Monday, 24 September 2012

The Week of the Glasgow Weekend

I missed the trip to Flanders Moss which opened the Callander Weekend this year, so on the first day of the Glasgow Weekend, the Senior Partner and I went out there, taking advantage of what was possibly the best day of the lot.

Other creatures seemed to think so too. The raised edges of the walways had a great many of these beautiful newts basking on them,

and there seemed to have been a mass hatching, or fledging of these -

which I believe are black darters. We had hoped to see geese coming in, as we are beginning to hear them in greater numbers flying overhead, but we were too early, and we had to beat a hasty retreat as a sudden shower blew in on us from the shoulders of Ben Ledi.

The wind is here in earnest now; the day-time temperature has dropped significantly, and the rain is starting. Life is beginning to settle more indoors, and I am writing a couple of reviews - one of the new Dark Mountain anthology, and one very exciting one, which I'll talk about later, for the Scottish Review of Books. I'm hoping to get a fair amount of reading done during the winter quiet, and to move into a new kind of writing. We'll see.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Week of the Harvest

The barley and wheat were harvested last week, and the garden went quiet as all the seed-eaters disappeared into the fields for spilt grain. Now the straw has been baled and the calves are browsing in the stubble. The first greylag and pink-footed geese have begun to fly in, the winter starlings are mustering in the orchard, the cormorant has taken up residence in the river, and yesterday nine goldeneye came up with the tide. The swallows were still here yesterday, but gone this morning, and I'm looking for my gloves.

This is cheery, though. A stray violet, growing just beneath the frame of the greenhouse has come into flower. Apparently this happens often, and they set seed more readily now than in spring too, but I don't remember ever seeing one here before.

I spent Saturday tidying up. I ripped out the spent beans - a very disappointing harvest this year - and weeded and mulched with the contents of the growbags for tomatoes - also disappointing. I'll never try to grow Marmande again, though the few fruits I got cook really beautifully. so now, all I have to do is to keep the slugs and the pigeons off the cabbages!

I did a bit more clearing, too, to make storage space for all the canes and posts I won't be using for a few months, and came across this fungus growing on the log-pile. I'm hoping that this will be a good overwintering place for invertebrates and small mammals, so I haven't tidied here too much.

Looking forward to next year, I have created a small patch for my grand-daughter to have a garden of her own. It is going to be filled with 'fairy' flowers - candytuft (fairy series) lupin 'the fairy' and 'thumbelina' zinnias - plus the fairy rose in a pot. It's going to be very pink and frilly, but as the Flower Fairy books were my original inspiration to garden I don't reckon it will do her any harm. And, finally, I found that the honeysuckles I raised from cuttings last year have borne their first flower.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Readings for Refugees

I finished my last post with a poem which, although about the Callander Poetry Weekend, was dedicated to my friend Iyad Hayatleh, who was at that time an asylum seeker. he got leave to stay (eventually) and last Saturday he and Tessa Ransford launched their book A Rug of a Thousand Colours at the Scottish Poetry Library.

Most asylum seekers aren't so lucky. For many years the senior partner and I have joined Ayshire Friends of Refugees at Dungavel in protest at the injustice meted out to them, and on Monday I went to Irvine at the invitation of my good friend Margaret Donnelly to participate in an event called Readings for Refugees. I read the Dungavel poems, of course, but also poems about our own migrations stories, the Irish Famine and the Highland Clearances, and the importance of speaking up for yourself, in your own voice. It's a great privilege to be able to use poetry in this way. It's often said that poetry makes nothing happen, but I'm not sure I believe it.

It was a good evening, including many interesting readings and messages of support from some of the authors whose works were read.

It wasn't well attended, however, not too surprisingly, as the Dungavel protests are attracting less and less attention too. I want to pay special tribute to the members of Ayshire Friends of Refugees and to the Eurydice choir, whose persistent speaking out for a cause which seems so unfashionable I find completely inspiring.

