Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Surgeons as writers and Americana by Ray Davies

May 9, 2017

The Saturday edition of The Guardian comes through the letter box and thumps on the floor, as it contains a variety of sections – the main paper, sport, review, travel, family and food. I keep the Review section  for Sunday mornings and I enjoy reading the main article, as well as the non-fiction, fiction and poetry book reviews. On Saturday, the main article was by William Boyd and entitled “A matter of life and death: The rise of the surgeon memoir”.  In the article, Boyd looks at the works of surgeons such as Atul Gawande, Henry Marsh and Gabriel Weston. Gawande’s Complications describe what Boyd calls “significant” procedures e.g. “We made a fast, deep slash down the middle of his abdomen”. Boyd quotes Gabriel (in Direct Red) “We cut the woman open from breastbone to pubis and cleared her gut out with one deep sweep.” Boyd then goes on to wonder “.. how anyone can do this as a matter of course on a near-daily basis and remain a happy, functioning human being”. The author is obviously enthralled by surgeons and notes that he happens to know four surgeons with international reputations and he elicits from one of them, Brendan Moran, what is need to become a top surgeon – a lack of squeamishness, strength, knowledge, skill and experience. It is an interesting article, with some detailed outlines of procedures that some people e.g. the squeamish, may wish to avoid, and it gives an insight into the working lives of top surgeons. I also found it a rather obsequious article in that Boyd seems to think that because these top surgeons are making life and death decisions (and they admit to making good and bad decisions), they must be on a higher plane than other professions and he finishes by referring to “the extraordinary profession they [surgeons] share and the phenomenal life they lead”. This raises the question of whether Boyd should be so amazed by the surgeon/writers. Would Boyd be so in awe of top researchers who have made major discoveries in science, medicine, history, psychology or chemistry i.e. people who have no physical contact with others? I think not and perhaps society as a whole has tended to treat people in the  medical profession (mainly doctors) as being cleverer than the rest of us. A surgeon has great responsibility but so has a bus driver or train driver or airline pilot. Read the article and see what you think.

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Direct Red by Gabriel Weston

I don’t buy much music these days but, having heard Ray Davies’ new album on Spotify, I bought it today.

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Americana by Ray Davies

Ray Davies has always been more than just a writer of pop songs. In his days with The Kinks, Davies wrote songs with a socially cutting edge e.g. Dead End Street (YouTube link) – “Out of work and got no money/ Sunday joint of bread and honey” or Lola  (YouTube link) about a young boy meeting a transvestite in a club. The new album also has a cutting edge and is based on Davies’ time in America – with The Kinks in the 1960s and 1970s, but also on more recent visits. The recurrent theme in the album is The Great Highway, both in the physical sense of travelling on the roads in the USA, but also life as a journey. There are many intriguing tracks on the album and almost all demonstrate Davies’ critical look at modern society, particularly in the USA, but also globally. In Poetry, he sings ” .. the great corporations providing our every need/And those big neon signs telling us what to eat” but he asks “Where is the poetry?” in the blandness of shopping malls and other aspects of today’s society. In A Long Drive Home To Tarzana, he finds that “.. there’s nothing there except/that space/ Beautiful space” and this seems to be the dream, to be away from the crowded cities. Davies is accompanied by the fabulous Jayhawks band, including Karen Grotberg, who duets with Davies to great effect. If you listen to the album, you’ll hear echoes of the Beatles in some tracks and Neil Young in others. In the first track, which you can listen to here (YouTube), the first lines are “I wanna make my home/Where the buffalo roam”. In Neil Young’s Far From Home (YouTube), the chorus starts “Bury me out on the prairie/Where the buffalo used to roam”. So, a superb album of country/rock with Davies’ ironic lyrics adding to some wonderful tunes.

No blog next week, as we are off to Bordeaux for a week’s holiday.

