Thursday, 31 May 2012

Growing Season

Over the past week we've been setting up our herbs and tomato plants for growing!

Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother gave us six tomato plants

and three little plugs of herb seeds in growing substrate. These look disturbingly like small chocolate muffins! I'll pot them up soon!

Last year we had excellent harvests of tomatoes, basil and coriander. Hopefully it will be the same this year (though we have dill (see photo) instead of coriander. The coriander plant I had earlier this year failed, sadly. I should get another as it is my favourite herb).

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Sacred Cows and Golden Geese

I was delighted to win, in the Ecologist magazine,  a copy of Sacred Cows and Golden Geese by C Ray Greek and Jean Swingle Greek.

This book is a cogent exploration of how animal testing in medicine is not just ethically wrong but doesn't work.

A lot of people turn round to animal rights activists and say "but think of all the advances medical science has made because of animal testing, it has to be worth it for it's value for human health!" This book argues that no, it isn't worth it, because it's not effective.

The book looks at the history of animal testing and then explores specific human conditions (such as cancer, heart disease and AIDS) and their relationship with animal testing. Time after time they prove that advances have been made through clinical trials on humans and other alternatives that do not use animals.

It's a well researched and thorough book, though it only begins to examine the issue of how medicine is tied in with pharmaceutical companies. Also I was disappointed that although the authors were quick to list all the downsides of any drug mentioned that had been tested on animals they were oddly blind to the downsides of  drugs that they claim haven't been tested on animals. They mentioned for example Prozac and statins as being fabulous drugs despite the fact that both are well documented to cause serious side effects for a large number of people who take them.

The book was written in 2003, so will be out of date on many details, but is still well worth reading. I was a bit surprised though that such an out of date book (where some of the information no longer applies) was being offered as a prize.

Sacred Cows and Golden Geese by C Ray Greek and Jean Swingle Greek with a Foreword by Jane Goodall, published by Continuum

The Greeks work for the Americans for Medical Advancement which campaigns for medical practice and research that is not dependent on the use of animals.

I reviewed this book for Brighton Blogger's Reading Challenge 2012

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

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Poppies, snails and raindrops

After a few days of hot sunny weather, it rained again this morning. It had stopped by the time I went out along the Water of Leith but there were still plenty of raindrops around as these photos show!

 I was struck by the lovely patterns on this snail's shell
 this snail seems to have something wrong with its shell
 left-over raindrops on lime (linden) leaves

these yellow poppies seem to have come into bloom really quickly

I was trying to map Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed along 'my' stretch of the river so that Edinburgh Council can then come along and control these two invasive species. It's a difficult job, much though I can read a map, I find the world looks different from along the river and I sometimes find it difficult to work out exactly where I am on the map so I can plot the invasive plants.

I still managed to enjoy all the birds though. I got excellent views of dippers (more so than usual as I went right down to the river close to where I know a pair are nesting  (co-incidentally next to a stand of Japanese Knotweed) and one of the birds was right there!). I also had close views of two tree-creepers and saw a number of youngsters of various species being fed by their parents.

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

Monday, 28 May 2012

Monday Bunday

This delightful young rabbit was sitting in the shade of the banner on the hill by the hotel next to Edinburgh Zoo last time we walked past. Crafty Green Boyfriend took several photos.


My latest post on Books and environmental issues is now up on Brighton Blogger's Book after Book Blog. You can read it here (and catch up with the earlier posts if you haven't already read them!).


There's still time to book a place on my Creative Writing Inspired by Nature course, you can find out more and book here.

And if you're in the UK, the Better Transport Campaign are looking for your stories about public transport, cycling and walking (and there are prizes on offer!). Find out more here

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Italian Rabbits

Although I don't like to hoard in general, I have found myself with a lot of used train tickets, thinking I'd one day use them in crafting. Well recently I've been experimenting and have covered some train tickets with paper from old Italian magazines and then drew rabbits (what else?) on them.

