Saturday 29 June 2013

Yellow and red

 I always like to wander round Lochend Park before I teach my writing class at the nearby Ripple Project. The park is looking particularly pretty at the moment with all the yellow flag irises that are out. These two photos are from Thursday, when I taught the last class in the current term.
 Yesterday I walked along the Water of Leith as I do every week. I was delighted to see this lovely moth (a Brimstone moth I think, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!) in the gloomy long tunnel on the old railway line (now cyclepath) at Colinton. I was even more delighted to find out that the photo came out!
Meanwhile today, we were delighted to see a whole hive's worth of red tailed bumble bees in the flowers in Princes Street Gardens, No photos unfortunately, the busy bees were busily buzzing too fast for my camera!

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

Friday 28 June 2013

Edinburgh International Film Festival - my reviews

Well the Edinburgh International Film Festival is drawing to a close for another year, I've seen a lot of excellent films and you can read my reviews by following the links below:

I Catch a Terrible Cat.

Penumbra and The Last Time I Saw Macao.



A Play for Freedom and Emperor Visits the Hell.


Big Boy.

Kiss the Water.


Taboor, Yumen and Breathing Earth.

The East, Dark Matter and Mushrooming.

Die Welt.

Lilou's Adventure.

From Tehran to London.

The Best of the Fest films have been announced, to be screened on Sunday.

And the Awards have been awarded, see which films won!

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

Disclaimer, I had a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings for all these films.

Cats on Film

One of the runaway successes of last years Edinburgh International Film Festival was Rentaneko (Rentacat - which I reviewed here). It was notable for starring an adorable array of cats.

This year one of the Japanese films in the festival is Keppidoi Neko (I Catch a Terrible Cat). However, before you rush to the cinema expecting a cute sequel to Rentaneko, you'll be disapppointed. There are no cats in this film!

The film is billed as a romantic comedy, though it didn't really become funny until past half way through. Takada, a successful novelist, has suffered writers block since his wife died and only now that a beautiful young waitress seems to be interested in him, can he see himself writing again. The plot is full of twists and turns in the relationships of the main characters, which lead to all sorts of misunderstandings culminating in a funny and embarrassing party for Takada's 60th birthday party.

This is a slow moving film (too slow to really be a comedy apart from a few scenes) but thoughtful and insightful about family and romantic relationships.

I Catch a Terrible Cat has already been screened twice at Edinburgh International Film Festival and there are no more screeinings! Meanwhile:

The Best of the Fest films have been announced.

The Award Winning Films of the festival have been announced

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the festival and attended a free press screening of this film.

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

Thursday 27 June 2013

Roses and a miscellany

 The wild roses are beautiful just now.....
I've just finished making another chopstick bag, in a sort of rose colour, with a silver 'Hello Kitty' charm, made as ever with entirely repurposed materials:

it's now for sale in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

Meanwhile I'm delighted to have a poem in the new Busker e-book from What the Dickens.

I'll be posting my final two film reviews from the Edinburgh International Film Festival tomorrow.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Today at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Penumbra takes the viewer to a remote rural area of Mexico to spend a few days with an ageing couple. Adelelmo sets off into the forests to hunt for food, while his wife stays at home and cooks, does the laundry and other domestic tasks.

It is obvious that Adelelmo knows the forest intimately, he gathers medical herbs and follows the tracks of a deer, which he finally traps and kills. Later he and his wife eat the deer.

This is a beautiful, meditative film about living close to nature.


The unnamed narrator of The Last Time I Saw Macao is also on the hunt, but this time for his friend, Candy, who is in trouble in the crowded city of Macao, former Portuguese colony and the 'Las Vegas of the East'. The plot of the film fades away half way through and we find outselves on a tour of the city, which certainly has its beautiful areas. It's surrounded by mountains where kites perform their aerobatics and there's a lovely wetlands area, with kingfishers and other birds. Meanwhile the city itself is full of feral cats and dogs who seem almost to be overseeing on the search for Candy.

These two films are showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

Penumbra: 2045, 28 June and 2115, 29 June both at Filmhouse.

The Last Time I Saw Macao: 1830, 28 June (Filmhouse) and 1424, 30 June (Cineworld)

Earlier today I saw Die Welt, which I reviewed here.

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and I attended free press screenings for these films.

Tuesday 25 June 2013


Noche (Night) is a film full of sound. The natural sounds of rural Argentina and the sounds in the last recordings made by Miguel, a young sound recordist who has recently committed suicide. These recordings form the backdrop for the gathering of Miguel's friends as they pack away his belongings and mourn for him, while staying effectively isolated from each other most of the time.

