Thursday 24 December 2009

Seasons Greetings!

Happy Christmas to those who celebrate it and Season's Greetings to all!

I won't be posting (much) between now and the New Year, but have a wonderful festive season and see you all in 2010!

Wednesday 23 December 2009

The environment in contemporary literature

Having recently read Don De Lillo's Underworld and Bill Duncan's The Smiling School for Calvinists I've been thinking about how the environment features in contemporary fiction. Neither of these books really focuses on the environment as such but both make powerful environmental statements nonetheless. Underworld is a big novel that disects the 20th Century USA using two defining elements - baseball and waste disposal. Characters are seen sorting out their trash into the different materials that can be recycled, ships saile around the world looking for a harbour where they can dump their illegal cargoes of waste and an architect builds beautiful buildings from waste materials.

The Smiling School for Calvinists is an entertaining look at life in the poorer parts of Dundee in Scotland, made up of short stories and snippets, mostly written in a form of Scots (for more about the language used in the book, see this post on my other blog Over Forty Shades). It's mostly a very urban book, but from time to time a character will take time out to go for a walk or to sit on the roof of the multi-storey block of flats to watch the geese fly by.

Both these books show writers who are in touch with the environment and environmental issues, but who are not willing to focus entirely on the environment. I wonder though do people who are not engaged with environmental issues notice these aspects to the books they read? What do you think of the way nature and environmental issues are portrayed in the novels and short stories you read?

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Monday 21 December 2009

Winter Wonderland

I walked my usual Monday route along the Water of Leith today. I've never before done the walk in ankle deep snow! It was very beautiful and peaceful and the sky changed from grey to white (and snowing!) to wonderful soft blues with gentle clouds. When I stopped to take this second photo I was surrounded by birds, though I don't know if you can see them in the photo. Long tailed tits bouncing in the branches with great tits and blue tits, blackbirds feeding on the berries, a wren rushing from one snowy patch of grass to another and a treecreeper foraging in the lower part of a tree trunk. Not far from here there were three bullfinches feeding in the branches (the male's red chest looking particularly bright against the white branches (and several redwings. In the river a heron was wading while a male goosander dived for food.

Sunday 20 December 2009

From beer bottle to candlestick

This is an idea I first saw over at Creatively Green, where they repurposed their beer bottles far more beautifully than I have mine! Creatively Green have been sharing loads of inspiring eco-friendly gift and decoration ideas over the holiday season! My bottle is a real ale bottle, with a pattern in the glass of the neck. I've just covered the label area with some reused gift-wrap and added some reused gift ribbon around the neck. We'll use it as a candle stick.....

Saturday 19 December 2009

Landscape Art in the Snow

We walked along part of the Water of Leith today, up to Stockbridge. We stopped at the Gallery of Modern Art for a warm drink. The lawn at the front of the building was landscaped to a design by Charles Jencks to create Landform Ueda. This is a lovely piece of landscape art that I like more every time I see it. It looked particularly fine this morning with the snow and winter sun casting subtle shadows over it. If you click on the photo you will see the two crows that seem to be exploring the artwork.

Friday 18 December 2009

Black headed gulls at Moses Gate

These are black headed gulls in winter plumage (they only have black (or rather brown) heads in summer. Click on the photo to see more detail. The photo was taken when my parents and I visited Moses Gate Country Park, just outside Bolton, last weekend. Funnily enough, this was the only area of water that was frozen, the other ponds were all open water.

for Weekend Reflections.

Arvon 2009 Brochure Competition

The winners of this competition, to write a piece inspired by a photo, have been announced and I'm totally delighted to be one of them! You can see the inspiring photo and the winning poems at:

Thursday 17 December 2009

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Goldfinches are Charming

I spent the weekend at my parents' house near Bolton. This is the garden bird feeder which was a Golden Wedding gift to them and which appropriately enough attracts a lot of goldfinches. These are European goldfinches, very different from the American goldfinches which a lot of readers will be more familiar with. Click on the photo to see more detail of these lovely birds. A group of goldfinches is known as a charm and they are indeed charming birds. The bigger bird on the feeder is a starling. While I was there the garden also had: a group of long tailed tits, robins, blackbirds, a song thrush, collared doves, woodpigeons, magpies and a jay.