 

M C Escher, Mark Doty and garden shapes

September 25, 2015

A fascinating programme on TV this week, with Roger Penrose examining the work of one of his heroes, the artist/designer M C Escher. In the programme, which is only available to UK viewers on IPlayer. However, for those of you outside the UK, there are 4 clips from the programme (I’m hoping that you can access these). The most interesting to me was Ascending and Descending aka The never-ending staircase. When you look at this print (see below), Penrose notes that “the monks appear to be going nowhere” as the stairs are endless. Escher also produced fascinating tessellations and in another clip, Penrose points out how Escher’s design replicates the angels and devils in the print. For Penrose, this echoes his own mathematical studies of shapes and for the lay person, it presents a fascinating series of replications which seem to blend into each other. An exhibition of Escher’s work is currently on (but ends this weekend) at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Escher's Ascending and Descending (Posted in accordance with fair use principles)

Escher’s Ascending and Descending (Posted in accordance with fair use principles)

The latest Poetry Book Society Choice is Deep Lane by the American poet Mark Doty. These are very personal poems and the poet covers a wide range of topics but I’m enjoying the nature-related poems best so far. In one of the seven poems entitled Deep Lane “Later a storm blows down the moraine/ crisp and depth-charged with ozone and exhilaration” and continues further on “leaves circling in air like the great curtain of bubbles/blown by the humpback to encircle the delicious schools”. In King of Fire Island, the poet tells of a deer which comes to their garden and has lost the hoof of one leg. “A hoof’s a deft accomplishment,/ that hard-sheened shoe of blue-black carbon”.

Having seen the Penrose programme and having taken more photos in the garden, I became more aware of the shapes in the photos. In the first photo, the edges of the gladiolus flower are fan-like or like the edges of a scallop shell.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

In the 2nd photo, the bee’s wings have several different shapes within the overall shape of the wings, which look as if they might have been stuck on as an addition maybe for a fancy dress party.

Bee close up

Bee close up

In the 3rd photo, the petals of the begonia flower do seem to be replicated, as in Escher’s work but they don’t appear to have symmetricality of Escher’s angels, although there does seem to be some symmetry in the 4th photo – a close up of a hydrangea head.

Begonia flower

Begonia flower

Hydrangea head

Hydrangea head

Smoked haddock quiche, Christopher Reid poem and visiting sparrowhawk

August 19, 2015

All summer, I’ve been threatening to make a quiche but somehow never getting round to it. There’s another version of a smoked haddock quiche on this blog – see here.  I wanted something different and found a Nigel Slater recipe online. I adapted his recipe as I wanted to include leeks and not watercress. I bought some ready to use short crust pastry and baked it blind in the quiche tin for 10 minutes and, as per the Slater recipe, I forked the pastry and brushed it with beaten egg and put it in the oven for 5 minutes. For the filling, I sweated the leeks and a shallot for a few minutes until they were soft. I put the haddock into a pan with milk and cooked it for c 5 minutes. The Slater recipe recommends 10 minutes but, in my experience, this is far too long and the fish breaks up and is overcooked. I added cornflour to the leeks and stirred for a minute and then added the milk from the fish to make a sauce. I added the flaked fish to the sauce and then added the beaten eggs, having removed the pan from the heat. The mixture was poured gently into the pastry case and I put on a generous topping of parmesan cheese. The quiche was cooked in a 190 degree oven for 25 minutes. I used 2 pieces of naturally smoked haddock, a good-sized leek, one shallot, 2 eggs beaten, 300ml of semi-skinned milk and a knob of butter. The only seasoning I used was pepper as the fish can be quite salty. Here is the result and (modestly) I have to say that it was delicious. We had it with new potatoes and a mixed salad. It was also very tasty the next day when we had it cold for lunch.

Smoked haddock and leek quiche

Smoked haddock and leek quiche

In the Summer Bulletin of the Poetry Book Society, the Choice is Deep Lane by the American poet Mark Doty. I haven’t ready any of these poems yet but one of the poetry books recommended is Christopher Reid’s The Curiosities  and one of the poems from the book is included in the PBS Bulletin (the magazine you get with your quarterly book if you are a member). The Cafe begins “Newspaper readers/ outside the sunny café:/ a becalmed regatta./ Tall, indolent palm trees/topped with shuttlecock feathers/ Breast pocket balconies up to roof level…”. Reid is associated with the Martian school of poetry and this is demonstrated in “shuttlecock feathers” on the palm trees, and “breast pocket balconies”. Further on in the poem is a further example “I watch you tear/your breakfast croissant,/then dress its fresh wound with butter”. I’m tempted to buy this book.

