Lions on the beach

Ardivachar beach

Ardivachar beach, South Uist

Reeling into the wind, staggering along the beach
like ancient mariners tossed onto a distant shore,
our progress erratic as storm tossed debris.
As dark squalls spin across the horizon
heads withdraw, sheltering in gore-tex carapaces.
Eyes narrowed by reflected diamond light
salt stinging tears funnell down furrowed cheeks.
Cries of wonder are carried beyond the wind,
Lions on the beach!
Maroon manes tangled on the sand,
great tawny heads glistening in the sun,
these fallen giants will roar no more.
Humbled by fallen colossi,
captivated on sand encrusted knees,
the insistent tide breaks our revery.
Waves lapping salt rimed boots,
chilled by a cruel sea, 
we turn homewards
weaving through ribbons of amber kelp.

Lion's Mane Jellyfish Cyanea capillata

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Cyanea capillata

Tuesday 30 September: National Poetry Day.



Garden of Plenty

courgettesThere are a series of landmarks in my gardening year and, however intemperate the weather, by late July, the croft vegetable garden has been transformed into a garden of abundance. The empty trugs of the hungry gap months become horns of plenty and we are sated with green comestibles. A pretentious little literary allegory which means that we have a fridge full of cucumbers, pallet loads of courgettes, enough lettuce to feed a bio-digester the size of a nuclear power station and our friends and neighbours are avoiding us. We can hardly get into the store for sacks of potatoes, the shelves are groaning with jars of preserves, and the freezers are FULL!
It seems churlish to complain, but my garden of plenty has become a garden of excess. If I wasn’t being engulfed in green fecundity, I could smile smugly and show off my green fingers. However, my fingers are green from picking tomatoes from dawn to dusk and the abundance of vegetables has more to do with the weather than my expertise.

We have had a perfect summer, calm, warm with just enough rain to minimise the need for irrigation. The spring was warm and the moisture in the soil from our very soggy winter was perfect for germinating seeds and nurturing young plants. However, the real bonus was the extension of the summer weather into August and beyond to mid-September. So at the very end of September I am still harvesting ripe tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, broad beans and courgettes, and wondering how we are going to eat the early winter broccoli which is ready at least a month ahead of schedule. By now we are usually preparing the vegetable garden for winter, hacking down the tomato vines and making green tomato chutney incorporating the last of the courgettes and defiantly green peppers.
Although I have reduced the quantity of vegetables I grow, I am still a just-in-case gardener and always sow a few extra seeds as an insurance policy again the plagues of Egypt. This would be fine, if I discarded the extra plants, But I always manage to squeeze the extras in somewhere. Hence four cucumber plants when two would be sufficient and an embarrassment of fruit! Although, I lost a third of my young celeriac plants to marauding slugs, the survivors are the size of small footballs so there will be no shortage of celeriac soup this winter.
It is rather comforting to know that we will have enough vegetables to keep us through the winter and next year I might even bridge the hungry gap! However, I still have to solve the problem of the vegetable mountain that is threatening to engulf the croft kitchen. My collection of vegetarian cookery books is getting well-thumbed and although the new Ottolenghi magnum opus arrived just in time to inspire me, once again it was the soup dragon who came to my rescue. So if you can’t face another cucumber salad or salsa, you might enjoy Plentiful Summer Soup.

Paradise regained

Croft Gardener

© Walter Lewis

I’m back.
My desk has been restored, my muse has returned from her vacation, the equinox gales have arrived and my quiet life on the island has resumed.
The garden demands my attention, there are herbs to dry, preserves to make, cakes to bake and books to read. I must await the return of the wild swans, watch the waxing and waning of the moon, count the stars, long for the northern lights, be inspired by the rising and setting of the sun and listen to the songs of the seals.
I am stirred by the rush of the wind, soothed by the sound of the waves and refreshed by the rain. Nurtured by nature, with my head in the clouds and my secrets safe with the stars, I am free to fly, travel in time and dream of distant horizons.
The rhythm of my life is circadian, beating with the ebb and flow of the tides, synchronised with the music of the spheres. There is solace in solitude and love and laughter in companionship. I still seek the wisdom of age and have to learn how to grieve with grace, yet time slips through my fingers like sand. Is there still time to learn to dance in the daisies in the moonlight?

Collige, virgo, rosas, dum flos novus et nova pubes, et memor esto aevum sic properare tuum
Ausonius (c. 310–395)



En Vacances?


Maurice Logan c.1920

No I’m still here, enjoying the glorious weather on the Hebridean riviera, cosseting our holiday cottage visitors, planting bulbs and seeds, harvesting and preserving enough for a winter of apocalyptic proportions, and masquerading as a domestic goddess. Oh and in my spare time I’m general factotum, galley slave and supplier of tea and cakes.
Nothing new, but the absence of bulletins from the croft garden and pithy, erudite, learned comments usually means that my muse is either sulking or AWOL. The flibbertigibbet was just a bit miffed by the minor disarray caused by the arrival of the builders, the swathing of the house in green plastic sheets, the nuclear winter of plaster dust, the hammering, sawing and smell of paint. However, the final straw was the eviction from the home office and the disconnection of the faithful “all singing all dancing” desktop PC. The temporary replacement with the “etch-a-sketch touch screen thing” was too much for her sensitive artistic constitution, and having to listen to me curse such new fangled machines as the “spawn of the devil” was so traumatic that she decamped to the nearest spa (aka pub) to “take the waters”.
Unless there are any other unpleasant surprises to be revealed by the builders, work should be finished in another two weeks. So I’m shaking the moths out of my Harris tweed jacket, taking the cashmere out of mothballs, polishing the brogues, taming my hair and deserting the croft and mayhem for a few days to visit my family on the big island.
Normal service will be resumed at some point, so “hasta la vista baby “.