Thursday 28 December 2006

Haiku - dusk

Wolves howl at the moon
their cries echo into space -
the first soft snowfall.
Thick blue silk of dusk
hangs over the sleepy town -
a saxophone plays.

Wednesday 27 December 2006

Haiku - weathering, ageing

This week's prompt on One Deep Breath is weathering and ageing and my offering is a snapshot from the centre of Edinburgh on the 31st December:

more masonry falls
shaken by the fireworks -
another Hogmanay.

Sunday 24 December 2006

Climate Change - Lifestyle Change

People in general at last seem to be accepting that Climate Change is really happening and could have serious repercussions for our way of life and for the natural world. The ice caps are melting, ocean levels are rising, extreme weather events are becoming more common. Certain species of animals and plants are disappearing from certain areas as the climate is no longer suitable for them, in some areas of the world human populations are becoming vulnerable to their homes being destroyed by rising tides or other extreme weather events.
We cannot carry on as we are doing, we need to make serious changes to the way we in the richer countries live our lives. This does not need to mean a total abandonment of everything we enjoy and it also is not entirely down to individuals, we need action from governments and big companies too. Governments should recognise that, now that a large proportion of the electorate are aware of environemental issues, it is time to start passing stringent environmental laws focussing on companies before individuals. Companies should be helped to produce more environmentally benign products and should be taxed for their pollution. Railway networks should be improved to reduce people's taste for short haul flights.
Things that individuals can do include: flying less, driving less, taking the train more, walking more, taking showers instead of baths, recycling more, reusing more, buying second hand. Reuse can be really creative, I try to include lots of ideas about that in the craft posts in this blog, second hand clothes can be more eye catching than new and second hand bookshops often have more interesting selections than do most high street bookstores in these days of 3 for 2 offers etc. As we slow our lives down we can take time to savour life, the time we spend with friends and walking in the countryside (while its still there).
Christmas should become a time for enjoying the company of our friends and family over and above shopping until we drop from exhaustion trying to find the latest hi-tec environmentally destructive gift for someone who already has everything.
Wishing everyone a very green Christmas.....
A different perspective on change can be found on my Alter Ego Blog, here.

Thursday 21 December 2006

Season's Greetings!

Christmas in Edinburgh

A fat orange cat on a window ledge, watches
geese on the shore of Duddingston Loch.
Snow on the summit of Arthur's Seat
glistens in the light of the yellow moon.
A Christmas tree gifted by Norway
sparkles on the top of the Mound
where trees draped in white fairy lights
line the path to the ice-rink in Princes Street Gardens.
Children ride the big Ferris wheel,
adults drinking mulled wine

wander round the German market.

Silence of Snow

Blizzard uniqueness falling to earth
suspended in silence.

Myriad marvels melting in flight,
merging in crisp carpet whiteness.

Falling snow magical joy inspires dreams
of finding twin snowflakes like four leaf clovers.

After storm sky-blue highlights the landscape
as each unique snowflake loses itself
in pristine perfection of snow.

For Poetry Thursday. Both these poems have been posted on this blog before, though I have significantly rewritten Christmas in Edinburgh.

I'd like to wish Season's Greetings to all readers of this blog!

Monday 18 December 2006

haiku - storms

On One Deep Breath this week, the timely prompt is storms. We're currently very lucky in Edinburgh at the moment as large areas of Scotland have been flooded in recent storms. I've seen several storms in my life, the most spectacular recently being on the Mediterranean coast during an otherwise beautifully sunny November holiday last year. But the two haiku below are about storms in Malawi (where I lived for two years). We used to have a papaya tree in our garden until a particularly wild storm:

torrential rain floods
through the drainage ditches -
papaya tree falls

One of the most amazing things about many storms in Malawi was the lack of thunder:

lightening forks
over the hills by the lake -
a dry, silent night

another haiku on storms on my Alter Ego blog here.

Sunday 17 December 2006

Crafty Green Christmas 2 - Gifts

Really this should have been Crafty Green Christmas 1 if I had been planning properly! Ethical options for Christmas presents include:

virtual gifts such as offered through Oxfam Unwrapped
organic food hampers
fair-trade items

items made by locally based craftspeople
second hand items (best check whether people mind their gifts being second hand!)
hand made goods - especially when the gifts are made from reclaimed materials. Here are some hand made gifts I have posted on this blog:

Notelets and wallet

Mirrors - bought second hand and frames painted
pot pourri bags

Monday 11 December 2006

Save the Children's Festival of Trees

This year, Save the Children's Festival of Trees is being held in Glasgow for the very first time, in the newly refurbished Main Hall of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The event centres on uniquely designed Christmas trees, created by some of the best contemporary designers and decorated with sought-after gifts. In contrast to the trees created by famous names and brands, one special tree was created, with support from the Glasgow office of Ernst & Young, by children and young people who are involved in Save the Children's projects in Glasgow. It is 'The Glasgow Tree' and every penny raised from the auction of this Tree will be spent by Save the Children on children's projects in the city.

Event details here:§ion=event&subsection=details

News item in Herald:

Haiku - containers

bottles now empty
once full of milk, wine, beer, oil –
recycle please!

secret dumping ground
for containers marked danger –
unexplained deaths.

containers - for One Deep Breath.

Saturday 9 December 2006

Crafty Green Christmas 1 - Wrapping Gifts

I like to wrap gifts in reclaimed materials, but that doesn't need to mean tatty looking scraps of paper. In this example I covered some thinness on the first layer of paper with a piece of a contrasting paper. The two gifts are tied together with reused raffia and the gift tag is made from reclaimed card with a photo from a wildlife magazine. I posted other ideas for gift wrap last year, you can see them here and here.
Now included in this week's Carnival of the Green.

