Monday, 31 October 2011
There were lots of mallards, one female goosander and a whole load of herring gulls and black headed gulls. I had hoped to see wigeon, a very pretty duck that I've seen at Musselburgh before, but there were none.
On the shore the tide was fairly far out but we did get to see a couple of curlews, some oystercatchers and a couple of redshanks among the gulls and crows. Also two pied wagtails, with their heads turning slightly yellow for winter.
As the walk came to an end a group of Canada geese glided upriver then took off into the air and flew over the bridge.
It's been a good group and we've had reasonable luck with seeing birds - but so much of it is about luck and having a group of 14 people isn't ideal in terms of minimising disturbance to the birds.
The walks start again on 20 February 2012. I'll post the details (and the link to the booking form) here when they're available.
As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks which take you to other websites where you can find out more.
Saturday, 29 October 2011
and round the Botanic Gardens.
Friday, 28 October 2011
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Meanwhile Crafty Green Boyfriend has been busy and would appreciate a few votes for his photo in the Friends of the Earth Christmas e-card competition (yes I know it's early!). You can see all the photos on Facebook here - Crafty Green Boyfriend's picture is the robin. You can vote for it by clicking the Like button under his photo. (You need to be a member of Facebook to vote and of course you are at perfect liberty to vote for someone else's photo!)
As ever, text in red contains hyperlins to other websites where you can find out more.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Monday, 24 October 2011
You can buy copies of the anthology from Lulu here.
Sunday, 23 October 2011
This book is a wonderful mix of natural history, animal welfare and total eccentricity. It includes an investigation into the reasons why hedgehogs are declining in the wild, whether hedgehogs have caused population declines in seabirds in Scottish islands, an expedition to China to find the very rare Hugh's hedgehog and a brief trip to the Hedgehog Olympic Games.
We meet people who have given up almost everything to set up hedgehog hospitals; find out whether hedgehogs really can harvest fruit by rolling around and find out how best to look after the hedgehogs that visit our gardens.
I imagine most people will be totally charmed by this book and will then want to observe these wonderful animals in the wild. Well in the UK, that's sadly becoming a rare event these days for most of us. If this book makes you want to help your local hedgehogs, then you can visit Hedgehog Street to find out more.
A Prickly Affair by Hugh Warwick published by Penguin
Friday, 21 October 2011
Thursday, 20 October 2011
BSL is a wonderfully expressive language and even without spoken English interpretation, I found it possible to understand the main themes of the poetry. I particularly enjoyed the poem Autumn where books became birds became falling autumn leaves.
After the event, I chatted (through an interpreter) to Richard about imagery in poetry and specifically about haiku. BSL is an ideal language for haiku, with its emphasis on images. In fact BSL haiku are even more pared down and compressed than English language haiku - two BSL signs can convey a haiku very well! There is a BSL haiku website here, where you can find out more and watch some BSL haiku in action.
There is a BSL poetry website forthcoming that should soon be visible here.
As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks which take you to other webpages where you can find out more.
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
Morgan Spurlock set out to make a film that exposed the insidious nature of product placement by financing itself entirely through product placement! The result is a highly entertaining journey through the whole process of finding sponsors, coming to agreements with them about their involvement in the film and giving them their slice of screen time. The viewer sits in on the pitches Spurlock makes to the sponsors and finds out details in the ensuing contracts (such as Spurlock can only be seen to drink the juice made by the drinks manufacturer that is the headline sponsor of the film) and then the results of the contracts are clearly visible in the finished film (indeed he is only seen to drink the one type of soft drink, though he did drink a coffee from an unmarked mug on at least one occasion).
The film also looks at marketing and watches the process of advert design. Part of the film involves a discussion with high school students about how they see marketing and advertising and then a discussion with the staff from the same school around the problems of making income for the school without selling out to big corporations. This leads to the makers of the film making donations to the school in return for adverts for the film being placed in the school buses and on billboards round the school. The film itself of course fits in with the class discussions around marketing and advertising and questions the whole notions of corporate school sponsorship, so there's a nice circular thing going on there.
It's an eye-opening film, and many viewers will find themselves keeping a beady eye out for product placements in future films they watch as well as becoming more aware of the myriad ways corporations are constantly selling stuff to us. It also unearths a wonderfully bizarre product - a shampoo that can be used both by people and horses - which inspires a particularly amusing scene.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is showing at the Cameo in Edinburgh until Thursday.
Monday, 17 October 2011
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Today is also World Food Day, which this year focusses on the issues of price and stability in the world food markets. You can find out more about that here. If you're in Edinburgh, there's still time to get along to this World Food Day celebration.
