Thursday, January 29, 2009

Alice Munro - Carried Away

"Carried Away is a dazzling selection of stories–seventeen favorites chosen by the author from across her distinguished career."

I have come to Alice Munro late, by way of the Julie Christie film Away From Her, which is based on a Munro story, and the crits for this book.
(BTW Away From Her can best be summed up as a late in life take on the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you will", beautifully pointed up by a Canadian landscape in winter )

I'm glad to have found Munro so late in life, as I suspect I wouldn't have been ready to absorb the full resonance of her writing at an earlier age.
At this stage in my life, having raised a child, weathered a long marriage, and seen both parents and a brother die I think I am more than ready to fully appreciate the depth of her writing.

And for part of my childhood I lived in a tiny isolated village, where my parents ran a pub, so I can identify with characters whose lives are lived under a parochial microscope, where conformity is all and life is often hard and short.

Munro is older than me, but I'm also old enough to know about women who have been torn between family and education. There is a telling line in one story where a father tells his daughter that she risks getting too clever for anybody to ever want her. This was, and still is, the experience of many women - my own mother was denied a place at art school by such family thinking.

I'm having to ration myself with this book, as I want to eat it all up in one sitting, but every page it is so beautifully written that it deserves to be read slowly and savoured.

Other than reading I'm busy in the two gardens at the moment, plus my husband has a rare week off so we are enjoying some long walks together.

So apologies for not getting round as many folk as I'd like to.
N looked up my blog recently and said I need to get out more - I don't really spend that much time on-line, but as the weather is fine and mild here just now I'm taking her at her word.

The photograph is a HDR shot from a walk late yesterday evening in Belhaven Bay. The bridge only functions when the tide is out - as a result pictures of it have featured in quite a few newpapers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

The Sex in the City/Mairi Campbell version - Rabbie would have approved!

Green Shoots/Social Comment

I was listening to the radio while it snowed heavily outside and thought it made quite a good wee social commentary. See what you think...........

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama causes confusion

I have a relative who is involved in helping to diagnose early dementia using the
Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE), which is a 100-point test battery that assesses six cognitive domains.

One of the well known questions in the test is, "Can you please name the present President of the USA?" and the election of Barack Obama's is causing a few problems for my relative's patients, as they are saying things like, "It's a funny sounding name, with a "k" in it." - which probably deserves some credit as a near miss.

It will be interesting to see if this remains the case or if people start to get their heads around his unusual name. What's also interesting is that most patients have already completely forgotten G W Bush, but they can still name JFK as the US President who was assassinated in the 1963.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Inauguration

Aretha you were brilliant and your hat was just the best!

Watch CNN's brilliant photo montage

And here is Elizabeth Alexander's poem for the inauguration,lifted from the NY Times:

"Praise song for the day

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Prise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign;
The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light."

I remain a miserable old cynic, but I'm so glad I lived to see such joy written on so many faces. A great wrong has started to be righted.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Things on the home front have been fraught this last week, the house, much like myself, is feeling its age and the central heating boiler has had an intermittent fault which no fewer than four Scottish Gas guys failed to diagnose.

When it failed to boot up again yesterday morning our hearts sank, but the repair service sent us a wonderful woman engineer, who quickly and systematically discovered the fault and showed us how to do a work-around until the new part can be fitted tomorrow.

At the same time the bathroom cistern packed in, but I was able to google the fault and then tell the plumber over the phone that it was a broken siphon , and he came over with a new one and fitted straight away.

Here's hoping we don't have a third thing go wrong!

I watched the Obama concert last night, Sky had it on their Arts Channel, and once again Bono showed just how "up himself" he really is when he subjected everyone to yet another speech on the need for world peace - there's nothing like stating the bleeding obvious there Bono...

Mind you apart from a Bob Marley song U2 were about the only other foreign influence on the affair.

Once again I was very moved by the mixture of joy and disbelief registered on so many black faces - I won't say African Americans as I know many black people travelled from all over the world to witness the event for themselves.

For all our sakes I truly hope Obama pulls it off, although his choice of team doesn't actually suggest that anything very radical is likely to happen.

I also caught a discussion on Vita Sackville-West on the radio this morning and it mentioned a great quote of hers, along the lines that division in this world is not between men and women, but rather that a rift exists between the worker and the dreamer.

