Monday, April 30, 2007

Spring clean

I've spent the morning gutting out our bedroom. The stacks of books beside the bed were getting out of control, and the fluff under the bed needed tackling. It is now shining like a new pin, even the windows are gleaming. Tomorrow I'll tackle the uncharted territory of my son's room, but only to retrieve certain household items that have gone in there and not reappeared.

Also cleaning up my photography drives, burning things onto CD, and binning things that aren't quite right, but that I was obviously attached to when I took them.
Tomorrow I hope to vist a garden to take some picture, weather/light permitting. I need to get up early if it's going to be sunny as the light is now too harsh from mid morning to about three/four in the afternoon. At the weekend I took myself off to a favourite wood and just messed about taking ferns unfurling and fresh new beech leaves, which are a lovely delicate green when they first break.

This is a picture of my wisteria, sorry I can't share the scent. It's on the back wall of the kitchen, and I have a few chairs underneath it so we can sit and savour the perfume. Nearby is a large daphne ordora, it always flowers late in my garden as it's in deep shade during the winter and early spring. The scent of the two together is just stunning.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Well I'm back

That'll teach me to try and put photographs in the sidebar. Glad I kept a word doc of all my changes, but the cut and paste job was still a pain! Kept missing one tiny symbol and nothing worked. I hate the complete logic of Html. And I've just edited this post as it was full of mistakes - feeling tired today, so my brain is a bit fried. Sorry to those who passed this way earlier. I must do better, I must do better......

I've been keeping busy the last few days as N has been waiting for her latest MRI and she seemed convinced it was going to be bad news. She's also had to cope with getting a new oncologist after being treated by the same one for over 10 years, and that's been hard for her as you literally have your life in the hands of such doctors and you tend to put great faith in them, so it's difficult when they move on.

It's been really horrible seeing her so stressed and worried. Anyway the good news, the great news is the tumour is static, and if anything microscopically smaller, so we are all dancing here.

It is hard to believe that this time last year she was in so much pain that she was on morphine, and the palliative nurse was calling on her. So long may this continue.

Her son has also got good news, he's an artist and has just been commissioned by Habitat to design wallpaper for them, along with Tracy Emin and some other cutting edge artists. This is a piece he did for the fashion mag Wallpaper

So I hope her family keep going from strength to strength. She has been a huge part in my recovery, just watching how she deals with set backs and pain has been an inspiration.

I worked in the garden this morning, mostly weeding pesky sticky-willow and chickweed before it gets too big and/or seeds itself everywhere. The bluebells are everywhere, like a colour-wash up all the paths and under the old apple tree.
The birds bring in the odd plant, and one of their gifts was a hawthorn, which I've grown into a standard and clipped to a round, it echoes my standard bay tree, it's a good idea to do this to small trees and shrubs as it frees up space to grow things underneath, and it gives the garden a good sense of structure.

I wrote this a while ago about my bay tree, it isn't very stylish and needs more work but the senitiments are genuine.

The Bay Tree

It started life as a half inched cutting,
in a yoghurt pot, on the kitchen widow sill.
I was amazed it took - my son was only three,
or there-abouts, and I could only offer
it benign neglect. But instead it grew.

For the first wee while it was
no more a few leaves on a stick
and Elizabeth David was to blame
when one them got thrown into a stew.
We moved and it took up residence

in the greenhouse - planted directly
into the soil - as the frost would’ve
got it out of doors. And still it grew,
gaining critical mass. Brush against
it, coming through the door, on summer’s

night and the sheltered air took on the tang
of sunset in the South of France. Years rolled
by, and son and bay both grew effortlessly,
relentlessly. Arms, legs, branches
all a supple, sappy tangle. But the tree

then suckered and started pressing wildly
at the glass. Drastic measures called for,
and with lofty notions of a herb bed
- bay in the middle, and lollipops
of box in all four corners - I dug it

up, gave it a heavy prune and planted
it out in the new, posy bed. Right away
a blackbird made it home, a good omen,
or so I thought, till its glossy leaves
began to fail and the poor bird had to flit.

