Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fixing things

I've been busy organising a spate of mini repairs around the house - new taps for the bath, as the old original ones finally gave up the ghost, booking a painter to come and paint our bedroom, my time of shinning up ladders to paint 15' high ceilings is over I'm afraid, buying and fitting a new loo seat, so that you don't feel like you risk a giant clam bite every time you go for a pee!

I must admit it feels good to get these things fixed - funny how you can thole something for ages, and then all of a sudden your patience just snaps.

In the last couple of weeks I've had two meetings with poetry friends. One was a lovely walk round the Botanic Gardens, with lunch in the new building at the West Gate and a good blether about poetry and future plans, including a public reading we hope to do in the Spring.

The other was joining a new mini critique group, with two completely new friends. We hope to keep this going once a month for the foreseeable future - and if the first one is anything to go by I think it will be really worthwhile. The three of us seemed to click right away and had a wonderful time sharing ideas and talking poets that we like and admire. I think it is good to shake yourself out of your comfort zone and try something completely new once in a while and I'm really looking forward to our next meeting.

This is a busy week - tomorrow morning I'm at the launch of "Carry A Poem" and then on Tuesday I have a meeting of my local group pm and at night the joint launch of three pamphlets, including "Collection Point", the group anthology edited by Judith Stewart and me, that Colin played a big part in helping us to get printed.

This morning was an early start to watch Andy Murray not quite pull it off against Federa. I think he lost the match in his head as much as anywhere. I hope he shakes the "last British man to win a major" hoodoo one of these days.

The photo of this wreck of a Scimitar, that I saw on a walk past a farm yesterday, shows that even when your are totally ravaged good bone structure still counts - like Richard Harris or Peter O'Toole!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Here I am

News on friends continues to be heart-breaking, as my dear N had bad news with her latest MRI. I just hate the fact that she has to go yet another round with this disease, and seeing what the news does to her and family. Sometimes life just asks far too much of those we love.

Today I spent the afternoon in the garden, it is the only place my head stays clear at present, as I meander from one job to the next. Today I spread ash, from my neighbour's wood-burning stove, around under my fruit trees. I did it last year too, and it seemed to really boost the crop.
And then I cut back the stalks of perennial things. The place has a bare look to it, especially after the disappearance of all the snow. At this time of year it is hard to believe it will ever be the mad plant-packed space it is in June.

Tomorrow I'm going to sow some seeds into Jiffy compost pots in the propagator. I always find this soothing, the tiny capsules cupped in my hand, shaking them into damp compost, the labelling, the smell of wet earth, the anticipation.........

This is This Mortal Coil, with a Tim Buckley song, Song to the Siren - I find it beautiful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Carry a poem'

Edinburgh’s annual City of Literature reading campaign will give away thousands of free books & poetry pocketcards, and there’ll be a month of poetry events. I'm really excited about being involved with this great project and I can't wait to get a copy of the Carry a Poem book, which will be launched next week.

If you are interested my on-line entry is here. It is a great website , so if you do look be prepared to lose and hour or two!

Monday, January 18, 2010


The snow is all but gone, the pond has defrosted and the fieldfare has left for pastures new.

Yesterday I started my annual cleaning out of the greenhouse, and began by washing all the algae off the glass, to let in the maximum amount of light. My auriculas seem to have come through to cold spell pretty well, probably due to the fact that I kept them on the dry side in good gritty compost. I hope they will now start to put on some growth, as I can't wait to put them out on the "theatre" that I've created for them.

Last week I did some still life work with camera. I like to collect old kitchen utensils, potato ricers etc, etc and I had an idea for using this 1950 aluminium sieve/colander thingy. One shot from the session has since been accepted by the e-zine Mung Being, so I'll link it once it is up there.

And we went to see "Sex, Drugs and Rock &Roll" - the film about Ian Dury. I've always loved his lyrics and this biopic is brilliantly done, Andy Serkis is Dury. It's well worth a look if your sick of the usual cinema fare.

I'm also getting hooked on the Beeb's new series of Wallander. I didn't like it first time around, preferring the Swedish series with subtitles. I wouldn't say the plots are great, sometimes it is just Bergerac with schnapps, but I do like those big gloomy landscapes.

This is Emily Barker's "Nostalgia", which is the theme tune to the series.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Cancer is no longer a question of life or death"

Finally someone has something to say about living after cancer treatment. The piece on Woman's Hour today was excellent, it mentioned the fatigue, chemobrain/the cognitive effects, gastric problems, heart problems etc.

Don't get me wrong - the alternative isn't great, but some guidance on how to recognise long term effects of potent treatments would be very welcome, especially when most of us are constantly tuning into bodies that have already let us down.

