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.

Friday 16 October 2009

Reflections on the Water of Leith

As many readers of this blog know, I do voluntary work looking after a section of our local river, the Water of Leith. Every Monday morning, I walk the couple of miles from the Water of Leith Visitor Centre upstream to Colinton village. It's a lovely walk and I often see grey herons and dippers and plenty of woodland birds though I've not seen a kingfisher along this stretch of river since I started doing this voluntary work, though I know there are kingfishers here, someone recently saw three of them.... Anyway here are some reflections in Colinton where the river splits into two for a little while before it joins back together at a weir.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change

To start with, it's great to have some good news for the climate in the UK - plans for a coal fired power station at Kingsnorth have been shelved, as have the plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Of course these announcements don't guarantee that there won't be new power stations or new runways elsewhere in the country, but even so, this may be an indication that arguments are being listened to more carefully.

One of the things that I find most difficult in the mainstreaming acceptance of the reality of climate change is that we are often being asked to sacrifice biodiversity to 'green energy'. Chopping down the Amazon rainforest to plant crops for biofuels or building industrial sized windfarms on rare peat bogs is enough to break the heart of anyone who loves nature. These kinds of developments are also counterproductive anyway as peat bogs and rainforests are valuable carbon sinks in their own right and mitigate against climate change. (It's excellent to see that several major shoe manufacturers have pledged not to use leather from deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest and it would be great to see similar pledges from biofuel developers).

I'm not against windfarms, small community owned windfarms on brownfield sites that make communities self sufficient in power can make a genuinely environmentally friendly contribution and there are some in the UK, see: Biofuels too have a role, if they are made from waste materials (such as chip fat) rather than being made from crops that could otherwise have been used for food.

I think what the argument is often missing though is that the root of the problem lies with our overconsumption. Green technology is great, far better the hybrid car than the gas guzzler, but even better is to try to use public transport or even, more radically to ask whether the journey is even necessary in the first place.

for Blog Action Day

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Of wrens and foxes

I know that some readers yesterday wanted to know what happened next when the fox saw the wrens on the bird feeder. Well, the wrens fluttered around in a most unconcerned manner. The fox saw me and watched me and then wandered off, apparently not interested in the birds at all!

Monday 12 October 2009

Sunday 11 October 2009

Shadow by Alison Brackenbury

Since I first read some of Alison's animal poems over on her Myspace page, I've wanted to read more. So I was delighted to find out about Shadow, a pamphlet of Alison's animal poetry, published by happenstance - always nice to support a local small press too!

Shadow is a lovely book, full of beautiful poetry about birds, hedgehogs, horses, bees and cats. (Rabbit bloggers may be slightly disappointed to find there are no rabbits - though hares make a brief appearance in The Rescue Centre.). The poetry is finely observed and beautifully written:

Starling is numerous, holds in his throat
the many colours of his oily coat.

(from On the aerial)

This is poetry centred on the love of animals, injured hedgehogs rescued from the road, lost kittens and ageing horses. This is also poetry that is open to the sadness we find in the loss of so many animals from our landscapes. Lapwings is a wonderful poem about the decline in these birds, once so common in farmland in the UK, it would be such a loss if they were to disappear altogether:

And I forgot their massive arcs of wing.
When their raw cries swept over, my head spun

with all the billiance of their black and white
as though you cracked the dark and found the sun.

Any animal lover who also loves poetry will be delighted with this book.

Shadow by Alison Brackenbury published by Happenstance, priced £4.00.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Shadowy Spider

Crafty Green Boyfriend took this shot of a spider in my parent's garden last month. Click on it to enlarge it! If you don't like spiders, you may prefer the shadow shot I posted on Over 40 Shades here.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Happy National Poetry Day

There are two announcements of interest for National Poetry Day.

1. Calder Wood Press have announced their chapbook line up for 2010 and I'm delighted to be included in the list. You can see the full list over at Colin Will's blog. Thanks Colin!

2. Gorgie City Farm has published the winners of its poetry competition on their website, here. I really enjoyed judging this competition and look forward to doing so again next year, hopefully with a longer timescale to allow for even more wonderful poems about the wonderful animals on the farm.....

Wednesday 7 October 2009


I've been collecting feathers for a while, some of them are just stunning, and inspired by Weaver of Grass, who posted some feathers today, here are mine. I know that the almost black (but actually wonderfully irridescent) feather on the right is from a magpie and that the two small feathers with the gorgeous blue patterns are from the wing coverts of jays (both these were found on the same day in Dumfriesshire, but in two different woodlands!). I don't have definite ids for the rest so if anyone can help, please let me know! They've all been found in Scotland.

Tuesday 6 October 2009


morning light -
last night's seal becomes
a buoy

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

Monday 5 October 2009

Jaguars Ripped my Flesh by Tim Cahill

This is a collection of short travel essays. A lot of them are adventurous - we have caving in Kentucky, skydiving, , swimming with sharks, watching the eruption of Mount St Helens at close quarters etc. There are also tales of epic travels in various south American countries. But Cahill is, for me, at his best, a true environmentalist. Life and Love in Gorilla Country is a wonderful close encounter with the gorillas in Volcano Country Park, Rwanda. It is clear that Cahill totally enjoys getting close to these magnificent creatures, though he doesn't shy away from describing all the pressures on their environment. The Shame of Escobilla is a powerful and moving account of the pressures on sea turtles in Mexico. The New Desert, An Old Woman describes how desert has come to what was once Owen's Lake, in California. Kayaking Among the Ice Children is set in Alaska, amongst the harbour seals and whales around Glacier Bay National Monument. All the stories are very readable and appeal to a wide range of tastes among those who like travel literature. But nowhere do jaguars rip flesh....

Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, Penguin Books, 1987

Sunday 4 October 2009

Botanic Gardens

Yesterday we had a lovely though windblown walk round Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. The sky was perfect blue and it was mild. The wind did mean that leaves are falling before we can really appreciate the colours on the trees, but the fallen leaves are lovely to look at.

I spent some time under a tree, watching a treecreeper as it crept over the branches, looking in the nooks and crannies for food. The only birds I photographed though were the pigeons, some of which enthusiastically fed from Crafty Green Boyfriend's hand.... This pretty pigeon is likely to be the offspring of one of the white doves from Gorgie City Farm that bred with a normal feral pigeon.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Mobile Shadows

Here it is at last! A while ago, I started talking about making a mobile including the ladybirds I had painted onto re-used plastic packaging. It took me a while to come up with the design and the materials but here it is! The wood I collected from the Water of Leith, it was part of a fallen branch, that needed to be trimmed to avoid tripping people up as they walk along the path! Then I have added some outer layers from honesty plants (also collected along the Water of Leith). The paper is reused office scrap, on which I wrote:

a wrought iron fence - spotted with rust and ladybirds.

I'm hoping to make another mobile with more honesty seedpods and feathers!

Friday 2 October 2009

Weekend reflections

I took both photos at Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, Dumfriesshire
there's another reflection on my Over Forty Shades blog here.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Porcelain Fungi

Crafty Green Boyfriend took this wonderful image in Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire