cottage in Northumberland to finish off the writing of this document!

I was extremely reassured when Richard provided very encouraging feedback and said that he was not at all concerned with my work. He said that I have all the material that I need and if anything, it is probable that I need to stop my research now, and just articulate and condense my findings.

As I have already indexed all of my previous blogs, which has been a great help in returning to reread them at times, has helped a great deal with the creation of the book. With approximately 110,000 to 120,000 words currently in the blog, there is a huge amount of resource that I can work with.

One of my plans today was to print out all of the blogs for easy reference.

Richard observations were that with that amount of material, I need to drill in and eject (to distil) the information, and 'that' will determine my success. I am worried about the distillation of the information, and anxious to make sure that it is correct and valid. I recognise also the need to get the voice right, and I bounced the idea off Richard,  that as there are so many voices within my research, the approach that I'm probably going to adopt; and the one that I think I want to go forward with, is to actually write 'within' the voices of the various players?

By anthropomorphizing, I'm giving the Peregrine a human voice, and whilst I didn't want to do this initially, having read so much with Donna Haraway, and more recently, Richard Grusin (The Nonhuman Turn (2015)) and various others, plus John Gray's Silence of Animals (2016) together with the recent book (Animals: Documents of Contemporary Art, by Filipa Ramos, 2016), I acquired from Whitechapel gallery, together with what I think is probably a classic, which is John Berger's (1980)"Why Look at Animals" (which Richard confirmed was an amazing document in itself, and surprise that this was the first time that we have mentioned it).

Getting the voice correct, with a number of messages to verbalise is critical according to Richard and I entirely agree. While I do have research material, with research methodology and so on, considered with the research strategy and my own voice needs to be clearly enveloped, included too.

In discussion with Richard, I also mentioned the social sciences idea of Grounded Theory Methodology (which Richard confirmed is familiar with), and how it may be possible, that this strategy, where there is a 'non-linear', yet a massive amount of research data can be considered and distilled?  This may be a similar process that I may be able to adopt with some variation too perhaps. The GT process is all about a kind of wandering and serendipity, in the way that things are 'found'.

To describe my own research strategy, rather than a "methodology", this Grounded Theory 'strategy' by Glazier and Strauss, (who originally discovered it, and they themselves describe it as a "discovery"), is appealing to me as it is very 'non-linear'.

I'm currently combining this GT idea, because the more I write it seems the more that I want to research!

The distillation is critical with this approach, because while I want to say that I have a strategy that can narrow down, and focus, with a timescale set on it. In this case it is the cut-off point aiming towards a week next Wednesday (about 10 days time on 19th July). However, I feel I can make a conclusion without it being a final resolution, and there's an opportunity to leave things sufficiently open for further study should I wish.

Richard agreed that it is more than sufficient for me to say something along the lines of "at this point in time, these are the findings et cetera".   Richard also confirmed that whilst there is still work to do, it seems clear that I understand my methodology; to encapsulate the direction and wandering through the materials and theories towards findings, and in 'getting the voice correct'.

Just to recap then, my intention is to talk in terms of the Peregrine itself, to talk in terms of an anthropologist/biologist; to talk in my own voice as well.

Thinking through this, the argument of the studies perhaps could be the exploration of how voices could be linked together? Otherwise, they could end up being discreet? Do I need to think about this?

What links all of these 'voices' nicely, is the book itself "The Peregrine"... But, I need to be careful that all of the voices interact with each other, but also draw together through the book itself.

Part of the distillation process needs to be a clarity in each of the voices and how they are talking so that they can relate to each other. The central core of the work from which all of the voices emanate, and what each of them is saying in relation to the core, is what is important here?

How then, whatever it is that they are saying, relate to each other?

The book will need some careful editing. My intention is to produce an awful lot more than the final output, and possibly between 20 to 25,000 words can then be condensed down to the 14,000 words that I need in readiness for Monday 17th, as a printing day, with Tuesday 18th as a contingency. I will then be able to submit it in readiness for the Wednesday the 19th July deadline as a fully functioning 'prototype'.

At the moment the essay is very much a report style. But as mentioned earlier, the book will become a much more lyrical output combined with drawings. What I have already created is the scaffolding, which will then be stripped away within the book itself.

