Wednesday 29 August 2018

The Gleaners and I - film review

 Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (film).jpg

I have no idea why I didn't see this film when it was released in 2000, but I was very happy to catch up with it in the Agnes Varda series at Edinburgh's Filmhouse.

The Gleaners and I is a film about gleaning (defined by Wikipedia as 'the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest' but the film takes a broader interpretation than that).

Varda takes us on a wonderfully quirky tour of gleaning in its many manifestations, starting with a brief history of agricultural gleaning, highlighting paintings that have featured gleaners and meeting some modern day gleaners. Modern day gleaners range from travellers who turn up to pick through rejected potatoes, to a top chef whose grandparents taught him to glean and uses it still as a way of sourcing local ingredients for his restaurant to urban gleaners who pick up leftovers from markets as an ethical stance.

Expanding beyond the original agricultural roots of gleaning, Varda visits artists who make sculptures and artworks out of recycled materials and people who pick up dumped fridges and furniture to repair it and give it away or sell it.

She also considers the idea that she is, herself, as a film maker, a gleaner, picking up scraps of observations and ideas from wherever she can to weave them into a film.

This is an inspiring film full of ideas on how to make the most of the materials around us and how to reduce waste while shining a light onto the scandal of food waste and our throwaway society and at the same time highlighting how difficult life is for some people who are forced to glean to find enough food to survive.

The Gleaners and I is showing again tomorrow as part of the Agnes Varda season at Edinburgh Filmhouse. Go and see it!

Tuesday 28 August 2018

First Reformed - film review

 First Reformed

Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) is the ailing and troubled minister of First Reformed a  historically important church with a tiny congregation. He is counselling a parishoner Michael, who is an eco activist depressed about the state of the world and uncertain whether he and his wife Mary should bring a child into the world. Toller finds himself drawn more and more into Michael's world view, becoming obsessed with Michael's query 'will God forgive us what we have done to the earth?'

As First Reformed approaches its 250th Anniversary reconsecration (bankrolled by a local businessman whose company flaunts its eco-credentials despite being listed as one of the most polluting companies on the planet) Toller becomes more and more ill and more and more troubled.

Can Toller find sanity and a constructive way to address environmental degradation within his role as a minister or will he finally go off the rails, taking others with him?

This is a finely acted drama that asks important questions about the church's relationship with the earth and it's attitude to consumerism, power and money. Not to mention how the church looks after her own people.

First Reformed is showing at the Edinburgh Filmhouse tomorrow and Thursday.

In the Hidden Meadow

Just off the main Water of Leith Walkway next to the Redhall Gardens is the Hidden Meadow

 which is full of trees including this whitebeam

It's a place loved by birds, the trees and bushes in the photo below were today full of bullfinches though you can't see them in the photo

There's also a bird cherry tree, which always lives up to its name by being full of birds! It's beautiful when it's in bloom in the Spring. 

The meadow is a always a lovely part of the walk along the river.

Monday 27 August 2018


traffic junction –
carrion crows hitch a lift
on the wind


Previously published in Shamrock 31

Sunday 26 August 2018

Perth to Scone via the river path

Earlier in the week we spent a lovely couple of days in Perth. One of the walks we did was from Perth to Scone via the riverside walk along the stream in the Quarrymill Woodland Park. The walk starts at the Macmillan Coffee Shop (raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Care), which has a  nice selection of scones and other cakes (though you have to go to Scone Palace for the famous Scone of Destiny). We sat outside near the beautiful flower boxes where several hoverflies (like the marmalade hoverfly below) were gathering

The riverside walk is lovely

and is similar to Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith (where I regularly volunteer) in being an old industrial site that has largely been reclaimed by nature. This area originally included a sandstone quarry and several mills.

There was a lot of cuckoo pint around, including this impressive clump

We met up with a small herd of beautiful cattle

It's a lovely walk and you reach Scone Village quite quickly though the Palace is further away and we didn't get there this time but turned back and returned to Perth.

Saturday 25 August 2018

Mist on Kinnoull Hill

Earlier this week we spent a few days in Perth, one of our favourite places for a short break away. One of the main reasons for visiting Perth is to climb Kinnoull Hill. This week the whole hill was shrouded in a wonderfully atmospheric mist

The usually spectacular view from the summit had disappeared

the ruins looked particularly spooky

though eventually the mist started to lift, revealing the River Tay in the distance

The hill is scattered with wood carvings

fungi are dotted around too

and there are spiders' webs everywhere

A lovely walk!

Thursday 23 August 2018

Almondell Country Park and Calder Wood

We've just spent a lovely couple of days in Perth and I'll blog about that in the next couple of days! In the meantime though I thought I'd share some photos of today's trip to Almondell Country Park in West Lothian.

Usually when we visit the park we walk round the Calder Wood but today we walked along the river

to the visitor centre

which has a lovely garden with a busy bird feeder (here a coal tit and young blue tit are feeding quite happily together - you can tell the blue tit is young because it has a yellow rather than white face)
and some interesting fungi in the lawns

and a sign asking people to shut the gate to keep out the hungry bunnies!

The weather was quite wet so insects were more difficult to see than they would have been on a sunny day but this seven spot ladybird didn't seem to mind the rain

There were lots of birds everywhere, including long tailed tits, treecreepers and nuthatches and many of them were youngsters but other than those at the feeder above none of them were happy to be photographed!