The action largely takes place outside in the beautiful woods around Miguel's old house, but most of the recordings are of interiors and dreams. This gives the film a real sense of mystery, are the recordings a form of archive of Miguel's work? Do they offer clues as to his state of mind before his suicide? Are they an intriguing game he wanted to play on his friends? Whatever the recordings actually are, the friends can't leave the house until the recordings end, just as they can't move on from their grief until they've processed their memories of Miguel.

An atmospheric and intriguing film, Noche is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival

2035, 27 June (Filmhouse) and 1200, 29 June (Cineworld)

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film festival and attended a free press screening of this film


Filmed in the seas off new England (the very seas that inspired Moby Dick) Leviathan is a film that gives the viewer a unique insight into the world of commercial fishing.

Rather than being a conventional documentary, Leviathan immerses the viewer in the mostly nightime world of the fishing vessel. Fish blood and guts, heaving oceans, tattoed arms of fishermen slashing knives through fish, clanking nets, dying fish, tossing waves, ghostly white gulls screaming in the dark of night. The immersion is so effective that you'd be advised not to see the film if you get seasick.

You may also want to avoid the film if you want to continue enjoying eating fish. Although there is no explicit environmental or animal rights message in the film, it is none the less very effective in conveying the brutality of the slaughter of the fish and the implicit toll taken on the ocean.

It's a film that will be remembered long after the closing credits have ended (credits that list not only all the crew members of the boat but all the species of bird and fish that appear).

Leviathan is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

2040, 27 June and 1440, 29 June both at Cineworld.

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.

Monday 24 June 2013

Old Stories, New Interpretations

In the ancient Persian epic poem Shahnama, an evil king seeks out people to feed to snakes until a just and virtuous man offers himself as a sacrifice.The poem has a lot to say about the abuse of political power, which is why a young Tehran based theatre group have adapted it into a play that they want to tour round Iran. Of course, this being Iran they have to get it past the censors!

A Play for Freedom is a vibrant, inspiring documentary that follows the theatre group as they tour in their huge truck that opens out into a stage. They travel through the stunning mountain scenery of rural Iran to take the show to villages and small towns where the residents have never seen theatre before. It is clear from the rapt expressions on the children's faces that they are captivated.

The film is beautifully edited, with performances of the play intercut with scenes from rehearsal, arguments between the cast about censorship, scenes from the bustling city life of Tehran and interviews with the cast.

It's interesting that even after the censors have seen the show, it still has a very relevant political message for today. The children may not entirely appreciate the political message but there is also a strong message about speaking your mind and the women in the cast offer inspiring role models for the girls and women in the audience.

A film for anyone interested in the power of theatre and the effect of censorship (a very different film in the film festival that also focuses on censorship in Iran is Fron Tehran to London, which I reviewed here). 

A similar ancient story about the misuses of power forms the basis for the Chinese film Emperor Visits the Hell. In this case, the source material is the Ming Dynasty classic Journey to the West, which in the film is retold using contemporary characters. The Emperor is now a calligrapher, the Dragon King a petty mobster.

The film is beautifully shot in monochrome, moving from a beautiful lake to claustrophobic interior settings. The story is told with a wonderful deadpan humour, which shows up the absurd contrast between the human and supernatural roles of each character. In ancient times it was much more commonplace to think that supernatural beings walked amongst us and that we could move with ease between the earth, heaven and hell. This film shows how odd those beliefs seem when interwoven into a contemporary setting, but also highlights how people can see themselves as much more important than their everyday roles allow them to be.

Both these films make the viewer appreciate the value and relevance of ancient literature.

These films are showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

A Play for Freedom: 2030, 26 June and 1300, 29 June both at Cineworld.

Emperor Visits the Hell: 1815, 26 June (Filmhouse) and 1945, 29 June at Cineworld.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings of these films.

Sunday 23 June 2013


Set in Portaran, a small coastal town in Dumfries and Galloway, Blackbird centres on Ruadhan, a young man with a real interest in the old Scottish songs. He idolises the town's bard, Alec, and loves to sit in the cafe listening to the singers. He is devastated when one of the old singers dies and becomes determined to learn the songs so he can preserve them for the future. The older singers, however, seem reluctant to share their songs.

