Category Archives: Poetry

Mon petit chou

Update 14.05.2020 – Was NO-ONE going to point out the grammatical error in the title?

Biggest surprise of this week though was the delivery of advance vegetables,  in advance that is by about a week of when they were expected.

Nothing daunted*,  I have been farming out chunks of cabbage and leek, with some lovely recipes (and cakes) passed back in exchange.   To date we have had steamed cabbage, pickled cabbage, it’s going in the Scotch Broth, there’s coleslaw en route – and there’s still some left.  One chum has passed me a rumbledethumps recipe, another made turkey, leek & cabbage soup, then bubble and squeak.  The roast cabbage was a total failure and stank out the house for 24 hours.  A bay leaf was added to the steamed version, which successfully contained the odour.   There have been roasted carrots, leek mornay, banana breakfasts and clementine conferences.

Vegetable box







*I think those who had to listen to me squawking about those vegetables would detect the lie here….

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) from the French caboche – head, Latin caput.

“The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.’
Extract from The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll.

Flying Crooked – Poem by Robert Graves


The butterfly, the cabbage white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.
Robert Graves

Straight up

Some pictures from yesterday and this week.   I have very little to say about the increased craziness that is the 21st century.  Ali and I had a lovely walk round the Pentlands reservoirs yesterday, and yes, there were dogs.


Threiplaw 1
Threiplaw 2
The Cooks and Paul on a very cold day.
Greta Thunberg in The Beano
Alpacas at Gorgie Farm
































The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W B Yeats


Today I heard this ballad read out, and after much rootling around I found a sound file or two.

The Ballad of the Deluge   by W D Cocker (1882 – 1970)

The Lord took a staw at mankind,

A righteous and natural scunner.

They were neither tae haud nor tae bind,

They were frichtit nae mair by his thunner.


They had broken ilk edic’ an’ law,

They had pitten his saints tae the sword.

They had worshipped fause idols o’ stane

I will thole it nae mair” said the Lord.


Ah’m weary wi’ flightin’ at folk

Ah’ll dicht them clean oot o’ ma sicht!

But Noah, douce man, ah will spare,

For he ettles, pair chiel, tae be richt”.


So he cryet unto Noah ae day,

When naebody else wis aboot.

Sayin’ “Hearken ma servant tae Me,

An these, Ma commands, cairry oot.


A great muckle boat ye maun bigg,

An ark that can float heich and dry,

Room in’t for aa yir ain folk,

An’ a hantle of cattle forbye.


Then tak ye the fowls o’ the air

Even unto the big bubblyjocks,

And tak ye the beasts o the field

Whittrocks, an’ foumarts, an’ brocks.


Wale ye twa craturs o each,

See that nae cratur rebels.

Dinny ye fash aboot fish,

They can look after theirsels.


Herd them a’ safely aboard,

And aince the Blue Peter’s unfurled.

Ah’ll send doon a forty day flood,

An the de’il tak the rest of the warld”.


Sae Noah rocht hard at the job,

An searched tae the earth’s farthest borders.

An’ gaithered the beasts and the birds,

And telt them tae staun by for orders.


His sons, Ham and Japhet and Shem,

Were thrang a’ this time at the work.

They had fermed a wheen trees in the wid,

An biggit a great muckle ark.


Noo, this wisny done jist on the quait,

An’ neebors would whiles gaither roon.

Then Noah would drap them a hint, like

Eh, the weather is gaun tae brak doon”.


But the neebors wi’ evil were blin’,

An little jaloused whit wis wrang, saying,

Och, that’ll be guid for the neeps”, or

Oh, the weather’s been drouthy owre lang”.


Then Noah, wi’ a’ his ain folk,

The beasts and the birds got aboard.

An’ they steekit the door o’ the ark,

And they lippened themselves tae the Lord.


Then boom! cam a lashin o’ rain,

Like the wattest wat day in Lochaber.

The hailstanes like plunkers cam stoat,

The fields turned tae glaur, and syne glabber.


An the burns a’ cam doon in a spate.

An the rivers ran clean owre the haughs

The brigs were a’ soopit awa’,

An whit had been dubs, becam lochs.


Then the folk were sair pitten aboot,

An they cried, as the weather got waur,

Oh Lord, we ken fine we hae sinned,

But a joke can be cairried owre faur”.


Then they chapped at the ark’s muckle door,

Tae speir gin douce Noah had room,

But Noah ne’er headed their cries,

He said “This’ll learn ye tae soom”.


An the river roared loudly an’ deep,

An the miller was droond in the mill.

An the watters spread owre a’ the land,

An the shepherd was droond oan the hill.


But Noah and aa his ain folk,

Kept safe fae the fate o’ ill men.

Til the ark, when the flood had gien owre,

Cam dunt! on the tap o’ a ben.


An’ the watters rowed back tae the seas,

An’ the seas settled doon an’ were calm.

An’ Noah replenished the earth,

But they’re sayin, he tuik a good dram!


*Whittrocks, an’ foumarts, an’ brocks.

= weasels, and polecats and badgers.


lippen [lɪpn]
v. To trust, rely or depend on, have confidence in a person to do something. With tae or wi: to entrust something to someone or someone with something. To expect, look for with anticipation, count on, reckon.

Note – badgers saved for posterity,  most important.



Still on the poetry tack, another which always comes to mind at the turn of the year, deservedly much loved, written by old “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. *   Particularly apt given the overnight weather conditions.  WordPress has removed some of the spacing,  apologies. (*Kirsty removed some of the grammar, likewise. )

Ode to the West Wind

By Percy Bysshe Shelley
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


Having at last arrived in a decade with a proper name, let’s see if the  powers that be can arrive at any version of political and environmental sanity,  although It’s already kicking off in a fairly non-positive way.

Here’s a hopeful poem for 2020.


Stop looking like a purse.  How could a purse

squeeze under the rickety door and sit,

full of satisfaction, in a man’s house?


You clamber towards me on your four corners –

right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.


I love you for being a toad,

for crawling like a Japanese wrestler,

and for not being frightened.


I put you in my purse hand, not shutting it,

and set you down outside directly under

every star.


A jewel in your head?  Toad,

you’ve put one in mine,

a tiny radiance in a dark place.


Norman McCaig

from The Map and the Clock,  A Laureate’s Choice of the Poetry of Britain and Ireland., ed. Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke, Faber and Faber 2016.





Robin Reliant

 I rely on you

I rely on you
like a Skoda needs suspension
like the aged need a pension
like a trampoline needs tension
like a bungee jump needs apprehension
I rely on you
like a camera needs a shutter
like a gambler needs a flutter
like a golfer needs a putter
like a buttered scone involves some butter
I rely on you
like an acrobat needs ice cool nerve
like a hairpin needs a drastic curve
like an HGV needs endless derv
like an outside left needs a body swerve
I rely on you
like a handyman needs pliers
like an auctioneer needs buyers
like a laundromat needs driers
like The Good Life needed Richard Briers
I rely on you
like a water vole needs water
like a brick outhouse needs mortar
like a lemming to the slaughter
Ryan’s just Ryan without his daughter
I rely on you

© H Presley 1994


Here’s a challenge.

The Flock in the Firth

As Eh cam owre the Forth rail brig

Eh saw frae oot o Fife

a farrachin o starlins’ trig

as the thochts o ane waukrife


Lyk sheelock fae a thrashin mill

they mirlieit the nicht

atween thi brigs, as tho ate fill ut

wi wan shammade o flicht


Lyk a sark that’s bealin i thi breeze

this ram stam scarnach oan

a norrie birled wi siccan ease

as a skatir by’ur lone.


