Friday, 30 May 2014

At last - a bit of warmth!

We have had a spell of cold and disappointing weather.  Sadly, May has not been a month that has come up to expectations.  It is usually pretty good in Scotland.  But, with one more day to go before we find ourselves in June and half way through the year, today was warm and sunny.  Tilly and I went to the beach.  It was heavenly with a wonderful sense of space, no-one around, gentle blue seas and a sky full of song from the skylarks.  
Tilly had a dig in the sloppy-sloppy sand.  You can just see North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock in the background.
 And of course, the waves.  Mesmerising as always.  
As we walked back along the salt marsh there was a shimmering heat haze!  Haven't seen one of those for a while.

Maya Angelou

There will always be individuals who, in their lifetime, achieve a staggering amount, usually against all the odds!   It is sometimes easy to feel diminished by their journeys, set against one's own, but that would be ungracious and mean-spirited.  We have to give thanks for having had the opportunity to share the planet with them for a while, for these people enrich our lives and, I think, Maya Angelou is one of those characters.  

I mourn her loss, and thank goodness I have my copy of 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' to read and re-read.  It's one of my favourite books.  If you haven't read it, you must!
Radio 4's Last Word has paid a good tribute to this amazing lady.  As well as everything else, she had a wonderful voice and so much to say.  Have a listen.

Friday, 23 May 2014


Here is another example of lunacy.  I've signed up to this petition too.  Why wouldn't you?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

I've become a verge warrior

Actually, I have.  See here :

This is what the road looks like at the end of the drive, at the moment.
Where there should be billowing clouds of cow parsley, beautiful and dreamy in the month of May, instead we have ZIPPO.  To say I am angry and upset would be the understatement of the decade.  I am raging.  I have emailed East Lothian Council, Highways, and sent them photos.  I haven't received a reply yet, but, like my mother before me back in the 1960s when Hampshire County Council repeatedly got it in the neck, I am on a mission.

The decision to cut the verges at this time of year is governed, I understand, by the fact that this is a bit of downtime for the farmers and their workers.  They are waiting for stuff to grow in the fields, so having been awarded the cutting contracts by the council, they get their big machines out and destroy the countryside.  They are supposed to cut to a depth of one metre and at an angle.  If you log on to the Plantlife website you can read how the cut should be done, and more importantly, when.  If you are fond of my blog, please do this for me and 'sign' their petition (well, not for me but for the precious plants which give food and cover for our bees, butterflies, birds, insects and wild animals, and bring beauty to our environment).  It can only do good.  To cut at this time of the year is madness.  They are cutting down flowers and grasses while they are in blooming, or about to flower, and so the plants cannot set their seed.  Chances are they won't be there next year.  We don't need a neat and tidy countryside.  (Incidentally I do, of course, acknowledge that the sight lines at junctions and on bends, etc., need to be cut, for road safety).

This is what we should be looking at in May.

I am sure I will have more to say on the subject in due course!  

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Down the rushy glen, and beyond

We have been away, in a green and mossy world, one sandwiched between Loch Fyne to the west and the Trossachs to the east.  The Cowal Peninsula.  We have been staying in a holiday lodge yards away from Pucks Glen, a bewitching and atmospheric place which looks more like a theatre or film set for Lord of the Rings.

We all know that it’s wetter in the west!  The air is softer, the grass is greener and the mists swirl and drench.  Walks through the woods and glens, along trails and paths, are to spend time in a world of green.  The climate encourages varieties of mosses too numerous to count.  They smother everything that doesn’t move.  In fact if we had stood still too long to consult the map we would probably have started to sprout feathery green bits, and before long we would just be two tall mounds, softly rounded off at the top, looking down on a small, perplexed rectangular green shape at the end of a lead.  
Towering above are colossal conifers, ranked up the steep sides of the hills and glens.  They grow as straight as pokers and reach towering heights.  This is a world away from East Lothian!

