Sunday 30 December 2007

tanka - frost

From a frosty Christmas Day walk through Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh:

glitter white
with frost -
greenfinches glow
like emeralds.


frost glitters
on slippery pathways -
hand in hand
we feel safer
from falling.

A senryu on a different aspect of frost is on my Alter Ego blog.

Frost for One Deep Breath

Pot Pourri bag

I bought some pot pourri from a local second hand shop and transferred it into pretty cloth bags. Some of the bags I made - this one is admittedly a bit of a cheat as it was the gift bag from a candle, but it is the most photogenic! The ribbon is re-used though I don't know where it came from originally.

Saturday 29 December 2007


Ever since we had a pet rabbit (the adorable and much missed Anya) I have looked at rabbits in a new light. No longer are they almost a pest species, ten a penny in fields everywhere across the UK. Now they are adorable furry things with loads of personality. There is a colony of about twenty rabbits that lives on the hill below Edinburgh Castle. These rabbits are thin and scrawny, their heads bent to nibble the thin grass on the hill, only occasionally daring to go into Princes Street Gardens, where the grass is thicker but there are people around too. Over on Arthur's Seat, the rabbits seem better fed, sleeker as they scamper around the hill, glowing in the sunlight. When we visited Orkney, we saw brave bunnies who lived on the seacliffs, their burrows overlooking the sea.

I wrote a poem about Anya here. I'm currently reading my review copy of Poetry Speaks Expanded and was struck by this description of rabbits in Denise Levertov's poem Come into Animal Presence:

...............................The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
...the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence

Animal for Weekend Wordsmith

Friday 28 December 2007

Rethinking Basic Assumptions

One of the problems of buying all my books second hand is that sometimes I find topical books a bit late in the day. Never mind, Hijacking Environmentalism (ed Richard Welford) seems to be (sadly) just as relevant today as it was when it was written 10 years ago. The book addresses basically what we would now call greenwash, how business adds on environmental extras to its work without addressing the real environmental issues. I've only read the Introduction so far but this quote leapt out at me:

When for example, an oil tanker runs aground causing massive environmental destruction we blame the disaster on the fact that the tanker had a single skin hull rather than a double skin, we blame the pilot or the adverse weather conditions. We rarely ask ourselves why millions of gallons of oil are transported round the globe in old vessels.....We do not ask ourselves what kind of consumption patterns, which we take for granted, have resulted in thousands of seabirds, fish and seals dying to satisfy our greed.

It promises to be an insightful read, which takes into account the interconnectedness of environmental sustainability and social justice, but also demands some serious rethinking of basic assumptions about how our society works.

Thursday 27 December 2007

Best of the Year

I thought I'd do a round up of some of my favourite books, films, shows and exhibitions of the year that have some environmental connection. I buy all my books second hand so my favourite books are mostly not recently published, where they are, I've probably been sent review copies!

Creatures of the Intertidal Zone by Susan Richardson
Gyrfalcon Poems by Colin Simms
The Good Neighbour by John Burnside

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The Wild Blue Yonder - Werner Herzog

Planting the Dunk Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Seeing Dragons in the Clouds, Edinburgh City Art Centre
Weaving Words - Anna S King, National Museum of Scotland

More of my Best of the Year over at my Alter Ego Blog.

Best of the Year for Booking through Thursday, with added extras!

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Adaptation and the Bird

Thousands of years evolution
to reach perfection -
form fit for purpose and place

until the poison
the warming
the looming shadow
of humankind.

for Totally Optional Prompts and all the penguins, vultures and other well adapted birds doomed to extinction by humankind's arrogance

Monday 24 December 2007

haiku - giving

throw raisins
onto the lawn -
blackbirds wait.

Giving for One Deep Breath

Seven Random Things about Christmas

mm at Wanting to Be Here tagged me for the 7 random things meme. I've done this one before more than once but i thought it would be fun to do 7 random things about a mostly crafty and green Christmas:

1. We will have a vegetarian Christmas dinner with nut roast, potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts followed by a vegetarian Christmas pudding with custard

2. I handmade all my Christmas cards this year.

3. I bought my sister and her husband ten metres of hedgerow from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

4. Most of the other gifts I have given are handmade, second hand or fair-trade.

5. Gifts that needed to be wrapped, I wrapped in handmade giftbags or in reused paper

6. From our flat we can see fairy lights decorating a crane in a building site!

7. There are reindeer in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens during December up until Christmas Eve.

I'm not going to tag anyone for this, but feel free to join in if you want! Have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas!

