Wednesday 30 March 2011

Written in Stone

I made this collage of my poem Written in Stone as a gift for a friend. It's made from paper torn from magazines and an old manuscript of the poem. The frame was second hand.


Written in Stone

A stony beach hard on my feet,

a restless sea, green, grey, brown,

splashes of white where ocean waves

meet rocky outcrops, tiny islands.

Here the veil is thin between

earth and heaven, eternity.

Sheep, regardless, eat the seaweed

stranded on the strandline.

This the beach Columba landed,

stones are sacred, water holy.

Bow your head, take off your shoes,

walk on sacred ground.

Among the pebbles, one stands out,

a pretty, pinky marbled grey

with two meandering veins of white

right angled in a central cross –

random chance of nature’s craft or

blessing from Columba?

inspired by a stone I found on a beach on Iona

as ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

167 Years of Revolution

The Co-operative is a well known feature on High Streets across the UK. They have 5, 000 outlets, including shops, banks, funeral services, legal services all of which are ultimately owned by The Co-operative's six million members.

This model of business ownership has become well known to a lot of people and is used by a lot of organisations, for example there are housing co-operatives, health care co-operatives and many small co-operatively run businesses across the UK. All are owned and democratically controlled by their members, who may include employees, customers and local residents. The co-operative business model is a great way of running a business as it spreads risk and reward equally among those who have a stake in the business, it is often more intimately connected with the community in which it is based than many businesses are. The Co-operative can give help and advice to people wanting to set up their own co-operative business.

When the Rochdale Pioneers set up the first co-operative in 1844 it was revolutionary! Right from the start the Rochdale Pioneers distributed a proportion of their profits to their members. The Co-operative continues profit sharing to this day.

As well as its commitment to member ownership, The Co-operative has also been a pioneer in ethical business practices, for instance in 1985 The Co-operative banned the use of animal testing for its own brand toiletries and in 2003 it made the decision that all own brand coffee would be fair-trade. In 1992 the Co-operative Bank became the world's first bank to introduce a customer led ethical policy, which makes it the first choice of bank for people who care what happens to their money.

To mark this long term success, The Co-operative has just launched a multi media advertising campaign Join the revolution to highlight their ethical credentials. The campaign features people and groups that The Co-operative have empowered to bring their own revolutions to life. One of my favourite highlighted projects is Urban Bees, which was set up by bee-lovers Brian McCallum and Alison Benjamin. Brian and Alison have set up 20 new hives on rooftops and in community gardens and allotments across London, and they will have given training and start-up equipment to approximately 300 people in the city by the end of 2011. This taps in very well to the current increasing interest in self sufficiency and urban food growing.

Urban Bees is not just a one-off either. The Co-operative is very committed to bees and runs Plan Bee a campaign to save the honey bee.

Do you think you could set up a project as vital as Urban Bees? The Co-operative is looking for new ideas for revolutions in the UK, in the following categories:

  • Benefiting the community

  • Combating climate change

  • Inspiring young people

  • Tackling global poverty

If you have an idea Get involved - the most popular idea in each of five regions of the UK will win £5 000 to help make it happen!

You can also follow The Co-operative on Facebook. Sponsored Post

Partage propulse par ebuzzing

Monday 28 March 2011

Hornbeam, Birds and a Fox

We had a lovely wander along the Water of Leith today. I took this photo of the hornbeam tree for Tree Year, if you compare it with the photo in this earlier post, you can see that the catkins are developing! It was lovely also to hear a chiffchaff calling from the tree too, we even had a glimpse of it as it flew around in the upper branches.
We also saw a wren gathering nesting material in a clump larger than its own head! Crafty Green Boyfriend took some photos of a grey wagtail that was dancing around over the water. For a bird named grey, it's very yellow!

We also had a really good view of a fox, whose eyes caught the flash in this photo taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend (who had his zoom lens with him!). It's a very autumnal looking image, but it was actually a lovely Spring day today!

It was also lovely to see a lot of bees, buzzing around, low to the ground, looking for new homes. Lovely to see celandines and wood sorrel in bloom too!

