Sea Salad

This summer has been especially hot and ideal for walks on the beach. Over the years since we moved to Galloway, many such walks have led to poetry. An earlier version of this poem was posted in one of the shop windows in Gatehouse during the Big Lit festival.

Hunting Words and PicturesDSC00542 (1)

Shingle crunches beneath our feet,

gigantic helpings of crispy noodles

dried seaweed lies in desiccated heaps.

There’s side salad of sea spinach, or

if you prefer, scurvy grass. Both tossed

alongside the helpings of lasagne-like kelp.

You crouch hunting for images

to compose a good photo, while I search

for words, scribble notes to recall the scene.

The evening tide gently swishes in,

a tiny bird’s solo fills the air until swamped

by a rock dove’s persistent curr, coo, coo.

The beach is empty, but a single line of foot-prints –

man Friday with boots – tells of another, somewhere.




Inspiration & Desperation

There are so many beautiful places in the world. People now travel far more than in the C20th. My parents were unusual in that they went to America in the late 1920s but thankfully, they returned a few years later. Had they not, I might have now been living in Trumptown.

I do despair though when I see so many people taking selfies. I want to take photos of the landscapes, not photos of myself. I know what I look like and I know where I am. I don’t need a selfie to remind me or anyone else. When I look at other people’s photos I want to see the views, not the view partially obscured by bodies.

There was an interesting article in the Guardian by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett who writes about the current addiction to selfies and Instagram.

In spite of all the beautiful places I’ve seen, the places that have inspired more of my poetry are all in the Machars triangle of Dumfries and Galloway. I’ve lost count of how many poems have been written after walks on the beaches here.

This is one of the many …

Capturing Medusa at Monreith

There, a rock cloaked with wrack

no longer sea-sculpted clean, but

now a gorgon, hunched over victims.

Varicose veins of knobbled quartz

protrude as white fat in a carcass.


Chthonic tresses cast dark shadows

onto greywacke. High above cliffs,

ravens blot an ink-blue sheet of sky.

My camera captures lurking Medusa

while raucous ravens fly away free.


Changing times, shifting sand

I found it relatively easy to think of a title for my blog. ‘Life’s a Beach’ because it seemed to fit with the idea of ‘Amor fati’ that I’ve blogged about earlier.

Life has times when things run smoothly and periods of rocky uncertain times. Looking at beaches – and we’ve done a lot of that since we moved to south-west Scotland – I see smooth sands, areas ribbed by the tide, parts smothered with heaps of sea-weed and vast expanses of sharp shingle and smooth pebbles. Then of course there’s the ubiquitous plastic which has proved to be a blessing and a curse.

We learn as we go through life, to take the differences, to enjoy what we can, change what we can and accept what we can’t control.

Or, to quote Reinhold Niebuhr, hope for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

It’s some time since I wrote the poem ‘Life’s a Beach’ and I’m still not happy with it. There will be a more drafts, but this is still ‘work in progress’.


Life’s a Beach

 Shifting sands

Soft- sliding dunes

Carefree castles

Sun-baked stones


Chilling waves

Turbulent tides

Pools of dark mystery

Sun-bleached bones


Dingy detritus

Sculpted driftwood

Scattered jetsam

Shells or shelled homes


Challenging boulders

Crumbling cliffs

Eroding edges

Dared us to roam to


Cavernous depths

Whispering grasses

Walls of kelp

Washed with foam


Bobbing like flotsam

Trapped in rocky places

Shingle crunching

Life’s maelstrom




The Curse of Plastic

Thanks to Colin Will for publishing my poem Desecration on Poetry Scotland’s Open Mouse website earlier this year. I took the following photograph while doing a Beached Bird survey for the RSPB.









Waves wash

over the wintry shore.

Worm casts punctuate sentences

along lines of sea- sculpted texts.

Waves wash

higher reaches, shining pebbles

polished smooth by years of tumbling,

glisten with salty gel alongside sea glass.

Waves wash

these gems of blue, green, brown,

that lie waiting to be gathered;

our treasure amongst detritus.

Waves wash

ubiquitous plastic used by man then

washed up on every shore. Those

bright colours belying a deadly outcome.