Thursday, February 26, 2009

Balance sheet insolvent

This morning I received a lovely note and photo via good old snail mail from my poet and artist friend Judi Benson, who is the widow of poet Ken Smith. It was a fantastic photo of the recent snow in London, showing one of Judi's cherry trees burdened by about a foot of snow on each branch - in fact it look like a snowdrift had been plonked up in her tree.

It was such a nice surprise to get a real note through the mailbox. And last week I cheered my FIL up, he's housebound pending a hip operation, by sending him a bunch of art programmes that I'd DVD'd, as he likes to paint and is really missing his art classes. Just two examples of how I use the Royal Mail. I also value it for the service it delivers to very rural Scottish communities.

So at lunchtime today I was very pleased to hear a female Labour MP making a stout defence of the service by saying that the Government's argument that the Royal Mail should be sold off because it is "balance sheet insolvent" could equally be applied to the country right now, and that no-one is advocating we sell off Wales!

Good for her I say!

And while we're at it let's get Fred the Shred into a high visibility jacket!

And good for Andy Murray, he says he is willing give up his RBS sponsorship, as he feels ashamed to be taking money from them in the present climate.
He seems to have a better moral code at 20 than most of the middle aged bankers that have been paraded before us.

Other than that the week has been mixed, on Tuesday I read with three other Calder Wood Press writers at the launch of Colin's latest book project. It was a good night and we had a great audience. Then yesterday my wee car had a brake problem on the A1 when I was half way to Edinburgh and I had to turn around and nurse it home. So it is off the road until Monday when it goes in to be fixed, which is a bit of a pain and an expense.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I think I might do a series of these, as "sometimes" is a favourite word of mine.

Also caught this amazing piece on Harmonica Breakdown, a piece of dance choreographed by Jane Dudley in 1938 and based on southern share croppers and the music of Sonny Terry. The best bit is at 2.22on the second video, which shows the extraordinary dance.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


First thanks to Roseneath for the tag.This is the sixth photo in my sixth folder of B&W material. I took it for a friend of a friend and the framing was a lucky accident. But she loved it and I do too.

On the competition I WON!!! I got first prize in the environmental category, which is interesting because I was at a poetry workshop on Saturday and the guy taking it said, in response to another person's poem, something along the lines of, "I don't really do the environment, it's not really a concern of mine".

Sometimes it does you good to be reminded that you can't assume that you are preaching to the converted! But I can't for the life of me see how you can truly be a poet if you don't care for the world around you, but maybe that's just me.....

The judges in the competition were good, in that they said that in this category they were looking for more than a competently taken photograph, they were also looking for something that conveyed an idea.

My B&W shot was of a burst football washed up on the tide line all battered and burst. I photographed so it looked like a mini planet that had been given a right good kicking. one whole section ripped open revealing the structure underneath.

I'm also researching 17th century varieties of thyme and I'm in contact with the lady who holds the national collection, she tells me she is doing DNA research into thyme, which, if you hear it said out loud,is kind of a lovely idea I think.

This my fav song currently, The Poorest Company by Kris Drever John McCusker Roddy Woomble:

Almost complete lyrics


When the world feels like the water breathing in and out of thee,
And I'm standing beside you, there's a shadow where a man should be,
I would be glad enough if wherever I may be,
People would remember we're woven in this tapestry.

When we steal what we can, with the courage to be free,
And I've found where I belong among the poorest company.

When the world feels like a world, a useless spinning ??
A country round my shoulders, a flag raised on a gallows tree,
I won't let it get you down. I know there are people now
Who bind together what they do and live their lives like I want to.

When we steal what we can, I take everything I see,
And I've found where I belong among the poorest company.

When we steal what we can, with the courage to be free,
And I've found where I belong among the poorest company.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Quicky

I'm kind of bored with myself at present, therefore nothing much to post.

Life is a bit of a grind just now, both in laws in failing health in two different locations,so my husband is stressed beyond measure with no immediate respite in sight. It is hard to watch, and believe me I do help where I can.
While I wish my parents had had longer and happier lives I'm actually quite glad that their not around to suffer the slings and arrows of very old age.

Light relief is a photography prize giving tomorrow. Although I had 4 shots short listed in three categories and I really don't expect to win anything, but it should be an enjoyable do if it is anything like last year. And an old friend who I haven't seen for ages is coming to see me for the day and we'll be able to talk cameras.

