Tuesday 29 September 2009

Gorgie City Farm Poetry Competition

Write a poem about me
or me
or any of our friends at Gorgie City Farm
and win prizes!

I've been asked to remind people that the closing date for the Gorgie Farm Poetry Competition is this Friday..... (yes the timescale has been very rushed this year, because it's a new idea from a new volunteer, but hopefully if they hold one next year there will be a longer timescale.) All ages can enter! Compose a verse in honour of your favourite animal at the Farm, and e-mail it to the farm by Friday 2nd Oct. Winners will be announced on Thurs 8th, and will receive Farm goodies and book tokens!

Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet by Margaret Attwood

In December, world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to try to reach a global deal to tackle climate change. To support the launch of the Guardian newspaper's 10:10 campaign to reduce carbon emissions, the Guardian Review asked a selection of artists, authors and poets to produce new work in response to the crisis. You can read Margaret Attwood's response here.

Monday 28 September 2009

Water of Leith

I had a lovely walk along the Water of Leith today. Plenty of birds about, I particularly enjoyed watching a dipper fishing, i could even see it as it swam underwater, diving right to the bottom of the river!

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust have a Flickr group, which for some reason I've only just heard about today! You can see the slideshow on their website here or you can visit the group itself here. I've just uploaded some photos!

Sunday 27 September 2009

Weekend Reflections

James at Newtown Area Photo has started an insiring new weekly photo challenge - Weekend Reflections. This photo is from Drumlanrig Country Park in Dumfriesshire which we visited when we were on holiday in Dumfries.

Autumnal Designs

I made these autumnal bookmarks and notelet from office waste, leaves found in a book and scraps torn from a Japanese poetry magazine. You can see an earlier card on the same theme here.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Lauriston Castle

It is Edinburgh Doors Open Day today (and it continues tomorrow, a chance to see inside loads of Edinburgh's famous buildings, many of which are not normally open to the public!). We visited Lauriston Castle, but though the castle was open all day, access was only by pre-booked guided tours so we couldn't get in! However, the weather was gorgeous and the Castle Grounds are wonderful so we enjoyed a pleasant walk instead. We particularly enjoyed the (relatively) new Japanese Garden, opened in 2002, which combines features of Japanese and western gardens. Beautiful sunshine and photogenic shadows everywhere! I also wrote two haiku today, which I've posted to the Autumn Haiku blog here. I also posted another Shadow Shot to my Over Forty Shades blog, which you can see here.

Friday 25 September 2009


smashing glass
in the recycling bin -
blackbird alarm call

previously published in Haiku Scotland 21

I'm delighted to see that the Salisbury Centre Autumn Programme is now up, you can find it here - scroll down to find out more about the ghazal workshop I'll be presenting on 31 October.

Thursday 24 September 2009

The Making of Geology

Alan Cutler's The Seashell on the Mountaintop is the biography of the 17th century Danish scientist Nicolaus Steno, a celebrated anatomist, who was fascinated by rocks and the shells he found in the mountains of Italy. The book documents his explorations and theories about the earth and highlights the problems many scientists found with the church authorities. Steno is now recognised as the real founder of geology, though he abandoned science to become a Catholic Bishop and was made a saint after his death.

Steno appears, briefly in Revolutions in the Earth, Stephen Baxter's biography of James Hutton, a Scottish scientist of the late eighteenth century. He was a farmer, agricultural scientist, medical doctor and geologist. He was fascinated with rock formations and deduced that the rock strata belonged to an earth much older than the one allowed for by contemporary, religious inspired thought. This book for me was the more interesting one as it puts Hutton's life and work in the context of the troubled British politics of the time and the intellectual climate of the Scottish Enlightenment. Hutton was closely linked with many other great thinkers of the day, including James Watt, the engineer, whose work with steam engines directly influenced Hutton's ideas about how heat might have helped to form the earth's rock formations.

Taken together, these books form a fascinating insight into the development of geology as a science.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Dumfries part 4

Our last trip in Dumfries was to Mabie Wood. I have to admit when we first got there we thought we might have made a mistake as the place is full of mountain bike trails, which for walkers aren't the best place to be! Luckily we found the footpaths and wandered all over the woods, which lie across some lovely hills. There were lots of siskins around, feeding in the tops of the trees. They're a lovely lively bird to see.