All I can say is that I'm very glad I've managed to buy a little dreaming time, even if it was by a rather drastic route.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Helping without knowing it

Do you ever suggest something to someone and then discover that they are able to take your idea and do something even better with it? It has happened to me twice this week and I've really enjoyed the experience. Both have been technical things - one was someone wanting a poem of mine in an audio version, and I offered to use my Flip camcorder to record it in video and sound, and they then discovered that they were able to strip the sound file out of the video piece with some software they had, and they were highly delighted at this discovery as it gives them another means of getting audio files for their website. The second was a piece of advice to my dentist on how to realise a photo that he's been trying to capture - needless to say this was done after my mouth was decluttered of mirrors and probes etc. I've also been asked by a Dept in the University of Edinburgh to supply them with a copy of a photograph I shot for them a while back, as they want to feature it on their new website - which was nice surprise because I took the shot about two years ago. Also been trying a few things with the camera, one was to shoot a candle "Richter style" after enjoying seeing a triptych of his candle paintings last year, the other was to produce a lith print, a pinky tone type of print, of the Victorian Bridge here in my home town. I attach them both here. The candle shot it too dark and a bit soft, but I like the flame in it, as it's very still and calming. I've just added this wee bit of video that I shot today just because I love the sounds that it captured, the sharp call of a blackbird, and then a skein of geese passing overhead - I think I like capturing sound almost as much as pictures.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Germ of a Poem

So far I'm managing to avoid the flu/lurgy that everyone around me seems to be coming down with.

Although yesterday I went over to Ayr and got really soaked while out walking with an old friend I've known since I was 11 years old. We see each other rarely, but somehow never lose the shorthand that exists between us.

I wrote this recently, it is pretty much how I feel at present:

germ of a poem...

It’s backlit marran grass,
a stranded yellow snail
chocolate on the tongue
a boy’s steely TV gaze
rain on a not so hot tin

Words collect, pool,run
together in my head,
but there’s nothing left
to say that’s not been
better said.

And here's a case in point. Holly Near's "I ain't afraid"

Friday, January 09, 2009

Just beautiful

Bach's Cello Suite No1 Prelude

This is just so beautiful, the sound and the setting. It is good to listen to such things on a gloomy January day to remind yourself of all the treasures there are to be had.

And this is Du Pre playing the First Movement (Adagio Moderato) of the Elgar Concerto.

I'm away rom the pc just now concentrating on the annual greenhouse clear up and doing some research in the library on the "big garden" for our open day in June. We're doing an information board and I'm looking at the town photographic archive, which goes back to the 1900s, and maps, censuses etc for good material.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

This video is just me learning to splice segments together. It is a short walk round my home town yesterday at dusk. I think I like this style of filming, just showing people the things I love/like. I won't exactly set the heather on fire, but I promise not to happy slap anyone either. It's about time the meek inherited the earth, especially the secular meek! Tell me how it runs for you, as I've noticed it is a bit choppy on my pc this evening, but that could just be the bandwidth in my neck-of-the-woods at this time of night.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Flippin' Heck

This was my main Christmas present, a tiny pocket camcorder called a Flip. I had to order an extra USB cable to use it, which only arrived today. So I'm still figuring it out how to use it to best effect and which software is best for editing, on line things like motionbox or just making do with the basic Flip package.

This is a wee clip of N (my Basque friend)and me walking the dogs in Aberlady Bay. Hopefully I'll get better and be able to show you other aspects of my life.

Yay it works - I'm a wee genius!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

High Dynamic Range

I went to vote on my photos yesterday. There was some really great stuff on show so I doubt I will win much, although I might just have a chance in the Environmental Impact category.

In the landscape section the best shot has used "high dynamic range" -it is a software programme that allows you to combine the best of three bracketed "exposures". I wasn't sure this was allowed in the rules and in any case I didn't have the software, but as I got some Christmas cash I bought the Photomatix programme yesterday and I've been experimenting with some things, as I always bracket my landscape shots to make sure detail in the sky etc is preserved.

the shot here is an HDR version of the dry stane dyke wall shot below

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The weather with you

I’ve bought a weather log
come rain, hail or shine
come drizzle, sleet or blister
come smirr, snow, or haze -
I’ll record you all.

Because I want
to feel the heft
of thirty six months
of weather. And to see
if I can make my own
internal weather, despite
what gets dished up
outside my window each day

Today's noon temp was 1°C
with 80% cloud cover
dull and misty, no rain
The ground was like butter
just out of the fridge, top surface soft,
but with frost below

These are two pix from our walk
near Whittinghame