Sunday 23 December 2007


Earth is amazing and unique. Even if other planets out there support advanced life, there will be no other planet that supports just exactly the mix of living organisms that earth supports. From beetles coloured like precious jewels to the magnificent tiger, life is full of wonder.

Life has come and gone. Once the dinosaurs ruled the planet, now humans like to think we do. However, humans are polluting the earth, destroying rainforests and discupting weather systems. We are putting great stresses on the ecosystems of the world, pushing numerous species to extinction and damaging our own life support systems.

Things pass, everything changes, the earth as a planet will survive until either the sun dies or the planet is destroyed by huge meteorites. However, if we care for human society and for the species we currently share the earth with, we would stop and think a little more about how we treat this wonderful earth that is our home.


luminous roundness

subtle swirls in blue and green

draped with wispy veils of white

set against a backdrop of black


The Earth for Writers' Island

Saturday 22 December 2007

Customised Glamour for the Party Season

Christmas is the time for parties and dressing up. These gloves I had originally bought new (I buy my clothes second hand, apart from underwear, shoes and some hats and gloves) but I was getting a bit bored of them. So I cut the lace from the top of some old stockings and then sewed it into the top of the gloves - there's just the right amount of lace at the top of a stocking to form a nice border on a glove with enough left over to allow for hemming etc.

Thebracelet was £2.40 in a second hand shop and the ring was literally found in the street! Altogether an ideal touch of glamour for a festive evening out.

Friday 21 December 2007

Poetry Speaks Expanded

I just received in the post my review copy of Poetry Speaks Expanded from Source Books. It's a huge book of poetry from some of the most well known poets of the 20th Century with three accompanying CDs. So I know what I'll be reading and listening to over the Christmas holiday! I'll post a review early in the New Year. Meanwhile, you can read my review of Source Book's Spoken Word Redux book and CD here.

Thursday 20 December 2007

Creatures of the Intertidal Zone by Susan Richardson

CREATURES OF THE INTERTIDAL ZONE is a collection of poetry rooted in the natural world, more specifically rooted in ice and ocean and the journeys made across them by humans and animals. The poems include haiku and tanka, two villanelles and a number of poems showing skillful use of end rhyme, as well as extensive use of internal rhyme. Richardson is a poet who knows how to use the sounds and rhythms of language.

There are poems here based on the experience of the men, including Scott and Shackleton, who explored the Antarctic and others based on stories of the Scandanavian heroines Gudrid and Freydis. There are several poems about penguins,

continue to read the review here.

The NHI review site, run by Gerald England, is closing to new reviews this Christmas, but will still be online as an archive. So, thanks to Gerald, I've enjoyed writing reviews for this site over the past few years, I've been able to read a great variety of books that I wouldn't have found otherwise and reviewing is a great way to get closer to poetry and think about it more than you might otherwise do.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Gift Bags

I made these gift bags from scrap material. The gold fabric was left over from a top that I bought second hand that wasn't in perfect condition but the fabric was so beautiful I bought it anyway. I shortened the top by cutting off the damaged areas and found myself with enough cloth to make two of these gift bags. I decorated this one with beads from an old skirt and a ribbon from a box of chocolates! The other bag is made from material left over from a dress I had made in Malawi. The ribbon came from an old gift. I left this one without beads. These bags are an ideal alternative to wrapping paper. The recipient will hopefully reuse the bag, either a gift bag for someone else, or for personal storage.

Monday 17 December 2007

Crafty Green and True Blue

I was delighted to find that nà of Shadows and Clouds has awarded me the True Blue Blogging Award, which i would in turn like to pass on! Many thanks for thinking of me, Nà! This award is for 'blogging friends, for people who stick by you in blogland and make it fun to blog, create a community of communication and friends.' I could award it to so many people who visit me but I will choose:

Janice (Pursuance of Truth)
Jo (A Broad's Thoughts from Home)
Polona (Crows and Daisies)

I would also like to award it right back to as well!

Thanks to those I've listed and to everyone who visits here and comments or just lurks!