A couple of days ago, my wife alerted me to a bird of prey on our decking. The bird was trying to jump up and fly over the balustrade but couldn’t make it. I gently eased it along past the gate in the balustrade, opened the gate and gently eased it back to the opening, where it launched itself over the grass and out to the sea. Before moving it, I got my camera and took photos. I’m pretty sure that this is a sparrowhawk. We bought some wooden puffins which hang on a string on our conservatory door. Last week, I heard a thump on the door and a bird flew away. It’s possible that the sparrowhawk may have done the same i.e. mistaken the wooden puffins for real birds. I like the reflection in the glass in the first photo below – enlarge the photo for best effect. This is a powerful bird with a piercing eye and threateningly sharp claws.

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk

The Beautiful Librarians, Le Tour ends and sweet peas

July 28, 2015

I’ve just finished reading The Poetry Book Society’s Choice –  The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O’Brien a professor at Newcastle University and well established British poet. For me, an educator of librarians in universities in Scotland and Australia for 34 years, the title was alluring, of course. As a member of the Poetry Book Society, I get sent 4 books a year – not chosen by me. O’Brien’s book is a mixture of what might be nostalgia and class consciousness “Scattered comrades now remember: someone stole the staffroom tin/ Where we collected for the miners, for the strike they couldn’t win”  and comic interludes such as in Old Lads at the Ramshill Hotel “.. these wobbly suitors with their grease-grey quiffs/ And suits that are older than they are”. The title poem, superbly analysed by Carol Rumens is also a nostalgic look back to when O’Brien was a student. The poem begins “The beautiful librarians are dead,/ The fairly recent graduates who sat/ Like Françoise Hardy’s shampooed sisters/ With cardigans across their shoulders/ On quiet evenings at the issue desk,/Stamping books and never looking up/ At where I stood in adoration”. The reference to Francoise Hardy is very meaningful to me because, as a teenager, I was lovestruck by Ms Hardy’s stunning looks and vertigo inducing French voice, such as in the song All Over the World. Some of the poems in this collection appeared to be very clever but lacked depth, while others were superb – try it for yourself.

The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O'Brien

The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O’Brien

So, another Tour de France has come to an end. Three weeks of aching ascents and death-defying descents has thrilled millions of people across the globe and not just cycling enthusiasts. My cycling pal John maintains that even watching the cyclists go up some the high climbs such as La Croix de Fer (video) makes his legs feel sore. It was great to have a British winner again in Chris Froome and there were many exciting finishes. I’ve been wearing my Guardian cycling T Shirts recently but I was surprised – and shocked – at so many people not knowing what the third word in the slogan (photo below) originally was. As ever, I’ve promised my self that I’ll do more hills from now on, inspired by the teams on Le Tour. I would advise you to watch this space, but …..

Le Tour de France T shirt

Le Tour de France T shirt

My wife’s running partner brought us a beautiful bunch of sweet peas freshly cut from her garden. These flowers not only have soft but attractive colours but they also have a lovely perfume. These delicate flowers do not last very long but make a lasting impression as in the photos below, and some of the pinks were replicated in a rose I saw in a garden only yesterday.

Jar of sweet peas

Jar of sweet peas

Sweet peas close up

Sweet peas close up

Rose with burgeoning buds

Rose with burgeoning buds

Lifeboat, wood rings and Michael Longley’s poems

February 23, 2015

A walk through Dunbar harbour last Sunday coincided with the arrival of the local lifeboat from its moorings at Torness Power Station. The lifeboat station at Dunbar has a long history and includes some famous rescues. The modern lifeboats is a sleek, orange,  vessel which appears to float across the waves and this is a huge contrast to the original lifeboats which were rowed out to stricken vessels. Those rowing the lifeboats were often in danger of losing their own lives, as in the 1810 rescue of HMS Pallas. Despite the potential unsinkability of modern lifeboats, rescuing people in heavy seas is still a dangerous mission for the volunteer lifeboat crew seen in the photos below.