The train journey from Edinburgh to Bolton is lovely, passing through the hills of Lanarkshire and the English Lake District. I love bird watching from trains and saw several buzzards, a large skein of geese, swans that had started to swim on flooded fields and a small flock of lapwings. There were also a small number of deer and rabbits in some of the fields.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Dark Mountain - carbon, nature and culture

I am an environmentalist because I love nature. It's as simple as that for me. So I am always pleased to find an article by Paul Kingsnorth who believes the environmental movement has lost its way and has become too focused on reducing emissions at the expense of nature. You can read a recent article of his in the Ecologist here. You can read a series of his articles on the Guardian newspaper website here.

Paul Kingsnorth is one of the founders of the Dark Mountain Project, a new cultural movement for an age of global disruption that aims to question the stories that underpin our failing civilisation, to craft new ones for the age ahead and to write clearly and honestly about our true place in the world. You can get involved in the Dark Mountain project here.

I'm away for a few day and won't be blogging but will be back on Tuesday.

Thinking Green

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Three brief reviews

I usually restrict reviews here to environmentally related books, films etc. However these are three very good reads that aren't environmentally related but I can definitely recommend them:
Dog Latin by Kevin Cadwallender - Kevin is one of the most entertaining poets in Scotland and this is an excellent pamphlet of his poetry, published by Calder Wood Press. There's a lot of humour in this short book and some moving poems too. You can read two collaborative poems written by Kevin over on Bolts of Silk here.

My Heart Draws a Rough Map by Howard Good - this is a beautifully illustrated dreamlike short book about the adventures of a heart. Published online by Blue Hour Press. You can read some of Howard's poetry on Bolts of Silk here.

The Woman: In a Box by Susan Culver. This is a beautifully written, thought provoking and sometimes disturbing online collection of poetry and prose poems.

Monday 7 December 2009

More about the Musical Collaboration

All the poems that I recorded with Belvedere Mountain Express are now up on Myspace (you can find them here - you will need to scroll down to find them all!). I thought this would be a good opportunity to say a bit about how we worked on the collaboration. When I joined Myspace, I noticed that Belvedere Mountain Express (an electronic musical project of Golebnik, who sometimes comments here) were 'looking for a female vocalist or poet'. I've often liked the idea of working with a musician. So I listened to Belvedere Mountain Express' music and we met up to discuss how we could work together. At that stage, I was thinking 'this is music I could really work with' but nothing more specific! I knew though, that I must be able to work with the track 'Aux Champs des Lapins' (In the Fields of the Rabbits), so I gathered together all my rabbit haiku and scattered them through the music. I also thought about the titles of the other tracks and tried to match them with existing poems of mine, to narrow down the poems I would try to fit in the music. From there it was a process of listening to the music over and over and fitting the words in. City Empire is an existing poem and I just fitted it to the track, whereas A Vow in the Blue Belltower was the existing title of the track and I edited a poem I was working on to fit it.

The greatest challenge was how to fit short poems into long musical tracks! We're both very pleased with how it all turned out, and judging from comments here and on Facebook, so are several other people! While you're visiting Belvedere Mountain Express on Myspace, do listen to their other music, they've got some excellent tracks!

Sunday 6 December 2009

Green Christmas Gift Ideas

I have probably done my Christmas posts in the wrong order, after all gifts come before packaging and I've already shared my ideas for giftwrap and cards. However here are some ideas for environmentally friendly gift options:

some handmade gifts from my archives (just follow the links to find out more!):

fabric noticeboard.....

black satin gift-bag

lavender bag

pot pourri bag

needle case

and some of last years' cards

Creatively Green is sharing eco-friendly Christmas gift ideas every day this month and they're doing giveaways too! You can see their projects and sign up for the giveaways here.

Several charities these days offer the option of donating to the charity and giving this as a gift to someone. In the UK these charities include Oxfam and the RSPB.

It is also nice to give gift vouchers for experiences (eg a cinema pass; tickets to the theatre; restaurant gift vouchers) instead of things.