Sunday 16 December 2007

Saturday 15 December 2007


I love clouds, they add character to the sky. On a recent train journey between Edinburgh and Manchester, the clouds were low and the landscape became most mysterious, even disappearing on occasion! I love the contrast between sunshine and cloud:

dark clouds
full of rain

snow capped
that glint

in the sunlight

Clouds for Weekend Wordsmith

Thursday 13 December 2007

Heima - Sigur Ros on Film

This documentary follows the Icelandic band Sigur Ros as they tour Iceland, giving a series of free concerts, mostly in open air venues, including at a protest camp against a large dam in the middle of a huge area of upland wilderness (the dam has now been flooded and it's too late for the scenery and the habitats, sadly). Sigur Ros' haunting music is the perfect accompaniment to Iceland's stunning scenery and the film is mesmerising. There are also some surreal moments, some humour and introductions to other musicians (including someone who makes musical instruments from pieces of rock and 100 year old stalks of rhubarb!). This is probably not going to get a wide release, but if you get the chance to see it, it's definitely recommended!

Wednesday 12 December 2007


Scrawny necked, ugly birds of death,
feeders on carrion and rotting things.

Somewhere in Nepal,
they leave their dead for you,
on ice-cold mountainsides,
and watch you take the flesh,
the bones,
the heart,
the soul


An article in the current issue of the RSPB magazine Birds, prompted me to repost this poem. Three of southern Asia's vultures have declined by 99% since the early 1990s. Vultures play a vital role in ecosystems, clearing up carcases and preventing the spread of diseases that could be picked up from these carcases. This decline is due in large part to a drug, diclofenac, which is used to treat domestic cattle. Vultures are poisoned by this drug when they feed on the carcases of domestic animals. Work is going on to ban this drug and to breed vultures in captivity to release them back into the wild. If caught soon enough, poisoned vultures can be treated and can recover. For more information and how you can help please visit:
Vulture Rescue and the RSPB Vulture Campaign pages.

(Poem previously published in Envoi)

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Line Length

What effect does line length have on a poem? I write a lot of short poems and usually use short lines in these poems, because very long lines in a short poem can look unbalanced. However in longer poems I think the effect of very short lines can be to make the poem seem choppy, though used well very short lines add drama to a poem or can fix attention on individual words. Longer lines often seem to flow better, adding lyricism or making the rhythm gentler. Here are some examples of different line length in my poetry:

short lines - Young Woman in Black (on my Alter Ego blog)
medium lines - Wild Again

varied line length - Confluence, a Riverscape

I'm sure it will surprise no-one that I couldn't find an example of a poem with long lines! That will be something to work on perhaps.

Line Length for Read Write Poem

Wild Again

Champagne to celebrate breeding success -
the rare dove, the rare eagle
both released back into the wild

Scientists and tourists alike gasp in delight
to watch the newly wild eagle plunge
through the sky in pursuit of prey

Delight is stunned into silence
when the eagle's first victim is seen -
a newly wild, rare dove

Birds and Bonds for Totally Optional Prompts

Monday 10 December 2007

Moses Gate Country Park

While we were in Manchester over the weekend we visited Moses Gate Country Park, in Farnworth, Bolton. It's a lovely local nature reserve, tucked away in quite a built up area, with a lake and reedbeds and a bit of woodland. We were lucky with the weather, the earlier rain had disappeared and the sky was clear and the air crisp and still, though it was a bit slippy underfoot! The lake was covered with Canada Geese with plenty of mallards, tufted ducks and coots. We also saw one black swan (probably an escape from either a private collected or from the nearby Wildfowl and Wetlands Reserve at Martin Mere.) We only saw one greylag goose , though there may have been more. There was also a very sad and ill-looking white goose, sitting on the bank.

When we got back to Edinburgh, I was delighted to find that I've won a mounted print of Mark Eccleston's stunning photo
Frosted Teasel. If you don't know Mark's work, why not go and visit his blog and website - his photos are wonderful! And thanks for the prize, Mark!

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Scottish Government backs millionaire in bid to destroy ecosystems

I suspected that my optimism of a couple of days ago would be short lived. The Scottish Government is to appeal against Aberdeenshire Council's rejection of Donald Trump's proposal to build golf courses and hotels on the coast of Aberdeenshire. I find it strange that a government committed to the idea of an independent Scotland should a) not trust local councils to use their own powers to make their own decisions and b) want to sell off our land to an American billionaire. Not to mention the environmental impact of the development. I also find it strange that the government aren't leaving it to Trump to put in an appeal against the decision.