Also welcome Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book, Smile or Die, which "confronts the insistence on positive thinking and blind optimism endemic in American society. She argues that a culture of relentless cheerfulness and the misguided belief that optimism can influence outcomes has had a negative impact on business, religion, academia, and even medicine. Barbara Ehrenreich looks at a corporate culture where positive thinking has replaced job security and argues that unquestioning optimism was in no small part to blame for the financial crisis."

Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World is published by Granta.

If you know someone who has just been diagnosed please don't immediately ram the "be positive" message down their throats, they need space to assimilate the information, and they are also entitled to grieve for their prior life and self.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reasons to be cheerful four and half

I'm writing this for me. It is just a list of things I'm glad to have experienced these last few weeks and days:

Staying up late and watching The Deer Hunter again. God they all looked so young.

Watching The Secret Life of Bees - even though this film wasn't a great critical success I was interested in the character of May Boatwright. I think the creation of a personal "wailing wall" is something we all need from time to time.

Also coming across the TV show Nurse Jackie - Edie Falco is fabulous in it and the script is sharp and witty. I'm recording the whole series, and I can't wait for the next episode.

Seeing the Margaret Watkins "Forgotten Woman" exhibition at the Hidden Lane Gallery in Glasgow. Talking to the gallery owner about this exhibition and his next one, on the artist Hilda Goldwag, was a treat. He plans to do a whole series of exhibitions on women whose work has been over-looked or forgotten.

Having lunch in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Willow Tea Rooms and then walking past his masterpiece - the Glasgow School of Art. A friend and I made the trip on a day when all the world was saying, "only travel if you have to" and while the pavements were like skating rinks the air frost in the trees, as seen from the bus on the way over, was worth the trip alone.

Seeing that the curlers have ignored the naysayers and gone ahead with an unofficial Bon Spiel. If life is not about taking calculated risk then I'm not sure what is about. (BTW it's not a cold snap -Radio 5 have dubbed it, "quantative freezing" and I agree with them!

We still have snow, but it feels a bit milder today, evidenced by the fact that the bird bath has water in it again and not ice. My weather diary is now in its second year and already it is interesting to look back - this time last year the winter aconites were through, no such luck this year.....

Some shorties that have occured to me over the piece/peace.

sheep in snow
so many shades of white

air frost –
trailed by my breath-self
and a single set of prints

heron ousts cormorant
cormorant ousts heron
channels yield to ice

blackbird lunges, thrush parries
another January day gnaws
at family ties

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Emma Curran

See her full story on her myspace page But basically she is a young Scots girl plucked from the crowd by Snow Patrol to sing "Set Fire to the Third Bar" at their NY gig in 2007. They liked her performance so much they asked her to reprise the number with them at King Tut's in Glasgow. She's now making an album, as well as finishing her nursing degree.

I wish her lots of luck. She sounds a lovely girl.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Baby it's cold outside

Well I'm happy to back, having hopped,skipped and jumped over the "Festive Season"."The weather outside is frightful" as the song says, but I'm enjoying the white-out and the sense of isolation and muffled quiet that it brings to everything.

And as is common when we get easterly weather sweeping in off the steppes we are getting a number of interesting visiting birds, I've had fieldfares in the garden, stripping the remains of the rosehips, and cormorants and goosanders have been driven up from the frozen estuary onto the deeper water of the river inland. One of the photos here is of an almost Japanese print-like shot of one of these cormorants trying to dry his wings. The other two are of cardoon seedheads, in the artichoke family, covered in snow, and icicles hanging down below one of the town's bridges.

I think we are heading for the coldest winter I've known since I was young girl and I'm dreading how many plants might get snuffed out in the garden - although they will create welcome spaces for new things.

Meanwhile I'm happily using the time indoors to have a clear out, the older I get the more minimalist I get, and today I spent a happy hour up a step ladder pulling out part of the bookcase and reorganising my poetry, photography and gardening sections. Although I have to confess I spent more time reading than tidying.

I've also had a great time reading Calder Wood Press' catalogue of pamphlets, so that I can give Colin a bit of help on the website, though to be honest he doesn't really need it, as he has everything set up really efficiently.

I also sent Sally Evans a wee bit of video on her bee talk at the Callander Poetry Festival back in the autumn. I really enjoyed hearing her speak so knowledgably on the subject, and it has only increased my yen to have a hive, as well as some bantam hens. Sally has added it to an fantastic new section she has on her website, which is all about bees, click here

Oh and some RFA veterans have done a lovely tribute to my grandfather, see here