Sunday, November 30, 2008

Once again the Danes are happiest people in Europe

I'm interested in this as I have Danish blood in me on both side of my family, my paternal grandmother was Danish, although she didn't live to see me, and a great grandfather on my mother's side. (click on the header for the full story)

People are wondering if it just the society that the Danes have created that makes them so happy with their lot, they are highly taxed, but have excellent public services and are very family orientated.

I listened to a report from Denmark on the radio this morning. And one of the things they featured was a laughter class, where women of all ages got together to literally have a good old belly laugh. So here is my virtual laughter workshop:

:( :{ :) :) :) :) ;) :) :O :O :Q :() :{] :<) :) ;) ;)

I hope that feels better

If not try this, recorded in 1922:

Someone's just told him that the last guy to hold up a bank demanded that they put a mortgage in his sack.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Colin Will has added Paypal to the Calder Wood Press, so if anyone would like a copy of Heart Notes, or indeed any of the other fine pamphlets on the list you can now buy on line.

Yesterday was a very busy day for me. We finally started planting the Cottage Garden in St Mary's Pleasance. Only the new hedge, which is made up of tiny whips of hawthorn, virburnum opulus and holly - but it was great to actually be planting after months of planning. We're using holly to frame all the entrances to the plot, as it will clip well into a solid shape.

The borders are all pegged out and topped with compost and the new paths have been filled with topsoil, that's been levelled and they are just waiting to be turfed.

And Beryl McNaughton, of Macplants, is posting the first planting plans for the path borders through my door today. I will take pictures, but yesterday we worked in blustery rain, which the camera wouldn't have appreciated.

We also pruned an old black mulberry, whose branches were sweeping the ground, and shading out a portion of new hedge. I find people who are not gardeners tend to be too timid when they prune, it's all a bit like getting the hairdresser's junior, your heart sinking as they tentatively play around with your precious tresses.

This tree had had similar treatment, so we set to and stripped out all the old diseased and crossed branches and succeeded in lifting the whole canopy and leaving the tree looking much more like itself.

Today I'm taking it easy, as I've been running around all week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Almost all of the county has assumed its winter garb of ploughed red clay, and in some fields winter wheat is already coming through. I had a wee look on youtube and there are lots of video clips made by petrol head farmers showing off their ploughing skills.

As a young girl I worked on a farm and I once tried my luck at ploughing, but I really wasn't very good and the farmer didn't want his neighbours to think that he had done any of that field, so I was never asked to repeat the exercise.

This is a wee poem about rooks and ploughs and a small bookmark shot of a tractor harrowing one of the fields near here.


They tumble through the air,
like a suit of spades thrown
skywards. Their calls a raucous
counterpoint to the plough’s
ceaseless churn,as the top field
turns from shabby blonde to polished
chestnut in its corrugated wake.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


On Wednesday I took the lensbaby camera into Edinburgh with me and took some quick snaps along the route between the car and the galleries.

This is a collage of the city in winter, including two freezing young Polish buskers.

I love Edinburgh and couldn't ever imagine living too far away from it. It's home, like the name of this great first track from the new David Byrne and Brian Eno album:

Friday, November 21, 2008

A ramble

This week has been a wonderful mixture of things. Last night I attended the SPL School of Poets night on Edwin Morgan's publication. Ken Cockburn did a great job leading the group and we looked at the Morgan poem "The Apple's Song" in some detail and then at some of the subsequent publications that it flew off to roost in.

After that we chose a Morgan publication and tried to write a flyleaf poem for it.

I've also been following the BBC "book of the week" Don't Sleep There Are Snakes
on Radio 4 by Daniel Everett, and read by Colin Stinton

"Daniel Everett lived among the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil, whose remoteness meant that their language was incomprehensible.

He began as a linguist and a missionary, his task to translate the New Testament into their dialect. But his story tells of how, over the years, the Pirahãs changed him more than he could influence them."

I was delighted to learn that the Pirahã have no concept of number or of left and right handedness. They orientate themselves their whole lives by where they are in relation to the river at any given moment.

Nor do they have any language for the past or the future.

