Wednesday 31 October 2018

Poet Laureate of the Forest Cafe Free Shop

The Forest Cafe is a long standing part of Edinburgh's alternative community. In it's first incarnation it was housed in a tenement in Forest Road and had a wonderful back room cafe which hosted the Golden Hour (a monthly evening of poetry, stories, music and cartoons were I once gave a poetry reading).

The Forest Cafe now is at Tollcross (you can see photos of this cafe in this blog post about the Quiet Forest Visual Poetry exhibition I was part of). The cafe serves a selection of vegetarian and vegan foods and hosts events and a free shop.

I'm delighted that I've been chosen as the first 'Poet Laureate of the Forest Cafe Free Shop' a week long role which will see me holding a writing workshop and a reading where I will talk about the free shop, read short stories and poetry and people who've been along to the workshop will also read poetry. I will also be in the cafe for large parts of the week, writing poetry, helping out in the cafe and organising the free shop (and possibly sneaking poetry into some of the items in the free shop!).

My poet laureateship will last from Tuesday 6 November to Monday 12 November. The writing workshop will be at 3pm Sunday 11 November (the Facebook event is here) and the poetry reading will be at 4pm Monday 12 November (the Facebook event is here). Feel free to come along to either of those events if you can and if you're around Tollcross any time that week feel free to pop in and see if I'm around!

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Bats in the Dells

This morning I joined Charlotte of Water of Leith Conservation Trust and Caroline of City of Edinburgh Council to walk along part of the river and survey the bat boxes which are positioned on several of the trees along the walkway. Caroline is licensed to handle bats, they're protected species so should not be disturbed at all without a licence.

First we had to find the bat boxes, some of which were more hidden away than others. Caroline then climbed into the trees to examine the boxes and clean them out

Several bat boxes contained lots of bat poo indicating that the box has been used recently, two contained birds nests and one contained a dead adult blue tit. It was only when we got to the final box though that we found bats, six pipistrelle bats to be exact. Caroline brought one of them down to show us - isn't it adorable!

She then gave it a quick health check, checking that it didn't have mites and then put it back into the box.

Although bats are slowing down at this time of year and will soon be hibernating, October is their mating season, the males will soon abandon the females who won't give birth until June (you can read more about the life cycle of bats here on the Bat Conservation Trust website).

I've been on several bat walks in Edinburgh, including a couple along the Water of Leith before but this is the first time in a very long time that I've actually been this close to one of these lovely animals.

For Nature Notes

Monday 29 October 2018

Saturday 27 October 2018

Autumnal Sunshine at Cammo

It's very cold today but otherwise beautiful weather, blue skies and sunshine, and no wind. We had a lovely walk through the fields at Cammo (some of which are sadly soon to disappear under houses)

There were plenty of birds in the fields and hedges including yellowhammer and tree sparrow and these stock doves

We then walked round Cammo Country Park which was remarkably free of mud, it's usually the muddiest place in Edinburgh but this year has been worryingly free of rain. The autumn colours are wonderful

 Plenty of birds here too including good numbers of redwings and fieldfares, I was slightly worried beforehand that we would be too early to see many of these two species of winter visiting thrushes, but I was delighted to be proven wrong. It was difficult to get photos as they were all flying around so much but here's one of the redwings

Lovely also to see this goldcrest 

 Lots of lovely Shadows for Shadow Shot Sunday

(see more shadows on my Shapeshifting Green Blog here).

Friday 26 October 2018

The Cultural Inheritance of my Hypothetical Granddaughter

Yellow butterflies drink salt from your tears,
drain your colours to monochrome.

Silence white margins your words
to endless winter.

Stillness so deep you can hear clouds
transmute to diamonds.

Check your shoes for black scorpions –
belief in Armageddon is self-fulfilling.

An end to all colour.

Previously published in The Journal and first posted on this blog in 2008. 

I just posted a poem and accompanying collage over on my Shapeshifting Green blog - you can see it here.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Hoppy Rabbit and Hare Thursday!

It's National Mammal Week! This event is organised by the Mammal Society to celebrate mammals and raise awareness of the issues they face in Great Britain. You can find out more here.

As many people reading this blog will know, we used to have a pet rabbit (Anya) so I am particularly happy to see that today has been chosen by the Mammal Society as Rabbit and Hare Thursday.

Although rabbits are a very common sight in Scotland they are not native, they were introduced here by the Romans (though stories vary about exactly when and how they were introduced). They have become naturalised and are an important prey species for many mammals and birds of prey. They seem to be less common at the moment than they were a few years ago, we certainly don't see as many rabbits in and around Edinburgh as we used to.

The brown hare was introduced to the country at about the same time as the rabbit. This means that only the mountain hare is native to the British Isles. This is a beautiful animal but is culled regularly because it conflicts with grouse moor management, this is totally unacceptable and unneccessary. Read more about the appalling mountain hare cull here.

And here's a photo of Anya, resting on her favourite rug - she was a very beautiful rabbit!