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat in Dunbar harbour

Dunbar lifeboat in Dunbar harbour

On another visit to Yellowcraig beach, there was tree felling going on in the nearby wood and large stacks of both hardwood and softwood sat by the roadside. I was fascinated by the detail in the tree rings at the ends of the fallen tree trunks. Looking up “tree rings” I discover that the science of tree rings is dendrochronology but I was more interested in the visual aspects and further research showed examples of tree rings in art and photographic images in tree ring research. I like the abstract quality of the tree rings, seen as collection of shapes rather than as an object. In some photos, you could be looking at a photo from space, perhaps at some previously hidden archaeological site. The photo of the hardwood logs below reminds me of the wood stove we had in one of our houses. We got them delivered in the lane next to the house and I would cart them into the shed on a wheelbarrow. Inevitably, someone coming down the lane would tell me that the logs would heat me up twice.

Tree rings as abstractions

Tree rings as abstractions

Tree rings or photo from space?

Tree rings or photo from space?

Hardwood tree trunks

Hardwood tree trunks

I’ve now finished Michael Longley’s glorious collection The Stairwell, featured not that long ago on this blog. The collection features a range of poems including sections on his granddaughter, his father who fought in the 1st World War and his recently deceased twin. I found the first section the most powerful with the latter two rather uneven. Having said that, Longley sets such a high standard that even what might appear his “lighter” poems, might stand out in another collection. One poems talks of his father remembering “.. at Passchendaele/Where men and horses drowned in mud/ His bog apprenticeship, mud turf”. In the poems about his twin, Longley refers to Achilles and the man he called brother Patroclus, to great effect. He also sees his twin as possibly “.. skinny dipping at Allaran/ Where the jellies won’t sting …” and the poem ends with him protecting his brother against accident “I’ll carry the torch across the duach”. Longley explains that duach is “the Irish for sandbanks or dunes”. If you’ve never bought a poetry book, buy this one, as you’ll read it again and again.

Seaside walk and Alice Munro stories

January 9, 2015

On Sunday, my wife and I set off on a walk which takes in forest tracks, farm tracks and a wide sweep of beach. We parked the car at Tyninghame car park which was packed . You have 2 options on this walk – either straight to the beach and walk west or through the woods and farm track to the beach and walk east. The wind direction usually determines which way you go. The initial track through the woods (1st photo) gives you a pleasant, if occasionally muddy, walk, with large fields on either side. One of the fields still had its full complement of sprouts, with the thick green balls clinging to the yellowing stalks. The winding track then goes through some woods and out on to open farmland. My pals and I go on this route on our mountain bikes and there’s a downward section with a tricky corner.

Start of Tyninghame walk

Start of Tyninghame walk

The farmland near the beach, which is out of sight over the hill to your right, is used mainly for grazing horses, with the arable land further inland. To your left, in the trees, you can see some of the Harvest Moon treehouses which invites both campers and – a new word to me – glampers, who are people who  go camping, but want more upmarket accommodation e.g. a wooden cabin or treehouse i.e. no pitching of tents in the pouring rain and no external ablutions in the middle of the night for these glamour campers. There are several horses in the fields near this track and one was close enough to get two attractive photos (see below). This horse looked as if s/he took a stoical view of life, not quite posing for photographs but showing little apparent interest. Would we be as calm as this horse, if a horse was taking a photo of us? The shadow cast by the horse and fence post give the 2nd photo an added value. We get the horse as well as what looks like a black flattened metal sculpture on the ground.