For Nature Notes

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Sunday 27 March 2011

Birthday Greetings from a Moongazing Rabbit!


at the rabbit in the moon -

white rabbit

It's Michelle's birthday today, and bunny bloggers and others across the blogosphere are joining Donna of Brynwood Needlework to wish Michelle a very happy birthday! You can also visit Michelle's blog to see her beautiful crafts and her adorable bunnies Harrington and Sugie. Happy Birthday, Michelle!

The piece in the photo was the first project I made using felt I had made from the shed fur of our rabbit Anya. You can read more about it here.

As ever, red text in this post takes you to other webpages where you can find out more!

Friday 25 March 2011

Climate Week

Climate Week (21 - 27 March 2011) offers an opportunity for everyone to do their bit to protect our planet and create a secure future. The event highlights the positive steps already being taken in workplaces and communities across the UK, with the hope of inspiring more people to get involved. Thousands of businesses, charities, schools, councils and others will run events during Climate Week on 21-27 March 2011.

I share Suitably Despairing's cynicism about the sponsors of Climate Week. However, it does offer a great opportunity to highlight the issues and galvanise people into action. If you're in the UK, you can find an event close to you or run your own event! There's even an Ideas Bank too!

To mark Climate Week the Carbon Trust have created an infographic that explains why business holds the key to meeting UK carbon reduction targets. If you click yes on this site, they’ll use your support to get more businesses to prove carbon reduction.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Woodland Trust Creative Campaigning

The Woodland Trust is devoted to saving the UK's forests and has been particularly active in the face of the UK Coalition Government's plans to sell off England's forests. (The Government has seen some sense at least thankfully and the plans have been abandoned, though the future of England's forests is probably still not certain.)

One of the things I particularly like about the Woodland Trust is the fact that they have a Creative Campaigning section to their website. This is full of poetry, art, films and other creative responses to woodlands and is well worth browsing. I was delighted to be contacted recently by the Woodland Trust and asked to contribute a page about haiku. You can read this page here.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Earth Hour

Earth Hour 2011 is taking place this Saturday 26th March at 8:30pm local time.

Earth Hour is a campaign run by WWF. The aim is to get people and businesses to simultaneously switch off their lights for an hour, in an attempt to highlight our need to reduce consumption if we are to tackle climate change and save the natural world.

Last year hundreds of millions of people across 128 different countries and territories took part, which is pretty impressive! Will you be taking part this year? You can sign up here.

You can like the Earth Hour Facebook page to demonstrate your support for the campaign and to show the world’s governments how seriously people now consider climate change to be.

I blogged about Earth Hour two years ago here.

As ever, text in red in this post links to other pages where you can find out more.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Dandelions & Rabbits

oh dandelions!
if only we could see them
with a rabbit's eyes!

You can read an imagined (and fanciful!) bunny's eye view of dandelions here starring our bunny Anya (now sadly no longer with us).

but not all rabbits are impressed by dandelions, as you can see here on Houseful of Rabbits.

Monday 21 March 2011

Group Birdwatching

This is the last week of the Beginners Birdwatching classes I've been teaching for City of Edinburgh Council Adult Learning programme. I've taught two classes a week and we've had some lovely trips out round Edinburgh. I also taught these classes in the autumn last year. Spring is definitely better for a Beginners Birdwatching class as the birds are chasing each other round and singing their hearts out so they tend to be more obvious than in autumn when they are quieter. Birdwatching classes offer interesting challenges compared to birdwatching alone, e.g.:

* the bird the tutor saw before the class arrived - today for example before the class, I had a lovely view of two goldcrests in a hedge, who didn't show themselves for the group

* the bird that is only seen by half the group - this happens all the time, today some of us saw a brambling and some of us aren't sure whether we did or not

* where is that bird you've seen? see The Hardest part of Birding an entertaining video for the birders amongst us

* describe that bird again? trying to guess the bird that a class member saw that no-one else did from a partial description

* two people looking at different birds but thinking it's the same one and not understanding why the other thinks it's a robin when clearly it's a greenfinch

* we make more noise in a group and so we may scare away the birds or just make too much noise to hear all the birds. Having said that, both groups this term have been very good at walking slowly and quietly and not talking too much.


high winds
across the clouds
skylarks sing

Saturday 19 March 2011

Frogspawn and Birds

We had quite a long walk this morning. we started at Blackford Pond hoping to see frogs and toads. We didn't see any but there was some frogspawn around (see my photo below).

