Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Upcycled draught excluder

I made this draught excluder from fabric from a kimono that was worn for years as a dressing gown and has totally fallen apart. You may recognise the fabric from my sandwich bags (see this post!). I stuffed the draught excluder with scrap fabric (leftovers from craft projects, old socks, a pillow case that Anya our rabbit had torn apart, etc). I cut up the fabric to make the draught excluder more evenly shaped. It still looks a bit lumpy as it isn't quite finished, it needs a bit more fabric in it! However we need it already given the very cold weather we're having, so I've tied it up with the yellow rope (from a curtain tie-back that Anya had chewed to pieces, she liked chewing, did Anya!). This will be sewn in place once the draught excluder is full and at that point I will even out the stuffing. 

By the way, Blogger is being difficult at the moment, so please bear with me if posting becomes erratic!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Winter Wonderland

We had a wonderful walk along the Water of Leith today. It really is a winter wonderland at the moment, the snow is incredibly thick on the paths and in the trees. Crafty Green Boyfriend took these photos. I think the third image may be useful as a Christmas email photo!

If you do go along the Water of Leith while the snow is still around, do be careful as the paths are deep in snow (with unexpecetd holes appearing sometimes) and there are a lot of branches that are so loaded with snow that they're hanging very low over the paths.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Sustainability Lie

Palm Oil Plantations are desperate to prove that they are environmentally friendly. The truth is that most of them are far from being so. Large palm oil companies buy up vast tracts of pristine rainforest, destroy it and plant the land with palm oil trees. In the process they destroy the livelihoods of local farmers and are driving orang utans and other rainforest species to extinction. You can find out more by watching this video The Sustainability Lie.

The problem for us as consumers is that palm oil turns up in everything - most processed foods and toiletries contain palm oil. The only way to avoid it is to be really careful what you buy and to make as much of your meals from scratch. Also use as few cosmetics and toiletries as you can and look for products that don't contain palm oil.

Patersons is a Scottish company that makes oatcakes. I discovered their oatcakes recently and noticed that they are palm oil free. It's excellent to see a company recognising the need to stop using palm oil. Paterson's are members of the UK Orang Utan Foundation and have some good information on Palm oil on their website, which you can read here. Similarly, the Handmade Oatcake company (whose oatcakes I wrote about in this review of Greener Monday) don't use palm oil.

Ultimately, there is a limit to what consumers can do and it is down to companies to genuinely ensure that they work to environmentally sustainable practices. Having said that, I'm now going to write to a toiletries company that delights in calling itself organic but uses palm oil in most of its soaps.

As ever, red tect in this post contain hyperlinks to sites where you can find out more.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Gorgie City Farm

We went to Gorgie City Farm today, partly lured by the promise of waxwings, as Deb (whose photoblog you can see here) had seen 60 or so waxwings near the farm the other day.

It had snowed last night and the farm was covered in a light dusting of white. The chickens and turkeys seemed unhappy with the cold though the pigs, Fudge the cow and Red the horse all seemed happy enough. Red actually was looking particularly well given that he's been really ill recently. The sheep were all in their shed, the black bunnies (Ebony and Sugar) were out in their enclosure, seemingly not caring about the snow, the other bunnies were in their shed and the goats seemed happy in their snowy fields. The wildlife garden was full of blue tits, long tailed tits and house sparrows while the trees bordering the farm were full of waxwings.

We were quite surprised and honoured even that Dexter the farm cat came out of his hiding place in the shrubbery to say hello to us.

We were delighted that the Farm Produce Stall was open, now selling books and bric-a-brac as well as locally grown fruit, vegetables and eggs (much of which come from the farm itself).  So we stocked up on vegetables before having lunch in the Farm Cafe, which as well as serving excellent snacks and meals, has a wildlife book, where we entered our sightings of the waxwings!

As ever, the red text in this post contains hyperlinks where you can find out more!

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Cramond Fish

It's the St Andrew's Day weekend! We had a lovely trip to Cramond today. The weather was perfect, blue skies, cold but very little wind. Crafty Green Boyfriend took this photo of the Cramond Fish sculpture (by Ronald Rae, erected 19 April 2009) that I've admired on my last few trips down to Cramond. (Slightly early for Shadow Shot Sunday!)

We also saw a good number of birds, though the tide was so far out that some of them were too far away to identify. We did however get good looks at: lapwing, oystercatcher, curlew, bar tailed godwit, dunlin, redshank and shelduck.

