No, you can’t come in.

The past few days the wonderful British weather has been quite variable. From horrendous downpours causing flooding, to beautiful sunny days that lift your spirits. Flowers and blossoms have bloomed and birds are singing loudly. Nest building is well under way and my cats are watching eagerly for signs of baby birds.

Kimi watching for rats

Our hens are enjoying the fine weather, lying on the grass and soaking up the rays.

xena gabs resting

willow trixie resting

Whilst other birds have been pecking at my bedroom window trying to get in. I presume they think my cluttered space is ideal for building a nest and raising chicks. After all it’s safer than outside, isn’t it?

Long-tailed Tit colour 1

Long-tailed Tit B&W 1

Not really, birds. You see, five cats live in the house, and, although I keep the door closed, it is opened regularly and well, a cat is fast. So no, you can’t come in, long-tailed tits, sorry.

Long-tailed Tit colour 2

Bye!

Long-tailed Tit B&W 2

I guess they heard me because after I took these photographs, they flew away.

Long-tailed Tit colour 3

Such pretty birds.

Long-tailed Tit B&W 3

I hope you love nature as much as I do. Thanks for reading.

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National Pet Day

Cats inspirational qoutes about cats(1)

Today is #NationalPetDay on Twitter. What better way to celebrate the friendship and love they give us by posting some pictures of my cats and chickens.

hens napping

kimi

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rasky posing

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I don’t think I could live without a cat in my life. They are wonderful creatures that only trust you when you deserve it. If you truly love a cat it will reciprocate and be your friend forever.

author photo B&W

Always respect a cat’s privacy

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Mess with a cat and be prepared to face the consequences.

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Ignore a cat at your peril.

Yourproblems

Happy Nation Pet Day everyone.

cold december-6

 

 

Light and writing – part one – Inspiration

Let there be light. Why? Because without it nearly all life on this planet would cease to exist. It heats, illuminates, nourishes and gives life. It also inspires works of art. As a writer, I can use light in many forms, natural, supernatural and artificial to enhance my narrative. As a photographer, well, I wouldn’t be able to take photographs without it.

In this series about light, I will be dealing with the many forms it takes. From the glowing backsides of fireflies to the many ways human beings have found to illuminate the darkness.

Nature is amazing. We humans are, for the most part, in awe of it and have been ever since we crawled out of the primal ooze. Nothing stirs the soul quite so much as a beautiful sunset, a sunrise, a mass of twinkling stars, or the constant glow of the moon.

purple sunsetThe sun gives us light and warmth, stars make us wonder about far off worlds, the moon illuminates our darkness with its wide-eyed face looking down on us like a distant mother watching her children. No wonder creative minds have used light as inspiration.

super moon

Many writers have used light to express happiness, love, hope, expectation and joy. Just listen to some songs, the word ‘light’ comes up quite often. ‘Light my fire‘ The Doors. ‘You lIght up My Life’ Debbie Boone. ‘Ray of Light’ Madonna. ‘Shadows and Light‘ Joni Mitchel, to name but a few. The same is true of literature: ‘Northern Lights‘ PhillipPullman. ‘The Light that Failed’ Rudjard Kipling. ‘Where the Light Last and other stories‘ Agatha Christie.

In my short story Glimmer, the protagonist, a young man resisting the drugs he is given to keep him ‘sane’, retreats into his own world and listens  for the voices that come from the stars.

The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour.”

glimmer front red 2

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

Watch out for Part two in the series: Religion and Light.

For more information about my work please visit my website: 

www.oddlybooks

Can cats and chickens become friends – part two.

In my previous post, you can see it here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/…/can-cats-and-chick…/

I talked about my cat Kimi and how she has bonded with our new hens.

kimi hen 4

I also mentioned that the chickens are kept away from our other cats, who aren’t as easy going as Kimi. Well, one of our feline friends got sight of our poultry for the first time and had a rather strange reaction.

storm yawn sideways

Mind you, if I were the size of Storm, the cat above, I would be a little frightened by these rather large birds with their massive feet and intense gaze.

gabriel

xena

Just as well they have separate gardens to hang out in. Calypso and her brother, Rasky, have a more relaxed approached to these big birds.

Calypso 1Rasky copy

On another note, my bee garden is a success. It looks so pretty and is attracting all kinds of bees and other fertilising insects. It is also kept well away from the marauding chickens.

cornflower-bee

bee garden 2

bee garden

Buck-buckaww folks!

Would you give up a portion of your garden to wildlife?

I live in the countryside surrounded by fields and am fortunate to have an acre of land. Despite having a main road at the front, lots of wildlife live in my garden. The reason? I have left many areas to grow naturally and hopefully, given a safe haven to many species that are on the brink of extinction.

blue dragonfly b

Yes, there are brambles everywhere, but also beautiful wild flowers that attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, which in turn attracts, bats, hedgehogs, snakes, toads and other less cute animals such as rats. But hey, they’re just as adorable in their own way.

