Friday, February 29, 2008

Heart Notes

We are making good progress on the poetry pamphlet. We now have a title,
Heart Notes, which is the title of one of the poems, which deals with how smell evokes memory.In perfumery heart notes, or middle notes, are the scents that emerge in the middle of the perfume's dispersion process, following the top note which is perceived first. They are the notes that linger, a bit like memory.

The cover is a photograph that I took in Drum Castle Rose Garden last year, when I was helping to get it ready for the Open Day. There's also a poem in the pamphlet about dead heading roses in the walled garden.

And Judi Benson has very kindly agreed to look at a proof and hopefully provide us with a sleeve note.

I'm currently setting up another volunteering weekend at Drum so I sent the head gardener the cover photograph and told her about the pamphlet and she's asked if I'd like to read from it in the Rose Garden Open Day this July and maybe have a few copies in the Castle shop, which is great!

I've really enjoyed working with Colin as an editor, I've learned a lot, not least when to leave a poem well alone.

Today I have a really bad headache, to the point of a migraine, so I'll stop typing as my eyes are throbbing! Hope it's not a bug as we have tickets to see Tommy Smith the sax player this weekend.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More quirky Lensbaby stuff

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shore Poets

Rob and Colin have both posted on this already. It was my first visit to the event, and I seem to have chosen a good night. The event included the Mark Ogle Memorial Poem More about it on this clickable link.

I enjoyed the evening, I particularly liked Jacob Polley's first poem, I think it was called Smoke. In it he brilliantly captures the detail of clearing and laying an open fire. I especially liked his line about carrying the dust pan almost reverentially so as not to disturb the fine ash.

You'll see from the details on the Mark Ogle Memorial poem that the choice for this year was English Rain, and the commissioned poem in response to it was about Uist rain. The incongruous thing about the Shore Poets is that it is held in a Thai restaurant and the room has four carved pillars completely smothered in elephants. I wrote this draft poem about the evening when I got home..........

Shore Poets at the Mai Thai

Shore Poets at the Mai Thai

Four pillars carved with elephants,
each trunk a curve caressed. Wrinkled
hides that surely know the silky touch
of river mud, the monsoon sting of rain.
Tented ears flicked forward to catch

the soft smirr of summer English rain
on greenwood and five-bar meadow
gate, the drum and thrum of Hebridean
rain, blown in on a westerly gale
to bubble and boil in hooped

and banded butt. And soon the whole
room is filled to overflowing with love
and friendship, life and loss.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Getting Out

We have lived with high winds since January and so photography of any great quailty has been difficult. Today I just picked up my old Canon 300D and put on the lensbaby quirky lens and went for a walk. The wind is still howling, but I took some shots of reeds and beautiful ash tree bark. Nothing brilliant, but it was good fun.

These are two I've processed so far.

February 29th


Ok I'll leave politics alone for a while, as there's enough of it everywhere else.

And the real rhubarb season has started, the lovely tender forced pink shoots that are grown in the dark, under cover, in a tiny part of Yorkshire. It is a wonderful seasonal crop that has been threatened recently by a downturn in sales. But it is making a comeback thanks to TV chefs etc. So if you see it in the supermarket please support a great British tradition.

My own stuff in the garden is barely above ground. I should stick a bucket over it and bring it on. I've been thinking about splitting up the crowns as they're getting quite congested. But I'd probably lose a lot of rhubarb if I dig it up now.

Friday, February 22, 2008


How to put the boot in with great charm! I'm not sure she can recover, but she sure is working hard. I'm sorry but Obama is too like a young Tony Blair for me, a lovely smile and little substance. It is not my election, but in this globalised world it is starting to feel like it is. Hell our airports even get used for rendition without our permission - allegedly!

And John Stewart's wife has given permission for this song to be used by Hillary after a member of the public posted this video on youtube. John Stewart campaigned for Robert Kennedy. He died a few weeks ago.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I was poking around the Arvon site today. I'd love to do one of their residential
poetry courses, but it's probably too late for this year, and you need to submit specimen pieces of work before they will agree to take you on - and that scares me.
But they have some really good poetry workshops in PDF. One includes a poem about a garden escaping - decanting lock, stock and barrel, but for a wisteria hedge.

It got me thinking about that idea and I've drafted this:

Garden Flight

You’ve come back. A nervous fawn
on the edge of a clearing, ready to run
should the wind change and carry my scent
to your nostrils. It’s a tentative show -

crocus, hellebores, a few purple twigs
of daphne, but with a strong suggestion
of what might be. Don’t worry, the lesson’s
been learned, this time I’ll keep my distance.

the photo is of a frosted crocus, taken the day before yesterday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Walk in Good Company

This is The Valley sung by k d lang. She explained the song recently on the radio saying Jane Silberry lived on a hill and her view took in a mental hospital in valley, and she wrote this song about their lives and hers.

kd sings it on the 49th Parallel, where she showcases a host of Canadian song writers. Joanne sent me a copy, it's one of my favourite albums. I heard a blackbird this morning and the song came into my head.


