Saturday 27 December 2008

HIghlights of Christmas Nature

Hope everyone has been having a lovely relaxing and creative holiday. Here are some highlights from our nature walks of the last few days:

Christmas Day - we saw a fox in the centre of Edinburgh, not as common a sight as it once was, since rubbish is now put in bins, rather than bin bags being piled in the street as they used to be.

Boxing Day - we walked along the Union Canal and saw: a goosander; loads of tits and finches in the trees and hedges in mixed groups and separately, including: blue tits, long tailed tits, greenfinches, goldfinches and bullfinches (a particularly pleasing sighting as they're declining quite badly these days). Also encouraging to see large numbers of house sparrows, another species that is declining across the country though it does seem to hold its own in certain selected locations (such as the Union Canal). We also had our best view ever of a kingfisher and the first we've ever seen on the canal rather than the rivers of Edinburgh (where we see them quite regularly). Not just a turquoise flash across the water but also a sitting pose in a tree over the water and a rather intriguing visit to a bird feeder (what would tempt a kingfisher to a bird feeder I wonder?)

Yesterday it was beautiful cold blue skies and the ground covered in crunchy frost. We walked through Inverleith Gardens, where we saw around 20 oystercatchers on the grass as well as plenty of swans, mallards and four tufted ducks in the pond. We then walked round the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. The squirrels were very lively and aggressive, grunting to each other and fighting and one of them attacked a pigeon. We also saw a lively and noisy mixed flock of tits, including several long tailed tits, a great tit and a few blue tits.

I'll be busy with other things for the next few days, but will be back again early in January. Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Crafty Green Season's Greetings!

Crafty Green Season's Greetings to all readers of this blog! Hope you have a wonderfully refreshing and creative holiday! I'll be taking a break and probably won't post anything now until the New Year. See you all again soon!

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Writing Workshop at Vogrie Country Park

I will be facilitating an all day nature writing workshop on Tuesday 27 January (10am - 4pm) at Vogrie Country park in Midlothian. To find out more or to book a place you can use the contact details on this page or feel free to contact me directly.

Monday 22 December 2008

And the winners are...

I've done the draw for my Book Giveaway and the winners are:

1. 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel goes to Carol Thistlethwaite aka Mistlethrush of From the Field Book.

2. Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster goes to Catbot.

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott goes to Fiona Robyn of Planting Words, A Small Stone and A Handful of Small Stones.

4. The Rialto goes to Sue Turner of Tumblewords and Sue Turner's Art.

5. Tears in the Fence goes to Daisies of Small Moments

6. Agamemnon's Daughter by Ismail Kadare goes to bookcrosser Mazzlestar.

7. Yellow Torchlight and the Blues by Emma Lee goes to Lucy of Box Elder and Out with Mol

8. The Mirror of Ink by Jorges Luis Borges goes to Susan Tuttle of Ilka's Attic.

I'll be packing these up and sending them off early in the New Year, as soon as i get people's addresses. Congratulations to all the winners and hope you enjoy your books!

Sunday 21 December 2008

Some recommended books for poets

Lucy, who blogs at Box Elder and Out with Mol, recently asked in the comments section here:

would you give suggestions for books you've found helpful both in reading and writing poetry?

so here are some suggested books:

1. The Poet's Manual and Rhyming Dictionary by Frances Stillman (published by Thames and Hudson) is an essential I think, it discusses aspects of poetry such as metre and rhyme, looks at form, such as sonnets and haiku and offers a very comprehensive rhyming dictionary.

2. Teach Yourself Writing Poetry by Matthew Sweeney and John Hartley Williams (published by Hodder and Stoughton) covers issues such as how to get started, working with rhyme and getting pubnlished and includes a number of exercises to help you along the way.

3. The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael Bugeja (published by Writers Digest Books) looks at different types of poetry, such as nature poetry and war poetry and at different forms and discusses them in detail with lots of examples. The book is designed to be useful for at least three readings through with three tiers of exercises that build on each other depending on your level of experience. This is as far as I'm concerned the most inspiring book on how to write poetry.

None of these books are in my Christmas Giveaway, but two books I'm giving away that are relevant to this post are:

52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel - a guide to close reading poetry with 52 poems. You can read my review of it on Read Write Poem here. This is a really useful guide to how to read a poem as fully as possible, but I did find it lacking in inspirational value, strangely given how inspiring i find Ruth padel as a poet.

Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster a guide to poetic form for women who are just starting to write poetry or who are unsure about when to use particular poetic forms, but is not a book i'd recommend to anyone who has experience in using form.

Finally I can recommend finding an anthology, any anthology, as long as it is edited by Neil Astley (eg Staying Alive or Being Alive). He knows what poetry is really about, understands the need for poetry to speak to the reader if it is to be of true value.

There is still time to enter my Giveaway by the way, you can find out more here.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Arts, Crafts and Allotments

I went to the Tollcross Arts and Crafts Fair today, at Tollcross Community Centre, in Edinburgh. Lovely selection of alternative craft items, eg beautiful earrings made from recycled vinyl records, gorgeous fair traded amber brooches (and normally I'm not a fan of amber) and smart and practical shopping bags. I was also delighted to find that Lucinda Withinshaw had a stall there. Lucinda is a photographer who recently caught my eye with her lovely series of photos taken on Edinburgh allotments. You can see (and buy!) these photos here.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Bookworm meme

I was tagged a while ago by Melissa from Poet with a Day Job to take part in the Bookworm meme.

RULE ONE, I have to grab one of the books closest to me, go to page 56, type the fifth line and the next two to five lines that follow.

Book: Earth for Sale - Brian Tokar

A broader historical outlook on the development of the regulatory system is necessary if activists are to reach much beyond limited, technical debates and regain the inititiative on behalf of public health and ecological integrity.

btw - the book is a fascinating history of environmental activism in the USA, but it is dated and so doesn't give a current assessment of the situation.

RULE TWO, I have to pick five people who love books and who could receive the Bookworm award with honour.

Actually this has been around and about so often that I'll just say, if you want to do it, please do and let me know so I can come and read your replies!

And remember, there's still time to enter my Book Giveaway. I'll be putting names into a hat early next week, if you want to be in with a chance of winning some of these books, please go here.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Winter Haiku

I have another haiku up at Winter Haiku, you can read it here.

I've also got two haiku in the current issue of Blithe Spirit (the members' journal of the British Haiku Society) and one in their members' anthology.

Birds, Snow and Music

We travelled back from my parents yesterday, lovely train journey through the English Lake District and the southern part of Scotland. Lots of snow and ice on the high ground. It was of course nice to see my parents again and also their garden, which was full of birds.

at the piano
I struggle to bring to life
the notes on the stave -
outside, long tailed tits flutter
in the bare branches.

Friday 12 December 2008

Away for a Few Days

I'm in Manchester for a few days. Back soon.

Remember there's still time to enter my Book Giveaway!

Thursday 11 December 2008

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

In this wonderful book, Heinrich takes us into the winter woodlands of Maine to observe nature and how living things survive the cold. He looks at insects (especially bees), bears and trees but concentrates on the kinglet, a tiny bird closely related to the European goldcrest (one of my favourite birds). The book is full of the enthusiasm of someone who is genuinely fascinated by the natural world and who has the skills of a true field biologist to back that up. Not to mention artistic talent too, the book is full of beautiful line drawings by the author.

The result is a book full of amazing and sometimes incredible facts and details, all told in a gentle conversational tone.

I'm keeping this book, but there are others I'm giving away. You can read more about my Book Giveaway here.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Greyfriars Kirk Garden and Recycling

Last week I went to a meeting at Greyfriars Kirk, one of the most historic churches in Edinburgh, famous for being the burial place of Greyfriars Bobby. The church wants to re-establish its herb garden and make the churchyard a more welcoming place for wildlife and people. As we stood outside there were birds fluttering in the branches above our heads (robins, blue tits, coal tits and chaffinches) and on the grass (a pied wagtail, magpies and a rather bemused looking oystercatcher) so obviously the church has a good start on attracting wildlife! As for people, the churchyard is a popular place for people to wander round, though when i visited it, several of the paths were covered in black ice which restricted things somewhat. The plan is to plant more native plant species, put up more bird boxes and to involve the local community in maintaining the space.

Greyfriars Kirk also operates GROW (Greyfriars Recycling of Wood) a wonderful project that recycles wood from old church pews to make furniture (both for the house and the garden) and bird boxes. The goods are made by people who have faced complex issues in their lives, such as homelessness and addiction, and helps them develop skills.

Tuesday 9 December 2008


a flock of waxwings
flutters on the school roof -
people rush by.

I was very excited yesterday morning to see at least 50 waxwings just down the road from where we live. This autumn, I'd seen the berries on the trees outside the school and thought that if we were lucky they would tempt the waxwings. Waxwings only come to Edinburgh every few years but they come in large numbers. You can read my poem about their last visit here.

