Let the chickens roam free(ish)…


I built a chicken pen/coop a few months ago, and we have been waiting ever since for the arrival of some hens. We have always welcomed the chance to re-home some birds who might not have had the best start in life- in fact, they may never have seen the sky or scratched at real earth.


In this case, we have 10 birds from Homes4hens.  Their birds are all about 13 months old, and despite being just at the start of their active lives, would have been slaughtered, because their first intensive laying period will tail off for a while at this age. They will have all been caged- and if you think that caged hens are a great improvement on the old ‘battery’ farmed ones, you should come and take a look at our poor birds, partially feathered and exhausted as they are.

Still, some food, some rest and some fresh air will work wonders and they will soon be fit, fully feathered and laying again. In fact, we expect to have more eggs than we need, despite the fact that, as vegetarians, eggs are a big part of our diet. If the hens are as productive as we hope there will be a few at the end of our drive for sale if you are passing!

When you first get chickens, it is wise to leave them shut up for a few days to get used to their new surroundings, but today, despite the mixed winter weather that included snow, rain and sunshine, they were so keen to be outside we did not have the heart to leave them in the dark. They emerged slowly, like pit ponies unused to daylight. Like the walking wounded onto hospital grounds. It was a delight to see…


Will the river run forever?

I have been working on some new poems that will form part of the fast approaching ‘Where the Streams Come From’ exhibition, which opens at Tighnabruach Gallery at the end of March.

Those of you who write poetry may agree with me that poems are never really ‘finished’. It is hard to let them go. Even years later, I will read something that I have written and wince, wanting to change it. Eventually all you can do is to set it aside and write something else. This is all the more true when a poem does not come easily, almost as if the flow of water has been blocked upstream and we poke at the flow with a stick in an attempt to unblock it.

So here is some work-in-progress. Still not quite flowing as freely as this;



Will the river run forever?


Will the river run forever?

Will it keep on tumbling down this cliff?

Will it keep on sparkling with the splash of light and life?

Will it dance to the scale of fin and fish,

Or will the music it makes

Fall silent?


Will the river run forever?

Will it carry the boat that carries me?

Will the flow go past these fields I know

And twist and turn to new places?

Or am I just a fool, floundering

In a stagnant pool?


Will the river run forever?

Will it keep carving these old rocks?

Will it keep on carrying them as suspended sediment,

Spew them through the open-mouth of an estuary

Fan them across the ocean floor,

Or will it fail?


Will the river run forever?

Will it irrigate? Will it recreate the flow

Of life in me? Will it roll through this world like laughter?

Will it quench the thirst of a thousand tongues,

Or will it dry, like the salt tears of a woman

Done now with weeping?










Snow day…


I have been doing a lot of walking recently. New year exercise resolutions and all of that. Not today though. We were due to be having a social day today, visiting friends, but against the forecast, it has been snowing hard all morning, sealing us (and the car) inside the house.

We should be out walking. Or building a snow man. Or sledging down slopes. Adventuring into the snow covered wild places hereabouts.

But instead, we are having a snow day.

Sitting watching the world as it is blanketed in beauty. All those dark browns and greys replaced by pure white.

Writing lazy poems;


Snow day

 I should be shovelling, but here we sit,

Watching the world turn white.

Warmed by each other, our

Fingers entwined around mugs of tea.

Bread is rising in the kitchen

And I hope it snows



Here is the view- from the window of course. It’s cold out there…

The tide turns again on Jim Crow…

I thought some of you might like to see this;


I post this with no sense of triumph, despite my previously stated concerns over the last ten years.

Thanks to a recent intervention by the father of the late Stephen Lawrence, the national spotlight was once more on the rock and this time, local opinion was shaken and the tide began to turn. One night, someone covered the rock with a different kind of graffiti.

The rock is a mess, but some of us might still regard it as an improvement on what was there before. It might surprise you to know that I am not one of these, for this reason;

The rock has been decorated with blackface imagery for over one hundred years. There have been numerous attempts to complain about this, each time the complainant was repulsed by local opinion, by local ‘historians’. Political representatives (not the current ones I hasten to add!) have publicly defended the rock as not racist and called for previous (less colourful) defacers of the blackface images to be pursued as vandals. It has also been repainted several times, arguably with images even closer to the golliwog of youthful memory. Perhaps it might yet be repainted again, but for now, it has gone.

It would be the natural thing for those of us who live here to want to hide this history, and pretend it never happened, but no matter what happens to this rock, it’s history remains. Whether we chose to acknowledge our history, it still forms us.

