Friday, 15 December 2017

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

 Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

In a remote part of New South Wales, a farmer called Holland promises his daughter Ellen's hand in marriage to  the man who can name the hundreds of species of eucalyptus trees that he has planted on his land. What follows is a fascinating meditation on the various species of eucalyptus (and I for one had no idea there were so many!) and on Ellen's state of mind as she watches various men come along and try to win her by pursuing a test set purely by her father.

Bail's writing is reminiscent of the late, great Patrick White (Australian winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature) though without the seemingly wilful incomprehensibility that White sometimes injected into his work. So many lovely sentences and phrases here, some of which are intriguing:

'Anyway, don't you think the compliant pine is associated with numbers, geometry, the majority while the eucalypt stands apart, solitary, essentially undemocratic?'

The reader feels a great deal of sympathy for Ellen in this modern day fairy tale and hopes that somehow she will eventually have some say in her romantic future. The reader is likely to find Holland's attitude to his daughter's future inexplicable, which may undermine the enjoyment of the novel for some.

(In real life therefore, it's great to know that Australia, in a commitment to relationship equality, has just become the 25th country to recognise same sex marriage).

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail, published by Penguin

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Female Mallard

Brown feathers glow
subtle beauty in low
winter light.

Plump on the pond
she ruffles her feathers to display
sudden blue iridescence.

Fluff, shake, tuck
blue under wing –
just another brown duck.

Previously published on Nature Writing and in my poetry pamphlet Unthinkable Skies.  

Photo by Crafty Green Boyfriend.

I also today posted a poem on my Shapeshifting Green blog. You can read it here.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Frozen Pond and a Rushing River

Yesterday we had a lovely lunchtime wander around Blackford Pond and part of the Hermitage of Braid. The pond was frozen

 mallards and a black headed gull on the ice
 moorhen showing off its funny feet
female mallard preening 

We also walked along part of the Braid Burn, where we had brilliant views of a couple of dippers

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for these lovely photos!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Wintry Walkden Wildlife

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I spent the weekend with my Dad in Walkden, Greater Manchester. As well as having a nice time with my Dad, we enjoyed a couple of lovely winter walks. We went to the local park

where we saw plenty of birds, including redwing and nuthatches. We also heard a tawny owl when walking close to the park at dusk!

We also had a walk at Blackleach Country Park near Walkden Town Centre. We had a lovely walk in a blizzard!

We were very happy to see lots of ducks and geese on the pond

As well as lots of tufted ducks and Canada geese, we were delighted to see at least four gadwall, one male shoveler and a great crested grebe!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Bugged by David MacNeal

Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them

Subititled The Insects that Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them, Bugged is a  fascinating look at the world of entomology (the study of insects). It outlines the history of  the human relationship with insects, going back to the first cave painting of an insect. The book then looks in more detail at topics such as pest control, epidemics of diseases carried by insects, social insects, insect sex and insects as food with a whole chapter devoted to the history of the human relationship with the insect that is most important to us, the honey bee.

The book considers such vital questions as:

how can we effectively control insect pests in an environmentally friendly way?
can we save the honey bee from the many threats that face it?
is insect food the food of the future?

The author travelled a lot for this book, including undertaking a tour in Japan, trying to eat as many insect based foods as possible (which turned out to be quite a challenge!) and a trip to Greece to find the most delicious honey in the world.

It concentrates more on people than on the insects themselves, and though in parts it is quite technical, it relies more on anecdotes and human interest. Ths isn't a criticism, it's just to say that if you're looking for a totally serious scientific study of insects this may not be the book for you! On the other hand, with its mass of fascinating facts it's a perfect book to get you interested in insects.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Weather Forecasting

When her divorce came through
she spent hours browsing old photos
as if they could tell her secrets.

She stares at one of her and her brothers
playing in the snowy garden
when they were very young.

She and her husband used to laugh at this photo,
at her strange flowery anorak and how
there would never be winters like that again.

Two heavy winters later
she realises we can never know
the future ice and snow.

Previously published on Verse Wrights

Yesterday, over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, I posted another poem 'Influential Poets' that had originally been published on VerseWrights. You can read it here.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Nuthatches, ladybirds and funnel web spiders!

Another lovely sunny winters day, ideal for a walk round Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith. Plenty to see too, starting with a group of four nuthatches! Nuthatches have only recently started to colonise Scotland from England and it's always lovely to see them. Crafty Green Boyfriend has worked extra hours recently and so was able to take time off to join me today and managed to photograph one of the nuthatches - click on the photos for a better view

We were also delighted to find some orange ladybirds, already snuggled together for their hibernation. This is a common winter sight along this particular fence in the Dells!

(If you're interested in finding out more about ladybirds and other beetles of the British woodlands then you may like the new issue of the Woodland Trust's Wood Wide magazine, which is all about 'Beguiling Beetles' you can download it here.)

There's a particular tree in the Dells which is covered in spiders webs, I had always noticed these webs but for some reason never thought to look closer. Today though, Crafty Green Boyfriend noticed that they are funnel webs, built by a species of funnel web spider

Each web as you can see includes a hole at the front. The spider builds the web and then hides in it and leaps out through the hole to catch unsuspecting insects!