Thursday, January 31, 2008

New York, New York

I've been contacted by a Spanish magazine who want to use one of my Royalty Free shots of the Statue of Liberty in a piece on NY. I get a photo credit etc. They're sending me the article as a PDF so I'll post a bit if I can. Another shot, of Strawberry Fields in Central Park, is going into some catalogue in the US - for dress bow ties of all things! They're doing one called Strawberry Fields, which is what the John Lennon memorial in the park is called. My Morguefile shots were all taken when I was really very green with a camera, but they keep getting downloaded so they must be of some use, and of course they are free.

I've just read the A L Kennedy review in the Glasgow Herald, she's in NY to receive another award for her latest book, the name of which escapes me right now. Anyway she's been bird watching in Central Park, looking at the crackles,an amazing starling like bird, but bigger and more vibrant than ours. The park is a fantastic space for birds, one of the prime sites on the whole east coast I think. It is just the sort of anal thing I would do if I was let loose there again. That and haunt the photography gallery at MOMA!

I'd love to go back, it's a fabulous city. My friend and are promising each other a road trip over there some day. We'd drive down the East Coast and then go see my friend in PA and my niece in FL.

Looking at the snow piling up outside I wish it was happening right now!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jo Gibson's launch

I attended this last night and it was a really good. See Colin's blog for more details.

I'm trying to think of a venue for mine. I'm torn between my home town and Edinburgh as I have people in both places. A friend is seeing if she can maybe get a space for me at the university. But we'll see, much to be done before then.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reasons to be cheerful

A very dear friend's daughter is working in an orphanage in Thailand as part of her gap year. This is "Miss Isles" video of some of the children she is caring for. She's done a great editing job putting it together.
When there is so much bad news in the world this is one wee bright spot.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Breath of fresh air

Finally the wind has dropped and the sky has been relatively clear. So I went for a long walk with N. before she disappears to Madrid for two weeks. I wish I was going too, but I wouldn't get it past budgetary control, aka my husband.

But I really enjoyed the walk after spending the morning 10ft off the ground pruning
my neighbour's apple tree. What a mess, crossed branches rubbing, scrubby growth choking the centre etc. I've not finished, but my arm got too sore to continue, so more tomorrow!

And I got an invitation to the Scottish Seabird Centre photography awards at a posh Edinburgh hotel. They are announcing the winners on the night, but I don't think I'll get anything this year.

These are four shots of the river estuary this afternoon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I'm reading Plath's collected poems again. Mainly the ones from 1959, which are 3 years before the much darker ones that formed the final collection in Ariel.

What I like most is her unerring eye for how things look or appear. Blue Moles is a current favourite, two dead moles "shapeless as flung gloves" is just such brilliant description, giving you an instant picture.

I also love the prose extract included in The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Women Poets, it is taken from Ocean 1212-W and in it she describes growing up on the beach, "the rim of the last wave, marked by a mascara of tar."

Clearing up the garden this week I cleaned out the water butt, dredging it to get out all the fallen leaves, but the net brought up more than I bargained for.

So this is a short poem trying, probably with out success, to borrow Plath's dark observant eye.

The Butt

Slack water gives up a slick
of blackened leaves and
a dead toad, white
and gelatinous as spawn.
Limbs fanned, frozen
in shocked surprise,
as a monkey would be
puzzled if hanged
by a tree, or a spider
smothered by a web.
And yet natural elements
do kill.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Good Book

This was the book of the week on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour. It is wonderful. It really contrasts the difference between two cultures as they clash head on at the level of the individual. There's a listen again facility on the Woman's Hour website.

"A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers is a funny and poignant romance about love and the search for a common language, adapted from one of last year’s shortlisted novels for the Orange Broadband Prize. It began life as the author’s diary when she herself first came to London, and tells the story of a young Chinese woman studying English in London, whose bemused encounters with waiters, taxi drivers, hostel managers and language teachers leave her longing for a friendly face. When she falls head over heels in love with an Englishman, her English starts to improve dramatically. But an expanding vocabulary and the discovery of the delights of sex and freedom bring the realisation that the word ‘love’ doesn’t always mean the same in different cultures. "

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Blur

Life is going by in a blur just now, which is no bad thing as I hate January and February is little better.

I'm gutting my kitchen, as my son's girlfriend offered to come and cook dinner for us all tomorrow night, and, biting back my mother's half of my DNA, I stupidly agreed.
(My mother's favourite battle cry was, "Get out of my kitchen!"). But at least I must have done something right the first time the girl came out here for her to want to come back. And it will be joy to have someone else cook for this lot!

