Saturday, 20 October 2018

Ravens and autumn leaves on Arthurs Seat

We had a lovely walk round Arthurs Seat today. The view from the road down to Duddingston is lovely with the autumn colours

Just around here we saw a couple of ravens, though Crafty Green Boyfriend could only get one of them on film

Dunsapie Loch was quite choppy today

 but there were lots of Canada geese there, with many of the birds washing and chasing each other

The trees on the road back into town are lovely just now

We also saw a couple of wooly bear caterpillars, which will become tiger moths next year

Friday, 19 October 2018

Of beautiful sunrises, crimes against trees and prize winning haiku

This was the sunrise this morning! A beautiful start to the day.

But my mood was quickly shattered by finding out that the National Galleries of Scotland have destroyed 52 trees in East Princes Street Gardens. They have removed the trees to create an accessible pathway for people with disabilities and push chairs to access the lower galleries in their venue on the Mound, which is a laudable objective but one that surely could have been achieved without such wanton destruction of a lovely part of our city centre. The trees will apparently be replaced with around 20 new semi mature trees next spring, why not with 52 new semi mature trees?

This is just symptomatic of a city that is currently riding roughshod over the opinions and feelings of its residents. We get regular consultations on our thoughts on planning applications and what we want to see in Edinburgh in the future (see the current consulations here) but the council seem to ignore what everyone says. The festivals are expanding to take over the whole of the city centre (including West Princes Street Gardens) and there's something like one Air BnB for every 54 people in the city, driving up the prices of flats and houses and forcing people to move out of the city centre.

So who knows what Edinburgh will look like in the future? Hopefully there will be plenty of trees left.

Anyway, trees inspire poetry and I'm delighted to have a winning haiku in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Haiku Contest. There's a lot of lovely haiku there!

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Parallel Realities

Glass is never clear
here in the desperate dust
that scratches and clogs.
Plains stretch forever with distance.
A lone horseman plods
where his ancestors roared
to the mountains,
light glinting on the metal
of their weapons,
shadows beneath them.

A photojournalist stares
through her grimy lens,
dreaming shadows into being,
blinded by light
glaring through glass.
She cannot see the mountains
so the lone horseman plods
forever into nothing.
All that is clear
is she does not belong here
and can never convey
this reality.

Previously published in Curlew magazine and featured in my pamphlet Unthinkable Skies.
First posted on this blog in July 2008 for Read Write Poem

Monday, 15 October 2018

A perfect day for forest bathing

Forest bathing, a direct translation from the Japanese Shinrin Yoku (森林浴), simply means as far as I can work out, spending time in the forest and that was what I did today on this beautiful sunny autumn day. 

The colours in the Dells along the Water of Leith are stunning and really set off beautifully with the bright sunshine and blue skies. 

and as in most years, little leaf islands are starting to form in the millstream that runs parallel to the river for a hundred metres or so taking water directly from the weir to the old Redhall Mill.

For Nature Notes.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr

In Cassetown, Geologue Bay, Iris and her extended family ― her ex-husband (Paul) and his wife (Kristin) and their new baby (yet to be named); her troubled son (Kurt), Paul's twin sister (Marti) and her daughter (Luce) ― gather on a midwinter long weekend, to pack up the family holiday house now that it has been sold. 

The Hope Fault describes the weekend in loving detail, revealing secrets and tensions within the family with a break in the middle where the narrative shifts to tell moments from the almost 100 years of the life of Rosa, Iris's mother. The narrative then shifts back to the weekend preparations for the party that will mark both forever leaving the house and finally naming the baby.

I particularly liked how the story reveals each family member's creativity, Rosa's faery tales, Iris carefully making a quilt for the baby, Luce composing a song for the baby and Kurt constantly drawing:

'Kurt sleeps in his clothes and dreams of a page in a notebook, ink-washed deep black, split in the centre by a wedge of page-white light, that wedge of light with a figure in shadow at its centre, the figure itself casting a shadow on another figure,something he can't quite see, or touch, or draw. He floats above the page, pencil in his hand. He dreams in light and dark.

The Hope Fault itself is a geological fault in the south island of New Zealand, as explored by Zigi, a geologist poet who many years ago had an affair with Rosa. This is reflected in the family story by the hidden weaknesses in the family that threaten to change things. 

Not much happens in this slow paced novel and though I mostly enjoyed the writing and the detailed descriptions I was a little underwhelmed and felt it wasn't as insightful as it could have been.

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr published by Gallic Books

Disclaimer: I won this book in a competition on Silvia's Book by Book blog

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Shadow Shot Sunday

It's raining heavily today but it was bright sunshine on Tuesday when I took these photos at Musselburgh.

For Shadow Shot Sunday.


