On Perseverance

I know I’m already not the world’s most regular blogger, but I’m likely to go dead silent for the next two weeks as we make the final push to engage the people of Moffat in the referendum conversation. Last week we had a stall at the local agricultural show,

L to R: Math Campbell of English Scots for Yes, and Me, Eric, Margaret, and Chris of Yes Moffat.

L to R: Math Campbell of English Scots for Yes, and Me, Eric, Margaret, and Chris of Yes Moffat.

yesterday we had a street stall

and in between I’ve been working like a thing possessed to get some poems ready for submission for the big deal (to be revealed in January).

Worn paint is one of my favourite things.

Worn paint is one of my favourite things, and how tempting is the word ‘danger.’

I’ve been working on my writing for nine years, but, as my recent foray into photography shows, I’ve not been quite as persistent as I might. For a while there I gave up on writing altogether, probably because I’m not so good at ignoring the world around me, especially the people I love, and everything went very weird for a few years. Anyway, back on track now I’ve been working hard on polishing poems I began before the weirdness descended, but also on brand new ones, and I’m quite pleased with some of my new work. Not because it’s brilliant, but because it feels consistent, and right.

It's fair to say that my overarching theme/subject is breakdown.

It’s fair to say that my overarching theme/subject is breakdown.

And now I have a little recognition. I sent three poems to Southlight  a lit mag produced in Dumfries and Galloway, and which attracts and publishes writers from all over the world (though mostly Scotland and the UK), and they accepted all of them for their 16th edition, due out at the end of the month. I can’t tell you how encouraging this is, it feels like someone who knows has told me that, yes, I am a poet. Of course I do know one of the editors (there are three), and the executive editor, so I guess the real test will be when I send work out to magazines further afield, but I’m pretty sure if the poems were not poems at all they wouldn’t have accepted them, no matter how kind they are. Payment will be a free copy of the magazine (standard stuff in this game), so there’s no fortune to be made, but hey.

Another of my themes is the liminal.

Another of my themes is the liminal.

Now I have to take a short break from the poems because of the campaign for independence. It’s getting beyond exciting to be here, it’s beginning to feel like one of those great epochs that tend to fuel great art. The latest polls show Yes in the lead (51%), and it looks like we could actually win. There are all sorts of scare stories being peddled (e.g that our economy is too reliant on oil; we’ll be chucked out of Europe; we’ll need to invent our own currency), and no doubt taking control of our own country won’t be easy, but it’s been done by hundreds of others.  And as individuals we’ve all done it. We’ve all set out from positions of little responsibility to having to learn to feed ourselves, keep a home, and pay our own bills, and most of us survived. I don’t see why Scotland can’t. The union has done its job, but it’s time for it to make way for a more equal relationship between the countries of these islands.

This nail, strong as it is, couldn't protect the wood from the ravages of the sea.

Everything has a lifespan.

Tomorrow we’ll run another street stall in the morning, and go out canvassing in the afternoon. That will be the story of my days until September 18, after which I plan to party.

Posted in Independence, Photography, Scotland, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

One Down

I wonder if becoming an adult means learning to deal with dashed hopes gracefully. I won’t be going to the Highlands to commune with poets and learn my craft. Moniack Mhor offered me a grant to cover just under half the course cost, but it wasn’t enough to enable me to go. So I’ll just need to work it out for myself. At times like this I really wished I lived in a city where I could mingle with my own sort for the cost of a pint (and there’s work to be had in cities so I might actually afford a pint). The country’s lovely, and fine for those who have already made their lives, and, perhaps have the money to travel, but none of that applies to me.

Green on Grey.

Green on Grey.

I have three more hopes pinned; two are related to my poetry, the other is to Scotland’s forthcoming referendum. I can’t help thinking it would be the worst thing in the world if the country denied itself its own autonomy. Imagine doing that. Imagine being given the opportunity to control your own day to day existence, and saying, “nah, you just keep on telling me what to do and I’ll continue to doze through life, occasionally complaining about the broadband speed, and laughing at Boris Johnston.” I can’t believe enough of us are that weak, that beaten, not yet.

Lochbuie, possibly my favourite place on Mull.

Lochbuie, possibly my favourite place on Mull, so many textures.

The first poetry thing is just some poems I sent to a magazine, and if I’m honest I don’t expect them to be accepted. They’re old work, but I just wanted to sling them out into the world and see what happened. If they’re rejected I won’t weep long. It’s more a test of me than the poems, one has to learn to have one’s work rejected and not take it personally. Or so I’m told.

Lochbuie rocks. They do so remind me of Aboriginal art with their little barnacles.

Lochbuie rocks. They do so remind me of Aboriginal art with their little barnacles.