I've also been to Edinburgh to check all the required documents went off with the charity bid, there was pages and pages of the bloody stuff. After the meeting I wandered over to the National Museum of Scotland, as it's been ages since I visited. The rain was lashing outside and I had a lovely hour looking at some of our greatest national treasures and antiquities.

Talk about bling! There are a couple of silver chains in there that you could tie an ocean liner up with. And of course there are a few of the Lewis Chessmen . They are carved in walrus ivory and are thought to date to the 12th century and they are to Lewis what the Elgin marbles are to Athens. Most are in the British Museum in London, the rest are in Edinburgh, but Lewis wants them all back. I think they have a good case. The chessmen themselves are exquisite wee things, I especially like their slightly bemused expressions. My Dad was half Danish and they look a little like he did after one too many schapps!

I've also planted the plants from the Beth Chatto nursery, three Echinacea purpurea called White Lustre, one Erynguim eburneum, to go with my globe thistles and cardoons,one Rudbeckia lancinata - a tall autumn daisy, a Helianthus Lemon Queen and some hardy chrysanths, I wanted Emperor of China, but couldn't get it, so this is a surprise substitution. So lots of back end colour to look forward to! I've also potted up some root cutting from the chrysanths and sown my tomato seeds inside in the propagator.

And I've booked my tickets for the Stanza poetry festival, see Colin's blog for full details, and the accommodation we booked has been upgraded to a flat in the "big house" complete with the old board of servants' bells.
It should be a good weekend.

The picture is of the ripples on the river yesterday. They were going by in a blur too.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Speaking of the wind

I love this Tim O'Brien song - My Brother Wind. Sad to note the passing of John Stewart today too! A friend in the US adored him, he sang her heart.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A mighty lash

We had to write a poem on the theme of a gift for a poetry group I attend. We've had some really bad gales this month, so I thought I use them as the basis for my effort:

Gift of Janus

Chimneys, door jambs, closes
howl. Sleep turns to sleep-
lessness. Letterboxes,
sashes, slates lift,
then fall and clatter.
Drunken cans stot,cartwheel
up the street. Blinds at bay windows
screen triptychs of demented,
writhing trees. Plastic bags bloat
and rise, then pulse away like
ghostly jelly fish plunging down
some surging trough.

A mighty lash sent to test the strong,
cull the weak, to scarify and sweep.

Oh and I got a request to do some B&W veggie prints for someone who saw my leek triptych for the lady in Edinburgh.
I produced 5 prints in all, here are three of them. They are now off at the framers.

And I've also been asked to do a wedding later in the year, but I'm not sure I have the bottle or the skill.

PS if you get the chance listen to this, the story behind the song House of the Rising Sun. It reminds me of why we all used to love America.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I've finished the bidding document I've been writing and I have to confess that I've enjoyed it more than I expected to, especially all the statistical research.
It is being considered in London, so I had to write a lot of background/context stuff as we were warned at the seminar on Monday that there wouldn't be much knowledge of the position north of the border around the table down there.

It feels good, like finishing some big homework assignment when I was a kid.
Now I can hopefully get back to more personal projects. The greenhouse clear out needs completing, I've some chicken poo to collect for my roses, and mushroom compost to order to mulch the long borders.

And I'm excitedly awaiting an order of herbaceous plants from the world famous gardens/nurseries of Beth Chatto They are mostly things for late summer, and are all tall, so they can go at the back of the borders and give height and sense of depth. It is my Christmas present money, and delayed gratification is always worthwhile when it comes to plants.

This is a crocus shot from last year,but the aconites are already through in the back garden, so life is on the move.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I had to go to Glasgow yesterday, to a presentation on a Govt quango's funding round.
It was a long day and I got soaked both ways.

And the Edinburgh to Glasgow train was just awful. Outside dreich barely light moor and marsh, with the sun limping through intermittently, inside this moving corridor of plonkers. Some with plugged ears were emitting endless ching, ching,boom, boom sounds, others were picking e-mails off their Blackberries. And of course there were the inevitable, "I'm on the train............." calls.

But the best snippet I heard was, "her name is Lia, L, i, a, and she'll be manning the hot desk pod from Monday."

WTF!? Beam up Scotty!

I would shoot myself if I had to re-enter the corporate world, they talk such utter and complete shite and manage to make it sound like it is earth-shattering.

This is a photo from Sunday at 3pm, low light and fog. Yesterday in Glasgow it was so wet that it looked like twilight at 12 noon.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Well my son and his girlfriend have been and gone. The meal was fine and the house was shiny as a new pin. I've been remembering when I first visited my husband's parents' house. It was a rather odd experience, as his younger sisters kept peering round the door at me and giggling, which was very unnerving.