I felt sure the bay was done for, but -
on the basis that doing nothing
sometime works - I left where it was.
Then I got sick and the garden got left
to its own devices. That was two summers

ago. Today I took another look and
to my delight I found it covered
in new leaves. So it looks like
we’ve both come through. Sometimes
it takes a fright to make you

appreciate this life. The bay knew this,
now I do too. It will look very
fine underplanted with lavendar
and thyme. I’ve just got to hope
the boy transplants more easily........

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Thursday, April 26, 2007


You can see something has gone wonky on my template. If anyone else is using this template I'd be grateful for a copy of the HTML data as I can't see what's caused this, and my other blogs don't use this template.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sewage in the Forth

Clearly they've never heard of back-up pumps/generators. I loved how the BCC refused to call a jobby a jobby or a turd a turd, or a poo a poo. It was called "solid matter"

Don't they know shit happens?

Lost in translation

A friend of mine says she doesn't really enjoy translated poetry, she feels something is always lost, like the idiom or cadence of another language.

To an extent I think know what she means, but I'd still rather have a little bit of meaning from a Neruda or Cavafy poem than to live without them.

And if we applied this approach to every area of our lives think of all the things we'd forgo, basil, good red wine, cotton, silk, curry, music, dance .......

S's daughter has donated her poetry books to our group and I picked them up from L last week. I'm reading some poems by William McIvanney that S had, I've never read his poetry before but I find that I'm really enjoying it. It must be a west coast thing as it really resonates with me. I particularly like his poem Grandmother, which is about a teenage boy only appreciating how full her life was after her death, when everyone sits down and recounts their memories of her.

I think it shares some themes with this Russian poem, by German Plisetsky. (I've mentioned before how much I like Plisetsky's poems (The book of Russian poetry I have describes him as being less classical than Kushner, with a heavier touch... more expressionistic and romantic. But I think this is a pretty deft poem)

To the memory of my grandmother

Forgive me,Varvara Fyodorovna!
I am selling your sideboard -
cumbersome, decrepit
relic of bygone years.

In this oak cabinet
are the ashes of your little world.
You've been a long time dead,
in the German cemetery.

But I still remember well,
remember to this day,
your craftily pious face,
your city-dweller's lore.

Forgive me,Varvara Fyodorovna!
I am selling your sideboard -
like going to the funeral
fifteen years late.

Long dead pleasures,
sadness, an equal share -
all will be sold off cheap
as planks to the joiner.

The last thing to bear witness
to the fact that you ever lived
is now being carried downstairs,
like a coffin - a heavy load.

A worldwide anthology of grandmother poems, now that would be an interesting read.

Sorry if this seems gloomy - I don't mean it to be. For obvious reasons I'm just fascinated by memory and relationships.

The picture is of some lovely delicate wrought-iron benches seen at Dirleton Castle garden -I love the lines of them - in profile they seem to barely exist.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday again

I'm ignoring the election coverage is the papers. It's not that I don't want to vote, I'm aware of the price that's been paid to get it, but my heart just sinks at the choices. It's not even a case of choosing to vote for the best of the worst, I just feel completely out of sympathy for the whole process. And I'm not alone, everyone I speak to just sighs and says pretty much the same thing.

And this just when my son has got old enough to vote, he's had glossy literature from the Scottish Executive telling how important his choice is to the process - just what an ego-centric teenager needs to hear!

There have been really good things on the telly this week, the BBC 4 series on the Edwardians has been especially good. I think I was attracted to the programme as that was the era when my grandparents were young, and I can remember my grandfather and great aunts stories about being a child in the early 1900s.
The Edwardians in Colour about the Albert Kahn archive of autochromes was stunning. He was a French Jew who sent photographers all over the world to catch cultures/ways of life that were on the brink of disappearing. The series of shots by a woman photographer of Ireland was my particular favourite. They were taken in 1913, and feature a part of Galway that is long gone. The fisherwives looked and dressed much like the Newhaven women in Edinburgh. My great-aunt Effie used to tell me about seeing them selling shellfish from baskets at the top of the city's Waverly steps.

