Friday, June 29, 2007

Time to sow

I have a cold, think my son brought it back from Spain as he was coughing and spluttering.

So I worked in the greenhouse this morning as I can breathe better in there.
I sowed some seeds that I've had for a while. I paid for a share in a plant hunting expedition to collect seed from an island in the Sea of Othotsk - which is off the coast of the eastern shore of Russia. Most of the herbaceous stuff that came back was in the angelica/hog-weed family so I didn't plant any of it for fear of being the cause of some horrible garden escapee. But I also have meadow sweet and thalictrum seeds, as well as something the plant hunters called "red propeller", as they were not entirely sure what it was. It has been so damp here that I think all three of these might do quite well in my garden, I already have two varieties of thalictrum, it's a lovely airy plant, the leaves remind one of a fern, with delicate fuzzy mop head flowers.

It will be interesting to see if anything germinates.

I took this picture up on the moors yesterday, quite why anyone would expect a fence like this to withstand the weather up there is beyond me, but I like the stark weathered leaning look of it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Passage of time

Well Tony has gone then. I had to laugh at him at the station, heading for the top of the range BMW assuming it was his lift, only to be told his was the Vaxhaull! The limo is the first thing they all miss.

Apparently the Daily Star is leading on a different Big Brother bust up, so they cover the story thus:

Tony left
Gordon arrived
blah, blah,blah -

Couldn't have put it better myself. Meanwhile in the real world another three British soldiers are dead as well as countless more Iraqis.

I took these poppies in a window in the weather. There's a complete field of them outside one of the villages.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bits and pieces

I sharpened up the Salvation Army "foot poem" and it has been accepted
here. Look under Open Mouse. There's a really lovely poem just been posted there about an urban fox and child.

Colin has also told me our renga is going to appear in Haiku Scotland, which is great news.

I feel like my writing is making a tiny bit of progress, although I know I will never really be a true, deep-veined, in the bones type of poet. But it does help me feel more rounded as a person, like shortbread ;), and that is helpful.

In our writers' forum Colin Will gave us some information on haiban and invited us to try writing one. (It is a highly focused piece of prose of 200-300 words, which uses poetic language to describe a journey, place or perhaps an encounter, and it ends with a haiku that encapsulates and adds to the piece.)

This is my first attempt at one. It's based on my longest day last week when I took a friend to a favourite place of mine.

A New Path

Two women on a snaking, muddy track - boots wet and caked with the red clay.

All around them the wood rings with the song of unseen birds. Soft rain and mist hugs the treetops, as though the sky has decided to gently compress the land.
Candelabras of purple fade in the under storey, giving way to spires of foxgloves
- including random white ones, which glow in the low, grey light.

A deer runs for cover. A hawk glides silently upwards.

The women arrive at the clearing to find it carpeted with eyebright, and all ashimmer with the dew-soaked flowers of a most delicate of grass.

Five perfect rowans, clad in summer green, stand at the centre.
All the paths of the wood emerge and converge here, like sockets on the rim of some colossal wheel.

The two stop and listen to a silence that feels ancient and holy.

The woman who has never been here before marvels at the peace and remembers her earlier panic when, after collecting her mother's ashes, she found herself lost in the city of her birth - heart and all sense of direction engulfed by fog and grief.

mist shrouds
the longest day
of the year

Monday, June 25, 2007


I loved the interview with David Hockney at the RA's Summer Exhibition about his massive picture of trees. He said the Chinese maintain that you can't paint trees, you must paint treeness . I think that's a lovely idea. This is a wee concrete poem/doodle I did with that in mind.

It's still very dull and soggy here. I read this piece of a Hardy poem today, To a movement in Mozart's E-flat Symphony:

Show me again the time
When in the Junetide's prime
We flew by meads and mountains northerly!
Yea, to such freshness,fairness,fulness,fineness, freeness,
Love lures life on.

and now I just feel cheated..... of the light and the warmth and the outdoors and everything. Off to clean cupboards and sulk.......

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Arcade Fire

Saw this on the Glastonbury coverage last night on BBC Three, I defy you not to dance to it. Bit Talking Headsish, but I like it.

I'm only happy when it rains

Not!!! But I'll go mad if I think this flipping drizzle will never stop. This is a track from Garbage, I was in hospital with Shirley's Mum when I had my surgery. She was a very nice woman, very stylish, like Jean Muir. Anyway Shirley is one of our best exports.