An observation that Richard made, was that in a lot of my writing it seems that I am searching, together with the reader, in a kind of clarification style language?  That is, I tend to say things in a certain way and then perhaps 'reword' them and repeat the substance of my conjecture or statement.
I need to watch that.
I need to be clear about the words and confident with the voice!!

How is my own story in all of this documented?
- My findings come towards the end, and what these are, are very much based on my journey.
While I introduced this idea of a journey at the beginning of the book, I've introduced the other, of the voices as narrative, as a lyricism if you like. But then at the end of the book, is a summing up using my own voice, of what I have found.

Equally, I've taken on board entirely, the idea that the 'finding' of my photograph in Helen Macdonald's book is wonderfully serendipitous, but I shouldn't make a fanfare of it. So this element is left towards the end, not presented as a final fanfare, more of a reflection of how I was, - say 12 years ago. The journey in itself is not just this year's journey but it is almost like a 12-year journey, and it lays out grounds for further study and further consideration.

This reflects on me because of how I have changed so completely as to what I was 12 years ago, and my own position 'in' the world and 'of' the world, is extremely different to how it was 10 or 12 years ago. Richard wanted to confirm if this was still part of the work? - Because if that is the case, this is less about the Peregrine and more about me? I need to think about this carefully because this is kind of satellite stuff and may distract the message.

However, in thinking about this, what I do feel, is that in many of (if not most of) the books that I've read, including The Peregrine itself (JA Baker, 1967), and Helen Macdonald's H-is-for-Hawk (2014), but also the theoretical references such as Donna Haraway, Tim Ingold, and even the great John Berger himself, is that all of these books are written around the authors themselves.


The conclusion is, there is no escape from the anthropomorphising, the anthropocentric reflection. 

Despite trying to get away from this, it is simply impossible, and so this is why I feel that the philosophy of Speculative Realism is so important in this work too.  - I have to try and view the world from a completely different vantage point, the rejection of Immanuel Kant's ideas of human sovereignty over everything else. This idea of, if you like, 'domination of the universe' from a human centric point, is what is of critical importance here.

Richard observations were that, as my own observations, that the author is central to the work makes absolute sense, and tone and voice do not need to be sugared (which is something that I tend to do). I shouldn't be worried about that though.  I do need to make sure that the process, is about confidence. I should be able to say things only once, rather than three times, and that is the distillation. This takes time and I may not get it right each time, but Richard agreed that this just needs to be practised.  I suspect this schema within my own mind, that constant looking for reassurance, comes from my childhood, but also probably from the people that I live with too, as I'm always unsure of what is expected of me, or if I am being understood.

This was a great session with Richard, I'm confident in what I need to do, but with his help and guidance have been able to improve my confidence, which I struggle with a great deal. Richard's closing words were that it is not the collection of material that is important but the distillation and clarity of delivery, with beautiful elegance. Talking about extremely complex things, but making it simple is what is required.


Grusin, Richard A. (2015) The Nonhuman Turn
Gray, John. (2106) Silence of Animals
Ramos, Filipa (2016), Animals: Documents of Contemporary Art, by  Whitechapel Gallery, 
Berger, John (1980) "Why Look at Animals" 
Baker, JA (1967). The Peregrine, 
Macdonald, Helen (2014), H-is-for-Hawk 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Reading John Berger's "Why Look at Animals" (1980)

Amazingly, I have only just realised that I had been missing an incredibly well-qualified contributor towards the influences of my intended essay, and view of the Peregrine. In the 1970s, John Berger produced some of the most significant articles in support of vulnerable and exploited women, virtually at the height of the early feminist movement. Women were historically and previously seen as "objects" in the arts, ostensibly by men, and Berger's famous documentary produced by the BBC entitled "Ways of Seeing" (published in 1972 as a book to accompany the series of three films, by Penguin books) was game-changing. The series was based on seven separate essays, repositioned through critical questioning of many historical and archaic notions of art, bringing a new dimension of public understanding.

