Sunday, June 29, 2008


I'm listening to this song on my i-pod. It's been a sad weekend. My husband's colleague died yesterday morning in the early hours. He was diagnosed less than two months ago with esophageal cancer. He was so busy looking after his patients he didn't stop to take the time to look after himself, until it was too late.

It is a recurring theme with many men. I hope it will be a wake-up call to my old man to take some time for himself - he's always going back to work after dinner to do a few more hours of paperwork to keep the NHS afloat.

I'm also listening to Paul Weller's new album 22 Dreams. It is excellent, he is such a good songwriter and the mix of material on this album is really impressive.

My hay fever is bothering me something rotten,the high winds here are fanning grass pollen everywhere. So I have a good excuse to stay indoors and watch Wimbledon. It's the first time in years that matches have engaged me enough to watch them from start to finish, as there are some great touch players around just now, not least our own Andy Murray. It is so much better than watching those awful boom, boom baseline games.

I used to play tennis as a girl, eye streaming with hay fever as the single tarmacked village court was surrounded on three sides by meadows. We'd play from sun up to sun down, arguing over points in matches that sometimes lasted for 15 sets. Then when Wimbledon came along the big village boys would come and evict us for a week or two, before going back to their fags and football as soon as it finished.

My racket was heavy and wooden, and not a little warped. But those summer days seemed to last for ever and were full of great lessons about persistence, fairness and not pushing your luck!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reading from pamphlet

Colin and I did another reading from Heart Notes, this time on home turf. We had a good audience and people seemed to like the poems. It always comes as something of a shock to me that the contents of my daft head should appeal to anyone else.

My daughter's friend played the flute between readings and did a really good job. She's only 18 but can play the bass guitar, piano, acoustic guitar and flute. She is going off on a gap year in a few weeks time and will be coming home to study medicine. It was good to have a young person around as it gave the night a nice balance.

The news in the broader world continues to depress me. There must be a big, chunky novel or screenplay to be written on the effects of the hike in the price of oil, and the reasons for it. The speed of the ripple effect on lives across the planet due to the price hike is just astounding. Here's a wee list of things I've picked up on so far:

The cooking fat from fast food outlets is being stolen in the US
Crofters in the Western Isles of Scotland have experienced a wave of central heating fuel thefts and are having to increase security around their tanks.
The manufacture of the Hummer vehicle to be discontinued
Food riots through lack of staple grains in several developing countries, e,g. Haiti and Egypt,in part caused by the switch to growing for fuel rather than food, in part the distribution costs of moving grain around.
Fishing boats across the world tying up because it is just not cost-effective to put to sea.

After all the debates on global warming, Kyoto and its successor etc, etc it seems the quickest and most effective way to change human behaviour is, as ever, through the price mechanism - but, as ever, it is the poorest who are having to pay the piper first. And it's funny how crime, through ingenuity and/or necessity, is always the first thing to adapt to changing circumstances.

I'm looking into increasing our loft insulation for the coming winter with a product based on sheep's wool - wool sales have declined steeply because of the introduction of man-made fibres and fleeces, so wool is being used to insulate buildings instead.

And Paul McCartney's suggested we should all have a meat free day once a week (on the basis that meat takes more energy to produce that vegetables or grains) and has suggested that we make it a Monday. Only a vegetarian worth o' 125 million quid would suggest making it a Monday - the day most meat-eaters are using up their Sunday roast!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mixed bag

Funny how a despot kills the democrat in one. Am I alone in hoping someone will step out of the crowd to finish off Mugabe?

My MIL has gone home and I'm feeling tired. She is " no bother" as we say here, but just having someone that vulnerable around is tiring, you find yourself checking on them all the time, and you are doing everything for them, as you would for a small child. And hearing the same thing for the sixth time is wearing.

Tomorrow we have another reading from Heart Notes, hard to know how many will turn up, so I just hope it goes well.

Not much other news really, I'm trying to get organised for going away next weekend, and my FIL 80th birthday party looms and I'm making lists of "things to do".

Here are a few pictures of flowers in the garden, peony, inula and hardy geranium.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I'm really chuffed that a shot of mine was chosen to be in the current issue of Qarrtsiluni and I'm grateful to Lucy at box elder for thinking it had merit and putting it forward.

I'm living in the garden at the moment. I should post more photos, but as I shoot in RAW and convert etc, etc I'd rather store the editing up for a rainy day. But I will try to add a shot to this post later.

Things are at their peak just now. The crambe cordifolia is a massive meteor shower of tiny white, honey-scented flowers and the old French roses I planted 18 months ago are finally putting on a show, with big cabbage heads of lipstick pink flowers dripping in musky scent.