Here are a couple of the results. I'll maybe use them as publicity cards for the Crafty Green Poet Etsy Shop and similar uses.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Even the Rain

Even the Rain is a powerful and moving film that is essentially a study of colonialism in Latin America but that is also an engrossing, multi-layered story featuring believable characters facing real human dilemmas.

Idealistic Spanish film director Sebastian (Gael García Bernal) and his cynical producer Costa (Luis Tosar) are making an epic about the conquest of Latin America. They're making it in Bolivia because that's where they can do it cheapest. Things become complicated when Daniel (Carlos Aduviri), a local cast as a 16th century native in the film within a film, turns out to be one of the leaders of his community’s protests against water privatisation.

The film explores colonialism in three scenarios - the original colonialism of Columbus and his men, the colonialism of the multinational companies taking over the Bolivian water supplies and the colonialism implicit in a Spanish film crew telling the history of Latin America (and using the wrong country as the setting).

This could all be too heavy and well meaning, but instead it is engaging and compelling, largely because the politics come from believable situations and the characters reactions are entirely believable for people in their situations.

You can find out more about the global water crisis on the website.

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

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Birds in the Haar

There was a slight haar (sea mist) when I got to Musselburgh this morning. Rather than lifting as it normally would mid morning, it just got thicker and thicker. In the photo below you can see it rolling off the Musselburgh Lagoons.

Despite the haar, though I saw some excellent birds today. Unfortunately the Lagoons were more or less empty as they often are when the tide is out (the high tide pushes the birds up the shore and onto the lagoons).

Away from the lagoons, though I had my best ever views of three birds that I don't see very often.

Three male reed buntings were singing in the grassy area near the lagoons. They're very handsome birds and they have a funny little song that I don't think I've ever heard before today. 

A pair of wheatears was dancing along the John Muir Walkway.

A few rock pipits were flying about, one of which kept stopping in front of me as I walked back into Musselburgh.

It was also lovely to hear several skylarks singing. Such a wonderful sound!

When I got back to the River Esk, I saw this happy family of Canada Geese. The goslings were just adorable!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Trees and Poetry

Corstorphine Hill We had a lovely walk round Corstorphine Hill at lunchtime. The weather was hot, which was a bit of a shock since it was cold only two days ago!Luckily there are plenty of trees offering shade on large areas of the hill.
The Highlight of the day was seeing a song thrush smashing a snail from its shell. Even back when song thrushes were common this was something I rarely saw and Crafty Green Boyfriend had never seen it before! Rachel Fox further up in Scotland however sees this in her garden all the time!

Still on the theme of Trees, I'm delighted that my poem Family Tree is up on Snake Oil Cure today! You can read it here. (Today, that link takes you directly to my poem, but it looks as though, from tomorrow onwards, you may need to scroll down to reach my poem). Snake Oil Cure are currently specifically looking for stories, poetry and art about trees, so if you have anything suitable, send it to them! Details on the submissions page of the Snake Oil Cure website.

On a slightly different theme, I'm delighted  that two of my haiku are included in the Sketchbook haiku thread on the theme of brides and weddings. More haiku are being added all the time, so be sure to check back or send your own in (details on the Sketchbook website).

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

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban

Jonathan Raban sets out in his 35 foot sailboat to trace the route followed by Captain Vancouver as he travelled the coast exploring and checking up on the data supplied by the very first explorers.

Much of Raban's journey takes place in fog, which lends a real atmosphere to the landscapes and seascapes he's passing through. He has a keen eye for detail (though as a determined landlubber, I did occasionally get lost in his detailed descriptions of boating conditions!). His descriptions of landscape though are wonderfully evocative:

Away to the west, a long white bolster of low cloud lay north to south down Hecate Strait, but in my neck of the woods the morning was full of dewy brilliance in perfect visibility. I could see Alaska ahead, fifty or sixty miles off, a line of squat purple blisters on the horizon. 