The appeal will be lead by John Swinney, MSP. Any letters of complaint or even support can be sent to him, using the contact details found on that link.

Of course some people see only the economic benefits that the proposal could bring but at the end of the day if we destroy the environment, we ultimately destroy ourselves and the economy. Progress isn't just about money. Or golf for that matter.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Salt Monody by Marzanna Kielar

Salt Monody is the latest collection of poetry from the Polish poet Marzanna Kielar, here in a bilingual edition with excellent English language translations by Elzbieta Wojcik-Leese. The poems took me right back into the ancient forest heart of Poland that I visited briefly years ago. Kielar's writing is very evocative and full of wonderful images like:

dark splash of a crow in the floodplain of silence

from the poem Dusk. A lot of the book feels quite bleak, set in winter weather in stark landscapes and there are dark themes running through, such as death and abandonment. However the collection is not depressing or grim, its too beautifully written for that. I also have to say that this is one of the best poetic translations I've read, I don't speak Polish so I can't say how close to the original the translations are, but as poetry they flow wonderfully and multiple meanings can be read throughout - wonderful enough in poetry at any time but very difficult to achieve in translation.

I haven't been able to find a bilingual website that offers Kielar's poems side by side in Polish and English (For readers who are interested in reading some of her poetry in Polish, there is a sample and a short biography here).

Monday 3 December 2007

Haiku Broken Telephone Game

Inspired by a game called ‘broken telephone’ in Lithuania, Ricardas at Haiku Poetry Blog is setting up a haiku game. In Broken Telephone, a sentence is passed through a chain of people by whispering it to the next person, then he/she whispers further on and so till the last person who announces loudly what he/she have heard. Normally, it is different from what initially was said and more people participate funnier it ends up. To see how the haiku version works and to participate, see this post. The game is now up and running here and you can see my haiku (in Italian and English) if you scroll down.

Sand Dunes Protected from Development

I was delighted to read over the weekend that Donald Trumps plan to destroy ecologically sensitive sand dunes in Aberdeenshire to build golf courses and hotels was turned down by Aberdeenshire Council. Read more in the Guardian. I've heard it said by some politicians about similar though smaller decisions in Edinburgh that people are starting to resist change to the extent that they're going to miss out on progress. But what is progress? I don't see yet more golf courses in Scotland as being progress if they destroys our natural heritage. I don't see new hotels in Edinburgh as being progress if they destroy wonderful old buildings that are part of our historical heritage.

More and more people are seeing that progress needs to respect the past and the natural world and more and more in Scotland, there is hope that nature can win against the destructive advance of progress. More and more people are seeing that true sustainability means more than economics and that heritage and the environment are not nice extras but vital components of our world.

Well the signs are good today anyway.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Signs of Otters

' Otters Crossing' Roadsign, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

In tv wildlife shows broadcast from remote Scottish islands,

excited presenters whisper your name to camera

imply only patience stands between us and you,

a view shared by the makers of roadsigns.

We however have only ever been teased

by your footprints; leftovers from your meals

found on coastal rocky outcrops

and stories told us in hotel breakfast rooms.

Told in quieter whispers when we return home

are stories of your kind in our town

leaving footprints by our less romantic waters.

Our fingers cross now on every weekend walk.

Roadsign for Totally Optional Prompts

Saturday 1 December 2007

Winter Walk

This morning we walked along the Water of Leith through Colinton Dell. The ground was covered in leaves (and very slippery in parts!) the trees were largely bare, the sky was blue and it was chilly but not too cold. The trees were full of birds, though many of them kept themselves hidden despite the lack of leaves on the trees. We heard blue tits, robins and jackdaws and saw coal tits, magpies, woodpigeons, mallards and carrion crows. When we crossed the footbridge over the river we caught sight of a heron. Then we walked further up and saw a second heron from the bridge near the weir (click on the photo to see it!).

We were able to watch this heron for a while as it wrestled with (and swallowed) a large fish then flew up river to drink and rest.

We then walked into Colinton, which is a village that has become part of Edinburgh but still retains its village feel. Just as we were about to get on the bus to come home, we saw several redwings in the trees near the bus stop. Redwings are one of the UK's winter thrushes, so it must really be winter now.

You can read about more of our weekend walks by following these links:

Arthur's Seat, November 2007

North Berwick, August 2007

Corstophine Hill, August 2007

Walk for Sunday Scribblings