Meanwhile, the fish are mysteriously dying and there are few jobs so the young people are leaving the village. Ruadhan doesn't like seeing things changing around him, least of all the incomers with their idea for a trendy new cafe, which he thinks will destroy the traditional social hub that centres on the old cafe. At the same time his commitment to the past is quite passive and despite his love of music, he isn't keen to sing in public.

Will Ruadhan overcome his shyness and develop his talents? Will he commit to staying in town to play a positive role in preserving the local traditions? Or will he join the other young people in the long exodus from town?

It's a beautifully shot film with a soundtrack of music by the Scottish musician Martyn Bennett. The story though is unremittingly downbeat. I felt the film could have been more positive and upbeat without betraying the essential truth about the situation in many areas of rural Scotland. Wouldn't it nice to have a film of this type that not only represents the present as it is but also inspires a confidence that we can create a vibrant future that celebrates our traditions?

Blackbird is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

2050, 25 June (at Filmhouse) and 1825, 27 June (Cineworld) (I think both screenings are sold out, but expect the film will get general release in Scottish cinemas at least).

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Yellow Flag irises

Yellow Flag irises, Inverleith Park. 

Having a wee break from the Edinburgh International Film Festival! You can read my film reviews so far by following the links below:

Big Boy, a film about family life, growth and development in the Phillipines

Kiss the Water, a film about salmon flies and fishing in Scotland

Lilou's Adventure, a film from Japan about growing up and belonging

Cycle, a film centring on a sheep washing contest in Turkey

From Tehran to London, a film about gender relations and censorship in Iran

Three films about cities and art.

Three films about our relationship with nature.

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

Edinburgh international Film Festival - Big Boy

A couple in the Phillipines are obsessed with making their young son grow, so they pull on his limbs and feed him with a 'growth serum'. Set against archive footage of the neo-colonail aid given to the Phillipines by the USA during the period after the Second World war, this is an interesting exploration of the idea that bigger is necessarily better and whether development should be foisted on a country by an outside power or whether it should be indigenous.

There are beautiful shots here of the Phillipines tropical forest and interesting scenes of family life. But the film has a very homemade and structureless feel that either adds authenticity or just irritates depending on your point of view.

Big Boy is showing as part of the Edinburgh international Film Festival:

1820, 24 June and 1700, 30 June both at Filmhouse.

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.

Friday 21 June 2013

Edinburgh International Film Festival - Kiss the Water

I've always been fascinated by fishing flies. One of my uncles built up a very successful business making and selling fishing flies and when I was young being intrigued by the examples hanging on the walls of his house. Also I've become much more aware of fishing since becoming a volunteer for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust (which manages a trout fishery along the river).

So I was very interested to see this film, which is a tribute to Megan Boyd, a legendary maker of fishing flies who lived in the Scottish Highlands and died aged 86 in 2001. Ms Boyd was quite an enigmatic and private person so not a huge amount seems to be known about her which left the biographical element of the film a little sparse. We were given a series of unnamed talking heads who spoke, not always with insight and sometimes repeating each other.

The interviews were interspersed with brief discussions on fishing as a pastime, the biology of salmon and the work that Ms Boyd did for Prince Charles. All against a background of shots of the beautiful rivers of the Scottish Highlands and oil painted animations. I would have preferred the underwater shots and animations to have been more 'nature study' and less 'impressionistic moving water' and a bit more about the salmon's biology would have been nice too. Not to mention filling in those of us who aren't seasoned anglers on questions such as the difference between a trout fly and a salmon fly? (Ms Boyd only ever made salmon flies).

Ms Boyd never went fishing - she couldn't bear to think of her fishing flies being used to kill fish. (She was drawn into making the flies because she thought they were pretty, which I can understand). These days anglers in Scottish waters are encouraged to throw their fish back into the water, but even that must harm them to some degree.

The most interesting part of the film for me was watching the making of the flies, alongside the listing of the materials and techniques. It's a skilled craft to make these tiny works of art. But think of all the feathers the old style fishing flies used, alongside the millinery business, they must have put a lot of pressure on the populations of some species of birds! Modern fishing flies use fur from deer or squirrels, which obviously still has issues!

So this is a film I had quite mixed feelings about, but if you're interested in fishing it's definitely worth seeing.

Kiss the Water is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film festival,

1730, 23 June and 1815, 25 June both at Cineworld.

You can read today's other film reviews by following the links below:

Lilou's Adventure.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and I attended free press screenings for these films. 

Edinburgh International Film Festival - Cycle

You've got to love a film that centres on a sheep washing contest.....