Raban interweaves the narrative of his own voyage with that of Vancouver's, alongside explorations of native American life and culture in the region.I found it particularly interesting to read about how the creatures in native mythology that seem totally supernatural to us, would have seemed just part of nature to the original tribes-people telling the stories. There are several examples in this book of the raven stories of the Tlingit tribe.

Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban

Blogging Links

Vivian Faith Prescott is an Alaska based poet who blogs about Alaskan culture at Planet Alaska. You can read some of her poems on Bolts of Silk.

Rather frivolously, when I was reading the early part of this book, where Raban is sailing near Skagit and Puget Sound, I kept expecting him to find Racer, the brave and intrepid bunny from House of Rabbits to be paddling around the water in his little boat.

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

Monday, 21 May 2012


Primroses in the grounds of Hopetoun House, Dalmeny , West Lothian which we visited 
for the RSPB's Scottish Birdfair this weekend.

You can read more about our visit here and here.

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

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Bird ringing at Scottish Birdfair

More excellent events and workshops today at the RSPB's Scottish Birdfair.Sunshine all day too!

I promised yesterday that today I would blog about the highlight of the event and here it is.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) had a bird ringing tent at the fair. Mist nets had been set up in the woodlands and the birds that were caught were taken to the tent and measured and ringed in front of an audience before being released back into the woods.

It really was a privilege to be so close to these birds. We were disappointed to miss the nuthatches and great spotted woodpecker that had been ringed while we were in events (specially the nuthatch as it's a species that is still uncommon in Scotland, slowly increasing in number as it makes it's way north from England). Crafty Green Boyfriend took these photos of some of the birds we watched being ringed.

this is a long tailed tit, one of our favourite birds. After it was ringed it was released and flew directly over my head into the trees. In the photo below you can see how long this bird is, whereas it's body is tiny, it really does have a very long tail.
this is a great tit having it's wings checked for condition before being measured.

The British Trust for Ornithology carries out a lot of research into British birds including population fluctuations and migrations. Ringing gives valuable insights into these areas. You can find out more on the ringing pages of the BTO website.

You can read more about our trip to the Scottish Birdfair here

for World Bird Wednesday  and Nature Notes

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Scottish Bird Fair

I was delighted that the RSPB gave me two free tickets for their Scottish Birdfair at Hopetoun House near Dalmeny in West Lothian. All proceeds of the event go to help conserve the Slavonian grebe, an iconic bird of the Scottish Highlands.

 Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had a very enjoyable time there today. We enjoyed walking through the grounds of the House, which are beautifully full of primroses, bluebells and other wild flowers.

And this wonderful sculpture and table which could have been specially designed for the occasion.

As for the event itself there was a packed programme of workshops and talks. John Lister Kaye (who founded the Aigas Field Studies Centre in the north of Scotland and wrote the brilliant Song of the Rolling Earth, which I reviewed here) gave an informative and inspiring talk about the reintroduction of the European beaver into Scotland. There were plenty of cute photos of the beavers at Aigas to win the doubters over (though there seemed to be few of those in the audience).

Rory Crawford, RSPB Scotland's marine campaigner, gave an interesting and sobering talk about the state of Scotland's seabirds. The coasts of Scotland are home to very significant numbers of many species of seabirds and some of the colonies, specially in and around Orkney and Shetland have recently seen catastrophic declines. On the other hand, other species in other parts of Scotland are doing really well. Rory outlined the reasons behind the population changes, including the effects of climate change on the food species that are vital in maintaining the seabird populations.

We also attended the workshop on wader identification. Dave Allen of the Scottish Ornithologists Club bravely tried to give us an overview of all the waders (sandpipers and their allies,  and plovers) but several of the species are very confusing and 50 minutes just wasn't enough time though he did his best and I certainly learnt a few tips for identifying some of the species!

There were also a lot of interesting exhibitors offering information on birds and conservation in Scotland and books, optical equipment and artworks for sale.

