Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • The Words of Mercury

    The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. You that way: we this way.

    Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

    I have been musing on the Sea Swallows episode of Karine Polwart’s Seek the Light programme on Radio 4, and the relationship and the differences between song lyrics and poetry. I started my writing life as a folk singer and a fantasy writer (don’t even ask!) and my first efforts were songs both for myself and my characters. I was very influenced by ballads – the ‘muckle sangs’ of the Scottish tradition, such as Tam Lin and The Twa Corbies, and I still am. I learned simplicity and directness, and not to waste words on hints and explanations and ‘scene setting’. I realise too that I still think of poetic rhythm in terms of dynamics and time signatures rather than stress and metre, which gives scope for variation and complexity, and I write by reading aloud, because poetry is something you hear as much as read.

    I wasn’t very good as a song writer, not only because my melodies were simplistic and full of cliches, but because back then I didn’t understand the demands music makes on lyrics. If we have to choose, I’m for the words of Mercury. I work really hard at words. A good poem can create links and resonances that overload a melody. You can go forward and back, pick up echoes, go slowly through a stanza, stop at a phrase or skip a line. You have time and attention for layers of meaning or step outside a poem altogether to enter a whole new landscape. And you can afford to make every word, every line, new and different. A reader has the headspace to pay attention.

    Listening to a song is very different. Familiarity is important. Simplicity and space is important. Rhymes matter, because a good rhyme might be predictable, but it is as welcoming as a well-prepared cadence. It doesn’t matter if you have filler syllables the way it would in a poem:

    The weary earth we walk upon
    She will endure when we are gone

    Karine Polwart Rivers Run

    because the voice makes good use of them. Words are there to guide you through the music, and the music is there to interpret the words. You may visit the realms of thought and imagination, but more likely you will find your emotions stirred and become deeper acquainted with your heart. Writing a good lyric is a synthesis, and requires knowing what not to do, how to create space, when to leave well alone. A poem that falls flat on the page (like most of Burns, as far as I am concerned) can fly as a song.

    All this makes Karine Polwart’s work extremely interesting. She is braiding spoken word and song, stories that are more potent than anecdotes, music that brings together thoughts and ideas in a richer and more wide-ranging than songs. Words and music that Shakepeare sends off the stage in separate directions are brought back together.

  • Finding the Form

    a tangle of sweet peas, st John's wort catnip and borage. A bumble bee on the st john's wort

    I have been so glad of the garden lately. The mix of sunshine and showers has brought everything on, and every day there is something new to look at. It isn’t just the herbs, either. I have had our own lettuce, strawberries (never more than four at a time, but so tasty!) and potatoes for a few weeks now, and on Friday I got the first tomato.It was a new variety to me – Ruthje – which is an elegant peardrop shape, and not too big. I think I was a bit impatient, as it wasn’t really ripe, but there are plenty more to come, so we’ll see. The sweet peas have done well, and the poppies have been amazing – bright shots of colour in what would otherwise have been very gentle misty pastels. My grandson has been fascinated by the developing seed pods, so I hope he will help me harvest them when it comes to seed saving time.

    Now that my husband is home again, the bird feeders are better maintained and we have flocks of sparrows and starlings clustered around them like fat bunches of grapes. We’ve even seen an ambitious magpie trying to twist itself into the right angle to get hold of a fatball, and there was a greater spotted woodpecker one quiet morning. I think there might be a hedgehog visting at night, because there was something moving in the shade of the fence in the dark. I have been woken several times by an owl flying in, calling, and its claws grating on the fence as it landed, and one spectacular night I looked out to find three foxes, almost full-grown, but clearly still adolescent, playing and chasing each other across the rough grass behind our house.

    This had me thinking. When I first heard the sounds, it wasn’t animals I was thinking about. Now that the schools are on holiday, there are young people wandering about at all times of the day and night. Mostly they are just going home after parties, or setting off to catch early flights on holiday (that particular lot were far too lively for four o’clock in the morning!), or hanging about chatting and skylarking, away from their parents. Pretty much like the foxes, to be honest. I wonder if I would have felt more ambivalent about human prowlers? Yes, a hostile human can do more damage that a fox, but our neighbours are not our enemies, even when they are teenagers, are they? Sometimes they do seem as alien as the foxes – I’ve heard older people describe younger ones as ‘roaming in packs’ – but it’s natural and necessary, at some periods in your life, to distance yourself from the authorities in your life and from what’s expected of you, and renegotiate the boundaries between yourself and the world. And it isn’t easy to live with for a neighbour as much as a parent.

    Somewhere in my head the wandering boys and the foxes are getting mixed up. There’s an Irish ballad called Sly Bold Reynardine, about a were-fox who seduces unwary maidens, lures them to his den on the mountains of Pomeroy and drowns them. And I remember that some people used to refer to the Faeries as ‘the good neighbours’ so as not to provoke them. There are poems here, and notes for the non-fiction book.

    I feel as if I have been spinning my wheels on the whole writing thing for a long time, not only while my husband was in hospital, but since we moved, since I finished The Well of the Moon in fact. I’ve done a lot of reading, and a lot of editing, and a lot of planning and drafting and to-do lists. I went on a course last summer to learn how to write proper essays, only to be told I should ‘be more poet’.

    It turns out to be right! There is a fox poem, possibly one of a sequence, and I’ve found my way in to the non-fiction. I’m following the ballads and the charms into the liminal spaces, renegotiating boundaries and allowing the poetry to shape the prose. It seems that if you find the form, the words flow much more freely, and I’m looking forward to finally making some progress with my own work.

    a stone archway in a wall,  overgrown with ferns and heather. A rocky path through it

  • The Well of the Moon Live Launch

    You may have noticed the news post about the Red Squirrel Press showcase at the Scottish Writers’ Centre next week. It’s a chance for those of us whose books came out during the pandemic to have a live launch and nine of us will be reading. At this point, I’m feeling the miss of William Bonar and Ruby McCann who should have been with us, but won’t, as they both died in 2022 – particularly grievous as they had so much wonderful poetry to share with us.

    I am picking the poems for my set, and trying to get back to what I was thinking about when I wrote them. I was reminded of some of it at StAnza, where there were several poets writing and talking about grandmothers, and a good few poems about dissociation, both of which were triggers for the book, but it also included a lot of reflections about how we see the world and our relationship with it, our memories, so unreliable in one way, but so important and illuminating in others, and the nature of hope, and where we find it.

    In Haggards I wrote about the world as ‘a web of speaking beings’, and, though The Well of the Moon is a more personal book than that, it built on and developed that concept. It’s one I got from Julia Kristeva, who used it to help children with mental health difficulties, particularly victims of abuse. She stressed the importance, to a person in difficulty, of being able to speak your truth, and know you are heard, and, through my own experience and that of members of my family, I have come to value this very much. But The Well of the Moon is also about something else. I believe a human person is not only a ‘speaking being’, but a ‘listening being’ – a being in dialogue.

    Oh, world, my mirror,
    my just-like-me, I know myself in you.
    We are most when we are most connected,
    when who we are, is who we listen to.

    From Ma Semblable, Ma Soeur

    Other things sneaked into it. There are more poems than I realised at the time about violence against women, and the particular wisdom of women, more about friendship, mental illness and grief, and there are a lot of poems about birds. I got a bit hung up about fire too, which was a pity, as we have since moved from a house with a coal fire I loved, to one without any fireplace at all. There are some translations, from Latin, Old English and Old Norse and a complicated poem about the rainbow which is really about the process of translation, and of course there are poems about plants and the garden.

    How am I going to pick?

  • Far Field by Jim Carruth

    Polygon books £10.99 95pp.

    Far Field is the final part of a trilogy Jim Carruth has been working on for the last twenty-five years, and forms a magnificent culmination to what feels, for more than one reason, like a life’s work. Like its predecessors, Black Cart and Bale Fire and the standalone poetic novel Killochries, it deals with farming life in rural Renfrewshire, but this volume is more personal than the others. It focuses on his own family life, the family farm, the handing on of skills, property, and tradition.

    The first section, Landscape with Cattle deals with representations of rural life and features many poems about pictures by the Glasgow Boys, Crawhall, Guthrie, George Henry and EA Walton, who were famous for depicting rural life in less romantic perspectives than had been common. Yet Carruth finds even these pictures of ‘hinds’ and manual labourers self-indulgent, patronising and ignorant of the lived realities of the lives they depict, which are dark and harsh certainly, but also rich in family bonds, empathy with the beasts the farmers care for, and the beauty of accurate observation – cows standing in a river, in Crawhall’s Landscape with Cattle defy the artist’s attempt to recreate their calm presence, and the contrast with the fidgety birds that flit round them.

