"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Monday, 14 April 2008

Leaf of the Day: A Daisy from Popsy and "Tiger" Rats

Sunday is a day I now try to dedicate to my Darling Popsy blog, so today I have spent all day scanning in the old negatives of Africa and researching East Africa in the 1920´s in general. However in line with this blog, about all things natural, I will just quote a little from the letter I have published this time.
This is from Njoro, June 1926

"When we are ploughing the fields we often see Rats running away in terror, but these are Brown Rats and striped on their backs with Black stripes like a Tiger, they are rather pretty. You would like to see the beautiful moonlight at full moon all over the great Plain, one of the most beautiful things in Africa is the bright moonlight and the stars that twinkle twinkle, in the clear air."

Reading these letters is making me think I should be illustrating them...(oh dear, yet another seed of an idea now planted...)

I was curious about the reference to the rats but a little research makes me think they are not, in fact, rats at all, but one of the African Striped mouse species. He would have seen them during the day, not only because the ploughing was disturbing them but because they are one of the few rodents which is active during the day and he is right about them being pretty!
Here is a lovely old engraving from 1885 of the Barbary Mouse, the African Striped Grass Mouse (S. G. Goodrich, The Animal Kingdom Illustrated 1885) from, coincidentally, the Florida Educational Resource here













and a photo of these endearing little mice from Edwina Beaumont's excellent African photos here












The drawing today is not mine.. but, keeping it in the family and appropriate to today's activities, this is a pen and ink drawing from Joyce Thackeray, daughter of Allan, the "Popsy" of the letters and my mum. Her musical and artistic talents were inherited from her father and a few fragmented bits here and there passed down to my sister and myself. Teaching "old fashioned" drawing skills to children is, I think, more difficult today. It's hard to imagine a class of thirteen year olds now quietly making a careful pen and ink study of flower.
On 20th October 1931 at the age of 13 Joyce Thackeray (SEN/ 2A) received a mark of 44 out of 50. ( noted on the back) for her drawing...I doubt I am doing so well !
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Popsy's Daisy


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