The beer tent offered an excellent range of Scottish real ales, including Slavonian Grebe Gold which had been brewed specially for the occasion by Falkirk Tryst Brewery. To be honest it's a bit insipid and we both preferred the more characterful Bean Goose from the same brewery. Good though that a brewery got on board to help raise money for the Slavonian Grebe project supported by the Fair. 

Overall it was an excellent day and there's more tomorrow including talks on the importance of moths and the history of bird conservation in Scotland, workshops on raptor identification and gardening with wildlife and wildlife walks including Eco Expeditios for children.

If you do go tomorrow, you should be aware that if you travel by public transport, there is only one shuttle bus an hour from each of Linlithgow and Dalmeny railway stations, the pick up points for these shuttle buses are not sign-posted and the buses carry only 15 people each). This is pretty poor for a conservation event which should be encouraging people to use public transport.

If you're vegetarian, you might like to take a packed lunch as pretty much the only vegetarian food we saw were iced yoghurts (which in the wintry temperatures we're still enduring are not appealing) and one type of vegetarian soup. We were relieved though to find no trace of hog roasts, despite all rumours. The Artisan Roast company turned out to be serving coffee, hot chocolates and granola bars. We had to wait ages to be served but the granola bars were certainly worth the wait and were the best of the vegetarian menu. 

I'll post about the absolute highlight of the event tomorrow, so be sure to visit back!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Green Roofs

Roof gardens are becoming more and more popular it seems! This is an office block in the centre of Edinburgh with some nice stepped roof gardens! These are pretty to look at, reduce the carbon footprint of the building, are easy to look after and may offer habitat for insects and birds. You can also grow vegetables on green roofs if they are easily accessible.

You can find out more about green roofs on the Living Roofs website

Earlier this week I posted about green roofs and office allotments over on my website.

For Weekend Reflections.


I was recently interviewed by Third Force News, the newspaper for charities in Scotland about volunteering for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, you can read their write up here.

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

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Giveaway Winner

The winner of the My Memories Digital Software Giveaway is Roadbunner! Could you send me your email address so I can send you your promo code for the software? (For those of you haven't visited Roadbunner's blog, it's well worth checking out if you're a runner or if you like bunnies.)

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! 

Remember, whether you won the giveaway or not, even if you didn't enter and have never commented on this blog,  My Memories are offering your very own Share the Memories code giving you a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!)

Just use this code  STMMMS4293  in the checkout to claim your discount!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Etsy Treasury and a Miscellany

I've just put together my first Treasury on Etsy, it was great fun to curate! For those of you who don't know Etsy, Treasuries are collections of your favourite items made by other crafters. So these aren't items I've made but that I have enjoyed finding amongst the wealth of wonderful things on Etsy. My Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop focuses on craft supplies with the occasional handmade item.

This Sea Colours Treasury is themed around jewellery and related accessories made from sea pottery in the colours of the sea.I have plans for more treasuries in the future including a) sea glass jewellery; b) household items including sea glass and sea pottery in their design; c) African inspired items and of course d) a rabbit and hare themed treasury!

Following on from yesterday's blog post about the swifts that were being threatened by development in Hampshire, I received this update from the New Forest Council, so it looks as though the birds are only temporarily being kept away from their traditional nesting sites and are being offered alternatives. 

Talking of protecting birds, this wonderful Birdsbesafe collar seems to be just what all cats should be made to wear and it makes your pet look 'jazzy and Elizabethan' into the bargain. They're made by a small company in Vermont, though I suspect you could make them yourself.

Finally, I was delighted to recently find out that one of my poems is quoted in this impressive Earth Day poster, designed by Kelly Raver of Rave Designs.

Oh and don't forget it's your last chance to enter my giveaway to win the MyMemories digital scrapbooking software package. The giveaway officially ends at midnight tonight (Edinburgh time) but I won't be choosing the winner before tomorrow morning so there's still plenty of time.

