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Posted on 31st October, 2016


....and finally, it's Day Thirty One of this year's Blog....


Special thanks to Tom Langlands, Elizabeth Waugh, Fiona Russell, Hazel Lowther

and Leonie Ewing for a continuous stream of images -

and all the writers, experienced and otherwise, who contributed over 150 poems,

60 or so prose pieces and many responses to the prompts on the

Southlight Facebook page, to make this such a lively project.







Nature Diary 30th October 2016 : Fiona Russell



We call them 'Andy's Ashes' - except these are not those kind of ashes but two ash trees that sit just to the south side of the track on the steep hill up to the farm. The bottom foliage of these trees are flat;  neatly trimmed by sheep that graze the inbye land.  Andy was a shepherd who worked on the farm from 1965 until the cold February day that he died in the 90's.  At the age of 76, (having never actually retired), Andy quietly passed away in his sleep. These two ash trees that he planted are a living monument to the kind, quiet man who lived, and loved the land on which he worked. There was a sensitivity to Andy that extended to his collies, to the livestock that he cared for, and even to us as pesky bairns who followed him around during our holidays.   We have watched this duo of trees grow for almost thirty years. This year their tops are covered in ash keys. The advent of tree disease Ash Dieback is one which we dread coming into the valley as there are so many ash trees adding character to the landscape. There is a field on the farm called the Ash Park in which an ancient ash tree stands in the stane dyke. The leaves on the old ash fell overnight leaving a carpet of yellow three days ago. The following day the tree had 'black leaves' as a flock of starlings replaced the dying leaves. Sometimes I think the ash may be thought of as perhaps a lazy tree. They are frequently the last to come into leaf in spring, and often the first to shed leaves in autumn, but no matter, they are a major local tree in the area. Many ancient ash trees stand on places where there are older farms, and settlements, some where only a few remnants of buildings lie in the undergrowth, or those that are just recorded on older maps. 

The rotation of the sheep farming year has again come full circle. Tups are out with the ewes on the inbye, and a new promise of life has begun. This autumn we all wonder what the coming winter will throw at us. Desmond, Eva, Frank, and Gertrude were storms that caused varying degrees of havoc on the farm, as they did in many areas.  Locally, riverbeds were deepened, and banks eaten back. The local dippers disappeared after a Storm Desmond, and I missed their winter song piercing the coolest of days. It was many months before I saw the small, dark bobbing birds with white bibs back darting along on the river.  The damage to a ford across a syke has recently been reinstated after last winter's storms making it, once again, easier to get two cuts of hill ewes back to the farm steading. The storm dropped the water level by an incredible three feet. Not only has there have been significant changes to the riverbed, but also to associated plantlife. The acid yellow blooms of coltsfoot were washed away. This is a constant reminder of the changing times in which we live, and how nature will adapt with time. 







Shall you coo once more,

Sitting on coping stones

Above drooping peach leaves

Lit by a weary sun;

Bronze light lending warmth

To breast feathers, old bricks,

A hidden stone seat,

Where lovers once sat;

Silent now, just as alone,

Dove flutters, turns, flies away;

How I yearn to follow,

Beyond all walls.


Anne Micklethwaite




Whooper Swan - Tom Langlands



Owed to a leaf 


Lightest of spring greens,

barely opaque against the sun,

you unfurl amongst your kin, and together look to the light

with everything possible ahead you know your place

and following helios’ path you stretch and grow.

Experience darkens you


Mid year you cloke your core with summer shade,

darkest of emeraldstones now, you are of the powerhouse for the World.

Leathery surface protects your factories, providers of the green,

 as they busy round your cells.

Collecting light for the good of society.

Cleansing the foetid exhalations and disgorging waste 

for the good of things less green.


Nearly time now,

Your kin are falling all around you.

You are old and dry, no longer useful.

You wait with the rest for your turn

to be cut off from all you need,

to float silently on a heartless breeze

into the oblivion of the dark, peaty earth below.


Lorna Sharpe




The Shearing Shed - Liz Waugh



Virgin Goose Watcher


I’m not a novice.


I have a bird table,

a book, binoculars

and a camera.

I put out bread, wholemeal,

and make fatballs when I remember.

Once a pied flycatcher pair

occupied our nest box.


I’m not a novice.


We drive to Mersehead,

a ginger brown and frost day,

potholes under puddles,

the car rocking on the track.

I’m scanning the bird counts

on the smeary white board,

don’t quite get the abbreviations.


I’m not a novice. 


I’m scanning the horizon,

seeing nothing; under my nose

a field of black walking sticks

stand up, beaks to the air,

a carpet of Canada geese

swinging like soul singers

move towards take-off.


I’m not a novice


But I duck when their flight

clears the hedge in a brown wedge,

Close enough for a feather count.

their wheeling ascent sharpens,

all but one drop back, the rest tile

themselves –  a V for vision –

an A for astonishment.


Vivien Jones




Path - Leonie Ewing








Posted on 30th October, 2016


We had a great gathering yesterday with about twenty writers and friends at The Livewires Live

reading at WWT Caerlaverock - we read and talked and ate cake, those who knew each other 

renewing acquaitance, those who didn't making new comments.









White-tailed Eagle - Tom Langlands



Some thoughts on breathing


the single most important thing we do



how little heed we pay

to that single fragile breath 

separating life from death


So simple.........

breathing in and breathing out, 

reflecting roundness,

tidal receiving and releasing in a fluid body


A newborn,

signifying separation,

with shrill and cat like mewling


In sleep,

the rhythmic ebb and flow

is deep and slow and quiet and regular



blue-faced, exhausted

fighting, for every wheezing breath


Triumphant roar,

as fifty thousand voices punch the air



the voice that effortlessly lifts a perfect note



the hurricane of spewing rage


In meditation,

breath as fine as silk

can still the tumbling waterfall of mind


And last, 

the endless, sucking rattle eases,

becomes a bird-like flutter,

then softly slips away



how little heed we pay

to that single fragile breath 

separating life from death


Lesley McCulloch



Dancing prompt


Waltz Time


they’re doing the Alzheimer Waltz

the one two three Alzheimer Waltz

the tune is an oldie

beyond all recall

but they pivot and twirl

on a sixpence of dreams

his suit double breasted

her stockings with seams

all sense disconnected

unplugged from the wall

they’re doing the Alzheimer Waltz


waltz of forgetfulness

danced in a wilderness

caught between

somewhere and been there before

they know all the steps

but can’t think what they’re for

in the

one two three

Alzheimer Waltz


they’re doing the Alzheimer Waltz

the one two three Alzheimer Waltz

on snub slippered feet

that forget they remember

the dance tunes of spring-time

in dying December

they shimmy and swirl

light fantastic unerring

a dashing young soldier

a slip of a girl

in the

one two three

Alzheimer Waltz


waltz of forgetfulness

danced in a wilderness

caught between

somewhere and been there before

they know all the steps

but can’t think what they’re for

in the one two three Alzheimer Waltz

they’re doing The Alzheimer Waltz.