More and more people are seeing second-hand gifts as acceptable - my Mum and I regularly give each other second hand books as gifts. Secret Santa in the office where I currently work specifies that the gift be second hand..... This won't work for everyone though and obviously the second hand item needs to be in very good condition if you're choosing it as a gift!

Saturday 5 December 2009

Onwards to Copenhagen....

The Wave demonstrations happened in London and Glasgow earlier today, as people gathered to show their concern about climate change. Organisers estimated 40,000 people marched in London with 7,000 in Glasgow.

More than half the world leaders will meet next week in Copenhagen with the aim of securing a new deal to tackle global climate change. Read more at the Independent newspaper website.

You can find out how to get involved in the climate change campaign on the new, revamped Friends of the Earth Scotland website here.

You can visit the UN Climate Change Conference website here.

Friday 4 December 2009

Water of Leith

Lovely weather for this week's walk along the Water of Leith on Monday. Lots of birds too, including large numbers of redwings hiding in the shrubbery and a large flock of long tailed tits flitting amongst the bare branches of the trees, looking like animated musical notes. Dippers and a heron on the river. Also a kestrel being mobbed by a crow. Several grey squirrels leaping amongst the trees. It was a lovely day for photos too, clear and sunny......

for Weekend Reflections and Shadow Shot Sunday.
There are also some nice reflections in the photo in this post.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden

This is the last of the gardens we visited last weekend on the Bank of Reason Walk. Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden is currently managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and is the smallest of their wildlife reserves. It manages to pack a lot into a small area, as well as the pond in the photo above, there is a wildflower meadow and a bee garden, along with woodpiles to offer resting places for invertebrates and small mammals. There is a resident rabbit, though apparently it is shy and it didn't turn out to greet us.

The Johnston Terrace garden was originally founded by Patrick Geddes . In the late 19th century, this innovative thinker devised a scheme to have a network of gardens in the centre of Edinburgh.
You can read more about the Bank of Reason walk here, here and here.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

icy pavements -
the alsatian pauses
before each step.

previously published in Haiku Scotland 21

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Hopes, Dreams and lots of Trees

The Book Of Hopes And Dreams is a charity poetry anthology, featuring Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, Carol Anne Duffy, Alasdair Gray, Edwin Morgan and many others, including me!

The Book Of Hopes And Dreams has been re-launched as an e-book and is available for a minimum donation of UK £1 or US $2 (though larger donations will be gratefully received). For more information on how to buy the book, please visit:

All funds raised will go direct to Spirit Aid, a volunteer run charity that works in Afganistan. To find out more about Spirit Aid go to:

Meanwhile the latest issue of the Festival of the Trees is up at Via Negativa. There are lots if interesting links about trees to browse through, including my post about Almondell Country Park.

Monday 30 November 2009

Engine Shed

On the Bank of Reason walk on Saturday we stopped off for a much needed lunch of hot soup and hot main courses (it was a very cold day!) at The Engine Shed. This is a wonderful vegetarian cafe and conference centre. It was established in 1989 as a training project for people with learning disabilities to help them improve their confidence, learn transferable skills in a real work environment and move into paid employment within mainstream workplaces.
The Engine Shed is a social enterprise offering a vegetarian café, organic bakery, organic tofu production and conference/catering facilities. These offer training and contribute financially to ensure the sustainability of the enterprise. The centre runs on the principles of Rudolf Steiner whose approach to human psychology and development highlights the uniqueness of each individual, whatever their situation.

The building dates back to the 1830s and was originally owned by British Rail. It was linked to the railway line that is now a green walkway and cyclepath known as the Innocent Railway.
You can read more about the Bank of Reason Walk here and here.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Dunbar Close Walled Garden

Dunbar's Close Garden, looking toward Calton Hill

We visited Dunbar's Close Garden, off Edinburgh's Canongate, yesterday as part of the Bank of Reason walk. This walled garden is laid out in a 17th-century design, with yew hedges, clipped hollies and fruit trees. In those days, all the rich people lived on the Canongate. They had land and created formal gardens.