Berger went on to write about and support other repressed, oppressed and displaced beings in addition to humans, and turned his attention to animals imprisoned in zoo environments. In 1977, he wrote an essay called "Why Look at Animals" which would later appear on a collection of further essays entitled "About Looking" published in 1980, by Pantheons books, London, part of Random House publishing. It is this essay, "Why look at Animals" that is of interest to me here.

The essay opens with a historical re-cap on our [human] relationship with animals, the interdependence that we had with many creatures. For example, in western and eastern cultures with horses, as working colleagues to pull the plough, provided fast transport, milk and meat, together with clothing at times and our respect built over millennia.

Cattle too for instance initially were not considered as food sources, but instead, as still displayed in certain religions such as Hinduism, cows were found to be holy, or magical. There many cults and religions that believe that individual cattle have capabilities of transcendental knowledge and awareness far beyond their human hosts.  Most world religions have a 'bull worship' element of practice at some stage of their development: in the Christian, the story of the Golden Calf being just another example.

Our relationship with animals has however completely changed over the past 150 to 200 years, and the notions we once had, of creatures sharing our world, with a type of mutual respect, has virtually dissolved.

Berger remarks upon how animals look at humans, and he considers how they might view other creatures too. In this sense, he refers to how people also look at animals and in an almost uncanny way, they returned they gaze. It is as though there is a mutual "non-comprehension" and the massive gap lies between us. He goes on to explain that language, that human characteristic, helps to join men together, even though they may not speak the same dialect or language. (Berger, in Kalof, L. and Fitzgerald, A. (2007) pp253). Whereas, he assumes that this language, (which I have begun to call a vehicle for mutual rapport), is unbridgeable between human and animal?

Interestingly, Berger also identifies how companionship with animals and humans has shaped our human development. He calls this an intercession, which I think is an accurate description, and he points out the notion that it is people who have failed to continue to make efforts to communicate with animals in their own language. He cites mythical characters such as Orpheus who were able to communicate and develop a rapport with other creatures for mutual benefit.

The influence of animal deities from prehistoric times continued through ancient Egyptian and Greek history, some of which I've already discussed in previous blogs, and the anthropocentric habit of adopting individual animals to exhibit human traits and vice versa through anthropomorphism is also scrutinised. This is particularly interesting in regards to the parallels of my own research findings.

Berger goes on to talk about how it seems that domesticated animals and man were running parallel through time. Death brings them together. Does that mean that generally the killer and the killed join at some point? He touches on this in the common global beliefs "of the transmigration of souls" (Ibid. pp253).

Dualism and parallelism with our relationship with animals have however been lost is already discussed. Animals and their significance as metaphors in human language are also explored through the writings of Rousseau. Commonalities between creatures and humans have long been a source of wonder and explanation. We humans saw in animals similarities and desired attributes, as well as unfavourable and distasteful connections, amongst all our differences. Berger's intercession and observations of our own human origins are also made through metaphors and analogies of earlier writers and commentators. Way before Aristotle, before close scrutiny in the methodical, stringent and analytical ways of the Greek Academy, texts such as those of Homer, such as the Iliad, remark upon symbolic metaphors and semiological signifiers through the use of unemotional recounts of the death of both animals and humans on the battlefield. There is little distinction between the two as death is treated in just the same way for both. In a way, animals and humans are treated entirely equally (Ibid. 254).

Berger goes on to identify "anthropomorphism was the residue of the continuous use of the animal metaphor. In the last two centuries, animals have gradually disappeared. Today we live without them. And in this new solitude, anthropomorphism makes us doubly uneasy." (p255).

This observation is of particular importance because of its timing, in the mid-1970s. During that time there was much intellectual debate about the conditions that animals, both domesticated and those kept in the Zoological Gardens were being confined in. Moreover, creatures that were wild and free were also being recognised as subjects of persecution. Berger points out that Descartes and his division through dualism of the mind and the body, the division between the soul and the physical human body, led the way forward that as animals could not, therefore, have a soul, then they were nothing more than physical automatons like machines. The parallelism, the perceived mutual interconnected respect between animals and humans, and more importantly the actual connectedness understood by humans to animals, dissolve at this point.