Everett set out to proselytize this tribe, but in the end it is they who proselytized him. In this time of thinking that we can survive a downturn by simply flogging, in every sense of the word, more out of a tired and weary planet the Piraha have much to teach us all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't worry, be happy

Everyone seems be being very creative in bloggerland just now. Nice to see so many projects coming off.

I recently enjoyed a great workshop with the Scots poet Liz Niven and one of the curators of the Tracey Emin retrospective. We got a guided tour of the exhibition, the second time I've been round it, and then we did some writing, one collective piece based on using our the five senses responses to the work and one individual piece. It was a really enjoyable morning, although quite nerve-wracking as I didn't know anyone there. Although I was quite pleased when the curator help up a photograph of a piece of work and asked us who it was by. I was able to identify it as Du Champ, by virtue of having seen the Man Ray/DuChamp/Picabia exhibition at the Tate this May.

This Wednesday I'm starting a 4 week course at the National Galleries that I'm really looking forward to.

Plus our SPL School of Poets class is getting the opportunity to have an evening session with Ken Cockburn on the Edwin Morgan archive, which is being permanently deposited at the Scottish Poetry Library.

I'm also going to see the film EasyVirtue with a friend. It is an adaptation of a Noel Coward play and it has had pretty good reviews and hopefully it will be a bit of laugh.

And then I have my young nephew for the weekend while my SIL and husband try to sort out some more of my MIL's affairs.

So a busy week in prospect

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jeff Buckley

Both the Emily D poem and this song, the Corpus Christi Carol, were featured on this week's excellent contribution to BBC Radio 4's Something Understood, which is on the subject of pain.

I hope to catch up with folk at the weekend. Life is busy just now. The "big garden" is taking a lot of my time, supervising work, buying in material etc, plus I have had the house draughtproofed under an O2 funded energy saving project, and we had to clear the loft out at short notice so they could lag it to a depth of 12''. Then I had to get rid of all the rubbish we dragged down. So I'm managing to do very little in terms of my own projects at present.

The "detox" from Arimidex is going well, after only ten days my sleep has improved by leaps and bounds, and after 6 years of insomnia I can tell you that that it very welcome. My mood is also much better, which I'm pleased about too, as it was awful to feel quite so low for so long. It had become hard to determine what the true me was like any more!

This song is so beautiful, and dates from the 15th century. It is for my good friend Robert, who buries his dear wife today after a nine year battle with two cruel illnesses.

Monday, November 10, 2008

After Great Pain

After great pain, a formal feeling comes--
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs--
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?
The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought--
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--
This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go--

Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


A Distant Moon Ago

We stayed up past bedtime,
waiting for them to come home
and to tell us why flickering pictures
from a place called Dallas
were making grown men cry.

Tonight I weep for joy
as I watch a young man
turn the page in the story
of that most congenial
spot that was once
their Camelot.

Richard Burton's Lyrics from Camelot

It's true! It's true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there's a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That's how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.
The snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear.
In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ava was 10 when Bush came to power

She is 18 now and votes for the first time on Tuesday.

This is her video. Her hope for her nation.

I'm not sure that much will change either way, but for the sake of all our children I too truly hope that it does.

Quite a week

Argh I did a long post and blogger ate it!

So to recap:

A hospital check-up this week means I can come off the drug I've had to take these last few years. I also learned that the drug switch I pushed for 3 years ago is now the standard way to treat breast cancer cases like mine where there's a high risk of recurrence.

I feel a bit twitchy about flying solo again, and having to get a bone density scan to see what the drug has done to my poor old bones. But it is progress and I'm really grateful for that.

And things in the big garden move on a pace, trees have come down to make way for our orchard and there is a glimmer of hope that we might get new out-buildings one day, that will live up to modern standards, with luxuries like a loo and a mess room.

So quite a series of breakthroughs after a long period of stalemate. And I feel quite proud of myself for keeping going on such a variety of fronts.

Sometimes in life all you can offer is stubborn persistence, and you get to the point where you stop and wonder why in the hell you are keeping on keeping on, and then a door will suddenly yield and all sorts of possibilities open up.

So if you're having a tough time just now stick it out, as I'm sure the weather will change for you too.