I'd also like to draw attention to an event run by Ayrshire Peace Group on the international Day of Peace (21st September). It will take place in the Grand Hall Complex, London Road Kilmarnock at 7:30 pm, and it's FREE.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Callander Poetry Weekend

This is my friend Angela Topping reading at the Callander Poetry Weekend this year. It was slightly later than usual, running from 7th-9th September, but was full of interesting poets, most of us returning so often it feels like a family reunion, but including new visitors and new poets, poetry and poetic forms. This year the theme was film, and we had an excellent reading from many of the poets included in the Split Screen anthology, plus a showing from Alastair Cook's Filmpoem project.

Fiona Moore writes in her wide-ranging and intelligent blog Displacement about the Free Verse Book Fair, and its excellent service to the poetry community. Callander Poetry Week does all this and more, including a poets' market, many, many excellent readings, an opportunity for new poets to try reading their own work for the first time (and they'll take you outside and give you tips on how to do it if you're nervous), and lovely food. And it's all done by Sally Evans and Ian King for free - with contributions from friends and visitors. One year someone went out early and picked wild mushrooms for Saturday lunch. Often people bring strawberries and cake or wine and chocolates.

Indulge me a little if I include my Callander poem. It's going to link to my next post, which is about a reading I did on Monday:

Orpheus Plays 1: Callander Poetry Festival 2006
For Iyad Alhaiatly, a Palestinian poet, finally granted political asylum in December 2006 Poetry in the Garden starts
when Colin strikes the small Tibetan bowl.
The warmed and singing bronze awakes
A humming clarity, which sounds
through noise of knife and fork, book sales,
poets checking one another out,
and gathers stillness from the rainy night.
Later, Gaelic, Arabic and Greek
will take the song from tongue to tongue
goltraighe, geantraighe, suantraighe. It seems
presumptuous to claim
that poetry has power to move
much in the grinding moneyed world,
but Ayad, remember Orpheus
playing before the Faerie King,
on bagpipes, lyre or Breton harp,
the notes of sorrow, notes of joy and notes
of peace, while Hell falls silent.
All the cruel and unusual pain
stops for one moment, the lifeless courts
and derelict halls resounding
with the music, with the chance
for respite, wisdom, hope.

I had a bit of exciting news, too. The first printing of Wherever We Live Now is sold out! Red Squirrel will be reprinting very shortly, but in the meantime I have the last few copies, so if anyone would like one, send me an email, and I'll post one to you.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The First Week of the Dig

Guard Archaeology, from Glasgow University, are digging in the field next to Cambuskenneth Abbey, and they very kindly allowed me to go in and talk to them. They are looking for traces of the Battle of Bannockburn, which isn't too far away. It is said that survivors fled to the Abbey, so there might well be something to find. They are also looking for buildings surrounding the Abbey, including a medieval settlement nearby.

So far they have discovered some pottery, both medieval and modern, the sole of a shoe, and the end of a wall, which they believe to be the old gate.

They have been very kind and friendly, explaining everything that is going on, but there will be an official open day tomorrow (Saturday 8th September) from 10-4, when there will be metal detectorists on site, and they confidently expect to have finds to share, so if you are in the area, why not visit?

That is, unless you are going to the Callander Poetry Weekend. I'll be there, taking part in the FilmPoem event on Saturday afternoon, and reading on Saturday evening. I've posted about this event in previous years, and this year looks set to be just as exciting!

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Week of the Blue Moon

It's been a quiet week here, as I get used to the routine of taking my grand-daughter to and from school, but there have been a few highlights! You can tell it's autumn now the anemones are in flower.

When I first saw this from the bedroom window on Saturday morning, I wondered who had been throwing rubbish away! I couldn't work out what had happened. These look like gull feathers, but for a hawk to have caught it just there would have been a very tricky stoop, even if the gull could have been enticed into the confined space of our garden. However, The Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs (which looks like an ex-library copy and is dated 1974), indicates that an owl may have been using our fence as a plucking post. the more ghoulish might be able to spot that there are bits of shredded gull there too!

But the big thing was the blue moon. It fell officially on Friday, but that night was cloudy and wet. Fortunately the senior partner had persuaded me to go for a walk on Thursday, which was rather wonderful - if cold. First, looking west, over the barley field>

Then eastwards. You'd never think Grangemouth and Longannet were over that way, would you?

This one, looking through the grass stems at the roadside, was a bit tricky!