Then spree

poetry & diary by Nia Davies

Tag: Scotland

Egg Audit

Egg Audit is filmpoem – a collaboration between the poet and visual artist Stevie Ronnie and myself. It was made in one day at Cove Park in Easter 2012 following our course – Finding the Poet’s Voice. It’s my first collaboration using film and poetry and it was a lot of fun to make!

Egg Audit from Stevie Ronnie on Vimeo.

Good Vibrations… Finding the Poet’s Voice

I recently attended Kristin Linklater’s course at Cove Park on Finding the Poet’s Voice. I’ve written a blog about  this for New Welsh Review and the Western Mail which you can read here: Good VibrationsCove Park

Skye, November

Camasunary and the Black Cuillin

Skye. For me it’s Katy Morag land. With Granny Mainland and Granny Island. Skippers steering through the mid afternoon dusk. Sunsets as rum-red as the island’s Cuillin red ale.

By the time we reached Camasunary – a beachy crook in the Cuillin’s deep pockets – it was too late to climb the last leg to Loch Curuisk. The bothy, where we ate our sarnies, had been bagsied by three excited demobbed marines. Having abandoned their open-roofed jeep on the rocky road, they were now stumbling down the hill carrying their weight in Stella.

Several times I think: don’t even try to take photos, they come out too flat, the colours dimmed. And how to describe now the light in dark without resorting to grey? Do we leave the gradation of colours to the Romantics? To Elgol-visitors Turner and Scot? In paintings the ‘warped’ perspective of multi-angled wrap-around  viewpoints seems appropriate here, more living. We made a steady crunch of onwards before dark.

In Elgol you can find what is possibly the world’s most picturesque primary school, looking out over the Black Cuillins and the shifty sea and that Lofoten-like crashing of mountain into Atlantic. A big red cow chews seaweed off beached pontoons. As soon as we reached our car, parked in the village’s small harbour,  a huge curtain of squall was rolling over the mountains we had just left.  As if we knew too much of a secret thing and now it was being withdrawn. The marines would have to light their fires early and bunk down against the battering storm.me on a log

Driving back the snow began.  A white shred of shroud slid up the dark sides of Bla Bheinn; a strange backlit mist hugging the black rock. On the other side of the peninsula the skies were still clear.

Weather races here. Be careful, they say. The glows in the crofter cottage windows came on through the dark. Many houses stayed unlit; holiday homes. It was the off-season, and didn’t we know it.Elgol Primary and sea-cow

The Highlands, 21st November

Loch Lomond 2pm

We are driving north, out beyond the flat-fronted housing of Glasgow. Stuffed with the city’s finest ‘Nuclear Beans’. Into the Trossachs and there is an unexpected straggle of late colour, copper clinging to twig, golden needles in their final throws.  At Luss the scream of gulls and lap of loch. We are free of work for one week, and woollens and fleeces and no makeup never felt so flush. I had forgotten the purple of bare birch.

Loch Tulla 3pmLoch Tulla

Last show of bright sunlight in the grass, burning out the edges of the peaks. The trees grow wizened in the beginnings of a great bog. There is the drift of snow like a flag streaming off the tips of the mountains, or is it a snag of cloud? Here is the drama of northern light that bursts and fades so early.

Fort William 6pm

Standing on the pier looking back towards the town. The lights and sounds that reach us, come to our senses from a dark distance. There are the sounds of students shrieking and of roostless mud birds calling over the invisible expanse of water. The luminescence around each coloured lamp bravely strikes out across the night, nearly but not quite reaching us. We stand at the edge of the deep shadow, the 18-hour shadow that is the loch and mountains behind our backs, the shadow that these almost painfully bright streetlights and illuminated forecourts are up against.

Fort William at night

Parked up next to The Underwater Centre is a huge red bottle. Bruising metal, inch-thick red paint, rungs to climb over a curved back. Tiny portholes built for pressure. We can only guess that it’s an old decompression chamber, or some deep-water bathysphere.