the one two three Alzheimer Waltz

and the lights on the tree

are as bright as the light

in the eyes of the dancers

who take to the floor

in the one two three

one two three

one two three

one two three

one two three Alzheimer Waltz


Chrys Salt






Avocado with Walnut - Hazel Lowther



Buchan Hoose


A’m no feart!

a’m no feart tae go right up tae

the auld Buchan hoose

whar the Ramesites are

whar they half dugs, half foxes

come runnin oot at ye

wae ther’ black bushy tails

an’ ther’ weebeady black eyes

barkin’ ther’ heeds aff in a pack.


They lived in an auld van

In the back gerden.

We aw thought they wer’ demon dugs.


A’m no feart!

a’m no feart tae go right up tae

the auld Buchan Hoose

wher’ the auld mad English couple

who owned it,

swam nekked in the loch

or so it was telt.


Roland Glover






Greater Stitchwort - Leonie Ewing









Posted on 29th October, 2016




Arctic Tern - Tom Langlands



A Swallow Tale


I touched the heart of a swallow once

And it came back to touch my heart too.


One summer’s morning, windows open wide, early sunrise

Sleeping past dawn into brilliant day

Chattering swallows on the window ledge

Greeting the dawn, the warmth touching their shining beauty.


My consciousness, slow, heavy, but awakening, said

“That’s not coming from the window ledge”

“It’s in the room” all senses instantly alert

Not a muscle moved to scare them.


Gradually the chattering focussed in my awakened brain

“Its at my feet, not on my feet, but near”

“On the old blanket chest maybe” 

Infinitesimally slowly I lifted my head.


One eye now seeing past my shoulder

Three heads, red brown throats rippling with chatter

Beaks nodding knowingly

“This is a great place to build a nest”

“And the locals are friendly.”


In that sacred moment of beautiful awareness

I knew the privilege of their blessing

My heart swelled and warmed and welcomed them in silent wonder.

Then Diana awoke, threw back the bedclothes

“What’s this damned racket, its 5am for God’s sake”


Panicked, shocked, wings beating the air, they dived for the open window

But the top was closed, they’d forgotten the way in

Beaks, claws, and wings beating the glass in frantic fear

Quickly I rose and moved gently towards them

A hand of peace outstretched, heart open.


One dropped to the sill, and found the open window

The second followed, but the third was stuck in its corner in terror

Gently I slipped a finger under its feet, until it clasped me

Then so slowly I lifted it clear of its trap.


Dropping my arm millimetres at a time, scarce believing, 

But it stayed there, holding my finger, trusting, fear subsiding

I reached out to the window ledge and put it there

It looked at me, with a “thank you” I could feel spoken to every cell of my being

Then it turned and glided gracefully away.



In those days swallows came back each year for my birthday

The next year, coming home from work

There on the roof’s edge above that upper bedroom window were swallows, chattering

They saw me, two flew off, but one launched itself straight at me

Coasting on open wings, in a long slow glide, 


I greeting its welcome return, my heart wide, my eyes in wonder

As it literally brushed my head with the softness of its chest

A caress, across the boundaries of the species, bird to human

“I see you” it said, pleased to be back

And we both knew the other, and my heart sang.


Edmund Wigram




The Battle


A hush fell over the land as the two warriors came face to face. Would it end with one of them sacrificing his life? Only time would tell.

Around them, the onlookers watched. They had seen it all before, and knew that they would be bound by the winner. They had no say in their future.

In the silence of the gloaming, the dissonance as two sets of weapons collided echoed across the valley. The two were well matched in weight and age, and the reward was too great for either of them to want to surrender.

Again, the weapons clashed, this time one managing to hit flesh, and blood spurted from a shoulder wound. The injured one roared loudly, before locking weapons and pushing forcefully, gaining precious inches.

They stood apart briefly, gulping in deep lungsful of air. There was no signal, yet the two moved forward simultaneously. This time, the injured one gained the advantage, pushing his opponent backwards inch by painful inch. Then, with a deft movement, thrust his weapon and scored a deep gash just above the eye.

Blood dripped from both combatants, yet till they fought. The only sounds came from the two that battled. It was as if nothing else existed at all, so focussed were the two, so intent on wiping out each other.

Finally, one was able to make one piercing lunge, his weapon stabbing the other so deep that the other had to admit defeat. Without a backward look, he limped off into the darkness, bawling in pain and humiliation.

The victor roared in triumph, roared loudly and the onlookers meekly followed.

The red stag was king of the valley once more.


Angela Haigh





Rain over the Lowther Hills - Hazel Lowther



Rain Over the Lowther Hills 


This is not the gentle facial of an Irish mist.

This is hard-core exfoliation.

Horizontal ice-clad, high-speed projectiles

needling cheeks, trickling into the smallest crevice.


Ebbing warmth, chilled to the marrow,

pushing our way aslant against the onslaught

to pass the cloud-shrouded, hill-top graveyard

of the district’s excommunicated suicides.


Crossing ancient turf-built boundaries

where miners, soaked to the skin in their skins,

had scrabbled and burrowed for gold

for a remote Crown of Scotland. 


Today these hills are walked for pleasure,

not for us the night’s bitter hillside.

Our day ends bedded down in down bags,

lulled by lullabies of a gentler rain falling on canvas.



Hazel Lowther



Key prompt


Locked in. 