    As Carruth’s hind’s daughter says: This painting that does not show me true.

    The second part Earthstruck, builds on this sense of empathy with the animal life of the farm, the parallels between the life of the beasts and the life of the farmer, birth, death, illness, courtship, love, loss. The boundaries between animals and lovers, animals and family, blur with references to a review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover as a gamekeeping manual, a misread conversation where the roast lamb on the table is mistaken for a comment about the speaker’s lover, and the deaths of farm animals compared to the deaths of farmers. Some of the poems are humorous, nostalgic, sarcastic or affectionate, but most moving is Gone Out where a child’s tantrum because his father has slipped out to look at the animals without him is recalled at the father’s death.

    Somewhere beyond the cries of loved ones
    You’re walking your dogs in that far field
    Watching the herd, waiting for the next life.

    Gone Out

    In the final section, Stepping Stones, we move out to the wider community, to the landscape, to memory, and reflections of the future, and the book closes with Planting Aspen Saplings, father handing on the tradition and the responsibility to son. Aspen is an endangered species, but an important one to the Scottish landscape:

    You tell me of the tree’s offer
    To gall midges, birds, hare, deer

    The importance of relationships
    The interconnectedness of everything

    They do not thrive in shade, need light
    And space to grow.

    Planting aspen saplings,
    Son and father.

    Planting Aspen Saplings

    The echoes of Seamus Heaney I find in these poems do not feel derivative, but establish a connection between two poets aware of the influence of landscape and farming on their work, but each with their own different and unique perspective on it. An Irish/Scottish tradition which enriches us all.

  • The Absolute State of Poetry These Days

    As a one time reviewer who used to be praised for my honesty, I think I should probably declare that reviews in Northwords Now et al under the name of Elizabeth Rimmer are not those attributed to Ishbell O’Sullivan in this article

    though I’m fairly sure I was enough of a nippy sweetie to please Gerry Cambridge. No, they were by me, and I still don’t like Robin Robertson’s work, although I do admire his skill.

    I disagree with a lot of what Gerry Cambridge has to say, both about reviewing and about poetry at large, though I do see where he is coming from, and it has made me a think about the function of reviews, and why I do it. I don’t review so much these days, I don’t even write as many reviews on this blog as I would like, and reviews of any sort, and particularly poetry reviews, are hard to find anywhere. Neither Haggards nor The Well of the Moon have ever been formally reviewed, and though it hasn’t done sales any harm (would you mind if I casually mentioned that Haggards is being reprinted for the third time?) I think it would be nice to get more extended feedback than the comments I’ve had which were kind and insightful, and not solely complimentary.

    I do miss good extended poetry criticism. It isn’t generally taught in academia, and a lot of tutoring focuses on the creative and technical side of writing – no bad thing in itself, but it leaves a gap, a feeling that there isn’t a broad overview of a poetry scene that is busy extending itself in all directions. Newspapers and journals don’t publish many reviews, and pay for even fewer, so those of us who do it are doing it for love, focussing on what we’ve liked, and neither writers nor readers have time to waste on books which waste our time.

    So why do it at all? It doesn’t have any impact on sales, and it isn’t just to make friends and influence people. Firstly, to record the poetry that I’ve read and loved and want to go back to. So much poetry is published now that it’s very easy to read a good poem and like it, and then forget it instantly. When you come across something that really matters, you want to flag it up, not only for yourself, but for everyone else trying to filter the onrush of new books, pamphlets and journals.

    Often I write to try and understand what I liked about it, how it influences my thinking and develops my writing practice. Under this heading comes the analysis of the poets who hit that concept, image, technique I’ve been searching for, or that writer who shares my passions and instincts, that I want to have a conversation with. I don’t always agree with these poets, but they fascinate me.

    Often I want to have a conversation with friends and readers about what I’ve read, and let me tell you, you get more engagement if you have something positive to say than if you start by describing Rilke as the Jacob Rees-Mogg of poetry – which I did do once. I don’t believe in indulging silliness, pretentiousness or shoddy work, but a wanton display of savagery to amuse readers is no more likely to encourage honesty than a focus on the good stuff – and there’s plenty of that about. Let me share my treasures with you – I may get a bit excitable, but trust me, you will find something you like.