I've found the perfect job for me on Constant Gardener. In America they are hiring garden coaches, you don't need to dig, you just give newbies advice on what to do and what to plant. See here. Any takers lol!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another pic published

I've got a shot in this month's Environmentalist, which sells at ten quid an issue!

They seem to like the shot, sepia windmills, as this is the second time it's been used by them, and they're very nice about sending me a copy of the mag.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This was one honour I approved of

Sally Ann Foot Soldier Gets Gong

She tends feet, treats
trench foot sustained
on unforgiving streets.
Winter’s worst, even
with a hostel bed

no-one dares remove
their boots, as by morning
they'd have walked.
Summer's better, barefoot sands,
a cooling paddle in the sea.

They’re always grateful
for her touch. Care for
soles and the owners
stay put awhile,stop
running for a bit.

She says Jesus
would do it, if he
were here on these
down-at-heel streets,
in this place last resort.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Googling family members

Amazing what the Dickies get up to. This is a story just filed by my husband's cousin for the FT.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Eight Random Facts

Barbara tagged me. I won't inflict this on anyone else because I'm a decent soul or just chicken ;), but here are eight random, boring things about little old me:

1. My Dad made up a rhyme about me as a kid. (Anna Banana from Ghana, ate a piano with a knife and fork that came from New York, Anna Banana from Ghana.) He drove me wild with it.

2. I did fly fishing as a girl - I was a tomboy - and I even tied my own salmon flies. I loved the feathers, eg golden pheasant for hackles and cutting out matching wings from goose flight feathers. And I built model aeroplanes, mainly to be with a boy who built them. My first one crashed on its first flight - I can still hear the whine of that wee engine as it disappeared like Amelia Earhart.

3. I take size 5 shoes, haven't a clue what that is in new money. I took a 41/2 until I had my son and he was such a heavy sod my feet went up half a size.

4. I hated French at school, I always suspected I was learning the 1952 B movie version of the language.

5. I love tea, really plebeian strong stuff with the milk in first.

6. I have one pupil bigger than the other.

7. I still believe the sky can fall on your head.

8. I'm learning the piano and I stink at it, but I can finally play a passable tune.

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Well my talk to the University of the Third Age went well - although my voice was croaky by the end - the long term effects of radiotherapy affects my larynx in that it tires and I start to croak if I have to speak loudly for too long - something my husband appreciates! :)

And I got a donation for the garden which was lovely. Now to catch up around here, dog to be walked etc, etc.

Here are a couple of pix from yesterday. N and I had a coffee in N Berwick and these kids were running around the sea wall enjoying the surge of the tide - it got much wilder after this.

And some of the dreaded choking rhododendron looking deceptively pretty in a local wood

Sunday, June 17, 2007


My son is away in Spain on his first holiday abroad with his mates. He left on some red eye flight in the depths of Friday night/Saturday morning.

He just called at 8.54am to say he's fine. If he was here that hour of the day simply wouldn't register with him, even using Spanish time, which I think is an hour ahead.

The house is very quiet without him and the dog has taken to sleeping on the end of his bed - not sure if that means he's pining or just moving himself up the pecking order.

N is home and is calling round for a coffee with B, her dog, Gus will go wild as they've not seen each other for two weeks. She was "boarded" with other friends in town.

Husband is golfing. It's so nice to have the house all to myself again for a wee while. Everything in the garden has flopped with the heavy rain - roses and peonies are blown - which is sad.

I have things to prepare for a talk I'm giving tomorrow on the "big garden" and I still have masses of photos to edit. Hopefully I'll get a good run at things today.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Renga - Cold Blast

Cold blast at Coldingham

A renga written at Coldingham Bay, Berwickshire, 14 June 2007
by Anna Dickie, Jo Gibson, Hilary Graham, Colin Will (I've added the picture of the ragged crow, which is based on one of my photographs.) Colin's kindly put some notes on his blog about renga see here.

cold blast

coast path -

a photo would deceive

cow parsley dances, ragged crow

balanced on the breeze

dogs fetch kelp stalks

bark at the surf

the wind wags its tail

ghosts of bathers look up

at a shrouded sun

a bench sags at its centre

where long-gone lovers

leaned together

summer crouches low to the ground

one bee on a tuft of thyme

stony-faced lichens

watch the waves

dash pebble hopes

silver spoon

eaten by the ocean's hunger

year wanes

bashed neeps -

lunatic tide


sand-blasted driftwood

gannets cut cold words

into a sky thinned

to membrane

bramble flowers -

jam tomorrow

[verse attributions: AD 1, 7, 9, 10; JG 4, 8, HG second line of 2, 5, 6, 11, CW 3, Combined 12]

Friday, June 15, 2007


I enjoyed the renga yesterday, I half jokingly said to Colin that I wondered if I'd be able to write and walk at the same time, a bit like Gerald Ford with gum - but I was fine.