'The only good thing about marriage is becoming a widow,' she said. 'I’ve seen it happen, women who become themselves once they're alone'. I thought she was talking to herself, her eyes were closed. 

I put her beaker of juice within reach, was about to remove the untasted bowl of soup from supper time when she caught at my hand; bony fingers, still strong enough to hurt, scratched at the indentation on my ring finger. 'Hidden it away so it don't pain you to see it?' I froze, felt the throb of blood in my jugular, my stomach lurched. I kept still as she let go. She sucked air, seemed to shrink from the effort. Her skin, waxy grey, clung about her cheekbones and jaw. Ugly with bitterness, I thought as I watched the shallow rise and fall of her chest. 

'You got a new man yet nurse, ?' 

I started . 'No,' I said; I plumped her pillows and straightened the sheet across her chest. 'No! No, I can't do that! It’s too soon, I’m not ready.'

Her eyelids peeled back; harebell iris, watery, bloodshot but lizard sharp, pierced mine. 'You say it like a spell, like a prayer, like a mantra, like a trap.' Her eyelids closed, she sighed, her breath fluttered. 'You trapped in resentment?' she asked, 'downtrodden by fear still?' It sounded more a statement than a question and I felt a surge of anger, as much at myself for opening up to her as at her astute accusation. 

'You're tired. Time you settled. Press the buzzer if you need anything.' I was at the door when she spoke. 'Look where bitterness got me – locked in, wasted life, wasted body, lonely. You turn the key, girl.'


Steph Newham.





Bee - Hazel Lowther



Rezzzurection / Bee Lines / Bee-CPR 


Frantic, high-pitched buzzing and the familiar pop, pop, pop against glass, had me rushing to the rescue, kitchen paper and plastic cup in han\d, but too late. He lay on the windowsill, sad and lifeless, soft, yellow stripes glistening in the sun, shiny-veined wings neatly folded.


This was, according to my book, Bombus Hortorum, the Garden Bumble Bee, one of 27 native species. About to dispose of the poor creature before the dog did, suddenly, there it was - the tiniest flicker of antennae. 


It was alive, but only just!


I rummaged feverishly through a cupboard for some honey and dissolved a little in the same quantity of water on a teaspoon. Placing it carefully beside the ailing bee, I held my breath and watched anxiously. Very slowly a long, hairy tongue found the puddle of sweet liquid and he began to drink for what seemed like ages. 


Eventually, after crawling dozily in circles, the furry little body was airborne, lurching clumsily up and away to buzz another day.


Information taken from "A Sting in the Tale" by Dave Goulson


NB: Buzzing is caused, not by the wings, which beat 200 times per second, but by the vibration of powerful chest muscles which twang like a plucked rubber band


NB: Plants like tomatoes need to be "buzz pollinated "



Leslie McCulloch




Wood Anemone - Leonie Ewing







Posted on 28th October, 2016



Wren - Tom Langlands





Where moth and rust corrupt

The second law of thermodynamics

Reveals its inevitability 


But it’s not only in the corruption

Of a moth eaten cardigan

Or a rusting metal plate


The second principle 

Reveals itself at dessert

As vanilla ice cream is served

And hot espresso is poured 


The pudding reveals itself

A puddling, a desperate panic

To reverse entropic breakdown


The ice cream melts

Or drowns in the coffee’s heat

As my Italian friends might say: Affogato 


Geoff Smith



Wandsworth Twitter   


I was visiting a dear friend of many years, talking about my travels, hearing about hers and her family, and her work with teaching immigrants to speak English, drinking coffee at the kitchen table, comfortable and relaxed, the sounds of summer coming through the open garden door, a happy time. There was a sudden explosion of noise in the back porch close beside us, a clattering of flower pots and bottles falling over, chaos erupting from peace. We rushed to the door, and saw nobody there. Then again, a sharp flurry on the floor, and there was a sparrow hawk a hands breadth from my feet, glaring alternately at me and behind the obstinate pot it could not shift, behind which we saw a cowering sparrow, terrorised, quivering in horror, now stuck between the hawk and us. 

The hawk was outraged by our presence, if it could it would have spat at us, I could see the anger in its eyes, saying “get out, this is my God given right, how dare you interfere!”

I reached carefully towards the cowering sparrow, watching the hawk, and then slowly, reluctantly, proudly, the hawk flew between us and low across the garden, willing us to turn to stone forever.

The sparrow accepted my offered forefinger and clung with all her might whilst Diana moved the pot and I could bring her out into the light again. I showed her the sky, but the sky is where the hawk lives, and she cowered into my hand, a place of safety, and I was deeply moved to feel her there.

Diana quietly moved two garden chairs onto the grass and we sat slowly there with the sparrow glued to my finger. We talked gently to her, telling her that the hawk was now far away, but she knew better, and stayed. I stood up and offered her a branch in the tree beside us, but she clung even tighter to my finger, as if she would never let go. We sat again and talked softly, and after some ten or fifteen minutes the sparrow seemed to be relaxing her grip, so I lifted my arm again towards the tree, and she flew.

She had a tale to tell her children and grandchildren, to be passed down through the generations of Wandsworth sparrows, maybe they talk of it still in those parts, maybe it went viral in twitter, before Twitter was ever invented.


 Edmund Wigram




Horseman - Liz Waugh



Enchantment prompt


Heart stones


The staccato hissing of our feet into the dry, loose sand marks our purposeful progress along the beach.

He finds another heart-shaped pebble and rushes it here for inspection.

I say “This is the heart of a heartbroken sailor.”

the upturned face is questioning.

“When sailors that have lost their true loves – for whatever reason that might be..”

“Death?” a morbid response for one so young

“Yes, or betrayal.  The selkies only know that the sailor is heartbroken, it doesn’t matter to them why.”

“Ok, not even if there’s blood an’ that?”

“Not even then.  So, if the heartbreak is too much to be borne by the ship, the selkies follow it out to sea and lure it to the rocks, where…”

“KABOOOM! do they smash it up on the rocks and all the sailors fly out and get eaten by sea monsters?”

“Not sea monsters, no. This is where they save the ones that are ok, but the broken hearted ones, they take them slowly down to the deep, deep sea where the broken-hearted sailor can be at peace.”