Horse near Tyninghame Beach

Horse near Tyninghame Beach

Horse and shadow  near Tyninghame Beach

Horse and shadow near Tyninghame Beach

You climb over grassy dunes to the beach itself which forms an arc in front of the sea. The tide was coming in and the little waves sparkled in the winter sunshine. Philip Larkin refers to “the small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse” and Larkin’s repeated shhhh could be heard along the shoreline. To the west, the Bass Rock (photo below), now gannet-free and therefore  having lost its white top, dominated the view. On this part of the beach, there are few shells but I did come across two delicately coloured razor clam shells (photo below).

Razor clam shells

Razor clam shells

At the end of the beach, you can follow the forest track back to the car or you can keep going over the ridge which takes you on to a stretch of small beach and rock pools. From here, you get superb views across the sea to Dunbar on your right  and up the hills on your right. In the sunshine, the subtle green of the seaweed on the rocks contrasts well with the light blue of the rock pools and the deeper blue of the sea – as seen in the photos below. This is an intriguing walk at all times of the year.

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

I’ve just finished reading Alice Munro’s book of short stories Dear Life. I’ve had this book for over a year now and picked it up from my shelves again, having read some of the stories months ago. Munro is an intriguing writer. Her lead  characters  in this book are female and of various ages. Munro has that expert short story writer’s ability to sum up a middle aged person’s life in a few telling sentences. Families figure strongly in the stories  – mothers, fathers and sisters are often remembered from the viewpoint of an older woman reflecting on an incident in here childhood in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s. These are a set of compact vignettes, to be read singly and no more than one per day, by an enviably talented writer.

Alice Munro Dear Life

Alice Munro Dear Life

Country walk and the end of the year

January 1, 2015

On Sunday, on a clear, crisp, frosty morning here in Dunbar, with a biting south westerly nipping at our faces, my wife and I went for a walk in the country. We parked at Oswald Dean – locally know as Oasie Dean – and walked up towards Doon Hill (good photos) where there is an important archaeological site near the summit. We walked towards the historic Spott House before going up the edge of a field at the foot of Doon Hill. On the way back down towards Spott Farm, there are views across to the sea and the Bass Rock. I took the photo below to show the winter bushes, the farm and the sea.

View from near Doon Hill

View from near Doon Hill

On the way back, we passed fields of newly emergent spring wheat which has a striking colour at this time of year and the colour is enhanced by the strong winter sun. I also like the defined lines of the winter crop.

Lines of Spring wheat near Spott

Lines of Spring wheat near Spott

Our route back to the car took us down Starvation Brae, the origins of which, apart from brae meaning hill in Scots, I have yet to discover. The strong December sun was in our back and, rounding one of the corners of the brae, my shadow lengthened considerably, giving an almost surreal aspect to the photo below.

Shadow on Starvation Brae

Shadow on Starvation Brae

At the foot of the brae lies the village of Spott (good photos), although this website contains a historical error, as it claims that Marion Lillie who was deemed a witch, was burnt to death near the village. A local historian has discovered that she was buried in Spott and therefore could not have been burned as a witch. One of the features of Spott village – it is more of a hamlet than a village nowadays – is Spott Kirk and the photos below show the kirk and what I saw as interesting shadows next to the grave stones.

Spott Kirk

Spott Kirk

Grave stone shadows at Spott Kirk

Grave stone shadows at Spott Kirk

This is the last day of December and of 2014. It is, in South East of Scotland parlance, Auld Year’s Day and the New Year will start at the end of Auld Year’s Night. There is also the Scots word Hogmanay which is generally pronounced “hog” at the beginning in the east of Scotland but “hug” in the west of Scotland. Traditionally, Auld Year’s Night was the winter festival in Scotland, with many people (e.g. in the late 1950s) still working on Xmas Day. On my poetry calendar, there is an excerpt from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the 2nd verse begins with the familiar “Ring out the old, ring in the new”. This section of the very long poem has some what might be seen as utopian ideals e.g. “Ring out the feud of rich and poor,/Ring in redress to all mankind” and this, of course, remains an ideal today. Here in Scotland, people will ask each other “What are you doing for the bells?” and this relates to how, where and with whom people are going to bring in the New Year. “The bells” are thought to relate not to church bells but to the town house bell being rung at midnight. The Scottish New Year is emphatically linked to having a good time and to drinking alcohol, and tradition has it that the New Year should be brought in by toasting friends with a malt whisky e.g. Bowmore and this is often the only time that some people will drink whisky. At the time of writing, it is already New Year’s Day in New Zealand and in half an hour, it will be a new year in Australia. To everyone wherever you are, I wish you a Guid New Year and love, luck and laughter for 2015 and beyond.