There are many environmental issues around food, including:
In the UK, many farmland birds are in decline, due to the use of chemicals in intensive farming. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) does a lot of work on making farming more wildlife friendly. You can read about their work here. They also have an interesting article about corvids caching food, which you can read here.
Organic farming bans the use of harmful chemicals. The Soil Association campaigns for organic farming across the UK and is a certification body for organic products. In Scotland, the largest certification body for organic food is SOPA. I sometimes wonder whether there is really a need for two certification bodies. I also know that many smaller farms are put off by the price and the length of the process of becoming a certified organic farm. At least two small food producers near Edinburgh produce food that is as close to organic as you can get, but they aren't organic purely because they can't afford to become so. Many other farms, whether organic or not, as Weaver of Grass points out in the comments, do their bit to help the wildlife on their land.
Today's poem on Bolts of Silk is about food, you can read it here.
And this seems like as good a time as ever to mention the Foreign Flavours anthology due to be published on 24 October by Writers Abroad. This anthology includes fiction and non-fiction about food and cooking abroad (including my piece 'From My Malawian Cookbook'). Proceeeds from the sales of the anthology go to the excellent Bookbus charity, which supports literacy in Africa and Latin America and recently had a book drive for Malawi.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
There were lots of snails with different patterned shells, here's just one example, nicely contrasting with the lichen on the wall:
You can see more photos of this stretch of the canal in this post.
As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks which take you to other websites where you can find out more.
Friday, 14 October 2011
Last night we went out early evening (to see the excellent New Model Army in concert) and passed Castle Rock. As ever, we stopped to see if we could see any bunnies and we counted 10, which is much more than we've seen since the famous count of 30.
On the way back, we passed Castle Rock again. This time there were no bunnies at all on the hill. Instead we saw two young foxes. One was halfway up the hill, digging around in a ditch, the other was sitting not far from us, watching us. They both seemed very relaxed about us being so near to them. After a while, the sitting fox leapt up and joined the other one and they chased each other round, playfighting. It's the first time I've seen foxes on Castle Rock, though Crafty Green Boyfriend has seen on there recently. I'll certainly be looking out for them there in the future!
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Monday, 10 October 2011
Sunday, 9 October 2011
The rabbits were all hidden away, sheltering from the rain.
This goat was also trying to keep out of the rain though he did show his head.
Finally we made friends with this adorable Ryelands sheep, not much more than a lamb really.
Saturday, 8 October 2011
The above is a literal haiku from observation (I have a headache, there are dark clouds outside). However, as a haiku it can be improved. For example, although most English language haiku writers who take the form seriously don't adhere to the 5-7-5 pattern of syllables (because English syllables are so different from Japanese syllables, the 5-7-5 is generally treated as an upper limit rather than strict rule) most do stick to short line / longer line / short line in 3 line haiku. So we can change it to:
which also makes it more dramatic. And then to add further drama it can become:
Which got me wondering about how much haiku are based purely on observation and how much they're based on the writing process. Until recently, it seems to have been the received wisdom that haiku are based on simple observation and should be altered as little as possible from that observation, which should be allowed to speak for itself. However, I've seen more recent haiku which use surrealism (which I think is an intriguing element to find in haiku) or metaphor (which I don't see the point of in haiku as the juxtaposition of images is already a type of metaphor, so why add another?).
I love the simplicity of haiku and many of those I write are based purely on observation, though I alter some of them, and occasionally I write haiku out of my imagination (which I sometimes get the impression you're not supposed to admit to writing). If you read or write haiku, what do you think about all this?
Thursday, 6 October 2011
The only signs of life were dolphins playing in the clear deep ultramarine, our first spinner dolphins. They leap from the water and spin in the air, performing airborne pirouettes like a voluntary and spontaneous circus act. They even put on night shows. Dozens of them would frolic around the boat leaving three-dimensional trails of interweaving phosphorescence, criss-crossing tunnels of flashing light like underwater fireworks.
Rhydwen is a Buddhist and interweaves into the narrative her thoughts about the spiritual nature of the mundane tasks and often long periods of inactivity. She also observes the social inequalities of the countries they visit (while being very aware of the inequalities of her own home country). She comments on the way that our current lifestyles are alienating us from the natural world and how a return to slower lifestyles could benefit us and the natural world.
This is a very readable book, conversational in tone and always thoughtful and by turns entertaining and moving. It did rather put me off ever sailing around the world though, not that that really was ever an ambition of mine!
Slow Travel by Mari Rhydwen published by Allen and Unwin