Monday 4 December 2006

Haiku - Close, Closer, Closer Still

In One Deep Breath this week we are asked to get close, closer and still closer in the observations in our haiku. This weekend I was visiting my parents in Worsley, near Manchester. We had a walk by the red Bridgewater Canal. These are my three haiku, which really call out for photos too, but we had forgotten our camera and my parents don't have a digital!

the red canal
flows through the village -
four swans.

two young swans
with plumage speckled grey -
historic bridge.

water droplets
sparkle on the swans' backs -

Tuesday 28 November 2006

Creative Writing Tutoring

I'm very excited to have been accepted as a creative writing tutor for The City of Edinburgh Council. I was originally accepted a couple of weeks ago as a 'supply tutor' but have been offered two full courses to tutor next term - one class of creative writing workshops and one on blogging for beginners. I'll post more details as they are confirmed, just in case any readers in Edinburgh know anyone who may be interested.

Monday 27 November 2006

Haiku - legacy

Our legacy for
the next generation -

this beautiful earth.

Legacy - for One Deep Breath.

Sunday 26 November 2006


This notebook is made from good quality scrap card from the office, scap paper from the office, a photo from a magazine and a belt from a skirt! I've made a couple of other notebooks from similar materials, sometimes substituting old shoelaces or reused parcel ribbon for the belt. Once the notebook is used up, it can be refilled with scrap paper cut to the right size.

Thursday 23 November 2006

Poetry Live

Poetry Readings are a great way to experience poetry. Hearing a poet live can and should add to the experience of the poetry. If you’re a poet yourself it’s a great way of meeting more poets and developing an audience for your work.

The poet who I most like to hear live is Ruth Padel, she has an electrifying stage presence and brings her work to life with great passion. She's also very much an environmentalist too, which of course appeals to me. I really enjoyed Sharon Olds reading recently at the Scottish Poetry Library, she has a very matter of fact delivery and a great confidence in public reading (I wrote a mini-review of the evening on my other blog Alter Ego). This makes a huge difference, some poets hide behind their books when they are reading and the words are all lost in their chins and the audience feels no sense of engagement. I know from experience how nerve wracking it can be to read your work in public, but once you have a certain level of recognition, you are expected to give performances and you might as well learn to do it with style and at least a pretence of confidence!

I'm not well recognised enough to be expected to give readings. I actually choose to do it for fun! (?) My readings have almost all been in performance poetry venues (though I don't think of myself as a performance poet!) rather than in literary venues. There are some excellent performance poets in Edinburgh and there used to be some excellent caberet nights for poets and musicians (I used to love performing at Kin, which was a low key cabaret night and Silencio was interesting too, an evening of glamour and surreal entertainment that somehow never quite lived up to expectation while at the same time always providing a very daunting audience to read to! Neither of these nights exist anymore and Big Word Poetry is too aggressive for me, though it can be credited with kickstarting the whole performance poetry scene in Edinburgh).

Maybe Edinburgh is strange in having two distinct poetry communities - the literary circuit (eg the Scottish Poetry Library, Poetry Association Scotland) where you have to have a serious track record of published work before you're invited to read and then the performance poetry world where you can often just turn up and read, though its dominated by loud aggressive comedy poets who perform their work usually without a book in sight. There are a couple of in between events. Is there this kind of distinction elsewhere?

Thoughts on Poetry Readings for Poetry Thursday.

Monday 20 November 2006

Autumnal haiku - senses

Sweet cherries
hang ripe on the trees -
free snacks!

bonfire smoke
rises from the garden -
sharp frost.

a robin perches
on a bare branched tree –

a robin sings
a melancholy song -
first snow fall

autumn wind -
the roughness of falling leaves
brushes my hair

More haiku on the senses on my Alter Ego blog.

Senses for One Deep Breath

Thursday 16 November 2006

This Train

This train does not exist, or
if it does, it does not pass
through major towns or cities.

This train carries only cargo that is safe
or if not safe, unlikely to
explode or give off noxious fumes.

This train does not interest terrorists
and if it does, they cannot damage it
as it is impregnable.

This train is not an embarrassment
to the government, is not illegal,
does not glow in the dark.

This train does not pass
the end of your street.

If you live in the UK, you can find out whether nuclear waste is transported by train through your neighbourhood here.

This poem was slightly influenced by Woody Guthrie's song This Train is Bound for Glory, the lyrics for which are here.

Telling lies for Poetry Thursday.

Sunday 12 November 2006


GreenGirlsGlobal is a new blog with lots of advice on how to make your life greener. It looks like it could be interesting!

Earth Passengers

"I don't want to be a passenger in my own life." (Diane Ackerman)

Not having ever learnt to drive
I am a constant passenger
on buses, trains and ferries
old Mazda trucks in Malawi
even planes when necessary

In my life I guess I want
to control the driving wheel
rather than to be controlled
by government or family

but we accept being passengers
on earth, abdicating
responsibility for the mess we're in
watching the scenery on the tv
as we hurtle through space
on an overheating planet.

Destination unknown.

This is now a second draft (as the first draft was not clear in meaning to some readers), written in response to the Diana Ackerman quote as suggested by this week's Sunday Scribblings.

For more about global warming and what you can do to try to stop it getting worse, please visit:

If we all take action now and refuse to be just passengers we may be able to secure a planet worth living on for future generations.