Coldingham doesn't get its name lightly, even on a summer's day it occupies a secret misty, cold bubble that sucks in strong currents and tides. The beach huts aren't the bright homely ones of beaches in the south of England, here they stagger along the shore like the exposed vertebrae of a dinosaur.

And a bit like taking photographs I found that my initial thought/observation was often the best/strongest one.

It is a fun thing to do, you're sparking ideas off other people, which is always worthwhile, and it gets the brain juices flowing. If you get a chance to do a renga give it a whirl.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Places that scare me

There's a good book on this subject by Pema Chodron that I read from time to time and then momentarily imagine that I've had some earth-shattering insight into the meaning of life, love and the universe.

But this is my back of an envelope list of places that scare me.

Waiting Rooms - now is never the time there.

Communal Changing Rooms - at fifty you're invisible until you strip off - especially when you've had a mastectomy

Anything called a mall - I always emerge feeling mauled

Garages and services shops - again invisible, but now stupid too

Check in desks - I wonder when I finally check-out if someone will ask "did you pack the bag yourself?"

Drive Thrus - the only place you allow a disembodied, muffled voice to feed you!

Anywhere called a "homeland" - no-one else feels at home there.

Reality TV - if this is reality get me out of here!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


My dear friend Joanne is not doing at all well. She just been told her lung mets have got worse and her lungs are filling with fluid, which has to be drained by an invasive procedure. They are changing her chemo yet again to try and combat the spread.

But she and I have both watched too many other friends travel this road for there to be any pretense left.

I'm really so very tired of seeing good women\mothers\daughters\sisters\aunts lost to this cruel, heartless and relentless disease.

Sorry to be so down, but I think one has to acknowledge the losses to this disease as well as the very welcome gains.

My neighbour, a GP herself, is running in the Moonwalk this weekend to raise cash for research. I really appreciate that and I'm sponsoring her. I just wish things could move a little faster, especially on triple negative breast cancer, which is what Joanne has, for which there is no hormonal treatment, just chemo and radiotherapy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Laburnum Arch

This is one of the highlights of the year in the big garden that I'm working to conserve.

Alchemilla mollis

I wrote about this plant, also known as lady's mantle recently. Anyway, I've put what I learned into this short poem,

Lady’s Mantle
Alchemilla mollis

Little magic one
look how beautifully
you clasp the rain,

staunch the flow;
a crystal drop
in each dewcup

till bruise
is gone
from blue.

Too much to do this week, I'm in town two days out of five at meetings and on Friday I have some of my husband's family visiting for the day. The bright spot is that I'm going to attend a renga that Colin Will is organising on Thursday - I'm looking forward to it as it will be my first.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ma Boy!!

My son is off to his School Leavers Party -I can't bring myself to call it a graduation party as we don't really do them. Anyway he's off to a big knees up in the city.

I managed to get one picture of him before he left. He and his mates are going for the smart but casual kilted look. I hope they have the time of their lives.

Let's get out of this country

Camera Obscura - another great Scottish band

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Apprentice results

As the Venerable Apprentice, as fl:ux likes to refer to me ;), I thought I should say something about this year's series.

Well for starters I'm very happy that Katie is out. I thought Sir Alan played her very well, telling her she was through to the final and then letting her stew for a bit before returning and allowing her to star in her own wee drama, which was what she was all about anyway. And those fluttering eyelashes, they made me want to barf!
(Although I agree with comments on Pat's blog that in a real life interview he'd be in breach of Equal Opps legislation in terms of indirect discrimination.)

I hope Kristina wins, although two wins in a row by women would be somewhat surprising.

I see she has a Hons degree in Maths and Simon has an MA in Economics from Cambridge - so perhaps the show is moving away from the image of working class barrow boy makes good, which is a shame as I'm sure there are still thousands of people out there who haven't managed to make it to university for a whole raft of reasons and this programme could be a great platform to show them that there are other routes to success.

