Sunday 29 June 2008

Water of Leith

A shape, sinous and brown, running along the riverbank - look an otter, but it turns out to be a mink. Now the Water of Leith has been cleaned up, the otters are out-competing the mink. But it's only ever mink that we see...

Under the bridge, a flurry of finches - a greenfinch feeding two fledglings and a goldfinch hurrying from bridge to tree and back again....

In the trees by the side of the river, the blue and pink pastel of a plump bullfinch, while a grey heron stands sentinel in the water....

rushing river -
grey wagtail leaps and turns
to chase flies.

Encounters at the End of the World

Werner Herzog has always been one of the most interesting and odd film directors around, but recently he has also become one of the most environmentally aware too. His recent films (including Grizzly Man and The Wild Blue Yonder) have taken a provocative look at the state of the world. Encounters at the End of the World (showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival) sees the director taking a trip to Antarctica, meeting some of the scientists, engineers and philosophers who work there as well as visiting seal colonies and penguin colonies and showing stunning scenes of life under the sea ice (using the same undersea cameraman as in The Wild Blue Yonder, whose name escapes me...). Its a brilliant film and avoids the tiresomeness that can sometimes creep into Herzog's work. A great way to end my viewings at the Film Festival.

But when is Herzog's great film about the nature of truth Incident at Loch Ness going to be released? It was the best film by far at the Film Festival about three years ago and really deserves to be released into cinemas in the UK (Or maybe I blinked and missed it....)

Friday 27 June 2008


grey clouds -
the black-white flash
of gulls

previously published in Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society
I've got two haiku in the current issue of Blithe Spirit too, I'll post them in due course! I've also had a haiku accepted for publication in Wisteria.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Gorgie City Farm - I've started my new job!

Well I've started my new job with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and it looks as though it will be very interesting - and also hectic! I'm based at Gorgie City Farm, Edinburgh's city farm, ten minutes from our flat. It's a lovely place with a great selection of animals (including a lot of rabbits!) and I hope to post a few photos in the next few weeks. I'll also be visiting a lot of other City Farms and community gardens and will post about them too.

I'm still without a home computer so can't post as often as I would like here but hopefully we'll have a new computer by the weekend.....

Monday 23 June 2008

Reuse, Recycle and Revise 2

In preparation for the haiku workshop I facilitated on Saturday, I made some haiku bookmarks (using photos from magazines and my own haiku) for participants to take away with them. One of the first drafts of a haiku I wrote for a bookmark was:

softly weathering -
the faded colours of
abandoned boats.

But on re-reading it, I felt it would be improved by changing the first line:

glowing at sunset -
the faded colours of
abandoned boats.

I felt that the sunset adds a second element to the haiku and enhances the feeling of loss implicit in the second part. What do you think?

Reuse, Recycle and Revise for Read Write Poem

Sunday 22 June 2008

Haiku Workshop

I facilitated a haiku workshop yesterday at the Salisbury Centre in Edinburgh. There weren't many people there, but everyone was really enthusiastic about reading and writing haiku. We had some very interesting discussions about the haiku form and the intent of haiku as well as spending a very inspiring time in the Salisbury Centre's beautiful garden that has lots of wooden benches in peaceful corners, ideal for thinking about and writing haiku. Luckily the weather stayed fine, the rain only started an hour later!

Thanks to everyone who attended and to the Salisbury Centre - there may be a possibility for me to offer similar workshops there again in the future!

Saturday 21 June 2008

A Song of Sparrows

Edinburgh International Film Festival has moved forward in the year to June and it was great to start my personal experience of the festival with such a good film! The Song of Sparrows is an Iranian tale of an ostrich farm worker who is sacked when an ostrich runs away and then himself runs off to the city to try his luck in finding work. He finds himself accidentally becoming a cycle taxi and courier service and picking up lots of junk furniture to recycle. However he becomes so obsessed with his junk that he starts to forget his family and is surprised to find his son and his friends successfully cleaning out the old abandoned water storage building so it becomes a home for doves and new fish. The film is a wonderfully humourous meditation on human nature, greed and family. It's also beautifully filmed with some gorgeous visual moments - like the fish falling out of a barrel and wriggling into a drainage ditch. I would hope this film will get a release into independent and arthouse cinemas in the UK in about a year or 18 months so look out for it....