Kekexili - Mountain Patrol

Kekexili is a stunningly beautiful, interesting and depressing film about the mountain patrols set up to protect the last populations of the Tibetan antelopes. Beautiful because the scenery is stunning and the cinematography is brilliant. Interesting, because the viewer learns so much about the plight not just of the antelopes but also of the human populations in the area. Depressing, because although the statistics that are shown on screen at the end of the film show that the situation is improving for the antelopes, there is no indication in the film that the situation is anything other than totally grim. The viewer needs to know that the patrols are dogged by danger (patrol officers have been killed in their work) and that they are greatly under-resourced, but given that there is hope, there should be at least a glimmer of this in the narrative! This all said, it is a wonderful film for everyone interested in Tibet or nature conservation and for anyone who has ever thought about buying a shastoosh. The answer to that is don't. Shahtoosh shawls are made from the pelts of dead Tibetan antelopes and are the main reason the animal is endangered.

Monday 6 November 2006

Poetic Cinema - An Artist's Date for Poetry Thursday

This evening I went to the Poetic Cinema event, organised by Edinburgh's Filmhouse and the Scottish Poetry Library. An evening of cinema inspired by poetry. Including three film poems from Margaret Tait Where I Am Is Here (1964), Colour Poems (1974) and Hugh MacDiarmid; A Portrait (1964). Although there are moments of great beauty in the first two of these and all of them offer interesting historical snapshots, I felt that they lacked coherence and any sense of either direction or wholeness.

Much more interesting and successful for me was Neil Kempsell's visual interpretation of Sorley MacLean's poem Hallaig, about the tragic loss and memories of a highland community on the Island of Raasay. This is a stunning film of animated characters moving over filmed broken houses and landscape, as if the ghosts of the original inhabitants have returned. The soundtrack was wonderful too, composed by Martyn Bennett.

The evening ended with Bernard MacLaverty's film inspired by the Seamus Heaney poem 'Bye-Child', a film of eerie beauty with a disturbing story to tell.

After the screening Bernard MacLaverty and Neil Kempsell discussed the films and some of the challenges around adapting poetry for the screen. The most interesting discussions for me centred around narrative and how to adapt a poem to fit the narrative requirements of the cinema. Of course Margaret Tait chose to sidestep any real narrative and that for me is largely why her films didn't work. However I have seen other films that have chosen to take a non-narrative, poetic approach to their subject matter and have succeeded as a more meditative type of cinema, possibly blurring the boundary with video art. The other question is how to judge how much material to add to a poem in making it a film and where is the line between the film of a poem and a film inspired by a poem?

This week, Poetry Thursday suggested we take an Artist's Date, I think this fits the bill!


A perfect November day. Clear blue sky and sunshine but with a bracing wind. An ideal day for a walk around Arthur's Seat.

extinct volcano
towers above the city -
ancient seat of kings.

We walk through trees, yews covered in berries, silver birch with their stark white and black trunks and beeches.

autumn sunshine
through the changing beech leaves -
copper glow.

Then onward, up the hill, the wind blowing through our hair. From the main path we have stunning views across Duddingston Loch to the Firth of Forth. While on our other side cliffs rise steeply.

Crows chase kestrel
wheeling above the hillside -
bright blue sky.

Sunday 5 November 2006

November Morning, Edinburgh

Over breakfast I watch the sunrise
fiery orange giving way
to red and grey patchwork clouds.
Colour fades then
sky clears to perfect cold blue.

Golden leaves lie crisp
on the lawn.

for Sunday Scribblings

Thursday 2 November 2006

The Starfish Remains Untranslated

One of my favourite lines of poetry is 'the starfish remains untranslated' which comes from the magnificent Axion Esti by the Greek poet, Odysseus Elytis, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1979. I love the sense of mystery about the natural world encapsulated in that line.

I have long wanted to write a poem with this line as a starting point and on Poetry Thursday this week we were given the challenge of taking a favourite line and using it as a starting point for thinking about poetry or writing a poem of our own. So here is a short poem inspired by that line:

The Starfish Remains Untranslated

Heavenly body fallen to earth
shining between rocks and detritus -
symbol or cosmic co-incidence?
What can it tell us
about the sea and its tides,
the galaxies,
ourselves and our lives?

Monday 30 October 2006

Haiku - the unseen

One Deep Breath this week asks us to write haiku on 'the unseen'. Rather than taking any supernatural approach to this theme, Crafty Green Poet features haiku on invisible aspects of the natural environment:
a mix of gases
invisible but vital -
our atmosphere

darkness –
the scent of honeysuckle
fills the garden.

For a different interpretation of the theme, see my Alter Ego blog.

Thursday 26 October 2006

Right in Front of You

After early morning rain,
the sun came out again
warm on the face, this late October day.

From the office, I can see
sunlight play on the white football stadium
making it strangely beautiful.

Upstairs, someone else's boss is on the phone
Moaning about how horrid the day has been
'Raining cats and dogs and dark as winter'

I am my own boss, free to hear the robin sing
or watch the geese fly far overhead
against the bright blue sky.

Monday 23 October 2006

Haiku - mystery

One Deep Breath this week has asked us to write haiku with an air of mystery (the Japanese aesthetic Yugen). Here are two I have written on some of the mysteries of Autumn:

one golden leaf
floats slowly downriver –
harvest moon.

wide open sky
and empty mudflats –
bird calls come closer.

Sunday 22 October 2006

Pot Pourri Bags

These two bags contain purple and gold pot pourri I bought in a second hand shop (though judging on the potency of the perfume, it was very nearly new!). The purple bag originally held a mirror and I added a fancy button from my button box as the original button had fallen off. The golden bag is made from fabric from a top I altered a while back (I've used this fabric for other things posted earlier in this blog). The gold bag is fastened with a piece of gold ribbon that came from gift wrap I think and the two are slightly precariously held together with a thin gold string.

