Winter readying

My little garden studio is always given a reshuffle during the autumn / winter months, the better to accommodate the lighting of the log stove and avoid being toasted.

And I’ve been working on making the garden winter-ready this morning. It’s looking bare and angular. But there’s a mellowness too: shades of gold and red and orange. I’ve been glad of the company of a robin, and of the appearance of a couple of brave autumn crocuses …

Late Summer Lakeland 🍂🌻

Each season bears unique joys to us. There’s a mellowness about late summer / early autumn here that I’m always grateful for. A softening of the light. A softening succession of reflection at both morning and evening. A softening awareness of the importance of home – wheresoever ‘home’ may be for us at any given time.

Wildflowers have attracted hundreds of bees and butterflies so that the garden is full of the hum of satisfied pollen-seekers quietly going about their business. I’ve revelled for half an hour this morning in recalling a lovely Instagram photo I saw recently – of two replete bees, sleeping in the soft petals of a poppy, two of them together, because apparently they like to hold each other’s knees and feet while they sleep! Who knew? And the butterflies speak silently of the complex metamorphosing journeys they’ve been on. And so do I.

The red squirrels are stocking up supplies and I feel close to them as I stack the log store with sweet smelling kiln-dried ash for the stove. Occasionally split logs are reunited – or at least seen close to each other again – and their rings speak of their story too, and I wonder where the engineered oak boards of my little sitting room once flourished elsewhere, and from whence came this ash, knowing how well it will scent and warm home until it becomes whatever comes next.

The slant of the early sunlight illuminates the promises of the morning – and asks to be remembered should tomorrow be a grey day. And the colours of the garden flowers prompt thoughts of harvest – and especially, this morning, somehow, of the warm scent of harvest bread from a distance, far away …

Evening meals begin to move away from salad-stuffs, turning towards the more substantial – buttered and minted potatoes, greens and steak pie.

And after brisk walks, lungs full of fresh air, and daily reacquaintance with the long backbone of the Pennine Ridge and the Ullswater Fells – sometimes under mist and sometimes mirage, autumnal movement towards books and the piano again. The gentle, slow clip-clopping of horse and rider passing my window suggest that they, too, are inclined less to rush today and more to a quieter, calmer contemplation.

I know these gifts are important, and reasons enough for profound thankfulness in a world which is also beset with fear and wonder, a sense of separateness – between one human and another, and between humankind and other life forms too. I ask myself in late summer to make time to be aware of others – near and far, in peace or fear. I seek to be more aware of the gift of the breath in my body, and in every body. I wonder in awe at the sleeping holding of the bees’ knees, and the instinct that directs a red squirrel’s calendar. I celebrate the ‘I see!’ miracles that unfold into sunlight from the incomprehensible depths of wildflower seeds, and the life-story record written in the rings in trees.

And you and I contemplate the cyclical dying, and the rising of the light … 🌻🍂☀️

Festival days ii

Seagulls soar over the City of Edinburgh whilst on terra firma my soul soars.

My time living in Edinburgh to date has been marked by encounters – with art and architecture; with culinary delights – haggis, chateaubriand, tarte aux poires, and affogato; with a delightfully modest though renowned dancing teacher; with the very air filled with history, with literature, with lovely people, one of whom introduced me to the wonders of the animator Ray Harryhausen; with sparkling intelligence, pride and passion; with sand and sea, sunshine, blue skies and sullen grey, with heights and haar, ice and wind and snow; with cartography, Cramond, Colinton, the Firth of Forth, the bridges, the Highlands, ambling in Bruntsfield Links, the Grassmarket, Morningside, the Meadows, Newington, the Royal Mile, and Tollcross, astonishing hospitality beside a glorious loch in Perthshire, and the library at Innerpeffray; with Alexander McCall Smith and 44 Scotland Street; with Sir Walter Scott and Abbotsford and Waverley; with Toppings Booksellers; with one of the world’s finest universities and the restored McEwan Hall; with The Meadows and Quartermile, the Waters of Leith and the old lamp shop close to Ginger and Pickles and Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge; with some of history’s most eminent architects, lawyers, medics, neuroscientists, novelists, poets, sculptors, and divines; with Nicola Benedetti’s numinous presence in the city (ah, Spiegel im Spiegel – YouTube); with Amarone, The Beach House, Blonde, Café Andaluz, Chez Jules, Civerino’s, Côte Brasserie, La Barantine, Mamma Roma, Thomas J Wall’s Coffee, and The Witchery; with an astonishing exhibition of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s Our Lives in Watercolour at the Palace of Holyroodhouse; with many a glorious sunrise and sunset down at Portobello; with one of the loveliest little apartments – in the tower of the former James Clark School beneath Arthur’s Seat – that anyone could wish for; with breathtaking and startling surprises almost everywhere I go.

When my lovely neighbour welcomed me here she spoke with an infectious enthusiasm about a city that was magical and mystical, and about how if we could get past the standing almost knee deep in snow, windblown tears streaming down our faces, the coming of Spring and the warm coconut scent of gorse on Salisbury Crags would make for the arrival of a season like none other. And of the city’s being quirky – in just exactly the right ways. And then serendipity led me to Dundee trained illustrator Alice Newman’s perfect expressions of that quirkiness and – yes – of Edinburgh’s being a celebration of life … of encounters for which, for the rest of my days, I shall be profoundly thankful.

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MD Edin

I’ve wandered in The Meadows pretty much every day since I came to live in Edinburgh – and am always struck by the number of fellow solo walkers who appear to be both happy and deep in contemplation. This is a city that provides loads of food for thought and recollection. Strolling up Middle Meadows Walk towards the Medical School reminds me every day that my being here in good health today is just one result of the work and discoveries of many, many great women and men who have wandered and pondered here before me …

Ars longa. Vita brevis

Art is long. Life is short

Among generally accepted meanings:

Learning one’s craft takes so long that a lifetime may not be adequate

Works of art may outlive their creators

Signatories of the American Declaration of Independence! A small world, even then?


A wonderful ScottFest, Saturday 14 August 2021, at Abbotsford House, Melrose, Roxburghshire – the home of Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832 – celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth

Old newspaper stuffed into the dining room window at Abbotsford, presumably to stop rattling or draughts – which, fascinatingly, just happens to advertise a 1908 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost for sale at a ‘mere’ £35,000.00 ono – that ‘looks and drives as it should.’ I wonder who bought it, and where? And how many others have spotted the newspaper here? 🙂 #scottfest2021

The Scott Monument on Princes Street, Edinburgh

Waverley Station, named after Scott’s Waverley series (27 books) – once the most widely read novels in Europe, and the Balmoral Hotel beneath Calton Hill in Edinburgh