Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Moonlight flit

This blog needs a whole lot of updating, so I've decided to set up a new home at wordpress. So please crossover see my new blog it'sabouttime

Monday, March 22, 2010


Well things finally seem a little brighter. N was able to sit up for quite a while yesterday and we had a good chat and a few laughs. She has been experiencing terrible headaches due to the surgery leaving a tiny tear in the dura,the membrane over the spinal column and it's been upsetting to watch her deal with it. But the tear is beginning to heal, and she even managed a few steps outside today.

And D, my other breast cancer friend of long-standing, has asked me to take her for a hospital oncology appointment on Wednesday, as her husband is away on business. She is doing an oral chemo, to treat a recurrence, that has the nasty side effect of stripping the skin from your hands and feet, which means she can't drive at present.
But the chemo is doing some good, so what she's putting up with is not in vain.

It feels good to be helping them both out, it reminds me how lucky I am.

As for the rest of the world I continue to be scunnered with the election campaign. I want to start a Facebook group called "I demand a line on ballot paper headed none of the above". The thought of the St Elmo's Fire generation of the Tory party forming the next Government makes me shudder. And yet I don't want to see the Labour party, as it currently functions, re-elected.

I've done some interesting things in my absence,including a local radio broadcast with Colin, where I got to read a few poems. And this Thursday morning I'm reading at Hendersons in Edinburgh with two other Calder Wood Press writers, which I'm really looking forward to. (BTW Calder Wood Press now has Paypal for international orders)

I also had part of the house painted, which was great, though the effort of emptying everything out of the rooms concerned and then putting it all back was exhausting. But I'm glad I did it, as the house looks really fresh and ready for Spring.

My dear friend Meg is coming over from the States in June, and she jokingly told me that she expected to find the resort upgraded. Well it is and I can't wait to see her, as it has been almost 6 years since we last met in NY.

My garden continues to be a joy to me. My show auriculas are growing by the day, and several have flower buds on them. I've been taking them out during in the daytime and putting them back under glass at night. But soon they will be able to stay out in their "theatre". And the borders are awash with blue scillas and hellebores and the daphne scent on a still morning is just wonderful. I've planted a barrel of tatties, and rocket and lettuce are through in the vegetable planters in the greenhouse. And I have pots of things to go out into the beds once all risk of frost is over, verbena bonariensis, three types of ornamental grasses, violets, hardy geraniums etc, etc. So hopefully it will all look fabulous in high summer.

I'll try and get round some other blogs this week, as I want to see how everyone is doing. Photos are of the garden and a birch down by the river.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


My latest favourite song. The whole EP is beautiful. Be back soon......

Monday, March 15, 2010


This is a draft I wrote at the weekend. It will explain what I'm up to at present.
I hope you are doing well.


for Nieves

I’ve pruned the roses, cut back herbaceous
shoots and stems and planted primulas in pots,
so you can see a little colour from the window
when you get home. Now I’m on my knees,
with a knife, scraping weeds from pavers.

Dandelion, couch grass and yellow-flowered
oxalis, till fingers find a tiny, hairy seedling
that my eyes identify as comfrey, knit-bone,
and I smile, because it seems a good omen, as if
this life is still willing to give you what you need.

Miles away in that hospital bed you are a flightless,
featherless, gawky baby bird; secondary growth excised,
two new titanium branch lines shoring up your spine.

You once said your name means snow in Spanish.
Well it can only be the kind of snow that falls
high above the tree line, up on the sierras and picos.
Powdery and dazzling - snow at its best.
Snow that persists.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ruth's Diary by Fiona Robyn

Sorry for my continued absence. I've just got a lot of things to contend with at present. FIL coming to stay, decorator starting work today, etc, etc. But I did agree to take take part in Fiona's amazing Blogsplash, so here goes..........

(PS this was drafted on the 25th, but posted on 1 March as agreed.)

Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.

These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It's a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we're being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they're stuck to the outside of her hands. They're a colour that's difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I'm giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don't think I'm alone in wondering whether it's all worth it. I've seen the look in people's eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I've heard the weary grief in my dad's voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I'm Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I'm sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I've had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I've still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad's snoring was.

I've always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I'll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; 'It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for', before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It'll all be here. I'm using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I'm striping the paper. I'm near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I'm allowed to make my decision. That's it for today. It's begun.

Continue reading tomorrow here...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Checking In

Sorry I've not been around, life just keeps getting in the way at present. I've been listening to lots of radio as I get on with other things. I particulary enjoyed Start The Week this week on Radio 4, programme information is here. It actually developed into a brilliant discussion about human beings need for hope, and how the theatre is possibily the only place that is currently tackling issues like economics and faith - things which to my mind are becoming increasing indivisible.

I've got three photo projects upon the latest brilliant issue of Mung Being, which has the theme of secrets. Here is one

And here's another

Off out into the sunshine now while it lasts. This is about my garden in early Spring.

Garden Flight

You’re back, nervous as a fawn
on the edge of a clearing, ready
to run should the wind change
and carry my scent.

It’s a tentative show, hellebores,
crocus, a few purple twigs of daphne,
but already there’s a strong suggestion
of what might be.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fixing things

I've been busy organising a spate of mini repairs around the house - new taps for the bath, as the old original ones finally gave up the ghost, booking a painter to come and paint our bedroom, my time of shinning up ladders to paint 15' high ceilings is over I'm afraid, buying and fitting a new loo seat, so that you don't feel like you risk a giant clam bite every time you go for a pee!

I must admit it feels good to get these things fixed - funny how you can thole something for ages, and then all of a sudden your patience just snaps.

In the last couple of weeks I've had two meetings with poetry friends. One was a lovely walk round the Botanic Gardens, with lunch in the new building at the West Gate and a good blether about poetry and future plans, including a public reading we hope to do in the Spring.

The other was joining a new mini critique group, with two completely new friends. We hope to keep this going once a month for the foreseeable future - and if the first one is anything to go by I think it will be really worthwhile. The three of us seemed to click right away and had a wonderful time sharing ideas and talking poets that we like and admire. I think it is good to shake yourself out of your comfort zone and try something completely new once in a while and I'm really looking forward to our next meeting.

This is a busy week - tomorrow morning I'm at the launch of "Carry A Poem" and then on Tuesday I have a meeting of my local group pm and at night the joint launch of three pamphlets, including "Collection Point", the group anthology edited by Judith Stewart and me, that Colin played a big part in helping us to get printed.

This morning was an early start to watch Andy Murray not quite pull it off against Federa. I think he lost the match in his head as much as anywhere. I hope he shakes the "last British man to win a major" hoodoo one of these days.

The photo of this wreck of a Scimitar, that I saw on a walk past a farm yesterday, shows that even when your are totally ravaged good bone structure still counts - like Richard Harris or Peter O'Toole!