The garden is named after the Edinburgh writer, David Dunbar, who owned buildings on either side of the close in the 18th century. These days, Dunbar's Close Garden is looked after by Edinburgh Council's Park Service and is open to the public.

Green Yonder Tours is a company that specialises in tours around the hidden green areas of Edinburgh, including a tour devoted to the Hidden Gardens of the Royal Mile (including the Dunbar's Close Garden). You can visit their website here.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Greyfriars Kirk Herb garden revisited

While I was working with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, I had a meeting with Greyfriars Kirk about a year ago (you can read about it here) to discuss the future of their herb garden. The garden was established many years ago but had fallen into disuse. We visited the garden today as part of the Bank of Reason walk round Edinburgh. It was lovely to see that the Kirk has established a number of herb beds, like the one above. There are beds of culinary herbs and medicinal herbs, plants include camomile, mullein and liquorice. Some of the beds are being edged with sandstone blocks which were otherwise going to be taken to landfill by a local builder.

The walk was very enjoyable and interesting and I'll post more about it over the next week or so (we visited some very interesting gardens!). The weather was very misty for part of the day (see my new banner) and we were accompanied by a banner and two 'trees' (see below).

Thursday 26 November 2009

Waving not Drowning

The Wave is Scotland’s biggest ever demonstration in support of action on climate change On Saturday 5 December 2009, ahead of the crucial UN climate summit in Copenhagen, thousands of people from across Scotland, from all walks of life, will flow through the streets of Glasgow to demonstrate their support for a safe climate future for all. The Wave is organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. Join The Wave if you can - however probably not a good idea to fly or drive to get there. You can find public transport options for getting to Glasgow from elsewhere in Scotland on Travel Line Scotland . You can find out about Wave events elsewhere in the UK here.

If you can’t be at the Wave you can make a Copenhagen Pledge at the Christian Aid website. Or you can join the 10:10 campaign – visit its comprehensive website and sign up here.

Thinking Green - you can find out more about how to participate in this weekly meme of Green Thinking here.

I'm delighted too that Michelle of Rambling Woods has awarded me the Green Thinker Award

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Urban Bird Haiku

dustcarts clatter
down the narrow street -
pigeons scatter

privet hedge -
invisible sparrows

and Dave at Via Negativa sums up why those of us who love birds don't always love wind turbines.... you can read his post here.

for Nature Notes. You can find out how to join in here!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart

This is a wonderful novel, set on an island in Lake Ontario, Canada. It follows the story of Sylvia (a woman with what is described as a 'condition' but either is a form of autism or just a personality trait that has been labelled by others to control her) as she aims to find out what happened to her lover, Andrew, who was found dead in the Lake. Sylvia meets with Jerome the young man who found Andrew and together they delve into the past.

Jane Urquhart beautifully evokes the landscape of the area round the lake and the tragic loss of the once vast woodlands that fuelled a huge timber trade until the trees disappeared and barley was planted until the land was robbed of its fertility.

The novel also beautifully studies artistic practice, Jerome's own work as an earth artist, his partner Mira, who is a performance artist and the tactile maps Sylvia makes for Julia, her friend who is blind.

It's a beautiful, rich book and as its that time of the year it may well be one of my books of the year!

A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart, published by Bloomsbury

Monday 23 November 2009

Silvery recycled Gift Wrap

Two examples of silvery reused gift wraps. These are gifts wrapped in previous years. This year I've so far got no further than buying a couple of gifts. No wrapping until December, I'm posting these now to share ideas!

The first one is a re-used piece of silver gift wrap with a tag made by drawing a silver star onto a piece of reused black card. The second uses two different reused wrapping papers, a contrasting ribbon to cover the join and a gift tag made using wrapping paper glued onto recycled card.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Almondell Country Park

We had a lovely walk this morning in Calder Wood, an ancient woodland which is part of the Almondell Country Park in West Lothian. There is a convenient bus that goes almost directly from our front door to the start of the walk (though we got off the bus a couple of stops early!). The bus passes through quite a lot of farmland and we saw a large gathering of geese, two or three skeins merging together as they landed in a field.

