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









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