“.. and when he is finally at peace, they take his heart and turn it to cold, cold stone.”

“Like this one?”

“Exactly like this one.  Then they bring it to the beach and they lay it there amongst the pebbles”

“What if it isn’t a pebbly beach?

“Well it mostly has to be so the heartbroken sailor’s heart is safe, but sometimes they leave it on half and half beaches like this one,”


“So that one day the one that caused the heartbreak might find the sailor’s stony heart.  And if they weep over the heart when they find it, because it reminds them of their missing sailor,”

“Why would they do that if they’re dead?”

“Well, this only works for the betrayed ones, the bereaved never get a chance for a happy ending.  So if they do find the right heart rock and it makes them sad, the selkies know and they take the sailor back from the deep ocean and lay him on the beach to be found, with his cold, stone heart returned warm and beating to his chest.”

“What?! woah, they come back from the dead?  Like zombies?”

“No, like rescued souls waiting for their true love to return.”

“Well why didn’t they just sort it out before they went to sea?”

“Because sometimes you have to lose something to really, truly, know what it means to you.”

“But there’s loads of heart rocks on this beach.  Everybody should just be nice to each other.  Why does it have to be that we get so sad?”

“Because, young man, every life that is well lived has sadness in it”.


Lorna Sharpe




Octopus in Galloway


Such a Spring Sunday ! Light that clarifies, 

almost magnifies the long view of river reeds 

and trees across the holm. 

Rising late, barefoot in the kitchen 

thinking of something special for lunch.


There it lies, opaque and gelatinous, flowing 

across the plate in a calligraphic curve.

An octopus entire.


Cook it ? Our Japanese guest blinks

‘So sorry, don’t know how.’

Humiliation rises around us.



She phones, chatters, hangs up, arms folded,         

waiting in silent Asiatic calm.

The phone rings, the fax burbles.

A stream of paper like fresh pasta unrolls 

from its slit mouth, instructions in Japanese

on how to cook a whole octopus.


Inside an octopus is a transparent blade

that holds its body in shape. Minus stiffening,

the octopus follollops on the cutting board.

She slices thin rings rapidly,

tosses them into the blue smoking wok.


So, which is the more amazing ?

The salty see-through sea creature,

or a shoal of digital pulses flowing

from Japan to help cook a whole octopus on 

such a Spring Sunday in Galloway ?


Vivien Jones



Counting snipe










Rocketing up


Now there’s three more


Woops! Nearly tripped!


Another five!


Go round that pool ...


I saw six rise


I’m up to forty


Look out! Take care


Another three


It’s slippy there


Zig-zagging so fast










Over 70, now


Must be passing through


How many on the bog?


I wish we knew !


Barbara Mearns



Posted on 27th October, 2016




Livewires 25th October 2016 - Fiona Russell


Well, we've been having some shenanigans with my blog entries! I think the 15th October post, which left me a total of five times, has now been slotted in for that date by the kindly editor. Here's hoping we've overcome the problems for my remaining posts.

So, on to today.  I was up early and pleased to see a bright morning, but it was shiveringly cold - time to add an extra layer. There was a skim of ice glazing my windscreen with an opaqueness of cold. Just after seven a mist rolled into the valley and initially hung neither at the top, nor the bottom of the hills. The saying an old shepherd at the farm told me as a bairn was, 'mist in the hollows, good day follows.'  A good day indeed! I've had a dreadful cough, and lurgy, and had no central heating or hot water for five weeks. The damp of the old cottage with no modern foundations has infuriatingly taken its toll on my asthma. So alas a longer walk is out of the question at the moment, but a gentle potter about the locality was in order today, and not to be missed. Just looking through the garden gate was too inviting. 

By ten-thirty the mist was away altogether, even the hill down the valley to the southwest where it always lingers last sitting in a gully just above the fir trees. I took a potter with my old hairy hound down into the valley bottom. There are few bridges in the valley, but to stand on one looking downstream, and into the sunlight filtering through yellowing leaves with the reflections on the water was a delight. Colours are always amplified by bright sunlight, and in autumn become jewel-like in their intensity. The lights and darks of moving water, the contrast of shadows on trees in strong sunlight, and the sound of the riffles of white water over rocks are all entrancing. There used to be many fish under the bridges at this time of year, but sadly, since the blanket afforestation upstream in the late '60's and into the 70's that is no longer one of the sights of autumn. 




There are a small number of roosting herons in our mixed wood. I put a heron up from the river, and watched the grey wings lazily flap and it arc round to the east, then drop down into the wood further upstream on one of the larger tributaries. We have found that heron poo and dogs are not a happy combination for the owner who has a dog who can't resist a roll in anything that is smelly, and disgusting. Thankfully that didn't happen today! 

There was virtually no wind, and through the day as it swung from the east and settled round in to the west. By three o'clock the skies had clouded over and all was still. The kutuk, kutuk of pompous male reared pheasants on neighbouring properties, the soft mewing of buzzards, and the deep, loud, prruuk, prruuk of ravens cut across the valley.  

At bedtime it was noticeably milder outside. Annoyingly, for me, there was a yellow, then an amber, and finally a red alert from AuroraWatch UK. I went outside several times, looked to the north in hopes, but tonight my luck was out. The cloud had firmly blanketed the sky. This autumn I have been treated to many superb dancing displays of the northern lights, so I really shouldn't complain at one good night being absent here. 





Yellowhammer - Tom Langlands



 Birds View



Nibbling sparrows

Chew hot afternoon hours

Into sharp twittered seconds

Of nothing in particular,

Broken now and then

By china’s clatter,

Slightly unreal laughter,

A feeling of things passé,old                                                                                                                                                           Attitudes not quite outlived.


Maybe it is only sparrows

Who grasp this situation

In pick-peck beaks,

They seem to know

Reality is too short-lived

For anything more serious

Than their endless squabbles

Parody of lives, alien,

Outside their own.


Anne Micklethwaite.



Rook and Rabbit Pie.


Beyond the hedge a throstle sang: sweet notes trembling at the edge of my mind as I walked along the gravelled path. Reluctantly I lifted the latch, swung the gate wide and passed through. Hard on my heels came Tom. I paused, he pushed, his fist in the small of my back. 'No dawdling, on with you.' His voice was full of excitement. Now his skinny legs gawked from his shorts; it was a time I'd been dreading. His extra inches made him too tall, too heavy for rooking. I was the littlest of the family, so it was my turn to gather them.