The woodland is one of the few areas of ancient woodland in West Lothian and covers an area that was previously used as a shale mine (or so we were told by a cyclist who stopped to chat with us for a while). Large parts of the area are covered in very old birch trees like the one below.

The paths through the woodland were very muddy! We saw lots of birds, including a group of redwings flying about, a couple of bullfinches, a crow mobbing a buzzard then later four buzzards circling overhead with a possible fifth calling off to the side. Also a flock of around 30 lesser redpolls flying from birch tree to birch tree to hang in the branches to feed. On the way back into Edinburgh we saw a young swan sitting on a grass verge by the main road, with a police officer making notes by its side. That would have made a fun photo..... (Crafty Green Boyfriend took the photos in this post as my camera batteries ran out!)

Friday 20 November 2009

Reflections on Floodwater

Many areas of the UK have seen huge amounts of rain over the past day or so. It has reached an emergency situation in some areas of the north of England. In central Scotland we've got away pretty lightly. The train line between Glasgow and Edinburgh was flooded yesterday and trains were moving very slowly and there was a lot of flooding in the fields (which is where I saw the ducks!). I took the photo above at Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, back in September. You can see some more of my photos of Caerlaverock here. It seems to fit though! for Weekend Reflections.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Greening your Footprint

I noticed these unwanted shoes, now filled with seedlings, at Gorgie City Farm.

Talking of green shoes, my everyday winter boots, which I've had for many years, resoled them and re-heeled them many times, now are reaching the end of their useful life. I am looking for lace up ankle boots with a medium height sturdy heel. As a vegetarian, I am keen to at least try to find an alternative to leather but I can't find hemp boots in the style I want and am reluctant to replace leather with fake leather derived from petrochemicals so what are my options? Any advice welcome! Preferably that I could source from within Europe, even better within the UK.....

Shield Bug

autumn pruning -
stopped by the shining colours
of a shield bug.

as seen on Monday, by the Water of Leith. Click on the photo to see the full beauty of its colours!

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Awards all round!

I was delighted to be awarded the Kreativ Blogger award from Freckles and Deb. I'm supposed to share 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to seven bloggers. Well as I did a similar list recently, I thought for something different, here are 7 things about me that have nothing to do with the environment!

1. I'm left handed but only with writing, with most other things I'm ambidextrous or right handed.
2. I can't knit.
3. I've never had a pet cat, though I grew up with the neighbour's cats preferring me to their own family.
4. I speak German, Italian and some French
5. I appeared in a production of Lorca's Blood Wedding when I was 17.
6. I used to be a charity fundraiser.
7. My favourite colour is green.
Rather than choose 7 bloggers to pass this award to, I'll pass it on to all of you!
I'm also delighted that Simon Kewin at Spellmaking awarded the Superior Scribbler Award to Bolts of Silk, the poetry journal I edit. I'd like to pass this award on to everyone whose work has appeared in Bolts of Silk. You can find links to these writers blogs in the sidebar of Bolts of Silk.

Monday 16 November 2009

Monday Bunday at Gorgie Farm

We visited Gorgie City Farm on Saturday. Ebony the newest bunny there was the only one we could see, though we suspect the others were working at the children's party that was going on in the Education Centre. The farm are doing a lot of work with the rabbits at the moment to properly integrate them all. The rabbits form two rival gangs - Daisy and her daughter Sugar team up with Driftwood against Louie and Lily. Ebony came along and wasn't accepted by either of the groups. Staff have already spent six months trying to integrate them all into one group, but its not happening so far..... Crafty Green Boyfriend took this photo of Ebony preparing for take off....

At the farm we were sad to learn that Red, the horse, has been very ill and cannot be fed by members of the public.

