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!

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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

IMG_4829

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?

Colour versus black and white

I found a couple of broken, half-dead tulips in my garden the other day. Instead of throwing them on the compost heap, I decided to try to revive them and put them into a vase of water. To my delight, after a couple of days they did recover a bit.

flowers in vase

As they started to decay, I realised the flowers became more beautiful as their petals dried up. I took some photos of them with my husband’s stained glass window as a backdrop. I thought that the colours in his glass complimented those of the flowers.

dead tulip  dead tulip 2

I was delighted with the results, then the experimental in me took over and I turned them into black and white.

dead tulip B&Wdead tulip 2 B&W

Now I’m not sure which I like best.

Do you  think the colour photos are better than the black and white pictures?

What is your book about?

During National Book Week in the UK, I visited a school to give a talk and a teenager asked me, “What is your book about?”

Well, I opened my mouth and nothing came out.

Photo on 20-08-2013 at 14.54 2

Mental images flashed through my brain, but no words.

IMG_0001         sacophage      IMG_2

I stammered a bit and after a few seconds that felt like hours I managed to blurt out a rough synopsis of m YA dystopian/sci-fi book series, The Song of Forgetfulness. ‘Echoes from the Lost ones and the second book, A Silence Heard, is about a future world where mankind’s numbers have dwindled due to climate change, famine and plague.

Amazon echoes pics

Animals are all but extinct and those that are left in NotsoGreatBritAlbion, are divided into forests dwellers and ultra hygienic City dwellers. Then there is the enemy – Agros who control the supply of food to the inhabitants. When they stop doing this and start raiding settlements to kidnap special children known as Meeks, hunger and fear prevail. The heroine, Adara, has a unique talent that she can use to call the only edible creatures left, the birds, to land. When her brother is abducted, she must leave the comforts of her hygiene home and go to look for him.’ Finishing with, ‘So, it’s a coming of age tale with a difference.’

venom silence amazon

Needless to say, I was mortified by my response. All I did was tell them the plotline, not the content, the meaning. I began an internal dialogue as I plodded back to my car, stomach churning and armpits sweating. Well, this what I think my book is about. Overcoming hardship in the face of disaster. Finding friendship amongst so-called enemies. Discovering true potential and understanding who you are in the grand scheme of things. Knowing what strengths and weakens you have when faced with life threatening situations. Becoming the person you want to be rather than the person others think you are.

IMG_3400 (1)I drove away and thought, why did I find it so hard to answer such a simple question? Then I asked myself, is it a simple question? As the author I know the plot of my story and the characters, and what happens to them, but having read the many reviews, and how readers have interpreted my tale, I realised that there is nothing simple about the message I’m sending to potential readers. I have included issues concerning mankind’s future, how technical advances can help and hinder, how power corrupts and, that I’m not the only person qualified to say what my book is about.

I will now list a few snippets from reviews:

‘A story of trust and faith “Echoes from the Lost Ones” is an adventure that takes you to a time and place like no other.’

‘A haunting tale of survival and determination.’

‘I enjoyed how McDonagh has broken down and restructured the system of spoken language to illuminate thousands of years of evolutionary changes while still being able to communicate the basic elements of humanity – civility and good-will.’

‘A world in which morals do not exist and yet somehow this little band manage to maintain a sense of compassion and humanity. It is a fight for survival against a cruel and destructive enemy who tries to obliterate any good left on the earth.’

IMG_4279

Some readers saw things in my narrative that I did not. How fabulous is that? I have decided that the next time someone asks me, ‘What is your book about?” I’m going to ask them to read my novel and get back to me with the answer.

So, if you’re interested in letting me know what my book is about, you can purchase them on Amazon. Oh, and you can look at a couple of trailers too:

Book trailer 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ-AmBW-QjQ

Book trailer 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ8o_mBopYM

http://www.amazon.com/Echoes-Lost-Ones-Song-Forgetfulness-ebook/dp/B00CXSZIGS/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408436005&sr=1-1&keywords=echoes+from+the+lost+ones

http://www.amazon.com/Silence-Heard-Song-Forgetfulness-Book-ebook/dp/B00JMPWRX2/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=16567ZZQKBJ2G2VWY2J8

 

 

Haikus for Boris the Feral Cat – in honour of National Black Cat Day

boris up closishSince it is National Black Cat Day, I thought that I would re-blog this post relating the story of a plucky feral cat we named Boris. He has overcome so much and is now a loving and talkative feline that loves to play and be cuddled.

boris-2 copy

About a year ago a black feral tomcat came into our garden and decided to stay. He would come and go and catch the rats that plagued us. So, to thank him we began to give him some food. Winter came along and he shivered in the cold. We built him a kennel and he kept as warm as he could. Gradually over the months he became quite friendly and allowed us to pet him. One day he didn’t turn up. Not that unusual, especially in the warmer months, he would go off for a few days at a time, return famished and sleep for a while before going away again. This time he was missing for a week. Then we saw him squatting by the place we fed him. He stood and limped over to us. He had been in a terrible accident. His back legs were badly injured, one was very swollen and his tail had been stripped of all its fur.


            IMG_2899      boris-4 copy  IMG_2897

He was thin and clearly in a lot of pain. We nursed him as best we could and gradually he recovered. During the course of his recovery, he became the most loving and affectionate cat I have ever known. Now, Boris, as we called him, is our shadow and follows us everywhere when we go outside. He is so adorable and very talkative. He loves to be cuddled and plays with various toys our other cats have long forgotten about. He will never be able to join us indoors, because we have several other felines that would object strongly, but he is welcome to be our outside cat and we will continue to make sure he is warm and well fed. To celebrate his return to health, I decided to do some slow synch flash photographs of Boris at play, and write some Haikus to go along with the pictures. I have fiddled with the photographs to try and make them look more like paintings or pastel art works.

So, here’s to Boris. One hell of a cat!! Boris blue

From out of the blue

Whiskers and claws, swipe at the

Mouse unused to play

Boris jumping

Feral leaves, feral

Cat, both fall and tumble in

Autumn’s blustering

Boris eyes Beyond the greyness

Red. A slash of hue amidst

The colourless day

Boris wooly bully

They become circle

For one brief moment and then

Split like a seedpod

Boris times two

He wanders solo

Shrugging off the shoulder ghost

His Doppelganger

Boris most of him

Half in the picture

Long white nails scratch at the air

Summer leaves behind  

Happy National Black Cat Day to Boris and all the other black cats in the world!!

boris handsome   boris narrow eyes  Boris beautiful