Remember, as ever, if the text is in red, it means you can click your way through to a web page with more information!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

winter bird haiku

through the traffic noise -
the soft calls of waxwings
in the trees

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Imaginary Paintings by Charles Baxter

Imaginary Paintings is the third poetry collection from Charles Baxter. He writes understated poetry that is beautifully dreamy and atmospheric and charged with significance. He is a very visual writer (as can probably be expected from the title of this collection!) and he describes nature beautifully, weaving his descriptions into the narrative of his poems.

We are driving a gray road at night,
no signs, far from friends, out in the broken
country where trees whose names we don't know
ridge marshlands, shadow on shadow. Something
moves back and forth in the trees, ruffled
and winglike, which we might see
 if we stopped. We don't. Sparrows fly up

from County Road H

I had never read anything by Baxter before, but I would certainly be interested in reading more, now!

Imaginary Paintings by Charles Baxter, published by Paris Review Editions 1989

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Art Exhibitions

There are several excellent art exhibitions on in Edinburgh at the moment. Three of them are on at the newly refurbished City Art Centre. One Floor of the gallery is devoted to Ian Hamilton Finlay the poet, artist and gardener, featuring beautifully atmospheric photos of his poetic garden Little Sparta. This exhibition is on until 6 March 2011.

Two floors are devoted to Window to the West: The Rediscovery of Highland Art, a varied exhibition of art from the Scottish Highlands, including lovely landscapes and an artist's book from Frances Walker and Sea Journals - beautiful pieces that combine assemblages and drawings from Elizabeth Ogilvie. This exhibition is on until 6 March 2011.

The top floor of the gallery is filled with Spirit of Air, an exhibition of Lizzie Farey's willow sculptures. Most of these are abstract, either hanging on the wall or as basket type pieces. My favourites are the swallows and also the pieces that include the furry willow catkins, this is an exhibition where it is difficult to not touch the exhibits. This exhibition is on until 27 February 2011.

The other art exhibition that is particularly worth seeing is Gray Stuff an exhibition of Alasdair Gray's designs for book covers, theatre posters and other of his illustrations. Some of his notebooks are on display too, which offer a fascinating insight into his process as a writer and illustrator. This exhibition is on until 11 December at the Talbot Rice Gallery, which is part of the University of Edinburgh.

As ever, red text in this post links to external websites where you can find out more! 

Monday, 22 November 2010

Greener Monday - local food in Edinburgh 2

Greener Monday recently sent me a food box to review. You can read more about it in this post here.

We've now had a chance to sample all the foods and we enjoyed everything very much!

Ola - extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil from Ola, Aberdeenshire (Ola is Gaelic for oil) is a good alternative to olive oil, made from rapeseed grown in Aberdeenshire. Rapeseed oil has many health benefits compared to olive oil including less than half the saturated fat, though it has been linked to allergies.
Cracked Black Pepper Oatcakes from the Handmade Oatcake Company in Perthshire are chunky and chewy with a hot bite from the pepper. I was impressed to see that they contain rapeseed oil (I assume locally sourced) rather than palm oil as many oatcakes do. (Palm oil is responsible for much tropical deforestation and is probably the biggest factor leading to the decline in orang utans.)

Devilish Tomato Chutney from Isabella's Preserves, Tayside is a wonderful chutney, though perhaps not as hot as its name might suggest (which is a positive point as far as we're concerned)! It is delicious with cheese and the cracked pepper oatcakes. It is also a tasty addition to a curry.

Damson Jelly with Gin also from Isabella's Preserves is delicious on a freshly baked scone.

Shortbread from the Shortbread House in Edinburgh is a lovely shortbread, just the right texture.

Porridge premix (with apple, sultana and cinnamon) from Stoats in Edinburgh smells wonderful with the cinnamon. The apples and sultanas are a wonderful addition to porridge (though some purists may argue that nothing should be added to porridge oats!).

Blueberry drink from Bouvrage in Alloa has quite an unusual taste, though it grows on you. The blueberries come from Finland, which undermines the local provenance of this product somewhat!

Greener Monday has an online shop here. Greener Monday are also to be found at the Village Store at Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Dalmeny Street, Leith, every Saturday between 10am - 2pm. 

Saturday, 20 November 2010


a soft chiming call fills the trees
then the flurry of a hundred pairs of wings
that still into crested silhouettes

one flies overhead
- a rush of red tipped wings -
to grab
berries from a nearby tree

a pink punk with a bandit mask

Waxwings are in Edinburgh in their hundreds

Friday, 19 November 2010

Union Canal

I was very struck by this reflection of the aquaduct railings when we were walking along the canal last weekend. I persuaded Crafty Green Boyfriend to take this photo, even though he didn't know what the fuss was about! You can read more about our walk and the kingisher we saw here.

For Weekend Reflections

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Coming Soon! Green Gift Monday

Green Gift Monday

Green Gift Monday coincides with Cyber Monday, November 29, the official start of the online holiday shopping season. Green Gift Monday aims to encourage people to give gifts that make a difference, like energy-efficient products, experiences rather than physical gifts or buying a virtual gift through a charity.

I think this is a great idea. I often buy people gifts from charity online gift stores. My favourite is the RSPB Good Natured Gifts. Gifts bought from here help to protect birds and other wildlife in the UK and overseas. In the USA, charity shops include the Nature Conservancy Gifts from Nature Shop.

I have found though that not everyone appreciates the virtual gift. I have one (former) friend who hasn't written to me since I sent a virtual charity gift (a donation for a home for dormice it was). I even wrote to ask if she had received the gift and no reply (and no she hasn't moved house!). So it may be useful to check whether the recipient likes the idea of a charity gift or if they'd rather have something for themselves. If it's the latter then you still have a wide range of ethical gift choices, including fair trade or locally made crafts, jewellery or clothes, organic and fair trade food hampers.

You can also make gifts greener by wrapping gifts in recycled papers, or making gifts or cards from recycled materials.

You can find links to most of my posts about green gift ideas here.

Red text in this post links to external websites, where you can find out more.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Bony World by Kelly Shepherd

Kelly Shepherd is a Canadian poet who recently spent some time teaching in South Korea. The Bony World is a pamphlet of poetry that focuses on animals and our relationships with them from rescuing sea turtles to accidentally killing a butterfly chrysalis. There is a strong sense of magic relating to the animals, for example the magpie in one for sorrow is the 'only fixed point in the universe' and the bear in taboo deformation being the 'one who turns the heavens.' Loss permates the poems too, often with the sense of us losing our rightful balance with the natural world, as in the stone turtle:

People said as long as the stone turtle was there,
the real turtles would be there too

 The stone turtle has been damaged by people wanting souvenirs and although this poem doesn't specifically state that there are no more real turtles on this beach, that is certainly the conclusion the reader reaches.

This is a collection imbued with reverence for animal life, written with an eye for detail and a sense of wonder.

from inter canem et lupum

restless sheep dreaming nights
careful tread around the borders of campfire light
high, thin, hungry, howling
you divide yourself in half, in thirds,
into a whole circle of coyotes
so you have someone to sing with

This is not just a book of wonderful poetry, it's also a beautiful looking book, printed on a lovely cream, textured paper with cover art by Erin Candela.

The Bony World by Kelly Shepherd published by The Rasp and the Wine

I was delighted to be offered a review copy of this book and I sent a copy of my chapbook Unthinkable Skies in return.

You can read some of Kelly's poetry on Bolts of Silk here.

Text in red in this post contains hyperlinks.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Gift Box

It's the time of year to start thinking about Christmas gifts. Possibly slightly early to think about wrapping them but a bit of forward thinking may help plan how to reuse materials to wrap gifts! Chocolates and toiletries often come in boxes that can easily be reused as gift boxes. Here, I pasted some gift wrap over the brand name on the box and filled the box with shredded gift wrap that was too torn to reuse.

You can see more of my festive gift wrap ideas by following these links:

Silvery re-used giftwrapping

Green and white reused giftwrap

Fabric gift bags

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Technology to the Rescue

It's very easy to see technology as the villain. However technology can be used in very positive ways to help the environment. Open Planet Ideas is an initiative between Sony and WWF that invites ideas on how technology can be used to address some of the pressing environmental issues that face us at the moment.

You too can join the challenge!  Currently there are over 150 ideas in six themes (Behaviour Change, Cleaner by Design, More with Less, Make it Real, Waste Not and  Recycling Revisited. Specific ideas include using technology to reduce waste or improve cooking methods, using rain as a power source or sharing ideas to reduce packaging waste.

My idea is to use mobile technology and CCTV to both help people improve their wildlife identification skills and at the same time to feed into wildlife recording schemes that are vital to the conservation of nature. This would tie in the image recording capabilities of mobile phones and CCTV cameras with the information held by wildlife organisations (such as the excellent online bird information on the RSPB website) to help with wildlife identification and then to tie in with recording systems (such as Birdtrack as run by the British Trust for Ornithology) to offer a interconnected system for both identification and recording, which would help individuals improve their wildlife identification skills and would help conservation organisations to record more wildlife. To find out more about the idea, you can visit this page and leave your comments.

Find Out More About Open Planet Ideas

There is a great potential for this scheme to generate a lot of ideas with potential to make environmental improvements. The best ideas will be selected and filtered to produce one final concept that Sony will research and develop. The winning device or idea will be made open source; Sony won’t profit directly from it.

Sponsored Post


We saw this kingfisher by the side of the Union Canal in Edinburgh today. Uncharacteristically it was posing nicely in a tree and then in this bit of undergrowth. Crafty Green Boyfriend doesn't have a zoom lens for his camera at the moment, but if you click on the photo you will get a larger view. The kingfisher is such a beautiful bird, wonderful colours. There had been worries that kingfishers in the UK might have really suffered over the cold winter, and although there have been fewer sightings than normal along the Water of Leith this year, it seems that overall in the UK, they've not done too badly this year. You can read more about the kingfisher's resurgence here. 

Friday, 12 November 2010

Greener Monday - local food in Edinburgh

Greener Monday is a fairly new social enterprise in Edinburgh that offers a virtual farmers market. They haven online shop offering products made within 100 miles of Edinburgh. They even have a map showing the area this covers.

I was delighted when Greener Monday offered me a sample food box to review and even more delighted when it arrived yesterday. I haven't been able to try anything yet (as I was out for supper last night!) but it all looks wonderful, and was wrapped in a box tied up with a tartan ribbon that I can reuse in a crafting project and including paper packaging material. The food items are:

Devilish Tomato Chutney from Isabella's Preserves, Tayside
Damson Jelly with Gin also from Isabella's Preserves
Ola - extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil from Ola, Aberdeenshire (Ola is Gaelic for oil)
Cracked Black Pepper Oatcakes from the Handmade Oatcake Company in Perthshire
Shortbread from the Shortbread House in Edinburgh
Porridge premix (with apple, sultana and cinnamon) from Stoats in Edinburgh
Blueberry drink from Bouvrage in Alloa

I notice though that the blueberries in the Bouvrage come from Finland, which given that Scotland seems to have a lot of blueberries is a surprise and undermines the local provenance of the product. I think this is a perennial problem for processed foods. The product might be produced in one locality but that doesn't mean that all the ingredients are sourced locally. I think the other products are all made from local ingredients though, and so qualify for being genuinely local.

So we'll look forward to eating and drinking and making notes over the next wee while and I'll do the second part of the review when we've tried a bit of everything!

A note about reviews etc: I mostly review books and films that I've chosen (and paid for!) myself but am happy to review products or services that are sent to me. I've set up a new page with a short note about this. I am nowadays sent a lot of press releases, which I may use as the basis of blog posts if I think they fit nicely within the blog. I may even on occasion write a sponsored post (and yes that does mean there's one coming up!) but only where I really believe in what I'm being paid to write about.

The red text in this post links to websites where you can find out more!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Green Books Campaign: A Year in the Woods

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.
A Year in the Woods by Colin Elford is published by Hamish Hamilton (an imprint of Penguin Books) on paper certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. You can read more about Penguin's commitment to the environment here. The book is a lovely looking hardback in a smallish format with the pages printed on a nice paper.
The book is a diary of Elford's working life as a forest ranger on the Dorset / Wiltshire border. It appealed to me because of my voluntary work with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust where once a week I patrol an area of woodland along the river, recording wildlife, picking litter and keeping an eye out for pollution and other issues. Of course Elford's work is much more demanding and seems to take over his whole life, he is often found working late into the night or setting out before dawn into the forest. His tasks are also more wide ranging than I undertake as a volunteer, in fact one of his main tasks is to cull deer. In fact this leads to my one complaint about the book. Too much emphasis on the shooting! I definitely got the feeling that the book is aimed at the outdoor sports fan rather than the naturalist. I understand the need for culling populations of deer, they have no natural predators in the UK since we wiped out all the big carnivores that used to roam our countryside. However, I felt that the narrative could have been a bit less biased towards the hunting.
Having said that the book is fascinating. Elford obviously knows his patch of woodland intimately and makes  wonderfully detailed observations of the natural wonders around him.
Bobbing and swerving, the owl heads over some young pine. While one crow carries on the chase, the other soars skywards, then suddenly and violently stoops at the tawny; the owl crumples like an airborne mass of feathers, the force pushing  the bird deep into the pine tops, causing a massive burst of pine pollen.
It's the detail of the burst of pine pollen that is so interesting here, how many of us would notice that or recognise it for what it is?
This book gives a fascinating and personal insight into how our forests (and deer populations) are managed.

Disclaimer - I received a free copy of this book as part of the Green Books Campaign.

Monday, 8 November 2010

More autumn birds

I extended my walk along the Water of Leith today to Balgreen where I have heard there have been waxwings in the past few days. I didn't see any. However I did see a nice large flock of redwings, a lovely mixed flock of finches and tits including a lot of bullfinches (so nice to see this bright finch in good numbers, it had declined quite drastically but more recently has recovered). Also separate flocks of long tailed tits in three places along the river. Some of them came really close to me and I could see the markings on their heads. Long tailed tits are one of my favourite birds, and are found in great number in many places in Edinburgh at this time of year, so I thought I'd use that as an excuse to repost the haiku and tanka below:

willow tree -
long tailed tits leap
branch to branch


at the piano
I struggle to bring to life
the notes on the stave -
outside, long tailed tits flutter
in the bare branches

Sunday, 7 November 2010

One More Generation

I have been asked to share the history of this inspiring organisation!

Carter (age 9.5) and his sister Olivia (age 8) are so passionate about wanting to make a difference that they started their own organization called One More Generation (OMG).

The two students had been adopting cheetah's in South Africa for years and started asking why some animals needed adopting. When they heard that unless someone stepped in to help, there might not be any cheetahs left in the wild by the time they had their own kids, they sprang into action.

Since starting OMG, Carter and Olivia have been involved in initiatives both locally and globally including:

They have delivered badly needed Animal Rescue Supplies to the Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Rescue Center in New Orleans.

They were guest speakers at the Kids Are Heroes day in Fredrick, Maryland last month where they were recognized for all their hard work.

They aim to raise $50,000.00 for a Cheetah Rescue program run by the Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Centre in South Africa. They recently held a silent auction of paintings kids in the community did of their favorite endangered species.

One More Generation has an educational program that presents to visitors of  Atlanta Zoo, Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Botanical Garden, and the Cochran Mill Nature Center.

They are in talks with The Art Miles Mural Project an international organization that raises awareness of various initiatives through art. They are excited at the prospect of organising an art event for endangered species.

Carter and Olivia will be guest speakers at the Caring for Creation 2011 Conference at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

They recently hosted a “Water Event” at Fernbank Museum where they discussed the importance of water for all living things and partnered with Ryan’s Well Foundation that helps build water wells in poor villages around the world to ensure everyone has access to clean drinking water.

You can read more about this inspiring organisation and see videos of their work on their website.

Carter and Olivia's main messages are "Anybody can make a difference... If we can you can too", and "We need everyone to start paying attention to what we are doing to the planet and all its creatures.  We are supposed to be the stewards of this planet, we need to start acting like one."

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Corstorphine Hill

We had a wonderful walk round Corstorphine Hill today. The autumn colours are glorious, there are loads of fungi around and lots of birds. We saw lots of blue tits, great tits, a couple of treecreepers and a couple of goldcrests, which came very close to us, which is relatively unusual for this species. We also had a very good view of a female kestrel being chased by a crow. We had come back to the hill after we had heard there were waxwings there, and we had briefly walked round the hill yesterday lunchtime, without seeing waxwings, though we had seen bullfinches and had been caught in the middle of a flock of long tailed tits, which is a lovely experience. No waxwings today either, which is sad as there are a lot of them in Edinburgh at the moment and they are wonderful birds to see. I have been lucky seeing them in recent years when they've come to Edinburgh, but so far not this year. I guess they should be around for a few weeks longer, so fingers crossed. And in the meantime here are some photos from a very autumnal Corstorphine Hill. The Tower in the first photo is Corstorphine Tower, a memorial to Walter Scott.

(text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to a page giving more information)

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Green Books Campaign

On 10 November, 200 bloggers will simultaneously post reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. By focussing on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise awareness of the environmental aspects of buying books. This year’s participation of both bloggers and books has doubled from the event’s inception last year. I'll be writing a review of part of this campaign, which you will be able to read here and on my Goodreads page.