You can read my most recent contribution to Winter haiku here.
Remember you can take part in my book giveaway here.

Monday 8 December 2008


intelligent eyes
in a sharp face

a rush forward
to sniff

a tussle
a ripped sandwich


a retreat

a shrieked quack

a duck
hanging limp

a bushy tail

There have also been poetic foxes over on Bolts of Silk recently, you can find them by following the links below:

The Fox of Yellowstone by Janie Hoffman
Untitled by Art Durkee

Don't forget to enter my book Giveaway!

Sunday 7 December 2008

Walking through Edinburgh

Frost on the paths through Bruntsfield, onto the Links and past the Plague Pits (which hold the secret seeds of future poems as well as long dead bodies). I walk through into the Meadows, the shimmering whisper of unseen birds above my head, though all I see are two jackdaws, their black glinting in the low sun. The same sun throws the trees into sharp relief, the upper branches red and glowing.

Later the Royal Mile, where a young woman twirls batons of fire while her companion drums, the primitive beat moving tourist feet along the slippery pavements. A detour down a side street to see the setting sun before diving inside to the poetry reading.

crescent moon hangs
above the reddened crags -
day fades.

Faded for Weekend Wordsmith
I also have a haiku up on Winter Haiku, you can read it here.
Don't forget my Book Giveaway, you can enter it here.
I love Walking for inspiration, find out more here.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Christmas New Year Giveaways

I've got several books to giveaway here, just leave a note in the comments section if you'd like any of them (please state which) and I'll draw names out of a hat before Christmas and get them sent out in the New Year. Please leave your email address in the comments section to make sure I can contact you if you're successful:

1. 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel - a guide to close reading poetry with 52 poems. You can read my review of it on Read Write Poem here.

2. Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster a guide to poetic form for women who are just starting to write poetry or who are unsure about when to use particular poetic forms - you can read my review of it on Read Write Poem here. (When drawing names out of the hat for this one, preference will be given to women)

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (signed copy). An engaging book about writing and creativity.

4. Issue 65 of the Rialto magazine, one of the UK's best poetry magazines.

5. Issue 48 of Tears in the Fence, another excellent UK poetry magazine, this issue contains an interesting article about poetic collaboration.

6. Agamemnon's Daughter by Ismail Kadare, read him before he wins the Nobel Prize, because in my humble opinion, one day he will.

7. Yellow Torchlight and the Blues by Emma Lee - a good collection of accessible and moving poetry. You can read my review on NHI Reviews here.

8. The Mirror of Ink by Jorge Luis Borges - a pocket sized book of wonderment

All the books (but not the poetry journals) are registered with Bookcrossing, the international booksharing community. If you win a book you are under no obligation to take part in Bookcrossing. All books were either bought second hand or are review copies.

I no longer have any copies of my old poetry pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing left to give away, but if you want to buy a copy I think there are a couple left for sale at Wordpower Books.

Susan Tuttle, from Ilka's Attic is also running a book Giveaway. She's offering a copy of her book Mixed Media Demonstrations and Explorations, which sounds as though it is a rtuly inspiring book for anyone interested in mixed media crafts. So if you want a chance to win that book, please go over to Susan's blog.

Friday 5 December 2008

Walk for Inspiration

My favourite form of exercise is walking. One of the advantages of my current job is that I can walk there and arrive to work feeling refreshed and mentally alert. I also like to go for a short walk at lunchtime to wake myself up, though currently Gorgie Farm is an ice rink, a cobblestoned, in many places steeply sloping ice rink so walking can be risky!

My favourite kind of walking though is through the countryside or a park like the Botanics or the Meadows. Here I can let my mind wander while at the same time remaining observant for interesting birds and plants. My walks are very often times that inspire haiku and equally they often help me to work on poems in progress. I am always refreshed after a walk and in the winter I also like the warming effect of regular walks!

Walking is a very natural form of exercise, no machinery required and you can do it wherever you are, no need for the sterile atmosphere of the gym.

Getting Physical for Write on Wednesday

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Gorgie City Farm Christmas Cards

Gorgie City Farm Christmas Cards and 2009 Calendars are now available from the Farm Cafe for those of you in Edinburgh! I don't know if there are overseas orders available, but I can ask! Needless to say my favourite Christmas card design is this one, featuring Sugar, who is following in the footsteps of her mother Daisy, in becoming a media star.