  • National Poetry Day

    I’ve been keeping a ‘lookout journal’ for the last few months, so, for National Poetry Day, here’s a bit of it.

    hedges and roadsides hang
    swags of wild rose and honeysuckle
    knapweed and bedstraw

    boxes unpacked, all the books
    safe on new shelves

    the old family Bible
    faded leather, records kept
    since 1808

    Rimmer, Oldroyd, Milne
    handwriting hardly changed

    by Calder Water
    blackthorn, hemlock, meadowsweet
    sun, bees, meadow brown

    first garden berries
    burning scarlet under leaves

    covid and high pollen
    dizzy, shaking, coughing all day
    summer passing us by

    the latest dark
    a fox calls beyond the garden

    dog day’s sun, hot glare
    westerly breeze shakes the leaves
    brings no breath of cool

    rooflines of starlings
    night sulks, waiting for thunder

    rain, mud, cleavers seeds
    harvest of brambles ripe and heavy
    beyond my reach

    marigold hooks brown
    poppy heads swollen, seeds saved
    and sowed. Autumn

    the Queen is dead
    long queues to see change coming

    scent of vinegar
    jam cooling in the kitchen
    new season’s apples

    equinoctial gales,
    the house creaks and wavers

    the branches of a wild apple tree. Beyond, a hawthorn tree with berries and a birch

  • Moniack Mhor

    landscape looking to distant mountains. A cloud inversion fills the valley

    This was my view a week ago. It couldn’t have got more gorgeous if it had tried, though the starry night which preceded it tried very hard, and this photo definitely doesn’t do it justice. I was here, at Moniack Mhor a week ago, learning how to make coherent essays out of the least random of my blogposts, and let me tell you, it was wonderful. I met a wide range of interesting people, and had a lot of encouragement from two excellent tutors. Oddly and most unexpectedly, the consensus seems to be that when it comes to essay writing, I should be more poet. I love this, and have in fact printed this slogan out and put it over my desk.

    Herb garden with mint, chives, oregano and sage

    This is the herb garden, obviously my first port of call. Moniack Mhor has a vegetable garden and fruit trees as well, and they are saving up for a polytunnel, to improve their sustainability. It was a place in which I felt thoroughly at home, among lovely scenery, a place full of generous and thoughtful ethos, warm and kindly hospitality, and unlimited creativity. I have come home bursting with inspiration, and determination to realise the promises I made to myself.

    But first, I have an appeal to make. Last spring there was a flood, and 80% of the books in the poetry library were destroyed. They have started building up a replacement collection, but their finances are very stretched. Poets, publishers, poetry readers – if you could donate copies to this wonderful resource for writers, please do! It would be very gratefully appreciated!

    Please contact info@moniackmhor.org.uk for more information, or send to:

    Moniack Mhor
    Teavarran, Kiltarlity
    by Beauly, Inverness-shire,
    Scotland, IV4 7HT

    hobbit house, hay bale building with wooden porch and green roof

  • Scotland’s Soils and Stories

    rocks thickly covered with moss

    Yesterday we went to Benmore Botanical Garden, partly to celebrate our forty-fifth anniversary, but also to see the trail installed there as part of Scotland’s Soils and Stories. At five viewpoints around the garden there were storyboards showing extracts from some Scottish literature relative to the soil or landscape or trees growing there. Authors included Sir Walter Scott, Robin Jenkins, James Robertson, Kenneth Grahame, Sara Maitland, Kathleen Jamie and (ulp!) me. And here I am, in a beautiful mossy setting (though furthest away from the gate, and up a very high hill).

    self portrait next to storyboard with the text of Blanket Bog

    The poem chosen was this one, which was first published in TheTerritory of Rain (Red Squirrel Press) in 2015:

    Blanket Bog
    Blanket bog clothes the land
    like a black melancholy, shrouding
    the slopes in the weight of its slo-mo layers.
    Grudges and peat break down slowly.
    Bones of old loves and hates
    are kept intact for ever.

    Sphagnum can absorb
    twice its own weight in tears.
    Crazy insectivorous plants
    thrive on trapped flies and imagined slights,
    and lost birds wail, raking through pools
    and stirring the endless mud.