Ut seemd as tho a michty scroosh

o sparlins fae thi flair

o Forth hud fur a skirr gead whoosh

intil thi deeps o air


Ut seemd as tho a page o wurds

at sum parafflin nemm,

has aa at wance been cheengd tae burds

an werr marginin thi faem


Thi mirk held mair nor myriads

aa sherrickin the stream,

in spirlin splores, in sklents, in scads,

lyk Hitchcock’s wuddendreme


Ly Egypt’s kas, or Dante’s braw

adulters in Hell,

sae mony starlins i thi blaw

o Scoatlan rose and fell


Eh slid ablow this skavie flock

and ontae Fife’s blank page,

Eh wrote: they are thi parrymauk

o starnies in a rage.

W.S. Herbert

farrachin: bustling, waukrife: unable to sleep; sheelock: chaff; mirlieit: speckled; shammade; lacework; sark: shirt; bealin: moving agitatedly; ram stam: head strong; scarnach: great number of people or things; norrie: whim; birld; spun; by ‘ur lone: by herself; scroosh: disreputable horad; sparlin: smelt( a freshwater fish found in the Forth and the Tay); skirr: jape; parafflin: flourishing, as in the end of a signature; marginin: marking the margin; mirk: dark; sherrickin: amassing to abuse:  spirling splores: lively adventures; sklents: angles; scads: in great quantities; wuddendreme: nightmare; skavie: ruching; parrymauk: double; starnies: stars (starn also means ‘starling’).

The Poetry of Birds, ed. Simon Armitage and Tim Dee, Penguin Books 2011. 


November 2018

So. Just home from an all too brief trip to Slaley Hall, for the last time.  Nothing lasts forever and we, as a group, have decided it’s time to move on.  Journeying there for the first time by electric car, we called in at various chargers in the Borders towns.  I was struck by the commemorative work in evidence for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the official cessation of hostilities for World War 1, although God knows the seeds of World War 2 were being sown, even then.  Anyway, in particular, Coldstream, a town with significant  connections to the armed forces, had poppies everywhere, knitted, sewn, crocheted, fashioned out of metal, and in gardens.  It was significant and notable.

Tonight, listening to a special edition of Antiques Roadshow being broadcast from Etaples, I noted a speech from an unnamed participant,which seemed, to me, to sum up so much of what is happening just now.  Whatever you think of the BBC, they did broadcast this.

“Well, looking back in time, I think these people went through hell with the lid off, and I stand in awe of what they endured, and the price they paid, so that we could live in freedom.  But looking forward, I would wish that every politician would come and visit a place like this so that they can learn what happens when politics fails.”

When politics fails.

Transcription my own.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Wilfred Owen.

One that got away


by Kate Clanchy

I said perhaps Patagonia, and pictured

a peninsula, wide enough

for a couple of ladderback chairs

to wobble on at high tide. I thought


of us in breathless cold, facing

a horizon round as a coin, looped

in a cat’s cradle strung by gulls

from sea to sun. I planned to wait


till the waves had bored themselves

to sleep, till the last clinging barnacles,

growing worried in the hush, had

paddled off in tiny coracles, till


those restless birds, your actor’s hands,

had dropped slack into your lap,

until you’d turned, at last, to me.

When I spoke of Patagonia, I meant


skies all empty aching blue, I meant

years.  I meant all of them with you.


Penguin’s Poems for Love, 2009, selected by Linda Barber.


Aberdour beach just before sunset in February, after a long week at work.

Hill and train line
Paul by the river












Saw this exhibition yesterday,  small but interesting (who said eclectic?) collection of paintings by the Glasgow Boys, including Arthur Melville, E A Hornel, George Henry and William J Kennedy.   Fife has some wonderful artworks to behold, in amongst the various legacies of mining, farming, fishing and Royal politics.

We also hope to visit Lumen, site specific light installations in Edinburgh.  A lumen, as we all know, is a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source.  It’s Latin for light. *

This song has nothing to do with light, except perhaps its seasonal absence.

*On the same dictionary page, lumpen as in proletariat, from Germanic Lumpus, a rag.  And lunette, from lunus, which is the official name for the middle of the hairline at the back of your neck.   And you thought it meant spectacles on a stick.  Ha.

Life in Fife