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

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

SOS - Help the swifts

New Milton Housing Estate in Hampshire has been home for over 25 years to a large colony of swifts (around 50 pairs). Following the installation of anti-pigeon spikes to deter house martins, this colony is under immediate threat of destruction. Find out more at the links below:

The swifts have now started to return and are trying to gain access to their blocked nests. Many birds have already flown into the netting and help is needed now before it is too late! These spikes have been known to fatally injure swifts trying to find access to their holes.

Having flown thousands of miles, crossing the Sahara and facing many perils along the way, it is heartbreaking to think their journey will end here so needlessly.

We can stop this now. Please email to tell them that swifts are iconic birds that are suffering due to lack of nest sites and that New Forest Council should be helping them by supplying them with nest bricks (nesting boxes in the shap of bricks that can be incorporated into buildings) rather than keeping them out of  their nest sites.

You may want to refer the New Forest Cuncil to the Edinburgh Council briefing on Swifts and Development.

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

Bunny Haiga and Last chance to enter giveaway!

I've been continuing my experiments with the MyMemories digital scrapbooking software. I've found it to be excellent for making haiga (illustrated haiku) like this one. This is a very straightforward version, but the software allows for a whole range of borders to be added!

Now is your last chance to enter my Giveaway. I'll hold it open until tomorrow evening (Edinburgh time). You can enter here, but please follow the rules for a chance to win!

Whether you win or not, My Memories are offering all readers of this blog (even those of you who never comment!) your very own Share the Memories code giving you a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!)

Just use this code  STMMMS4293  in the checkout to claim your discount!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Hawthorns, cuckoo flowers and Ducklings!

 these are quite old mallard ducklings, there were a couple of tiny ones too, but they sped past too quickly for my camera!

 the hawthorn flowers are starting to come out, the whole towpath smells of hawthorn!
cuckoo flower, also known as ladies smock 

Union Canal, Edinburgh

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This is a classic look into a dystopian future, but a future that has disturbing parallels with the way we live today.

A mix of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational drugs and sex has turned everyone into happy consumers, who are unable to question or to feel real emotion. From babyhood people are conditioned to avoid becoming connected with other people or with nature and conditioned to accept life as it will be for them in their predetermined social category. People die in dying homes where the TV volume is turned right up and no-one visits except school groups on tours to get them conditioned to accepting death as something that doesn't matter.

So in the ultimate sense everyone is alone, but at the same time in everyday life they're pressured into constant communal activities and aren't allowed time by themselves, until they get old and socially unacceptable.

Bernard Marx, the main character, somehow has maintained enough individuality to question what is going on and travels to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where he finds life being lived as it used to be, full of the possibility of the whole range of human emotions. 

This novel (written in 1932) is still a glimpse into a future of genetic engineering and social control, while offering insights into the way we live today.

I reviewed this book for Brighton Blogger's 2012 Reading Challenge

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mystery Gull and the swifts are back!

My parents are visiting this weekend and after so much rain recently we were delighted by today's sun! We had a lovely walk along the River Esk at Musselburgh and saw this strange gull, which has many features of a juvenile common gull, but is in other ways quite odd. Any ideas on ID will be gratefully received.... Thanks!

In other bird news, our swifts have returned! Just saw four flying around outside our window! My favourite birds!

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Carline's Kist

I was delighted yesterday to receive my contributor's copy of The Carline's Kist, a lovely handmade book produced by JoAnnaMcKay of the Titus the Dog blog for a World Book Day event.

Thanks JoAnna for including my poem in this lovely book! 

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

Thursday, 10 May 2012


The cherry blossom is still wonderful in Edinburgh, despite so many petals having been torn off the trees by the wind and rain that our pavements and lawns are pink and white! I took this photo yesterday when the weather was dry, today it hasn't stopped raining!

If, like me, you like taking photos of woodlands then you may be interested in the Visit Woods photo competition. Basically all photos uploaded to the Visit Woods website between now and 30 June will be entered into the competition. Even if you don't win, you will be adding photographic records of our woods to this interesting and useful online resource!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Sign of the Times

I thought this made an eye-catching photo for Signs Signs, the meme where people share photos of signs.