And for those who are interested I have a new poem up on the Ogilvie Edinburgh Creative Review website, you can read it here.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Colinton Tunnel To Get a Lovely New Mural

The best thing about the long Colinton Tunnel is reaching the end of it and finding yourself back in the beautiful wooded surroundings of Colinton Dell

From the 1870s to the 1940s, passenger trains ran along here from Balerno through Colinton and into Edinburgh. Between the 1940s and 1967 the line was only used for freight trains and then closed. Since then it has become a cycle path and is part of the Water of Leith Walkway.

There are traces of an old mural showing a train engine and plenty of graffitti. The tunnel is lit most of the time but can feel spooky to say the least (specially on the occasions when the lighting is lost). Now though there are plans to repaint the old train engine mural and add to it with lots more artwork. The tunnel mural aims to celebrate local history and make the tunnel a much more pleasant, welcoming place.

You can find out more about this project here.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Basking in the Autumn Sun

It's the hottest October day for years today and it really is hot out there. This lovely speckled wood butterfly was basking in the dappled light in the wooded area near Musselburgh Lagoons today

while this lovely furry looking caterpillar was wandering round nearby - someone from the Facebook Group of Edinburgh Natural History Society identified this as the caterpillar of the ruby tiger moth.

for Nature Notes.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

New Beaded Necklaces

I've been wondering for a while about what exactly to make with my stash of wooden beads, upcycled from broken and unsellable jewellery in local second hand shops. I finally got round to sorting the beads and matching them with wooden pendants and this is the first necklace I've made using these materials, featuring a striking looking Easter Island style pendant.

This necklace is now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see it here.

I then made a second wooden beaded necklace, very autumnal with  the acorn pendant. I listed this in my Etsy shop and it sold the very next day!

Not all my beads are wooden of course and I've also just made these necklaces, using beads from my stash of beads rescued from broken or unsellable jewellery and second hand beading kits. 

This one is now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

and this one can be found here.

Monday, 8 October 2018

New Report on Climate Change is Out

Today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report on the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC. Their assessment of the global climate situation acknowledges that doing this will require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.They state that on the other hand, limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC would benefit the environment: 

For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. 
The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. 
 Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent withglobal warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC.

This article in the New York Times outlines how a 1.5ºC rise in temperature is better than 2°C.
The effects of a 1.5ºC rise in temperature are scary enough and it's going to be a real challenge to keep to that. To prevent a 2.7ºC rise in temperature (which some people fear we're heading for) greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.  By 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent. It's pretty urgent (as this article, also in the New York Times outlines). 
We of course need action on the national and international levels, but there are things we can all do as individuals such as flying less (I think its 20 years since I've been on a plane), driving less (we don't have a car, though we often rent a car when we go on holiday to remote parts of Scotland), having fewer children (we don't have children) and changing to an environmentally friendly energy company (we're in the process of changing our energy supplier and I'll report on that once the process is complete). Of course there are other things you can do which are good for the environment, but apparently recycling, reducing plastics etc are less effective at reducing the carbon emissions which are directly responsible for the rising temperatures. 
You can access the IPCC report here

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Gentians and Other Autumn Colours in the Botanics

We had a lovely walk round Edinburgh Botanic Gardens today. The autumn colours are wonderful

and these gentians are beautiful

This squirrel seemed to be stocking up for the winter ahead

while this robin took the lazy option and visited the cafe garden keeping an eye out for leftovers and crumbs

We enjoyed watching this nuthatch try to dig some insect out of the tree bark, though the twigs mean that we couldn't get a good photo

Still some insects about too including this late season red admiral

Friday, 5 October 2018

Being a Beast by Charles Foster

 Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide

 Charles Foster decided to spend time living as closely with wild animals as possible to find out how it would really feel like to be a badger, a fox, an otter, a red deer and a swift.

He lives in the woods and eats earthworms pretending to be a badger, he immerses himself in rivers pretending to be an otter, he hunts through rubbish bins in search of food as an urban fox does. He wants to get away from anthropomorphising animals, but inevitably his experiences are still human and his version of animal experience remains very much filtered through human eyes. He remains a human pretending to be an animal. He seems to have no awareness that an otter sprainting (defecating) on a stone by a flowing river is an entirely different thing than a human pooing on a stone by a flowing river. Whatever happened to the philosophy of Leave No Trace?

He doesn't even like otters, a fact which he reiterates several times, which clearly biases his views about their lifestyle. Plus it is of course impossible for any human to get at all close to the lifestyle of a swift, a bird that remains airborne most of its life and only lands to lay eggs and bring up its offspring. So the chapter about swifts is hardly anything about trying to be a swift.

This is a fascinating book but an infuriating one. The writing is often beautiful and interesting:

'The walls of our sett writhed around me... The earth twisted and fumbled and scrabbled and sprouted and spurted. A worm fell into my mouth. A badger would have welcomes it as a pasha on his couch welcomes a grape dropped by a slave, even though the worm is probably made of the badger's dead grandmother, entomed in the sett wall. I gagged quietly and went back to sleep with my face buried in the bracken bedding.'