The sense of sound chiming out from the bottom of an inky amphitheatre is wiped clean in the Grog n’ Grill with its piped folk ‘Singing Kettle’ CD and over-scrubbed wooden furniture. The bored staff seem genuinely shocked to see us. None of us would like to swing their partners round and round on a Monday night. But the Birds n’ Bees ale is good and my nose finally feels warm again.unidentified deepwater chamber

Woodhall Loch, Dumfries and Galloway, August

Swimming amongst lily pads, the water a peaty black. My submerged limbs look orange. Rushes, reeds and trees crowd the edges of the water: alder, birch and oak.  The run-off from yesterday’s storm cradles me coldly, so that when I churn my legs and arms to generate inner heat I still sting with chill.

Anworth, Dumfries and Galloway, August

Lichen blooms over a red grave stone in the abandoned kirk yard in Anworth – a location for the filming of The Wicker Man. White rings have formed: crusted lilies mottling the memory of John Blain,  who died on the 17th of June, 1896. They started long before Edward Woodward came and will continue to creep outwards for a years to come. These flowers could be made up of warts on sensitive skin but they are more beautiful and slow. A century-long spring.

Sands of Forvie, Aberdeenshire. July

Forvie SandsEvery tread seems to disturb a bird, Sand Martin, Sky Lark or Tern, though I stick to the path and am careful in my step. I head through the dunes, past the beheaded Kirk which once stood over a village now lost to the sands. The joggers of Peterhead are the only other humans here today, charging through, pounding through this butterfly-strewn, grassy, flowery expanse.

Some dunes are so big and bare that if you blinker your eyes and cut out the smell of the sea and ignore the terns returning to their nests and the eider ducks splashing in the mouth of the estuary, you could be in the Sahara. Well almost.

An iron-red stream has caught fishing nets in its mouth on the beach. Once there was fishing, now there is petroleum.  It’s that same peaty North Sea as I found in Rye, still unfamiliar to me. I lived on the western shores of this island for two years and I miss the rocky drama of the Welsh coast.  The sea here seems muddier, but the land is lovely, full of sky and cloud and wind. It’s a place where you sense that the earth’s tilt and rotation. The flatness of the land makes for a certain quality of light: brightness from all directihigh brown butterflies on thistlesons, that northern clean-air light.Forvie Kirk

Dyce, July

BP headquarters in Dyce are shiny clean. There are instructions for visitors on how to be safe in the office. The days since the last injury at work are recorded on the wall. It’s a gulf away from the gulf of Mexico. It’s the oiless immaculate conception of a very messy industry.

So is this deliberate posturing? Or do these things always work in binary? BP would have to take safety seriously here. In July 1988 the Piper Alpha rig on the north sea Piper  oil field suffered a tectonic gas explosion. 167 people died. Aberdeen remembers this, BP should do too.

And what the Gulf of Mexico leak had happened here? I am sat by the river Don in Dyce, all rushes and grasses and shades of green. What if these crooked herons and delicate terns were coated in the sludge and slurry of the earth’s underground stores?  What if that particular slick, that forever changes our climate when burnt, was spilt here and came up this river? Queeny’s swans would turn into thick cartoons of slimy soup. (At least Donald Trump would leave this coast alone).

Baby martins, swallows and swifts snatch at the wind and the river is in a state of hushaby. The mewing from the buzzards never ceases in this peaceful place, a million miles away from American waters.

The big birds chop over too now and then: helicopters flying bodies out to the oil fields. At Glastonbury festival I saw an RAF chopper refashioned into a comical monster – all tooth and crooked legs, it’s skin blistered. That was the work of the Mutoid Waste Company; sculptors of the huge, remakers of the machine. BP headquarters could do with one of those creations in their sterile, squeak-clean foyer.

I see a water vole crossing my path, just ambling contentedly along sniffing the river bank. On the radio they tell me that these voles could become victims of spending cuts when conservation budgets are ripped up. The interviewee is one of those never-angry scientists that they get on the Today programme: ‘Once the vole is extinct here, it’s gone forever. We can never get it back.’

‘But can we really afford to save this creature?’ asks the reporter repeatedly. ‘A million pounds is quite a lot of money.’ The here and now and immediate is more important to this economics-obsessed journalist. For the one-day-turnover media, saving a million for the humans today seems more pressing  than saving a precious part of our wild world forever. I want the conservationist to shout and rage agianst this. To scream and be passionate. But I don’t get my wish.

www.watervolescotland.org

http://mutatebritain.wordpress.com

www.trippinguptrump.com