Cycle is a fictionalised documentary focussed on the annual sheep washing contest in the Turkish village of Hasanpasa. Characters are mostly played by local people, so there is a real sense of authenticity about the story. Preparation for the contest starts with collecting red stones to make a dye that the sheep are painted in. Then the sheep parade (at top speed) through the village and into a pond where they're washed. There's a festive atmosphere around the event, which is televised and endlessly discussed in the village.

Ali, a young shepherd from the village, becomes disillusioned when he fails to win the competition and he leaves the village to seek his fortune in the town. However, the only work he can find is in an abbatoir, and having to take part in large scale mechanised slaughter of the animals he loves makes him reconsider and he returns home to the village, where, still disatisfied with shepherding, he takes a job with a mining company.  The company is threatening the traditional life of the village, not least by restricting access to the source of the rocks for the red sheep dye (will Ali be happy working for them?).

This is a beautifully made, insightful film that offers a sense of optimism and hope that the younger generation can learn from the past and use it to inform a fulfilling future for themselves. There's also a beautiful circularity (implied in the title) that sees the film end up where it started (both at the sheep washing contest and with the symbolic appearance of a beautiful deer) but with everything changed.

Cycle is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

2140, 23 June and 1805, 24 June both at Cineworld.

Earlier today, I reviewed Lilou's Adventure

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings for these films.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Satin chopstick bag

I've just made another chopstick bag. This one is made from a satin fabric with a lovely floral pattern on it, that I repurposed from a robe. (You may recognise the fabric as the same one I used to make this wrist cuff.) I then added a pretty black velvet bow to the front and threaded through some black cord to make the drawstring.

It's an ideal way to carry around a pair of re-usable chopsticks so you can avoid having to use the disposable ones that are the usual cutlery choice in many Chinese restaurants. (Many disposable chopsticks are made from the products of forest destruction, though to be fair some are made from waste wood from the construction industry).

You can now find this chopstick bag in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I'm just seen From Tehran to London, another film in the Edinburgh International Film Festival, you can read my review on my Shapeshifting Green Blog.

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

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2: Cities and Art

Taboor is billed as 'indescribably strange Iranian sci-fi' and it certainly is weird, though I'm not sure that it's really sci-fi. The opening shows the protagonist in his aluminium foil lined bunker as he gets dressed in an aluminium suit and other protective gear. He then walks out into the night to pursue his job as a pest controller, patrolling vast old buildings with endless corridors and never-ending spiral staircases.

However, despite what the bunker might imply, life out there in the city seems normal, there are lots of cars in the streets, and though there aren't many people out walking, those that are, are dressed normally. The emergency services seem to work efficiently and the hospital is well equipped with modern technology. So is the pest controller paranoid? Is he hypersensitive to microwave radiation? Is his health deteriorating due to overexposure to pesticides?Is he in fact purely a symbolic figure?

The film doesn't answer all the questions it poses, but it offers a fascinating perspective of city life and how it affects us.

A different perspective on city life is offered by the quirky documentary Yumen. This is a cinematic exploration of the Chinese city of Yumen. The city became rich when oil was discovered locally, but when the wells ran dry, the city became largely depopulated. The film shows us the desolate landscape, the pollution remaining from the abandoned oil refineries, the endless blocks of abandoned flats, the strangely beautiful geometries of the abandoned oil workings. Then suddenly we notice a young woman dancing in the valley, then another young woman, dressed in yellow, reciting poetry from the top of a pile of rubble, a young man perches on a concrete column and performs gymnastics. People are painting portraits on the walls of an old community centre and start singing as they wander through the city market (which is lively and vibrant). It seems to be all for the sake of the film, but does hint at a rich cultural life thriving in the areas of the city that haven't been abandoned. Oh and about a third of the way through the film, a happy group of well fed rabbits hop around a yard, eating hay.

At one and the same time, this is a desperately sad film and one that is full of hope that art can bring life back into declining cities.


Art is at the centre of Breathing Earth a documentary about the Japanese artist Susumu Shingu. As the title suggests, the film focuses on the artist's international tour to try and find a location for his Breathing Earth project, an environmental activity centre to be powered by artistically designed wind turbines. Personally I have to admit that it would seem more environmentally friendly to allow those kind of projects to emerge organically from a local area, rather than be imposed by an international artist, no matter his eco-credentials.

That aside, this is an excellent film. Shingu is an artist who is truly inspired by nature, from his beautiful paintings to his kinetic sculptures and he inspires children to think about art and nature through workshops.