Sunday 19 August 2018

The Bright Flowers of Figgate Park

Figgate Park is a lovely park in the east of Edinburgh, that runs along part of the length of the Figgate Burn

It is generally an excellent place to see birds, though yesterday there weren't a great number. It was nice to see that the mute swans have raised five cygnets to adolescence

and this young moorhen enjoyed posing for us, showing off it's feet, which are lobed unlike the more familiar webbed feet of ducks, swans and geese

The floral borders are looking stunning at the moment

and are full of hoverflies, including our first ever sighting of a dark form of the very common marmalade hoverfly (more usually predominantly an orange insect)

and a Myathropa florea

as well as a pied hoverfly on the buddleia, which might be expected to be covered in butterflies, but which wasn't.

There were several ladybirds around, including this one that has found a cosy looking resting place

Thursday 16 August 2018

Sunshine and Rain in the Dells

The weather was very changeable today, luckily I had put a rain jacket in my rucksack!

When the sun came out it was lovely! These flowers in Spylaw Park were basking in the sunlight

and attracting lots of hoverflies like this pied hoverfly

At the other end of the Dells, this grey heron was roosting in its favourite tree

Herons somehow always look too big for the trees they sit (and nest!) in.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Malindi Beach

Even now, my chitenje* smells of the beach,
that particular beach,
like your shirt I used to sleep with
smelt of you ten weeks after you had left.

I can still see the mountains
across the lake, blurring
into distant blue
or leaping sharply
into focus
depending on the light.

Side by side on the scented beach,
we watched the sun sink
and glow worms write
love poems in morse.

Ten years on,
memories of you are elusive
as the mountains,
indecipherable as code.

*chitenje is the cloth worn by women in Malawi

This poem was previously published in my pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing and first appeared on this blog in 2007

 Today I also reposted an old poem over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here

If you like my poetry you can now buy me a virtual coffee on Ko-Fi.

Monday 13 August 2018

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

 The House Between Tides

This is an impressive debut from Scottish author Sarah Maine.

In 2010 Hetty returns to her family home on a remote island of the Hebrides after her parents die. She needs to decide the future of the house but soon realises that it is not her decision alone. Her story is interwoven with that of her distant relative Beatrice, a forward thinking socialist and her husband, the renowned naturalist and painter Theodore Blake, set in the early 20th century.

The various stories of the family of the house mix in with the stories of the other islanders. There is inevitable conflict between the house owners, the local community and the wildlife of the island.The stories from the two time periods reflect each other both in terms of these conflicts and also the specific relationships between Hetty and Beatrice with the islanders.

Beatrice, with her opinionated views and disregard for convention is a much stronger character than Hetty, who is far too passive. 

The book is full of beautiful and well observed descriptions of weather, landscape and wildlife.

"They left the dunes and dropped down onto the beach, sending up a cloud of shore waders which rose only to settle again a few yards further on. And he guided her past a shallow scoop in the sand where three eggs lay camouflaged among the small stones, drawing her away as the parent bird appeared from nowhere, piping stridently, feinting an attack."

 As well as the political insights and beautiful descriptions there is a beautifully drawn love affair and a mysterious dead body. It's a book that's well worth reading though perhaps one that isn't quite sure which genre it fits into.

The House Between Tides by Sarah Main published by Freight Books (2016)

Saturday 11 August 2018

North Berwick

To birdwatchers in Scotland, North Berwick is famous for the Bass Rock, which at this time of year is white with nesting gannets.

Gannets are one of the few species of sea birds that are doing well at the moment. They're increasing  in numbers whereas many other species are declining. This is partly because gannets can travel further to find food than many other species and also as other species decline and desert their nesting sites the gannets move in and take over the nest sites.

North Berwick also has lovely beaches. We travelled there today in a crowded train but most people went into the town while we walked along the beach which was almost deserted

The beach was also pretty clean and free from plastic pollution. I collected a nice selection of sea pottery which I will put in my Crafty Green Magpie supply and vintage shop on Etsy.

There were plenty of birds around, including lots of pied wagtails flying round the beach chasing the insects, including several juveniles (see first of the photos below)

 as well as adults
The insects included this lovely small copper butterfly

and plenty of hoverflies including several marmalade hoverflies

North Berwick itself is a lovely town with a nice selection of cafes and craft shops. And it's just a short train journey away from the centre of Edinburgh.

Friday 10 August 2018

Granton Parish Church Grounds

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the wildlife in the grounds of Granton Parish Church where I work as Climate Change Officer for Granton Goes Greener.

Granton Parish Church has a lovely churchyard with a number of shrubs and trees that are great for wildlife.


Blackbirds have nested in the grounds and the flowering shrubs attract white butterflies and at least three species of bumble bees.

Plus a pied hoverfly visited recently! I tried to get its photo but it wouldn’t stay still so this is a photo of a pied hoverfly I saw in Spylaw Park recently. There are around 250 species of hoverflies in the UK, they’re fascinating insects that are harmless but mimic stinging insects such as wasps and bees.

Faith Action for Nature is a great project, encouraging churches in Scotland to look after wildlife and manage their grounds for nature. They have resources on their website – you can see the Summer resource pack here!

If you're interested in learning more about the work of Granton Goes Greener, you can:

Visit our website and read our blog (where an earlier version of this post appeared)

Like our Facebook Page or ask to join our Facebook group.

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