Friday, 30 January 2009

It's the (Sustainable) Economy, Stupid!

Last night Dan Barlow of WWF Scotland spoke at the Edinburgh meeting of Friends of the Earth about ideas around sustainable economic growth. There was a lively discussion afterwards around whether the Scottish Government has really taken on board the ideas of sustainability or whether it sees sustainable economic growth as just a cover for business as usual. I think the consensus was that despite progress in eg improving rates of recycling, that the Scottish Government is acknowledged as not really being committed to genuinely sustainable economic growth. Then we questioned whether any economic growth could be genuinely sustainable. There was here acknowledgement that if large amounts of money are poured into genuinely environmentally friendly measures to cut our carbon footprint (eg investment in home insulation and solar panels) then we could see genuinely sustainable economic growth but that really we need a different way of looking at things, one that doesn't focus on money to the detriment of the environment and the community.

Dan also told us that the Donald Trump plan to build a golf resort on a beautiful unspoilt area of Aberdeenshire has been voted the Worst Planning Decision of the Year in the Carbuncle Awards. You can read my previous blog posts about the Trump fiasco here.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Gorgie City Farm - lively lambs

It was lovely to get this reception from Dot and Spot when I visited them this lunchtime! They may be joined by more Suffolk lambs this weekend and if they are, then they will move onto the hill behind the farm to make room for the new arrivals.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

More from my writing workshop

bare branched trees -
vivid green moss
on fallen trunks.

in Vogrie Country Park

Thanks for yesterday's comments asking more about the writing workshop I facilitated in Vogrie Country park yesterday. The above is one of the haiku I wrote. I won't be able to post anyone else's contributions, because people took them away with them to work on further! There was an excellent variety of work produced though, some people writing poems, some writing stream of consciousness pieces and others making lists of poems they will write in the future.

I only occasionally facilitate writing workshops (and its not part of my job with the Federation of City Farms), but it is something I would like to do more of in the future, especially if it can be in places like Country Parks!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Writing Workshop at Vogrie Country Park

I facilitated a day workshop on nature writing today at Vogrie Country Park. It was aimed at people like countryside rangers and environmental education workers who could use writing in their work, but a couple of people were there out of personal interest. Twelve people there in total, which is a great number, enough to have proper discussions but not so many that it becomes unwieldy. We discussed reasons for writing about nature, how to use creative writing about nature in group work, then we had a guided walk round the beautiful park (thanks to Jo and Alan the countryside rangers for leading these walks). Then we all wrote something inspired by the walk, some people shared what they had written, others talked about how they felt about writing. Then we talked about how we could use writing in education work, with some people sharing specific activities they have used with groups. There was a lot of lively discussion throughout the day and plenty of cups of tea! It was great to see everyone enthused about creative writing and I also came away with a handful of haiku and some ideas for longer poems (one of the side benefits of tutoring I always find!).

Monday, 26 January 2009

Bunny Hugs

I was delighted to receive the Hugs award from Faye at Faye's Art Blog. As most readers of this blog know, I am a bit of a bunny hugger, so I'm passing on hugs to:

the ten dedicated blogging bunnies at A Houseful of Rabbits
Miss Eve, Yowlyy's mourning bunny currently searching for a new bun to bond with
Hans, Yohji and Buttons the Furry Butts
Sydney and Tyler the crafting buns at Qi Papers
Freckles the storytelling bunny

and also, because he is such a huggable looking dog, hugs to Edward at The House of Edward

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The King in His Castle

a king would he be?

The man who thinks he can create an independent nation by selling off our land to wealthy foreigners?

The castle is full of rusting armour and antiquated firearms, not enough to defend ourselves against his betrayals.

In the chapel, the castle guardian snores.

