Book Launch!

Launch flyer

This coming week will see the launch of ‘From the Mountains to the Sea’ which contains some of my poetry illustrated by Les Dunford’s photographs. Both the poems and photographs have been inspired by the landscape in this beautiful corner of Scotland . About half the poems have been published in poetry magazines and online on Poetry Scotland’s Open Mouse and the StAnza map of Scotland, but the rest are ‘out there’ for the first time.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, profits from this collection will go to Versus Arthritis  (formerly known as Arthritis Research UK). This body is conducting research into fibromyalgia which my husband Les has been living with for around twenty five years. I hope that the publication of the book will help to raise the profile of this condition.

We know of many who have had to cope with chronic pain, chronic fatigue and yet because there are no outward signs of this condition seem to be very fit and healthy. There is no give away limp or pale face to indicate a health problem. In fact, because pressure for longer than a short time on any part of the body causes pain, walking is far more comfortable than sitting still or lying down. Being out in the fresh air each day and walking can give the impression of being fighting fit!

Mind over matter, thinking positively about what is possible, not dwelling on what can’t be done is the best way of coping. There are times when depression inevitably sets in and it’s a struggle to even continue doing minor everyday chores, but keeping busy, not giving in has more effect than saying goodbye cruel  world.


Time for Reflecting

As the year draws to an end it’s usually a time for reflection as well as planning for the future. Some time ago a friend reminded me of a quotation by Kierkegaard – ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ Looking back over the past year and things that have happened, we might begin to understand why certain things had to happen although at the time it didn’t seem obvious. There are certainly times when we feel that we don’t have complete control over our lives and wonder more than once how we came to do something or go somewhwere.

A wise old friend once told me that we should accept the hard times when life doesn’t seem to be going smoothly because those are the times when we grow, when we learn and develop. That comes back to Nietzsche and ‘amor fati‘ – that I referred to in an earlier post.

I was reading Steven Gambardella’s blog   Lessons from History earlier today and he wrote -Nietzsche compels us to find the courage to listen. If we can find the strength to find a “why” to live, we can bear almost any “how”.

In spite of the colder weather, now is a good time to get out into the hills, forests or down by the coast to look around and let our minds soak up the beauty and get things in perspective.


A Sense of Being

A sense of oneness,

after a search for meaning.

A sense of fullness,

when the mind is empty.

A sense of being,

when time stands still.


Seal Song

After a rather busy spell, yesterday was spent walking from the Isle of Whithorn to Burrowhead and back to the Isle along the coastal path. Time spent by the sea is usually relaxing, often inspiring and inevitably therapeutic. So, a walk was called for.

This time we were blessed with an unexpected serenade from grey seals. The male was lounging on the rocks below the cliff path and initially we were attracted by others splashing about in the water. At first we saw two then three, four others. The singing began as their movements grew calmer. How many were singing we couldn’t tell, but the haunting calls filled the air and although I hardly ever sing, I couldn’t help but answer their calls. Those notes were low enough to be within my range.

It was so easy to see how myths and legends could be built around these creatures. The singing continued for a long time. We walked miles before we were out of earshot and their mesmerising calls were enchanting. I needed a camera with a powerful zoom but this is the best shot I could get. These are scenes and sounds that will stay with us for ever. Eventually I’ll add a poem that will hopefully capture the memory.

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Finding Solitude

Sometimes we need to escape from the noise and demands of C21st life and find a way to recharge our batteries. Living near the sea in a quiet corner of Scotland certainly helps.



I sit on the rocks alone.

Evening sun casts a soft light over

shimmering sand and sea.

Footprints of others

are gently washed away

by the incoming tide.

A choir of keening oystercatchers

has left the shore.

All is quiet.

Discordant thoughts  – expand

tumble into the silence

shatter the peace.

Gradually, the rhythmic sound of

waves washing the shore performs

a therapeutic mental massage.


Peace drifts in with the tide.





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.




So much for good intentions. More than a week has passed since I posted anything on my blog and I can’t think what has happened to soak up all my time. Even emails have been neglected for days.

However, walks on the beach usually trigger thoughts and the last couple of days have done just that.  The amazing hot weather has slowed down the thought processes though and it might take a while for random thoughts to develop further.

Scoured by sea and sand

two thrones await king and queen

on the evening tide


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