Our assumed human elevation and dominance over animals, by "conquering" their individual powers, has been the general story for the last 250 or so years. References to animal behaviour and observations of their existence have become, what Berger terms "nostalgia", manifested as a development since the period of enlightenment. (Ibid. p255). It is only since the mid 20th-century that things have begun to change.  This concurs with Baker's observations and other early alarm sounders such as Rachel Carson, together with very many contemporary writers of the 1980s onwards.

In the next section, Berger starts to discuss the more modern phenomenon of the keeping of domestic pets. Originally, as already described, domestic animals invariably had some kind of particular product, whether it was meat, milk, eggs, fur or wool, or another useful by-product. Domestic pets, however, serve merely as companionship for the most part.  They perform little more than to establish the owner with a sense of control over another being (especially, I believe with dogs and their owners).

Rounding up the concept that humans have lost touch with animals as kinds of equals within the world, phenomena with which I also concur with Berger, that he says has only occurred over the last 150 or so years.  He demonstrates the disconnection between humans and animals by exploring the way that humans look at zoo animals.  Those imprisoned creatures that have been marginalised by humans to such an extent that when we look at them, they are unable to look back at us in any way approaching how they might look at us if they were truly wild and free.  Instead, they have been so conditioned to be looked at that their stereotypical behaviours of pacing at the edge of their domains become so repetitive (through acute boredom no doubt) that they have lost the capacity to either view us as potential prey or potential threat.  The whole experience for us humans, therefore, has become one of theatre or 'museum'.  He likens the zoo to an art gallery in this respect too, in that viewers pass along a conveyor of gaze in each animal enclosure, similar to the somewhat blank gaze of many visitors observing art objects and paintings.

Berger finishes off with a declaration that I interpret as 'the human to animal - animal to human' connection that we once had, is now irretrievably lost.


  • An excellent source of writing and reflection.  
  • The synergies with some of my own thoughts are more than apparent, and I will use this reference to greater effect within the essay.
  • A text of vital importance and widely recognised, its contents are as valid today as they were forty years ago when they were first written.


Berger, J. (1980). Why Look at Animals from About Looking, Berger, J. (1980). Pantheon Books, A division of Random House, London.   Cited in whole in Kalof, L. and Fitzgerald, A. (2007) The Animals Reader, pp 251- 261.  Retrieved from Google Scholar, 4th July 2017. At
Berger J. (1972).  "Ways of Seeing" (Originally published in 1972, London, Penguin Books, 2008, Penguin Design Series edition).

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Getting into the flow of writing and drawing.

The need for uninterrupted concentration when writing and drawing is essential for me, and my recent acquisition of the cottage that I'm now sitting in, while on the one hand provides me with a wonderful base of complete peace and solitude: but on the other, requires a fair bit of work to be done on the house in terms of thoroughly cleaning it, rearranging and buying new furniture, painting and decorating and generally making our mark on the property. I simply can't ignore this, and my rather obsessive need to keep putting things right often gets in the way of my creative flow.

The idea of coming away from the University and my normal bustling and busy home environment was, nevertheless, a very sound one. I have been able to write alternative points of view for the various components of my research themes as intended, I probably have more than enough words. However what I recognise as being important is to make sure that these words are re-crafted, reshaped and "re-wordsmithed".

The process of honing and polishing the work of writing often takes as much time as the initial commitment itself. I just need to keep pushing myself through and keep working, together with generating good quality ink drawings as intended.


There is still much to do, but I'm feeling reasonably comfortable that what I have set myself to do as an overall goal, is indeed achievable. Nevertheless, my focus must remain absolutely fixed!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Thinking about my essay for the 70% creative submission

I've been trying to work out the most efficient way to writing my essay while at the same time incorporating a sufficient level of artistic practice based on drawing.

Having considered creating a research article, my feeling is that it would lack some of the magic that I am trying to capture as an original document. This has been troubling me for some weeks, and how I will incorporate the multitude of research sources that I have been reading throughout the past nine months or so, would have been very difficult. Thankfully, following a conversation with Dr Rowan Bailey last week, and reviewing the structure created through the storyboard, a sensible option to take forward is to create an artefact which includes as many of the original voices picked up from my research as stories in themselves.