My great-grandfather was a cartwright for a dairy in the Dean and Stockbridge.
It makes me sad to think I'm probably the last generation to know something about their lives. Four sons in the trenches in the First World War, three who came home badly injured, then a daughter who died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919. I was told by the family that it was the flu that killed her, but subsequent research has shown she actually died of TB. I'm left to wonder if flu was a more acceptable form of death than TB. She was only nineteen.

I read a piece by the American writer Marilyn French in which she says her mother used to drive her over to Brooklyn to see the tenements where she'd grown up, "and once she was satisfied that we understood how lucky we were to live where we did and that we appreciated our lives were better than their's had been, she'd have my father drive us to Manhattan......."

I think in this series the Beeb is acting as the nation's mother, rather than aunt, and more power to her elbow!

I'm in love!

With this song by Joanna Newsom. It is just fantastic. This is the youtube version, and the sound quality isn't great - but it's just so wonderful.

First read the lyrics:

This Side of the Blue

Svetlana sucks lemons across from me,
and I am progressing abominably.
And I do not know my own way to the sea
but the saltiest sea knows its own way to me.

The city that turns, turns protracted and slow
and I find myself toeing th'embarcadero
and I find myself knowing the things that I knew
which is all that you can know on this side of the blue

And Jaime has eyes black and shiny as boots
and they march at you, two-by-two (re - loo - re - loo);
when she looks at you, you know she's nowhere near through:
it's the hardest heart beating this side of the blue.

And Gabriel stands beneath forest and moon.
See them rattle & boo, see them shake, see them loom.
See him fashion a cap from a page of Camus;
see him navigate deftly this side of the blue.

And the signifieds butt heads with the signifiers,
and we all fall down slack-jawed to marvel at words!
While across the sky sheet the impossible birds,
in a steady, illiterate movement homewards

And the rest of our lives will the moments accrue
when the shape of their goneness will flare up anew.
Then we do what we have to do (re - loo - re -loo),
which is all you can do on this side of the blue.

And the clip, she gets stronger as she goes and the harp is fab.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Salas de tomatillo con Augacate

Can't wait to try making this.Although it's cold and rainy so seeds won't be poping just yet!

Salsa de Tomatillo con Aguacate
by Zarela Martinez

This versatile sauce is served with some classic Veracruzan antojitos (appetizers, snacks). It also goes well with grilled meats, chicken and fish. Since discovering it, I've taken to using it like a lighter, spicier guacamole. The chunky-textured original was made with a Mexican stone mortar and pestle. If using a food processor or blender, adjust the texture to your liking. It's good chunky, but I've also come to enjoy it puréed very smooth.

2 garlic cloves, cut in chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
2 - 3 (or to taste) serrano chiles, stems removed, cut into chunks
1/2 pound tomatillos (6 - 8 average-sized tomatillos), cut into quarters
4 - 6 cilantro sprigs
1 ripe Mexican-type avocado (Hass or Fuerte)

In a food processor or blender, process the garlic and salt to a paste. Scrape down the sides if necessary with a rubber spatula; add the onion, chiles, tomatillos, and cilantro. Process with an on-off motion to make a slight chunky puree. Scoop out the avocado flesh into the machine and process to the desired smoothness. Serve within 1 hour (or preferably at once).

Yield: About 2 1/4 cups

Gardening again

Well I got the paper away yesterday to the other members of the group, and it feels really good to have it off my desk and conscience! I have one minor bit to add - we were featured in a TV programme a few years ago on herbal medicine and I've asked the herbalist who did the documentary piece to give me a few warm words about the garden, but that can be added later.

So I've been able to get back to my own garden. I have a fairly big greenhouse, it's 11 feet long and 8 ft wide, and I have deep, bare soil borders running the length of it. I put tomatoes in one side and I usually put squash in the other, as they crop more quickly under glass, and they don't get eaten the gourmand snails that lurk in my garden.
But I discovered that field mice have got into my potting shed and eaten my store of saved pumpkin seeds - that will teach me to put them in plastic containers!