Saturday 21 October 2006

Our Garden

Some of you may remember me saying a while back that we were hoping to get involved with the Community Backgreen Initiative, to improve the shared gardens behind our building. Well things have started moving and we have had our first meetings and today we surveyed the area. A lot of it is quite nice already, for example, there is already a picnic table and barbeque.
However, some areas will need more work:

The design meetings are going to start next week, which is where everyone living in the surrounding buildings who is interested, will come together to plan what they would like to see in the common areas of the gardens. We'll start clearing, weeding and planting in the gardens next Spring!
The Community Backgreen Initiative is managed by Re:Solution.

Monday 16 October 2006

Haiku - Simple Pleasures

One Deep Breath's prompt this week is to write haiku or related verses about simple pleasures. This first one is a very autumnal pleasure, particularly for the little ones:

Crisp autumn air –
small boots kick bright coloured leaves
on the path.

These next two relate to when I lived in Malawi:

on the dusky verandah –
cicadas call.

Sun sinks behind hills
as lake merges with sky -
fishing boats parade.

Monday 9 October 2006

Haiku - countryside

The prompt this week at One Deep Breath is to write a haiku about the countryside. Most of my haiku are about the countryside, I think, but here's a new one:

Our countryside
full of beauty and colour -

Sunday 8 October 2006

Poet of the Week

I am totally delighted to be one of the two Poets of the Week on Poetry Superhighway. I am sharing the honour with Christine Bruness, who co-incidentally has featured in my poetry blog magazine Bolts of Silk.

Tuesday 3 October 2006

Humming Bird Hawk Moths

I was so excited today to see a humming bird hawkmoth hovering on a lilac bush in the centre of Edinburgh! Gosh its October for goodness sake this must be a major sign of global warming! I didn't get a photo and the moth's wings were moving so quickly that any photo I took wouldn't have come out. But there are some photos on the UK Safari website:

Monday 2 October 2006

haiku - books

On One Deep Breath this week the prompt is to write a haiku or tanka about books. So I thought of an outdoor scene for an environmentalist with her books:

in a shady spot –
the wind blows through the leaves
of my favourite book.

Sunday 1 October 2006

Festival of the Trees Blog Carnival

I am delighted that my poem Corstorphine Sycamore, has been included in this month's Festival of the Trees Blog Carnival, hosted by Hoarded Ordinaries. Go along and check out the wealth of material about trees - poetry, photos and articles - posted by bloggers around the world!

Monday 25 September 2006

Haiku - windows and doorways

At One Deep Breath this week we're asked to write haiku about windows and doorways. First I wrote two haiku about looking out of the window, the first in Edinburgh yesterday, the second from our Bed and Breakfast hotel in Ventimiglia, Italy last November:

outside the window -
rain lashes down
from a dark leaden sky.

outside the window –
the Mediterranean
merges with blue sky.

Then finally:

the black cat
watches over the garden –
framed by the doorway.

There's yet another haiku on this theme on my Alter Ego blog here.

Sunday 24 September 2006

Currently Reading

I've just finished reading two wonderful novellas by Banana Yoshimoto. 'Hardboiled' follows a young woman after the break up of a relationship and Hard Luck follows another young woman after the death of her sister as she befriends the brother of her sister's fiance. Both are beautifully written and full of autumn, falling leaves, cold clear air. Very seasonal.

I'm now reading Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, a physicist and writer. This small book is a collection of imaginary dreams dreamt by Einstein as he worked on his Theory of Relativity. Each short fable looks at the essence of time from a different angle, imagining how it would affect people's lives in Berne, where Einstein was living when he was working on the Theory of Relativity. It is a stunning book, that makes the reader really think about how we perceive time and also how we should use time. How in fact we should live.

At the same time I am very slowly reading Kafka's Das SchloƟ in German. To find out more about that book, visit my Alter Ego blog here. (Sorry, I'm having difficulties with permalinks at the moment, so you'll need to scroll down a wee bit!).

Alchemy for the 21st Century

Surrounded by discarded things
we’re too cynical to believe
in a Philosopher’s Stone
too lazy to see the scope

in our base materials
the stuff we throw away
cans and bottles, newspapers, rags
endless plastic bags.

Our Philosophers Stone
is found in thoughts, ideas
crafty skills and inspiration
patience and dedication

to transform waste into the new gold -
groundbreaking art
clothes beyond fashion
crafted with passion.

This poem is until 23 September currently part of the Waste Not Want Not exhibition at the Caledonian Hall at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Friday 22 September 2006

Notelets Wallet

My Mum has always admired the notelets I've made from reclaimed materials, so I've made her a set to use! The designs of the notelets are similar to those I've posted before - Japanese text with pictures of birds, flowers and butterflies. I've put them in a wallet made from an old folder reclaimed from the office bin and decorated with coloured paper, more Japanese text and pictures of butterflies.

Monday 18 September 2006

Haiku - Delicious Autumn

The prompt at One Deep Breath this week is a deliciously seasonal one. As it is a bank holiday today in Edinburgh, we went for a walk around Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. Many of the trees and bushes are magnificent at the minute, covered in berries. Hence these haiku:

Black elderberries
ripen by the roadside
- pick them to make wine.

Rowan berries
ripen, red, pink, yellow
- a feast for the birds.

Sunday 17 September 2006

High Tide in Tucson - Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favourite novelists and I was excited to find this book of her essays in a second hand shop. They are inspiring and moving, probably the best articles I've read. In this collection, Kingsolver covers a range of topics, including environmentalism, travelling, parenting and being a part time rock star. Her writing is consistently compassionalte and thght provoking and sometimes amusing. I would definitely recommend this book, even if you don't generally read non-fiction.

