Friday, November 30, 2007

Thank you all

Thanks for all the lovely comments on the poem and everything. I really enjoyed writing the piece as I've felt so bereft of ideas for weeks now.

It's a tonic to open up comments boxes and read such supportive messages. And Kim I'll look into the story site, I'd love to give it a whirl if I can sort out the technical stuff and find the time. Maybe in the New Year when things are a bit slacker, I'm trying to help with a garden project just now which has to be bid for by 31 December.

Sam the singer was Fionn Regan. I think he's amazingly talented.

Last night I went to a workshop that Colin Will ran on getting your poetry published. He has such a wealth of good advice to share, and is so generous with his hard won knowledge and time. I really appreciated the thought he put into the event, and I borrowed some great books and magazines to read, including one of his that I've not seen before.

My husband was at his Mum's last night, so I had the whole bed, save for the bit the dog appropriated, and I read and wrote and listened to the radio. It was lovely.

I really like this act Martha Tilson too. She has a great EP on i-tunes for 1.99 or so, well worth it I think.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I wrote this in my bed last night. It's a draft, but I think it has the makings of something.

Hard Shoulder

The kestrel hovers, separated
from this world by the merest sliver
of Zen garden gravel, as vehicles
on an I-max stretch of motorway
blunder and thunder by, bye, by, bye…

How can it been so clearly seen,
what law of physics can freeze-frame,
time-lapse flight, as I scream by
in harried, padded haste?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sprigs of honesty

My friend N has been visiting a friend at the hospice for the last week. The woman is
dying from cervical cancer and is having a hard time in every respect. N has been determined to visit her friend as often as possible. However, she's picked up a really bad cold/chest infection, which I seem to have managed to get too.

So I've had a lost weekend in bed, cuddling a hot water bottle, tissues and some cough mixture. I've not felt so rough for a very long while.

It's a real pain as my husband has a week off and we had hoped to catch up on things around the house,including painting the bathroom. Maybe I'll feel more like it tomorrow.

And N now has a request for help and advice from another woman whose just been diagnosed with skin cancer that will require extensive facial surgery.

It is hard when you achieve "survivor" status, because it's natural for people to want to talk to you about the disease and for you in turn to feel like you should help, but it can also be a really draining experience.

I wouldn't know N if she hadn't reached out to me when we met while walking our two ginger muts. But I do worry about the toll it takes on her health and well-being, but I also know that she wouldn't have it any other way.

Today I had the camera with me on the couch and played at snapping things in the room, after I'd got bored with afternoon TV, well that's not strictly true I just put it off as I was crying at old soppy old black and white films, like "How Green Was My Valley". I like this shot of wee sprigs of honesty in three very tactile, organic vases that I bought from IKEA a few weeks ago.

And this a fav on my i-pod. It's called "Be good or be gone". "Child actor eyes" - a brilliant description and, "I have become an aerial view of a coastal town that you once knew" .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fragile Thing

I got reminded about Stuart Adamson the other day. I wonder what he'd be writing/singing now. Such a sad loss to Scottish song writing.

And I've been catching up on Scotland's music, and the Jute Mill Song, written by a worker, Mary Brocklebank. Listen to it sung by Sheila Wellington here

My great grandmother worked in a Fife jute mill, she got the telegram to tell her her son had been killed in WW1 while at work at the mill. She couldn't read it, my grandfather, who was home on leave from the war, had to read it for her.

These are two brilliant lines from the song:

Oh dear me, the warld is ill divided
Them that works the hardest are the least provided

they are still a manifesto for the poor the world over.

I think Scotland punches well above its weight in terms of the quality of our song writing.

These are the full lyrics to the Jute Mill Song

Jute Mill Song
(Mary Brooksbank)
Oh dear me, the mill's gannin' fast
The puir wee shifters canna get a rest
Shiftin' bobbins coorse and fine
They fairly mak' ye work for your ten and nine

Oh dear me, I wish the day was done
Rinnin' up and doon the Pass it is nae fun
Shiftin', piecin', spinnin' warp weft and twine
Tae feed and clad my bairnie affen ten and nine

Oh dear me, the warld is ill divided
Them that works the hardest are the least provided

I maun bide contented, dark days or fine
For there's nae much pleasure livin' affen ten and nine

Repeat 1

(as sung by Cilla Fisher & Artie Trezise)

And this is Fragile Thing, a great Big Country/Stuart Adamason song, which features Eddi Reader.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


A shed shot in homage to Lucy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yo yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble

Put up with the cheesy opening as the rest this worth listening to, a group of western and eastern musicians playing mostly stringed instruments together.
My favourite track is Chi Passa Per'sta Strada. i-tunes has a free podcast explaining the group's ethos and methods.