    Keep it safe, keep it undisturbed.
    Under these tons of peat and apathy
    enough carbon is sequestered
    to melt the last chips of polar ice
    and burn up every one of us
    on the whole raging earth.

    I was especially pleased by the background information which put the poem in the context of a discussion of buried ancient structures, and the concept of landscape time, which is something I’m quite intrigued with just now. I am very grateful to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh who organised this display, and have made something lovely of my poem. The book is out of print just now, but I have a few copies left which you can buy from my shop if you are in the UK.

  • PoetryCon StAnza 2022

    My daughter refers to StAnza as my PoetryCon. As in Convention, like ComicCon which features so often in the Big Bang theory. There’s not so much cosplay, though somebody did once enter the Slam wearing a powdered periwig, (my daughter begs to differ – ‘You ALL dress like poets’, she says) no film stars and very little merch except books, but she is right. Though she says it’s more nuanced than that. She is a comic artist herself, and says that StAnza is not so much like the big Cons, where readers go to see the re-enactments of their favourite comics, more like one called Thought Bubble, which is where comic artists go to hear their favourite artists talk about how to write or draw comics, and engage with the function comics perform in the wider worlds of art and society. As well as displays and panels, book signings and sales, there are outreach events within local communities, and a strong grass roots presence.

    This describes the much-loved atmosphere of StAnza as we have come to know it. I have been to other festivals, and I do get the impression that they are places people drop into for the highlight events, and the big names, and then maybe tack on something attractive that is happening in the day or two they are there. That is not how StAnza works. For years I have been trying to write a StAnza-based parody of Christy Moore’s Lisdoonvarna because I can’t think of anything else that comes quite so close:

    Everybody needs a break
    Climb a mountain or jump in a lake —

    We go there and they come here.
    Some jet off to … Frijiliana,
    But I always go to Lisdoonvarna.

    We go to St Andrews. We go for the whole thing. We book tickets recklessly and we go to everything we can until we fall over. You can see people dashing between venues to get from one event to the next, and the B&Bs and pizza places and coffee shops are full of poets all the time. The Byre Theatre is a hub,

    Ramble in for a pint of stout,
    you’d never know who’d be hangin’ about!

    Well, you get tea and scones, during the day, or coffee and shortbread, though there is usually a lot of alchohol drunk later – and you get the gossip. This year, after a two year hiatus, it was like a dam bursting. We had a LOT of catching up to do!

    Of course the big names are there. I’ve seen Jackie Kay, Don Paterson, Caroline Forche, Mark Doty, Gillian Clarke, Moya Cannon, Seamus Heaney and John Burnside. I’ve seen poets from all over the world. I’ve seen poetry films, comics, installations, performance poetry, music. The big name poets don’t just perform, they hold workshops and round tables, panel discussions and protests. They do sign books, but you can also find them hanging about in the Byre. There are plenty of book sales – Innes Bookshop during StAnza is the only place you can see poetry bookshelves raided and empty like a late night bakery stall, and the Poets Market is a valuable lifeline and showcase for small presses and pamphleteers.

    But there is also a strong grassroots presence. The independent Scottish presses are there. The developments in newer poetry are represented and showcased alongside the familiar and established trends. Fledgling presses have the opportunity to test themselves against the heavyweights, and poets who might have found themselves at a distance from livelier centres get a chance to hear what’s going on and contribute. We compare notes, and collaborate, develop new projects and make new connections. When I came to Scotland there was what we called a ‘Scottish cringe’ – a feeling that Scottish culture was provincial, nostalgic, undeveloped – and that you needed to attract the attention of London to make an impact. I honestly think that has gone now, and events like StAnza, with its emphasis on encouraging Scottish, Gaelic and Shetlandic alongside English, and its confident opening of doors to a multi-cultural perspective, has had a lot to do with it. A tall tree needs deep and wide-spreading roots, and here is where we grew them. One performance poet said of StAnza, ‘You took us seriously when we didn’t know how to take ourselves seriously’.