I live in the hills
You live in the valleys
And all that you know are those blackbirds
You rise every morning
Wondering what in the world will the world bring today
Will it bring you joy or will it take it away
And every step you take is guided by
The love of the light on the land and the blackbird's cry
You will walk in good company
The valley is dark
The burgeoning holding
The stillness obscured by their judging
You walk through the shadows
Uncertain and surely hurting
Deserted by the blackbirds and the staccato of the staff
And though you trust the light towards which you wend your way
Sometimes you feel all that you wanted has been taken away
You will walk in good companyI love the best of you
You love the best of me
Though it is not always easy
Lovely? lovely?
We will walk in good company
The shepherd upright and flowing
You see...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Scared/Scared Happy

Do you ever worry that you might be too happy? Or is it just a Scottish curse,
this thing of believing that just when you feel at your most euphoric the sky will come along and fall on your head - again?

That's how I feel right now, and I have much to be happy about, in the photography competition I got a highly commended for the "patterns in nature" part of the competition.

I'm content with that as I don't think I entered my best stuff, I'm not good at picture selection, it's a bit too much like shopping to me, I lose focus on choosing the single item and get lost in the whole! But I made the last 3 out of over 500 entries, which isn't bad.

It was a good night, one of the sponsors was a champagne company and we got free glasses throughout! And Laurie Campbell spoke to me and even remembered my name from last year. We had a lovely chat about photographing snowdrops. He told me he's used sheeting before to put a tent over a whole drift to stop broken sunlight from marring the shot. He is a lovely man.

Second reason to be happy is that my lovely husband told me on Valentine's Day that he's taking me to Chelsea Flower Show in May - another lifelong ambition achieved!

Third reason is I have really nice friends, N is back from Spain and she brought me lovely Spanish dry cured ham - it just melts in the mouth. And we're going to translate a particular poem that's going to be in the book into Spanish and do both versions at the launch.

IM met me on Thursday and we saw the Ansel Adams exhibition, which was wonderful, those old silver prints are just stunning. I enjoyed his landscapes, the majesty of Yosemite etc, but I also liked his macro/close-up work too, and his interest in all sorts of little country churches, from Mexican to Mormon.

And B came by on Friday afternoon and we had a lovely walk on the beach, which was empty but for us and a few surfers - I love winter beaches, something about the quality of the light and the emptiness.

So I feel good, but I'm keeping a close watch on the sky, just in case!

This is a picture of a part of Edinburgh that I like. This was taken in summer, but the architecture and the colours work just as well in winter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day

I'll be away tomorrow and Friday so thought I'd post my Valentine's Day contribution early.

The first three haiku are by my friend Brenda. When a group of us were doing chemo we used to write haiku based on a set theme. These are Brenda's for Valentine's Day four years ago. She was very ill at the time and sadly didn't recover, but she was a really gifted writer and a very funny and warm person. I like to re-read some of the things she wrote and these are worth sharing I think.

oil changes and smiles
I am the love of his life
and he tells me so

second time around
is much sweeter than the first
nor taken lightly

we will get through this.
not you, but we together
my favorite wife

And this came into my head last night. I like it, thought you might too.....

you are

my tribe, my troupe,
my flock, my herd,
my caste, my group,
my caravan, my marathon
my norm, my mean,
my swarm, my sting
my drum, my dart
my charm, my spell
my country, my world
my town, my harbour
my refuge, my love

the picture is mine and is based on a stamp produced by photographing a love heart in isolation

Monday, February 11, 2008

A photography week

Friday I'm attending the awards ceremony of this competition.
I have three pictures through to the final, two landscapes and one on patterns in nature. I don't think I'll win anything this year, last year I won the landscape section. But it will be a nice night and good to see the other photographs.
And on Thursday I'm going to see a touring exhibition of Ansel Adams work in Edinburgh. It will be good to see proper gallery prints of his work, rather than images in books and magazines.

I also had a good contact/offer last week. I've mentioned before that I've some old material on - a free stock resource. Anyway a London horticultural mag used one of my shots for a second time and the editor then e-mailed me to say he was impressed that my name had come up twice when he was looking for suitable material, and would I like to be added to their commission list? So of course I said yes! I'm not sure what it will lead to, if anything, but it proves that sometimes it is worth just getting your stuff out there.

I'm still busy in the garden, today I've been down on my knees hand-weeding before I spread the mulch on the Spring area under my plum tree. There is actually a tulip in bud, which for February is just plain mad!

And I took care of some long overdue paper work that was starting to prick my conscience.

Anyway I'd better get going - dog to walk, food to buy etc, etc. The photo is from a local wood awash with snowdrops. I've yet to find a satisfactory way on metering for snowdrops, it's like photographing a wedding, all that white, with the wood behind still fairly dark.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Shame on Japan!!!

This is video of the Japanese whale hunt. I'm not some soft Western soul who only protests about animal cruelty. I've blogged before about Dafur and many other appalling human rights issues. Nor am I for a moment anti Japanese, I admire many aspects of their culture and have Japanese friends and indeed relatives.

