BurnedThumb

Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


political issues


  • Hope for Cop 28

    There isn’t much of it. But if ever we could get the powerful ones together and make them listen to us, it’s now. So here is a canto from my long eco-protest poem The Wren in the Ash Tree which was published in Haggards in 2018. The Outcry isn’t mine – it’s the ‘outcry of the earth, the outcry of the poor’ which The Papal Encyclical Laudato Si’ talks about. And, just to add to the timely references, the line ‘enough of blood and tears’ was said at the signing of the Norway accords between Israel and Palestine in 1993.

    Canto 1: The Outcry

    The hanging man says,
    ‘Outcry of grief
    goes up and down the world-tree,
    grumble of ravens and chattering classes
    in tweets and rumours on smartphones.
    Her leaves are nibbled by squirrels,
    in curtained bedrooms and behind
    the facades of abandoned shops,
    browsed to the bark by greedy stags,
    in city suits and plate-glassed offices
    her roots undermined by serpents
    wasting the soil. The hedges are down,
    the fenlands drained and the red dust
    is washed off suburban car fronts.’

    The wren is singing in the bramble bush.

    The woman at the ford says,
    ‘On one bank of the river,
    there is a lament for the fallen,
    on the other, the outcry
    of those who have lost everything,
    and there is never enough
    of blood or tears.’

    El duende says,
    ‘This is the place of pain.
    To sing here you will need
    to open the heart,
    the lungs and voice,
    and meet it square.
    You can’t sing from hiding,
    nor drunk or afraid.
    You can’t sing this softly
    like chocolate in the sun.
    You must give yourself
    to the fight with all your strength.
    It will take all you’ve got.
    It will feel like death.’

    The wren slips between the branches
    of the birch tree without a sound.

    And the field says,
    ‘You can’t write my music.
    There ain’t no sixteen bars,
    no twelve bar phrases here –
    field music comes bursting
    straight from the heart.’

    The city is silent.
    All the roundabouts
    are wearing flowers
    dressed in cellophane
    and there are soft toys
    on every doorstep.

    The song from the city is sung
    behind a proscenium arch,
    in other voices, not ours,
    And we are shamed by silence.

    The wren is hidden
    among the leaves of the ash
    and sings without ceasing.

    And the púca sings
    in the depths of the sea,
    ‘The water is poisoned with oil
    and the krill are scarce. We are hungry
    and choking on plastic.
    There are small boats, sinking
    beneath the weight of sorrow
    and the men with guns who turn
    the lost ones away from their coasts.’

    And the völva is casting the runes.
    The leather bag is thick,
    tough and unbending,
    and gives away no secrets,
    but the stones mutter
    and grind against each other.
    The black angular lines –
    tree, hammer, wealth,
    ocean, ice – will come together,
    fall in the right configuration,
    give their bleak verdict soon enough.

    The rune for harvest is the same
    as the rune for the day of reckoning.

    And the wren sings on the bare branches,
    sings without ceasing.


  • Peace, Peace! They Say but There Is No Peace

    This is a quotation from Jeremiah (6:14, if you’re a Bible geek). Jeremiah is just about the only prophet who can do justice to the situation we are in just now – I can only think the fundamentalists among us have a very selctive awareness of Scripture. There’s a lot about oppression of the poor and vulnerable, among his denunciations, a lot about the destruction of the environment, the disasters of war and the misuse of legal processes and the economy, which would keep some folk awake at nights if they took it seriously. I was distracted by the phrase just before this one too – ‘they dress my people’s wounds without concern’, which sums up the Westminster covid response pretty neatly too.

    I haven’t been saying much about everything that’s going on – there are people much better informed than I am, and people whose voices deserve to be heard much more than mine. There is very little I can do, what’s more, not once war breaks out. Our local politicians are already doing what they can (and it’s precious little) and my personal situation doesn’t permit me too be too actively involved.