Shingu's sculptures are mesmerising, delicate looking forms that swivel and soar in the air as they are captured by the wind. Some of them are fully functional wind turbines or air conditioning systems too, demonstrating that technology and aesthetics can go hand in hand.

Alongside the footage of Shingu's sculptures are images of nature - flower seed heads floating on the breeze, the wind moving through fields and stunning images of Monarch butterflies in a Mexican forest. There's also a wonderful scene of an insect (a cricket I think it was) crawling round one of Shingu's sculptures as it moved in the breeze.

A wonderfully inspiring film for anyone who loves art and nature. 

Taboor is showing 1800, 21 June at Cineworld and 1945, 25 June at Filmhouse

Yumen is showing 2005, 21 June and 1345, 23 June both at Cineworld

Breathing Earth is showing 1800, 26 June at Filmhouse and 1240, 30 June at Cineworld

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings of these films.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Edinburgh International Film Festival Day 1: 3 films about our relationship with nature

This years Edinburgh International Film Festival started for me this morning with the excellent eco-thriller The East. Brit Marling plays Jane, a former FBI agent who is now a privately employed spy who has become known as Sarah to infiltrate The East, a small gang of eco-activists, who are acting on largely personal grudges against big pharmaceutical and chemical companies. Despite herself, Sarah becomes sucked into the life of the group, though she never seems quite at ease with their self sufficient lifestyle that involves eating roadkill and out-of-date food from dumpsters and a rather terrifyingly DIY approach to first aid and surgery.

As she spends time with the East, Sarah finds her loyalties becoming divided, as she becomes close to the group members and starts to feel sympathy for some of their ideas and attitidues. She tries to persuade them against their more extreme actions.They claim to be acting on the fair principle of 'an eye for an eye' as they poison the employees of a pharmaceutical company with that company's own drugs or push the Chief Executive of a chemicals company into the toxic slurry pond outside her own factory.

The corporate examples chosen are all too believable, and given the lack of success of many non-violent direct actions, the stance of a group such as the East is understandable even as we deplore their methods. They are also admirably consistent in aiming to live a self sufficient lifestyle as they attack the corporate world (though they do have nice clothes and the accessories to go with them (including a nice car) for when they need to blend in with the corporate world as they attack it from inside).

Will Sarah let her romantic feelings for charismatic group leader Benji pull her deeper into The East or will she let her loyalties to her employer and boyfriend pull her back into her old life as Jane? Or will she find the strength to create her own alternative way to fight for environmental justice?

An area sorely in need of someone to fight for environmental justice is Salto di Quirra in Sardinia, the subject of my second film of the day, the documentary Dark Matter. This is a poetic, impressionistic film with no spoken narrative, a style that I find can often lead to irritating or underwhelming films. In this case however, we have a powerful and moving exploration of the uneasy relationship between the largest military rocket testing range in Europe and the rural communities surrounding it in this bleakly beautiful area. The viewer is shown scenes of rural life intercut with rocket launches, chemical analyses and a lengthy dissection of a mouse. A voice-over at one point outlines how the area is contaminated with radioactive thorium. The most moving part of the film centres on a beautiful, but fatally ill white calf, who is suffering birth defects believed to have been caused by the thorium. The calf's mother has a history of aborting all her previous calves. The farm owners have no choice but to stay and try to make a living from the poisoned land.

After that start to the morning I felt the need for something a little lighter. Mushrooming is a dark comedy about post-soviet politics in Estonia. Estonian politician Aadu escapes the stresses of an appearing in a stupid tv game show (to try and make himself more popular) by going into the woods to pick mushrooms with his wife. Along the way they pick up a hitch-hiking rock star and eventually all of them end up lost in the forest (having decided that a mushroom picking 'theme park' was too commercial for them and escaping to a remote and unexplored forest). 

The weaknesses of town dwellers who are unprepared for survival in the forest soon become apparent. The three adventurers can't even find any mushrooms, though a local woman saunters past them with a basket brim full of mushrooms! When they realise they are well and truly lost Aadu daren't phone the emergency services as he doesn't want the story to hit the headlines.

An encounter with a forest dweller leads to a nasty situation that quickly ecalates out of control. Finally the trio are rescued and taken back to the city, but will the PR people around Aadu be able to rescue his reputation after all this drama (not to mention the expenses scandal that emerged while he was away in the woods)?

These three films taken together offered a very thought provoking exploration of our relationship with the natural world!
The East is showing 1800, 20 June and 1315, 23 June both at Cineworld.