I heard the latch snap behind us and suppressed a snivel. Another prod. No use crying, I was the smallest now, light enough to reach the topmost branches where the rooks had their nests. A breeze stirred the leaves, my hands and knees gripped the tree. I crawled upwards until I was within reach of the first nest marked by a scrap of flannel. I dared to look down; Tom's face swam below me. 'Get on with it.' He sounded far away.


Above me the raucous cawing of rooks drowned the nearer twitterings of birds held fast in their nests by binder cord. My head and heart throbbed, bile scorched my throat. I clung motionless to a branch until Tom called, ‘Remember what dad told you.'

'Use a finger like a wee slug, a morsel to tempt the birdie. Let it peck, it'll not harm, lad. Then use the other hand to grasp its neck, just a slick twist’s all’s needed. Use your knife to free its feet then drop it down to Tom. Straight on to the next nest; your ma needs five, p’raps six for her rook and rabbit pie.' 

Slowly, hardly daring to breathe, I reached into the nest, felt downy feathers, stabbing pains to my fingers. In seconds it was done, and I was cutting the binder twine and dropping the plump birds down to Tom.


Back on the ground I rubbed at my grazed legs, sucked my pecked fingers, drew in a lungful of peaty air, started at the sounds of gunshot.

'Father’s up the warren,’ said Tom matter-of-factly, as he tethered the birds into pairs and slung them over his shoulder.


Steph Newham. 





Winter Hill - Liz Waugh



Three Perties


A senate o’ stookies

scratch the stencilled sky

swoopin’ an’ screchin’

their shite stipples

ma silver Saab.


A conference o’ corbies

circle the crenelated cloud

croakin’ an’cawin’

their crap collected 

in crags and crannies.


A lobby o’ linties

laugh in the face o’ life

louche in their livery of lines

their liquids a liniment

for left leaning labourers.


Roland Glover



Dragon prompt




Dragon looms large over cowed heads

Roaring fire at kindlings 

of foolish braves that dare to disrupt

thinkers, doers, tinkerers, musers.

Breathes the fire that ignites the spark

that fans the flame

that deepens the thirst

to know




Awakening of young dragons

who, in quenching that thirst,

returning that fire,

melt her craggy,




Lorna Sharpe





Posted on 26th October, 2016



Reminder  : to celebrate this month of creativity there will be an actual gathering of bodies in the lecture room at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Caerlaverock, Eastpark Farm,DG1 4RS on Saturday 29th October from 2.00 - 4.00 pm - entry free but buy your own tea and cakes. There will be brief readings, mostly about the birds, and a chance to meet and talk with each other - bring your friends and family - come early and stay late to enjoy this beautiful sanctuary and winter home for birdlife. Please let me know if you would like to read and I'll make a list.




Puffins - Tom Langlands



To Trieste & Back


James Joyce speaking through his proxy, Stephan Dedalus, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, talks of flying by the nets of social and cultural expectation. He was also implying the flight from Ireland to Trieste, in 1904.

            For the past ten years a friend and I had discussed the possibility of making a literary pilgrimage to that city. I fancied walking past the statue of Joyce which I knew to be there, and having my photograph taken seeming not to notice our great literary forebear. As it turned out my camera broke a short while before we left and I had to take an old digital video camera – the complexities of using which defeated my friend at the crucial moment. 

            I’m a fan of The Image, a history of pseudo events..’ by Daniel Boorstein, in which the replaying, staging, falsifying and fixing of what has happened by what is appearing to be happening was explored. Should I go back over the Grand Canal Bridge and seem to miss Joyce again? Instinctively I decided not. So my friend’s movie footage – which I still haven’t looked at - will record a real event, off camera of the intended event, a comic irony that I hope Joyce would have appreciated, especially in light of the umpteen hundred kilometres of drive that led us to it!

            Joyce, in bronze, looked wistful and distracted to me, leaning slightly it seemed, against the side of the bridge; loitering, is one description I have seen applied to him. Perhaps he was thinking of Dublin, or of Molly Bloom! A couple of streets away there is another statue: an altogether fiercer character strides along, dressed in boots and flat cap and long overcoat, his collar turned up against and the hem of his coat flapping in the fierce, cold Trieste breeze which blew all of the time we were there. Not Joyce again, this is the poet Umberto Sabo, of whom I knew nothing, and know precious little more as I write!

            Joyce’s migration to Trieste lasted sixteen years, ours lasted not much more than that number of hours! Yet a journey there and back is a journey there and back. Joyce never returned to Ireland. His, ultimately was an emigration. We were more like the birds that fly from my telephone wires in the autumn, and return to them in the spring. 

            I wonder if they return changed by their journeys, or if that is a purely human conceit? I wonder if they find the places they return to changed. Even after ten days we feel the friction of our changed selves against the changed places we return to. Nothing holds still. Nothing living remains exactly the same. 

            And there is the matter of changed ideas, ideas of renewals and of other journeys to be made on our return; dreams and expectations built on our memories and perceptions of where we have left, projected onto our assumptions of to where we shall return. 


Brindley Hallam Dennis



Seasons prompt




The day lengthened as the tide closed

Over the strand, shortening time, paddling

Close, gull prints on the damp shore, closing

The peaceful circle between sky and sea


Contrasting with the straightness of the road

The aggression with which our hearts respond 

To the challenges, there the fluidity is meditative

Here the fixed is stuck impassive unmoving


Out there clarity, light, a clear and fine day

Here melancholy, darkness of thought

Out there just the freeing possibility of being

Here the heaviness that bears down unfeeling


As the day draws inevitably to its close, each

Day now shorter than the day before, night falling

So we settle for the lessening of time and space

Embracing the nights tranquility if such is granted


Geoff Smith





Dog Violet - Leonie Ewing



Cat Fish


Barbate, Spain: we went out early to see the sardine boats come in and unload their catch; a smelly business. The fishermen sung as they swung the boxes of fish from the boats up onto the harbour. Then from behind and between crates and lobster pots, cats started to appear; slinking and slithering, ears pricked, noses quivering, they came one by one and each took just one fish from the piled up boxes.. Then they slunk away into shadows I hadn’t noticed. We came back the next day and watched the scene play and replay itself. I was fascinated by the cats' ritual and restraint.