At this time of year the woods have a haze of blue.  The native bluebell is flowering, the proper deep purple-blue one with an elegant stem which bows at its top.  It’s the species which belongs here as opposed to the invasive, sturdier Spanish bluebell, which is more insipid in colour and also comes in white and pale pink.  Before we moved to Scotland we would go every year to a spectacular bluebell wood Hampshire which is carpeted with flowers as far as the eye can see.  Acres and acres of oak woods where the nightingale sings on a balmy June evening – well, I hope it still sings there!  When I was young my mother and her sister would prepare a big family picnic brunch for both families, which we would take to the bluebell wood on a sunny Sunday morning.  Aunty Mary would cook the bacon over a primus stove and my mother would produce the lamb cutlets she had egg and breadcrumbed and then carefully cooked, all ready to be eaten cold as part of our picnic.  It was always a good spread.  Then, while the grown-ups lazed in the sun, I, my brother and sister, together with our cousins, would play in the oak wood, amongst the bluebells. The cuckoo called and the flowers gave off their wild hyacinth scent.  Surely this was heaven on earth - certainly one of my most blissful memories of life before adulthood.  Do families do that sort of stuff any more?   I’ve got a horrible feeling many are just hermetically sealed to their smart phones on the sofa or meandering aimlessly round Ikea on Sunday mornings.

The rain didn’t really let up during our holiday so we just had to get on with it.  We walked up Pucks Glen, which is a wondrous place.  There were definitely elves and fairies lurking in the background, I could feel them watching us as we made our way up the glen.  I remember learning 'The Fairies' by William Allingham when I was a little girl.  It was in one of my poetry books and I can remember reciting it over and over to myself.  I did believe in fairies, for a long time, so it was all very real.  I think this place must have inspired the poem.  It’s not a walk for the faint-hearted!  
Water gushed and rushed along, noisy and foaming over boulders and fallen trees on it’s way down the steep ravine.  The rocks either side are green, old exposed tree roots are green, everything is green.
The weather was very disappointing but we managed to cover a lot of ground, most of it in the car, but we had a good walk at Ardentinny by the aptly named Loch Long, and heard (and saw) the cuckoo, which is an important part of my Spring.  It isn't the same if I don't hear the cuckoo.  Sadly they don't visit the wood at home.  I also saw a red squirrel that day.  A good day.

I have other things to chat about but will do that in another post.  This one has hung around long enough.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Spring is busting out all over!

Tilly and I walked round the block late this afternoon.  It was such a magnificent light, clear, brilliant and the colours in the surrounding fields were positively zinging - with a capital 'Z'.  There are two rapeseed fields in full bloom along the lane.  I have been waiting for the time when they would both be in bloom, knowing it was going to be quite something on a bright sunny day.  There is yellow everywhere!  

I love dandelions.  They are one of the first flowers you learn about when you are very young, loving to blow the dandelion clock.
The leaf buds on the ash hedging are still resolutely shut .  Although the plants are not yet dressed they still seem to be up for a party - they look to me as though they are in a carnival procession!
I love the colour yellow but I have to admit that I find these fields of rapeseed to be painfully bright, the dayglo yellow jarring with the subtle colours of the countryside.  Looked at individually the flowers don't seem so bright, really quite pretty, but en masse they create brash blocks of colour which are a bit too much for me!  
My camera has a mind of its own and can take photos all by itself.  It took this one and I was going to dump it but then I thought it's crazy angle suited the zany yellow crop!
I think that's enough yellow for one season.  Here is the delectable blossom of the wild crab apple tree.  This tree will eventually have tiny little yellow apples but by the time they come along I will have recovered from the overdose of yellow.  Today the delicious smelling blossom was receiving careful attention from a large buzzing bumblebee.  
And finally this afternoon, the moment I wait for every year.  The first few flowers of hawthorn, the May blossom.  Spring is well under way now and I'm loving it!