"Although there’s so much hype around e-books, books printed on paper still dominate the book market, and we want them to be as environmentally sound as possible,” explains Raz Godelnik, co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris. “Their share is still relatively small, but you can find a growing number of books printed responsibly and we hope this initiative will bring more exposure to such books. Through this campaign we want to encourage publishers to increase their green printing options and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.”

Learn more about the Green Books Campaign and find a list of all participants here.

Eco-Libris works to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices in the industry, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. To achieve these goals Eco-Libris works with book readers, publishers, authors, bookstores and others in the book industry worldwide. So far Eco-Libris has balanced out more than 150,000 books, resulting in more than 165,000 new trees planted with its planting partners in developing countries.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Golden Hour Book 2

I posted recently (here!) about Edinburgh's Forest cafe being threatened with closure. The cafe is much more than a rather chaotic vegetarian cafe, it is also a creative hub, one part of which is Forest Publications. Forest Publications hold the monthly Golden Hour event, which is a wonderful mix of music, short stories, poetry and cartoons. I recently won a copy of the Golden Hour Book 2 on Twitter. It is the second compilation of words from Golden Hour evenings so far, including pieces from Kona McPhee, Robert Alan Jamieson, Claire Askew and Ryan van Winkle. It also includes a CD of music, which in my case doesn't play, which is a shame, particularly as it includes a track from the brilliant Billy Liar.

If you're a regular at Golden Hour then this book and CD is a wonderful reminder of some of the best writing and sounds from the event, if you've never been to Golden Hour then the book offers a taste of what it's like! Either way it is an excellent read.

Two extracts, biased as ever on this blog to environmental and nature themes, which aren't typical of the publication in general:

from Fen Train by Kona MacPhee:

a flock of swans, unshepherded
grazes the chocolate soil,
their poise recalling long drained meres

from The Birds Like (a very short story about bullying) by Phil Harrison

It was starlings. There was one, two and then they came, hundreds of them, I swear, hundreds, and they were moving like there were threads between them, like they were tied together. They dropped, sudden, a dive, then they rose again, glidin, like they weren't even trying and it was beautiful.

The Golden Hour Book 2 published by Forest Publications. £8 including CD

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Seasonal Foods

I blogged recently about it being apple season (you can read that post here). We're eating a lot of apple crumbles at the moment! This got me thinking about the seasonality of food. These days, if you buy food from a supermarket or a large grocer you are likely not to notice that there is such a thing as seasonal food (except for pumpkins at Hallowe'en and Brussels sprouts at Christmas). Fruit and vegetables are imported from across the globe so that we can eat what we want when we want. The planes and ships that transport the food produce a lot of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change. Produce that travels halfway across the world has lost quality and taste by the time it reaches our plates.

Also I think we've forgotten some of the enjoyment of food being seasonal. Strawberries are much more special if you can only eat them for a few weeks of the year and the local grown ones taste so much better.

When I lived in Malawi, the seasonality of food was much more obvious, largely because there were no large supermarkets. There were no pineapples for most of the year and then for two weeks (in November I seem to remember?) there seemed to be nothing but pineapples, which we bought and hoarded in our kitchen. A month later there were no more pineapples and we had to wait 11 months for the next one.

Seasonal food helps to reconnect us with, well, the seasons and the natural cycles that we are a part of, much though most of us try to deny it.

Eat the Seasons is an online resource about seasonal food in the UK. It acknowledges that certain foods are now part of our eating experience even though they don't grow in the UK. So it advises eating Spanish oranges in season, rather than those imported from further away but suggests that importing from overseas is unnecessary when the food is grown in the UK.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Poetry in Motion Festival

Edinburgh Filmnouse is showing a season of poetic films. There are some films that I would have included in there that you won't get a chance to see (including Slam the wonderful film about a prison writer in residence who totally changes a prisoner's life and Pandeamonium about the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

However I'm delighted to see that the excellent documentary on the Russian poet Boris Ryzhy will be showing.  Ryzhy is sometimes referred to as the last Soviet poet, and tragically committed suicide at the age of 26 in 2001. The documentary (called simply Boris Ryzhy) is beautifully made, with beautiful meditative scenes of industrial cityscapes covered in snow interwoven with birch woodland and archive footage of Ryzhy reading and smoking. One of the best features of the film was that Ryzhny's poetry was read over large sections of it. You can find out more about Ryzhy and the film and read some of his poetry on his website. I saw this film at last year's Edinburgh International Film Festival and I may well go back to see it again.

Boris Ryzhy will be showing at the Filmhouse 15.45, Saturday 13 November