I have spent the last couple of days tucked away in our bolthole up in Northumberland, and the local landscape is truly inspirational. I was up at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the dawn chorus has woken me up. Just outside the window to the sitting room, overlooking the rear garden to the property, one can see through the stock fence to the meadows beyond. At this border between manicured garden and the barley field is a thin strip of fallow land which the farmer leaves to allow the smaller creatures to find suitable habitat. At such an early hour, it was thronging with life and vitality. Between the fence and this margin, a whole family of stoats marched and bounced across the meadow grass.
Sketch of Stoat Family at Cuthbert Cottage, GP Hadfield (June 2017)

 Tiny little white throats sat on the ears of barley and at the tops of the fence posts, a small flock moved across the field beyond. Red-footed partridges croaked the morning songs to each other.
Like the dawn of the new day, it dawned on me that each of these creatures had their own stories to tell. How they see the world through their own eyes and with their own sentient mind will always be impossible for humans to truly know. Nevertheless, in a creative piece of writing, I would have full licence to try and project my own (clearly anthropocentric) interpretation of what they may be thinking?

With this in mind, I have decided to attempt to narrate the Peregrine's story in the first person context. Equally, I can compare that narrative with a "first person" narrative from other creatures, as well as adopt the same tactic, even a strategy, for the many learning research fellows that I have taken reference and inspiration from.

My creating a small book which reflects these voices, as well as provides an opening and closing series of sections to match a research essay style, I am banking on this being an interesting, unusual yet highly creative way of explaining my desired projects for my master's degree. I do hope that this gamble is appropriate and pays off. I thought about this for some time and realise that I have nothing to lose in taking a risk to complete the first creative artefact for submission in mid-July.


  • For the next few days, I intend to concentrate entirely on creating these alternative narratives.
  • I need to make sure that my various research sources that are appropriate are included within the story and narrative.
  • Taking on board the suggestions and recommendations from Richard Mulhearn, Dr MacDonald and Dr Bailey should provide me with ample structure for the finished article.
  • I need to totally immerse myself for the next couple of weeks to not only write the original narrative but also to ensure the format of the document with appropriate drawings and marginalia is fit for purpose.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

All set, - reflections on a discussion with Richard Mulhearn

As always, I had another great conversation with Richard on Friday, who really instilled some confidence in me as to what I am doing.

A lot of things have been happening over the previous week, which may not have directly contributed to production for the major project, but nevertheless, now out of the way and I am able to refocus again on my work.

I felt that Richard was pleased that I was working on the storyboard as a structure to my essay and original artefact, and he asked some questions relating to the methods and generally "what was it about?".

I explained that I have re-evaluated, with Rowan's help, the best way forward for me to take. Originally I had started from the position of trying to write a formal academic essay, with the usual rigid foundations and heading format. However, after a few weeks of wrestling with this and putting it into a much more original context about the Peregrine, I have now adopted a format that is far better placed. Both regarding artistic context, but also readability as a story of my journey, rather than what could have been rather dry and stuffy report.

So to create a 70% essay, purely as a report would probably have been rather dull!

I am in the process of making this a story, as a practical piece and Richard agreed that it does not need to be constrained within the confines of the academic strategy. My current document is somewhere in between the moment. While it is following the general idea, instead of the traditional titles to each chapter, I've already paraphrased them into similar titles from Baker's book, plus more Peregrine orientated titles. There is a subtlety of following a kind of educational process, but not making it formal. What I was really pleased about on Wednesday after my meeting with Rowan was the ideas of introducing more art into the work, as a result of the previous conversation that I had had with Dr Juliet MacDonald, when she pointed me towards the work of Ernest Seton Thompson. He used to do lots of books with tiny little line drawings as marginalia. The illustrations are exquisite, and I have already blogged about Seton Thompson and his work in a recent blog.

My intention, therefore, is to do something similar in my own document, creating small line drawings in the margins of the story, as little signposts, almost like visual memoirs. My thoughts are to make it much more of a narrative the journey of my discovery, culminating eventually in this bizarre twist of finding me at the end of the voyage.