Dark Matter is showing 2045, 20 June and 1925, 22 June both at Cineworld.

Mushrooming is showing 1820, 20 June at Filmhouse and 1445, 22 June at Cineworld.

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings of these films.

Monday 17 June 2013

Monday Bunday - a Bonus Blogpost

It's beautiful by the Water of Leith at the moment! The flowers are dramatically in bloom everywhere! This lovely buttercup field is part of the 'Hidden Meadow' next to Redhall Gardens (which were originally the kitchen gardens of the Redhall Estate that used to own this area, but now are run as a therepeutic horticultural project by Scottish Association for Mental Health).

Deep in the Hidden Meadow, somewhere behind the wild rosebush in this photo, and safely protected by a thick layer of brambles, is the rabbit warren. I watched a rabbit today, it seemed quite without fear as I wandered around, picking up litter and taking photos. For some reason though it didn't like the idea of being photographed itself and it disappeared off into the bramble patch...

The Edinburgh International Film Festival starts on Wednesday. I have my, by now traditional, press pass and will be watching and reviewing at least 20 films over the next couple of weeks. I'll be sharing the reviews between this blog and my Shapeshifting Green blog. The festival programme looks great!

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

Beaded bookmark with forget-me-not charm

This is my latest beaded bookmark (and likely my last for a while as I'm running out of seed beads). There's a small forget-me-not floral charm on one end of this one! It's made from repurposed fishing line and beads from my stash.

It's now available to buy in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

When I first set up my Etsy shop I undercharged on postage costs and ended up 'out of pocket' on a couple of items. Then I overcompensated and have had to refund some postage costs. So I've been through the whole shop and I think my postage costs are all reasonable now. Of course, as it states in my shop policies, I'll still refund any excess postage (over 50p / $1).

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

Sunday 16 June 2013

Two bridges

I love the juxtaposition of these two bridges on the Penicuik to Dalkeith Walkway. You can see more of my photos of the route here.

For Sunday Bridges

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

Saturday 15 June 2013

The Write Practice: 14 prompts by Joe Bunting

This workbook is made up of fourteen writing prompts. Why so few? "Because this workbook is more an exercise in seeing than a list of ideas to get your story started." says author Joe Bunting. 
I like the philosophy of the book, centred on observation: 
'Making a career out of writing is a noble dream ..... but what is nobler still is the person awake to the breeze on a cool fall day; the person who can hear joy in a child’s voice; the person who can look out at the morning filled with that haze and half-light that mornings have; who can see the silhouettes of trees, the outlines of birds; who can hear the birds and the crickets and the life of morning, and see them. Just see them. Really see them. How can I convey whatit is to see? How can I show you that there is nothing more than this moment and that it is good'

This book is based on content from The Write Practice, a practical website aimed at encouraging aspiring writers to practice their craft. The exercises are designed to be used in a group (so I may well try them out with a writing class sometime in the future!)

The fourteen prompts are varied and engaging: I liked the fact that there were prompts on being inspired by birds and autumn! As well as the actual prompt material itself, they also include practical tips on how to improve as a writer, for example, how to improve your focus. There are also questions to encourage self analysis so you can understand your own writing style better. 
There's some overlap in material with Let's Write a Short Story (by the same author) which I reviewed here.

Both of these books are likely to make you sit down, pick up your pen and start writing. 

Thanks to Story Cartel for my free download of The Write Practice: 14 Prompts by Joe Bunting.

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

Friday 14 June 2013

Penicuik to Dalkeith via the old railway line

Last weekend Crafty Green Boyfriend and I discovered the lovely walkway from Penicuik to Dalkeith that goes along an old railway line. Here are some of the highlights:

The path passes by the Woodland Trust owned Beeslack Woods so we had a detour round these pretty woods.

These ponds (above) are being restored in the woods, while the fungi below look unseasonally autumnal!.

we heard yellowhammers calling at this part of the walk.

the hawthorn bushes were in full bloom, we particularly liked this one with its blooms which are much more pinkish than usual.

we heard skylarks singing above these fields between Bonnyrigg and Dalkeith (a stretch of the walk that is otherwise very built up). Hopefully these fields won't be eaten up by the expansion og Bonnyrigg and will remain a pleasant green space for wildlife.

the signposts for the route are very poor at the Dalkeith end of the walk as there are diversions due to a new railway line being built! We're not sure whether this woodland was officially part of the route but it's very pretty anyway.