But if we cannot protect the most wonderful creatures of the ocean then we really don't deserve to inhabit this planet.

This is not scientific research, it is a brutal, unnecessary slaughter.

It is a Japanese Government decision to undertake this hunt.

Governments respond to bad press and the economic consequences of their decisions. Protest now to help try and stop it!!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Good song, brilliant video

Early doors

I've been working outside the last two days. I had a delivery of thirty bags of spent mushroom compost from a local farm and I've been mulching the borders with it and some of my own garden compost.

The hellebores are flowering, as are the winter aconites, and one of the daphnes is about to break. And the temperature is not at all bad, I've been working with just a light fleece on rather than a heavy jacket.

Spring poems always seem so reverential, so as an antidote I wrote this daft poem in my head while I worked.

Early doors

If putting in an early appearance
be sure to do it well. Be bold,
be bright, be yellow! Wear your best,
a pretty, frilly collar will conceal
a stumpy neck. And don’t hang
back in damp, gloomy dells, come right
up to the door - if needs be ring
the bell! Who needs tasteful verse,
penned to delicate snowdrops,
faded violets? Be an acolyte
of the aconite, love a bloom
that’s in your face!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Powerful writing

A Wanderer in Paris invited me amongst others to say what I considered powerful writing to be.

Quite a vast subject to tackle and it probably deserve more research and thought than I can offer it, but I will attempt to say something here.

The sort of writing that makes me sit up and pay attention usually uses language in fresh and interesting way to cast a new light or angle on a particular issue.

I also enjoy writers who are able to put themselves in other people's shoes. One of my favourite Carver poems is where he imagines himself losing his partner to illness as a means of showing Tess just how unbearable he finds the thought that he will shortly have to leave her behind. (I don't have the book to hand, but it's from A New Path to the Waterfall)

And I like writing that has an air of mild obsession about it, eg people who research a narrow field or a particular subject or issue from top to bottom. I suspect very little progress would ever be made without this type of thinker meeting up with the other type, the polymath, whose thinking ranges all over the place.

I'm also interested in great speeches. Few loved Churchill in peacetime,but he was astounding in WWII. This is one of his famous quotes from Sept 1941:

"Captain of our souls

The mood of Britain is wisely and rightly averse from every form of shallow or premature exultation. This is no time for boasts or glowing prophecies, but there is this — a year ago our position looked forlorn, and well nigh desperate, to all eyes but our own. Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world, 'We are still masters of our fate. We still are captain of our souls.'"

And how about this from from Emmeline Pankhurst 1858 - 1928:

"We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half."

There are no great orators left, the sound bite has done for them, but we mustn't lose touch with our history, as it could stop us from repeating the countless avoidable tradegies that we see all around us - like folks preparing for an invasion based on the Rough Guide to the city and an atlas!

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Must admit to feeling rather low since I learned about Joanne.

Yesterday I helped my music teacher recover all her holiday pix from a corrupted flash card. I googled the problem and came up with this
great blog site . I downloaded the programme they recommended and ran it with her card reader plugged into a USB port. It works like chkdisc in DOS, which is still available in safe mode I think, and lo and behold we recovered 205 of M's photographs, and lost only one which was completely fried. M was really happy and it made me feel good to be useful.

I also got chocolates and a bottle of very expensive wine from the neighbours for pruning their large apple tree. It looks really good now, it's back in proportion with their garden, and full of fruiting spurs that will provide lots of blossom and hopefully fruit.

So I must have earned quite a lot of good karma this week!

This is a picture of my compost bin, I just liked the faded tulips with red cabbage stalk!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Just not fair!

I never get used to this. This is the latest bulletin on my dear friend Joanne.
Darryl, her brother, has posted this message on Joanne's own blog, which she's used to keep family and friends up to date. (Blogs are a blessing for this, there's just no energy for endless calls and e-mails.)

We were diagnosed at the same time five years ago. I got lucky, Joanne didn't. I just wanted to record her bravery here too.


Darryl here, on behalf of Joanne, who asked me to provide an update to all of you.

It has been a most challenging week. Things changed quite dramatically on Sunday night when Joanne ended up in the hospital due to a high fever. She spent a day in Emergency until she was finally able to be admitted into the Oncology ward. In the meantime, on Monday, additional results came back, from her latest CT scan, that indicated further progression, this time to her brain. This news has set the next chapter of this journey into motion. The focus of Joanne’s treatments has shifted from active to palliative. There are no plans for additional chemo at this time. Tomorrow, Joanne is having the first of several palliative radiation treatments focused on the brain and esophagus progression. The intention of this phase of radiation is to ease the onset of symptoms that would otherwise arise from this new progression. Next steps and future treatment options are unclear at this time.

Joanne, Gord, Michelle, Craig and Brian are facing these latest challenges with the same strength and focus that we have all seen and drawn inspiration from in the past months and years. The continued support and prayers from all of you are appreciated very much, especially during this next most challenging phase.

31 January 2008"