Tuesday 12 September 2006


PARK(ing) is a wonderful concept - thought up in San Franciso, USA, it has already spread to Glasgow, Scotland! The idea is to claim a parking space in the city (remember to put money into the meter!!!) and to turn the space into a temporary park with turf, some plants and a couple of deckchairs. (Umbrellas might be useful too, if you're doing this in Scotland). The idea was thought up by the Rebar Group, environmental art activists in San Francisco. PARK(ing) aims to:
Call attention to the need for more urban parks and public spaces
Connect with ways to permanently reclaim streets for people
The next PARK(ing) day is 21 September, so get your parking space, stock up on large potted plants and hope for sunshine and friendly traffic wardens!

Monday 11 September 2006


On One Deep Breath this week we are asked to write a tanka. A tanka is a Japanese poetic form often written in the form of five lines with syllable counts of though as with haiku the syllable count doesn't need to be strictly followed, though short, long, short, long long is to be preferred. Tanka often link the natural world with personal emotional reflections. Here then is my first attempt at a tanka:
hot summer weather
still in mid September
I enjoy the heatwave
but worry what it means.
My second ever tanka appears at my Alter Ego blog here.

Friday 8 September 2006


They bob in the water
bask on rocks
elegant despite their blubber.

I look closer
see the misfit of their eyes
the someone living inside
not quite at home in ocean
the soul of the girl -
mythical selkie.

Given the choice
I too would hide
in a secret skin
escape to the freedom of sea
the forgetfulness of waves.

Monday 4 September 2006

Haiku - solitude

This week's prompt on One Deep Breath is Solitude. This is my environmental interpretation of the theme:

coloured leaves fall
across a cloudy sky –
one bird sings

I have a second haiku on this theme on my Alter Ego blog here.

Sunday 3 September 2006

Isle of Raasay

We've just come back from a holiday on Raasay. Wonderful island, with the best views anywhere of the Cuillin mountains on Skye. Raasay is reached by a 15 minute ferry trip operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, from Sconser on Skye. We stayed at the Isle of Raasay Hotel, which offers full board, lovely food but very fish orientated menus, so it may be difficult for the strict vegetarian. The bar serves a wide range of beer, including the wonderful Red Cuillin ale, brewed by the Isle of Skye Brewery. The hotel also has two resident cats, lovely for cat loving guests, but destructive on the local wildlife! The island is great for car free holidays, plenty of walks along the coast, through the Forestry Commission plantation (which almost feels like real woodland, with all the mosses, lichens and fungi). There is a wonderful walk across the moor by the old iron workings then along the coast to Hallaig, a village that was emptied by the Highland Clearances. There's a cairn with Sorley McLean's poem Hallaig in Gaelic and English. Look out also for the Pictish stones, the wildflower meadow full of butterflies and several species of dragonflies around all the ponds. The island is home to otters, dolphins and seals, though we didn't see any of these. We did see several buzzards and a hen harrier. The island is also the base for the Raasay Outdoor Centre, which has a lovely cafe that serves a range of local beers and some lovely snacks.

Saturday 26 August 2006

Return of the Poet - Edinburgh International Film Festival

Return of the Poet is a beautiful Armenian documentary that takes us on a mesmerising road journey through the stunning landscapes and fascinating culture of Armenia. The soundtrack is stunning too. There is no dialogue though! The film is a homage to the great Armenian poet, Ashugh Jivani, and follows the making of a statue of Jivani and then the statue's travels through the country. However, as a non-Armenian interested in finding out about world literature, I was disappointed not to learn anything about Jivani and his work.
More mini-film reviews from the Edinburgh International Film Festival on my Alter Ego blog here and here.

Friday 25 August 2006

Fishing in Whitby

The first poem I published on my poetry blog magazine Bolts of Silk was Whitby Jet by Sally Evans. I've since had a request from the Whitby Sea Anglers for a link to their website. If you're interested in fishing in Whitby, its worth checking out: It includes news on the environmental aspects of fishing.

Mirror Frame

I bought this frame in a second hand shop and painted it and patterned it with Celtic rubber stamps. My partner has just about persuaded me that i should varnish it too - what do people think?

Monday 21 August 2006

Haiku - music

One Deep Breath this week is asking for haiku about music. I like seasonal haiku, so to start with I wrote four haiku on the music of the four seasons:

birds sing together
exuberant dawn chorus -
the music of Spring.

hot summer day -
a grasshopper orchestra
plays in the field.

autumnal breezes
whistle through the changing leaves -
haunting melodies.

snow falls silently -
inside the family gathers
to sing Christmas songs.

The following is a haiku inspired by the open air concerts at Traquair Fair, a wonderful summer event that happens in Innerleithen near Peebles in the Scottish Borders.

old apple orchard -
petals drift in the breeze
of the singer's voice.

And the final haiku here goes back to when I lived in Malawi where all the children seemed to have amazing natural creative talents:

down by the river -
the fishermen's children
play tin cans like drums.

Not content to leave it there, my Alter Ego has also written some musical haiku here!

Haiku containing the word 'prose'

Book Blog is asking for haiku including the word 'prose' in a competition with the prize being a copy of Francine Prose's book 'Reading like a Writer'. This is my haiku, which reflects this August day in Edinburgh:

Summer flowers bloom -
vibrant poetry against
the prose of grey skies.

Sunday 20 August 2006

The Inner Life of Pets

I couldn't resist this week's prompt at Sunday Scribblings - the Inner Life of Pets, a topic that is perhaps only marginally environmental but never mind. This is Anya, our rabbit, yes I've posted this photo before but it is the best we've ever been able to take. And below is a peek into her private life. (For those who don't know the Teletubbies is a children's tv show that features giant rabbits as well as the teletubbies themselves):
Anya visits the Teletubbies

Anya sits under the bed gently rocking, dreaming about Teletubby land. La La is her favourite because LaLa is the colour of dandelion flowers. Anya is disappointed that there are no dandelions in Teletubby land. She is sad that all the other rabbits are a rather unimaginative brown grey colour. Anya races over the hills of Teletubby land, enjoying the feel of the wind in her ears. Then she races twice round the Teletubby house.

