Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Seedlings and birdcalls

This is the little waterfall at Fingask. It's one of the last pictures I took before my camera gave up the will to live, and my interim solution, which is to take photos on my phone, doesn't impress me much. So the waterfall is to take the bare look off the post, rather than to illustrate it.

Not that the sort of photos I'm able to take can do today justice. I've had a phenomenal day. It started when I was hanging washing on the line, and about twenty curlews flew over the garden, obviously heading up-river to the nice boggy country round Flanders Moss. Just hearing them warm up their beautiful calls put me in the spring-time mood. There were oyster-catchers later on too. They'll stick around. The river banks and Airthrey Loch just up the road are ideal for them to nest in, and we'll hear their teenage-style all-night partying for several months.

So I've been gardening. Not just the kind of out-door housework kind of thing you do while you're still thinking about it, but real live planting, dividing congested clumps of snowdrops and crocuses, and planting out some michaelmas daisies to extend the pollen season for bees and hoverflies.I have potatoes chitting in the greenhouse, and sweetpeas and asters in trays. I've sowed seeds too, tomatoes, chillies and geraniums, and this year's big experiment, melons. I chose a variety called Emir, because it tolerates low temperatures. This is partly to give the greenhouse soil a rest from tomatoes - those I grow this year will be in big pots, not soil - and partly because I wasnt to see if I can. They've just begun to germinate, and I'm very excited about them.

the garden is really beginning to green up. The snowdrops are just about over, but the primroses are closer to blooming every time I look at them, and the alkanet and pulmonaria are coming through, and there is blossom on the japonica, and catkins on the birch, hazel and sallows. No bees yet, and no frogspawn, though there are frogs getting bolder and more active by the day.

And in the house there are so many poems beginning to wriggle and hatch. I've been putting all the scraps and notes and stray lines and images together, and it looks like there has been a hotbed of ideas in the back of my mind where The Territory of Rain sequence has been germinating for a year or two. Now to prick them out in a proper notebook, and see what the crop is like!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Following still

Since I got the new laptop, blogger has been behaving rather erratically. Some blogs I followed seemed to have stopped posting. Every so often I'd come across a post on networked blogs, and wondered why I hadn't seen it. And then every so often fifty posts would come at once, with all the missing blogs catching up. Of course you can't get the good of fifty post at once. Some of them are out of date, and some you skip or skim because there's still thirty to go. So I've stopped following them via blogger, and subscribed to the RSS feed. This means I don't show on your sidebars any more, but be assured I'm still reading all you walkers, artists, poets and gardeners. I hope it means I'll see your stuff when you post it, and give it the time it deserves.

Friday, 24 February 2012

February Garden

When I went out yesterday morning there was nothing in this planter but a few struggling buds. When I came back yesterday afternoon it looked like this

Spring is sprung alright. There are frogs active in the pond (no spawn yet), oyster-catchers on the river bank, and I saw six curlews flying over the fields. I think they're probably heading towards Flanders Moss, but it was lovely to see them.

In the garden birds are claiming nest sites, and there has been some interest in the nest box on the birch. I am not quite as optimistic as I was about the possibility of wrens, because there is a grey squirrel, all spruced up and gleaming, far too familiar with this bit of the village. We'll see, however. There is a tangle of wild rose growing up all around it, which may deter him. There is one single aconite in the spring garden

and the witch hazel is in full bloom, and giving off that wierd but not unpleasant smell, like a mixture of coconut and turps. The new starwberry plants look as if they are settling in, and the chives are up. What more could you ask of February?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I have been updating the web-site, and some of the pages of this blog, and adding the link to Alastair's Filmpoem to the picture of the book in the sidebar. You will be able to see more of Alastair's Filmpoems at StAnza in St Andrews in March.

On the garden front, I've started sowing seeds (though all under cover so far), and preparing the veg patch for the first crops. The pruning is done, and this afternoon I'm going to plant the fruit bushes - blackcurrant, blueberry and cranberry, and some starwberry plants. I've chosen Royal Sovereign strawberries. It's an old variety and doesn't have the consistency or the heavy cropping or the freezability people seem to want. But the flavour is superb!

Now I'll just have to make sre the birds don't get more than we do!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

(from) The Place of the Fire

Under the parched grey coal
the red glow dulls.
The ash settles softly,
a quiet inward collapse
like the gentling of your face
on the pillow, as you fall
deeper into sleep

One of the inspirations for this piece was a blog post from Rima at The Hermitage called Atching Tan, which dealt with the life of travelling people. It will, I hope, become part of what I hope will be a long sequence of 'elemental' poems for The Territory of Rain. I thought originally it might be all about our attitudes to the environment, but now it's become much more about life and death and love (especially death, apparently), and includes metamorphoses,and stone circles and the rather under-rated Celtic figure of the Cailleach. It's fascinating, but it's awful slow.

There may be fewer photos for a bit. My camera is having an attack of temperament, and all the pictures are coming out streaky and full of pink irrelevance. But I've dug the vegetable patch and pruned the roses, and there are crocuses and snowdrops in full bloom, and daffodils and tulips thinking about what happens next. All the geese are heading north and there are more ducks than ever on the river. I'll try to have a substitute camera organised for next week.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

All Change

It must be spring. I've been switching things around. The books are where the desk was

which was a dark and draughty corner,even with the lights on. The computer is in the window, so I have my knees next to the radiator and can watch the weather and the birds.

and the desk is where the books used to be.

The book you can see there is one I've just finished - The Leaping Hare a reissue of Gavin Ewart Evans David Thomson's and book of the 70's, a fascinating mix of natural history and folklore. Among other things, it tells me that the reason why I haven't seen any hares lately might be more to do with the increase in rabbits than the change in farming practices. We certainly see more rabbits now than we used too, but also more buzzards, and even occasional foxes, so maybe things will balance out.

Apart from this I've been setting up for a very busy couple of months. I'll be at The Scottish Federation of Writers Sudden Fame event,(Mitchell Library, Glasgow, 11th March, 7.30) as part of the Aye Write Festival and at StAnza on March 16th and 17th. There will be too many events to record, but I'm making a point of being at the Filmpoem (featuring Alastair Cook's work)on Friday and the Happenstance showcase on Saturday,where my friend and fellow Working Poet, Richie McCaffery, is having a pamphlet launched.StAnza is a jewel of a festival - it will provide inspiration and energy for months, not just because of the scheduled events, but because you meet so many poets - it's the only place to be, even if the wind is coming off the North Sea, and it's wet and cold. I found myself in a coffee bar next to John Burnside once, but I was too frit to say anything to him. After a long time when I've been wrestling with ill-health - my own and everyone else's - it's lovely to be making new plans.

The weather is changing too. After the bright cold days we've had lately, a layer of cloud has blown in from the west, and everything has softened slightly in the damper air. There's mist on the hill, and magpies mending their nests in the orchard. The visiting starlings and blackbirds are gathering to move north again, and I'm listening for the first oyster-catcher back from the coast. It must be spring!