Friday 20 June 2008

The Garden

A fable

Visitors came from a distant land
with news of war and disease

I gave them flowers from my garden
but couldn't listen to their words

I have problems of my own I said
as I showed them the door

I turned back to tend the flowers
in my high walled garden

Flowers, belatedly, for Totally Optional Prompts

Thursday 19 June 2008

Reuse, Recycle and Revise

My latest prompt is now up at Read Write Poem - you can read it here. The basic idea is to take one of your poems and revise it, either to polish it or to totally rewrite it.

I like to revise my work, I like to feel that I end up with the best possible poem. However once a poem has been published, I feel that is it, and I rarely rework a poem that has already been published. With blogging prompts, such as those on Read Write Poem, we only have one week to put together a poem in response to the prompt, so effectively anything I post for these prompts is by definition, a first draft. However because it appears on my blog, I feel it is published, so I rarely rework any poem that has appeared here or on Over Forty Shades.

However, in the interests of responding to my own prompt, I reworked a recent haiku, taking on board the comment made by Bill of Haiku USA:

sway in the breeze -

You can read the original haiku here.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

haiku - rabbits

tall damp grass -
rabbits leap from rock to rock
on the hillside

Tuesday 17 June 2008

The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond

This is a fascinating book that looks at human evolution and searches for how it is similar to and how it differs from animal evolution. So there are chapters devoted to searching for the animal precursors of speech (eg chimpanzee vocalisations) and art (eg bowerbirds bowers), the overall intention being to determine how we became so different from the chimpanzees with whom we share most of our genetic information. Its not just positive attributes that are studied either, there are chapters devoted to genocide and environmental destruction, which although they are shown to be uniquely human in the extent to which we practice them, there are also animal precendents - such as in wars between rival troups of chimpanzees and rabbits that have eaten every last plant on an island. Diamond's writing style is engaging and intelligent and he has developed an excellent line in striking comparisons that really make the reader stop and think. I'm now on the lookout for Diamond's more recent book 'Collapse' which studies human civilisations, such as the Easter islands, that have collapsed after exhausting their ecological resource bases.

Monday 16 June 2008

The Old Garden Key

When we first moved to this flat, the estate agent said there were no keys to the shared backgreen gardens behind the tenement building. As our flat doesn't have windows overlooking the back, for years we didn't even see the back garden! It could have been a derelict wasteland or a beautiful oasis...

A couple of years ago, a project called Green Caretakers was set up to help people in selected areas of Edinburgh to access and improve their communal backgardens. As our backgarden was one of the selected ones we were keen to get involved. We enjoyed visiting various other shared gardens around Edinburgh and getting the first glimpse of our own shared backgreen garden. Our backgreen is shared by a large number of tenement flats and cover quite an area. When we first looked at it, it was mostly unkempt but had lots of trees and bushes with great wildlife potential. (see this post).

Workshops were arranged over the following year but we still never got a key for the back door to the garden and so access was still difficult, we had to go via other people's stair doors which isn't something you can always rely on.... Green Caretakers were. despite their early promises, unable to help us to access keys.

Eventually, we finally found someone who has a key and we were able to get a copy made so now we have access to the backgreen whenever we want. It's much tidier than it was when we first looked in, and we hope to be able to put up some bird feeders and plant some wildflower seeds as well as get involved with the current series of vegetable growing workshops.

Funnily enough we had expected the key to be heavy antique wrought iron.... In fact its just an ordinary key.....

Old Key for Weekend Wordsmith

haiku - furnishings

sway in the breeze -
blackbirds sing.

furnishings for Mad Kane's Haiku Prompt

Sunday 15 June 2008


Yesterday we wandered round the lovely reedbed that has been recently planted in the pond in Inverleith Park. A female mallard had five chicks, quite large and lively. There were plenty of swans and an entertaining family of coots. We watched the adult coots taking waterweed and other materials to two nests; they were also feeding and defending three large chicks. Coots are notoriously aggressive birds and it was no surprise to see one of the adults getting angry when a swan got too close to one of the coot chicks. It was a bit surprising though to see the coot viciously attack the swan, which is several times its size! The coot then swam rapidly to one of its nests where it stamped up and down repeatedly on the nest material. In total contrast, a moorhen, closely related to the coot, quietly skulked in the reeds.