With Bees - garden

poppies tall

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buzzy bumble

So I wonder if anyone else has decided to let a part of their garden, or yard, for my American friends, go back to nature and let the ‘weeds’ flourish? I would love to hear from those who have.

My Sci-fi/Dystopian series – The Song of Forgetfulness – is to a certain extent an homage to Mother Nature and a condemnation of mankind’s disregard for the delicate balance of the environment. I didn’t intend to make it an eco-warrior rant, but as I researched global warming, deforestation and the like, I became angry and deeply upset, so how could I not vent my feelings of despair and try to get a message across – please save our beautiful planet Earth before it’s too late.

I will be releasing a prequel to the series – The Chronicles of Mayer – in the next few weeks so watch out for another post!

The Chronicles of Mayer:

A story of survival and courage in a devastated world.

Adara needs to know more about her past if she, and everyone else, is to have a future. The Moocow Monks of Mayer have the answers. Inside their subterranean archive, as Adara sits and watches the history of NotSoGreatBritAlbion unfold before her eyes, she learns disturbing truths hidden for centuries, in – The Chronicles of Mayer.

The catastrophic flood of 2158 wipes out most of the population of Great Britain and destroys Mahabharata House, a Buddhist community. The only two surviving cow herds, Gopi Jnanamaya Kosha (Mayer) and Gopala Arjuna Bhutapanchaka, are forced to flee, taking the cows with them. With water levels rising at an alarming rate, they move the sacred herd to the highlands of Scotland.

Mayer_crop25.07

You can find all of the books in The Song of Forgetfulness series here:

Author.to/BooksonAmazon

 

Have you heard about Mattia D’Agostino? – A translator in the making

 

You probably haven’t heard about Mattia, I didn’t know who he was until he contacted me to ask if he could use my book Echoes from the Lost Ones for his thesis. Here is the initial email:

Hello Nikki !

First of all, congratulations on your work! I’ve recently read the Song of Forgetfulness series and I enjoyed it very much. I’m a university student currently writing my bachelor’s thesis. I chose Echoes from the Lost Ones as subject because of its particular language. I initially wanted to translate a chapter or two into Italian, but then my supervisor suggested that a linguistic analysis would have been more interesting.

The general idea is that of choosing a few linguistic phenomena, counting the number of occurrences throughout the novel, analysing the syntactic context and then suggest a possible translation.

So I would like to ask you for your blessing on this project and if maybe you could answer a couple of questions if you have time. Please find attached a picture of my cat

Best regards

Mattia D’Agostino

arles

How could I refuse, especially when I saw his gorgeous cat! I am a hopeless cat fan, by the way, so expect more photos of felines throughout this post. Oh look! There’s one!

boris and my fingersThis is Boris, my feral cat.

Mattia was featured in my post The Secrets to Translating Books – http://bit.ly/1SKf6Hn and I thought it might be a nice change to spotlight someone other than an author on my blog. Translators, or in Mattia’s case, potential translators, are a vital part of publishing and I don’t think they get enough credit for the hard work they do. Some are better than others. I believe Mattia could be one of the best, simply because of his enthusiasm and attention to details.

So, without further ado, let me officially introduce you to Mattia D’Agostino!!!

20140123_161203Mattia with his cat Aries

Plus cats!!!!

20150819_115920Mattia’s kitten  Bruttino – which apparently means ugly. In an affectionate way

Aries again.
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 Mattia, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 24 years old, I live in Milan and I recently received my bachelor’s degree in Cultural Mediation from the Università degli Studi di Milano. I am very much a cat person. My girlfriend and I, we have in all, four cats, of which three were rescued.

I like drawing and films, and drawing film characters from the films I liked. My passion for foreign languages started around the age of 12, when the English teacher let the class pick a song to translate. The fact that after translating it I could understand the lyrics just blew my mind. Until that moment, I used to only care for the tune. Of course, I knew that the words meant something, but they didn’t register into my brain, as their meaning was unintelligible for me. From then my interest in all things English sparked.

However, by the time I was 18 I had not been once to any English-speaking country. It was when I went on a two-week field trip to Bristol that I fell in love with Britain. After that, I’ve only been back to Britain once. I really look forward to coming back, one day or another

 Why did you decide to train as a translator?

Actually, I studied something called Cultural Mediation. Translation is just one side of it. Anyway, around the age of 14 I realised I was better than my classmates at learning English, so I decided to change schools and I went to a place where they taught you three foreign languages instead of just one. I had to repeat the year, but it was worth it if it meant doing what I liked. That was the point where I sort of erased many possible careers from my mind (I’ll never be a mathematician for instance). I would have loved to study anything in an English university, but the cost was far too prohibitive. So I chose to study Cultural Mediation because it gave me more options career-wise as opposed to just translation.

What is the most difficult book you have tried to translate?