    But I am involved, we all are. It’s a wide spectrum between the frictions of our daily lives and the bombs and rubble of Gaza and Ukraine, the Peace Wall in Belfast, but we’re all on it somewhere. When my Jewish friends worry about the surge in hate crimes, in verbal abuse on social media and on the streets, I sympathise of course, it must be horrible and frightening, but I’ve been surprised to find it so difficult. On summer Saturdays I have to listen to my neighbours singing songs about wading up to their knees in my blood, and we’re supposed to take it for granted – it’s just the marching season. When I hear people who wouldn’t personally be mean to a soul complaining that ‘you’re not allowed to say anything any more’, I wonder how their queer neighbours or their disabled friends feel about that. And when we say ‘we must be able to get along and why can’t people just be nice to each other?’ I think we don’t really understand peace at all.

    I think about Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres in 1993 and Peres saying ‘You don’t have to have peace talks with someone if you like them’. You can’t begin to make peace if you pretend it was never broken. You can’t simply ‘live and let live’. If you don’t know and understand people you can’t respect them. If you don’t respect them you can’t trust them, and without trust there is no peace.

    When I get like this I think of the poem I wrote to deal with these feelings. It gets a lot of work these days:

    Stand in the Light
    Stand in the light.
    Allow the wild things to creep
    out of the shadows.
    Welcome them all, the wet
    bedraggled things, the ones
    all spit and claws, the one
    who weeps and hangs its head,
    the one who stares, and says ‘Make me.’
    Stand in the light. They are yours,
    washed and unwashed alike.

    Stand in the light, and sing.
    Raise your voice as if
    there was no fear of darkness.
    Listen and you will hear
    other voices, other songs,
    rough and sweet and dauntless,
    blues and canto jondo,
    pibroch, nanha, tanakh.
    Stand in the light and sing. Their pain
    is yours. Allow it to hurt.

    Stand in the light. Be still.
    Light is what we need. Let it glow,
    let it shine into the furthest dark
    to find the lost forgotten hopes
    and warm them to new life.
    Allow it to grow and touch the ruined
    homes and hearts and show us
    what’s to mend. Stand in the light.
    Be still. Become the light.

    Perhaps listening is the best thing we can do. I have a friend in America, Laura Hope-Gill, who runs a project called The Story Shepherds. She describes it on the group’s Facebook page:

    The Story Shepherds project seeks to recognize people who have explored their stories and developed the particular kind of listening stories require in order to access their deep medicine for healing trauma and reconnecting with humanity.

    She has already achieved remarkable results in Northern Ireland, and is now developing the project in Asheville, South Carolina. She is one of the mostly deeply insightful and compassionate women I have ever met, having survived a complex traumatic story of her own. Please check it out. We are going to need a lot of mutual listening over the coming years.


  • The Gift of Sovereignty

    Once upon a time I did a Masters in Medieval Literature about the concept of the hero in The Matter of Britain under the excellent supervision of the wonderful Felicity Riddy. It didn’t cover King Arthur, but it did include characters who were extremely famous for several centuries, but who have dropped off the current radar – King Horn, Bevis of Hampton and Guy of Warwick – also the baffling anti-hero Richard the Lionheart. If you are into the Marvel and DC films, you will probably find the stories familiar. I wanted to subtitle the chapter about Richard: ‘Don’t make me angry – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’. Guy of Warwick is disconcertingly like Captain America, and Bevis is probably closer to the Green Arrow, but you get the point. Secret identities, trials of strength, exile and return in disguise, dramatic captures and suffering, frequent rescues of the beloved, restoration of order, happy ever after.

    We came to the conclusion that these are maturation stories – how to grow up and take your place in the world. I started reading Jung, and realised that his take on the process was very different from the old romance writers. In Jung’s world, a boy (don’t get me started about his take on women) first learns how to operate and succeed in the social and material spheres, building a career, establishing himself in society, and then tackles the inner work of building intimate relationships or spiritual maturity. For the medievals, the work of growing up came first, love and mature relationships within the family are part of the process, and social and personal success, symbolised by kingship, comes as a reward for self-mastery.

