Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Biting finger nails time

I'm waiting for my prints for the weekend show to arrive. I just mount them on photographic display boards. But waiting to see prints is always never wracking and I don't have time to reprint any, although I've over selected, so I'll weed out disappointing stuff.

This is one of a leek tied with soft twine. Someone has already asked me to do a larger print for them, which is nice.

I missed my piano lesson last night, my head is all the over the place, meetings, son going to uni and all the paper work connected to that re halls etc, going on holiday. I find it difficult to cope with too many things these days, my ability to step up a gear is not what it was pre the illness. So I'm picking things off an endless list and gradually crossing them off.

Must by velcro tape for the pictures and stick on labels to number them, and finish writing the blurb to go up with them - that's not for you, it's for me to read and act on it later ;)

Monday, August 27, 2007


I wrote this about my stay up at Drum, where we worked to prepare the walled rose garden for its annual open day.

Garden Open, Two Till Four

Dead-heading roses in a garden
of a thousand thousand blooms.
The intense scent evoking perfect
summer lawns spread with jam,
clotted cream and the strewn
pot pourri of stiff suburban teas.

Cutting away countless buds steamed
shut, mummified, by weeks and weeks
of wet. Plucking out the blown before
they can develop big fat hips.

Ordering chaos, playing God, so those
who pay to take pleasure in this place
need never know the dark arts
of our green-fingered sleight-of-hand.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

As seen on postcard secrets

Love this one.....

Edinburgh Tattoo

Saw this girl's feet yesterday and loved her tattoos. I don't usually like them, but these were pretty, like henna painted hands.

Click on the pic for a bigger view.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Feast or famine

Not much time to blog this week, projects are crowding in on me. Friday I'm doing a sift board with Linknet, the Edinburgh charity I help, and then doing the interviews next week. Last year we had no funding and great staff, now we have the funding and the staff have moved on. It's the way of the world in the voluntary sector, always chasing cash, which creates job insecurity for the people involved. I hesitate to mention the project as last time I did I got a flurry of racist spam, as we help young black ethnic minority youngsters.

I'm also getting shots together for the local horticultural show. This year I've been trying to photograph the growers in their gardens before the show - not easy due the very bad summer we've had. This is one of the shots. The show is a week on Saturday.

And I'm trying to book a holiday, again not easy as half the country wants to escape our lousy summer.

A few things I've enjoyed in the last week:

1) The BBC programme on the River Ganges, fantastic photography, and the final part on Bangladesh was really inspiring. Seeing delta farmers watching their land literally topple into the river while they took down their homes to float them off to new pastures was very moving indeed. And I learned a new word, Sunderban - it means "beautiful forest", and describes the mangrove forest on the delta, one of the tiger's last strongholds. I've just come across it again in a poem, by the Bangladeshi poet Rashida Islam, which is also about the river.

2) The Roger Deakin book on trees is still delighting me, he writes a few chapters on Australia, and one part is about a tribe for whom dogs are sacred. The people sleep out at night on raised platforms under tarps and their dogs sleep with them. So they judge the temperature of the night by saying how many dogs they needed to keep warm , eg "it was a two dogs night". I love this, and when Basha comes stays with us I will now call it "a one dog night"!

3) Also heard Ian Paisley Junior on the radio being interviewed as Minister for equality issues in N Ireland. He was asked how he squared his religious beliefs with being responsible for ensuring that gays got equal rights.

He replied saying that he lived in Ulster not Utopia . I do not support his outlook on life, but I think this was a fantasticly honest answer, if only other politicians were as honest!

Which brings me on to Wendy Alexander gaining the leadership of the Labour party here in Scotland. I won't say much on this either, other than to say it is yet another reason that I won't be returning to their fold any time soon. I had the misfortune to be around her at one point in my life and it was one of the lowest times in my career, despite the fact that I actually loved the work that I was trying to do.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Prague Spring

This poem has been half written since my visit to Prague last year. Had another go at it today. I think it is getting somewhere at long last.

Prague Spring

Parachuted in on a cheap flight to cobbled
streets last seen forty years ago, furnished
with Russian tanks, on a looping TV screen.

Now the Museum of Communism is to be found
above MacDonald’s at Na Prikope 10. I savour this
Kafkaesque nugget like a poke of salted fries.

In the Old Jewish Cemetery crowds shuffle past lopsided
headstones, while time, still complicit with the past,
carries on erasing Hebrew names from soft, sedimentary slab.

A single set of footprints in the snow leads the eye
towards the perimeter wall, and a padlocked gate.
Few can pick the lock of a city not their own.

I’m ready to go home.

We had a lovely meal for our wedding anniversary, and I got two poetry books from my husband, one is a collection of Commonwealth poetry to celebrate Glasgow's bid for the Commonwealth Games. It's called Poems United and is edited by Diane Hendry and Hamish Whyte. It makes you marvel at just how elastic and versatile the English language is.

Off for G&T, we discovered flat tonic makes very good ice cubes for G&T, it stops it being diluted with mere water lol!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Who killed cock robin?

Himself I suspect! I've had to take the mirror away from behind the horse troughs as this wee eegit is intent on battering lumps out of his "rival", namely his own reflection. He spent the whole morning either staring at himself or flying at his own image. So I braved the rain and put the mirror in the shed, where it will have to stay until Spring as I suspect my garden is now in this chap's territory at least until then.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Felix Dennis

Caught his spot on Desert Island Discs. A highly unusual man, hugely successful publisher and a poet who writes for three hours a day and has a number of very successful collections to his name.

See the entry here for him.

And his own website is here. He has all his poems online and also as reading. He reads beautifully and powerfully, having learned from RSC actors.

A little bit of luck

Funny how one small good thing happening can make you feel like may be things are on the up. Yesterday we got about 6 envelopes through the door from the Family Tax Credit people. We finally filled our form in for this year a few ago, we needed our P60s to do it. Anyway it turns out they'd taken our son out of our tax allowance at 16 and we hadn't noticed, so we are due a large rebate as he's been at school for the last two years.

My husband and I (I sound like the Queen!) were planning to go on holiday anyway, but this will allow us to cast our net wider. We both want to see Sicily, so hopefully we can organise it now. He didn't want to look at the mail as he feared it would just be yet more bad news, so I'm quite proud of myself for opening it and figuring it all out, with a call to their helpline.

Garden is getting to that mellow fruitful time again. Yesterday I ate my first plum from our tree. It would have tasted better on a warmer day, but it still good. I have a huge crop of grapes in the greenhouse too. The tomatillos that I'm growing for the first time are also plumping up, but like cape gooseberries they are in a wee green pocket so it's hard to tell how they are filling out, you have to squeeze the papery sack to feel the flesh underneath, a bit like checking out your bra when you're a developing teenager.

Pictures are of the grapes and a tomatillo, both with the lensbaby, hence weird point of focus.

The crocosmia is also blooming away, that lovely burnt orange that reminds you of the massive escapee clumps you see everywhere on the west coast at this time of year. And the sedums are plumping up their flower heads too, though no colour as yet, hopefully they'll hold off until September.

The tomatoes are still green, I may be frying them like that yet! But there's a good crop, especially of the plum ones. And I'm still picking the fabulous wee yellow mange tout.

Only cloud is that N is in a lot of pain again, and awaiting further x-rays and a scan. Meanwhile she getting palliative radiotherapy on her hip to contain the pain a little. Another phase entered, and I'm not sure how to help her, other than to continue to be her friend.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Goodbooks - good band

On my i-pod lots just now. Their album Control is really good value.