A few days after the photo for this card was taken, Sugar dug her way out of the shed she shares with Daisy and Driftwood and was found running about the farm! She was quickly caught and reunited with the other rabbits.

Tuesday 2 December 2008


under the oak tree -
broken acorns lie scattered
on a rock.

I've joined the team for Winter Haiku, you can read my first contribution here.

Monday 1 December 2008

Feature on Junk Style Diva

I'm honoured to be a featured artist over on Junk Style Diva today. Thanks, Inge! You can read the feature here. The rest of Inge's blog is very well worth browsing too....

Impatiens by Melissa Fondakowski

Impatiens, by Melissa Fondakowski (Poet with a Day Job) was the 2001 Sow's Ear Chapbook Winner and deservedly so. The poem that gives the collection its title, Window Box, is a description of planting Impatiens in a window box, the narrator at nine 'wondered how a plant could be impatient'.

Many of the other poems in the book, though not overtly to do with nature or environmental themes, have a strong connection to the earth, as these lines from Eve:

I become Adam, alluvial and nascent, waking
under a firmament certain with birds

Impatiens is available to purchase from the sidebar of Melissa's blog

Some of Melissa's more recent poems featured on this joy and ride, you can read them here.

Jessica, over at 9-5 Poet also reviewed Impatiens, you can read her review here.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Sugar Radif up at the Ghazal Page

You can see this sweet collection of ghazals about sugar here. The link to my ghazal comes under the Sugar Cubes heading in the sidebar.

As some people have asked, I have now written a post with links to my poetry published online. You can read it here. I'll update it as necessary and will link to it in the sidebar.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Dalkeith Country Park

frosted woodland -

the constant chatter
of jackdaws

We visited Dalkeith Country Park today, just a short bus ride out of Edinburgh. The trees near the entrance to the park were full of redwings, feeding and chattering. It was freezing cold.

We walked through to the ancient oak wood, which is full of the most magnificent trees, many of which are decaying and falling apart, offering wonderful homes for insects and food stores for birds. There were several wrens hopping around!

On the river
a dipper bobs on a rock
and flies upstream.

When we came back to the entrance, we saw a fieldfare with the redwing flock that was still in the same area. Then we walked into Dalkeith town centre for lunch.

leafless tree
alive with the bustle

Friday 28 November 2008

The Meadows

The Meadows is a lovely area of greenery in the middle of Edinburgh, it has few fences around it and feels like part of the city rather than a cordoned off park (though we have plenty of those too!). I wandered round the Meadows this morning, walking from the Shelter second hand shop (where I bought two books and 2 small picture frames for a total of £3) to the recently expanded New Leaf organic shop (where I had my Ecover washing up liquid refilled and bought some organic pears) to Real Foods (where I bought loads of food and some Sarakan toothpaste).

I was hoping to see redwings in the Meadows as they are often seen there at this time of the year. I didn't see any but that was more than made up for by the other birds. The whole Meadows was shimmering with a mist of low whispers from the trees. Looking up I saw that almost every tree was full of long tailed tits, busily eating and twittering. There were also a lot of blue tits and some goldcrests, one of which came really close and I got a wonderful view of its little yellow head crest.

Leaves for Weekend Wordsmith

the garden steps
hidden under fallen leaves -
a blackbird calls

Leaves for Weekend Wordsmith

Thursday 27 November 2008

A Night at Club Mak

Expats are living it up at Club Makakola
The diplomats wife sips gin
'God!' she says 'it's hell in that village!
How do they cope, knowing
this civilised place is so close?'
The researcher next to her stretches his legs
'my two week study here has shown
how this place works, what it lacks
I'll be able to change things,
get them on track, just you see!'

There's a murmur of approval
as a waiter brings another round.

Club Makakola was a popular ex-pat drinking place in Malawi, 1980s.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

New Website for Gorgie City Farm

Gorgie Farm launches its new-look website today, and it looks great! You can see it here. Some readers of this blog may feel there aren't enough rabbit photos in there, but otherwise I think it is definitely a success.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Growing Communities in Scotland

Just a quick update about what I do at work! Although I'm based at Gorgie City Farm I don't work directly for them, but for the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. The Federation is a national organisation (hence my recent trip to Bristol!) "Growing Communities in Scotland" is a partnership between the Federation, the Scottish Therepeutic Gardening Network (Trellis) and the Allotments Regeneration Initiative (ARI). The partnership supports community growing projects - including community gardens, city farms and horticultural therapy projects, enabling them to offer better, more consistent and wider reaching services. The project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. We've just appointed our new Fieldwork Co-ordinator for this project and are looking forward to seeing things really start to grow!