All the animals at Gorgie City Farm are available for sponsorship. You can pay a set amount every year to go towards the animals' upkeep and in return you get a certificate and photo and news of your sponsored animal. You can found out more here.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Green Christmas Cards

I made these Christmas cards from reused waste card from the office, reused wrapping paper and reused wrappers from fair trade chocolate bars.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Friday 13 November 2009

Autumnal trees, Princes Street Gardens

Perfect blue skies, a chill in the air, the last leaves on the trees. Twenty chaffinches feeding on the grass and bathing in puddles.
Top photo silver birch; bottom photo one of the several beautiful ash trees in Princes Street Gardens.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Bank of Reason

Yesterday I was at the open event to launch the Bank of Reason, a project of 1 mile square. 1mile² is a three year global arts programme by Visiting Arts. The project invites communities to map the biodiversity and cultural diversity of their neighbourhood, working with artists and ecologists. Communities are linked across the world through an internet platform that shares and challenges their perceptions, ideas, experiences and creativity and encourages new connections between people. 1mile² provides opportunities for contemporary artists to undertake a collaborative investigation of arts, biodiversity and community.

For 1mile² Edinburgh, Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich and the Collective Gallery invite you to join them in forming The Bank of Reason. Working with an ecologist and an economist Zoe and Neil will lead tailored walks to explore the diversity of Edinburgh’s city centre. The walks will be followed by discussions that will feed into The Bank of Reason – a repository of ideas for a sustainable future.

The walks will take place on Saturday 28th November and Saturday 5 December. There will also be activities on the Sundays of these weekends too. You can find out more and sign up here.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Human Genre project

I have a haiku/senryu up at the Human Genre project, you can read it here.

The Human Genre project is looking for very short fiction and poetry about genetics. You can find out more here.

Monday 9 November 2009

First Frost

The trees, mostly bare branched now, reach up to perfect blue skies. Melting frost falls like rain with a flurry of last leaves. Coal tits chatter.

A dog walker stops me. 'You've not got a dog!' he says surprised. I nod and smile. 'But everyone who walks here has a dog!'. He walks on shaking his head, his dog trotting along after him.

Frost white grass -
a thin mist rises
from the river.

A dipper calls loudly and flies quickly upstream.

along the Water of Leith

Saturday 7 November 2009

Re-Used Gift Wrapping

For those who celebrate Christmas, its time to start Christmas shopping! So over the next month I will be posting ideas for Christmas cards and gift wrap that not only use recycled materials, but also look great! My family has always reused Christmas wrapping paper when giving gifts within the close family. However people outside the close family, unless they're keen recyclists themselves, may be less than impressed by obviously reused paper. So how about some more imaginative ways to reuse paper in eye-catching ways? For this first one, I had reused green and white tissue paper, covered the join with green ribbon and then added a gift tag (recycled from a greetings card!) in matching colours.

Friday 6 November 2009

Tree Reflections

above - trees from Princes St Gardens reflected in the Royal Scottish Academy building of the National Galleries of Scotland on the Mound, Edinburgh
below - rowan and its reflection in an office on Fountainbridge, Edinburgh

for Weekend Reflections

Thursday 5 November 2009


sparks rise
from the bonfire -
star filled sky

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

Tuesday 3 November 2009


blackbird alarm calls -
grey squirrels chase each other
round the oak tree

for Nature Notes

Monday 2 November 2009

Artlink Orchard

After yesterday's endless rain I was very glad to see today dawn bright and sunny! Not only did I walk along the Water of Leith (very high water! Two female goosanders!) but I then went over to the Artlink Orchard in the grounds of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I had heard of this project through Abundance Edinburgh and had casually said how it would be nice to have a poetry element to the orchard. So as a result I was invited to visit the Orchard. It's a lovely area, with approximately 70 trees of five or six varieties of cooking apples and lots of nettles which are harvested for soups. I wandered round the orchard with a member of Artlink staff and we picked apples and discussed how to incorporate poetry into Artlink's work at the hospital. Next to the orchard they have set up a new growing area which from next year will allow staff and patients to grow vegetables and fruit. The orchard had been pretty much abandoned for several years before Artlink starting working on it but there are exciting plans for the future, including community gardens, oh and poetry too of course....

Friday 30 October 2009

Thursday 29 October 2009

Waiting for Zebras by Nancy Somerville

I wrote the other day how much I had enjoyed hearing Nancy Somerville read at the Shore Poets event on Sunday. I bought a copy of her collection Waiting for Zebras that day and thoroughly enjoyed reading it this week. The poems cover a variety of topics, music and dancing; war and the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. However for me the highlights are the poems that deal with nature. We have birds in the city, gulls and blackbirds and, my favourite birds, swifts, I'm glad to find I'm not the only poet whose:

are filled with their presence
the wheeling cries
diving through tenement canyons
the boomerang shapes
rising to invisibility.