Plenty of birds around too, including this coot, looking slightly bored perhaps on its newly built nest

and this dabchick (little grebe)

and plenty of tufted ducks.

(bird photos taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend)

Friday 18 March 2011

Canalside Reflections

I took these photos 2 weekends ago along the Union Canal, Edinburgh

and on a different note, I've been interviewed over on Robert Frost's Banjo, you can read it here.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Litter along the Water of Leith

A few days ago I blogged about the Water of Leith Conservation Trust stakeholder conference, which I was delighted to be able to attend as a regular volunteer of the trust. The topic of litter was one that people picked up on in the comments section on that post so I thought I'd say a bit more about that.

The Water of Leith is largely an urban river, passing right through the centre of Edinburgh, ending up at the docks in Leith, which is a very built up area. A fair amount of rubbish gets dumped into the river, some of it intentionally, some of it left behind when people have got drunk and left their beer cans and sandwich wrappers behind, some of it blows into the river from surrounding areas. Some people have developed the habit of bagging their dog's poo but then throwing the bag into the undergrowth or into a tree (which is a disgusting habit!). Some litter gets blown back along the river and walkway from the bins in the area. The council can only supply bins where they can get vehicle access to empty them which means that some stretches of the river don't have many bins.

The river is patrolled by a team of volunteers, who go out once a week, by themselves to look after a specific area of the river. We record wildlife, cut back overgrown vegetation, pick litter and report on major pollution or littering incidents. I usually fill a large carrier bag with litter each week, in the summer it will often be about two large carrier bags. I only pick litter that I can pick without endangering myself - so I don't climb trees, jump into the river or clamber up or down steep slopes.

Around once a month (more in the summer, less in the winter) a volunteer clean-up team takes a length of river which is blighted by litter and spends 2-3 hours in the river and on its banks, filling up a skip with all manner of litter and often some large or strange objects. Many of the clean ups are done by groups from local businesses or community groups. Each year a trophy is awarded to the community group that finds the most unusual item of rubbish, the trophy itself is made from a Victorian figurine that was found in the river!

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Wheelbarrow Farm by Hillary Menos

I was delighted to win a copy of this beautifully produced poetry pamphlet from Templar Poetry who were giving books away for World Book Day on 3 March.

The poems are all set in the 100 acre organic farm which Menos manages and owns. They are vivid evocations of farm life, detailing the issues and difficulties faced by farm workers - including bad weather; injured animals; thistle-filled fields and calf tagging:

The calf you want is always in the far field
with that bullish look in its eye, all beef and brawn
and its mother is always in the near field
with that protective look in her eye, and horns.

calf tagging is considered an extreme sport,
much like ram dagging, and not to be undertaken
without protective work-wear, an ambulance on call

from Belting the Galloways

For those who don't know, Belted Galloways are a Scottish breed of cow. You can read more about them on the Belted Galloway Cattle Society webpage.

These poems take the reader right into the heart of the hard work needed to run a farm. It makes you really appreciate the work behind the food on your plate! (Or not on your plate in this case if you're a vegetarian or vegan).

Wheelbarrow Farm by Hilary Menos, published by Templar Poetry was one of 4 winners of the Templar Poetry Pamphlet Prize in 2010.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages, where you can find out more.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Bolts of Silk

As many readers of this blog know, I edit the online poetry journal Bolts of Silk. In May I will have edited Bolts of Silk for five years. I have enjoyed this immensely and continue to do so. However recently I have started to wonder whether after five years a poetry journal perhaps should seek a new editor? I have seen poetry journals grow tired and stale when edited for too long by the same person and I have seen journals blossom and thrive when they get a new editor after years of stagnation under an overlong editorship.

I don't think Bolts of Silk has got tired, though perhaps I'm too close to it to be able to tell?

What do you think? Does Bolts of Silk need a new editor? Should it look for a new editor as a matter of principle? Any other thoughts? Thanks for your comments!