So I got in touch with Real Seeds and ordered some more pumpkin/squash seeds, including:

"Early Golden Hubbard

A while ago we had a Golden Hubbard from the Fisher family high up in the mountains of Montana. It was great - the earliest squash we'd found - but not big enough for us.

So we simply bred a larger version and are were pleased to release seed for the first time last year. We increased the size, and selected for many more fruit per vine, while keeping the nice yellow colour, and above all the earliness. So here you have it - a decent sized hubbard (but not too huge), with beautiful yellow skin, guaranteed to set fruit before your courgettes do."

The hard skin helps it keep for a long time after harvest, and turns golden orange after midsummer. Still good for those with smaller plots as the vines are not too rampant at all."

I got a few other things including some tomatilloes, which I think the Mexicans use in salsa, and some Quinoa, see picture, for N. She is completely vegetarian and has started using this grain as a good source of plant protein. It is a South American plant and it throws up big shaggy seed heads, much like a grass. Anyway it will be fun to try it. I also got some yellow mangetout and some Liscari sativa (Salsola soda), described as:

"Salsola has a beautiful 'candelabra' shape and crisp, crunchy thin leaves. The whole plant is simply gathered in bunches when small and either boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Raw, it makes a really good addition to salads, slightly salty and crunchy."

I can't wait to see how they all do, although it's got cold again here so I'll put off outdoor sowing for a while.

They also had oca, a rare type of tuber, they look like a cross between a sweet potato and a Jerusalem Artichoke, but sadly they've sold out of them - so I'll try and remember them for next year.

I'm just worried this early heat will mean everything flowers in May and by June things will be over, although I've put some annuals like nigella through the flower beds, so hopefully they will bridge the gap between May/June and the asters etc in September. And I have my new roses to look forward to.

My cardoons are erupting in a fountain of silver foliage, and the crambe has made it through another winter, so the herbaceous big guns are doing fine.

I just love this time of year, so much to look forward to, so much promise.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Last night I read at the Poetry School end of year event. It was really good, lots of different styles, ages, subjects and a good audience too. I was pleased with my reading, and got quite a few compliments on it. I did three short poems and interspersed them with a few haiku. I had support from my husband and two aunts by marriage, who are not much older than me as my husband's father's family spans almost two generations.

Katherine and Eileen are always there for me, they travel to see all my things, including my recent photographic win. It's like having two very supportive, wise older sisters - and we're all married to Dickie men, which is another great bond! Last night as we walked away from the library two cherry trees were light up outside Calton church, and we all said how much we'd like to go to Japan and do the blossom trail . The Dickie women on tour, now that would be something!

Today I'm dog sitting B and finishing off a paper for the big garden. I've been number crunching stats on the returned visitor questionnaires and proof reading the whole draft. I've decided to add wee quotes from Gerard throughout the document, just to give it a bit of a lift. I have a good source of them, as the garden archive holds copies of all the original plant labels, which included a Gerard quote on each plant.

Meanwhile my husband's uncle is walking through France. He's already walked the whole of Scotland and England in stages of two to three months. He is now aiming to get through France, all the way to the Pyrenees in the south.
I think that's why I fit in with my in-laws, they are all a little nutty and they get really passionate about things.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Who knows where the time goes

Forgot how much I liked this song until I found it again on i-tunes

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Place your bets

My son was eighteen today, and he got up bright and early to celebrate by going to the bookies. I'm sure that legions of his Presbyterian ancestors as still spinning in the ground as I write this, but he placed an accumulator bet on several soccer results,saying that horse racing was a mugs game. He then bought himself some beer at the supermarket - happily flashing his ID when he was asked his age.

Sadly his bet came off the wheels early doors, but that didn't stop his old mother/mug picking out the winner of the Grand National! I picked Silver Birch because his form looked good on the type of ground they'd be running on today, and because I wrote a poem recently about silver birch as they are my favourite trees.