The second poetry thing contains the last of my hopes. I suppose if it fails we’ll find out what happens when one’s last hopes are dashed.

The heart of a Medusa victim?

The heart of a Medusa victim?

The deadline is September 5, but I won’t find out the truth until December.

This makes me think of a creature rising from the depths.

This makes me think of a creature rising from the depths.

Posted in Independence, Photography, Scotland, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

(Out of) Control Freak

I’ve had the most wonderfully enlightening, and really rather exciting week (as in week’s worth of days, not calendar). And things could become more so. As I sit here I could almost vomit over my keyboard, I’m that skittish with the maybes, mights, and coulds. Not to mention the and then whats? I am, on the whole, fairly cautious. I tend to think things through to the nth degree, and have missed the odd once in a lifetime because of this. So when I act impulsively I scare myself, and yesterday I acted impulsively.

Wrecks Nuzzling.

Wrecks Nuzzling.

Up near inverness there’s a writing centre called Moniack Mhor. It used to be linked to the Arvon Foundation, but thanks to Scottish arts funding is now independent. I have friends who have been on courses there, and they come back invigorated and singing of its inspirational surroundings, tutors, and atmosphere. And I have long since yearned to go. But I am cautious. And broke. So I don’t even notice when they have courses running, or with whom; in the same way I don’t notice the football results, or the price of theatre tickets.

This is the kind of thing I do notice: what strength and will this little wild-flower must have to grow here.

This is the kind of thing I do notice: what strength and will this little wild-flower must have to grow here.

However, yesterday a friend posted on Facebook that due to a couple of cancellations there are places on the inaugural course, and there was something in that link that made me click. Once on the course page (or maybe it was evident in the link) I found it’s to be a poetry retreat that involves workshops, one to ones, and hunners of time to wander in the hills, and sit quietly and write. The tutors are: Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, and poet Michael Woods. And half way through the (not quite) week a guest, John Sampson, who is a composer, musician, and actor will arrive. The thing I also discovered when I landed on the page is that they offer grants if you’re a bit strapped. Email and ask, it said. So I did.

In my fantasy life this is my back yard.

In my fantasy life this is my back yard.

After some faffing about today with the scanner I sent them the required past three bank statements so they can see if I’m grant worthy. Meanwhile, they have blocked off a space, so someone else can’t usurp me while they make their assessment. I could be going to Inverness next week to have my poetic potential looked over by the Poet Laureate.

These boats remind me of whales rubbing noses. And I love the  mutual peeling of their paints.

These boats remind me of whales rubbing noses. And I love the mutual peeling of their paints.

I checked the trains this evening: I can get to inverness and back for £68. I could mange that at a pinch, but it would mean no anything else for a while, so I wonder if I could hitch? The Mr came in from a trip to town last Thursday, and called up the stairs: “I’ve got four French hitch-hikers with me…”  If four French kids can do it why can’t I? I’ve done it before, in fact, not that long ago either. It could be a real adventure.

I can carry everything I need for a day's rock staring in this pack.

I can carry everything I need for a day’s rock staring in this pack.

The enlightening thing was this: I’ve been working on processing my holiday shots on and off since arriving home. It must be a month by now, and it’s beginning to curtail. I have other images to process, some of them are for other people, but until I finish the holiday ones I can’t bring myself to move on. It’s got so that I deliberately leave my camera at home when I go out. However, I get emails from Digital Photography School at least twice a week, though I mostly just delete them these days (like so many of the emails I get) because I don’t feel I have the time to get distracted. But feeling a little idle on Sunday morning I opened one, clicked on a link about creative something or other tips, and read. It was pretty much the usual stuff about giving yourself time, but toward the end I read an approximation of the words: ‘Don’t let seriousness about your photography spoil your enjoyment of taking snaps. Not every shot has to be a work of art, some can just be holiday snaps, or snaps of your kids.’

Who could resist taking a photo of Highland coos?

Who could resist taking a photo of Highland coos?

I knew that, but I didn’t know that. I needed someone to tell me that my holiday snaps could be ordinary. They could be nothing more than documents, or memory joggers. And, voila! yesterday and this evening I managed to whizz through quite a large batch, some of which I show here. I’ve still got quite a few to do, but I’ll try and finish them tomorrow, and that will be it, I’ll be able to move on.

Rock family at leisure.

Rock family at leisure.

One more thing: I popped into the Scottish Poetry Library last Wednesday to load up with tomes, and picked up a copy of the lit mag Northwords Now. Inside I discovered Aonghas MacNeacail: holy fucking cow. Read him.

Obviously if I go to the Highlands next week I’ll take my camera with me. And a notebook.

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Ouch!