Fantastic poem

I heard this Denise Levertov poem on the radio yesterday. It seems to say something about the world right now, even though it was written some time ago.


Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea--“

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
-- so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
-- we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet--
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

We have a dream!!

By 7 o'clock it may be shattered, but everyone up here is enjoying it while it lasts. It's not often we get the chance to be gallus these days

Go Scotland!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Retail Therapy

Yesterday N and I went shopping, which I hate but needs must as I'm going to a party on Saturday night - although it may be like a wake if a certain football match goes against us!

Anyway I got something to wear, but I also bought a great cap/hat in M&S. I usually hate hats,especially cloche, pull over your ears jobs as I had to wear them when I lost my hair, but I love this - so much so that I've been wearing it in the house.
It has a beautiful silky, sky-blue patterned lining, which I hope will transmit sunny summer thoughts directly to my gray matter, and the outside is a bitter chocolate mousse tweedy knobbly brown.

N had me in fits of laughter miming how she looks sideways at her new couch, which was an expensive impulse buy that she now finds she loathes. She is an incredible actress when she wants to be.

Today I wore my hat and worked in the garden, cutting back peonies, acanthus, asters and the like. I also picked the last of the Buff Beauty roses to bring indoors, and the scent just wafted back to a June morning.

Not managing much photography, in part because the light today flat and dull so little point unless I do close-ups where the colours would be more saturated.
However this week I've had three contacts about old shots on, I've mentioned this site before - it is a free stock resource for people doing academic or not-for-profit type work or small arts projects. Anyway three pictures have been picked up. One of sheep may be used on the cover of a forthcoming scientific book on Foot and Mouth disease, one of cotoneaster berries is being used in a magazine article about DEFRA's plans to ban this plant and one of NY is being used as part of a multi-picture in a forthcoming American book on the subject. Just wish I got paid too although I'm getting photo credits. But it gives me heart to keep plugging away at things.

A while back I did a few multi media things, using only my own photographs layered and adapted in Photoshop. These are three of them here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dairy Milk

This gorilla is better than Phil ever was. Just a brilliant British ad!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Vegging Out

The last week has been a funny mixture of frantic activity and vegging out.
I felt quite tired at the start of the week, the bite, the tablets, the time of year etc. So I watched some good telly. Current picks are:

BBC 4 series The Genius of Photography I'm learning so much from this and enjoying seeing again some of the fantastic photos I saw in MOMA in NY a while back when I spent days in their photography galleries.

BBC 1 Armstrong and Miller show, very good comedy. I thought the sketch on the daytime TV show was fab. The weatherman forecast crap weather and the hosts invited folk to text their opinions on what should happen to him for giving such a poor forecast. It quickly moved to a phone vote on burning him like the Wicker Man. Great satire on the current hellish broadcasting trend of "And now tell us what you think!"

BBC Scotland's new series Scotland's Music It is charting the history and development of Scottish music, including the journey it has taken with the Scottish diaspora.

Rest of the week has been a general catching up on really boring stuff, like paperwork and direct debits. Horrible but it has to be done. I despair of the amount of junk mail we get -I feel like tethering the recyling box to the back of the letterbox so it comes in and goes straight out!

Yesterday i snatched an hour at the beach. It was freezing and the surf was up. I didn't get much as the tide was so strong it was hard to watch the next wave and frame up a shot/move the tripod if it got too close.

A couple pix, one including a funny piece of flotsam - a child' s bouncy ball with a wee octopus in it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I was walking the dog yesterday and something seems to have stung me. I didn't feel it because it is on my "bad side" where the nerves were cut during surgery. But it is now the size of a wee football, so it must have been the swan song of a bee or a wasp. I'm taking antihistamines and putting cold presses on it, but the lymph drainage on that side is poor so it will take a long time to go down. Only good thing about it is I can't feel it.

It kind of looks like this.............

The weekend was fun. We ended up swapping i-pod music, it was like being back in our bedrooms 40 years ago playing each other tracks off our latest favourite albums, except the technology was much slicker.

I met an old work friend on Monday for lunch. She only recently discovered that her partner has been in another relationship all the years they have been together. Needless to say she is devastated and her former partner has now left to live with the other woman. My friend stands to lose her home as well, as property prices have gone up so much she can't afford to buy out her ex-partner's share.

It must be awful to feel your whole relationship has been based on half-truths. I found it upsetting to see a lovely, generous person so bewildered and hurt. Nobody deserves to be treated like that.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Monsters under the bed

Eugene McGuinness

Friday, November 02, 2007

Slipping up

I'm sorry that my blogging seems to be slipping. I'm just finding it hard to get round everybody I'd like to visit - real life keeps intruding, which is probably a good thing.