Richard suggested and was interested in me looking at a particular film, a slightly different subject, but a beautiful film entitled "Sleep Furiously". This can be rented on Amazon for approximately £2.50, and a small snippet, entitled "Snow", by the filmmaker Gideon Koppel was shown to me. In brief, it tells the story about a small village located in an isolated rural community in Wales. The filmmaker was born in the area and has a high affinity for the place.

Notebook sketch
 by Graham Hadfield, January 2017
Having watched the film over the weekend, it struck me just how similar the landscape of Wales resides in my own imagination, particularly in the drawings that I've created that are purely speculative and have no direct image or reference point that I've copied from. The short piece that Richard showed me on Friday had some remarkable similarities, quite fascinating even when compared to some of the drawings I've been making. For example, just a couple of these what I call speculative drawings are shown below, next to screenshots of Gideon Koppel's film.

Screen shot, Gideon Kappel, (2010), Sleep Furiously - Film
from a short clip called 'Snow', retrieved from

Photoshop, simple digital sketch, GP Hadfield, Feb, 2017.

The film resonates with me entirely, even though there is a different subject matter. The landscape is very similar to what much of that that I'm thinking. Some of the shots are incredibly evocative. The snow in the scene, the temporality of it all, a beautifully slow contemplative film, with very long cuts.
Screen shot, Gideon Kappel, (2010), Sleep Furiously - Film
from a short clip called 'Snow', retrieved from
I recognised the ideas of Gideon Koppel's and his association with this movie with the writing of Dylan Thomas quickly. The visual descriptions of people's faces, the descriptions of the landscape, the individuality of the characters and characteristics, a role written by Dylan Thomas, that have been visualised into this film by Gideon Koppel. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself into the 90 minutes or so of contemplation while I watched this movie.

I picked up on a piece of advice by Richard during our discussion, which was not to sensationalise (I think he may have said, "don't make it too dramatic") the strange twist, of finding myself in the photograph of Helen MacDonald. While he loves the idea of 'the curveball', I should resist making it too dramatic. My thinking is that it should be part of the process of making connections, rather than some amazing declaration or statement, and "a Ta Daar moment" as such. There is a significance in that it is "incongruous", but it is relevant. Richard felt that it locates me within the work. It is about finding me, which Richard believes is a gift. The structure is good, and Richard thinks that it is working. It enables me to use the connections and strange twists of adjustments and drawings. Richard feels that I'm ready to finish and was very encouraging, that we no longer need to explore key themes anymore, but still keep experimenting, still, keep working hard, there is still a long way to go! - I entirely agree!

I also mentioned that I'm looking at Tacita Dean, and I provided Richard at this point with a copy of my summary. Richard was delighted that I keep providing these to my tutors because in effect I am doing my creative reflective summary (CRS) continually. He really appreciated that this makes it so much easier for instructors to keep tabs on my activities and ways of thinking through the learning progressions.

The word equivalent for the CRS is likely to be between 3000 and 4000 words, plus or -10%, which includes all my notes and valuations. I need to make sure that I'm able to condense and distill the summaries. Richard was pleased that these work as a way of tracking my progress, drawing on the experience of working together with me. I also think that this is the easiest way for my tutors to quickly understand where I am visually, almost like a weekly report.

As part of the assessment process, Richard confirmed that it makes it far easier for the tutors to assess the work, reading the CRS, understanding what decisions I have made, where and what are the significant points, have I been able to recognise and contextualise them, what I'm reading, thinking about and making decisions upon fit with the rubrics of the assessment marking.

I was really pleased with the one-to-one I had with Richard and felt very encouraged with this feedback.



Friday, 23 June 2017

A very encouraging conversation with Dr Rowan Bailey, Wednesday, 21st June 2017.

It had been a challenging week in many ways for me, trying to juggle some really great personal opportunities (new house, etc.), which was taking up a substantial amount of my time, together with the applied focus that I needed to make in the creation of my essay. So I started the conversation with Rowan feeling a little battered and bruised!  Rowan put me at ease straight away!