King in His Castle for Pictures, Poetry and Prose Alphabet Prompt

(explanatory note: The Scottish Government is allowing Donald Trump to build a golf course complex on a sensitive area of natural beauty and is currently trying to sell off the national forests too)

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

We went to Glasgow today and wandered around the Botanic Gardens there. The Gardens are attached to a lovely riverside walk and also have a large array of attractive glasshouses full of interesting plants. There are very good collections of ferns, insectivorous plants and orchids. Many of the orchids were in full bloom, see the third photo above (taken by my partner). Some of the glasshouses have snippets of poetry arranged between the plants, I assume these were put in place by Gerry Loose, when he was Poet in Residence of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Sadly though the official Poetry Garden, in front of the visitor centre, seems to have been a little neglected and is, poetically at least, a bit disappointing.

We were also lucky to get a very close view of two treecreepers on a beech tree in the Botanic Gardens and a very close view of a buzzard somewhere between Glasgow and Edinburgh as we came home on the train.

Friday, 23 January 2009


This is made from an extract of a page of Prakalpana Literature, I was once asked to review (thanks to Gerald for reminding me of the journal name) along with a small part of a larger photo, showing the Taj Mahal, a chocolate wrapper from an Indian restuarant, a transparent picture from a rice packet and a random piece of patterned transparent plastic. Currently it is just a collage but i may make it into a card.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Gorgie City Farm - lambs

I remembered to take my camera to work today and managed to take this photo of the lambs that were born a few days ago at Gorgie City Farm. They're called Dot and Spot, though I have to admit I'm not sure which is which in this photo (please click on the photo to get a better look). These are Suffolk sheep. The farm also has some very fluffy Ryeland sheep, which have their lambs later in the year.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Green lemonade

I was delighted to be recently awarded the Lemonade Award from Rabbit's Guy. He got it from Cara at Doublecat Batik, where I learnt it is an award for cheerful blogging (though elsewhere I read it's for blogging with great attitude)! So that's put a smile on my face. I'm supposed to pass it on, but in case I don't manage to get round to thinking of who to pass it on to, why not all pour yourself a glass of lemonade?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Gorgie City Farm - Red

Red is the Gorgie City Farm horse, he used to be quite unpredictable but these days, thanks largely to the work of D. an invaluable volunteer on the farm, he is now polite and happy to give children rides. He also has a strange fascination for business meetings and will often try to get as close as he can to any meetings happening downstairs in the Education Centre, in the room that is mostly windows on two sides. Today I noticed him at the other end of the field when we started our meeting, but by the end of the meeting he had come right up towards us and was standing with his head over the fence, peering into the meeting. I almost expected him to neigh in with his opinions.

Monday, 19 January 2009


after the snow -
a mixed flock of finches
appears in the trees.

I've also got another haiku over on Winter Haiku, you can read it here.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

From the Fieldbook by Carol Thistlethwaite

As a birdwatcher and poet how could I resist Carol Thistlethwaite's poetry collection about birds from the fieldbook? It's packed full of well observed poems about birds seen around the UK. Many of these poems use imaginative layouts to capture the movement of the birds they describe and all show a love of the sounds of language. Some poems I love for their perfect descriptions of my favourite birds, eg Turnstone which starts: chink plink chink plink pebble flicking turnstone, which beautifully captures the sound of this shore bird. Others are evocative descriptions of birds I would love to see, such as this haunting description of a Barn Owl:

a phantom with the weight of life
hooked in its claws.

There are also some very useful poems that capture the essence of birds I have trouble identifying when I do see them, so I'll keep this book with my binoculars so that when I'm next at the coast, I can remind myself that Knots are stout and unhurried while if I observe:

colours pushed to spangled greys,
snow bellies, matchstalk legs
strike out at break-neck speed

I'm looking at Sanderling.

