Thursday, 1 November 2012

Otter Country

Some of you may well have twigged by now that I'm rather partial to otters.

Yesterday I thought it would be really nice to combine them with another one of my favourite activities - shopping for beautiful things for Shark Alley.

So up I travelled to London to trawl the fabric shops around Oxford Street and Soho for lovely big prints on pale fabrics to make into fox & otter purses.  Unfortunately, I didn't find as many as I'd hoped, but I did stumble across this little gem in John Lewis.  Yum yum!

  Detail - Loulouthi Summer Totem in Grapefruit by Anna Maria Horner
After all this retail excitement and a hastily consumed rubbish supper of crisps and a flapjack, it was off to Waterstones in Gower Street to attend a talk on otters. This featured otter expert Dr Daniel Allen interviewing author Miriam Darlington about her book, Otter Country, which documents her quest to see UK otters in the wild after being obsessed with them since childhood.

Love the beautiful illustration on the front by Kelly Dyson

The three extracts she read were very evocative and sometimes moving, especially as she described carrying the heart of an otter in her hands whilst attending an otter autopsy.  Her descriptions of being alone in the countryside and encountering wild otters were incredibly vivid - so much so that all day today I have had the strong sensation that I have recently been in the countryside myself.

One of the other joys was meeting so many other otter afficionados.  Thanks to the wonders of Facebook and the internet, I have connected with otter-lovers all over the world, but it's always nice to meet face-to-face.  Daniel Allen is a friend-of-a-friend many times over, and I feel quite sure we could have chatted all evening.  I also had the privilege of meeting (albeit very briefly) Daphne Neville, who has cared for otters for over thirty years and is the author of a book about these experiences - 'Bee - a Particular Otter'.  Having had a brief online exchange with her daughter Sophie in the summer, it seemed quite a coincidence to meet her. She was incredibly lovely and let me have a signed copy of her book.

One of the more amusing aspects of the evening involved sniffing an otter spraint - or poo.  Before you recoil in horror, it's definitely NOT what you imagine and turned out to be quite fascinating as each person was asked to describe what it reminded them of.  The answers were unexpected and diverse - 'prawns', 'newly-mown grass', 'citrus', 'musty' and my favourite, 'a church crypt'.

Sniffing the spraint!
After a rather harried and stressy day dealing with London crowds and rude people, I came away feeling very uplifted and happy to have spent time in the company of such friendly and similarly-obsessed people.


  1. Hi Sarah - lovely to read this! Would you be able to make me a resin otter necklace like the hare? Xx Miriam

  2. Hi Miriam - thanks for your comment! It was so lovely to hear you talk and I have just started reading the book. It was fascinating to read that you lived in Lewes and visited the Booth Museum, as I live just down the road from the Museum.

    I did try and make an otter with relief legs, but it took so much work to smooth and finish. I am definitely interested in trying to make another one as that was part of the original plan. I did have an otter pendant similar to the oval, pictorial fox and hare ones, but it was sold to Nicole Duplaix! I may not be able to get one done before Christmas as I'm busy with fairs and markets, but I will definitely give it a try when I can and let you know. XX

  3. You can see the otter jewellery here!;postID=8994824689703694736