Monday 14 March 2011

bird haiku

thick cloud -
the skylark's song
rains down

thick hedge -
the pink hopping
of a bullfinch

for Nature Notes

as ever text in red takes you to pages where you can find out more

Sunday 13 March 2011

Footbridge and Grotto

This is a little footbridge over a tributary of the Water of Leith. The stone building is one of the three Ladies' Grottos near this part of the river. These grottos were built in the 1750s by Robert Bowie who was the landscape gardener for the Redhall Estate who owned this area in those days. The purpose of the grottos was to give the ladies somewhere to rest while their menfolk go hunting.
As ever, red text takes you to other pages where you can find out more

Saturday 12 March 2011

Water of Leith Stakeholder Conference

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust held its first stakeholder conference yesterday. I was delighted to get one of the places reserved for volunteers of the trust (I help to look after the Dells area of the river, recording wildlife and picking litter once a week; I sometimes take part in conservation days and I tweet for the Trust.) Speakers at the conference included representatives from the trust and from Scottish Natural Heritage; City of Edinburgh Council Rangers Service; Scottish Environmental Protection Agency; The Wildlife Crimes Unit of Lothian and Borders Police and the Water of Leith Honorary Bailiffs. Topics covered included control of invasive plant species; the Flood Prevention Plans for the river; litter and dog fouling; wildlife and responsible use of the river and the walkway.

There was time in the packed programme to chat to people, which was great. It was really heartening to see so many people who are committed to the future of the river and there was a very positive atmosphere to the gathering and a lot of excitement about the recent sightings of an otter with a cub on the river! I learned quite a lot too, particularly about fishing on the river!

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks which take you to other pages where you can find out more.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Colinton Dell

The daffodils are almost at the point of opening.

Two roe deer chase each other alongside the path, then they veer and leap gracefully over the path and into the trees.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Great spotted woodpeckers

A pair of great spotted woodpeckers chase each other through the trees, then settle to prod a trunk for insects, the red under their tails catching the light as they move.

Then suddenly, as we turn to move away, the male starts to drum.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Ferns and cog wheels

I took these two photos of the fern Asplenium nigram growing on an old industrial wall alongside the Water of Leith this morning. I think they demonstrate nature's ability to regenerate and to take over human sites that are abandoned.

Monday 7 March 2011

Venti by JoAnne McKay

Venti is a beautiful handmade collection of poetry from JoAnne McKay who blogs over at Titus the Dog. Venti is such a lovely looking book that I seemed to keep picking it up just to look at it before I ever read it. The book includes wonderful images from Matt Kish and rubber stamped hare and seahorse illustrations. The book is made from a lovely cream paper and is printed with a very pleasing font and has a very attractive cover!

So when I'd finally admired all the elements of the book's appearance, I was able to sit down and read the poetry which is as lovely to read as the book is to look at! There's a lot of nature in this chapbook, from the symbolic Fleur de Lis to the fleeting life of Mayflies. We are shown a different take on the octopus in this excerpt from Octopodes:

When the previous cosmos collapsed
there was a sole survivor
of the wreckage, who squeezed
his form through tightest crack
into this our universe.

Also in the realm of strange sea creatures we have the seahorse in Hippocampus hippocampus:

fragile, flimsy-finned horse
fluttering in the sea grass
snuffling for shrimp.

This is a short book but one that the reader will return to again and again.

Venti handmade and published by JoAnne MacKay

Sunday 6 March 2011

Bogs Bridge

Bogs Bridge across the Water of Leith has now been repaired and is open again - as promiased a few days ago here are some photos. The masonry has been repaired and new green handrails have been added, which detract somewhat from the view, I think!

Saturday 5 March 2011

Waste Land

Waste Land, directed by Lucy Walker, is an inspiring and moving documentary about a project undertaken by the sculptor Vik Muniz. He accepted the challenge of returning to his native Brazil to work with the catadores (people who scavange recyclable materials) at the biggest landfill site in the world, just outside Rio di Janeiro.

He gets to know the remarkable individuals who spend their lives doing this dangerous and unhealthy work, but who retain a remarkable spirit and sense of humour. He takes their photos and then works on creating giant canvases reinterpreting these photos using material reclaimed from the landfills, with the catadores involved in the artistic work.