Monday 24 November 2008

The Mapmakers Opera by Bea Gonzalez

This is a wonderful book, set in early 20th century Mexico, combining history and biology, opera and a sense of justice. Sofia is a young woman fascinated by the natural world who manages to persuade her father to let her work with two scientists as they put together a bird book for the area. The scientists are also fascinated by the captive passenger pigeons held by the wealthiest man in the area. Meanwhile revolution is brewing around them all.....

It's a beautiful book and one that will make many people cry.

The Mapmaker's Opera by Bea Gonzalez

Thursday 20 November 2008

Away for a few days

I'm off to Bristol today, 7 hours on a train then hopefully a poetry event tonight before a work meeting tomorrow and Saturday. The train was cheap (£35) but why it has to take so long I don't know, surely there's a route that could be done in 5 hours or less? The flight plus the airport bus at both ends plus hanging around at the airport only takes a total of four hours so when there's three hours extra on the train you can see why people fly.....But the train does allow for appreciation of the scenery (and writing of haiku) and a comfortable seat in which to read and relax (and work too of course!) without all the rushing about. Then coming back by train stopping in Manchester to see my parents. Back in Edinburgh on Sunday evening.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Rabbit Haiga

thunderstorm -
the sweet smell between
my rabbit's ears

I couldn't resist the Arty Girlz Challenge this week - to illustrate a poem or quote. So here is a haiga, in memory of Anya. I'm making a lot of cards this size at the moment, to give out to people who express interest in my blog or poetry. The cards are all made from reused card. You can see another one (made from a reused train ticket) here. You can also see a haiga about my favourite bird, the swift, here.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Late Autumn

geese gathering honking in the fields,
early morning mist low over the trees,
bright turning leaves
and the five glowing colours of rowan berries,
spider webs draped over hedgerows
where robins wistfully sing,
magical light glowing
transforming stone to gold,
deer alert in a herd under
a yellow frost-moon

the hedgehog's prickled ball

A List Poem for Miss Rumphius Monday Poetry Stretch

Monday 17 November 2008

Recycled Diary

I've just made myself a diary for 2009. It's made from cardboard and paper recycled from office waste and a patch of reused wrapping paper to brighten it up and a piece of recycled elastic that I can't remember where its come from, its been in my stash for so long! It's a practical way to reuse quite a lot of waste paper and it will certainly come in useful! This is my diary for writing my journal in. I also have a diary in my handbag, but for that purpose I find a ready made small diary from Oxfam is sturdier and more useful and supports charity into the bargain.

Sunday 16 November 2008

On Wings of Song - Poems about Birds

This is a wonderful little book, packed full of great poems about birds of all types. The book is divided into sections such as: The Backyard; The Hawk and Legendary and Emblematic Birds. Poems include classics such as Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven and Wallace Stevens' 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird along with less well known poems by a diverse array of poets including Walt Whitman, Lewis Carrol and Gertrude Stein. My favourite poems were often about my favourite birds, for example Ted Hughes' Swifts or resonated with my recent sightings, such as David Waggoner's Nuthatch. It's a wonderful book for anyone who loves birds and poetry!

As befits a book about birds, this is now flying across the ocean to a fellow Bookcrosser in the USA.

On Wings of Song - Everyman's Library Pocket Poets.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Friday 14 November 2008

Recycling Train tickets

high speed birdwatching that a peregrine?

Perth is one of the few larger train stations in the UK that doesn't have automatic ticket barriers that eat your ticket after your journey. I save my tickets and make then into haiku cards like this one, which is an illustrated version of one of the haiku I posted earlier this week. The photo is a detail of a larger photo from an RSPB magazine. The RSPB is the UK's major bird conservation charity.

And yes, I'm pretty sure it was a peregrine...

Thursday 13 November 2008

Gorgie City Farm - Louie

Louie is the most cuddly of the Gorgie City Farm rabbits, the most popular with the elderly people and children who the rabbits visit on Mondays. He also has quite magnificent ears as you can see in this photo (click on it to make it bigger!). The dark rabbit looking disapproving in the background is Lily, the grumpiest bunny on the farm.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Birdwatching from the Train....

leaves flurry
from the turning trees
winter thrushes

a buzzard
swoops over the river -
markings fieldguide clear

a pheasant
in a stubbled field -
a swirl of beech leaves

high speed birdwatching
.............was that a peregrine?