I got odds of 40-1, and placed the massive sum of one pound each way. So I won forty odd quid plus my original stake back. (sorry something has eaten my pound sterling sign on my keyboard)

I'm well chuffed, though obviously not setting a very good example to my boy - although this is my once a year bet - honest! I learned about horse racing years ago from a boy friend of my sister's - he was racing correspondent for one of the big nationals and used to come to our home town for race meetings.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Egg Corns

Yesterday we took my son shopping for new clothes as his growth is like a lightening rod's at the moment. Nothing fits him, all his trousers are flying at half mast. He is now taller than his Dad, who is not taking this reversal very well!

It was fun to see him choosing things, and we found a great jacket, which has a bit of a military twist which looks really good on his skinny frame.

Tuesday night I was at Poetry School, and a poem I'd written about a plantation of trees was really well received, which pleased me a lot, especially as one guy, who has just come runner up in a major competition here, said it needed no revision whatsoever, and that he could tell I'd put a lot of work in on it. It was really encouraging, as I always turn up half expecting to be shown the door!

But I was asked about a phrase I'd put in it, which was stalk-still, which I meant as a deliberate play on stock-still. People were interested in knowing if I had actually meant to do it. And I had, because I'd caught a programme on the BBC that relates to this site on eggcorns. Here's a wee quote from the site that explains the term more fully:

"In September 2003, Mark Liberman reported (Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???) an incorrect yet particularly suggestive creation: someone had written “egg corn” instead of “acorn”. It turned out that there was no established label for this type of non-standard reshaping. Erroneous as it may be, the substitution involved more than just ignorance: an acorn is more or less shaped like an egg; and it is a seed, just like grains of corn. So if you don’t know how acorn is spelled, egg corn actually makes sense.

Mark Liberman’s colleague Geoffrey Pullum chimed in and suggested that this type of linguistic error should be called an eggcorn."

I really like the whole idea of eggcorns, they provide the perfect cover for my poor dyslexic brain, so I think I will be dreaming up a few more.

If you can think of any please feel free to list them here!

I also got a lovely e-mail from the poet Judi Benson, who now has a copy of my book. She said she thinks it is a "wee masterpiece" and that "it says it all in such a succinct space. I feel it is where experience transcends into art and you have succeeded."

I can't begin to say what effect those kind words had on me.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not Just Words

Judi Benson's book Not Just Words arrived this morning, it is a collection of writing by patients and staff and herself from the two years she spent as writer in residence at Dumfries and Galloway NHS. I've been dipping into it and I love it already. I just wish it had been around as I went through treatment.

There's lots to savour, and the main form used is the one word on each line sonnet. Here's an example

Words (copyright by Tom Pow)



Another one I like which I 'll just set out in normal type (copyright Hazel Adamson) says:

"A mother holds her child's hand for a while, but their heart forever more."

That is so simple and so true. My son got knock out of his golf competition, and even though he's eighteen on Saturday I still find it hard to see disappointment written on his face. (It's a big week around here as my husband was 50 yesterday.(

There are some really funny pieces in the book too. Ron McKechnie's work is worth the purchase alone, he's writing about prostate cancer, and about having to travel up to Edinburgh for MRIs and radiotherapy etc. And he does it it brilliantly and affectingly. Judi's own work is also a good read, she spent two years sitting in chemo suites, which is more than I could have done. Her Phlebotomist poem is spot on, giving test bloods prior to chemo is one of the worst aspects of it all.

I firmly believe a creative writing class at every hospital would work wonders, it wouldn't cure people, but it would allow them to record what is happening to them, and that can be a fantastic release.

As Betty Tindal says in her one word sonnet, called Courage



If you are going through a major illness, including cancer, or know someone who is, buy this book.

Not Just Words ISBN 189931638-8 Available from NHS Dumfires and Galloway, call 01387 241510 or email john,glover2at(changed for spam purposes) Price 7.95

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Monday, April 09, 2007

This is funny

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Petula Clark is on tour - she must be about 65/70 by now, but her speaking vioce on the radio today sounded just the same.