I must say I found the business prowess of this particular set of wannabees fairly underwhelming. None, bar Simon, seem to have researched their quarry and in most tasks they just floundered around. I thought that was particularly evident on the tele sales episode. In past years the contestants had the sense to ask the people there what sold well and how best to pitch it - this lot never even bothered to ask.
They were also completely oblivious to the requirements of food labelling etc on the zoo/sweetie job. And I'd like to know if they are all the type of people who build flat pack things without reference to the instructions, as they never seemed to read the rules on tasks - particularly the penalty clauses if the task wasn't wholly completed.

As someone who has had to set young people tasks I find that their biggest flaw is that they don't stop to scope a job first. A few quick notes on a job can save you hours later on - especially a little thinking on contingencies just in case your first ideas doesn't pan out.

Regrettably this show just seems to be becoming another vehicle towards celebrity and a slot as a cable TV presenter. The real show would be a fly on the wall documentary of the making of the series - and like Big Brother the really interesting part would be the initial editorial discussion on who is selected and why.

Flower Power

Last night I went to a fund raiser for the Festival of Flowers in the town in August. That's when all the flower arrangers from St Mary's, our beautiful medieval church, create amazing displays with the church interior as a back drop.

They had a good audience last night and showed us some beautiful arrangements, including a lovely circular one, arranged around glass votives, that could be hung up on chains. Their eye for cutting things to just the right length and for use the natural curve of a flower or piece of foliage was wonderful to watch. And they had a fantastic array of flowers, the most beatiful of all being fat pink peonies just breaking from bud.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I'm trying to survive my son being under my feet 24/7. The sooner he gets a summer job the better.

And I wish the sun would come out, this flat grey gloom is getting me down. I keep thinking of N in the brillant sunshine of Spain. She'll be doing her favourite thing, which is to cook sardines outside on a grill. She even did it once when we were up north, in soft rain in cloud of midgies.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bare faced Peter Rabbit cheek

Baby rabbit caught on camera in Inveresk Garden at the weekend

Judi Benson

Judi Benson has three new poems published here on Sunk Island Review. Two deal with the loss of her much loved husband, the poet Ken Smith , who had one of the most wonderful voices ever heard on radio.

I think the poem Love's Logic, the second poem of the three featured, is a beautiful testament to the power of abiding love and to the grief of losing the love of your life. Follow the link on the site and you'll hear Judi reading some of her work.

I also see Rob is listed on the sidebar of Sunk Island - it is indeed a small world.

(Judi has been wonderfully supportive of my own attempts to write. She told me that she thinks "Peeling Onions is a wee masterpiece and can only imagine how much editing and condensing you had to do, as your journal would have been full. And yet, it says it all in such a succinct space. I feel it is where experience transcends into art and you have succeeded. This is only a first reading, will read again and will recommend and treasure. Love the illustration as well." as previously mentioned she did a two year writer's in residence stint with an oncology unit so she knows what she's talking about.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Who ever wrote Greensleeves must have been inspired by June in a British wood. Today I walked with my trusty dog and i-pod and listened to Fantasia on Greensleeves and then A Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams and actually watched a skylark climb into to sky above a field of rape. Life doesn't get much sweeter.

I'm nursing a sore arm from a heavy fall I took on Friday, slipped on a banking and fell heavily, the ground was wet after rain and my stupid feet no longer sense the ground very well.

I had to complete the walk with a muddy bum and a shredded arm. Sticks on the ground caught my arm as I slid, but no serious damage done - I was more worried about my camera, fortunately it was in my back pack and was unscathed.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I was near the beach doing some pictures and I took these just for me. The B&W are not very uplifting shots, but I liked their shape and mood. Quite fancy doing a series of shots based on the flotsam and jetsam

Friday, June 01, 2007

Great news on Alan Johnston

Let's hope it's a recent video and that this is the beginning of the end of his ordeal and he is released and returned to his family.

The Lion that Roars

Shameless is running this project and I think I have managed to adopt lion number thirteen, who is posing beautifully here.


a lacquered lion stalked
a ridged roof of terracotta tiles
till lightening struck and he leapt down
to pad past pagodas, tip-toe through the tea
house and out through the moongate - off to seek a soulmate
in far away lands still red in tooth and claw