You can read about other views from my recent train journeys here and on a handful of stones here.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Friendship Round the World Award

I was delighted and honoured to receive the Friendship Round the World award from Geoffrey Philps. I want to pass this award to all of you who visit my blog, who comment here, who link to me and whose blogs i enjoy visiting. There really is a very international community of bloggers. If you want to get a taste of my international community, just visit some of the links in my sidebar...

Monday 10 November 2008

Crafty Green Boyfriend and the Venus Fly Trap 2

My partner experimented with making a new home for our Venus Fly Trap using a plastic bottle donated by his parents but it didn't work so we're back to last year's home - made out of two plastic punnets (again donated by his parents) and a plastic mailing bag (recycled from a magazine subscription). For a closer look at the venus flytrap itself, see this post.

Sunday 9 November 2008

First Christmas Cards 2008

These cards are made from scrap card and paper, with a little help from a second hand card making kit.

for Inspire Me Thursday

Saturday 8 November 2008

Dirty Hands

Dirty hands. Even though I prefer to wear gardening gloves whe digging. I plant bulbs, cover them with soil. A neighbour's inquisitive cat joins me, stares over the top of the pot. Meows her approval. She follows me around the gardens as I pick up the litter and prune overhanging branches. When I've finished, she walks alongside me. As I walk towards the door to our stair, she walks towards her cat flap, showing me her dirty paws.

Dirty Hands for Weekend Wordsmith

(I live in a tenement stair in Edinburgh. Our stair of flats shares a backgreen space with several other stairs. There are communal areas to the garden and also some fenced off gardens, some of which aren't well looked after, hence the litter. You can read more about the garden here.)

Friday 7 November 2008

Blogs of Poets in and Around Edinburgh

Here are links to blogs and websites by some of the poets associated with Edinburgh

Colin Will
Sally Evans
Rob MacKenzie
Andy Phillips
Claire Askew
Kevin Cadwallender
Rachel Fox

Christine de Luca

Who Owns this Land?

Who owns this landscape? -
The millionaire who bought it or....?
False question, for
this landscape is
and intractable in any terms
that are human

(Norman MacCaig from An Assynt Man)

The billionaire property developer Donald Trump has won permission to build "the world's greatest golf course", complete with high-rise timeshare flats and eight-storey hotel, on a rare and ecologically sensitive stretch of dunes overlooking the North Sea. The opinions of locals and environmentalists were both ignored. You can read more about this in the Guardian newspaper here. You can read the Scottish Government's decision here.

The Scottish National Party, who currently lead the Scottish Government believe in an independent Scotland. How does selling off our land to billionaire foreigners help to make us independent?

Thursday 6 November 2008

Scottish Poetry

Last night at the Poetry Association Scotland, Colin Nicholson, Professor of 18th Century and Modern Literature at Edinburgh University, spoke about visions of a new Scotland in Scottish poetry. He used as his starting point Donny O'Rourkes anthology 'Dream States' as a starting point but then worked backwards to look at how poets of the 1960s were already envisioning a new Scotland in their work.

He then looked at some specific poems from
Norman MacCaig, George Mackay Brown and Edwin Morgan. His close reading of their poems was more succinct, more revealing and more enlightening than the close readings Ruth Padel makes in her book 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem (which I reviewed over on Read Write Poem here). He read from MacCaig's long poem An Assynt Man, with its meditation on the Highland Clearances and the intimate relationship between people and landscape:

remembers with certainty that the tide will return
and thinks with hope, that that other ebb,
that sad withdrawal of people may, too
reverse itself and flood

Professor Nicholson also read George MacKay Brown's Building the Ship with its well observed descriptions of landscape -

Dunes were pale with strewment of boards

and ended with reading from
Edwin Morgan, who in my mind, and to many others, is consistently the most interesting and imaginative poet in Scotland and possibly in the whole English speaking poetry world. His Glasgow sonnets use the high craft of the Petrarchan sonnets to emphasise the poverty of certain scenes in Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Blogging Friends Forever

I was delighted to receive the Blogging Friends Forever Award from Bondbloke. The “BFF” award is passed on according to the following rules:

1. Only five people are allowed

2. Four have to be dedicated followers of your blog
3. One has to be someone new or recently new to your blog and live in another part of the world
4. You must link back to whoever gave you the award.