We had a wonderful time in and around Dumfries. Lots of lovely wildlife to see and lots of interesting sights. There were loads of spiders for example, beautiful webs everywhere and spiders fighting over food and one disentangling a butterfly from its web to prevent the web from being broken. Amazingly the butterfly flew away apparently unharmed!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Dumfries part 3

Our next trip while in Dumfries and Galloway was to Kirkconnel Flow. This is a National Nature Reserve, an area of gorgeous birch woodland, wild heathland and raised bog, which isn't so picturesque but is wonderful for wildlife. While we were there, we saw whinchats and a lot of butterflies, including Red Admirals and Painted Ladies. The area is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage to maximise the peat bog, as that is a rare habitat.

Monday 21 September 2009

Dumfries part 2

Our second trip while we were in Dumfries was to Drumlanrig Country Park. There are some lovely woodland walks here and we saw mixed flocks of finches and tits, a buzzard being mobbed by crows and a red squirrel. There were some lovely fungi on the trees (unfortunately I don't know what species this is!). Drumlanrig also has lovely buildings, you can see a couple of photos over on Over 40 Shades, here and here.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Dumfries part 1

We had a lovely few days in Dumfries. We stayed in the wonderful Friars Carse country hotel, which sits five miles outside Dumfries in its own extensive grounds along the river Nith. While walking through these grounds we saw kingfishers and dippers and had a very good view of a lively red squirrel that ran up and down a few trees for our entertainment (note to non UK readers, the red squirrel is the native UK squirrel which is being driven out of a lot of its areas by the alien grey squirrel, so its alwayas a joy to see one!). We also enjoyed watching the stars, the skies were incredibly clear and free from air pollution. One starlit night we enjoyed listening to an otter hunting nearby in the river.

Caerlaverock Farm tower from one of the reserve hides

Our first trip while in Dumfries was to Caerlaverock, another Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve, but different from Martin Mere in that it only has a reserve area for wild birds, and no collection of captive birds. The weather was glorious while we were there. Telephone wires near the reserve were heavy with swallows, house martins were dashing around the farm tower at the centre of the reserve, one pair were even still feeding young! The wildlife garden was full of butterflies. We walked round the whole reserve, not many geese and ducks around as it was too early for them to be arriving for their winter stay. We did see little grebes, wheatears and whinchats and lots of dragonflies and spiders.

Saturday 19 September 2009

In and around Manchester

We spent a few days with my parents last weekend, enjoying their garden in late summer. The flowers were lovely and there were red admirals, commas and white butterflies fluttering around. The shadows above are on my parents' lawn.

While we were there we visited Rivington Pike, a lovely area of the West Pennine Moors. We also visited Martin Mere, a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve. This reserve has a wonderful collection of wildfowl from around the world, including the ne-ne, a Hawaiian goose that the WWT were instrumental in saving from extinction. The ne-nes and the snow geese ate from my hand! The reserve also has extensive wetlands which are roosting grounds for large numbers of geese and wildfowl during the winter months. We were too early to see many of these birds, but there were some whooper swans, wigeon and teals, plus a good sized flock of lapwings, lovely in their butterfly style flight.

After our time with my parents, we went on to Dumfries for a few days - more about that to follow! But for now there's a Shadow Shot from near Dumfries over on my Over Forty Shades blog, you can see it here.

Friday 18 September 2009

Back again!

We're back from our break away. We had a lovely time with my parents and sister to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, we had day trips to Rivington in the north Pennine Moors and Martin Mere bird reserve. Then Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went to stay in Dumfries in the south west of Scotland for a few days with trips to various nature reserves and country parks. More photos to follow in the next few days. The weather was glorious all the time and we saw loads of wildlife including otters, red squirrels and kingfishers! The woodlands in the photo are Kirconnel Flow, near Dumfries.

Thursday 10 September 2009

I'm away for a few days, travelling to Manchester for my parents' 50th Wedding anniversary then onto Dumfries for a few days. See you all when I get back!

Wednesday 9 September 2009


rusty gate -
a spider weaves a web
between the bars

previously published in the British Haiku Society members' anthology 2008, theme Building.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Amphisbaena by Ray Succre

I totally enjoyed this novel! I was captivated in the opening scene where Bill dreams himself as escaping from a shark attack by tangoing with the shark while sea creatures gather round!

The novel focuses on Bill, a disillusioned maker of calendars, who strives to break with the picture postcard niceness of the calendar industry by putting together a calendar of car wrecks. However at the same time he finds himself dreaming of flying with geese through the cloud themed calendars put together by his arch rival.

Bill lives with his divorced brother and looks after his children.

