curiosity about the ways of the world

Category: Green Shots

Exploring environmental and social issues

Blowing in the wind

I have a windmill in my backyard and I am very fond of it. On calm days swallows have been known to sit on it. When the wind blows hard across the fields we know our batteries are brimming with beautiful clean energy. But oddly enough, with all this power surging freely into our house, we are now much more reluctant to waste energy than we used to be in the old days of electricity bills. Owning a windmill can change your outlook on life.

This was the message I wanted to get across when BBC Scotland came to call but it seems our wires were crossed. 

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Blood on the tracks

“Many of the smaller ones perched on my hat, and when I carried my gun on my shoulder would sit on the muzzle. During my stay I killed forty-five all of which I skinned carefully.”



I really wish I hadn’t read that extract from David Douglas’s diary describing the birds he killed during his few days on the Galapagos Islands in 1824. Douglas happens to be a bit of a hero of mine. I get a powerful kick looking up into the huge trees he brought back from his travels in what was then the wild woods of the Pacific North West. He went to such trouble to collect seed without destroying the forest it is sad to discover he was blasting eagles and owls and other grand feathered things off the face of the mountain. But I guess no-one is perfect. Continue reading

Social climbers


Suddenly autumn has arrived on my windowsill and dumped a load of red leaves at the back door too.  Hard to believe we once doubted the weedy little Virgian Creeper would rise further than the garden shed.  Now it has not only reached our roof but it is working its way along the houses on either side of us. Luckily we have lovely neighbours.  Or maybe they just get a kick out of watching Ray collect the leaf mould from their kitchen roof every year. Continue reading

In the eye of the beholder


In my minds eye this was a great shot, the outrageous St Edwards church sitting pretty between two farm sheds. A folly framed. Now I come to download it from my new mobile the picture hasn’t turned out quite what I imagined when I was teetering on the wall outside a caravan on Canna in June.  Continue reading

Live Earth?

wild flowers

“The trail of Homo Sapiens, serial killer of the biosphere, reaches to the farthest corners of the earth.” E.O. Wilson, The Future of Life.

I took E.O. Wilson with me to the West Coast but I didn’t read a page over the weekend. He is a fantastic writer, he makes science sing, but there is only so much I can read about our species’ malignant growth on the planet. And besides there was far too much life around me to read about death and destruction. While people across much of the UK were wading through floods we were walking through wild flower meadows crowded with orchids and exploring woodland full of ferns.


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Flight or fight

I’m definitely going to be flying less than Blair this year so I’m feeling smug – but I know I’m hypocritical.

Apologies to Jean whose comment on my last Global Gossip newsletter slipped down page and out of sight last month. I wondered if I should be encouraging a communal blog about places people are likely to reach by plane. Here is her reply.

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Day of the flood

It feels strange when your life becomes part of the news. The day after the flood I drove up to Pond Cottage to check for damage. As Ray and I had expected the cottage got off lightly but the landscape looked like a jigsaw puzzle that hadn’t been put together properly. Some familiar pieces were in the wrong place – Ray’s boat had been lifted out of the pond and dumped on the bank – and a few strange landmarks had been jammed in willy nilly. So there was a brand new lake in the neighbouring field and several tons of hardcore on the front lawn which is why I drove straight into a crater where the road used to be.


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How does your garden grow?

Looking at the sky it’s hard to believe gardeners must start to plan for a scorched earth. Rain is blurring the view from my study window, frogs are hopping by the back door and the cats are settling for a long snooze on the sofa.

A Government minister has just suggested I must start preparing for a more Mediterranean view from the kitchen window, adjusting to seasonal temperatures which simply won’t suit traditional cottage garden plants. He was, of course, really talking to gardeners in the south east which has withered and browned during the hottest summer on record. Scotland is still greener and cooler and today we are soaking wet. Part of me can’t help thinking if this is the worst climate change can do, life north of the border will be positively benign. Then the other part kicks in.

backgarden 2
must the view from my kitchen window change?

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Before Eden

They were like images from hell. Bulldozers descended into smoking pits 150 feet deep to demolish mountains of colliery waste. In some cases the ‘bings’ of derelict mines were still burning at temperatures of 1000°C as diggers, chained together for safety, worked their way slowly but surely round six redundant pits in the centre of Fife. Continue reading

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