Monday 22 October 2018

How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog by Chad Orzel

 How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog

I won this book a couple of years ago as part of my prize in the Edinburgh Science Festival haiku competition. It's one of those books that I had mixed feelings about, mostly because I'm not really a dog person. So I only just a few weeks ago picked it up to read.

I should have read it sooner! This book is brilliant! Orzel (who is a professor of Physics) discusses Einstein's theory of relativity with Emmy his dog, who is curious about the world and interested in learning more about relativity especially if it can help her to catch more bunnies. Emmy acts as the interested pupil, asking questions that the reader may well have about the topic (though from an unmistakeably canine point of view). The dialogue has been used as a useful vehicle for exploring ideas from ancient Greece onwards and Galileo is a scientist who famously used dialogues to present some of his ideas.

One of the chapter headings in this engaging book about Einstein's Theories of Relativity sums up the author's approach 'Time Slows When You're Chasing Bunnies: Relatavistic Time Dilation'.

The humourous sections featuring Emmy (and a cast of other dogs, a self centred cat called Nero and  a host of probably very tired bunnies) act as introductions to each chapter which is then backed up with more in depth, rigorously scientific discussions of each aspect of relativity including black holes, spacetime and the expansion of space. The dog's point of view is cleverly woven into the more serious sections too, but in a way that helps the reader to see the science from a different and informative perspective.

The only thing missing from this book is an author photo of Orzel with Emmy.

How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog by Chad Orzel published by Basic Books (2012)

Saturday 20 October 2018

Ravens and autumn leaves on Arthurs Seat

We had a lovely walk round Arthurs Seat today. The view from the road down to Duddingston is lovely with the autumn colours

Just around here we saw a couple of ravens, though Crafty Green Boyfriend could only get one of them on film

Dunsapie Loch was quite choppy today

 but there were lots of Canada geese there, with many of the birds washing and chasing each other

The trees on the road back into town are lovely just now

We also saw a couple of wooly bear caterpillars, which will become tiger moths next year

Friday 19 October 2018

Of beautiful sunrises, crimes against trees and prize winning haiku

This was the sunrise this morning! A beautiful start to the day.

But my mood was quickly shattered by finding out that the National Galleries of Scotland have destroyed 52 trees in East Princes Street Gardens. They have removed the trees to create an accessible pathway for people with disabilities and push chairs to access the lower galleries in their venue on the Mound, which is a laudable objective but one that surely could have been achieved without such wanton destruction of a lovely part of our city centre. The trees will apparently be replaced with around 20 new semi mature trees next spring, why not with 52 new semi mature trees?

This is just symptomatic of a city that is currently riding roughshod over the opinions and feelings of its residents. We get regular consultations on our thoughts on planning applications and what we want to see in Edinburgh in the future (see the current consulations here) but the council seem to ignore what everyone says. The festivals are expanding to take over the whole of the city centre (including West Princes Street Gardens) and there's something like one Air BnB for every 54 people in the city, driving up the prices of flats and houses and forcing people to move out of the city centre.

So who knows what Edinburgh will look like in the future? Hopefully there will be plenty of trees left.

Anyway, trees inspire poetry and I'm delighted to have a winning haiku in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Haiku Contest. There's a lot of lovely haiku there!

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Parallel Realities

Glass is never clear
here in the desperate dust
that scratches and clogs.
Plains stretch forever with distance.
A lone horseman plods
where his ancestors roared
to the mountains,
light glinting on the metal
of their weapons,
shadows beneath them.

A photojournalist stares
through her grimy lens,
dreaming shadows into being,
blinded by light
glaring through glass.
She cannot see the mountains
so the lone horseman plods
forever into nothing.
All that is clear
is she does not belong here
and can never convey
this reality.

Previously published in Curlew magazine and featured in my pamphlet Unthinkable Skies.
First posted on this blog in July 2008 for Read Write Poem

Monday 15 October 2018

A perfect day for forest bathing

Forest bathing, a direct translation from the Japanese Shinrin Yoku (森林浴), simply means as far as I can work out, spending time in the forest and that was what I did today on this beautiful sunny autumn day. 

The colours in the Dells along the Water of Leith are stunning and really set off beautifully with the bright sunshine and blue skies. 

and as in most years, little leaf islands are starting to form in the millstream that runs parallel to the river for a hundred metres or so taking water directly from the weir to the old Redhall Mill.

For Nature Notes.

Sunday 14 October 2018

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr

In Cassetown, Geologue Bay, Iris and her extended family ― her ex-husband (Paul) and his wife (Kristin) and their new baby (yet to be named); her troubled son (Kurt), Paul's twin sister (Marti) and her daughter (Luce) ― gather on a midwinter long weekend, to pack up the family holiday house now that it has been sold. 

The Hope Fault describes the weekend in loving detail, revealing secrets and tensions within the family with a break in the middle where the narrative shifts to tell moments from the almost 100 years of the life of Rosa, Iris's mother. The narrative then shifts back to the weekend preparations for the party that will mark both forever leaving the house and finally naming the baby.