“Yep, ribbit. Frogs don’t eat crayons, right?” Bill said, approaching the wondrous lecture from a more fantastical and child-like highway of thought. Jessica closed her eyes and frowned, beginning to cry. This, in her mind, was because red, which tasted better than the other colors (for she had dined a bit on each), was the color of pretty, like flowers, and flowers were for big bunnies and little girls, and Uncle Bill had called her a frog, which was a sad and sinister creature, no good to any color but green, the worst color, and then Uncle Bill had shown her, with his loud boy-ribbit, that she was no good, and a bad frog that did not get to have big bunnies or wonderful red ever again.

Meanwhile, Bill has started dating Amy and finds himself inextricably involved also with her close flatmate Janine. (The two women are actually the two heads of an ancient serpent). This leads to much confusion and emotional heartache for Bill, while offering lots of opportunity to explore gender relations and the internal split between people's emotions and their physicality.

This is a totally entertaining novel that blends Greek mythology with dreamlike fantasy and romance while offering loads of insight into the modern human condition.

Amphisbaena by Ray Succre, published by Cauliay Books.

You can read some of Ray Succre's poetry on Bolts of Silk here.

Monday 7 September 2009

Birds and Butterflies - summer's end

Our swifts left a couple of weeks ago, despite one year recently staying into September. We had a lovely summer of watching their aerobatics over our roofs. (Though less pleasing is the fact that our roofer who had assured us he would fit the swift nestbox for free, walked off with said nestbox and won't reply to my emails).

We don't usually see swallows near where we live, but this year I saw one up the road in a carpark of all places and we've seen a few over the canal. But fewer of them where we would expect to see them in the fields.....

This has been a year of seeing lots of blackcaps - a bird I usually hear a lot, and what a beautiful song it has, but normally I don't see them very often. The blackcap is traditionally a summer bird but is overwintering in the UK more and more.

The cuckoo is struggling in large parts of the UK, but when we were in Skye the air echoed with their song and I even saw two of them!

I've not read any conservation overview of how butterflies have done this year, but personally I've never seen so many for years. Comma butterflies by the Water of Leith, a gathering of peacocks in a patch of thistles, more small coppers than I've ever seen in one place and fields shimmering with hundreds of white butterflies.

Today when I walked along the Water of Leith, it actually felt more like summer, the sun was bright (apart from the sudden five minute shower) and the birds were singing. But it was the twittering of winter tit and finch flocks gathering and the robin's sad autumnal song.

I'm looking forward to the winter thrushes arriving and looking around at rowan trees heavy with bright berries, I'm hoping for the waxwings to appear this year, though they are very unpredictable!

Saturday 5 September 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day

Thanks to Liza for reminding me, today is International Vulture Awareness Day. I had had plans to be more organised about this! Meanwhile, you can read a previous post I wrote about the plight of the vultures here. You can also find out more at: Vulture Rescue and the RSPB Vulture Campaign pages.

More poems for International Vulture Awareness Day:

On the Road to Santiago - Dave at Via Negativa

Silhouettes - Deb at Stoney Moss

Corstorphine Hill

rosebay willowherb
seeds float over the hill -
swallows flying south*

one harebell -
robin sings his autumnsong

Not entirely sure whether the swallows were actually on their way to their wintering grounds, but they were flying in a southerly direction and seemed determined.....

Friday 4 September 2009

Poetry Competition at Gorgie City Farm

Gorgie City Farm will be celebrating National Poetry Day (Thursday 8 October) with a poetry competition for writers of all ages! The closing date is Friday 2 October. If you're in Edinburgh, this is a great excuse to visit the farm and write a poem! The poem needs to be in honour of the poet's favourite animal at Gorgie City Farm. You can send your poems by post to: Gorgie City Farm, 51 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh, EH11 2LA or email them to: sponsor@gorgiecityfarm.org.uk. Entry to the competition is free! There will be prizes including: free sponsorship of the poet's favourite animal for a year; book tokens and a farm goodie bag!

I'm delighted to have been asked to judge this competition! You can find a poster for the competition here.

Please note: Writing poetry about the farm rabbits does not necessarily guarantee a prize!

Thursday 3 September 2009

Autumn Greeting Card

I made two versions of this card, the other one is identical but uses green card instead of beige. Both sets of card come from reused office stationery, the white handmade paper comes from a second-hand cardmaking kit from a local charity shop, the leaf comes from second hand pot pourri (and smells of peaches!) and the foil is from a bar of Divine fairtrade chocolate.

Tuesday 1 September 2009


heavy rainclouds hang
over heather dark moorland -
light in the distance.

for this prompt on Pictures, Poetry and Prose