To have a discussion with Dr Bailey to try to crystallise my thoughts a little further on how my reflective essay should take shape was what I needed. It had been a couple of weeks since my last check-in, and I was looking for some 'steerage' and reassurance. I provided a two-page summary update in the usual form (an up-to-date copy of which is shown below);

 together with a more recently annotated version of my storyboard (also shown below).

As the process of the structure of my reflective essay is still emerging, I have been a little uncomfortable in that my approach has been perhaps a little constrained by attempting to use the more traditional and perhaps formal academic research paper format. While I have already started my essay based on a paraphrasing of the 'official' titles, into a more speculative re-visioning of The Peregrine, I'm conscious that there is no argument as such within the title of the document. Whilst I have used the storyboard to start to think about what it is that I am going to use for its content, I am using the storyboard as an aide memoir, some structure or scaffolding. However, a major question I had for Dr Bailey, was an observation by Dr MacDonald. This was regarding the work of the early 20th-century writer and artist, Ernest Seton Thompson whom Dr MacDonald had steered me towards during the previous weeks. I've already written some of my initial findings on Thompson's work and in particular, how I love the idea of his stories being published with his own little aide memoir type sketches as marginalia to his books. These simple line and ink drawings are charming and exquisite, and they play perfectly together with the literature. My question to Dr Bailey was more of a kind of concern, as I want to deviate from the usual formal academic report style by adopting a similar, but a different method of including small ink drawings within my own text. My concern, of course, was to understand if this would be an acceptable deviation from the usual academic submission?

I was delighted to get a very positive response from Dr Bailey who confirmed that such expressiveness, especially since this is an arts-based Masters degree, is especially welcomed, and I need not concern myself with trying to conform to any kind of traditional academic style (other than of course, correct and proper referencing using the American Psychology Association (APA) method). Dr Bailey went on to confirm that as my writing is indeed very experimental piece, it is definitely acceptable to experiment both with the text and with the drawings as of the drawing can be part of the experience. Similarly, as the lines of research and enquiry and connections have so much in common with the study conducted by Prof Tim Ingold (and this is about his book Lines: a Brief History, (2007, 2016)). How the visual, and in particular the drawing emerges within writing in the process. Rowan confirmed that it may be, for my own piece of writing, the "beautiful little artist book" form, it does not have to be an academic paper. It can still have academic and critical rigour, and yet still be an art book.

This was incredibly reassuring for me. The next worry that I had regarding my production was the fact that much of my reading and research had been heavily academic. In previous papers, I'm conscious that I perhaps included too many references. I probably overcomplicated individual sections by putting too many references into a document from different sources. I am therefore thinking about starting to be more creative with my own opinions and thoughts as a postgraduate. I'm reticent to make independent views. Rowan was quick to clarify that the final major project is a creative piece. Therefore, if one was to be writing an academic essay is a report then personal opinions may be problematic, however as this is a creative output, rational and evidenced opinions formed through the critical analysis and reflection of the works of others means that, as an original piece of writing, there will no doubt be different "voices", or perhaps a better phrase may be "registers" coming in, to produce this artistic and creative artefact.

  • What are the voices in the project?
  • What are the perspectives that need to come interview?
  • So that would be about revisiting structure, and pulling out the key stories that I need to rip/or narrate as part of this process.
  •  I need to ask myself what the key moments, stories or findings that I need to be told in the speculative re-visioning are?

In thinking about this question a little further, although my initial thoughts were ideas for example from Donna Haraway et cetera, and from a background point of view, speculative realism needs to be discussed in a limited detail: perhaps some pointers to what it is at a fundamental level and how I have been able to interpret it on my own and adapt it to my own thoughts, including some of the history perhaps from Aristotle and Plato: but then coming back to the anti-anthropomorphic point of view, I can then start to talk about the stories that come into play. The story begins to unfold, I need to incorporate JA Baker's The Peregrine and his obsessive observations. I feel that obsessiveness of observation is what is critically important, from my own work. That is important as a story because of how he gets so close to the Peregrine, and in his mind becomes a Peregrine almost himself. This also leads on to Helen Macdonald, and H is for Hawk, and her own discovery of herself, and as a side link to that, her first book Falcon, before H is for Hawk, and then finally the surprising discovery on the back page of her book Falcon, and the photograph of me, in a former life.