‘Eh oh Po’ says Tinky Winky ‘There goes Anya again’

‘Eh oh Tinky Winky’ says Po ‘She’s looking for La La’.

Tinky Winky opens his handbag. Anya sees that inside the handbag are some dandelions. Fresh and yellow. The colour of La La. Anya stands up on her back legs and reaches towards the handbag….

But suddenly her human comes into the room and wakens her. Anya rushes from under the bed into her favourite box. She digs into the cardboard: Where are those dandelions? Where are they?

Thursday 17 August 2006


There have been times in my life when I have relied on the nearest launderette. But we currently have an environmentally friendly washing machine (and no tumble drier). The washing machine broke down recently and we're waiting for parts, so it's back to the launderette! Not so long ago there were two launderettes within walking distance from where we live. Now its a bus ride to the nearest one. I always think that launderettes are a vital service - perhaps they should be funded by local government?

Advantages of the launderette
If you arrange a service wash, someone else dries and folds your washing
No more washing hanging around the flat!
A community resource
Potentially saves on the number of washing machines produced in the world

Having to carry the washing down three flights of stairs, along the road to the bus stop and across town on public transport
Just because they're in a launderette, doesn't make tumble driers environmentally friendly
Most launderettes don't use environmentally friendly washing powders
What are other people's experiences of / views about launderettes?

Monday 14 August 2006

Haiku about tea

One Deep Breath's prompt this week is to write haiku about tea and coffee. I love drinking tea (fairtrade of course) and here are my two haiku:

A soothing green tea –
Moment of relaxation
And contemplation.

Summer heatwave –
under the shade of a tree
a glass of iced tea.

I haven't managed to fit Fairtrade into a haiku as yet! Buying Fairtrade tea and coffee ensures that the workers are paid a decent salary and can send their children to school, receive better healthcare etc. Find out more at: So you can drink Fairtrade tea or coffee knowing that you are helping people. It tastes good too. (Well apart from the instant coffee, but that's instant coffee all over!).

Monday 7 August 2006

Haiku - the Scenic Route

This week's prompt at One Deep Breath is to write haiku about the scenic route. So here are two haiku about the scenic routes I take during the working day:

lunch from the deli
take the path under the trees
restful and quiet.

tourists throng the streets,
take a detour through the park
- oasis of peace.

Sunday 6 August 2006


A pair of bright butterflies
dance in the light
on a south facing slope.

Shimmering heat haze on the fens
lazy calls of turtle doves
swifts tumbling through the sky.

Here is everlasting summer
sun-honeyed and warm
on the cusp of harvest fruitfulness.

Wednesday 2 August 2006

A Normal Skin - John Burnside

I have just finished reading this collection of poetry from one of Scotland's most interesting living poets. Burnside writes nature poetry, but this is not nature as idyllic pastoral, but nature with an edge, full of rotting things, hidden threats and menace. His poetry is beautiful, lyrical and thought provoking. It is also sometimes disturbing, though never as disturbing as his prose work.....

The Book of Hopes and Dreams now available to pre-order

The Book of Hopes and Dreams, edited by Dee Rimbaud, is a book of hopeful poetry by a range of poets including Margaret Atwood, Edwin Morgan and me! All proceeds will go to Spirit Aid, providing medical services to Afghanistan. The book costs £9.99 and can be pre-ordered at:

Monday 31 July 2006

Garden haiku

The prompt on One Deep Breath this week is to write haiku about the garden. I've written four - one for each season. I've been reading a lot about haiku recently and I think these are technically my best haiku yet.....

sunlit garden pond
full of fish and newborn frogs:
heron flies above

party on the lawn:
the sweet scent of roses
fills the humid air

bright coloured leaves fall
on flower bed and lawns:
bonfire smoke rises

stark black branches
against a snow filled sky:
one crow on the lawn

Friday 28 July 2006

An idea for old photos

I saw this idea at A Little Imagination and a Pile of Junk . This is my first attempt to do something similar. The photo is a view of the village where I lived in Malawi when I was over there teaching with Voluntary Service Overseas. The fabric is a remnant from one of my favourite Malawian fabrics, that I had made into a dress when I was over there and then there's a Malawian stamp. The background is scrap corrugated card. Hopefully I'll do more of these! it's a good way of using up extra copies of your favourite photos or those photos that don't quite work.

Monday 24 July 2006

haiku - two perspectives on cars

The challenge this week on One Deep Breath is to write two haiku showing one topic from two perspectives. I chose cars as my subject and these are my haiku:

Gas guzzling monsters
Eating up the countryside
Destroyers of earth

Beautiful machines
Pleasure on the open road
Personal freedom

Sunday 23 July 2006


Golden carp in pond
solid, jewel-like, placid
in trembling water

Friday 21 July 2006

Crafting Inspiration

I haven't been so crafty recently, largely because I'm concentrating on poetry. Also I make crafts as a practical way of reusing materials (and post them here as a way of sharing these ideas!) rather than for any other reason. I love making collage greetings cards and would love to make collage as art, but I'm just not good enough. I love this site: Artwords, which like One Deep Breath, gives a prompt every week - in this case for collage rather than haiku. Inspiring, but looking at everyone elses input, I realise just how far I've got to go before my collages become real art!