(from The Last Swift)

There are also poems of the Scottish islands, including Corncrake on Iona which captures wonderfully and humourously the search for this most elusive of birds. Humour also in Sheep:

No free thinkers here.
We go with the flock,
never stick our scrag ends out,
always do what's expected of us.

Bunny bloggers will be happy to find here the poem Rabbits in Glen Cova:

We point and point
in all directions
counting and losing count
until the last white tail
bobs underground.

Waiting for Zebras by Nancy Somerville, published by Red Squirrel Press, £6.99.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Green Music

I don't blog about music very often, but anyone who knows me over at Myspace knows that I love music!

Since joining Myspace I've found it much easier to keep in touch with whats happening in the local music scene, just as I have strangely not found it to help me to keep up to date with my favourite artists from abroad. As I've been going out more regularly to small venues, listening to local bands I realise that there's something environmentally friendly about this. The local band is likely to travel a relatively short distance in a minibus rather than halfway across the world in a private jet or even in a regular plane. Small venues can't afford energy intensive lighting and special effects. Many small venues in Edinburgh serve a selection of local brewed real ales rather than just imported alcoholic drinks.

Going out to see music means you can switch off your heating and music centre at home and share the venue's heating and sound system. It's even better if you walk to the venue or get the bus.

I then got to thinking about other aspects of the music business, these thoughts come straight from the top of my music collection, I'm sure there will be many more artists out there doing similar things:

Some bands (such as Sigur Ros and Indigo Girls) have packaged CDs entirely without plastic or have greatly reduced the amount of plastic in their packaging

Some bands (such as Indigo Girls and Bruce Coburn) sing environmentally themes songs

Some bands (such as Sigur Ros and Green Day) are involved in environmental campaigning.

for Think Green Thursdays

Tuesday 27 October 2009


harvest moon -
the black cat runs across
the cobbled path

Kat also posted a cat haiku today on her new blog, Kigo of the Kat. You can read her haiku here.

Monday 26 October 2009

Honest Scrap Award

I was delighted to receive the Honest Scrap Award from Oh. I now have to share ten things you don't know about me. I thought I would keep it to the scrap theme and some of these you probably know, so here we go, but only six:

I love using cuttings from magazines in collage but I don't make scrapbooks
I sometimes repair old clothes with scraps of contrasting fabric
I love using scraps of fabric in crafts but I've never made a quilt
I use scrap paper for making notes - even in business meetings!
I make myself a diary/journal every year from scrap paper and card
I make greetings cards and bookmarks out of scraps

I'm to pass this on to ten other bloggers, again I'm keeping this on topic, plus as i only share six facts here are six bloggers who know what to do with scraps:

Weaver of Grass for her 'bundle'
and a special mention to Diana at Qi Papers for her use of scrap cardboard in making hay tubes, an idea that is rapidly catching on across the bunny blogosphere.

And finally, if you're looking for ideas for environmentally friendly art, you might enjoy Inspire Me Thursday's Blog Action Day post -

Sunday 25 October 2009

Autumnal Weekend

Yesterday we wandered along the Braid Burn, which runs through Edinburgh. The part we walked along was yellow with autumnal trees, robins hopping around and the higher branches full of jackdaws.

This evening I was at the Shore Poets, a regular evening of poetry and music that happens at The Lot in Edinburgh. The highlight was definitely Nancy Somerville who read a few autumnal poems; a selection of poems from her collection Waiting for Zebras (published by Red Squirrel Press) and a very sobering poem about a struggling albatross colony in New Zealand. I bought a copy of her book and look forward to reviewing it here within the next few weeks.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Shadowy goose

nene, Hawaiian goose, Martin Mere, Wildfowl and Wetlands reserve
photo taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend

Last night's Rainbow

Crafty Green Boyfriend took this photo from our flat last night. It was an amazing rainbow!
belatedly for Skywatch Friday

Friday 23 October 2009

Cactus reflections

I took this photo last week at a friend's house, I love the shadows on the cactus and the reflections in the window, not to mention the autumnal colours outside!

