Tag Archives: photography

Rosa rugosa

Also known as Japanese briar, saltspray rose, beach rose, potato rose and Turkestan rose.

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The white variety Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ is now in bloom in my garden and doing much better than usual after a spell without any cows in the field next door.  On Sunday my friend Cesare from Milan and I were inspecting the more common deep pink variety up at Harnham and pondering the rugosa part of its name.  The Latin means ‘wrinkled’ but although the petals have an unironed quality, they’re more dishevelled than actually creased or wrinkled.

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It eventually occurred to me that perhaps it was/is the leaves that were/are rugosa – quite deeply lined, much more textured than other varieties of rose.  It seems to make sense.  Strange to notice how this new insight about a plant I’ve loved for a very long time has made it come alive in a new way for me, freshening my intimacy with it.  And that’s all before I even mention the smell…These past few warm days the garden’s been a veritable bowl of sweetness.

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Launched!

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It all came together beautifully for last night’s launch of the new Northern Poetry Library anthology. There were readings and food and flowers and some exciting dramatic pieces inspired by poems, and music too…

Wendy Breach from Transition Tynedale spoke about Edible Hexham, the fantastic project that led to us reading and writing poems about food for six months…

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For Transition Tynedale – bold enough to put poetry (and gardening!) on the agenda

 

Poetry is not on the agenda.

Return to sender.

Though saving the planet is important,

it’s still the elephant

in the room – no one tabling what matters,

only what flatters.

Imagine Akhmatova, Neruda,

some intruder

fool enough to ask what happened to joy?

Wonder? Words that cloy

because there’s no cash attached, no profit

to be gained from it.

Just the beat of the body from the heart,

a hunger for art,

bread we’ll bring to the fire and break together,

whatever the weather.

 

I asked folk to record their thoughts throughout the evening in a kind of low-tech twittery sort of a way…Here are just three of the cards I found posted in the collection box.  The night seemed to involve a lot of tables – entirely natural and entirely unplanned – celebrating a different sort of wood and water…

 

Many thanks to Wendy Scott at Active Northumberland for making it all possible.

 

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Pennycress, Willowherb

IMG_0503Because it was a sunny day and I’d just missed my connection – watching powerless as my homebound train pulled out of the station without me (always painful, much worse than missing it by ten or even five minutes) – I walked on to the end of the platform where sun struck stone paving unimpeded by canopies or walls. A row of advertising boards, brash inducements to buy the latest ‘Number 1 Crime’ books, each with their own moody picture, intimating the gruesome and forensic, gradually petered out. I was happier looking at the stone underfoot, the grid of moulded rectangles harbouring sweet green creases of moss the further along I walked.

A tiny pennycress grew out of nothing, no visible earth, valiant among the coming and going of trains with their strident livery and their harried passengers, noses in novels, fingertips stroking screens, ears plugged against the outside world – I knew this because I’d just been one of them.

At the very end the platform sloped gently down until it met grey-blue clinker. I could see some plants with red leaves growing among it, sturdy against the sharp stones. Deep-veined, prolific, possibly a willowherb. I ambled slowly down the ramp scanning for any other plant life that might be thriving in this apparently inhospitable setting. The toothed leaves of an unfamiliar thistle wrapped themselves around a discarded bolt, rusty and large enough to be missed.

I eased the rucksack off my shoulders and placed it on the ground at my feet; knelt to look more closely and touch the veined leaves I’d seen from a distance, fiery in the sunlight that warmed my face and shoulders after such a very long winter, cramped and flowerless.

I dug in the pocket of the rucksack for my camera to take a picture in the afternoon light, all the lovelier for coming unannounced, unexpected. I crouched down again to focus close enough to catch these low-to-the-ground, unostentatious plants.

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Come away from there, now, step away, step away.   Please return to the platform.

A loud voice, with worry in it, a man’s. I lifted my head to see a bearded young man in a lilac uniform carrying a walkie-talkie. He repeated his instructions as if it were a matter of life and death, staying at the top of the ramp some distance from me. Until proven innocent, clearly I was dangerous.

Come up now, come back to the platform.

Another man, shorter, navy blue jumper, stood beside the first, twitching slightly. If he’d had a gun, he’d have his finger on the trigger. I could tell how much it cost him to say nothing. The tremor in his shoulders gave him away.

I had a choice: to argue the toss and claim my freedom as a citizen, my fundamental right to look at plants in the sunshine while waiting for a train; or simply let it go and reassure them – for I could see they were anxious about something and were in dire need of reassurance – that I wasn’t a terrorist, or suicidal, or a flagrant destroyer of railway property.  Though what they were reading into my grey hair and best black coat was a puzzle to me, a disguise impenetrable even to myself.

I’m just taking some photographs.

Forced to confess, it sounded like a crime. To persuade them it was true, the only sin I was committing was photography, I lifted up my camera and the shorter man started bobbing from foot to foot. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had told me to drop it and raise my hands above my head. 15.34, a Wednesday and Central Station was suddenly an action thriller. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for these men, looking down at me, chests puffed out – so keen to do their duty, or be seen to do their duty, on high alert where there was nothing to be alert about. How exhausting it must be to wear a lilac uniform, carry a walkie-talkie and suspect middle-aged women of unspeakable crimes, a threat to the common good and trains running on time.

IMG_0506I made my way up the ramp slowly, with dignity I hoped: the only way I could express my deep disappointment at such misdirection of human energy, a senselessness that seemed to becoming more and more familiar, not just to me but everyone I speak to. Resistance burned at the core of me, political, existential. The willowherb remained unphotographed.  Had it come to this – that a person was no longer able to look at flowers growing in a railway station when the weather coaxed them in that direction? Would it have been different if I was a man writing down the number of a passing train?