Monday 17 July 2006

Urban haiku

This week's prompt at One Deep Breath is to write an urban haiku. The first of these is an old haiku that I wrote a while ago, the second is a re-writing of a poem I recently posted on this blog) and the third is a summer version of an old Spring haiku.

busy city streets
skyscrapers dominate
clouds reflect on chrome

derelict building
debris, rubble and rubbish
a bird sings

musc and laughter
enliven dull city streets
Summer has returned

Friday 14 July 2006

Soqotra - Land of the Dragon’s Blood Tree

This major new exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh explores Soqotra, one of the world’s most biologically diverse, yet least-known island chains, off the coast of Yemen. It is a stunning exhibition with video, photos, installations and plants, showing some of the incredible biological wealth of this little known place.

From 1 July 2006 to 29 October 2006 Exhibition 10am - 5pm Exhibition Hall, Botanic Gardens, Inverleith, Edinburgh. Free.

For more information on the Royal Botanic Gardens in Scotland visit:

Monday 10 July 2006

Haiku - Ritual

This week's haiku prompt on One Deep Breath is ritual or ceremony. We were asked to think about a ritual or ceremony from our own life, but what came to me first was this haiku below, which is based on a poem I posted earlier here:

Air burial
vultures take body, heart, soul,

I have always been of the view that haiku in English do not need to strictly follow the 5-7-5 syllable rule, after all English is not a syllabic language in the same way that Japanese is. The point to me of a haiku is to capture a moment....

Sunday 9 July 2006


A historic community centre ‘no longer needed’
is redeveloped into executive flats.

Builders move in with constant noise and dust
uproot the cherry trees and lawn.

Yet sometimes behind the machinery’s din
if you listen carefully, you can hear

the cheerful warble of a blackcap.

Friday 7 July 2006

Customised clothing - beading

I always have wonderful ideas for customising whole new outfits out of jumble sale finds but this is as far as I ever get! This (second hand) dress was nice to start with, the beads (taken from the same old skirt as for the satin purse long-standing readers may remember me posting a while back) add a touch of colour round the neckline.

Tuesday 4 July 2006

Haiku - Journey

This week's challenge on One Deep Breath is to write a haiku about journeys. This is mine, a little ahead of time in a sense:

swifts so soon arrived
leaving for abroad again
constantly flying

Sunday 2 July 2006

In the Dark

a poem for Anya, our rabbit

She hides in dark places,
remembers what she needs to:
scents, the food stores,

tries to explore things
just out of reach,
steals electric wiring,

plays with boxes,
folds and refolds
a moth-eaten pillow-case.

When no-one’s watching
she dances

Rabbit links

If, like us, you have a rabbit, here are some useful links:

House Rabbit Society
Friends of Rabbits
Carrot Cafe
Your nearest Rabbit rehoming centre (UK)
Bunny Haven (East Lothian)

Tuesday 27 June 2006

Three Summer haiku

Still summer evening
pearly pink clouds, bluest sky
swifts soar lazily
fast flowing river
watersparkle reflecting
on cliff overhang
wildflower meadow
electric blue damselfly
threading through the grass

Sunday 25 June 2006

An attempt at a new poetic form - The Fib

Across at One Deep Breath the current haiku challenge is to create a Fib, a haiku type poem using the first numbers from the Fibonacci series (1/1/2/3/5/8). This is perfect for me as I have spent ages tryring to write a poem about the Fibonacci series. (Honestly!). Here is my first attempt at a Fib.

the fruit of the plant
envisioning the universe

Friday 23 June 2006

Snow by Maxence Fermine

I've just read this beautiful little book. Yuko is a poet who loves haiku and snow. His poetry is white and pure like the snow itself. He travels to find a master poet who can help him find some colour in his poetry. Along the way he falls in love and discovers a lot about how to write poetry. The story is clear and symmetrical, like a snowflake and full of wisdom. It's a short novel, told in simple language (just as well given that I read it in Italian! Though it was written originally in French). I'd say its essential reading for everyone who loves poetry (and snow!).

Sunday 18 June 2006


Seagulls on the beach
their calls the loneliest sound
even in vast flocks

Sunday 11 June 2006

Late Flowering

I don’t like farmland bursting into flower
on the edge of town
red splashed with poppies rising
tall above vetches and secret plants.

All this bright colour

a last brave show
of hope from seeds
freed from farming
for a brief time until

all is lost to concrete.

Friday 9 June 2006


This bracelet is made from a strange net like material that I have no memory of where it came from! I laced through some silver ribbon that came from gift wrap and sewed on some bead type flowers. It's fastened with gift ribbon at the back. I made it at a workshop organised by Bits and Bobs, the Edinburgh Scrapstore.

Wednesday 17 May 2006

Cow Parade Comes to Edinburgh

Coloured cows hover
from the roof of the museum.
Normal life goes on.
Visit the CowParade website at:

Saturday 13 May 2006

Green Design exhibition

There's a lovely little exhibition on at the Museum of Scotland at the minute. Green Design exhibits wonderfully innovative examples of environmentally friendly design - from a coffee table made from coffee grounds to an environmentally friendly guitar. It's on until 25 June. More information at:

Sunday 7 May 2006

Bass Rock from North Berwick

The rock itself almost hidden
by pointillistic gannets nesting,
soaring round in clouds,

closer to shore, diving,
crashing into waves
stark white against sea and sky

their numbers restoring faith
in something that seems lost
amongst the people

littering the beach.

Monday 1 May 2006

Bank Holiday at North Berwick

Today we went to North Berwick and walked along the beach. We had excellent views of the Bass Rock, covered in gannets. There were also a lot of gannets closer to the shore and a fair number of eider ducks too. Hopefully there will be a longer poem soon, but for now there's this:
White cross-shaped bird
wings ink-tipped
stark against the shimmering foil
of sunlit sea.