Well, Echoes is actually the only book I tried to really, methodically translate. Aside from that, I like in my free time to read passages in the original language, translate them in my mind and compare them to the actual translation.  Keeping that in mind, I’d have to say Melville’s Moby Dick. A couple of years ago I started reading it and I tried to translate lines as I read, but it was so difficult that it took all the fun away. So I settled for just reading it once, and then try the translation game later, but I gave that up too. So far Moby Dick is the only book that I gave up reading because of how difficult it was. You could say that it’s my literary white whale. I’ll have to make up for that as soon as possible.

DSC05813.JPGBruttino’s official name is Brugola. 

Do you have a favourite book written in English?

I do. My favourite book is Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.

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I had seen the film before reading the book, but I decided to read it anyway because I was interested in Welsh’s transposition of the Scots accent. And I have to admit, he really does wonders with language. Not only the Scottish accent is extremely well rendered, in general, every character has his/her own specific idiolect, which makes them that much real. I actually laughed out loud at certain bits, while I found others to be very dark. There’s also a fair bit of wisdom in it.

Do you have a favourite author that you would like to translate?

I’m part of the generation that started reading because of Harry Potter. When the fifth book came out I was around eleven or twelve and I remember having the Harry Potter book hidden inside a textbook so as not to get caught reading it at school. I read it in five days. To this day, I still have a particular connection with that series, as I’m sure many other people my age do.

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The Italian translations, while not being bad, are not exceptional either. The whole series has recently been retranslated, but according to reviews, not much has been fixed. Aside from the peculiar names, what the Italian translation lacks is the linguistic characterisation of the characters. The Italian Hagrid speaks as an average Italian adult would.

Also, I feel like the Harry Potter series grows with the reader. As the characters age, their feelings become more complex and the unsheltered world outside the school gets more and more into their lives. In order to describe these sort of things, Rowling’s language becomes more articulated the further you get in the series. I believe there is much to be learned as a translator from working on the Harry Potter series.

Calypso, my cat, agrees with you, Mattia.

calypso

Does a translator have a duty to faithfully interpret a book, even though that book may have language that is colloquial/slang-based to that particular country?

I do, even if I understand it’s tricky to translate a book like that. When all else fails, you could simply translate everything into the standard target language (in my case, standard Italian) and eliminate any form of slang or colloquial language. You would lose the characterisation of the individuals and many shades of meaning, but you would have something at least.

Alternatively, you could translate such a book using a dialect or your country. For example, the Scottish groundskeeper in The Simpsons has become Sardinian in the Italian dubbing. This, of course, becomes an issue when there are clear references to Scotland, which sometimes are left as they are, while other times they are Italianised.
The best course of action in such cases is to pick random regional linguistic features for the translation, coupled with archaic or even invented words. In doing so, you can preserve the feeling of otherness. Depending on the translator’s skill, such a translation may or may not do justice to the original text, while in some cases it may even enrich it.

Time for another cat photo.

20141219_115046Bufalo and Elvis – Mattia’s girlfriend’s cats

 What are your future plans?

At this time, I intend to continue study and get my master’s degree. As of now I’m meticulously researching and classing all the available degrees the neighbouring French-speaking countries. I’ll send my applications as soon as possible and from then it’s fingers crossed I guess.

I’d really like to study linguistics, be it English, French, Italian or general. I would also love to research the countless English or French dialects, their structure and the peculiar view of the world each of them expresses. In the long run, I’d like to find an occupation doing linguistic research, maybe coupled with teaching. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is very determined to become a professional baker, so I may be looking at a future baker’s helper career.

DSC04637Mattia and his girlfriend outside Prague Castle

Mattia would like this opportunity  to say a huge Thank You to his college lecturer. ‘Thank you’ on my part to my supervisor, professor Heaney. His help has really been paramount, especially for what concerns the traditional language of folk songs underlying the whole thesis.’

And, thank you Mattia, for a wonderful insight into your life and work. Best of luck with your future career. (Please, please, please, let it be translator)

Finally – More Cats!!!!!

storm 3My cat Storm

 

 kimi close upThis is Kimi – she is half Tasmanian Devil – I swear!

For more information about Echoes from the Lost Ones please visit the website:

http//:www.thesongofforgetfulness.com

Pottering about with a Polaroid

Boris polaroid

I was given a Polaroid camera today. Lovely present. I haven’t used one of these things since the late 1990’s. I always found them very difficult to use, in that the viewfinder is tiny and far away from the lens, so trying to compose a picture is tricky, especially when photographing something close up.

storm polaroid

With the photo below, what I saw  through the viewfinder didn’t exactly match up with the final version. Still, it makes a nice B&W photo of a sleepy cat.

kimi polaroid

I had a lot of fun using the Polaroid camera, and will get the hang of it eventually. Pity the film is so expensive though.

I scanned the photos into my computer and fiddled around to create some different effects.

Katya polaroid

Katya polaroid-2

Rasky polaroid

Does anyone else have a Polaroid? If so, do you use it regularly?

Any tips on how to get a decent exposure when using it outside?