I particularly liked how the story reveals each family member's creativity, Rosa's faery tales, Iris carefully making a quilt for the baby, Luce composing a song for the baby and Kurt constantly drawing:

'Kurt sleeps in his clothes and dreams of a page in a notebook, ink-washed deep black, split in the centre by a wedge of page-white light, that wedge of light with a figure in shadow at its centre, the figure itself casting a shadow on another figure,something he can't quite see, or touch, or draw. He floats above the page, pencil in his hand. He dreams in light and dark.

The Hope Fault itself is a geological fault in the south island of New Zealand, as explored by Zigi, a geologist poet who many years ago had an affair with Rosa. This is reflected in the family story by the hidden weaknesses in the family that threaten to change things. 

Not much happens in this slow paced novel and though I mostly enjoyed the writing and the detailed descriptions I was a little underwhelmed and felt it wasn't as insightful as it could have been.

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr published by Gallic Books

Disclaimer: I won this book in a competition on Silvia's Book by Book blog

Saturday 13 October 2018

Shadow Shot Sunday

It's raining heavily today but it was bright sunshine on Tuesday when I took these photos at Musselburgh.

For Shadow Shot Sunday.


And for those who are interested I have a new poem up on the Ogilvie Edinburgh Creative Review website, you can read it here.

Friday 12 October 2018

Colinton Tunnel To Get a Lovely New Mural

The best thing about the long Colinton Tunnel is reaching the end of it and finding yourself back in the beautiful wooded surroundings of Colinton Dell

From the 1870s to the 1940s, passenger trains ran along here from Balerno through Colinton and into Edinburgh. Between the 1940s and 1967 the line was only used for freight trains and then closed. Since then it has become a cycle path and is part of the Water of Leith Walkway.

There are traces of an old mural showing a train engine and plenty of graffitti. The tunnel is lit most of the time but can feel spooky to say the least (specially on the occasions when the lighting is lost). Now though there are plans to repaint the old train engine mural and add to it with lots more artwork. The tunnel mural aims to celebrate local history and make the tunnel a much more pleasant, welcoming place.

You can find out more about this project here.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Basking in the Autumn Sun

It's the hottest October day for years today and it really is hot out there. This lovely speckled wood butterfly was basking in the dappled light in the wooded area near Musselburgh Lagoons today

while this lovely furry looking caterpillar was wandering round nearby - someone from the Facebook Group of Edinburgh Natural History Society identified this as the caterpillar of the ruby tiger moth.

for Nature Notes.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

New Beaded Necklaces

I've been wondering for a while about what exactly to make with my stash of wooden beads, upcycled from broken and unsellable jewellery in local second hand shops. I finally got round to sorting the beads and matching them with wooden pendants and this is the first necklace I've made using these materials, featuring a striking looking Easter Island style pendant.

This necklace is now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see it here.

I then made a second wooden beaded necklace, very autumnal with  the acorn pendant. I listed this in my Etsy shop and it sold the very next day!

Not all my beads are wooden of course and I've also just made these necklaces, using beads from my stash of beads rescued from broken or unsellable jewellery and second hand beading kits. 

This one is now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

and this one can be found here.

Monday 8 October 2018

New Report on Climate Change is Out

Today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report on the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC. Their assessment of the global climate situation acknowledges that doing this will require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.They state that on the other hand, limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC would benefit the environment: 

For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. 
The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. 
 Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent withglobal warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC.

This article in the New York Times outlines how a 1.5ºC rise in temperature is better than 2°C.
The effects of a 1.5ºC rise in temperature are scary enough and it's going to be a real challenge to keep to that. To prevent a 2.7ºC rise in temperature (which some people fear we're heading for) greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.  By 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent. It's pretty urgent (as this article, also in the New York Times outlines). 
We of course need action on the national and international levels, but there are things we can all do as individuals such as flying less (I think its 20 years since I've been on a plane), driving less (we don't have a car, though we often rent a car when we go on holiday to remote parts of Scotland), having fewer children (we don't have children) and changing to an environmentally friendly energy company (we're in the process of changing our energy supplier and I'll report on that once the process is complete). Of course there are other things you can do which are good for the environment, but apparently recycling, reducing plastics etc are less effective at reducing the carbon emissions which are directly responsible for the rising temperatures. 
You can access the IPCC report here

Sunday 7 October 2018

Saturday 6 October 2018

Gentians and Other Autumn Colours in the Botanics

We had a lovely walk round Edinburgh Botanic Gardens today. The autumn colours are wonderful

and these gentians are beautiful

This squirrel seemed to be stocking up for the winter ahead

while this robin took the lazy option and visited the cafe garden keeping an eye out for leftovers and crumbs

We enjoyed watching this nuthatch try to dig some insect out of the tree bark, though the twigs mean that we couldn't get a good photo

Still some insects about too including this late season red admiral