Winter trees and Next Generation Poets 2014

December 17, 2014

It’s only a week now until the shortest day in Scotland and the sun sets in the late afternoon at present. One of the pleasures of a cold and bright winter’s day – and we get a good share of these on the east of Scotland – is getting rugged up (an Australian expression for wrapped up), going for a long walk and enjoying the last of the sunshine. On a recent walk near Smeaton Gardens  in the village of East Linton (good photos), my wife and I enjoyed seeing the setting sun through the winter trees. The photos below show the elegant outlines of the bare trees against the blue sky and the illuminating sun. George Szirtes‘ has a poignant and humorous poem Winter Trees :

Aren’t you cold and won’t you freeze,
With branches bare, you winter trees?
You’ve thrown away your summer shift,
Your autumn gold has come adrift.

Dearie me, you winter trees,
What strange behaviour, if you please!
In summer you could wear much less,
But come the winter – you undress!

Winter tree at Smeaton Gardens

Winter tree at Smeaton Gardens

Winter trees at Smeaton Gardens

Winter trees at Smeaton Gardens

Winter trees at Smeaton Gardens

Winter trees at Smeaton Gardens

With my latest Choice from the Poetry Book Society came a booklet featuring the Next Generation Poets 2014 – see cover below. This project, subtitled Twenty Exciting Voices for the Future is a selection of what is regarded as a list of the most promising poets of 2014. Most, but not all, poets are in their 20s and 30s and have recently won prizes for their collections. On the project’s website, you can click on the names of individual poets and see examples of their work. I’m only half way through but have already enjoyed poems by Sean Borrowdale – on a honeycomb “Its tear-easy skin of skeletal reef/(Best use of space for minimal effort”; Rebecca Goss – a poignant address to her 2nd child – “So extraordinary was your sister’s/ short life, it’s hard for me to see/ a future for you…. [But]…Come and hold my hand, little one/ stand beside me in your small shoes,/ let’s head for your undiscovered life, your mother’s ready now, let’s run”; and Emma Jones – from Waking – “There was one morning/ when my mother woke and felt a twitch/ inside, like the shifting of curtains./ She woke and so did I. I was like a bird/ beating. She had not time for anaesthetic”. All the links to the poets cited include videos of them reading poems.

Next Generation Poets

Next Generation Poets

Velvet Scoters, Digital Quotient and harbour evening

August 9, 2014

As a member of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, I receive the quarterly journal Scottish Birds which has a number of peer-reviewed research articles, as well as other articles and notes about birds in Scotland. This may sound like on of the publications featured on Have I Got News For You such as the Underwater Dwarf Hunter’s Gazette but it is a very attractive publication, not least for its excellent photography. The latest issue has photos of velvet scoters on the front cover and more photos and a report on the group of birds inside. The joint author of the article and editor of Scottish Birds, Ian Andrews, kindly sent me the two photos below – the front cover of the birds in flight and a second photo of the male birds splashing in the water, while trying to attract the attention of a single female.

Velvet scoters at Musselburgh

Velvet scoters at Musselburgh

Velvet scoters at Musselburgh

Velvet scoters at Musselburgh

An article in The Guardian on what OFCOM called the “digital quotient” of children and adults attracted my attention. The article in its title, rather confusingly claims that ” six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults”. The key word here is understand as the article – rather unsurprisingly – reports that children between the ages of 6-15 know more about technologies such as mobile apps such as Snapchat, are quicker to learn how to use apps and spend most of their time communicating by text or video message, than most adults. This is similar to my own research in schools, which showed that school students were quicker to learn about using the web or how to use multimedia e.g. within a blog or a website, than adults were. What neither the OFCOM study nor my research showed was that children understand technology. For example, most adults between the ages of 40-60 do not use their mobile phones in the same way as 15-24 year olds do and this is because 16-24 year olds have a clear purpose in sending text and video messages to each other, while most 40-60 year olds do not. Those 40-60 year olds who have a clear purpose in using apps for example, are equally able to understand the uses of technology. While this is an interesting study, it is clearly about use and not understanding.