M's girlfriend seems a nice girl and they seem to enjoy each other's company, which is lovely to see.

I suppose as a mother you always hope your kids are lovable and also capable of giving love in return and so a part of me feels mightily relieved.

My husband said that when he dropped them off my son carried the girl's bag up the 12 flights of stairs to her flat before coming back to the car. He has never, ever offered or done that before, but it's good to know that somehow his DNA has absorbed that this is a kind and considerate thing to do. And he now has someone he cares enough for to actually do it.

All of this is another stage in the long process of letting go. I recently bought a book of poems by a poet who attends my class, and her kids are not at this stage by any means and yet she is already anticipating the empty nest and all that means for her.

I sometimes wonder if my maternal instincts are somewhat lacking and that maybe they have more in common with a starling, "Off you go now dear, fly!".

Don't get me wrong I've enjoyed being a mother but I've always felt the tension of being true to myself and motherhood. And I think I've always believed your children are on loan to you, and the job, first and foremost, is to equip them for flight. However, it is a funny job, in that while you're practising it time seems to drag and you are never really sure that you are doing it the right way, and then before you know it pfft it's over and you wish you'd done it a whole lot better.

All of my eggs are in one basket, I've just got to hope that the basket case who put them there did a good enough job!

Yesterday I got out with the camera for a wee while. These ice patterns on frozen standing water caught my eye.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A January song

This is a great country western song which sort of goes with the dreich days of January

Mary Gauthier, "I Drink"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My cup runneth over

More good news. My son's met a girl at university. She's American and so she went home for Christmas, but he's asked if he can bring her home for dinner on Friday.
I know this doesn't seem like much, but when I was ill it was on my list of things I might never get to see, so to me it feels rather wonderful - especially as I live in a house full of men - even the dog is male. Now I'm in agonies about what to cook, and I'm laying frantic plans to clean the house in a week where I have a lot on already.

And I'm ploughing on with these funding bids, it alarms me how easily I slip back into action plan speak. God how I hate it, and yet it's what you have to do if you want the cash!

Other good news is I entered again for the national competition I won the landscape section of last year. I heard yesterday that I have three shots through to the exhibition, two landscape and one close-up of a section of waterfall in a new category on patterns in nature. I really don't think I'll win anything this year as I don't have the same feel about these shots as I did over the one last year - but it's good to know three shots got through on the anonymous judging part of the exercise.

I also want to mention two books I read over the holidays. A friend lent me Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers. It is set in Venice and the descriptions of the city and its art and architecture are lovely, not so sure I bought the plot, it is about redemption and forgiveness and I'm too much of an old cynic to buy it.

I also read Gilgamesh by Joan London, an Australian best seller. It is an unusual epic about the Second World War, with "the story unfolding across three continents"
What I liked about it was the characterisations, they are so strong you can hear them breathing. Def. a good read!

I'll catch up with everyone soon, I promise!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Offering the right food

I have been feeding the birds in my garden for years now, but only the usual things like mixed birdseed, fat balls and some peanuts. But just before Christmas I found a place selling big bags of thistle seed and a special feeder to hold it and almost overnight some fantastic new birds arrived:




bullfinches (just one male so far)

The siskins are very lively, bickering amongst themselves and shooing off other birds.

I'm going to try and set up the camera at the kitchen window with the remote release to see if I can get a few shots of them.

Snow is falling heavily here, although it isn't lying and will be gone by tomorrow when the weather is expected to get milder again.

N is back from her retreat, she went away to avoid all the New Year hullabaloo.
She spent the time at a formal meditation retreat and has come home looking very relaxed and calm.

I've spent the day working on a grant application for the big garden that I'm a trustee of - so much paper work for voluntary organisations to fill in and every time the application criteria are different so you have to reconfigure the same basic information into a new and acceptable package.

I must admit to being glad to be through the "Festive Period" with its heightened expectations and all the looking back and the looking forward. Those of us who dance in limbo find it very hard to deal with - which is why N wisely just opts out.

But I am pleased with where my life is at just now. I'm really enjoying the collaborative process of doing the chapbook with Colin, and the garden plans will be fantastic if they come off. I've also fixed up a week's volunteering to coincide with the Stanza poetry festival in March, which gives me a week's free accommodation near St Andrews in exchange for three hours work each morning. So the new year is shaping up well, although I shouldn't tempt fate by saying things like that, but I do have my fingers and toes crossed so it should be OK!

The photo is a composite of my own shots of puddle ice and hawthorn berries