The walk is 9 miles in length (and most confusingly the signposts alternated between miles and kilometres!) so we were ready for lunch when we arrived in Dalkeith! 

Inspired by all these Spring flowers, I've just added another beaded bookmark to my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, this one has a forget-me-not flower charm on one end!

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

Thursday 13 June 2013

chopstick bag from repurposed kimono fabric

This is my latest craft project using the fabric that you may remember from such previous examples as this, this and this. It's an ideal way to carry around a pair of re-usable chopsticks so you can avoid having to use the disposable ones that are the usual cutlery choice in many Chinese restaurants. (Many disposable chopsticks are made from the products of forest destruction, though to be fair some are made from waste wood from the construction industry). There's a slightly odd article here about how taking your own chopsticks can help save the environment, which gives you some idea of the scale of the problesm caused by disposable chopsticks. 

A couple of days ago, I sold a chopstick bag on my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop so yesterday I added this one to the shop here.

(After a very slow start, my Etsy shop is now going quite well, with steady sales. It's still a very small shop though and very varied.)

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

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Signs of Birds

I love this sign at Caelaverock WWT (Wildfowl and Wetland Trust) reserve. The signs point to places important for the migrating birds (including Senegal where the ospreys spend their winters and Spitsbergen where the geese spend their summers).

Meanwhile the common sandpiper below added interest to this sign in the grounds of the Friars Carse hotel where we spent the second half of our recent Dumfries and Galloway holiday. (Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo, which when clicked on will appear bigger, giving you a better view of the sandpiper!).

For Signs Signs

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Spring birds

Birds are at their most active at this time of the year. When we were staying at the Friars Carse Hotel just outside Dumfries we were delighted to see a pair of blue tits nesting in quite a strange place outside our bedroom window. (Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo, hopefully if you click on it, you'll get a better view!)

At one point the entrance hole to the nest site was blocked by what looked like a suction device, it was quite upsetting to see the blue tit parents trying to peck their way through the device. luckily it was removed quite speedily and the birds continued feeding their young. We didn't see the young leave the nest, but we are pretty sure that they did leave safely.

When we were in the Wood of Cree, Dumfries and Galloway, we watched blue tits fledging from a nest, it was so sweet to see them jumping out one at a time into the branches, watched by their parents.

At Dalswinton Wood just outside Dumfries, we saw two tiny treecreeper fledglings that were shuffling round the tree trunk following their parents who would every so often push food into the mouth of one of the fledglings.

Of course not all birds look after their offspring so well. We heard cuckoos a couple of times while we were in Dumfries and Galloway, including by the river near Clatteringshaws Loch (see photo below). At the same time we heard the lovely song of the willow warbler, which is one of the birds that the cuckoo is most likely to parasitise by laying its eggs in the warblers nest.

Back home, on a recent trip up Arthur's Seat, we watched a jackdaw pair for a while as they flew in and out of a gap between stones in a wall, the nestlings in the nest (hidden away in the gap) made quite some noise as their parents fed them!

Then on a recent walk through the Dells along the Water of Leith, we were deighted to see that treecreepers are nesting in one of the nestboxes that volunteers of the Water of Leith Conservation Trust put up earlier in the year. Interesting though, that the treecreepers chose a nestbox that is designed for blue tits, and in fact I'd seen blue tits checking out this box earlier in the year.

For Nature Notes

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

Monday 10 June 2013

Woodlands Matter!

Wood of Cree, Dumfries and Galloway

 As you will have noticed, particularly from my recent posts about our holiday in Dumfries and Galloway, I love woodlands and forests. They are beautiful places to relax and offer wonderful habitats for birds and other wildlife. Trees and woods also provide real value for money and help meet many policy challenges, from health to housing to the economy, just by being them.

So therefore it's vital to ensure that the UKs woodlands don't face cuts in the next UK Government Spending Review.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP has a lot of difficult choices to make in the upcoming Spending Review. 

We need to make sure that woodlands and trees don't suffer from severe cuts - last year they were faced with a 30% overall reduction. The settlement DEFRA (the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs) receives in the Spending Review includes funds to enable the Forestry Commission to provide grants for woodland expansion and management. These grants ensure, for example, that adequate funding is in place for the 5,000ha per year of planting that the Government has identified as necessary to achieve its goal of 12% woodland cover by 2060 (we are currently at 10%, one of the least wooded countries in Europe!). It also pays for vital research and continues the fight against tree diseases.