Finally the amazing pictures are sold and the money invested in a learning centre, library and vehicles for Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho - the catadores' union. The work of Vik Muniz and the catadores has ignited a movement in Brazil, currently with the support of the Coca Cola Foundation, to build a legitimate recycling system and hire the catadores in Brazil as consultants.

This is truly inspirational cinema! Waste Land will be showing until Tuesday 10 March at The Filmhouse in Edinburgh.

As ever, red text in this post contains hyperlinks to take you to other websites where you can find out more!

Influential Environmental Blogs

Wikio put together a list of the Top UK Environment blogs every month. The rankings are put together by Wikio a news and blogs search engine that also put together Top Blog rankings for various categories including environment, politics etc. I wasn't aware of this listing until Wikio emailed me about it and I was delighted to find myself listed! You can find the list here. Thanks to everyone who links to this blog and helped me gain this listing!

Friday 4 March 2011

Tree Year

Bogs Bridge across the Water of Leith has now been repaired (I'll post photos of the bridge at the weekend) and is open again so I can get closer to the hornbeam tree that I had chosen to study for the Tree Year Project. As you can see from this admittedly not very good photo, the catkins are just budding and will open up into the most beautiful chandelier like shapes later in the year.

The birds were all very busy along the river today. I had a very close encounter with a treecreeper which was very low in a tree and kept poking its head round the trunk and then disappearing again. Also got very close to a goldcrest, a tiny bird that often stays right up in the top of the trees, but this one was flying from branch to branch just above my head. I saw a dipper collecting nesting material in a different part of the river to the ones I saw doing this last week. The tits were all very excitable, chattering away and dashing around from tree to tree, including a medium sized flock of long tailed tits that were flurrying around one particular tree. Robins were singing beautifully, as were chaffinches and a song thrush.
It definitely feels like Spring!
As ever, red text in this post, includes hyperlinks to take you to other websites where you can find out more!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Dates for your Diary

I am hoping to do a reading with Mary Johnston and Jane Wilde at Wordpower Books, 43-45 West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh at 11am, Saturday 11 June. So if you're in Edinburgh, please do come along!

I've also just had confirmed the dates for the summer courses I'll be running this August for the University of Edinburgh Office of Lifelong Learning:

10-4 Monday 1 August Writing Inspired by Nature at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust Visitor Centre, 24 Lanark Road, Edinburgh.

10.30 -3.30 Monday 8 and Tuesday 9 August (2 day course) Introduction to the Water of Leith. Day one at 11 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh day 2 at Water of Leith Conservation Trust Visitor Centre, 24 Lanark Road, Edinburgh.

There will be more details in the Office of Lifelong Learning Summer Brochure that will be out soon!

as ever, text in red contains hyperlinks to other sites where you can find out more!

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Thoughts about Consumption

Yesterday I posted a review of The End of Oil by Paul Roberts, which outlines how we are effectively running out of oil. Towards the end of my review I talked about some future approaches that I felt were missing from the book. One of these was addressing consumption and I suggested that we need to look at ways of reducing consumption that don't destroy our quality of life.

I just thought it might then be worth thinking a little bit about how this can be done. Firstly we need to be clear that there is a difference between quality of life and standard of living. There are many ways of reducing consumption that effectively reduce our standard of living as it is defined by society in general that don't decrease our quality of life.

For example, some ways in which I consume less than many people: not having a car; not taking holidays abroad; not working full time; not having a widescreen tv and huge music centre; not buying new clothes every season. I accept that many people will consider me therefore to have a lower standard of living, but I don't for a minute think it means I have a lower quality of life!

We don't need loads of stuff to have a good quality of life!

As Rabbits' Guy pointed out in the comments yesterday, efficiency and energy conservation have important roles to play in helping the oil we do have last for longer, enabling us to transition to a future less dependent on oil and stuff.

And as bunnygirl said, although we all need to do what we can, politicians and companies have much more of a role to play than they seem to accept.

If we can all reduce our consumption then we can help to secure a sustainable future. Otherwise we may find ourselves in a situation where run-away climate change and associated disasters force us into a poorer quality of life.