Friday, 31 December 2010
Thursday, 30 December 2010
a carrion crow, on a tv aerial, bows again and again, calling over and over 'caw, caw, caw'
fallen leaves trapped in the frozen canal - a carrion crow slides across, drinking the meltwater from the surface
(The second one was written after a wonderful walk along the Union Canal the other day, when we saw a lot of interesting birds, including my first bramblings for years!).
In January I will be sharing small stones on this blog, interspersed with other blog posts. If you want to join in you can find out more here.
If you read my Over Forty Shades blog, you may have noticed that I've not posted all that much recently. I've not been sure what to do with it, and have just kept it ticking over with the occasional poem, photo and book review. Next year however I have committed to three reading challenges, all of which I will be writing about on Over Forty Shades (The Haruki Murakami Challenge, the Italy in Books Challenge and the LGBT Reading Challenge). I also received a new camera for Christmas and am thinking of posting quirky photos of hidden architectural gems of Edinburgh over there, plus of course there will be occasional poems that don't fit on this blog. So it may become worth reading....
As ever, red text in this post contains hyperlinks to pages where you can find out more.
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Fabian Vas has a mentor Isaac Sprague with whom he has shared a long exchange of paintings and letters, which have helped him develop his skills and talent. Sprague is short on actual praise but his comments are always helpful: The most recent kingfisher ........ It was adequate. But the bird's reflection itself too closely resembled the actual bird's face. It wasn't even slightly distorted on the surface, so the texture of the water wasn't at all represented is a typical comment.
The novel is beautifully written and made me want to visit Newfoundland to see all these wonderful birds. I also wished the novel was illustrated.
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman published 1994 by Picador USA
Friday, 24 December 2010
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
In January 2011 I'll be joining in NaSmaStoMo. National Small Stone Month. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a small stone every day during the month of January. A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention. You can find out more and join in at A River of Stones. You can read a selection of small stones over on a handful of stones.
I'll be sharing my small stones here, interspersed with my other blog posts and I'll also be sharing them on Twitter.
Meanwhile I'm delighted that one of my haiku has been accepted for publication in the innovative and edible poetry journal Poetry Digest.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
behind those buildings -
But I have memories from a few years ago, a reddening moon in an awestruck night.
Monday, 20 December 2010
For example Ninjin the Vegetable Assassin takes a unique approach to the issue of seasonal food, while Touching the Stairs has a group of mountaineers trying to reach the first landing in a flight of stairs and Huddle has a group of naked people pretending to be penguins to show what we can learn from penguins about working together and keeping warm. My favourite video is Recycled / Reborn which shows a very creative craft project using recycled trash.
Most of the videos are online, along with a selection of other videos aimed at helping you to become greener. You can watch them on the Do the Green Thing website.
Sunday, 19 December 2010
Friday, 17 December 2010
Thursday, 16 December 2010
I was equally delighted to find that a flash fiction piece I wrote has been accepted and published by Easily Inspired. You can read it on their website (advisable not to download anything from this site as MacAfee have security concerns about it, if you're being extra cautious you may not want to visit at all, but then you miss out on my story!).
I'm writing a series of blogposts about the birds to be found on the Water of Leith and in the wider Leith area of Edinburgh for Greener Leith. You can read the first two posts here and here.
I am also writing a series of reviews for Sabotage. You can read them here.
I've also just found out I've won a competition (not a writing competition!). I'll post more here when it's announced!
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks to other sites where you can find out more.
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Having worked as a charity fundraiser, I know how difficult it can be for small community groups to find money to carry out their work. Many charitable trusts don't fund groups unless they are a registered charity (which is fair enough I suppose but can be problematic for small local groups run on a shoestring) and there is a surprising lack of trusts that will fund projects that just need a small amount of money - I guess a lot of funders like to be associated with big impressive projects!
So it is heartening all round to see The Cooperative Membership Fund. This grant scheme is funded by members of The Co-operative donating some of their share of profits, which is then given away in the form of small grants. This year The Co-operative Members have donated £1.2 million to small charities and other local community groups across the UK.
Another great thing about the Co-operative is that it is an ethical company - you can read about their commitment to tackle Climate Change here. Many community groups looking for charitable funds like to know that the funds they accept are not the proceeds of trade or activities that don't fit in with the groups ethics. (For example some projects don't accept money from the Big Lottery as they don't agree with gambling). A group can be comfortable applying for funds from the Co-operative knowing that the money doesn't come from the proceeds of, for example, selling weapons. Anyone who banks with the Co-operative (as i do), will be very pleased to see some of their profits used to support small community groups across the country.
The Co-operative Membership Fund supports a wide range of activities across the UK, including local food groups, such as Incredible Edible Rossendale, which encourages local people to grow their own food, increasing people's connection with the land and decreasing the carbon footprint of their food by reducing food miles.
You can view a selection of videos featuring supported projects on this page of the Cooperative Membership Fund website. The website also outlines how to apply for funds. In brief, to be successful a group must:
- Carry out positive work in the community (it does not have to have charitable status to apply)
And the project must:
- Address a community issue
- Provide a long-term benefit to the community
- Support co-operative values and principles
- Ideally be innovative in its approach
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Monday, 13 December 2010
Thursday, 9 December 2010
Today they have almost entirely melted away. We're hoping for good train services tomorrow to take us down to Bolton to visit my parents. We'll be back hopefully in time for me to read (briefly and at short notice) at TraVerses at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. I'll be (trains permitting) reading alongside a showing of Alastair Cook's film of my poem Adrift.