This morning I trimmed the wisteria back as it was a thicket of springy new growth, and then I cut back a big old euphorbia and dead-headed the white lilac, which has gone over already. It was a nice job as they are right beside a mock orange bush in full flower, and a whole mess of Buff Beauty climbing roses, which break in shades of apricot and fade to ivory and also have a lovely scent.

I also have a load of opium poppies that have self-seeded in the paths and I can't wait to see what colours they will be, my favourites are the very red doubles. The peonies are also enjoying the relatively settled weather. I love to see the white ones standing out in the gloaming at about 10pm at night.

In the greenhouse I'm picking tons of rocket and other salad leaves, the vine has set its grapes and the passion flower if running riot. Pots of four kinds of basil are also doing well, though still tiny and not ready to pick. And my Chelsea auriculas have germinated, and the mixed verbascums, but no sign yet of the sea hollies.

If only we could bottle these days!

I see Lucy is making elder flower cordial. I have a yen to pick some elder flowers and dip them in batter, like the Italians do with courgette/zuccinni flowers. They are supposed to taste really lovely and being Scots a bit of batter never goes amiss !

Anyway must go. I've a prescription to get, I always leave it to the last minute.
There's lots of other stuff I need to do too, like MOT the car before then end of the month, and shop for boring things for the house - the dog shredded a quilt cover by getting a claw caught trying to dig it up. But these days are too precious to waste.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pots without their lids

Yesterday I worked in the garden and took some close-up, macro shots of things.
Nothing great came out of it, but it was nice and relaxing. And I had this draft poem buzzing in my head. It was inspired by my MIL, as she has always done this.

The photo is a segment of backlight poppy.

Thanks I'm editing this poem now, think it might be a sonnet.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Breathing Space

Well my son is winging his way across the pond, and much as I love him dearly I'm looking forward to a month of peace and quiet. I'm sick of hearing myself nagging and cajoling.

I know the teenage brain is a fried mess of mixed up connection, but that doesn't make it any easier to live with. And I'm afraid my mother's genes are also rising to the fore, and I've been guilty of mouthing some of her legendary phrases like "do something to justify your existence!"

It's the aural equivalent of catching yourself in the mirror and for a moment knowing that it's her face staring back at you. Sometimes I'm almost sad that she is dead, as I might be just about ready to admit that at times she had a point.

I also had a friend round to view the shots I did of her girls for a Father's Day present for her husband. (It's this Sunday folks!) She was really taken with them, to the extent her eyes filled up and she said "we have two beautiful children, but we could never have caught them the way that you have." I must admit I really enjoyed the process - and I'm more and more convinced that being a middle-aged woman behind the lens is a positive bonus, as you seem to be completely invisible and non-threatening.

Also had lovely e-mails from folk who bought Heart Notes last week, most saying how much they loved the reading and how much they liked my voice. I never really expect people to like my stuff - there's my mother again - but I'm starting to have to believe the evidence that is accruing before my eyes.

The best thing about last Thursday was that Maggie, my counsellor post cancer, came to reading. I've not seen her for well over two years, but I could see she was overjoyed to see the progress that I have made.

I've also heard that I'm going to Spain later in the year, as part of the party from the charity I work with to visit our twin project on the border of Spain/Portugal.
And the "big garden" has got its second grant, this one is to establish a community orchard in the wild flower meadow. I gave a wee bit of support on this, but most of the credit has to go to our chairman, who put in a power of work on it. So we now have money to take out inappropriate trees, most are "volunteers" and to replace them with old, local varieties of apple, pear and plum. The meadow will also be scarified mechanically to take out the deep thatch of grass and allow light to the many wild flowers and bulbs, which will be added to by means of plug planting etc.

So I guess I'm feeling a little better. I think London and the work on the house just took too much out of me, and it takes me longer and longer to bounce back.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Heart Notes reading

Colin Will and I did a reading from the pamphlet last night in Edinburgh. Our choice of poems seemed to go down well and we sold quite a few copies - one chap buying four!

We had music from my friend Nick Flavin, who heads up Edinburgh's University Settlement, and a fiddle playing friend of his. Linknet lent me their training rooms and my aunt prepared some lovely food. It was great to see people from different parts of my life, including some from my class at the Scottish Poetry School.

The next reading is in Haddington, on 25 June, with East Lothian Library Services' support.

Sorry I'm not blogging much. I just seem to have so many bits and pieces to finish on a variety of fronts. We're having a party for my FIL's 80th in a few weeks and I'm organising stuff for that. My MIL has had a fall and while nothing is broken she needs some looking after. My son leaves for a month in the USA and I'm nagging about washing, cash etc. A neighbour asked me to do photographs of her kids for Father's Day. I've taken the shots, which was great fun and included braving a trampoline, but need to edit them. And the bed in the big garden is being rotavated on Monday and I need to rescue some stuff from it before that happens.

Still feeling tired though, a sort of bone-deep tiredness. Off for a walk now, that will hopefully wake me up!