The two men looked disappointed too.  Perhaps that I’d proved such easy meat and offered no further opportunity for their heroics. The drama had come and gone too quickly. I wanted them to be embarrassed but no one apologised to anyone else. Not I, nor the men, who turned on their heels and scurried back towards the main body of the station, disappearing in the coolness of the shade.

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Flower, Flower, Flower

Just returned home from a wonderful trip to Glasgow where there seemed to be flowers everywhere we went…

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at the Tramway’s beautiful hidden gardens

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and the lovely Botanics

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in Kibble Palace

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to this – my new collection!  Hooray!  Spring is here!

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A Year in Beadnell

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I’ve mentioned visiting Lisa and Mel during their year in residence at Beadnell before and posted a log on their lovely blog. For this new publication, I’ve written a poem from my time there – about the Rosebay Willowherb growing in the dunes.  Do come along to the Lit & Phil, if you can make it, on 12th April.  I’m sure it’ll be a rich and interesting evening.   Look forward to seeing you there.

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New Moon Renga

IMG_0233Today, as part of the Northern Poetry Library Project, a small group of us gathered in Hexham Library to make a 12-verse renga sparked by our ‘food’ theme – which even after six months seems inexhaustible.

The first verse, or ‘hokku’, is a version of one by the Japanese master, Basho.  It seemed like a good place to start – him knocking back the saké on the day of the new moon (and an auspicious Spring eclipse).

Fennel, Saffron, Silver

 

No blossoms, no moon,

the Master’s drinking saké,

see, all on his own

 

dried fruit sweetens the mouth

picked on a sunlit day from the slopes

 

autumn unfolding

chewing the passing year

bitterness of loss

 

ginger wine, ginger biscuits

home-made, Gran’s spice against cold

 

quickly the mushroom

strives for light under the door

a hint of decay

 

looking down on Crag Lough

we stop to munch dark chocolate

 

who knew such longing

could be poured into a bowl

of apple crumble?

 

my love and [garlic]

a conflict of interest

 

red seeds on your tongue

fennel, saffron, silver

perfumed breath – mukhwas

 

leek, onion, potato, simmered

into soup that opens each cell

 

Café de l’Opéra

coffee and croissant

splash of traffic

 

table, the first noun learnt

in a new language – we eat around it.

 

 

 

A junicho renga

at lunch time

in Hexham Library

on 9th March 2016.

 

Participants:

Birtley Aris

Jo Aris

Matilda Bevan

Linda France

Patricia Gillespie

Simone Silver Path

Margot Waters

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South

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Images from the wonderful Antarctica exhibition at Palace Green Library in Durham.  The poem is by Dr Wilson who was part of Captain Scott’s last expedition.

 

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Dear Lake

IMG_0587an ache in the day the way bones ache where they were broken

is it enough to say rosehip? my shadow walking?

grubby necks under water the swans are two fat pillows floating

not a lonely place – a lonely month – back-to-back faces

I try to find a corner round a lake which has none

wind engraves its secret formula on your gunmetal surface

the sort of weather broom is built for – waxed rumours of leaves

an eyeful of fieldfares cast loose in the implacable sky

IMG_0589I want to be more here and less here in a finger-click

this bench dedicated to a child who died after ten years in the world

so cold a flask of coffee can’t warm me

swan wings working like an engine trying to ignite

slowly I feel the real in my finger ends

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what should be done by one who’s skilled in goodness and knows the way to peace

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Lemon & Juniper

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Six lemons from Spain, unwaxed (but treated with Imazalil, Pyrimethanil, Orthophenylphenol, which I try to scrub off, like the world’s sins, under running water).

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Three tablespoons of juniper berries – that smell like old libraries, venerable and hushed, until I crush them (in a bag on the floor with the wooden rolling pin) and then the scent’s of gin – heady, territorial, a smidgeon of fox.

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I cut the lemons into pale half moons, spoked and floating in their own juice.  Half a jug of water and a good splash of actual gin (‘distilled in London to a secret recipe’) – and a quick nip for the cook, who has this January such a longing to slice and simmer and sweeten, to preserve – keep ‘five 300 ml jars’ of the world on my pantry shelf and give it away and spoon it onto toast till my mouth sparks with hearth and hillside, the moon cooked.

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Forty minutes and the kitchen’s nothing if not lemony.  All my thoughts are yellow and I am singing ghazals, rinsing jars fit for a king, adding the sugar – a whole bag made from beets farmed in Bury St Edmunds.  It’s bubbling now (think cauldron), slurping and shapeshifting, a life of its own.  My kitchen smells like a factory, a distillery, as if it belongs entirely to the silver pot on the stove.

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And then a stillness, as the amber concoction cools before I pour it, stickily, into the jars.  Licking the spoon, my tongue tingles with citrus and another latitude entirely.  We have travelled far – but all that labour and summoning and only three scant jars.

 

Thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi for this and all his wonderful recipes.

 

 

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The Silk Road

You’re sitting here with us, but you’re also out walking

in a field at dawn.  You are yourself

the animal we hunt when you come with us on the chase.

You’re in your body like a plant is solid in the ground,

yet you’re wind.  You’re the diver’s clothes

lying empty on the beach.  You’re the fish.

In the ocean are many bright strands
and many dark strands like veins that are seen
when a wing is lifted up.
Your hidden self is blood in those, those veins
that are lute strings that make ocean music,
not the sad edge of surf, but the sound of no shore.

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