Friday, January 19, 2007

Comet watching - again!

I've been gazing skywards for the past three nights and couldn't resist taking more photos of McNaught's comet.
It's a once in a generation experience and in the next day or two it will disappear from view.
The photo is a poor reproduction, but the sight through my binoculars was supurb.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Life is a shipwreck - Voltaire

I usually allude to the trials and tribulations of life as a topsy-turvy roller coaster ride.
Yesterday, I read these words from Voltaire:

“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats”

Good advice, I believe.

Photo: M Muir - Drake Passage off Tierra del Fuego, S. America

'Music is silence asleep'

I suppose I'm a bit like Horatio Hornblower - no I am not tone deaf, but I don't like listening to music.
And, even though I live alone and can go days without speaking to anyone, I hate background sounds like a TV or radio.
Most people will probably regard this as odd.
Yet I live in a house with a metal frame and metal roof which creaks, cracks and bangs regularly as the metal expands and contracts - and I don't notice it.
I guess the old seafarers didn't hear the creaks and growns of a timber ship.
For me the words, 'Music is silence asleep', qualify my feelings.

McNaught's Comet - with a tail 3 million km long!

I am amazed that the McNaught Comet is visible to the naked eye here in Bakers Hill, Western Australia.
It is not much more than a pinprick in the dying evening light, but I can see its shape and actually see it moving, albeit very, very slowly as it drops towards the horizon.
What amazes me are the statistics I have read.
Just fancy, I am standing in the garden with my camera, looking up at the comet's steamy tail which could measure up to 3,000,000 kilometres in length.
I discover that the icy core is only 300 meters across, yet the fuzzy coma surrounding the ice core (which measures only 300 meters), is around 100,000 kilometers across.
Those figures are mind-boggling.
I don't know why but I expected the comet to be orange but it was pure white, its brilliant light reflected from the sun.
Photo : M Muir

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

South African Boer Goats for sale

The goats haven't had much attention lately on the blog or on the farm.
With the driest year on record in 2006 and little feed on the ground and the dam almost dried out, the goats have had theri noses pushed out of joint.
In fact I have recently sold several of my good does.
And I have just advertised Akhenaten (318) my current three year old buck.
He's a nice fellow, well marked and very quiet but I don't want to use him again this coming season, so he must go.
Because my goats are all social animals I hate to part with them, but, like real children, the kids have a habit of growing up!
Photo: A great profile - Akhenaten (OUX318)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Lost World of Sailing Ships 1780-1880

The above title is the subject of a Distance Learning (Internet) course offered by Exeter University in England.
It provides and insight into the maritime economy of the South West of England in the nineteenth century and looks at how the world of sail changed during that time.
Subjects included in the syllabus include:

Vessels: their categories and cargoes.
Mariners: their education and careers.
Ports: their rise and fall.
Shipbuilding and shipwrights:
Sailmakers, blockmakers, ropemakers: the role of ancillary trades.
Privateers: the last days of privateering.
Smugglers: the organisation of smuggling and its eventual control.

The one sememster (non-accredited) course commences in February and has no set assignments. For further info from the university's Distance Learning Department go to:
I'm pleased to say I am enrolled in this course.

Photo: Europa - Victory Tours out of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego offering a 53 day sail in 2008 - Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope via Antartica.

All I need is about 8000 euros and a body 25 years younger - You can't stop dreaming, can you!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A doll in History - article in Doll Magazine

This very nice feature article was written by Susan Brewer and appears in the Dec/Jan issue of Doll Magazine which is out now in the UK and USA.
I am delighted to have already received some feedback from a reader in the US.
The article is about my latest book, The Twisting Vine, and about my association with dolls and mohair - and goats.
If you would like to receive a readable copy by email you can write to me via the CONTACT ME link on my website - just click on the website link at the top of the blog.
The Twisting Vine is available from and leading UK bookshops.
It will hopefully be listed as available on the Amazon US site shortly.

The Twisting Vine by Margaret Muir - Review

Since publication of this review I have received some comments from Doll Magazine readers in the USA as Amazon US lists The Twisting Vine but says it is not available.
I have written to them to ask why this is so as the book is available.
You can currently order the hardcopy from or the other major UK booksellers.
A second edition (large print) is due out in May 2007 from Ulverscroft in England.
I'm sorry the print is too small to read on this picture, however if you want a copy you can contact me directly through the CONTACT ME page on my website and I will forward a copy via email.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sailing into 2007

My New Year resolutions for 2007 include writing two books and I'm pleased to say the first is underway.
It's a sea story (age-of-sail era), and in the past couple of weeks I've managed 25,000 words on paper - very rough draft, however!
As part of my background research, I've just finished reading, A Mariner of England.
It's a warts-and-all story (first published in 1908) written by William Richardson, a seaman who served on both merchant and naval ships around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Richardson saw active service - mainly as warrant officer/Gunner (23 years)- in the Channel, West Indies, Calcutta, Flushing and off Portugal.
The detailed picture he paints so eloquently provides an amazing insight into life on the sea 200 years ago.
Reading between the lines it's not hard to spot the differences between the two services, eg: pay scales and punishments.
Interestingly, both merchantmen and naval ratings were regularly duped over money - payment of wages or prize money.
The degree of severe and regular punishments on naval vessels was directly related to the calibre of the Captain (mainly) and officers. For example on one ship Richardson says that two seamen would not dare be seen even talking together on deck - on another the first lieutenant gave him a roll of cloth to make himself some clothes.
One thing that amazed me was the number of ships which sailed together in convoys - naval vessels escorting merchantmen - sometimes there were several hundred sail (400 on one voyage) and it's not surprising that occasionally they got themselves tanlged up together.
William Richardon's autobiographical story is well told and very readable.
It certainly transported me back to the late 1700s and early 1800s and put me in the mood for writing in that era.
If you are interested in the sea or history, or just want an interesting read, I would thoroughly recommend it.
Available on Amazon