We then wandered over to the Tree Festival further into Inverleith Park, but the poor quality of the music and the cold wind drove us away. Last year both the weather and the music were better, you can read about it here.

Poem on Qarrtsiluni

I have a poem up on Qarrtsiluni, you can read it here.

Wednesday 11 June 2008


privet hedge -
a honeysuckle flower
pokes through

I've been without a computer for a few days now, so sorry for the less frequent posts and less frequent visits! I hope to be up to full speed again quite soon!

Monday 9 June 2008

haiku - sleep

3am -
blackbird song
wakes me

sleep and insomnia for Mad Kane's Haiku prompt

You can read a senryu I wrote a while ago about insomnia over on Over Forty Shades here.

Sunday 8 June 2008

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

This is a wonderful book! Originally published in 1978 and republished a couple of years ago, it follows the author's journeys through Tibet and Nepal to find the snow leopard. The writing throughout is beautiful and full of delightful details of the countryside, people and wildlife, as well as with observations on the erosion and deforestation often found. The journey is hard, days are spent trekking through snow and along narrow ledges on the side of impossibly vertiginous mountains. The journey isn't just physical either, as the author reflects on Buddhism and his grief at the recent death of his wife. My only criticism is that the title really should be something like: In Search of the Snow Leopard', but otherwise I would whole heartedly recommend it to anyone interested in wildlife, Nepal and Tibet and Buddhism.

Gautami also reviewed this book here.

Community Fairs in Edinburgh

This is the time of year when Edinburgh has lots of community fairs. Yesterday we went to both the Corstorphine Fair and the Meadows Festival. Corstorphine Fair is very definitely a local community fair for the Corstorphine area, an area that, away from the main road still feels very much like the village it was before it became part of Edinburgh. St Margaret's Park was full of stall for local groups including the Friends of Corstorphine Hill (we're very pleased to see that Edinburgh City Council is 'minded not to build houses' on part of Corstorphine Hill that is currently owned by the Zoo).

The Meadows Festival takes place on the Meadows, a green space near the main part of the University of Edinburgh. It's much more of a city wide event and attracts not only large numbers of students but lots of hippies and alternative types. We had a very pleasant afternoon sitting in the beer garden, drinking Fraoch (traditional heather ale) and listening to local bands. We also enjoyed browsing the stalls selling second hand music and clothes and locally made jewellery.

Friday 6 June 2008

A Meme

Linda of Nickers and Ink tagged me with the Super Seven Meme:

10 Years Ago
June 1998 - I had left one job and was just about to start another, just as I am at the minute!

5 Things on My To Do List
Take out the recycling
Write my first villanelle
get a copy made of the key to the backgreen that a neighbour has kindly lent us so we finally get to access the gardens whenever we want....
update my bird records on Birdtrack
send some poems off to journals

Things I'd Do if I was a Billionaire
Pay off my mortgage, give me, my partner and family incomes for life then invest the rest in charities working in the environmental field.

3 Bad Habits
drinking too much tea
laziness (eg about sending my poetry to journals, doing the dusting)

sticking to tried and tested recipes in the kitchen instead of trying new dishes

5 Places I've lived
Manchester (with my parents)
Malawi (2 years)
Cornwall (3 months)
Edinburgh (most of my adult life)

5 Jobs I've had
Science Teacher
Advice Worker (volunteer)
Charity Fundraiser
Charity Development Officer
Director of Charity Regional Office

I'm not going to tag anyone with this, but if you want to take part, feel free - remember to let me know by leaving a comment here! Thanks to Na of Shadows and Clouds for joining in!

Thursday 5 June 2008

Chin Up

Hiding in lofts with sandbags at the door
is a coward's game.

We will keep our gazes high,
carry on playing cards

While the waters rise
and forests drown.

Clouds on the horizon

look beautiful at sundown.

storms for Totally Optional Prompts

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Leaving my job!

Today was my last day in my current job. The people who I share my office with (who aren't all direct colleagues, we're such a small organisation we share our office with two other organisations) took me out for a nice lunch at a local Italian restaurant. They had collected some money together and chose me a gift from the list I put together from Oxfam Unwrapped. They gave me my number one choice on my wishlist - Busy Bees. This means the money is going towards bee keeping in Sudan and Western Equatoria (so thanks everyone, for that!). The Oxfam Unwrapped site is inntermittently down for maintenance at the minute, but if you can't access the previous links, you can read more about Oxfam's work here.