Here's Downtown, it makes me think of winter city streets when I was kid, and the big old radio in the sitting room, and my Dad singing as he washed up after Sunday lunch.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Easter

Hope you like the photo, it's of an old china chicken I picked up at auction and some fresh eggs. Weather here continues to be good, and I've spent the day tidying the front garden and ferrying son to various things.

Last week, when I was working in the back garden, I moved some stones that I'd piled up last winter and when I moved one I found a single crocus pressed into the soil below, unable to flower because of the weight that had been placed on it.

I felt a little guilty - and it prompted this short poem.

The garden

Elsewhere massed ranks of crocus,
in Cadbury colours of purple
white and egg yolk,
have already come and gone.

But here in the garden
the stone rolls away to reveal
a single promise of saffron
pressed down in clay.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Standing Stone

Took this yesterday while walking the dog, you can see things have still to green up here, but I liked this old standing stone beside the hedge, and the view south.

Shopping and Sheep

Well I would pick the nicest day of the year so far to go into the city, but it was worth it. Visited a camera exhibition and got my camera sensor cleaned for nothing, which was good as it was really needing it. And I got to play with some big b@stard Canon cameras that are wayyyyyyyyyyy out of my price range. Actually I would struggle to even hold them, but it was a thrill to hear their very manly shutters clunking.The salesmen just ignored me, as techy salesmen usual do, but I don't mind, better that than the pressure sales stuff,and I just listened to what they were telling the men.

Oh and I bought a circular polarising filter for my new lens, which means my birthday money is all gone.

And then I shopped for my husband's 50th birthday present, which is MP3 related, and then I went to the best deli in town and got nice stuff for dinner - only me and my son tonight as my husband's visting his mother.

My son has qualified for a big golf tournament next week, so he's practising, when he isn't studying.

And I'll have to put up with the Masters being on all weekend, but at least I'll know where they are!

This photo is real, a farmer near Scotland's biggest motorway has dyed his flock of sheep red just to amuse the passing commuters. It's a harmless dye so they'll come to no harm, but I wonder how they feel about being ginger?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Shrink Rap

I watched this last night while I was having a stellar veg out in front of the TV, which included America's Next Super Model, those girls crack me up, one asks "Is Nelson Mandela still alive?" and then proceeds to weep in his former cell on Robben Island, then the BBC 2 programme on trees that made Britain, which is absolutely fabulous, then ER and finally Shrink Rap. It's the most TV I've watched in ages, but my back is sore just now, and that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I'm not at all sure about Shrink Rap. Actually to be honest Pamela Connolly (PC) annoys the hell out of me, she looks and sounds like some awful stereo-type of a 1960s social worker.

And I don't think we learned any more about last night's subject Sharon Osbourne than we didn't already know - although she seems to take Bill Clinton's definition of sex one stage further, by saying that sex with someone other than your partner is meaningless and doesn't count unless you are actually having an affair with them. Oh and in the past if she didn't like you she sent you poo in the post, and that all started when she pooed on her father's girlfriend's statue.

Maybe that's why her dogs get to crap in the house - a ready source to FedEx?

I wanted to ask her if the sex definition became her thinking only after her father's affair. In fact I think I would have asked her much better questions than PC seemed to manage.
However, PC did ask Sharon about having cancer, and managed to illict that it was "very frightening". PC then spouted some platitudes about how that was because cancer represented a loss of control - how very insightful, you obviously need to be a qualified shrink to come up with that one!

You've got to admire Sharon Osbourne's ability to survive and to succesfully surf the vagaries of celebrity, but this show was just an extended chat show, with Kleenex thrown in.

Tonight we have Stephen Fry, and I doubt we'll learn anything more about him either given he's already spilled the goods on the BBC programme about bi-polar disorder.

The Connolly series is on More4 at 11pm.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The man himself

We got here yesterday, we're here now and I can't wait to leave tomorrow. John Giorno in full flood.