In their latest campaign, the Woodland Trust have created a play on the iconic banknote for supporters to send to the Treasury, as a reminder of the enormous return we reap when we choose to invest in trees, woods and forests. You can send your note via email or download a copy to post it straight to the Treasury today! Take action here.

The Spending Review will be announced on June 26th.

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

Sunday 9 June 2013

Wood of Cree

Last year when we visited Dumfries and Galloway, our only really good weather occured on our trip to the beautiful Wood of Cree RSPB reserve near Newton Stewart. This time, our only bad weather occured on our visit to the same wood! We had hoped to find all 70 of the woods summering pairs of pied flycatchers to be dancing in a sunlit glade during our visit, but obviously they were hiding because of the dull weather.

Wood of Cree is mostly a beautiful oak wood

with a lovely stream running through it, edged with plants such as wood sedge as shown in the photo below:

it's also interesting geologically as there are several erratic boulders in the woods, that were deposited there during the Ice Ages:

On this visit we were also able to visit the scrub area of the reserve (which last year had been cordoned off due to an infection in some of the trees). This is a lovely open area, where we saw spotted flycatchers and I think we heard cuckoos here too.

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

Saturday 8 June 2013

Giddy Goats, Delightful Donkeys, Happy Horses

For some reason we've never before stopped off at the Farm Cafe which is on one of the main roads out of Dumfries, but I think in the future, it will need to be a regular stop. It's a lovely wee cafe (yes a real cafe! see Mimi's comment below!) set amongst fields with farm animals. Here's Crafty Green Boyfriend feeding his new friends:

 and this is a portrait of our favourite
meanwhile the donkeys looked on 

Near our first hotel, we had discovered a couple of beautiful ponies

while in Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, there was a lot of Equisetum (horsetail). These are amazing ancient plants and I love the way they look when growing in profusion. Here are two of the different species we saw.

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

Friday 7 June 2013

Dragons and Damsels

We visited the Caerlaverock Wildfowl and Wetland (WWT) Reserve while we were in the Dumfries area. Our first hotel was literally on the reserve's doorstep (though we hadn't quite realised how close it was until we got there!).

We first wandered round the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve (NNR) enjoying the sounds of skylarks singing (laverock means skylark) and seeing lots of reed buntings in the reeds. Then we walked through Castle Woods (more bluebells!) and looked at Caerlaverock Castle before going to the WWT reserve. the reserve is most famous for its geese, which are winter visitors and so weren't there when we visited. However, we were treated to a wonderful spectacle of dragonflies and damselflies!

We had climbed up the three storey bird hide, which gives wonderful views right across the reserve so you can see all the geese when they're there. It also gives wonderful views of the woodland canopy, which on our visit was full of more dragonflies and damselflies than I've ever seen before! We didn't take photos from up there, but I did capture these close ups. (I'm not an expert on dragonfly and damselfly id so if you think my id is wrong, please let me know!).

 Four spotted chaser
 large red damselfly
This isn't a common blue damselfly as I had originally thought but an azure damselfly. Thans to WWT Caerlaverock for correcting my id via Twitter!

Thursday 6 June 2013

Beautiful Bluebells and Brilliant Birds

We're just back from a lovely few days in Dumfries and Galloway. It's our favourite holiday destination, there are so many lovely woods and coastal areas to explore. We usually visit in August, when the area's famously clear night skies mean we can stargaze and watch for meteors. This time though, I'd been reading about some of the birds that we miss by always visiting in late summer, so we planned our spring visit with care, even listing specific woodlands and the birds we might see there.

We were very lucky in our visit to Mabie Woods in seeing pied flycatcher and redstart almost immediately and hearing wood warblers soon afterwards. So that was three of the main species on the list checked off immediately! It was particularly lovely to see the pied flycatcher flying round a sunny woodland glade! The other bird on the list was the crossbill, which still remains elusive. I know many places where we should be able to see crossbills, but so far I never have!

Something that we hadn't planned for the holiday was the richness of the bluebells! This year the spring has been late and we couldn't have possibly predicted when we would see the bluebells at their best. However we were so lucky, almost every wood we walked through was a mass of bluebells, shimmering under the trees and scenting the air with their wonderful hyacinth scent.

In August, many of the woodland areas in Dumfries and Galloway are a mass of Himalayan Balsam, an invasive non-native plant with a pretty flower and a vile smell, which takes over and drowns out anything else. It was so lovely to wander round these same woodlands and to see not only bluebells but also a wealth of other spring flowers.

I'll be blogging more about our visit in the next few days!