    If I felt that this dimension was lacking this year, I’d have to make a few qualifications. Clearly covid took a flamethrower to most of our assumptions and habits. Long-term planning after last year’s wonderfully light-footed and ingenious digital version couldn’t really start while new variants and changes of regulations were happening all the time, and applying for funding in such a challenging environment must have been a nightmare. You couldn’t predict how many people would be able to come, or feel confident in sharing spaces, especially as a lot of us aren’t exactly spring chickens, and travel was difficult and unpredictable even before the Ukraine situation happened. Also – and this took me by surprise – we had looked forward to being back among our tribe so much and we were so excited to be there, that the experience became intense and overwhelming. We weren’t used to being around so many people. We weren’t used to travelling. We lost things, forgot to pack things, locked our keys in our hotel rooms (just me? I don’t think so!). We got tired and emotional. My daughter used to talk about ‘con drama’ – a cocktail of too many people, too many events, not enough food and less sleep – and we all felt it. Some of us started cutting events earlier than usual, some went home early, a few of us got ill and had to stay in bed instead of getting into the things we’d come for. It wasn’t the same.

    But then, how could it be? Things were inevitably going to change, and if we felt understandably disappointed, we need to think of new possibilities. But I would like to think we could appreciate what we had without being simply obstructive. This year had some real gems of highlights. My favourites were poetry from Vahni Capildeo, Hannah Lowe and JL Williams, discussions about Modernism and TS Eliot from Paul Muldoon and Sandeep Parmer, the lecture about the discussion of migration and human rights in poetry by Mona Arshi. Other people loved Robin Robertson’s reading, William Letford’s verse novel work in progress and the discussion of erasure poety and narrative by Alice Hiller and Gail McConnell. We had the extra curricular delights of gulls, the beach, pastries at the poetry breakfasts, fish suppers and reunion pizzas with people you only see at StAnza. We hung out in the Byre as usual, much to the bafflement of the staff who kept warning us the bar was closed. It was lovely.

    Feedback questionnaires are going to be online this year, so we missed Annie’s ‘fill in your phones and turn off your questionnaires’, and I will have to think very carefully about how I raise some of the issues on my mind. I know the hard-working and invariably courteous and helpful StAnza staff and volunteers pulled off their usual marvel, and I want to give them my unqualified thanks and appreciation.

    We will definitely be back next year, with our blank notebooks and empty suitcases for all the new poetry. Floreat StAnza!

  • Signs and Portents

    a pot of violas with a dark blue iris reticulata just opening up

    We are expecting two named storms this week – Dudley tomorrow, bringing wind, and possibly rain, and Eunice on Friday, bringing heavy snow. This winter, for all its mildness and rain, is testing me sorely. And yet—

    The birds know spring is on its way. There was a pair of robins in the garden, not attacking each other, so possibly pairing up, the crows and jackdaws are working on their nests, and the woodland strip down to the park is full of birdsong. I discovered that our soil is even heavier, fuller of stones, and stickier with clay than I feared, but I have planted an apple and a damson tree, and some fruit bushes. There are more daffodils and tulips in the garden than I expected, all lengthening and greening every time I look at them, and I have a witch hazel in full flower, just waiting for the border to be cleared for it.

    Other things are happening too. After two years of Zoom only launches, Red Squirrel Press have two LIVE events in the next fortnight – books by Helen Boden (A Landscape to Figure In) John Bolland (Pibroch) and Laura Fyfe (The Truth Lies) will be launched at Avant Garde

    Avant garde 34 King Street Glasgow G1 SQT, at 7pm. Please book in advance.

    and on Saturday 26th February at 1pm in the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. You will need to book tickets to ensure covid compliance and you can do so here.

    I edited all three of these, so I know you will be in for a treat.

    Poetry too, is beginning to break through – no finished poems, but a couple of drafts:

    Time to look at the chaffinch on the feeder
    the first primrose, almost transparent
    in the winter wet – look, how beautiful,
    look, how stubborn persistence wins through
    against frost, look, pigeons amorous already,

    look, catkins, look –

    And some non-fiction projects have moved from the vague pipe dream stage, to structural plans and reading lists and task sheets. There are review notes in the planning process too, but they will have to wait. In March, someone is coming to build us a LIBRARY, and until then, all the books are in boxes. There will be painting of walls to do first, because the library is in what used to be a children’s playroom, painted lemon yellow and with cut-out woodland animals on the walls. I think there was a meme going around about women wanting a cottage in a forest with a herb garden and a library – and it does look as if I am getting close!

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