But the very beauty and complexity of the writing acts as another barrier between us humans and the animals and makes Foster's experiences less authentically animal and even more eccentric human intellectual exploring the world. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but let's not pretend this helps us get into what it would really feel like to be a badger, an otter, a fox, a red deer or a swift. It just gives us a closer human eye's view of their lives.

Being a Beast by Charles Foster, published by Profile Books (2016)

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Seasons Change - changing poetry for National Poetry Day

We've had another year of strange weather, including a very hot summer (we're not used to such things in Scotland!) definitely a year of climate change. I originally posted this poem back in June 2011 and am reposting it today for National Poetry Day. The theme of the Day this year is Change.

This poem is also relevant to the topic of change for two other reasons. Firstly, our mother has since passed away and I've rewritten the pome itself, you can read the updated version Weather Forecasting, here.  

As posted in June 2011
Spring is happening earlier than it used to and real winters have returned to the UK. Our last two winters have had thick snow and ice across the country, after years of mild winters. I wrote this poem a few years ago, at the time I never thought we would see white winters again! And though I like to post things seasonally on this blog, I thought, that given the changing of our seasons, it would somehow be appropriate to post this winter poem at the beginning of summer.

Winter Garden

Even if you had first met my sister today
you would recognise her from this photo
from the early 70s. Wearing a flowery
anorak and a red bobble hat, she's holding
our mother's hand. Mum has a bad perm but
looks pretty much as she does now, just
younger. But the igloo wall in the suburban
garden deep in snow, you wouldn't believe
without the photo. This is Manchester,
England, half a lifetime ago.


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

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Update on Midmar Paddock

Last night was the first meeting of the group that will eventually become the official Friends of Midmar Paddock, celebrating this lovely area of Edinburgh's Green Belt and protecting it from future development.

Midmar Paddock is privately owned and currently up for sale, advertised as a good place to build housing (rumour has it that an offer has been put in). Local residents and all of us who value Edinburgh's green spaces want this to remain a green space, part of the greenbelt and a continuation of the beautiful nature reserve that includes Blackford Hill and the Hermitage of Braid.

At last night's meeting we discussed how we can protect the land from development including surveying how people use the area to mark out rights of way (which can be protected and can make development very difficult) and to record the value of the area for recreation, and surveying the wildlife of the area. People are also looking into how to protect the land possibly as a 'Field in Trust'. We also formed subgroups to take action forward (I joined the Publicity group).

The City of Edinburgh Council is about to start discussions on its next local development plan and we want to make sure that Midmar Paddock remains designated open space in this plan.

The group needs yet to be formally constituted but a Friends of Midmar Paddock group has been set up and can be found on Facebook here and the group is now on Twitter here. We're hoping to hold some events in the near future, which may include a demonstration of support for the area to remain greenspace and a BioBlitz to find out what wildlife is currently found here.If you have good photos of any wildlife you've seen in or immediately next to the Paddock, then please email them to savemidmarpaddockATgmailDOTcom so that the group can build up a picture of the local wildlife.

It would be tragic to lose this beautiful patch of land to development (the paddock is the field in the foreground, the hill in the background is Blackford Hill, part of the local nature reserve)

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Autumnal Colour in the Dells

Today is the last day of our staycation, but I persuaded Crafty Green Boyfriend to come along with me to patrol the Dells along the Water of Leith, which I do almost every week. (It's a lovely place for a walk so he didn't need that much persuasion.)

The autumn colours are starting to come through beautifully

and the sunshine brought out the late hoverflies including this Syrphus sp on bindweed which seems to be one of their favourite flowers and also one of the nicest backdrops for a photo of a hoverfly

 and this Syrphus sp on ivy which is a great food source for hoverflies and other pollinators late in the season (which is a good argument for not removing ivy!)

Autumn is of course a great season for fungi and we were delighted by this display on the top of a dead tree stump

Plenty of birds around too, though mostly they were camera shy.

Crafty Green Boyfriend took the fungi photos in this post.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Recycle that Bottle - or even better reuse it!

Recycle Week has come to an end for another year!

Many environmental organisations have been all over social media talking about recycling shampoo bottles. This is of course great, but you can often go one better and refill these bottles!

In Edinburgh, both the Tollcross branch of Real Foods and the New Leaf Co-op in Argyll Place have refilleries where you can refill plastic bottles with shampoo or washing up liquid or multi purpose cream cleaner or many other products. You don't even need to refill a bottle with the same product as was originally in it and you can of course refill a bottle many times! This is a great way to cut down on plastic waste and it saves money too (last time I was in the New Lead I refilled three bottles with three different products and was quite astonished by how much cheaper it was than it would have been to buy new bottles.)

If you live elsewhere it's worth checking whether your local health food shop or similar offers this service. If you know of somewhere that does, feel free to let us know in the comments!