This collection is a must for anyone who loves birds and poetry!

from the field book is available from Bewrite at £4.99 plus p&p

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Jewellery Display Board

I made this yesterday from some styrofoam packaging from a Christmas present, wrapped in leftover fabric from a dress I had had made for me in Malawi. It's a nice wee board to hang jewellery on, but could also be used as a notice board above a desk.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Balloons, Bunnies and Rainbows

Rabbit's Guy suggested that my recent haiku about the balloon and the rainbow was really about Hugo, Yowlyy's beautiful bunny who recently died. So here is my picture of Hugo ballooning off to the Rainbow Bridge, where Anya and an unknown black bunny are waiting for him.
It's good to see that Miss Eve, Hugo's rabbit companion is bonding with a new companion, Bing.
The picture above is drawn on reused card and the balloon is made from reused foil from a box of tea.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


in this wild land of sea lochans
every seal becomes a selkie
every horse becomes a kelpie
and the wail of the wind
a banshee cry.

Dialect for Read Write Poem

follow the coloured links to find out more!

a lochan is a small
a selkie is a name for a seal but (to me at least!) is more familiar as the name of the mythical seal folk
the kelpie is a supernatural water horse
the banshee is a wailing female spirit
You can read my earlier poem about selkies here

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Gorgie City Farm - Winter Lambs

Two lambs were born at the farm on Monday. No photos yet but I have written a haiku, that you can read over on Winter Haiku, here.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

This is a fascinating book, tracing the history of human development in all areas of the world, including tracing human migration patterns, the development of food production, how germs helped Europeans conquer America, how humans have almost always exterminated a significant percentage of the animals they have found in any new territory they've moved into and how languages have developed. It isn't as gripping a read as Diamond's earlier book The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, which I talked about here last year and also for anyone who has read the earlier book the insistent repitition of facts becomes irritating rather than useful as it is for people entirely new to the topic (my Mum pointed that repitition out as one of the things she most liked about the book, but she hasn't read the earlier one!). It is however a vital book to read if you're interested in the history of our relationship with the earth and with each other.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Even in this day of computers, pens are still a vital tool for writers, I guess I'm not alone in writing rough notes by hand and in fact I work up my poems to quite a final stage by hand, before committing them to the screen.

I like the feel and weight of a good solid pen, it feels more serious somehow, and perhaps helps me to take my writing more seriously. Also for environmental reasons, I like a pen that is built to last, rather than one that is going to end up in the trash. Fountain pens are I suppose the best as in the usual course of events nothing gets thrown away, you just fill the pen with ink and carry on. However for some reason, I've never quite got into fountain pens and I find them liable to ink blots and other untidiness (yes, i know, my fault rahter than the pen's!). My three favourite pens all take some form of refill, but the pens themselves have lasted years and will last many more.

Even throwaway pens though these days are available in more environmentally friendly models. I've seen pens where the pen itself is made from recycled paper or plastic, which is a good idea, if you like to have a pen that you're not going to get upset over if you lose it....

Pens for Weekend Wordsmith

Monday, 12 January 2009

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Riverside birding

Yesterday we walked along the Water of Leith through the Dean Village and Stockbridge areas of Edinburgh and had a very birdwatching time of it! On the water we saw:

a dipper flying from stone to stone then off down the river where we caught up with it and watched it in the water then back on stones, bobbing up and down in its characteristic way;

a cormorant seeming to be too far from the sea but looking quite at home anyway;

a pair of goosanders;

a heron, standing still and silent, despite the noise of the machine that was crushing old Christmas trees just metres away from it;

a grey wagtail, far too pretty for its name, flitting along the riverbank;

several mallards.

We also saw two separate flocks of long tailed tits in the trees, whispering and flitting from branch to branch, some of them came quite close to us, beautiful birds and very colourful when you get close to them.

we saw a treecreeper climbing up the branches of a tree overhanging the water.

Finally, we passed a garden that is well known for having lots of bird feeders and it was full of chaffinches and bluetits.

Remember that all the bird names and place names link to sites that tell you more!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Winter trees

strange winter trees.....and frosty fungus on fallen trunks.....

