curiosity about the ways of the world

Category: Diary (Page 1 of 18)

Here’s to a new season of unruly gardening

Here we are at the start of a new season. Though of course the promise of a new season has been poking through the ground since Christmas. Now there are snowdrops everywhere I look but they are being nudged and jostled by bright yellow sploshes of narcissi. Bluebells and wild garlic are racing to catch up. Which season are we in, exactly?

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Standing against the storm

Another storm brewing, I’m teetering on the edge of despair when up comes a cheery message from Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. The new guide book is out and we can find our entry online too.  I wrote the Pond Garden entry but now I’m wondering if I got it right…

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We’re here for the trees

A sudden fall. Opening the door, I find the ground is littered with leaves: birch, oak, lime, maple, hazel, blackthorn, dogwood… all making a lovely mess on the newly laid paths, helped by foraging black birds, blue tits, and red squirrels.

I’m posting an extract from the Scotland Grows article kindly commissioned and published as a Reader’s Garden feature for December. Trees Mean Home is their heading and it takes on special meaning this treacherously stormy winter. Trees are the reason we bought our ten acre plot 30 years ago. In a rapidly changing climate we value their shelter more than ever.

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Mother Country, get it right: Benjamin Zephaniah

It’s very touching to see so many new views of this old post. It’s a tribute to the great humanity of Benjamin Zephaniah who died on Thursday 7 December 2023. His loss is mourned but his poetry lives on.

As first published on Sceptical Scot in 2016.

[In 2016, on 50th anniversary of Race Relations Act] Benjamin Zephaniah looked back at the evolution of racism in Britain. In poetry and prose he presents evidence that is disturbingly topical in a week of continuing upheaval in the UK.

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The warm heart of the Hidden Gardens

“Where would you like to start?”  The question, presented with a smile, is a good one. Looking at the map I’ve just been handed there’s plenty temptation. The Hidden Gardens of Kingsbarns offer no fewer than ten gardens open to visitors ready to explore nooks and crannies of this handsome village.  But the tantalising trail is just part of a remarkable story which winds a long way back.

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The Pond Garden in June

Blue skies again. Sunshine sparkling on the pond. A friendly breeze ruffles new leaves and turns the wind turbine merrily. What kind of killjoy would complain about the promise of yet another glorious summer day?

It does seem perverse. How often have I moaned about waking to endless cold, wet midsummer days? Now, we open the door to Mediterranean mornings – it feels heavenly but strangely disturbing. Heavenly if only it wasn’t for daily visions of hellishly soaring temperatures elsewhere. And is there another heatwave on our own horizon?

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Sunset song for the winter solstice

The winter sun just hangs over the ridge of the Coolags. Its setting will seal the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. At this season the sun is a pale wick between two gulfs of darkness.

So wrote George Mackay Brown, the observant eye of the great Orkney poet seeking out the touch of magic conjured up by the Neolithic architects who created Maeshowe with hard-hewn rock and a knowing eye on the heavens. Continue reading

Ghosts of census past and present

Thursday 17 March 2022.  Approaching Census night the old kitchen has the look of a Victorian museum, or maybe a low budget costume drama.  Granny’s white cotton nighties hang in front of the shiny black range. Crisp and cool to the touch, they are the very devil to iron.

These are things of impressive though now impractical beauty and I rediscovered them during one of those lockdown cupboard clear-outs of 2020.  On impulse, I dug them out again to spruce them up in time for our Scottish Census 2021 – postponed because of Covid.  Removing the creases and wrinkles from yards and yards of best cotton, tackling the finicky fine tucks and broderie anglaise round the neckline, I’m thankful for the steam iron.  A Victorian maid standing in the old scullery (more or less where I am typing now) would have been applying flat irons heated on the coal-fired range, and no doubt listening out for the bells summoning servants to other tasks in grander parts of the house. Let’s call on Elizabeth…

Ironing granny's nightie: Fay Young
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