    I haven’t thought about this much over the last thirty years, but it has been forcibly brought to my attention lately. The concept of kingship as theatre and sleight of hand, while actual power becomes harder hold to account, has been forced on us over the last few weeks, and it isn’t particularly interesting. We are plagued with a breed of politicians who do not recognise the need to regulate their own desires and behaviour. Demands are made of us to pledge loyalty to people who do not recognise the responsibility and mutuality of relationships. This is not sovereignty as any other society defines it. It is the politics of the playground. But the concept of ‘sovereignty’ (abused as it has been by the brexit debate) has something to offer.

    In folktales and ballads of the ‘loathly lady’ type, we see the trope of ‘sovereignty’ as the woman getting her own way. If she is indulged and obeyed, she becomes beautiful and loving, and the treatment is often comic. But it has a more positive aspect. Loathly lady stories show a demand for women to be respected as autonomous human beings, with the rights to judge situations, pursue desires, set boundaries and make decisions, even in marriages which may have been undertaken as a political expedient or acquisition of power. The loathly lady doesn’t have to conform to conventional standards of beauty or manners. She doesn’t have to apologise for having needs. But she is able to negotiate.

    The maturation processes of women may not be as different from those of men as Jung thought, but they do often have different arenas to learn in. We might learn to be loathly ladies rather than kidnapped princesses, and I’m thinking about it, particularly as I share The Well of the Moon more widely, which has a fair few of them in it. And we might think a bit more about what we mean by sovereignty in most of our relationships, remove it from the sphere of narcissistic testosterone-fuelled ‘heroes’ and claim it for ourselves, personally and politically.


  • I’m Making a List

    demonstration outside Dungavel detention centre, people holding up placards saying I was a Stranger, a banner on the ground saying Refugees welcome

    This is the official photo on the Justice and Peace Scotland Facebook page. Here we are outside Dungavel, again, at a solidarity demonstration organised by the Ayrshire branch of Hope Not Hate. We have been there continuously for years and it gets no better. The first time we went, and it’s too depressing to think of how long ago that was, I wrote this poem:

    The Army Camped at Dungavel


    For the Eurydice Socialist Women’s Choir, Glasgow


    The Eurydice choir
    sings as if at Jericho,
    as if the new loud hailer
    could break Dungavel’s walls.
    A butterfly, sun-fuelled,
    rides the autumn wind like ocean,
    makes land-fall, leans its burning
    trivial weight against the steel.
    To move a mountain, faith
    needs such moments of temerity.
    We do not know our strength,
    the butterfly and the choir.

    There have been many moments of temerity since then, but there we still are. And I am tired. I am tired of the manufactured paranoia about immigrants, of the casual cruelties of the asylum system, of the assumption that it’s what the British people want. We don’t. When there was a dawn raid in Kenmure Street to deport people (who were still in the middle of their appeals process, which they won), people turned out in their thousands to stop it. When Nigel Farage attacked the RNLI for bringing in people from small boats in the Channel, a fundraiser to build more lifeboats attracted enormous support, and there is now a new lifeboat, with Farage’s name on it. We don’t want concentration camps for refugees. We don’t want them deported to Rwanda. We don’t want to be a zenophobic, insular, smug, hateful country, we want to be welcoming, inclusive and unworried by difference.

    So I’m making a list. I’m not going to find out who’s naughty, they are not worth my time or yours. I’m paying attention to who’s nice – the people and groups and organisations who are helping. If you have time or money or headspace to spare, please put it here

    Extra organisations added from the comments via Helen Boden!


  • Lenten Musings

    a lot of snowdrops in sunlight filtered by tree shadows

    The news is mostly terrible. It’s impossible to get your head around it. The behaviour of our government defies belief. And yet, and yet.

    This is the third crisis in a very short time, and the biggest thing to come out of all of them is the universal demand that good should transcend evil and misfortune, that we should respond with generosity to a crisis, not defensiveness. It used to be said that the banking crisis proves that you can, after all, beat the market. When the chips are down, politics takes over. It wasn’t much help, since the politicians then sold us all to protect the market, but we saw what we saw. But through the covid pandemic, the climate crisis and now the war in Ukraine, we can see the almost universal demand that politics should be ethical, that truth, compassion and mutual respect should transcend the economy. Governments financed the covid response. Governments pledged to move to net zero. Governments (apart from ours) waived the usual restraints to welcome refugees and impose economic sanctions.

    For a long time, the discourse about politics was that the only reality was the economy (jobs, houses, profits), and that wider concerns were at best unrealistic and self-indulgent. Lifehad to be lived by a pragmatic acceptance of the universality of selfishness, dishonesty and cruelty, and any pretence of ethical concerns was from naive sentimentality, or posturing narcissism. That time seems to have gone. I am reading the Papal Encyclical Fratelli Tutti for Lent and this quotation (from the previous encyclical Laudato Si‘) jumped out at me.

    We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good. Once the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests’

    Fratelli Tutti, page 51

    Enough of that. People want to be good to each other, to treat each other fairly, and we want a politics that will give us that. From the people in Glasgow queueing round the block to support a Ukrainian baker opening on Sunday to raise funds for refugees, to the four thousand people arrested in Moscow for protesting against the war, we are demanding that our politicians think differently. From the people who are steadily getting reusable plastic out of their shopping, to the communities planting their verges with wildflowers, we assert that the earth is more than resources to make money. When we plan for our future, we want the poor, the sick, the marginalised to be remembered with respect and consideration.

    Well, Lent is the time to be realistic. We don’t live up to our aspirations. We don’t always want to, if it gets difficult. And we can’t always agree about which issue is more important or how to go about tackling them. But this Lent is about saying that in spite of all that, we do still aspire to do better. We can’t be fobbed off with an ‘eat your cereal’ from the kind of person who buys and sells his political influence for a seat in the House of Lords. We do care about more than jobs, houses, what’s on television. We really want a world of love, justice, compassion, and we are more than ever willing to stand up and say so. I just hope our politicians are listening.

    a celandine growing out of a lot of dried moss

  • A Dark Age

    a tiled fireplace with a coal fire

    The news this week is awful. The Ukraine disaster is too big for me to process, much less comment on, but the news about universities is something else. For a long time, universities have treated their teaching staff badly, with poor wages, short-term contracts, hours of unpaid overtime and late payment of expenses. If you could go the pace, this was compensated for, to some extent, by paying into a reasonably good pension scheme that was continuous across the whole sector. Up to now. This week, that went.

    At the same time, the government plans to restrict access to university to those with GCSE’s in Maths and English, which discriminates against students with specific learning disorders or non-scholastic backgrounds, cap the number of university places available, and spread the repayment of student loans across forty years instead of the current thirty.

    I imagine the sciences will survive, somehow. But this is an all-out attack on the teaching of arts and social sciences. They will become the exclusive playground of the wealthy and privately educated. We are looking at a new Dark Age. The Vandals are at the gates, and it looks as if practical experience and exposure to the arts will be lost to 90% of the population.

    Well, no. Not quite. The usual routes are closed, but this is not a situation that is unfamiliar to people of working-class heritage, especially if you have Irish roots. In penal times, it was forbidden to teach a Catholic to read and write, and the Irish set up guerrilla ‘hedge schools’ to teach boys in secret. My great-great-great grandmother (the first Honora in my poem We Carry Our Grandmother’s Ghosts) allowed her barn to be used in this way. Scholars from these schools went to France and Spain to train as priests, and some of them arrived among the best-qualified of their year. Many working-class communities in the north of England, set up study groups and evening classes, often with the support of the Non-Conformist and local Catholic churches. Both my great grandfather, a Catholic) and my husband’s great-grandfather (a Congregational Minister) were heavily involved in the setting up of schools for working class childeren in their areas of Liverpool and Southport. My father benefited from organisations like these, having missed out on a scholarship to grammar school because his father couldn’t afford the uniform, and was able to finish with post graduate qualifications in Adult Education. He was passionate about on-going training for adults in industry, and many of his diatribes about British attitudes to their workforce come to mind to this day.

    The Folk Revival of the sixties and seventies wasn’t just archaeology by the middle classes nostalgic for Merrie England – it tapped into a reservoir of genuine surviving traditions, music played, sung and taught within communities, (particularly in Ireland and Scotland) with high standards of musicianship that are now recognised by academic institutions like the Royal Scottish Conservatoire, where traditional music is taught alongside Classical – and some very interesting crossovers are happening. The brass band culture of northern England and the choral singing tradition of Wales provided high standards of musical training that mainstream culture seems to have denied.

    We are going to have to go back to those times. It is time for those of us who got the education (especially if, like me, you are from the generation that got grants to go to university) to share what we’ve got. There are cautions to this. It isn’t going to be as easy to validate teaching if you can’t just refer to a university board, so we’re going to have to learn some skills in discrimination, and fast. Plus teaching takes time and is work, which must be properly rewarded. But I notice a lot of people who have quit academia are putting on courses, running workshops, setting up retreats and if the living is still precarious, it isn’t quite so stressed. Students don’t have to make the same commitments either of time or money, and many go out of their way to make courses accessible to disabled people or people who can’t afford to pay commercial rates. We just have to get past the idea that only full-time ‘professional’ working counts, that only a degree can prove your talent.

    And what am I going to contribute? It’s hard to say. I have limitations on my time, my health (and constraints from my family’s health). I don’t quite know what I can commit to. But I have a library, which is full of books I would be willing to lend. I’m up for using my newsletters to share material that might be useful (feel free to make suggestions!). And I’ve signed up to the Rebecca Swift Foundation’s Women Poets Network, which might enable me to help out. It is based in England and seems to make some strange assumptions about Scotland, but I’m hoping it might create opportunities to light a few lamps as we go into the dark.


  • A COP 26 Gig

    Picture of me, in front of a banner with my poem Whooper Swans and images of five whooper swans against a blue sky

    This is a photo taken by Patrick Corbett, one of the four poets from the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics (the others were Leela Soma and the founder of the Centre, Norman Bissell, and we also brought two musicians, Rory McLeod and Ada Francis) who read at an event called Greening the Blue Chips run by RSK. This stands for Responsible, Sustainable, Knowledgeable, and they help engineering projects become more (genuinely) eco-friendly. While I remain unhappy about the concept of sustainable growth, I pretty soon realised that this is a serious and idealistic group, genuinely challenging the green-washing and short-term narrow focus of much of industry. If you thought this was a done deal, in the light of what came out of the event, there was a survey discussed by a representative from Nature Positive of the attitudes of the companies in the FTSE100, which revealed that only 65% of companies are thinking about net zero and biodiversity issues at all, and only three are actively planning for their Scope 3 emissions (click here for a short definition of what those are). But these people are all about a serious wakeup call to their colleagues, which was very refreshing.

    Many of the representative at this conference were already trying harder than that, and were seriously interested in trying to do more. Here are some of the things I learned:

    • every single reservoir in Scotland is at unusually low levels (England’s are even worse). I thought the speaker didn’t remember 1975 and 76, but those were acute seasons of crisis, whereas what we are looking at is something more chronic It’s not so much that we’ve had good summers, but that we’ve had a run of dry winters and springs. We can no longer be frivolous about our dreich weather, and complacent that we will never have to worry about water. And even those of us who have known our landscape and climate for years have to admit that we don’t know as much as we thought. Things are really changing.
    • Only 1% of the batteries for electric cars are currently recycled, and they are deemed to be too depleted for proper functioning when their capacity is below 80%. Clearly there needs to be some serious work done here.
    • There is no longer a debate in industry about climate change. Everyone has acknowledged there is a problem, though you can’t always guarantee they are handling it the same way. One of the most dynamic speakers of the day had worked in fashion, and becoming aware of how disastrous fast fasion is, had worked to cut the waste, energy consumption, pollution and water usage in her factory. The response of her head office was to get rid of her, and she founded To Be Frank. She is very vocal about transparency, all along the supply chain, and points out that an industry that can afford to pay for the waste they produce, can afford not to. This went down pretty well, in that room!
    • There is as much passion within some parts of big industries as there is in the smaller indy outfits. There was a general awareness in the room that there isn’t a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis and a water crisis – there is one crisis, and a lot of people are trying to find holistic solutions. Big business may be behind the curve, but there’s a lot of shoving and heavy lifting going on. Issues like exploitative labour markets are seen as much as part of the problem as dirty energy or degraded landscape, and this has got to be positive.

    Is all this good enough? I very much doubt it. It’s slower and smaller than we need. There is still too much emphasis on initiatives for consumers and investors, and not as citizens or neighbours. There is too much emphasis on small moves by individuals, and not enough on structural change. And there was no mention at all of the axis of evil that is the disruption from the inordinately wealthy and powerful who are simply looking after their own interests and be damned to the rest of us. But I am hoping that if you punch enough holes in a dyke, the water behind will demolish the whole rotten thing. I don’t see me losing my anti-capitalist principles any time soon, and you can bet I am going to keep on pushing, but I am no longer convinced that all is lost because we haven’t won yet.


  • Las Posadas

    Las Posadas is a Mexican tradition, commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, asking for lodgings being refused, and at last, finding a space. It is usually a street party with lights, food, piñatas and a dialogue song between Joseph and the innkeeper. I don’t suppose many street parties will be happening anywhere this year, but there are some groups who celebrate it more quietly. They meet to pray and reflect on the journey to Bethlehem in a modern context. Why are people homeless, cold, hungry, alone? Why does a pregnant woman have nowhere safe to have her baby? Why do refugees have to leave their home lands? In other countries people leave a candle burning in their windows in memory of the Holy Family, and to guide a homeless person or a lost traveller to a safe shelter.

    This year I have questions myself. Why do Unicef have to come to Britain to feed starving children? Why is Priti Patel trying to remove the right to seek asylum from migrants arriving in small boats? Why does the BBC have to employ a ‘reality check’ correspondent? (don’t journalists do that as part of their actual job?) Why does Scotland have the highest drugs death rate in Europe? Why are people homeless? Why does a pregnant woman have to prove she has been raped in order to get support for her child? Why do people who have lived here for years have to leave this country?

    Yesterday I put up a tweet saying that in Scotland we are lloking for a different way to define belonging, and national identity, that talks about alignment and allegiance (to a place and a community) rather than birthright, and two hundred and two people liked it. It is more an aspiartion than an achievement – we have examples of horrible racism here, plus a lot of ignorance and complacency – but that’s a lot of people who are trying to make things better. Here is last year’s Christmas poem, (there may be another this year, someone just sent me a prompt). I’m leaving a light in my windows!

    Las Posadas

    Snowflakes kiss the window panes
    so softly and the garden levels
    under its thick white quilt, a gentle sea
    of cold, relentless. It hides the hollows,
    the pond and sudden steps to the yard.
    Bird feeders fill, and empty and sparrows
    squabble with the unaccustomed gangs
    of waxwings, blackbirds, a yellowhammer
    flashing citrus in the grey light, reed buntings
    that seek a refuge from the ice, the wind,
    the cruising buzzard. It is the time
    to welcome the lost, share food and fire,
    make room where there is none, and give
    to those who seek it, peace.

    starry Christmas lights in a window

  • It’s Been a While

    Somehow it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted. I’ve been dealing with some family health issues, and going through the process of coming off a migraine prevention treatment that really wasn’t suiting me, plus all the rest of the things we have to worry about – climate change, the awful racist fallout of brexit, the dysfunctional political system we seem to have got ourselves into, the awful anxiety that plays out on social media and the pain caused to many people I like and admire in the worlds of poetry, politics, environmental activism – you name it, there’s a drama going on and people are being damaged.