For Weekend Reflections

Thursday 22 October 2009

Nature Notes - the Dipper

As regular readers of this blog know, I look after a section of a local river, the Water of Leith. One of the things I do is to note all the birds I see. I’ve been disappointed to not have seen a kingfisher in my six months of volunteering so far, even though I know they’re around in ‘my’ part of the river. I have however seen a lot of dippers. Dippers are lovely birds, they’re very smart looking with their white fronts and smart brown and black backs and heads. This plumage also is perfect camouflage for them. I love to watch dippers as they feed and I’ve noticed that if they dip their heads into fast flowing water then they seem to disappear, the white of their fronts blending in with the white water, their brown backs blending with the darker water and the rocks. I’ve also been able to see them as they swim under water, the Water of Leith is quite clear where it’s not rushing past in white-water! Dippers are also surprisingly vocal birds, they pipe away as they fly along the river and have a lovely song in the Spring, and if you’re lucky enough to see a family group, there’s bound to be a lot of chat going on between them.

On Monday of this week, the Water of Leith was lit with a yellowish glow as the pale sunlight filtered through all the autumnal trees. The dippers were flying about, busy as ever.

for Nature Notes

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Chasing the Hoopoe by John Weston

This is the first collection from John Weston, a career diplomat with interests in education, the arts and the voluntary sector. He is a writer who can weave observations of the natural world naturally into a narrative:

I knew I was losing you that day at Brooks Camp
where we walked to see the salmon leap
into the bears' open mouths.

(from To Alaska and Back)

As the school bus took the cornerwind lifted
the birch tree branches, shifting the light's angle.

(from The Shillinged Birches).

though my favourite poem is the starkly simple Image, which begins:

That dwarf lilac bush
is bouncing with
........tailed tits

...doing a jig for

the first day of spring

This collection covers a lot of topics including family, allotment gardens, wartime and a series of translations from Mao Tse-tung.

Chasing the Hoopoe by John Weston, published by Peterloo Poets, 2005

Monday 19 October 2009

An Abundance of Apples

At Apple Day on Saturday I found out about Abundance Edinburgh. This is a very interesting project that collects surplus fruit in Edinburgh and puts it to good use.

Abundance Edinburgh has an apple identification chart here. We think that Crafty Green Boyfriend's parents' wonderfully delicious apples are either James Grieve or Laxtons Fortune (scroll down the chart to see these varieties!).

It's great to see a resurgance of interest in old apple varieties, they generally have much more taste than the bland supermarket varieties.....

I've just been asked to link to this article about local food in the Boston Globe. I've also been asked to advertise the Bioneers by the Bay event, October 22-25, in New Bedford, MA, USA, which looks like it might be worth going to if you're in the area.

Sunday 18 October 2009

The Meerkats

The Meerkats is a lovely film from the BBC Natural History Unit that follows the early life of a young meerkat in the Kalahari Desert, in southern Africa, as he struggles to survive drought, getting lost and attacks from eagles and snakes. The cinematography is stunning, wonderful landscapes shot mostly in the magical light of early morning or early evening and black and white footage of meerkats in their burrows. The script, written by Alexander McCall Smith and narrated by Paul Newman, is over sentimental rather than genuinely informative. The meerkats are wonderful though, full of character.....

The Meerkats is showing at The Filmhouse in Edinburgh until Thurs 22 October.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Apple Day

It's Apple Day in Edinburgh and this morning we went along to Bridgend Community Allotment Gardens to join in the celebrations. There was a selection of apples, pies and crumbles to taste along with the chance to press some apple juice. We had a nice wander round the allotments too, they're totally organic and have some plots that are managed by community groups as well as plots gardened by individuals and families.

Actually the best apples in Edinburgh grow in Crafty Green Boyfriend's parents' garden, we don't know what variety they are but they're deliciously sweet and juicy.

The photo is of an artichoke plant at Bridgend Allotments.