Therefore, glad that I am that we have reached a moment when we are confronted with this history, there is a danger that we sanitise it rather than use it to inform. It is easier to try forget than to engage with what we were, particularly when that involves a measure of healthy shame.

So, I want to give my voice to a call to place an information board on the sea front. I invite others to join me in this call. I would even go as far as to suggest some content;

  • Say what we know about the rock, how long it was painted, how we have disagreed about the meaning
  • Talk about the prevalence of blackface images around the world, how it was spread by popular culture, through ‘entertainment’ that made a display of a harmful stereotype, even though most people did so with little awareness of the damage done.
  • Describe how the word ‘Jim Crow’ was used, and what laws it gave name to in the USA
  • Remind us of the legacy of slavery and its bastard cousin, ‘indentured labour’ in the wealth of this area. How slave ownership was greatest amongst Scottish people, home and abroad. How sugar, tobacco and cotton were directly traded into the Clyde, resulting in wealth and prosperity that gave birth to the holiday destination called Dunoon
  • Remember the race wars that happened in the town during the time the American base was in the Holy Loch
  • Finally, it must give space to people whose life was affected directly by these things. Contact the Jim Crow museum, or the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.


Because although the tide might have turned, it is only a few hours until it turns again, and who knows what those waters might bring…



Where the streams come from…

water falling, pucks glen

Things change.

Just over a year ago, I stopped my day job. I had been given an amazing opportunity to develop a life that embraced creativity, to focus of writing and developing a business called seatree.

We had no idea whether we could make it work – we still have kids in university and no matter how much veg you grow, life ain’t free – but so far so very good.

I am still writing. I am involved in some fantastic projects. Amazingly, we are getting by; each month that we sell enough ceramics, driftwood and poetry feels like a new blessing. It is the new almost-normal.

Lest I become too self-congratulatory, I should remind myself that this is not really about me at all. Michaela works so very hard. Also, we are ever more appreciative of those who we travel with. The networks of trust we build are vital, because creative businesses are fragile, as are we.

It is less about paddling, more about allowing the water to carry us…

water wheel

So, it is with great excitement that I am able to say that seatree have been invited by the lovely Tighnabruach gallery to put on an exhibition. Yesterday we met with Ros and Neil from the gallery, sharing with them our half formed ideas and fully realised doubts and fears, because this will be out very first venture into putting on our very own exhibition.

It will be entitled Where the streams come from and will combine poetry and ceramics. It will run at TIG gallery from the 31st of March until the 22nd of April. (Which doesn’t give us long!)

Some of you may recognise the title from here. An old project that nagged at me.

waterfall processed

I wrote my first poem for the exhibition the other day. Here it is…


I am

I am bird, I am wind

I am scaled, I am skinned

I am soil, I am stone

I am flesh, I am bone

I am ebb, I am flow

I am stream, I am snow

I am all of these things

And I am nothing


I am love, I am light

I am morning, I am night

I am atom, I am star

I am close, I am far

I am start, I am end

I am stranger, I am friend

I am all of these things

And I am nothing


I am silence, I am song

I am right, I am wrong

I am sea, I am shore

I am less, I am more

I am young, I am old

I am iron, I am gold

I am all of these things

And I am nothing

Things to get you through the winter…


So friends, another year arrives. May it be good to you.

Yesterday, before the gathering of friends for music and chat, Michaela and I had a couple of hours to ourselves. The house was tidy and goodness wafted in from the kitchen so we sat and listened to music. And we wept. Only those of you who are blessed/cursed by that certain vulnerability of the soul will understand how this was a good thing, a beautiful thing; sitting with the woman/man that you love and weeping together to songs that break you open.

As the year turns, I find myself reflecting on the direction of the things I write here. I am conscious of my attempts at ‘worthiness’- a desperate pull inside me towards justice making, in my limited way. But sometimes you just need something to get you through the winter.

So, this is where I am heading for a while. Looking for signs of grace in the unfolding not-quite darkness. Poems. Songs. Pictures. Pieces of art.

Friends, worry not. I have not become the unwilling body-host to an optimistic alien. It is unlikely that I will be reaching for anything from the Abba back catalogue. After all sometimes it is good to weep.

What gets me through the winter are those moments of beauty where we are taken beyond ourselves into something deeper. We are not removed from what we are, but we catch glimpses of our truer selves. We do not escape our circumstances, but see that they contain more than we thought possible.

So, come with me if you will. Your company will be welcome.

Here are some of the songs we listed to yesterday;