Friday 28 April 2006

Poetry Folder

I rescued this ring binder from the office bin and transformed it into a folder for my poetry with photos from various magazines and Poetry across the corner in letters from magazines. The stone in the hand is tied with a ribbon that says Destiny.

Wednesday 26 April 2006

Debris Field - an exhibition of found art and soundscapes

I've just been away for a few days visiting family in Greater Manchester. We went to an excellent exhibition at Bolton Art Gallery - Debris Field - a wonderful combination of sound pieces and intricate sculptures from found items. More information here. It's on until June so if you're in the area between now and then, I would definitely recommend going along.

Monday 17 April 2006


Today we walked up Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh. The weather was warm and clear and the gorse was out, smelling of coconut. These are some of the natural sounds we heard:

The wind
Tree branches creaking in the wind
Leaves rustling in the wind
Birds singing and calling - great tits, blue tits, robins, blackbirds and chaffinches
Our footsteps
Twigs snapping underfoot

Somewhere like Corstorphine Hill it becomes possible to appreciate natural sounds, traffic noises seem to disappear. But for most of us who live in cities, natural noises are increasingly difficult to hear. This month's Ecologist magazine has an excellent article on noise pollution and soundscapes. Find out more from the Institute of Acoustic Ecology and find out what you can do to reduce noise from the Noise Abatement Society.

Tuesday 4 April 2006

Ice Blink

Ice Blink is a term describing the white glare that appears on the underside of low clouds in sub-zero sea conditions, indicating the presence of ice beyond the range of vision and warning ships to be on guard.
Ice Blink is also an excellent exhibition of Simon Faithfull's photographs, drawings and films from an expedition to Antarctica. The highlight for me was definitely the video of an abandoned whaling station that has been taken over by seals! Ice Blink is part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival and is on at the Stills Gallery, Cockburn Street, Edinburgh until 14 May 2006. More information at:

Thursday 23 March 2006

Altered Book 5

The background to this page is an article about holidays in the city, so it seemed an appropriate background to a photo of Turin and some tickets etc from our time there!

Thursday 16 March 2006

Japanese Poetry and Flowers = Notelets

These notelets are made out of old card and paper from my office, extracts from Japanese poetry from a haiku magazine and photos of flowers from an Italian magazine. I made a whole series of them to remind me its supposed to be Spring!

Sunday 12 March 2006

Altered Book 4

This page of the book features the Hanbury Botanical Gardens, on the coast between Ventimiglia and the French border. The background is a pencil crayoned sketch from a photo and I stuck in two tickets for the gardens. In this case, the text has nothing to do with the pictures, I'm running out of appropriate text!

Sunday 5 March 2006

Community Backgreens Initiative

Green Caretakers and Re-solution have launched a project to revamp some of the derelict backgreens in densely populated areas of Edinburgh. The idea originates in Copenhagen, Denmark (unfortunately I can't find English language web resources on the Copenhagen project, has anyone got any information on this?). The plan is to involve local residents in tidying up the areas behind their tenements, planning how they want them to look and then signing up to a maintenance agreement. Hopefully the results will bring backgreens into better use, increase the community feeling of an area and improve the area for wildlife. So, I'll maybe need to buy a pair of wellies.....

Thursday 2 March 2006

Spring Gift Wrap

This is a nice giftwrap for Mothers Day or a spring birthday. The paper is from two paper bags, the ribbon is reused and the gift tag is from an old greetings card. I love how the flower on the card echoes those on the paper!

Wednesday 22 February 2006

Signs of Spring

Snowdrops in Cammo Country Park
photo copyright Robert Bryson

Sunday 12 February 2006

Desk Tidies

This is really easy but can look very effective. I buy fair trade tea and cocoa in cardboard tubes of various sizes. These can then be covered in wrapping paper or pages from magazines to become attractive desk tidies. However there's only a limited number of desk tidies that one household needs. Does anyone have other ideas of how to use these types of cardboard tubs?

Sunday 5 February 2006

Re-using Materials in Crafts

I make my craft items from materials that are left overs from my house or my place of work and found items. I reuse the paper and card to make my cards, the fabrics in my gift bags or lavender bags are reclaimed from items that have fallen apart or that I have altered. I use ribbons from gift boxes and from chocolate boxes (so yes the ribbon in a gift bag might have a trade name of a well-known chocolate shop!). So everything is genuinely re-used. I recently bought some second hand picture frames and mirrors that I plan to decorate and give as gifts. Once I run out of my own left over fabrics, I'll be looking out attractive but damaged clothes in second hand shops that I can customise and use the left overs for other things!

Friday 3 February 2006

Translated into Spanish

I'm totally delighted that Eugenia Andino has translated one of my poems into Spanish. It's not an environmental poem so I won't be posting it on this blog, so to read it (both in the original English and the Spanish translation) please visit:

Friday 27 January 2006

Altered Book 2

I'm much happier with this page than with the earlier page in the book! We visited the Museo di Antichita in Torino so I've pasted a ticket from the museum plus a separate copy of the photo onto an article about archeological discoveries with the photo echoed in a pencil crayon design across the page.

Saturday 7 January 2006


Kingfisher, green, blue
orange, flashes upriver
brightens winter's grey.

Wednesday 4 January 2006

Think Local, Act Local!

Post offices, specialist shops, greengrocers, newsagents are all disappearing from your local high street. If you live in the UK you can help halt this decline in communities by joining the campaign for Sustainable Communities at Local Works:

Locally run shops and businesses employ local people and help maintain vibrant, lively communities. If you shop locally, you reduce traffic congestion and pollution as well as supporting your local community.