And as ever the garden provides a wonderful escape. I'm having a massive clear up as an exciting possibility is coming up, which I can't say anything about yet as it might not come off. But out there today the scent of the aconites on the breeze was just gorgeous and the daphne is a gnat's crotchet away from breaking, which is always a heady highlight.

Anyway lunch and dog walking duties beckon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rare Disease Day

February 28, 2009 has been declared Rare Disease Day by the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD). NORD is coordinating Rare Disease Day in the U.S.
But this is a global effort, as last year,co-ordinated by the European Rare Disease Organization, many European countries also declared this date as Rare Disease Day.

The purpose of the day is to increase awareness of rare diseases as well as the importance of treatment and research.

Did you know that a child smiles 300 about times a day and an adult maybe 15 times?

But imagine if you couldn't smile at all?

Moebius Syndrome is but one example of a rare neurological disorder that is present at birth. It primarily affects the 6th and 7th cranial nerves, leaving those with the condition unable to move their faces (they can’t smile, frown, suck, grimace,blink or move their eyes laterally.)

It must be a devastating disorder for children and parents alike to contend with.

I was lucky enough to be able to benefit from research into breast cancer, an all too common illness. So please, if you can, support Rare Disease Day. Their website is here and this is the Flicker photo stream for the day.

Let's raise the profile of some less well-known illnesses that continue to afflict far too many people around the world, and let them know they are not alone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

For my Valentine

This is the first 45 my old man bought me. I've known him 34 years now, been married for 30 this summer. He drives me mad sometimes, and at time I suspect I annoy him intensely too, but I would never want to have to try and get to know another soul as well as I know him, our history runs too deep. And who said I wasn't romantic ...... :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Enough of this snow malarky!

Enough already! We woke to another three inches on snow this morning. I was due to go and photograph some snowdrops up in the hills, but they will be completely covered up there and I'd need a 4x4 to get in. So this is a euphorbia in the garden that I took this morning - its flowering bracts coiled and waiting for Spring, weighed down by the overnight fall of snow.

Tuesday I took some photographs of a friend, he knows who he is, for a project that he has coming off. We were blessed with crisp sharp light and no snow and I'm quite pleased with the results. I edited them yesterday afternoon, which took longer than the actually shoot, but I do love looking at the thumbnails the first time, it's the modern equivalent of the rush you used to get looking at negs on a lightbox.

Yesterday N & I did a long walk on the coast, a la Neil Oliver lol, and got we got windblasted for our pains. But the dogs had a lovely time chasing each other and I saw my first brown hare of the year, as well as a whole bunch of eider duck out on some very stormy swell - with the full moon the tides have been running very high.

I signed up to the Lovefilm DVD club and got my first film yesterday, the most excellent 1959 French Robert Bresson film "Pickpocket".

"Inspired by Dostoevsky’s 'Crime and Punishment', Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket tells the story of Michel (Martin Lasalle), a solitary young man who embarks upon a life of petty theft. Plying his trade on the city streets, racetracks and Métro system of Paris, Michel hones his sleight-of-hand skills to perfection and becomes consumed by his escalating addiction. But his activities alienate him from his few friends, while attracting the attention of a police inspector and a professional criminal (Kassagi), who recruits him into his band of thieves. Bresson’s use of non-professional actors, pared-down cinematic style and meticulously choreographed scenes of audacious robberies lend the film a remarkable and thrilling sense of authenticity. Emotionally restrained yet ultimately spiritually moving, many critics consider Pickpocket to be Bresson’s masterpiece. "

It arrived in an envelope, which you open, tear off the part addressed to you, watch the film, pop it back in the pre-addressed envelope, stick down the tab and put it back in the post - a brilliant idea and service. And it is great fun browsing on-line, and building up your own personal library of things you want to see in the future.

My next pick is the acclaimed Spanish chiller "El Orfanato" "which harks back to an older tradition of psychological scares epitomized by classics like The Innocents, The Haunting, and Cat People."

If this weather keeps up it will be money well spent.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

I love Sundays

I worked in the garden again today, still tidying things up, collecting up leaves and bits of tree dropped during the loping of the willow, the ground was too hard to do much else.

Then I made a big casserole with brisket and bay leaves picked from the garden and enjoyed it perfuming the house while I watched Quand j'étais chanteur - with Gerard Depardieu. (I was so sad to hear of his son's death this week.)