I had a bit of a ding with my bike (push) a few days ago, and now sitting down for any length of time is more painful than I like to put up with. This happened because I hurt my back (an old, pregnancy related, recurring thing), so wasn’t quite as quick as normal. Thus, breaking on a steep hill I ended up shooting off the seat onto the crossbar. There was blood. So this is going to be a short post.

But I will sit long enough to tell you that I sent my first three poems out to a literary magazine today. And I’m getting seven poems ready for something big. I won’t go into any more detail about this until, and unless there’s something positive to share. I don’t want to do that thing whereby you scupper your own goals by telling too much. But I will say this: several happenings in the past couple of weeks made me decide to give up prose writing (for a while at least), and concentrate on poetry.

One of these was: as I read through my novel and tried to break it up into manageable chunks for redrafting, I realised it was full of descriptions. And as I read I kept thinking, this would be much better as a poem. Couple this with: a new acquaintance is putting together an independence arts zine and asked me to contribute to it. I didn’t want to let her down, so trawled through my old poems and reworked one that seemed to fit the theme, albeit at a stretch. And I found that much less arduous than redrafting the novel. Which, added to the fact that I find a poem, being a manageable size, can be reworked anywhere, anytime, made me wonder if my mind is better suited to poetry. So I’m going to give it a go; poetry will have my full attention for the foreseeable future.

The only problem with writing poetry is the rules. They’re a bit ‘black tie ball’ in that the explicated ones aren’t the only ones. There are hidden, secret rules, or at least that’s how it feels, and I worry about turning up in borrowed, ill-fitting Prada and being shunned, silently.

Anyway, here are a few more holiday snaps:

Tobermory.

Tobermory, Isle of Mull.

More Tobermory, I liked it there.

More Tobermory, I liked it there. A question: is this a still life, or a land/seascape?

A press at the Isle of Mull Cheese Co farm shop/cafe. I absolutely loved this place, it was my kind of slightly shambolic, clinically uncommercial space. The Mr is a huge fan of Mull cheddar, and we bought a huge wedge to bring home.

A press at the Isle of Mull Cheese Co farm shop/cafe. I absolutely loved this place, it was my kind of slightly shambolic, not overtly commercial space. The Mr is a huge fan of Mull cheddar, and we bought a huge wedge to bring home, now eaten.

This was at Calgary Bay, one of those miles of white sands places that people rave about. We didn't stay there long, no rocks to stare at,  too many people, and it was monstrously windy.

This was at Calgary Bay, one of those miles of white sands places that people rave about. We didn’t stay there long, no rocks to stare at, too many people, and it was monstrously windy. But look at that sky!

I've had a picture of this on a Pinterest board for a year or so, so was delighted to see it in the flesh.

I’ve had a picture of this on a Pinterest board for a year or so now, so was delighted to see it in the flesh. I didn’t bother to get out of the car for this shot, it was too cold.

The Mr was fishing off a rock, so I had lots of time to just play.

The Mr was fishing off a rock, so I had lots of time to just play.

The decisions one makes when processing photographs aren’t that different to the decision one makes when reworking a poem, and it’s pretty easy to get them both hideously wrong.

Apologies, that might well be my aching tush speaking…

 

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Highland Fling

One of the things I admire about good landscape photography is the way it gives you a full sense of place, whatever that place might be. And it’s not boring. How do some landscape photographers manage to make acres of green stuff covered land, some flat, most mountainous, not look boring? In the (more than) thirty years I’ve been using a camera I’ve never been able to capture whatever it is about a landscape that made me want to make an image of it. Ever. Mostly my shots are flat, and overwhelmingly green. Usually some part is also grossly overexposed while another part is in darkness. And almost always the emotion is missing. In theory I know what one needs to consider, rule wise, to make a good landscape image, but I’m damned if I know it to my core so that I can just do it.

But one doesn’t go to the highlands and not try, so here are some of the less excruciating of my shots from the first two days of our trip.

This was on the drive up, somewhere near Glen Etive, I think.

This was my first proper attempt, made when we stopped for a break on the drive up. It’s somewhere near Glen Etive, I think. I liked the coolie-hat-pointiness of the mountain.

A rock on Loch Etive which seems to have a long suffering look about it.

A rock on Loch Etive which seems to have a long suffering look about it: “Oh my, another idiot with a camera..”

Wherever one goes where there are pebbles these days one is sure to stumble upon a little building exercise like this. They always make me smile.

Wherever one goes where there are pebbles these days one is sure to stumble upon a little building exercise like this. They always make me smile.

What is it about boats? Whenever I see one I have to get a photo. I'm not displeased with this, not at all, not yet.

What is it about boats? Whenever I see one I have to get a photo. I’m not displeased with this, not at all, not yet.