Reading and listening

Pictures of watery things, tiny bird bath in my garden, shot with the wacky lensbaby lens and part of the fountain in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

I took part in the Scottish Poetry Pamphlet readings yesterday. We were largely preaching to the converted, and our tent at the Book Festival was a bit intimidating for people, lots of massive plants blocking the doorway and it was set back in the corner. People entered it like they would a flash, mimimalist clothing boutique, ready to run for the door at the first opportunity. But it was a great breakthrough for the group to get a foothold at the Festival, and I really hope they are able to build on it. Leafleting the coffee areas would help, pointing out it is a free gig.

I bought a couple of things, including a sign copy of Preferred Lies for my husband - which he hasn't put down since I gave it to him, so it must be a hit. It was a present as it's our 28th wedding anniversary next week - I was a child bride! ;)

The title is about some golf rule or other, but it is about as clear to me as the off-side rule in football, so I won't attempt to explain it. I like the phrase though, it would make a great title for a poem.

Also enjoying the Festival comedy coverage on BBC Radio Scotland. It's about the only time that I listen to the station as I prefer the mix of things on Radio 3 and 4. In fact I really don't want the current debate on Scotland's links to the UK to lead to more Scottish programming at the expense of losing exposure to things that go out to the rest of the UK. I already hate the Newsnight split, there's always a really good thing on the main programme, but you're chopped away to watch some ex councillors slag each other off on some meanigless, manufactured issued, with some Paxman wannabe as referee - I just hit the remote.

There was a very funny bit on the radio yesterday when festival goers were asked if they queued for things, or just pushed in. One woman said she queued here, but when in Europe just pushed in like a good 'un. Fred MacAulay pointed out that Alex Salmond (our First Minister and a nationalist) thinks Scotland is already at the heart of Europe, so we were all now free to push in at home too!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Back blogging

The week has flown. My husband and I had a day at the shops, which we both hate, but the sales were tempting, although just about everything left was for very tiny or very large people - it doesn't pay to be of average height and build at sale time.

Also went to the Naked Portrait exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait gallery.
It had an interesting mix of painting and photography on the subject of being bare.
I enjoyed some of the more abstract pieces, where unusual poses and angles left you wondering which bit of the body you were looking at. Lots to savour when I come to set up shots in the future. My favourite is in the clickable highlights above, it's called family self-portrait.

These pictures are of the Edinburgh Internation Festival street scenes, the queue outside the Warhol retrospective at the National Galleries etc.

It is such a time of change around here, son going off to uni, MIL having to sell her house and decisions required on where she should stay, provided she can continue to manage on her own with support. Funny how both ends of the equation, young and old, are going through huge change at the same time, while we're in the middle trying to help them both.

Rob, Barbara and Colin having been doing the Guardian workshop producing poems using first lines from the poetry of WS Graham, the idea is to write dramatic poems with a good tone.

While stuck in the car this week, between places, I wrote these two pieces:

Talking out of turn

I leave this at your ear for when you wake

- the gift of silence.

No barely audible radio prattle seeping out

beneath the bathroom door.

No cup of lukewarm tea at arm’s length

from your lips.

No smell of scraped toast, no cooling iron.

And tonight, when you turn a key on the dark hall,

and fumble for the light

the sound of absence will part the quiet, split the hush.

That’s when you’ll hear me,

that's when finally I’ll have my say.

This is a short note

Just for the sake of recovering,

for the sake of holding on

to some vestige of you,

I’ve decided not to keep

up with these reports

of your final days. After all

it’s not as if this pattern's

unknown to me.

Life narrows, to a mattress


and your circle shrinks

to form a vacuum seal

comprised of nearest,

hopefully dearest,

and a few caring,

competent strangers.

Shoes - even pretty ones -

are suddenly redundant.

This shouldn’t be happening to you.

I, for one, won't let it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Busy week

Sorry won't be around much this week. My husband is on holiday and we're catching up on things at home and with the family.

Saturday we tidied up my MIL's garden. It wasn't that great a day from the standpoint of her dementia, she was very quiet and her eyes were rather blank. But she got stuck into the work with us like a trooper, and seemed happy to be working along side us. It is strange to see someone you've known well for so many years just evaporate in front of your eyes.