As ever red text contains hyperlinks to pages where you can find out more!
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
The cover photo complements the music perfectly, which is itself quite wintry in feel (of course this is complemented again by the current weather!). The music is a wonderful mix of accordion (which despite reminding me of the soundtrack of a South American film still manages to feel wintry here) electronic music and odd noises, including a rather manic sounding ticking clock (or possibly metronome) on the track Fireflies. All the music is performed by Howard Goodman. Some tracks feature the ethereal vocals of Becky Rose Fisher.
The title track is rather menacing in mood, which evokes the history of Cauldstane Slap - a drovers road that used to be known also as "The Thieves Road”. Border Reivers, Moss Troopers (bandits) and robbers galloped through the pass on night raids. Wrapped in their plaids and armed, drovers slept with their herds and flocks, to defend them.
The last track on the album The Last Livonian features a recording of the last native speaker of the Livonian language (formerly spoken in Latvia and currently being revived) complemented perfectly by the music.
Cauldstane Slap by Belvedere Mountain Express can be bought here.
As ever red text contains hyperlinks where you can find out more.
Monday, 6 December 2010
I saw lots of birds today. A heron took flight from the river almost as soon as I got into the Dells. I saw two dippers, one standing on a snow covered rock in the middle of the river, singing. We think of the robin as being the only bird in the UK that really sings in the winter, but the dipper (whose song is almost unexpected in its very existence) also sings now, a lovely song. It's a very early breeder so I guess its starting to stake its claim to territory extra early. I also had a very close view of a goldcrest, the tiniest British bird, but from a distance more likely to be confused with a coal tit or a blue tit than with a wren (and I saw one of those today as well!). I also had an excellent view of a buzzard that was being mobbed by a group of crows.
As I was leaving the Dells, I walked into an area that was full of long tailed tits. I saw about 15 of them, all bouncing from branch to branch, chatting away to each other.
On the way back into town, I passed a row of white berried rowan trees, and saw a small group of waxwings flying towards me. They landed in the rowan tree and started ripping off the berries!
Conservation organisations tell us to be extra careful not to disturb birds at this time of year, which is very true as they need to conserve their energy and don't want to be flying around all the time avoiding potential threats. However I think it is often true that birds are likely to come very close of their own accord at this time of year!
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Green the Film has its own website where you can watch the film, read the blog, find out who is responsible for destroying the Indonesian rainforests (scroll down) and take action. To help preserve the rainforests, ask yourself questions like:
a) do you need that new furniture? If so can you buy it second hand? Or from a dealer that sources its wood entirely ethically (admittedly difficult to verify this since the FSC is no longer entirely credible as a certification for ethically sourced wood).
b) do you need to use your car? Many forms of bio-diesel (such as those made from palm oil) are as damaging as oil and gas and there isn't enough bio-diesel from used chip fat to keep the world driving.
c) do you need to use so many cosmetics and toiletries? For those you do need, can you use less? Source the products you need from companies who do not use palm oil.
d) cut down on your use of processed foods, most of which contain palm oil. For those processed foods you can't do without, source products that contain olive oil or other alternatives to palm oil.
I posted recently about the video The Sustainability Lie, which shows that even the palm oil plantations that are certified as sustainable may be anything but.
The Indonesian tropical forests are wonderful habitats, home to amazing creatures such as the orang utan. Surely we need to do what we can to protect them?
As ever, red text in this post contains hyperlinks that lead to pages with more information.
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Friday, 3 December 2010
These extreme cold weather conditions of course are causing some people to question climate change, as sceptics always will. The most obvious cause for extreme weather hitting the UK while global temperatures increase, would be the loss of the Gulf Stream. This is the current of warm water that comes up from the southern oceans and passes by the UK making our winters, at least up until two years ago, milder than we would otherwise experience given how far north we are. The Gulf Stream could be lost as Arctic seas become warmer. There is a good article in the Telegraph newspaper, that explains this and other reasons why extremely cold winters in the UK are compatible with overall global warming.
Wildlife is vulnerable in this weather, so if you have a garden, make sure you put out food for the birds. The RSPB offer some excellent advice on how to feed the birds. The RSPB offer some specific advice for feeding birds in winter.
Of course people can be vulnerable in this weather too, so if you have elderly neighbours, please check up on them to see if they need anything.
As ever red text in this post contains hyperlinks which you can follow to find out more!
Thursday, 2 December 2010
...the duck pond is rapidly turning into a landfill of its own, a landfill paved in frogs. There are a million frogs here, bullfrogs hopping all over each other on tangled mats of algae. And the pond is filling up. Small ponds don't live very long, especially in the south. Decaying matter piles up on the bottom, depleting oxygen and the shore plants march to the middle. In another couple of centuries, if no one interferes the duck pond will be a hickory forest.
A wonderful book for anyone who loves nature.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard published by Harper's Magazine Press, 1974.
As ever, red text in this post is a hyperlink and takes you to a page where you can find out more!