I really like this song from it, Les Paradis Perdus,(this is someone's home made video, but it has the best sound of the versions on youtube)

I think I'm going to join a DVD club with a decent world film section as I find more and more that I like foreign cinema. (TV is getting like the States, 222 channels and nothing on - save endless bloody repeats of "Coast" - Christ if I have to watch that man Oliver flick his hair out of his mouth and then speak over his shoulder into the teeth of a gale on some windswept, soggy British beach once more I'll bloody scream! He is to geography/travel what Taggart is to murder.)

After that I watched an amazing film on Henry Darger. It's made by Diorama films (click the links for tasters of Darger work and the film). I hadn't heard too much about his work before, but I found this film spellbinding.

He lived a long life largely in poverty, but he created an incredible internal world of colour and beauty that was only discovered when he was moved into a charitable old folks home during the final weeks of his life. If you get the chance view the film and judge him for yourself.

(PS excuse my typos, I'm really struggling at present to catch mistakes, maybe my brain is still fried from the migraine)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Blech and Yipee!

Stop Press - The Mutating the Signature pieces that Lucy and I worked on together are now on line here at qarrtsiluni. I hope you like them, we enjoyed preparing them last December. Lucy has written much more lucidly about the whole process over on her blog. BTW if you want to find a little inspiration in each day be sure to bookmark Lucy's blog as she never fails to catch the spirit of the season, or mood of the day.

Thanks for the comments on the draft poem, I've taken it down as I'm still fiddling with it.
Had a bit of a lost evening yesterday with my first migraine in almost two years, but I'm feeling better, if lighter today!

I had the tree surgeon in yesterday to pollard a twisted willow, Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’, that grows at the end of my garden, and I was out there afterwards trying to cram as much other garden rubbish into the skip before it got taken away and I think I just got really chilled.

I'm feeling a bit fed up with myself healthwise as I also failed the dexa/bone density scan that was ordered for me after stopping Arimidex, the breat cancer drug I was on for three and a half years. So I now have to take a calcium supplement twice a day, and it tastes absolutely revolting, like eating a stick of blackboard chalk. I'm disappointed to need a supplement, as I had hoped eating a healthy diet would have been enough. But it is a small price to pay compared to everything else that I've gained.

I'm also getting daily visits from the pup Jack Russell, whose home borders the end of our garden. He's learned to scale a 6ft stone wall and I keep finding him happily digging up my bulbs.
Last night I spotted him out in the gloaming at 5.30pm having a whale of a time. My dog
just sits at one of the intersections of the paths and gives the odd bark - like a despairing old uncle, as the pup loops-the-loop all around him. I fear he's like a baby who has learned to toss something out of his pram and that he won't stop until a better distraction comes along. His owner apologises profusely when I take him home, but I'm not sure what she can do to keep him in and he is so cute it is hard to be angry with him.

Off to sleep for a bit now, as I still feel a bit spacey.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Typical! Last week I took part in the RSPB survey of garden birds and the types of birds that visited my garden where the same as last year:



brambling (1 caught up with chaffinches)




collared doves

wood pigeon

song thrush



And then this Saturday I was looking out the window at the feeders and spotted something more unusual - a male blackcap. My bird book tells me that these are usually summer visitors, with a few birds overwintering in the SW of England. However I did a search on Flicker and discovered a whole thread about them visiting gardens as far north as Elgin this winter. Mine is living in the ivy beside the feeders and he is quite a stroppy wee individual, rushing out to chase off
ground-feeding chaffinches - only the robin seems able to stand up to his "attacks". I just hope he gets through this cold snap in one piece.

Here is a snatched JPEG of him, he is a lovely slatey-grey, with a shock of black on his head, a bit like Elvis. He's hard to photograph as he's always on the move.

I also been busy with the "big garden", activating our page on the community website, and then linking it across to a new blog set up under a different identity than my own blog, as I want to keep them separate. I've also link us to the BBC Breathing Places website, as we got some funding for them to develop a small orchard. You can see it all here - including some wobbly video on the two areas we are currently working on. I used my monopod to support the Flip camcorder, but a bit like President Ford I found it hard to walk, talk and film all at once -I promise to get better!

Since shooting video the gardener and I have planted two small crab apple trees beside the new hedge, in time I hope they'll share part of their canopies with the cottage garden. They are malus baccata, which is an early 18th centuary introduction from Siberia, which is a tad out in terms of dates, but it is healthier than our native crab and it's a species tree and not a modern cultivar.