This was made at about 8 o'clock in the evening. We'd just arrived in Ardgour, and hadn't yet checked into our B&B which was just round the corner, but couldn't resist the pull of the beach. I love these little islands, and am delighted I managed to capture some of my feelings about the view. That's the bridge at Ballachulish in the distance, and Glen Coe which is gob-smacking in its grandeur.

This was made at about 8 o’clock in the evening. We’d just arrived in Ardgour, and hadn’t yet checked into our B&B which was just round the corner, but couldn’t resist the pull of the beach. I love these little islands, and am delighted I managed to capture some of my feelings about the view. That’s the bridge at Ballachulish in the distance, and Glen Coe which is gob-smacking in its grandeur.

This is from the second day, and I spent ages hanging around this spot just trying to get to know it. The Mr fished nearby, the sun shone, and the grad filter that came free with my last lens, but actually fits another, became my best friend.

This is from the second day, and I spent ages hanging around this spot just trying to get to know it. The Mr fished nearby, the sun shone, and the grad filter that came free with my last lens, but actually fits another, became my best friend.

This is a bit crap, I know, but it's the only clear shot I've got of Ben Nevis, our highest mountain.

This is a bit crap, I know, but it’s the only clear shot I got of Ben Nevis, our highest mountain.

The B&B owners lent the Mr a midge net when he told them he planned to spend the day fishing. He needed it!

The B&B owners lent the Mr a midge net when he told them he planned to spend the day fishing. He needed it!

This is my kind of breakfast, the stewed peaches were divine.

Just a phone shot, but had to share as this is my kind of breakfast: the stewed peaches were divine.

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July Buzz

July has been a most fruitful month. It started with the wedding of the Mr.’s daughter on the fifth, which for me started with a what to wear panic. As a Vogue reader who only earns £18 a week, and spends her days either sitting at a computer trying to perfect sentences, or tying in peas at the allotment, buying clothes can be a bit fraught. However, the combined forces of the Mr. and the sales (and I owe a special thanks to two incredibly helpful assistants in Ted Baker, Prince’s Square, Glasgow) sorted me out.

The Mr. and Me

The Mr. and Me (with my thinking face on: I must stop doing that in public).

The wedding was a joy from start to end; here are a few of my images:

The arrival of the bridesmaids .

The arrival of the bridesmaids
.

Handfasting.

Handfasting.

i

Kilted.

Kilted.

It was a pretty Scottish affair: held in a small, and extremely quaint, village hall in East Lothian; almost all the men wore kilts, the bride and groom had their arms bound by the clan tartans of each family, and there was a fantastic ceilidh band after a pot-luck feast of such proportions I didn’t think I’d be able to stand after the puddings.

After the wedding the Mr and I went away to Argyll (in the Highlands) for a week. We spent two nights in Ardgour, four nights in Mull, and the last night in Glenuig. It was wonderful. As I’d been whining about not having time to process images I had set my camera to JPEG for the wedding, and regretted it wholly. The tones were quite off, which is why I resorted to making most of the shots black and white. So I put it back to RAW for the holiday, thus here is one taster image. Utterly messed with, and a phone shot to boot.

The Mr at Cafe Fish, Tobermory.

The Mr at Cafe Fish, Tobermory.

I am gradually working my way through the far too many photos I made, and with luck I’ll have time to post a few soon.

Meanwhile the referendum campaign and the allotment are taking over my life. We have been giving away potatoes to anyone who speaks to us, could eat broad beans; peas; spinach; courgettes, and shallots every night of the week, and I have so many sweet peas in jam jars around the house it smells like a perfume store. In another week or two we’ll be consumed by cucumbers (I stupidly have five plants, all with tens of tiny little fruits on them), tomatoes (seven plants!), chillies, okra, lettuce, and basil. I can’t wait for the tomatoes and basil to be ready so I can make my favourite summer salad: Panzanella. What’s the betting I’ll be sick of it by autumn?

 

Posted in Allotment, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Being a Something

I'm growing purple sugar snap peas on the allotment, and they have  burst into flower this week.

I’m growing purple sugar snap peas on the allotment, and they have burst into flower this week.

Alert readers will realise that the 365 thing I was doing has imploded (again). That’s if there are any readers left.

As it happens the collapse doesn’t matter because I’m not a photographer at all, I’m a writer. The photography could be viewed as a major bout of procrastination, or, my preference, as research that got a little out of hand. The main protagonist of the novel I’ve finally begun to rewrite uses a camera as a prop when she moves from London to Mull, and I guess I felt I needed to get in character or something. Who knows? but for a while I was almost convinced photography was my art form.

Broad beans grown in double rows are mutually supportive.

Broad beans grown in double rows are mutually supportive.

These photos were taken with my phone by the way; I’d rather eat my own lymph nodes than process another image at the moment.

Posted in Allotment, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments