December blueberries

Green stems wriggle into crimson-tipped tongues –
a strange flame on the withering hillside.
The blue balls hang in suspended disbelief.

three fat blueberries on a stem with crimson-tipped leaves behind

Cwm Garw, Glamorgan, South Wales
16th December 2018

Sàil Ghorm

a maniacal butterfly
and a bee bombing about
and my limbs aching in their driving desire

in the drenching blue sun
in the scouring white wind

on the stones
on the bones
on the bare back of Scotland

close rough grey textured stone with mountains in the blue distance

Quinag / A’ Chuinneag, Assynt, Scotland
5th May 2015


I sent photos of the marina: the still water brightly gleaming, the hills snow-covered in the distance, the boat bathed in soft late afternoon sunlight. I invited them to come and visit, telling them of how spectacular the sunset had been and adding that we still have some Aberlour aboard. Later I tucked myself into a thick downy cover beside a slowly ticking wood fire and thought snugly of them over there on the mainland, held in Glasgow’s bright busy lights.

I thought I would slide quickly into a deep sleep but instead I listened to the wind pick up and wheech round the breakwater, the halyard of the boat in the next berth start clacking against its mast; felt the waves start slapping, felt the boat begin its classic dockside jerk and sway. In the morning I woke cold and underslept and significantly less smug. But then the water stilled itself, the hills glowed rosy in the morning sun and, walking out from the marina a few hours later, a small white flower stood pink-edged against the blue twilight chill.

Boat life. Nothing beats it.

pink-tinged daisy flower seen from the side in front of blue sky, blue water and low dark hills in twilight

Port Bannatyne, Isle of Bute, Argyll, Scotland
22nd November 2016


“Force 0. Calm. Sea like a mirror.” (Beaufort wind scale)

The sea is like a mirror, although it’s not flat. There’s a steady swell coming in from west-north-west and we rock back and forth on it for hours until we decide to start the engine and move.

Even then, creating a small wind above and a small wake below, it’s like moving through a rippling of the finest fabric: the sun is out and the sea is as silken as the smoothest cliché.

Soon it gets so glassy that it no longer even looks like silk, like anything substantial, but like billowing air. It’s as if we’re sailing through a dream of sea, the unreality enhanced by the effect of moving by motor as its drone and throb drown out the subtler sounds and sensations of being on the water.

Where are we? And how long have we been here? Foula sits like a great cake on the horizon but we could be anywhere – anywhere in this floating, blue-shining world.

West of mainland Shetland
3rd July 2015


It feels quiet up here, and protected, as if I am insulated within the inarticulate drone of the plane. Above, the air is blue. Beneath, the mountains fold and the plains stretch themselves out, and across them, the landscape is writing itself.

It begins first as one line, an elegant calligraphed curl scrolling out across the horizontal distance; then proliferates, until there are several lines, breaking and branching from each other, scooping and scrawling in liquid loops of sunlit gold.

They look a little like Arabic forms, like continuing sentences, slowly writhing on; scribed and scribbling, delicate yet definite. The spread plains between them are pocked – punctuated – with still water, like ink spilt and spattered and gathering into myriad tiny pools.

As we fly further north, snow softens the mounds and valleys and the curves unwind, becoming thick and white, and finally coalescing into great lakes, held high on the bronze plates of the sun.

It is quiet up here. No-one is talking since most of the plane’s inhabitants are sleeping. But my eyes are alive with this beautiful unspoken language, this secret script of low sunlit water and wide wind-smoothed snow.

Flying over Siberia
21st October 2014


Leaving in the early morning,
moisture rises off the rice fields,
the blue ridges of the mountains dissolve.

Fukui, Japan
9th October 2014

the summer

Assynt seen from the Minch

The summer was blue; blue and spreading, blue and rising, blue and stretching.

The summer slid out onto the sea, gliding through it, when the sea was silken; riding upon it, when the waves swelled cut and grey.

Summer streamed out and lands rose from the sides of it, low and lumpy, tall and hard. We sailed among their fingers, which reached out, raking the waters and holding them down like huge paws of an old stone beast, and we clambered out on their rocky knuckles, stumbling among the feathered grass and fallen walls.

Some lands greeted us with longer arms, which curved around and drew us in gently, with welcoming hills and pale beaches shining like soft promises through the thin drizzle; and when we rowed ashore, the sun flooded us and myriad wildflowers danced behind the sand in the multi-coloured machairs which are the true meadows of heaven.

One group of islands was made of walls – high columns, stacked with seabirds, which stood in a sheltering arc around us, and we spent the night there listening to their story, enchanted.

The summer was blue the day we left the spell of those islands and sailed back over the Minch to the northern mainland. The sun rose early and the wind blew us steadily east until, close to the coast, it dropped beneath the glassy water – and there we were with all the mountains of Assynt arrayed around us – solitaires, circling – rugged and red.

We watched and waited, in the blue bloomed sky, in the pure afternoon, floating on our own reflection, until eventually a small breeze arose and, nudging our sails, blew us quietly home.

It was slow, was fair, our passage through the summer: araf, teg.

Ara’ Deg.

Easy does it, she said.

The Minch, Scotland
14th August 2013