So I will pass the award to:

RabbitsGuy (and all the rabbits) at House of Rabbits
Scot at Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers
Selma of Selma in the City
Katherine of Chatiry World
kouji of a Haiku Poem Blog,

and to all of you really, for visitng and saying such nice things when you're here.

Oh and thanks to Melissa of Poet with a Day Job, for sending me a copy of her chapbook Impatiens, which she was giving out to people who commented on her two year anniversary post.

Sunday 2 November 2008

Autumn Leaves

The trees have been playing with paints again:
Birch waves yellow hands
against crisp blue sky.
Beech burnishes her copper tresses.
Rowan glows fruitfully red, yellow, pink.

I also posted a recent photo of autumn colour here.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Thursday 30 October 2008

Kreativ Blogger Award

I'm very honoured that Moonroot nominated me for this award! Many thanks indeed! I now need to nominate 6 bloggers and name six things I like. There are actually so many creative blogs out there its very difficult to choose and i could give this award to anyone on any of my links lists. However, my nominations are for these four blogs:

Weaver of Grass for her photos and writings

Bond Bloke for his various creative blogs, but especially Edinburgh Day by Day, full of wonderful photos of the city I live in and A Brush with Art, full of musings about art (and who has co-incidentally given me the Blogging Friends Forever Award, which I'm delighted by!)
Gordon Mason of Catapult to Mars, with its poetry in English, Scots and Spanish and always a carefully chosen image to complement the words.

Arthur Durkee of Dragoncave, a blog of beautiful poetry, prose and photos. He also has a poem up on Bolts of Silk today, which you can read here.

Six (seasonal) things I like:
autumn leaves
geese skeining across the sky
snow on distant hills
the five different shades of rowan berries
the magical glow of the low sunlight
the sparkle of frost

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Jellyfish or Plastic Bag?

To You: a convenient way to carry your vegetables

To a seal: it looks like a jellyfish, gets eaten and could choke the seal or if the seal eats a lot of plastic bags, its gut will be so filled with plastic it has no room for real food and it will die.

To avoid this happening:

shop in shops that use paper produce bags

take along your own fabric produce bags

avoid using produce bags of any type, where possible

talk to the managers of the shops where you buy fruit and veg and get them to reduce their use of plastic, move to using cloth produce bags or at least paper.

reuse all plastic bags you get - this size of plastic bag for example is a perfect fit for our bedroom bin.

Paper bags are not entirely perfect, it needs possibly even more energy to make paper bags than to make plastic bags but sea creatures don't die from ingesting or becoming trapped in paper bags and as Yowlyy points out in the comments below, paper bags can usually be composted. Cloth bags, on the other hand, are very long lasting, you can see two of mine here.

Monday 27 October 2008

Gorgie City Farm - More Sugar

When I previously posted about Sugar, and her mother Daisy two of the Gorgie City Farm rabbits, Furrybutts had asked for closer shots, so here we go, its not perfect because Sugar's behind the wiring in the shed. Sugar will now quite often come running to me when I walk past the shed or the outdoor runs.

Frog, Waving

The last wild golden frog
waves* from its rock

to attract a mate.

The biologist stops
and picks it up. She wishes
she could leave it here,

remembers the care needed
years ago to avoid crushing frogs
with every step along this river

but now a deadly fungus
advances, will reach this valley soon
and the frogs have no chance.

The biologist adds the frog
to her collection and walks down
the now less golden hill.

In the frog hospital
the last golden frogs in the world
sit in cages and wave.

* the male golden frog waves a front leg to attract a mate and to warn off other males.

2008 is the International Year of the Frog.

Many species of frogs and toads around the world are threatened with extinction. You can read more about the problem and how you can help save the species concerned at Amphibian Ark (and follow the other links in the post too).

Sunday 26 October 2008

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

Why would anyone want to introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen? That is the question that pesters Dr Alfred Jones, a government fisheries scientist, when he is asked to oversee a project, bankrolled by a wealthy Yemeni, to do just that. The climate, landscape and ecology of the area are all wrong for salmon. British salmon fishers and scientists are rightly reluctant to let their fish be taken away to stock rivers that can't support the fish. The required fish are eventually taken from a fish farm, oh the sadness of the conditions in the fish farm, where the wild fish are imprisoned and enfeebled.

This is a clever and entertaining satire of government, exposing the cover ups, the hubris, neo-colonialism and the lack of cultural understanding, the total lack of understanding of ecological principles, the way that policy can be dictated by wealthy individuals, etc. It's entertaining as I say but it's also very sobering, particularly when I've heard from people who work in governmental agencies that things really do work like this....