It's also an illustration of a serious issue - that of litter in our rivers!

I took this photo on a recent walk along Burdiehouse Burn but on my weekly walks along the Water of Leith, I notice a fair amount of litter in the river. As a volunteer, I collect litter from the paths and banks of the Water of Leith, but for health and Safety Reasons I don't pick litter from the river (unless I can safely do so from the shore) nor do I pick litter from steep hillsides. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust organises regular community and corporate litter picks where groups of people address these larger litter problems.

It would be so nice if we didn't need to spend so much time picking litter though, wouldn't it?

If you want to help clear Scotland of litter, Keep Scotland Beautiful are running the National Spring Clean until the end of May. You can find out how to get involved here.

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

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Water of Leith - The Dells are lovely in Spring!

As many readers of this blog know, I regularly volunteer for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. I help to look after Colinton and Craiglockart Dells, a beautiful area of woodland alongside the river. (Yesterday I was delighted to see a pair of grey wagtails taking food into a nest hole high up in a bridge across the river!).

So I'm very happy to have an article about the wonder of the Dells in Springtime on Lothian Life!

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks which take you to other websites where you can find out more!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sea Pottery

I first really discovered sea pottery on a recent holiday on the Isle of Arran, off Scotland's west coast. One of the first pieces I found was this one, which is now for sale in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, it would make a perfect pendant for a necklace, don't you think?

Since that holiday I've looked for sea pottery and sea glass whenever I've been on a beach. I've found some lovely pieces on the beaches at North Berwick and Musselburgh. Some can be re-purposed just as they are, like the two in the photo below - the smaller one is an ideal size to use as a an incense cone holder. (These two pieces are not for sale, I'm using them myself!)

Other pieces can be used in jewellery, mosaics or assemblages. I'll be adding quite a few pieces to my Etsy shop over the next few months!

It's amazing what you can find on the beach, if you keep your eyes open! 

Of course, there's a lot of less appealing things found on beaches, if you're in the UK you can volunteer with the Marine Conservation Society to help keep our beaches clean.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Glorious Gorse on Arthur's Seat

It's very cold for May, but yesterday we had lovely sunshine. Crafty Green Boyfriend and I wandered round Arthur's Seat, which is wonderfully yellow and coconut-scented at the moment because of all the gorse.

A lot of birds were singing, mostly chaffinches, but also a lot of willow warblers in the scrubby woodland around the lower parts of the hill (I seem to be hearing more willow warblers this year than normal, which is good because they're a species in decline) and chiffchaffs and blackcaps too. We also saw a kestrel flying around the hill.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

My Memories Flowers Challenge

Happy National Scrapbooking Day to readers in the USA!

I've been experimenting with the My Memories digital scrap-booking software.  

My Memories is running a blog challenge this week and one of the themes is Flowers so I put together this piece. I kept the design deliberately simple and unfussy, both because that's what I prefer but also because it echoes the simplicity of the haiku.

I'm running a giveaway of My Memories digital scrap-booking software (read about it here). Thanks to everyone who has commented on that so far but remember, to be entered into the giveaway you need to follow the instructions in that blog post! You've got until 15 May to enter! The prize is a copy of the My Memories digital scrap-booking software, worth $40! And whether you win or not, you can take advantage of the special offer that My Memories is giving to readers of this blog, find out more here

(Click on the image above to enlarge it.)

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

Friday, 4 May 2012

Starlings by Erinna Mettler

I was delighted to win a copy of this book over on Brighton Blogger's Book after Book blog.

Starlings is a series of interconnected stories set in the southern English city of Brighton. The characters are all vividly drawn, believable, flawed people with problems and eccentricities. Each chapter can be read as a self contained story in its own right, but most of the characters appear in more than one story and the more often we meet them, often in different time frames and circumstances, the more their individual stories make sense. The various stories all come together at the end, giving a nice resolution to the whole.