While those were my initial thoughts of the reference points that I need to think about, Rowan correctly pointed out a slightly different view. That is, what stories would she like to read about in my (that is Graham's) speculative journey?  Those original thoughts with the academic theoretical journey, but not my own personal one!

Rowan asked a critical and brilliantly intuitive set of questions, which I paraphrase and ask myself, here;
  •  "Am I writing a piece about 'me' and my own journey of investigation into JA Baker's book?
  •  And how have I investigated and developed as a source point, my views to this, i.e. - to develop a research project through Baker's book?
  • And the journeys that I have gone on to attempt to do, in this investigation where the different bits of literature are coming into play?"
This can be a very creative process, & Dr Bailey recognised that at the core of this 'speculative re-visioning' is about shifting perspective!
This could be discussed later as part of the story, that I'm telling in a way. However, I agree with Dr Bailey that it is probably more important to set the scene early. It is after all, speculative, therefore has to be about shifting perspective not necessarily in a fictional way, but through intention nevertheless.

In other words, this is a story about shifting perspectives!

Thinking further then, on my own journey, I would invite the reader to accompany me, on my own journey of investigation into the book by JA Baker published in 1967. At first thought, the perspectives are all of the things that I have explored around Donna Haraway too. I do not have to do this in an academic sense, but I could do it through how my encounter with Haraway, and all the other sources (and how I have got to grips with them), has made me rethink aspects of Baker's book or my journey?

Rowan likened it to different voices;  These different voices, therefore, are voices of yourself. It's possible to even play with the structural form.
In shifting perspectives, for example, as a novel, there would normally be alternate chapters such as; the Peregrine's view, and the next chapter the human perspective, and the next chapter may be about the Peregrine's perception...
But all of these can be narrative points of view!

Even though it may be the Peregrine narrating something, and even though it's an "anthropomorphic gesture" (as Rowan put it), on my part, - That is, by me getting inside the raptor and imagining what the Peregrine might be thinking.

All of that creative play can be applied to a recollection of this whole past year of my journey, and as Rowan put it, "the phenomena" in a sense.

There is an opportunity, therefore, to experiment in, and through, the writing itself.


This conversation has been quite critical for me because it has opened the door for a much wider ability for me to create, as I felt somewhat stifled by trying to comply with the academic structure.

For example, I don't have to say that it's a particular document with an academic methodology - The method is the book, the investigation.

While I need tell a story, what I do need to include is;

  •  my position is of course, and theoretical positions, theoretical perspectives,
  •  my primary research for example around storytelling,
  •  my accounts of observations with landscapes, 
  • my discoveries of reading the various literature, 
  • my imagining of the Peregrine and the Peregrine's Journey, 
  • my 'struggle to situate' my drawings as ways of imagining the Peregrine's world. 
  • My own discovery, such as the experiences of temporality. 
  • The changing seasons, the journey as a process, 
  • the discovery of me, from a previous time. 

My own subjective, lived experiences start to come into the story that way.

The standard academic structure would have been a struggle to comply with.
Because I've been trying to do a project which is opening everything up and break boundaries, I would be making poetic reflections, but an academic format might (would) stifle these.

While the new chapter headings in the essay are entirely acceptable (see storyboard above), they should also allow me to tell the story of the process that I have been through.

I then need to try to create a structure of what the piece would be itself. That is a creatively written outcome.

....And all of the time thinking about shifting perspectives.

....Hanging onto my own voice as a creative researcher but also recounting the investigative journey.

As an attempt to take this forward I'm currently trying to index my previous reflections and blogs so that I can paraphrase and reflect upon the voyage.

So while the formal structure has been a block, this conversation is much more open for creative input and now OUTPUT!

The book itself must be a beautiful artefact!

To submit this with my blog in July as an original 70% piece of the major project is perfectly acceptable. Then the 30% part can be the visual outcomes and pieces that I have been thinking about.


Baker, J. A. (1967). The Peregrine (2015 Edition ed.). London: HarperCollins.
Haraway, D. J. (2008). When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
MacDonald, H. (2014). H is for Hawk. London: Jonathan Cape, Vintage, Penguin Random House.