We have had some beautifully sunny warm evenings in Dunbar this summer and we went along to Dunbar Harbour which is not far from our house. The sun was shining on the harbour and the fishing boats and dinghies were hardly moving, with their reflections clear in the water. Harbours feature in many poems across the world e.g. Sydney Harbour and I found 2 which appealed to me – one from Ireland by Eavan Boland ( I have some of her books) called The Harbour,which begins “This harbour was made by art and force./ And called Kingstown and afterwards Dun Laoghaire./And holds the sea behind its barrier/ less than five miles from my house”. The second poem is in Scots and is called Harbour by Alison Flett. The poem is about a woman taking her girl child to the harbour to see the boats coming in and they call on the boats – Girl Mina and John L and others – as they approach the harbour. The poem contains the lines “lets go down tay thi harbour/ ah sayz tay ma lassy/ ma first born/ see thi boats cummin in/ an we stood taygither/ at the endy thi peer/ lookn outwards”. The photos below are of a peaceful Dunbar Harbour at 8pm on an August evening.

Dunbar Harbour on an August evening

Dunbar Harbour on an August evening

Dunbar Harbour on an August evening

Dunbar Harbour on an August evening

Dunbar Harbour on an August evening

Dunbar Harbour on an August evening

NT Live, Kevin Powers and summer garden

July 23, 2014

We went to the Brunton Theatre last week for a new theatre experience. The National Theatre has organised live screenings of plays from London, in a new venture called NT Live. This means that people around the country can see live plays without having to go to London. The live screenings are, of course, in a film/TV format i.e. while you see the whole stage at first and from time to time, you also get close-up views of the main characters. My own experience was that I had been to see a live theatre production, as you soon forget that you are watching a filmed version of the play. The play was Skylight by David Hare (good interview on this link). The 2 main characters were played by Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan and they gave an enthralling performance in a play about class, money, family, relationships and economics. David Hare’s play was first performed in 1995 but is still relevant today, given the extension of inequalities in UK society in the 21st century. It has sparkling dialogue between ex-lovers Nighy and Mulligan and is also very funny. We’ll be going back for more NT Live.

The latest Poetry Book Society Choice is Kevin Powers’ Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting. The author is a former US soldier who served in Iraq who wrote the best-selling novel Yellow Birds which is about a soldier’s experience before, during and after the war in Iraq. Powers’ poetry is often very moving, as in the title poem – “I tell her I love her like not killing/ or ten minutes of sleep/ beneath the low rooftop wall/on which my rifle rests”. Powers has some telling lines, as in Improvised Explosive Device “If this poem had wires/ coming out of it, you would not read it”. Many of the poems interweave the author’s thoughts on life and examples of what happens in war. His mother also features in many of the poems and there are affectionate descriptions of his mother e.g. not willing to have here photo taken – “I was raised by a woman/whose face was the palm of a hand”. I’m only half way through this impressive collection, which is chilling at times but also hopeful.

It now being the last week of July, my garden is showing the amazing fecundity of plants which not long ago were seeds, seedlings, and short stemmed strugglers, then mature greenery, and full flowering abundance decorates the garden. The photos below show a hebe which has come into its own this year; a flower from a burgeoning begonia; a much more subtle geranium flower; and 2 shots of tubs on our decking at the back of the house.

 

Hebe in full flower

Hebe in full flower

Begonia flower

Begonia flower

Geranium flower

Geranium flower

Flowering tubs on the decking

Flowering tubs on the decking

Flowering tubs on the decking

Flowering tubs on the decking