Thursday, 8 June 2023


The now dangerous sun-
light glares my misted eyes.

Everything is soft focus
even the deluge
threatening to destroy us.

Our way of life
fades to sepia
like an ageing photo
at the bottom
of a memory box.

Darkness falls.

A broken moon rises
above the neon city.

The aura round the street lights
has the same garish beauty
as an oil-slick rainbow.


Previously published in Kalanopia. 

(I had cataract surgery on my right eye a few years ago and am now on the waiting list for the same surgery on my left eye).  

Wednesday, 7 June 2023

An Apple from a Tree by Margaret Elphinstone

 This 1991 collection of short stories from Scottish based writer Margaret Elphinstone is a lovely mixture of realism, magical realism and science fiction. The author uses this blend of genres to explore the human relationship with nature as well as our relationships with each other. 

The title story sees Alison visit the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, where she meets a mysterious naked woman with whom she has a strange connection. Two of the other stories feature Oddney, the guardian of a well and the work she does to help nature stay in balance. 

The writing is beautiful, particularly the descriptions of nature, such as this, from the opening to The Cold Well: 

"She sat under the waterfall, letting the burn wash over her. The falls were white and full, churning the pool into a froth of air bubbles and brown water. Little waves lapped against the rocks, which were scoured into a smooth curve at the pool's edge, following the circling water. The water itself was soft with peat, bitter with acid, flowing over her with a touch like a northern breeze on a spring day..."

This is an engaging and thought-provoking collection of short stories from the author of The Sea Road (which I reviewed here). 

An Apple from a Tree by Margaret Elphinstone published (1991) by The Women's Press. 



Monday, 5 June 2023

Speckled Wood Butterfly

 Lovely to see two Speckled Wood Butterflies in Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum's garden when we popped in around lunchtime

 These are lovely butterflies to see, not a species you would really expect to see in a garden, even a garden with several trees. Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum doesn't use any pesticides or herbicides and normally her garden is a haven for insects of all sorts. This year, however, there are far fewer insects here than we would expect for the time of year, a phenomenon that is being noticed across the country.

The rhododendrons in the garden are also looking lovely

The cooking apple tree is also looking great, I blogged about that tree yesterday for Tree Following

In the garden for 30 Days Wild.

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Tree Following June Post

This year for Tree Following, I've chosen the beautiful cooking apple tree in Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden. You can read the post where I introduced the tree here

The tree is around fifty years old and produces a lot of apples (last year was a bumper year and I gave apples to colleagues, neighbours, students in my writing classes as well as friends!). The apples are excellent in apple crumble or just stewed and eaten with custard or added to porridge. 

Here are some photos of the tree from the beginning of May: 


The flowers were just coming into bloom!

and on 11 May:

Some of the blossoms were already losing their petals

I also took a photo of the eating apple tree on 11 May

Towards the end of May, the blossom was fading, and you can see where the fruit will form

Another couple of photos from the end of May

For Tree Following and 30 Days Wild.

Saturday, 3 June 2023

A haiku for 30 Days Wild

birch leaves become
a flock of goldfinches -
fake news 

previously published on Lothlorien Poetry Journal


Write poetry inspired by nature for 30 Days Wild

Friday, 2 June 2023

Visit a Cemetery / Do a Litter Pick for 30 Days Wild

 30 Days Wild takes place in the UK throughout June. I'll try to blog something about it every day, though that won't always be possible! 

As many readers of this blog will know, we started visiting our local cemeteries every day when the first COVID lockdown was imposed, the two cemeteries creating an ideal Daily Exercise Route. I've been visiting regularly ever since, though these days my visits are no longer daily. Over the past couple of years, I have also been employed to carry out wildlife surveys (now completed) of  all of the council managed cemeteries in Edinburgh. 

I can definitely say that cemeteries can be excellent places for wildlife! Of course, different cemeteries are managed differently, those that are still in use for regular burials need to be kept very tidy, but can still offer useful habitats for birds and insects. Cemeteries attached to historically interesting churches are usually also kept fairly tidy. Cemeteries that are no longer used for burials and that are not attached to churches are, in Edinburgh at least, allowed to grow a bit wilder. 

North Merchiston Cemetery is one of those cemeteries. My main impetus for visiting the cemetery this lunchtime was to pick litter. There have been a number of big concerts at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh over the past few weeks. This is great, it's good to have big concerts in our city and the stadium is an excellent venue. Not so great, however, is the litter left over afterwards. Specifically, plastic feathers from feather boas that were sold at the events. 

The  cemetery isn't exactly on the doorstep of the stadium, but I counted at least 20 such feathers around the cemetery as I collected these and other bits of rubbish. 

Edinburgh Council is carrying out deep cleans of the area around the stadium after the events, but this doesn't prevent lightweight rubbish such as these feathers from littering the city (they are literally everywhere!). The council doesn't have the power to ban the sale of plastic feather boas, but also doesn't seem inclined to actually make the point that that would be a good idea, as it would stop the problem at source. 

Apart from that, I had a lovely time in the cemetery, enjoying the sunshine. 

One of the laburnum trees in the cemetery, in full bloom

A dog rose in full bloom

A Whitebeam tree in full bloom 

A close up of the Whitebeam flowers 

Buttercups and Daisies

As I've mentioned in previous posts, there were only a few insects around. A couple of Orange Tip butterflies, a Speckled Wood Butterfly and a few Bumblebees of different species. Edinburgh Council does not use herbicides or pesticides in this cemetery (except for very focussed applications of herbicide to remove invasive Japanese Knotweed).

If you're interested in the wildlife in burial grounds, you may be interested in Churches Count on Nature 2023 which starts tomorrow, Saturday 3 May and is part of Love Your Burial Ground Week, focusing on the brilliant wildlife to be found in churchyards and chapel yards.


Visit a Cemetery for 30 Days Wild 

Pick Litter for 30 Days Wild 



Ten Poems about Rivers

 Ten Poems about Rivers

 This lovely little poetry pamphlet, edited by Ian Duhig, is one of a series from Candlestick Press. The press specialises in small booklets that can be sent 'instead of a card.' 

The poems vary in style and content, from the beautifully melodious Appletreewick by Julian Turner whose words flow like a river:

.. pasture rippling on the bones / of rock like shot silk, 

to Duhig's own poem An Aroko for David Oluwale, a homeless Nigerian immigrant to Leeds, who died by drowning in the River Aire in Leeds, after a campaign of persecution by two local policemen. 

The other featured poets are Eavan Boland, Kayo Chingonyi, Philip Gross, Kathleen Jamie, Zaffar Kunial, Beth McDonough, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Pascale Petit.

This beautifully produced pamphlet comes with a bookmark for writing a note to the recipient and would be a lovely gift. 

You can browse the full range of wee pamphlets here.

Ten Poems about Rivers edited by Ian Duhig published (2018) by Candlestick Press

30 Days Wild - read a book about nature