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday, published by Phoenix, 2007.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Friday 24 October 2008

Hidden Gardens, Glasgow

Earlier this week I went to the Open Day at the Hidden Gardens in Glasgow. This is a lovely, and surprisingly large garden behind the Tramway Theatre. It has a wonderful wildlife area, with a specially built high rise bug house (I'm particularly annoyed that I didn't have my camera with me at the time to take a photo of that!) and lots of bird houses, feeders and water bowls. At the Open Day there was a wonderful lunch made by the Garden's volunteers and everyone came away with a gift of seeds and bulbs - I got nasturtiums and daffodils.

Wednesday 22 October 2008


first frost -
greenfinches glow emerald
in the undergrowth

previously published in Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Gorgie City Farm - Driftwood - a rabbit with a past

Here is Driftwood, with Daisy and Sugar in the edge of the photo. They have to be confined to the shed sometimes because Driftwood will attack the other bunnies (Louie and Lily) if he gets a chance. Driftwood is the cutest bunny to look at, beautifully patterned and often running about, lop ears flopping. He rarely stays still and is very difficult to photograph.

Driftwood was found abandoned on a beach a couple of years ago and then when he's settled down with a pretty little bunny wife, she had baby bunnies, only to eat them in front of him.

So Driftwood has had a traumatic life and its not surprising that he has a few personality problems. Luckily he loves Sugar and Daisy and they are all happy in each others' company and Gorgie City Farm is a lovely place to be a rabbit.

The SSPCA Animal Rescue Centre is currently overflowing with rabbits and we're seriously starting to think about getting another bunny (or two!). But we have a problem, there are mice in our building (quite normal in an old Edinburgh tenement!) and in the last year of Anya's life they cottoned on to the free food supply in her cage and became real pests - any advice on how to mouse proof a bunny cage?

Monday 20 October 2008

The Writer as Kestrel

The prompt this month at Applehouse Poetry is to write a poem that parallels the world of flora or fauna with the human experience, and which also marks or explores the end of something? It doesn’t have to be a season. It could be a relationship, a journey, a way of thinking… there are endless possibilities. This is my piece - what a writer could learn about concentration and reaching a goal from the hunting kestrel I was able to watch for several minutes recently.

In the Zone

flying high
buffetted by winds


............falling course
then back again


then the ecstatic


as the goal is reached

A poem that I read recently I think suits this prompt perfectly is Susan Richardson's Who's Afraid which was commended in the recent Frogmore Poetry Prize. Susan's collection Creatures of the Intertidal Zone was one of my favourite books of last year and a definite recommendation for anyone who hasn't yet read it.

Sunday 19 October 2008

collage for Japanese Inn

I made this collage from an old Japanese postcard, a scrap taken from a Japanese poetry journal and a photo of my childhood Japanese penpal. It's currently sitting in the copy of Oliver Statler's wonderful Japanese Inn that I'm reading. I suspect that neither book or collage will actually leave my possession.....

Saturday 18 October 2008

Second hand furniture style

Yesterday, I blogged about second hand clothes. Most of our furniture is also second hand, I love browsing second hand shops and the best furniture in my eyes is the old fashioned, attractive, built to last sort. Admittedly some of our second hand furniture is more modern and less attractive than the two items shown. Also because we have a narrow hallway and awkward spacing we have got some flatpack furniture because it was the only way to get what we need at all. I still remember the beautiful second hand blue and pale wood wardrobe that just couldn't fit into our flat.....

Buying second hand when you can find good quality furniture that meets your needs can help to reduce pressure on the rainforests, which are being chopped down at an alarming rate to make cheap furniture, chopsticks and paper.

Second hand furniture often has more character than new furniture. It is usually cheaper, which is an important point in these times of economic uncertainty.

Friday 17 October 2008

Woodlands near Oban

Glen Nant Forest

Oban is in the middle of a beautiful part of Scotland. There are a lot of woodlands around, including Caledonian pine forests, Atlantic rain forests and birch woods. The weather was wet most of the time we were there and in fact it had been a particularly wet summer so the lichens, ferns and fungi were doing particularly well.

fungi in Glen Nant forest

fungi in Inverawe Country park (above and below)
I don't know the names of any of the fungi, unfortunately, but I do know that the fern below is Blechnum spicant (also in Glen Nant Forest)