Son's exam results were fine, just got to wait for UCAS to confirm offer/choices.
This is a big relief as his eye injury back at the turn of the year really affected him, not just in terms of the time he lost from school, but also the jolt that it gave him having to have an operation and to keep still for so long.

I'm doing a short reading with the Poetry Pamphlet group on Friday at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Feeling nervous about it, but looking forward to hearing other people's work.

I'm feeling torn about writing just now. I'm wondering if I should just stick to my photography, where at least I feel confident in the doing, if not the submitting part of it. Part of me wonders why I feel the need to keep attempting things that leave me feeling challenged but unfulfilled. N thinks it's a trait I should try and change and maybe she's right.

Anyway must dash, got a meeting on the big garden to fit in today as well.

These are three olive shells I picked up on the beach at my niece's in the USA. The shot's too dark and moody for stock, but I like it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Gardening and Me

First of all thanks to Scarlett and Verilion for the Thoughtful Blogger Award. Not sure I merit it, but it was kind of you both. Don't worry I won't make a Gwyneth Paltrow type speech! And I'm awarding it/passing it on to all my readers so please feel fre to display the badge as you're all very thoughtful and kind.

All these awards lately, I feel like I'm in the Brownies, although I never did manage to get my button sewing on badge (wonder what it is today, the Velcro sticking badge?).

And I promised Tea and Biscuits I'd do something on seven things about me and gardening.

So here goes:

1.) I first came to love gardens after discovering the garden of an old couple up our street when I was about ten years old. They let me dig for worms in their chicken enclosure to go fishing with. But they had a magical garden full of berries, yellow and red raspberries, strawberries, black currants, and lots of colourful flowers like dahlias. They also had a aviary full of singing canaries, and it felt like Eden to me.

2.) I think on the whole gardeners, grand or humble, are pretty generous people. I've always found them willing to share, to give you bits of things, cuttings or seed or to explain how to look after something.

3.) I love hardy perennials. I love that my garden in Spring is fairly low level, lots of bulbs and things granted, and then in May it just explodes into a fountain of massive foliage and plants, globe thistles, cardoon, crambe cordifolia etc.

4.) In the winter I like to curl up and salivate over seed catalogues, and I also like plant society seed exchanges as often you get really unusual things that you can't readily buy or source.

5.) I think I'm quite green fingered, especially with cuttings, I seem to be able to stick most things in soil and they will grow for me.

6.) I'm not ruthless enough, I let too many things grow in my garden, so it's always a bit on the wild side.

7.) If you can bring the birds into your garden, they reward you with lots of things, their beauty, their ability to eat up pests, black fly especially, and freebie plants. I have a lovely rosa glauca thanks to them. And I suspect they brought me the wild orchid. I've also clipped a hawthorn they brought into a standard with a lollipop top. And have a bit of water as birds love it, as do toads and frogs. I just have two old stone troughs, but the birds love to bathe in them and it is a joy to watch something like a wren bring her young to drink/bathe or a pair of collared doves come down at dusk to freshen up before bed. (If anyone knows where I could get an old galvinised water tank please tell me, as I'd love to use one to make a bigger raised pond.)

So that's it. But also never kid yourself you are in control of your garden. It's merely on loan to you, and it will carry on regardless without you. Oh and plant trees, ones appropriate to your space. And have some fruit of some kind, there's nothing better than picking your own plums while still in your pyjamas.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

This silhouette is based on the photograph that inspired this short poem

Short lived

It’s a scruffy wee tree
atop a lumpen bit of hill.
April found it leafless,
July confirmed it lifeless,
but from within this scribble
of may tiny breasts, caged
in thorn, offer songs to the day.

Jeanette Winterson

She is a wonderful writer, and her website is really good too, including a great collection of poets and poems she likes and admires. If you have the time it's worth a look.