A sardine is a small fish, surely it would be possible for some cats to manage to snatch two fish? But no. Each time we wandered down to watch what had become the cat-fish fun, we only ever saw a cat with one fish. Did these scavenging cats have a code of conduct – were they thoughtful of the well-being of the feral group? Were they more altruistic than we humans? we wondered as we meandered along the harbour in search of coffee. 


Steph Newham.



Fire Prompt




Small flames adore

Creep, explore, leap,

Crackle with affection;

Their attention kills

The thing they need,

Embers fall beneath

Maintain a bed of fire

To feed the greedy

Upward reach of tongues;

Heat grows until

Log’s hollow glow subsides

In clouds of sparks;

Even as they die

Flames flow round

Last charred coals

Of their yearly feast.


Anne Micklethwaite





Apples with shield bug - Hazel Lowther



Posted on 25th October, 2016



Winter Shepherd - Liz Waugh




Another place and time



As we dove for shell-fish

through the chill and kelp,


wove machair grass into rope

and reeds to a thatch,


as we cut the peat 

and set it to the wind,


as we tilled and sowed

dug and hoped,


shouldered our burdens -

seaweed from the shore,


peat from the moor,

buckets from the well,


as we burned juniper

beneath the still,


offered heads and tails

to the hill,


as we anchored roofs with stone

and settled in for winter,


we did not imagine 

the dark plans hatching


in the bustle of far places ripe

with greed and cruel intentions,


and we could not imagine

the turf uncut on the moor,


the kelp swaying

untouched in the depths.


Peter Kelly



Fever prompt


Casa Nostra - The Disease Mafia



By now, over the years

I have met a number of your extended family

Young cousins of the Ache family

Toddlers, grasping squeaky toy hammers in pudgy fists

Banging heads.


Older siblings who used my knees as bongos  

Playing knock and run

Effecting the odd trip and fall

Tearing a muscl, for fun.


Your girl cousins have also visited

Greasy haired, sallow faced hooded eyed 

The Sicknesses 

Bacteria, Virus, Infection.


They sat coughing in corners

Wiping mucus onto my sleeve

Fingering the open fridge, 

Licking chicken and fish

Introducing jars of flies into dark recesses.


This week I met Fever

Your dark brother to whom 

Against him, I have only a soft ineffectual 

Chemical cosh, some pointless flailing, 

And arias of coloratura screaming.


It just seems to encourage him

Throaty chuckles slather the night air

As he watches my writhing


Hot, twisted, I finally 

Hear him shuffling off, 

Checking out other rooms, 

Marking new victims


Fetid, moist, infected.


Carolyn Richardson




Woodland Walking : Leonie Ewing



The Imperishable


Buried deep

Like hidden thoughts

Your silence hints at

Stillness yet beneath

In the darkening earth's womb

The damp warmth encourages 

Tentacles of still green limbs

To break out from the softening

Husk to find their rootedness

Before reaching up to break through

Announcing new life

Out of embedded life prints 

Echoing what came before

Reflecting what will come next


From the garden centre

To the bedroom

From the wilderness to a lover's embrace             

The energy of natures impulse

Is to renew to replicate

To declare its imperishability

As it dies to be reborn renewed

Echoing as it falls through autumn air

The twisting turns of of Sycamore 

Once carved into love spoons

The living seed implanted

In the passionate embrace

The promiscuity of nature's

Desire to reimagine itself


Geoff Smith 




The Mystery Of Creatures


Where was that butterfly bound

that fluttered across a mile of sand,

straight out to sea ?

At low water, at the sea’s frill,

where were the fish who left

their shapes, like plaster casts

in the soaking sand ?


Where did the herons fly, wing touching wave,

with beats slow as windmill blades ?


Vivien Jones



Enchantment prompt





As I pass through the 

jaws of Dumfries.

Rain water cascades 

off rooftops,

plummeting to the 

streets below.

Splashing on gum 

covered pavements,

seeping through 

the crumbling and 

cracked cobbles -

creating a new

home; making a bed.

As the Lore Burn

grows malevolently

under the town and the

cretins and creatures work

to the pitter-patter of 

footsteps above them,

a place to call its own,

in the depths 

of a forgotten tunnel

that's lost its way.

In a place near to nowhere,

Far south, far west, this town.


Daniel Gillespie








Posted on 24th October, 2016


A small editorial glitch - I failed to receive and therefore post Fiona Russell's second Nature Diary for Day 15 of this Blog - I have now inserted it there so do go and share her walk wth her in the hills above Langholm. My apologies, and here is the third instalment.





Nature Diary : 20th October 2016 : Fiona Russell


This morning I went into the garden to see if the air frost had nipped any of my many remaining flowers. The sweet peas were caught by the frost, and my over-eagerness to plant them out, in the spring. Their replacements have been frustratingly slow to get going, and only in the last few weeks have they really come into a full, and regular flow of delicately scented blooms of blue, mauve, pink, white and red. Two flowers have been too high for me to pick, but only two so far. I want to keep the deliciousness of these flowers going for as long as I possibly can. I feel that I am trying to hold back the inevitable, but I'm desperate to cling onto any vestiges of summer for as long as possible. I give bunches of them to a local pensioner who is mad about sweet peas, but no longer able to grow them herself.  I have seen goldcrests, and various species of tit in the greenery of the foliage, and a robin has taken to perching on the top of one cane. 