We walked through Cammo Country Park yesterday. Underfoot was a strange mix of patches of frost and black ice interspersed with thick mud. The trees were full of birds that despite the bare branches were often difficult to see, but always we could hear the twitterings. At one point I stopped still and twittered back and yes the birds (blue tits in this case) came closer! We saw a lot of robins, or maybe it was one robin following us and got a good view of two treecreepers....

these photos are all by my partner.....

We'll be back in Cammo in February, to see the snowdrops.....

Friday, 9 January 2009

Check out the latest prompt at Read Write Poem

My latest prompt, on using dialect in poetry, is up at Read Write Poem. Why not take part? You can find out more here.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Linguistics and Ecology

I've recently read two excellent books on endangered languages. Although both take a different approach to this aspect of linguistics both explicitly outline a need for a greener attitude towards linguistics, drawing parallels between the importance of ecological diversity and linguistic diversity, and also highlighting how some aspects of human relationships with the surrounding natural environment may be tied up in the language. Lose some languages and you lose a whole wealth of knowledge about the plants and animals of the surrounding area.

Language Death by David Crystal, published by Cambridge University Press concentrates on the current situation for endangered languages across the globe and considers how some of them may be re-envigorated as living languages.

Language in Danger by Andrew Dalby, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Press) takes a historical approach, for example outlining how the Latin and Greek of the Roman Empire sounded the death knell for the other languages spoken in the areas conquered by the Romans.

For a fascinating book on endangered languages from a case history based perspective, I would strongly recommend Spoken Here by Mark Abley.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Dexter the Gorgie Farm cat

This is the elusive Dexter, the farm cat of Gorgie City Farm. He originally belonged to a family who lived next door to the farm, but he liked to visit (well who doesn't!). When the family moved he ran away from the new house to the farm. After he'd done this a couple of times the family accepted the inevitable and he has lived on the farm ever since, though he can be hard to find. He can sometimes be very aloof but today was quite friendly and most curious about Crafty Green Boyfriend's camera. No I wasn't pulling Dexter's tail.....

Btw - I've posted all the books for the Giveaway now, most of those sent within Europe have already arrived, for those of you further away it will take longer, but they are on their way.....

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


I have a haiku up on Winter Haiku - you can read it here.

I also have a haiku up on Breathing Poetry a lovely new site that promises to be a wonderful place to find and read poetry. You can read my haiku here.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Elephants Never Forget!

This old notebook that i use for random notes and jottings needed brightening up a bit so I've added a drawing of a Sumatran elephant, made from waste paper.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Black and White by William Scammell

I found this book very cheaply in the local Shelter second hand shop. Its made up of two parts, the first section contains wonderful poems that Scammell had decided were to go into a collection, the second section contains poems that were found amongst his notes when he died. I really enjoyed the first section, the poems here are beautiful and well observed with a wonderful feel for the sounds of language as in this quote from The Mountain:

the becks flashing scuts as they leap
and fall, the mountain ash's homely touch,
straight from the rock, conjuring
leaves out of hard hearted geology.

There's humour in this collection as well as a connection to the land and the farming life, family, science and literature. Well worth a read.

Black and White by William Scammell, published by Flambard

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Friday, 2 January 2009

Happy New Year and a Winter Walk

Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays! We had a lovely walk today (the Scottish second New Year Bank Holiday!). We walked round a frozen Blackford pond, where a swan and a greylag goose were gingerly trying to skate on the ice, while the mallards and moorhens were either on dry ground or swimming in the small patches of water free from ice. We walked through the Hermitage of Braid and got a wonderfully close view of a goldcrest, fluttering in the branches of a tree, showing off its yellow crest to full advantage. We also saw a bullfinch and two coal tits at close range as well as there being reasonable numbers of other tits and finches in the trees.

On the way home we walked on a bridge over the Union Canal and we're pretty certain we saw a water vole, diving and swimming across the water. This is quite exciting as water voles are pretty rare these days in Scotland.

(If you are unfamiliar with any of the species mentioned, remember each bird or animal name links to a page where you can find out more!)

Wishing everyone best wishes for 2009.