I'm feeling a little knackered at the moment. So today I had a long lie and feel the benefit of it, my arm is less sore. I've been getting some nerve and adhesion pains and my usual blasting on regardless behaviour has not helped the situation. But today I will slow down, now that the place looks clean and tidy for friends who are coming to stay. L is my oldest friend, we've known each other for 40 years and we were bridesmaids at each other weddings etc, etc. I love the shorthand we have between us, the long lost places and faces we share.

I'm heavily into making soup just now, the Tuscan bean soup I tasted in Pienza, with a thick slice of good bread in the bottom, and some of our lovely curly kale, and Cullen Skink, which I had up in the Boathouse in Stonehaven when I was up north and really enjoyed it. Here's the recipe, except I like to use leeks, sweated in butter, rather than the onions used here:

"Traditional Scottish Recipes
- Cullen Skink

The name of this rich, tasty soup comes from the fishing village of Cullen, in Morayshire. "Skink" is a soup made originally from a shin of beef. But in this case, the main ingredient is smoked haddock.

A large smoked haddock (weighing around 2 lb)
1 medium onion, finely chopped.
1½ pints (900ml) milk
2 tablespoons butter
8 oz mashed potato
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
Chopped parsley
Triangles of toast (as an accompaniment)

Cover the smoked haddock with water, in a shallow pan, skin side down. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4/5 minutes, turning once. Take the haddock from the pan and remove the skin and bones. Break up the fish into flakes, return to the stock and add the chopped onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Strain, remove the bay leaf but retain the stock and fish. Add the milk to the fish stock and bring back to the boil. Add enough mashed potato to create the consistency you prefer (don't be afraid to make it rich and thick!). Add the fish and reheat. Check for seasoning. Just before serving, add the butter in small pieces so that it runs through the soup.
Serve with chopped parsley on top, accompanied by triangles of toast."

Not for nothing do the family call me "the Soup Dragon"!

And I've opened the pecorino I brought home from Pienza and the smell is wafting me right back to the fantastic cheese shop I bought it it. It tastes wonderful on a good Scottish Oatcake.

BTW this is a favourite painting of mine in the Scottish National Gallery. It's called The Hind's Daughter, and it shows a young girl cutting cabbages in a "kail yard" - a farm kitchen garden. I like it so much I did a water colour copy of it. It is so typically Scottish, the low walled farm buildings and the pantiled roof. It was painted about 20 miles from my house.

Photo is of hawthorn berries, the birds have spared them so far.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Last night was great fun, and my daft piece went down really well. I had loads of people coming up to me to say I'd reminded them of forgotten aspects of Halloween from when they were young. It was also lovely to have to stop reading to let people laugh.

And it was also good to sit and listen to other people's work and to hear what worked and what didn't quite come off.

I'm not good, or at least I'm reluctant to critique other people's work, in part because I don't feel confident about doing it, which probably comes from some of my difficulties with language and also because I feel the lack of the expertise to do it properly.

But I do trust my ear, and it doesn't often let me down.

I've been reading my copy of Kairos, Barbara's new book and enjoying again some of the poems she previously posted on her blog, and had broadcast and getting to know some new pieces of her work.

The book covers a great span of subjects and influences, and I like that about it, in part because I think I'm at a time in my life when I want that kind of mix. Her poems capture landscapes and relationships, politics and myth. I won't pretend that I understand the myth part because it is not something that I know much about, but it has piqued my interest to try and find out more.

I've also been reading the two books I bought in the Shelter shop, I passed the Wendy Cope onto a friend who is having a rough time just now to give her a much-needed laugh.

The first of the other two books is The terrorist at my table by Imtiaz Dharker. I like this in flashes, in part because she captures and gets across the complicated world we now occupy, and asks hard questions about the way we receive, share and process information and news.

I also like the fact that her work is informed by her Glasgow upbringing, so there are wonderful poems like Campsie Fells, describing her extended family's picnic in the damp Scottish countryside.

Food is used to great effect to conjure up longing,homesickness and a sense of place.

Her life and experiences have a complexity that I can only guess at, but these poems go a long way to showing how rich that complexity can be.

The other of the two is Modern Goddess, an anthology from 1992 by a collection of women poets in the NE of England. It includes work by Julia Darling and it's been lovely to read some of her earlier work. My favourite poem is called Reminiscence, which deals with her mother being appalled at the Beamish Musuem, a place that sets out to show life in Victorian times. Julia's poem says her Mum just imagined what it would be like if Thatcher's 80s were recreated in all their awful glory.