When I was out in the garden I heard what I initially thought was a dog caught in a fence. That heart-sinking moment when a jump over taught wires ends in a leg, or legs hopelessly entangled, and the most awful screaming. The sound was coming from the farm over the hill. Was it one of my brothers collies, or perhaps the hunt had overrun from the next door farm and it was a hound in distress? Listening hard, trying to locate the sound from over the hill I then thought to look up. In the distance was a skein of geese. Their honking increased in volume as they drew closer. The geese were weaving dark stringing lines in a leaden grey sky that had started a glowing pink. Greylags or pink feet? I wasn't sure, so excited by their lines I couldn't remember the sounds. I think pink-footed geese, probably heading out from an overnight roost on the Solway mudflats. I grabbed my phone, pointed it to the sky and hoped I might catch some of the wriggling lines on the camera as the geese headed north-west. A quick snap, and I lowered my phone, watched and listened for that rich sight and sound of a successful migration until they were past. The most haunting goose sound I know of here is when they fly past in foggy conditions, some becoming disoriented in the strength of an outside light. They can fly round and round, as if mesmerised by the bright, foggy beam. I turn the lights out, hoping they might find their way, and not waste valuable energy going round in circles. To me, that is one of the most incredible, and unforgettable sounds of autumn. 






The bird of freedom

(Hirundo rustica)


We have tried to cage it

with our words and superstitions,

poured the devils blood 

into its veins and forked tail.

We tether it to summer, 

have it bring spring on the wing

and turned its mud and spit

into portents of protection. 

A bird in the hand’s worth two

in the bush we say, but a swallow

on your shoulder spells magic. 


But this bird cannot be held

in superstition’s cage.

It cannot endure captivity. 

It must cross dessert sands, flit

miles of open sea to join again

in the clear north air. 

It needs to fickle over fields 

of ripe corn, to feed 

and drink on the wing,

to dance the full width of sky.

Surely that is magic enough.


Peter Kelly





Rain On


‘That’s the rain on’ we say

around here as if God (who we know

has mysterious ways) just got up

and flicked on the switch

for a shower.


It will be today, we’ve spent most

of it waiting, expecting the inevitable sound

like a giant piss, it’s that just-round-the-cornerness

we trust. About rain.


And with it comes rust spots on tools

we left out and wet washing, those tee shirts 

and towels looking heavy and lame


and the disappointment 

of the lottery, again

the minus sign 

on your tax form, again

and the voicemail message

that isn’t from Lesley or Carol

but somebody selling insurance.



We just know it around here

that we won’t hit the jackpot

our returns will be lost or deleted or late.

If the landline rings it might be the kids but there’s something

they’ll want you to do or to make.


We just know it around here with

wise nods as we pass in the street.

‘That’s the rain on’ we say, so

certain that rain is our fate.


Clare Phillips





Red Kite - Tom Langlands



Self Portrait with Chicken


Some weekends I crave roast chicken. The tarragon and lemon and puffed golden skin of it, pulled from the oven hissing and steaming like a traffic-jam in a rain-storm. The like-a-home smell of it. The ritual of gravy: whisk, scrape, whisk, wine, bubble. The boisterous Sunday-around-the-kitchen-tableness as everyone vies for a leg.

‘Nice peas,’ my youngest called Petits Pois a la Française.

‘Are you meant to cook lettuce?’ My husband poked at the Little Gems in their stock bath.

‘Meant?’ I replied.

Tiny, flaky, crisp, melt-in-the-middle roast spuds. A glass of icy white, and the sun shining through the open back door, tailed by the smell of our herb garden. I’d have dragged the table out there if the door hadn’t stopped me.

The stripped bare carcass I’d stash in the freezer with its predecessors, for stock making. When it couldn’t swallow another I’d crush them into my biggest pot to boil for hours with onions, carrots, and some of those herbs.

‘You do work hard, mumsey,’ someone said, once, and disappeared into the steam.


It’s true, I sometimes crave roast chicken; but who wants to eat a whole bird?


Eryl Shields    




Seeds prompt




Seeds are very quiet

lying there under the earth

minding their own

immense business.


A seed is a magic casket

full of memories of past and future,

from the primaeval woods, where the squirrels could run

across Europe without touching the ground

from bough to bough, to the tree it will become.


Does it hurt when the husk splits?

Does the seed suffer an existential crisis?

If it could read the Tarot at that moment,

it would surely draw the Death card.


Does it say, I who was such a neat,

round, brown being, snug and self-contained 

with my boundaries well defined,

am now – simply by virtue of relating

to all this earth and water

and these inner stirrings – 

changed beyond all recognition!

This long pale straggly unprotected

thing I have become – what is it?

Where are its limits? When will it stop?


And when, simply by virtue of relating

to life and time and the four elements,

it towers in the forest, shedding leaves,

or watched its reflection in the stream,

does it wonder, was I once, really,

a small brown thing under the earth?

Or was that someone else?


At what point does it choose?

I shall fall and decay and become earth again;

I shall be a ship and travel across the oceans;

I shall be transformed in the hands of Hepplewhite,

my beauty admired for centuries more;

I shall be chopped down and become fire,

giving back, in a few hours of blazing glory,

my years of stored sunlight.


Seeds are very quiet.

They have much to consider. 


Su Palmer Jones










Posted on 23rd October, 2016




Cliff : mixed media - Liz Waugh



Seasons prompt


A tree in November


Bereft of her leaves

the tall lime snared a kite,  

waving its reds, blues and greens,

a defiant tricolour, till the first

winter gale ripped it away.

Then she embraced a full

silvery moon, but that was a brief

encounter, before she lured

a murmuration of starlings,

drawing them in day after darkening 

day, like iron filings to a magnet,

till they made her their home,

a cathedral of song, music 

glittering every branch.



angus macmillan



                                                                       The Gannet.


                                                                       I watch, envying their freedom,

                                                                       As gannets swoop and dip and dive,

                                                                       Piercing the blue waves, sharp beaks

                                                                       Seeking sea’s bounty to survive.


                                                                       Then, breaking loose the water’s hold

                                                                       They climb, circling ever higher,

                                                                       Wings beating upwards to the gold

                                                                       Of clouds sun-touched with fire.


                                                                       They turn again, dart-like bodies

                                                                       To plunge upon their prey,

                                                                       Scoop life from tumbling waves

                                                                       Struggle, soar, and leave the bay.


                                                                       The freedom’s false, life’s toll exacts

                                                                       Effort, peril, death and dearth,

                                                                       For each must pay the price of life

                                                                       And paying, fall to cold, dark earth.


                                                                       Thelma Hancock





Cats Ear Seedhead - Leonie Ewing



Starlight prompt





She hands him the photograph:

the oldest light in the universe.