I've been in my current job for 5 years and I'm really looking forward to starting my new job with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens in a couple of weeks.

I recently posted a poem about bees over on Bolts of Silk, you can read it by following this link: Dead Bees Sting, Too by Howard Good
Many species of bees are becoming endangered. You can find out more about bees and work done to conserve them at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website and the International Bee Research Association website.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Gorgie City Farm

I'll be starting my new job with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens in a few weeks. I'll be based at Gorgie City Farm, which is just ten minutes from my flat.

Gorgie City Farm was established in 1982 using land from an old railway yard. It is a lovely space with fields of pigs, sheep, goats and ponies, pens of various breeds of poultry and a pet lodge with resident guinea pigs and rabbits. The pet lodge offers a pet boarding service, that Anya took advantage of a couple of years ago when we went to Italy. Gorgie City Farm also has a herb garden, a vegetable garden and a wildlife garden. Produce from the gardens are on sale and also used in the menus of Jemima's Pantry the farm cafe. Its a lovely place to spend a day and hopefully will be a very nice place to work!

Monday 2 June 2008

A Meme

Yowlyy of Bunnies Needles and Books tagged me with this meme:

Answer at least three of the questions. Yes, I know a few look time-consuming and there are several of them. That's why I only ask for three. See? I'm nice!
Post them and the rules on your blog, and please link back to me here. Pretty please *^_^* ?
Comment here telling me and the rest of our little party where you're at and link to yourself.
That's all!
Oh yeah, don't forget to tag others!
OK... here we go:

What's the last book you read that you thought was really super, inspiring, you'd recommend it to most anyone?
Dream On by Chrystos - everyone should read her poetry - its beautifully lyrical and passionate andalways engaged in issues. She has a real connection with nature.

What food totally grosses you out, you'd never be able to touch it?
I'm a vegetarian and any kind of meat is unappealing but the mice on sticks sold at bus stops in Malawi looked particularly gross...

Did you ever watch a scary movie that frightened you so much you were afraid of the dark afterward? I mean like you're lying in bed trying to sleep, but you have to pee, but you're scared to get up. It doesn't have to be recently; could be when you were a kid. So what movie was it?
I don't watch that kind of scary film! The image of the edge of the forest coming inexplicably nearer for the forest dwellers in The Emerald Forest, which I saw when I was young, has stayed with me though as a very scary image of what we're doing to the earth...

Is there a song that makes you dance every time you hear it?
I'm sure my partner would say 'is there a song that Crafty Green Poet doesn't dance to every time she hears it?'

Tattoos: yes or no? Do you have any? Tell us! Do you think they're gross? TELL US!
I don't have any but i think they can look really nice. I sometimes think about a dolphin tattoo in my shoulder blade....

When's the last time you laughed so hard your ribs ached and/or you nearly peed yourself? What made you do it?
I have laughed like this recently but really can't remember why...

Draw or doodle a picture of your pet(s) and post it if possible. Nothing fancy, don't be shy!
I drew Anya several times, you can see the results here:
Binkying Bunny Easter Card
Round Rabbit
Anya in the magical woods
carboard rabbit puppet

Go through a stack or box of your old music. Stuff that you may not have heard in years. Pick one and tell us about it. Is it as good (or as bad) as you remember?

Well I picked up Dexy's Midnight Runners Searching for the Young Soul Rebels and was really enjoying it and then it started falling apart in the tape machine. If there's any music i don't like any more I give it away to a local charity shop so there is rarely anything in my music collection that I don't like.

Do you still sleep with a stuffed animal? We won't laugh!

I have a few (especailly rabbits and tigers) but I don't sleep with any of them

I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you want to play along, please do and remember to let me know!

Sunday 1 June 2008


the fish eagle soars
above the still blue lake -
light fades to dusk.

This is my second poem for this week's Read Write Poem prompt which suggests using any form of poetry to rework another poem in another form. This haiku uses the six repeated words from yesterday's sestina to recreate part of the scene of that sestina.