Wednesday, 28 June 2017


"Write what you know!"

Writing advice we've all heard.

But what if you don't really know what you think you know? You know?

Here's an idea.

Write what you dare!
Write what you dare to imagine!

If we never dare to write while clinging by our sweaty fingertips to the edge of what we might never be sure of, stomach churning, naked to possibility, how will we really know anything, anyway?

Living's a risky venture. Writing sometimes has to kick away the stabilisers, if we want to grow, exhilarated and incorrigible, into the writers we were born to be.

Write what excites you, challenges you, expands you, pushes you to your limits.

I double dare you!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


One of the male Blackbirds (Turdus merula) regularly hops inside the conservatory to check I haven't dropped any mealworms on the carpet. I usually have and he knows this. Sometimes he even leaves me a little "present" as a thankyou!

This week he got a bit more adventurous. Once inside, while I was in the kitchen with the door closed between us, he became so entranced by the view of the outside from inside, he forgot how to get back to ordinary life through the wide open back door.

After capturing his extraordinary adventure on camera, I managed to calm him down after his sporadic attempts to fly back through the picture windows to the garden beyond. I gently wrapped him in a handy pillowcase to stop him flapping his wings or panicking and carried him out to his more familiar place on the patio. He flew off gratefully.

He'll be dining out on that story for years! The other Blackbirds will be so envious!

Later that day, I was outside dead-heading the chives when I noticed there was only one Blackbird bold enough to come close to me to eat the mealworms I always scatter for my garden friends.

Guess who? I think he's read the memo that there are some humans who only want the very best for you and that some glass cages have invisible hidden keys and featherless janitors who set you free to feel again the sunshine on your wings.

Monday, 26 June 2017


Small Dusty Wave (Idaea seriata)

Mottephobia: the irrational fear of moths.

My phobia of moths goes way back, to this childhood incident.

Now I'm working on overcoming my mottephobia through my camera lens. Through curiosity. Through my stubborn determination  to refuse to be deprived of moths in my life forever more.

This summer, I'm even starting to do mothy things with sheets, torches, sugaring and wine ropes I never ever dreamed I could steel myself to do. Even opening a window with the lights on in the evening has been a no-no for most of my life!

The following poem squeezed its way out on such an evening of lying in wait for the whisper of wings.

Female Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella)

Let's sit suspended in this burning dark
Moths mutter and barge in watch-spring arc
Kidnapped wings
From nectareous things
Sheets running rivers of fluttering light
Retina flexes to flatten night.

Still heart-deep primal phobia
Shrieks headless panic under buddleia
I tense transfixed, pinned corpse on card
In the melting dusk of my own backyard
They blunder through gaps 
Between stratus and star
To the flames of our fears 
To wherever we are.

White-shouldered House Moth (Endrosis sarcitrella)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


It's been a long time.

It's been many summers. Too many summer nights snufflefree and still.

But they're back! First an oval of shadow on the lawn. Then a shuffle, a ripple of spikiness along the flower borders.

I know they are a pair. One night at the start of the current heatwave, I met the first one on the lawn where it had crept close to observe me as I leaned, steadying my camera against a tree trunk, trying to capture Jupiter's string of moons in the southwestern sky. The other was waiting for me on the patio, smaller, with mischievous eyes. The second one was less interested in a peculiar human stargazing, more in gazing at the goodies the departing birds had left unpecked for the creatures of the night.

Hedgehog numbers are declining on these islands. They are now a rare sight in British gardens. Fewer than a million remain, down from nearer thirty million when I was born at the dawn of the Sixties. A third of that catastrophic loss has been just in this past decade. These little souls are survivors of this long slow bereavement of the English countryside. I feel unutterably blessed.

Once the birds have flown off and the heat of the day has decanted itself down the thermometer into the soft melt of dusk, I wait to lionise them with dried mealworms, crushed sunflower hearts and peanuts. I top up the bird and bee baths as the sun dissolves into pastel glad-rags of coral and titian on the western horizon. Someone else has need of the nocturnal libation.

I wait. I wait, holding my breath to catch the rustle of their coming. Footfalls across the lawns, threading through hedges, triggering security lights, trembling the dreaming heads of daisies.

Then they're here! Noses badged with leaf litter, eyes more accustomed than my own to the gloaming. Above us, bats skip and soar under the trees and out into the crepuscular backcloth of cloudless sky, tiny Pipistrelles skittering through twilight. Their nationwide numbers too are in steep decline. The hedgepiggies and I, below, must celebrate and survive today and hope for tomorrow.

Before my head hits the fridge-cooled pillowcase, they have melted back into the sweltering South Yorkshire nightfall, making unspoken promises to lighten my life again tomorrow night, and the next, promises I hope against hope they will be cherished enough by humankind to be able to keep.

Monday, 19 June 2017


Another outrage.

Another day when love has to be stronger and more creative, wiser and more resilient to show that hate can't win.

Another day when indifference and silence is a mask for complicity, smugness, cynicism.

Today my heart breaks for those families and friends in our country, fellow human beings, innocent citizens who were murderously attacked in the midst of life, terrorised in their community, by blind hatred outside their mosque in Finsbury Park.

I stand with my friends, beloved Muslims with whom I mourn at this latest horror.

I know and love people of every kind, friends rejoicing in a rainbow of colours, beliefs, persuasions, personalities, gifts and orientations. I hold them all precious. Friends of endlessly rich variety, each worth the world to many and to me.

I wish all my beautiful friends the strength to hold on to your unique loveliness.

Those who try to divide us in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways will never win.

Love, respect, empathy and compassion are our best antidote to the toxic tide of hatred that seeks to rip our hope, humanity and peace away.