There are many things I loved about this book, but for the purposes of this review, the feature I'll concentrate on is the author's eye for nature. The starlings of the title are a major feature of Brighton, roosting as they do in huge numbers on the city's piers (though in declining numbers). They don't play a huge part in the narrative of the novel, but are sensed in the background and are described beautifully when they are brought to the foreground and it's lovely to read of characters who can be moved by watching wildlife:

Upstairs in her flat, May watches the starlings flit around the Pier...... Nightly she watches their dance from her window, she thinks is the most beautiful thing she's ever seen and her heart is warmed by their beauty.

Also notable for the wildlife enthusiast are the incredibly well observed scenes with the man encouraging his dog to enjoy the sea and the urban fox's encounter with a packet of frozen peas, both of which struck me as being inspired by real events and both being of that wonderful quirky 'couldn't make it up' kind of humour that I love.

So, a brilliant book and do read it if you get the chance, though if you've got toothache or a phobia of dentists, you may wish to skip the chapter called Dentistry. It's as brilliant as the rest of the book, but a bit painful...

Starlings by Erinna Mettler, published by Revenge Ink

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

Reviewed for Brighton Blogger's 2012 Reading Challenge

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Burdiehouse Burn Park

It was lovely and sunny this afternoon and just round the corner from the community centre where I'd been at a meeting is Burdiehouse Burn Park, which I've never visited before. So I spent a happy couple of hours wandering by the river, listening to the willow warblers' wonderful falling song, the blackcaps' rich warble and the chiffchaffs' sometimes inexpert repetition of their own name. (And, yes, you may notice if you follow the links, the chiffchaff and the willow warbler look almost identical and can really only be told apart by their song). There were orange tips, small tortoiseshells and a peacock butterfly too.

Burdiehouse Burn Park in parts is a suburban park, but in parts it feels almost wild and it serves to show how much bird-life can be found in the middle of a built up area!

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

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

CLOSED My Memories Digital Scrapbooking - Review and a Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed.

I was delighted recently to be asked to review the My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Suite Software.

I've never before tried digital scrap-booking but have been intrigued by it, and interested by the results that I've seen some people produce using it. It's certainly a lot less messy than scrap-booking with assorted papers and glue (though as I always use reclaimed materials when I do paper collaging or scrap-booking then it's a useful and enjoyable form of recycling). The best thing with digital scrap-booking is that it is so easy to change things if you get something wrong, which avoids wasting time and materials! My Memories software includes a useful Check Album feature, so you never need to make a mistake again!

Anyway I enjoyed playing around with the My Memories software, it's got lots of choices for backgrounds, photo layouts  and embellishments with a whole range of album templates to suit the mood and topic of your scrapbook. You also have the option of creating your own album design from scratch. You can create recipe cards, greetings cards and a whole variety of other items that can be stored digitally or printed out for use.

Here is one result of my experimentation, a page that is currently in an album that I'm putting together on Spring in the Dells, by the Water of Leith, although it could equally well work as a greetings card. In fact, I think my biggest use of the software in the future will be to make digital greetings cards.


My Memories are offering one reader of this blog the chance to win a download of this software (worth $39). To enter the giveaway, please follow these simple rules:

1. To be in with a chance of winning, please visit the My Memories website and tell me in the comments below which is your favourite digital pack or layout.

2. For optional additional entries, either:

a) Like My Memories on Facebook- or 
b) Follow My Memories on Twitter-!/mymemoriessuite

3. Please let me know which of these you have done, and leave a separate comment for each entry (so if you have visited the website, liked on Facebook and followed on Twitter that will be three comments). 

This giveaway will close in two weeks time, which gives you plenty of time to browse the My Memories website and choose your favourites! 

And whether you win or not, My Memories are offering all readers of this blog your very own Share the Memories code giving you a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!)

Just use this code  STMMMS4293  in the checkout to claim your discount! 

Disclaimer - I was sent a free copy of the software to review. 

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find out more!