It’s a child’s painting, he laughs,

That’s my universe. She tells him 


countless others doubtless exist;

unseen like particles which govern


everything, over which we fight

for control.  He sighs,


selects the microwave manual;

they read page seven together


again. One day it’ll dawn on her

and he’ll be bathed in new light.


Gillian Mellor




My wee brother idolizes Yuri Gagarin

the first man off the planet, up into space


My wee brother has Yuri tattooed on his arm

pressed on by the museum's star man


My wee brother wears his astronaut pyjamas

and a cardboard helmet with a hole for his face


My wee brother applies to be on board for 2025

and the mission to Mars in a super fast rocket


My wee brother talks about circles of Saturn

and watches Jupiter blink at the night


My wee brother likes us to turn off our torches

so more stars will light up the darkest of places


Gillian Mellor






White-tailed Eagle - Tom Langlands









Posted on 22nd October, 2016


Latest News


Tom Langlands, who has provided the Blog with so many exquisite photographs, will come to the gathering on 29th and, in exchange for some comments on his written work, offer advice on photographing birds. Sounds like a good deal to me. 



We are planning a celebratory gathering of contributors to this year's Livewires Blog and you are, of course, invited.


‘Livewires Live’ - a celebratory reading from the Writers’ Blog on the Southlight website:
2.00 - 4.00 pm Saturday 29th October at thWildfowl & Wetland Trust, Caerlaverock  

(Free entry to the reading but you buy your own cakes!) Eastpark Farm, Caerlaverock, 

Dumfriesshire DG1 4RS)


Do let me know if you would like to read - e-mail :




Hill Walkers - Liz Waugh





Wind passes through skyline trees

Black leaves lift and flap away, cawing

On a wobbly stork-leg, I salute the sun

At my feet, each emerald blade of grass

carries a diamond.


Leonie Ewing



Fire prompt



The fire of youth.....


Growing up in Larchfield, Dumfries I had plenty of things to do as a kid. In front of our flat lay a gigantic field with football and rugby posts and it would also play home to some golf practice for me and my friends although we weren't supposed to...

However one day I found some matches lying on the ground and I was silly enough to pick them up. 

Now, out of all the things I could have been doing with my friends instead, I decided I would start a fire....

In the corner of the field was a little wasteland with a small building where I could climb onto the roof and hide from folk (as I did quite often). I decided that this would be the best place to start my fire. On top of the roof next to all the trees and all the houses behind them. Fantastic idea!

I grabbed some rubbish that was lying around and climbed onto the roof and made myself comfy. 

There were very few matches left in the box so I didn't want to waste them. Trembling with nerves and excitement I scratched the first one along the box and snapped the match. Now, only two remain. Second attempt is a success and I thrust my hand into the pile of rubbish and soon see a small flame evolve and my eyes widen and my heart thumping through my shirt. The flame growing and so was my anxiety of getting caught and as it would turn out. I did get caught, BY MY MUM!!

The horror. A smacked arse and grounded for a week, tears streaming down my face and nose running and would it stop!

Why the hell did I play with fire? How stupid. It never ends well. Grounded for a week = no football for a week. Dammit.


Daniel Gillespie


Seasons prompt




On an arctic wind

Geese shatter against the sky

Autumn turns away


Carolyn Yates




Razorbill - Tom Langlands




Seasons prompt




The conference assembled

For a plenary session

After the delegates had flown in

On an unseasonably warm afternoon


The shades of autumn

Tinting the trees with reds yellows auburn

Reflecting on the water's surface

The delegates politics


The Canadians were first to arrive

Followed closely by the Siberians

The chattering gaggle

Of the geese on the Tarn


Here to negotiate trade agreements

Each keeping to their end of the pier

Planning to overwinter debating 

The philosophical possibility


Of the Black Swans arriving 

As they did last year creating a rush

Of interest before leaving to cause

Considerable doubt which is yet to be resolved 


Unbothered by passports or borders

Flying as they wish to new locations

Heads deep in the water feeding

An unexamined uncontrolled migration


Of free spirits colonises the Tarn 

Exploring the language of liberty

Telling tall tales of travellers adventuring

Awaiting the casting of fowler's nets



Geoff Smith


Love prompt


Lonely Without You 

(First published in ‘Loving’ magazine, July 1972)


Lying here in my dream-filled night

I look back on my quiet day and evening time 

And I know I’ve changed.

Somehow the boy-full-of-words

Is transformed to sudden silence in everything.


Lying here in my lonely sheets,

thinking of your lips,

yet so much inside myself

that it hurts this newly-quiet boy.

I cannot sing

And words tell lies.

Lying here inside myself


how to tell you


the silent way.


on night-time sheets

of paper

when we should be together in love


Peter Kelly



Flash fiction:




Dusk falls. In the moonlight Antar pads between the narrow high white walls marking the boundary between his world and the rich. His tough leather feet make no sound as he passes by sleeping dogs, dust swirling up under the hem of his faded and glorious bisht. His eyes miss nothing. Everywhere he goes, rubbish spews from broken black plastic sacks. By morning they will be dropped into the slow rumble of the garbage truck, streets will have been washed and swept by the street sweepers. But for now Antar rules. He lifts and peers into each sack in turn. The smell rises like perfume. Extracting the riches he seeks, he hides titbits  in his voluminous pockets. As the the voice of the Imam cracks the dawn in prayer Antar returns to his lair to eat first, then to sleep through the heat of the day. Dusk will fall again. 


Carolyn Yates




In Praise of Pith


Preparing a pomegranate 

I fiddle with pith, remove the 

creamy, expendable matrix in

which the jewelled fruits

are perfectly socketed

before we break it



It reminds me of bees

their furred, little bodies

purring in perfect, hexagonal

pockets of wax

the parts we can’t eat

that need to be there

to hold honey.


And people are pithy 

my favourite Radio 4 anchors

Humphrys and Husain

Finnemore and Fry

who hold it all together 

while I lapse into hysterical



and the quiet comedians

at the allotment

who tease me, gently

about my weeds


their potatoes

unearthed treasure 

from the friable dark

their pea pods packed 

tight with green pearls

their broad beans, side by side

in perfect, velvet cushions

of pith

like the well-behaved children

of royalty.


Clare Phillips