    It isn’t only on social media, either. Someone commented on a citizens assembly meeting that questions of how or why resolutions should be implemented were routinely shelved in favour of a reckless determination to ‘do something’. I know that recklessness. I know that pressure that makes you feel time is running out and there has been enough dithering and too many excuses. I know, too, how it feels when you swing into action and discover that your very urgency causes the whole thing to fall apart.

    Yet it is indeed time to do something. It’s been a long hard lesson, but taking the time to do a proper discernment process, to plan, to prepare and to engage with others is not procrastination, it is the beginning of doing something properly. So this Lent (which starts tomorrow) I’m going to be a fellow-traveller on The Less for Lent campaign to ‘give up capitalism for Lent’, but my serious Lenten task is to work through this:

    Book cover From Violence to Wholeness

    It is produced by Pax Christi, and covers all the instances of violence we are exposed to on a daily basis, trying to begin a process of breaking the cycle of violence despair and retaliation, creating connections and understanding, and building hope and compassion. It’s a slow and undramatic process, but it seems a logical consequence of my person-based musings as I write the next batch of poems for Burnedthumb. It seems like the right slow step to take next. It seems like the thing to do.


  • The First Blog of the Year

    a crow in a birch tree

    I love this crow, riding a winter gale as we had yesterday. Despite their many interesting folklore references, and their sometimes quirky behaviour, I am not so fond of them as I am of their smaller cousins, the jackdaws, but I don’t have any photos of them. They live on the cliffs of Abbey Craig, and though you can’t miss them as you walk, because they are so vocal, they keep well beyond the range of my camera skills. Crows are more co-operative!

    I am more aware of the birds this week, as the weather has brightened just enough to start their territory marking. There is more song – mostly robin and great tits, and there are more blackbirds in the garden. The sparrows had scattered, because the mild winter seems to have given them access to enough food without coming to the feeders so often, but they are back now, investigating the hedges for likely nesting sites. There is the first spring growth on the honeysuckle and southernwood, and I have begun the spring tidying. The first snowdrops are up, but not open, and the witch hazel is in full flower. This will be my first herb of the month in my newsletter.

    I am still processing the upheavals of the election, the Australian fires and the situation in the Middle East. We are living in very strange times, where the proceedings in parliament might well be reality TV for all the connection they have to real life. It is a kind of fantasy politics, creating threats and enemies where there aren’t any, and oblivious to actual consequences. Every aspect of our communal life seems to be a target for government attack – I try to keep calm, because these things need legislation and implementation, and this will take time – but we don’t know where it will strike first, keeping us all in a state of terror. It’s as if the government is playing Russian roulette with the economy, the constitution, the judiciary, the media, the welfare state.

    There is one threat which has sneaked under the radar. Priti Patel has launched a consultation to strengthen police powers against roadside Travellers. It looks like an attempt to find out how much harassment of the Traveller/Roma community the government can get away with. I first made contact with the Travelling People in Scotland via this event: a celebration of the Tinker’s Heart in Argyll, which was granted monument status in June 2015, thanks to the work of Jess Smith. I was very proud to be given a sticker with the logo of the Travelling Community on it, which is in pride of place on my briefcase, and since then I have been interested in their history and culture, and appalled by the hostility they experience on a day to day basis. It is quite difficult to know how someone with so little connection can appropriately respond to what looks like overt persecution, but I am determined to do what I can. If there are any traveller-led campaigns to resist this initaitive, I will support them and share news and links here. Please take an interest, and give help where you can.



Latest Posts



Blog Categories



Archives by Date



Newsletter



Tag Cloud


admin arts birds Burnedthumb Charm of Nine Herbs Colin Will Cora Greenhill dark mountain Double Bill editing eurydice rising Expressing the Earth family fiction garden gardening Geopoetics haggards herbs home Interlitq Jim Carruth Kenneth White Mrs Grieve napowrimo newsletter Norman Bissell Northwords Now photography poetry reading Red Squirrel Press review Sally Evans Scottish Poetry Library seeds Stanza stravaig the place of the fire The Territory of Rain The Well of the Moon walking the territory Wherever We Live Now William Bonar writing